Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There's More Than One Way To Enter A Room Impressively

Over here we see a panel from Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet #1 (written by Brian Clevinger and Lee Black, drawn by Brian Churilla, colored by Michelle Madsen). As you might guess, it relates to how Dr. Doom enters a room versus the rest of us. Doom's preferred method is to blast through a wall and proclaim 'Behold the grim visage of Dr. Doom!'

This is my favorite sequence from the issue (though not my favorite panel*), because Doom of course is not at fault for the fight that just ended, and naturally he has to do things with a dramatic flair. And he refers to himself in the third person, which works so well for Dr. Doom.

I do think he's downplaying the effectiveness of entering through doors. Sure, peasants enter rooms through doors, but they have to open the door themselves. Doom must have people lining up to open doors for him, so he never needs to break his stride. Or, he could walk up and force the door open with some device in his gauntlet, so it would slam impressively against the wall, alerting everyone to his presence. Perhaps an intangibility unit, so he can simply walk through the door. Add some optional noisemaker** that sounds when he deactivates the intangibility device so all will be aware he's entered the room. Or, Doom could make everyone come to him. Rather than entering a room at all, send a transmission demanding everyone else come to where he stands (or sits). Dr. Doom should not have to deign to visit people when he plans to give them orders, they should hurry to visit him, and bask in his regal presence, naturally.

I do think the blasting a hole in the wall beats my ideas (though I'm fond of making them come to him), but you can always stand to mix things up. That way people don't grow expectant of Dr. Doom blasting holes in their walls, and remain suitably stunned by his entrances.

* That would be Red Skull fading out of existence in front of his HYDRA lackeys, a combination of terror and surprise on his face, and that of the nearest HYDRA guy. I probably only find it comical because it's the Red Skull, and it's fun to see him being wiped from existence on the whim of some being more powerful than the Skull can even comprehend. It's nothing personal against the Skull, he's just another poor sap in Thanos' universe.

** I'm thinking the sounds of trumpets or horns blaring, the way they do in medieval flicks when the King enters a room. Or a piece of music Doom particularly enjoys.
Do you think Doom composes his own music? That would be something he could trump Richards over. There's no way I buy Reed as having musical talent.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Putting The Mask Back On

There's a scene in Darkwing Duck #3 where several of his old foes are taking their revenge on the shadowy organization that imprisoned them when they look up and see DW's jet fly overhead. The next panel is them gawking at it, but the panel after that, they all have these looks of maniacal glee on their faces. Then they all start talking excitedly for a panel, until they get their act together and set off in hot pursuit. I really like that silent panel of them all grinning, but that's not precisely what I wanted to discuss today.

Part of the reason Darkwing's villains are so happy to see him is because he vanished for a year and a half. They missed him. They were already back in action before they knew he was back as well, but that was more about revenge, not the same as the love/hate thing they had with Darkwing. But it got me thinking about other stories where the hero comes out of retirement after a spell. Dark Knight Returns, Spider-Man Reign, the JSA in Chase #6, to name three. There's plenty more. In the cases I'm familiar with, the hero dons the costume to deal with either a particular new threat, or just a rise in general crime. However, once back on the scene, the old arch-foes start crawling out of the woodwork*.

What I was thinking was, is that how it always goes? The hero sees new problems and it's only once they're active the old problems resurface? Or are there stories where the hero has to return because one of their arch-enemies has come back, and they're the only hero who can stop them? I imagine there have to be stories like that, but I wonder if they're more or less common.

With the villains following the heroes, it suggests that line of thinking demonstrated in comics sometimes that it's because there are costumed heroes that there are costumed villains. Which I is idiotic, because it's saying if there was no Spider-Man, then Max Dillon wouldn't have started robbing jewelry stores once he gained the power to become Electro, and I don't buy that for a minute. It also doesn't entirely work in these cases since the hero unretires because of something they find untenable. There's already crime, and the vigilante steps forth to try and do something about it themselves, although the crime more often seems to be the standard fare we see in our world, with muggings, gangs, petty theft. The costumed crime is less noticeable. But it does suggest that for some criminals at least, what they do is tied up in a competition with a particular hero. If the hero isn't there, they don't care enough to do what they do. Eluding cops is boring after tangling with Batman.

What does it say in the cases where the villains return first? It would suggest to me it's easier for people to find their motivation to resume evil than good**. The rewards are more obvious, be it material wealth or the enjoyment of the work. Fighting crime as a vigilante may provide a similar enjoyment, the thrill of moving through the city, being a figure that causes people to look on in awe or fear, but the material gains are less obvious. Save someone's life, and they may not even say "Thank you". The police may pursue them as doggedly (or moreso, if they think they're being shown up) than they did the robber/murderer/arsonist the vigilante captured. It's so much more of a thankless, difficult path, it's harder for the protagonist to work up the energy to go back to it, compared to the antagonist, who could simply grow bored, or have simply escaped from a lengthy incarceration. They're operating off some sense of entitlement or resentment, and those fuels are in larger supply than the inner drive to put one's life on the line against people working from those feelings.

That's where my mind's at today. If you've any examples of the villains reemerging first, I'd love to hear about them. Certainly doesn't have to be superhero comics. Any input into the difference in what the approaches might mean would also be appreciated.

* An exception would be the story in Chase, since there was no indication from Cameron that the JSA suiting up to capture Dr. Trap caused their enemies to come back. Perhaps they weren't active long enough, if it was for one case.

** I don't think it would be that it's easier for people to do evil than good, because that's frequently what spurs a hero to action, whether just starting out or coming back. There are people taking for themselves, unconcerned with others, and either no one is doing anything, or the people trying are ineffective, so here's a person in a costume, fighting crime how they like. But they're typically vastly outnumbered by the people who opted for the evil route instead.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tales From The Woods #1

Last spring, while on the job, I came across two turtles on a trail, facing in opposite directions. One turtle was sealed up inside its shell, the other was behind the first turtle, trapped on its back. The funny part was the toes of the second turtle were caught in between the first turtle's shell and plastron (the underside of a turtle shell). My impression was this was a botched mating attempt. Turtle #2 climbed up on Turtle #1, and somehow slid/fell off and wound up in a bad way, especially after Turtle #1 panicked and closed its shell.

I wonder about that sometimes. Did Turtle #1 feel my footsteps approaching and try to flee without warning Turtle #2? Or was Turtle #2 making unwanted advances, and wound up stuck when Turtle #1 decided to keep on moving? Maybe it was simply a case of performance anxiety*. Turtle #2 wasn't real smooth in his approach, Turtle #1 spooked, Turtle #2 ends up on its back, feet stuck in another turtle's shell. It could have been the Ghost of the Forest; it has a sense of humor.

Whatever the sequence that brought it about, I did get them separated, measured, and marked (since that's part of the job). Then I set them down right-side up and sent them on their way

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So Many Sixes To Choose From

Somewhat related to yesterday's post, I was thinking about all the different lineups this iteration of the Secret Six have had, since they appeared in Villains United.

There was the team they at the start with the Fiddler, then Deadshot killed him for not carrying out the mission. Fiddler gets replaced with Catman, and the roster holds until the end of the mini-series, by which time Cheshire's been revealed as a traitor and the Parademon is dead. By the time of the Secret Six mini-series, Knockout and the Mad Hatter replace those two. Ragdoll throws the Hatter off a cliff to conclude that story, and when they appear in Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn's filling the "loony Bat-foe" slot. She departs the team some time after that, and Knockout is killed as part of the Death of the New Gods nonsense. Which leads us to the team formed in the first arc of the ongoing, with Bane and Jeanette. Then Black Alice was added to the roster, and now there's sort of two different teams, which will soon start killing each other.

So that's 7 or 8 (depending on how you want to count the current situation) in less than 50 issues. I'd say that's a lot of roster turnover, even for a team of mercs/anti-heroes/non-villains, but most teams shuffle quite a bit, don't they? Even the Fantastic Four's roster doesn't remain completely static, though I think it's more so than most teams. Probably a result of the whole "they're a family" aspect one hears bandied about. I suppose one difference is the Six probably suffer more turnover due to death than other teams. I imagine with the Avengers for example, characters usually decide to take time off, go solo, get injured. Death doesn't claim them quite as often.

Anyway, one thing I pass the time with is thinking about my favorite versions of particular teams. The Six are the only DC team I can try to answer that about. With the Justice League, it's more like "the roster must contain Kyle Rayner", or some other character. I don't have enough history with most of the teams, or enough characters I'm fond of, to pick specific rosters. So that's where we're at, and I might try this with other teams from time to time. You are, of course, welcome to discuss your preferred roster in the comments if you'd life.

It would seem like the Scandal/Catman/Ragdoll/Deadshot/Bane/Jeanette squad would be my choice, since it's the one I've read the most of (I didn't really read a lot of their appearances prior to the series, just enough to decide to give the ongoing a chance). It is a lot of fun, but I kind of prefer the one with Harley, though largely on potential and that I like the former Dr. Quinzel.

I don't know if it would have worked over a longer stretch, since Knockout was growing annoyed with her. Plus, Ragdoll was again threatened by there being another crazy person on the team (though I don't think Harley is as round the bend as Ragdoll or the Hatter). That's part of it, though. Quinn is strange, but in a different way from Ragdoll. His oddness makes his teammates vaguely uneasy, while hers annoyed them more. Maybe it was a matter of unfamiliarity, but I think Ragdoll was better able to focus on their work, and so they more readily accept his eccentricities. That ties into another part of it, I think. The Six, whatever other bonds they've formed, are a group trying to make some money. It rarely works out, but that's the theory. While Harley doesn't strike me as adverse to makin' bank, she also seems motivated by other things. Love, a desire for recognition, or connection, and I think she wants to have fun. Which isn't necessarily a problem if she does what's asked of her, but it is going to cause problems with the more serious teammates.

