Saturday, December 31, 2011


The most interesting thing about McQ was that in the final showdown with Santiago and his men, McQ (John Wayne) actually has the firepower advantage. He has a MAC-10, and we've already seen he's an excellent shot. Meanwhile, Santiago and his men are carrying pump-action shotguns and assorted handguns. How often does the good guy have the better weapons, in addition to be smart enough to use them properly? Also, even though this movie was made in the '70s, not the '80s, the bad guys are still morons. In particular, after McQ shoots up one car of bad guys, the lone survivor, loudly opens his car door and steps out to try and shoot McQ in the back, rather than just sticking the barrel out the window and shooting him in the back that way. Complete moron.

Other things of note:

There's a car chase sequence that felt like it was trying really hard to emulate Bullit. I don't think it pulled it off, partially because he was chasing a delivery truck rather than another fast car. The chase sequence on the beach at the end was pretty good.

The main female lead was played by Diana Muldaur, who I knew mostly as Dr. Pulaski from thos seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I never liked Pulaski, mostly because she was so biased against Data. "Oh Data, you can't be Sherlock Holmes because you don't have intuition like us humans. Ha, ha!" Damn it, he's trying hard, cut him some slack! I shouldn't have been surprised, since Data himself mentioned humans could be very prejudiced like that the first time he met Riker. It still didn't do the character any favors with me.

I wondered how a cop could afford to have a boat, and a Trans Am. The answer was "Borrow heavily against his pension." He should have tried the "Steal drugs from the evidence room" tactic. That seems to work pretty well. Until it doesn't. It's be too much to hope for that Wayne would play a dirty cop.

He does engage in a little beating up of a mouthy "militant radical", who looked an awful lot like a hippie. Hippies don't strike me as particularly militant. Mouthy, sure, but militant, not so much. This one was though, and he got kicked in the kneecap for his trouble. Oh, sorry, he "ran into a chair".

Friday, December 30, 2011

Narrow Margins

Narrow Margins was a little different than I expected. For a movie about a mob boss having his thieving attorney killed, then needing a witness eliminated, said mob boss is largely absent. He appears in the opening scene, when the killing takes place, and again at the end, during his trial. For a movie about the mob boss having a mole in the district attorney's office, we see very little of that. We don't even see what happens to the mole once he's discovered, we just know Gene Hackman as Deputy D.A. Caulfield figured out who it was, and eventually called someone higher up.

Almost all of the movie takes place on a train heading to Vancouver, as Hackman attempts to keep the identity and location of the witness hidden from the professional killers on the train with them. He does a good enough job of it that most of the tension comes from Hackman trying to avoid being spotted by them, which leads to several instances of him ducking into someone else's cabin and trying to explain why he's there, and in one case, leaping into bed with a woman, which seems like pushing your luck a little. Very surprised she didn't burst out screaming the second he left.

The movie does cheat a little by ensuring that Hackman can't get ahold of a real gun long enough for it to do him any good. They fall off the train, or he has to leave it behind because he's under fire. Had to be a degree of difficulty, I suppose. This is marginally offset by the professional killers being fairly stupid, under the apparent '80s movie rule that all bad guys are morons (Except Alan Rickman). I mean, for guys who thin so highly of themselves, they don't do very well at all. Sure, they have no idea what Anne Archer's character looks like. But they do know what Gene Hackman looks like, and it takes them until the last third of the movie to pin him down, then they fail to stick to him until he leads them where they want to go. There's only so many other places on the train he could stay before he'd have to check back in with her. otherwise she might decide he's been killed and jump off the train. I give her better odds of surviving alone in the Canadian wilderness than Hackman or the two killers.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Different Take On A Belgian Detective

Having worked through most of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries he had, my dad turned to the other tv movie versions of Agatha Christie's work, which including a few stories with Peter Ustinov in the Poirot role. Which was different, since Ustinov doesn't play Hercule Poirot as nearly fastidiously neat as Suchet does. He's also much more abrasive and frustrated with his sidekick Hastings. Suchet had a sort of amusement at Hastings' frequent befuddlement, but it was good-natured. Ustinov is more mean-spirited about it.

The one I found most interesting was Thirteen for Dinner, where Ustinov plays Poirot, and Suchet plays Poirot's other sometimes partner, Scotland Yard's Inspector Japp. What was curious was the interactions between the two characters were more like Holmes and Lestrade, with Poirot bugging the hell out of Japp, and the inspector resenting the interference of this civilian in his investigation.

Not that Japp didn't have a point. During Poirot's big speech revealing who did it and how, he also reveals that he found a critical piece of evidence in one of the victims' possessions, a piece of evidence he failed to mention to Japp until that precise moment. Which sounds like withholding evidence, but Poirot was right, so I guess that makes it OK.

It does bring up a problem I have with a lot of these sort of mysteries. You have this indepenent investigator nosing around, and they find some crucial piece of evidence during their attempt at breaking and entering. Then they present it as the clincher to prove their theory that so and so is guilty of murder. We know they did find it exactly where they say they did, but a lot of times there wasn't any one in the story there to witness it. The rest of the characters only have their word for it, which would seem to be a potential flaw in prosecuting the case. I mean, that's kind of an unstable chain of evidence, but most of the stories are concerned with finding the killer, and prosecution is handled off-screen afterward.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This Floyd Still Wants To Live

Looking over the current Suicide Squad series, I'm starting to feel the new Deadshot has more in common with Rick Flag than with the pre-relaunch Deadshot.

His air of indifference seems more forced. Like the bit with Harley, making certain to point out that he just wanted to get his rocks off. Not that pre-relaunch Floyd was a romantic, but he seemed more prone to let his actions speak for themselves. He'd sleep with a woman, but he might shoot her later if he felt like it. Ask Jeanette. He didn't feel the need to state it, because his actions spoke louder.

Relaunched Floyd has more of a preexisting relationship with Waller than the rest of the Squad. Which won't necessarily save him, but it does allow him to argue with her in a way the rest of the team isn't afforded. Current Floyd clearly doesn't have the old Floyd's death wish (at least not yet), given how insistent he is about getting the bomb out of his head, and being cured of the techno-virus he's been infected with. He does have some of the old Floyd's indifference to his teammates, and he doesn't have Rick Flag's deep sense of duty, but at the same time, it feels like he's having to try a bit to not care about the rest of the Squad. It was easy for Old Floyd, to the point you couldn't be sure he might not kill you himself, and it was surprising if he saved someone.

Admittedly, one of my biggest complaints about the current Suicide Squad has been the characters don't seem right. Meaning they aren't behaving how I think they ought to based on old appearances in a continuity that no longer seems to exist. But it could be interesting, a Deadshot not looking for his own end, but who might get that way from how cavalierly Waller toys with his and the other Squad members' lives. Or he could let the facade drop and reveal he actually does care about his teammates, if only a little, and feels some responsibility to them.

I lean towards the latter, if for no other reason than Waller. She's made it pretty clear she doesn't care about any of them beyond whether they complete the job, and that's not an attitude designed to create a sense of team (except a collective loathing of her). It seems more like to engineer an "every crook for themselves" attitude, with each person trying to stay alive first, complete the mission second, and maybe worry about a teammate third. Which is the sort of attitude that's going to impair the success of a mission at some point. It helps to have someone to watch your back, but I'm not sure anyone on the team would do that for anyone else right now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Self-Sacrifice Rears Its Head Again

I'm a little behind on Avengers Academy, so perhaps this has already been answered. In issue 21, Jocasta appears to have been attacked, and the body she'd been using wrecked. Quicksilver confirms she didn't download her consciousness into any of her other bodies, and there's no trace of her in their systems. So she's basically dead, and someone shut down the security systems from within, so it was one of them. Dun, dun, dun!

So how confident are people this was something Jocasta planned? She was talking about studying the cadets to figure out what they need, for the purpose ot "saving" them. She also there would be pain, though she doesn't specify pain for them or pain for her.

I'm not sure how her appearing to be dead is going to help the cadets. They could start questioning the teachers and their motives more, but they've been doing that ever since they learned the real reason for the Academy. It could be she feels Veil's departure has disrupted their friendship and she thinks this will bring them closer together. Whether that would happen because the kids decide to find her murderer, because they think some of the teachers suspect them, or because they feel they need to protect themselves against whichever teacher has gone round the bend. Maybe it's about the teachers, she wants to spur them into being warmer towards the cadets. Don't look at them simply as students, or soldiers, but as kids who need a friendly older presence. Especially with Justice and Speedball gone, the teachers seem less likely to be jovial.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Happens After The Aliens Are Dead?

War of the Worlds was on yesterday. The aliens were killed by bacteria, or viruses, as they typically are. What comes after?

That wasn't all the Martians there are, surely. They must have had some idea what was happening to them and sent a warning back home. So will there be more Martians, prepared to try and protect themselves from pathogens? If they're smart enough to reach Earth, they have to be smart enough to come up with something that might protect them against diseases.

What about Earth? Will they concentrate on rebuilding, or would we see several wars of opportunity? Rulers of smaller nations that perhaps weren't hit as hard deciding this is their big chance to elevate their status. I suppose there'd be a race to reverse-engineer the Martians' technology, but would it be to use it against other Earthlings, or for a revenge strike against Mars? Maybe humanity would really surprise us and try to adapt it to something peaceful. I don't know what Martian tripods use as an energy source, but it's almost certainly an upgrade of the types of power plants we have.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 22 - Stagecoach

Plot: It's a bit of an espionage-themed episode, as Brisco is enlisted (rather rudely) by the U.S. government to escort a prisoner to Mexicali (while Bowler heads there separately to wine and dine the Spaniards). There, Emma Steed will be exchanged to the Spanish for one of the United States' agents. This requires Brisco and Emma to be handcuffed together on a stage along with a colorful cast of characters, who promptly begin dying one at a time. This leaves Brisco trying to keep himself and Emma alive until he can determine who among the passengers is the killer. There's also the question of just why Emma is really there. Turns out Agent Brown wasn't the only crooked guy in the government.

