Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Hadn't Planned To Post Exclusively About Older Moives

I figured I'd discuss the Burn Notice season finale at some point, but here we are. Dad ordered some old Bogart tapes, which arrived yesterday, so it was Sahara, then To Have and Have Not. Dad said the latter was an attempt to cash in on the success of Casablanca. The film was a cash-in attempt, not Hemingway's novel. I thought it was funny that one of the screenplay writers for To Have and Have Not was William Faulkner.

Surprisingly, my dad said he actually prefers To Have and Have Not to Casablanca, for a couple of reasons he felt I'd be able to figure out. I have my suspicions (Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan) but he fell asleep while we were watching it, so I didn't get around to asking him. He did admit Have Not suffers for a lack of Claude Rains, but I imagine that's something most movies without Claude Rains can say.

I thought it was interesting I figured out To Have and Have Not was directed by the same man as Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks) strictly because the arguments Bacall and Bogart had seemed so similar to those John Wayne and Angie Dickinson had. Mostly it was how Bogart mentioned that he was making Bacall sore, after she had made a similar comment about her effect on him earlier. It reminded me of Dickenson commenting on how she made the sheriff mad, or how he would say things that made her angry. In all the cases, what people were being made sore or angry by were seemingly innocent or even well-meaning comments or actions, so it felt familiar.

This is the last post until after the New Year. I don't know when precisely the next post will be. Thursday of next week at the absolute latest.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Still More Westerns

This morning, my dad came across Villa Rides, and was annoyed because it had already been going for a half hour. He'd been meaning to watch it, but kept missing it. He described it as one of his favorite wildly historically inaccurate movies about Pancho Villa. One wonders how large a category that is.

It has Yul Brynner as Pancho Villa, who is one of those actors I've heard of, but I've never watched a movie he starred in the whole way through, which includes Villa Rides, because we had to leave about the time Pancho escaped the firing squad. Now Charles Bronson (as Rodolfo Fierro), I recognized immediately. I mean I recognized Bronson, not that I recognized who he was playing. The little bit I heard him speak, I thought his accent was the same as the one he sported in The Great Escape. Maybe it's just that particular cadence Bronson has to his speech.

I wouldn't mind seeing the movie the whole way through.

Right now, we're wtaching Cheyenne Social Club, the stirring tale of two cattle drivers (Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda) who travel to Cheyenne because Stewart's brother died and left him a business. Hilarity ensues, though at this moment, Stewart's in the midst of a bar brawl. My dad kind of spoiled it, but I was curious if we'd learn why Fonda has followed Stewart for the last decade, without question. I figured, given some of fonda's comments once they reached Cheyenne, that it was because Fonda had simply recognized something in Stewart that made him worth following. Apparently not.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

There Ain't No Good Guys

But there are plenty of bad guys, and do you and me, do we just disagree*?

For as much as I like Westerns, I'm pretty unfamiliar with sam Peckinpah films. I've seen part of The Wild Bunch, most of it actually, but not all. Beyond that, I can't think of many. So it was nice that Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was running last night.

It certainly reminded me of the parts of The Wild Bunch I'd seen. There isn't anyone I'd call "good" in the movie, just varying levels of "bad". It may not even be a case of of varying levels, just varying objectives. In this case, Billy (Kris Kristofferson) escapes custody, and Sheriff Pat Garrett (James Coburn) is supposed to recapture him, which he gets around to eventually. Yes, Pat rides all over the territory, asking about Billy, but he doesn't seem terribly invested in finding him for some time. Even Billy comments at one point that Pat has given him about as much time as he can, suggesting he hasn't seriously pursued the Kid.

The two have both spent time on each side of the law, since Billy spent at least some time working for the cattleman Chisum, enforcing his dictates. If what we see from his current ranch hands is any indication, involves shooting anyone that comes near the cattle, and killing sheep and their owners. Which jibes with what I read about in The Great Range Wars last summer. The way it seems to work is, the cattle kings use their money to dictate what laws are enforced (people with money unfairly exerting their influence is unheard of these days, naturally), and the guys who can get things done, like Pat and Billy, move back and forth between law and outlaw, depending on what's important to them at the moment.

For Garrett, who seems older than Billy, he wants a little more stability, a home and so on, so being sheriff appeals, even if nobody seems to like him. Probably because they all remember when he was no different from Billy. Then again, nobody in town batted an eye when Billy killed two deputies, demanded a fast horse, then stole someone else's horse when the first horse threw him, so they don't mind outlaws. I guess the difference is Billy is pretending to be a lawman like Pat, so perhaps they appreciate the honesty. Or he's just more charismatic than Pat.

It's interesting that Pat goes on the road, and at one point messes around with six different ladies simultaneously. Meanwhile, Billy seems to have found a specific lady he likes, which might be the sort of thing that convinces a guy to settle down. I don't think that's how Billy was gonna go, but she still meant enough he came back to see her, and that got him killed. Pat and Billy walk the same trails, they just aren't on the same one at the same time. They do both carry death around with them. People Billy likes get killed, and everyone (save one) Garrett requests help from winds up dead.

One scene I didn't understand. When Garrett's camped out by the river, he sees a family rafting down the river. The boy keeps tossing bottles into the river for the old man to shoot, and the old man keeps missing. Garrett pulls out his revolver and takes a shot, and also misses the bottle. The old man takes a shot at him, Garrett picks up his rifle, they both take aim, then both decide not to shoot at each other. The raft continues down the river. Really not sure of the point. Is it that Garrett's too old to be fooling around, shooting at other people's bottles? Billy was attacked by three guys early in the movie, where he didn't know why they were after him. Garrett could be in much the same boat, never knowing when he's going to meet up with someone he crossed in the past.

* Originally, I was planning for the titles to follow yesterday's "I Meant What I Said", with "And I Said What I Meant", etc., etc. This fits better for today's post, though.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Meant What I Said

I told you I'd get some posts done, and unlike back at the end of July, I intend to carry that through.

So let's talk movies. We watched Duel at Diablo Thursday night. Sidney Poitier and James Garner. Garner works sometimes as a scout for the Army, Poitier is a former cavalry Sergeant who now rounds up wild horses, breaks them, and sells them to the cavalry. Garner works as a scout for the Cavalry sometimes, but had a Native American wife who was recently killed and scalped by somebody. So he's a little pissed about that. The two of them wind up accompanying a troop of green cavalry on a trip to another fort, through hostile territory. Garner's along because the troop is headed to the town where his wife's scalp was sold from, so he was headed there anyway. Poitier's going along because the Army stiffed him. They didn't give him the time they promised to break the horses, so they're only paying him for the ones he'd manage to break thus far. Any more he can break along the way, he'll be reimbursed for.

There's another plot with a woman who was abducted and married into an Apache tribe, then later rescued and married to a bigoted white guy, who she despised, and tried to escape, but kept being brought back by Garner. It's a little strange, because she seems to feel she'll receive greater acceptance with the Apache (and more importantly, so will her half-Apache son) than amongst the white folks. Certainly her husband can't seem to decide whether he loves her, or wants to control her, or hates her. Still, the brief glimpse we get of her life with the Apache suggests the women don't care for her (she walks by carrying a load of wood, and gets shoulder-bumped to the ground by another woman, who makes no attempt to help her pick up the wood). Maybe her husband's nicer though. It's a moot point by the end.

It wasn't a bad movie. I thought Poitier did a fine job in his role, Garner somewhat less so. It's hard for me to see him wild and vengeance-driven. It didn't hold my attention consistently, as Dad and I were discussing the accuracy of the cavalry firing while riding galloping horses, among other things. Neither one of us was sorry to see bigoted white husband (played by Dennis Weaver) get killed, but Dad wasn't happy they let the Apache leader see his grandson one last time before being taken away, because he felt the leader was a scumbag. I pointed out the guy was going to suffer horribly on a reservation or in a prison, and his spirit was probably broken. I was complimented on my ability to find the positives in a wider outlook. Um, thanks?

We tried watching one of those Jessie Stone movies, Sea Change this time. I spent the majority of it criticizing Stone for his drinking and general dickery to everyone around him. My dad's rebuttal to the latter was even though they meant well, all his friends are pushing Jessie, and he doesn't like that. That may be, but he's kind of a jerk to people whether they're push him or not. To his credit, Jesse does try to curb his drinking, or add compliments to it. First he listens to Brahms, at the suggestion of a nosy old biddy who walks up to his car window while he's at a stop sign (I wouldn't necessarily blame him for being a jerk to her). That doesn't curb the drinking, so he pulls out an unsolved murder case from 15 years ago to try and occupy his time. He solves the case, but still doesn't curb his drinking. So much for finding something important to him being the key.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Quick Post On Some Cartoons

This is a month late, but I've been meaning to mention I tried watching the pilot of Young Justice. I haven't read the series, so there's no particular nostalgia factor, but DC cartoons in my lifetime have a pretty good track record, so I figured it'd be worth checking out.

