Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Same Antagonist Doesn't Always Work

I was pretty bored with the Nazi mechs menacing Washington D.C. in Avengers Academy #15. I liked the issue overall, what Gage is doing with the characters, but I was uninterested in that aspect of the story. Which was strange, since I enjoyed the Nazi mechs that showed up in Atomic Robo Volume 2.

I guess robots piloted by Nazis feel perfectly natural in a story set in the European Theater of World War 2, once you accept it as a world with atomic robots, giant ants, and water-powered pyramid computers that can focus sunlight as a laser. As a threat, they feel like they belong there. Even though they shouldn't feel any more out of place in the Marvel Universe, in a story in the present about older than the Norse Gods gods showing up to feed off humanity's fear, they don't fit. I know the Red Skull's daughter is involved, and her dad was a Nazi but it still seems an odd combination. Maybe I'm missing details. It sounds like Matt Fraction's missing some of the details himself.

On the whole, it doesn't seem like the time or place for them as a threat. Why not minor members of these older gods pantheon/race/hierarchy? Like how most Asgardians aren't anywhere near Thor's level, but a human would find them quite a formidable threat.

Also, I don't see them as a threat to the cadets. Not that I believed Robo would be destroyed, either, but Clevinger spent a little time on some of the regular soldiers also involved in the battle that might buy the farm. Gage does take the opportunity to show the cadets struggling to adapt, as Striker has to get over that experience of his possible future self dying, and Veil tries to protect some civilians but an intangible body doesn't stop bullets very well. And Mettle actually killed someone, of course. Those are moments that will stick with those kids, and Gage will use them somehow or the other, I'm sure. But they don't really require Nazis in mechs. It could be ordinary citizens with firearms, driven mad with fear, who lash out and achieve much the same purpose.

Strangely, I think some of the humor of Atomic Robo helped. When he's complaining about being pummeled by one of the mechs, or griping when it shakes off being hit with a jeep, I guess it's acknowledging the oddness of the situation. A sentient metal man fights soldiers in giant metal suits. Fear Itself seems presented as being much more serious, while not really being any less odd. It's trying too hard, like those Back in Black issues of Amazing Spider-Man when JMS had Peter's internal narration be a constant stream of tough guy cliches to emphasize that this time, Spider-Man means business. I get what the goal is, but it pushes too hard.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I Bought 6/25/2011 - Part 4

There were two other books I ordered Jack seems to have forgotten about, namely Flashpoint: Secret Seven and Fear Itself: Fearsome Four. I don't mind either of those not showing up. I saw enough reviews online to convince ordering either one was a mistake. I read two different reviewers describe Nighthawk's portrayal in Fearsome Four as being the Goddamn Batman. I don't even want to read Batman acting like the Goddamn Batman, I have zero interest in Nighthawk behaving that way. With Secret Seven, I heard George Perez didn't draw the whole thing, so what's the point? Also, while I have nothing against Shade, the Changing Man or Peter Milligan, I'm not a huge fan that must purchase all related works. That'll teach me to show any interest in ancillary mini-series of big events.

Mystery Men #1 & 2 - I was originally going to review the books alphabetically, like usual, but I figured since I had the first two issues, it made sense to touch on them both together. I'm surprised I like that cover. It's just a group of characters against a dark background, but the way they're all partially obscured gives it more mystery, more style.

It's New York in 1932. We meet Dennis Piper, who robs the rich to help the poor as the Operative. Piper's girlfriend Alice, an aspiring actress, is killed by a mysterious General, who seems to have Shadow-like powers. The murder was committed in the service of a fear god, who also has great interest in an amulet the General has an archeologist searching for. Piper is framed for Alice's murder, but assisted by a mysterious vigilante called the Revenant. Alice's sister also turns up, unwilling to be relegated to the sidelines by the old-fashioned Operative (Revenant seems to have no problems with her taking part in the investigation).

I can't remember why I decided to order this. Maybe it was David Liss as author, since he wrote The Devil's Company, which I reviewed back in January. It doesn't matter, I've enjoyed this a lot so far. I don't really know much about pulp heroes, which most of these characters seem to be, but I've found them interesting, each with their own reasons for what they do, and their own skills, each with their own interests when it comes to who they help and how. The inclusion of a fear god seems a little out of place amongst the dirty cops and mysterious power brokers profiting from the Depression, but it does add an interesting supernatural flavor to a story that mostly features street-level or science-based characters so far (I'm not sure whether the Revenant has magic powers, or is just good at making it seem like he does).

Patrick Zircher is the artist, and it's been awhile since I read a book he illustrated (the early issues of Cable/Deadpool, I think). There are certain things that look familiar about his work, but I think he's more minimalist now, fewer lines except when necessary, and thicker linework at that. The characters seem to stand out noticeably from the backgrounds. he prefers capturing the moment after an action as well. We see Piper in mid-air after he's gone through a window, or a cop's head recoiling after the punch connected. It presents the action, but in a matter of fact way, "it was going to happen, it did, let's keep going". Andy Troy's colors have been pretty good. Some of the shadows he uses, lights only seeming to illuminate what's important, or Revenant's fog effect, all very well done.

if I were to voice a concern, it's that we're 40% of the way through the mini-series, and there are still "Mystery Men" to be introduced. I worry things may grind to a halt to fit the others in, or they'll be given so little time as to be pointless. But so far the plot's been advancing as we've met the characters, so I'll trust that Liss and Zircher have it under control.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I Bought 6/25/2011 - Part 3

Jack didn't quite remember everything. I'll have to hope Batman Beyond 6 and Heroes for Hire 8 are in the next box. I'm more interested in H4H, though I'm still curious to see what Beechen can do with the return of Blight before the book is canceled.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #28 - I feel like a lot of the covers for this title have been sort of generic "Here's a bunch of characters against a dull background" lately. Maybe that's because it was canceled, so who cares, right? The two I saw for that story with the Green Lanterns and the Psions were sort of interesting, so it's disappointing.

Starro's fending off Starfire, Blackfire, and Captain Comet pretty handily. Fortunately, Lyrl Dox sends Tribulus up to help out, since his mental lightning kills the little starfish, which weakens Starro and frees Vril Dox, who then uses Tribulus to bat Starro around a little before sending him through a portal into the waiting fists of Lobo and Smite. So I guess that's the last we'll see of that Starro. After that Vril seems to have been officially recognized as Blackfire's consort, which is a useful public relations move for everyone somehow, and the group will apparently continue even if the title doesn't. For three more months, when stupid Flashpoint reboots everything.

OK, this month Blackfire kind of disses her sister by describing her as "difficult" to be in a relationship with (something she learned from Dick Grayson, no doubt). A couple of issues ago it was Alanna (Mrs. Adam Strange) speaking poorly of Kori. The legends are true. Women really do constantly talk shit about each other behind their backs! I thought it was a myth. OK, fine, I actually found out it was true last year, from conversations my coworkers had about other coworkers, which was awkward, since I got along with the people talking and the person being dissed.

Someone reversed the order on two pages. Page 3 is Brainiac 3 watching Tribulus. Page 4 cuts back to the fight with Starro, but has Brainiac 3 in conversation with Adam Strange. Page 5 is still Brainiac 3 watching Tribulus, and contacting Adam in the last panel. Don't know what happened there. Not sure what happened to St. Aubin's art either. It feels more stiff than usual, maybe because the linework is thicker. It's not all that way, but especially when Vril starts controlling Tribulus the figures seem to be posing more than moving. There's also a panel where Starfire almost has cat whiskers, which somehow do help convey a sense of embarrassment/chagrin, but looks strange anyway.

Rocketeer Adventures #2 - I'm glad Jack keeps sending me the Dave Stevens covers. I might as well get some Dave Stevens art in a Rocketeer mini-series. Also, this isn't the book set in the 1930s I was talking about.

In Mark Waid's story, Cliff lets his jealousy get the best of him, and while he does save the life of the man he's angry at, he also helps the guy's image, while landing in a fountain for his trouble. Which sounds about right for Cliff. he does the right thing when it comes down to it, but not happily, and it doesn't work out for him. I don't have much to say about Chris Weston's art. it's clear, gets across the information, but didn't really catch my eye.

Darwyn Cooke writes and draws the next story, presented as the sort of serial I guess they used to play in theaters, where Betty has to save Cliff with the rocket, while not being entirely dressed, since that seems to be a problem Betty has frequently. She's still a better pilot than Cliff is in most of these stories. It's a cute story, with a few funny gags to it.

The last story was by Lowell Francis with art by Gene Ha as Cliff attempts to bring down someone else who stole one of Howard Hughes' flying man prototypes. Which he does, mostly through luck. The story is set to a boxing match being announced over the radio, so there's no dialogue by the characters involved until the end. It's not a bad way of doing things, but I was more interested in the guy who stole the flight suit, and that sort of narration isn't exactly forthcoming with the details, so it didn't do much for me.

Secret Six #34 - Go ahead Bane, break his back as much as you want. They'll just wipe it out in a few months. Maybe. Or maybe not. Who knows?

