Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Don't I Have An Eye For Rhyme?

I ordered some Hitman trades* online a couple of weeks ago, they arrived this week, and I've been reading through them. I definitely need to talk more about them later, but for now, the thing I'm taking away from them is that perhaps I need to look into Ennis' Demon series.

And isn't that how it always goes? I pick up one thing I've heard rave reviews of, and think to myself that I'm one step closer to being happy with my comic collection as it is. Then the stuff I just bought introduces me to something else, and I wonder if I ought to be chasing that down as well. It's a vicious cycle.

That's not really what I wanted to discuss, either. The thing I like is how Ennis writes Etrigan, joyfully destructive, almost playful, but always dangerous. I also really enjoy the rhymes he writes. I don't know how he manages them. I have no gift for rhyme myself, certainly not to Ennis' ability. 'Is that an eclipse, I hear you cry? No, but Glonth has just passed by!' A rhyme that's also a fat joke? That's just awesome. I've been sitting here for 10 minutes trying to come up with a clever title that rhymes, nothing. How long does it take him to come up with that stuff?

That's all I have tonight. Traveling tomorrow, no post. Monday, post. In theory.

* Rage in Arkham, Ace of Killers, and Who Dares Wins, for the record. And I ordered the 2nd printing of 10,000 Bullets DC solicited.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Perhaps One Of The Can Garner A Spinoff

The people in the backgrounds Amanda Conner draws for Power Girl always manage to intrigue. Mostly because they're usually doing something, as opposed to just standing around. Take the scene in the hospital in #6.

Last panel, page 17, where'd that bloodstain on the wall come from? Did the guy with the icepack run into the wall, and if not, why does he have the ice pack? Walk into a door jamb? Got sucker-punched? Unfortunate drinking straw mishap? Played pickup basketball against Anthony "Pig" Miller*?

Across the panel, what line is the fella in the blue shirt using on the lady behind the glass? Does he use it often? Does he always try to pick her up? Is he actually not trying to be smooth, he's just boring?

First panel, page 18, what happened to that guy's ear? Is the guy with the band-aid responsible, or was he just a good friend (or random Samaritan) that wants to help?

Last panel, page 18, what's in the red cooler? Did the fellow in the flannel shirt cut something off? he's seems to be running alright, so probably not foot-related, but who knows? Or maybe it's an organ for transplant. He could be a very informally dressed organ delivery guy. Who also happens to be late, hence the panicked expression.

* For the record: Anthony Miller was a power forward who played in the NBA for awhile, and was most noticeable for playing with a toothpick in his mouth. How he got away with that, considering he could choke on it, or inadvertently stab someone with it, I don't know, but he did.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time Again To Guess The Mysterious Villain!

I'm tired, so let's keep this simple.

With regards to the current Secret Six series, who do you think is Mockingbird?

It was Lex Luthor in the original Villains United mini-series, but somehow I can't see Luthor financing the turning of an island into a prison for all the world's criminals. It just seems too petty, not nearly super-science enough.

It seems like it's someone with designs on being a ruler, and someone not at all troubled by enslaving people. I thought about Kobra, but I think they'd prefer the criminals be running loose, to help spread chaos and fear. I suppose General Eiling could be behind it. He's a power-hungry scumbag.

I tend to favor Vandal Savage. Smyth kept bringing up how there are all these great achievements through history that relied on slave labor, and Vandal was alive for all of them, so he'd certainly see it as a proven formula. It might also explain why they'd bring in one of his kids to serve as waste disposal, or whatever that monstrosity was supposed to be.

You have any guesses?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm Sure It's Smooth Sailing For The Six Now

So Bane's taken over the Secret Six. I can't see that going well, especially since his first act as leader was to kick the one person on the team who liked him (and one of the two that has his back), Scandal Savage, off the team.

Question for the audience: Do you think Bane kicked Scandal out because he thinks she's a poor leader, or because he's concerned for what being part of this group is doing to her? I'd like to credit Bane for acting out of concern for her, but he can be coldly pragmatic. He was right about how things have gone thus far. They haven't had much success getting paid, and have been pretty severely thrashed by the end of their missions, largely because they seem to take jobs they aren't prepared to follow through on. Still, we know Bane does worry about Scandal, and she did take Venom, and he knows better than anyone what that does to a person. It would make her judgment questionable, and if she's taking part in missions, she might find situations where she could excuse her continued use of it. So keeping her out of things might help her to get past the initial stages of her newfound addiction.

Then there's the rest of the team. How are they going to take the coup? Other than Jeanette, Bane's the newest member of the team. Ragdoll's never been terribly fond of Bane, and Bane and Catman seem to quarrel regularly (the thing about whether Batman is more than just a man, the disagreement over this last job). Really, they seem to have completely opposite philosophies, so I'm not sure how willing Blake's gonna be to follow Bane. Then there's Jeanette, who was Scandal's best friend, near as I can figure. Have to wonder what she thinks of it all. Bane said she agreed with him, but Jeanette seems too spaced out to contradict him if that's false. Besides, even if he agreed that he should take over, did she agree to give Scandal the boot? So he may have cost himself the one other team member that had his back.

That leaves Deadshot. I'm not sure if he's even still on the team. He didn't catch the flight off the prison island. He's been having flashes off killing everyone around him, including his teammate. He even said at one point in this last issue that he never cared about getting paid anyway*. It's reminiscent of what Jeanette told him about her husband, the mad dog killer who used money as an excuse to kill. Not an encouraging development, to be sure.

Let's say he catches up with the team later. I doubt he cares who's in charge, as long as they'll actually stick to the job. I think that's what's been bothering him the most about his teammates lately is their lack of commitment. They've all come down with Blake's on-again, off-again morality, while Deadshot just keeps going the way he always has. it seems that with Bane in charge, they'll plan things out better ahead of time, which might help them avoid taking jobs they'll regret later, which would cut down on the waffling, which I'm sure Deadshot would approve of. Unfortunately, it might also mean taking jobs that don't afford Floyd the opportunity to shoot people as often, which might annoy him. They'd be sticking to their jobs, but they might be too do-goodery for his tastes. Really though, I think Deadshot would be a problem no matter who leads, and regardless of the jobs the take, because he is losing it.

* Which reminds me of Bullseye/Hawkeye in that Deadpool story this summer. He laughed when Norman mentioned money, making it clear he doesn't take jobs for the cash, because he never spends what he makes. If Deadshot's drifting into the same mental territory as Bullseye, that's bad, assuming he hasn't always been there, which I don't think he has. Bullseye's more sadistic, and I'd say less suicidal than Lawton.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Like Wookies, Atlanteans Tend To Rip Arms Off When They Lose

X-Men versus Agents of Atlas #1 was my first time reading about this Dr. Nemesis character. Based on what I read, Parker summed him up quite well with that little caption box: 'Scientific Genius. Height of Arrogance.' I don't know if there's more to him than being smart and pompous, and right now, it doesn't matter.

What I think we need is an Arrogance Battle between Dr. Nemesis and Namor. They're both hanging around the X-Men, they both think very highly of themselves, let's see who's more supercilious. We can use the younger mutants to ask them stupid, exceedingly obvious questions that will annoy them, then see who delivers the more cutting, yet calm remark. Who can provide the more withering look of utter contempt towards? Who better expresses their frustration that you are wasting their time with your pettifoggery*, when they have important business to attend to elsewhere?

* The first time I ever saw this word was an issue of the Avengers where they were shuffling the roster. They were debating how to arrange the main lineup, reserves, and inactives, and Namor finally gets fed and proclaims 'Enough of this pettifoggery! Let us vote!' That was when Sandman and Rage both got to become Avengers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Characters Keep Growing Whether You're There Or Not

This is another thought I had in relation to the Huston/Baker Deadpool story*. If I'm right, and the White Caption Box is meant to represent Charlie Huston (or some random writer), then his helplessness in the story is kind of interesting. He's supposed to be writing the story, but he can't control it.

He tries to ask Deadpool about how he feels, and whether he can get through a story without killing people**, and Deadpool wants to know why he'd do that. He starts doing flashbacks to moments of emotional distress and pain for Deadpool, and 'Pool shuts that down cold. He's not going down that path, no way. Wade steals a couple's limo, over the writer's objections. He embarks on his "kill all Deadpool fans" plan over similar concerns. In short, Deadpool does as he pleases, and the author is simply along for the ride.

But that's common in some ways for characters that are part of a shared universe. A writer creates a character, maybe just to fill a gap in a story, maybe with a greater purpose in mind. Maybe they finish what they had planned with it, maybe they get taken off the book before they get the chance. Either way, some other writer eventually comes along, picks up the character, dusts them off, and uses them. Maybe they add something to the character, or maybe they retool them so completely if it weren't for the name you'd never realize it was the same character. It might be something the creator didn't intend, or doesn't approve of, but they can't do much about it. In some ways, the character has grown beyond them, gotten larger than them, or at the very least, moved beyond their ability to control.

Take the Question. Steve Ditko created him, correct? I haven't read any of Ditko's Question work, but as I understand it, the Dennis O'Neil/Denys Cowan Question doesn't bear much resemblance in methods, philosophy, characterization, and so on. Likewise, the Justice League Unlimited version of the Question is, to me, a bit more unhinged, and less sociable than the O'Neil/Cowan version***. I haven't read much of Renee Montoya Question, so I can't speak to how she compares to the others, but I'd guess she's different from the other three in her own ways as well. They all use the same costumed identity, and the same sort of look (well, the faceless mask, anyway, and the guys seem fond of trenchcoats), but they aren't really terribly similar. And I imagine there'll be another Question someday, if not a new person in the identity, at least they'll be different somehow, probably owing to the writer's personal interests or philosophy.