I wound up disinterested. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes marathon that was running on the next channel up probably didn't help, as that seemed much more exciting and funny. I'd watch YJ for a few minutes, decide I still wasn't interested in the proceedings, and switch back to Avengers.

Part of that was probably because I'm more of a Marvel fan, so even though I'm not a huge fan of any of the Avengers I saw, I still have more fondness for them than any of the Young Justice crew. That the pilot for YJ was focused on Superboy's origins didn't help, since I've never been interested in Superboy. Not liking the pilot isn't necessarily a dealbreaker for me, since I recall it took awhile for Justice League to grow on me (again, not being all that fond of any of the characters didn't help). So once the cast is established, and the story hits it's stride, maybe it'll work better. On its own, the pilot did nothing for me.

I'm disappointed they didn't get the entire team in the mix over the course of the pilot. I saw one of the people involved said they felt if Miss Martian had been a bigger part of the episode, it would have made characterization harder, because it would have been another character to address. Now presumably they can work with her in later episodes. It's not as though they have to go in-depth on all the characters in the first episode. Just give us a broad outline of them now, enough to distinguish them from each other, then flesh it out in subsequent episodes. I feel like Teen Titans and Justice League were both able to handle that. I'm not sure if Avengers is a fair comparison, since there were those pre-episodes that each focused on a specific character (or characters in the case of the Wasp and Giant-Man). If you saw those, you could say they were used to establish characterization before the team was put together. Still, I felt the fight with Graviton gave some idea of what made each member tick, then that was expanded upon later.

OK, I'm leaving town. Again. Theoretically, there will be posts over the next week. Probably not everyday, but at least some days. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Finally Watched Iron Man 2

Alex had it on DVD. I wasn't sure when he handed it to me, whether it was a loaner, or a gift, so I watched it Sunday afternoon while he ran errands. I'd read a discussion of the film on Too Busy Thinking About Comics, and I know that colored my viewing experience, because I was thinking of the points it brought up as the movie went along.

Tony tries to argue that as Iron Man he's a nuclear deterrent, but we never see him actually doing anything to keep the peace. What's more, he plays those videos of other countries trying to develop their own powered armor suits, apparently to reassure everyone they're safe. But aren't those suits being developed precisely because people saw how effective one Iron Man can be? Obadiah wasn't wrong when he said Tony's attempts to rid the world of weapons had lead to the best weapon yet.

Tony's antagonists are the grandstanding Senator Stern, Justin Hammer, and Vanko. Stern is leading the Congressional hearings to get the Iron Man armor because it'll be a feather in his cap. He'll be the one who reined in this rogue industrialist, and gave the American military the most advanced combat tool on the planet. It's the sort of hard-nosed, line-in-the-sand legislative action a Senator could point to if he were to make a run for the Presidency. There's always the chance Stern legitimately wants the military to have the armor to protect the soldiers and the country, but I have little faith that politicians care about the majority of their constituencies these days. Not that I want to put my faith in party-boy billionaires, either.

Hammer's after Stark for making him look bad, stealing his thunder, and generally being a better weapons designer, even when Tony's not selling weapons anymore. he wants what Stark's got to make himself more money. As for Vanko, he wants to watch Stark's world crumble. He doesn't want what Tony has for himself, but he doesn't want Tony to have it, either. All these guys are only threats to others if those people happen to be in the way while they're gunning for Tony. The attack at the Stark Expo isn't some grand statement by Vanko about how it's a futile attempt to create a better world, it's a way to take away what Tony has. All the threats are personal. Vanko could certainly have become a bigger problem if left unchecked, but he still starts as a threat to Tony specifically.

I was disappointed that Tony still seemed largely the self-destructive guy he was in the first movie. There were flashes of him growing past that, mostly with Pepper, but then he throws a birthday bash for himself where he pilots the armor while drunk*, drives in a Grand Prix, basically acts the wild child. It's strange, because sometimes he seems to be putting his affairs in order, trying his best to prepare the world for after he dies (the Expo, Pepper as CEO, maybe letting Rhodey take the armor), but the rest of the time, he behaves as if he has no cares whatsoever. I know it would have accelerated his demise (though the blood toxicity can affect him as fast or slow as the story dictates), but I'd have liked to see Tony actively zooming around the world, trying to intervene in situations as Iron Man. There may not have been any threats to the U.S. in six months, but I really doubt there are no conflicts anywhere in the world, regardless of what Tony told Congress. Sure, Tony probably wouldn't be able to fix most of them, but maybe he starts as Iron Man, then uses Stark Industries to make the next step.

There's always the possibility Tony did some of the reckless stuff to keep Pepper and the rest in the dark about his situation, I suppose.

OK, griping aside, what did I like? Hmm, the briefcase armor was cool. I thought the final boss fight was ended better than the one against Stane in the first movie, because it actually used an something previously established in the film**. I wasn't as fond of the fight with all the drones up to that point because other than Tony using that one-shot attack to finish it, I never felt like Tony and Rhodey were really being pressed. They might be getting shot a bunch, but it didn't seem to hurt how their armors performed , neither of them was getting knocked around, so it felt like a shooting gallery.

That was more griping. Um, the character interactions were good. Tony and Pepper, Tony and Rhodey. I continued to like Pepper, who is clearly frustrated by Tony's erratic behavior, but soldiers on as best she can. I especially liked how, when Tony came to visit her, she didn't cut him any slack or make special exceptions for him. She was dealing with his mess, and didn't have time for more of his junk. it was good, because I don't think it bothers Tony much when someone like Fury or Agent Coulson won't tolerate his crap, but when his closest friends say "Enough", it sinks in. Maybe. A little. I would have liked to see more of people coming at Stark after his first fight with Vanko. Vanko said he'd made God bleed, and with blood in the water, everyone would come after Tony, but I got the impression most of the average folks still liked Iron Man. The people against were the ones already against him: Hammer, politicians, news commentators, the brass. It strengthened their convictions, but I didn't see people throwing tomatoes at Tony, or newspapers with the headline "Iron Man: Threat or Menace?!" being eagerly purchased by a fearful populace. Which could mean the public is more perceptive than the folks with actual clout, and they recognize a guy with good intentions. Or the public is inconsequential, so it doesn't matter whether they still like Iron Man or not.

* That scene in the doughnut shop with Fury. I was really impressed with the plastic benches. Stark's sitting there, in his armor, and the bench is holding up fine. That's some good bench manufacturing there.

** Iron Man had Tony discover the icing problem at high altitude, and adjust his armor for it, while Stane didn't have time to do so. Except they decided that wouldn't actually finish Stane, and the fight continued beyond where it should have.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saturday Was Wild, So It's Good The Rest Of The Weekend Wasn't

Hi everybody, how were your weekends? Good, I hope. My was fun, but tiring, so normal for a visit to Alex'. Friday was about getting there, then killing time while Alex worked. By the time his weekend started, two more of his friends arrived. Alex and I watched the first 4 episodes of Ninja Scroll: The Series, which was my Christmas gift to him. The attrition rate on the villains was as high as I remember from those crappy quality fansubs I saw back in 2003.

Saturday was the long day, since Alex was one of several DJs playing at the Complex that night. He was nervous, which is normal for him, but his time slot had been switched, as he went from playing at 9 p.m. on the 2nd stage, to midnight on the newly set-up third stage. That didn't help his anxiety. I drove us there, and we were initially unimpressed by the exterior (seeing it, Alex declared he was probably going to be playing in a bathroom), but it was better inside. Eventually, everyone else decided they were hungry. Which lead to me driving around for an hour because none of them had any strong feelings about where they wanted to go, nor did they have any clue what eateries were in the area. I wasn't even hungry, you know, but still wound up driving allover creation while they hemmed and hawed about what to eat. Wound up at a place three buildings down from the Complex.

Less than six hours before the show, Alex and I are off to his friend Bitcrusher's, as Alex has decided he needs different music for his set. Bitcrusher hooked Alex up, then left to go eat, so Alex fiddled with the setlist, while I conversed with the temporary roomie about whatever, including his time spent teaching English in Bosnia. We left, went back to the Complex, and the show kicked off.