The team is out of Hell, even managed to get Knockout out as well. They also save Liana from crazy guy, but do not respect her request that they not kill him. Which isn't surprising, but it is a little disappointing. But if they figure they're going to Hell anyway, why hold anything back. Scandal talks with Ragdoll, who is sad because Alice left without even a note for him. Which is a lousy thing of her to do, but I assume she didn't expect him to be back. He did willingly go to Hell. Bane goes on a date with Spencer, who is strangely unbothered by the story of Bane's life. Even the part where he broke the Bat. Also his taking a knife through the hand, then jabbing said knife into a guy's face while the knife is still stuck in his hand didn't faze her much. Credit to Spencer, or should those be big red flags?

I wonder why Scandal said she had something else to skewer, then went up to the roof to talk calmly to Ragdoll. She was even nice to him, which doesn't jibe with mentions of skewering. Now I don't know whether that's a sign that something's wrong, or a sign Simone's trying to rework the story on the fly to reach a decent ending before the book gets canceled.

It's the same colorist this month as usual (John Kalisz), but Calafiore's art looks a little different, and I'm pretty sure it's the colors. Some of the characters look softer than usual, but maybe it's just the lighting. In the early sequence they're illuminated only by headlights, which is atypical for the book, so maybe that's it. There were just a few panels where I felt Scandal looked different. Otherwise, it's Calafiore's typical work, so take from that what you will.

OK, tomorrow, the first two issues of a mini-series set in, you guessed it, the 1670s! No, no, that's wrong. It's the 1930s.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What I Bought 6/25/2011 - Part 2

We're not going to quite stick to the comics I promised yesterday. 2/3rds as promised, but we'll visit the 1930s later.

Batgirl #22 - Surprised they didn't go with an "Out of Time!" blurb on the cover.

Stephanie's in England for some Batman Inc. case. For some reason, it's been set-up for Squire (of Knight and Squire) to pick Steph up and get her where she needs to be. Beryl instead opts to show Steph around London until they come across The Orphan and his gang trying to steal the Greenwich Mean. Which is used to plug a seal in time naturally. The Orphan does manage to draw the sword (of course it's a sword), which freezes everyone except him and his gang (who are wearing special devices). And Steph and Beryl, who were zapped by the chronitons emitted by the sword. They save the day, which earns Steph no leniency with Batman, who is pissy about her arriving at her hotel room several hours late. I still hate BruceBats so much, folks.

I've never read anything with Squire in it before, so I have no idea if this is a portrayal in line with past appearances. I did like her as she was presented. Good at what she does, stays calm, but has fun with it too. Now I'd like to see her team up with Cass Cain, just for a different experience from working with Stephanie. I also have no idea if British people talk as they are depicted here, but I'm considering the idea Squire was just having some fun, playing at the stereotypes. Pere Perez returns for the art chores and handles things quite well. I'm not sure about using the sword as a panel border for two pages, especially while the Orphan is running around with it inside the panels, but points for trying to do something different.

Darkwing Duck #13 - Darkwing and Launchpad are visiting various mystics in hopes of locating Morgana, who vanished after banishing Duckthulu. Unfortunately, all the seers are a bunch of losers, and DW is slipping into depression. In other news a pitcher has gone slightly 'round the bend in his efforts to keep the hitters guessing. He receives a package, a coat from which he can draw practically any object, which he can then throw. Naturally, he becomes the new super-villain One-Shot, and calls out the downtrodden Darkwing. Round 1 goes to the villain, but Round 2 goes to our hero, who outsmarts the, the, . . . crap. I can't come up with a good alliterative description. "Highly-unpredictable hurler?" Ugh. Anyway, Darkwing makes a decision on the last page that, as Gosalyn notes, cannot possibly end well.

Another winner. One-Shot makes for a convincing villain for a single issue, but he also served to either set-up a new subplot, or advance an old one. Not sure which of those the being who provided the coat will turn out to be. Silvani continues to have fun with drawing weird stuff, since One-Shot could throw literally anything, including a canister of the radioactive ooze that created the Ninja Turtles! Who's up for a crossover?

What? Just me? Fine, forget you guys.

Power Man and Iron Fist #5 - The evil Penance Corp leader uses Power Man to lure Iron Fist into a trap, then tries to have him killed by unleashing lots of convicts. Yes, ordinary crooks will bring down Danny Rand. Brilliant plan. Regardless of its stupidity, Danny's thwarted even more by calling in some backup. No, not the Avengers. Or the Heroes for Hire. Turns out Noir was not who Victor or I thought she was, but we did learn something about Tiowa (and she learned Vic's a super-hero. We'll see how that goes). All the different pieces of the mystery are wrapped up and it's a relatively happy ending.

Wellinton Alves work looked rushed. Certain the level of detail I remember from Nova wasn't there, which is disappointing. I think the book could have looked better. I'll have to sit down and reread the whole mini-series because I'm not sure it holds together. It almost feels like van Lente threw too many threads in, then didn't have enough time to build them properly. It's been over a month since I read any of the earlier issues, though, so that feeling might go away if I take the whole thing in one sitting. I think Jonah Jameson needs to ease off the anti-vigilante stance. When your bias is being counted on as part of villain's schemes, that's a sign it's time to reevaluate. This was the weakest of the three books from today, but it was still OK, so that's not too bad.

Tomorrow, the last issue of a series, the second part of a mini-series, and a comic about amoral people doing harsh things to people that aren't them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What I Bought 6/25/2011 - Part 1

Oh, sweet, blessed comics! I have missed you so! Almost everything from the last 5 weeks is here, woot! Now I'm not going to be lazy and split this into five parts, no sir. Just four parts. I think that's fair.

Annihilators #4 - Immortus agrees to stop trying to kill the Annihilators because Quasar has some important role to play in the future. The team brings Wraithworld back out of Limbo, which is exactly what the Skrulls want. They plan to turn the remaining Wraiths into Skrulls to help rebuild their empire. O-kaaay, sure. The plan fails, our heroes stop the two suns from going supernova by combining them so that one side is a yellow sun, and the other a black sun (for the Wraiths). Then the planets are set on opposite sides and now they have to learn to get along. Celebration at Knowhere is cut short by detection of sentient black hole attacking a galaxy.

In the other story, Groot rescues Rocket from a cell designed to keep him pacified. We get some backstory for this Star-Thief person, and with what they learn Rocket is able to distract him long enough for Star-Thief's psyche to be subdued. With the day having been saved, Rocket and Groot opt to take up duties guarding the galaxy again, whether it wants to be guarded or not.

I felt vaguely dissatisfied with both endings, but I'm not entirely sure why. I appreciate the comic-style insanity of the Annihilators' solution, though it seems like there'll be trouble as the planets revolve around their strange fused suns, and I like how uncomfortable Rocket is with dressing up as a dog to save the day. But somehow the victories don't seem earned. I didn't feel Tan Eng Huat's art really conveyed a sense the Annihilators' battles were any sort of struggle, and considering the power of the characters involved, maybe they weren't supposed to be, but I felt like they were meant to be difficult battles but didn't come off that way. With the Rocket/Groot story, I still love Tim Green's art, but the need for someone, either Rocket or that piece of equipment to translate everything Groot said into expository form was starting to get old. Too much telling, not enough showing. Why did Abnett and Lanning go that route? Giffen wrote Groot as being able to converse with everyone just fine in the Annihilation - Conquest: Star-Lord mini-series.

A mixed bag overall, some good, some bad. Will I be buying the Annihilators: Earthfall mini-series in a few months? Absolutely. Hope springs eternal that it will all come together.

Avengers Academy #15 - I've never understood the deal with the lightning on Striker's outfit. The amount of it changes, and it shifts location from panel-to-panel. I assume it's actually his power, routed through the suit, as opposed to a design, but it's distracting.

Oh goody, a Fear Itself tie-in. I am so excited. Yawn. I'm more bugged I'll ahve to put up with these for 3 months in Heroes for Hire, though. Super-criminals have been freed from the Raft (a super-prison). What, again? Every five minutes it's a mass super-crook jailbreak around here. The teachers are called in to help catch the escapees, except Tigra, who stays behind to lead the students if they're needed. Which they are so off to D.C. they go to try and protect civilians from Nazi mechs. Mettle kills a guy, and is suitably depressed about it, Striker overcomes his fear from his death against Korvac, and Tigra really hates having to send these kids into battle. Once the crooks in N.Y.C. are captured, Pym's all set to go help the cadets, but he's sent to Dubai to stop the Absorbing Man, who is wielding one of those stupid Fear-Hammers. Methinks Hank's about to lose some brain cells.

It's not a bad issue, though it's a little awkward that last issue ended with Pym stating that the cadets' training would have to be upped so they were ready to save the world, and here they are being thrown in the deep end already. We haven't even seen this more intensive preparation. it's hard for me to believe they weren't capable of dealing with the Sinister Six last month, but they're ready for this now. I did like how much more serious Pym got when he heard the kids were in the field. Not that he was a barrel of laughs before, but the panel where he gets that scared look when he hears the news, then the next panel he flattens to flying crooks against a building because he does not have time for this. Admittedly, Grim and Serious Pym could go to a bad place, but that's a risk that you take.

