Thursday, April 29, 2010

Until He Adventured No Further

One thing I've appreciated about the stories in The Further Adventures of Batman is the way Batman's been written. He's focused, determined, but not completely humorless. By and large, he recognizes who his friends and allies are, and treats them nicely. Even if he isn't slapping their back and guffawing at their jokes, he shows an appropriate amount of concern for their well-being. Also, most of the stories present Batman as well known by the public. They don't wonder if he's real or not, they know he is, and the law-abiding public loves him.

I had been a little disappointed that in many stories, when Batman needs to parse some clue, he goes and asks someone else, rather than possessing that knowledge or doing the research himself. Then it occurred to me that he's pursuing criminals, there are lives potentially at stake, so going to an expert is a matter of expediency.

On to the stories.

The Pirate of Millionaires' Cove, Edward D. Hoch: The tells the tale. A pirate ship is attacking the luxury craft of Gotham's rich, but why? Batman takes advantage of Wayne's social status for this one, as well as the charm he naturally possesses. The mystery is a little Scooby-Doo like, when the motives are revealed, and I expected there was an extra layer to it which wasn't actually there, but the plot works. I think.

This was probably the story Commissioner Gordon was portrayed the worst in. This or, The Wise Men of Gotham, since he could never come close to deciphering any of the riddles. Here, he can't think of any way to seek out the pirates, or to deduce what they might be after, to the extent Batman is actually annoyed with him. In his defense, Gordon didn't have much to go on other than the burned out hulk of a schooner and the words of a dying man, but he does seem hapless, except as Batman's clean-up crew.

The Origin of the Polarizer, George Alec Effinger: A intelligent, but cash-strapped man works at an electronics supply store, and becomes curious about the huge quantities of vacuum tubes and transistors Bruce Wayne is ordering. He deduces Wayne is Batman, tampers with the shipments, and begins to wreak havoc with Batman and Robin's equipment. Initially he planned to do so as a distraction, while he committed crimes to pay for graduate school, and if he'd left it at that, he might have made it. You know how it goes, though, he develops a taste for wealth, and overreaches, and suffers the fate reserved for one-time foes who learn the hero's identity.

Has to be the most '60s era story in the book, with the huge computer running off punch cards, and the Dynamic Duo running around in broad daylight, accepting challenges from a villain who already assembled the press (in the form of Vicki Vale, who, it should be noted, displayed no objectivity whatsoever, openly declaring her support for Batman and Robin). It even ends with Batman making a speech to Robin about how the Polarizer failed because, here, I'm just going to quote it:

'How ironic, Robin, that such a genius would have forgotten one of mankind's oldest proverbs: A sound mind in a sound body. The Polarizer couldn't hope to defeat us because he followed only half of that ancient advice. it wasn't enough for him to wreck our modern devices because in the end it was that centuries old piece of wisdom that conquered him. Wisdom, Robin! When all is said and done the greatest force on Earth is still the human mind.' I have to believe Robin was rolling his eyes like crazy all through that speech. But that was the style Effinger was trying to evoke, so good job.

Idol, Ed Gorman: This is another somewhat unusual one. It focuses on a young man, who, since a young age apparently, has believed he is Batman. He believes it so strongly he thinks the real Batman is an impostor who has stolen his identity. This makes him sullen, paranoid, and possibly unable to perform in bed (not looking forward to the spam comments that will probably generate).

It's a darker story than any of the others, since it looks at what could be a negative effect of Batman's existence. Although, if Batman didn't exist, maybe the man would have seized onto some other notable person, and decided he was the real, financial tycoon/baseball player/Green Arrow. Still, the obsession leads nowhere good. it's a short story, less than 10 pages, but Gorman has the main character interact with enough different people to provide a decent grasp of how deeply this belief he's Batman runs in the character, and how tightly he shields himself against everything. He doesn't accept compassion (or is it pity?) from the girl he sleeps with, anymore than he tolerates his mother's suggestions he move past this fixation.

If I'm picking favorites, I'd probably put Idol alongside Subway Jack and The Batman Memos, with The Pirate of Millionaires' Cove some below those three. I'd say for 20 cents, I received pretty good value out of this book.

OK, this weekend is the Cape Girardeau Comic Convention, which I am attending. Lots of driving for me, so no post tomorrow, at least one post either Saturday or Sunday, possibly one each day, by Monday things ought to be back on the usual daily schedule. Barring a storm knocking the power out here for two weeks while I'm away, as happened last May. Until Saturday, then.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Further And Further The Batman Adventured

The saga continues. . .

The Wise Men of Gotham, Edward Wellen: Hey, it's a Riddler story! Well all right. Wait, the Riddler's working as a hired killer? Aw.

All of the Riddler's clues revolve around the tale of The Wise Men of Gotham, who convinced King John not to build a hunting lodge in their village by acting like complete fools. I couldn't necessarily figure any of the riddles out, but the place he planned to execute them was usually information not provided until Batman figured out the riddle, so perhaps that doesn't reflect too poorly on me.

There were two things in this story I found ridiculous. One was just kind of silly, but tolerable, the other was such a jarring thing to add in, especially to be dismissed so quickly. The first aspect was the use of the Bat-Signal. In this story, the signal is used to make the shape of a number on the sky. The number describes the location and time Gordon and Batman are to meet. So if it's a 1, they meet at the corner of First Street and First Avenue at 1 AM. Why not meet at the police station, the story made it clear people know Batman works with the cops, and you'd be safer from surprise attack there then on some dark street corner.

The second part comes near the climax. Batman has tracked the Riddler to a boat expo, and while moving through an underground passage, Bats is accosted by a homeless guy, one who thinks he knows the Caped Crusader. Later, as Batman thwarts the Riddler's murder attempt again, the homeless fellow takes a needle to the heart intended for Batman. As he dies, he stammers out that Batman's eyes are the same as the kid whose parents he murdered in a mugging a long time ago. Cripes.

Why throw that in there, out of the blue, only to move right past in the next moment. Batman doesn't have time to react, he still has to catch the Riddler, and it's not dealt with in the aftermath. It sits there, this randomly hurled rock in the middle of the final confrontation between hero and villain, and serves no purpose. There had been plenty of talk earlier in the story about the plight of the homeless, and how Bruce Wayne is unusual among the rich because he actually tries to help them, and they shouldn't be ignored and looked down upon. Did Wellen think we needed the killer of Batman's parents to be a homeless man who dies saving Batman to drive the point home? It's a pointless inclusion, in a story I was already disappointed with by the Riddler presented.

Northwestward, Issac Asimov: If you've read the blog for awhile, it won't surprise you this was what prompted me to buy the book. I had to see what an Issac Asimov Batman story would be like. It's certainly unusual.

It takes place at a club called the Black Widowers, where a man named Bruce Wayne has come with a problem. He was the inspiration for the Batman of TV and comics, for his contributions to crimefighting, though he didn't dress up in a costume. His problem is he sent his butler (Alfred's nephew) with some of his memorabilia to a convention, and thinks Cecil may have considered stealing them, only to change his mind. He bases this on the fact Cecil called him from the airport to report he thought he was being followed, and was going northwest and he'd see Wayne soon. From this comment, Wayne interpreted Cecil was heading for Wayne's retreat in North Dakota (the convention was in Minneapolis), and went there. Cecil didn't arrive, as he had returned to New York. For the last year, Wayne's been convinced Cecil at least planned to rip him off, but doesn't want to confront him. He wants these fellows to devise some way he can put his mind at ease, without confronting Cecil, which would damage their working relationship even if Cecil is totally innocent. A solution is proposed, and everyone seems happy. Except the solution never explains why Cecil said he was head northwest, then said he would see Wayne soon, so I'm not certain it's actually a satisfactory explanation.

I think the story is about how Batman is an interesting character because he's human, so the challenges are greater, as he's capable of making mistakes, or overlooking something obvious. it's contrasted with Superman, who this story's Bruce Wayne doesn't like because he's so powerful there is no challenge for him, even when dealing with things impossible for normal people to deal with. Asimov's Wayne feels this leaves the reader unable to connect with Superman, and makes his a less effective and interesting character. The story then presents us with Batman - or the man he's modeled on - missing what is presented as an obvious explanation for the confusion with his butler. The point being, I believe, we're supposed to recognize we could easily make a similar mistake, and there you go, we can connect with Batman. The problems being, one, as I said the previous paragraph, obvious it may be, I'm not certain it is a good explanation, and two, since it revolves around placing emphasis on the wrong phrase, well, Superman could do that too. It was an interesting idea, but I don't think Asimov pulled it off.

Daddy's Girl, William F. Nolan: The story involves the Joker, Robin, the daughter the Joker keeps imprisoned in their home, and the robots he's supposedly built to raise and guard her. Robin falls in love with the girl in less than 20 pages, and she may love him, or it may simply be she's never met another human besides him and her father. The Joker, in addition to be a robotics expert and trying to kill the President, also has been giving her some kind of serum so that if she leaves their home, she dies. Uh, OK.

If the story had been longer, with more time to know Sue-Ellen, and see her interact with Grayson, and establish the Joker as being master of all the varied disciplines, it might have worked. It feels rushed as it is.

Command Performance, Howard Goldsmith: Someone is hypnotizing runaway teens and using them to commit crimes, so it's Dick Grayson, Boy Reporter on the case.

