Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Hard Being A Guy Who Isolates Himself From Society

It's that time again!

Deadpool: [To make peanut butter sandwiches with our feet?]

Adorable Baby Panda: To go to the river and splash around?

Atticus: To spin the Wheel of Morality?

Never, no, and not without clearing it with lawyers. It's time to discuss a book!

Assembled Characters: Aww, that's bogus.

Now, don't be that way. There are actually a couple of books I finished in the last few days, but one of them was a bit unusual, and I need some more time to digest it, so tomorrow for it. Maybe.

The Hit and The Marksman, Brian Garfield - These are actually two stories in one book, both by the same author. Well, The Hit is a story, The Marksman was originally a screenplay* Garfield wrote in the '80s, that's he's since slightly modified into a rough short story.

Both stories feature main characters who have given up on life. In The Hit, it's Simon Chase, former journalist and cop, who now lives in the hills above Reno (I think**) in the 1970s. He's grown disillusioned by years of trying to get criminals put away, only to see their organization buy whoever was needed to get said criminals released. Now he lives off his pension and scours the desert for rocks which might contain gems he could sell.

With The Marksman, it's C.W. Radford (no first name, just initials), who survived time in a prisoner of war camp, has a bullet in his head from his time there, and spends his days washing dishes at a diner run by the other American soldier at that camp. He hardly reacts to anything at all.

In both cases, a woman drags the protagonist out of their shell, willingly or not. For Chase, it's Joanne, who he had a thing with. She works for one of the organization's higher-ups, who's now dead, with the very important contents of his safe gone missing. Since that safe had a film that kept her in line, she's a suspect, and with her past connection with ex-cop Crane, so is he (especially since he's the fist person she contacts for help). Thanks a lot, lady. For Radford, he saves a lady being attacked at the diner, she responds to him kindly, introduces him to a few friends, who want to use him for a patsy.

The Marksman actually reminds me of the Mark Wahlberg/Danny Glover movie from a year or two ago, Shooter (The Shooter?). Radford's an excellent shot, but not using that skill, and people with questionable motives*** decide they can pin their ill deeds on him, play it up as a vet gone round the bend. At which point he becomes Jason Bourne and John McClaine rolled into one, eluding a building (and eventually a town) full of cops searching for him, then he drives a police motorcycle through a bunch of cubicles and offices to escape, makes a weapon by tying two police nightsticks together, and similar stuff.

To be fair, Garfield admits this was only a preliminary version of the story, third draft at best****, which explains some of the questionable plot developments, such as a cop taking a weapon from one of the baddies in the climactic battle, then carrying it with him, and trying to use it at a critical moment. That's evidence in an assassination dude, don't start firing it, that's probably contaminating it, or damaging the chain of custody, or something!

Both the stories are entertaining in their own ways. The Hit is more of a suspense/mystery, though I'm not sure whether the reader is supposed to put the evidence together and figure out the party responsible for all the trouble.

* In an introduction to it, he says the producer was disappointed because the story was too old-fashioned, meaning it had a beginning, middle, and end. I guess that producer loved the '70s Western Valdez is Coming, which ended ambiguously, and with the primary impetus for the plot still unresolved.

** It's somewhere in the desert, since Chase mentions it's hot enough the asphalt is bubbling, but isn't quite soft the way it gets at 127 degrees. It has a "Strip", but it's definitively not Vegas, and it's not Carson City, since they mention the state capital in a way that suggests it's somewhere else.

*** They assassinate people they deem impediments to freedom. I'm unclear whether these people were heads of terrorist organizations, or peace-oriented folks that would have lead to the U.S. being less militarily overwhleming in the Middle East, or what. Except they eventually decide they need to kill the police comissioner in town, who's considered incorruptible, which you'd think would be a good thing. So I can't decide whether the bad guys or hypocrites, or idiots.

**** Not being familiar with the process, I'm unclear how many drafts a story might normally go through. I don't think any of the papers I wrote for various classes went through more than three drafts, and most only had two. 'Cause I'm awesome. And lazy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mouthing Off Around The Devil Strikes Me As A Bad Idea

So I'm getting ready to go driving this morning. The radio comes on, and it's playing the end of that "Devil Went Down To Georgia" song, and the boy, Johnny, he's won the contest. Good for him, won a gold fiddle*, but then he starts talking smack, telling the Devil that he's the best there's ever been. And my first thought was 'You know, pride goeth before the fall, loudmouth.' I mean, really? The best there's ever been**? That's the kind of attitude that leads to old Testament Yaweh meting out hot boils or locust plagues.

Heck, Johnny didn't even dedicate his victory to God, showing he clearly hasn't been paying attention to the lessons provided us by professional athletes. If there was ever a time to thank higher powers for a victory, I'd think it would be after triumphing over the Devil.

I'm thinking Johnny might have soon found himself fiddle dueling with an angel, if he's going to get such a swelled head. I bet those angels know notes that hick's never even conceived of. Notes no mortal was ever meant to hear. Notes that will cause his ears to melt, and fingers to decay just by their presence in the air around him. And that'll be the price of his hubrs. But hey, he'll still have his gold fiddle. Assuming the angel doesn't claim it as a prize for smoking Johnny's ass in the contest, which they angel totally could if it wished. After all, Johnny won't have any eyes of fingers, how he's going to stop it?

* Which as Futurama taught us, will weight several hundred pounds and sound terrible, but it's certainly a conversation starter.

** I hear Wolverine thinks himself quite the fiddle player, and if you beat him, well, he'll probably just disembowel you, so something to think about.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Do Want To Go Off On A Rant Here

First things first: This is in no way directed at any of my loyal, beloved commenters. You're all cool. It's a more general Internet thing.

There are all kinds of folks out here on the Internet, posting, commenting, lurking, whatever. Some behave nicely, some don't, and with some it probably depends on what kind of day they had, because, hey they're human. There's one kind of person that really bugs me, though, and that's the Internet Martyr. There might be another, preexisting term, but that's the one that seem to fit to me, so I'll use it for the purposes of this post. For the record, there's an example here. Just skim through the comments until you see one by a person going by the tag "waffle". That's actually the one that really ignited my distaste for the Internet Martyr, probably because I thought the post was rather clever, and honestly, at that point, there wasn't a hell of a lot left, statistically, to say about the Cardinals' attempt to make an outfielder a second baseman. For the record, no, I don't post or comment on the site about. Just an anonymous lurker. In case you were wondering about a conflict of interest on my part.

You've probably seen one of them somewhere. They're like an refined form of the commenter who complains about the kind of content a blogger is producing, even though reading the blog costs them nothing but time, and there's hardly someone making them read it. Still, they feel compelled to complain because a blogger has kept up their daily series of posts highlighting a particular Marvel super-hero, or because there aren't enough serious analysis posts, or posts with face kicks, or whatever. It's pretty tedious, and petty, and big deal, right? That's fans; they always find something to complain about.

The Martyr takes it that extra step, by prefacing their complaining with some blather about how they'll 'probably be banned for this comment', but they don't care. As if they are some grand revolutionary, who is willing to die speaking the truth if it will stir the passions of the proletariat commenters against these bourgeois bloggers, who run the blogs they post for as they see fit, rather than the way the Martyr demands. Where do those bloggers get off*?

I suppose I should be more understanding. Maybe they're new to the Internet, just getting their land legs. The first six months on this blog, I made an ass out of myself towards other bloggers, oh at least three times, and once on Devon Sanders' old blog Seven Hells**, which was the kicker that made me reevaluate how I was doing things***. So maybe they'll have an epiphany and eventually become valuable, clever commenters. Or maybe they won't. It just irritates me because they're trying to give their griping/whining/airing of grievances this aura of something more than it is.

Guess what Internet Martyr? You are not Martin Luther nailing your 95 theses to the door of the blog, telling off the powerful Blog Church. You are not going to have to hope some German prince will protect you because he sees opportunity for himself in your bitching. Just say your piece, and if you aren't a completely rude, abrasive twit, you'll probably get off with some light mockery by the others in the peanut gallery, and maybe the blogger in question, depending on their wont.

OK, I'm done. Something hopefully more cheerful tomorrow.

* Phrasing it that way, it suddenly becomes blindingly apparent to me how related this is to the fans that vow boycotts because the comic company in question doesn't understand a character the way they do.

** And that's not counting the various immature comments I made about wishing harm on various writers or artists for stuff they did I disagreed with (for example: mentioning wanting to hit Chuck Austen with a pipe wrench). There are times I would like to go back and smack my Younger Blogging Self, and tell him not to post stuff like that, because damn it, I'm going to feel seriously embarrassed I said that stuff and put it out on the Internet for the world to see.