Raney's art looked rushed in places, less detailed in the faces than usual, but that may have been the presence of two inkers. My hunch is Hennessy's inks work with Raney's art differently from Hanna's. Can't say for certain; it isn't broken down which inker did which pages, but I think Hennessy may have taken over about the time the kids are sent in, and then it switches back and forth.

Avengers Academy Giant-Size #1 - That is a pointless cover. Rogers, Spidey, and Iron Man have nothing to do with this. No idea why I expect Marvel covers to actually relate to the content inside anymore, but I still think it'd be a nice idea. This suggests it'll be a story about how these younger heroes are inspired by those older ones or something. Would have been nice to get the gatefold cover that actually had Arcade and other people present in the story, but I'm glad to have a copy, so I'll move on.

Some of the cadets are enjoying a day away from the school. They get separated, then captured. Elsewhere, Spider-Girl (I really still want to call her "Arana", but I'll get used to it, like I did calling Stephanie Brown "Batgirl") and Firestar respond to a text from their teammates Toro that gets both of them captured. Reptil and Spider-Girl wake up early and find out their teammates are prisoners of Arcade, out to improve his rep by successfully killing some super-heroes. This time he's opted to go after less-experienced heroes, since they'll be easier. I tend to disagree with lumping Firestar in there, she was on an Avengers team with Captain America and Thor, but sure, compared to Spidey or the X-Men she's less experienced. Arcade makes our heroes jump through some hoops but they eventually turn the tables on him, their teammates escape their prisons and things go badly for Arcade, who lets his love of amusement get the better of him.

I especially like the Whack-A-Mole death trap. It strikes me as the sort of old-school thing Arcade would favor. Griping about the cover aside, I'd have preferred this as a mini-series (and Marvel would have gotten more of my money that way!) but that's because anticipation would have heightened my enjoyment. The story flows well as a whole, though. Tobin writes a good Arcade and I think he handles the other characters well too. I was as surprised as Striker when Finesse apologized, but if she realized he was right, she'd probably recognize an apology as the proper response. David Baldeon draws Arcade more creepy than I'm accustomed to, with a more angular face and sunken eyes, but it's a good look. Recognizably Arcade, just more psychotic. He also draws excellent robots and dinosaurs, which is always handy for a comic book artist.

Tomorrow, comics set in England, in the 1930s, and starring monkeys with magic coats! No, not all in one book.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Death Of A Conductor

Donna Leon's Death at La Fenice has a leisurely pace I'm not used to in murder mysteries. There's very little tension within the story, as Commissario Brunetti investigates the poisoning of a great conductor. Brunetti does have one of those cop superiors more concerned with closing the case quickly - to appease newspapers - than correctly. But Brunetti's able to avoid him easily enough, aided by said superior's apparent laziness so there's no real pressure from above. There are no scenes where Brunetti is attacked by the murderer, or pulled aside by powerful or dangerous people who want him to back off. Chapters are far more likely to end with him rushing to an interview or leaving one on cordial terms than anything tense. It's surely more realistic, as it's all about asking the right questions to the right people and connecting all the disparate pieces together, rather than shootouts and foot chases.

Which makes for an unusual reading experience for me. It's novel to see a mystery where the detective isn't so obsessed with his work he has no friends or family (because his work comes between him and everyone else), or he's suffered some awful trauma in his past that causes him to bury himself in his work. Leon spends a chapter introducing us to Brunetti's kids as he, they, and his wife Paola play Monopoly (the Italian version), which is different. At the same time, it doesn't make for a gripping read. It's not poorly written by any means, but I kept going waiting to see why I should care this "Maestro" is dead, or to figure out why Brunetti is a police officer. It isn't as though Brunetti doesn't want to find the truth, but he doesn't get stressed about it, so I have a hard time caring myself. The lack of urgency works against the book. I wound up finishing it because after a certain point I was far enough along it seemed a waste of time not to finish.

The dialogue has a stiltedness to it, as if the characters are purposely playing roles for each other. Considering the story starts in the midst of an opera, that's appropriate, but it adds to the unusual feel of the book. A part of it may simply be Venetian society, which seems to have certain rules for conversation that are different from what I'm accustomed to.

One thing about Brunetti I'd like to understand is his tendency to take out a notebook and pretend to take notes while interviewing people. I imagine part of it is he's expected to, but I'd think people would be more at ease talking to a policeman if they didn't see him taking notes, figuring he wouldn't possibly remember everything. A person might never know when they'd let some embarrassing detail about them slip, whether it has to do with the case or not.

Friday, June 24, 2011

When What's Chasing Me Is About To Bite, I'll Look back

I find when I go jogging, dogs like to chase me. This isn't the case when I walk past them, though it is if I bike. Some of the dogs that chase seem to be having fun, some seem intent on returning home with my Achilles' tendon as a chew toy. Maybe that's fun for them, in which case I question their owner's competence.

The one thing I have noticed is that regardless of the dog, if I stop running/biking, and especially if I turn to face them, they're suddenly very interested in something else. Not so gung-ho on getting a piece of me when I'm able to kick their teeth in. I like dogs (usually) but not so much I'll let them maul me.

I was trying to think of a way to describe their behavior this afternoon (why I don't know, since I wasn't running or biking), and I settled on them being Boos. Those ghosts from the Mario games, the ones that chase until the moment you turn around, when they vanish, or cover their eyes, or turn around themselves, waiting until you've resumed your previous heading to pursue. And for a few games you couldn't do anything to them because you'd have to turn around to attack them, and they'd vanish when you did. I know by Mario 64 you could beat them by jumping in the air while your back was to them and then performing the Ground Pound maneuver on them.

So maybe that's the key to the dog issue. While they chase I should jump, then land on them with my butt. It sure seems like that's going to result in painful bite marks, but if Mario 64 says to do it. . . It's probably a better idea than the Resident Evil 2 suggested response, to shoot the dogs, then shoot them again to make sure they don't get up and kill you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ink-Stained Trail

I bolted town after that last case. Too many people looking to rub me out. Like it was my fault Johnny Two-Left-Shoes was shipping walnut hooch in crates marked "cod" over Port Authority's objections. Not that they objected to his shipping it. They objected to not getting a bribe. I tried working for the government, but they said I wasn't crooked enough. Maybe while I'm gone they'll all remember they hate each other and my problems will take care of themselves.

Yeah, and tomorrow a beautiful, rich widow will ask me to stay with her at her country mansion. That has happened, but she was a very recent widow looking for a patsy to take the fall.

So I moved my business further inland. Still settling in. It's different. Back home, all the buildings shield out the sun. You could forget it was there after awhile. Here the sun beats down all the time. Couldn't ignore it if you tried, though the wind makes a game effort to grab your attention. That's another thing the old turf blocked out. The wind goes all the time out here, a constant companion that won't let me light my cigarettes. I'm thinking of naming it Nancy, after my last girl. It's for the best she couldn't deal with my relationship with Sweet Lady Tobacco. She looks her best in the glow of a street light, and there aren't many of those out here.

At least people around here aren't like that. They want you to smoke, and just let the burning ash fall anywhere, that's fine, sonny. I suspect I'm in a town of pyromaniacs. The good news is I haven't had to buy cigs in weeks, not since word got around amongst the locals I do enjoy a smoke.

Not that I'm a popular guy. I'm still a newcomer, an outsider, and a busybody for hire, at that. Harder to do the work here, where there's no cover and you can see for miles. I'm sure some folks enjoy the view, but I miss the alleys and the steam coming up from the tunnels to watch from. You want shadows around here, you have to wait until night. Takes longer to get here than it did back home too. Always thought the towers and smokestacks pulled the sun down faster, and knowing that city, probably gave it a few swift kicks once it was down. No wonder you didn't see it much. Only a fool would linger around a place like that. Or someone who didn't know better.

It rained here yesterday. Not unusual; it's rained a lot since I arrived. Maybe I brought it with me, packed in the back of my car with my coat, camera, and whiskey. Most of the rain here is hard, fat rain, like being pelted with dead bees. Distracting, irritating. Yesterday was just a mist, moving under ladies' umbrellas and the brim of my hat because the wind carried it sideways. That felt normal. Mist was about all that could make its way to the ground in the City. Only stuff small enough to escape all those accusing spires and clutching ledges.

Not everything is different here. The Raccoons are around, and up to no good, stealing food intended for the less fortunate. They could just use the market like everyone else. Organized and cocky as always, hitting multiples locations at once, leaving just enough crumbs the cops know it was a raccoon, but not which raccoon. They're all guilty, and none of them are. Well, I have a little experience with them, and the wallet's getting light enough to float away. Maybe I'll look into it. . .

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh, Don't Let Tears Fool You Mikey

I've been watching my recently acquired Burn Notice Season 4 collection. I was planning to watch one episode a day, then I had Sunday off (first true day off in 3 weeks) and wound up blowing through 13 episodes. It's been nice, since I missed quite a bit of the season when it originally aired, so there were episodes I hadn't seen, and it's given me a better sense of who Vaughn was. I hadn't grasped why he specifically was after Michael in the season finale, rather than someone else in his organization.