Still, one thing I'd like to have seen explored was Harley and Scandal. Scandal was the leader, the one with some gift for strategy and a cool enough head to keep things running relatively smoothly. She's smart, basically, and so is Harley. She was a psychologist, and apparently a very bright one. Her ability to read and/or manipulate people could have potentially come in handy if given the opportunity. If so, would that have helped the others feel more at ease, or if Harley paved the way to success, would Scandal start to get bothered by it? Especially if what Harley did ran counter to what Scandal had planned. Actually, the more likely outcome is Harley would start psychoanalyzing her teammates and perhaps hit a little too close. Which might turn them more against her, or inadvertently set them against each other, since I can see Harley doing so in the form of offhand comments at a briefing or over breakfast.

Friday, August 27, 2010

There's Gonna Be Blood On The Walls

Looking at covers and solicits for the next few issues of Secret Six, it appears that the team Jeanette recruited for Bane is going to clash with the crew that went after Catman. Maybe Catman will be involved as well, since he's on next month's cover. Interestingly, Black Alice isn't, so has she already given up on the Six as a way to make money? I know she was tired of chasing after Blake, but I wasn't certain that translated to her being done with the whole thing.

Anyway, given the people involved, not only will these difference be settled with violence, but it will probably be extreme violence. No punch in the face and off to jail here. With that in mind, who do you expect to not make it out alive?

If Alice is still involved, then I'd pick her. She's the least experienced, the most uncertain, the least ruthless, and as she admitted, just because she grabs some mystic's power, doesn't mean she can use it properly. If she's not there, then I'll back the fellow I would have pegged to attack her, Dwarfstar.

For one, September's cover has him paired off with Deadshot, which is never good for one's chances of survival. Second, Gail Simone created him, so if she decides to off him, no harm no foul, and he's such an unpleasant little murderer it would probably be quite satisfying to see him shrink down, only to be blown to bits by one bullet because he didn't get small enough to escape Floyd's notice. Third, for all his talk of enjoying killing, he doesn't strike me as someone who's much good if his enemies fight back. He did hire Deathstroke and company to kill Ryan Choi, rather than doing it himself.

I can't see any of the other replacement members dying because I don't think they're as nuts as Dwarfstar, so if they recognize things are going south, they're more likely to decide the paycheck isn't worth dying for. I should pick someone from the real group, but I can't really see any of them dying. I think they're a little too good, and too close to each other to get knocked off by some other villains who took their spots for the cash. I will say - and place this as a "longshot" - I think Scandal is going to kill Bane. They're supposed to fight at some point, and his newfound love of dino-riding and spear-wielding aside, I don't see Bane bringing himself to kill her. However, I can see him pressing her hard enough in battle that she thinks he will kill her, and opts to kill him first.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Not To Kill A Mockingbird

Hawkeye and Mockingbird #3 ended with Crossfire and Phantom Rider doing the slow-mo walk while a building explodes in the background. The building was supposed to contain Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and Dominic Fortune. Odds are we'll find out next week it didn't contain them, because they made some narrow escape.

I think it'd be more fun if they were blown up, then as ghosts, proceed to make the villains' lives miserable. They should have powers like Phantom Rider. Not necessarily the same powers, but ghostly powers nonetheless. That would put them on equal footing with that pain, and Crossfire would be completely outclassed. What's he going to do, shoot at them some more? Sic his robot drones on them?

See Phantom Rider figures once Mockingbird is dead like him, she'll be his forever. So the key is to make him realize just how unappealing being around someone who hates your guts for an eternity can be. Especially when her ex-husband is along for the ride, plus another fellow who probably isn't happy he was just collateral damage in all this. Basically, make the Rider's afterlife a nightmare, until he uses all his vague spectral powers to somehow restore them to life, just to be rid of them. Then he realizes by surrendering the person he was pursuing for so long, he has no unfinished business, and he gets dragged to Hell. Meanwhile, Crossfire's been driven to madness by their persistent haunting, and does something stupid and reckless which gets him captured and thrown into prison.

Plus, our heroes all learn to appreciate life now that they've lost it and regained it. Well, phrase it in a less schmaltzy manner than that, but Bobbi could see the need to step back from her work, decompress, and Hawkeye could perhaps see the wisdom in not always trying to fix things without asking the people involved. Being Hawkeye, that wisdom would last for about five minutes, much like the time Spider-Man died for one issue*. But perhaps he could do something good in those five minutes.

* While in the realm of the dead, he realizes how he was always worrying too much, and he needed to enjoy life more. Once he's alive again at the end of the issue, he promptly resumes worrying about stuff again, the lessons learned in the afterlife having not carried over.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird

Prior to this week, I had never read Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. I must have missed it somehow in high school, though that's probably for the best. Outside of Hemingway and Crime and Punishment, there wasn't much I read in high school I enjoyed, and part of that has to be that I was being forced to read them*. Fortunately, someone left a copy sitting in the common area, and I took the opportunity.

I knew that some of the plot revolved around Atticus Finch's attempt to defend a black man on trial in a town in the American South, but I was surprised how far into the book I was before the trial began. For the first hundred pages, there was no direct mention of it. At most, we observe how the other kids at school have something new they believe can be used to taunt Scout and Jem. It works well, since it gave me the opportunity to get to know many of the major characters and the culture of the town under what would be considered normal circumstances, before the trial starts to exert pressure on everyone.

I quite liked the use of Scout as the point-of-view character. Since she's the youngest main character in the book, there's a lot she doesn't understand about the world, and so we see her frustration, which seems to be equal parts the ugly things she learns people are capable of, and the fact she can't see why people would do or say those things. Sometimes her elders attempt to explain things, and sometimes she's left to try and puzzle it through herself, if she can even decide how to ask what's troubling her. And sometimes the answers she receives aren't helpful, either because she can't quite grasp what they're saying, or because the answer itself isn't particularly good. Her older brother Jem seems to provide many of those sorts of answers, probably because he's struggling with the same realizations she is, and the years he has on her aren't sufficient to have figured everything out.

For a time, I though the fire that burned down Maude's house might have been intentional, simply because it seemed like the kind of thing Scout wouldn't pick up on, and none of the adults would have told her about. But I don't think Maude would have been as cheerful as she was if that was the case, so I decided it really was just an accident that happened because she was trying to keep her flowers warm in the snow.

I wonder about the comparison of Boo Radley with the mockingbird. Admittedly, I don't have as high an opinion of mockingbirds as people in the book. I think they're clever, since they imitate the calls of other birds to try and keep their territory as much to themselves as they can. Still, Boo's activities seem to provide considerable entertainment to the people of Maycomb, whether it's speculating about him, or the kids' games and attempts to lure him out of his house. For whatever his quirks, he seems to ultimately be a good person, and the adults largely leave him be Mockingbirds tend to nest in shrubs or trees where their nests can be well hidden (a cedar, for example), similar to how Boo stayed largely within his house (at least when the kids were out and about, clearly the adults of the town weren't too stunned by his emergence at the end).

* Another part might be I was too young to appreciate them, and still another is they weren't books I'd enjoy. I don't believe that I'd enjoy Jane Eyre more if I chose to read it now then I did in 12th grade.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Can Cats Singing Badly Help Sell Food?

I don't know if you've seen the Quiznos commercials for their "5-4-3" deal. initially, I was irritated by them, but now I'm fascinated by what the thought process behind them was, while still being mildly irritated.

They have what sounds like "Three Blind Mice" as performed by someone banging away on, well, I thought it was a poorly looked after piano originally, but having just watched it on Youtube, perhaps it's a xylophone. It sounds horrible either way.

Then you throw in three cats dressed in what appear to be the finest fashions of the late 18th Century, complete with powdered wigs. Or it's the heads of three cats superimposed on puppets dressed that way. Two of the cats are supposed to look like they're playing horns, though one is pretty clearly gnawing on the instrument instead. The one in the middle does all the singing about the deal, but I don't hear enthusiasm in the singing, so much as anxiety. The voice sounds like it's not only struggling to keep the lyrics in time with the music, but it's also straining to go as high-pitched as it does.

This is the first time I've been able to understand exactly what's being advertised. I knew it was for Quiznos, but each time I saw it, I was so struck by the strange nature of the music, singing, and cats I'd miss what the restaurant was advertising exactly. I can almost understand the choice of the song, since the phrases "three blind mice" and "5-4-3" can fit on the same beat, but a song about mice having their tails cut off with knives doesn't seem like a wise thing to evoke when trying to convince people to buy your sandwiches. Sure, cats might enjoy seeing mice suffer torment, but that wouldn't explain the outfits or the forced singing. Or the off-key music.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It Seems A Waste Of Super-Science

I don't know if Judd Winick's planning to dismantle Starrware in Power Girl. The future of the company doesn't look great, with all the money being gone, and the company under investigation, and now Power Girl's aggravating employees (or former employees) with criminal pasts who figured out her secret identity as their boss. But maybe his plan is to take it to a low, before Peej finds a way to fix things.

One way or the other, at some point I'd like to see the work the company does play more of a role in the plots. It's a company dedicated to coming up with ways to make fantastic concepts work in a way that will benefit humanity. There has to be some way to incorporate that. We saw one of the ideas during the Palmiotti/Gray/Conner run, the stuff that could be used to replicate other things. Power Girl ended up using it to repair a bridge damaged during her and Terra's fight with the environmentally conscious girl using a magic book (Power Girl #4). So that was a positive use, but since we're talking about people here, someone would find a way to use that in a way only beneficial to themselves, and harmful to lots of other people.

It seems like the perfect opportunity to unleash any crazy idea a writer/artist team could come up with. It's comic book science, the sky isn't the limit, it's the place the team reaches so they can see all the other really wild stuff they could bring forth. I'm sort of picturing Eureka, only with more costumes and punching, and fewer love triangles. You can bring in appropriately-themed villains who want the company's work for themselves, have the work itself go awry. Maybe Power Girl uses something to deal with an immediate problem, but the invention hadn't been tested enough to determine long-term issues.

