Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Since The Restart Has Started. . .

After some deliberation, I opted to try Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, and Grifter. I'm still surpsied I'm going to buy a comic about Grifter. I have picked up the trades of WildCATS version 3.0 that came out over the last 2 years, but those were more based on Joe Casey than Grifter. With Suicide Squad, I'm banking on the interior art making Harley look a bit less ridiculous than the covers do, plus some vague hope the title carries an inherent spirit that won't allow itself to be attached to a terrible comic.

I know, that sounds ludicrous, because it is. But I know part of the reason I'm buying it is because I've liked books with that title before, and I hope the concept can be used well by someone other than John Ostrander.

Resurrection Man's in on the strength of the writers, but I'm concerned because my collection of their first go-round with the title is up to issue 15, and while I still like the concept, and certain individual issues, the execution overall hasn't been really grabbed me. Part of it is I don't love Guice's art. It isn't bad in any technical sense, it just feels stiff, and isn't in the styles I prefer. So maybe having a different artist on this version will help.

That's three titles, which is where I've been at the last 3 months prior to this reset. Three monthly DC titles is pretty standard for me over the last couple of years. So it's a lateral move for me quantitatively, but qualitatively remains to be seen. Batman Beyond was a book where I mostly enjoyed the stories (outside of that last issue about Inque), but the art held it back. Secret Six was the inconsistent book, sometimes great, sometimes terribly disappointing. When it was good though, it was really good.

I'm sure some of the new titles can reach those levels, but are any of them going to become as much of a favorite of mine as Batgirl was? Even though it couldn't use the same artist for more than two issues, the art was consistently good or great. The stories had a generally light and humorous tone that worked for the character, and Miller mixed in done-in-ones with longer running stories fairly deftly*. It's vied with Darkwing Duck for the ongoing I'm most excited for each month** (and now that's ending, too). I'm not sure whether any of these new titles are going to achieve that level.

* I'd say Miller's weakness, if you consider it that, was he couldn't seem to mix the two. Have a story with beginning, middle, and end, plus the larger story advancing in the background. Not a lot, but at least a little forward progress. It didn't kill the book for me, obviously, but it'd be something to maybe try and improve assuming he does more comic writing in the future.

** admittedly, I don't buy many ongoings anymore, so it's a small field. But those two titles have a considerable lead on everything else I've bought over that span, except maybe Heroes for Hire.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It Saves Logan Money On Haircuts

How fast do you think Wolverine's hair grows? I made those crack about how abruptly his body when from shaggy to hairless on that Wolverine and Black Cat cover, and then Rol mentioned waxing in the comments and away my brain went.

His healing factor only kicks in when he's sick or injured, so I guess his hair wouldn't grow constantly. This would appear to be in contrast to Deadpool, whose healing factor works all the time, which is offset by his aggressive cancer*.

The question is, does merely cutting his hair qualify as an injury? I've seen it grow back when it gets burned off, but he's usually losing more than just hair in those circumstances, so it figures his healing factor would kick in. But I'm not certain a simple snip of the locks would trigger it. Waxing is another matter. That actually pulls the follicle out entirely, which I have to think his body would regard as an injury, albeit a minor one. It'd be a futile effort. The hair is plucked, it grows back.

Along those lines, do you think Logan sheds skin cells? Most people, we lose dead skin cells over the course of the day. it's OK though, because there are new cells waiting underneath to take their place. With his healing factor, would Logan's body operate the way ours do? or, barring massive injury, would he have the same skin cells for a much longer period, because his body keeps repairing the ones already in use?

* That's the impression I have from the Deadpool Secret Invasion tie-in. The Skrulls made Deadpool versions of themselves who eventually swelled up and popped because their healing factors were always on, even when there was no injury or cancer to fight.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trains, Nazis, More Trains, Murders

The thing that sticks with my from Crossfire is Robert Ryan's character grabbing his buddy Floyd by the throat and nearly throttling him while snarling 'No stinking Jew's gonna tell me how to drink his liquor!' I picture Samuels, the Jew in question, chastising Ryan for gulping down cognac, telling him he must swirl it first, the savor the aroma, then drink a small amount, and Ryan growing furious, then killing him.

Crossfire is supposedly the first Hollywood film to directly address anti-Semitism, and in some cases, it does that well, when Ryan's character makes an offhand remark about guys who skipped out on fighting in the war, making money and living in their fancy apartments. How some of them are named Samuels, and others got 'funny' names. Other times it goes for hammering the point home, as when Captain Finely (played by Robert Young) makes a speech about it to Leroy, to convince the kid from Tennessee to help them trip Ryan up.

It's an interesting film, moves quickly, though I'm not sure why Finley seems so willing to open up to Robert Mitchum's character about the case (Mitchum, like Ryan and Mitchell, the young man originally suspected of the murder, are soldiers). There's a sequence where Mitchell wakes up in the apartment of a woman he met at a club. she'd given him the key, but isn't there. He's confused and hung over, and then another man enters. First he says he's Ginny's husband, then that he's not her husband, but he loves her madly. Then that he's like Mitchell, just a man she met at the dance hall, who is gonna pay for the privilege of sleeping with her. In any event, he was so eerily calm, and knew his way around the apartment so well, I was thought it was a surreal dream Mitchell was having, reflecting his depression over being distant from his wife and the war.

Train starred Burt Lancaster as a yardman in a Paris rail station. He's also a member of the Resistance, albeit one who has no interest in risking his neck to stop the Nazis from shipping crates of French art back to Berlin. Then a father figure of his dies trying to do just that, for 'the glory of France', and LeBiche (Lancaster) is in. He and many other Resistance members pull off a rather impressive trick to get the train right back where it started, even wrecking the engine in the process. But they underestimate the German colonel in charge, who is obsessed with the art, and eventually it's down to LeBiche to stop the train on his own. Not because he really cares about the art, but because all his friends did care enough to die for it, and he'll do it for them. I think the fact the colonel is a murdering scumbag played a role as well. LeBiche is not going to let that guy win.

That he carried it out for his friends helped me invest in the movie, because the idea of dying for paintings, or the ideal they represent, doesn't hold any appeal to me. Mostly because it seems to me people who encourage others to do so, aren't putting their own lives on the line. They send those others to die in their place. Case in point, after the big trick fails to deter the Colonel, this reisistance cell leader arrives and tells LeBiche and his friend that no, they can't blow up the train with plastique. London wants the train and art spared, so instead they will sneak up to this now heavily guarded train and paint the top of the cars white, so the bombers will know to leave it alone. The resistance leader then waddles away in the night, leaving the painting and dying to LeBiche and his friends.

It's about 130 minutes, but it zips along, with a lot of tense scenes as the Resistance tries to put their plans into action under the not-nearly-watchful enough eyes of the Nazis.

Dark of the Sun I'll pass on discussing, except to say I thought the end of the movie didn't fit with what was established up to that point, and seemed dark and depressing mostly for the sake of being dark and depressing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 5 - Brisco in Jalisco

Plot: Brisco travels to Mexico to investigate the possible involvement of Bly's gang in the theft of a shipment of rifles. Socrates comes along to try and reacquire said rifles. The two find themselves in the middle of a revolution, with a vain general of Brisco's acquaintance on one side and a leader of the people on the other. They have to decide what actions they're willing to take with regards to the guns and who they'll help. Also, Brisco has to contend with the return of Dixie Cousins to his life for the first time since Pilot.

Does Brisco use his gun? No.

Things Comet does: Can signal "heads" or "tails". He chose wrong, though.

Kiss Count: 2, both from Dixie Cousins. (6 overall)

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 0. Bly's not here.

Is Pete Hutter in this episode: Yes!

Pete Hutter Quote: 'If I had a dog that could do math, he'd howl at you with laughter.'

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'I have this vision problem. Oh yeah? When I'm around you, everything else just goes out of focus.' - Dixie and Brisco.

Brisco's Coming Things: The margarita (created by the general's servant girl), weight loss (inspired by Pete Hutter).

Bly Gang Count: 0, as Pete escaped. Again. (2 overall).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: Even though it's listed as episode 5 in the collection, "Brisco in Jalisco" aired before episode 2, "Socrates' Sister". Which is interesting, since in "Soc's Sister", a running gag was how Socrates' rescue attempt was undone by his unwillingness to pack lightly. He's carrying very little this, which as a later episode, would be a sign he's learning. As an earlier episode, it doesn't make as much sense.

