Monday, January 31, 2011

Silent Movie

Silent Movie isn't from the same people who brought us Scary Movie all those other films. It's actually a Mel Brooks film, one I wasn't aware of until it popped up in my Amazon recommendations.

Brooks plays Mel Funn, a once successful director trying to salvage his career, and Big Pictures Studio, with his script for a silent film, the first in 40 years. Pitted against him is Engulf and Devour, a large Conglomerate out to purchase the studio, who therefore have a vested interest in its financial collapse.

The movie actually is silent, save for the musical score and a single spoken word of dialogue (there are the periodic cards with dialogue written on them). It relies heavily on slapstick humor, which means if you aren't a fan of that, you probably won't care much for this picture. Even if you are, with a film this dependent on it, there are going to be some misses. I thought the suits of armor/Liza Minnelli gag went on too long myself.

At the same time some of the gags are funny, and the cast does an excellent job of setting certain elements up in advance. You know a steamroller will be involved in a bit, you just aren't certain how until it actually happens.

There isn't any focus on the making of the film. The first half is strictly Funn and his associates trying to recruit various Big Stars. The second half is devoted to Engulf and Devour's various attempts to stop the picture from being made, first by going after Funn, then the film itself. It's not even 90 minutes, so it doesn't take long to watch if you're interested.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Quick Thought

I was out and about this morning, and wound up near a local church as it was concluding its early morning services. When the bells started ringing, I realized that if you were a person who liked to sleep in on Sunday, it would be a very bad idea to live across from a church.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Too Busy Working For The Weekend To Save The World

During Thanos Imperative: Devastation, there was only member of the Annihilators that was against joining initially, Beta Ray Bill. He was busy helping to rebuild the damaged world of Navis Koana Five by using Stormbreaker as a post driver. Bill's argument was the people need help rebuilding their lives, not a bunch of high-minded ideals. Cosmo's counterpoint was there isn't much point in rebuilding if there's no one to stop the next problem that would destroy everything. That seemed to sway Bill.

What I remembered was in the first issue of the current volume of Avengers, as Steve Rogers goes around recruiting everyone, there was one guy who said no: Wonder Man. He was helping clear out rubble leftover from the devastated Solider Field. Not quite construction work, but they have to clear out the rubble before they can rebuild.

I guess the point is to contrast that kind of work with what superheroes normally do. Helping to rebuild damaged homes and businesses is something concrete where heroes can help*. As opposed to being a peacekeeping force where the job is stopping world-threatening (or universe-threatening) problems. If the heroes succeed, odds are the public never realizes it, which limits their appreciation of the work. If the heroes fail, and people's lives get wrecked, then what good were heroes anyway? Then there are the arguments that heroes invite attacks by villains just by existing, the concerns about vigilantism, the accountability concerns, etc.

Then there's also the fact both examples used a strongman type character, but I think that boils down to them being well suited for that kind of work, and there's an bit of intimidation when the really strong person says they aren't interested (or they think you're out of your mind). It gives the objection more weight, adds more character conflict to the story.

* Then you get into the issue of whether they're taking jobs from qualified professionals, and so maybe they should butt out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Secret Guardians! Ugh, That's A Terrible Name

Wednesday I was talking about where the Guardians of the Galaxy who survived the latest cosmic brouhaha might have gone. There's no reason they had to disband, though. The team held together after they thought half of them had been killed by Adam Magus (not to mention Star-Lord thinking he'd killed Adam Warlock/Magus).

Granted, Star-Lord was the one who brought them together, and he did survive the confrontation with the Magus. He's unavailable, so what would hold the team together? Well, Rocket Raccoon, naturally. The Magus fight wasn't the first big hit the roster took. The book's obligatory Secret Invasion tie-in revealed that Star-Lord had Mantis telepathically nudge some of the team members into joining (it didn't say which ones precisely). Adam Warlock stormed off in a huff, and Gamora went with him. Drax and Phyla left too. Then Star-Lord went into Kree territory on his own, got trounced by Ronan the Accuser, and thrown in the Negative Zone. The rest of the group soldiered on without him. They even put Mantis back in the field, which suggests the ones who remained didn't have trust issues with her*.

Everyone from that grouping (Rocket, Major Victory, Mantis, Groot, and Bug**) is still standing, plus Jack, Gamora, Moondragon. There's the makings of a useful team there.

I get the general point that Star-Lord and Cosmo have been making: There are enough staggering threats that things will go smoother with a team of powerhouses. Hence, the Annihilators. But there's no sense of camaraderie or teamwork with these guys, not yet, anyway. They're the Defenders as they originally appeared: Incredibly powerful, but no real interest in working together unless they absolutely have to. Which is fine, at times. The Big Problem rears its head, they form Annihilatitron and smash it into easily disposable parts. There are times brute force isn't the best response, when cunning, stealth, or simply the willingness to commit full-time can be the difference. There are going to be situations these five don't think merit there attention, that still need dealing with, so another group could come in handy.

Cosmo doesn't have to be involved (and given the strained relationship he and the raccoon have, I wouldn't be surprised if Rocky opted to keep him in the dark), but having access to Knowhere's teleportational facilities would be helpful. With the folks they have available, they could do assassinations, espionage, infiltration, defend a specific planet from some dangerous incursion. The sort of things that may not halt universe-threatening problems, but can prevent threats from reaching that scale. It's not really proactive, because the threats are still already happening, it's more catching those threats in their infancy (when they could still make a lot of people's lives miserable).

I can't think of a good name for them though. Secret Guardians is terrible, Covert Annihilators feels contradictory (and terrible). In GrimJack, the group John Gaunt worked for after leaving the Transdimensional Police was called Cadre, a group of agents dedicated to quietly trying to keep things running smoothly. 'Course, the guy running Cadre was a power-hungry sort, a more competent and less needlessly hateful Henry Gyrich. I guess they could always fall back on one of Rocket's suggestions: "Asskickers of the Fantastic."

* Whether that's because they're confident they weren't the ones she messed with, or they understood why she and Star-Lord thought it necessary, not clear.

** I just realized Bug slipped my mind as a survivor. I thought I read about him getting sucked into this Hiro-Kala, Son of Hulk stuff, a Micronauts reunion, but I could be wrong.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Bought Nothing

Nothing came in for me this week, so I didn't go to the store. Two thoughts to fill the void.

1) Secret Six and Doom Patrol are having that crossover next month. Going by DC's website, Doom Patrol is Part 1, Secret Six the conclusion. It's strange, then, that DC's website lists Secret Six as being released the first Wednesday of the month, and Doom Patrol the third. Maybe Simone and Giffen have decided to start at the end, instead of the beginning.

2) I added the new Batman Beyond ongoing to my pull list. With Secret Six, Batgirl, and R.E.B.E.L.S., that makes 4. I couldn't remember if that had ever happened before, so Internet to the rescue. Turns out there was a 2 to 6-month stretch from late 2004-early 2005 where I bought Teen Titans, Robin, JLA, and Batgirl (Cass' run). I can't be more precise because I can't recall exactly what issue of JLA was my last. It was somewhere in that story with the Crime Syndicate and the Qwardians. Of course, by the end of 2006 I wasn't buying any of those titles anymore.

I don't know how many Marvel ongoings I was buying in those Unwritten Times, but it had to be more than the two I'm buying now. I don't know whether my tastes shifted, I've gotten smarter about dropping things I don't like, or if I'm just cheaper. Actually, it's probably Marvel's super-twitchy cancellation trigger these days. Hard to buy a series if it gets ended.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Happened To The Guardians Who Survived?

One thing I was left wondering by Thanos Imperative: Devastation is what happened to the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy?

We know Cosmo's putting together the Annihilators Star-Lord dreamed of. We'll find out what Rocket Raccoon and Groot are doing once the Annihilators mini-series starts. Adam Warlock, Phyla, and Drax are all dead. Star-Lord's probably dead, or if he's alive, he's trapped in a dead universe with Nova and an extremely cross Thanos. In which case he wishes he was dead.

That leaves Moondragon, Gamora, Mantis, Jack Flag, and Major Victory unaccounted for. The easy answers are Moondragon went back to Titan to mourn her father and girlfriend, and Jack Flag probably went back to Earth. I can't imagine Steve Rogers cares about the unregistered bull that got Jack thrown in the Negative Zone Prison. Gamora's likely back to roaming the universe, looking for suitable challenges to her skill. Or she could set up a little kingdom on some world, gather some people to her. That's what she was doing when Annihilation started.

The two I'm having a harder time predicting are Mantis and Major Victory. I think it'd be kind of fun if Mantis had decided to travel with Gamora. They're disparate characters, beyond one being quiet and generally reserved, and the other being more loud and open. Gamora's been described as lacking direction or purpose. Mantis believes she has a purpose (to be the Celestial Madonna), but hard telling when (or if) that'll ever come to fruition. Putting the two of them together could be fun.

I don't imagine that's the case, though. More likely Mantis would go find some place to be alone and meditate or something. As for Major Victory, I have no clue. He's from a different universe, and from the future of that different universe. I suppose he could go to Earth with Jack, maybe pay a visit to Justice at the Avengers Academy. A team-up with a younger version of himself from a different universe who never became an astronaut and so never survived to the 30th Century*. He was at Knowhere when Thanos Imperative wrapped up, so he have gone literally anywhere in the universe.

Perhaps Rocket Raccoon will fill us in.

* I guess they could still do that with Vance. A superhero might make a good astronaut, if his powers can serve as inertial dampeners or something. It'd be strange, though, if some writer just decided, "Hey, I'm sending Justice into space so he can become Major Victory in a 1,000 years!" Maybe he'd become Major Justice instead?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Deadshot's Ammo Reserves, And The Skartaris Disaster

I was looking back over the recent Skartaris arc in Secret Six. I noticed in the last issue, Deadshot appears to run out of bullets, and sends Lori (Black Alice) off to find him something he can shoot with. She returns a few pages later with two bows, two crossbows, and two quivers full of arrows.