Have them develop something with wide appeal that draws the attention of larger companies, say Waynetech and Lexcorp. Karen's not sure about either one, since companies in comics are usually evil. Of course, Lex may not be willing to do things legally, so he has agents sneaking around, then Batman (or some member of the Bat-family) gets involved, maybe Lex escalates by hiring some of the Rogues to go after whatever it is (to throw suspicion off him), Power Girl and her employees are in the middle, it gets crazy. Or she just has to try and keep both sides from buying her company out from under her. It would be a good idea for the person writing it (be it Winick or whoever) to have a better understanding of how the world of business works than I do.

Maybe she could hire Michael Holt (Mr. Terriffic) as a consultant. He's the third-smartest guy in the DCU, he must have some good ideas they could help come to fruition. Too bad Ted Kord's still dead, they could do some cooperative project and have a little of that old JLI/JLE fun.

Obviously, if Judd Winick isn't interested in those sorts of stories, he shouldn't go that route. Trying to write something he didn't feel invested in probably wouldn't end well. I still think there's more that could be done with the company, though I might be the only one interested in this sort of thing. I know, ideas are cheap, execution is the tricky part, but it sounds like such a good idea in my head.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Other Guys

I went to see The Other Guys with two coworkers yesterday. It was the only thing we all agreed we could watch. If not that, I probably would have wound up seeing Eat, Pray, Love, since both my coworkers expressed some interest in that. I suppose they could have seen that, and I could have watched Scott Pilgrim on my own, since I'm moderately curious about it*. But watching a movie alone sort of defeats the purpose of going to the theater with other people. There was also The Expendables, but while I'd watch that in the hopes of laughing a lot, I'm not spending any of my own money on it. The Other Guys it was.

You have two cops, Gamble (Will Ferrell), and Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). They're the butt of plenty of jokes in the precinct, and generally despised. Hoitz also hates Gamble for being unmanly, and tells him so frequently, when he isn't threatening everyone he meets, or loudly bemoaning his own fate. They stumble onto a vast criminal scheme through a more mundane route than is typical for cop movies, but quickly encounter the same sorts of problems. Their Captain is being pressured from above, because these criminals Have Influence, and our heroes suffer numerous setbacks, at least partially because they can't stop fighting with each other enough to be competent. The last part of the movie has a chase sequence, and there's a big gunfight a little earlier that seems as unlikely as you'd expect, and the ending isn't too far off from what you'd expect.

I can't tell how much this is supposed to be spoofing typical cop movies. It starts with Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) as the two hotshot cops who do all the risky, property destroying stuff we see in cop movies, and the public (and their fellow officers) love them for it. Then, near the end, the Captain asks Gamble and Hoitz if they realize Highsmith and Danson weren't good cops, and they say they do. Then they proceed to do exactly the sort of stuff those guys did. Drive recklessly, have shootouts while sliding on top of tables, get helicopters to crash, so on. By the end, Gamble and Hoitz are driving a muscle car just like Highsmith and Danson, so have they become those guys? One of my coworkers noticed that, and her theory was Gamble and Hoitz weren't going in intending to do those things, it just happened in the course of their investigation, while Highsmith and Danson went out of there way to do that stuff, for their egos. Which makes a certain amount of sense, but Gamble and Hoitz certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves at the time.

I don't believe they should have explained why Gamble was so condescending towards his wife. It didn't excuse his behavior as far as I was concerned, so I shared Hoitz' shock and irritation towards Gamble, at least in that regard. I laughed a lot early in the movie, much less so during the middle of it. Hoitz' seemingly constant anger, and Gamble's treatment of his wife wore on me during that stretch. The end was better, though still not as funny as the beginning.

* Mostly to see if it really does commit to its particular style as completely as Speed Racer did, which is what I've heard.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Unknown Soldier Would Be A Cool Guest Star

We're halfway through the Batman Beyond mini-series. So what's the deal with Hush? I don't believe the fellow running around with bandages is actually Tommy Elliot. He'd be as old as Bruce Wayne, and while Old Many Wayne can be effective, he's not so great a leaping around and unleashing jump kicks these days. I've three theories.

1) This Tommy Elliot, like the one in the current Bat-books, has Bruce Wayne's face, and as such, is impersonating the Old Man to drive Terry off. Failing that, he'll use the Bat-Wraiths to destroy Terry, then Gotham, since that's all there is Wayne seems to care about. It could be that it isn't the case in this story's universe, but I found it interesting that when Wayne was relating his past history with Hush to Terry, he didn't mention that Hush altered himself to look like Bruce Wayne. Like I said, maybe that's because it didn't happen in this history, or maybe Elliot did it, but later caught a vat of acid with his face, and so he lost those looks. Still seems like the sort of important information to perhaps mention.

In that scenario, the person calling themselves Hush could simply be someone Elliot hired and trained. Ex-military, former operative, just a person who knows how to fight and kill that Hush can coach on how to mess with Terry's head. And that would leave Elliot free to yell in Terry's ear during the fights by pretending to be Old Man Wayne.

2) It's Clayface. I figure a guy made of mud wouldn't face aging issues, so he could be Hush. If we want to think he's also Bruce, there was an episode of the Batman cartoon that established Clayface could split off a part of himself to operate autonomously. He lost control of it, but he's had years to improve control since then.

3) Old Many Bruce is just being extra crotchety, and this Hush is Cadmus and Waller's first attempt at making a new Batman. He's a clone of Bruce, but warped, damaged. He's killing people, but criminals, old foes of Batman. And he doesn't care about McGinnis, except to tell him he's not good enough.

OK, fourth idea, it's the Unknown Soldier. Don't know why he would be killing Bat-foes. Maybe he's not as sane as previous versions. Yeah, that's probably not it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Do You Think The Heroes Lose More These Days?

Even though he's hardly a factor in the comics I purchase, I'm really frustrated with Max Lord being on the loose. I want him stopped, revealed as the scum he is, then thrown in jail with some telepathy-dampening helmet bolted into his skull.

There's a few reasons behind the intensity of that feeling. I think part of it is simply that even if I'm not reading comics where he's up to no good, I'm reading reviews of them, hearing about them, seeing solicitations for them, and it makes it feel like he's been running around free longer than he really has*.

Part of it is what he's done, one thing in particular. I don't know what his actual scheme these days is, but for some reason, the fact he's made it so people believe Ted Kord killed himself really irks me. He didn't just deflect responsibility for his actions, which I'd expect from a villain, that has to damage Ted's reputation as well. Why go that route? If Max can find the power to make practically everyone in the world forget him**, he can't make it so some other poor schmoe gets tabbed as the evil head of Checkmate who killed Ted Kord? Hell, pin it on the Joker, or Onomatopoeia. That guy doesn't even talk, how could he dispute the accusation?

The third part is, I don't have much confidence Max will eventually face justice for what he's done. Or if he is captured and thrown in jail, it'll be written so that it's all part of some larger scheme he has, so he really isn't being defeated at all. With the exception of Cosmic Marvel stuff, I don't expect the heroes to win as often as I used to. Maybe it's the cycle of event stories, where the end of one seems to feed the start of the next. I suppose I shouldn't feel like that. Marvel's heroes did stop Osborn and throw him in jail, and the Lantern Corps stopped Nekron, but I still expect both those villains to bounce back shortly, their defeats barely qualifying as setbacks. I glanced through this week's Avengers Academy in the store and from what I saw of Norman, he doesn't look very bothered about being in prison. If he were raving, demanding to be let out, deluded into really believing he's serving the best interests of the people, or drugged into a stupor to keep him from going on a similar rant, I think I'd feel better about his defeat.

* After Wonder Woman snapped his neck, was it ever revealed to the world how much dirt he was up to? I don't think so, because they couldn't risk it being found out Max was controlling Superman, but the downside is the public at large wouldn't recognize that he was a bad guy, so he'd escape that scorn even if he hadn't wiped knowledge of his existence from the entire world.

** I'd ask where the Spectre is, because I don't see how this could work on him, but I'm used to him being useless when it comes to these sorts of things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's One Of Those Bickering Posts

Adorable Baby Panda: Noooooo! You can't go back to the boonies!

Calvin: {Come now, none of that. You can make it out there to visit as easily as you can make it here.}

ABP: But you'll only have new comics every other week!

Calvin: {. . .}

ABP: Maybe not even that often! What if he forgets?!

Calvin: {Then I guess you'll have to send threatening anonymous notes reminding him.}

ABP : That's a great idea!

Calvin: {No it isn't it! Show some self-control!}

ABP: I'm a baby, I don't have self-control.

Calvin: {You used to. Are you sure you haven't been spending time with Deadpool?}

ABP: For the last time, no!

Calvin: {OK, OK, deep breath. Just relax, and let's focus on the comics before us.}

Well, all the people who were burned to death by Mr. Lao could use Hugs. Bob can have one too. {Hey now, he was deceiving his teammates. Not cool.} Nuh-uh. He said what they saw is how he sees himself. {So it's OK because he was deceiving himself as well?} Yes! Now Spider-Man needs a Bonk for doing such a bad job helping fight the Super-Adaptoid. {Wait, self-deception is fine, but good effort coupled with poor results isn't?} Yes? {You're just afraid to hit Doom or Wolverine for being a jerks, aren't you?} No! {Then you'll be hitting them as well?} Uh, um, I'm too busy Applauding Invisible Woman for being a voice of reason! {Weak sauce. Come on, Doom smashed a wall. . .} That's a cool entrance! {And set Speedball on fire! That dog won't hunt, monseigneur.} Fine, Bonk for Doom, but if he opens a portal to a horrible realm and dumps me in it, I'm blaming you. {I can live with that.}

I think Power Girl has to get Bonked on the head for how she talked to Nicholas. {Can you throw one in for Max?} He was only in the book for one page. {And in that one page he helped the stupid monster thing that was going to destroy New York escape, as part of whatever his stupid plan is, which I don't want cluttering up the books I'm reading. If I cared about Generation Lost, I'd buy it!} Show some self-control. I'll hit Max, too, even though it isn't his fault he showed up in Power Girl's book. That's really more on Judd Winick. {True, true. I'm still annoyed by Max' presence, though.} I'm sure Max will get his in the end.