The fact this episode was aired first does explain why Brisco wasn't surprised when Pete showed up in "Socrates' Sister" as Jack Randolph's partner, because he learned Pete didn't die after being shot during the Pilot in this episode instead. The conversation explaining that is how we get to weight loss.

Bruce Campbell and Kelly Rutherford have excellent chemistry, which I think is part of why they abandoned the idea of Wickwire's daughter as a recurring character/love interest. Dixie and Brisco just work so well together. Brisco's working for the tycoons, but in his own way, and Dixie's a wild card. She may work with members of Bly's gang, or with Brisco, but it'll more than likely coincide with her own interests.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who Brings White Roses To A Blood-Letting?

If I'm watching older, variously obscure movies, I must be at my dad's. If I'm at my dad's, I must be reading mysteries. Or historical texts, but I'm still slogging through The Spanish Labyrinth, so that review will have to wait.

Stefanie Pintoff's Secret of the White Rose is set in New York in 1908. According to my dad, it isn't the first book in her stories involving a Detective Ziele, who is frequently assisted by Alistair Sinclair, and Sinclair's theories on criminology. In this case, a judge involved in the trial of a notorious anarchist is found with his throat slit, his left hand placed on a Bible, and a white rose left nearby as well. Ziele reluctantly investigates, because he was brought in by Sinclair (a friend of the judge), which rubs the police commissioner the wrong way.

The book reads quickly and easily. Pintoff writes in such a way that even if you're new to the series (as I was) the connections between the characters are clearly set out. I didn't feel as though I was missing things because I lacked backstory. There were certain parts of the mystery that were never properly explained (such as why the killer switched weapons over the course of the murders, since this was originally put forth as a sign more than one person was involved), but on the whole I think Pintoff plays fair. We learn things as Ziele does, it's a question of whether the reader puts it together.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pot, Kettle, Booster

I thought it was funny that of all the heroes assembled to bring down the Secret Six, it was Booster Gold who was dismissive of the threat the Six posed. Specifically, he said 'This is silly. Catman? We're talking Catman here? Hell, I'll take them all out myself.'

It's interesting Booster would single out Catman as the one he's least concerned about. They've both been considered jokes at one point, and they've both worked to be better (in different ways) than those who dismiss them would expect. Booster's been a bit more quiet about it, since the knowledge of his time exploits aren't well-known, but he at least recognizes that he's changed, even if the other heroes aren't as aware of it.

Booster's not the sharpest tool around, but I'd think he'd be more careful not to underestimate someone because of what they used to be (or were perceived to be).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Murders Most Foul. Also Hilarious

Rope is a film Hitchcock supposedly did in one take. The entire film, which is pretty impressive. He had multiple cameras running simultaneously, and when it was planned to switch from one to another, he had both cameras zoom in on something. A character's back, the chest the dead body is hidden in, something that would fill the screen so it was obvious there was a switch going on.

I don't know if there was a particular point Hitchcock was trying to make, or if it was an interesting exercise he wanted to try. Just to see if he could, perhaps? Like that issue of Byrne's Alpha Flight, with the Snowbird fighting the all white creature in a snowstorm, perhaps. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the murders would take to the notion that a superior person is above the standard morality, and can kill as they see fit, while ignoring the obvious question of who determines one's superiority, but surprised I was. I suppose I considered that such an obvious flaw it was hard to believe guys as smart as Phillip and Brandon (and Rupert, since he was the one who engrained the idea in their heads) were supposed to be wouldn't have discerned it.

The other movie on the docket was Without a Clue, with Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. Kingsley plays Dr. Watson, who in this film is the deductive genius, and Caine plays an actor Watson hired to play Sherlock Holmes, who is really a figment of Watson's imagination. Several years into this arrangementm they've worn on each other's nerves. Holmes tired of all the little facts he must memorize to repeat, Watson tired of Holmes' drinking, gambling, and other vices. But the British mystery enthusiasts of the time, much like superhero comic fans today, don't want new stuff, so watson's idea to publish stories of "John Watson, the Crime Doctor", goes over like a lead balloon. Throw Moriarty out to destroy his arch-foe and wreck England's economy, and there you go.

It's an highly entertaining film. Caine does have excellent comic timing, and the ways he and Kingsley go about carrying their little ruse is highly amusing. I especially like that Holmes will wander the crime scene with his magnifying glass, appearing to inspect things closely to draw LeStrade after him, which leaves Watson free to look for actual clues.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blake Lacks The (Cat)Guts To Do The Right Thing

'Are you to be the worst hero on this planet, with a conflicted heart and no allies on either side. . . Or the world's deadliest free man?' - Bane, to Catman, Secret Six #35.

'No one elected Batman, or any of those bastards. I don't want to live in a world where those people make the rules.' - Catman, to Deadshot, Secret Six #36.

Catman could be a hero. I think he wants to be. But he won't commit, and blames it on the people who are being heroes. He could be a hero. Use his tracking skills to find abducted children, then his abilities with blades to slaughter their abductors, if he felt like it. Knowing Blake, he would feel like it. This would cause problems, because heroes in the DCU tend to be less accepting of that sort of thing than in the Marvel Universe*. Batman or someone would hunt Blake down eventually**, and there'd be trouble for Catman.

But so what? Being a hero isn't about being loved, or even respected. It's about doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences to oneself. The members of the Justice League don't do what they do to be loved. Even the members of Section Eight understood that. Eventually Catman would get caught, and pummeled, and thrown in jail. But until that happened, he could do a lot of good, if he chose to.

Instead, he opts to try and destroy someone who does try and help others, because he doesn't like how Batman and his ilk go about it. That's what Bane knew about him, that Blake wants to be a hero, but doesn't have the fortitude to go for it. I think it's more likely he's afraid of failing, but it could also be what Bane suggests, that Catman's afraid he'd be alone. The heroes wouldn't accept him, and I can't imagine the rest of the Six are going to be his best pals if he's consistently playing do-gooder (though they might, as long as he didn't get in their way). Whether he admits it or not, he found a place with this group, people who care about him, and it's harder for some people than others to throw that away on a plan that may never pan out.

That's the difference between the heroes and the rest of us. The heroes do their best to try and make the world better. The rest of us sit around complaining about how the world isn't better, or how the people trying to make it better are doing it wrong.

* Though heroes at Marvel are kind of picky about it. Killing marauding Skrulls, OK. Killing Norman Osborn or Dr. Doom, not OK.

** If the amount of time Tommy Monaghan ran free is any indication, it wouldn't be anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Human Rocket, The Scientist, And The Killer Robot

Recently, I put in an order for some trading card sets. I get that bug occasionally, and this time I indulged. So pretty soon I had the complete Marvel Universe sets 1, 2, and 4, to go along with 3 which I already had.

I was flipping through Series 4, and I reach this set of characters I don't really know. I guess they were from a Marvel UK line, or something to that effect. I remembered seeing Motormouth pop up in Peter David's Incredible Hulk run at some point*, and I may have seen some of the others at some point, but they weren't ringing many bells. I'm looking at the back of Death's Head II's card, and first I see it's name is "Minion". An unimaginative name, but OK. Then I see it's origin.

'Cyborg created by Dr. Evelyn Necker of A.I.M. in the year 2020.'

The name rings a bell. Fortunately, I'm in the same room as all my comics, so it's over to Nova, and yeah, there's a Dr. Eve Necker working for Project PEGASUS. A Dr. Necker whose pet project is a series of defense robots titled Project Minion. A Dr. Necker who is an A.I.M. mole placed within PEGASUS.

Then it took a few minutes poking around online to learn that hey! Death's Head II's series was an Abnett/Lanning joint. The Internet's great for random stuff like that, you know? Otherwise, I'd either have to travel to a comic store (about an hour both ways) and hope they had back issues (or employees) that could enlighten, or suffer in the cold shadows of uncertainty.

It's not something I was expecting, for a trading card from '94 to add another angle to a series I greatly enjoyed that came out 15 years later. I'd have to read DHII's series to see her motivations for the project at that time, but it'd be interesting whether her experiences with Richard Rider changed her (for better or worse**), or if the experience of seeing what her 'bots could do with a little Nova Force and the Worldmind guiding them spurred her on.