Which Deadshot never makes any use of that we can see. He does, however, shoot Lady Vic in both kneecaps with his firearms. After he had, you know, claimed to be out of ammo.

I'm inclined to think Floyd was simply lying about running out of bullets, as a way to protect Lori. The gun may well have been empty, but he could have reloaded. By pretending his guns had runs completely dry, he had an excuse to get her off the battlefield, at least for a minute. He may not have even expected her to find anything at all. I can't tell from his expression when she returns whether he's surprised, pleased, or annoyed.

You could argue he was out of bullets, except some he saved especially for Lady Vic, but since his original plan was to kill her, and only changed to crippling her after Bane refused to allow her death, I wouldn't expect him to save more than one bullet. He's Deadshot. For anyone not named Batman, one shot is all he needs. So I tend to think he had more than two bullets left. I'm not sure how to reconcile that with his grappling hand to hand with the mace-wielding native prior to Lori's return. If he had bullets left, why not use them? As far as he knew, she was nowhere around to know he'd lied about his guns being empty.

The arc as a whole felt like kind of a mess. The two groups fighting, then stopping, then resuming the battle later in the same issue, except with new jungle costumes and more cannon fodder. Thomas Blake's on-again, off-again feral mindset Dressing Blake up as Warlord, which didn't seem to serve much purpose. I didn't see any signs the people on his side were particularly inspired, nor the enemies particularly terrified (beyond the prospect of dying at the hands of a shirtless sword-wielding guy riding a giant white tiger). The issue of whether Deadshot was really out of ammo, how Black Alice had kept saying she couldn't sense any magic, until she concentrated for one panel, and suddenly she could sense it just fine*. Scandal attacking Bane, saying he's not her father, then slitting his throat (I still think it looks more like he grabbed her wrist, and used her blades to slit his own throat, rather than fight her), and by the next issue, Scandal's telling Jeanette she flipped out because Bane reminded her of Vandal Savage for a moment.

A lot of it feels off, things happening arbitrarily, but then again, everything they do is essentially meaningless. Both groups, as well as the residents of Skartaris are just pawns in Spy Smasher's stupid attempt to get Amanda Waller ousted. Spy Smasher doesn't care about the people she sent, the people Waller sent in response, or all the people that died as a result. Not just the ones the two Sixes killed themselves. Bane's arrival convinced the group Lorina was with that they could rise up and overthrow Machiste with the help of these outsiders. Which lead to war, which lead to bloodshed. Maybe they would have tried it anyway, without Bane and Friends, but maybe they wouldn't have. If they did, they probably wouldn't have been a dire enough threat for Machiste to don a mask that brings back some horrible magical tyrant the land was well rid of.

What's worse, the other Six believed that by siding with Machiste, they were fighting to defend Skartaris' independence, to keep them free from the U.S. At the least, that idea mattered to Scandal, Lori, and Tremor, and they were the ones making decisions. Blake, Deadshot, and Ragdoll didn't really seem to care, they just went along with it. The joke being that there is not threat of the U.S. conquering Skartaris, regardless of what Bane's group does. However, depending on one's point of view, Scandal's group was actually fighting against freedom by aiding Machiste. I don't doubt Lorina's people felt they were at a disadvantage to his and wanted to adjust that balance.

That's par for the course for the Six. They get involved in a situation, try to do what seems right to them, and it usually ends disastrously. Even if they've managed to get some scumbag killed, it's questionable if they've made things any better.

* This could be excused under the heading of "Lori needs to practice with her powers more", I suppose. I was reading JLA/Hitman and the Flash chided Tommy when he admitted he couldn't read much past surface thoughts with his telepathy. Tommy admitted he couldn't be bothered to refine his skills, which goes along with his tendency to plan on the fly. If Lori's attempt to cure her father's asthma told us anything, it's that she takes a similar approach with her powers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not Entirely Annihilated Legacies

I just noticed this a week ago, but the three characters that face Annihilus at the end of Annihilation have something in common besides all dying in Thanos Imperative (or the run up to it). Nova, Phyla, and Peter Quill were all saddled with legacies they were struggling to live up to.

Richard Rider's the last of the Nova Corps. Everything they stood for, everything they tried to protect, it's left to him to represent. he has access to all the power that used to be split amongst the entire Corps, but it's worth noting there's a risk all that power will drive him mad. Could represent the enormity of the responsibility placed in front of him. Plus, he has the Xandarian Worldmind along for the ride. While that helps him to use the Nova Force more effectively, and staves off insanity, it's also an extra burden. The Worldmind is all that's left of Xandarian culture, and the history of the Nova Corps. Rich can't bring himself to find a better repository for the Worldmind, because then he wouldn't be able to utilize the entire Nova Force, and there's no time to find new recruits and train them up. The downside is, if he falls, the remnants of an entire interstellar culture die with him. No pressure.

When all is said and done, though, he faces Annihilus down, and kills him, saving the universe from his continued threat*.

Phyla-Vell's the daughter of Captain Mar-Vell, the man who only saved the universe from a Cosmic Cube-wielding Thanos once, along with many other heroics. her brother wasn't too shabby either, though he had some serious sanity issues, if his Wikpedia page is anything to go by. Phyla isn't even involved in Annihilation until it's well underway. She doesn't feel she's ready to be a hero, an opinion Thanos shares since in the span of 2 pages he describes her as a 'nuisance', and a 'pretender to Mar-Vell's legacy'. Ouch.

Interestingly, Phyla's most effective moment is when she attacks Annihilus and draws the Quantum Bands away from him. She becomes a hero when she accepts another legacy (Quasar's) on top her family's. Though it does tie back into her father somewhat, since Wikipedia tells me he was designated Protector of the Universe by the same being who tapped Wendell Vaughn.

Then there's Peter Quill. He's a slightly different case. Phyla's dealing with trying to live up to her father and brother. Nova's trying to deal with a being an intergalactic police that's decades? centuries? old all by himself. Quill's just trying to escape himself. As Star-Lord, he sacrificed a mining colony to save numerous worlds from a rampaging former Herald of Galactus. He turned himself in, was sent to a life-sentence only prison, and does everything possible to distance himself from his former identity.

Quill doesn't engage in many heroics over the course of Annihilation. He's primarily an adviser to Nova, probably gets involved in the fighting as necessary, but nothing too notable. Of the three present for the final struggle with Annihilus, he's the only one who takes no active role (it was actually Nova's plan that Peter and Phyla would be spectators, but Phyla didn't cotton to that idea). It isn't until Annihilation: Conquest we see Quill taking a more active role, and then only after he's confronted with his Star-Lord identity once more. He doesn't want anything to do with it, but comes to realize that, however he might feel about his actions, there are many who regard him as a hero and respect him as a result. It's embracing the title of Star-Lord that gets at least some people to listen to him, so he can more effectively protect the universe.

Those three end up saving the universe (multiple times) after they accept the weight of the past. If they hadn't, there may not have been a future. Annihilus would have destroyed everything, including all the remains of the past, in his attempt to make the universe safe for himself. With no one else alive, there's no one left to carry history forward, or to shape the future. Annihilus isn't one to concern himself with such things.

* Galactus did a lot of the work when he wiped out over 3 star systems worth of Annihilation Wave forces, but then he wandered off with Annihilus still alive, leaving Rich to finish the job.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Who Will Be The Next Big Writer?

One of the game I have for my Nintendo 64 is Kobe Bryant NBA Courtside. I don't actually play that much. What I usually do is mess with the rosters, then simulate a season. I like seeing what happens if I remove every teams' top two scorers. Who does the computer think will step up*?

Along those lines, I was thinking about the writers at Marvel and DC. I saw some analysis of the year-end, direct market sales figures that concluded pretty much the only writers who sell are Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, and Brian Michael Bendis. I'm guessing it's a combination of their talents, the franchises they work on**, and that Marvel and DC tend to give them (or let them) write the stories that "count"***.

So, for the sake of discussion, let's say all 3 writers announce tomorrow they're taking an indefinite leave from writing comics. Johns is going to work on DC properties on TV and film, Bendis is going to write prose crime novels, and Morrison's going back to his home dimension to visit the folks. Or whatever. Which writers do you think would rise in the ranks to take their spots? Be the go-to folks for big projects?

I imagine DC might consider Straczynski, but he's seems to be sticking to original graphic novels, so probably a no go. Would they give Paul Cornell a shot? They had enough confidence in him to let him turn Action Comics into a Lex Luthor book for a year. They seem to have confidence in JT Krul, so perhaps him, or James Robinson. Gail Simone has fans, though I don't know if there are enough to convince DC to hand whatever the follow-up to War of the Lanterns will be, for example.

At Marvel, I'd guess Matt Fraction. He's writing their next big event, Fear Itself, which could be a vote of confidence. Of course, Greg Pak wrote World War Hulk, and I don't know that he's received a big boost from it. They seem pretty high on Hickman, giving him Fantastic Four. They could always turn once more to Millar, but his output's awful sporadic.

Either company could turn to people not working for them currently, either by poaching talent from each other, or picking up someone working for themselves or at Dark Horse or Boom Studios or wherever. There's always more TV writers, of course.

What do you think?

* My playing the game isn't a good determinant for two reasons. One, I'll always run my offense through the guards, since I prefer to rely on quickness over size. So the big men get ignored. Two, when I play against the computer, it's the exact opposite. No matter who the big men on its team are, the computer runs the offense through them, to the complete exclusion of the guards.