Alex says they started promoting the show too far in advance, because they had way too many people show up. There was a line ten wide stretching for two blocks waiting to get in when the place opened, and there was still a line 3 hours later. The upstairs, where the first and second stages were, was heavily crowded by 11:30, to the point you could hardly move anywhere. Until Alex started playing, I had adopted a roaming strategy, making a loop past all the stages, and periodically out onto the patio to get some air. It was easy to see how much worse it kept getting. The last time, I started to wonder if I'd make it downstairs without resorting to stabbing. There was a pathway with a bar on one side, and a row of stools looking out over the dance floor in front of 1st stage on the other. In the middle of the path, there was a couple dancing, not oblivious to all the people who wanted to get by, just not caring. My last stretch on the patio, I observed people hopping the fence to get in that way, followed by rousing cheers from those folks waiting in line. I don't know why, if they were going to cheer, they wouldn't do it themselves, but it seemed a limited phenomenon.

Alex' set started poorly because his equipment was sharing the table with that of other DJs, and one of his turntables didn't get plugged in properly when it was his time. This meant his first song ended, and things went quiet for a few moments as things were straightened out. After that, it went beautifully. He had that room jumping more than any of the previous DJs. He told me afterward he'd abandoned the play order he set up hours earlier, opting to choose which song to play next on the fly. Seemed to work really well. His dancers were having a good time*, all the customers seemed to be enjoying it (and were rushing up to compliment him after). . . and then the fire marshal butted in. Seems the club was already 500 people over capacity, and they shut everything down. I'm not clear on all the specifics, but the upstairs crowd chanting "{Expletive deleted} the police!" apparently put the cops accompanying the fire marshall in bad moods. So the party was over** before the headliner of the night could even get on stage. We waited an hour for the parking lot to clear out, which gave us time to pack everything up, and to see several people try to talk their way back upstairs, ostensibly to find keys or coats. Then we loaded up and started back to Alex'. The upshot of the show ending early was we made it home earlier. I got to sleep at 3 a.m. instead of 5, whoo!

After that it was more relaxed. Sunday we tried to recuperate, and played poker and drinking games with some new friends of his. Judging by this experience, I'd say it's a bad idea to play a drinking game after you've already been drinking for several hours. It didn't take long for things to get chaotic, at least from my perspective. Monday we tried cleaning his apartment, with moderate success. We did find his checkbook, lost since Friday night. We played some TimeSplitters 2, watched more Ninja Scroll. This morning I woke up and came back here, and Alex went to visit some other friends. Which brings us to the present.

* There were several small groups of girls wearing outfits dancing at the show. I don't know if each group was working with a particular DJ, as Alex' were, or if they just felt like wearing unusual matching outfits and dancing.

** I can't confirm the reports the cops pulled their batons and started shoving people down the stairs towards the exit. Didn't see the SWAT team some folks said came in to help, either. Can't rule out those things happening, either.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cathartic Video Game Levels #4

I'm surprised it took me this long to think of this one, since I've been playing it over and over lately.

One of the nice things about Phantom Dust is the Simulator, which lets you replay any level you've already beaten at any time. Generally, this comes in handy because each time you beat a level, you'll receive a skill, so perhaps you get some extra copies of a skill you like, or one you hadn't gotten yet for free, and some money, which can go towards buying more skills or Arsenals.

Having already beaten the game, and collected all the skills, that doesn't interest me much. Still, I've been playing the mission "Desire to Meet" repeatedly lately, because I just really enjoy it. The mission's set in the Palace battleground (it's actually what's left of a mall), which is a good all-purpose setting. There are two stories to t, some cover, some destructible terrain, and the sightlines are such that short, medium, and long range attacks are all readily usable.

What's nice about the mission is the simplicity of it. There's one enemy, so I don't have to split my focus trying to be aware of where multiple opponents are. I'm not saddled with a partner, so I don't have to rush to their defense, or make sure they don't kill themselves attacking recklessly. It's me against the "red head". It always uses the same Arsenal, so I know which skills to expect, but it'll unleash them at some unexpected moments, so I still have to stay on my toes. Still, the fact I generally know what to expect means I can devise certain strategies to go with my skills. So I can use Paralyze Barrier to protect myself when it attacks, which freezes it in place for 3 seconds. Then I can run up next to it and use Photon Wave to knock it for a loop while it's helpless. Or I can wait until red head's on the walkway above and try to blast said walkway out from under it.

And there's always my Diabolical Trick Arsenal, where I don't even attack directly. Both the defenses I carry erase skills, I have an attack that can reduce its Level, forcing it to grab more Aura Particles, and Diabolical Trick erases skill capsules that it hasn't picked up yet. Once it's out of those, it's health will drop steadily until it dies. I like using that because most of my Arsenals are just variations on beating it up until it dies, while this is a more indirect approach.

No posts for the next couple of days, because I'm going to visit a friend. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What I Bought 12/15/2010

This is likely the last of the comic reviews for 2010 here. I haven't any books coming in next week, and the last week of the year I'll probably be at my dad's the entire time. I only had one book coming in that week anyway, so no big loss. Not even sure I still want to get that Action Comics issue. That being the case, let us enjoy the three books I bought this week. For tomorrow, we die. Or I do, if the department of transportation can't get the roads cleared. A little freezing rain and it all goes down the tubes.

Avengers Academy #7 - That's not a bad cover. It's not anything spectacular, but it gets the point across (The cover says, in the lower right corner "The Big Return of GIANT-MAN"). I'm not sure Hank Pym changing identities for the 9 millionth time is that big a deal, but it's not my book.

There are a couple of plots in this issue. The team is asked to transport the Absorbing Man across town, he manages to escape, and Pym has to take him down. The other storyline is Hank's making preparations to try and bring Janet van Dyne (the Wasp) back to them. Hank's found a way to pull her body back together after it was scattered across dimensions at the end of Secret Invasion, and seems bound and determined to do it, over some of the others' objections. Fortunately, the fight with Crusher Creel gave him some perspective. So now I'm curious to see if he'll stick with Giant-Man. He said he didn't need to stay the Wasp to honor Jan if she was brought back, but if he's not doing it, then he could keep calling himself the Wasp. The decision may be out of his hands now.

The strength of the issue was the character interactions. Based on this comic I'm starting to get an idea of some of the rookies' personalities. Some more (Reptil and Hazmat) than other, but for an issue that wasn't focused on them, it wasn't a bad start. Mostly it was Pym, whether interacting with Tigra, or Jocasta offering her perspective, or his fight with Creel. I don't necessarily agree with Gage's conclusions (like Giant-Man being the identity Pym was most comfortable in), but I thought he expressed the core of who Hank is well. The recap page was helpful, which is nice. Tom Raney was the artist (according to the cover, the interior credits say Mike McKone, but they lie), and his work looks different from how I remember it in Annihilation: Conquest. I'm sure coloring is part of that, since Conquest was a whole lot of deep, ominous reds, and the lighting here is a bit less moody. Some of his heads seem off, like in the panel where Crusher's reaching for Hazmat, his head doesn't sit right on his body, and there were a few places where the character's movements don't seem like the match from panel-to-panel, but on the whole, it works. Raney draws the big cosmic stuff in the issue well.

Darkwing Duck #7 - I don't know if it shows up in the image I'm using, but the cover actually has sooty, gray spots on it, just like an old comic would. Works nicely with the way the cover is referencing old Batman covers. I don't know if Sabrina Alberghetti created that effect, or if it was added later. Maybe they used a little charcoal on it?

Inside, Launchpad, Gosmoduck, and the reprogrammed Quackwerk-Bots are rounding up the Darkwings, including a horde of winged monkey Darkwings. I love how Silvani and Brill are just throwing out any kind of Darkwing they can think of. Darkwing and Morgana are attacked at his home by the arrow-wielding alternate who won't say his name. he shakes of the mental control, and we find out why he won't say "Darkwing Duck". Unaware of that, DW and Morgana have a way to track down those responsible, and with Gosmoduck in tow, attack NegaDuck and Magica. The heroes are doing terribly well, and then Morgana figures out who the threat behind the problems in the water supply is.

It's another character from the Darkwing universe I'd completely forgotten about until the moment of the reveal. Then I see who it is, and I can't believe I'd forgotten. I love that this book keeps doing that. Some of it is nostalgia, certainly, but it's also that Brill and Silvani are pulling out all the stops, throwing every threat and ally out there at once to make a story that keeps ramping up. Why not, right? Between Darkwing and Ducktales, there's plenty to draw from, so might as well use it. Also, Silvani lays out a fight scene very well. Each panel has its own thing going on, but it also hints at the next panel, so that the action flows naturally from one to the next.