Maybe it changed nothing, just one more strange experience she had during the years she worked on her project, but no particular significance.

* It was #409. Thanks Grand Comics Database!

** Rich was a good guy around her, but he also turned down her offer to help because she worked for A.I.M., regardless of the fact it was Eve, and not A.I.M. offering to help. Assuming we take her offer at face value, and DnA didn't give me any reason to doubt her sincerity.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Dad's Comics Come Through Again

I mentioned in my Cowboys & Aliens review that watching the film, I had a sense that I'd seen several parts of it before, in other films. I also mentioned that the scene that reminded me of Apollo 13 reminded me of a cover I'd seen in one of my dad's comics as well.

I had some time, so I went through the comics of his I've held onto. There weren't that many to search through, and I did find it, in Our Army at War #214. The lead story is some hotshot private learning that you're never on your own in Easy Company. I'm guessing Joe Kubert wrote it, I know Russ Heath drew it (Kubert drew the cover), because he made sure to write his signature in. It's a good plan if they aren't going to have a credits page somewhere.

The other two are about the fall of the Bastille (illustrated by Ric Estrada), and one called "My Coffin, The Tank!" Cheery. There's also a page at the back with a brief bio on Thutmose III (illustrated by Ken Barr). It says he had rode a chariot of electrum (alloy of gold and silver). Gold's pretty malleable, isn't it? I'm surprised it could stand up the stresses and torque a chariot could face. Guess they could beat it back into shape later.

The cover I was thinking of was for DC Special #6. It's basically how I pictured it in my head. I didn't remember the hype next to the cover, which says 'These 6 people: Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, Tomahawk, Pow-Wow Smith, are involved in the most daring & different D.C. Special!' I don't know if they fended off an alien invasion, or got swept up and sent across time and/or space.

One other thing. Somewhere on the first page of each story is a little notation in the corner of a panel. It's K and a number. "Easy Co. . . Where Are You?" is K-264, the Bastille K-245, and "My Coffin, The Tank!" is K-14. Does that represent Kubert keeping his scripts numbered?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 4 - No Man's Land

Plot: Brisco's on the trail of the Swill Brothers, while Socrates hires Bowler to retrieve a 'mobile battle wagon' stolen from the Army. Brisco underestimates how many Swills there are, and goes tumbling down a hill for his trouble. He's found by Professor Wickwire, now touring the country with his rocket. Wickwire finds a town where he can get Brisco some medical attention, but it's a town of only women, and they don't take kindly to guys. That's not a feeling aided by the Swills, who can't figure out why the ghost town they used as a base is now a hub of activity, but decide to take over anyway. Then things get worse when the mobile battle wagon shows up.

Does Brisco use his gun? He draws it twice.

Things Comet does: Questions the motivations of the Swills, if Brisco's response is anything to go by.

Kiss Count: 0. Two episodes in a row? (4 overall)

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 0. Bly's referenced, but never seen.

Is Pete Hutter in this episode: No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'You've got to fight the future with the future.' - Brisco.

Brisco's Coming Things: The tank, and the rocket makes a return appearance.

John Bly Gang Count: 0 (2 overall)

Stuff the Orb can do: N/A

Other: The stuff you learn. Brisco uses the term "moll" to describe Sheriff Jenny (Denise Taylor), which I didn't think had been invented yet. A search online tells me the word dates back to the 1560s, though in terms of "female companion to criminal", only 1823. Considering what we learn about Bly later on, it's strange to think of him having a lady friend. It seems so ancillary to his goals.

We were previously introduced to the Swills in flashback, as they were the crooks Brisco and Donovan Joe were sent to capture by Brisco Sr. (The Orb Scholar). Brisco has a bullet wound in his shoulder from the Swills. The man who stole the tank is the Swills Cousin Ed, who married their Aunt Miriam. Who is also his mother. There's a reason my alternative for quote of the episode was 'Phil, Will, and Bill, the Swill Brothers. A good reason why inbreeding is a bad idea.'

The unofficial Bowler's "Damn!" count is up to 4.

When Brisco used the rocket in the pilot, he commented it needed brakes. Wickwire apparently listened, as he did add brakes. They aren't terribly effective, though. Even in the 1890s, I question whether selling rocket car rides at 20 cents a pop would be economically feasible.

The town's physician is a 'Doctor Quintano, Medicine Woman.' Which really only serves to remind me I used to watch Doctor Quinn back in the day.

I'm not really a huge fan of this episode. The women have set themselves up in their own town, where they can follow their dreams, which wasn't possible out in the world. But when trouble starts, they need the guys to help them out. Given Jenny's past history, you think she'd know better than to bring only two guns to deal with 4 armed opponents. Other people in town had firearms, round them up and win with numbers and group solidarity. I guess the better way to think of it would be Brisco, Bowler, Wickwire couldn't have stopped the Swills without help of the townspeople, either. The Schwenke Sisters were certainly helpful to the Professor.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Should Have Left Him To The Bricks

You think the rest of the Six wish they'd left Bane to Junior, all those months ago? You remember, in the first arc, Bane had been captured by Junior. The team initially held a vote, and it was 3-1 against rescuing him. Then they fought off some loser villains, changed their minds, and went and got him.

What happens if the guys on the team (Scandal was the only vote in favor originally) stuck to their guns? They wouldn't have gone on this fruitless "destroy the Bat" mission, obviously. They might have struggled to survive that first mission. Bane helped turn the tide when he took Venom, but it's possible they could have made it otherwise. Scandal would be a concern, but even there I wonder if they'd need him. She did manage to sober up sufficiently for that first mission, and after that Jeanette would have been around to help. A friend isn't the same as a surrogate father, but it couldn't hurt.

Assuming they did survive swiping the "Get out of Hell" card, they would have abducted the wealthy Gothamites' kids, since Bane was the one who objected to committing such a crime in Gotham. Would they still turn against Smythe and his prison? Originally it was Scandal, Jeanette, and Bane who turned, and the others followed suit later. The two sides nearly came to blows when the odds between them were even. The guys probably let them take Artemis and leave out of friendship, but if Bane's not there, and Jeanette's checked out after dropping Wonder Woman, it'd just be Scandal against the other 3. Eh, she's an original member of the Six, they'd cut her slack.

I don't think there'd be a big, pointless brawl in Skartaris. No Bane means Jeanette's the only team member not interested in tracking down Catman. She might still gather some villains from her Rolodex to attack that fat guy on the yacht, and so she might get roped into that mess by Spy Smasher. Even so, if she's running the team, I think she and Scandal would forge a truce more readily. Bane seemed to be very set on conquering Skartaris, but I didn't get the impression Jeanette really cared one way or the other.

There's also the question of who takes Bane's slot. He was taking either Knockout or Harley Quinn's spot, and Harley had taken over from the Mad Hatter, who was Cheshire's replacement. Black Alice would still show up eventually, but I don't think Bane's death would accelerate her tracking down the team any. The roster seems to be moving between Bat-villains, so who's a good possibility? How about Killer Croc? Nobody does anything interesting with him anymore.

Ooh, I got it! Anarky! Catman said he hates that the heroes get to make the rules, and Anarky was originally someone who opposed Batman setting himself up as arbiter of law and order in Gotham. The Six are a group that ostensibly does anything for money, but you can't always figure how their involvement will alter things. A group like that, I could see Anarky trying to use them to his advantage.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I Bought 8/10/2011 - Part 6

The end of the review line. No dumb comments about what type of day it is, but only because I can't think of a good one.

Secret Six #35, 36 - Bane, when you're actually frothing at the mouth with Venom to the extent it's coming out of his mouth, I think that means you're overdoing it. Why are there wisps of red trailing from your eyes?

Bane's learned something from his date with Spencer. Unfortunately, it isn't that what I'd call a life-affirming lesson. He's realized that to destroy Batman, you need to destroy the people he cares about, not his spine. The Six, for some reason, decide to go along with this, though Catman objects to hurting the Huntress. Aw, ain't that cute. They attack the Penguin, and force him into the group. Naturally Penguin betrays them, but when the hell did he get a subcutaneous transmitter? Is that something from Simone's Birds of Prey? All the heroes show up. Even Red Tornado! Oh, and some guy with an "S" on his chest. Not Wonder Woman, though. Still caught in JMS Hell, I suppose. The plan to destroy the Bat falls through, but Bane's secondary plan kicks in. He's now able to line up perfectly with what we'll see in the next Bat-movie. It's not a bad twist, I guess I hoped Bane was a wise enough man to recognize a better way.