** Though Johns and Bendis built up the Green Lantern and Avengers franchises themselves. I don't think either of those sold as well prior to those two taking over as they do now.

*** That's something I haven't figured out. Did we, the fans, tell Marvel and DC we want big stores that matter, thus they pump out events like there's no tomorrow? or did they teach us that stories should count, and some count more than others, so now we buy the stuff that counts, to the exclusion of a lot of other material? Who trained who, essentially?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Like Super-Villains Weren't Enough Trouble

Peter Parker's worked as a photographer quite a bit over the years. For the Bugle, the DB, the Front Line, the mayor's office, I think he worked for the Globe for awhile, and Jameson's NOW Magazine. I was wondering how many rivals he's had at work.

He's had a lot of lousy bosses. Jameson, obviously. Dexter Bennett, more recently. Norman Osborn owned the Bugle for awhile in his attempt to make Parker's life unhappy. Thomas Fireheart (the Puma) bought it to try and rehab Spidey's image and pay off a debt of honor he felt he owed the webslinger (which presented different nuisances to Pete), and every comic I read that had Kathryn Cushing as his editor gave the impression she didn't like him for some reason.

For rival employees, I could only think of 2, maybe 3. I'm not sure Ned Leeds counts, because I think their friction was more "you dated my wife/you're married to one of my-exes who I still care about", or maybe it was due to Ned gradually coming unhinged from the mental manipulation the Hobgoblin was using on him. So I'm not sure he counts.

The other two were Lance Bannon and Nick Katzenberg. Oddly, they were killed off within a year of each other. Bannon died because he discovered who was using something called the F.A.C.A.D.E armor*. Katzenberg died of lung cancer (Amazing #385). That one was kind of strange because I don't think they'd used him in awhile, then Pete bring MJ to the hospital to see Nick, hoping Nick's condition will make her stop smoking**. Which it does, so it was a Very Special End of an Issue that had mostly been Spider-Man beating up those armored dimwits, The Jury***.

To a certain extent, both characters conflicted with Pete because they were more willing to give Jonah what he wanted - pictures that make Spider-Man look bad. beyond that, Bannon's issues with Pete were ego-driven. Lance thought he was the best photographer around, and Pete was just some untrained (well-, self-taught, anyway) schmoe whose pictures didn't deserve publication in the same paper as Bannon's. Which doesn't mean Lance never said anything nice about Parker's work. he complimented the angles Parker takes, while simultaneously criticizing his compositions, but it's something.

Nick's problems with Parker are less about their craft, more about ethics. Nick likes to frame his pictures to make Spider-Man look bad****, or try to blackmail people with his photos, or use them as leverage to keep Jonah from giving Pete a job. Parker's just someone in between Katzenberg and a paycheck. Until Peter nearly strangled him in an elevator, at which point Nick decided it was personal. Not sure what form that took.

Those were the only two I could think of.

* I know I wasn't buying all - or even most - Spider-Man comics back then, but I'd never even heard of this story, or the bad guy. I'm not sure it was ever revealed who F.A.C.A.D.E. was, one of those stories that got lost, dropped, whatever.

** When MJ figures that out, she yells at Pete and leaves the room. Pete thanks Nick, but figures it didn't work. Nick's response is 'Look at it this way, Parker: Either she'll come around or pretty soon I'll have me a roommate! *heh*' That Katzenberg, all class, right to the end. I also like the dialogue suggests Pete's been visiting Nick regularly, because it's nice that he'd do that even for someone he was adversaries with for so long.

*** 3 issues later, Peter's fake parents died. 10 issues after that, Pete has a near-death experience after ingesting a serum formulated by Doc Ock to cure Spidey of a virus the Vulture infected him with, and sees Katzenberg floating about what Nick describes as the lower astral plane, waiting to find out where he goes. 2 issues after that, Aunt May died and Peter was arrested for multiple homicides (committed by Kaine, conveniently during the two weeks Spider-Man was in a grave thanks to Kraven, thus robbing Pete of an alibi). The early '90s, huh? Crazy stuff. Can't say they didn't keep things hopping.

**** I suppose it can be argued Pete does this as well, except he uses his photos to make himself look good (though he's been known to sell Jonah photos he knew would make him look bad because he needed the cash and he could deal with the negative publicity). His defense could be that his more accurately reflect what happened than Nick's do, though Nick's have an element of truth as well, if he focuses on the property damage that results from Spider-Man beating Goliath, rather than Spider-Man stopping this rampaging giant criminal.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Leave The Villain Alone, Kids

The students at Avengers Academy didn't seem very impressed with the argument that you don't use the villain's tactics because it makes you no better than them. I think in the case of what the students did (attacking the Hood not to recapture him, but simply to beat and humiliate him), it's an accurate assessment*. Still, it's not one the offenders were very impressed by.

It could have been argued that it was Tigra's right to deal with Mr. Robbins, and they should have told her what they found and let her decide how to handle it. That might have gained more traction, but it probably sends the wrong message, since the Striker and Hazmat (and maybe Veil) would have seen it as settling a grudge (even if Tigra just recaptured him), and it's probably unwise to encourage that in them.

The best argument I can think of to present to them is that what they did accomplishes nothing. Beyond the fact they made no attempt to arrest The Hood, so he's still free to grab the Infinity Gauntlet or whatever, the video they posted isn't going to help. There are certain criminals, the idea of threatening loved ones wouldn't even occur to them. The Black Fox, for example, is a thief, so it wouldn't be his style. He needed no deterrent. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have someone like Dr. Doom, who wouldn't bother threatening loved ones because his idea of sending a hero a message would be to have said hero killed.

For all the other villains, it's throwing down a gauntlet. Telling them if they try what the Hood did, they'll be the next to get trounced. Well so what? We're talking career super-villains here. Threats of violence don't impress them, because they've been beaten up by super-heroes and thrown in prison who knows how many times. Would the Wrecking Crew really be impressed by that video? I doubt it. More likely, the villains will feel some sense of solidarity with Parker, maybe even annoyance that the heroes ain't playing fair (taking some of the bad guys tricks for their own), and lash out.

It's like if a friend of yours was attacked by a dog once, and you see a different dog one day, and decide to kick it before it can attack you. If it wasn't going to attack you, you've gained nothing. You may even make things worse, because now the dog may decide - having been kicked - it does want to attack. If the dog was planning to attack (because it's vicious, or been trained that way, or you came in its territory too abruptly), kicking it won't make it less likely to do so.

I get the feeling this is something Gage has been working with on the book, these kids not stopping to consider the consequences of their actions. Striker outing the existence of the Academy because he's fame hungry, Veil potentially bringing Janet back after Hank decided to wait (we don't know if she did it or not), now this. In this case, we've already seen that The Hood took the attack personally. He wants to beat all the Avengers because they stand in the way, but the three cadets that attacked, them he wants to hurt. They've made it more likely Parker will seek out their families and kill them, whereas, if they'd just arrested him, they'd be lumped in with all the other heroes Parker sees as standing in his way.

* I don't think "you'll be no better than them!" holds up as well when applied to killing, because there are situations where killing the villain may be the best option.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I Bought 1/19/2011

I turned the heat off in the house last night because I kept smelling smoke every time it kicked on. Turned out it was just from the grilling the neighbors were doing, but better to be cold than immolated on a pyre of my own foolishness. Was that last line a bit much? It sounded good, but it's overstating things a tad. I know, hyperbole on the Internet, unheard of.

Avengers Academy #8 - This month, the video of The Hood attacking Tigra in her home makes it to the Internet, and the cadets see it. Which forces Tigra to deal with it again, and she tries to do so in a way that works for her, and sends a good message to the students, as well as other people. Too bad half the kids weren't paying attention, and decide to track down Mr. Parker Robbins, and give him a dose of his own medicine, including recording it and posting the video online. Which gets those 3 expelled. Well then.

Three things. One, I could have done without ever being reminded of that time where the Hood pistol-whipped Tigra and she screamed a lot. In fact, I'd pretty much forgotten about it, I don't think it even registered when I thought about how she was part of the cast of this title. I know it did happen, and fairly recently, and there's been fallout from it (her hunting down the Hood's crew) but I'd opted to exclude it from my personal Tigra continuity, so it wasn't a topic I wanted to revisit.

Second, expelling the students seems unwise. The whole point of the Academy was they're worried these kids will become villains, and they want to discourage that. So they kick them out at the first sign villainous tactics seem appealing to the students? I get that if the kids don't want help, then you can't help them, but I think they need more discussion of what they did than getting yelled at once about it.

Third, Mike McKone draws a lot of characters so they're looking at the reader. Especially characters in the background. Maybe it's supposed to represent them not knowing where to look, but it's not about the reader being the person they're addressing, not all the time anyway. When Tigra expels them on the last page, Veil's looking up, at us, when our viewpoint is from the ceiling. It gets distracting after awhile.

Darkwing Duck #8 - Diego Jourdan with the Batman and the Mad Monk reference! Which was Matt Wagner doing a reference to that really early Batman story, and it's probably that story Jourdan is referencing, but I couldn't recall the issue number, so I went with the one I did know. I like the mechanical hounds. Nice touch.

Let's see. Quiverwing Duck is rounding up variant Darkwings left and right. Darkwarrior Duck (who is a Dark Knight Returns reference I'm guessing) makes vague, ominous mention of future events. Quiverwing helps free the other Darkwings from Magica's control, just about the time Paddywhack merges with NegaDuck to feed off his fears and become more powerful. Which leads to lots of Darkwings versus giant NegaPaddyDuckWhack? By the time all is said and done, Paddywhack's sealed up again, Magica's fled, the other Darkwings are back where they belong, and Negaduck's going to present a very different threat in the future.