*** Which isn't to say I've been all sweetness and light since then, but I think I've been more mature about things the last couple of years.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Snow Globes Hold The Key To The Secrets Of The Universe

Reading Power Girl #1 something I liked was that Power Girl collects snow globes. Not because of the 'Please stop messing with my globes' joke, though that was amusing*. It's one of those little things that I like, because I think it tells us something about the character. It's something she's interested in, so as readers, we can infer something from that.

You know where this is going.

What is the appeal of snow globes to Power Girl? Well, snow globes are typically designed to reflect a particular locale, usually based on popular opinion of the place, set in a convenient, easy to store design, that has the added advantage of being pretty, and encouraging shaking vigorously.

So they could serve as a stress reliever, either through releasing frustration with lots of shaking, or just by staring at the serene scene within. I think Power Girl probably views fighting evil as a bit of a stress reliever, because it's OK to elbow the albino gorilla trying to destroy the city in the face, but that's generally frowned up in the corporate world**. And heck, she's trying to start up and run her own company, so taking some time out to gaze at snow falling on a boxing glove sporting kangaroo could probably calm her down, especially since she looks like she might also enjoy a nice large coffee***, which could amp up the nerves. Unless she was drinking tea. Hmm, what is Power Girl's beverage of choice? Wait, straying off-topic.

Snow globes are something people frequently collect as a reminder of someplace they've been. They can point to it and say "See, I visited {insert location}!", and this may trigger memories of that trip, leading to a lengthy reminisce that bores the hell out of everyone present. Kidding! I mean, it's probably an entertaining story about a person in an unusual place, and their adventures trying to go sightseeing, or find good restaurants, or keep cabbies from swindling them, or whatever. Power Girl's from Krypton, which is gone, and she (and whatever was in that capsule with her) are all that's left. And whatever pieces of her Kryptonian heritage are left over, probably she can't set out in plain siight in her office****. Plus, she's from another universe, and I don't know what she has left over from her time on Earth-2, so out of lack of options, she may have developed a strong bond with this current Earth, and she would like to remember all the places she been and seen on this world.

It might be ana ffirmation of her existence. She was somehow replaced on Earth-2, by another (kind of nutty) Power Girl, who has all her friends, and the life she had. So that was taken from her, so maybe the snow globes are a way of saying "Yeah, I visited these places. Me, not some other person that looks like me."

Or, they could represent the aimlessness of her character since Crisis on the Infinite Earths. Different powers, origins, costumes, different teams, stupid mystical pregnancies, not having a lot of roots set down in any one place. So she drifts, and picks up snow globes as she goes, just so she can say she got something out of that particular period in her life.

Anyway, those are just some theories.

* And I had a moment of "What? I would never! Oh wait, she's talking to the nutty scientist guy." Cursed meta-commentary panel design.

** I think. I've stayed out of the corporate world to this point in my life, but hitting irritating people has generally been verboten at my jobs.

*** That raises a question: Kryptonians are tougher than Earthlings, immune to all sorts of stuff that would affect us. Would the caffeine of a large coffee - assuming it's not decaf - even faze her? Or would her metabolism just wipe that stuff out before it could kick in?

**** I know Power Girl has a civilian identity, but is it a secret identity? It wasn't at some point pre-Infinite Crisis, but that could have changed somehow, given all the universe upheaval since then.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Long Can The Mystery Be Maintained?

I wondered yesterday whether the new Batgirl series would quickly reveal who was using that identity, or if they'd keep it a secret for awhile, perhaps revealing the answer at the end of the first arc.

Along that train of thought, when it comes to comics published in the monthly format, do you think there's a limit to how long you can keep a character's identity a secret*?

There's a lot of current options to compare, just with Marvel and DC. As far as I know, Jeph Loeb still hasn't revealed the identity of the Red Hulk** after 12 issues, the Spider-writers kept Menace's identity (and the identity of the Spider-Tracer Killer) a mystery for over a year (which translated to around 30 issues), Supergirl had the "Who is Superwoman?" arc, and I think they just answered that this month, so that ran three or four months. The classic example, for me, is the Hobgoblin, where it took them around 4 years to get around to telling us he was Ned Leeds.

So, optimal length of the mystery. Probably how long one could string it out is mostly reliant on the skill of the creative team. They have to decide how prominent that question is for the story. Is it a source of constant focus, at the forefront, or does its importance wax and wane, as the character in question comes and goes from the stage? If its a major plot point, they probably have less leeway, since they keep it in the reader's mind prominently,a nd eventually the reader is going to expect resolution. If they rotate it with other plots, they can probably wait a while longer, since there are other things to occupy the reader (and the characters), but then they run the risk of reader's not caring. Maybe they're more interested in another plot thread running concurrently, and how important can the identity of X be, if it hasn't been mentioned much the previous {insert number} of issues?

I think it probably helps if its treated as a real mystery, where the reader learns clues with the characters, so maybe we can put it together ourselves. Of course, the writer has to have a talent for that, so they don't blow it before they're ready to do a big reveal. And the writer would have to play fair*** if they were going to do that.

How long it can be played out probably also relates to whether the mystery surrounds the protagonist, or an antagonist. If it's an enemy, the mystery can be a boost, because the hero can never be sure (until they think they know who it is) if the foe is around somewhere. I think there'd be more trouble if the creative team tried to have a story where the reader has no idea who the protagonist is. You could still do it, but I think that readers would have less patience for not knowing, especially if a big deal is made of the fact that they don't know.

Maybe it would work if the fact the hero's identity is a secret to us isn't treated as a big mystery. Where no in the story is making any progress in figuring out who the hero is****, and so we don't have any way of knowing either. That could be drifting into meta-territory, where the hero's identity is a secret because each of us envision the hero differently, and so the who the hero is changes constantly, based on the whims of the reader. With that in effect, it would be understandable that the other characters haven't had any success discerning who the mysterious do-gooder is. The trick there would be, for maximum effect, the writer and artist would have to portray the protagonist in the most neutral way possible, from posture, gender, tactics, dialogue, attitude, any personal touches, so that the reader could interpret these as they see fit, and thus see the protagonist on their terms. Which honestly, sounds like an absolute pain in the rear.

Anyway, stories revolving around hidden identities, and attempts to make them hidden no more. How long do you think they could (should?) go?

* I mean secret from the readers, not the other characters in the story.

** Somewhat jokingly, do you think Loeb knows who Red Hulk will wind up being? Do you think the answer changes from one minute to the next, perhaps reacting to his mood, or how his breakfast is digesting?

*** So no, "Oh crap, they realized Captain Atom will be Monarch! Quick, change it to. . . Hawk! They'll never see that coming! We sure outsmarted them!" That's just weak.

**** Or they aren't trying to find out. Or they don't even know there's a hero whose identity they should be trying to learn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trying To Sort My Thoughts On Batgirl

I can't decide how interested I am in this Batgirl series that starts in August. I'm not familiar with the writer's (Bryan Q. Miller) work (I think the total of my Smallville watching came when I once flipped by it and saw James Marsters was on the show, and I watched the remainder of the episode), or artist Lee Garbett's, either. He has some pages from his work on the current Outsiders series up on his blog, but they're in black and white, and color can make a difference, so I'm sure I can judge (and there's no dialogue, so I can't tell how well his art's working with Tomasi's writing). Plus, I don't know who this Batgirl is.

I know Dan Didio said Cass Cain wasn't going to be part of the Bat-Family post-Battle for the Cowl, but I trust Didio roughly as far as I trust Quesada, which is, suffice it to say, not very far a' tall. It might not make a huge amount of sense, after all the twists they put Cass through since they cancelled her last series, to wind up 3.5 years later, with Cass Cain as Batgirl in a new ongoing series, but I'm game. If the stories in between are a concern, that they somehow, I don't know impede the idea of Cass as a hero, well, I'm prepared to ignore them. For the greater good, you see*.

Besides, DC could always say this was a back-to-basics approach to the character, and wipe that stuff off the board themselves. They have the perfect excuse: they just had a Crisis that wrapped up a few months ago, right? I'm sure of that. Red skies, Darkseid dying something like 4 times, Superman singing, Batman using a gun, the New-Earth universe collapsing in on itself. They started the whole universe over at the end, didn't they? If so, then it's never been easier to just sweep some of those contentious earlier character developments under the rug!

OK, that's probably not happening, and it's probably not Cass, and I'm OK with that, really. I am. Mostly**. Batgirl being Cass would make me more likely to buy the book, but I can still see myself giving it a whirl regardless. I think I'm going to be able to go to the store the week it comes out, so I suppose I can make a decision then.

I wonder how long they plan to keep Batgirl's identity a secret? Is it just to build suspense and interest for the first issue, and we'll find out then? Or will that be the focus of the first arc, "Who is Batgirl?", that sort of thing?

* Heck, I already do ignore everything Cass has appeared in since her series ended, with the exception of the Chuck Dixon written Batman and the Outsiders issues. It helps.