You could probably make a similar thing with Deadpool, make a chart comparing Joe Kelly Deadpool to the Nicieza, Way, Simone, Priest, etc., versions, and each would probably be at least a little different. Different sense of humor, different way of dealing with friends, enemies, different foibles, and so on. Nicieza and Rob Liefeld created Deadpool, but the character hasn't remained the same as he was. Nicieza did some work with him, but other writers did their own things, and those don't always jibe with each other. That seems to be something writers working in the corporate owned universes have to accept, that once they introduce the character, it's entirely likely that other writers will take said character in directions they never intended, and there won't be much they can do about it. If they get another chance to write their character, they can always take the time to undo things they didn't like, or just ignore them, but then there's the fans to worry about.

There may be fans of the creator's version of the character, but that other writer may have attracted fans with their version as well, and so the creator may simply have to go with the fans (or editorial demands) against their wishes or better judgment. The character moves on, with or without them.

* Actually, I might have originally been thinking about it as part of a really massive story I've been thinking about writing on the blog. The timeline is kind of confused in my mind.

** I'm reasonably sure I've read several Deadpool comics where he didn't kill anyone.

*** Though he shows a dry sarcasm that seems similar to the O'Neil/Cowan version. JLU version is less angry, better at maintaining detachment.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Voices In His Head Not His Own

It seems like ever since Daniel Way gave Deadpool the yellow and white competing caption boxes, that they've served as his supporting cast. I haven't seen any sort of pattern as far as what the white ones tend to say, versus the yellow, so it's not as though they're different parts of his personality, or different personalities entirely. It's more like they represent thoughts he simply doesn't have time to say, only to think.

But Charlie Huston and Kyle Baker went with something a little different in the "One Down" story for Deadpool #900. In that, Huston's the white caption box, and the yellow box is Deadpool's inner thoughts. Which doesn't mean it always agrees with Deadpool, or even is in the loop on what he's been up to. It didn't know, for example, that Deadpool's been robbing people, then cutting off their hand as they hold out their wallets, and it said it had seen a guy puke in his mouth* before, when Deadpool said that was a new experience. On the whole though, Yellow Caption Box is in agreement with Deadpool.

It's an odd story. White Caption Box seems to want to find some human aspect to mine for a story, which might be desire by comic writers to take that well-worn character and find a new spin on them, the fresh new take that makes the character a big name, and gets a writer the plaudits. The Yellow Caption Box seems more interested in action. It wants to kill something, anything really, but killing fans will do just fine. Deadpool just wants to die, which is why he's going to kill all his fans.

It makes sense, if a fictional character is trapped in a serialized story, and knows it, that they wouldn't have patience for yet another writer wanting to find some new angle on them. Those new angles so often seem to involve death or loss, and being forced to relive that crap, or experience new occasions of it, would have to be maddening. The story can't end, not as long as there's money to be made, it must go on, so any progress the character makes is inevitably undone, and they have to crawl up from the bottom allover again. Just staying at the bottom isn't any option, because the writers want to bring them up, and the fans want to see it (even if we've seen it already, I'm guilty). So Huston's using himself as the White Caption Box as a way for Deadpool to speak more directly and openly to us, since we're here in the real world with Huston.

I wonder if the story would have worked as well with the more common use of the caption boxes. Probably not, since having White Caption Box question the plan would undercut just how serious Deadpool was about his plan. Though Huston and Baker could perhaps have worked it as the White Caption Box arguing against it, but having its arguments in favor of existence shot down**, until by the end, it has to agree. No, I think their way works better. It's more effective at including the reader in the whole thing than if it was just Deadpool arguing with himself.

* OK, why do people describe it as "puke in their mouth", or "threw up in their mouth a little"? Where the hell else do you throw up but in your mouth?! If it isn't coming out through there, it's not puke, right?!

** Which wouldn't be hard. Anything good thing about Deadpool's existence they could bring up could easily be shot down on the grounds that some writer will eventually take it away. Wade had friends and an apartment at the end of Cable/Deadpool, and currently he lives in an abandoned gym/YMCA/something, and appears close to no one.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's Too Nice Outside For This

ABP: So we're not going to mention him this week?

Calvin: {That's right. We'll give him a little rest. Maybe it'll improve his disposition.}

But he's in 40% of the comics you bought! {Then you'll just have to look over the other 60% extra carefully.} I can't even give him a hug? {Fine, you can give him a hug, but quietly. Off-panel, without mentioning his name.} You're just scared he's going to come by and shoot you. {A little, yes.}

Fine, I think Bane needs a Bonk for kicking Scandal off the team. She was there first! {She's also a little crazy, and Bane was right, their mission have gone pretty poorly with her in charge.} Ragdoll's gets some Applause for dealing with that Mr. Smyth. {You're in favor of beating people with pipe wrenches?} When they're bad people. {Oh, that's a dangerously vague comment. Wouldn't practically everyone in that book qualify as bad people?} Stop arguing with me! Or I'll, I'll, say his name! {You mean CandleJack?} You know who I mean!! {OK, concerns retracted. Carry on.}

I'm Applauding Power Girl for helping the people from Vega 7 find their way home, and helping them find a place to stay in the meantime. *glares at Calvin* {I didn't say anything.} Whoever was taking pictures of Power Girl needs a Bonk. It's not polite to take a person's picture without asking. I think Cyclops needs a Bonk for shooting Namora in the back, and for shooting M-11 when Wolverine wanted to chop it up. {Sigh.} What? {As much as I like seeing Cyclops get hit, I can't really fault him. Namora was attacking Storm, and M-11 well, it's not like Logan didn't get other chances in the issue to attack it.} It's not like the X-Men were using Cerebra anyway! They shouldn't be so greedy! {Do you still use that paddle ball you got last Christmas?} No. . . {Great. I'll go take it now, without asking if it's OK. Seriously, I can't believe you're OK with the stealing. Are you sure you aren't Deadpool in disguise again?} You said his name! {I suppose I did. Oh well, you'll just have to carry on without me here on the blog.} No, it'll be OK! I bet he'll change his mind eventually! We just have to hide you until then! Come on, the woods are right over there! {I'd like to maintain a little dignity, thank you.}

Friday, October 23, 2009

What I Bought 10/23/09

I can't think of anything to say for an introduction. Oh well.

Deadpool #900 - I don't know why Drew Johnson went with a cover that looks like it goes on the back of a mudflap. Anyway, for $5, you get a "Deadpool abducted by aliens, the poor, poor aliens" story by Jason Aaron and Chris Staggs. Then Fred van Lente and Dalibor Talajic have Deadpool fight mimes who can make whatever they're miming real, done silently. Mike Benson and Daimon Scott have Deadpool visit a therapist, Joe Kelly and Rob Liefeld have Deadpool completely blow off stopping some device from doing something to follow up on an old bet, Duane Swierczynski and Shawn Crystal take CSI down a peg (shoulda been you, Caruso). Victor Gischler and Sandford Greene send Deadpool on a cruise to engage in vacation ping-pong. There's what I'm assuming is a reprint of a battle between Deadpool and a miniaturized, cranked up to 12 version of himself, written by James Felder and drawn by Pete Woods.

There's also a story by Charlie Huston and Kyle Baker that's highly discordant compared to the rest, and makes me feel bad about buying so many comics with him, not to mention writing him poorly on this blog. I'm contributing to his torment! The rest are all varying degrees of good, though Liefeld occasionally makes Wade's old friend look about 12 feet tall, and I'm really wishing Daimon Scott would rein in his style a bit, get closer to what he did on Batgirl. He's not a bad choice for a story about Deadpool's mental problems, and there are some layouts I really liked, but there are others where things are too distorted, too loose. No inker's listed, so I wonder if Scott is like Stroman, and needs an inker to solidify his work. Or maybe that would make things worse. The mime story was nice, though the telekinetic killer mimes with dimensional gateways where their torsos should be from Grimjack: Killer Instinct pretty owns the top spot for "Use of mimes" in a comic, so I'd say my favorite was the CSI one. I'd imagine how much one likes that story depends on how aware of (and periodically annoyed by) the cliches of those types of shows one is. I considered this excellent value for my money.

Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #4 - Jack must have figured I buy this since I buy so much other Deadpool stuff. Reasonable assumption, I suppose, and it's here, I've paid for it, might as well discuss it. The recap page tells me what I need to know: That Deadpool is to recover Zombie Deadpool (of those Marvel Zombies books) from the Savage Land for AIM, but HYDRA wants Zombie Deadpool, so they show up, and there's a zombie T-Rex, and an attractive AIM agent who hates Deadpool.

Compared to the book I just discussed, this felt really light. It's largely an extended chase scene: Deadpool running from the T-Rex, the scientist agent lady trying to find transportation while carrying the head of Zombie Deadpool. There's a few other oddballs in there who I'm sure would mean more to me if I'd read the preceding issues, but it's mostly Deadpool and Betty running in various directions. Also, I've never been to a tropical jungle, so I don't know proper procedure for clothing, but I'd think, considering the giant-ass mosquitoes, I'd want more clothes than Betty wears. Certainly the way those shorts ride up must be uncomfortable to run for your life in. On the other hand, I'd guess there's no risk of catching a pant leg on a root or something. Basically, this issue did not convince me that I'm missing out by not purchasing this book monthly. The potential fun of two Deadpools was killed for me by one of them being a Zombie. I mean, it's kind of a neat idea, AIM and HYDRA wanting the zombie head for various reasons, I'm just so sick of zombies. And Betty's generally so unpleasant towards Deadpool that the fact he'd like to jump her bones doesn't make me any more kindly disposed towards her, so there aren't many characters I care about.