Rebels #23 - I think Dox is gonna need a bigger gun. This issue involves the sitdown between the Green Lantern Corps and the L.E.G.I.O.N., except there's not much chance of a happy and peaceful resolution. John Stewart doesn't like that Dox is stirring up anti-GLC feelings, while Dox denies any involvement, and keeps baiting Stewart. Then Dox sets up a situation he believes the Lanterns won't be able to handle, so his team can save the day. Except the rookie Lanterns do deal with it, mostly by hitting it (with some deduction providing confidence in the "hit stuff" plan). So John and Vril play nice for the press, and I assume the two groups won't go to war now. Which is good, since Dox may need the help with Starro back up and running.

I thought John came off a little aggressive. I know Dox is a pompous jerk, he was pushing John's buttons as hard as he could, and John Stewart is not the sort of back down, but he pretty much threatened to wipe them out if Dox didn't quit manipulating public opinion. Sure, Dox is using Lobo, but there are some heroes in the group, and what, John's going to encourage the Corps to attack them, lock them up, kill them? He'd have to be serious about it, because I doubt he'd bother to try and bluff Dox. it's more the response I'd expect from Guy, or the Guardians themselves, with their typical superciliousness. I did like his zing on Dox about the rings being able to see the core of one's character, and what a Sinestro ring picking Dox says about him. Not sure if Dox disagrees or cares, though.

I liked the story overall. It highlighted some of the differences between the two groups, resolved their conflict in a way that doesn't leave a reader wondering why they aren't fighting openly, but also doesn't seem like an unrealistically happy arrangement. Claude St. Aubin's art is still good, though Lobo could stand to look more slovenly. He had some fun with customizing the Lanterns' outfits, and though he didn't get wild with the ring constructs, he depicted them well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back Around To The Beginning, Again

It's the end of Year 5 here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends. Just a couple of days after Diamondrock wrapped up five years at Title Undetermined. I usually credit Kalinara as the one who started a blog about a week before I did, and that it was seeing she'd just started one that made me figure I could, too. But it's worth mentioning Diamondrock and Ragnell also started up around the same time (well, Ragnell had been going for 3 months already, but close enough), so they probably deserve some credit/blame.

I didn't manage to post as much as I did last year. I spent too much time traveling in the spring, couldn't rattle off 129 consecutive days with a post like last year. Pretty sure I'm on my longest consecutive stretch of the year right now, and it's going to be broken here in the next day or two. I've considered trying to set some posts up ahead of time, but it's not really my style. Plus, I kind of like not always being sure where a post is going - or even what it's about - until I start it.

I guess the biggest change has been that a couple of months ago, I decided to drop the Adorable Baby Panda comic review posts. Originally, it was an attempt to find a positive in Civil War #4. Then it became an easy way to generate content. I had two guaranteed posts every week: the basic review post, and ABP's review. This year it started to feel like more effort than it was worth. There's really only so many "Odd Couple" style situational jokes and bickering I can force myself to pump out, you know. Four years is a pretty good run. For the time being at least, ABP (though it should probably be Adorable Juvenile Panda after 4 years) is taking a break. The squab needs to concentrate on school, anyway. I'm trying to work on some actual stories to have ABP/AJP star in. Hopefully I'll manage to put a few of those out in Year 6, and maybe some other stories as well.

The other idea I've been considering is doing episode reviews of stuff I have on DVD. Kind of how Siskoid did reviews of all the episodes of the various Star Trek series. I'm not thinking of it as an every day thing, maybe one episode a week. Or maybe whenever inspiration runs dry. I think the American stuff alone, there's enough episodes for 10 months of nothing but daily episode posts. Anime would probably cover another 200 days (though considering the cultural references I'd probably miss, it might not be worth the trouble). Again, not planning to do it every day, just noting there's some room to work. I'm trying to decide what would be the common threads of the posts, beyond stuff like plot synopsis and actor information. Maybe funny quotes, a kiss tally for Bruce Campbell on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. perhaps.

I don't have much else to say, except thanks for reading (and commenting, if you do), and I don't see myself stopping in the near future. Of course, the universe might have something to say about it, but hopefully the universe is cool with me continuing to blog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hit The Hero With More Of The Same, Or Mix It Up?

When two villains team up, do you think it's more interesting or less if they share a shtick?

I figured after yesterday's "I hate Batman! *incoherent growling noises*" post, I'd try for something more lighthearted. So I was originally planning to propose a team-up between the Blimpmaster (from Batgirl #12), and Baron Von Zeppelin (From Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet). I mean, Steph's a full-fledged Bat-person now, it's past time she get involved in the truly crazy stuff that entails, including space zeppelins and teaming up with space truckers who possess a "truckopathic" link with their rig.

Then I thought it wouldn't work because two guys, who each rely on lighter-than-air crafts would kind of be stepping on each others' toes. So I thought maybe it'd be better to pair the Blimpmaster with some submarine-using bad guy, but I couldn't really think of one. Then I considered bringing Spider-Woman's old foe Turner D. Century out for that retro charm, but I'm starting to think two dirigible-themed villains is sounding pretty good.

Like a lot of things, it would all be about the execution, but it feels like villains with similar styles would be more likely to be rivals than allies. One villains would think the other ripped them off, there'd be accusations, and then they're competing. Which can work as a story, but it's not really a villain team-up. If they have differing approaches, then there might be less conflict between them, and it diversifies the threats the heroes face some.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Am Going To Rant About Batman Again. You Are Warned.

I've been debating writing this post, because I don't like to bore you with too much griping about Batman, and I did some in that post last week about my approach to continuity. But the St. Louis Cardinals made a trade that pissed me off yesterday, and I need to vent. So blame Tony LaRussa. He doesn't actually have anything to do with the post, but he's the reason behind the trade, so he's why I want to vent. Moving on.

I think Batman is the Peyton Manning of superhero comics. Not in the sense they both prepare obsessively, or they both have frighteningly large foreheads. Manning tends to have his poor performances excused by the announcers, analysts, and sportswriters. He threw 4 interceptions in a game against Dallas a little over a week ago. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns, and Peyton's team lost. Yet, Ron Jaworski was on PTI later that week, and actually said Peyton played great . . . except for the 4 interceptions. Which is a bit like saying I cooked a great dinner, except for the fact my guests contracted food poisoning. When Peyton threw an interception that clinched the Super Bowl for the Saints, Peter King argued the primary blame fell on Peyton's receiver, then credit to defensive back Tracy Porter, then some blame for Peyton. So he was the least responsible for his interception. It's not like this was one of those passes that bounced off the receiver's hands, into the hands of a defensive back*. Peyton threw a pass, Porter jumped in between him and Reggie Wayne, INT.

The litany of excuses goes on and on. Peyton's receiving corps is too injured. he doesn't have a running game. His offensive line isn't holding up. Blah, blah, blah. To be fair to Peyton, he does take at least some of the blame, though he's made critical comments about his offensive line before, and there are times during a game where he yells at his receivers after an incompletion and you can't tell whether he's telling them what route they were supposed to run, or if he's just blaming them in front of a stadium full of fans. Either way, I'm fairly sure he doesn't tell the sportswriters to constantly excuse his poor play.

So what's that got to do with Batman? Well, Batman the character doesn't have anymore control over how he's presented, but that presentation does alter how fans perceive him. Batman's sometimes written as a paranoid, manipulative sort. He devises plans to kill his Justice League teammates. He sets up elaborate tests to either push his proteges' training further (Tim in the past, Steph now), or to try and make them give up (Steph in the past)**. He makes decisions concerning his proteges' lives without consulting them first (revealing Robin's secret identity to Spoiler, trying to get between Cass Cain and Superboy). He holds his approval in front of all of them like a carrot on a stick.

But the writers seem to excuse these choices. They seem to want me to believe Batman did a good thing, doing that. It's like they're afraid Bats will send them to the corn field if they're not careful. Now, I have seen Batman admit he was wrong***, but it's rare, and what's more, the other characters don't seem to mind. Cass didn't seem to get angry he got between her and Conner, rather than perhaps letting the two kids figure out they weren't right for each other****. Tim was initially mad about the fakeout test thing, but ended up coming back, and even said he didn't expect Bruce to apologize. To which Bruce said 'I hope not,' which suggests Batman still thinks he did the right thing, and either Tim agrees, or isn't willing to call him on it.