Now this story was long enough to work a little better. It offers the chance to see how Dick Grayson applies Batman training in everyday life, without the costume. That includes trying to get one of the teens to open up about, sneaking around in someone's home, resisting hypnotism. He doesn't seem as competent as I'd expect, but he does fairly well for himself. There is a bit in the middle of the story involving a Chamber of Horrors built inside a man's house that went nowhere. It's a red herring, obviously, but the set-up described is so elaborate, I wonder how the man in question managed to build the thing within his house.

Three more stories to go, so tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Here We See Batman, Futhering His Adventures

Moving right on to the next four stories in The Further Adventures of Batman.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Max Allan Collins: A story focused on the Joker, we find him in the doldrums as he has no one with which to share his successes. He sees a report on the news of a young woman calling herself the Mime, leading a gang to protest the overwhelming noise of urban areas, and is quite taken with her. He rescues her from the police, and plans to execute Batman (who captured her originally) as a sign of his love. It falls apart rather miserably for him.

Collins has a different take on the Joker than I'm accustomed to. Not so much him desiring recognition of his artistry, but needing one special person in his life (and Batman isn't it), as well as his love for comedians. Collins' Joker likes to watch Rodney Dangerfield when he's depressed, which struck me as a bit strange, the Joker showing appreciation or admiration for anyone's comedy but his own. On the plus side, this isn't a Joker who kills by the dozens, a change of pace from the Joker of recent years in the comics.

The ending struck me as a little odd. The Joker is captured, and shipped to Arkham, as is the Mime. Not because she helped the Joker or anything, she was going there for her earlier crimes, including shooting a cab driver (which seems like it ought to land her in real jail, not Arkham). Collins describes her as looking shell-shocked, but wearing a grin much like the Joker's (who is walking alongside her, assuring her she'll love it here), only he describes her grin as rather glazed. Is Collins saying the scope of what she'd done has finally caught up to her, or she's been driven truly mad by her recent experiences? If the latter, could they find a different psychiatric facility for her? One where she wouldn't be near the person who put her through some of the trauma? Actually, he could be going for a fitting punishment. She wanted the noise in the city turned down, but now she'll be around the Joker's endless chattering for the duration of her stay.

Oh, and according to the Joker, the sound of one hand clapping is the sound of a hand slapping a face.

Neutral Ground, Mike Resnick: A scant six pages, this is one of those stories about the tailor who serves both heroes and villains, and keeps them on shifting schedules so they don't interact. It was OK, but I've seen that story before.

Batman in Nighttown, Karen Haber and Robert Silverberg: Bruce Wayne is throwing a masquerade party, there's a Batman present, but it isn't him. At midnight, when everyone is supposed to remove their masks, the lights instead go out, the Batman steals several jewels*, and Bruce Wayne sets off in pursuit across the city. He eventually catches up to the thief, has considerable trouble with him, watches another loved one die, then sees the crook die through his own stupidity.

This is definitely a rookie Batman. He nearly loses control of his bike on the highway, has to elude police pursuit because he forgets motorcycles aren't allowed on the freeway(?), gets clocked repeatedly by his target, allows a civilian to die, and can't save the villain from himself. Oh well, live and learn. Haber and Silverberg use Aunt Alice, who was the kindly lady who raised Bruce after his parents' deaths in the Silver Age, I think. Then the Untold Legend of Batman said Alice Chilton's son Joe was the Joe Chill who killed Bruce's parents. Joe is in this story, but there's no suggestion he was nervous mugger in that alley. Here's he's simply a delusional young man.

The writing is a bit overwrought at times, with lines like 'What about love? The little he had known of it lay lifeless in his arms, gone forever.' Sounds like something I would write. Besides, asking the Batman about love is a waste of time. There's only the night, and the war that never ends, right**? Also, I wasn't clear on how Joe could cut the power to the house, or why the emergency generator didn't kick in as soon as Bruce expected it to. I think I'm meant to chalk it up to either the stress of the moment altering Bruce's sense of time, or that he still has a few kinks to work out with the generator.

The Batman Memos, Stuart M. Kaminsky: The story is presented as a series of memos between various parties concerning the possibility of making a movie about the mysterious Batman vigilante in Gotham, intertwined with the disappearance of an actress named Joan Teel from the same studio. The memos deal with topics ranging from who to play Batman, who might play opposite him, are there copyright or potential lawsuit issues, a psychological profile of Batman, police reports on Teel's disappearance, and correspondence between the studio head and Bruce Wayne, who represents Batman and has come to L.A. to make the project happen.

Of the four, this was probably my favorite. Batman is only involved by inference, people claiming to see a weird shadow or something similar, or noticing their files have been rifled through. Still, it's about how people see him, whether as a potential moneymaker, or a great role to play (Errol Flynn really wanted to be Batman), or Wayne (well, Batman) wanting to final approval over the script, to ensure it presents things in an appropriate light.

There is a bit in the psychologist's report where he states it's good Batman gains fulfillment from dressing in a costume a fighting criminals. Good, because he could have become a KKK member, or gasp, a transvestite. Yes, because those are equally horrific alternatives to dressing as a flying mammal while conducting vigilante activities. Besides, how does he know Batman isn't actually a cleverly disguised woman? Hmm? The story is set in the 1940s, so I suppose that attitude is to be expected, but I couldn't decide whether I found it amusing or stupid. That aside, this is still my second favorite of the stories thus far, behind Subway Jack.

* Bruce is stunned to learn all the wealthy socialites wore real jewels to the party rather than replicas. The socialites are just as surprised that he would think they wouldn't wear real jewels.

** I read that in a Batman comic once, can't recall which one, though. In its own way, as sad a comment as when Frank Castle told O'Brien's sister about that sunrise in Afghanistan, then said he'd tried to kill memories like that, but she could do something with it, if she liked.

Monday, April 26, 2010

That Batman, Always Having Further Adventures

The last book I picked up from the library sale was the 1989 collection of stories entitled, The Further Adventures of Batman, with stories written by 14 different authors from varying genres. I haven't finished them all yet, but it might be better to discuss them a few at a time anyway.

Death of the Dreammaster, Robert Sheckley: Set some point into the future, it starts with Bruce Wayne seeing the Joker on the street in broad daylight, with the Clown Prince of Crime then dashing into the nearby New Era Hotel. The catch is Batman watched the Joker die some months ago (rather gruesomely torn up by a grindstone), so is Batman losing his mind? From there the story involves booby-trapped cigarette cases, trips to Texas, Batman being annoyed by having to discern how to break into a neo-Baroque style building, crazy CIA directors, and holographic images of the President.

My initial impression was it was going to be a Silver Age story, with the hook of Batman possibly going insane and seeing his dead foe repeatedly. Then I read a little farther and it's mentioned that Robin, Bat Girl and Bat Woman have all died at some point previously, and it reads as though several of his foes met the same fate. Not through intentional actions of Batman, more likely their own devices. Which is more Golden Age, isn't it? Still, there are certain bits I felt marked it as a piece from the '80s. The Joker having killed lots of people, and stacked their dismembered corpses up in piles, arranged by which limb it is, for one. It's said one of the Joint Chiefs became a fighter ace by downing four Trinidadian jets before it was determined they weren't actually at war with Trinidad*. I'm guessing it's a reference to the Grenada invasion of a few years prior. Then the CIA deputy director who wants a computer defense system with what only appears to be a security flaw, but is actually a trap to infect enemy computers, and if they figure that out, well, he has even more plans upon plans.

The problem is, Crazy CIA Guy (Fenton) wanted to keep Batman uninvolved, but by trying to make him doubt his mind, he only draws him in. And it's how he messes with him that confuses me. On a case in Europe, Batman used the alias of Charlie Morrison, and Fenton figured out Morrison is Batman. When Batman uses Morrison again to investigate the hotel, Fenton uses holograms to mess with him. Fine. Except the first time in story we see Batman see something that isn't there, he's Bruce Wayne. Not Batman, not Charlie Morrison. And Fenton doesn't show any signs of realizing that while Morrison is Batman, both of them are actually Bruce Wayne. So why was Bruce Wayne seeing things?

Bats, Henry Slesar: Written as a series of diary entries by Alfred, details a time when Batman really does appear to have a nervous breakdown, and begins receiving treatment at the Pine-Whatney Clinic. Shortly thereafter, Batman starts running around in public, acting ridiculous, but it's all for a purpose, of course.

For someone more used to the Alfred of the last couple of decades, this felt off. I think Slesar was writing a '60s-era Batman story, so in that regard, it works. I pretty sure Alfred's been made increasingly awesome over the decades, with the snark, medical and military training, etc. Those traits weren't present in the time period I believe Slesar's going for, so his Alfred doesn't exhibit them. While he worries about Batman, he's unwilling to question him, or even ask if anything is troubling him. Alfred sneaks about to try to discern what's going on, accidentally alerts criminals to Batman's presence, and exhausts himself climbing up a few flights of stairs. In general, he behaves as I'd expect a typical butler to do. One a second read-through, it wouldn't be as noticeable to me.

This story I'd like to see illustrated. We'd have Batman showing up at a mall opening with pillows stuffed under his costume, calling himself "Fatman", or showing up at a celebration for Lewis Carroll wearing one of the Mad Hatter's old chapeaus, giving himself the title "Hatman", then running off laughing madly. I'm not sure who would be best suited to draw that, but someone is, I'm sure.

Subway Jack, Joe R. Lansdale: Lansdale went on to write other Batman stories, including a few episodes for Batman: The Animated Series**. This story is more horror than the previous two, as we start with someone stealing a small metal box from what was a sealed tomb. Shortly thereafter, bag ladies in subways are being hacked to pieces, their blood used to write 'Compliments of Subway Jack' on the wall. The story involves a possessing spirit of Lansdale's creation, the God of Razors, who has two weaknesses. One, like Moon Knight, he needs Luna shining in all its glory, and two, he needs his human host to stay alive. Batman doesn't kill intentionally in this story either, if that concerns you. It's ill fortune for Jack (well, ill fortune for the God of Razors, really).