Power Girl #6 - So the party girls are princesses from Vega 7, and Nerdy Jetpack Guy (Carl) is supposed to be looking after them, but they ran, and he followed, and now they're on Earth, and both their spaceships are wrecked. Power Girl learned this by removing Carl from the fight he was having with the girls, and politely talking with him. OK, she removed his jetpack and threatened to drop him. But she was nice about it! They track down the girls, ensure they don't kill anyone, and set the four of them up with a nice place in Brazil (it's warm on Vega 7, and the girls had lost of jewels and such). Also, Power Girl knows someone knows her secret identity, which doesn't make her very happy.

For awhile there, I thought the issue was going to end with PG unable to find the girls. She'd know their story, but they'd be a dangling plot thread she'd probably have to wrap up down the line, since keeping a low profile doesn't seem to be their style. So the fact she did find them and help them (rather than just fighting them) was nice. Plus, we had some more interaction between Power Girl and Terra, which I enjoy. Power Girl's the older, more experienced of the two, but Terra can help her a lot just by being someone to talk to about her difficulties. Sometimes all you really need is a good listener. OK, it is time once again for me to struggle to find something to say about Amanda Conner's art, that I haven't already said. The part at the hospital, there are so many little things going on in the background I want to know about. I know, that's always true, but between the guy with the cooler in the last panel, the guy trying to hit on the receptionist, the little kid eying Anez (I can't tell whether she's giving him a look or glancing over that "My-Tykes Magazine" she's holding. Maybe she was trying to decide if the kid was a Doofus or Dashing?).

Secret Six #14 - This book has a startling lack of Bane wearing a torn mask and screaming. Or doing either of those things separately for that matter. I know, the cover lies, shocking. Grendel wants to eat Wonder Woman. The Amazons want to escape and kill lots of guards, Smyth doesn't want them to escape. Scandal's lost her damn mind. So has Deadshot, probably. Nobody's having a good time. Wonder Woman killed the Grendel, and said it was OK 'cause it's a demon. Except its dad was Vandal Savage, and its mom was a cavebeast. So that wouldn't technically be a demon. I mean, Wonder Woman's clay given life, right? So she'd be less human than that thing, at least in a biological sense, anyway. I don't really care that she killed it, since I never once understood during this arc why everyone was making such a big deal about it (what's the difference between it and that talking shark Jeanette ripped an arm off of during the opening arc?). It tends to erode the moral high ground from which she would look down her nose at the Six. Which explains why she let them leave, but she was snooty about it. Clearly I'm not much of a Wonder Woman fan.

Nicola Scott is sharing art duties with Carlos Rodriguez, who drew Secret Six #8. Their styles aren't too far off, but Rodriguez' is different enough, a little simpler, thinner lines, that the shift is noticeable. Rodriguez draws the middle of the book, and I wonder if it wouldn't have worked better to just have him draw certain characters , and have Scott handle others, so there'd be a continuity. You know, have Rodriguez draw all the stuff with Bane and Scandal, or maybe all of the Artemis stuff, and Scott takes care of the rest. I'm not sure whether that would have made the shift more noticeable or less, since there would be multiple switches in the issue, instead of just two (from Scott, to Rodriguez, and back again). Coming up next month, Ostrander! Deadshot! Double Fist Pump of Excitement!

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1 - I don't remember M-11 being able to fly. Maybe he can and I've forgotten it. Wouldn't be surprised. As I've said, if Jeff Parker writes something with the Agents of Atlas, I will buy it. Crap, I just paraphrased Field of Dreams. I might have to chop off my fingers. The X-Men are moving to their island home. They haven't moved Cerebra yet, and the Agents want it to find Venus, who has been abducted. They almost get away before the X-Men show up, and the fight scene begins, and then resumes at the Agents headquarters. Then there's a backup where the Agents of Atlas (in their retro styles) fight the original X-Men (in their old school yellow and blue outfits). Something's up though, because pieces of it don't fit together (I mean on purpose, like there's going to be a reveal next issue, not that Parker's being sloppy).

At least the fight scene makes sense, as it isn't a misunderstanding battle. M-11 did burn Wolverine's arm off last time they met, and the Agents do run a vast criminal empire. Granted, they want to use it for good, but they're still putting up a facade of being evil. So taking that with the fact they're stealing Cerebra, and the fight makes sense. I think Parker tells you everything you need to know, and it those little boxes next to the characters were actually helpful, since I had been wondering why Emma was always in her diamond form in Deadpool #16. Also, Jimmy Woo kicks Cyclops right in the back of his stupid head. Go Jimmy Woo! Carlos Pagulayan handles most of the art for the main story (I think Gabriel Hardman draws two pages in the middle), and something's rougher about his work. I'm not sure whether he went with a sketchier style, more little lines, or if it's the inker, or the colorist or what. I think it's Pagulayan, but I'm not sure why the difference. Was he rushed a bit? The work isn't bad, I just don't like it as much as his art from the beginning of the Agents of Atlas series.

With that, I conclude my broadcast for today. Comment if you get 'em.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is That Proper Etiquette For Firearm Use?

There was something I noticed while I was reading Deadpool #16. When he and Domino are hashing it out on that rooftop, and he has a gun pointed at her, he extends the pinky finger on the hand holding the gun.

Because I didn't have anything better to do (and it took less than 10 minutes) I flipped back through all the other Medina-drawn Deadpool issues from this year to see if that's typical, and it's not. He extends it during one of his Die Hard hallucinations in #7, but other than that, nothing. Normally Medina draws the pinky finger not bent as much as the others, so it's not tight against the grip like the rest of his hand, but the "teacup" hold, as I've decided to dub it, is rare. I thought maybe Medina was using it to help direct the flow of the panels, draw the audiences' eyes from Wade over to Domino, and it would work that way in #16 (though the gun would have been accomplishing the same thing). However, when he uses it in #7, Wade's aiming the gun into the air, having finished killing the Hans Gruber/Karl/Tiger Shark hallucination, and the panel's in the middle of the page, so it would be directing the reader's eyes back to the previous panels. Of course, that panel has a stretch limo that draws the eye across it, so the finger would be inconsequential in comparison, when it comes to guiding the audience.

So I don't know what it means. Maybe Medina just likes to shake things up a bit, or maybe it's supposed to indicate that Deadpool's relaxed. In the hallucination he'd already killed the bad guy, so crisis averted, and when talking to Domino, he wasn't really planning on killing her. At least, not yet.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Curses, They've Found My Weakness

It's been said elsewhere, but I'll toss in my agreement: Marvel's apparent plan to get me to buy more of their comics by including the Agents of Atlas in them. . . is totally going to work.

Dang, I thought they'd never tumble to that strategy, since they seemed so invested in slapping "Dark Reign", or "Siege", or if we go back a bit, "The Initiative" on all their books. I'm actually pretty impressed by the push they seem to be making for Agents of Atlas. I know Jeff Parker's writing basically all of the books, but still, the fact they're giving them the OK is nice. Maybe they really feel they have someone in Parker and they want to keep him happy and on board? Maybe they see a lot of potential in a series with a robot, a Gorilla Man, a potential queen of an undersea kingdom, an alien, and a siren, lead by a former FBI Agent turned leader of worldwide criminal empire? I could see a cartoon based off that concept.

Between that and all these series DC's bringing back from the dead for a month (Ostrander! Suicide Squad! Whoo!), my pull list might not be in as sorry a shape as I thought. At least for January.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just How Big A Crisis Is Required?

I was reading Esther Inglis-Arkell's review of Batgirl #3 on 4thletter, and learned something in the comments I hadn't known. Esther had mentioned how she liked that there was a subtle red color in the background of all the scenes. Commenter Stig explained that Red Skies = Crisis, and even though Final Crisis is over, the skies over Gotham will be crimson due to the city being in crisis. I assume it has something to do with Bruce Wayne being unavailable, and so you get Dick Grayson Batman, and Jason Todd, and now it looks like we've got Two-Face Batman, and they'll probably all being struggling to be top dog.

So, would this be limited to Gotham, or can the skies turn red anywhere? There's this whole War of Light thing - you may have heard of it, it involves some group called the Green Lanterns, and a bunch of other yahoos*? Dead bodies being reanimated, threats from, um, wherever that Nekron fellow is from, it's outside their universe, I'm sure of that, which certainly sounds like a Crisis to me. Can you have red skies in space? Would it be more like a red nebula suddenly appeared everywhere at once? That'd be amusing, like the climactic ship battle at the end of Wrath of Khan, where they stumble about, trying to find each other*. Or perhaps they'd have to enter an actual atmosphere. So, there's a big fight, they head towards some normal looking world, and the second they reach it, BOOM, red skies. That ought to confuse the natives.

Also, how big a crisis does it have to be? If I can't find my keys, and I'm going to be late for work, will the skies turn red? Maybe just the sky directly over my home? What if I said I had a really important job, maintaining quality control on a potentially world-destroying invention? Then it would be pretty important that I get to work on time. Maybe the red skies would follow me receding as I drove away from a certain location.