Does Brisco use his gun? He shoots out the barrel of a sniper rifle.

Things Comet does: N/A

Kiss Count: 2, Emma (21 overall). That's the first kiss since "Mail Order Brides". heck of a dry spell there, Brisco.

Is Pete Hutter in this episode? YES!! Whoo!

Pete Hutter quote: 'In all my years, in all my days, I have never hit a woman. I hit a man in a dress once, but that was another story.'

Non-Pete Quote: Emma - 'Why would I head south?' Brisco - 'Because you're hiding something from me, Ms. Steed.' Emma - 'Mr. County, I'm your prisoner. Of course I am.'

Brisco's Coming Things: Stand-up comedy, maybe. It pretty much lays out how the airline industry is gonna go, from pre-prepared food, to seats as floatation devices, to pamphlets with safety procedures on them.

Other: I should have mentioned this earlier, but at the end of "Bye Bly", Brisco and Bowler are asked by the President to serve as special agents. Soc had already become an 'intelligence operative for the executive branch' at some earlier date. Which makes the agents gathering Bowler and Brisco at gunpoint in their bedrooms all the more curious.

Amongst the passengers, we have Bobby (Aries Spears) as the aspiring entertainer, Ms. Plowright (Debra Jo Rupp, who I always think of as Kitty from That '70s Show), and Dr. Milo (Timothy Leary) as a slightly spacey botany professor Brisco had for Biology. Brisco got a C-. There's also Ashok (Shelley Malil), the stage driver. This episode also sees the return of Owen (played by series creator Carlton Cuse), the landscape painter, who painted the rock the train carrying the Bly gang crashed into in the pilot.

This actually starts as a bit of a mystery, since Brisco's trying to find the killer amongst the passengers, as well as figure out what Emma's game is. As it turns out, Emma doesn't know everything that's going either, and she might be even worse off than Brisco, since she thinks she knows what the score is.

I'm predisposed to like this episode, if for no other reason than it brought Pete Hutter back. He's ridiculous, but some of it is intentional, and I like villains that go weird with their plans. Pete does enjoy using rocks. It also appears that Bowler as Brisco's "faithful companion" has spread to the underworld, since even Pete calls Bowler that.

Bowler's Spanish is much better than Brisco's, which is why he was assigned the wining and dining. Unfortunately, he wound up having to try and catch up to Brisco with Soc in tow. Those two are always a fun pair, since Soc is, perhaps despite himself, fascinated by the work Brisco and Bowler do, and the skills they've learned, such as Bowler's tracking skill. At the same time, he isn't so keen on the rest of it, sleeping outdoors, eating snakes (Bowler's first rule of the trail: Don't eat what you bring, if you can eat what you find), and so on. Which gives Bowler something to needle him about. Soc - 'I don't backwash!' Bowler (as Soc drinks from canteen) - 'I do.'

Are prisoner exchanges typically on a time limit? Trying not to give too much away, the crooked government fellow wants Emma dead, presumably so she can't be exchanged for the guy the U.S. is getting back. Couldn't the U.S. scrounge up another prisoner to use? I guess it would take time, and if it took too long, then the crook would get what he wanted. As it turns out, assuming the Briscoverse has the same history as we do, he got what he wanted anyway. It just took another 4 years.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Humanoid Typhoon Would Fit In With The Other Disasters

I originally discussed this in response to Fantastic Fangirls' Q & A #140, but my comment was a tad incoherent, because I got so wrapped up in possibilities I forgot to proofread. Appalling, I know. So I'm going to try it again.

Question: What manga character would you like to see in the Marvel or DC Universe?

Vash the Stampede from Trigun, into the Marvel Universe. He already feels a lot like a Marvel character. He lost someone very important to him, but the lessons she imparted are what drives him to try to save everyone. He likes to help people, but also has an immense power he can't always control, capable of devastating cities. If it weren't for his protecting humanity from his genocidal brother*, there'd be a fair question whether he's done more harm than good. Oh, and he's feared and hated by humans he swears to protect. Partially because of his destructive capability (even if I don't think most people have any idea how he manages it), and partially because I think people know on some instinctive level that he's different from them. Which makes them afraid, and that's dangerous.

A little Spidey, a little Hulk, a little X-Men. He'd fit right in. He has the silly personality most of the time, which could be to put people at ease if they're concerned about his reputation. I think it could also be because he prefers to find the lighter side of things, rather than sink into depression. Kind of similar to how you can see Spider-Man's jokes as a defense mechanism, but they could simply be Peter Parker letting loose a little, showing the sarcasm and humor he didn't often get to when he was a bullied academic. It may be an act, but it also has an element of truth to it.

Vash has a seemingly endless optimism within. Even having lived over a hundred years, having seen and been subject to a variety of cruelties inflicted by his brother and humanity, he still has compassion for both. He still believes humans are worth protecting, that people will revert to their better values given a chance, and that conflicts can be settled without bloodshed. He doesn't always manage to carry it off, but he continues to try (allowing for his occasional fall into a funk after being forced to destroy another city). Maybe that would be a foolish attitude to maintain in the Marvel Universe, where no situation is so bad it can't be made worse by yet another Norman Osborn ascendancy. But it can't hurt to have a consistently upbeat person around to counter some gloom and doom, lend a little hope to the proceedings.

OK that's more thematic, but there are any number of stories I'd enjoy seeing with him. Assuming his $$60 billion bounty carried over, the Marvel U. is full of colorful hitmen. From Taskmaster, to Deadpool, the Sinister Syndicate, or this Bruiser fellow Waid just created, all the way down to guys like Chance or the Trapster. Would I like to see Vash dodging Arcade's death traps? Yes, yes I would. At least some of the Gung-Ho Guns would fit right in. An assassin who uses lethal soundwaves from a saxophone (though it goes beyond that), when he's not fronting a band in his white suit and pink shirt?

He's potentially long-lived enough you could have some adventures set in the past, dealing with Mr. Sinister (who would almost certainly be interested in the power Vash and Knives have), or maybe some prior avatar of Khonshu. Or a Ghost Rider, or Two-Gun Kid. I mean, you'd almost have to do something with Marvel's Western characters at some point, given the style of Trigun. Or there could be adventures in the far future. Vash meets the X-Men of 2099, both sides still struggling for acceptance. There's no telling what might have happened with the plants by then. Probably nothing good, given the stuff Alcehmax and the rest got up to. Maybe the plants are getting a little fed up with how humanity treats them, or Stark-Fujikawa created some knockoff Knives and surprise! lost control of them. Or some iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Look, if freaking Wonder Man can make it to the 30th Century, I refuse to believe Vash can't ration his power to last at least that long.

On a planet that has Damage Control and Night Nurse, the Bernardelli Insurance Company could certainly exist. Though with as many superhumans as it would have to contend with, Vash might not be nearly the priority he was in his series. Would Bernardelli hire superhumans to use to try and prevent trouble? Go and shut down villainous acts before they start?

Though really, Vash seems perfectly suited for a run in with the childlike version of Hulk. Because trying to befriend the behemoth is exactly the sort of thing Vash would do. Things are going well, beans and donuts are being shared, until some aspiring hitman takes a shot at Vash, and succeeds in enraging the Hulk. Which leads to the Hulk going on one of his town destroying rampages, with Vash trying to calm him down or divert him. Failing that protect all the townspeople by getting the Hulk mad at him, so that now he's trying not to get smashed. And that pesky triggerman just doesn't know when to leave well enough alone.

* I still contend naming Vash's brother Knives was a horrible idea. I mean, Knives, really.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Run Thru The Jungle, Before It Gets Flattened

I wasn't quite as excited at the prospect of watching BAT*21 as my dad was when it arrived in the mail. I like Gene Hackman and Danny Glover as actors all right, and it turned out to have Jerry Reed in it, as Glover's commanding officer, but I didn't have any particular reason to be super excited.

It's "based on a true story", which of course leaves me wondering how much of the movie is actually true. I assume they spiced up some of the dialogue, either added or subtracted some profanity. I imagine "Ham" (Hackman) did get shot down on a mission to gather information of enemy missile defenses he volunteered for. I also believe the idea of using golf terminology as code to fix Ham's location. Half my mom's family loves golf, and I wouldn't have a clue what Ham was talking about. What chance would the enemy forces have?

But did a Vietnamese kid really save him from a boobytrap on a cane bridge, prompting Ham and the kid to exchange gifts? Did Ham really have to kill some random Vietnamese man who came across Ham on his property, eating his rice? Did Danny Glover actually steal his commanding officer's helicopter to go try and rescue Ham? I could see the rescue unit as a whole making a last attempt right before the massive carpet-bombing was set to begin, but for the guy to steal a chopper on his own, when he hadn't flown one in 15 years, I don't know. Truth is stranger than fiction, I guess.

I did enjoy the back and forth between Hackman and Glover, the attempts to to keep Ham's spirits up as he gets a much closer look at war than he ever wanted. It reminded me a little of Die Hard, only with a jungle full of NVA* instead of a skyscraper full of thieves posing as terrorists. I like Jerry Reed's character a lot more than Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson, though, largely because Reed wasn't as big an idiot.

Actually, the very end of the movie reminded me of Predator. Large section of jungle, flattened/burned out, wounded guy(s) staggering out of the haze, here comes a rescue, well, it was a rescue boat, but there was a helicopter at the very end, close enough.