{I'm not. Now what's the verdict on Launchpad?} What do you mean? {Well, he was doing the laundry, which is nice and good, but he took it to a public laundromat and that lead to Negaduck learning Darkwing's secret identity, which is stupid and bad.} He didn't know Negaduck did laundry there, though. And if you're going to have a superhero costume and secret identity, shouldn't you have your own washer and dryer? Then you can do laundry in the privacy on your own home! {So, Launchpad's in the clear?} Yeah. he could probably use a Hug for getting fired over that, and I might have to hit Darkwing for being unreasonable. {Come on, his arch-enemy wrecks his home and threatens his adopted daughter. Anger is an acceptable response.} It's not useful, though. {Neither is crying and writing threatening letters.} The letters were your idea! {It was a sarcastic idea! Remember, I'm Suggestions and Sarcasm Department.} Of course, how could I forget *rolls eyes*? {I don't know, but you did. You must learn to pay closer attention.} Now you're the one missing the sarcasm! {I'm not missing it, merely ignoring it. Completely different.}

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What I Bought 8/18/2010

I had an opening paragraph in mind last night. I woke up this morning and didn't remember it. At any rate, this turned out to be that one big week of comics I have a month nowadays. So that's nice, though the counter to that is there are no comics for me coming out next week. I'll be back in the boonies by then, though, so it'll be two weeks before I receive comics. Sort of renders that moot.

Atlas #4 - The other-dimensional beings use Namora to do some damage before our heroes rally, with a little help from the dragon. Then it's time for a lecture on where the threat is from and how Delroy and the 3-D power tie in. Then Atlas resolves to take the fight to the aliens, which doesn't quite work as planned, but I think I see how they're going to resolve it.

I'm guessing the issue had to be modified since the book's being canceled after the next issue. Partway through, Bob tells them he know how to reach their enemies' world, and the bottom of the panel says 'End of Part 4". Next page just continues the story. There's a small leap forward, and it's by a different artist (Ramon Rosanas) but it stays on the same plot. It does say Part 5, but I'm not sure why stuff in the same physical comic would need to be split into separate parts. As a whole, I don't love the issue, but there are a lot of little parts I like. Lao getting involved in the defense of Atlas headquarters, the complications the team faces when they land in a different world, the startling reveal of Bob's true form. I'm not sure why Rosanas drew him interacting with the others without his helmet. They can't breathe the same air.

Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet #1 - Is Marvel just using Humberto Ramos for covers these days? I see a lot of covers on many different titles by him, but I don't know if he's also doing any interiors.

Impulse buy. Plus, it's a mini-series from Marvel they aren't charging $4 an issue for! I presume that's related to it being an all-ages book. So, Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet, makes half the people in the universe vanish (it doesn't say they're dead, just they're gone). The remaining Earth heroes circle the wagons and prepare to send a small team to investigate. They're sending a small team because they don't actually know what's going on, and I guess the rest of the heroes will try to keep the universe from falling into chaos. Then Doom shows up and tells them he's joining in, that's all there is to it. And they'll be relying on a interstellar trucker to get them where they need to go. Okey-doke.

Brian Clevinger and Lee Black are writing Spider-Man as a little more of a putz than I'm used to. More awed by the other heroes and impulsive, much less competent. Probably part of serving as the audience stand-in, since we would no doubt be having a hard time functioning well at times like this also. I love their Dr. Doom. He's got the cool arrogance working. Brian Churilla handles the pencils, and it's hit-and-miss with me. He makes Thanos look suitably intimidating on the first page, and there are some other bits funny bits, but it doesn't work as well when either the panels get smaller or the number of characters increase. It starts to look too simplified (and I'm still not sure how or why Spidey webbed the Vision in the face when he was attacking the Super-Adaptoid).

Batman Beyond #3 - Terry gets his butt kicked by Hush and fails to protect Calendar Man. Then Old Man Bruce chews him out about, questioning his commitment. Because Bruce Wayne's overbearing tendencies have grown concentrated as he's aged and withered. He spends some time with his family and his increasingly frustrated girlfriend, argues with Bruce about the little piece of Kingdom Come he's planning to introduce to Gotham. Then he has a chat with Tim Drake, a run-in with his Catwoman, and he's gonna try and talk to Dick Grayson next. Then Hush meets up with Catwoman. Also, Old Amanda Waller threatens a subordinate. So there's a bit going on.

I'm not sure who Hush is. Actually being Tommy Elliot seems too obvious, but I can't figure Beechen's going to use the same sort of twist they used in the movie (with the Joker sort of implanting himself in Tim Drake's head). Could be a clone, I guess. Would explain how he can move like he does, since he really shouldn't be McGinnis' superior physically. Still liking Ryan Benjamin's art more here than I have in previous encounters, though his Bruce Wayne looks a bit too unkempt at times. Perhaps that's by design. That panel after Terry storms off and Bruce is standing in front of his Bat-Wraiths, I can't tell whether he's smiling or frowning, but it isn't a friendly look either way.

Darkwing Duck #3 - Little help from Launchpad and our hero escapes some nasty security robots. Then they start getting chased by a reunion tour of some of Darkwing's old enemies, then everybody gets captured and the mastermind behind the company that pretty much runs the town is revealed. In between we learn why Darkwing hung up the threads (however long ago that was, I haven't tracked the first issue down yet), gave Launchpad the boot, and why Quackerjack (that's the guy on the cover) really doesn't like Negaduck.

Well, I enjoyed that quite a bit. It's been a long time since I watched the cartoon, but I think Ian Brill has all the characters right. There were a number of bits I smiled at, both jokes and sight gags (the panel where we see why Launchpad thought Darkwing gave him the boot actually worked as both). James Silvani's the artist, and I really like his work as well. You know those cartoon gags where there's a hallway full of doors and people are running to one door, entering then appearing through an entirely different door, while someone chases them fruitlessly? Silvani did that gag in one (large) panel, which seems pretty impressive to me.

Power Girl #15 - Power Girl does eventually stop the big purple guy. For about five seconds, at which point Max Lord shows up courtesy of a Kryptonite Boom Tube or some such bullhockey and helps him escape. Maybe Power Girl believes Booster now. Maybe. Also, Power Girl is very cross with one of her employees to make him hack into military databases for her. I understand she's trying to protect innocent lives and her secret identity (fail on that second account), but she could have been nicer.

Should Kryptonite work on Power Girl? Batman's Kryptonite didn't work on Earth-2 Superman. Then again, that was Infinite Crisis, which was two universe reboots ago. This issue says it does, so I suppose it does. I still don't think the coloring on the title is helping Basri's art. Power Girl looks sort of cold, somehow, unfriendly, even when she's not being angry, and I think it's because her colors different than it was when Conner was on the book. It makes her seem more aloof to me. Granted, Winick's writing her as someone who can't seem to focus on her company and threatens employees with their past transgressions isn't helping on that count. It's making her sorely lack compassion and understanding.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DC May Be Reading My Mind

Saturday I was talking about how I picked up the Local Hero issues of Hitman because I got tired of waiting for DC to solicit a 2nd printing of the trade. Yesterday I take a gander at DC's solicits for November (or later in case of the trades), and there it is. Hitman Volume 3: Local Hero, 2nd Printing. That was unexpected, but kind of funny considering the circumstances.

Even stranger, as Matthew mentioned in the comments of Saturday's post, DC also solicited a collection of J.H. Williams' work with DC, and it includes a couple of the issues of Chase I couldn't get (7 and 8). It also includes a couple of issues I did find, but that's fine. Works well for me.

Caleb of Every Day is Like Wednesday wondered why DC didn't release a couple of trades instead. I'm curious about that too. Is this DC testing the waters, seeing if there's enough interest to support trades? Chase was only 10 issues, throw in her appearances in other titles and that could probably be three trades. Doesn't seem like a huge expenditure, but I'm not privvy to DC's inner workings. Maybe the fact it wouldn't be several volumes is a strike against it somehow. I can't figure how, except that perhaps people who buy trades like multi-volume works because it makes them feel they're reading something epic.

At any rate, DC does seem to be observing what I'm buying, though they're a bit behind. Still, it can't hurt to try and turn this to my advantage. Ahem. In the near future, I plan on buying back issues of Suicide Squad because I've grown weary of waiting for DC to actually release that Showcase Edition. Full color trades would also have been acceptable solicitations.

Now we wait and see.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In The Late '90s, You Took Whatever Heroes Were Available

Besides some issues of Hitman and Chase, one of the other series I looked into was Heroes for Hire. Not that one from a couple of years ago with the regrettable tentacle cover for its World War Hulk tie-in issue. The one from the late '90s, that was written by John Ostrander, which explains why I looked into it.

I wasn't able to get every issue of it, either. The shop was missing Heroes for Hire #10, which prominently features Deadpool on the cover. I have to figure that's why it was the only issue of which there were no copies available. I've found it kind of a nifty series. I'm not always sold on Ostrander's dialogue for Iron Fist, as Danny seems to shift between more natural, everyday conversing, and a more abrupt style, usually pronouncements about honor or seeing a job through. Maybe the bold pronouncements are an attempt at inspiring confidence in his team, but they read differently in my mind. I definitely approve of the way Ostrander approaches Danny's friendship with Luke Cage, though. A fair bit of the series seems to be about the bonds between people. Danny and Luke, the Black Knight and Sersi, several others to varying degrees.