Watching the show, I realized there seem to be a lot of episodes where the threat is thought to be a guy, but turns out to be a woman, and our heroes always seem thrown by this. At least I was able to come up with at least 3 examples off the top of my head. It makes me wonder if Michael has a blind spot. We know he has a tendency to be dismissive of bureaucrat types, because someone sent to kill him posed as one to get him to drop his guard. Maybe this is another one, where he doesn't tend to consider women threats, but rather as protector types. Which would relate to his particular upbringing, with his lousy dad. It was definitely used against him when an assassin portrayed herself as a mother trying to hunt down her abusive husband who has taken their son away from her to get Michael to find the man for her, but the other two examples didn't bring that into play. Rather, Michael, Fi, and Sam just didn't seem to consider the possibility the threat could be a woman. She puts on the waterworks, or poses as an efficient personal assistant, and they wind up fooled.

Considering how dangerous Fiona can be, it's an odd blind spot for Michael to have. He really ought to know better. Sam did note that Fiona is the only woman Mikey had a relationship with (Sam not knowing about Mike's engagement to a thief named Sam), so perhaps Michael regards her behavior as typical for women. As she's on his side, it's not really threatening (Fi might punch him in the face, but she's highly unlikely to kill him). So he's accustomed to it, and doesn't react when he sees similar signs in other women. Yeah, that's a lousy explanation. I guess the spy and criminal trades could still be male-dominated and so it's playing the odds says the threat would be a guy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Conducted A Survey. . . Part 1

When I've discussed the DC retooling, either here or with myself, the thing I try to keep in mind is it isn't aimed at me. DC's out to expand the audience, bring in people who are aware of their characters, but don't buy the comics. I wanted to see how they did, so I e-mailed two friends of mine with a request:

'DC Comics is doing this big renumbering/reboot thing with their line of comics. They seem to think that, combined with offering digital versions of them on the day the print version is released, will net them a bunch of new readers, rather than relying on the same old die-hards (like me). What I'm wondering is if you two would be willing, when you have the time, to look over the solicits and just e-mail me your thoughts?'

It goes on from there, but it's just some suggestions on what to look for, nothing critical. Both the fellas have read and bought comics in the past, but not for a long time. But they've watched some of the various cartoons, and several of the superhero movies, so they clearly have that interest, it simply hasn't translated into buying comics. Which makes them perfect test cases, right?

Haven't heard back from Alex yet, but Papafred did send me some quick thoughts this afternoon. So I'll post them and we'll go from there.

'I haven't had a comic in awhile but 3-4 bucks seems a bit high for a comic? Is that normal?

I like Harley Quinn, she rocks. . . (he includes a link to the Suicide Squad cover)

But she always rocks. . .

I'm not sure if I'm familiar enough with the art in these comics to even notice they are a rebooted version of critique it much. Most of them seem to look a bit 90s-ish, rather than the glossy look of now.'

Right out of the gate we have concerns about the price, which isn't encouraging. I did forget to mention the digital price drops after the first month, but I let him know, so maybe that makes a difference.

I find it hilarious that he echoed the comments I've seen allover the comic blogs about how this feels like a hop in the Wayback Machine to the '90s. I didn't expect that at all, but it greatly amuses me.

Now I really want to see Alex' comments. I think he's stayed in the superhero stuff a little more than Papafred, but mostly because they look at things differently, so it should be interesting.

How about it, audience? Any of you tried running the DC That's Coming past your non-comic buying friends to see their reactions? If so, how it'd go? If they punched you in the face, you may need new friends.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't Tell Me I Lost When You Just Told Me I Won

I've mentioned a few times I'm a fan of the DragonBall series. Watched a lot of the episodes, bought some of the manga, and yeah, bought some of the video games.

The first Budokai game wasn't very good, but I played it enough (and had enough fun with it) that it was worth the money. Budokai 3 was actually a pretty good game. Maybe not one of the greatest fighting games of all time, but I tend to stink at fighting games anyway, so how would I know*? There was one other I got to play once, Supersonic Warriors on the Game Boy Advance. It wasn't much different from the first two games I mentioned, other than the fighting arena being limited to 2-D rather than 3-D. Fly around, trade punches and energy blasts, save the world, that sort of thing.

The one thing it really had going for it was the ability to play story modes for several different characters. Budokai 3 had that, but in some cases, it seemed sort of half-assed. What I mean is, I'd be playing as a character (say Krillin), and I'd have to fight somebody that guy fought in the actual original story. Originally, Krillin lost, but I have to win, because this game actually expects you to win boss fights, unlike Baten Kaitos: Origins**. So I do, hooray for me. The game then continues forward with the story as it was originally, so it's treated as though after I kicked butt, I was trounced by the same guy off-screen. That's deflating.

With Supersonic Warriors, if you win a fight, the story actually proceeds like you won the damn fight. It actually reflects the fact that with the help of your quick wits and reflexes, this character can defend the world from any threat. Or destroy the world in defiance of all opposition if you play as one of the bad guys. Whichever. It was a relatively little touch that I appreciated, because if the game is going to let fight the big battles with a different character as the big hero, then it could at least play out like the character I chose is the big hero.

* I think I was pretty good at the first Super Smash Bros., but I never moved beyond mediocre on any other fighting game.

** You'd think not being expected to win would be a good thing, but not when you're expected to survive for a certain amount of time. You can't be trounced too quickly, but you also can not win. At least not until some point well after the place where I got fed up with battles I wasn't able to win.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Train Of Thought Is Off The Rails Again

Some time ago, some coworkers and I got into a discussion about our preferences in doughnuts. I agreed with one fellow that I prefer the cake doughnuts, while the others preferred the, I guess, yeast doughnuts. The ones that are typically larger and lighter. Those can be OK, I'm not completely against them, but it's like eating air. Air with frosting on it.

Now if someone could devise frosting that defied gravity, that person would be elevated to the level of a god. You could be sitting in an easy chair, reading a book, you spray some frosting next to you, and just turn your head and take a bite whenever you like.

There'd be mishaps, though. People would overestimate their vertical, and you'd have frosting sprayed too high in the air for anyone to reach. Just floating there, causing problems for birds, attracting insects. The birds might appreciate all the insects, but they'd end up getting some of the frosting along with the bugs and the next thing you know, you have birds suffering from obesity and diabetes. Will Wilford Bremley help them get diabetes supplies delivered right to their nests? I doubt it.

I imagine people would start spraying the frosting too high as part of performance art. You'd see people out on sidewalks, dressed in leotards, pantomiming leaping helplessly towards their costar (who is suspended from a light pole with a sign that says "Frosting" around their neck), but always coming up short. They'd title their performance something ridiculous like "Icarus Flies Too Close To The Sun". On the other side, gravity-defying frosting-based comedy would take off. There'd be so many acts about a guy trying to reach that frosting, so now he's going to try and climb the walls with plungers. Then he'll try stacking up furniture in an unsteady tower. Then he'll try sawing through his roof to get the frosting from above, all with hilarious consequences.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everyone Wants To Play That Guy (Or Gal)

What historical figure has been best represented in film?

I guess the question started when I was recently thinking again of Mightygodking's "I Should Write Dr. Strange" posts. He was discussing Dracula and pointed out some of the great actors who have portrayed Dracula in film (Bela Lugosi, Jack Palance, Gary Oldman, Christopher Lee). But Dracula's not real, at least the vampire isn't, if you're counting Vlad the Impaler as the inspiration for the Count then that's a real historical figure.

One guy I thought of was Wyatt Earp. There's Kurt Russell, James Garner (in Sunset), Henry Fonda, and Kevin Costner (a strike against Earp). That's not too shabby. There's probably someone who has done better. Anyone come to mind?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Moving Hudson Hawk Into The Future

It's future. Still our past.

I like Hudson Hawk. It takes some flack, maybe justified. I watch it without taking it seriously, which helps. I can't believe it's meant to be taken seriously, and if regarded as a parody, then it's fine. I'm biased, though. I tend to like Bruce Willis movies (though I haven't seen much he's done recently), and he plays a thief. We all know by now how much I like fictional thieves (enough to find DC's rebooted Wonder Girl intriguing, that's how much).

Anyway, I was thinking perhaps the movie needed to come out at a different time. It has this story about plans and items vital to Leonardo da Vinci's ultimate machine, hidden within his other inventions, and of course the Church is trying to run the show with their secret agents and all.

Do you think the movie would have been better regarded if it came out 15 years later, after The da Vinci Code, and the Tom Hanks' film, and the similar books and so on? Assume any changes made in Hudson Hawk's cast due to age are essentially lateral moves in talent and star power. I'm not certain who is a lateral move from James Coburn's awesomeness. Probably have to make up for his replacement's deficiencies with an upgrade elsewhere. Basically the same story, though it has to adjust some. Could you still wreck the economy in the mid-2000s by flooding it with gold? Could you even do that in the early 1990s?