Ian Brill did an excellent job wrapping this story line up, because he didn't tie it all up neatly. He left certain things open for future stories, set up some others (I expect Quackerjack to make a big push for respect soon), dropped a few hints for the reader to ponder, and Darkwing's still facing an uphill struggle. The public may actually distrust him more now than they did when the first few alternate Darkwings showed up to cause mayhem. As for James Silvani, I like to think he's having a lot of fun drawing this, because he's going to town with it. About every possible version of Darkwing you can think of, he drew. We had Doctor Who Darkwing and Optimus Prime Darkwing in the first 2 panels! The expressions on the character's faces, especially the increasingly Negative NegaDuck's were outstanding.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The First Of Probably Many Cosmic-Themed Posts

Sometime around when Thanos Imperative was winding up, I got the idea to do some big post that would draw a thematic line through Marvel's cosmic events of the last few years. It seemed like, with Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy canceled, Cosmic Marvel was down to just Thanos Imperative, and so it was probably the grand end. I'm still not convinced it isn't, since I'm not sure Annihilators is going to qualify as an "event" comic.

Obviously, that post hasn't materialized, for a variety of reasons. One of which is I haven't felt like I've put all my thoughts together. The other is, there seem to be enough thoughts one post would be too big. So I'm going to try doing smaller posts, hopefully dealing with different ideas, and once I've done that, maybe I can do a summary post somewhere down the line. Hope springs eternal.

The reason I even thought about trying it was because I felt the threats of Annihilation and Thanos Imperative served as mirrors of each other. With Annihilation, the natural expansion of the Marvel Universe is taken as a threat by Annihilus (or used as an excuse to rally his followers), and he proceeds to invade the Marvel Universe, intent on killing everything. With Thanos Imperative, it's another universe encroaching on the Marvel Universe, trying to eliminate death.

The first story was started by a natural event - universal expansion - and had the villain succeeded would have resulted in an empty, lifeless universe, save for Annihilus. The latter story was propelled by an unnatural event - the obliteration of death - and, if Mar-Vell had succeeded, would have meant the universe would have been stuffed full of life, until it, like the Cancerverse, was to the point of bursting. Which doesn't sound so bad, except there won't be room to move, or enough resources to go around, but people won't be able to die, so, in theory, they'd suffer endlessly*.

It's like two of the theories for the universe. One theory says everything slowly breaks down, and eventually all that's left is a vast space, empty save for a few stray particles that either can't break down any further, or haven't yet. The other says the universe will eventually collapse in on itself, then there'll be another expansion, and things will start over**. But they prove the point Maelstrom made to Drax and Phyla once: Whether it's life that's too strong or death, it leads to a bad end, either way. Only difference is the particulars.

There are other mirroring aspects. In each case, Thanos played a key role, first helping Annihilus, then appearing to submit to Mar-Vell. But in each case, it was Thanos' tendency towards treachery that turned things. He had a failsafe to release Galactus, and his submission was just a way for Death to get close enough to Mar-Vell to destroy him. Also, the three heroes who went to confront Annihilus (Nova, Star-Lord, Phyla-Vell) and survived, all appear to have died at Thanos' hands. Phyla died before Thanos Imperative officially kicked off, but it was what announced his return to the field, so I think it can count. So when they fought against death, they lived. When they were fighting against Life, they ended up dead (or presumed dead). Killed by the Avatar of Death, no less.

I'm still trying to work out how Conquest and War of Kings fit in. Once I do, I'll be able to talk a little more about them. This is just the stuff I've sorted out so far.

* The way Sepulveda drew the Cancerverse doesn't really back up that assertion, since it appeared to be a barren, rotting universe, without many people. Then again, maybe everything was on the front lines, trying to pour out through the Fault into the new universe, like those Sooners trying to get into the opened frontier.

** I got that idea because I remembered Mightygodking described a Legion story where they fought the Time Trapper that was essentially that debate, as a superhero fight.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can't A Scientific Adventurer Be A Super-Hero Too?

Talking about Avengers Academy #7, I don't agree with Pym's (or Christos Gage's if you prefer) assessment of Hank's stint as Dr. Pym. Hank describes it as 'Trying to deny I was a super-hero while on a team of them.' I don't feel like, at least during the Engelhart issues, Hank denied he was being a super-hero. The whole point of that arc with Firebird, was about Hank coming to grips with his past missteps, recognizing he still had it in him to be a hero, then figuring out what method was right for him. Hank and Bonita's conclusion was that rather than being a guy who gets big and punches stuff, Hank was better suited to carrying a vast array of devices, which he could shrink or grow as necessary. He'd rely on his ingenuity, rather than his fists.

Admittedly, his options were somewhat limited. At that point - even though he'd somehow internalized Pym Particles so he could make himself (or anything he touched) change size - his body couldn't handle the strain*. That ruled out trying something along the lines of Ant-Man or Giant-Man. Still, Pym's never struck as a particularly good fighter, so an identity that emphasizes brute strength and hitting people doesn't seem like a wise course. I guess he could have gone back to Yellowjacket, minus any shrinking hijinks, but things hadn't worked out too well for him in that identity, and the personality he adopted wasn't right for him either. Being Dr. Pym keeps him from having some excuse to go charging into battle, so he could hang back and assess the situation instead. Come up with the right tool for the problem. The team already had Iron Man and Wonder Man. If what they were up against was too strong for those too (say Count Nefaria), then it's doubtful Hank would be much good as Goliath.

I don't know why I like the Dr. Pym identity so much. It's the one he had around the time I started reading comics, but the only West Coast Avengers comic I had for years was #6, and he was still inactive at that point. The next issue I had was after they'd switched the title to Avengers West Coast for some reason, and involved Immortus*. He was still Dr. Pym at that point, but didn't get a chance to do much that explained how he was approaching heroing. I might have even though he was just some poor support staff guy that got sucked into the mess. I wasn't very impressed.

I didn't go back and start buying the Engelhart issues until after I had this blog. By then I'd read some of Busiek's Avengers, so I'd seen Hank as Goliath and Yellowjacket. Still, I prefer him as Dr. Pym. Engelhart took Pym right to the brink of killing himself, but Busiek wrote a story where Hank's difficulties reconciling the parts of himself nearly killed him, so I'm not sure it's that Dr. Pym was the result of Engelhart breaking Hank down so he could build him up.

Some of it's Dr. Pym's a very different way of doing things from any of his other identities. It's interesting that he can't use his powers on himself, because of the health risk, but he doesn't retire, he just alters his approach so they help him have a utility belt of sorts. He's the guy who relies on gadgets and brains, but unlike Batman, he's not much of a fighter. He didn't develop his fighting skills along with his scientific ones, because he was a scientist first, a super-hero later. It makes sense for Hank to rely on smarts. Reed Richards has powers, but often, they're a way to restrain a foe, or keep Reed out of reach until he devises the means to win. The powers support Reed's intellect, and Pym's ability to shrink objects does the same for him. He can devise all sorts of helpful tools, and the powers give him a way to carry those along without it being unwieldy.

* #62, with a mentally manipulated Wanda. So it's one of those issues we can probably blame for giving Bendis the idea of the whole Disassembled/House of M mess.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hank's Getting Smarter With Age. Until His Next Foul-Up, Anyway

I've been meaning to do this post for a month, but kept getting sidetracked.

Avengers Academy #7 reminded me of West Coast Avengers #15. You have Hank Pym on the verge of a huge decision, the difficulties of his relationship with Tigra, and a super-villain that badmouths Hank about his superheroic career choices.

With WCA #15, Hank and Tigra are in San Francisco with Hellcat and Damion Hellstrom, celebrating Tigra managing to integrate her human and cat selves, so she's not at war with herself. This revelry is interrupted by Tiger Shark trying to elude Harbor Police, and the ladies make the capture. Turns out Tiger Shark was double-crossed by Whirlwind, who's still on the loose, and the heroes decide to bring him in as well.

At that time, Hank Pym's out of the crimefighting biz. He lives at the WCA's headquarters, but he's basically support staff. Not like Jarvis, or Oracle, more like that Harold fellow who lived in the Batcave in the '90s. Anyway, even though Whirlwind is one of his old foes, Hank is not going to suit up. He will, however, lend his experience by helping set a trap to put Whirlwind in a location where his powers are neutralized, and Tigra and Hellcat have a better shot at him. Things are going fairly well until Whirlwind tries to escape by slingshotting onto the roof Hank happens to be directing the fight from. At which point, Whirlwind giving Pym crap about being a loser who gave up his identity and let others take it, while Whirlwind, no heavyweight himself , has a unique shtick he won't let anyone steal from him. Hank flips out, tries to rush Whirlwind. . . and nearly falls to his death. The issue ends with Hank learning that while he and Greer Nelson (Tigra's human half) may have had a thing going, in her current form, she needs to figure out who she is, so Hank doesn't even have a girlfriend. Which helps drive him to the point of putting a gun to his temple in the last few pages of West Coast Avengers #16.

Avengers Academy is a little different. Hank's still taking a teaching role, but he's also still fighting crime himself. It had been as the Wasp, but he's opted to return to Giant Man. The Absorbing Man breaks confinement, there's no one else left to stop him, so Hank steps up. Crusher talks some trash himself, making fun of Hank for using his ex-wife's crimefighting name, shrugging off Hank's insults about his education, and electrocuting him in response. Crusher calls Pym a loser, and Hank flips out and rushes him, too. It works a little better this time, since he makes contact, but it allows Crusher to steal Pym's powers. This time around, Hank does take care of business, by enlarging the both of them to a realm where Abstract Beings reside, which is more than Crusher's mind can handle. The whole fight is set in between Tigra and Hank awkwardly discussing her son's parentage, and Hank's big plan to bring Jan back to them, over Jocasta's concerns.