* Or were they Vietcong? Some of the guys had the "black jammies" look that I think is shorthand for VC, but I figured the tanks were North Vietnamese Army.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Adam's Rib

I hadn't thought of Spencer Tracy as a comedic actor. All the movies I've seen him in - Inherit the Wind, Malaya, Bad Day at Black Rock - were pretty serious. I laughed at his beatdown of Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day, but it wasn't really meant to be funny. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at Adam's Rib, though there are a lot of people in that film who need a punch in the face, Actually, I think everyone, including Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, probably deserved at least one during the film.

A woman trails her husband from his office to the apartment of another woman he's fooling around with. The wife then barges in on them and tries to shoot them, managing to wing her husband. She's put on trial. Tracy is Adam Bonner, assistant district attorney, assigned to prosecute. Hepburn is Amanda Bonner, defense attorney, married to Adam, who takes it upon herself to defend the woman.

Her argument is that if a man barged in on his wife with another man and shot at them, he would be (and has been in the past) acquitted. As she stridently believes men and women are equal, Amanda argues Mrs. Attinger should also be acquitted. Which is the sort of argument a lawyer would make. "Because past juries were filled with imbeciles who make poor decisions, you should follow their example and make an equally poor decision!"

Being on opposite sides of the case quickly starts to harm the Bonners' marriage, which seemed to be a very good one. They're both loving, Amanda seems a little flighty, but Adam is kind of absent-minded and gruff, so they balance each other well. But Adam doesn't really approve of how Amanda is going about defending her client, especially as it includes a couple of occasions where she publicly humiliates him.

Adam made two mistakes: He underestimated her, and also overestimated the intelligence of jurors. She knows his weak points, how to prod him into losing composure, while at the same time making her point about the equality of women. So she takes full advantage, making him lose trains of thought, fumble his words as he does when he gets angry, and so on. Meanwhile, Tracy figures it's incredibly obvious Doris Attinger is guilty, so he relies on the facts to make the verdict self-evident, not realizing that Amanda is working the jury emotionally very effectively. He really shouldn't have let her end every question she put to Mr. Attinger with 'Tell the truth'. That's prejudicial as hell, I'm pretty sure Adam could have objected. He gets his revenge later on, but it looked like he destroyed his marriage in the process. But, if he's telling the truth at the very end, he pulled one over on her again to fix things. Pity he didn't show those wiles in the courtroom, he'd have gotten that conviction he was after.

David Wayne plays Kip, an incredibly annoying songwriter/piano player who clearly has designs on Amanda and everything he does makes me want to punch him in the face. He's like a prototype of the character Charlie Sheen played on Two and a Half Men. I just hope it was more of a stretch for Wayne than it was for Sheen. Mr. Attinger really did have what he got coming, but Doris and the other woman weren't exactly prizes either. Amanda pulls some stunts that probably ought to have gotten her thrown out of court, and Adam says some really stupid, sometimes patronizing stuff to Amanda at home. So yes, everyone deserved a good sock in the jaw at some point. Which I suppose means they're fairly human characters. Most real people deserve to get punched at some point in their life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where I Argue With James Garner About The Cause of Wars

Also known as watching the Americanization of Emily. It has its moments, it's funny, it has James Coburn in it. I don't think I've ever watched a movie with James Coburn in it I didn't enjoy at least a little. Perhaps the Morgan Freeman Corollary needs to become the Coburn Corollary. Or I could create a Coburn Coefficient.

Still, I heartily disagree with Charles' (James Garner) point to Emily's mother about war. He insists that the best way to stop wars is to stop exalting dying in wars. I tend to think that's the human tendecy to make the best of a bad situation. A person loses a loved one, they don't want to think it was meaningless, or for no reason. So you get the idea they died for some great cause serving their nation. I think we'd be better served trying to eliminate greed, because how often do people start conquering because they want more than they have? Hitler argued - among other things - the Germans needed more Lebensraum, literally "living room". And German people said, "Sure, having more stuff sounds good, and he says we're a master race, so we ought to be able to have what we want."

One of the easiest ways to get more stuff is take it from a nearby person who already has it. The Vikings, the Aztecs, all the European imperialism, it was on some level about getting more stuff. More livestock, land, slaves, gold, natural resources, favorable trade routes so they can get that other stuff faster. It certainly ought to be easier to eliminate what Charlie's talking about than greed, but I'm unconvinced doing so would solve the problem of war.

I mean, do most people who participate in war eagerly anticipating their own deaths? Thinking, "Oh boy, I can't wait to be shot and die on some beach I'd never heard of!" I have my doubts. War is profitable. It enables officers to advance, to gain more money, authority, opportunities, power. Businessmen have the chance to mass produce all the things a war requires. Soldiers don't have that level of opportunity, but they can always take what they find as they go. Spoils of war of war, and all. Maybe people dress up their reasons in the terms of "liberation" and "manifest destiny" as Charlie asserts. That was Hitler's excuse for annexing the Sudetenland, to join the heavily Germanic population there with the one in Germany. Underneath it all though, wars start frequently because one group of people want something, and decide to take it from someone else. Then some other group of people decide they won't let the first group take what they please and away we go.

Now, I don't entirely disagree with Charlie, but someone needed to challenge him. Few people do. Emily and her mother don't, they sit there and let him make his big speech. Buzz (Coburn) argues with him later, but he makes the very arguments that Charlie's railing against, that being on the front lines and dying for your country is some great honor, and they should both feel blessed for the opportunity. That Buzz then loses his damn mind and chases Charlie onto Omaha Beach with a loaded .45, rather than let him withdraw to shoot the footage he's supposed to be getting, kind of proves Charlie's point. No one ever challenges Charlie calmly and rationally. It's Emily getting weepy and emotional, or Buzz being gung-ho.

I don't have an issue with Charlie being a coward. I wouldn't want to go to war and be shot at, possibly have to kill people, either. He did serve on the front lines (at Guadalcanal), albeit briefly, so he has an idea what it's like up there. Being scared of dying seems like a reasonable response. Admittedly, Charlie being the only one who doesn't place some moral value on dying makes life hard for him, since his superiors are just as enamored of his dying in battle as everyone else. So he gets overwhelmed by the sentimentalists, especially at the end.

I don't know what to make of the end. Charlie vows to tell the truth about what happened, then changes his mind and goes along with the lie about his being a brave hero. He does so for reasons that are perfectly in character for him. Namely, he doesn't want to go to prison for admitting cowardice in the face of the enemy, but that means he's allowing himself to be played up as the hero who bravely lead the charge onto Omaha Beach, which is exactly the kind of thing he dislikes. I guess Charlie is against the mythologizing of war in the concrete sense of it getting him or his brothers killed, which fits with his character. He says he doesn't believe in acting on principles. So maybe Arthur Hiller is saying to combat the mythologizing, you need someone opposed to it on principle, not merely on the grounds they don't wish to die.

I don't know if I'd call it a good movie. It's preachy, and one-sided, but heck, there are plenty of movies that extolled the virtues of dying in war. Having one going the other way is more than fair. There are quite a few parts that are funny. Charlie's just enough of a jerk - he's the kind of jerk who these days would say, 'I'm just telling it like it is' - that watching him get screwed over by this war mania of his superiors and friends is very amusing. I didn't want him to die, but I did like seeing him sweat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Perhaps He Is Comrade Accuser?

Captain America - 'What would you do if this was Hala? Would you sanction the deaths of so many Kree citizens?'

Ronan the Accuser - 'I would. I have. Too many times to count.'

{Annihilators: Earthfall #3}

I thought that exchange made for an interesting contrast.

Cap fights so others don't have to, and I think that's part of why he's so deadset against sacrificing non-combatants. Because if he has to resort to that, he hasn't done his duty, as he's allowed those people to be dragged into it. Ronan seems to take the approach that he's fighting, and there are other soldiers, and people who aren't soldiers, but the people who aren't soldiers aren't exempt from the conflict. No one is totally a non-combatant in the Kree Empire because at the end of the day, the Empire is the important thing, more than the individual. Because he isn't lying up there. He was prepared to kill every Kree on Hala with Sentries at the tailend of Conquest, as his way of shutting down the Phalanx. It would kill a lot of Kree, but the Empire as a whole would be preserved. They are Kree, they will endure.

Captain America certainly cares about his country, and wants to defend it, but part of what he's defending is people's freedom and individuality. He wouldn't support a United States that was a police state, simply because it was the U.S. In that sense, the two characters are similar, in that they fight for what they believe their home stands for. Their homes just happen to stand for very different things.

I was going to say Cap's an idealist, and Ronan a realist, but I'm not sure that's true. Cap knows people die in war, he said as much to Mettle last month in Avengers Academy, so it isn't as though he has his head in the clouds. And I think Ronan believes in the strength of his people and their ability to overcome anything too much to not have some of the idealist in him. It may simply be buried deep, like his romantic streak was prior to meeting Crystal.

It could be a matter of their circumstances. Captain America has lived through a time where the Earth is almost constantly in danger. From Galactus, the Kree, the Beyonder, the Red Skull, Iron Man, whoever. But everytime, the planet pulls through. It's not always clean, but it does always work out. The Kree have been kicked in the teeth a lot recently. Not as bad as the Skrulls, but it's been ugly. Unable to eliminate the Skrulls, the evolutionary dead end, stymied by a backwards mudball (Earth), half their empire lost to Annihilus, conquered by the Phalanx, millions killed by their own crazy leader, millions more killed by the Shi'ar's crazy leader. Things frequently don't come up roses for the Kree. They die in great numbers, and unlike Cap's costumed friends, they frequently don't come back.