The perspective in the story shifts from Jack, to Gordon, to Batman, back and forth. Some of it takes the form of Batman making a file on his computer, or Jack writing things in his diary. There's a definite difference in Jack's speech and writing compared to the other two, and Batman has a somewhat more clinical method of recording things than Gordon, but it isn't as distinct.

This is a bit bloodier than the previous two, what with a maniacal spirit roaming about, frequently cutting people to bits, then leaving messages in their blood. Batman has a bit of a sense of humor, not to the lunatic extent displayed in Bats, but moreso than Death of the Dreammaster. Although, most of the humor is him giving Gordon grief over his smoking habit***. He also displays a bit more compassion than the other two, likely because the antagonist doesn't really want to do what he does. While employing a disguise, Batman tries to talk to Jack, hoping he'll open up, and maybe they can end things quickly. One negative is Lansdale's Batman dialogue sounds too much like a tough beat cop, saying things like 'Thought he might spill his guts', and 'You can almost feel the heat coming off this guy.'

OK, tomorrow, we've selections by Max Allan Collins, Mike Resnick, Karen Haber and Robert Silverberg (writers of The Mutant Season, from last week's post), and Stuart Kaminsky.

* My first reaction wasn't "War with Trindad?", but "Don't you have to shoot down five planes to become an ace?"

** The episode where Jonah hex fights Ra's Al Ghul? That was one of Lansdale's.

*** In Death of the Dreammaster, Batman tells another character to lay off the bottle. In one of the other stories I've finished, which we'll discuss tomorrow, he again gives Gordon crap about his smokes, albeit as Bruce Wayne. Batman: He will tell you how to live your life.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bear Island Is Not A Happy Place

When I started Bear Island, I had no familiarity with Alistair MacLean's work. I've heard of some of his other books, but I'd never read any of them, and I only knew Force 10 From Navarone and The Guns of Navarone as movies. There will be some spoilers ahead. I'll try to be vague, but I thought I'd warn you.

The book starts of a trawler heading to Bear Island, carrying a small film crew, lead by their producer, Otto Gerran, and the various other board members of Olympus Productions. People begin dying, or very nearly dying, and the crew's doctor, a Dr. Marlowe (our point of view character), concludes it's poisoning. The deaths continue once the boat reaches remote Bear Island, as it becomes apparent that almost no one is what they seem, including Marlowe. The ending is as happy as it can be under the circumstances, as the villain's are caught or killed, and the day is saved, for those still alive, anyway.

I've mentioned before I'm very bad at mysteries. In this case, I was determined to have it figured out, but I don't believe I can claim success. I had half the guilty parties figured with 100 pages to go, but what I was basing my belief in their guilt on was false. I had thought, when one of the ship's crew commented that he could raise NATO training forces on the ship's radio if things grew too hairy, that the book was going in an espionage direction. One of the guilty parties had supposedly been in a Siberian prison for 20 years, and had been surprisingly released only two years ago. As it turned out, this was fishy, just for less political reasons than I suspected.

I wouldn't say this is a "fair play" mystery, which was what I thought it would be in the early going. It's more of a suspense novel, I think. MacLean does present some clues as Marlowe comes across them. For example, when Marlowe goes snooping he finds what he describes as a 'correspondence between Otto's chequebooks and Goin's bankbook.' What this correspondence is, he leaves to our imaginations. I went through several possibilities, including the correct one, but couldn't piece things together sufficiently to narrow it down. Whether I was supposed to or not, I don't know. What I do know is Marlowe has a considerable amount of information from the beginning the reader only becomes privy to when he feels like telling some other character. There are even things about Marlowe we are unaware of until well into the book. I imagine MacLean held these tidbits in reserve so he could have the surprise reveal of who Marlowe really is, but it does complicate things for the reader trying to solve the crimes on his own.

I feel MacLean tends to write info dumps he can't disguise as anything other than info dumps. The first chapter is Marlowe checking on the condition of the other passengers, as the weather is rough that night, and the landlubbers are suffering from it. What It boils down to is Marlowe describing each of the character's in turn. What they look like, why they're there, their personality, how the rest of the cast feels about them. I appreciate the effort, but it was a bit too obvious. This happens a few other times, where things seem to come to a halt so Marlowe can tell us (through some other character) a lot of information it would be helpful to have.

One thing that I was disappointed by was that Marlowe seems fairly good at deciding who to trust. If he confides in them, then ultimately, he can trust them to watch his back. They may not be on his side at the start, but inevitably, it turns out they're under coercion. The reason this bothered me was that Marlowe didn't seem that on the ball. The killers are running laps around him throughout the book. Rifling through his stuff while he's otherwise occupied, seeing from a book he left open he's been studying a particular kind of poison, luring people he trusts into the wilderness and eliminating them, and so on. When he keeps trusting one particular character to watch his back, I kept expecting that to blow up in his face. After all, his judgment up to then hadn't been extraordinary.

This was another quick read, as the expository dumps are few and far enough between they don't slow things down terribly. Part of why it read quickly for me might be due to my conviction it was a mystery, so I was eager to keep going, to see if the next clue would be what let me put all the pieces together. As a mystery, I wouldn't recommend it, but as a suspense novel, I'd say it's worth a look, especially if you can find it for 50 cents. Let's hear it for library sales.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Is Jeanette There?

Why is Jeanette on the Secret Six? She said she didn't join to 'save meow men from themselves'. Well, yes, could have figured as much.

I have thought it was because she and Scandal were old friends, and Scandal asked. But if it was friendship, then I'd think she'd go along to help Scandal and the rest find Blake. She owns her own hotel in Las Vegas, and a very high-class joint it is, too. Which would seem to rule out money.

Maybe it's her attraction to death. The Six certainly stack the bodies like cord wood.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reconsidering The Prince Of Orphans

This feels like something I would have posted last year, but I can't find any evidence that I did, so great, content for today.

It's related to Immortal Weapons #5, the issue focusing on the Prince of Orphans. When I read the story, I had the impression that John Aman travels the world dealing with various threats that have outlived their creators, or possibly just forgotten. The dragon that was somehow smuggled out of K'un-Lun, the army of angry ghost soldiers out for revenge, things like that. The people responsible for these threats are dead and gone, but the threat remains. Orphaned, in a sense. I figured that was what Aman's title referred to.

Yesterday I thought about how he brought Danny Rand along with him on that mission, offered advice for fighting the dragon, and spent some time afterward meditating with him. His comments to Danny gave me the impression he'd done this with the other Immortal Weapons as well. It occurred to me, Danny's parents died on the trip that brought him to K'un-Lun. He's an orphan. Fat Cobra's mother died giving birth to him, and his father left him at an orphanage, rather than try to feed him. The mother of Tiger's Beautiful Daughter died when she was young, and when she learned her true heritage, I think she essentially disowned her father. Dog Brother #1 is definitely an orphan, because he had to be lost for his predecessor to find him. I don't know about the Bride of Nine Spiders, except that her predecessor probably died of her wounds from that fight she had before returning to her city at the start of Immortal Weapons #2.

So now I'm wondering if this is common for Immortal Weapons, and this mentor role is something naturally filled by Aman and his predecessors, or if it's a trait peculiar only to John Aman. Something about the man, rather than the title he holds in his city.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Permits Were Not Required For Mutant Season

In the introduction to Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber's The Mutant Season, Silverberg talks about the history of mutation in science fiction. Mutants as the next step, mutants as the persecuted outsiders, mutants as the consequence of humans tossing atomic weapons around like popcorn. As he's going over all this, I kept thinking he'd mention the X-Men. Sure, this was published in 1989, so the X-Men weren't the film franchise they became in the 2000s, but it was still a serial running for 25 years by then. I guess he wanted to keep his focus to books.

It's around 2017. There have been mutants since the Middle Ages, generally keeping to themselves, interacting with nonmutants as necessary. Finally, in the 1990s they came out into the open, and there was predictably violence. Still, by this point there's a mutant Senator*, and mutant-run corporations gain government contracts, and attend schools openly. Not that it's all wine and roses, there is hostility, on both sides. There are mutants who want to keep to themselves, such as James Ryton Sr., and nonmutants who would be fine with that, such as Bill McLeod. Of course, the children of those two men are dating so they wind up being mirroring situations.

Senator Jacobsen is assassinated, and a Stephen Jeffers (also a mutant) steps into her spot. There are tensions resulting from his more forceful approach to removing barriers against mutants. Meanwhile, Michael Ryton (James' son) is struggling to try and live his life as he pleases, rather than be forced into lockstep with the clan's wishes. That's complicated by Jena, a mutant girl very interested in him, who his parents would prefer he date, in place of Kelly McLeod. His sister Melanie feels completely isolated, as she has the identifying gold eyes of a mutant, but she's a null, no actual powers. Nonmutants look at her as a mutant, with all the downsides of that, but the other mutants look at her as something less than them. There's also Skerry, a relative of Michael's, and a rebel who is apparently really powerful and does what he pleases. Throw some medical research attempts to create mutants, which include covertly harvesting samples from mutants, and abducting people to try them on, and you've pretty much got the story*.