One thing that's interesting about the series is what it tells me about what was happening with Marvel at the time. It came out in the late '90s, when I basically wasn't buying any comics. So I didn't know the Black Knight fought Magneto's old right-hand man, Exodus, back in the 11th Century or something like that. I had suspected they'd met there, because they crossed paths in the Bloodlines crossover* and the Knight was sure he'd met Exodus somewhere before. I don't know if he didn't remember the specifics because Exodus looked very different in the present from how he did during the Crusades, or if it was because he hadn't made the trip into the past yet, so he couldn't remember it, even though it happened centuries ago.

There's other things. I didn't recall Quicksilver having his own ongoing, one which lasted at least a year. I remembered Iron Fist's company being bought by Namor's, but not that with Namor off being amnesiac, the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, was running the show. With that being the case, I'm a little disappointed they never had an old-school Invaders reunion mission, maybe throw Cap in there**. Namor does show up, and it's nice to see him interacting pleasantly with an old friend. He even laughs out loud at some point, and not in a derisive manner! I know, shocking, but true.

The book ends with the team sort of being dismantled, but it's already falling apart prior to that. I think the return of the Avengers accelerated the problem, but people were starting to think of their own agendas, and following divergent paths. It reminds me of Marvel Knights series Chuck Dixon wrote a few years later, which ended after only 15 issues ("H4H" as the narration boxes described it, lasted 19, plus an Annual, though it was also a Quicksilver Annual). That team was dissolved by the guy who originally put it together, but it was falling apart even before that, with some people deciding it put too big a target on their heads, and others deciding they were putting the others in danger. Maybe that's a common fate for teams comprised of, well, "street-level" might be the wrong phrase for a team that consisted of folks like Hercules and She-Hulk at different times, and certainly they fought plenty of weird stuff, but that's still the feel I had for the book. Probably because several of the core members weren't all that powerful.

* Earlier in the '90s. X-Books and Avengers, trying to help a war-torn Genosha. Fabian Cortez - running from Exodus for what Cortez did to Magneto - tries to make Crystal and Pietro protect him by holding their daughter hostage. Except that's exactly the sort of thing guaranteed to anger Exodus even more, since Luna is Magneto's granddaughter and all. Guess Cortez figured Exodus couldn't kill him anymore than he was already planning to.

** The Avengers were off in that Heroes Reborn world for most of the series, but near the end there's a story where the team's calling in anyone they can because most of their roster is off responding to some Avengers call. I'm guessing it was that Morgana le Fay story Busiek and Perez started their run with. Then again, Cap might not approve of charging for their heroic services, but the money goes to charity, so it's not a terrible thing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Look At Some DC History According To Chase

Chase #6 provides some history on both Cameron Chase and the DC Universe in general.

From the story we learn that by the early 1960s, most of the JSA had retired or were moving that direction. At that time, though, a new group of costumed vigilantes showed up. Mostly they seem to have been people treating it almost as a hobby, something fun to do with friends. Some people became heroes, some became villains. It was beer league softball between the local heating and cooling company and the fire department, only with costumes and silly death traps. Then a woman was killed in the crossfire of a battle, no one was brought up on charges, and her grieving husband became Doctor Trap, devoted to killing heroes and villains alike. He was pretty successful until a few of the JSA* donned their costumes and brought him in. According to Cameron, that was it for super-heroes for about a decade.

A few things that stood out:

- The JSA members being regularly active into at least the late 1950s, possibly even later. I remember seeing something online about how after World War 2 "mystery men" types started facing more government scrutiny, being asked to unmask and reveal their identities to the government**. If I'm remembering that right, did the rest of the JSA unmask for the government, so they'd be allowed to continue working without antagonizing the government? Or did they try to be quieter about their work, sticking to shadows so all the cops would have is a criminal's word they were captured by the Green Lantern?

- Chase's description of heroes in the '60s seems to be describing DC's Silver Age, but minus the recognizable heroes, since Crisis on the Infinite Earths reset things so Superman, Batman, and such didn't show up until the '80s. Or was it the '70s? I have this other vague recollection that in the post-CoIE timeline, Bats and Supes had been operating for about ten years by the time the new stories picked up (though Wonder Woman was just leaving Themiscrya at that point, so she could be portrayed as naive about the ways of the outside world, I think). If so, that would correspond to Chase's comment about superheroics not starting up after Doctor Trap for a decade. Figure he was brought down in the mid-1960s. Ten years later, Bats and Superman pop up (along with probably Hal, Barry, Ollie, Dinah(?), I don't know who else). Ten years after that you get to where things picked up post-CoIE.

Sorry. I'm giving myself a headache, so I can only imagine what it's like for you trying to follow my line of reasoning here. Anyway, the heroes in the '60s are being heroes because they enjoy it, they all seem to be friends, they may even be friends (or were friends) with their villains. That would be reminiscent of Superboy and Luthor being friends until Superboy accidentally made Lex bald. Perhaps hero-villain feuds of the time started over arguments about lawn maintenance, missing bowling night too often, or the hero getting the villain's promotion at the office. At any rate, there were "rules", so civilians were rarely in danger, and even more rarely harmed, and the "death traps" weren't really all that deadly.

Actually, it reminds me of the cartoons with the sheep dog and the coyote, Ralph and Sam? They're set against each other, but it's cordial, and there's a pattern to things. The coyote tries for the sheep, gets caught at it, gets pummeled, but seems to recover soon enough, so no harm, no foul. When the day's done, the dog picks him up, dusts him off, maybe helps him make it home and they bid farewells until tomorrow, when it all starts again. None of it really means much of anything, the coyote may not even need the sheep he's trying to steal. He brings a lunch pail with him, and maybe his sandwich is mutton, but maybe it isn't, and even if it is, that's no guarantee it's from a sheep he grabbed. Ralph and Sam are dancers, going through their routine, but there's no urgency behind it, it's just a paycheck.

- The safe nature of things up until then is why the death of Caroline Trap is such a shock. It's not supposed to go that way. Civilians aren't supposed to get hurt, but maybe the costumes changed the venue of their fight to spice things up. I really get the sense the battle between the Justice Experience and the House of Pain was prearranged when both groups escape prosecution for her death. I'd think at least the villains would get tagged, but they seem to have bought their way out of it as well. Or they had the heroes (who again, might be their friends and neighbors) do it for them, perhaps threatening exposure of secret identities if they were prosecuted***? That leads to Doctor Trap, who is a harsher villain, maybe even a Golden Age hero. Batman used to shoot criminals, Superman used machine guns on enemy planes, Starman seems to have sent people to their death****. The heroes of the '60s aren't capable of dealing with this type of threat, and wind up exterminated. it takes the Golden Agers coming out of retirement to stop him.

- I've been trying to decide what the death of Caroline Trap, and subsequent rise of Doctor Trap, represents in comic terms. I've settled on the Death of Gwen Stacy for now. It's the point where Peter Parker being Spider-Man actively started getting people hurt, rather than protecting them, as the Justice Experience fighting House of Pain got Caroline Trap killed. We don't even know what The House of Pain were up to. Were they any threat, or was this just a stupid fight between costumes, that only concerned costumes? Of course, Larry Trap wasn't involved in his wife's death as Peter Parker was, but Trap is described as a brilliant but eccentric inventor, who was a social outcast until he met Caroline. He's worse off than Peter was, but there's a similarity in the situation. Both Spider-Man and the Goblin escape prosecution initially, this despite Spider-Man actually saying in front of cops that he's the one who killed Gwen. But they can't stop him from swinging away, just as they Goblin was able to fly off*****.

- When punishment does come to the Green Goblin, it's not a sound thrashing followed by jail, but actual death (for the next 20+ years, anyway). Peter Parker may not have allowed himself to kill Osborn, the way Trap killed those he held responsible, but he still got to see Osborn die. And Spider-Man's suffered as well. Clones, his best friend's disintegrating sanity, all the times Aunt May nearly keeled over, his death at the hands of Kraven. On and on. It's perhaps not the death Doctor Trap would have given him, but it's been a lot of pain. Peter Parker lost Gwen, who he loved, and Spider-Man pays the price. It just so happens they're the same guy.

- It's not a perfect match by any means. It's a Marvel thing rather than a DC one, but I couldn't think of a DC story that would work, chronologically. Gwen's death seemed to have an effect on comics, or else was a highly noticeable symptom of changes that were already going on. heroes failing to protect people, and that has an effect on those left behind, as well as those that get killed. The truth of her father's life has clearly played a role in Cameron's attitude towards capes, and the fact her mother seems unwilling to deal with it has probably soured the relationship between the two of them. Maybe it's addressed in the issues I don't have, but I'd be curious to see what Cameron laying all this out for Terry did for things between the two sisters. On Spidey's side, you have most notably, Harry Osborn. He loved Gwen too, and not only does he lose her, he loses his father, after learning his dad played a role in Gwen's death, and learns his best friend was there when his father died. And Harry snaps, and even though he'd pull himself together over time, he'd always fall apart again eventually******. Harry even has to face people coming after him because of his legacy, such as the Hobgoblin. The deaths keep hurting people long after they occurred.

OK, I think I'm out of steam. If you have a better suggestion for what Doctor Trap and Caroline could represent, by all means, let's have them. Gwen Stacy was just the best I could come up with.

* The panel shows Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Starman and Dr. Mid-Nite.

** I think I read about it on Seven Hells!, because Devon Sanders was showing Hawkman's response to the Congressional committee's request he unmask. Hawkman's response was essentially to tell them to come take his mask, if they could, or else stick their request where the sun don't shine.

*** If I'm right - long odds, I know - it would explain the existence of agencies like the DEO. here's an example where not only are the heroes not policing themselves, they're covering each others' butts, and protecting the bad guys as well. Larry Trap wouldn't be the only person angered or concerned about that.