Following this line of thinking about the Kree started me wondering if they were originally meant to be Space Soviets. It doesn't work entirely, because I'm pretty sure the Kree Empire's economy is at least somewhat capitalistic, but politically it might. The Supreme Intelligence was a massive computer somehow comprised of the minds of many of the brightest citizens and generals in the Empire. A giant collective. He eventually became ruler of the Empire, to the point he's worshipped as a god by some of his subjects. OK, given the Soviets disapproval of religion that might not fly, but then again, we're talking about treating the Fearless Leader as an infallible being, so maybe it does. He also killed a lot of his people with a Nega-Bomb, because he thought it would help the Empire. The leader having lots of his subjects killed because he thinks it's best for the state is something the Soviet Union was certainly familiar with.

Falling further down the rabbit hole, I start to wonder if Annihilation could have been read as a commentary on the state of Russia, after the fall of communism. Let me lay it out, then you can laugh.

The Supreme Intelligence had been lobotomized by the House Fiyero, a group of merchants and businessmen who usurped power, even though they don't know anything about running an empire -certainly nothing about winning a war - and are really only concerned with protecting their own backsides and lining their pockets. This becomes apparent when they make a backroom deal with the representatives of the Annihilation Wave, a destructive force from an opposing universe that has invaded while claiming they are merely defending themselves from outward agression (of the universe which the Kree inhabits natural expansion). Ronan, at this point a loyal follower of the Supreme Intelligence*, shows up, kills the leaders of House Fiyero as traitors to the Empire, and rallies the loyal soldiers against the Annihilation Wave. They stave off being entirely conquered, but still lose half their territory.

OK, let's see. That makes Supremor Leonid Brezhnev. House Fiyero, um, Boris Yeltsin, maybe Gorbachev? No, maybe they stand in for the various businessmen who have made a killing since the fall of communism. I think that makes the U.S. (or the various Western powers) the Annihilation Wave, and that would make Ronan. . . Vladimir Putin? Or he was the hardliners from the August Coup of '91. Which would make the Inhumans Yeltsin, though I'm not sure how to reconcile that with Ronan and Crystal's marriage. No, given Putin's time in the KGB, let's stick with him for Ronan.

OK, you can laugh now. I know it doesn't hold together. It was worth a shot.

* Looking on the Internet, it appears Ronan hasn't always been a big fan of the Supreme Intelligence, even trying to overthrow it at some point. The Kree-Skrull War, probably, since Rick Jones was involved.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Terra Incognita

I started reading Persona Non Grata, the third book in Ruth Downie's Medicus series, without realizing it was the third book. It didn't end up making much difference, as I stopped reading after 70 pages. I found Ruso's family in Gaul even more irritating than he did, and decided I really didn't care about their money problems.

Then I found Terra Incognita, the second book in the series, and read that instead. In this installment, Ruso has agreed to travel north with one of the legions to the very border of the Empire. While he's there, he gets dragged into the murder of the local unit's trumpeter. The Romans think the killer is a local, due to a recent rise in local unrest, spurred on by the mysterious Stag Man. However, the doctor for their unit is also claiming responsibility, though he seems to be mad. The Romans would prefer to convict the local, and while Ruso wouldn't object if he's guilty, he can't figure why the doctor is saying he's the murderer.

The situation between Ruso and Tilla is still a little dodgy. At the end of Medicus, Tilla had opted to stay with Ruso. Because there are certain things about Ruso she likes, even if he is a foreigner. While Ruso certainly cares for her, he also still considers her his slave. Which makes the part about them sleeping together kind of awkward. Downie tries to circumvent this by making it clear Ruso doesn't actually own Tilla, that she's there of her own choice. There's also the fact the Ruso doesn't do well as a commanding presence with her, and frequently opts to simply try to talk with her, person to person. You could make the case he doesn't truly think of her that way, but falls back into it because that's how everyone else perceives their relationship. Which still isn't a particularly admirable position, and it's one that continued into the early part of the next book. Regardless, it's kind of strange when one person believes they're there by choice, and the other thinks the first person is there because they have to be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 21 - Ned Zed

Plot: Presented as a father reading a dime novel to his son, we find Brisco on the trail of Bly Gang member Ned Zed (Casey Siemaszko), the 'most notorious and best bank robber' around. This leads Brisco to the town of Lumberville, where he makes two less than welcome discoveries. One is the presence of Bowler, working as payroll transport. The other is one Francis McCabe (Brenda Bakke), Brisco's one-time fiance?! Brisco has to deal with the attraction he still feels for Francis, put a stop to Ned's latest bank robbery, while contending with Ned's new upgrades. And looming in the background is shadowy, furious figure of Frenchie Bearpaux (Ray Bumatai), and his sidekick, Jacque!

OK, "sidekick" is a little strong. Jacque is a stuffed bear Frenchie talks to. He's not entirely right in the head, you see.

Does Brisco use his gun? He tries some target practice with bottles. He shoots repeatedly at payroll bandits, and he took some shots at Ned.

Stuff Comet Does: Avoid bear traps. Open safes.

Kiss Count: 0 (19 overall). There might have been something happening off-screen, but I can't be sure.

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Frankie - 'Dad, I don't mind if you skip the mushy stuff.'

Brisco's Coming Things: Ned's "machinery gun". Hand replacement surgery, sort of.

Gang Count: 1, Ned Zed, arrested (11 or 15). This concludes the Gang Count.

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A. I'm going to drop this section, because the Orbs have shuffled off stage.

Other: I'm not certain entirely when the story the father and son are reading takes place. The beginning of the story starts with where Brisco was initially in the pilot episode: About to be lynched in Mexico because they thought he was cheating at cards.. Given that he's sending sarcastic telegrams back to the tycoons, I think he'd been after Bly's gang for awhile, at least. He and Bowler aren't working together yet, but they are at least somewhat friendly, so my guess is this is somewhere between "Pirates!" and "Deep in the Heart of Dixie".

This episode is a bit more light-hearted than the previous one, so perhaps it serves to let the audience decompress a bit after the recent showdowns with Bly. We get a deathtrap involving a saw mill, and I don't believe I've ever seen Brisco that unnerved by a brush with death. This time around, it's Briscos who gets left behind by the girl, instead of the other way around. Bowler plays the comic foil a bit, as he learns how difficult payroll transport really is, and he has an unpleasant run-in with Ned. Ned himself is clever, and certainly despicable, but he's presented in such a way that's he's still funny.

I'm highly amused by Frenchie, but I can't decide whether he would have worked as a recurring comic villain. They kind of have Pete Hutter to fill that role (as we'll see in subsequent episodes), but there's no reason we couldn't have had another silly, kind of crazy villain.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

For some reason I decided to watch Khartoum last night. Well, anything to take a break from the John Le Carre-fest we've been through this week. I'm sure those stories are accurate representations of the espionage trade, but I don't particularly enjoy watching a bunch of pompous old Englishmen sit around and spout off about how cleverly they've turned an asset or whatever.

So Khartoum instead, with Charlton Heston as Charles Gordon, sent up the Nile to try and protect the English and Egyptian citizens at Khartoum from the forces of the Mahdi (Laurence Olivier). Gordon, in his obstinate way, decides to try and save everyone. Once he learns the Mahdi is not going to stop, and will kill all the unbelievers, Gordon realizes the British military must get involved. Which is exactly what Prime Minister Gladstone doesn't want to do, which is why he sent Gordon alone, save one Colonel Stewart who was there as much to spy on Gordon for Gladstone as to help Gordon. So Gordon stubbornly refuses to leave Khartoum, though he does evacuate the European citizens. In this manner, Gordon essentially holds himself hostage to try and force Britain to act, since it's well known they sent him there, and if the movie is to be believed there was great outcry to send help in the public.

I need to stop watching movies when I'm tired. The first hour breezed by, but the second hour dragged, probably because I wanted the film to end so I could go to bed. In a way, it works well with the film since the Mahdi has placed Khartoum under siege by that point. I imagine that would be a tense situation, with thousands of people outside waiting to kill you. Never knowing if help is on the way, or how close it is. But there'd would also be a boredom to it also. Day after day, trapped within those walls, unable to risk much of an excursion, food being rationed to make it last.

I don't think the movie was going for that effect, since it frequently cuts to Colonel Stewart heading downriver, the British troops flailing about on their camels, or Gladstone trying at all times to distance himself from the situation. If the movie had stuck with events within the walls of Khartoum more consistently, it might work. As the movie actually played out, it's really just a way for me to excuse my boredom. "Hey, the movie wanted me to be nodding off, so it's OK!"

Early on, Gordon travels to meet with a former slave trader. The man was a big shot in the Sudan before Gordon's first visit, when Gordon stopped the slave trade, and by his reckoning brought peace to the land. Now he wants this man to go back and try and bring the tribes under his control, thus robbing the Mahdi of his power base. Considering Gordon killed this man's son and took away his livelihood, I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn the former slaver declines.

What I was left wondering is if the Mahdi is Gordon's fault. By removing the slave trader from power, did he create a local vacuum that the Mahdi was able to rise and fill? In theory the Egyptian and British troops are the power, but I think the situation for them is much as it was for the French as described in The Conquest of the Sahara. Where there are troops, they're in control. Where there aren't troops, they control nothing. Sometimes, even where there are troops, they don't control anything, because they're on the Mahdi's turf.

I have to figure the slaver wouldn't have allowed a religious fanatic to get started in his territory, as it would likely disrupt business. I don't know if the Mahdi cared about the evils of slavery, but I imagine many of the people buying slaves would be unbelievers, and it's rather hard to run a business if all your customers keep getting killed. I guess it would depend in part on whether the Mahdi was genuine, and that's something I'm not clear on. Did he really believe he was receiving visions, or was he a charlatan? I think it's the former, because Gordon regards the Mahdi as someone with as much faith in his god as Gordon has in his, and I suppose Gordon's meant to be perceptive enough that someone faking it wouldn't fool him. If the Mahdi was a faker, and the slaver was there, he wouldn't have tried it, because it wouldn't have seemed a prudent course. If he is genuine in his beliefs, then I imagine he would have emerged whether the slave trade was there or not, but I still think he'd have been cut short before he could rally much support.