It's interesting to contrast the two issues. In each case, Hank tries to attack a super-powered foe. In the first, he does so without any powers himself, because he's trying to give up superheroics, claiming he's not cut out for them. In the later case, he does have powers, because while he still may not be able to settle on an identity, he's at least accepted that he does, if not enjoy fighting crime, feel a responsibility to do so. Also, a charge is a somewhat better strategy against The Absorbing Man, who isn't particularly fast. He'll naturally steal Pym's powers when given the opportunity, and that ends up helping Hank defeat him, by making it easier to enlarge him to a size where the weakness Hank mentioned earlier (Crusher's mind) can come into play. Even if that wasn't Hank's intention at the time, if he simply tackled Crusher because the taunts got to him, he was able to think, and retake control of the situation. Trying to rush Whirlwind, whose entire deal is he's quite fast and hard to get ahold of, was ill-advised, especially considering they were standing on the edge of a rooftop.

In the more recent story, Hank actually listens (eventually) to everyone's concerns that he might be rushing his plan to bring Jan back. It also helps that he saw what brief exposure to that level of existence did to Crusher. In the WCA story, Hank can't really get past Tigra needing time to find herself. Even though she says they might wind up together again some day, he can't see it, he can't wait. He's frustrated that they were together, and then she changed, and now they aren't, and he seems to consider that emblematic of the superhero world he supposedly wants no part of. In reality, he did miss being a superhero, he just hadn't found a style that fit him.

And he wouldn't confide in anyone. When Hellcat asks him what Whirlwind was saying to him, Hank's response is he has no idea. He refuses to let on that anything is bothering him, and so nobody can help him through it. Granted he didn't tel everyone right at the start that his 'Infinite Mansion' was actually helping keep Jan's body together, but before he made his big attempt to save her, he let some other folks in on the plan. Ultimately, the decision was his, but hearing the doubts other people had, helped him realize he had the same doubts, that he was rushing into things again. This time he slowed down a little bit farther away from the edge.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

History Is Hard Enough To Follow Without Junk

In August, I went to the movies with two coworkers, and we wound up seeing The Other Guys. While we were in town, we stopped at a bookstore, and there was a book that caught my eye. For whatever reason, I didn't buy it, and mostly forgot about it. At Christmas, my dad wanted to know something I'd like, I remembered the book, he found it, bought it (and another, related book), and sent them to me. Which brings us to the point where I actually started reading Gavin Menzies' 1421: The Year China Discovered America.

While I was reading the book, I noticed a shift in my reaction. I started out wondering how I hadn't heard anything about this discovery (surprise). By page 300 I was starting to wonder why I hadn't heard anything about it (suspicion). Which lead to me poking around online last night. Menzies has a website which he apparently updates with new evidence, but there's also a website, 1421 Exposed, set up by a group of historians that details the myriad ways in which Menzies obscures or ignores information that disagrees with his conclusions, selectively cites passages, misreads ocean currents, makes claims which rely on results which would be at odds with each other, and so on. Basically, this book is bunk*.

Which is too bad, because Menzies can be an engaging writer. He paints a beautiful picture of Emperor Zhu Di sending this treasure fleet out for its 6th voyage in the year 1421, first to return envoys to the various realms around the Indian Ocean the Chinese traded with**. Then, leading Admiral Zheng He sent the fleet out (while he returned home for some reason). Yang Quing stayed in the Indian Ocean, Menzies says to determine longitude (Menzies describes a method that might have been useful for making maps once one returned home, but would be useless while out at sea). The other 3 went around the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic, split up, and proceeded to explore the eastern coast of South America, Antarctica, the Caribbean, Greenland, the northern coast of Russia, New Zealand, and so on. All 70 years before Columbus reached the Americas. It sounds very impressive.

Menzies is confident in his conclusions, which worked against him as I read the book. Often, he dismisses any conclusion other than his own quickly. One of his arguments is both the Chinese and people of Mexico knew how to use lacquer, which he takes as a sign the Chinese reached Mexico and taught the people there. He says it's highly implausible the technique could have developed simultaneously but independently, but it's not clear why they'd have to develop simultaneously. Why couldn't the inhabitants of Mexico figure out lacquer on their own? Also, he argues that one creature depicted on the South American section of a Piri Reis map of 1513 is the Mylodon, a giant sloth native to South America. He argues the Chinese must have seen them, captured them, then this information was distributed to Europe after their return home and later incorporated in the map. Setting aside the bits about the information reaching Europe, which relies on Menzies' theories about how Niccolo da Conti spent the years 1421-1423***, Mylodons went extinct over 10,000 years ago. It goes on and on like that.

It's too bad really. It was a beautiful story, but it seems to be about as historically accurate as those Harry Turtledove books I used to read. At least Turtledove labeled his stuff fiction. Now I'm going to have ask my dad if he knew about this book when he bought it for me, and wanted to see if I'd catch on, or if he really didn't know anything about it.

* The part that's especially disappointing is the 1421 exposed website also has a section on Paul Chiasson's The Island of Seven Cities, which is the other book my dad bought. I'm not disappointed I learned its findings are highly questionable before I even started it, more that my dad spent money on it. Hopefully he bought the cheapest available copy.

** This is something that isn't disputed, for the record. Pretty much all historians agree the Chinese traded quite a bit with East Africa, Arabia, India, and the Spice Islands before China became extremely isolationist.

*** Menzies argues da Conti (or de Conti) had been traveling throughout the Middle East, was present when the treasure fleet reached Calicut, and traveled with it for the next two years, before eventually returning to Europe and relating all he'd learned to. Most resources online don't corroborate the claim da Conti traveled with the fleet, and there a few that have quotes from da Conti stating he never in his life even saw a Chinese junk, let alone spent two years circumnavigating the globe on one, so take it for what it's worth.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A-Bomb Or Giant Robot, What's The Difference?

Last night AMC ran The Day The Earth Stood Still. The original, not the Keanu one. I've been thinking about Klaatu's final speech to the assembled Earth folk, where he lays out the choices: Stick to Earth and do what you please, venture in to space while continuing your warlike ways and be obliterated, or clean up your act, and join or interplanetary community.

He talks about how the civilizations on other worlds understand the need for law and order, like Earthlings, but out in space, they entrusted the robots with the task of law enforcement. What I find interesting is he says they've given the robots 'absolute power over us'*. Also that the penalty for provoking them is 'too terrible to risk'. The way he frames it, this leaves the people free from war and aggression, to pursue more 'profitable enterprises'**. Which I can see. They can't make war, or fight, because they'll be killed, or their planet destroyed, so they have to find something else to occupy their time.

It sounds like a civilization built on fear. Don't be aggressive, because if you are Robot Guy will disintegrate you. I don't know how much aggression is required to bring the Death Beam down upon you, or how much leeway the robots have in their interpretation of aggression. Gort killed those two soldiers who were moving slowly towards him, though they hadn't fired upon him yet (and weren't capable of damaging him with their popguns), which suggests the robots aren't big on shades of gray. It doesn't sound all that different from what we have on Earth. There are people who don't commit crimes because they believe it's wrong, or it wouldn't occur to them. There are also people who don't commit crimes because they're afraid of being caught and thrown in prison, or executed. We don't use robots with laser eyes, and I don't know that there's a set of laws all countries across Earth obey equally (whereas I get the impression every planet in the alliance Klaatu's part of follows the same rules), but the concept doesn't seem that different.

At the time the movie was released, the U.S. and the Soviets had atomic weapons, so everybody was a little edgy about whether they'd blow each other (and everyone else on the planet) to smithereens. So the idea of come on people, now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and we'll be able to join a totally awesome Space Civilization sounds pretty appealing. Better than death by atomic fire, and it'd be a sign of growth as a species if people could put aside ideological differences and work together. I have a hard time picturing that, all sides trying to find some equitable middle ground that everyone can be satisfied with.

It still feels like trading one Sword of Damocles for another, though. In theory the robots would be better, because you can be killed by an A-Bomb even if you had nothing to do with what brought things to the point somebody uses one. With Gort and his ilk, if you're being disintegrated, you were probably actively taking part in the "aggression" that was deemed objectionable. On the other hand, Gort doesn't seem like someone you could reason with, or make an appeal to. Gort sees you do something, he acts, you're more than likely screwed. With other people, there's at least a chance you could reason with them, convince them not to stay on their present course. It might fail, they might be hellbent on carrying out their plans, but there's a chance.

* Which isn't true is, it? Klaatu is able to give Gort commands, override his impulses to eradicate everything. Maybe it works because Klaatu isn't the one doing things that Gort would respond to.

** The way he says that makes me wonder what he means. It sounds ominous.
"The assembled Great Powers agree to set aside their differences to exploit all the lesser people of the universe" and all that. I may just be an distrustful person.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Devil's Company

I borrowed two books from my dad on my last visit. One was Cry Havoc, the other was David Liss' The Devil's Company.

The Devil's Company is (I believe) Liss' third book starring one Benjamin Weaver, a noted London "thieftaker", which seems to roughly mean bounty hunter. Weaver is more than simply someone who pursues wanted criminals, he reminds me of Burn Notice's Michael Westin: You have a problem, you hire him, he takes care of it. In this case, Weaver finds himself set-up, given a job which is designed for him to fail and wind up in debt to one Jerome Cobb. As Cobb has also bought up the debts of Weaver's friends and family, he now effectively owns Weaver, and sets him on a task, stealing documents from the office of the East India Company. Which Weaver then returns to the Company almost immediately.