I get why the guys go along, but I can't see what Scandal or Jeanette get out of it. It won't make them any bank, and they know what something like this will bring down on their heads. Also, when picking targets, why didn't Bane list Robin or Grayson Batman? I like Steph, but you can't tell me killing Grayson wouldn't be a bigger gut punch to Daddy Bats than Steph. Certainly more so than Huntress or Azrael. OK, fine, I'd just like to see King Shark devour Damien like he was going to do to Pengy's pets.

As for the art, it's Calafiore. It's solid, nothing spectacular, the big fight at the end was kind of a mess, and I didn't really get the sense the heroes 'got brutal' as Huntress suggests. What, because Captain Atom blasted Knockout in the face? She's not scarred as far as I can tell, and she's a denizen of Apokolips. They breed 'em tough there. Heck, John Stewart was involved in the brawl and didn't even blow any planets up. That's positively restrained for Johnny.

Wolverine and the Black Cat: Claws #1 - Looking at that cover, it's pretty impressive how Wolverine's body hair seems to stop at his elbows. Admittedly, I'm less hairy on my upper arms as well, but not with that abrupt a shift. He looks like he skinned a bear and wrapped it around his forearms, after waxing the rest of himself. I think I have to use the "hair" label for this post now.

There should be a "2" in that title, since this is the second mini-series by that name, but "Claws 2 #1" just looks silly. I don't know if I'll regret buying this, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Palmiotti and Gray (and why didn't Justin gray get his name on the cover? That's bull, Marvel) have some goodwill built up from Power Girl, and it has the Black Cat and Arcade, both of whom made the Top 10 Marvel characters list I submitted for the Comics Should Be Good poll.

Felicia and Logan are having a swanky dinner, while Arcade and the White Rabbit flee Savage Land natives and stumble across an alien ship. The pilot had come here intending to give Earth weapons to fend off an incoming invasion, but our villains knock her out and take the weapons for themselves. Including a little orb that can send you anywhere in time or space. So they crash the dinner, get beat up by our heroes, even get their device stolen. Oh wait, that was the plan. Welcome to a future where Mars conquered Earth, Felicia and Logan. Hope you survive the experience!

What? Don't look at me like that. I couldn't help it.

I know Wolverine has a staggering track record with women, but I'm still surprised Felicia would be interested in him. He strikes me as too gruff and rude. No style at all. Maybe it's just me. Having not read the previous mini-series, I'm not clear on why Arcade and the White Rabbit when after these two heroes, but Gray and Palmiotti did explain sort of why the heroes were having dinner in a high-class restaurant. I'm curious to see if the alien that Arcade stole the weapons from plays a bigger role in the story than simply "well-meaning patsy". As for Killraven, eh, we'll see how it goes. I can take or leave him.

Linsner's art is fine, definitely tends towards the cheesecake, but it's not photo-referenced, which is a huge plus in my book. I was looking at the preview for Rucka's Punisher series they put in the back of this issue, and one of the detectives couldn't have looked more like Morgan Freeman if I'd been watching Se7en on AMC, rather than reading a comic. It really irritated me, it just seems so cheap. I know, it isn't new, but I try to avoid artists who go to that well too much. Sorry, back to Linsner. His Arcade does have suitably scheming grins though. They aren't the huge smiles I'm used to, but they capture that evil mirth of his, so that's good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What I Bought 8/10/2011 - Part 5

It's a Heroes for Hire day. Best day of the week! Why can't every day be H4H day?

Heroes for Hire #8-10 - I'm probably not paying close enough attention, but I like that it doesn't seem like Marvel is deluging us with variant covers for their Fear Itself tie-ins. Mike Sterling said something about a "1 in 52" cover variant offer, which yes, is a little jab at DC, but it's still more restraint than I expect from Marvel.

Issue 8 wraps up the guest appearance by Spider-Man, as he, Paladin, Satanna, and Misty bring down an operation that's combined all the stuff they were trying to shut down in the first arc. Drugs, demon weapons, blood sport starring animals swiped from the Savage Land. Batroc is captured, but shows surprising loyalty for a guy whose loyalty was purchased. That kind of tight-lippiness would be valued by potential employers, I guess. We get some glimpses of the mastermind, but his identity remains unknown. . .

Until issue 9, when he's revealed as Kilgrave, the Purple Man. Swell, one of the only villains out there creepier than the Puppet Master. Next we'll find out Kilgrave is working for the Mandrill. 9 and 10 are tied-in to Fear Itself, with two plots. One is Paladin and the Gargoyle first trying to slow down a possessed Ben Grimm, then finding themselves overwhelmed by some poor guy whose body absorbed a whole bunch of weird fear-inducing chemicals. These either cause people who see him to picture him as their greatest fear, or it actually turns him into their greatest fear. Not sure which. Looks like it's Misty Knight to the rescue again. The other plot involves the Shroud and Elektra heading to the now busted open Raft and trying to keep as many criminals from escaping as they can. Which is when they run into Kilgrave, and it looks like he's going to have Elektra kill the Shroud. Don't worry, I'm sure they both used martial arts techniques they know to hold their breath. Grape Boy gets close, they beat his ass, a good time is had by all.

I'm disappointed Abnett and Lanning didn't write Batroc with his ludicrous French accent. I don't think we got one "Zut alors!" the entire arc. I like that for as much as Paladin rides Spidey for being an amateur, they both thought to call in backup. It's just Paladin's showed up first. The Avengers probably couldn't adjust to the idea of being in a title where they'd get to do stuff, rather than stammer mindlessly.

I like how they're using Fear Itself. It would have been a bit much for the heroes they have to slow down a more powerful than ever Thing, and it isn't as though they'd be allowed to solve the problem even if they could. That's for Fraction and Immonen, so it's something to jump off from, a catastrophe leaving smaller disasters in its wake. And they continue to advance the main plot about who has been behind everything the group's been up against.

Brad Walker drew issue 8, which means slightly strange looking faces, but well-drawn fight scenes and some nice panel layouts. Kyle Hotz drew issues 9 and 10, which seemed appropriate to me. The two things I've read he drew were the original Hood mini-series and Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith mini-series, and both of those were deeply atmospheric. Hood was more dark because of the lying and criminal aspects, Wraith because of the title character's mysterious nature, and the sense of doom from the Phalanx having captured so many. For a tie-in to a story about fear overwhelming everyone, he seems perfect. Ben Grimm was certainly freaky looking, those weird mouths all over his chest, and his Raft was a mostly dark, caved in looking disaster, where you don't know what monster you may run into around each corner, and you'd rather not know.

Tomorrow, we wrap these reviews up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I Bought 8/10/2011 - Part 4

It's a real "mini-series that are partially completed" day. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #2 - So Jack remembered after all. Darn. I guess I could have told him I didn't order it, but that'd make me a filthy liar. Besides, it's right there on my pull list.

With all this Fear in the world, Man-Thing is going nuts. Somehow the four heroes on the cover have wound up working together to try and stop him, which isn't going terribly well. They get altered by M-T somehow tapping into the Nexus of All Realities (which he normally protects), and fight each other. That wears off and the give chase while Frankenstein's Monster explains that he was experimented on by some shadowy figure who wants him to capture M-T. Said shadowy figure turns out to be old FF foe Psycho-Man, who drubs the heroes fairly easily, but has a little more trouble with his target. Then the Fantastic Four show up. Yup, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and a Mr. Fixit Hulk. So they were tossed into an alternate reality by M-T as well? Hell if I know.

It's not a bad idea for a story, that all the fear would drive Man-Thing crazy, and that Psycho-Man would want to use all that fear for his own purposes. Manipulating emotions is what he does. The recap page was fairly useful. it's how I could tell you that bit about the Nexus, for example. I'm not sure what Montclare's doing with Nighthawk. Nighthawk's typically been impulsive and hot-headed, but he's more crazy in this, as Howard keeps mentioning. His Howard the Duck's also not what I'd expect. I wouldn't have figured him for eagerly teaming up. I can see him doing it out of necessity, but he's trying harder to keep them together than I'd expect, rather than using them to clear a path for him to do what he needs to do.