**** The Absorbascon's last post - at this point - is a panel with Starman telling someone 'Death is their only reward'. Even if he's not actively terminating the person, and he may not be, he's not trying to save them either.

***** The Goblin had been ducking punishment from the start. Whenever he lost, he either escaped, or came down with amnesia, and so Norman Osborn was allowed to continue with his life, without facing the consequences of the Goblin's actions. One could argue being forgotten and trapped within Osborn's mind was punishment, but probably not tangible enough for people harmed by his actions.

****** I don't know how Brand New Day changes things, so I'm going to leave it be, and operate off the stories I actually know.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rambling About Government Agencies And Super-Heroes

I picked up some back issues yesterday, different series I'd heard good things about, or the creative team had people whose part work I'd enjoyed. One of the series was Chase, which DC published in the late 90s. Wasn't able to get all of it, as they didn't have all the issues and I completely missed it had a #1,000,000.

The idea this DEO not only keeps tabs on superhumans, but actively plans to take them down if necessary struck me as out of place in the DC Universe. It shouldn't surprise me there are people other than Batman or Lex Luthor who don't trust costumed vigilantes and would establish contingencies to deal with them, but it seems more a Marvel Universe thing, the authority figures not trusting super-heroes.

Yet I don't find the Suicide Squad out of place in the DCU. Maybe because the heroes are there by choice, to keep an eye on the criminal operatives (keep an eye on Waller). If Waller treated the heroes like the villains, slapped exploding bracelets on them too, I'd find it more out of place.

One of the other things I picked up was Hitman 9-14 (as well as Hitman 1 Million). I had been waiting for DC to issue a second printing of the trade so I could throw an order for it to my comic store, but I got tired of waiting. The first four issues are the Local Hero story (the latter half of which is Tommy playing Kyle Rayner for a dope), which involves a government agency wanting to recruit Tommy to kill superheroes for them at their discretion. Once Tommy refuses, they opt to remove him, which goes as well as you'd expect.

The idea of government's plotting to kill super-heroes works better for me in Hitman's world than Chase's, even though they're probably the same universe. Cameron Chase seems to operate a step closer to the heroes than Tommy does (or a step closer to competent heroes), so it's harder for me to see people in her circles working on weapons to disrupt the concentration of people with power rings, just in case. They'd see the good the JLA and such do, and would be disinclined to design something to kill Superman or Aquaman. For Tommy, all the costumed types he runs into are idiots (Kyle), corrupt (Nightfist), or - from Tommy's perspective - operating on an outdated or strange morality (Batman). In Monaghan's world, it's harder to relate to, and certainly to trust, the costumes, so agencies devoted to eliminating them feel less out of place. The problems in his world are messier, and ones capes don't seem to fix.

Another factor was I felt the agency that approached Tommy, or at least the particular man that did, were not motivated by a desire to protect people, but to protect what they've hoarded for themselves. I figured people in the DCU that are good trust super-heroes to control themselves as necessary. It would be people jealous of super-heroes or fearful the heroes would reveal them as corrupt that would plot their downfall. That's obviously flawed, since there would be people who are good because they prepare for all eventualities, and that would include things like Superman declaring himself ruler of the world, or a Green Lantern trying to erase the universe and remake it how he wants. Then again, those plans never seem to work anyway, so they're as well of relying on trust as their contingencies.

With Marvel, the evil person trying to protect or elevate themselves is still a possibility, but I'd be more likely to assume the person was either an idiot (idiocy being so prevalent in the Marvel Universe) or some Robert Kelly type bigot. I guess this says that when it comes to superhero comics, I take the approach that the heroes are trying their best to do the right thing and not get out of hand, and if an authority figure is making plans on how to stop them, it's an evil plot, because there's no need for it, the heroes will take care of any problems that crop up in their little community. Stories of the past decade or so would suggest that's not how it works anymore, but it's the attitude I hold to, I suppose.

Friday, August 13, 2010

When They Know They're Listening To The Little Devil

When it comes to super-villains, how many of them do you think realize what they're doing is wrong, but are simply more interested in their own wants?

There are the Carnage-types, the ones who don't see there as being any right or wrong, so what they do is only relevant in how much they enjoy it.

There are the Phantom Rider types (which is who started me on this line of thinking), that believe what they're doing is right, or at least justified. I'd tend to lump Luthor and Dr. Doom into that group as well, sine I get the feeling they really believe killing Superman/Reed Richards or conquering the world is the right move. I think they believe that ordinary folks simply can't see it now, but once they succeed, everyone will properly appreciate what they've done, and lavish them with the appropriate accolades.

Still, I figure there have to be a few villains that don't delude themselves. They rob a bank and think "Yeah, this is wrong, but I really want that money, so here we are." Electro strikes me as the type that would have that line of reasoning, or he would have back when he committed robberies. Is he still doing that?

Super-heroes struggle with doing the responsible thing versus the selfish thing as well, but they tend to do the responsible thing. They help people in trouble, rather than causing trouble or using their powers to satisfy their own urges. I don't see any reason there wouldn't be at least some villains still human enough to have similar struggles. The difference being, their selfish urges win out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not Late, But Still In A Hurry

Adorable Baby Panda: Hi Calvin, how are you?

Calvin: {No time, sit, read, pass judgment. Now!}

ABP: What?

Calvin: {Internet's been spotty all day, seems to be working now, so we need to get this done while we can. We can chat after we've finished.}

Oh, OK. Well, I feel bad for Clayface, so I'd like to give him a Hug. {He could have just asked the bank manager to get the photo for him.} Would she have done it? She probably would have told the cops. {That's what he gets for a life of crime. He didn't have to turn himself into a clay monster.} He did it to himself? {I don't know. I vaguely remember a story called Mud Pack where I think, yeah, he turned himself into that. That story may not still be in play, though. Anyway, the Griswald's loved ones could use Hugs too.} You're right, if I can find them. {I'm sure someone can track them down.}

Drax needs a Bonk. {No argument there. Plenty of other things he could have tried destroying to pass the time.} Thanos shouldn't have pushed him, though. {Also true. After all this time, you'd think he'd know Drax well enough not to goad him. Bonk for Thanos?} Oh yes. {Howzabout some Applause for Nova? Stopped the bickering, rallied the troops, gonna go rescue his girlfriend! *fist pump*} I hope it works. {You and me both.}

Does that cover it? {If you're satisfied.} I still think you're being too harsh on Clayface. Just because he committed crimes in the past, he should be able to receive help when he needs it. {Yes, but he has to recognize he chose to commit crimes, and the consequence is. . .}

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I Bought 8/11/2010

The talk in the shop this morning was about the upcoming Web of Spider-Man Heroclix set. I guess some people got figures at a convention over the weekend, and now all the information's out on the Internet, and people are selling the figures they received. People are paying large sums when they could wait a month and the prices will drop significantly (the set isn't due for wider release until after Labor Day, I believe). I want the Captain Universe Spider-Man (as seen in Acts of Vengeance) Heroclix too, but I'm not paying $200+ dollars for like some guy apparently did. Sheesh.

Batgirl #13 - The actual cover has a word balloon on it. Steph saying 'Oh, that's just gross!' with "gross" in big, green letters. It works against the cover, though, because the image looks like it's supposed to be horrifying in an "enveloped by the Blob" way, but the quote is something I'd associate with seeing a drunk college kid puke right in front of you at a party. Wonder who decided to put it there?

The story for the issue is Steph saves Detective Gage from a SPLAT! death, chases Clayface into a bank, then has to find Clayface amongst the bank customers and employees, and stop him. Except finding Clayface doesn't take very long, so it's the stopping him that takes the most time. That wasn't terribly interesting. There's a "two Batgirls" sequence so we can have the bit where the real one convinces someone (in this case Detective Gage) they are the real one, then Steph freezes him while thinking "When in Rome. . ." which made no sense to me. No one had been freezing anything prior to that in the issue, so the line came out of nowhere to me.

Pere Perez is the penciler for the issue. The art is OK, similar enough to Lee Garbett's it's not a jarring shift from last issue. There do seem to be several panels where people have wide-open eyes and slightly deranged looks on their faces. Maybe it's how Perez draws smiles, but they don't make characters look friendly, more creepy.

I can't figure out how Gage made it inside the bank. He wasn't there by the time Batgirl initiated the lockdown, but he is there by the time of the 2 Batgirls sequence. Best I can figure is an employee canceled the lockdown, but the shutters that came down when it was activated are still in place, so I don't know.

Thanos Imperative #3 - This is largely an exposition issue. Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy learn how Death was destroyed in the Cancerverse, and what they need to do to reverse it. Meanwhile, Cancerverse Mar-Vell is learning what happened to his counterpart, and that something happened to some of his followers back in the Cancerverse. On top of that, Nova is rallying the troops for a precise, powerful strike against the enemies. Things get jumping at the end of the issue when Drax, just as he did in Annihilation, lets the purpose he was created for get the best of him. I figure next issue, there'll be a whole lot of exploding going on, now that at least some of the pieces are in place. Might be even more of it in issue #5, which would be nice, ramp things up as they go along.