All snarkery aside, it is kind of a cool concept, though it seems like it might downplay the seriousness of other stuff in comparison. That battle the JSA is having against Kobra might not seem like such a big deal, what with the skies above looking normal.

* Hal Jordan: There you are Atroctious! *some sort of power ring attack* Ow, it's me, Gardner, you dipstick**!

** Man, I write the worst Guy Gardner ever.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Well, You Can Get All Of The People To Buy In All Of The Time

I've decided not to come up with a list of all the people that have been welcomed onto X-Teams with criminal pasts, mostly because it would be pretty long. I was going to when Cyclops initially turned Deadpool down, but since he reconsidered, it seemed unfair. And Cyclops does have valid reasons. I don't think Deadpool's a huge risk to stab them in the back, but he's a major threat to do something damaging to the X-Men's standing with the folks in San Francisco (who are their neighbors) without realizing he's doing that. And as Seangreyson noted, the X-Men don't have anyone on the roster with a strong connection to Wade who might exert some influence over him.

Still, thinking about the list made me wonder how successful the X-Men have been with their reformation attempts. There are some obvious failures. Sabretooth, who's been on (or around) the team twice I know of. Once he killed Psylocke, the second time he ran amok on Providence, killed one member of Cable's Cabinet (Gareb), and would likely have killed Irene Merryweather if Deadpool didn't come parachuting in*. There's Mystique, who seemingly only joins the team for her own purposes, whether that's to gain access to government files**, or to drive a rift between Rogue and gambit, or for whatever reason she stabbed them in the back in Messiah CompleX. Clearly, those two ought to have used up their chances by now, but there have been successes.

Rogue for one, and you might be able to count the Juggernaut, though he did team up breifly with Black Tom, before he switched again, and then got sucked into Other Xorn's black hole head. Then he came back out and joined New Excalibur, and stayed true to their side. Now he's back to being what he was before, so maybe he doesn't count, but if he had kept being a good guy, he would eventually have been useless, since his power's kept fading, so his time on the side of angels would have ended one way or the other (regression to evil, death, retirement). Here's one: What about Wolverine? He's helped save the world, become an Avenger, even become a sometimes team player, but he still (if his solo titles are any indication) goes off on his own and slaughters large quantities of people, usually bad guys. Which is the sort of stuff he's done for decades, if all the stories set in his past are any indication. So how much has being an X-Man done for him.

What about Gambit? I can't keep it straight whether he was always a traitor, or if he just switches sides as it suits him, like Mystique. I guess Magneto counts as a failure, since he inevitably ends up fighting the X-Men again, but Emma Frost would be a success, right? She's turned against Osborn, and even before she was an X-Person, she was a teacher for the Generation X bunch, so she's been helpful for several years now. Wait, when it comes to Magneto, how would his clone, Joseph, factor into that? He was a good guy until almost the end right***?

Then there are characters whose circumstances I'm not clear on (Marrow, Maggott), and I don't know whether you'd count the X-Force kids under Cable, since he was operating with a different set of rules and goals from Xavier's groups.

Based on the folks I can think of, seems to be about a 50/50 split, but with 3 categories. The people who bought into the X-Men way and have basically stuck with it (Rogue), the people who never did (Mystique), and the people who did for a time, but their priorities shifted (Juggernaut, Gambit?). I don't know that there's anything I can conclude from this with regards to Deadpool, especially since he's in such a different headspace from everyone else. Rogue had multiple voices in her head, but they weren't hers, and she was bothered by them. I think Wade likes his inner voices, at least some of the time.

* Domino was already there, but she and Creed were in a standoff, what with her pointing a gun at him, and him with his claws at Irene's throat.

** I remember reading about her doing that when she was around Forge while he was running X-Factor, I think.

*** I have this since that the real Magneto showed up, and Joseph went kind of crazy and died, but until then, he'd been solid. Gambit didn't like him, which should probably be a point in his favor.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Perhaps He's Not Following His Own Advice

So Cyclops isn't keen on letting Deadpool join the X-Men. Whether this has to do with Deadpool being crazy, or a killer-for-hire, because Cyke hates his voice, because he thinks having Deadpool around is not going to help the X-Men's image, or something else entirely, I don't know. At least he's reconsidered, so perhaps I won't compile that list of all the other questionable people the X-Men have welcomed, some of whom worked out quite well for them (and some of whom did not). That's not where I'm going today, though.

What I'm thinking about is how Deadpool tried to convince Cyclops to let him join. Not his current plan, "Operation: Moves", which will surely not end in disaster for everyone. I mean whatever he said when he rowed out to the island the X-Men are based on now*, that ended with 'Soo. . . whatta ya say?'

In the previous issue, Deadpool was arguing with himself about the merits of trying to strike up friendships with the costumed do-gooder sect again, one side claiming that didn't work well last time, the other side countering with the suggestion that Deadpool didn't let those folks see the real him. The pro "make friends" part of his mind argued that Deadpool held back out of fear of rejection, and that if he really wanted to belong, he was going to have to invest himself in the attempt. I'm wondering if he actually tried that in his initial pitch. Or did he make some ridiculous spiel about mutant solidarity and how great he looks in clothes with a big "X" on them. Because the latter is more typical of Deadpool, and I can't see Cyclops being moved by that line of reasoning.

Of course, I'm not sure that Scott would have said "Yes" even if Deadpool had really opened up, said he feels his life is directionless, and the only time he feels good is when he helps people, so he's hoping that the X-Men, no strangers to being ostracized for being different, but still dedicated to helping others, would let him join up. And Cyclops could have a point, loathe though I am to admit that. After all, Deadpool is nuts, he does have poor impulse control, and he does tend to solve problems by killing people. While the latter might make him qualified for a spot on the Stabbity Kill Team, I think Deadpool's looking for more than just being considered an exterminator. Not that he won't kill for the X-Men; he's already demonstrating he'll do that, even when they don't ask him to. But even though Wolverine kills people, he's not thought of solely in those terms by his fellow X-Folks, and I imagine Deadpool would want the same consideration.

Still, that approach would at least be Deadpool really giving it a shot at putting himself into the potential friendship completely. Maybe I should say, that would be really putting oneself into it in the normal world, which is not a realm Deadpool spends much time in. His plan to assassinate this absentee parent giving the X-Men grief really may be Deadpool's idea of showing the X-Men his true self. It's something that has to be considered, as much as I'd like to think there is a decent person in Deadpool. His decency might simply be too twisted for him to work with the X-Men. At least some of the Stabbity Kill Team have been uncertain about what they do from time to time**, but Deadpool rarely shows doubt once it comes time to kill. Heck, he was going to gleefully carve up Bullseye with a chainsaw. Sure, that's Bullseye, and he's a scum-sucking, crazy-ass murderer, but still, Deadpool was laughing maniacally as he moved in, which is never a good sign.

* And that island is some old chunk of Asteroid M, is that right?

** Well, Wolverine was concerned about dragging others besides himself into it, at least.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting To Know GrimJack - Manx Cat #3

Yes, it's that time again. With another issue of Manx Cat in my hands, I'm passing the time, seeing what we can learn about Grimjack (John Gaunt) and his world from these issues, since, in theory, they're barely scratching the considerable backstory that already exists.

Page 1 - We've already seen that Gaunt likes to be prepared, as he carries swords, guns, smoke grenades, and grappling hooks. Apparently he's not the only one, because Darlin's Lil keeps a sword by her bed. She also may have some non-human side, because her eyes are yellow, her teeth are longer and pointy, and she's not doing much but hissing.

Page 2 - The shadows with faces are all around Lil, and Gaunt wonders whether she's possessedm which suggests he's encountered that before. He also says someone in the grip of night terrors can kill, suggesting he has experience with that, too. Two callbacks to issue 2. First, Gaunt says he doesn't want to kill her if he can avoid it, much the same way he didn't bother to kill all the repo men when they crossed paths. Two, his left eye has done that thing where it goes totally black except for the pupil, which is blue (see my comments on Page 13 from last month's issue). The right eye still looks normal. Perhaps it's something Gaunt does when he's being serious?

Page 3 - Gaunt's not willing to die to protect the Cat, seeing as he used it to block a sword. He also looks winded after he does it, which might be referencing BlacJac's frequent comments about how Gaunt's getting old.

Page 4 - It appears using the Cat was part of a plan, since Gaunt's unsurprised by what happens to Lil. He's slightly more surprised that the Cat heals itself. Lil's smart enough to know when something's bad news, since she's now OK with Gaunt taking the Cat. Once again Gaunt senses things, this time about either the Cat, or the whole situation in general, but his instinct is to not get involved.

Page 5 - Gaunt thinks the Cat's more than just some rare collectible. But when he starts wondering why he shouldn't just keep it, he calls the Cat a 'nasty lil' bastard'. So perhaps Gaunt's not much of a hobbyist, or he has enough experience with "artifacts" to know when they're messing with him?

Page 6 - Gaunt has not changed his mind about wanting the Gatorlizard gone. He and Gordon don't have a cordial relationship. Gaunt won't answer Gordon's questions, and Gordon didn't get rid of the Gatorlizard.

Page 7 - It's Jean Loire, the Tourbot user from last time. Gaunt can be friendly enough to offer potential clients a drink. A drink of what, I'm not sure. Something strong, since Jean declines, stating that hard drinks give her vapors. Hard to tell whether Gaunt disapproves of blackmailing or not.