** She doesn't have to be Batgirl to still be a hero. As long as she's not back to Crazy/Angry Daddy Issues Killer Girl, the identity she runs under is really secondary, I suppose. As you may recall, I never warmed to the crazed killer/evil turn. Smacked of predestination. "Your mom is a killer, your dad's a killer, so you'll be a killer! So it is written!" That's kind of grim and fatalistic. Damned before you even start.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's The Next Logical Spinoff

Well, this post was going to be about how Marvel seems to be soliciting an awful lot of books these days. Then I looked though the Previews for the last four months and Marvel had the same number of pages allotted, and I thought to myself, maybe they aren't putting out more books. 'Course, four months isn't a very large sample size, and I didn't feel like counting actual titles, so maybe they are. OK, so just now, I decided to compare March '09 to June '09, and actually, I counted more books from the March issue (105) than the June (94)*. So that kind of pops that balloon.

I think I could be forgiven for that misjudgment, since it seems like there are more Dark Reign related mini-series all the time. There are three Avengers books**, Wolverine has his usual two ongoings, but his son has one too (that he co-opted from Logan, but he's the star now). Hulk's going to have 2 ongoings, and his son has one too. Heck, Deadpool's going to have two monthly series by mid-summer, which seems nuts to me. I guess this means we can expect Kid Deadpool to reappear in one of them soon, as a starting point for his own ongoing series.

One other solicit-related thought: I have this feeling they're going to try again with Moon Knight soon. There's supposed to be a Moon Knight Saga released in August, which will be free, which sounds like an attempt to get people interested in Moon Knight before they try another monthly series. Slightly different strategy from what they're trying with Iron Fist (where they shut down, have a mini-series, then start up a new(?) ongoing), similar to what they did when they went from Spider-Girl to Amazing Spider-Girl.

If I'm right (big if, I know), I don't really see it working. They're just now ending a Moon Knight series due to low sales, and I don't think waiting three or four months, then trying again, is going to yield much better results. It seems like they might be better served following the path set by Thor, where he was MIA for three, four years or so, then he had a new ongoing (with a big-name comic writer as an added boost). Yeah, it's more of a struggle for Moon Knight (or Iron Fist), because they aren't quite on Thor's level, even with comic fans (to say nothing of the larger public consciousness), but they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so maybe it would be better to shelve them for a bit, get people to where they're jonesing for the characters again, then try again. And hope the books convince fans to stick around awhile.

I wouldn't mind being wrong, especially if the new series*** is good, because we can always use more good comics, and to have those good comics sell well.

* I wasn't counting trades, hardcovers, comics listed twice because they have a variant, or poster books (I think there were maybe two of those in each month). Just serial comic releases, be they ongoings or mini-series.

** Or four if you count Avengers: The Initiative. Or five, because there's a Young Avengers mini-series too, I think.

*** Again, assuming I'm right and they are planning to start up a new Moon Knight monthly.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I'm Guessing It's A Big Picture Retcon

While I was in Marvels and Legends this week, I flipped through War of Kings: Ascension #2. So let me see if I have this straight: Chris Powell hallucinated Evilhawk, the character he fought in issues #24 and 25 of his original series. The Evilhawk armor did exist, but Chris was the one inside it, not an intergalactic gangster who wanted to transfer his mind out of the armor and into an organic body (namely, Chris').

Furthermore, the Darkhawk and Evilhawk armors weren't constructed under orders of aforementioned intergalactic gangster. All of that was conjured up by Chris' mind to cope with the data flow he received from the amulet. "Evilhawk" was actually Chris in a different armor he summoned without realizing it, running amok while Chris was blacked out or something*. Chris' seeing some hideous, mishapen thing every time he took off his helmet was just another hallucination as well, which I guess means he actually just looked like himself all along. Is that the gist of it?

Snarky footnotes notwithstanding, I'm not really here to ridicule this new origin, even if I do hate this type of "Everything you knew about X is wrong!" style of stuff. So maybe I am here to ridicule it, I haven't decided yet, so I'll just play the rest of the post by ear, see how it goes. I don't know, the Darkhawk armor having been designed to help a space gangster consolidate his power, but winding up with a teen who uses it for good seems like a decent idea. The overall theme doesn't really seem to have been changed by the startling revelation. Whatever grand design this Heirarchy of Raptors subscribe to does not seem to be a good one, given the fact they provided Blastaar with a freaking Cosmic Control Rod**. So it's still a case of an Earth teen lucking into a weapon that was usually bent towards ill purposes, only he used it for good. The difference is the weapon was tied into something a little larger than the pursuit of ill-gotten gains.

I guess it would have been harder to get Chris into War of Kings with the gangster origin. It might have been interesting for Chris to be perceived as the gangster because he was using the Darkhawk armor, and then see Chris try and deal with that. Some folks might be after him for the gangsters past misdeeds, others might want to curry favor with him, out of fear or greed, and Chris could see if he couldn't use that to his advantage. Though that would be treading on Agents of Atlas territory, wouldn't it? It can still work similarly with the Heirarchy of Raptors, but I would think an obscure group with vague goals nobody's seen in milennia wouldn't have much of a following, or much recognition.

* Were I a petty man, I'd point out that in Darkhawk #24, when Chris is fighting Evilhawk in an old amusement park, a member of Code B.L.U.E. shouts 'Freeze! Both of you!' Which wouldn't seem to make sense if Chris was actually in the Evilhawk armor and just hallucinating that he was still Darkhawk fighting Evilhawk, meaning there was only one person to have freeze. Good thing I'm not a petty person.

** Should we figure that the sudden emergence of the Raptors are some many years is some universal response to the forces of Life being stronger than ever? Are they agents of Death like Thanos, but not as high on the totem pole?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Plethora Of Hugs And Hits

Adorable Baby Panda: Plethora?

CalvinPitt: {Coming up with relevant, yet interesting, titles is hard work. So why don't you start while I go get a drink?}

Bring me something too! A soda! {No soda for you! We've been down that road, and it's aggressive.} Aw. I'll Applaud Tigra, for not selling Wolverine one of her wishes for 10 dollars. He would have probably covered the world in sausage. And I'll Applaud Gladiator for turning against Vulcan. He still needs to get beat up for hurting all those Novas. Bane, Ragdoll, and Catman get Applause for saving those kids, and Ragdoll was actually sorry about crushing that one person in front of the hostages. I'm gonna Applaud Spider-Man for figuring out something was up with the Agents of Atlas. Go smart Spider-Man!

{What, smart Spider-Man? Where? Haven't seen him in nigh on five years now.} Yes you have! He's right here in this comic! {Right, Agents of Atlas. Uh, I meant in his own title.} Oh, OK. Where's my drink? {Here, have some iced tea.} Thank you. {When did you develop manners?} I have manners! You just need to give me more stuff! {I don't need to see your manners that badly. And what's with all this clapping? I promised hitting and hugging with the title. Are you trying to get me in trouble with the audience?} No, I was getting to it.

I want to Bonk M-11 for burning Wolverine's arm off. {Well, Wolverine did try and blow him up fifty years ago.} Yeah, but the Agents were about to make friends with the Avengers! Then they could have teamed up and beaten Norman Osborn! You want Norman Osborn to get beaten, right? {Yes, yes I do.} I'm going to Hug Rocket Raccoon, because he has really soft fur. {???} And I'll Hug Ronan, because he still looks pretty bad. It might cheer him up. Nightwing gets a Bonk, for being a jerk. He didn't help those children, would it have been better for them to get kidnapped? {Apparently, yes. He's learned the Bat's lessons of high-horse climbing well.}

I'm going to Bonk that Panther in Exiles. He spends too much time trying to be romantic. {He's just looking for love in all the wrong places, perhaps because he is a gangster of love.} Huh? Does this have something to do with that Meyer Lansky biography you read last week? {No. Can you give Galacta a hug?} I don't know, she has worms. {Come on, it's just one worm. And it's cosmic. I'm sure you'll be fine. Don't be a chicken. Buck, buck, buckaw!} I'm no chicken! I'll Hug that worm right out of her! {Thank you.}

Friday, May 22, 2009

What I Bought 5/21/09 - Part 2

I don't have a good introductory paragraph topic today. Unless you care about the fact I burned my arm getting a pizza out of the oven Wednesdays. It hurt a lot less than I thought it would, which was kind of cool. Maybe that's why Alex keeps getting burned, it doesn't hurt him enough to teach him to be careful.

Marvel Adventures Avengers #36 - Impulse buy. Hey, Tigra gets a better showing in this title than she does anywhere else, you know? In this issue, the team visits a swap meet, and Tigra finds a necklace that holds a genie who wants revenge on the Hulk for trapping him in said necklace hundreds of years ago, though the Hulk won't make the trip back in time for over a decade. The Avengers have to contend with the genie, while Tigra, wisely, tries to avoid making wishes, since genies have a tendency to twist your wishes.