I still don't understand what Johns was going for in Infinite Crisis, for that matter. Batman tells Nightwing it's up to him to rally the heroes because unlike Bruce, Dick has stayed on good terms with them. This gave me hope. Batman recognizing his antisocial tendencies have hampered his effectiveness in this dire situation? Hooray! Pity it didn't play out that way. Nightwing was only able to round up Superboy with his call to assemble, while Bats roped in Green Arrow, Black Canary, two Green Lanterns, and Mr. Terrific for his assault on Brother I. Plus, Booster and Jaime Reyes showed up of their own accord. Apparently Batman being a jerk to everyone in the world didn't burn those bridges after all, which kind of undercuts anything the story might have been pushing as an impetus for him to behave differently. He's not being penalized for it, so why would he stop acting the way he has?

It makes the other characters come off as apologists, excusing Batman's actions because it was for their own good, or he meant well, or whatever. But really, he's being a jackass and they need to call him on the carpet for it. They do occasionally, such as the OMAC Project, when Booster went off at Batman for letting Ted Kord go to his death when Batman knew, or at least had a better idea than Ted, what he was walking into to. But then, Booster's still the one bringing Jaime to Batman to help. I know, it was a Crisis, heroes put aside their differences in the face of a greater threat, but it still feels like the writers are saying the stuff Batman pulled was OK*****.

Though the treatment of the two is roughly the same, my reaction isn't. Peyton's not one of my favorite players, but I don't tend to fault him for what announcers and writers say. With Batman, I do roll my eyes a bit at the writers, but it helps feed into my distaste for the character. Of course, the writers actively control what Batman says and does, so they're trying to get a response out of me. I doubt they get the response they wanted, but who can say? Both cases are frustrating, though, because I expect the analysts to call out Manning as they would most QBs, and I keep waiting for the other characters to do the same to Batman.

* During the Green Bay-Detroit game yesterday, Aaron Rodgers threw a deep pass to Greg Jennings, who had outrun the defender. He was in perfect position, but the ball hit his hands and bounced back over his shoulder, into the hands of the pursuing DB. That's an INT you could say wasn't the QB's fault, and I'm sure Peyton's had some of those. Just not the one in the Super Bowl, or the ones I saw from the Dallas game.

** With Tim there was a story where Batman made it appear Alfred sent a warning from the future that one of the Bat-group would go too far and establish dictatorial control over Gotham, forcing Tim to try and figure out which of his friends it was. When it was revealed as a ruse, Bats chided Tom for not dismissing it outright for the use of time travel, even though Tim is friends with Impulse, who is from the 30th Century, and Bats was on a team with Booster Gold, who is from the 25th Century. This was an attempt to take Tim to the next level of investigation, to make him question everything.

*** When he revealed Tim's identity to Stephanie, to be exact. Except he admitted it to Stephanie, when it was Tim he wronged. Even when he does the right thing, he does it wrong.

**** They probably weren't, though it would have been nice if they'd the opportunity to try.

***** The Ted Kord thing is especially galling, because I had the impression Batman blew him off because Zatanna's mindwiping had worn off, and he was angry about what she and the Satellite JLA had done to him. Which is fine, be angry, but Ted had nothing to do with that. You know who takes out their frustrations with others on innocent bystanders? Super-villains. Maybe that wasn't it, maybe Bats just hated Ted Kord, but my impression was it was Identity Crisis fallout.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If You Have A Good Villain, Use Him

If you watch Burn Notice, but haven't seen last Thursday's (December 9) episode, and don't want the end spoiled, probably better to wait and read this after you've seen it. We'll wait. *whistles nonchalantly*

OK, that's enough waiting. So, Tyler Brennan (Jay Karnes) has the flash drive with all the names of the people responsible for burning Michale Westin. When the commercials for the episode said Michael would run into an old enemy, he was my first guess. Of course, if you exclude the possibility of it being someone Michael clashed with in the past we hadn't seen previously (some old foe from his pre-burned days), there weren't a lot of options. Natalie the thief already reappeared this season, and now she's in jail, he and Jason Bly settled their differences, Carla's dead, Victor's dead. That pretty much left Brennan, Simon, Management, or Dead Larry*. So like I said, Brennan was my first thought, but then I started to doubt he'd be described by Michael as their 'worst nightmare'. So I switched to Simon somehow being on the loose again. Moral of the story is to stick with your first guess.

I'm glad it is Brennan, because I think he's the best foe they've presented Michael with so far. The weakness of the other three possibilities I mentioned is they all have some personal stake in Michael. Management wants Michael working for him/them. Simon wanted his reputation - which had been dumped on Michael to burn him - back, and wants Mikey's help doing it. Dead Larry wanted Michael working with him. Sure, they could each decide it's too much trouble and just kill him (Simon would opt for that more readily than the other two), but they'd prefer to get something out of him.

Brennan takes a different approach. Yes, he wants to stick it to Michael, by killing everyone Michael cares about before killing Westin himself, but he's not going to focus resources solely on that avenue. Brennan's pragmatic, and knows revenge is something you take advantage of as a businessman, rather than something you succumb to. As Michael put it in Brennan's second appearance, 'You financed a private war just so you could come back to Miami'. But Brennan did that to try and get his hands on a piece of military hardware that would make him a large profit. That he was forcing Michael to get it for him was a pleasant bonus. Even with his current reemergence, he's not only in a position to get Michael, but he also has a flash drive full of information on very important people, that other people will pay oodles of cash to own.

In a lot of ways, Brennan is like Michael. They both know the value of a threat, though Brennan goes further with his, and is more likely to carry it out. Neither one is above manipulating others to work for them, and they're both willing to be harsh about it. Family is a weakness for both. They know a lot of the same tricks. A lot of times, Michael outflanks his "foe of the week" so completely they never even realize what happened. If they do figure out what went wrong, they don't recognize Michael was behind it. Brennan though, he's lost to Michael twice now, but each time, he realized what Westin was doing. Michael sill won, but only by going with the threat of mutually assured destruction. If Brennan didn't cave, he was going to jail ("Sins of Omission"), or risking his daughter's life ("End Run"). So Brennan relented, but he also escaped without injury or imprisonment. It's worth noting Brennan's the only villain to harm someone Michael cares about and get away with it**. he shot Mike's brother in the arm, and drove away unharmed.

I don't think Michael or Brennan are really interested in being leaders. Michael likes being a field operative, Brennan seems to enjoy being a weapons dealer. he doesn't really answer to anyone, but he's not the head of some gang or country, either. Michael and Brennan work similarly now, taking whatever clients they choose. Michael wants to get back to working for the government, where he'll work with whoever they dictate, while Brennan is fine with being freelance. Brennan is Michael, with a little more viciousness, and a lot less idealism. Michael could become Brennan down the line, while I don't think he could become Dead Larry or Simon (who both like killing too much, while Brennan regards it as more of an occasional necessity).

* If you don't watch the show, they call him that because he was supposed to be dead. Apparently he faked it and went into freelance killing. But everyone, even Michael's brother, calls him "Dead Larry". Not to his face, but when they discuss him amongst themselves.

** At the end of Season 1 "Loose Ends", there were the ex-military drug guys who captured and pummeled Sam. Beaten and either blown up or arrested. In Season 3 "Long Way Back", Thomas O'Neill does manage to shoot Fiona in the arm, but he winds up arrested.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jennifer Walters' Most Difficult Case Yet

I like that Harrison Wilcox put Jennifer Walters in a mentor role in She-Hulks. There's the obvious advantage that it holds for a story, since she and Lyra come from such drastically different circumstances, so there's a potential for conflict, and even more for humor*. The thing that's more interesting to me is it's not something I'm used to seeing She-Hulk do.

Jennifer Walters has been on a lot of teams, worked with a lot of other heroes, but I don't see her playing the sage veteran who guides the rookie much. She has lots of friends, certainly. She strikes me as kind of like Nightcrawler or the Beast, a generally fun person that other people like to hang out with. She usually seems to be the muscle on the team, who happens to really enjoy that, because it's a nice change of pace from poring over depositions. When she was on Roger Stern's Avengers team, she was supportive of Captain Marvel as team leader (as Dr. Druid was constantly undercutting Monica's authority and confidence), but she didn't seem to be offering advice, more just keeping her confidence up.