Page 8 - OK, the Cat is making Bob the Gatorlizard dream. It seems Gaunt doesn't like blackmailers, because he rejects Jean's offer. Not interested in Jean's other offer either. And Jean's a shapeshifter, so add that to the list of things you find in Cynosure (along with clones, talking animals, and robots).

Page 9 - Now the Cat's making Gordon see his deceased wife, Jo Chaney, mentioned on Page 3 last issue. Gaunt's still not interested in Jean, actually creeped out. OK, Munden's Bar seems to serve a wide array of drinks. Jean was drinking something, possibly wine, but not strong, considering the earlier comment, out of a reasonably nice glass. Gaunt's drinking something with a first word that ends in "ld", and a second word that ends in "iss", straight from the bottle. Gaunt doesn't think it was bright of Jean to pull a gun on him.

Page 10 - GrimJack deals with that threat in two panels. Again, opts not to kill the threat. Curious, considering he knows Jean can alter her (his?) appearance, which would make Jean harder to guard against.

Page 11 - Gaunt feeling itchy = the Cat acting up. Gaunt won't say where he plans to hide the Cat now, but both Gordon and Bob look rather depressed that he's taking it. Odd, considering Darlin' Lil seemed pleased to be rid of it. It hadn't started controlling them yet, though. And Bob's gonna follow Gaunt. Less afraid of him? Less trusting of his judgment? Concerned for him? Needs what the Cat's offering that much worse than Gordon?

Page 12 - There are places deeper in the Pit (which Gaunt mentioned is where he grew up last issue), than Munden's. OK, Gaunt's definitely aware of what the Cat's doing to people. Whether that's simple powers of observation, or some deeper sense is still uncertain. Gaunt's pupil has the same triangle slice of obsidian in it the Cat's do, and then demons attack.

Page 13 - OK, last issue mentioned Demon Wars, and based on GrimJack's comments as he starts immediately beheading them, demon was not a metaphor for something. The war was 20 years ago, the demons were driven out, and the "gates" were closed.

Page 14 - OK, the Cat can control others' actions, make people dream of happy things, and make them see their worst nightmares. Did it give Gaunt's nightmares solid form, or was he just hallucinating? Gaunt promises to find a way to hurt the Cat if it doesn't stay out of his head. Bob not frightened off by Gaunt swinging his sword wildly for awhile.

Page 15 - In Cynosure, people can use mechanical insects they control remotely to gather information. Gatorlizards eat insects.

Page 16 - Is the bug controlled mentally? It's being eaten seems to hurt Jean. Gatorlizards don't like the taste of mechanical insects. Unlike in issue 2, Gaunt is unaware that he's being followed. When in doubt, he turns to BlacJacMac to watch it. Gives him a little more explanation than he did Gordon. More concerned about BlacJac?

Page 17 - BlacJac's initially unimpressed, keeps cracking jokes about Gaunt getting old, but when gaunt remains serious, BlacJac sobers up a bit. Still, he doesn't sense anything odd about the cat, so he may not have the same senses Jack does. Or he's too tired, since he's in a bathrobe, and may have been woken up by Gaunt. It's been true throughout this issue, but I'll mention it here. There must be a lot of grates and vents in the street, because there seems to be steam rising up from the ground no matter where Gaunt goes.

Page 18 - Gaunt's gone looking for Goethe (the middleman who hired to Gaunt to retrieve the Cat in the first place), and knows where to find him when he's not at work. Cynosure has bars for sentient humanoid animal types to get together and get their freak on. Gaunt says it's not his taste, but he doesn't judge. No clues as to what his 'private perv' is.

Page 19 - I think everything that needs be said I already mentioned for the previous page, so let's move on.

Page 20 - Gaunt prefers rotgut to absinthe. Gaunt is pretty good at talking while keeping a cigarette in his mouth. Doesn't mince words when he wants to talk.

Page 21 - Goethe is part owner of the place they're in, and Gaunt doesn't care. Gaunt knows he wasn't given all the facts about the Cat, and Goethe pretty much confirms it. When Gaunt says others have shown up bidding for it, Goethe's first guess is Jean Loire.

Page 22 - I'm not sure how to interpret this page. Gaunt says he knows it has a connection with the Chaotic Gods (which is what Goddess warned him of last issue), and knows that makes it dangerous. Yet he's willing to take the risk of what could happen if it awakens to meet the ones he's working for. So is he just that unconcerned with what the Cat can do, or is it because he's concerned, that he wants to make certain he's giving it to the right people? At any rate, they're off to see the Sleepless Monks. The last panel shows what appears to be an industrial area at either sunset or dawn.

Page 23 - Not entirely sure what the industrial area was about, as we shift to night (with five worlds visible in the sky) in a area full of building with tall, narrow towers. The largest building, dead center of the page, looks to be carved directly from some existing rock formation, or maybe a ridiculously large tree. Gaunt has never heard of Sleepless Monks. There are anti-grav vehicles, because Goethe has a 'ancient' one. Is that because it's old technology mostly lost in the present, or is Goethe just cheap? In Cynosure, there is such a thing as a Kucinich Ring, which makes things appear inconsequential, rather than invisible. This impresses Gaunt. Grimjack can be a smart ass. When told what he must do out of respect for the Monks' beliefs (cover hair and mouth), he responds 'What respect?' But after Goethe points out that this is the Monks turf, and Gaunt doesn't know what he deals with, Gaunt responds 'Fair enough', and follows instructions.

Page 24 - Leader of the Sleepless Monks is Fra Jess. I think its design is based on the Caterpillar from Alive in Wonderland. Fra Jess sits on a giant mushroom (toadstool?), wears robes, has hands, but also what appear to be multiple little legs.

Page 25 - OK, another mention of a multiverse, this time with the additional comment that the Cat being on the loose moves said multiverse closer to chaos. Gaunt doesn't like it when people discuss him like he isn't there, and he is a rude man. The Monks are the Cat's Keepers, not it's owners, as Gaunt figured.

Page 26 - Fra Jess has a hover toadstool. Cool. Manx Cat is a doorway to the Chaotic Gods. Dangerous to sentients and to the fabric of reality. Well, yeah, if it endangers the fabric of reality, I imagine it's dangerous to sentient beings. Hmm, when Fra Jess says to summon all brethren to the Great Hall, Gaunt's first instinct is they're going to attack him. Says something about his life, that he assumes people will resolve their issues with him through violence.

Page 27 - The statuette called the Manx Cat is the result of the entity being confined in a single time and place. The reason the monks are supposed to be sleepless is that the Cat can escape through their dreams, so they can't sleep. Except some do. So if you were wondering who took the Cat from the Monks originally, the answer is "the Manx Cat itself". Gaunt's not buying that, so some things stretch his limits of believability.

Page 28 - There is a Chant of Transit, which can send one's essence through time. Songs have power, and Gaunt can sense that. He may also be able to sense whether there's the power to harm in the song, but if so, he hasn't honed that sense as much. Or perhaps he's just paranoid.

That's it for this month. Come back next month when the Essence of GrimJack enters the past and finds St. John of Knives!

Friday, October 16, 2009

That Resolved Itself More Quickly Than I Expected

Yes, my computer has rediscovered the network. I'm not sure what of the various things I tried did the trick, but the trick is done, and that's the important thing. Presumably everything is A-OK now, so daily posting should resume. Now if I can think of things to post about. Well, there's always complaining about stuff.

Recently, I've been thinking about the different video game systems I've owned, and what my favorite and least favorite games have been for each of them. Even with a voting bloc of a single person, consensus hasn't always been easy to reach, probably because I haven't really defined my criteria, so sometimes it comes down to a game that had a strong multi-player component, versus one with superior single-player capabilities. That's not what this post is about (though I might put those lists up someday, for kicks). Comparing different games to try and judge their value to me brought up a certain trait in a few of my games that I truly despise. Actually, it brought up a couple of different traits, but I'm just focusing on one.

I tend to like flight combat games. One of the only games I owned for my family computer was Out of the Sun, a WW2 flight sim. There's been Starfox 64, Rogue Squadron's 1 and 2, Crimson Skies, Secret Weapons Over Normandy, Yager, and most recently, Defender. One thing that some of these games do is provide you with wingmen, or at least have you team-up with other pilots occasionally. The problem being, the A.I. on these allies is rarely helpful, and usually a burden. So every mission becomes, in addition to whatever other objectives you have, a protection mission, where you have to keep your idiot friends alive in spite of themselves. With Starfox, for example, Falco was the only one of the three wingmen I had much use for, simply because he seemed the least prone to needing to be saved. Slippy would be chiding me for killing some target he was (fruitlessly) pursuing, then start screaming for help 3 seconds later. Stupid frog.

I find it even more frustrating when you're given some control over your wingmen. Secret Weapons and Rogue Squadron 2 each give you the ability to choose from a limited number of commands, which you can then issue to the others in your flight. So your squadron is attacking some Super Star Destroyers, and you're trying to take out shield generators so you can then destroy the bridge. Except TIE Fighters are shooting you to pieces, so naturally, you order your wingmen to attack the TIEs. You even hear your pilot say 'Get those fighters off my back!', and Random Wingman responds 'Roger that', or something similar. Time passes, and nothing has changed. The TIEs are still shooting you to pieces, so you're spending most of your time trying to avoid death, rather than completing your objective, which gets Admiral Ackbar or some other commanding officer jackoff bellowing at you to take out that Star Destroyer. Hey fishface, give me some buddies with functional nervous systems and maybe I will! It really puts a damper on the whole experience for me, since I don't enjoy screaming at the screen about how I'm sure it's screwing me over, and calling the console a stinking cheater. Even if I win, I'm tense and angry, the victory is almost a revenge thing by that point.