The book lists four artists: Simon Bisley, Ryan Bodenheim, Ray-Anthony Height, and Don Ho. I'm pretty sure Bisley did Frankenstein's flashback, and maybe the opening sequence. Not sure who's responsible for what amongst the rest. Maybe some of the guys listed are inkers, 'cause it doesn't look like four separate pencilers. Three, maybe. The Bisley stuff does look suitably different from the rest to stand out. Really emphasizes the strangeness of the changes they went through.

Flashpoint: Secret Seven #2 - I had a hard time caring about anyone in this book. Shade's supposed to be leading this team, but he doesn't seem to have control of his powers. Some of his teammates are planning to bring him down, one of them is going to reveal the existence of their group to the world, and one (maybe two) of them wind up dead.

I don't know, it just didn't work. What is it the Secret Seven do as a group? The world's on the brink of war, and they aren't doing anything. And they aren't much of a secret group considering the government had people approach Amethyst as they are concerned she or her teammates might do something. Why would the Seven drag America into a war? Because they have super-powers? The war's between Amazons and Atlanteans, right? So isn't it more of a royalty thing than a super-powers thing? How is Abra Kadabra can turns 50 VIPs into limos, but the idea of changing the color of a flower is something he never considered?

That's what I get for deciding to try a mini-series based on the artist. George Perez didn't even draw this issue. Swell. Pissed that 3 bucks down the drain.

Rocketeer Adventures #3 - We have a story about the Rocketeer crashing the premiere of the first movie with Betty's first speaking part by Ryan Sook. There's a prose story from Joe Lansdale and Bruce Timm with some of Timm's art interspersed, and Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards give us a story where Betty and a young girl get to be the heroes.

Sook's story certainly looked nice, since he's an excellent artist and all, but it seemed strange Betty would be so sad at the end because Cliff stopped everyone in the theater from being robbed and kind of ruined the movie. They can't do another premiere? Heck, the Rocketeer breaking up a heist at the premiere ought to crank up the buzz. Maybe she thinks he was late for the premiere because he'd been chasing these guys because he doesn't care, when it's really that he was late because he had car trouble.

At least that story didn't depict Betty as having any trouble with her co-starts or producers. Both "Heaven's Devils" and "The Junior Rocketeers" have Betty dealing with unpleasantness in her chosen career. In one, the star of the film is jealous of Betty's looks, and in the other, the leading man's trying to put the moves on her. Showbiz is an ugly business.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What I Bought 8/10/2011 - Part 3

I noticed yesterday that Batman Beyond 8 spelled penciler with two Ls. Normally, I see it written with one, and that's how I typically spell it, but I wonder if that's wrong. My spell-check doesn't recognize "penciler", but it doesn't recognize "penciller", either. Anyway, it's a "Titles that start with D" day.

Daredevil #1 - It took me awhile to notice how everything around DD is covered with sound effects. I originally just noticed the lack of color, which makes sense considering Murdock can't perceive color. Unless, different colored dyes and paints have a different scent, but as he points out in the second part of this issue, he doesn't really think in the same terms we do, so "purple" doesn't mean much to his brain anymore.

The first story, which combines Paolo Rivera's art with Mark Waid's writing gets us into the basics of Matt's current life. He's doing the Daredevil thing, while constantly maintaining he isn't Daredevil, and trying to help Foggy get their law practice up and running. Again. But the suspicion he's Daredevil makes his legal work difficult, which is too bad for his client Mr. Jobrani, who can't get anyone else to represent him, a fact that Daredevil decides to investigate, only to have a certain someone hurl his mighty shield at Matt's head. The other story, which teams Waid with Marcos Martin seems focused primarily on Matt and Foggy's friendship, as well as fleshing out Matt's powers a bit, and more critically, establishing that his more jovial attitude is a purposeful response on his part to the ceaseless storm of strife that nearly destroyed him over the last few years.

Waid wrote this well. I've been sort of aware of Daredevil's recent downward spiral, and without getting bogged down in details, Waid makes the situation clear enough to show how it feeds into what he's doing. As a fan of supporting casts in solo titles, I'm curious to see if Kirsten McDuffie, Assistant D.A., will be a recurring character, possibly as a friendly rival in the courtroom.

As for the art, Martin and Rivera do great jobs. They each have their own ways of depicting how Murdock perceives things. Martin tends to do close-ups on either Matt's relevant sensory equipment, or the thing he's picking up. Rivera has that black with magenta lines thing he does for the radar sense. He also has the touch with the little details I like. How DD uses the billy club to lift the bride's veil when he lands the smooch (rather than the veil conveniently vanishing), and when he grabs the Spot's arm, the end of his thumb disappears into one hole, but you can see it emerge from another one further up the arm. I love stuff like that.

I have a good feeling this is going to be the book that replaces Batgirl as the title I most look forward to each month. Fingers crossed.

Darkwing Duck #14 - That's playing off an old Batman cover with the original Blockbuster, right? I like the "Approved by some guys in Burbank" tag in the corner. The armor looks familiar to me, but all I can figure is the gray, riveted plates running vertically remind of Taurus Bulba's cyborg self.

Darkwing's run for political office is underway. Except it's interrupted by a cat in a giant metal suit. You know, more people's plans are ruined by cats in giant metal suits than you might think. Darkwing sets off the deal with yet another new villain out for his head, but finds it difficult to deal with a feline Juggernaut. Meanwhile, he's being bad-mouthed by his opposition in the mayoral race. Cat-Tankerous is stopped eventually, and clues our heroes in on how he got this super-suit, and we see there's a mysterious mastermind wearing a violet shaded light bulb out to destroy him. Uh-oh, it's the Darkwingverse version of Ruby Thursday! The rest of the Headmen can't be far behind! Watch out for Chondu the Mystic! That guy's as crazy as, well, as you'd expect a human head on a robotic spider-body to be.

Brill threw a couple of curves into the run for mayor story this month. One, that Launchpad appears to be the people's choice, and two, that DW sees being mayor as a further step in his plan to find Morgana. I thought he was just doing it to honor her wishes. He and Silvani art still working well together. I particularly like the panel after Cat-Tankerous call out Darkwing. The shot of everyone in crowd staring at DW (where in the previous panel they were all looking at the TV), and Darkwing's quiet mention of a big musical number he had planned, cracks me up.

Defenders #1 - Out of the Marvel Vault. Honestly, I loved the explanation behind this comic from Kurt Busiek in the back almost as much as the issue itself. Fabian Nicieza and mark Bagley started it as a possible fill-in for Busiek and Erik Larsen's Defenders series (of which I was a big fan), but it was never needed. Busiek was asked if he'd mind finishing it so they could release it as part of this "out of the Vault" deal, but nobody has any notes on the plot (including Nicieza), and neither Nicieza or Bagley remember what the story was about. So Busiek looked over the art and came up with something. Which is pretty cool.

Basically, 4 friends find themselves in the bodies of the Big 4 Defenders, and find themselves in a world that fulfills the fantasies of the bodies they inhabit. So all the people that usually try to smash the Hulk now want to build sand castles with him. The person dropped into Namor's mind rejects the fantasy, and in the process, Namor gets back in possession of his body, but also frees the Hulk, who liked the fantasy. They start to fighting, which frees Strange and the Surfer, and those two solve the problem while Namor and the Hulk punch each other a lot. Problem resolved, the 4 go their separate ways, except for Namor, who pauses to reflect on the experience, which was particularly painful for him.

This felt like it would have fit right in with that Defenders series, which is fine with me. It's the sort of weird thing the Defenders might face, and the friction between the Hulk and Namor is amusing. It isn't always so, when they willingly hang out, but in a case where they're stuck together, and can't get away from each other, it works. I believe I've made my fondness for Mark Bagley's art well-known over the years, and that doesn't change here. I like the underwater Statue of Liberty visual, and Strange becoming one with everything, though there's a spelling error a couple of panels before that one. A sign says "KEERER OF THE FALTINE FLAMES'. I'm guessing they were going for "Keeper".

I would have liked to seen Nighthawk, Valkyrie, and Hellcat. That volume of Defenders introduced me to each of them, and made me fans of each of them. That's not a big deal, though.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What I Bought 8/10/2011 - Part 2

It's a Batman Beyond kind of a day.