"Better regarded" is the wrong term. Let's start with whether it would do better financially. With people who want to laugh at the folks who get really sucked in by that book? Or maybe people who are really into devouring any sort of entertainment related to the idea of hidden messages within Renaissance artists' works?

I imagine the critical reception wouldn't change much, since the movie's flaws would still exist, but you never know. Perhaps Hudson Hawk was ahead of its time.

OK, that's a bit much.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Once Again, Batman Is Allowed To Stick His Nose Wherever He Likes

About the new Justice League International book. Since it's supposed to be composed of heroes from all over the globe, do you think DC should have used that as an opportunity to spotlight someone from Batman Incorporated? Maybe Nightrunner (or Batwing, to help promote his title) added to the roster instead of Batman?

I'm not surprised Bats would want to be involved with a super-team that's going to be active across the globe. If nothing else, he can take things he learns there and feed it to his agents if he thinks they're better suited to dealing with the problem than the JLI. By the same token, if Mr. Unknown 2 comes across something he thinks is out of his league, he can pass it along to Batman, who can then sic Guy Gardner on it. Or the other Justice League, I guess. No, not the one with Constantine. The other, other Justice League.

I guess I'm surprised he was allowed on the team. Unless this is a new, friendlier Batman who plays well with government officials. I doubt it, since he's going around deputizing people without concern for what the local governments might think, but you never know. Batman wants on, but the U.N. won't let him. They don't trust him not to pull the team out from under them. However, they recognize someone like Batman would be good to have, so they approach someone who's already proven themselves skilled enough that Batman trusts them. Naturally it turns out whoever they selected won't be controlled anymore than Bats would, but it would explain the initial selection.

Maybe Bruce Wayne greased some palms to get Batman rubber-stamped.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tales From The Woods #6

Last time we talked about the woods I told you about my stumbling across a coot out there - where it had no business being - and its unfortunate end. I also mentioned it wasn't the last time I'd see one.

It's the fall season by then, and I was more concerned with making preparations for the end of the sampling season and enjoying how much drier an October it was than the previous year. I hadn't forgotten about my encounter with the coot, but you know how it is, unless something happens which reminds me of it, the meeting fades behind all the everyday stuff that demanded immediate attention. Also, I was frequently distracted by the horses that were roaming the site, which I'd run into at random. Just a week of so previously I reached the road from one of my arrays to see the horses thundering past me. I had waited for them to pass, like a car waiting for a green light, and they shifted to the far side of the road as they went by, the adults eyeballing me the entire time. It was a pity I stopped bringing my camera out with me.

By mid-morning I was over halfway done with my work and on my way up the long hill to my truck. One nice thing about working on the same site, visiting the same traps every day, I quickly made a distinct trail to the traps, which makes it easy to find them. It frees me to think on other matters, because after awhile, my body can follow those trails on autopilot. Which is why I noticed the coot sitting on the ground, not two feet from where my trail entered a small clearing.

This wasn't the same site I had my first meeting on, but it was still miles from any body of water big enough to suit a coot. I was standing next to the coot by this point, regarding it silently (which is unusual in itself, since I typically maintained a running commentary for my and the Ghost of the Forest's amusement). The coot likewise watched me, but made no attempt to bolt. I wondered if it was injured, as I suspected the last one was, and what I might do if it was. Would a veterinarian help a wild bird, if they even could, and was there even one anywhere nearby? The nearest animal shelter was over 60 miles away. Could I even get a coot in my truck and drive it there, assuming I knew where to go? The last thing I needed was a truck where the interior was filled with bird crap. I'd never hear the end of it from the higher-ups.

Deciding this was a pointless line of inquiry until I knew if it was hurt or not, I decided to pick it up. The last one hadn't reacted violently to my presence, even when I poked it with the blunt end of the hand rake, and I was wearing gloves, so I figured I'd be alright. I leaned over, placed hands on either side of the bird, and lifted it slowly. The bird shifted a little, but made no move to escape or attack. It did, however, stick one leg out straight, and I noticed something wrapped around it.

At first glance, I suspected it was an identification band. Those are fairly common, conservationists catching birds, banding them, and letting them go. Someone catches the bird (or finds its remains) and contacts the appropriate agency to tell them they found a bird with a particular I.D. band at this location. Then you have some idea how far they're traveling, and when. That'd be cool, and I'd be helping some biologist with their work. I wasn't sure how to get the band without the coot escaping. The best I could do was to kneel and set the bird down, but hold it against my leg with one hand. It wound up being moot, as the coot still didn't try to flee, instead keeping that leg extended. I noticed that for a bird band, this was pretty ratty looking. Not to mention cloth isn't a material used for bands, and it was held on with a loose knot.

OK, so a note? Who would use a coot to send a note? One of my professors used to call coots 'the apex of avian evolution', but that was joke. They're ungainly birds, not fast or nimble, not even able to get seriously airborne without a long takeoff. Also not believed to possess any unusual intelligence. If you needed to get messages across water they might work, but there are any number of other birds that would be better. Well, maybe it's the equivalent of a dog tag, I reasoned, though someone keeping a coot as a pet didn't make much sense to me. Still, with no better ideas, I removed the piece of cloth and read what was scrawled across it.

"'The Lady in Orange moves,'" I read. "What does that mean?", as I looked at the coot for answers.

The coot decided it'd had enough. It shot out of my grip faster than I would have imagined possible and flew away. Not far, just around the side of the hill and out of sight, but definitely away from me. I debated following it. What could it tell me? Nothing. It's a bird. Well, it can't speak, another part of me argued, but I could see where it went. I decided to go look. What could it hurt? It wasn't as though I was pressed for time. But I'd dithered too long. By the time I made it around the hill, there was no sign of the coot. No sign of anything moving, in fact. Even for a cool fall morning, it was strangely quiet. Even the distant baying from hounds practicing their tracking was absent.

With no further ideas, I pocketed the piece of cloth and resumed my march up the hill. The coot being right there next to my trail seemed an odd coincidence, especially having met one earlier in the year. But maybe that's all it was. I've read humans are predisposed to read patterns into what are essentially random occurrences, and I was certainly doing that. I guessed if there was anything more to it, I'd find out eventually.

"You'd tell me if something was up, right?" I asked the Ghost. There was no obvious reply, but there never is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can Anything DC Is Publishing Open My Wallet?

Let's take a look at what I might be buying. I stress "might", because while each of these books has something that argues in favor of it, it also has at least one negative arguing against it. It's annoying because I don't want to be the fan who dismisses a work because it isn't exactly the same as something I liked, but I don't know if these will be any good (or if I'll like it, which isn't necessarily the same thing) until I actually read it. I end up with an internal exchange like:

Little Angel: "It could be good!" Me: "That's a good point." Little Devil: "It could suck!" Me: "What? Why didn't anyone warn me about that possibility sooner?!" And so on.

At least I don't have to write up my Previews list for another week.

Justice League International (Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan) Is Matt Ryan the inker, or will he and Lopresti be co-illustrating it? Each guy draws different scenes, according to what suits their style? Or alternating arcs?

Positives: None of these are favorite characters (at least none are in my DC Top 10), but I have a certain fondness for Booster, Ice, Guy, and Fire. It's been a few years, but I really enjoyed Lopresti's work on Ms. Marvel. It certainly wasn't the reason I dropped that book.

Negatives: Batman. If it was Dick Grayson, that'd be one thing (assuming Jurgens wrote him differently from BruceBats). I know, Batman was a member of the original JLI from the start, so by that criteria, he belongs. With Batman doing his own international crimefighting program, he'd probably want to be involved in this one as well, if only to make sure it stays out of his way. I can't argue with that. I just don't like him. Also, Booster's outfit is not an improvement. It's not as bad as that clunky thing he wore for a time in the '90s, but it's not a step up. Is it supposed to evoke his past (which took place in the future) as a professional athlete, like a sports uniform? Jurgens as a writer has not wowed me. His Booster Gold felt like a huge letdown after Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz' work, and even Chuck Dixon's two-part story worked better for me.

Resurrection Man (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Fernando Dagnino)

Positives: It's Abnett and Lanning. I like the concept of a guy who dies, but doesn't stay dead, and never knows what he'll be able to do when he gets back up. I haven't read anything Dagnino's drawn, but judging by a few samples I found looking online, I'm hopeful.

Negatives: I picked up the first 12 issues of the last volume late last year. It was alright, but it didn't grab hold of me and demand I buy more issues like Hitman or Chase. Which just means it wasn't spectacular, not that it was bad.

Grifter (Nathan Edmondson and Cafu) I know, I was surprised too.

Positives: The concept, basically. Guy fighting a war nobody else knows is going on. It's been compared to Rom: SpaceKnight, but you'd figure with Grifter being an earthling (I assume), rather than an alien, he'd have a different reaction to everyone thinking he's crazy or trying to stop him.

Negatives: Still, I could just buy back issues of Rom: SpaceKnight. They'd have the advantage of starring Rom.