I suppose the problem is that, by giving me the ability to issue commands, the game has tricked me into thinking I can compensate for stupid allies. I know they're idiots, but I'm sure I can come up with a way to deploy them so they can be helpful to me. Then you start giving orders and surprise! they're still useless! Crimson Skies earns a lot of credit with me because while it doesn't let you give commands, it also doesn't make you waste time saving the other pilots. They can't win the level for you, but they're good enough to attract sufficient attention that you can do what's necessary to win, and that's all I really need. Just keep enough of the small fry busy I can destroy the important stuff, and it'll all work out.

The games just don't provide that very often.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Could Be Awkward

Adorable baby Panda: What is this place?

Calvin: {It's the office for my job. Since my computer cannot find the wireless signal its been using for the last two goddamn months at my home, we're going to have to use the work computer if we want to post, which means sporadic posting, since I shouldn't be using the work computer for this anyway. Unless my computer gets its shit together.}

ABP: You're cursing a lot more than usual.

Calvin: {Because I'm angry, damn it! The network is there, everyone else in the housing can use it, but not my computer, nooo!}

ABP: Maybe you should calm down, all these people are looking at us.

Calvin: {No, they're looking at you. Pandas are uncommon around here.}

ABP: Oh. Hi, everybody! *waves, people peer curiously*

Calvin: {Great, now they're going to inch closer, and start poking. Not to mention all the questions. Let's get on with this.}

OK, then. I think Deadpool needs a Hug, because the X-Men weren't very friendly, but he also needs a Bonk, because killing that guy isn't going to help. {Applause for Dagger! Applause for Dagger!} I will! Dagger gets Applause for sticking up for Deadpool, at least in principle. {Hey, Wade can use any kind of support he can get.} I think Grimjack needs a Bonk because he was pretty rude to the Sleepless Monks. {Hey, they're supposed to stay awake so the Manx Cat doesn't escape through their dreams, and they failed. Scorn away, says I.} You try staying awake forever! {I have, it's not pretty. I become even less pleasant than usual, then oddly super-pleasant, then sociopathic.}

Hey, stop pulling my ears! {I told you this wasn't going to end well. Kind co-workers, the panda is rabid. Numerous bites have rendered me immune, but you could be sorry if you don't give it space. *co-workers retreat rapidly*} Wait, I'm not rabid! Why did you tell them that? {To make them go away, obviously. What would you have done, a dizzying display of martial arts? That would have only brought more of them. Quickly now, before their curiosity overwhelms their fear.}

Right, right. Um, uh, I'm blanking! {Oh, come on!} Wait, yes, no, ah, they're creeping closer! {Ignore them!} I think Shang-Chi might need a Bonk, because he never lets anyone else win the bike race. {Focus, will you? He didn't win the race shown in the story! He and Wade went back for more hot dogs!} He did, oh, I'm sorry, they're just freaking me out. Stop staring! {Stop talking to them, it's only making things worse!} Why don't you say something? {Please, I have to work with these people. They already think I'm kind of off, yelling at them is only going to exacerbate the situation.} The Phantom! he gets Applause for not killing Birch. {Right, as Deadpool is demonstrating, killing people never solves anything.} Exactly. Now I have to get out of here! *leaps out window, flees into the night*

{*turns to co-workers* Ok, show's over. Go on, return to watching Glee. Skeedaddle!}

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I Bought 10/13/09

Hey, comics are here! Actually, they showed up on Friday, but I'd didn't check the mail until after the post office closed, thus rendering the note telling me I had a package irrelevant. Then I had to work Saturday, and the post office is closed on Sundays, and Monday was Columbus Day (they get that day off? Lazy buggers, I don't get Columbus Day off), so here we are.

Deadpool #16 - Is Cyke giving Deadpool the respect knuckles on that cover? Nah, the expression on his face is too sour for that.

Deadpool asks to join the X-Men. Cyclops flatly rejects him, because Cyclops is a complete asshole. Dagger - Dagger! I knew she had more going for her than just being created by Bill Mantlo - points out the X-Men are being hypocrites, what with the probably dozens of criminals they've let join (and you are going to help me compile that list, because it'll be cathartic, for me anyway), and so he sends Domino to talk to Deadpool. OK, they've worked together, that might work. They've also tried to kill each other, so it might not. Fortunately, Deadpool is in a pancake kind of a mood, so they actually chat pleasantly, until Deadpool tells her he's going to solve a problem for the X-Men.

One of their junior members has a father going public with the fact he can't contact his daughter. Or so he says, what with Osborn having kept his company from falling into ruin. The X-Men plan to handle this in court, since Warren Worthington is rich, and has good lawyers. Deadpool has decided he'll prove himself to them by solving the problem more directly, meaning he will kill the complaining parent.

Well, it ought to at least earn him a spot on Cyclops' Stabbity Kill Team. Paco Medina's Deadpool looked different somehow this issue. less scabby, more wrinkled, like he's channeling a "Ma Gnucci as drawn by Steve Dillon". It's fine, just odd. The rest of the art is OK, though it's mostly talking heads. I think he draws Domino a little too endowed. Maybe it would help if she zipped her jacket up the rest of the way.

GrimJack: Manx Cat #3 - Gaunt gets the Cat back from Lil, and she's glad to see it go. Now Gaunt's not so sure he should return it, both because the Cat's working its magic on him, and because he doesn't know who wants it, and why. He meets with the Tourbot user from last issue, kicks their butt and goes looking for Goethe, who he finds at a strip bar for furry enthusiasts, and because this is Cynosure, the ladies are actual anthropomorphic animals. That sentence is going to attract all sorts of the wrong readers here. Goethe brings him to the people he serves as middleman for, the Sleepless Monks, who claim they watch over the Cat, to protect the world. To prove it, they send Gaunt's spirit back in time, to find St. John of Knives, and learn the truth.

So the weirdness ratchets up a notch this issue, in both good ways (the Sleepless Monks), and bad (the aforementioned bar). Gaunt's still being abrasive, but there's something encouraging about the fact he won't simply hand over the Cat without understanding why they want it. he recognizes its power, and he's careful enough to keep it out of dangerous hands. Truman's work is mostly excellent, though there are a few pages I feel he leaves too much blank space, and others where his work looks uninked, mostly closeups of Gaunt's face.

Also, Ostrander introduces the idea of the "Kucinich Ring". It does not make things invisible, rather it makes them be viewed as inconsequential. Ouch, that's a cold burn, but it made me laugh.

The Phantom: Generations #5 - I was supposed to get X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1, but I guess Jack got the orders mixed and sent this instead. What the heck, it's here, let's read it. There's a nice recap page, that tells us this Phantom has married a former Pirate Queen, and they've sailed her ship to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary Slavers. One particular slaver manages to escape, and the Phantom chases him to England, and ends up having to hunt him through Sherwood Forest, with the added difficulty that some rich elderly fellow had a bunch of exotic animals with him, which the now insane ex-slaver pirate released. So there are leopards and stuff running around the woods. Phantom triumphs, learns shocking secret about the pirate, takes nonlethal steps to deal with him, he and his pirate lady love return home, the end.

I suppose this is a prose work, like that issue of Batman Morrison did. There's a page of text, and on the facing page, a single-full page illustration of some part of what the text describes. It works fine for me, no complaints whatsoever. Enrique Alcatena is the artist, and it reminds me of some of Russ Heath's work on issues of Immortal Iron Fist, but better. The colors are vivid, the linework is more solid, and the detail in the pictures is quite good. He does an especially good job of both drawing the Phantom as a stoic figure (though he's most shadowy and mysterious looking when not wearing his usual costume), and making Teratos Birch (the pirate) look progressively more nuts. His face grows redder, wilder, more lined as the story progresses. So the comic was a pleasant surprise. There's even a recap page which tells you everything you'd really need to know for this story.

Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu #1 - I think everyone else on the Internet has already discussed this comic, but it's here, I'm here, let's proceed. We have Shang-Chi dueling Deadpool in a desert bike race of death, Shang-Chi battling the son of some schmuck he killed years ago in what I'm guessing is a homage to Hong Kong martial arts flicks, complete with subtitles beneath each panel, and a story where Shang battles and old friend (and foe) looking for who he is. Then there's a text piece where Shang describes the process of mastering martial arts.

So a little bit of everything. Hickman and Chamberlain's bike race story seems more about crazy ideas than Shang-Chi in any real sense, which is fine, I suppose. I like Deadpool. I like crazy ideas, but Shang felt like a sidekick in the story. Maybe given more pages Hickman could have made it a "buddy" story, which could have been interesting. Benson and Coker's revenge story seemed to be about style, making it like a movie. I didn't mind having to read the translations below each panel, but I don't mind subtitles, and I'm a fast reader, so it doesn't disrupt the flow of the panels that much for me. Charlie Huston and Enrique Romero's story seemed like the one that would be most similar to what you'd have found in one of these comics back in the '70s, but that's coming from someone with no familiarity with that material.