Of course, that leaves them with a still-thriving slave trade, which is bad. I'm not certain how it compares to a man who plans to sweep all the way to Constantinople, putting to death any unbelievers he finds in his path. His plan seems to be that if he kills everyone within the walls of Khartoum, everyone will get the point and clear out of the way. In that way, it serves as a lesson to prevent further bloodshed, much like how Gordon killed the slave trader's son as an example. The problem is, there will be people with no place else to go, and would thus be stuck in the path, and someone would feel bound to defend them. The Mahdi was never going to have an easy trek to where he wanted to go.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The End of One, The Start Of Another, Whichever

So this time we'll go with "start". It's the beginning of Year 7 here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends. I can't say I envisioned it going this long when I started, but I enjoy it. Even if coming up with topics is a task sometimes.

On the positive side, I'm only my longest consecutive days with a post streak ever (I blew past the previous record the middle of last month), and I have a shot at getting to 2,000 posts by the end of the month. Then I see someone like Siskoid, who manages about 800 posts a year, and it's kind of staggering.

On the downside, I didn't manage to come up with any stories to feature Adorable Baby Panda in. I couldn't seem to come up with one that fit properly. Maybe I could have adapted the "Ink-Stained Trail", but it'd probably help to have some idea how I would finish it. Which is sort of a positive and negative, in that I did tinker with a few stories, but didn't write the endings. I'm worried they'll disappoint, but I suppose I should get on with it.

On the downside, we've gone yet another year with my starting up the Spider-Man: Giant Slayer posts I've been mentioning since, oh, 2006.

On the upside, I did start the TV episode reviews I brought up last year so who says I don't occasionally show follow-through? I am trying to decide, when I get to shows with half-hour episodes, whether I should switch to doing two episodes at a time, rather than just one. At least I have until February to decide.

Comic reviews started getting more clumped together, as I haven't been in a position to pick up comics weekly since spring. Which is annoying in that it puts me so far behind everyone else. By the time I'm ready to discuss something, the rest of the blogowhatchamafloogle's moved on. I probably need to start reviewing trades I buy more often. Maybe that's the thing for Year 7.

All that having been said, I would like to thank everybody who reads the blog, and especially those who comment, since you're all very polite and informative, which is a handy thing to have in a commentariat. Hopefully I can continue to provide some entertainment for you over the next year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everybody Hates Their Boss

I thought the Avengers Academy cadets getting in Captain America's face was pretty amusing, if a little forced (I still think Cap was being surprisingly tactless). That's how it goes in the Marvel Universe these days, isn't it? The top guy does questionable things, starts getting a little too bossy, and pretty soon everyone hates his guts.

Tony Stark's an obvious example, with the Neagtive Zone prison, and the nanites that block powers he tried to use on friends that disagreed with him, and well, his list of jackass behavior is really long, so let's move on.

Gyrich was a jerk to begin with, so maybe it wouldn't have mattered what he did, based solely on how he acted. Still his attempts to hamstring the Avengers, like limiting the roster or forcing them to put the Falcon on the team, plus the crap he was pulling (or being manipulated into) during the first four years of Thunderbolts, didn't win him any points.

Nick Fury brainwashed the heroes he roped into his Secret War garbage, which is how Luke Cage wound up hospitalized from an attack he had no clue he should be expecting, because he didn't know he'd taken part in a secret mission to Latveria that pissed a bunch of people off. And of course Fury told them this from a distance, through an LMD, because when he turned ruthless, he apparently lost the nerve to take what he has coming to him like a man.

Osborn, well, he was crazy and a super-villain to begin with, so it wasn't as though anyone with a brain trusted him to begin with. Unfortunately, the list of people without brains in the Marvel Universe is pretty extensive, including politicians, Ares, and most of the average joes on Earth. The point is, there wasn't any trust for Osborn to break with any individual that actually knew him.

Now here we are with Steve Rogers. I was already concerned last year, when he asked Hawkeye to stick with Mockingbird and her group, because they could be useful if they stay on the right side. It's true, but it's an awfully cold statement for Rogers, and doesn't demonstrate much trust in Bobbi Morse. Then I flip through an Avengers trade, and here's Steve Rogers, joining the Illuminati. That's great, rather than disband the secretive dorks who attempts at secrecy have accomplished nothing, become a secretive dork yourself! Truly, T'Challa is the smartest guy in the Marvel Universe, because he told them it was a bad idea from the start, and wouldn't join.

Now Steve's being insensitive to teenagers and they're trying to punch his lights out. I guess Wonder Man's still ticked at him, too, so add a former Avenger to the list. He's got a ways to go to catch Iron Man, but there's still time before Cable kills him (if Cable's planning to kill all the Avengers, I don't think he has enough bullets), or the Phoenix Force shows up and ruins everyone's day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Was Not Expecting To Be The Half-Full Representative

My dad and I had a disagreement on a certain point that came up during The Sand Pebbles. The other sailors refer to Holman as "Jonah" on two occasions. I didn't understand, and was told its shorthand for someone considered to be bad luck for sailors, since Jonah was swallowed by a whale and all.

I countered that's good luck, because he survived. Any sailor, when placed in close proximity with a whale inclined to eat them, could be swallowed. Only a really lucky sailor would survive the experience. I figure anyone can fall prey to or survive little bad luck. Dire misfortune is another matter, and I'd want the guy who can survive that nearby.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Can Tony Curtis Survive Against Jack Lemmon And Peter Falk?

OK, "survive" is overstating is a bit. While Professor Fate (Lemmon) and Max (Falk) certainly have no problem with causing harm to the Great Leslie (Curtis) in The Great Chase, they don't seem interested in actually killing him. Well, at the beginning, maybe, but none of their attempts to sabotage his acts of derring-do are lethal to them when they inevitably backfire.

The movie is dedicated to Laurel and Hardy, but it reminds me of those Dick dastardly Wacky Races cartoons. Leslie wants to have an automobile race from New York to Paris*, and Fate is determined to finally beat him, on his own terms, naturally. Complicating matters for Leslie is one Ms. Dubois (Natalie Wood), who is determined to prove women's equality with men by covering and participating in the race. When the car she procures proves insufficient, she rides along with Leslie, through a combination or pleading, bribes, and wiles.

Wood's character bothers me some. She's a suffragete (to say the least), but she's presented in a way so as to not threaten the male audience. She's clever, but her attempts to prove herself Leslie's equal consistently fall short. He knows more languages than her, he's a superior fencer, her attempt to escape an evil baron's castle, ends with her literally falling into the Baron's arms, in her undergarments. I mean, credit for resourcefulness, using her dress as an improvised rope, but she didn't pull it off. Leslie ends up rescuing her (and his right-hand man, Hezekiah, and the drunk fool of a prince), by scaling a castle wall with a grappling hook, and swordfighting the Baron bare-chested (something for the ladies, to counter Natalie Wood in her underwear, perhaps). I think "plucky, yet overmatched" might be the best description of Ms. Dubois. At the end of the day, she still needs saving.

This was a comedy, so I'm not sure how serously I should be taking all of this. Dubois is part of a movement led by the wife of the editor of the newspaper Dubois convinces to hire her as a reporter, and get her a car to use. While Maggie's circling the globe, she's leading at sit-in at the newspaper, one that eventually sends her husband to the nuthatch, placing her in charge, Nothing much comes of that, other than she declares they won't be mentioning Leslie's car in the paper until the company that made it agrees to start hiring women. Which is the sort of biased reporting I'd resent from a paper I'd be paying to read.

I love Professor Fate. He's a great villain, all melodrama, disguises and dirty tricks, but with a certain code he follows. Not one that rewards honesty or honor, but one that demands he win his way. Which means he needs Leslie, as someone to push against. Going around the world wouldn't mean a thing if he wasn't doing it faster than Leslie. Which is kind of sad, but it gives him an anger that's very amusing, and it leads to all sorts of ridiclous stunts. Like leaping out a window to get a head start on designing his car for the race. Whatever it takes.

* I'm not clear on how they were supposed to cross the Pacific in their cars. I know how they ended up doing it, but I can't imagine that was the original plan.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Because I Doubt The Writers Will Leave It At A Coincidence

This is sort of related to what I was saying about the Transhuman last week, where a lot of things seem to have started happening in the DC Universe about 5 years ago. Aliens arriving, people with superpowers popping up, so on and so forth.

Here's the question: Do you think the end result of this is going to be a revelation where all of this is planned, or at least, not a coincidence? That all the homegrown superhumans are a result of some work behind the scenes (which I think was the big reveal about the Ultimate Universe), that the aliens are all being guided here by some force, or have arrived on their own because they recognize it's kind of screwy, what's going on here. I feel like writers do this sometimes, either because they like for their to be conspiracies, or they think they're streamlining it. Byrne's Spider-Man: Chapter One was the latter, since I think Spidey, Ock, and maybe the Hulk (or was it the Lizard?) got their powers in the same accident. I have this vague sense the Ultraverse was closer to the former, but I haven't read enough of that to be certain. Those Earth X books had the "Celestial Egg" answer for all the heroes, I'm not sure which that is.