I don't think being mentor has ever appealed to Jennifer. She's typically portrayed as loving being a giant green lady who can kick serious butt, because it's a nice change of pace from being a mousy, nondescript lawyer. Not that she doesn't recognize the seriousness of a situation, but she likes the excitement, the adventure. Being She-Hulk has been as much an escape for her as being Spider-Man was for Peter Parker. So being responsible for guiding someone else would kind of cut into that.

It's a different kind of pressure for her, especially as their both part of the Hulk family, which has a, contentious relationship with the heroes and the public. Jennifer's been the one who typically gets along with the other heroes**, and I think she's regarded well by your Average Joe, at least by Marvel Universe standards. A lot of that is probably because she's usually in control. She doesn't go on rampages, or smash anything that draws her ire, so she seems safer than her cousin. Now she's responsible for this niece of hers from the future, a future where there is constant conflict between men and women. Lyra hasn't necessarily been a threat to go on mindless rampages, since getting angry had previously made her weaker, but she could still be capable of causing a lot of damage if she reacts to an insult or miscommunication in a way that's acceptable for her world, but not for the one she's on now. A few incidents like that, and the public (and if Bruce Banner's right, Steve Rogers) swing against the Hulks, and it's trouble.

Jennifer's usually very confident, but that's related to her own actions. She knows what she's physically capable of, but she also knows physicality isn't always the proper response. She understands the rules, the customs, the way people tend to think and react, so she's pretty good at finding the proper approach. Maybe not on the first attempt, but she usually susses it out before things go too awry. Now she has to trust that she get that same kind of understanding across to Lyra, and that, she's not so sure of. What if she provides bad advice, or provides good advice, but Lyra takes it the wrong way? It's a new scenario for her.

* I think it would have been easier for Jennifer to adapt to Lyra's world, than it is the other way around. Jen's been on the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, she's been in all sorts of wild situations, so Lyra's time wouldn't have been fun for her, but it wouldn't be that impossible.

** The exceptions would I guess be her original appearances, when she was the Savage She-Hulk, and that story Avengers story Geoff Johns did where he said she changed into She-Hulk when she was afraid, then she changed and pretty much leveled a town.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's In A Sound?

I don't usually pay attention to the sound effects in comics. There have been exceptions, like John Workman's stuff on the Simonson Thor run, but by and large, I gloss over them. Not sure why. I might be adding my own in my head as I read, or it's that most of them are sort of basic and dull, and not really necessary.

For whatever reason, the sounds in Batgirl #16 did catch my attention. It's the first time I noticed that the sound of Batgirl's grappling gun firing is "Poot". I went back and checked my earlier issues and that's how it's presented since the first issue. That appeals to the five year old inside me, naturally.

On the same page as that, Steph tumbles through some rotten timbers as she falls to the ground, and one of the effects was "BUST", which seemed appropriate. Not just because the wood busted, but because Steph's plan to smoothly hook one of the timbers and gently descend fall apart, and there's the issue of how she's perceived by others. "Bust" gets used in sports to describe players who fail to meet , because they're high draft picks, or they were a big free-agent signing. Steph has finally gained the trust and respect of most of the Bat-family*, now she's on the run from the cops. Not how things were supposed to go.

The next sound is "Doof", which was probably Stephanie hitting the ground, though the art suggests it's her hitting another timber. Wikipedia says "Doof" is an outdoor dance party common to Australia, but I've mostly seen it used as an affectionate dig. Like a combination of "doofus" and "goof", so someone you can't really take seriously because they aren't too bright or competent. Which could also play into Batgirl's concerns that she's not living up to the name, that she's confirming what most people thought if her when she was Spoiler.

It was actually one of the sounds two pages after that which got me into this. Detective Gage has confirmed he thinks she's innocent. He's given her the planted evidence that was used to incriminate her, and popped her shoulder back in place. Then he promises to stall the other incoming cops while she escapes. Stephanie starts to say 'I could kiss you right on your. . .' at which point Oracle chimes in over their communicator 'Outside voice', so she finishes that with 'cheek'. What caught my attention (and made me laugh out loud) was apparently police sirens make the sound "Blurt Blurt".

There aren't a whole lot of other sound effects in the issue, and none them really stand out like those did. So I don't know whether letterer Travis Lanham was having some fun, or if it was planned by him and writer Bryan Q. Miller. There's always the possibility I'm reading into it something that isn't there (I've been known to do that). I didn't find any other glaring examples in the earlier issues, though for a moment I thought the sound for Damien's motorcycle was roughly "WHINING", which gave me a chuckle. But it was actually "wiiinnnnnng-wef-innnnnng", which is much closer to "winning" than "whining", dadgum it. Still, this'll merit some closer observation of upcoming issues.

* Damien probably still doesn't like her, but he's a twerp, thus his opinion is worthless.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What I Bought 12/8/2010

While I was running this morning, I wound up arguing with myself about whether the word "impediment" existed. I was sure it did (and I was right), but I was pronouncing the first "e" differently than you do with "impede", so I started to think I was making up a word. I wasn't though, just overthinking it. In other news, DC's website listed Rebels as coming out this week, and it didn't, at least not at my shop. It did that last month too, said it'd be out the 2nd Wednesday, came out the 3rd instead. It does mean next week will be a decent haul (by my current standards), but it left this week a tad bereft.

Batgirl #16 - Steph starts the issue on the run from the cops. Turns out Newton, the college student killed last issue, had a cop for a dad. And since the presence of a Batarang obviously meant Batgirl did it (as opposed to any of the half-dozen other folks in Gotham who use Batarangs), Gotham PD is out for blood. Steph does elude the police, with a little help from Detective Gage, but has an unpleasant surprise waiting at school the next day. With an assist from Oracle and Proxy (Wendy), Steph tracks down the real killers, and gets cleared of a murder charge. Sadly, the bad guys have a superfast ace up their sleeve, and this'll be a new challenge for Stephanie.

I like Steph's fairly cavalier attitude to being chased by cops. She does enjoy being Batgirl, likes the adventure (to her detriment at times), so she probably can't help but be a little flip. I like Gage trusting his instincts, and Batgirl's internal narration (which occasionally becomes external). I laughed at Wendy trying to use her wheelchair to guilt the campus cop into leaving her alone, plus her 'Oh, no - Not campus jail!!!' line, while Oracle listens in, frustrated. It was kind of sick, but the fact some of the students turned Newton's death to their benefit rang true. I was a college kid, then I taught them, and some kids will seize any excuse to duck assignments. I especially like that Miller messed with my expectations. I thought this whole arc would be Batgirl dodging the cops while trying to prove her innocent, but that's been wrapped up already, so the focus can sit on capturing the real bad guys.

It might be I'm just more accustomed to it, but I'd enjoyed Dustin Nguyen's art more this issue than I did last month. He didn't do the more exaggerated style he used at the start of Batgirl #15, which I loved, but his, I guess "typical" style worked better for me. I'm really impressed by how much expression he can convey with relatively few lines. I'm interested to see if, not that we know the bad guys have a speedster, Nguyen will continue to portray that how he did this issue. It was just one panel, but it was interlocking black and white triangles as a background, while Steph and the cops are shown all being hit in the same shot, while the handcuffs are falling off the bad guys. Basically we never see the character, just the effect.

Frank Miller did something kind of like that with Barry Allen in Dark Knight Strikes Again. You didn't see Barry run; it was more one panel he wasn't there, the next he was. Or one panel they're in a government facility, the next they're in Utah. Like observing a planet not by actually seeing it, but by its gravitational tug on stars and planets you do see. It probably won't go that way, since I think Nguyen drew it that way to keep it a surprise, but you never know. For the record, that's not my observation about Barry Allen. I read it in a David Brothers' post on DKSA on 4thletter.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Perhaps I Should Avoid TV For The Rest Of December

Did anyone else watch Eureka last night? I thought they overdid it on the Christmas spirit. Which isn't unusual for this time of year, but I'm sure I've watched Christmas episodes of other shows I liked where I didn't mind it. If the episode had been about the size-changing problem, and some other subplot, I'd have enjoyed it more. The "Secret Santa" stuff, and especially the remnant of the hydrogen crystal glowing in the sky felt tedious. Maybe with more subtlety it wouldn't feel so obnoxious, but "subtle" wasn't in the building.

I think it was by design, since the episode was framed as a story Sheriff Carter was telling some depressed kids, and he was clearly trying to sell them on the Christmas spirit. At the end of the episode, the story was described as 'too sappy' by one, and another complained of having a cavity. That could be the writers admitting they know it's overdone, but they did it on purpose. Which is swell, but it doesn't make it more enjoyable.