Suicide Squad (Adam Glass and Marco Rudy)

Positives: It's a Suicide Squad book. It has a character named Deadshot. The idea of making King Shark a hammerhead shark (which are such goofy-looking things) amuses me. I've heard good things about Marco Rudy's work, so I'm hoping the book will at least have a distinctive, interesting look. As a Suicide Squad book, we may get regular appearances by Amanda Waller.

Negatives: What happened to Harley?! Actually, what concerns me is what Waller may end up looking like, if that's where they went with Ms. Quinzel. I really hope they didn't let Jim Lee dream up a new look for the Wall.

Men of War (Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick)

Positives: I've mentioned before my Dad tended towards DC comics over Marvel in his youth. I've also mentioned those comics didn't sell me on DC's super-heroes as being very interesting. They did sell me on DC's various war heroes, though, and this looks like the nod the war comics are going to get. The idea of soldiers trying do their work amidst super-villains (or to try and capture these super-villains, perhaps so they can be used in the Suicide Squad?) could be interesting, assuming they avoid the sort of problems I have when Marvel tries using the Punisher in the Marvel U.

Negatives: This is where my concern about being that guy who wants things like they always were comes in. Because this doesn't sound much like those Our Army at War issues with Sgt. Rock I enjoyed. But it's not fair to expect Brandon and Derenick to try and copy what Kanigher, Kubert, and Russ Heath did. They have to do it their way. But I don't know if I'll like their way. What I remember of Derenick's work from Shadowpact, I have a hard time seeing him as the right artist for this book.

Blue Beetle (Tony Bedard, Ig Guara, and Ruy Jose)

Positives: I've liked Jaime Reyes and his supporting cast in theory. They seem to be keeping the idea of his family and friends playing a strong role, so they haven't thrown that out at least. I liked Bedard's work quite a lot on Exiles, and also on L.E.G.I.O.N., though not as much there.

Negatives: I never seemed to like Blue Beetle as much as most everyone else on the comics' blogowhatchamafloogle. I read issues and liked them just fine, but that's all. I liked it, but never enough for it to hold a permanent spot on my pull list. I've never read Bedard's work on a solo book, so I don't know if he'll do well here. I look for different things from a solo title compared to a team book (which might explain how I so enjoyed Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man, yet despised his New Avengers' work).

There you have it. If pressed, Resurrection Man's the most likely candidate, then probably Blue Beetle or Suicide Squad. I don't know if any of them have better than a 50% chance.

What about you? What's got you excited? I suppose we could also discuss what has you bummed out if you'd like, but hopefully there's something you're looking forward to. Don't be as much of a downer as I am!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Last Horse Reaching The Starting Gate

I've been meaning to chime in on the DC Reboot/Revamp whatever, but I wanted to wait until I could see all the actual solicits at once.

- DC's making the comics available in digital format the same day as the print copies, and for the same price. This doesn't affect me, since I'm not interested in buying digital versions of anything. Books, music, games, I'll take a physical copy, thanks. Maybe someday, if there are no print comics, I'll go digital, but for now, I'll pass.

- What I've read online suggests if DC really wants to expand their audience, bring in people who don't read comics - because they don't know where a comic store is, or wouldn't go in one if they did know its location - they need to drop the digital price considerably. I don't know if that's true or not. Let's say it is, in which case this won't bring in new readers because they'll be turned off by the price point*. The end result of the digital move would seem to be to hurt physical stores, because ultimately, it may only be the preexisting fanbase that will pay $2.99 for a comic. Some fans may decide it's more cost-effective to buy a digital copy than drive to a store or order from an online store and wait for the books to be shipped to them. It splits the audience up, but doesn't enlarge it.

- But you never know. People may be more willing to pay than we suspect. I can't say I have any idea of what other people are willing to pay.

- I'm going to wait until tomorrow to discuss the six books that actually interest me. 6 out of 52 for September doesn't seem like a very good ratio, but I guess it's not much worse than 4 out of whatever they'll ship in August. You all know how I feel about Bruce Wayne as Batman (boo!), and my indifference to Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is only exceeded by my indifference to Hal Jordan in all his identities. No, Geoff Johns can't make me care about Aquaman. And so on. There's a lot that's unappealing, or not appealing enough I'm going to plunk down money without hearing lots of reviews singing its praises first.

- Still, I keep telling myself these aren't aimed at me. DC wants to bring in new readers. They want a comics-buying audience of 1 billion, not whatever substantially smaller number it is now. Even if I only buy 4 DC comics a month, that's still a lot more than most people in the world. They want those other people, and I guess they figure I'll stick around regardless. Which, if they publish something I find entertaining, is an accurate assumption.

- I know most people have responded with a "What the Hell?", but I'll admit the description of Wonder Girl as a "belligerent, powerhouse thief" has stuck with me. Maybe that's because everyone keeps remarking on how ridiculous they find it. I do like thieves, though. The Black Cat, Garrett from the Thief games, Darien Fawkes from the Invisible Man TV show.

- The description of her as a powerhouse gives me pause. She may be a thief in the same way as Spider-Man's foe the Rhino. He does steal, but his method is "Smash through wall, run though vault door, grab shiny things, and either turn around and run back out, or just keep going through the opposite wall." I'm into thieves with a little more style and finesse. At any rate, that description has lead to me spending more time thinking about Wonder Girl (any of them) over the last week than in the rest of my life combined.

- I'm still not buying Teen Titans, though.

- Oh, what dumbassery is this? They're soliciting a new Suicide Squad trade. It collects issues 7-12, plus Justice League International #13. Except the last Suicide Squad trade collected issues 1-8. Why the overlap? I do not like buying the same thing twice.

- What do you think Marvel's response will be? Besides juvenile sniping. We all know that's coming. Do you think they'll make some rushed, ill-considered counter, or will they wait to see if this actually works, then make an rushed, ill-considered counter (even if it doesn't work?) I recall reading Civil War was done in a bit of a hurry after they saw Infinite Crisis doing well. If you judge by sales, then I guess it worked. Civil War sold well, better than IC (at least initially, I have no clue how trades of it have done vs. Infinite Crisis trades in subsequent years). Still it was delayed a bit, and critical response wasn't as positive, if that matters. Considering my affinity for a wider array of Marvel characters, restarting all the books at #1 and letting creative teams go nuts might get me to buy more titles. Which Marvel would promptly cancel in six months, but for a little while it might be swell.

* Unless the writers and artists really cram a lot into those 20 pages to make it seem worth $2.99. Always a possibility.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's The Knuckler Or Nothing

When reading something like Jim Bouton's Ball Four, I tend to wonder how impactful it would have been if I'd been alive then and reading it? I've read enough discussions of it to gather that his casual mention of players using amphetamines frequently and without proper prescription's was news to many, but what about all talk of players in the dugout trying to look up women's skirts and the fooling around? I mean, I know now Mickey Mantle (for example) was a skirt-chaser, but would fans back then have known that, or that it was fairly common among players?

Ball Four is the story of one season in the life of a veteran pitcher by the name of Jim Bouton. By this point in Bouton's career, he's trying to reinvent himself as a knuckleball pitcher* for the expansion Seattle Pilots franchise. His arm has too much wear and tear for him to rely on the fastballs, sliders, and curves he used to throw so well with the Yankees. Bouton must have had the idea for the book some time prior, because he kept notes on conversations he had and overheard, as well as past events that seemed connected, even before Spring Training. It follows his time with the Pilots, with their minor league team in Vancouver, and his stint with Houston after he was traded mid-season.

His writing style isn't what I'd call polished (Highly repetitive use of "Then there was the time" intros), but it's straightforward, funny, and informative. He's quick to give his opinions, but also quick to admit when he's misjudged someone**. Even when dealing with things that weren't a surprise to me, Bouton writes in a way that makes me interested. He writes about his and teammate Gary Bell's discussions of getting into real-estate and how these tend to come up most often after Bell's had a bad performance. Bell has no idea what he'll do after his playing career, doesn't feel he has any marketable skills, and every poor outing on the baseball diamond makes him more aware of that.

Bouton details how moving around is hard on players and their families, both financially and emotionally, the struggles between players and ownership (as a sports fan, this seemed relevant given the NBA and NFL's current labor concerns), and the clubhouse politics and interrelationships. The idea that the players select their union rep based on his popularity, rather than how aware his of the weaknesses and shortcomings in their current agreement. How if a white player is friends with too many black players, he's going to catch flack from some of the other white players about it. There were two sequences I found especially funny.

- After he's traded to Houston, he describes a song the players have come up with that they sing on the bus. The last verse goes, 'Now Harry Walker is the one that manages this crew, He doesn't like it when we drink and fight and smoke and screw, But when we win our game each day, then what the fuck can Harry say? It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.' Hell, with a song like that, I was ready to root for the Astros. Then I remembered the current Astros team is terrible. Never mind.

- While he's still in Seattle, Bouton remarks on a trend in the local paper to complain about poor attendance at the park, and how a sportswriter griped that there's always tax money for some cultural event, but never any for sports, which is why the clubhouse showers don't work. It struck me as funny, people complaining that not enough tax money was being used to support a sports team, given all the stadiums in recent years built with tax money (because owners didn't get rich enough to own a sports franchise by spending their own money building their own stadium).