So it's a good comic overall. Funny, plenty of action, the characters tend to have distinct voices, even the folks who don't get too much dialogue. Jacopo Camagni has a nice style, not a lot of lines, but still expressive, tries to not draw everyone as being the same size or body type (which I guess should be a basic thing, but it frequently isn't, you know). His art reminds me a little of Guiseppe Camuncoli (I think I'm spelling that right, drew Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California), which is fine. And Camagni alters the size of the eyes on Spidey's mask to help convey emotion, which is a touch I tend to approve of.

Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #2 - Hmm, I didn't think Jack would pull this for me. He forgot the first one, and the reviews were lackluster enough I didn't bother to press the issue. I wasn't a big fan of the Else Bloodstone story, bit too grim, which I guess should be expected of someone forced into monster hunting, but she lacked the sort of manic glee I remember fondly from NextWave. The Luke Cage story wasn't bad, I like the idea that Luke learned some tricks from being Danny's friend all these years (though tossing the manhole is something I'd think he learned from Cap). Still, with Luke being more of a prominent player these days, being vocal about things he wants the Avengers to investigate, I'm surprised he wouldn't give being borough president a shot.

I was fond of the Galacta story. The daughter of Galactus, trying to do things her way, subsist off lifeforms not native to Earth, but struggling against her impulses to eat more. I really dig that idea. Hector Sevilla Lujan's art was a nice touch. At least partially manga influenced, I'd say, but he keeps things clean and easy to follow, and some of the creature designs are pretty nice.

Power Girl #1 - OK, I'm unclear on something: Ultra-Humanite says he's getting the world in exchange for Power Girl. Then he says later that he's going to either transfer his brain to her body, or destroy Manhattan. That makes it sound like he's getting her in exchange for helping someone else. Maybe it just means he's planning to double-cross someone. He is a bad guy.

So Power Girl's dealing with the giant albino gorilla, his robotic lackeys, and his emotion manipulating weapons (it's the tech messing with emotions, 'cause he's a telepath, not an empath, I think). And in her civilian life, she's trying to put ehr company back together, and turn it into something that helps the world, which is nice. So she's interviewing employees, trying to get her office finished, trying to find an apartment, that sort of thing. We've already met some of her employees, who I'm hoping will make regular appearances. A good supporting cast is always an aid to a title, right?

Of course I like Amanda Conner's artwork. Again (and I guess I keep saying this) she conveys emotion and detail very well, but not with so many lines as to clutter things up. And she alternates between showing action scenes at the moment of impact, and the moments before and after impact (like when she swats a lot of the robots with a car), since I think one of those styles works better than others depending on the situation.

Secret Six #9 - Rather than help kidnap children of rich Gothamite capitalists, Bane, Catman and Ragdoll stop the kidnappings, while Catman and Bane argue about whether either of them could be Batman, and whether either of them want to be. Then Nightwing shows up, and he's kind of rude and unpleasant towards them, considering they've been doing his work. And does Grayson really think he could beat all three of them at once? I'd have liked to see that, just because Nightwing probably needs to be brought down a notch.

Bane seems rather singularly focused in this issue. I guess it could have to do with the kids (or the fact it's happening in Gotham). Or he could be trying to stay stringently focused after he went off the wagon with the Venom a couple issues ago. Actually, there's a question. He punched a metal gate open. Does that mean he's back on the Venom or is he just normally that strong. He's not seeing Batman everywhere, so I figure he's clean again, but that was an impressive punch. Ragdoll dressed as Robin, and stealing that sculpture was very amusing.

War of Kings #3 - Perhaps unsurprisingly, my enjoyment level with War of Kings increases as more characters I like get involved. So when Ronan was the only one I cared about, enjoyment was low. Now the Guardians of the Galaxy are on the scene, and Rocket Raccoon is beating Gladiator's stupid mohawked butt (with a mop), enjoyment level is higher. Not high, mind you, but rising. Oh, and we should celebrate. It only took 32 years, but Gladiator finally, finally, grew a freaking backbone. I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

Meanwhile, Inhuman attempts to get the Kree moving on the evolutionary path are apparently not working, which will probably disappoint Ronan, which will probably disappoint Crystal. The growing connection between the two is one of the things I'm liking most about War of Kings so far. And you know, I actually feel Maximus' frustration. He finally felt accepted by the rest of the Royal Family, was going to do some good, non-violent work, and the war comes along, and it's back to the old ways. "Maximus, build us better weapons! Maximus, improve our teleportation devices!" Poor crazy guy.

Favorite piece of dialogue: Smasher - 'Accessing Hyper-strength upload from my exospecs.' WHAM! Drax - 'Accessing fist.' Oh Drax, you're so violent and dryly amusing.

And that's all for today.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What I Bought 5/21/09 - Part 1

Comics, many, many, comics. Visited the store today, talked to Jack, he told me Ken is already working on promoting next year's convention. It always amazes me, for as laid back as Ken seems, just how much of a motor that guy has. I get exhausted just thinking about how busy he is. Of course, exhaustion seems to be pretty easy for me to come by these days. On to reviews.

Agents of Atlas #4 - Captain America totally doesn't fight a dragon in this issue. The Agents have a run-in with Winter Captain, and plant a little information in his brain to get him to attack them soon. It's a reputation establishing thing. We learned what the creepy guys in the past were up to, and what the mystery jet plane was about, and how it's connected to Temugin's teleportation and Atlas.

I liked the stuff in the past more than the Bucky stuff. Was the issue saying Winter Soldier found Cap while he was frozen, and just left him that way? Or was Bucky's mind just really fouled up? I'm inclined towards the latter, because I don't remember hearing about the time in WW2 when Cap got shot full of holes by the Red Skull. Were the Cap and Bucky the Russians were stealing the crazy Commie-haters from the '50s? It ahs to, right, 'cuase otherwise, Hoover had Steve Rogers in a tube for no good reason.

Agents of Atlas #5 - I don't know why Marvel decided to give us 2 issues of Agents of Atlas this month, but it's fine with me. The New Avengers, acting off the info Marvel Boy planted in Winter Captain's head, attack the weapon-producing supertanker, and are about to fight the Agents. Then things seem like they'll end peacefully, then M-11 gets vengeful, and we've got a real fight scene, and the Agents barely pull it off. But it still builds them some cred with Norman Osborn.

Ah, nothing like a good team versus team brawl. I thought Pagulayan did a pretty good job laying it out, having different characters show up to help each other out in some cases, while the Namora/Ms. Marvel brawl was pretty exclusive, since it moved outside the original room quickly. I also like that Jeff Parker wrote a Spider-Man smart enough to look past the surface details, and almost get the truth out. Bravo.

Booster Gold #20 - So, Keith Giffen's writing the book the next few months apparently. And Booster decide to travel to the 1950s because he's bored, and ends up getting mixed up in some Task Force X mission. . . with Frank (formerly Sgt.) Rock! Well, that improves this book right there. Though this Rock plays a bit dirtier than I expected, threatening to blackmail Booster with a picture of him unmasked. Sorry, ungoggled.

If I follow this right, by helping Rock out, Booster ensured the Rocket Reds would come to be? And this is a good thing? I mean, sure, every comics universe needs its generic armored cannon fodder, but it hardly seems vital. Or maybe it was stopping the rocket launch that was the important part. I am somehow not at all surprised at why Booster wanted to travel to the '50s. This does not mean I'm not embarrassed for him.

Deadpool #10 - OK, so the Thunderbolts crossover left a bad taste in my mouth. The question becomes whether a fight with Bullseye can maintain my interest until August, when Deadpool will fake his death and become a pirate (which sounds outstanding). Wade is still broke, though, and that's getting old. Norman's accounts had just enough money to pay Taskmaster, and he's taking low-rent jobs repaying high school cruelty when Bullseye shows up. They fight, Wade actually does pretty well.

Actually, he did so well, I have a hard time figuring how he had so much trouble with the Thunderbolts. They are, as Norman alluded to "Z-list", and Wade had all sorts of trouble with them. Maybe he was having a bad attention span day for those issues. It's kind of an amusing issue, the fight was nice. I felt Medina did a better job with the action sequences than he did last month, kept things clear, though actually, I'm not sure how the grenade sent them falling down the stairs, when it should have propelled both of them into the bathroom. I'm just picking nits, I guess.

Deadpool: Suicide Kings #2 - The cover (which I will add to the post eventually), is homaging Spy vs. Spy, isn't it? I can't figure how Deadpool isn't toppling off the edge of the piano, though. He's leaning pretty far out.

Punisher tracks down Deadpool. It wasn't hard. Imitates pizza delivery boy, attacks Deadpool. Uses weapons confiscated from various criminals to kick Wade's ass. I have to think Dr. Octopus is not going to like Castle using one of his arms without permission. Deadpool escapes, runs to Outlaw, rests up, then Frank shows up there and starts chopping off limbs. Then Daredevil saves Wade. And I think the scene with Tombstone was referencing Snatch, with the pigs and all. So Lonnie Lincoln, Guy Ritchie fan. Who knew?