Batman Beyond #6-8 - It took me several tries to figure out that cover. First I thought it was Terry holding his hand to his head, but I couldn't figure out why there seemed to be light shining around it. Then I thought it might be someone else's hands pressed to his head, but where was their wrist, and their arm? It finally dawned on me it's the impression Blight's hand made where he burned Terry. I thought the hair you can see in the finger was blood that had run over the hand. Guess I should have noticed the ear.

Terry and Paxton Powers escaped the exploding warehouse with the help of the Bat-cycle (I'm not calling it a Bat-pod) from The Dark Knight. Bruce figures the person behind the attempted assassination is also behind the labor unrest, and they plan to seize control of his company. Bruce attempts to draw them into the open with some line about buying out the shareholders to gain full control of the company. Which is great, because Blight does come out to play, but kicks Terry's tail. While Bruce heads to the office to deal with the labor unrest, Terry waits for Blight at Wayne Manor, and Blight obligingly shows up looking to kill the old man. Terry takes him down, and Bruce defuses the labor strife by agreeing to all the demands, and regains full control of the company.

It could be an interesting future development for Wayne to have full control of the company, and for it to be Wayne Incorporated, instead of Wayne-Powers, but it's really a cosmetic change. Since Paxton was in prison, and Blight was presumed dead, Wayne has basically run the company anyway. The idea that he had a responsibility to shareholders hadn't come up. I guess I'll have to see what Beechen does with it in the subsequent ongoing or mini-series they tease at the end of issue 8. On the whole, things felt a bit rushed. I didn't expect Blight to go for a big revenge strike on Wayne in broad daylight, but I suppose the Manor is isolated. Still, it seems like a needless risk for a guy who's stuck in a containment suit that can barely hold him together under normal circumstances.

Ryan Benjamin drew both issues, and his work's the same as it has been, except some of his facial expressions seem overly exaggerated. The fight scenes aren't anything fantastic, but they don't really detract from the book, except for the sense they could look better.

I'm discussing 8 separately since it's a standalone issue, detailing the origin of Inque. That's a nice cover right there. I like the white circle of her face stretching along the side of Batsy's head. Nice touch by Dustin Nguyen. Also, there are minute splotches on the word "Darker" on the cover, which is another nice touch.

Turns out Inque immigrated to Gotham to escape civil war in her country, was sold into slavery on the black market, sexually abused, escaped, was experimented on, gave birth to a child who was the result of the abuse, then the effects of the experiments kicked in and made her what she is, so she left her daughter at a church. After that it moves into the territory the cartoon covered, with her providing her daughter with money, her daughter backstabbing her as Inque starts to disintegrate. The new wrinkle is Inque is doing jobs pretty much just to get the mutagen to hold herself together, and her daughter's finally showing the ill-effects of those experiments being conducted while she was still in the womb.

Chris Batista's the penciller for the issue and he does a fine job. There's nothing spectacular, but I think he illustrates Inque as suitably angular and elongated. Also, during the stretch of the flashback before she mutates, her hair changes length as time passes. It's a little thing, but it's a nice touch. I don't know anyone who cuts their hair everyday so it's always the same length (though I'm sure such people are out there, obsessive-compulsives, perhaps).

I don't think Inque needs a tragic origin. Was Beechen's goal to make the reader feel bad for her? Then he might have wanted to leave out the opening sequence. It starts with her knocking Batman out, then killing several guards, including one she crawled inside and I don't know what she did, but it didn't look pleasant. Keep in mind the guards were no threat to her - Batman already pointed that out, everyone knew it - she could have eluded them easily. At a certain point, a villain accrues enough bad shit to their name I don't care about their tragic upbringing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 3 - The Orb Scholar

Plot: Brisco gets a tip on John Bly's location from an old friend, Donovan Joe. So he travels to Poker Flats, where Joe is the Sheriff. Brisco and an elderly man he rescues from some highwaymen are promptly thrown in jail, as it turns out the highwaymen are deputies. Whoops. While in jail with an also unjustly imprisoned Bowler, Brisco learns that the older man, Professor Coles, knows somethings about the Orb. Brisco is released by Donovan Joe, who feels guilty about betraying Brisco in their youth. He's not interested in making amends, so much as eliminating Brisco, who he resents. After surviving being dumped down a well, Brisco tracks down Bly, but rather than shoot Bly and and simply bring his corpse in, Brisco opts for a fistfight. Which is promptly interrupted by Bly's men holding Coles hostage, and ends with Brisco being shot. Don't worry, he gets better, and while Bly gets away, he doesn't get the Orb, and Donovan Joe ends up in jail.

Does Brisco use his gun: He draws it twice, even cocked it when facing Bly, but ultimately he gets shot with his own gun. Ouch.

Things Comet does: It's more what he can't do. He can't tell a snake from a stick. He misses a signal to disarm one of the highwaymen. He can however, backtalk.

Kiss Count: 0. Wait, 0? (4 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically Count: 1, but there were a couple close calls. I just don't think him spreading his arms to give a signal, or doing so as he drops his guns, counts. Those have a purpose other than being dramatic. (4 overall).

Is Pete Hutter in this episode: No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Professor Ogden Coles - 'The power of the Orb is wonderful, but in the wrong hands there is incomprehensible danger.'

Brisco's Coming Things: Socrates is practicing putting in the intro. Brisco inadvertently develops the hitchhiker's thumb. Bowler is introduced to the idea of "specials", as in special menu items.

John Bly Gang Count: 0, Bly got away. (2 overall).

Stuff The Orb Can Do: It's given Coles the power of hypnotic suggestion, and the Orb can heal people.

Other: In the final confrontation between Brisco and Donovan Joe, I can't tell whether the power of the Orb is somehow protecting Brisco (and Comet, which doesn't make sense as Comet didn't touch the Orb), or if Donovan Joe is just that bad of a shot. Professor Coles says the Orb is 'faith'. Faith in what? Thoroughgood had enough faith in its power to use it in the pilot, and it killed him.

I may need to start a Bowler's "Damn!" count. He said it twice this episode, and at least once in the pilot. We actually learn a bit about Bowler this episode. He gave himself the title "Lord". He memorizes wanted posters at the post office. His daddy died when he was a baby, his mother of scarlet fever when he was 11. He sings quite well, a holdover from his childhood in the church choir. He hates the sight of blood.

We also learned Brisco was an English major in college, a theater minor, and that as a teenager, he was sent after the Swill brothers (who we'll hear from later). That's some great parenting there, Senior. Donovan Joe's chief deputy, Puel, was played by Robert Picardo, who I always think of as the holographic doctor from Star Trek Voyager.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What I Bought 8/10/2011 - Part 1

It's been so long since I've done these reviews, I couldn't remember whether I list the entire year, or just the last two numbers of it in my titles. Had to look back at the last round of reviews to jog my memory. It's hell getting old, kids.

Avengers Academy #16 and 17 - Technically, June's issue was the last of this series I ordered. But I made that decision while I was disappointed with the Korvac story, and subsequent issues made me rethink that, so I didn't bother to correct Jack when he sent these along.

These are more Fear Itself tie-ins. 16 is split between Pym trying to fight the now amped-up and possessed Absorbing Man, and Veil trying to rescue a mother from a collapsed building. 17 primarily concerns itself with the cadets trying to deal with what they went through, then the hammer-wielding Absorbing Man and Titania show up at their headquarters looking to cause trouble.

I'm still a little disappointed in the Absorbing Man being so hot for revenge on Pym. Yes, he's possessed, by the dope possessing him admits he's being overtaken by Creel's rage towards Pym. It bugs me that Creel's angry at Hank, after he actually tried to do right for Creel with regards to his prison accommodations. I know, villain, what do I expect. I'm not saying Creel had to become a reformed villain, but having some reluctance to fight Giant Man would have been nice.

The thing I'll be watching for going ahead is how Gage deals with the fallout from some of the cadets killing some of the bad guys in D.C. Not just how the cadets who did it handle it, but if it alters their interactions with the rest of the group, or with their instructors. Hopefully they won't get some knee-jerk "you killed so you are BAD" reaction from the teachers. Or not all of them, at least.