In the next paragraph, Bouton remarks that he feels Seattle is the sort of cosmopolitan city where the people like to go do things, like boating, hiking, attending cultural events (whatever that means. Theater, local art shows?), rather than just sit and watch sports. Reading that, I thought to myself that NBA commish David Stern doubtlessly agreed with this description.

* Which earns him points with me right off. One thing Ken and I disagree about is knuckleball pitchers, because he hates them, and I think they're great. I think it's such a strange pitch, but one that can seemingly be thrown forever without arm difficulties, and nobody knows what it's going to do from one pitch to the next.

** This happens frequently with the coaches in Seattle. Whether Bouton likes them or not depends on whether they'll go along with his desire to throw warm-up pitches as much as he wants, or if they support his plan to be a pure knuckleball pitcher.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pulling Something Out A Box

'Only a wolf howls. Nearby for some reason.
Broken down VW.
The houses are burned out, covered absolutely with slime. They stand resolutely.
It's Friday, spring, mid-afternoon, sunny.
One person, only bones, glowing yellow eyes. He wears a dark cloak, and is very slow in his walk. Like the Grim Reaper.
There are no stores. It's a slum.
The smell of rot is all over it. I feel like I will throw up.
I reach the corner and turn back. Nothing changes. The Reaper turns back, pulls out his reaper and disappears. All is silent.'

Apparently I wrote that in 8th grade. It shows, in some of the vocabulary, certainly. I can't believe I didn't know the word "scythe". I'd like to say the awkwardness of it was intentional, but I doubt it. At best, it's a pure representation of how it formed in my mind. At worst, I didn't notice how clunky it is in places at the time.

My mom had a typed copy we found in a box a few months ago. Until she showed it to me, I had no memory of writing it. I still can't recall why I wrote it. Not why that particular set of sentences, or why I was writing at all. English class is the obvious answer, but this doesn't feel like something I'd write for 8th grade English. I titled it "Brainstorming", but I don't remember anything I wrote drawing from it. I don't remember any creative writing I did for junior high English courses, just the standard book reports. I suppose I wrote it because it seemed cool. It's funny that after I saw it, I could picture what I visualized as I was wrote it. I just can't picture what was around to fill in the details of what brought it about.

I do remember the stories I wrote for my 11th grade English class' Creative Writing unit, all of which were junk. Lots of violence with no point to it other than to be violent. Cannibalism, nuclear holocaust, students being killed by overbearing, power-mad teachers (who suffer no repercussions, of course). Attempts at topical humor, which OK, I haven't shaken that tendency, but I use it more naturally here on the blog than I did back then. It all seems terribly uncreative to me now, but I know High School Calvin thought it was great.

I wish I had my notes. We were encouraged to write stream of consciousness as a way to generate ideas, and I'd like to see what else I came up with. I remember something about Sam Houston and Santa Anna having a fistfight (then sharing some pie), that originated in a conversation with my friend Jesse. I'd like to see what ideas I had back then that appeal to me now, versus what I know appealed to me back then.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I've Been Remiss In My Promoting

The Cape Girardeau Comic-Con is only two weeks away, and I haven't mentioned it yet. Sorry, I know that isn't much advance notice, but I was holding off until I confirmed Ken had the webpage up and running, and then I forgot to check until last night, and here it is!

I don't think I'm going to be able to make it, which is too bad. I'd have liked to at least seen how much Billy Tucci and Jeremy Haun were asking for sketches, to see if I could pick some up. Add to the New Warriors collection. Plus, I always throw some money around in the hopes it'll give the guests and vendors a positive attitude towards the show. Who knows? That desire may yet win out against the cost of getting there, and the lack of a 4-day weekend to make the trip on. Unless one of you has a personal teleportation device you're willing to let me borrow? That would eliminate the cost and time concerns entirely. It doesn't have to be entirely safe. I'll take a risk.

No? It's OK, I understand. If I had a personal teleporter, I'd hoard it, too.

In that case, use it yourself to visit the convention and spend some cash. It's Friday through Sunday, which is new, but it's still only $5 a day to get in. You can afford that. No, you can't use your teleporter to slip in without paying. What are you, a super-villain? A cheap super-villain, no less. Just go rob some banks, then you'll have plenty of money to spend. That's how the Rogues would do it, and you don't even have to worry about the Flash showing up to punch you 75 times in two seconds.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Whatever Era He's In, He Makes A Statement

There's a storm rolling in, so let's do this quickly. In honor of the Annihilators facing Immortus' Army of the Ages, who has the worst fashion sense: Kang, Immortus, or Rama-Tut? I thought of this after reading Quasar's proclamation that even as powerful as they were, they were completely outclassed. I had to think, "Are you serious? That guy outclasses you? He looks like a dork! Man, it doesn't matter what version of himself it is, Kang can't dress to save his life." And here were are.

Kang has those hugely oversized sleeves, but I have to credit a guy who mixes green, purple, and blue in such large quantities. He's not trying to blend in. I like the mask actually. Especially when it's drawn with the vertical lines on the front. It's kind of an unusual touch, but it helps lend a distinctive air to it. Not that the outfit needs more distinction, but you don't get to call yourself "the Conqueror" by doing things halfway. The shirt not being tucked into his pants, but still going under the belt, is a minus (and one we'll see again). Perhaps I'm just anti-fake skirts, which is what it looks like to me. Fortunately, he's sporting thigh-high purple boots, which draw the eye away. They minimize the skirt effect on Kang more than Immortus can manage, as well shall see, so that's a plus.

I imagine there are plenty of ladies and fellas who approve of Rama-Tut's disinclination to wear a shirt, and it makes a certain amount of sense in Egypt, assuming he has some protective energy field so he doesn't have to worry about sunburns or skin cancer. Of course, if he has something like that, he should have shirt that will keep him cool no matter what. That might have cramped his style, though. I'm not a sandals fan, but they work. Kind of monochrome color scheme, but he's sparsely dressed enough his skin works as the offsetting color.

Then there's Immortus. Look, I wear my shirts untucked, too, but I don't put them under my belt where they form a little skirt or whatever*. Somehow, though, the thigh-high boots distract from it, so it doesn't bother me as much. Immortus also works the purple and green, but it's a softer purple, more of a lavender, which weakens his look. Kang's colors are bright, strong, they leap off that page and say, "Pay attention!" He throws in a gaudy/sickly yellow I don't care for, but I'm not a big fan of the color yellow in general. He does rock a cape, though, which is always a plus, but if he was going to go with such a high collar on it, he probably should have made it a different color from his hat. They blend together. The hat's a minus all around, though. He painted a roll of paper towels and jammed it on his head.

Also, I think the Phantom Stranger's the only one who can pull off the medallion look, and Immortus is no Phantom Stranger. if he was, I'd actually agree with Quasar's statement that the Annihilators were outmatched.

So I'm going with Immortus as the worst, but I know squat about fashion, so let's hear from you.

For the record, the Kang picture is by Jimmy Cheung, Rama-Tut's by Jack Kirby (and was originally posted on Grant bridge street), but I don't know who Immortus was drawn by. Sorry.

* So does Thanos, but I prefer the wandering monk look he had for awhile. It seemed practical, comfortable, and loose enough he could hide all sorts of stuff. He couldn't had a dime in that other outfit.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I Don't Mind Second-Guessing A Second Guesser

About a month ago, I was flipping through the channels and someone was showing the Lord of the Rings movies again. It's at the point where Elrond's describing how he was there when Isildor wouldn't throw the Ring into Mount Doom and that's why they can't count on Man to fend off Mordor's forces, because Man is weak.

Watching the flashback, for the first time I wondered why Elrond didn't do it himself. Sure the Ring had its hooks into Isildor, he wouldn't have surrendered it. That means you go for the classic "impale the guy, then lift and toss him while he's still on your sword move". He's an elf, which I assume means he's a lot faster than a human (among other advantages), and Isildor turned his back when he went to leave. Easy-peasy.

Yes, he'd have to explain where Isildor is when he gets back down the mountain, but it isn't that hard to believe there were forces set to bar entry to the interior of the mountain, and then some b.s. about Isildor struggled through many wounds to bravely destroy the ring, great hero, always be remembered, blah, blah, toast, to the fallen, we'll have an Isildor Day, etc.

Instead, he stood there and let the guy leave with the Ring. It seems like the elves can be very useful, but they'd rather watch and critique how others handle the problem. Real armchair quarterbacks.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Beware A Scorned Avatar of Death

We all agree Thanos will be back in the Marvel Universe someday, right? Someone will want to use him, either as a big scary threat for their latest event story, or as a name villain to be punked out to a character they just created and are trying to convince us is the best hero ever.

But his style would almost have to be different now, wouldn't it? After being used by Death and then discarded like a snot-covered tissue, he wouldn't still be pining after Death. Well, I guess he could be, but at that point the writer might be better off doing a story about Thanos as the person who keeps going back to their abusive significant other*. I'm not sure who would want to read that story though.