Hey, Cable/Deadpool plot stuff referenced, like Agent X being really fat, and that time Deadpool was really small. Hooray! I was starting to think only Bob was going to survive as a reminder of that series. Barberi does a couple of hallucination panels, but I feel like he needs to draw in a style less like his own art for them to really work. The Punisher dressed as a matador is a cool image, but it doesn't seem different enough from the rest of his work to really push the "Deadpool's divorced from reality" shtick.

Exiles #2 - The Exiles plan to infiltrate Magneto's family kind of backfires, what with the telepaths all around and such. We still don't have any idea how they're supposed to "help Wolverine". We did learn who's calling himself the Panther, so that's one question answered.

There's a lot of talking in this issue. How this world reached the point it's at, how the team should go about things, why the Polaris and the Scarlet Witch in this universe don't like each other, the Exiles trying to pump various folks at the big party for information so they can figure out what to do. Lots and lots of talking. On the plus side, the Cyclops in this universe is working with Magneto, so I hold out hope that before the Exiles depart, somone will hit him really hard. Cyclops needs to be hit really hard more often in my opinion.

The part where the two Polaris' are both trying to hit each other with Forge's metal fist was very amusing. I still like Salva Espin's art, because I think it's expressive without being overdrawn. It works with an economy of lines.

Tomorrow, five more books.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Not Consult With The Creative Team?

This relates to the new Power Girl series. I am planning to buy it (I figure to have comics for reviewing tomorrow. For reals this time, promise*!), so I've been trying to avoid reviews, but I have seen a lot of people talking about the preview DC was including in several issues of their other comics recently (such as Secret Six #8).

The preview didn't really spark my imagination, but it didn't do anything to damage my interest, either. I've seen a lot of people complaining the preview sucked, which surprised me, because I didn't think it was long enough (or really substantive enough) to deem great or terrible like that. Then again, this is the Internet, and people are prone to hyperbole here. Anyway, the preview was being discussed in the comments of Greg Burgas' weekly review when he talked about Power Girl #1, and Jimmy Palmiotti** appeared, commenting on Greg's review, and responding to some of the comments about the preview. The one that interested me the most was that he didn't pick the preview pages, and further, didn't feel they represented the issue well.

First off, I'm pleased he doesn't feel they give the issue a good showing, since it improves the chances I'll enjoy the rest of the issue more than I did the preview. But more importantly, I find it a bit odd he didn't choose the preview pages. I'm assuming that Justin Gray and Amanda Conner didn't choose them either, because I figure if they had, they would have discussed it with Mr. Palmiotti, since they're a team and all.

So who did choose the pages? Did that person (or persons) receive (or request) any input from the people creating the comic? If they did, then why apparently ignore Palmiotti's feelings? If they didn't, why not? Was it felt the creative team was too close to the work to objectively judge what would make a good preview? I imagine the preview is to grab the interest of people who weren't planning to purchase the series (or weren't even aware of it), and change their mind.

Maybe this is common. Authors entrust other people with the task of deciding how best to promote their new books, so I could see it being the same for in comics. Still, I'd think if part of the promotion is to involve an excerpt from the book, they might consult the author about what they think would be an attention-getting (but not too revealing) chapter to use.

* Promise not valid if Thor causes currently unforeseen foul weather to bar my way, or Dong Dong Daddy swipes my car for use if his nefarious corruption of the youth.

** I think it was Jimmy Palmiotti. The person signed their comments as him, and he seems pretty active in the blogowhatchamafloogle, so I'll assume he was who he says he was.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Question About Superman's Powers

There's this picture that came from somewhere, drawn by Adam Hughes, of the major players in the Daily Planet newsroom, with little bios accompanying each character. Under Clark Kent's, it mentions, for example, that he's thought to be absent-minded, but it's really just that he's using his super-senses to monitor what's going on out in the city. It also says that he uses a typewriter because his powers sometimes interfere with computers.

How does that work? Superman's powers are based on solar energy. I know solar flares can emit X-rays or UV radiation that interferes with satellites, so if he was absorbing that, then I could him maybe giving off a low level of those and causing electrical malfunctions. Except that would make him hazardous to people as well, if he was around them frequently, for extended periods of time, which would seem a larger concern than a few damaged computers. Plus, I kind of figured he got charged up by visible light energy, hence why it was kind of critical for him to be around yellow suns, as opposed to red.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Power Restored!

Yes, after 11 days, electricity (and running water) have come back to my current location! The lack of power disrupted my consecutive days of blogging streak too. I was up to 129 consecutive days, a new record*. I know, you don't care, but I was enjoying it. In celebration of what is hopefully a return to daily blogging, one more book post before my comics (hopefully) show up. Hmm, not much of a celebration, is it?

A Maggot, John Fowles - The most interesting thing I learned from this book was that "maggot" once meant a whim or a lark, and that is what Fowles claims this is for him. A man rides into a town with four companions, including a maid and a deaf-mute. Next morning he, the maid, and the deaf-mute part ways with the others, and the next time anything is known of them, the deaf-mute is found hung in the woods. The man is apparently highly connected, so someone referred to only as "Your Grace**" has dispatched an attorney to figure out what's going on.

The attorney manages to track down the surviving members of the group (minus the man he's searching for) and tries to construct what's going on from there. It's a mess of lies about trips to find loves denied them, Satanic rituals, trips in oddly shaped vessels to what was apparently Heaven, and so on. We have no idea if any of it is true, since characters lie to other characters for various reasons, then claim the new story is the truth.

I was thoroughly disappointed in the book. The book jacket declares the book part detective story, part gothic horror, part science fiction, part history of dissent, and other than perhaps the last of those, I don't think it can lay claim to any of those descriptors. The most character that prompted the greatest response from me was Ayscough, the crotchety old attonrey who hates the way the world is changing, and despies anyone not from at least his social class. One of the people he interrogates is Welsh, and Ayscough takes every opportunity to disparage them as a worthless bunch, put down their religion, their lands, all of it. If he actually existed, I'd say the world was much better off when he died. If he didn't, then I'd say the world was much better off for that.

Everything's Eventual, Stephen King - It's a bunch of short stories by Stephen King. if you like his work, you can probably find something in here you'll enjoy. I was partial to the story of the traveling gourmet food salesman who is trying to decide between suicide and writing a book about all the curious phrases he's seen in gas station and rest stop bathrooms.

Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, Robert Lacey - I'm not usually one for biographies, or gangsters, but the local library doesn't have that large a selection, so I figured it was better than nothing. This was actually a very entertaining book about a fairly successful rackateer, who unfortunately was not nearly as successful as the public (and the government) believed him to be (he was the basis for Hyman Roth in Godfather Part 2, for those of you familiar with the film). Part of this is because people who aren't in crime seemed to believe all criminal enterprises are connected, like a vast corporation, and because Lansky knew many different successful rackateer types, they must obviously all be part of one large group. While he did enter into joint ventures occasionally with his friends, it wasn't an official partnership or anything.

The book paints a picture of a man who, while successful at skimming money, and establishing successful casinos (both legal ones in Cuba, and illegal ones throughout the U.S.), failed at every legit business venture he tried, and wasn't much of a family man either. His first wife had a nervous breakdown, and his children were varying degrees of disasters***. He managed to avoid being deported by the Justice Department for almost 2 decades, then when he decided perhaps he'd like to reconnect with his Jewish heritage and live out his days in Israel, the U.S. suddenly wanted to drag hhim back for trials. Of course, by then he was considered some sort of Mastermind of an International Crime Syndicate, so naturally they wanted him back. Reporters claimed (without any factual basis) that he was worth $300 million, but his loved ones were basically broke within five years of his death.

It's kind of sad, I don't think, even at the end, that he realized just how badly he'd screwed things up. He could joke about his lack of success in the world of business, but poor investment strategy isn't funny when it affects the source of income your quadraplegic son needs to be looked after.

* Breaking the old record of 101 from March 23 - July 1 2007. Which I guess makes that stretch Lee/Kirby on Fantastic Four, and this stretch Bendis/Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man?

** It's set in England in 1736, so you tell me who Your Grace would refer to. The man was apparently a disobedient son to Your Grace, if that helps.

*** His middle son, who appeared the least screwed up, turned out to have set up wiretapping on his own home phones, so he could listen in on his wife's conversations. After they divorced, he eventually remarried. His children from the first marriage found this out from their great uncle at Meyer Lansky's funeral, at least two years after the marriage. And Paul admitted to his daughter that the divorce, he spared no thoughts for his children. Yes, he was the least screwed up of Meyer's kids.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Advantage of The Current Situation

It leaves me plenty of time to read.