Things progress into a tightly woven set of deception and intrigue. Weaver is trying to extricate himself from Cobb's grasp, but in a quiet enough fashion to keep his friends from prison, while also trying to determine what the myriad secretive factions within the Company are up to. And what does it all have to do with the death of a man named Abaslom Pepper?

The book is set in 1722, so Liss does his best to use historically accurate phrasing and language, but in a way the reader can still follow wot the bleedin' 'ell the characters are saying (Note: I don't think anyone in the book actually says "Bleeding hell"). I didn't have much trouble following things, and on the occasions I wasn't familiar with a phrase (such as "molly house") Weaver (who is apparently telling this story to an audience several decades later) usually explains it.

There's an interview in the back of the book where Liss mentions that in his research, he was surprised how many modern corporate practices were already in play by the 1700s. The East India Company truly doesn't balk at much of anything to try and protect its trade. Whether the threat is Parliament, new inventions, rival business interests, they try and deal with all of them, mostly by methods of questionable legality. So what we see today is nothing new under the sun, really. The relationship between the Company and the government is one of those where both parties smile and shake hands, while they each conceal a dagger behind their backs. They'll work together as long as their interests coincide, and once they don't, Katie bar the door.

The other historical bit that was interesting is that Weaver himself is Hebrew, which means he has to deal with a lot of dirty looks and condescending talk. Actual violence based on his faith is rare. For better or worse, England was the best place in Europe for Jews in the 18th Century. There's a bit in there about what Weaver calls Tudescos, which from looking online, refers to Jews whose ancestors hail from Germanic regions (whereas Weaver's folks are from Portugal and Sephardi). I think the more common term is Askenazi, and Tudesco is more a specific term used in Portugal to refer to non-Portugese Jewish people. At the time, there wasn't much love between the two, and the Sephardi were dominant economically, so that made life difficult for the Tudescos in London.

This another one of those pieces of history I'd never heard of that intrigued me. The story doesn't detail what issues the Sephardi have with the Tudescos, only that they don't have anymore love for these Germanic folk than the Christians in England do. I don't know if it's a cultural rivalry issue, or that Sephardim are/were a tightly knit community, and so where the Askenazi/Tudescos, but the two don't really intermingle, and that produces hostility and awkwardness. It adds to the overall feel of the book, fleshing out the world Weaver inhabits. Plus, I'm not sure Weaver even knows why his family would look unfavorably upon the Tudescos, so it's another conflict where the sides may not even know why they're fighting, or who they're fighting.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What I Bought 1/12/2011

My vehicle's "check engine" light came on yesterday. Had an initial assessment that suggested it would cost 500 bucks to fix, but they didn't have the parts could I come back tomorrow? Sure, drive 35 miles home, then drive 35 miles back with a vehicle that has something wrong with it. Sounds great. So they gave me the list of problems, told me I could get it serviced at a location closer to home. Made an appointment, figuring it would give that place time to order the parts in case they didn't have them. Guy I talk to on the phone says they'll want to run a diagnostic, too, to make sure they don't replace something that doesn't need replacing. Turns out to work in my favor, since what they diagnosed as the problem only cost $300. Let's hear it for things not being as bad as I feared!

Batgirl #17 - Steph's on a case of kidnapping, and ends up teaming with Damian, who stumbled into it because he likes to observe the people he condescendingly protects. They follow the kids they believe may contain the potential victim to a museum field trip, which requires Damien to go undercover amongst the 'runny-nosed brats'. It turns out the kidnappers plan to abduct all the children, not just one, which leads to a fight on a school bus. Villains and their love of crimes that involve public transportation.

Steph was on this mission by request (order?) of Batman, though I don't know whether that happened in another Batbook, or simply off-panel. Doesn't matter, I suppose. I do enjoy Steph and Damian trading insults, but also that Steph tries to help him in her own way at the end. It matches what she told him before, that what she and Oracle are doing is about hope, not fear. I can't say I approve of Bryan Q. Miller's attempts to make me like Damian more. I'm quite satisfied not liking the little snot. Pere Perez drew this issue, which is a bit of a shift from Dustin Nguyen (who'll be back next month), but it's mostly fine. There were certain things in the bus sequence I didn't follow (what Nell told Robin to watch out for, why one of Steph's Batrangs - or was it Damien's? - went flying out a bus window), but his Damien is suitably sour looking.

Heroes for Hire #2 - Misty sends Silver Sable to shut down an arms dealer. Meanwhile, Paladin with an assist from Satana, investigates the corpses of some of the arms dealer's customers, and makes a troubling discovery. Sable is making the same discovery on her own about that time, but fortunately, Misty is able to call in Ghost Rider to lend a hand. After all that's settled, we see that Paladin knows something is up with Misty, too. He doesn't know what precisely, but he knows there's something.

I still like Brad Walker's layouts, how well things seem to move from one panel to the next, especially during action sequences. Love that Abnett and Lanning seem willing to use anyone. There's all these character that either haven't gotten play in years, or haven't gotten much, why not? I don't know if I'd even heard of Baron Brimstone before. His name sounds like one I should be familiar with, but it hasn't rang a bell so far. I'm curious to see how the missions so far serve Puppet Master's purpose. I can't imagine he's strictly a concerned citizen. On the negative, Silver Sable's dialogue seemed off, to the extent some of her lines would have seemed more natural coming from Stephanie Brown, or maybe Jubilee. I think of Sable as having formal speech patterns, not much slang, and being abrupt and to the point.

Also, phantom pregnancy? Didn't Peter David use that in X-Factor a couple of years ago?

R.E.B.E.L.S. #24 - Dox has dinner with Blackfire. They're both being charming, and Dox at least, seems charmed. Which can't be good. Adam Strange enjoys some time with his family. Captain Comet sulks in a bar after another meaningless makeout session with Starfire. Lobo thinks he's found another member of his species, but it's a trap, designed to help give Starro a boost. Cue the little starfish. Then Vril Dox' spaceship is attacked by one of Starro's other lackeys as he approaches home.

The thing I like is even though I started reading only a couple months ago, Tony Bedard's provided enough backstory for me to follow what's happening. I haven't read the original Starro the Conqueror story he wrote, but I get the gist of it. It hasn't been done in what feels like a blatantly obvious infodump fashion. Admittedly, there's a lot of talking throughout the entire issue, and maybe that makes it easier to fit backstory in, but I think Bedard's careful about not trying to tell us too much at one time. Mention what's relevant, move on. I don't have a lot to say about Claude St. Aubin's art. It was a talking heads issue, and it was fine. I still think St. Aubin's style makes Lobo look too neat. I mean, he has stubble, but his hair looks neatly conditioned, and I can't imagine even working for Dox would get him to take baths.

Secret Six #29 - I hope this is the only month DC's going to put these previews for their comic based on their online game. I keep getting fooled into thinking there's more to read only to discover, nope, the issue is over, but here's a few pages of this thing I don't care about!

The bomb's spoken of in Action Comics do detonate. Eventually. After much talking, negotiation, bloviation, threats, insults, force bubbles, and gum. So there's an explosion, but everyone takes a ride in Lex' pink bubble, and Alice uses Alan Scott's powers to catch them, and they all survive. Though Ragdoll is convinced they all died. Lex tries to force his hand with Vandal, but gets punched in the face (twice!), and gets his fake Lois decapitated. Vandal and Lex agree to work together as partners, the Six leave, and we learn the story of Scandal's mom, which was not something I was interested in, actually. Strange, I know, given my love of interesting backstory, but the two-parter really did nothing for me. Which doesn't bode well for next month's run-in with the Doom Patrol.

Marcos Marz drew this issue. I don't know if that's because Calafiore needed a month off, or they felt Marz' style was more similar to Pete Woods. Which is an explanation I'd believe, because Marz work is superficially similar to Woods.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Will The Dirty Rats Hurry Up And Plug Each Other?

I don't care much for mobster movies, or the mobster genre in general (or should it be the organized crime genre?). I've never had any interest in watching Godfather movies, or The Sopranos. I have seen The Untouchables a few times, and it's one of the few films Costner is in I like, but it's more an exception. I don't know precisely what the issue is. Maybe that they're thugs, but the pretend to be these classy guys, and we're supposed to be impressed with them for it. I don't know.

I figured if there was a director whose attempt at a mobster movie I'd like, it'd be Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America. Problem being, I didn't bother to confirm the title of the movie before I requested it as a Christmas gift, so I wrote it down as "once upon a time in new york". Oops. Which brings us to 1931: Once Upon a Time in New York.

It's actually an Italian movie, dubbed with some pretty lousy English voices. A lot of the male voices don't match what I'd expect for how the character looks. The movie begins and ends with The Sheik of Araby playing, an upbeat sounding tune at odds with a story of murder and betrayal. There's plenty of both in the film. An illegal liquor supplier guns down a mobster who refuses to pay the price set for the watered down booze. Then he teams up with a big-talking mobster named Pete from New York who has a line on some big cash about to be shipped back to Italy. They acquire the cash, and the backstabbing begins. Pete vows to get revenge and the money, and abducts the other fellow's girl, even though he tells her he doubts her boyfriend will pay up. There's some threatened torture with razor blades, more determination to get revenge, and Pete guns down the gang with a standard shotgun he fires about 20 times without reloading. Which is not the sort of firearm inaccuracy that should surprise after years of watching action flicks, but it did stand out.

The mobsters strut around in fancy suits, having nice dinners, pretending to be friendly and civilized, but they'll calmly cut a corpse open in front of the widow to retrieve money, then throw another guy in the coffin with the body (for reasons that escaped me), and dump the whole thing in a coal mining pit. Why, considering there were any number of people at the funeral who saw them they left alone? No idea. Just for the hell of it, I guess. The upshot is, for guys who behave as if they're cock of the walk, they all end up dead.