So Thanos returns. I'm still unsure where he's returning from, because I don't know if the Cancerverse still exists and is just empty** and sealed off again, or if the universe collapsed entirely and Thanos exists in the space between universes. A realm between life and death, if you will. He escapes, because he's Thanos, and he's clever that way (plus desperate and/or brassed off) and now he's back. But now he's working against Death.

I guess, if he was in-between universes, Thanos could have come to an arrangement with the Many-Angled Ones, who were said to exist in that space. He could help them claim a new universe to replace the one they lost. But killing Mar-Vell supposedly knocked them silly for a few eons. Still, Thanos serving as Avatar of Life, when he was formerly an unkillable Avatar of Death, would be quite the challenge. You need an even better Avatar of Death than Thanos to beat Thanos. Good luck.

The other possibility is Thanos comes back on his own, and puts his intellect towards solving problems that plague societies across the universe. You know, the ones comic book writers don't usually have Reed Richards or Hank Pym solve, because it changes the world too much from ours? Thanos starts improving the quality of life, improving food production, generally extending people's lives. He's run across and experimented with so many arcane energies, he can probably cook up something to grant immortality, maybe even without any nasty side-effects. There couldn't be side effects if he wants a wide distribution, because it can't turn out that those who take it become reliant on Thanos for regular shipments.

Depending on how a writer wanted to handle it, he has one of a few goals. One, he's trying to destroy Death, since Death won't take him back. Two, he's trying to tip that balance between Life and Death to the point Death will have to get involved, either by powering up an new avatar, or dealing with Thanos directly. Either way, he can win by getting revenge, or ending up dead (again). Maybe the immortality stuff has no side-effect, but does give Thanos the means to kill everyone who has used it simultaneously (because his studies of whatever energy he's using have given considerable control over it). All he has to do is wait long enough, then bam! bigger than his Infinity Gauntlet "kills half the universe" moment. Which could tip things out of whack pretty good itself****.

I suppose Death could try calling in Galactus to try and eat Thanos, the way he once ate the death-immune Elders of the Universe, but that didn't work ultimately, and if Thanos is ensuring people immortality, he can probably rally enough widespread support to take down Galactus and however many Heralds he has at the time. Immortality is probably great, but not so much if you spend it floating stranded in space because a big purple guy ate your planet out from under you. Or worse, you're sentient energy within Galactus even after he digests you***.

It would still be true to Thanos' portrayals over the recent years. Works on a big scale, but for more personal reasons.

* I know, Death didn't ask Thanos to follow her like a lovesick puppy, killing half the universe as a gift to Death. The fact this devotion wasn't sought hasn't stopped Death from using it to its advantage.

** Except for Thanos, Nova and Star-Lord's corpses, and whatever's left of the Many-Angled Ones. I'd hope Nova and Star-Lord were dead. If Thanos is purposefully keeping them alive, that's not going to be pretty.

*** Though that could drive Galactus daffy after awhile, if those sentients can make themselves known.

**** After awhile, Thanos had gone far enough into left field with the Gauntlet that even Death turned on him. So if he messes things up enough, even as a gift to Death, it will intervene.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Are We Just Gonna Let Him Do This? Yes.

In the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie, when Young Spock flips out and starts trying to kill Kirk, why did nobody step in?

I know Kirk isn't even supposed to be on the ship, he's a cocky jerk, and he accused the acting captain of not caring care his mother and homeworld just died, but they're just going to stand there? I thought someone would at least point out it's against Starfleet regulations to choke people to death on the bridge, except in self-defense.

Or Uhura would step in because she knows Spock would regret it later (I'd buy it if you told me she knew Spock would never lose control so completely as to kill Kirk).

At the very least, I'd expect Bones to do something, since he's the only friend Kirk has up there, and he's not exactly a huge fan of Spock's to begin with. Step in between them, use a sedative on Spock, or just shout something to draw Spock's attention. I guess you could argue he figured Kirk knew what he was doing when he started insulting Spock, but I don't think Bones has that much faith in Kirk's judgment. Nor should he. Kirk seemed to consistently (to borrow from Smokey and the Bandit 2) let his alligator mouth overload his jaybird head.

Maybe everyone was too dumbfounded a Vulcan went berserk to react, but it seems strange the security guys didn't even try and pull him away. They wouldn't have succeeded until Spock came back to his senses, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't necessarily try.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Positions Are There, Who Wants Them?

This is a strange time to be thinking of this, with Thanos Imperative a half-year in the rearview mirror, but do you think there's an Avatar of Life or Death in the Marvel Universe right now?

Adam Magus/Warlock is dead (for now). Drax the Destroyer is dead. Phyla-Vell is dead. Thanos is. . . well, not dead, since he can't die, but trapped within a collapsed universe that is itself, dead. Thus, he's not in the Marvel Universe right now. Until some writer decides they want him, then he will be. That did seem like a dismissal notice Death gave him, though.

That takes care of all the characters holding those roles recently. It could be there's no need for one right now. Things were thrown out of whack when Drax killed Thanos in Annihilation, but Thanos subsequently returned, then killed his successor and Drax, before getting stuck elsewhere. Things could be back in balance and Death and Life have retreated to their corners, so to speak. It could be they only select a representative when they actually need one, because the balance is shifting against them, or because they want to make a power play. After the nearly disastrous intrusion from the Cancerverse, everyone wants peace and quiet for awhile.

Still, for kicks, let's consider some options. Maelstrom acted as a manipulator in service of Death (or Oblivion, which I'm guessing is both the same and different). Thanos was brought back, why not Maelstrom? Annihilus (or his offspring, I don't know how Hickman presented it) is up and running. He's in the Negative Zone, but I doubt it's hard to convince him to swing back into the Marvel U. to cause trouble. Death could always go big, draft someone like Galactus or Ego, but bringing in entities on that level might make things awkward with other Abstract Representations.

Magus said the Phoenix Force served as Avatar of Death at some point, which seems strange. I thought Phoenix' job was to keep the neutron galaxy in the M'Kraan Crystal from destroying the universe, which seems like Avatar of Life stuff. I guess he meant when it went Dark Phoenix and destroyed a star system. It abandoned Rachel Grey, maybe to join Hope Summers, maybe it ran to Jean's corpse for the inevitable resurrection, I don't know. I gave up on the X-Men years ago. But sure, why not Hope? All those folks who thought Bishop was crazy for trying to kill her sure will be embarrassed! Or she could be the Avatar of Life. Keep it ambiguous, but the X-Men (and all sorts of abstract Entities) are trying to jerk her one way or the other. Or maybe Hope for Life, Franklin Richards and his reality-altering powers for Death. You can't tell me there aren't entities that would love to use his powers for their own ends.

I was going to suggest one of those "Worthy" from Fear Itself, but they'd be better choices for an Avatar of Life. They gain strength from people's fear. Henry Fonda (in Once Upon a Time in the West) may have been right when he said 'people scare better when they're dying', but I imagine if they're dead, the fear goes with them, and so, the power. So, Avatar of Life. They might seem scary, but Drax was an Avatar of Life. Adam Warlock was the one who seemed to approach it more as helping and inspiring people, or patching holes in the fabric of space-time. Drax settled on destroying what was going to kill people before it could kill them.

If Life wants a slightly less crazy representative (or one that doesn't already serve another master), maybe Quasar. He's the Protector of the Universe, which he seems to regard as protecting life. He and Maelstrom used to tangle. I was going to suggest the Silver Surfer, after he defended the Wraith Queen and encouraged the Annihilators to bring Wraithworld back from Limbo, but there's the whole "serves another master" issue.

Maybe Moondragon? Her father served Life, so did Adam Warlock, who was a friend. She's not quite like either of them (she takes a wider view than her father, a more cynical one than Adam Warlock) so she'd do things differently. She was possessed by the Dragon of the Moon, a servant of Oblivion, so her representing Life might be interesting. Plus, Phyla became Avatar of Death to save Heather (good intentions, bad idea), but Heather's already seen how nuts people who worship life can be (her run-ins with the Universal Church of Truth) so she might have misgivings, especially if she was chosen, rather than choosing. It could happen. These Abstract Entities don't show much respect for the mortals who carry their water.

If they could actually use him, Rom might not be a bad choice. Given how he'd occasionally flip out and start murdering Wraiths, he'd be more of a Drax-type, but that's fine. Not currently an option, and I don't think Ikon's shown enough yet to take the role in his stead.

I guess they could go really off the wall, pick Daredevil. He's a lawyer, defending people so they don't spend their lives in prison (or get executed). Protecting life, plus he's run up against an Elder of the Universe and Mephisto, so he's done the cosmic scene before. He started questioning his sanity shortly after the Mephisto thing, then started being Bullseye, which isn't encouraging, but maybe he has a better handle on it now.

OK fine, forget Daredevil. Just have him fight ninjas in an dark alley while his girlfriend dies again. We'll go with Hellcat instead. Patsy Walker's adjusted to the weird, horrific stuff in her life a lot better than Murdock has. She even has vaguely-defined magic powers. Those should come in handy.

No rush, I suppose. Nothing much is happening now, but I imagine Life and Death will need someone in the future. Doesn't hurt to start considering the options now.