Tom Raney drew issue 16, which looked a bit better than the previous issue. He only had one inker this time, which probably helped. Sean Chen drew issue 17, and I liked the expressions he gave the cadets in the opening pages, when they're disabling one of those mechs. There's either a grim seriousness, or in mettle's case, almost a blank look. It made sense to me, that he'd try and distance himself emotionally from what he's had to do, and might have to do again.

Batgirl #23 - The rest of the Reapers have suited up, killed some cops, grabbed Harmony and Slipstream's armors, and are on their way to Blackgate Prison. Meanwhile, Steph has returned from England to learn the Grey Ghost is dead. Turns out his apparent heel turn was really an attempt to bring the Reapers down from within. Might have helped to let someone know that Clancy. Batgirl leaps into Blackgate, and is quickly overwhelmed by 5 powered armor foes. Fortunately, she arranged for some back-up ahead of time, and the Reapers are neatly dealt with, which gives Steph a chance to find out who they were after. I'd almost forgotten that guy's been back from the dead since right after War Games. That might be a side effect of trying real hard to forget War Games, period.

The comment Slipstream makes about Batgirl's thigh belt being empty, did he mean he emptied it after he pulled it off, or that it didn't have anything in it to begin with. My guess is the latter, Miller making a joke about unnecessary belts and pouches and stuff. I always figured it was where she kept that staff. Even if it's collapsible, I couldn't picture it fitting in the regular utility belt pouches. Maybe she kept it strapped to her back? I think Tim Drake did that with his staff, back in his Robin days.

Pere Perez is back for the art chores this month. I'm disappointed Dustin Nguyen hasn't drawn more issues since he joined the book, but at least the other artists who have stepped in are all pretty good. Little touch by the colorist (Guy Major) I appreciated was that Clancy's corpse is noticeably paler than live Clancy in the recording he left for Batgirl. He has to have been dead for awhile, since it would have happened while she was in England, so I'd think his color would have faded.

Tomorrow, we take a break from the reviews. I know, I barely started, but Sunday is promised to Brisco. Comic reviews will resume Monday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Steve McQueen Movie Post!

I have the urge to drive fast and show a lack of respect for authority. That I don't want to shave my head or appear in terrible comedies is how I can tell it's not a Vin Diesel movie review post.

The Getaway - For being a Peckinpah film, I really expected a more depressing ending, but it was actually kind of sweet. Those crazy kids made it past all the rich assholes trying to use them, and they regained their trust in one another. The romantic in me approves.

I'm used to seeing Ben Johnson in movies like The Undefeated, where he's John Wayne's trusted partner. He really plays that creepy bastard on the parole board well. I think not having facial hair helps. He looks less friendly clean-shaven somehow. Or he's just that good of an actor, he can exude that air of sleaze so readily.

That subplot with Rudy, Fran, and Fran's husband drug on far too long, though. Rudy's so sleazy, Fran's such a twit, and her husband's so passive, it's just painful. I kept imploring hubby to drive the damn care into oncoming traffic, or park it abruptly on railroad tracks, hop out with the keys and run. Something. Well, he did something eventually, such as it was.

Bullitt - I don't think the plan was ever to watch it the whole way through. My dad and a friend of his had apparently been debating what weapon McQueen carries in the movie, and Dad was going to settle it. Every group of hobbyists has their own arguments.

Anyway, Dad was sure we see the gun in the opening scene, when Bullitt's partner rouses him and he has to get dressed for work. Turned out we didn't see it until the very end of the movie, at the airport. So rather than simply skip ahead, we watched the whole movie. What the hell, I had to wait for my laundry to finish anyway.

I didn't manage to piece together the plot on my own. I thought when the investigated the deceased girlfriend's room and found passports in other names, it meant Ross and his lady were planning to flee the country rather than testify, and had used Chalmers as a shield to cover their escape. The idea that "Ross" was some other poor sucker entirely had not occurred to me.

The music puts me in the mind of Jonny Quest, which I guess was coming out at the same time. At least there wasn't any annoying dog running around, yapping constantly. If there had been, it probably would have been run over during the big car chase scene. That is a well-done sequence, though neither of us could quite figure out McQueen's goal. Was he trying to kill them, or just stop them so he could question them? I'm guessing the latter, in which case it was just bad luck they hit that gas substation. But considering they were in a bigger car, there were two of them (while Bullitt was alone), and they had a shotgun, I'm not sure how he was going to catch them by his lonesome.

Tomorrow, actual comic reviews. I know, you'd almost forgotten this blog's ostensibly about comics. So had I.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Old Movies Review Post

My comics showed up yesterday! Whoo! I'm going to start reviewing them. . . two days from now. I've waited six weeks, what's two more days?

In other news, I watched The Maltese Falcon last night. Humphrey Bogart has a very good unfriendly smile. He mostly directs it at O'Shaughnessy when she's feeding him a line, but it's quite frightening.

That's not a movie I planned to discuss originally, so let's move on. Sometime over the weekend, Dad and I watched Rope of Sand with Burt Lancaster. It also has Claude Rains as the (mostly) unscrupulous diamond magnate, so you know there's a certain level of skill in it. I say "mostly", I was a little disappointed by that. Rains character is a bit like his character from Casablanca, where he's crooked, pragmatic, but there's a core of idealism or decency in there as well. It's much the same way here, but I kind of wish he'd simply be an outright scumbag. I suppose Paul Henreid as Commander Vogel had that role filled. Vogel is more of a thug with big aspirations. The kind of guy who, because he buys expensive art and shows it off, thinks/hopes the high society types will actually accept him as one of their own someday.

The story goes that two years ago Burt Lancaster was a guide in Africa who had a client go charging off into a privately owned area where diamonds are mined. Lancaster followed and brought him back, trying to save him. Instead he was found by Vogel's men and tortured by Vogel (who believed Lancaster must have taken diamonds and hid them). It leads to a situation where Lancaster, who never cared about the diamonds before, refused to talk and has returned to get the diamonds his client had found, mostly just to rub Vogel's nose in it. Rains, who is part owner of the property and therefore wants those diamonds too, sends a young extortionist named Suzanne into the fray to trick the location out of Lancaster. Of course they really fall for each other, but there are trust issues, etc. Hmm, it's really starting to sound like Casablanca now. Assuming you can find it in an appropriate format, it's worth a viewing.

Bad Day at Black Rock is part of a "Controversial Film" collection my dad picked up some time ago, along with The Americanization of Emily, and 5 other movies which escape me at the moment. I'm guessing Bad Day was controversial because it directly references anti-Japanese sentiment during WW2 as well as the interment camps. That's all I can figure anyway.

John Macreedy (Spencer Tracy, who is much shorter than I thought he'd be) shows up at Black Rock looking for Adobe Flats, but getting nothing but grief from the locals. They tell him their hotel is full, and when he does try and get a room, Lee Marvin (who's always drunk and violent. Well, violent anyway) barges in and says it's his, so Macreedy will have to move. Which he does. He tries to rent a car and meets resistance, though Liz (Anne Francis) lets him borrow her jeep. At which point Ernest Borgnine tries to kill him, under Robert Ryan's orders. See, the townspeople have a secret they'd very much like to keep a secret, and it just so happens to relate to why Macreedy's in town. He's not there specifically to uncover this, but to do what he came there to do, he's going to uncover it anyway.

This is a movie that understands build-up. Everyone in town keeps giving Macreedy the runaround, or trying to make life difficult. Making cracks about Macreedy's missing arm, whatever. Yet Macreedy doesn't lose his temper. He rolls with everything, just smiles and walks away. Which riles those guys (especially Borgnine) up. The whole time, you know something's going to happen, so when it does, it's a great moment.

I don't know if this is accurate or not, but in fiction, I have this impression that small towns are usual dangerous for newcomers in their insularity, while cities are dangerous in their anonymity. In a small town, everyone knows each other, knows their secrets, and doesn't trust new people because they don't know them or their secrets. With cities, the newcomer is just a face in the crowd. No one knows or cares who they are, so anything can happen to them it won't matter in the big scheme of things. Just a thought.

I'd recommend watching this one more than Rope of Sand. It isn't too heavy-handed about how wrong the anti-Japanese-American sentiments were, and it's a well done film. Also, Walter Brennan's it, which is usually a good thing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Freshour Cylinders

I was scanning through one of my dad's bookshelves when I came across Speer Morgan's The Freshour Cylinders. It's a murder mystery, but I selected it because it was set in Depression-era western Arkansas, which made it a somewhat unusual period piece for me.