The problem for me was, I kept comparing the characters to X-characters, because the story itself felt familiar enough I wasn't drawn in. Jeffers is Ultimate Magneto with a dash of Mr. Sinister. Skerry is Gambit. James Ryton Sr. was a little trickier, with his general desire to stay separate from nonmutants, but recognizing some (well, one) nonmutants were OK. Maybe regular Magneto in a mellow moment, or Nightcrawler after Storm was depowered**. Could be Xavier, I guess, since he talked big about coexistence, but isolated all his student/soldiers. Michael, with his eagerness to integrate with nonmutants, his general intelligence and work ethic, and his struggle to gain approval from his father, had to be Cyclops. In truth, I wasn't sure of that until he started sleeping with Jena on the sly, while continuing his relationship with Kelly. Yep, that's Scott Summers.

So part of my problem with the book was the feeling I'd seen all this before, which considering I've been reading X-Men comics off-and-on for about 25 years, is not surprising. The other problem was I didn't find myself liking many of the characters. Some of them didn't appear enough to gain a feel for them, several of the older figures are too locked into their separatist ways for me to like them***. I was inclined towards Michael, but then he decided to be unfaithful, and I'll be damned if I'm going to like Cyclops. Melanie and Jacobsen's assistant, Andie, are nice, but they're both kind of dumb at times, so I found myself frustrated with their inability to see they were both falling for guys who were up to no good. I was glad to see Melanie finds a place by the end of the story, but it's based on her hiding from everyone, so a bittersweet success.

Silverberg and Haber do establish a good framework for how mutants get along in the world. There's legislation to prevent mutants from competing in school sports, the mutants tend to set up their own businesses and study genetic research on their own. They're extremely concerned about protecting their bloodline, since it takes two mutants to produce a mutant child, so there's considerable pressure to marry within the clan, with the treat of being branded an outlaw, or potentially being coerced if someone refuses. it's not pretty, but it makes a certain amount of sense if the group is going to be so focused on making sure mutants continue to exist.

The book did read very fast, and there's at least one more book in the series (Mutant Prime, I believe), so if you decide to take a chance on it and it doesn't pan out, you shouldn't lose more than a couple days of reading time, depending on how fast you read. Maybe for someone with less familiarity with the X-Men, it would work better, so something to keep in mind.

* The testing stuff is alluded to, but there are no scenes actually set in the labs, where we see what's going on. There's no specific closure, either. I'm guessing that was left for later books.

** I forget the issue number. It was after the team helps Forge fight off Dire Wraiths (with special guest appearance by Holographic Rom!), and in the aftermath, Kurt's pretty much like "Screw humans, let the FF and Avengers look after them, we'll look after ourselves." It doesn't last long, though.

*** James Ryton reminds me of the uptight dads you see in movies who at some point realizes his kids and their hopes and dreams are more important than his work/status/outdated concepts, and reconnects with them. Except Ryton never does that. Of course, he's deteriorating into madness with the mental flashes by the end of the book, but he never turns that corner.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Apparently I'm Bad Cop Today

Adorable Baby Panda: Maybe we should do these in the morning for awhile.

Calvin: {Why would we do that?}

ABP: Well, your schedule's different, and you're more tired than usual for afternoon.

Calvin: {The schedule shift will only intrude on one more of these, tops. There's no point in messing with a winning formula. Besides, if we did this in the morning, I'd be sleepy, instead of tired, and that's no upgrade.}

If you say so. {Give the Juggernaut a hug. He was walloped pretty good.} He probably deserved it. {Is that any way to talk about a past member of the X-Men and Excalibur. Helped save the world, he did. Spidey said it himself, that stuff about the Exemplars.} And he's back to being bad again, so no. {Fine.} Bane needs a Hug for sure. {Throw a bonk in there. Trying to send Scandal to her room wasn't too bright.} He meant well. {You say that now, but I've seen your tantrums when you get sent to your room.} I don't throw tantrums! And what does that have to do with anything? {Well, you rail against the injustice of being sent to your room, but here you are defending the person handing out such punishment. Only an injustice when it happens to you, I guess.} I, no, but, grr, quit messing with me!

{Where will I get my kicks then? *ABP kicks him in the rear* Suppose I walked right into that one.} Uh-huh. Phyla gets a Hug. {And a whack on the noggin.} What?! {Why the hell was she listening to Maelstrom? Hello, bad guy! He was tearing her down five minutes ago, and now he's telling her to do something. Really ought to have set off her warning bells.} She was trying to make things right! {Bang-up job of it. Even so, might want to hit Gamora for talking openly about killing her. They were still on the same team.} No, I think Gamora had her reasons, and all she said was she wanted to have a discussion with Phyla. {Right, and with Gamora, discussion means cut you with sharp objects. Or maybe stab you.} You can't be sure. {She has the title of "deadliest woman in the universe", not "top peaceful negotiator in the universe".} Catman needs a Hug too, before he goes too far. {Hit him. He used Elena as a meat shield. You can't condone that.} No, I guess I can't. Bonk for Catman. He might hurt me for that. {Pssh. You can beat up Catman. No problem.}

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I Bought 4/20/2010

If I were the sort to believe higher powers were pulling our strings, I'd say they're trying to tell me not to buy Batgirl. And to resume buying Booster Gold. Second time in 3 months Jack sent me Booster Gold instead of Batgirl. It's only four books this time around, which is kind of a downer. Naturally all my comics waited until tomorrow to be released. What can you do?

Amazing Spider-Man #627 - Peter has to break of his date with Carlie Cooper because his Spider-sense starts going crazy. Fortunately (I guess), it looks like he's having cluster headaches, so Carlie's understanding. Pete rushes to investigate, and finds the Juggernaut kayoed in the park. The cops arrive, and Spidey lets them take over, while he looks for some help. As usually happens for Spider-Man when threats of this level are involved, everyone is out of town. Which means the web-slinger is on his own when he meets the person responsible for bringing the pain on Juggernaut. No worries though, Spidey and the Uni-Force are old buddies, I'm sure they can settle this peacefully. For Spider-Man's sake.

As the start of a story, it works pretty well. If you didn't know about the Juggernaut, I think Stern drops enough info as things go along to keep you in the loop. He addresses some of the other aspects of Pete's current status (this thing w/Carlie, Pete's unpleasant roomie, the fact Pete's not actually a photographer anymore) enough so they don't bog things down. And Spider-Man stops a random purse-snatching, and I'm always happy to see him simply fighting random acts of crime, rather than dealing with world-threatening stuff, or elaborate revenge schemes. Lee Weeks is the artist, and I like his work, especially with some of Spider-Man's stances, when he lands on the arch at Washington Square, or how he leans on the car door as he opens it, or how he makes himself a little shorter when returning the lady's purse, which I think makes him less threatening.

Booster Gold #31 - Booster enjoys beating up present day robbers too much, and gets a little dog killed. Oh noes, the puppy! The crying, disillusioned little girl! Booster is mopey, and his sister is mad, and Rip is still spouting that crap about how time can't be changed, except where it can be. Like say, going back in time to save the little dog? And Booster and his sister make up, that's nice. Though it felt less like Booster apologizing for failing to save her boyfriend in Coast City, and more of a pity party for how hard it being a Time Master.

One thing I thought was a bit cheap. It turns out Rip and Booster were in the background of some of the panels right before the dog died, and so when that moment is revisited later in the issue, there they are again. Except the first time their heads are shadowed, or blocked out. I'm not saying I would have noticed them the first time through if they'd looked like themselves. Maybe I would have, but I'd have liked the opportunity. Maybe I was supposed to notice two people with no apparent faces in trench coats on a sunny day?

Guardians of the Galaxy #24 - The members of the team Magus spirited away try to fight their way through all his cannon fodder. The remainder of the team tries to protect the Galactic Council delegates, which they do, thanks to Rocket Raccoon and his 'unfeasibly large cannon'. No, that's not a euphemism. Afterward, Moondragon finally gets it across to them that yes, Magus is still alive. Meanwhile, Phyla is making yet another mistake, listening to Maelstrom, and yep, that's naked Thanos all right. Thank goodness for weird goo stuff. I'm not sure mortal minds could handle Thanos uncensored.

Phyla really can't catch a break. Sure, this was sort of a good thing she did, but it doesn't appear she'll be able to appreciate that. What sort of works is how clearly I can see Phyla's still making decisions out of desperation. She's been doing that for awhile, rather than taking time to think things out, and it keeps backfiring, which is appropriate. The issue starts in second-person narration, which some may find annoying. It doesn't bother me, I'm used to it from years of reading Spider-Girl, but not everyone feels that way. It shifts to third-person after the first few pages. Wesley Craig continues to handle the art chores, and things looked a bit more rushed than usual. I didn't really get the sense of the nearly overwhelming numbers the Universal Church of Truth had at it's disposal most of the time. It was more like they had maybe a dozen soldiers at any given time. Also, the backgrounds were kind of sparse, not as awe-inspiring as I'd figure the UCT would go for. His facial expressions were still mostly excellent, though, and the action was generally well-handled.

Secret Six #20 - Blake gives some thought to the offer, but chooses to not kill his now former teammates, and go after the kidnappers instead. Not sure how he knows the third member has asthma, though. he goes to Cheshire, she tells him what she knows, he sets to business. Cutting and torturing business. Meanwhile, the rest of the team is disintegrating. Again. Bane and Jeanette set off on a mission, the rest go after Catman. Except Deadshot may be right, and it's already too late to save Blake.