I know this situation is at least partially engineered, since things are in their current state because Barry Allen helped the mysterious Hooded Woman "fix" things, but that would raise the question of why she (or he) would want so many things to all start at once (and how did he fix things so Demon Knights takes place, since that predates his original messing with the timeline that gave us Flashpoint in the first place?). It feels like, with the interconnectivity of the books, that there's going to be a startling reveal about a common origin for all this, that will have emerged somehow from that original timeline manipulation. Whether it'll be part of some grand, possibly malevolent plan Hooded Woman has, or just the universe shaping itself to fit the conditions she and Barry imposed on it, I don't know.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 20 - Bye Bly

Plot: Professor Coles told Brisco at the end of "Fountain of Youth" that his final conflict with John Bly was yet to come. Well, the day has come, thanks to an corrupt, power-hungry federal agent, and Pepe Bendix, ze stereotypical French safecracker of Bly's gang. Brisco has the assistance of Karina (Melanie Smith), a time traveler from the year 5502. Her people created the Orbs, but she's come back to help Brisco keep Bly from using them to, as he told us previously, return to his time and take over the world. Except, as is typical for time travelers, she's real stingy with the useful information until after it's too late. So it'll come down to Brisco vs. Bly after all, and you had better believe there'll be time travel shenanigans.

Does Brisco use his gun? Brisco shot Agent Brown's gun from his hand while holding his own upside down.

Stuff Comet does: N/A

Kiss Count: 0 (19 overall). Hard to believe he passed up the chance to kiss a pretty time traveler, but her immune system was probably taxed badly enough by the general conditions in 1894 as it was. Or maybe she was afraid of giving him something.

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically Count: 2 (13.5 overall). This concludes the John Bly Arm Spread Count.

Is Pete Hutter In This Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: John Bly - 'The terms are even.' Brisco - 'You shot my friend, so I give myself the advantage.'

Brisco's Coming Things: N/A

Gang Count: 2 (10 or 14 overall). Pepe Bendix (shot), John Bly (defenestrated, er, turned to ash).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: Nothing we didn't already know about.

Other: The events of "A.K.A. Kansas" occurred a month ago. Which suggests Bly was only trapped in that Orb for a week or two, tops.

Apparently clothes are only an impediment to long-distance time travel, since Brisco didn't need to doff his for his trip back to get the Orb. Sorry, ladies. Bowler as Brisco's "faithful companion" made it from the dime novels into the history books. Sorry, Bowler. Turns out Bowler lives in Nob Hill, which is the same part of San Francisco as a relevant character from "The Brooklyn Dodgers".

This'll come up again, but the government has a funny way of asking for help. Not just evil Agent Brown, who we saw previously in "Crystal Hawks", but even the ones who ask for Brisco's help keeping the Orb away from Brown do so at gunpoint. At least U.S. Attorney Breakstone is nice enough to ask politely, if in the most deadpan voice possible.

There are some things about the time travel in this episode that make my head hurt. Brisco travels back once, to get the Orb in the Nevade government lab, as we saw him do at the end of "A.K.A. Kansas". His dialogue doesn't match, which feels like it should be a screw-up somehow. Unless we're operating of the idea that by seeing himself travel back to take it, the future of the Brisco who was in the present during that episode was changed, since he knew he would at some point come back and get this Orb. Though what he said was less helpful the second time.

Brisco then goes through a second time portal after initially killing Bly, because the stupid Orb won't save Bowler. He goes through without the Orb, but somehow travels back to the moment just after he returned from his earlier trip in the past with the Orb. So rather than there being two Briscos, one with an Orb, one without, there's only one Brisco, like the one amking his second trip back displaced or overwrote the one from the first. Yeah, this post is getting the "time travel" tag. Ugh, my head.

There are just certain things in this episode that require people to behave stupidly. When Pepe breaks into the safe Brisco stored Professor Coles' Orb in, why did he bother to pull out one of the rods? So he could see Bly trapped within, drop it, causing it to leak whatever that fluid is, allowing Bly to escape, naturally. Why do first Bly, then Karina, open time portals, then screw around long enough for Brisco to go charging in ahead of them to where he wants to go? And how does that work? Does the Orb just open a door in time, and you jump in a tell it where you want to go? Because otherwise, Brisco should have wound up in either 5502 or 2506, depending on whose portal he was using. And after Brisco used his portal, why couldn't Bly get it to open another one for him? That I might be willing to attribute to the Orb not liking Bly (though Karina explained what the Orb is, and none of the words she used necessarily suggest awareness as part of it's powers), but if it dislikes Bly (or likes Brisco), why wouldn't it help Bowler, for Brisco's sake?

I think, as far as send offs for Bly go, "Fountain of Youth" was the stronger one. Brisco finishing his father's work, with a little help from his father's gun, and trapping Bly within the object he so coveted seemed appropriate. More so than a time traveler appearing and being generally unhelpful until after the fact.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Medicus - Ruth Downie

I made some corrections to yesterday's post. Sand Pebbles had more nominations than I thought, but I don't thin McQueen won Best Actor.

From a movie with a subplot about purchasing a girl's freedom, to a book with a subplot about purchasing a woman's services, we turn to Medicus.

Set in Brittania during the end of Trajan's time as Roman Emperor, and Hadrian's ascension, the book centers on a recently arrived doctor, a Gaius Petrius Ruso. Through a series of circumstances involving overwork due to a colleague's food posioning, Ruso finds himself purchasing an injured slave girl. Which is really not an extravagance he can afford, since his father's recent death has exposed his many debts, which Ruso is supposed to be helping his brother back in Gaul to pay off, so they can keep the family farm. But what's done is done, and Ruso does his best to make it work with Tilla (not her actual name, but it's the one she thinks he gave her, and he can't pronounce her true name to save his life).

Ruso also finds himself troubled by the young women who are turning up dead around town, since they all seem to be slave girls connected with a local bar/house of ill repute. Despite his best efforts to stay out of it, word gets around he's investigating, which leads to people telling him things that inevitably draw him deeper, and things progress from there.

Downie mentions in the author's notes that at least some of the hierarchy she describes in the administration is fabricated, I would guess for our amusement as Ruso finds himself struggling with the bureaucracy imposed by the administrator, the sort of detail-obsessed, big picture missing type that's is so often the bane of dedicated professionals, at least in fiction. Probably also in real life.

Ruso's an interesting character. I liked him, because I tend to empathize with characters who just want to do their jobs and be recognized for their skill, and not have to waste a lot of time buddying up to the higher-ups or politicking. But he's not the most outwardly friendly or empathetic fellow. He's not Dr. House, but he's not Hawkeye Pierce, either. I did find it a bit of a nice change to read a mystery where the person investigating is not some almost frighteningly focused person, but rather someone who would rather stay out of it. It isn't his profession, or his business, and he has other things he thinks he should be worrying about. But, the fact he took even a small interest once puts things in motion, and it goes beyond his control.

The situation between Ruso and Tilla had me worried. I was afraid there would be a start to a romantic relationship while she was his slave, which would have been awkward to read. I think it would have felt as if either Ruso is trying to take advantage, or Tilla is trying to use that to manipulate him. Neither of which would have been terribly pleasant to read. Downie handles this by having each character see something good in the other, but they're still aware enough to the circumstances that it can't go any further unless said circumstances change.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Should Have Stayed In The Engine Room

'Hey listen, I just run the engine. All this other is just. . . look-see pigeon. I beg your pardon? To make a show, something for the officers. I don't fool with it.' - Jake Holman (Steve McQueen).

I was surprised to learn The Sand Pebbles was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, and including McQueen for Best Actor . I'd never heard of it, and his character seems pretty similar to most of the other ones I've seen him play. Glib, dedicated to his work, disdainful of authority, tough exterior, but decent enough underneath. Which is fine, I've liked pretty much every movie I've seen him in.

The movie's set in China in 1926, with McQueen playing Jake Holman, the new engineer, for the American gunboat, the San Pablo. Jake's a good engineer, but not much for the military aspects of serving in the Navy. And the San Pablo is simultaneously highly military, and very unmilitary. The captain, Collins (Richard Crenna), insists on regular drills to repel boarders, and expects all the sailors to stand watches, which Jake feels is not an engineer's duty. At the same time, all the scut work on this ship is handled by a horde of Chinese fellows, which Jake also objects to, because he doesn't want them messing with his engines. So there are problems. Plus, this is right about the time the Nationalist and Communist movements are gathering momentum to oust all the foreign powers, though the movie focuses almost entirely on their relations with the U.S. It's a not terribly veiled metaphor for the situation in Vietnam at the time.

The orders for the gunboat are to not open fire unless fired upon first, so they essentially count on intimidation (or goodwill). Which works fine. . . until it doesn't. That's a recurring theme in the movie. Trusting a piece of paper that says you aren't Americans anymore to protect, which works. . . until it doesn't. When the time for shooting starts, counting on superior weapons to carry the day, which works. . . until you run out of ammo before they run out of men.

It's a long movie (3 hours), but it's an interesting one. For the first half of the movie, all the violence is either between Americans (the crew fighting amongst itself, or with other patrons at their favorite dive), or it's instigated by Americans (the fight between Skeet and Po Han, which Jake put in motion).

The attitudes of the sailors towards the Chinese. Jake, for example, doesn't have a real high opinion of them (he calls them slopeheads at least 3 times), but he does become friends with Po Han, though he never says as much. But I don't think that, or the fact Po Han proved he could learn how to run an engine properly, really changed Jake's opion of the Chinese as a whole. Frenchy (Richard Attenborough) falls in love with Mayli, but yeah, I think his affection is confined to her. That relationship in itself is really interesting. She had to get $200 dollars to get out from under Mr. Shu, and Frenchy (with an assist from jake and Po Han) raised it. He did so to set her free, but they end up together, and while he clearly seems to love her, I wonder if she didn't stay with him out of some sense of obligation. He says he paid to set her free, but she might still feel he purchased her. Jake says it's more that she loves him, but sees the difficulty in being with an American sailor who could be transferred or shipped out at any moment, and probably couldn't bring her along.

The whole idea of letting the Chinese handle all the scut stuff on the ship worked great. . . until it didn't. Then we see how slack the sailors have let themselves get about the duties they ought to have been doing instead of standing watch. Without local support, they aren't as effective of a fighting force. The ship starts looking filthy, so do the sailors, and discipline breaks down. It's a nice statement about how hard it is for a foreign power to maintain control without any of the native population on their side.