Testing the Current, William McPherson - It's probably because of the books I normally read, i kept expecting something to happen in this book. It's essentially one year in the life of an 8-year old boy, called Tommy, who lives in some Northeastern town during the late 1930s. The book is a 3rd person narration of what goes on, focused entirely on Tommy's thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the events. It's not about families struggling to rise out of the Depression, as Tommy's family is at least upper middle class (his father owns some sort of factory, what they produce exactly I'm unsure, possibly because Tommy doesn't know either). Really, I'm not sure what it's supposed to be about, maybe that children learn more than anyone realizes. Tommy seems to pick up all sorts of things, whether he just overhears them, or the adults actually confide him (as Mrs. Slade does in explaining why she takes morphine, and I disagree with Tommy's brother, who described her as a dope fiend. I think someone who had a masectomy, and then was caught in a fire could be excused if they took something for their pain.)

Tme method McPherson uses to tell the story is, I think, meant to evoke the somewhat scattershot way a child might relate a story to you, full of tangents as they occur to the child. Early in the story, Tommy relates how he likes oldest of his two brothers more, because he's nice to Tommy sometimes, and bought him a box of crayons with 48 colors for his birthday. Then, 200 some odd page later, we actually reach that birthday, and Tommy mentions it again. And this happens frequently, Tommy mentioning something multiple times in the story, the first time usually as a way of describing a character, the next time within the larger story he's trying to tell. I can't decide whether I find it cute, or irritating.

A Remarkable Case of Burglary, HRF Keating - This book reminds me of Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, though I'm not certain that's a compliment. I remember being annoyed by that book, since it spent seemingly 95% of itself on the setup, and very little on the actually robbery. This book isn't skewed quite that severely. A poor young fellow named Val observes a young servantmaiden scrubbing the stairs of a nice house. He suddenly decides that he can probably woo her, and while doing so, learn all about the house she works in, so he can rob it blind. And away we go, with various stumbling blocks as Janey grows uncertain of herself, or the master of the house is gripped by paranoia, or Val does something particularly stupid, or whatever.

Keating plays around a bit, establishing that even though Val gains comprehensive information about the home and its inhabitants from not just one, but two servants, no one ever mentions that the family's youngest child still lives there, and that he has a governess. It seems terribly strange that would never be mentioned, when they were being so thorough in learning every detail of the house. It seems obvious that will be their undoing, and it sort of is, but really, it comes down tot the fact that Val (who was originally attracted to Janey), fell for another girl, but had to keep seeing Janey under the pretense of caring for her, and the tension that can create.

It's an amusing enough story at times, but I don't see why Keating was so attached to military analogies. he frequently draws comparisons between either the scene that has just concluded, or the one coming next, and some military campaign. So Val attempted to sneak in the house and examine the plate closet, only to be discovered by the head maid, very nearly leads to ruin, but is averted by the intrusion of the kindly butler. Well, keating feels the need to compare it to patrols from rival battalions, missing each other in the fog. It's really quite unneccessary.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Heard It Through The Vineland

Still no power at current home. Hearing "next week" mentioned. Patience wearing thin. Contemplating bargain with dark, otherworldly powers, where I will receive electricity and Internet access in exchange for the lives of my coworkers.

So I'll talk about a book, because surely that will cheer me up. Or not. I mentioned last summer I thought about buying Gravity's Rainbow in a used bookstore last summer, but didn't owing to low cash flow, and it wasn't there when I next visited. But the local library had Vineland so I checked it out, and well, I don't know whether it encouraged me to read more of Pynchon's work or not.

A aging hippie named Zoyd lives in a northern California town called Vineland. His relatively peaceful existence with his daughter Prairie is wrecked by the arrival of first, his old sparring mate, DEA Agent Herrera, and then Federal Prosecuter Brock Vond, who is on a rampage, ostensibly related to Prairie's mom, Zoyd' ex-wife, Frensi. So Brock adopts a disguise and tries to stay around town and keep an eye on his confiscated home, while Prairie heads for the hills in the company of her boyfriend's band, who will be playing at an Italian wedding, despite none of them being Italian. While at the wedding, she meets and old friends of her mother's, DL, who helps guard her and tells her about her mother, as well as her own life. Ultimately, there's no big confrontation, as Brock's madness is short-circuited by someone higher up the ladder.

The book ostensibly takes place in the mid-80s, but I think it's a slightly surreal version, based on the movies he mentions, the fact the band gains a Russian disciple (the band put copies of their music in a floating tube, and put it to sea, it reached Russia, and they're a huge deal there), some other things that just seem kind of odd (giant monster footprints smashing research labs, planes being boarded in mid-air by other planes, passengers removed, never seen again). There's a detox place for Tube addicts, though near as I can tell, "Tube" is just television, not even with some hookup into your spinal cord or anything.

Everyone in the book seems locked into their past. Zoyd unable to stop being a slacker recreational drug user, Brock can't stop being obsessed with Frenesi, Frenesi can't stop thinking about the days when she made films about the injustices and abuses of power, even though she sold out to those folks years ago. DL is the closest to looking forward, because she's already had the moment where her fixation on the past, in her case, desire to kill Brock Vond, lead her to nearly kill the man she now works with in Karma Accounting. Yeah, there are people called Thanatoids, who are dead, but haven't passed on, and they can be solid, and they can have homes and cars, but sometimes those vanish, and they have to balance their karma somehow to leave, and Takeshi decided to work on helping them, and DL was forced to aid him, to make up for using the deadly Vibrating Palm against him. So you have people who obviously are stuck in the past, and can be distinguished as such (Thanatoids), but everyone else is in the same boat, just less obviously so.

I think there's something else in there about each generation repeating the mistakes of the previous one, because while Frenesi betrayed her cause out of some attraction to Brock, by the end, Prairie, who is very nearly abducted by the crazy Federal Prosecuter as he rappelled out of a helicopter, is asking him to come back, long after he'd left. That induced a groan, because the idea yet another girl was falling for this lunatic was just depressing. Maybe that's why everybody keeps looking back, because they're trying to figure out what they did wrong that lead them to this point.

I'm not sure about Pynchon's style. In this book, at least, he uses a lot of flashbacks, people telling other people what happened back in the day. Except he'll unleash a miniature flashback in the middle of a larger one, and all of this made it difficult at times for me to keep the flow of what happened when. I find if I focus on just one character (say DL), I can form a generally coherent timeline for them, based on the different flashbacks. But getting everyone's lives lined up is a bit trickier. And I don't think we ever do learn who the guys that came after Takeshi on the jetliner were, or why he needed to use a wig and pretend to be part of the airplane lounge band (the band was essentially Zoyd) when he apparently had some sort of Predator-style camouflage generator.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reflecting On Parts Of Rucka's Wolverine

I don't know about whether regular posting will be maintained in the near future. Power is out at my current locale (and has been for over 3 days), so until it comes back, I'll be dependent on whether I can spare the time to hit the library each day. We shall see, just providing a heads up.

At one point, I had all of Greg Rucka's run on Wolverine. Now it's down to 3 issues, all from the first arc. I can't say why exactly I gradually removed the other issues. I think I enjoyed them alright, but I didn't have any interest in rereading them. I don't believe I was as interested in the ATF agent that Rucka introduced as he would have liked. One thing I realized was that I'm more interested in how Rucka shows Logan interacting with people, rather than the violence. A lot of that is because Rucka didn't have Wolverine spend much time around previously established characters, besides Sabretooth, and a couple of appearances by Nightcrawler. The rest of the time, Logan's meeting new people, or more accurately, fighting with new people. And when it's Wolverine versus Random Cultists/Militia Imbeciles, well, there's not much suspense as to how that's going to end.

But I like how Rucka writes the quieter moments. The issue with Lucy, who had run away from home, living alone and scared in the big city, and she has the odd neighbor, a short, hairy, ugly kind of dude who comes home with a knife in his leg, but also really likes to read. What's she to make of all that? Or #3, where Logan goes looking for her father, and ends up fighting the guy before he realizes who he is. Then he gets to tell the man his daughter died. Darick Robertson's artwork helps a lot, because he shows Logan just standing there, shoulders slumped, looking sad, without a clue waht to do for this big guy who's crying in front of him*.

I especially like #6, the aftermath, where Logan asks Kurt to meet him at a bar, and Kurt tries to help Logan deal with the fact that he kind of flipped out and killed 27 people earlier that week (the aformentioned cultist/militia guys). Kurt wants to know whether they'd "earned" Logan's rage**, and explains if they were innocents he'd die trying to stop Wolverine. It's a somber issue, Logan trying his best to get drunk, trying to, I imagine, forget that he didn't save Lucy, and all he could do was kill the people who'd killed her. Not much consolation at all. And neither was much of what Kurt had to say. When Logan tells him what the now dead men were up to, Kurt says he's described evil, and that evil begets evil, which Logan interprets to mean him. Kurt responds that he can't speak as to Logan's nature, because he's unique***, and he asks whether a wolf is evil when it culls sickness from the herd.