Well, that was interesting. It's one of the good issues of Secret Six, where it alternates between touching and disturbing. As for Calafiore, he's very good at drawing people gritting their teeth and looking either furious or deranged, and he has ample opportunity for that in this issue. That's not fair of me. Other than the fact he gave Blake saliva strand syndrome in one of the panels, I liked his work. I think his facial expressions really are quite good. A couple of the sad looks Scandal gives Bane, Alice's smirks, Alice and Ragdoll making a cat's cradle in the back seat of the car. OK, that last one isn't actually a facial expressions, but it was a particular touch I liked.

That's all my new comics. I'd give Secret Six Book of the Week, though it has to share I Want To See What Comes Next with Amazing Spidey and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

So Nova's In Secret Avengers

What do you think?

Brubaker seems aware of the idea Rich isn't necessarily going to fit for every mission the group undertakes, so he's going to be used on a case by case basis. That makes sense. Before I read the recap of his comments on Comic Book Resources, I was wondering how Nova would fit. Although, if Rich can keep the Worldmind in the loop while he's on Earth, it could be handy for infiltrating vital information systems. I can't imagine there are too many computer safeguards that could hold up against the Worldmind.

It sounds as though Nova will be the "big gun" of the team, called in when they have a really big threat. Perhaps similar to how Busiek frequently used Thor for his Avengers' work. It's encouraging, because I was afraid he might get nerfed. He still might, but it sounds as though there's recognition that Nova's one of the most powerful heroes on Earth. When he's on Earth, anyway.

I'll be curious to see the difference in the threats the team faces w/Nova vs. without. Will it be a matter of power, or will Nova be called in for anything extraterrestrial in nature? Are the team's activities focused on Earth, or will they try and meet incoming threats away from home? Will Nova be calling them in on some of his work?

Also, what's Nova's standing with the team going to be? He's been doing the hero thing for a shorter amount of time than several of his team members*, and most of them have been on more high-profile teams than him. At the same time, Nova's been up to his neck in crazy "the universe is about to die" stuff for the last couple years, but nobody on Earth realizes it. I know Steve Rogers will respect him, because he's Steve Rogers, but hopefully the rest aren't going to treat him like some relative rookie.

I guess I'll be adding this to my pull list, eventually. I still wish they'd paired Brubaker with either Immonen or Romita Jr., and put Deodato on one of Bendis' books, but it's not a perfect world, and Deodato's done work I enjoyed in the past. I would have added the book already if Marvel hadn't been cagey about who was on the team for the first two issues**. I'll have to decide whether to try and grab spare copies of the first two issues, or wait for the first trade.

* Steve Rogers, Black Widow, Sharon Carter, Beast, for certain. I'm not sure about Valkyrie, since I'm not sure which Val this is. Brubaker's comments suggest it's the one Moon Knight worked with briefly on the Defenders, who would have seniority, but I thought Busiek and Larsen said she went back to Valhalla, and there was a different Val running around. I'm pretty sure Nova has Jim Rhodes and Moon Knight beat, but they both saw combat long before they became costumed types, so that might offset. The only one I'm positive he has service time over is the Irredeemable Ant-Man.

** I like Brubaker, but on his own, not enough to get me to buy a title. Pairing him with Deodato wasn't enough either. The roster was what clinched it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Greetings, Would You LIke To Talk ABout Null-A?

There was a festival in town this weekend, the library got into it with a book sale, the books were cheap, and so I went. Amusingly two of the books I bought from a different library and reviewed last year (Testing the Current and A Maggot) were up for sale. I guess nobody here wanted to read them either, and having read both books, I don't blame them.

First book up to the reviewing plate is The Players of Null-A, by A.E. van Vogt. At the least this is the second book in a series, so it took me awhile to get the hang of everything. Earth and Venus both have humans living on them. There is a League out in space, of various other inhabited worlds, which is under siege by the leader of the 'Greatest Empire', Enro the Red. The central figure is Gilbert Gosseyn, a Venusian with an extra brain. As in, he actually has a second brain, and an enlarged head to accommodate it. I believe it's something a scientist attached, but I'm not certain. Gosseyn has certain powers. If he memorizes a location, he can "similarize" to it, but only within 26 hours. After that, he has to memorize the location all over again. He also has some ability to draw on energy sources around him, so when entering a room, he makes a habit of searching for electrical outlets he could draw from.

I believe these are powers resulting from the extra brain, but he also describes how, if he's killed, he'll be reborn in another Gosseyn body, which sounds as if it's happened before. Why that happens, where the extra bodies come from, how many there are, these things aren't covered, which isn't the worst thing. It lends an air of intrigue to the whole thing, and helps draw me in. During the book, Gilbert frequently feels there is someone out there manipulating him,using him for a purpose he can't understand, which may or may not go along with his own plans.

Gosseyn first and foremost wishes to protect Earth and Venus from Enro's forces and rule. His secondary goal seems to be introducing more practitioners of the style of thinking called "null-A" into the universe. Null-A is supposed to represent "non-Aristotelian", which is an actual system of logic developed in the early 20th century by Nicolai A Vasiliev and Jan Lukasiewicz. Vogt doesn't use it quite the way they thought of it, preferring to describe it as a state of mind where the cortical part of the brain works equally with the thalamic portion. Characters without Null-A training are dominated by emotional responses from their thalamic thinking, and Gosseyn frequently uses his Null-A capabilities to read their personalities and determine their threat level or the best method to approach them for something. It's not telepathy so much as a Holmesian ability to read people by their body language and words.

Gosseyn's not the only being with powers, as there's a race of Predictors, including one in particular called the Follower with other abilities, and Enro has powers of his own. All the abilities exhibited seem related to simply using their brains to a greater extent, and so Gosseyn starts trying to develop these other abilities himself. One thing I don't understand at all is why Predictors have a hard time following Gilbert's movements. Frequently they say they can only see down his timeline a certain point, and then there's a blur. Is this related to his powers, or his Null-A training? I don't know.

As I read the story, I wasn't sure I wanted to root for Gilbert. Enro is a bit mad, no doubt. He orders resisting worlds bombed until the planet itself starts to fall apart, and he sees this as a religious crusade, or at least cloaks his actions in those terms. Still, some of Gilbert's actions remind me of Asimov's Second Foundation, making decisions concerning people's lives, without bothering to consult them. Early on, Gosseyn abruptly finds his mind inside the body of a young prince Enro captured years ago, who is now to be Enro's gopher. Gosseyn immediately starts planning how he might use this young man to kill Enro, even though it'll certainly get the boy killed. It's no big deal for Gilbert; either his mind will bounce back to his body, or it'll be shunted to one of those other bodies he's so certain are around, but the kid will be dead. Gilbert also sets about a rudimentary training in Null-A to strengthen the boy a bit, and speaks through him at times. It helps the boy regain some backbone, but it also has the boy behaving in a manner out of character with what the people around him expect, which arouses suspicion in those people, potentially endangering the kid's life.

Plus, there's the whole bit where he's eager to get members of his world out amongst because once Null-A thinking is out there and gains adherents, it won't be long before the Null-A folks are running the show. He figures only 3% of the population need be Null-Aers for them to be in charge. I assume he expects them to either be elected, or to be chosen based on their superior qualifications, because they can easily suppress emotional reactions to things, but it reads a bit sinister to me. Perhaps it isn't all bad, as Venus is described as having free food and housing for everyone (maybe Earth has that too, but I don't think so). However, Gilbert seems so determined for it to happen (much as Enro and the Follower are determined for their schemes to succeed), and his amusement when the League accepts the help of the Null-As, not realizing those same Null-As helping them to fend off the Greatest Empire will soon be in the positions of power, I'm suspicious of his intentions.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doesn't Seem His Memory Is Coming Back To Clue Us In

What do you think happened to Major Victory? The Guardians found him on a chunk of land that just happened to be Avengers Mansion, and which just happened to be drifting between universes, and came through a rift into the 616-universe. I don't recall the Major every regaining his memories, despite his frequent visits to Starhawk to see if it jarred something loose.

I don't think he's from the version of the future Star-Lord and some of the others were brought to around GotG #16. There's a chance, since in that future Avenegrs Mansion is also floating on a small bit of real estate out in space, and a Major Victory existed there, so maybe he could have been lost in whatever there is between universes. But why would he have been the only member of the team to survive? What happened to throw Avengers Mansion out of its universe in the first place?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Did Bane Want To Talk Trash?

I was looking over Batman #497 this afternoon. It's the issue where Bane breaks Bruce Wayne Batman's back, setting in motion his eventual butt-whupping at the hands of Jean Paul Valley Batman.

The issue itself is mostly Bane tossing Batman around like a ragdoll, similar to the early rounds of the Rocky/Drago fight from Rocky 4. Only Batman never manages to make Bane bleed, he just keeps getting stomped. During the fight though, Bane keeps mentioning how let down he is by Batman. When Batman hits him in the gut with an entirely ineffectual punch, we get 'You are already broken.' He repeatedly tells Batman he has nothing, or is nothing, or is 'a disappointment'. It sort of reads as though he's simply stating facts, but there's an udnercurrent of anger to it, like he expected more.

Why? This was his whole plan. Run Batman ragged with one threat after another, until he can't go anymore. Then show up and clean up whatever's left. Bane confirms it before the beating starts. Batman states he's spent his life fighting against Bane's sort of madness and evil, and it's him to death's door 'my own door'. Bane's response? 'I would not be here otherwise'. So Bane's sure his plan has worked, so he really shouldn't be surprised the fight goes as easily as it does, should he?