I still don't love Sepulveda's art, but I like that until things get crazy, Drax is always behind Thanos, he always has a line of fire to him, and he's almost always drilling holes in Thanos' back with his stare (the exception being two panels where he gets caught up in an argument with Star-Lord). That was nice. There was one screwed up panel, not sure whose screw-up it was. Evil Scarlet Witch is reporting to Evil Mar-Vell about the disturbance, and one panel shows Namorita and Major Victory exchanging a glance. The dialogue, which is still the Witch's, is coming from Namorita. I'm guessing the speech balloon is just pointing the wrong way (and out to be pointing off-panel), but maybe it was supposed to be Mar-Vell and Wanda exchanging a look?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ghosts Don't Spend Time Reflecting

It's sad that Phantom Rider can't get a clue. Actually, it's annoying. It's been 130 years and the ghost of Linc Slade is still after Mockingbird, and still thinks she wronged him. I'd like to think at some point he'd realize kidnapping and drugging her so she'd love and marry him (when she was already in love with, and married to, Hawkeye) was messed up, and he pretty much got what he had coming. She didn't even kill him. He fell off a cliff because he wasn't watching where he was going while trying to flee a very pissed off Mockingbird. She didn't help pull him up when he asked, but I don't think it was very bright to expect her to, and it certainly wasn't smart, when asking nicely didn't work, to demand you pull me up right now, woman! He's honestly lucky she did haul him back up and beat him to near-death (before letting him fall back over the cliff to actual death) just for that.

He doesn't get it, and if her comments in the first issue were any indication, the descendant he's empowering/possessing doesn't, either. Prattling on about Bobbi having damaged her family's name. No, I think your crazy drugging and kidnapping ancestor did that. I suppose that's why they're villains, no acceptance of personal responsibility. it really makes the Slades look pathetic to me, whiny even. Like Superboy-Prime, which is never an association a character wants to be making in my mind. After all, I didn't even care too see that brat defeated, I just wanted him gone, didn't care how. I'm not there with Phantom Rider yet. I'm hoping for a scene where someone - Bobbi, Hawkeye, that other descendant of his - makes Linc Slade realize he's been in the wrong all this time, and he goes screaming into the void. Or to Hell. Whichever.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Under The Dome

Under the Dome starts with the premise of trapping a group of people in a particular place, then watching them fall apart. None of the residents know how or why they're trapped within the confines of their town, and that, plus the realization the world outside can't help them, and they don't know when or if the barrier will be lifted slowly panics most of the populace.

Of course, there's always people ready to take advantage, in this Second Selectman James Rennie, who sees the crisis as a golden opportunity to a) gain more control, and b) hide the evidence of his illegal dealings behind convenient scapegoats. A lot of it feels like commentary on our world, though whether that's intentional by Stephen King, or me reading things into it, I'm not sure. I tend to think it was planned. There are people who take it as a sign the people of the town are being punished by God, there are folks who dismiss the idea that resources might need to be rationed, and there are folks who try to hoard everything for themselves, because they consider themselves better than the rabble they lead, Rennie being a prime culprit there. And there are plenty of people who know Rennie's up to no good, but can't bring themselves to do anything about it.

It reminds me of Needful Things, except I think this shows the good side of humanity (as well as plenty of the bad) more than that story did. Plus, there's no force at work trying to actively destroy everything. Rennie certainly doesn't want to be king of a scorched hill, and the forces behind the dome are indifferent. Some of what happens is poor planning, some of it's dumb luck, some of it is the inevitable result of surrounding oneself with yes men. I don't know how feasible what goes on inside the dome is. I didn't have any trouble accepting how things went, but I tend to expect the worst anyway.

One issue with the book being so long (almost 1100 pages) is it takes a long time for some the villains to get their comeuppance. I kept waiting for Rennie to be put out of his misery, and it kept not happening. It's interesting to watch the protagonists keep handling things in mostly the wrong way. When they do confront Rennie or his subordinates, they do so angrily. They demand things, accompanying their demands with threats or outright violence. That never works, they wind up beaten, arrested, or both, and Rennie tells the townsfolk the person in question is some dangerous element, and people largely accept it. The only guy who seems smart enough to remain calm and pleasant is Dale Barbara, and since he's an outsider, people don't wind up trusting him as much as they do people who had lived in town for a long time.

The parts that stay with me the most are a couple of scenes where King provides this 3rd-person overview of some event. At one point townspeople gather at the edge of the dome to appeal to the Lord, lead by one of the pastors. At the same time, same place, a teenager, convinced the government is behind it, has a protest going. And a local businessman decides to have a Dome Party Celebration to get rid of some items he bought too many of. The description of the whole thing reminded me of one of those"How to" cartoons Disney would produce starring Goofy. The ones where Goofy would be trying to demonstrate how to camp, or the perfect workout, but things don't go as smoothly for him as the voice narrating things implies? Probably because whenever those scenes happen in the book, you know it's going to be a disaster. Under the dome, large groups of people equals bad news.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Black Tower

The Black Tower was a mini-series made based off a P.D. James. How closely it hews to the book I've no idea. I voted to watch it while at my father's (it's part of his collection) because it sounded suitably ominous.

The investigator is one Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) who seems to have lost his fire for police work. Dalgliesh is also a published poet according to my dad, but was experiencing writer's block at the time, so he's sort of lost his way as a whole. Early on, he receives a visit from Father Baddeley (Maurice Denham), who was the local priest when Adam was a boy. He's working at a private care facility called The Grange, and the Father winds up dead just before Adam comes to pay a visit.

There are all sorts of things going on in the story. The Grange doesn't have enough patients to receive sufficient funding to support itself. Someone is sending obscene letters to everyone who lives or works there. One of the maintenance crew has a criminal record. A rich patient goes over a cliff in a wheelchair (before the Father dies), after changing his will so The Grange receives no money. No one seems to like Wilfred (Martin Jarvis), the man who established and runs the Grange.

The distaste towards Wilfred is somewhat understandable. He seems to mean well, but he seems emotionally dead. If anyone insults him (which several characters do frequently), he smiles gently and chides anyone who tells that person off. It gives the appearance of a martyr complex, and combined with the fact his attempts at showing empathy fall flat, it makes him self-absorbed, which he, to a certain point. His concern is keeping the Grange running, somehow, and I guess he figures doing that is a way to show his concern for others. It's brought up he was an orphan, adopted into the family that owned the estate that became The Grange, but I don't feel much is done with that. For the best perhaps.

I wasn't terribly impressed with Dalgliesh as a detective. I had thought the death of his old friend (though he can't be certain it was murder and not just a heart attack) would snap him out of his malaise, but he still doesn't seem all that driven. He might ask some questions, and perhaps a response stirs a thought in him so he rushes off, but I believe it was 240 minutes into a 270-minute mini-series before he solved any mysteries (and the first one was, "Who is sending some - but not all - of the obscene letters?")

The funny thing is I knew who was behind it and why well before he did, and didn't even realize it, because I brushed off what I saw with a joke, thinking it was much too obvious. Turns out it wasn't too obvious. My prediction for the killer was incorrect, as usual, but I wasn't basing it on evidence, but on the fact the character was mostly in the background the first half of the story. He appeared to be a nice fellow, if a little withdrawn, and later was revealed to be under some familial pressures, so I figured, yeah, he snapped and killed people. Not quite, though he was involved in some of the criminal proceedings, and that makes me wonder about the ending.

The staff and residents (those still alive) are off on a trip to Lourdes when Dalgliesh finally puts it all together. The character I had figured for the murderer is on the trip. OK, so he's not a murderer, but he is guilty of some other crimes, but the series ends without any resolution in that regard. Did Dalgliesh cut him some slack, did they send cops after the mini-bus, or wait for everyone to return? Did what Dalgliesh discover alter the decision of what to do with the Grange? Did solving the case snap him out of his funk?

I would advise you that many of the characters behave unpleasantly. Some do so constantly, others grow more rude as things grow worse, while at least one character rather abruptly softens after one of the deaths. Other characters have more abrupt mood swings, all of which seemed pretty normal to me. The patients know they're not the best off, that they'll likely die at The Grange, if it isn't shut down first, the staff know the place is dying, nobody likes Wilfred's attitude, and now people are dying at an alarming rate. It's stressful, placed on top of the usual day-to-day stresses. Which isn't to say all the rudeness and biting remarks didn't irritate me after awhile. I started actively rooting for someone to kill Henry, or at least kick his cane out from under him. Was not to be.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Wooden Walls Can Rot Over Time

John Hale's Lords of the Sea covers the history of the Athenian Navy, starting around the time of the battle at Salamis against the Persians, and moving forward to the point where the Athenians were routed by the Macedonians after Alexander the Great's death.

Hale is focused primarily on the battles. What brought them about, how the Athenians prepared, where they fought, the tactics used, things of that nature. Some of the tactics applied by the various commanders, be it making their force appear larger (or smaller) or luring an enemy into a location or formation were pretty clever. Hale usually includes maps of the relevant locations and ship positions when he begins discussing particular battles, so the reader has that to flip back to if they lose track of where things are happening in relation to each other.

Hale's contention in the book seems to be the Athenian Navy (what Themistocles described as their Wooden Wall*) is what helped form Athenian democracy as we know it, and that helped make Athens into the wellspring of culture, philosophy, art historians regard it as. I could see the outline of his argument in places, but he didn't really flesh it out, sufficiently. The gist seems to be the ships, requiring so many rowers to operate, forced Athens to draft most of her citizens (and later some people who weren't**) into the defense of their home, rather than simply relying on the hoplite or horsemen classes. If those lower economic classes were good enough to serve, why shouldn't they have more say in how their home was run***?

I don't think Hale argues this, but given that (regardless of the impetus) more people had a greater say in how things were run, I wonder if that helped the playwrights of the time? Did it help them feel more free to unleash scathing rebukes on prominent figures and events of the day? Or was it simply that, because Athens was more successful and involved in larger events in the world, the writers had more to work with for their stories?

As I've mentioned in past reviews of history books, people never learn. The Athenians wound up in a long and costly war because they were too heavy-handed in how they ran the First Delian League (a group of Allied city-states in the region). Demanding tribute to pay for Athens' navy, moving Athenian citizens into those lands and taking over, generally throwing their weight around until the rest grew fed up enough to try and do something about it (or ask the Spartans to do something about it). Decades later a Second Delian League formed in response to some renewed Persian aggression, and initially Athens did better, probably because they needed all the help they could get. Eventually, some of the members (including Rhodes) opted to withdraw, and Athens tried to put a stop to it, only to meet with stiffer resistance than they expected.