Well, that's one way to look at it, but Logan says he's not a wolf, not an animal. But he doesn't say it with a lot of conviction, and he looks really beaten down as they stand there in the rain. It's one of those illuminating moments where you remember a healing factor can't deal with all one's pain, and just because it sounds cool to be able to fight and kill, and never be stopped, it really isn't.

* Well, I'm sure Logan knows something he can do, but eviscerating people isn't going to help in the immediate present.

** And it's kind of interesting that Logan described himself as enraged to the bone, but he still recalls exactly how many men he killed. Maybe he made a point to count them after he cooled down, maybe some part of him remembers them by individual scent.

*** Which means Kurt can't speak to anyone's nature, besides his own, can he? Which is OK, I'm kind of a believer in the idea that no person can ever really understand another person.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maybe He Could Work On His People Skills

In Guardians of the Galaxy #13, there's a point where Adam Warlock poofs inside a Shi'ar warship. He's unaware that the rest of the team - who tried entering through their usual teleport method - were bounced off the shields and are adrift in space*. He's abruptly ambushed by Vulcan, who somehow was in precisely the right spot to do so. My first thought when reading it was "Good". My second was "Wait, what?"

I'm sure I've expressed my dislike for Vulcan at some point previously, so the idea I might actually be rooting for him was a bit surprising. I guess I just don't like Adam Warlock, and the issue up to that point hadn't been helping. His attitude towards Star-Lord, looking down his nose at the team getting invovled in a bar fight, making it seem as though the Guardians should be counting their blessings Adam Warlock will work with them. He's just so full of himself.

The funny thing is, when I thought about it a little, I realized he was right to still have issues with Star-Lord. Peter Quill did, after all, have Mantis mentally nudge people so they would join the team. People should have misgivings about that. They have the right to be sore about that, and if it had been anyone else busting Quill's chops about it, I'd have been nodding my head in agreement**.

However, we were never told which people, specifically, Mantis did that to***. Adam Warlock was the one making a big deal about how the fabric of the universe was falling apart, and it was terribly vital that not happen, so I don't see him as having needed much convincing. Star-Lord was aiming to stop the next Annihilation Wave before it started. That wouldn't necessarily come from the decay of space-time. Still, he throws in with Adam, providing a source of assistance to Adam Warlock.

I think it's just Warlock's attitude in general. The arrogance that he seems to carry, his air of never having made a mistake, and you should be damned grateful he's deigned to ignore your past foul-ups enough to tolerate your presence. Just a complete stick in the mud. This is the guy who split off the evil of his soul, and whoops! it become the Magus, who inflicted Infinity War (and by extension the Spider-Doppelganger) on us. Then the good of his soul became Goddess and she hit us with Infinity Crusade. He has much to answer for.

In seriousness, he did tell us in issue #1 that he 'went to great lengths to rewrite that particular timeline', in reference to Gamora's question about whether the Universal Church of Light and Truth used to worship him. Well who gave him the right to go around rewriting timelines? I'm sure he had a good reason, but all kinds of terrible things are done with good intentions. Like, having your telepath friend mentally manipulate people so they'll join your super-teams. But once you make those screw-ups, you ought to be a bit less condescending towards others' foibles.

* Adam used a magic spell, and apparently the shields don't protect against that.

** Which is a bit surprising. People were sore at the moment it was revealed, hence all the folks walking out, but the Guardians still went hunting for Star-Lord, charging into the Negative Zone. And Drax and Phyla don't seem to have problems with him now that they've returned. For the record, I infer that from the fact Drax hasn't stabbed Quill repeatedly.

*** Personally, my money's on Drax. Maybe Gamora.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A X-Men Related Divergence

I'm a bit too tired for the more introspective post I had planned for today, so it'll have to wait for tomorrow. For tonight, something a bit easier for me.

Was there any explanation for Mastermind's increased mental capabilities back in the '80s? His power was pretty much limited to casting illusions. Really, incredibly believable illusions, but illusions nonetheless. So how did he put the kibosh on Wolverine's wedding?

Mariko was taking a moment for quiet reflection beforehand, Wyngarde appears (mostly off-panel), they chat a bit, he wanders off, Mariko snaps out of a sort of trance, and hurries off to her wedding. But once she arrives, she calls the whole thing off, and tells Logan it's because he isn't worthy*.

That doesn't sound like illusion casting, so much as hypnotic suggestion, the sort of thing you'd expect of a high-level telepath, like Xavier or Emma Frost. So how did Mastermind pull it off? And why did he do it? What does he gain from breaking up Wolverine's wedding?

OK, so he might want revenge on the X-Men for Dark Phoenix breaking his mind back in the day. But wouldn't it be easier if they're scattered? If the X-Men go home after the wedding, and Wolverine stays behind, then you can pick him off when he has no backup. Just seems like good common sense to me.

Also, did Wolverine ever find out it was Wyngarde who did nixed his wedding? I have to think he would have eviscerated him if he had, and personally, I think it would have been proper. I know Mastermind asked Jean Grey's forgiveness for what he did to her**, I think he owed Logan an explanation as well.

* Which makes Logan cry.

** He was dying of the Legacy Virus, and I guess he was feeling the weight of past misdeeds.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Life Wins Over Death With Death?

Drax, Life's champion succeeded in his purpose by destroying Death's champion, Thanos. So Life triumphed over Death by killing.

Perhaps you've heard the phrase "Death is just a part of life". Well, the scenario above seems to both agree with and refute that statement.

On the one hand, if death was a part of life, life couldn't really defeat it. Your toe is a part of you, if you smash it with a hammer, you didn't really "defeat" your toe. Well, you may have, but you haven't done yourself any favors in the process. So if Life can defeat Death, then they're separate entities. Or if we want to go more, abstract, one's childhood shapes the person they become. You can try to "defeat" whatever effect it had on you, but by doing that, you're verifying the effect, by your response to it.

On the other hand, Life defeated Death through death. Which does imply a connectivity between the two, if Life must beat Death at its own game. It's a loop, Death (acting through Thanos) will kill large numbers of people, so Life (acting through Drax) stops Death by killing. This singular act of Death preserves a much larger proportion of Life. Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?

It strikes me as rather strange. Wouldn't life triumph through another method, like giving Thanos a hug, and teaching him there are better ways to court Death? Really, flowers, candy, a nice stroll through the stars, something to take Death's mind off the fact that it's Death, and many people have a strong dislike for it. That could become a tad depressing eventually, assuming that a driving force in the universe is allowed to contemplate its existence, rather than simply carrying out its purpose.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Two Guardians Of The Galaxy Questions

The post is what the title says it is.

First question: Have we ever seen the conceptualization of Life in the Marvel Universe? Back in issue #11, Drax was telling Phyla about how there are all these concepts that exist, and sometimes, they present themselves in a form mortals can understand for whatever reason. So Death shows up, and it looks like a skeleton in a purple robe. Or a white lady with brown hair in a purple robe. Or as a small Goth kid. Whatever.

Well, if Death can do that, it stands to reason Life can as well, right? Death had a champion (Thanos), and Life has a champion to oppose him (Drax, and I want to talk a bit about that tomorrow, yeah the next few days are going to be Guardians-centric), so Life ought to be able to present itself in a similar manner.

Is it the Phoenix Force? The Phoenix rises from the ashes of its past self, life emerging from death. Except the Phoenix was technically just supposed to be guarding the M'Kraan Crystal, to protect the universe from utter destruction, which really makes the Phoenix Force sound more like the champion of whatever force would oppose Oblivion*. I don't have any idea, unless Life presents itself to us by the presence of living beings everywhere. We can see people alive, and so we "see" Life. I'm not high on that explanation.

Second question: Phyla and Drax wound up in Oblivion. The Quantum Bands fall off Phyla, because she's dead, though Maelstrom said she was just mostly dead, and there was a spark of life in her and Drax yet. Maelstrom however, is dead. Period**. So how was he able to pick up the Bands? Shouldn't he have needed to be, alive? At the very least, he'd need to be more alive than Phyla.

* Hmm, Maelstrom was Oblivion's champion, trying to end everything. Wonder if he ever tried to use the Crystal for that purpose?

** Well as "period" as you can be in the Marvel Universe these days when it comes to death.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Someone's Ego May Be Showing

Adorable Baby Panda: . . . so I'll give him a Bonk for feeding kids to that monster.

CalvinPitt: {Sounds good. Can you figure out what the Zapatas are up to?}

ABP: I think they're selling Moon Knight out, so I'll have to give them Bonks too.

Calvin: {I thought they might be, but I thought maybe it was a plan they made with Moonie.}

ABP: A plan to make it harder for Moon Knight to get at the bad guy?

Calvin: {Point.}

*the door swings open, a red carpet unrolls into the room, girls in flowing dresses dance in, tossing flowers with a familiar, hideous face on them, and two men in ludicrous uniforms stride in, flank the door, and start playing trumpets. Deadpool strides in, wearing a cape, and carrying a fancy cane.*

Calvin: Oh dear.