He could be taking the opportunity to chip away at Batman verbally, since the physical chipping has already been accomplished. But calling Batman a disappointment gives me the impression he was expecting more of a battle. I do wonder why Bats didn't pull something out of the utility belt, rather than try to fight him head on. Admittedly, once the fight started, Bane kept on him, so there wasn't much opportunity to go for knockout gas or a taser, but his initial approach was to charge at Bane (hint: it didn't work).

Is that it? Bane thought Batman would be more clever in overcoming his exhaustion?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's The Heroic Age Going To Be About?

What do you think the overarching thread of Marvel's "Heroic Age" is going to be? Is there going to be any specific thing that could connect the books? Let's reflect and speculate!

The Initiative was generally about the characters adjusting to Iron Man being in charge of SHIELD, and there being super-teams assigned to every state, and the government generally asserting more control of costumed vigilantes (or trying to at any rate). There were heroes in the system trying to do their best, but realizing they have to work closely with people with very different ideas about how to do things (Gyrich). The heroes who wouldn't toe the line were largely interested in doing things their way. I didn't have the feeling the New Avengers were looking to drag Stark down from his position so much as they simply weren't going to follow him. They'd fight crime, he and his group would fight crime, but one side is following specific rules and regulations, and the other is following whatever code they think best.

Dark Reign seemed to be about exposing the weaknesses in Iron Man's plans to consolidate power in one person's hands. Instead of Iron Man - who kept looking the other way when it came to his renegade former friends - in charge, now it's crazy-ass Norman Osborn and his team of loons running about. It largely established that if you thought things were bad under Tony Stark, you hadn't seen anything yet. The few heroes still inside the system are now vastly outnumbered by corrupt superiors, and either compromise themselves trying to stay alive, or defy their bosses and risk turning up as collateral damage. Now the renegades are more actively trying to bring Osborn down.

With the Heroic Age, it looks as though people in the Marvel Universe finally appreciate the good guys. Finally. I know I said it twice. Is there still going to be an attempt at government regulation? If so, will it be a more open one, where the people making the rules, if they aren't folks used to donning costumes and fighting crime, at least receive input from people with experience at that on what are reasonable expectations? Are we going back to the heroes acting independently, saving whoever they happen to see in distress? I feel it would be the latter, perhaps under the reasoning a "heroic" stance would involve not compromising one's principles. I could see the conflict being certain folks trying to undermine the newfound confidence of the public in their heroes, either through smear campaigns, or specific acts designed to make the heroes look bad.

It could just be a banner to slap on the cover to try and boost sales, with no theme connecting the stories. Can't rule that option out, unfortunately.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Considering A Thread From Nova That May Have Been Dropped

Last year, Garthan Saal showed up briefly in Nova #26. Garthan Sall was the last person before Richard Rider to house all of the Nova Force, and it drove him mad, since he didn't have the Worldmind along to help him. Saal was talking to Malik Tarcel, who had taken over for Richard as Nova Prime, only to be roundly thumped by Gladiator in the early stages of War of Kings.

Since then, Saal's made nary an appearance. Today, I was thinking about that and a couple of other threads Abnett and Lanning have started in the cosmic books that haven't paid off as yet. I was thinking perhaps these will be more of those storylines we never see any resolution of. You know how that goes, the book's direction gets hijacked by bigger events, it's canceled, the writers leaves, the writer decides to go a different way. It happens.

Then it occurred to me, what if Garthan Saal is from the universe on the other side of the Fault? The Fault itself didn't exist yet, but there were other tears in space-time before then. The Guardians of the Galaxy had been dealing with some of them in the first arc of their title. Once the war started, there were even more, caused by Vulcan and his reckless use of Nega-Bombs. At the same time this story was going in Nova, Adam Warlock had been sealing up just such a hole in Guardians of the Galaxy. That was a large rupture, and Warlock handled it before anything emerged. However, with possibly multiple large rips in the universe, it's possible a few smaller ones were missed, or were deemed low priority. If so, there's an opportunity for someone to come on through. Garthan Saal perhaps.

We know the other universe has versions of characters common in the Marvel Universe, so there could easily be a Garthan Saal. There's no death in the universe, so no matter how crazy the Nova Force might have driven him, he couldn't have been killed. He could easily still be active in that universe, and could be acting on orders from the higher powers in his universe, or he could have simply seen a tear in space and decided to investigate. Remember, he may be as crazy as the 616's Saal was, so that might seem a perfectly reasonable idea.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Super-Villain Team-Up To Save The Universe

Idea: Get Annihilus involved in the Thanos Imperative. He's coming back in the pages of Fantastic Four this month. OK, this should technically be Annihilus the 2nd, who was born at the very end of Annihilation. The last I saw of him after that was War of Kings: Ascension, where it was revealed his regent was using the Cosmic Control Rod to keep Baby Anni in an infant state. The two Raptors killed the regent, took the Control Rod, and gave it to Blastaar as an offering for treaty. I'm a little disappointed he's back this way. I would have preferred he make a big splashy comeback in a cosmic book, but whatever. He's back, might as well use him.

If there's anyone other than Thanos who would want to stop the elimination of death, it ought to be Annihilus (assuming this one has a similar philosophy to its father). Thanos loves Death, and couldn't stand to see her destroyed. Annihilus has been prone to describing himself as 'The Death Who Walks', and shouting 'All Life Is My Enemy!' as he pummels some poor schmuck of a hero. It'll be hard to be walking death if there is no death, and it would be rather frustrating to regard all life as a threat, and never have any hope of eliminating it.

You could probably do a comedy story about that if death was eliminated, where we see Annihilus going to anger management classes, or therapy to deal with his issues of regarding everyone around him as a threat. 'What you have to understand, Anni, is all those people around you aren't planning to hurt you. You don't need to kill them to be safe.' Well, a better writer than me could make something funny out of it. Maybe if Marvel hadn't canceled the Mini-Marvels.

Back to the original topic. Throw Annihilus II into the mix. Play off the fact that he's the offspring of the one who nearly wiped out the universe. Is he angry at Nova for killing his dad, or grateful because it offered him an opportunity*? Does Blastaar try and waste him on sight, or does he rein himself in, biding his time? Could he be convinced to yield the Cosmic Control Rod to Anni 2 if necessary? Would the Kree object to his involvement after the damage wreaked on their empire (or would they be enraged if the Inhumans didn't care, focusing on the larger threat)? Would Galactus hold a grudge over being made into a weapon for Annihilus I**? Speaking of Annihilus I, his plans went beyond what Thanos expected, and it riled Thanos he'd been played. It was his failsafe in the containment shackles on Galactus that lead to Anni the 1st's downfall. Any trust issues there? Might Thanos think he can mold this Annihilus into a useful lackey, or would he try to use him for a suicide run straight off, just to eliminate a possible threat? Thanos probably figures he can trust the heroes he'll work with to honor their word, but Annihilus could be another matter.

It might complicate things, adding another variable into the story, so perhaps it's something better saved for after the Thanos Imperative. I think it has potential, though.

* I can't imagine Annihilus the First would have allowed any children to last long had he survived. Talk about a living threat to his power.

** Where do you think Galactus stands on all this? No death means more life, ought to mean more planets with usable energy for him. But it also means more beings to resist him, and he has plenty of trouble with the resistance he already deals with from Earthlings and such.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy Reunions Which Are Followed By The Punching Of Villains Are In Now

If the solicitation for this month's Nova is accurate, he, Darkhawk, and Quasar will be hustling Earthward to warn all the heroes there about the horrific creature about to emerge from the Fault and eliminate death in their universe.

I'm hoping Namorita will be out of that 'self-protective fugue' she was in at the end of last month, and come along as well. She can't survive in space on her own, but there's no reason the Nova Corps couldn't hook her up with a space suit (maybe even a bit of the Nova Force?), or Quasar could make a protective bubble.

My reason for wanting this is simple: If Namorita goes back to earth, she can have a reunion with her mother, who was dead the last 'Nita knew (and 'Nita is dead as far as Namora knew). It's easy. They arrive on Earth, head right for Reed Richards and explain the situation. It's dire enough they round up everyone, and since the X-Men and New Avengers know Atlas isn't really a bunch of crooks, and can be quite formidable, they show up.

Plus, we both the X-Men and Atlas involved, Namor ought to put in an appearance, so we might get a panel of him gobsmacked at seeing his 'little cousin' back from the dead. How often do we have the opportunity to see Namor struck speechless? The speechlessness would be followed with Namor no doubt being furious at whoever is playing a trick on him until Nova or Darkhawk can explain what happened.

My goal with this would be Atlas goes into space to help, pitting whatever is coming through the Fault against the two coolest teams in the Marvel Universe*, Atlas and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The universe saved, 'Nita heads back to earth for some bonding with her mom, and we get a mother-daughter butt-kicking, crimefighting team.

Which is not something I can recall too many examples of at Marvel or DC. Wonder Woman and Hippolyta have worked together on several occasions, and I think Jean Grey had to work with Rachel at some point**. Supergirl and her mother worked together during World of New Krypton, right? I can't think of any others, so there could be an opportunity for some fun stories. It could involve typical Atlas stuff, or defending the scattered people of Atlantis stuff, or old-school New Warriors stuff. How does 'Nita react to having a mother again (and being alive in a world where she died making the error of appearing in a Mark Millar written comic)? How does Namora handle having a daughter older than she remembers, who's been through even weirder adventures than Namora has? I'm just throwing possibilities out there, you can suugest your own.

* Fine, two coolest active teams in the Marvel Universe, since NextWave seems scattered to the four winds.