People, as a mass grouping anyway, seem to love having someone to blame. Doesn't matter if the person blamed was loved the day before, if something's gone wrong, people turn against them quickly. That's the fate of several Athenian generals. After one battle the Athenians won, the generals spent too much too arguing about what to do, chase after and thrash the remaining enemy fleet, or pick up their survivors? As they reached a decision, a storm blew in forcing them to keep their ships ashore (triremes didn't take well to rough seas). By the time the seas cleared, the enemy had escaped, and all the survivors in the water were probably not survivors any longer. The people were frustrated by this, and in the heat of the moment the Assembly voted on the fates on all the generals who came home**** simultaneously (rather than granting each a separate trial), and ordered their deaths by hemlock. This after a battle they had won, though it did firmly establish in future leaders that they had damn well better stop and fish out any Athenians floating in the sea after an engagement. Themistocles was given the boot, and wound up in the Persian Empire, as a governor. Alcibiadies was in and out of trouble (and in and out of Athenian service) throughout his life, and eventually had to set himself up as a warlord elsewhere. Capable generals were removed from service after a loss, then begged to return when things turned dire. Over time, more leaders started hiring themselves out as mercenaries for other lands, figuring it was more regular pay, and their bosses would be less fickle. Which meant Athens started to suffer from a lack of good generals in its later years.

There are certainly things I believe the book could have spent more time on, such as life on the ship. Triremes had sails to use when not in battle, so what did rowers do when not rowing? I assume they slept on their bench, using their rowing pads as pillows, but I'm curious about food storage, whether there were problems when hoplites were on board, and what about when some triremes were altered to carry horses? Even if the rowers weren't wealthy landowners, they likely had some occupation, so who was looking after it in their absence? Was there any sort of fund of protection for families who lost their husband or father in battle? There was a bit where Hale discusses how, after ships would dock in Athens, one of a rower's first stops was the barbershop, and while there, the rower would not only tell tales of what he'd been up to, which the barber could spread across town, but also catch up on everything he'd missed. That was a little slice of life part I appreciated.

* When consulting the Oracle prior to their battles against the Persians, the Oracle made reference to a Wooden Wall being Athens' salvation. No one was sure what that meant, but Themistocles managed to convince the people - enough of them, anyway - she meant their ships.

** At one point they were in dire need of rowers, so the town's slaves were told if they served they would not only be freed, but granted citizenship, which had historically only been for people who could prove both their parents were Athenian (or, like Pericles did for his son, had enough clout to get a special exception). As far as I know, the Athenians kept their promise, though they certainly didn't stop having slaves. They just had to get all new ones.

*** Prior to this, I believe they were still allowed to vote, but only on issues the higher classes had agreed to bring to a mass vote of the Assembly.

**** A couple of the generals were prescient enough to flee in their triremes, rather than return home to face the music.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Report From A Father/Son Field Trip

The most interesting thing I got up to while visiting my dad was the Cardinals' game we attended last Sunday. Depending on your attitude towards baseball vs. horticulture, you might consider my helping him plant 4 trees in his yard more interesting. As far as that goes, I wish we hadn't waited until the two hottest days I was there to get around to it, and I wish we could have turned his many dogs into a useful workforce. But that would set a precedent of encouraging digging, which would be bad. Though come to think of it, if they started digging, they might help him pull up that carpet he wants to replace faster.

Anyway, the baseball game. Neither of us had been to a game since 1999, when the Cards lost to the Astros in a game we departed in the 6th inning*. This time around they were facing the Pirates, which wasn't the reason my dad wanted to go. He was excited about the ceremony honoring Whitey Herzog being elected to the Hall of Fame. It was a nice presentation, as those things go. Dad took comfort that several of the players who showed up, ranging from a couple months to several years younger than him, looked really bad. Made him feel better about his appearance, so that was a nice, if unexpected, comedic value.

As to the game itself, the Cardinals kicked the Pirates' asses, 11-1, which really shouldn't be a surprise, but this team hasn't seemed as good as I feel it ought to be, and considering how the first two games of the series with the Astros that followed went, nothing can be taken for granted. We discussed how neither of us was terribly happy with Felipe Lopez at third base (though I'd rather he play there than Aaron Miles), and how we both think Yadier Molina needs more days off. They're 108 games into the season as I type this, and backup catcher Jason LaRue has only come to bat 63 times this season. If he's not going to be used, why have him around? I'm not as high on him as my dad is (I'm working off his stats, dad off radio broadcasts), but giving Molina a couple days off a week won't kill them, not the way he's hitting right now. Molina looks gassed, especially on the bases. He's never been fleet afoot, but watching him run the bases now - and there was plenty of opportunity as he collected 3 hits - reminded me of a Calvin and Hobbes' strip. They're having a "Who's Slowest" Race, and Hobbes claims to be so slow he's moving backwards. That's about where Molina is. I think management might want to petition the league to let Molina use a scooter to get around the bases. Or perhaps a rickshaw, pulled by bat boys. Can't hurt.

My confidence in Jeff Suppan starting was largely nonexistent. Fortunately this was the Pirates, a team so lacking in offensive talent even Jeff Suppan can strike out 4 batters in under 6 innings. Then he left, for reasons we were never clear on**. There was a runner on 3rd, but dad was pretty sure Suppan hurt himself stumbling on the mound. He did appear to stagger backwards, but the trainer never came out, so maybe LaRussa decided he wasn't giving Suppan the chance to self-destruct. Dad and I were both surprised to see the Cardinals not only try a couple of hit-and-runs, but even steal a base! Truly the spirit of Whitey Herzog had possessed LaRussa. Or, as I put it, Whitey talked to Tony and got him to eschew wine after the game in favor of a couple of beers beforehand. Whatever the reason, I like seeing those kinds of plays, even if they aren't statistically worth the risk. I'd rather the team lose due to over-aggression on the basepaths, rather than being too timid.

Of course, LaRussa played his usual reliever games. Trotted out five relievers to finish the last 3 and two-third innings. I'm still stunned he let both of his lefty relievers pitch to righthanded batters. He usually prefers limiting them to facing lefthanded batters. It worked out, though, so good job, I guess. I can't understand why he yanked Boggs so quickly in the 8th. They were up 6-1. Yes, Boggs surrendered that 1, but he can't be trusted with an 5-run lead? At least with all his switching around before the 9th, LaRue actually caught for an inning. Speaking as the guy in charge of our scorecard, I was not pleased trying to keep track of all that tomfoolery.

While I appreciate the Cards cruising to an easy win, the Pirates are not a fun team to watch. My dad was annoyed by the tentativeness of their outfielders, and in the second their RF lost a ball in the sun. He had sunglasses, but was wearing them upside-down on the back of his head, which seems impractical. In the third, the Cardinals had a promotion where fans in a certain section (or with a certain seat number) received some money for each Pirate stuck out. So as each Pirate came to the plate, his career strikeout total was shown on the board. Dad wasn't sure he approved of this, saying it seemed overly psychologically damaging or mean-spirited. Pirates' catcher Erik Kratz was batting at the time, so I pointed out seeing his .125 batting average posted on the scoreboard was probably more damaging than his 6 career strikeouts. For what it's worth, Suppan did manage to K one batter that inning.

The Pirates' pitchers were the worst of it. Not just because they're terrible, but because they're slow. Suppan's not good (though one might be fooled into believing so based on certain parts of this game), but he's fast. He gets the ball from Molina, steps on the rubber, agrees on a pitch, and throws it, about as quickly as the hitter allows. The Pirates' pitchers would get the ball, meander around the mound, stare at the catcher, keep shaking off signs, dragging things out forever. It's as though they believed if they stalled long enough, those opposing baserunners would magically disappear, they'd learn a new pitch, or gain 10 mph on their fastball. It's not happening, fellas. All delaying does is put your defense behind you asleep, which is bad. Might as well adopt the Max Power approach ("the wrong way, only faster!")

We didn't buy anything at the game besides the scorecard and a pencil. My dad offered to buy dinner, but I wasn't hungry, and the prices were more than I was comfortable with. It's a clever racket, though. They charge $4 for the peanuts, which are probably heavily salted, then charge at least $5 for a drink, after the peanuts dry you out. At least they have drinking fountains scattered about. We waited until after we left the stadium to eat. Pancakes at 11 p.m. are good stuff. There were some fans next to us who weren't put off by $8 beers, more power to them. They were having a great time, cheering, clapping, whistling, starting chants, practically commanding people to get on their feet at certain moments. I found it all very annoying, and it reminded me why I prefer to watch games at home, where I can pick who watches with me, and I have control over the volume. The whistling was really shrill; I came to loathe it. The hazards of sitting near the ultimate fan, especially one, as dad put it, who grew more ultimate with every beer (he and his buddies were stocking up at Last Call in the 7th).

The drive there and back brought forcibly home the fact both my parents are more aggressive than me behind the wheel. The gap between my mother and myself isn't nearly as large as the one between Pops and I, but it's there. He has some excuse about his ride getting better gas mileage above 70 (the highway speed limit), but I think once he's driving over 80, it's not about fuel efficiency anymore. Plus, he was weaving in his lane some the last 40 miles home, fatigue no doubt. When I pointed these things out 2 days later, he jibed that if I'd been driving, we'd still be in St. Louis. Which is true. His car is a manual transmission, and I don't know how to drive one of those, so yeah, it'd be slow going if I was behind the wheel. It was nice to not have to do all the driving, a reversal of the usual trend when I visit Alex.

* The game was really slow, and I had to be up at 6 for work the next morning. So we left after Cardinals' starter Juan Acevedo walked the opposing pitcher, which is never a good sign.

** Dad regretted not bringing a radio so we could listen to the broadcast for clarification, but I didn't mind as much. It's more fun to keep up my own running commentary.