Deadpool: [What's going on peons? Didn't think I'd forget about you just because I was a major movie star now, did you? *Pause* You guys saw my movie, right?]

ABP: You mean X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Yeah, we both saw it.

Deadpool: [It was great wasn't it? I was so awesome! And they picked Ryan Reynolds to play me. Sure he's not quite handsome enough, but he's close!]

Calvin: {Right. Sure. We need to talk about that crossover you had with the Thunderbolts, because I'm feeling a little gypped by it.}

Deadpool: [What, you weren't entertained by the stirring saga of Yelena's love for me?]

ABP: Oh, that reminds me, I should give her a Hug from sewing your head back on!

Deadpool: [Hands off my woman, Teddy Ruxpin! You're not going to swoop in a woo her with your adorable huggable fur!]

Calvin: {You got your butt kicked by Ant-Man! What's the matter, too busy buying foofy capes to remember how to fight?}

Deadpool: [He didn't kick my butt! I shot myself several times! Maybe you need glasses.]

Calvin: {And another thing, what makes you think you can handle two ongoing series?}

ABP: Wade's getting another ongoing?

Deadpool: [What makes you think I can't support two titles? My book's in the Top 50 in sales!]

Calvin: {Sure, because of Dark Reign. Once that ends, the numbers will sink like a stolen ATM card tied to an anvil.}

Deadpool: [How did you know I did that with Norman's ATM card?]

ABP: Guys, we haven't finished with this week's books yet.

*Deadpool and Calvin continue arguing*

ABP: I guess it's up to me then. I know Calvin would want me to give Adam Warlock a Bonk, for being kind of bossy, and being down on the Guardians bar-fighting. Bar fighting isn't a good way to spend time, though.

Calvin: {It's a team-building exercise! And they're trying to charge 4 dollars for this new ongoing!}

Deadpool: [4 dollars? Marvel must really believe in me! Besides, it's probably loaded with bonus materials! Everyone loves bonus material! The DVD version of my movie will have an alternate ending where I kill Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Gambit, making me the most beloved character ever!]

Calvin: {Well, killing Gambit will certainly help with that.}

ABP: I think the Inhumans have to get Bonks, for not being willing to stop fighting. The rookie Novas are going to get Hugs, because they are not ready for all this fighting. Robbie Rider gets a Applause for trying to keep Suki calm, and help her out.

Calvin: {You couldn't even talk in the last half of the movie! What's the point of it being Deadpool if you're not running your mouth? And you had swords coming out of your arms, what kind of falderah is that?}

Deadpool: [But I had optic blasts! That was cool, right? Now the X-Men will finally accept me!]

ABP: Sigh. Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons all get Applause for being clever. Danny gets an extra round of Applause because he won't leave anyone behind. It's probably a bad idea, but he cares a lot, and that's really nice. Davos and Lei Kung both gets Bonks, 'cause I think they're up to no good.

Calvin: {Wade, you already have a certain level of ill-will with some fans for being a 90s creation, and if you get overexposed, more people are going to turn against you.}

Deadpool: [Pfft. Just nerds on the Internet, and nobody listens to them! My life is as perfect as Sally Field's hair throughout Smokey and the Bandit. My star has never been higher!]

ABP: But Wade, what usually happens when your life is going well?

Deadpool: [Why, I say or do something hurtful and insensitive to someone important to me and proceed into a downward spiral of ill-advised behavior. Dang.]

Calvin: {That about sums it up.}

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What I Bought 5/4/09 - Part 2

Time for some slightly more recent books!

Guardians of the Galaxy #13 - Does that cover make it look as though Havok is channeling his power through his voice to anyone else? It reminds me of how people used to depict Banshee and Siryn's powers, back in the day.

The issue starts with a bar fight at "Starlin's", a bar in Knowhere. Jack Flag is officially on the team, and all the wayward team members, the ones who scattered after they learned how Star-Lord got them on the team, have returned too. Geez, if they keep adding members at this rate, they'll challenge the Justice Society in roster size (the Legion being the title holder, with what, fifty members?). Phyla has adopted the codename "Martyr", and golly gee, isn't that cheerful? Oh, and Adam Warlock shows up and starts throwing his weight around, deigning to agree to work with the team. Geez, what a tosspot.

So the team splits, one half going to trounce Vulcan, the other to ask Black Bolt to please stop fighting before the universe is destroyed. The Inhumans decline to be sensible, because they're obnoxious assholes ("No", oh just like that, huh? No wonder nobody likes the Inhumans), and the trouncing of Vulcan isn't going so well. No biggie, it's not like the book will be losing anyone interesting if Vulcan wins his current fight.

I liked this issue, though I'm not sure about the "telepath joke" sequence. It doesn't bother me, it just seemed kind of abrupt. I still like Brad Walker's art, and at times it reminds of Tom Raney (who drew Annihilation: Conquest), though there's a roughness to it, that's different from the smoothness of Raney's figures. Walker does choose some odd body positions for characters at times.

Immortal Iron Fist #25 - So the situation with the first Iron Fist was not what we thought? Or, if you were smarter than me, it wasn't what I thought it was. We learn some more of Quan's story, the Immortal Weapons make their move, Danny makes the sort of decisions that Danny always makes, and Davos prepares to do something ominous, because Lei Kung told him to. Wait, Davos looks like he has two hands again. I thought he could only make a chi fist when he had those crane girls to draw power from? Does K'un-Lun have that kind of technology?

Generally, I've tried to be positive about Travel Foreman's art, but I have to say, Fat Cobra's "Heaven's Haymaker" looked really unimpressive. And don't get me started on his "Thunder Devil Stomp". Also, I am troubled by this tendency towards showing disfigured ladies sans clothes in comics. First it was Ragdoll's crazy sis, now the Bride of Nine Spiders from Quan's time, who was an old woman. *shudders* That's going to replace the cheese grater in my nightmares. Something I can't figure: There are two different sequences that take place in the past, the first detailing why Quan ended up in the 8th city, the other about what happened while he was there. The first sequence is drawn by Foreman, the second by Juan Doe. Why not use Doe for both, so it's consistent? Also, I liked Doe's art. Kind of Expressionistic, really using shadows and color to convey mood, and doing detailed work in a way where I don't really notice a lot of lines, so it simultaneously looks simplified somehow.

Nova #24 - The Nova Corps enters the War of Kings! The Nova Corps promptly gets its butt trounced! It's exactly what Richard was worried about when it came to rebuilding the Corps. We see the battle from the perspective of rookie Centurion Suki Yumiko, and from Robbie Rider, who's stuck in tactical trying to help guide her through. It's a nice way to handle it, with Suki being overwhelmed by what's going in, that people are dying around her, that she's killed people, while Robbie's wishing he was in that. At the same time, Suki's flying here, flying there, blasting the things she's told to, and has no idea whether they're winning or losing, while Robbie has the birds-eye view and can see what's happening, including the arrival of Shi'ar Imperial Guardsmen, including Gladiator.

Meanwhile, Richard uses the Quantum Bands to storm Ego, and gets himself quite a surprise when he reaches the brain. Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it certainly isn't good. I must say, I'm impressed with Rich's skill with the Bands. I know he has Quasar acting as his 'ghostly co-pilot', and he's used to having lots of power, but I'd think being Nova Prime is different from being Protector of the Universe. It's like going from having Superman's powers, which are numerous but fairly rigidly defined (in theory, allowing for variance at the writer's convenience), to using a Green Lantern ring. This wasn't a bad issue. Rich is out in space again, which is what I've been wanting for the last seven or eight months, so that's a huge plus right there. I like Andrea DiVito's art, which doesn't have too many lines to it, and DiVito seems to know when to pull the shot back and let us see a lot of the battlefield, which helps convey the scope of everything.

Thunderbolts #131 - This was really disappointing. As in, I feel bad I wasted time and money on this. Really, Deadpool gets schooled by Ant-Man? It's not even a good Ant-Man, like Pym or Lang, it's that loser O'Grady! I knew Deadpool wouldn't get to kill Osborn (unfortunately), but jeez, I don't know, I have a hard time seeing Wade lifting Norman's ATM card and using it to fatten his and Taskmaster's wallet as a "win". And since when does Deadpool have hair?!

Are they planning some long-term thing where Deadpool starts stalking Yelena the way he used to do to Siryn? Because other than that, what did we get out of this? The Thunderbolts can barely handle Taskmaster and a Deadpool that seems very low in the competence category (not to mention Osborn did more damage to Wade than the entire T-Bolts roster). Norman will still be gunning for Deadpool, and we saw that Norman has a tendency to lose his mind, but I already knew that! I don't know what I was expecting, but I don't feel this was it.

That was the wrong comic to end the reviews on.