** There was an issue of Excalibur after Colossus left the X-Men where they were both on Muir Island and had a nice talk, but they didn't fight Acolytes together.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Defending Fictional People From Other Fictional People

Have you ever talked with someone who starts bad-mouthing a friend or family member of yours, and you quickly recognize they don't know nearly as much as they think they do? I usually want to shake them, but settle for trying to explain to them what they're missing, without betraying any confidences. That's where this post is going.

Near the end of Amazing Spider-Man #621 Carlie Cooper has a conversation with Peter Parker. She was originally planning to let him have it for blowing off their lunch, but when she sees he's been kicked around, she eases off. A little. She explains (while patching him up) that from the moment she met Peter, she knew there was something about him she liked. Problem is, she there's a big difference between what she wants Pete to be (and thinks he can be) and what he is. More accurately, what she thinks he is. Carlie tells Peter he has one more chance, best not screw it up. When he remarks she seems different from usual, she responds that she went through a gauntlet today. Pete says he knows the feeling. Carlie's rejoinder: 'No, you don't. When you do it right. . . it makes you stronger, You just have to reach the other side.'

Here's the thing. I know from Carlie's perspective, she's right. Peter seems unreliable, selfish, a guy who coasts by leeching off others. The problem is, I also know Peter is out there every night risking his life as Spider-Man, that he doesn't like breaking promises to people, but if it's between saving lives and making that lunch date with Carlie, "saving lives" wins, and he goes through more grief and pain in a year than Carlie's experienced in her entire life. When I read the sequence, she comes off as a self-righteous fool. Oh Carlie, you thought your father was dead, but it turns out he was just a bent cop?

Boo hoo. Let's talk a little stroll through the Magical Fun-Time Rainbow World of Peter Parker.

- Regained the parents he thought died when he was a child, only to learn they're artificial beings created by one the Chameleon, because he believes Peter will provide him with Spider-Man's secret identity, except Chameleon's actually being manipulated by Peter's crazy best friend (who already knows Peter is Spider-Man), who wanted Peter to gain and lose his parents to screw with him.

- Was dead for two weeks, while MJ walked the streets looking for him, and Kraven ran around dressed as him, killing criminals.

- Was told he was a clone of the real Peter Parker, believed that for months, died briefly, and when finally learning he is the real Peter Parker, it's accompanied by the knowledge the crazy father of his crazy best friend, the same crazy father who abducted Gwen to mess with him, leading to her demise, is not only not dead like Peter thought, but orchestrated the whole thing. Oh, and MJ and Peter's baby is stillborn.

- Later, of course, he learns Crazy Father also had kids with Gwen, kids he raised to hate Peter's guts.

That's only crap that happened in my time as a reader*, and it's leaving out "had a living costume that wanted to permanently bond with him, then bonded with angry journalist and started eating people", or "sent to hodgepodge planet created by sentient universe, nearly stepped on by giant purple guy who eats planets", and whatever else you want to throw in there.

Peter survived all of that (well, he died briefly a couple of times, but he recovered). It wasn't always easy, and he didn't always handle it well initially (especially the deal with his parents), but he made it through each time. The idea that he's not 'doing it right' is nuts.

Again, it's not fair of me to be irritated with Carlie, because she wouldn't know about any of it**. She can only go off what she knows, and she's not the first person to wonder what is up with Peter Parker. Still, I can't help being outraged on Peter's behalf. She's speaking about things she has no comprehension of, but is doing so with total self-assurance she's right. Which, she isn't. It's the self-assurance, the judgmental attitude that riles me.

Practically everyone close to him has wondered why he's so unreliable at one point or the other, even Aunt May. In most of my reading experience, it's presented as concern, or confusion. These people care about him, but can't see what makes him behave so strangely, always late or not arriving at all, occasionally undependable, flighty, hiding things. There's anger sometimes. Aunt May was furious with him when he dropped out of grad school, wouldn't even talk to him for awhile. She couldn't understand why he would abandon his education when it had always been so important to him, and it frustrated her. The difference is she came to respect his decision, and more importantly, she's Aunt May. She's earned the right to question his decisions, even without knowing everything***. Carlie has not, at least not from where I'm sitting.

Which isn't going to stop her, obviously. I'm a reader, she's a character, it's a one-way street. She can provoke responses in me, I can't sit down and explain to her how she's misjudging Peter. Frustrating.

* Gwen dying and the original clone stuff were long before I started reading, but the events playing off those occurrences happened after I started reading comics.

** She might know about MJ's kid being stillborn, assuming that's still in continuity. I don't know why exactly she'd know, but it's the only thing up there not completely tied up in Spider-Man stuff. She might also know his parents reappeared, then vanished abruptly. I can't remember how they explained that in the comics.

*** The dropping out of grad school thing was in the '80s, so well before JMS had her learn Peter was Spider-Man.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Could The Villains Do Power Girl's Work For Her?

Ultra-Humanite's brain (or consciousness, at least) is in Terra's body. Does Satanna know this?

Satanna's supposedly out for revenge because Power Girl defeated U-H and put him somewhere Satanna couldn't find him. As we know, he's not there anymore. Well, the albino gorilla body probably still is, but his mind clearly isn't. Not only is she trying to get revenge, it seems to be "kill you" revenge, rather than "make your life miserable" revenge. If she knew U-H was out and about, she probably wouldn't be trying to kill the person he wants to put his brain inside*. U-H seemed pretty angry with her, with the threats of blinding or worse if she didn't give him the code to deactivate the gravity well.

I'm saying "seems" a lot, because there was a phrase that makes me reconsider all of it. In #10, Satanna's Angry Badger Scientist calls the Manhawk attack "Phase Three". It tells me everything thrown at Power Girl in #9 (the elephant and rhino-men, the sonic hammer, the gravity well) was just an opening salvo, and this is the continuation of a larger scheme. If those were really part of an attempt to kill Peej, then it failed and the Manhawks would be more of a "Plan B". It might also explain how Satanna escaped being encased in rock up to her chin as soon as she coughed up the code**.

Granted, if this was some plan for U-H to play at being Terra to learn everything he could about Power Girl, likely to use as some way of getting Peej to do what he wants***, he kind of botched it by being too '90s in his heroing, but he is nuts, and probably couldn't figure any other way to be heroic. I know Angry Badger Scientist said in Power Girl #8 he hadn't located U-H yet, but a) he didn't know U-H was in Terra's body (if he was by then) and b) he did have hundreds of agents looking, so they may have tumbled to that fact. If not, there's nothing that says U-H couldn't have shown up in Terra's body and convinced Satanna to modify her revenge plan to suit his purposes.

It would be funny if Satanna really doesn't know, and in trying to kill Power Girl, ends up screwing up Ultra-Humanite's plans, and the two end up fighting and defeating each other. Or U-H tells Satanna it's him, but in the time that takes, Power Girl comes up with some way to stop them both. Ooh, maybe the Angry Badger Scientist will turn against Satanna because he's worried she'll find him expendable once she has Ultra-Humanite back!

Then Angry Badger Scientist can be a hero! That'll be the best thing ever! Well, not the best thing ever, but a really good thing.

* I'm guessing the brain transfer wouldn't work if Power Girl was dead.

** I guess it's possible the rock formation Terra-Humanite made could crumble with his concentration, but I figured it was more likely it wouldn't go away unless he willed it.

*** You know, "Let me put my brain in your body or I'll strike at all your loved ones" Moo-Ha-Ha stuff.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Batman Needed To Give That Plan More Thought

As I understand it, one of the things Tim (Red Robin) is mad at Stephanie about is during Batman R.I.P she hired at least a couple killer-types to attack Tim (back when he was still Robin) and generally make life difficult for him. She did this under orders from Batman. He knew (because he's Batman, I assume) he might go missing while dealing with the Black Glove*, and didn't want Tim focusing on trying to find him, when he should be concentrating on improving his skills or protecting Gotham or something. Tim figures all this out somewhere along the line, and he's understandably peeved at Steph for not only hampering his attempts to find Bruce, but bringing more dangerous criminals into Gotham.

Figures the one time Spoiler actually listened to a more experienced hero was the one time she absolutely shouldn't.

What I can't figure is why Batman thought this was a good plan. He's plotted things far enough ahead to see he might go missing. He knows Tim well enough to know Tim will focus his energies on finding Batman, rather than progressing as a crimefighter. So shouldn't he have realized once word got out The Bat wasn't around, Gotham would go nuts? Doesn't that happen every time Batman goes away for awhile, regardless of how many other heroes are present? He had to realize that, so why tell Spoiler to go out and concoct other ways to make things more difficult? If he wanted Tim to improve, amp up the difficulty on the training simulators, make him spar with Batgirl**, call up the Ghosts of the Dibneys and have them teach Tim what they know about sleuthing***. Or get Tim an internship with the Shadowpact or something, teach him about the supernatural.

A plan which is going to put more innocent people in danger, either because they become targets, or because Tim's so busy dodging attempts on his life he doesn't have time to save others, is villain planning. Maybe that's not what Batman was thinking of when he gave Spoiler that mission, in which case, he should have said so.

* I'm assuming he expected the Black Glove to be the one who would take him out of the picture. I'm not prepared to accept he knew Darkseid's minions, running around inside human shells, would find him after the helicopter explosion and try to create their own Batmen. But maybe he did know that was going to happen. He is Batman, after all. Well, he is Batman in the past right now, but not the present, but likely will be again in the future.

** If you'll recall, Cass Cain was running with the Outsiders by this time.

*** Ralph and Sue had also shown up in Batman and the Outsiders by this point, so it's in play.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I Liked This Page

First order of business: The link at the end of yesterday's post actually takes you where it is supposed to, now that I've spelled "genius" correctly. Hat tip to Matthew.