It's really not a good movie. The poor dubbing doesn't help, but there's only a few characters that have enough dialogue for it to matter. I suppose the actors do well enough, though again, without their voices, it's hard to tell. The plot is fairly straightforward, but as I mentioned, there are certain actions that make no sense, except to highlight the mobsters have evil senses of humor. For a movie about revenge, I'd think you'd want the audience to root for the person out for revenge, or alternatively, to disapprove because of motivation, method, or it being the incorrect target. Here, I can't bring myself to want Pete to succeed, because I don't want him to benefit, but I'm not against him killing the liquor makers. I guess I could side with the girlfriend, though she's certainly an opportunist. Understandable, she learned from experts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010 Comics In Review - Part 5

Last one, and it's the, I guess, obligatory, listing things post!

Favorite Ongoing Series (minimum 6 issues purchased, which really limits the field):
1. Darkwing Duck
2. Secret Six
3. Batgirl

Favorite Mini-Series:
1. Black Cat
2. Avengers vs. Atlas
3. Batman Beyond
4. Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet
5. Heralds

Favorite One-Shot:
1. Deadpool #1000
2. Nightmaster: Monsters of Rock
3. Thanos Imperative: Ignition

Favorite Trade Paperback (not necessarily released in 2010, but definitely bought in 2010):
1. Atomic Robo Vol. 1 - Atomic Robo and the Fightin; Scientist of Tesladyne
2. Hitman -10,000 Bullets
3. The Rocketeer - The Complete Adventures
4. The Legend of GrimJack, Vol. 1
5. GrimJack - Demon Knight

Favorite Single Issue of Each Ongoing I bought at Least 4 Issues (I lowered the requirement from 6 to 4, because it was going to be a short list otherwise):
Amazing Spider-Man #620
Atlas #5
Batgirl #9
Darkwing Duck #3
Deadpool #22
Guardians of the Galaxy #25
Hawkeye and Mockingbird #4
Nova #33
Power Girl #12
Secret Six #21

Favorite Writer:
1. Jen van Meter
2. Jeff Parker
3. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
4. Kathryn Immonen
5. Adam Beechen

Favorite Penciler/Artist (minimum 5 issues or 110 pages drawn):
1.Amanda Conner
2. Gabriel Hardman
3. James Silvani
4. David Lopez
Honorable Mentions (like last year, artists whose work I liked, but didn't see much of) - Marcos Martin, Dustin Nguyen, Javier Pulido, Wes Craig.

Alright, no more Year in Review posts! Until next year, assuming I'm still at it come January 2012. Tomorrow, probably a movie discussion, unless I make it through this book I'm reading today.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010 Comics In Review - Part 4

Did any NFL fans happen to read Roger Goodell's "Letter to the Fans" about the upcoming labor negotiations? He says 'If both sides give a little, everyone, including fans, will get a lot and the game will improve through innovation.' What I noticed was he doesn't describe what the owners will be giving up. Not surprising, as the commissioner is a honk for the owners (no matter how much Goodell, or in the NBA, David Stern, behave like little tin dictators). The players will apparently have to adjust to an 18 regular season game schedule (but the league cares about player health and safety! And I can sprout wings and fly to Mars!), and he's pushing for rookies to make less money, but I didn't see anything specifically about what the owners surrender. Nothing about not charging fans full price for the 2 preseason games. The way he discusses the rookie paying scale, I'm inferring he's saying the money first round draft picks won't get will go to veterans or retired players. I'll believe that when I see it.

That didn't have any conscious bearing on today's posts, it had just been gnawing at me for a few days. Related to yesterday's intro paragraph about the artists, I checked and yes, mini-series and one-shots were a larger slice of the pie in 2010. In 2009 it was about 41 of 144 (28.5%). 2010 was 49 out of 134 (36.6%). That probably doesn't explain it by itself, which brings us back to the Marvels series I bought being canceled left and right. All I can do is keep buying, hope the title survives, and enjoy what I got when it ends.

Power Girl #8-17 - Lo, there were five issues by the Palmiotti/Gray/Conner team, and they were good. Then the guard did change, and it was Judd Winick and Sami Basri, and things were significantly less good. Then I dropped the book.

High Point: Just about anything with Vartox was gold. The bit in his ship, when Peej asks 'is that supposed to be on fire?' Vartox asks if she can see his heart, to which she responds, 'No idiot, your kitchen is on fire.' I need to work 'By the fifteen hells of Granutash!' into my everyday vocabulary. That's 8 more Hells than what the Thanagarians have, isn't it? Also, when she beats up Vartox and Galaxorg until they get off Earth. There was one bit Winick had I enjoyed, in #17, when she and Batman are beating up power-suited thugs, one shoots her in the face while calling her some profanity. When the smoke clears, she's singed, but unharmed, and casually flicks his helmet off while asking if he'd like to repeat that.

Low Point: Most everything else about Winick's run. Dismantling the company. The death of one of Karen's employees. The harsh tone she took with Nicholas, threatening him with his past indiscretions. Drawing the plot in closer to Generation Lost. I know, she was JLI so it fits, but I don't care about Generation Lost, so I have to like a book a lot more than I did this to stick around through tie-ins to stuff I don't care about.

The Question #37 - One of two of those resurrected series DC trotted out for Blackest Night I gave a whirl. I thought the solution Shiva came up with for surviving a fight with reanimated Vic Sage was clever enough, but I also thought Montoya and especially Aristotle Rodor were able to use it too readily. You can just shut off all emotions like flipping a switch? Anyway, Denny O'Neil and Greg Rucka cowrote it, and Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz handled the artwork.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #22, 23 - This was the title I started buying to replace Power Girl on my pull list. I haven't bought anything he's written since he switched to DC, but I still have a fair amount of fondness for Tony Bedard from his work on Exiles back in the day. Early returns have been promising, though I kind of doubt Cosmic DC is ever going to equal Cosmic Marvel for me. Then again, 5 years ago, I wouldn't have thought cosmic Marvel would entertain me as much as it has.

Red Robin #10 - I bought this because it was crossing over with Batgirl, and I liked this half of the crossover more. Marcus To's artwork was a big part of that, but I also have some fondness for Fabian Nicieza's writing. Also, this half of the crossover had Tim unclench a little. He'd been so uptight, grim, and hostile around Steph in Batgirl #8, it was nice to see things be a little more cordial between them, while still recognizing there's some rough history there.

Secret Six #17-28 - When I dropped Deadpool, this became the title that had been on my pull the longest (they'd been sharing the title for the 2 months since Nova ended). It's a very hot and cold reading experience for me. Every time I read a few issues I like, then I hit a story I don't like. I think I prefer the book when the characters are reacting to something done to them, rather than actively taking jobs which require them to do horrible things. Now the book is crossing over into other titles for a couple months, and if Action Comics was any indication, it's going to be disappointing. At least the creative team has been mostly stable, with Gail Simone writing and J. Calafiore drawing. John Ostrander cowrote the Blackest Night tie-ins, and wrote #23 solo, which was drawn by RB Silva.

High Point - If not for all the zombies, it would have been the Secret Six vs. Suicide Squad arc. Alas, there were zombies. I'll give the nod to the following arc, with Catman hunting down the men who abducted his son. I'm still not entirely clear on the point Old Man MacQuarrie was trying to make, but overall, it was a good story. Also, Waller was awesome over the course of the Skartaris arc, which is as it should be.

Low Point - Even with Ostrander writing it, I wasn't a big fan of #23. The story was fine (though his Catman felt off), the art didn't work for me, because I felt it confused things in places. Also, the zombies in the Blackest Night tie-in. Also, the Skartaris arc felt strangely put together, like it was drawn out and not allowed to go where it was originally intended at the same time. I thought it was strange the two sides stop fighting so they can don Savage Land costumes and then start fighting again, later in the same issue. Plus, most of the Warlord continuity stuff, while not confusing (Simone explained it well enough) had zero impact on me.

She Hulks #1, 2 - This was the other mini-series (besides Ant-Man and the Wasp) I gave a chance one week back in November. This was the one I kept buying, I suppose because I like the characters involved more than I do Hank Pym or Eric O'Grady. I do like seeing Jennifer Walters have to be a mentor, and the fish out of water aspect of Lyra in school has been fairly entertaining so far.

Suicide Squad #67 - The other of the resurrected issues. This one was really an issue of Secret Six with a different title, which is maybe a little disappointing. But I haven't read the end of Suicide Squad, so I don't know what kind of situation there was to build off, the way I do with The Question. Anything I could say about this I already said in the Secret Six entry, so basically, woulda been better without zombies.

Thanos Imperative #1-6 - The only game in town for cosmic stuff over the last half of the year. Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy try to bring Death back to the Cancerverse, while Nova and everyone else tries to keep their universe from being overrun by the Cancerverse. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning naturally handling the writing chores, while Miguel Sepulveda was the artist.

High Point - The Scarlet Witch serving as a mole for the forces of good in the Cancerverse was a nice change of pace from how things have gone for Wanda the last six years or so. Thanos tricking Mar-Vell, and Nova making everyone stop bickering and realize they have to work together.

Low Point - There were a lot of developments in the last issue I thought were pretty lousy, and they diminished my enjoyment of the series overall. The Cosmic Cube Star-Lord had suddenly, maybe have a couple of charges in it, whereas it had been portrayed as burnt out previously. Richard taking all the Nova Force, then accomplishing very little with it, which really only served to sweep the Nova Corps off the board entirely. Thanos' plan being "I'm going to let you stab me until Death shows up and kills you", which seemed a little basic for the Mad Titan.