The sailors look bad then, but when it comes time to fight, they shape up. Everyone is on the same page, even with Holman, who they were ready to throw to the wolves the day before. I'm not sure what to make of them all looking up as the flag is raised over the ship. I suppose there's a sense of pride, but maybe they're remembering all of Collins' speeches about them honoring the flag, and not allowing it to be pulled down in shame, and they wonder if they're being sent into battle out of Collins' love for it. Certainly Holman ought to have those concerns, since he's seen how unsteady Collins is.

If you can spare three hours, I'd definitely recommend it.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Did He Come To Villainy Late In Life?

From what I can tell, in the current DC Universe, all these superheroes, supervillains, aliens, and so on appeared five years ago. Morrison's Superman is set five years ago. According to Grifter, the first known appearance of the Daemonites was five years ago. I think some of the other titles are set five years ago (Stormwatch? Maybe Justice League?)

Which brings me to Darryl. He was a friend of Mitch Shelly's (the Resurrection Man) father in the Portland rest home where Mitch's father lived out his last years. He was also, if we believe him, a high-end professional supervillain known as the Transhuman. Considering his suit of what appears to be high-powered armor, I'm inclined to take him at his word.

What I'm wondering is how long of a career he could have had. If he popped up five years ago along with all these other guys, he couldn't have been at it more than a couple of years before he retired to the rest home to meet and befriend Mitch's father.

The simplest answer is his career predates all the obvious superhero, paranormal whatever. That he was at it for years before Superman showed up in his farmboy jeans, terrorizing corrupt businessmen. Which would make sense, except I thought DC wanted to set things up so Superman kicked things off again, and it feels a little strange for their to have been costumed supervillain contract killers like the Transhuman and (I'm guessing) Deathstroke already running around. If that kind of criminal activity was already going on when Clark decided to get active, I'd expect him to be dealing with that from the start.

There is the possibility he only started within the last five years, was a huge success, but retired quickly, perhaps because the idea of being a supervillain didn't occur to him until he was fairly old? He'd always been brilliant, but the idea of using his mind to create weapons that would let him kill people other people would pay to have eliminated didn't occur to him until later.

Or. . . he isn't retired at all. He's still active, and got wind of Mitch Shelly being a man wanted by powerful, wealthy people, and he saw it as a big paycheck. Big enough he was willing to play the long game. Move in to a rest home. Befriend Mitch's father. Play up at being a crazy old man who thinks he's a supervillain. Eventually the prodigal son will apear, if only to collect his father's things after his passing. And then, ka-ching!

The other possibility is Darryl just thinks he was a supervillain, but never was, but is smart enough to build a suit that looks like powered armor (and for his sake, facing off with the Body Doubles, it better be functional). Which is probably the most likely possibility. If he was successful and retired, why would he live in that particular rest home? It didn't look that great, as far as those facilities go.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Old Movies Return

Yes, more old movies. The Caine Mutiny, to be specific. Set in World War 2, it tells the story of a beat-up minesweeper of the Pacific Fleet receiving a new captain. A Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart). Queeg has served for a long time, and perhaps that's taken a toll. His demands for everyone to follow regulations with regards to haircuts, shaving, and keeping their shirts tucked in aren't unusual, but his tendency to perceive every misstep as some deliberate slight against him is. This becomes a problem when Queeg gets too involved in berating two of his officers because one of the deckhands has his shirt untucked (because he has a heat rash). He orders the pilot to maintain a hard right, and is so lost in his tirade, he fails to realize they are about to run over the tow line they're using to haul a target behind him, which results ins etting the target adrift. Queeg then compounds this by stating the report will be the cable was defective and broke on its own.

This produces dissension amongst the officers. Young Ensign Willis agrees with a senior officer Keefer (Fred MacMurray), that Queeg is unstable, and should be relieved of command. The exo, Maryk (Van Johnson) continually resists this, wanting to be loyal to his captain, but Keefer's claims that Queeg demonstrates all the signs of mental instability wear of Maryk. Eventually, when Queeg's orders seem lie to get the ship destroyed in a typhoon, Maryk invokes Article 184 and assumes command. Naturally, he's court-martialed for it.

Fortunately, his attorney, a Lt. Greenwald (Jose Ferrer), is able to clear him once he gets Queeg in to give his testimony. It's more impressive that he does so, with the naval tribunal there, making sure he doesn't in any way impugn Queeg's record. Talk about playing against a loaded deck. "You must prove the exo had reasonable cause to invoke Article 184, but don't you dare criticize the Captain's record!"

On the whole, it's a good film, but it suffers from the fact that apparently the studio didn't want to entirely make a naval captain out to be the bad guy (Since it was set in WW2, and released shortly after the war). So there's a scene where the officers are celebrating Maryk's not being hung. Greenwald shows up, and in addition to lowering the boom on Keefer, he hammers all the officers. He points out that at one point Queeg asked for their advice on how to make things run more smoothly, and they all disliked him so much, they said nothing. This is true. Greenwald claims that if they had helped Queeg, things would have gone better, and he wouldn't have had to destroy the man on the stand.

That is bullshit.

Queeg was a delusional paranoid, capable of fitting any occurence into his scenario of people being out to get him. He wasn't like that at all times, but when he felt criticized, he started pointing fingers. During his testimony, it was revealed one month before Maryk took command, Queeg gave him a glowing performance review. Now he's claiming Maryk was always unreliable?He might have truly wanted suggestions on how to make things better at the moment he asked, but it's entirely likely that he would construe any suggestions as disrespect. If any of the suggestions failed, he wouldn doubtlessly have blamed the officers for trying to make him look bad, for trying to undermine his authority.

Probably because it's Bogart, it puts me in mind of The Bogie Man, where no matter what happened, "Bogie" would figure out some way to fit it into his perception of the world as some strange amalgamation of all Bogart films. In a situation where that sort of person is your captain, I'm not sure what could be done about it.

So that part of the ending was a bit of a dud. Ferrer sells it well. He's a little tipsy, angry at himself for what he had to do for his client, angrier at them for what he feels they did to push things to this point. That doesn't change the fact he's completely wrong. There's also a romantic subplot in there about Ensign Willis, who struggles to patch things up with his girl, who feels she'll always be less important to him than his mother. Unless it's supposed to reveal Willis' susceptability to being controlled by manipulative authority figures (like Keefer), I don't see the point. It's not the most terribly shoehorned romantic subplot I've ever seen, Bullitt still holds the record for that, but it's pretty awkward.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Should I Make A Joke About Missing The Mark?

When I reviewed Avengers Solo #2, I mentioned there were some sequences I thought weren't laid out logically, and said I might have to try and get a shot of one of them. And that brings us to today.

Here's the page I was talking about. I know, the glare from the flash is irritating, just work with me. The thing that bothers me about this is we have this big shot of Hawkeye with the bow drawn, and he's facing left, towards the beginning of the issue. Then in the lower right corner, we have this little panel of the actual path of the arrow, which Hawkeye arced down the staircase so it would hit his target and plant a tracer. You can't really tell from the way I took the photo, but the panels in the top half of the two pages are set up so you read across the two pages. So the reader's eyes travel across the top of the page. Then it seems like the reader's eye might follow Hawkeye's arm back to the left, along the arrow, only to have to go back to the right for that last panel. Or perhaps the reader skims from Hawkeye's steely gaze straight down to that corner panel, ignoring the arm, bow, and arrow. In one case, it would seem like it's counter-intuitive layout, in the other, it's kind of wasted space.

I wonder if the large shot of Hawkeye was flipped by accident. If he was facing the other way, then the reader's eye could travel from Hawkeye, along the arrow, and that would almost naturally lead the eye to that panel in the right corner. I don't have any proof that's the case, but I've seen panels like that in other books, where things look like they were reversed*.

I do think it might have worked better if the shot of Hawkeye spanned the bottom half of only one page, and the flight path of the arrow took up the lower half of the other page. As it stands, we have this shot of Hawkeye with the bow drawn back powerfully, and the flight of the arrow is this small panel, almost weak. Like a Roadrunner cartoon, where the Coyote tries to launch himself with a bow, and it looks like it'll be some powerful shot, and it duds somehow. His face hits the bow, the bow falls over, or he just doesn't go anywhere. In the story, Hawkeye's making a pretty good shot, but I'm not sure the way things are laid out really conveys it.

* My main example was from BKV and Kyle Hotz' The Hood mini-series. Near the end a character had a briefcase of money in her left hand, a gun in the right. In the panel where she's killed, they've switched hands. There's no background to tell anything by, so I've always wondered if Hotz drew it, and it somehow was flipped in the printing or copying, or something.

Monday, December 05, 2011

What I Bought 11/29/2011 - Part 4

We've reached the Atomic Robo portion of our reviews. So let's not waste time gabbing.

Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #1, 3 - Like I said, not consecutive issues. The story begins with a request from NASA to save one of their orbiters which is falling out of orbit. Robo and his crack team of action scientists devise and implement a plan to do so (essentially build a functional airframe around a ridiculously powerful supersonic engine), but surprise! It was a trap, Robo's hit with a satellite, and the first issue ends with him plummeting towards the Earth.

He survives, and he and his team travel to Omaha, where the fake call appears to have originated from. Surprise! The building is empty, but is shortly surrounded by several men with guns. And tanks. And large robots. And an attack helicopter. Multiple attack helicopters, actually. In addition to this, there's a second plot about an entire building that somehow went missing England, and Robo has two of his less than favorite employees working with a member of British Intelligence to sort out where it went, and what is its significance. I assume the two stories will intersect before all is said and done, but it's also possible Clevinger and Wegner are playing the long game here.