I feel like the stories don't really give us too much insight into Shang-Chi. Benson's does to a certain extent, in that it shows us something about the life Shang has chosen to live given his past actions, and Huston's could have been about how Midnight sees Shang, except Midnight can't really remember how he sees Shang, so it's more about Midnight's frustration with his loss of memory. It wasn't a bad comic, but I was disappointed. Maybe there wasn't enough kicking.

And that's the last two weeks! Expect the next set of reviews in, oh, two or three weeks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

That's Two Out Of Three Movie Adaptations

I Am Legend has three movies (loosely) based off it. There's Will Smith's I Am Legend, obviously. Heston's Omega Man, and Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth, which is what I'm talking about tonight, since it was included on the other side of the DVD Panic in Year Zero was on. I'll probably be spoiling the movie extensively, just so you know.

Vincent Price is Robert Morgan, a doctor who believes himself the last man alive, besieged every night by the undead after his blood. After 3 years, he's developed a solid routine of waking up, checking his defenses of boarded up windows, garlic, mirrors, and crosses on the doors, checking his generator, then selecting a block of the city, and going hunting for the undead as they sleep, staking them and throwing them in a massive fire pit. At night he shutters himself up in his home and tries to make it through the night while one of the undead keeps calling 'Morgan, do you hear? Do you hear?'

We watch as Robert Morgan (he was Robert Neville in the book) struggles with his grief, and with the enormity of the task he's given himself: To hunt down and destroy every last vampire. As he puts it, it's his life or theirs. He also has to cope with the loss of his wife and daughter, both claimed by the plague, and his loneliness. He never breaks down to the extent Neville did in the book, where he one time flung his door open and charged out firing wildly, as if using the murder-suicide with the vampires, but he does tend to laugh hysterically at things that aren't funny (home movies of the wife and kid at the circus, the dog he finds being infected). We also don't see him sink into a drunken depression as Neville often did. Oddly, despite making him a scientist (rather than a factory worker as he was in the book), Morgan doesn't show much interest in trying to cure the plague. Neville traveled to libraries and laboratories, collecting books and equipment to try and suss it out. Perhaps because that was Morgan's job before civilization fell apart, he can't think of any new avenues to try. The movie also doesn't explain as much about the vampires as the book did, for example, why they don't simply burn the house down, though I'd offer two explanations for that (I can't remember what reasons Matheson gave). First, they want Morgan alive to drink his blood. Won't get much blood from a charred corpse. As for two, well, see the next paragraph.

A word about the vampires. They're idiots. They bear more of a resemblance to zombies, shambling slowly here and there, barely coordinated enough to pick up sticks and rocks to beat on Morgan's walls. They're weak enough Morgan can fight his way through a horde of them to reach his car, or house. Maybe they're weak because they have to feed off each other, and that's not filling, but it makes them look like a joke. Even Morgan explains that they're only a threat due to numbers.

I'm not certain whether the long flashback in the middle, which recaps the appearance of the plague, and ends when Morgan's wife shows up at the door (after he'd buried her), would have worked better broken into smaller flashbacks, that gradually flesh out how things happened. Also, I would have liked to have seen Morgan at some point respond to Ben Cortman's "Do you hear, Morgan?", perhaps try to strike up a conversation with him. It would have probably seemed nuts, but Morgan's grip on sanity is tenuous anyway, and perhaps it could have revealed something about one of them.

About Price's work in the film. I think he's very good at depicting a man alone, trying to survive against threats external and internal. The way he goes about his daily routine, largely unhurried. Even when burning bodies, he has one hand in his pocket as he lobs the torch, which suggests a boredom, or more likely, resignation. On the other hand, in the flashbacks, he has a hard time convincing me of the sincerity of his affection for his wife and kid. He's so creepy, I just don't really buy into it. His grief in the present does it more effectively. Also, the creepiness works when he finds another person, because you get the feeling he's trying to be warm and reassuring, but it's been so long since he's been around another person, he doesn't know how to. The smile isn't genuine, because it's been too long since he's had reason to really smile. In total, I'd say he does a fine job.

About the ending. Infected humans have learned to control the vaccine, and are rebuilding society. They destroy the unliving infected as Morgan does, but they aren't planning to ally with him. See, not every infected he killed was undead, so he's a scourge to them, just as he was in the book. So they plan to kill him, and it's curious how that goes. Morgan finds a true cure for the virus, and seems unconcerned that they're after him, but once they arrive, he doesn't try and tell them he can cure the infection, he just runs. Also, the living infected are scary. They all dress the same (all black), they herd the undead together and brutally wipe them out, then turn on Morgan. They chase him across town, and as they close in, women and children start showing up, there to see the scary killer brought down. Morgan, unlike Neville, doesn't recognize (or won't acknowledge) that humanity has become something new, and that he's an anachronism. He calls them all freaks, and proclaims 'I am a man. The last man.'

With all the infected dressed the same, it feels like a metaphor about conformity crushing the individual, or intolerance. Although, is Morgan guilty of that as well? He was always hunting down and killing infected, because he assumed they were all undead out to kill him. If he hadn't killed living infected, would they have accepted him, worked with him to find a cure? Or would they have decided they liked how they were, and come after him just because he represented something different? Ruth says the infected are forming a new society, and that's never charming or gentle. The problem is, infected or not, they're still people, still obviously capable of hatred and fear, as evidenced by their reactions to Morgan.

It's strange they're that scared of him. At the beginning, he says that in 3 years he's killed 11 vampires, though we seem to see him kill 4 or 5 shortly thereafter, but I don't know if those were all the same day. That doesn't seem like nearly enough for him to be regarded with such terror, since not all of those would have been living.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

We'll Need All New Calendars

Panic In Year Zero, the movie that I wanted to write about so badly after the first time I watched it, I actually took notes the second time I watched it.

Set in either the late 1950s or early 1960s, the U.S. has gotten into a nuclear war with someone, and we follow your typical family of four (who were spared because they went on a vacation early that morning) as they try to survive. You've got Harry (the father), Ann (mother), Rick (son), Karen (daughter). Harry (played by Ray Milland) is I think what really bugged me about the movie. Even beyond the fact that he's an overbearing fellow who is not a fan of open dialogue amongst the family*, he can't seem to make up his mind. Is he part of civilization or not? Will he help to put it together, or wait until that's happened to rejoin it? Just how far can you go to protect your family at the expense of others?

At one point as they're driving, Ann criticizes one of his decisions (this is about all Ann gets to do, besides cook and wash clothes, and fire a gun at some beatniks** at one point), and Rick defends Harry, stating that order and law are gone. Harry immediately tells him not to write off the law, as it'll be back. This comes after he just robbed a hardware store (the action Ann is criticizing) because the owner wouldn't give him the firearms he wanted (and foolishly loaded a .45 as part of a demonstration on how to do so, then left it sitting on the counter). Why wouldn't Mr. Johnson give him the guns? Because Harry didn't have enough cash, and Mr. Johnson had a policy against accepting out-of-town checks***. Fortunately for Harry, Mr. Johnson and his wife are later killed by the aforementioned beatniks/greasers. Why is it fortunate? Because the family heard over the radio that the President had ordered that looters would face the death penalty, so it's good for Harry there's no more store owner to press charges. I'm being unfair, as Harry really did promise to pay, and even wanted a receipt, but he did take the guns.

And that's pretty much how it goes, with Harry focusing solely on #1, usually over his wife's objections, which he responds to with yelling. It's like a primitive form of Grand Theft Auto. He stands idly by while another man punches a gas station owner, because he didn't have the $4.10 to pay for his gas. He robs the hardware store. When he comes across a gas station owner who has hiked prices all the way to $3 a gallon, he punches the guy out, and leaves the $10 he feels the gas should have cost (because the sign said 34 cents a gallon, you see, and Harry doesn't believe in supply and demand). When he wants to get his car across a highway packed with cars fleeing the cities, he pours some gasoline on the road, and lights it up. A car drives through it and catches on fire as well, the driver gets out, and who knows what happens to him, but it doesn't matter because Harry's got to reach Shibes' Meadow. Once he does, he hides the sign mentioning it, and destroys the bridge leading into it. Oh, and later he kills a couple of guys, but they probably sexually assaulted his daughter (the movie's not going to come right out and say it), so I cut him slack on that one. Still, there are missions in GTA where you could argue justifiable homicide, too.

There's something else. Harry's been ordering everyone around, making contradictory statements****, not offering explanations for what he's doing, generally being an ass. After he's killed those two, he actually seems to be coming to grips with how he's been acting. He had run into Mr. Johnson in the woods, and interrogated him. How did he know to come here, where's he staying etc. Mr. Johnson wanted to know where they were staying, offered to buy some food from them, and generally seemed to be trying to form an alliance, but Harry sent him packing. Now Mr. Johnson's dead. Perhaps if the two families had joined together, they could have fended off the beatnik/greasers without killing them. Harry doesn't actually mention this, I'm just pointing out his isolationist tactics screwed other people over really badly. Anyway, Harry's worried about Karen, but can't bear to face her. Ann tells him Karen is more worried about him than herself, and they should talk. Harry gets up to go talk to her, and we cut to the next day. I think seeing Harry talk to Karen, perhaps actually try and explain what he's thinking and feeling to her, could have helped him seem like less of an overreacting looney tune. But no, it's not to be. What's more, he's still being bossy and generally unwilling to compromise afterward. When they get word there's a government-established emergency relocation center in their area (albeit 135 miles away), everyone else is ready to go. Not Harry, he's worried too many of the wrong people heard that broadcast too.