I did like the idea of Taggert trying to replicate Santa's feats with science funny, but it didn't have to be Santa*. He could have been trying to deduce the secret behind the Tooth Fairy, as Sheriff Carter alluded to.

* If I were a super-scientist I'd be trying like crazy to give myself spider-powers.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Leave Size Changing To Folks Without Another Shtick

There have been a couple of times in Avengers history where Hawkeye dumps the bow and starts using Pym Particles, and starts calling himself Goliath. I always find that annoying. The last time I know for sure it happened was around Infinity Crusade (Avengers West Coast #96), so it's not a pressing concern or anything. But I was reading through my Essential Defenders stuff, and in Sub-Mariner #35 some of the Avengers clashed with the Defenders (not the Avengers-Defenders War, before that), and he was Goliath, and it bugged me.

Hawkeye's deal is he's so good at archery that with no actual powers he can be on teams with thunder gods, women who wave their hands and who knows what'll happen, a guy essentially wearing a flying tank, and a green lady strong enough to crush the guy wearing the flying tank against her forehead like a beer can, among others. If he's dumping the arrows in favor of size-changing gas that gives him super-strength, he's admitting being skilled isn't enough. Or at least, he's not skilled enough to hack it. One thing I don't see Hawkeye ever lacking is self-confidence (or arrogance, depending on your point of view).

Maybe it works as a one-time story, where he loses faith in himself for awhile, then gets it back. I think that's how it played out the first time, from what I've read in reprints and such. Even then, it's hard for me to picture Hawkeye ever doubting that he's good enough as is, but strange things happen all the time, so sure, why not? But going back to the Pym Particles again later? No.

Plus, I think he's written differently when he's Goliath. It might just be the writers, but he doesn't seem to make with the smart remarks as much. It's more loud threats that he's going to pound someone, which is more like the Hulk, or a less eloquent Thor.

Monday, December 06, 2010

That's A Nice Crop, But You Poisoned Your Neighbor's Well

I can't remember exactly when I started taking the selective approach to continuity. I must have seen someone say they only considered stories they liked to "count", while stories they didn't like didn't count, and I realized that was a swell idea. Why waste time being angry with how much I disliked Sins Past, when I could just ignore it?

It might have been Cassandra Cain. Reading Adam Beechen's attempt in his Batgirl mini-series to detail why Cass did all that crazy stuff post-One Year Later, but how she wasn't responsible for her actions, specifically. Looking over that two-page info dump, I thought it would have been better to not discuss the attacks on Supergirl, the trying to kill her father. Just don't mention it and it'll go away. Though if I was espousing that philosophy, I must have already adopted it, so maybe it was One More Day. Either way, I started applying it regularly, discounting War Games, or Chuck Austen's Uncanny X-Men work, or whatever. Removing the relevant comics from collection helped. If the comic offends me, throw it out.

Over the weekend, I reread Steve Engelhart's Hellcat mini-series from 2000. It's an interesting read, though significantly darker than Kathryn Immonen's Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini-series, since Engelhart was dealing with Patsy's adjusting to being alive again, after being trapped in Hell because she committed suicide. They both count in my Hellcat continuity. In the course of the story, Patsy winds up back in Hell and finds Mockingbird, who is there, I guess for killing Phantom Rider. Patsy wants to help Bobbi escape, Bobbi wants to know about Hawkeye. That Secret Invasion said Bobbi was a prisoner of Skrulls, not dead, doesn't matter because I can ignore it easily enough. That Hawkeye and Mockingbird was building on that imprisonment as an experience Bobbi that affects who Bobbi is, a little trickier, since I liked the concept of the series, if not always the execution. I've settled on either Bobbi's trying to deal with her experiences in Hell, rather than Skrulls (and was brought back through handwave, magic, handwave, something something, Scarlet Witch), or the Skrull gods made a deal to get her out of Hell so their followers could impersonate her, and kept her prisoner. The explanation isn't the point. The point is my version of one character's continuity impacted another, tangentially related character.

I've been thinking recently about characters I like. What I like about them, what stories support that interpretation. It's partially because I've been thinking of doing some list posts, and also I think it's better to be able to explain what I like about something, rather than just say "I like it." Which I don't always succeed at, but it's worth a go. This leads us to Batman. I haven't made my dislike of Batman (Bruce Wayne version) a secret. I don't tend to like uptight authoritarians, for one thing*. The other thing is, there are a lot of stories about Tim Drake, or Cass, or Stephanie Brown I like, where Bats acts like a jerk. I count Robin #88-91 because I like that rather than sulk over Batman's latest overreach**, Tim traveled to the other side of the world (fighting mini-yetis and King Snake) to rescue a classmate, who turned out to be the new Naja-Naja of Kobra. The flip side of this is Batman's actions helped kick the whole thing off, so they end up "counting" as well. There are a lot of situations like that, and they all add up into me liking Tim/Steph/Cass, while Batman sits as a character I could do without seeing in any more comics. I do have a few Batman comics*** where he's OK by me, but they're usually older (pre-Knightfall), so I order it as a progression from "Dark Knight, but still nice to his allies", to "Complete asshole to everyone".

Civil War is the same thing. It's definitely altered how I perceive Tony Stark and Reed Richards, and it's one more piece of evidence in the "For such a smart guy, Spider-Man can be real stupid sometimes" file. Didn't help my perception of Ms. Marvel, either, though her reuniting Julia Carpenter with her daughter helped a lot. It'd be better to ignore it entirely, but there were tie-ins I liked (X-Factor, Cable/Deadpool), and stories I loved that were built off what followed, like Richard Rider's return home. Having the Initiative, having the New Warriors reviled, Speedball as Penance, murderers like Venom revered as heroes, all that crap works for a story where Nova can't believe how much stuff has changed, and decides he's better off in space. Plus, it would have been harder to have Rich's verbal smackdown of Tony in Nova #2 if Tony hadn't actually been punching Captain America over legislation while Nova was off saving the whole damn universe.

It's like a community with one water source. You have a farmer, and he uses some of the water for irrigation, and combined with some fertilizer, it makes his crops grow. That's the character with a story I like. But there's a potential side effect, if the water the farmer uses runs off back into the overall supply, and carries some of the fertilizer with it, and others can wind up suffering as a result. It's not be the intended result, but it still happens.

* See also Cyclops, and Captain America for the first 15 years or so I read comics. I think Kurt Busiek sold me on him, somehow. Or I got old enough the speechifying didn't seem so ridiculous.

** In this case, Batman has decided Spoiler should be properly trained (unless it's another futile attempt to convince her she's not good enough), so she's working with him. He needs to check on Tim, but rather than face Alfred (they were on the outs over something), he tells Steph Tim's secret identity and sends her instead. This is after Tim kept his identity from her for however long they'd known each other out of loyalty to Batman. Oh, and Batman certainly hadn't told Stephanie who he was, no sirree.

*** Between Batman and Detective Comics, there's 8 comics total. But two of those star Azrael as Batman, one if Bruce getting his back broken by Bane, not one of Bruce's finest moments, and another is one of my dad's comics, which I kept for the Elongated Man backup story.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Is The Doom You Don't See Worse Than The Doom You Do?

In Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet, what do you think the real Dr. Doom was up to while his robot duplicate was facing Thanos?

The case the robot was kept in said 'In case of global crisis wherein the real Doctor Doom is indisposed, break glass.' That suggests Doom was off exploring other dimensions and/or realities, as Walt Simonson's Fantastic Four run suggested Doom frequently did. However, Doom himself said he created it in the event something happens that's so dire that one Dr. Doom isn't enough.

Which first off, that's quite a bold admission for Doom, that a problem might exist he couldn't handle it alone. Secondly, it suggests the real Dr. Doom didn't have to be off Earth for the robot to be active. Doom said in the first issue that the heroes could either let him join their mission, or he would 'have no choice but to impose my order upon this world to save it. There are not enough super heroes left to stop me and deal with this disaster.'

So I'm thinking that Doom sent his robot duplicate to help the heroes, then went ahead and started taking control over parts of Earth. Quietly, though. The heroes think he's off in space helping them. The only guy on the planet possibly smart enough to recognize Doom's hand in certain outcomes would have been Reed, and he was one of the people lost with Thanos' first strike. As long as Doom doesn't do anything loud or showy, he can making significant gains, undetected. Which leaves him in a better situation after the heroes and his robot set things right.

Except it seems like Doom would have preferred to seek out a power as great as the Infinity Gems himself, leaving the covert conquering to his false self. But I imagine Doom had some failsafe to give him control over the Doombot, in the event it returned with great power, and refused to relinquish it to its master.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I Am Slightly Irritated By This Mild Inconvenience. Fear Me!