Thanos Imperative: Ignition #1 - Also written by Abnett and Lanning, but with art by Brad walker, the prologue for Thanos Imperative, where Adam Magus and his followers rip the Fault wide open, so the Cancerverse can come through, which causes Thanos to go berserk. On the upside, Adam Magus was dispatched in a single panel by Mar-Vell, which warmed my heart.

Valkyrie #1 - Another one-shot, this one detailing how Valkyrie came back from the dead, and how this Valkyrie isn't like any of the others that have been running around the Marvel Universe previously. Bryan J.L. Glass wrote it, and Phil Winslade drew it, and it was OK. I wonder if there's going to be much of a difference in how Val's portrayed, now that she's an actual Valkyrie, and not some mortal woman inhabiting a Valkyrie's body.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

2010 Comics In Review - Part 3

In 2009, there were 6 different artists who drew at least 7 issues worth of comics I bought: Paco Medina, Nicola Scott, Andrea DiVito, Brad Walker, Paul Pelletier, and Amanda Conner. There were another 9 who drew at least 5 issues. Considering I only bought 12 fewer comics in 2010 than in 2009, I wouldn't have expected much of a disparity. Some disparity to be certain, but there were only 9 artists in 2010 in the 5 or more category, and only 3 (J. Calafiore, James Silvani, Gabriel Hardman) in the 7 or more category. I haven't sat down to check this, but my guess is mini-series made up a bigger percentage of what I bought in 2010 than in 2009, and since mini-series don't tend to be very long, that accounts for it. I'm sure the fact most of the Marvel series I bought shipped relatively few issues didn't help.

Girl Comics #1-3 - I'm not typically a fan of anthology series. They're always so potluck, and the stories I like aren't as long as I'd like them to be. So I'm not sure why I bought this. I'm sure the Amanda Conner cover didn't hurt (still can't believe Logan was dumb enough to bet on Tony Stark and his Vartox-stache), and maybe I wanted to support more work at Marvel for women creators. What? It's a possibility!

High Point: I'm going to stick to one per issue. So let's say "Shop Doc" by Lucy Knisley. Faith Erin Hicks' "Do You Ever?" felt perfect for Marvel characters, since they're constantly dealing with ungrateful and unpleasant civilians. Why wouldn't they at least consider the benefits of going evil? #3 had two separate stories about Logan and one of his proteges, one more serious, the other more funny. I'll narrowly give it to "Things That Never Change", by Marjorie Liu and Sara Pichelli.

Low Point: There wasn't a bad story in the bunch. I can't say "Chaos Theory" did anything for me. I think I understand what DeConnick was going for, but maybe it needed more space to work.

Gorilla-Man #1-3 - This is the first of two mini-series we'll hit today focusing on a specific Atlas character (plus there's a one-shot for another one of the crew). Here, Jeff Parker and Giancarlo Caracuzzo give us the story of Ken Hale's past, intermingled with a current mission for Atlas.

High Point: The part in #2 when Ken gets one of their enemies to talk, by convincing the guy he has the mystical power to transform into animals. Like say, a gorilla.

Low Point: There wasn't anything in particular.

GrimJack: Manx Cat #5 - The last issue of Ostrander and Truman's latest GrimJack story. it occurs to me that GrimJack knows the truth about the Manx Cat after this story, but he's stolen it from people on several occasions. I guess he hasn't been stealing it from the Sleepless Ones, which means they need to improve their security. Or drink more caffeine.

Guardians of the Galaxy #22-25 - Well looky here, a series I was buying that Marvel canceled! What are the odds?

Sarcasm aside, this continued the lead up to Thanos Imperative, what with the continued threat of the Fault, and you know, Thanos coming back from the dead. Abnett and Lanning were the writers, Brad Walker drew 22 and 25, Wesley Craig 23 and 24.

High Point: Well, I was pretty happy about the end of #22, when it was revealed Magus hadn't actually killed half the team. Course, that meant Magus was still alive too, but that was rectified soon enough. Beyond that, Star-Lord's "Bang." which put down Thanos.

Low Point: Phyla's death. I think she and Moondragon are set to give Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne a run for their money in the "hopelessly doomed romance" category. Either one's abducted, or dead, or turned into a telepathic dragon, or becomes the Avatar of Death. It's a constant string of bad luck.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird #1-6 - Relax, I'm not going to be sarcastic and indignant that Marvel canceled this series, since I was prepared to drop it anyway. I'm not entirely sure why it didn't click for me, beyond how little some of the characters seemed to like being around each other. I don't need every character on a team to get along, but it helps if a few of them seem to like each other. Otherwise, why not go work with someone else?

High Point: The fight in the museum was pretty cool. Points for using a Triceratops head as a weapon (though I thought they were trying to minimize damage to exhibits). Plus, folks seemed to be getting along a little better that month.

Low Point: I wasn't a big fan of Hawkeye maiming Crossfire. I know he's gone wild and killed Skrulls, and tried to kill Osborn recently, but I wasn't a fan of those developments, either. Steve Rogers telling Hawkeye to rejoin Mockingbird's team, because Steve wanted someone there to make sure they stayed good (so he can use them) worried me as well.

Heralds #1-5 - I liked Kathryn Immonen's Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini-series, so why not, right? I thought the premise for getting that particular group of heroes together (Scott Summers asked them to help Emma celebrate her birthday) was suitably odd and funny. The funny stuff was what I liked the best.

I still don't understand why they couldn't wait to release it. I don't think it was Marvel's original plan to split art chores between Tonci Zonjic, James Harren and Emma Rios. I get that it was a five issue mini-series, and they wanted to release it in a month with five Wednesdays, but why not wait until September? Or December? The only thing that might have affected other books was the return of Nova (former Herald of Galactus, not Space Cop who was still alive at the time). To my knowledge, no one has done anything with her, so what was the rush?

High Point: The whole bit in Vegas at the beginning. The interaction between Scott and Emma, the party, the fight with the scientist clones (Patsy's eagerness to punch Oppenheimer, then her disappointment at missing out on Hitler). Also, Patsy's interacting with Valeria, and that odd sequence where Ben Grimm whistled at the ladies, then explained Reed liked to be whistled at, so what was Frost's problem? How much time you got, Ben? It's a lengthy list.

Low Point: I understood why Frances was angry, but Nova's reasons for being angry rang false. She's running around blaming Johnny, Reed, the Surfer, Galactus for her problems, but I've read the story where Frankie became Nova. She made that decision, eagerly. She poo-poo'ed any concerns about how, as Herald, she might have to feed planets with intelligent beings on them to Galactus (her exact quote: 'So? A few less bug-eyed monsters? What's that compared to my being able to go. . . out there?') Her blaming everyone else feels suspiciously like buck-passing to me, which makes me disinclined to care about her problems.

Heroes for Hire #1 - I have my misgivings about this, mostly the possible inclusion of the Punisher. Garth Ennis killed most any interest I have in seeing Castle in the Marvel Universe. That aside, it's Abnett and Lanning again, with Brad Walker, too. I have to give it a chance.

Marvel Boy: The Uranian #1-3 - Jeff Parker and Felix Ruiz bring us the story of Bob Grayson's early adventures on Earth, trying to adjust to life here, trying to get the governments of both the U.S. and Uranus off his back.

High Point: The idea that the writer would alter certain details of Bob's story to better fit with his 1950s-era comic, and that the scientists on Uranus would adopt some ideas to upgrade Bob's capabilities based on said comics (such as the pill that gives Bob a strength boost temporarily, which I'm guessing was based on the supposed uranium pill he swallowed in the comics).

Low Point: There wasn't anything about the story itself (though Felix Ruiz' art wasn't of my personal preference. Too angular, scratchy looking. You know me, I like those clean lines). However, I preferred how Parker did the Gorilla-Man story where the past was interwoven with the present. This was strictly flashback, nothing set in the present day as a member of Atlas.

Namora #1 - The Atlas character centric one-shot I mentioned earlier. Jeff Parker and Sara Pichelli giving us some insight into how Namora views herself as a hybrid, how she views her life in general. I admit I was really excited when she saw Namorita, because I'm still (still!) waiting for those two to have a reunion, now that Nita's back. It was an illusion, though.

Nightmaster: Monsters of Rock #1 - It's pretty rare for me to buy a one-shot from DC. I'm sure they put out plenty of them, I'm just rarely interested, I suppose. The last one I bought was the Robin/Spoiler Special from 2008.

The story here (by Adam Beechen and Kieron Dwyer) was Nightmaster needs to rescue his Shadowpact teammates, but as he's trying to do so, runs into an old fan. Jim Rook was a musician before he was a super-hero, a long time ago, but the real fans don't forget, man. So he has a tagalong throughout the story, one seemingly oblivious to everything else around him. I guess he's seen weirder.

Nova #33 - 36 - Yes, another series I bought Marvel canceled. We're to 3 for the year (not counting H & M). Oh well, 3 years isn't a bad run these days. Abnett and Lanning mostly spent their time on a story focusing on the odd properties of the Fault, namely that the regular rules of reality don't apply. The last issue switched to Thanos Imperative build-up, leading directly to the Ignition one-shot we'll get to tomorrow. Andrea Divito drew 33 and 36, Mahmud Asrar drew 34 and 35.

High Point: Namorita's back! My inner New Warriors' fan rejoices! Beyond that, Rich took out a doubly-empowered Sphinx, and didn't listen to stupid Reed Richards and his "Don't mess with the timestream" warnings.

Low Point: How Darkhawk got taken out at the end of #36. He'd been having a rough go of it in Nova ever since he showed up in the Secret Invasion tie-in issues. I was hoping he'd get a chance to participate in Thanos Imperative, and have a better showing.

Tomorrow, we make a run through the remainder of the alphabet. It's going to be heavily DC focused, if that matters to you.