I suppose he gets some comeuppance for that, as Rick gets gravely wounded shortly thereafter, but the end of the movie suggested Rick was likely to survive, so I doubt it. Rick himself is an interesting study. Played by Frankie Avalon (and no, they didn't add a gratuitous song sequence for him*****), he's clearly enjoying his dad's new hardcore persona. He backs Harry's play at every turn, with considerably less questioning than Ann or Karen. He's also the only one Harry tends to trust to include in the plans. When Harry and Rick go scouting around the cave, Karen asks to come, and Harry turns her down. 'Not this time', he says, but we never see him actually let her come along, so does he not trust her? During the gasoline on the road stunt, Rick drives the car, and the womenfolk are in the trailer unaware of the plan the whole time. Harry probably is right to worry that Rick was enjoying the power of the gun a little too much, but that means Harry ought to be encouraging him to use it a little less, because I think it's warping him. He's points the gun at Mr. Johnson even more aggressively when Mr. Johnson asks if he could buy food off them. He's offering to buy it, for pete's sake, calm down!

When they kill the two fellows, they learn the farmhouse belonged to someone else, and one member of the family is still alive, a young woman named Marilyn, who looks as though she's been getting abused by the guys too. Rick though, keeps trying really hard to strike up a relationship with her, and because it's a movie, it works. Personally, I think he was moving fast, a little too eager to hold hands (yeah, it never gets past that), and didn't seem willing to give her space. I'm worried he sees his dad taking whatever he pleases, destroying what he pleases, doing as he pleases, and starts thinking "Why not me?" Harry's made it clear it's about individual survival, and doing what's necessary for that, so why can't Rick just do as he pleases? Dad says not to write off the law, but he's barely paying it lip service.

The first half is probably the stronger half, if only because it's interesting to see how Harry justifies his actions, but the second half has some interesting lines near the end. After Rick is injured they head for a town, and luckily, the doctor had stayed in his house. He treats Rick, and asks only for some spare ammunition, which Harry supplies. The family had heard over the radio that whoever the U.S. was fighting has sued for peace, which I guess means the U.S. won. When Harry mentions it, upbeat, the doctor responds 'Well, ding-ding for us'. Harry is put off by the doc's sense of humor, so Dr. Strong replies 'Would you feel better if I told you unless your son has a transfusion in 3 hours he's going to die?******' He then advises them to stick to back roads, ending with 'The country's full of thieving, murdering patriots', which is either simply a statement about America in the movie, or maybe a larger statement about the behavior we excuse in the name of our country, or that we excuse in our own self-interest.

Right at the end, they run into some soldiers*******, which make them happy, and the soldiers tell them where they can find a doctor (after hearing that they'd been up in the hills when the bombs went off). As they drive away, one soldier remarks that there go five more untouched by radiation sickness, and his buddy calls them five more good ones. Question 1: Is the use of "good ones" meant to be a joke, since the soldiers don't know all the crap Harry's pulled over the course of this film, or are we supposed to agree, because they survived, so they're good, and Harry's actions were justified? Question 2: What if the family hadn't been in the hills, and could have potentially had radiation sickness? Would the soldiers have turned them away? Shot them? Let them on through but accompanied them, so they could tell the docs to keep them isolated? The whole mention of them not having fallout sickness seemed truly ominous.

I'm not sure the movie thinks much of the United Nations. The only thing it does in the movie is decide that from henceforth, this year will be known as Year Zero. There's nothing about how it might have helped bring the conflict to an end, or how countries worked together through it to devise plans to help the countries hit hardest by the bombs, or anything. Also, the musical score is completely wrong for this movie. It's a jazzy, upbeat thing, better suited for Ocean's Eleven, or maybe that movie where Cary Grant's a cat burglar. A lighthearted caper flick, not a grim survival story in a post-apocalyptic world.

* When they've settled into a cave to stay for awhile, he calls for a family discussion. Which consists entirely of him explaining how they're going to follow their daily routine, because this will help them stay connected to reality somehow. yes, he and Rick shaving every day will certainly help them stay connected to the reality that they're hiding in the woods because their home was destroyed by a nuclear blast.

** Or were they greasers? They said stuff like "dig it", and "crazy kick", but one of them wore a leather jacket, so I don't know.

*** Or there was a one or two-day waiting period to purchase firearms. He mentioned something about that as well.

**** During the first confrontation with the beatniks/greasers, his son wounds one. When the bad boys leave, Harry chides Rick for nearly missing. Rick explains Mom shoved the gun, and she explains she didn't want Rick to kill a man. Harry explodes at her, since he was in danger of being killed, then after she retreats back into the trailer, and Rick expresses a bit of awe that he could have killed that guy, then Harry gets pissed that Rick's enjoying the thought. Rick is supposed to use the gun, but hate it. Supposed to be willing to kill, but hate it. That's civilization, according to Harry.

***** Unlike certain movies, say Rio Bravo. "Oh we have Rickey Nelson, we must have him sing a duet with Dean Martin!" Here's a better idea: Spend more time on Walter Brennan being crotchety and amusing, or on Angie Dickinson flustering John Wayne. Or just spend more time on Angie Dickinson in general. I'm not watching this movie for singing, damn it.

****** I would think the answer was no, but perhaps Harry appreciates the honesty.

******* Initially, even when we see they're soldiers, they're faces are hidden in shadows, and it isn't until they tell the family where they need to go for a doctor that we get a look at them. A similar thing was done earlier in the film, when the family is trying to reach Shibes' Meadow, and reaches a town that had barricaded the road, wanting to keep outsiders out. All their eyes are in the shadows of their hats, which makes them look as though they're wearing masks. I don't know what to make of that, personally. They aren't behaving any differently than Harry, it's simply that the entire town has banded together, instead of a single family. Is making them faceless making them inhuman, the Other, who can't be trusted, and so Harry's actions would be OK?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Maybe It's A Common Sense Thing

Tonight I'm wondering about dybbuks. Roger Ebert mentioned in his review of "A Serious Man" that perhaps the main character's ancestors had invited one across the threshold of their home, and this would be a bad idea.

A dybbuk is (usually) a soul that hasn't moved on for some reason. A cursory look through some websites said the dybbuk might have done something too bad to go to Gehenna, or that they weren't quite good or bad enough, or that they have unfinished business. The soul possesses another person, and this may be just so they can complete a task, or they may be trying to torment the person they possess, or any number of other possibilities.

I don't understand why it's necessarily a bad thing to invite one into your home. Yes, it's a soul possessing another person, and you don't know what it needs to do. It could be the dybbuk is here to settle something with you, but if so, then one would have to accept the possibility they wronged the lost soul, in which case it ought to be their responsibility to set things right. Maybe the dybbuk isn't even interested in you, it just needs to give the body a rest, and your home was nearby, looked like a nice place to catch some Zs.

Mostly, it strikes me as odd, the idea that because a couple let someone enter their home, and it turns out the body was possessed (and can they tell that somehow?), their descendants would be punished/cursed for it. Although, based on the review, I don't think that's the point of the movie, so much as the idea that for all our attempts to keep our lives orderly and under control, stuff we would rather not have happen will still happen, and we may not be able to figure out why.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Reflections After It's Over

Though the intentions are clear now, at the time we could not understand why our quarry would emerge in such numbers on this day. Aye, rain did fall ceaselessly that morning, and had done so since the night previous, and did make our foes all the more difficult to grasp, and thus all the more difficult to deal with in the method proper for knights of our station. Yet there was also a cold wind that day, and they, who were both smaller in size, and less protected by armor than we, should feel the effects of it all the more.

Still, they pressed forward, from all directions, and every avenue possible. From pools of water, from beneath the leaves on the forest floor, from out of structures we had thought they feared and avoided, always they were before us, forcing confrontation. Always did we meet them boldly, as it was our duty, and our privilege to do so, and always did we drive them back. Not without loss; some of my comrades faltered, the mechanisms which drove them failing, but only momentarily, they would always regain their momentum and press ahead.

Later in the day, it seemed as though our adversaries had reached their limits; their attacks no longer fierce, the clashes shrinking to mere skirmishes. Verily, their strength seemed to ebb with the slackening rain and the rising gale. Then, as we prepared to retire to for the day, confident in having prover our mastery again, they did launch one last furious assault. Perhaps we could have continued to withdraw, for they were not much of a threat, even coming forth in greater numbers than ever before. We did not leave though, for their presence meant our job was unfinished, and upon taking our positions, we had sworn to our liege to never cease until all was completed. So we met them once more.

The elements had taken their toll, their movements becoming erratic, and sluggish. They broke easily against the instruments with which my brethren and I do battle. Though it took time, their forces were broken and routed again, and they scattered across the landscape in swift retreat. Victorious once more, we returned to our home to celebrate and enjoy a repast. Would our enemy never learn?

As I alluded, it was only later we grasped their true scheme. The weather had been against them, but we were not impervious to Nature's power, either. Soon, we fell ill, the wind having been all the more effective with the thorough drenching we had received. While our foes seem limitless in number, regaining easily whatever losses we inflicted, we knights are few in number, and our ranks can be replenished only slowly. As we were, there was little hope of holding back their next sustained assault. We will still sally forth to oppose them, but will have to do so knowing in our hearts, that we are already outflanked, and have underestimated the danger we face for quite some time.