Has anyone spent much time navigating Marvel's website since they changed it? If so, what do you think?

I know with the old layout, if you wanted to look for trades of specific material, the search function was lousy, but for what I used the website for, it did OK. That was mostly checking to see what's coming out each week, and to grab covers to use in my review posts. And I'd check their wallpaper section every so often.

That being the case, I haven't been all that happy with the new setup. The site doesn't have either of the comics from Marvel I bought this week listed as being released this week. Until I reached the store, I was sure Heroes for Hire #1 had been delayed*, but nope, there it is. I looked for them by series name, and I looked for She-Hulks #2 under Harrison Wilcox (the writer), since they provided a search by creator option. Didn't produce results.

I'm sure it's a work in progress, but I wouldn't think keeping a list of what's for sale in a given week would be that difficult. It's only a minor inconvenience, I know, but it was handy being able to hope over there real quick, and see how things were shaking out for the month.

*I guessed that Shadowland was behind schedule, which is a safe bet for a Marvel event series, you know?

Friday, December 03, 2010

What I Bought 12/2/2010

Actually got involved in a little sports discussion at the store yesterday, which was strange. It used to happen all the time, when Ken owned the store. If he wasn't too busy, we might talk on Wednesday, and I'd almost certainly show up on Friday and we'd chew the fat for two or three hours. Doesn't happen much these days, my not being around for months at a time doesn't help.

Heroes for Hire #1 - Well, the team's more fluid than I expected. At this stage, anyway, it looks like Misty Knight's simply going to call in whichever "hero" she can make arrangements with that she thinks is suitable for a mission. It's almost "Dial H for Hero" when I think about it, since you'd never be sure just who she'll call. Misty's not the one really running things, and I'm not sure yet what the mastermind gains from all this. Also, Paladin is silently observing stuff throughout, not certain what his involvement is. And when did Misty and Danny break up? They were engaged the last I saw them! And a phantom pregnancy? This is all Shadowland's fault, isn't it?

I'm not sure how much I liked this. More on the second read than the first, and the mysteries do intrigue, but I have this vague feeling I expected more. More what I'm not sure. I'm probably comparing it to issues of Guardians of the Galaxy after that book had already gotten established, which isn't really fair to this book. Plus, Guardians had Cosmo, any other book is going to struggle next to that. I liked Brad Walker's art quite a bit, especially how he fit some of the panels together, to keep the eye moving from one place to the next.

Secret Six #28 - The two Sixes stop fighting to try and deal with Giant Snake Bad Guy Deimos. Ultimately, Alice takes care of Deimos, Deadshot gets his payback on Lady Vic, Alice comes up with a way to help her father, and Waller sort of gets what she wants. Oh, and Dwarfstar definitely gets what's coming to him. I thoroughly enjoyed the end of the issue.

The whole trip to Skartaris itself seemed kind of pointless, but I guess it was. Spy Smasher arranged it entirely to try and set Waller up, so it was all for nothing. Still it was interesting to see all the interplay as usual. Bane and Scandal. Deadshot and Alice, Ragdoll and Alice. Hmm, I wonder if a team can handle having both 'Doll and Killer Shark? One thing I noticed was there were a lot of characters defining certain terms. Bane gave us his idea of love. Ragdoll had his "arithmetic of the inferno". Then there was Deadshot's understanding of the basis for a good relationship. Don't know quite why there'd be so many of those in one issue, other than the team coming back together after their recent split.

She-Hulks #2 - I figured I'd pick up the second issue. It's not like my pull list is filled to the bursting these days. Besides, Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. I have been informed by the Internet this is a good thing.

Jen and Lyra do capture Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, in case you were worried about that outcome. It doesn't go smoothly, but I'd say Lyra had a better go of it than she did in the first issue against Trapster or the Wizard. The complications come in Lyra's attempts to fit in, both in school, and in her non-Hulk body. The second part works pretty well with her being in high school, and being a teenager. Bodies going through changes and all, hers may not feel entirely foreign to her, but there's (as you'd imagine) a huge gap between what she can do as She-Hulk, and what she can do as just Lyra.

I'm really liking this a lot. There's just enough super-heroics to keep it from being non-stop chatter. There's humor to it, as I found Wyatt Wingfoot's completely nonchalant reactions to the details of Jen's life amusing. Obviously he's been around super-heroes enough to be used to stuff like teenage daughters from the future, so that, or the Hulk checking in through a wrist communicator doesn't surprise him. Also, watching Jennifer try to be a mentor to Lyra's kind of new. It's not a role I can recall seeing her in previously, so that's cool.

I'm still liking Ryan Stegman's artwork, mostly. The characters are expressive, the fight scenes are easy to follow, I liked the touch of Jen and Lyra dressing for the weather on a trip to Russia (though I'm not sure Hulks are all that bothered by cold, but why take chances?). I do think Jen especially, should be more muscular. Not to the extent Hulk is, but similar to McGuiness' cover would work. Not detracting from my overall level of enjoyment, though.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Under The Hood

The holiday season is not doing the comic shop any favors. The delivery guy didn't show up until noon, so there were about a half-dozen customers lounging about, discussing whatever. Jack was going to put The Expendables in the DVD player, but he'd taken it home because his son wanted to watch it. Too bad, that would have fulfilled my desire to see it without spending money to do so.

So he popped in Under the Hood, the animated Batman flick instead, which I also hadn't seen. It was good, considering I had no real interest in the story when it was happening in comics. The fights and the chases were animated very well. The voice work was fine, beyond that part of me that is used to the characters sounding a certain way, and them not sounding like that, since they were voiced by different people. It is strange to hear hints of Bender Bending Rodriguez in the Joker, though.

The whole bit with Jason/the Joker/Batman was sort of interesting. It seemed to start with Jason killing crooks because he feels that's the right way to carry out Batman's mission. Then it shifted to him really wanting proof Batman cared about him, because Batman didn't kill the Joker for killing Jason. Killing criminals takes on more of a cry for attention than any desire to stop crime.

What surprised me was Batman admitting he doesn't kill the Joker because if he does it once, he'll never be able to stop. I'm used to Batman having a superhuman level of control, and admitting that if he gave in to the temptation once, he'd never be able to rein it back in, was unexpected. Then again, he can't seem to stop fighting crime, even when he needs rest. That's how Bane broke him, keep throwing problems out there, and let Batman exhaust himself by refusing to take nights off. So he can be ruled just as much by obsessions as anyone else.

The end caught me off guard. The flashback to Jason's first night on the job, as he runs to the Batmobile, then roll credits. I wasn't expecting some decisive confrontation between Red Hood and Bats, where Jason loses and is thrown in jail or whatever, but that wasn't what I expected.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Did You Request A Chaperone? No? Me Neither.

During the Johns/Goyer JSA run, did the JSA know Captain Marvel was a teenager named Billy? I know Stargirl did, because she and Billy were sort of starting a relationship (and that's what lead me to wonder), but what about the rest?

I came into JSA late, long after it was ended (and then restarted as Justice Society of America), so I was under the impression they knew the deal with Captain Marvel. I had been reading JLA, and during Kelly's Obsidian Age story, Captain Marvel was one of the heroes Batman tried recruiting for the replacement league. When his little messenger spheres (the design for which he swiped from Mr. Terrific) approached Cap, he was at the JSA headquarters, as Billy. He said Shazam, and the Wisdom of Solomon apparently told him his place was with the JSA. Then another sphere asked Hawkgirl if she'd join up, she did, and away they went. I just assumed this meant the team was in on his secret.

Reading some JSA, it seems they weren't. Stargirl was surprised to meet Billy Batson, and Jay Garrick broke them up because he thought it was inappropriate. I'm guessing he didn't know Captain Marvel's a teenager in a grown-up body, and so he thought it was an adult hitting on a teenager. Which from the outside, does look iffy.

So why didn't Billy clue them in? The group clearly isn't adverse to having youngsters on the team, judging by Stargirl and Jakeem. Everybody seems to know everyone else's secret identities anyway. Surely the idea of a kid who speaks a magic word and transforms into a superhuman isn't that strange to a team that had the Spirit of Vengeance among its members.

I suppose Billy may have opted not to tell the rest of the team because it was between him and Courtney, something private that didn't involve the rest of the team. If that's the case, they should have told Garrick to butt out, that there were things he didn't know, and no, they weren't gonna tell him, because it's not his business, that's why.