I'm very tired tonight for some reason, so simple post. Here's one page from Red Robin #10.
I saw a person online critiquing Batgirl's technique, saying a person wouldn't (or shouldn't) use those moves in the order she did. Certainly the kick seems a bit unwieldy for disarming an opponent, but whatever works. I'm impressed her cape vanished for a panel. The kick had such power the shockwave from it blew the cape clean of her shoulders. Which is good, because it means she has one of those easily detachable capes, which helps to avoid embarrassing moments where one gets hung up because of the cape. No getting sucked into turbines because of her cape for Stephanie Brown, nor sirree!

I love Tim's "Holy crap" there at the bottom. Note that, surprised as he is, he still caught the gun. He had an internal monologue on the previous page when Prudence pointed the gun at Stephanie about how there was nothing he could do, Steph was going to die, it was all his fault, he should have worked harder to make her give up crimefighting, but he was thinking with his heart and not his head, and now she's doomed, oh no. Then this page, and well, never mind, she's OK.

It turns out the gun is empty, suggesting Pru wasn't actually going to kill Batgirl, at least not with a gun (or perhaps not with a gun while Tim was around). Why did she bother to point an unloaded gun at Stephanie? Maybe she thought it would scare Steph, and found that funny. I'm guessing she wasn't expecting a beating. She should count herself lucky she wasn't dealing with Cassandra Cain, or she'd have been on the ground before the gun was halfway out of its holster.

That's all I have for tonight. Good night, everybody.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Simultaneously The Greatest Heroes And Greatest Threat In The DCU

Let's start with the second-to-last page from Secret Six #19. That's it directly below. Click to enlarge.
We have this bearded fellow in a black t-shirt with a boater hat* telling Catman they have his son, blah, blah, blah, threats made with a cheerful attitude, you know the shtick. When I first saw him, I was focusing on who he reminded me of, and that would be these two fellows (again, click to enlarge):
Those are the Heterodyne Boys, as seen in the Munden's Bar back-up in GrimJack #40 (written and drawn by Phil Foglio, inked by Julie Ann Sczesny). Girl Genius Online says they've been incorporated into the history of Girl Genius, but are essentially completely different characters from these two blokes. All that remains is the name and them being good guys.

In this story, Bill (in the boater) and Barry (sporting the beard and "3.14" shirt) are zapped into another dimension by Dr. Mongfish, who can't have them interfering with his plan to steal Ohio**. Naturally, the other dimension is Munden's Bar, where they upset a patron by leaving a motorcycle tire in his drink, and when they thwart his attempt to eat them, he winds up dead (he's the fellow Gordon's declaring deceased on the page above). Before they can take on the assembled riffraff, Phaeton, Lord Protector of Cynosure arrives and sends them back home. Their world has no shades of gray, and they would have fought everyone in Cynosure. As avatars*** of good, they can't lose, so they'd have destroyed everything. Having explained this to Gordon (and rebuffed Gordon's offer of a free drink for saving the bar from destruction****), Phaeton leaves. Back in their world, Bill and Barry capture Dr. Mongfish and note they can use his machine to go back and help Phaeton clean up Cynosure, as he was probably too proud to ask for help.

Clearly what happened is they made the attempt, but were accidentally fused and tossed through the Breach into the DC Universe. The weird energies of the Breach have altered them so that they're still avatars of good, just violent and cruel avatars of good. The Six are villains, or at least they certainly fit the definition of "evildoer" they supplied Gordon with*****, so it's perfectly reasonable for he/them to pursue the Six.

He has Bill's hat, Barry's beard, a body type in between the two, says stuff like "mate" and "love", whereas those two said things like "old sport" and "old fruitbat", he clearly enjoys his work, and if you squint at it, and were charitable, you could call letting a kid live in exchange for the deaths of killers redressing the karmic balance. The chap is Heterodyne Boys, indubitably******.

Which means the Six are screwed. Oh well, they had a nice run, but sometimes you come up against the avatars of good, and what can you do but tip your cap and say "Good showing, old bean"?

In case you're interested, you can read the whole Munden's bar story at this address. It's better than my attempt at a summary.

* I had to look that up online, as "straw hat", which was the term I was thinking of, didn't seem quite right. I really like the term "boater hat". Don't know why, just do.

** Even Cleveland?

*** Barry says he doesn't feel like an avatar, to which Bill responds 'Well, 'av a tar is better than none.' Ow, the pun! I bet Peter David is mad Foglio beat him to that one. Or did he?!

**** Because Phaeton is an uptight dick.

***** Namely, someone who isn't good.

****** OK, I can't explain why they've added to other guys to the mix, or all those armed covert ops guys, but I'm trying to have fun here, don't ruin it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It's One Of Those Things What Bothers Them More Than Killing

Why do you think the rest of the Secret Six are worried about this Ragdoll/Black Alice thing?

I think why I know we're supposed to be concerned. Alice is still a high schooler as far as I can tell, while Ragdoll is older. How much older, I don't know, but I'm guessing enough that certain law could come into effect if the relationship continued to progress. Or, it's meant to be troubling because while Alice clearly has issues, a relationship with Mr. Merkel isn't likely to improve that any. Black Alice starts seeing the world the way he does, that could be very bad for her, and certainly bad for many other people*.

Still, why does the rest of the team care? To be fair, I haven't seen Jeanette, Scandal, or Catman make a comment about it. Bane's objection I sort of follow. I don't believe it's on any moral grounds, though Bane's definition of what is "right" is not something I can necessarily predict. From a team perspective, Alice is largely unproven. She had some good moments during their skirmish with the Squad and the Black Lanterns, but she also froze up as things grew more intense. Bane might think she's not going to become more reliable if she can always count on Ragdoll to swoop in and bail her out.

Still, Deadshot is commenting on it, and wondering if they shouldn't intervene. Hardly anything fazes him, but this got his attention. Maybe simply because it made Ragdoll be serious, rather than his usual oddball self, but I'd think that might be a positive. I guess the team is used to him the other way, and despite his disturbing tangents, they could count on him in the past, while a change in personality might mean an end to that. The problem is, I have the impression the concern Deadshot's showing isn't related to their team dynamic, but that he thinks it might actually be wrong to let them build this connection, and I can't figure why he would care.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Meandering Through Catman, The Six, And His Son

First off, I need to mention I was wrong about something in my review of Secret Six #19. I said Catman would only earn his son one year of life if he killed his entire team. Upon rereading, it turns out he earns his son one year for each team member he can kill in the next five minutes. Potentially six years for his kid.

A couple of points. This might have worked better if there had been any indication in the series up to this point that Catman cared about his son, or hell, even had a son. I was vaguely aware of it, somehow, but I can't recall it having been mentioned once in the series so far. He and Cheshire were even in the same room briefly during the opening arc and it never came up (though Blake was probably more concerned with not being poisoned anymore). Cheshire told Jeanette she had a baby, but she didn't say it was Thomas'. I suppose if you've read the earlier mini-series (or have read people discussing them like me) you know the score, but it does come out of the blue. Of course, there's no guarantee Catman will play ball. He really might not care about his son.

Say he does, I started thinking about how many of his teammates he could kill. Given enough time to pick them off one at a time, I suppose he could take all of them. In five minutes, I'd suggest he go for Alice or Floyd. She's potentially the most powerful, but also the most likely to freeze up, which would leave her as a completely human, and easy target. Other than her (say she swipes Misfit's powers and 'ports out), Deadshot strikes me as the easiest. No super-powers like Jeanette, no regenerative ability like Scandal, not extraordinarily strong like Bane, or already accustomed to mutilation and injury like Ragdoll (who didn't show much ill effect for having fingers cut off by his sister). The trick with Deadshot obviously being one has to get close enough to kill him before being shot.

Then I realized even those aren't practical options. He goes after Alice, Ragdoll will wrap him up, and vice versa. Alice might not do it a smart way, but yeah, I think she'd try and fight Catman if he attacked Ragdoll. If he went for Floyd, Jeanette would probably scream him down, or simply toss him across the room, and Floyd might shoot Blake if he attacked Jeanette*. Certainly if he goes at Bane or Scandal, the other will attack him instantly. Which is the point when it dawned on my that Blake is somewhat isolated on the team, at least in the sense there's no one he's close to. Scandal and Bane have their daughter/father thing. Floyd and Jeanette their on again, off again, then on again relationship**. Now Alice and Ragdoll have their puppy love creepy thing. Catman is on the outside. I don't think Blake dislikes any of his team members (perhaps Bane), but I'm not sure how much he likes them, or how much they like him. He and Floyd have whatever it is they have. Blake lets Floyd borrow suits, they pick up ice cream and smokes together, maybe that's friendship amongst the Six. It's a mutual understanding, at the very least***. I'm not certain it trumps what Floyd and Jeanette have going.

Combine this with Bane's statement earlier in the issue about the value of a sacrifice and I wonder if this will be the point Catman steps out of the group. It seems unlikely, but he's always been the team member who has the most crises of conscience it seems. The one who worries that maybe he went too far with those poachers in Africa, who may be thinking about doing better for Huntress.

* Though she's the team member I think would need the least assistance, Blake could try and cut her near the neck, see if she starts flashing back to her execution as she did during The Depths. That seemed to incapacitate her for a time.

** The off portions being whenever Floyd shoots her, which has happened a couple of different times so far.

*** I think Blake understands Floyd, and I think Floyd understands Blake as well as Blake understands himself, which is not terribly well, but it's something.