Credit to Clevinger. Even though I have the first 5 trades of Atomic Robo, I don't remember all the details of past adventures, but he tells the reader enough to follow along. We know vaguely why those two scientists were sent to Norway on polar bear patrol. The comic also has a quick recap on the inside of the cover, so not totally lost without #2. I like Clevinger's dialogue. I wouldn't describe it as realistic, in the way that some people complain that teenagers or whomever wouldn't use certain terms. But there's wit to it, Clevinger uses it to give us glimpses of supporting characters' personalities, and I do think the way people respond to challenges and other characters is accurate. Pragmatism, anger, pessimism, mild irritation to give them time to think.

Scott Wegner's art helps. He seems like he's capable of rendering emotion or action with a relatively few lines, and yet things are clear and easy to follow. I imagine it takes a lot of work, but it looks like it's easy, which is impressive.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 19 - The Brooklyn Dodgers

Plot: While Brisco and Bowler try to apprehend a crook named Yasmin, to snot-posed teens from New York try to steal Comet. Which goes as well as you'd expect. Shannon (Mercedes Alicia McNab) and Tommy (Michael Cade) are trying to make it to San Francisco. One of their uncles owned a mine there, and has left it to them. Assuming they can get their before a man claiming to be their "second uncle" does. Or before the Irish gangsters get ahold of them and make them sign the deed to the mine over to them. Brisco and Bowler try to protect the kids, even though Tommy makes one wonder why they bother, while Socrates does a little sleuthing into the deaths of Tommy and Shannon's parents.

Does Brisco use his gun? he fired in at Billy Monahan, one of the gangsters.

Stuff Comet does: Walk in circles to give time for Brisco and Bowler to catch up.

Kiss Count: 0 (19 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 0 (11.5 overall).

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Billy Monahan - 'I take it Mr. County doesn't think you're grown-up enough to make your own decisions.' Tommy - 'Well he thought wrong.'

Brisco's Coming Things: Sushi bars, and their outrageous prices.

Gang Count: 0 (8 or 12 overall).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A.

Other: There was a quote I considered using because it sums up the entire episode. But I really only like it because Brisco delivers it to a group of belly dancers who had him and Bowler at gunpoint. Socrates gets a good one in on "Richard Trahern" as well. Unfortunately, Soc undermines that moment of awesome by then telling the fake Trahern exactly where the kids are at that moment.

The problem for me in this episode is Tommy. He's such an unapologetic jerk for the first 37 minutes of the show (I have a note that says, 'Only took Tommy 37 minutes to pull his head out of his ass') that it's rather difficult to want Brisco and Bowler to help him. Shannon's considerably nicer, and more intelligent. Not that she's a Valeria Richards style child genius, just that she's smart enough to realize listening to Brisco and Bowler is better than constantly double-crossing them and then refusing to apologize when the double-cross goes bad. But she's the younger sibling (and a girl) so her suggestions go unheeded. I mean, honestly, after the first horse-stealing attempt, Tommy punches Bowler in the face. It has no effect, other than riling Bowler, but still, I don't think I want this kid inheriting a fortune. Think how much of a pain he'd be with some money to back him up.

The Johnnies are another issue. Perhaps because they look so out of place in their black suits and derby hats, sporting their Mausers, they're difficult for me to take seriously. Maybe reading Punisher comics for years has made me unable to take mobsters of any ethnicity seriously as a threat. Whatever the reason, I just couldn't buy they were that much of a challenge for Brisco and Bowler. They aren't particularly clever (so much as Tommy is too unwilling to trust the right people, and too easily swayed by crap like the quote I used), they aren't vicious, there aren't that many of them (compared to the Swills), they aren't that well armed, and they should be totally lost out in the West.

I did enjoy the Socrates parts of the story. Socrates isn't a two-fisted action hero, but he has a meticulous personality, and I think his time with Brisco his piqued his curiosity. Whenever he's involved, there's almost always a scene where someone tries to back him down or intimidate him, and you can see him marshaling his resolve. I always enjoy those moments. His investigation of the ferry accident, the meeting with the ferry captain, who has basically been destroyed by the incident, the foggy docks where he does most of the sleuthing, contrasted with the upscale neighborhood where the search ends. All of that was very entertaining.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What I Bought 11/29/2011 - Part 3

I was positive I had something to serve as an introductory paragraph, and now I've completely forgotten it.

Resurrection Man #3 - I would never have known Ivan Reis did that cover if his name wasn't on it. It isn't how I normally picture his art, though I imagine he doesn't draw that skinless people. Then again, knowing Geoff Johns. . . The way he drew Shelly's hair, I thought it was horns and he'd resurrected as a demon. It's the new 52 version of Kid Devil!

This issue is largely Mitch getting his butt kicked by the Body Doubles. They killed him once last issue, and after he manages to escape a shadowy demonic force that was holding him in whatever empty realm his soul normally lands in before he comes back, he returns with armor skin. Well, it looked like rock to me, but the ladies said "armored" so whatever. And they killed him again. So he comes back, more quickly this time, with a sonic scream, and, would 50 CCs of Sedabarbitol kill someone or knock them out? I'm guessing from "seda" in the title, it's a sedative, since killing him would just bring him back with another new power. Maybe some cool narcotic power.

"All right, girls, time to get high!" No, that's stupid.

It's actually amusing how bad he is at defending himself. Maybe Mitch is too nice. Also, the Doubles are smart enough to not give him any time to figure out his powers. I'm curious if there'll be some dissension in the future. Carmen seems a little more compassionate than Bonnie. She was almost gentle with Mitch after she drugged him. Admittedly, I'm not nearly as interested in the people the Doubles are working for and how they're connected to Mitch as I am in the metaphysical stuff, but I am curious, if only to see how differently it plays out from DnA's first go-round with the character.

Nothing new to say about Dagnino's art. I'm still fond of it, and I'm curious about when he alters the thickness of his lines. Sometimes they're heavier than others, and it isn't a matter of some characters getting heavy lines and other lighter ones. Something to keep an eye on, maybe.

Suicide Squad #3 - I thought that guy on the cover was Lock Up, that stupid villain from that one episode of Batman: The Animated Series. But no, it's Mad Dog. What? I thought the background suggested a prison, and I've been watching some BTAS recently. Is Mad Dog supposed to be Wild Dog, only they changed the name for some reason, the same way Belle Reve became Belle Reeve? They called it that again in this issue, so I assume it was not a spelling error, but a deliberate alteration.

The Squad's attempts to lie low until they're picked up fail miserably, which is unsurprising since Deadshot took Harley with him to buy groceries. Yes, the chalk white girl with multi-colored pigtails who is also CRAZY! was going blend in seamlessly. Tactical genius there, Floyd. OK, yes, she did use, something to get them their supplies without paying (I think we're supposed to assume sex appeal, but she may have slammed the cashier's head into the scanner until it broke for all we know). Black Spider and El Diablo learn what really happened to Voltaic, the team survives a run-in with Mad Dog, who may or may not have survived his run-in with King Shark. If there ain't a corpse to be warm, you can't say he bought the farm.

Wow, that's also stupid. 0 for 2 today on the attempts at clever. The team is not rescued. Instead they get some new recruits, and told to stay in the field, and look it's Captain Boomerang!

I don't know. Glass had piqued my interest in Black Spider a little, but for the time being at least, he's gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if we learn later that this version of Waller has him dumped out of the helicopter on the way back. Hell, he's wounded, that makes him worthless, right? I still can't disassociate my past experiences with these characters from reading their current versions, and the comparison isn't doing the current versions any favors. That's probably why Black Spider was working for me, because if he's a preexisting character, I don't know about it, so there's no past conceptions. The thing between Harley and Floyd, as it stands felt thrown in their for, shock value, because they can, something? Maybe Glass will turn it into something more than that, down the line. As it stands, it felt out of left field.

Also, Cliff Richards drew this issue, which makes 4 artists in the first 3 issues.

Villains for Hire #0.1 - This whole Point 1 thing seems kind of ridiculous to me, especially to start a series. Why couldn't this just be issue 1? Also, wasn't this originally going to be a five issue mini-series? I saw in the last solicits it's down to 4. Geez, Marvel, would you have a little goddamn patience? This is pretty much what I was afraid of. Marvel sees the early (relatively) positive sales DC's getting, and I think they're starting to panic. Or I'm reading to much into all the cancellations, layoffs, and abbreviating of mini-series.

This starts out like most issues of Heroes for Hire. A hero in the field, trying to deal with a problem. In this case, Silver Sable trying to stop the new Stilt-Man from stealing antiquities. The chase goes into the subways, and here comes the Black Panther. It's strange to see him dealing with something so low-level. I know he's been doing it for awhile, but still not what I'm used to. He mostly handles it, with an assist from Daimon Hellstrom? Shouldn't they have saved all these Hellstrom appearances for October, rather than November? Whatever, job well done heroes. Too bad the Purple Man plans to take back "his" idea and use it with villains.

I'm curious how this is will play out. Are we going to see how "Villains for Hire" works, is it going to be about Misty trying to put the brakes on it and having a showdown with Kilgrave? But hey, Headhunter! Haven't seen her since Byrne's Namor (where she was introduced, right?). Perhaps before this is over, she can use her hypnotic eyes on Kilgrave and take his operation. Then kill him, because Purple Man's a creepy asshole of a character, and I'd really enjoy seeing him get offed.

Not sure I'm excited about Renato Arlem as an artist. The expressions are better than I remember from seeing him on Peter David's X-Factor run, but the action is awkwardly posed, and is a subway car really the best place for a Stilt-person? I didn't think they were as wide as they're presented in this issue. I'd figure the leg would go out the window and get stuck, or tangled in the handholds, or something.

For Monday, two books, both from the same mini-series. Not consecutive issues, though, which could make things tricky.