The story has some basis in historical fact, as it deals with the Spiro Mounds in southeastern Oklahoma, as well as the idea that some of the Native Americans in the area at that time, if they'd been fortunate with their mineral rights holdings, were trying to use that money to help their less fortunate brethren in the area. The book is framed as a historian transcribing dictaphone recordings (stored in cylinders) by an attorney from Fort Smith, Arkansas, by the name of Tom Freshour. So the chapters are titled according to what cylinder they were from.

The mystery isn't too hard to unravel, seeing as I was able to figure out parts of it. What I couldn't piece together was either a result of my not understanding financial tricks well enough, or trying to link too many things to the same person. There's more going than simply one rich guy trying to have everything his way.

The book reads easily, but it is a little strange that Freshour keeps the events so neatly chronological, considering he's recording this 20+ years after the fact. What I mean is, if he didn't have certain information at one point in the story, but did later on, he doesn't appear to let that later knowledge cloud how he relates the earlier parts. Though maybe he does, in the sense that he knows what's irrelevant (even for character development or world-building purposes) and left that out. The time period was used well, so that the troubles people were having with drought and unemployment were there, but in service to the story, rather than overwhelming it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

True Grit

My mom bought the new version of True Grit for me recently, and seeing as my dad and I had planned to go see it when it came out (but were waylaid by snow), I thought I'd watch it for the first time with him.

As I understand it, this version is more true to the book than the John Wayne version, which doesn't mean much to me, having never read the book, but it does to some people. When the film was released, I heard a review on the radio that described the Coen Brothers version as 'sweet revenge' for the book, which is a thoroughly pretentious statement to make. yes, how awful John Wayne made a fine movie that didn't strictly adhere to the book. I'm sure it did nothing to raise the profile of said book (and what are the odds the Coen's would have done this movie if there hadn't been an earlier version to raise awareness of the book?)

Sorry, I've been irritated by the stupidity of that review since Christmas.

As to the film, I think I still prefer the John Wayne version, but I like a little comedy in my movies sometimes, and this version's kind of short on that. Hailee Steinfeld did an excellent job as Mattie Ross. Jeff Bridges is more understated as Rooster than John Wayne, which helps the focus stay on Mattie, as it was in the book. I did have some trouble understanding what the hell Bridges was saying, though Dad claimed to have no such difficulty. He's had more experience deciphering the speech of fat old men with chaw in their mouths. Still, I miss John Wayne's outsized (or overacted) performance. That supremely offended look he got in response to 'That's pretty bold talk coming from a one-eyed fat man!' is classic.

One thing my dad noticed was there didn't seem to be the chemistry between Bridges, Steinfeld, and Matt Damon that there was between Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. He concluded that was purposeful, as things are less cheerful in the 2010 version. He got up and left the room during the sequence where Rooster rides Little Blackie to death to save Mattie. He doesn't understand why they didn't take one of the now deceased Pepper gangs' horses instead. Which is a valid point. They ride right past one. I thought stabbing it in the flanks was a bridge too far myself.

Josh Brolin looks too crafty to be Tom Chaney. Maybe Chaney's supposed to be that way, but I'd always figured he was just a dope who couldn't hold his liquor, or his temper.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Breaking Point

I've returned, the comics still haven't arrived. I am becoming concerned. So in the meantime, books! And movies later in the week!

Stephen Koch's The Breaking Point is ostensibly about how the death of Jose Rolbes during the Spanish Civil War helped destroy the friendship between Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Since Robles' death took place during the Spanish Civil War (when he was taken from his home in the middle of the night with no explanation, and never seen again), Koch discusses that conflict, and the time both Hemingway and Dos spent in country. Since Dos Passos was a member of the Popular Front (an anti-fascist organization) who was falling out of favor at the same moment the Front courted Hemingway as a spokesman, Koch discusses the Front, how it was manipulated by Comintern agents of Stalin's. And since Stalin's somewhat involved, Koch discusses to what ends Stalin was involving himself in the Spanish Civil War.

All of which is to say the book feels a bit unfocused. After reading it, I was left uncertain as to the central theme. In theory it's the relationship between Dos and Hem (as they are frequently called in the book), and how different factors wrecked it, but with all the other things Koch discusses, one could be forgiven for losing track of that.

It's an engaging book. If nothing else, it's piqued my interest in the Spanish Civil War (and I regret not grabbing some of my dad's books on the topic). Koch does editorialize a bit, and seems a bit vicious towards Hemingway. Not that Hemingway doesn't deserve it; but Hemingway's actions speak for themselves. Koch could have saved some time with his armchair psychology*. He's written another book about how Stalin and his propaganda agents used various writers to help sell the Soviet party line, and it feels like he's still grinding that axe.

* Right before Hemingway tells Dos the bullshit story that Robles was executed for being a fascist spy, which he heard from another writer operating as a tool of Spanish officials, there's a picture taken of the two of them with some other local dignitaries. Koch describes Hemingway as having a vicious, hate-filled expression on his face, and says his eyes dare you to judge him for what he knows he's about to do. Koch fails to include a copy of that photo anywhere in the book so that one might judge for themselves.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 2 - Socrates' Sister

Plot: Brisco's after Jack Randolph, a notorious thief in John Bly's gang. He even catches him in the first 5 minutes, at the site of what used to be the town of Gravesend (it's now under water thanks to a dam). Randolph's wanted for stealing Treasury plates, which could be use to counterfeit money. Two were stolen, but Randolph's partner only has one, which means Randolph has the other (or knows where it is). But wait, this man insists he is Jack Randolph, but not that Jack Randolph. And he's hired himself a fancy lawyer from back East to defend him. An Iphigenia Poole, who is, as the title says, Socrates' sister.

Unfortunately, her defense of the man is more about the romantic letters he sent her than anything else, and she's soon disillusioned. Brisco's left looking after her while also trying to capture Randolph and his partner, who have swiped Professor Wickwire's latest invention to retrieve Randolph's plate. Socrates makes his first attempt at being active outside the city, which leads to the repeated line 'Too much weight.'

Does Brisco use his gun? No, but his Randolph's partner does. To shoot at Bowler.

Things Comet does: Well, he tracks down Brisco again. And either he can read a newspaper, or he comprehends human speech well enough to understand the crooks were discussing what was in the newspaper, because he steals it to present to Brisco as a clue.

Brisco Kiss Count: 2, both from Iphigenia. (4 for the season).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically Count: 0 (3 for the season). Bly doesn't appear in this episode.

Is Pete Hutter in this episode: Yes! Pete survived being shot in the pilot!

Pete Hutter Quote: 'So how the hell are we gonna get your plate? With a fishing pole of hope and delusional fantasies for bait?'

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Wickwire - Do you doubt your instinct, or your judgment? Brisco - It's the same thing isn't it? Wickwire - Brisco, if it were the same thing, would I be standing here in a rubber suit, begging to be plunged to the bottom of the ocean? Judgment says this is crazy, but instinct, it sings the truth, son. It knows what's possible.

Brisco's Coming Things: Wickwire's "inner space suit", which will enable man to explore the depths of the ocean. Honestly, I thought such things existed prior to the 1890s.

John Bly Gang Count: 1, Jack Randolph (drowns). Pete escaped. (2 for the season)

Stuff The Orb Can Do: It doesn't appear, so the same stuff it could do last epsiode, I assume.

Other: As Brisco prepares to pursue the escaped Randolph, he tells Soc there's no worry, Jack has a hideout in Hart's Canyon. At which point Bowler bursts out of the stable and charges off. Turns out that was a ruse by Brisco, as the only thing Bowler will find in Hart Canyon is bees. Mad bees. How did Brisco know Bowler was listening?

Bowler can't swim. Iphigenia is a certified swimming instructor. Iphi uses the cake trick to get Jack out of jail. Fortunate that it's Jack's birthday, though do we ever see people bring prisoners cakes when it isn't their birthday? When I'm away from home, my mom sends me baked goods at times other than just my birthday. Brisco still isn't knowledgable about the Greeks (as we learned in the pilot), since he has to ask Iphi who she was named after. We were told this in the pilot, but Don't touch Pete's piece.

One of the cliffhangers is Randolph and Pete finding Wickwire testing his suit in a tub in his lab. They turn off the air pumps and hold him underwater. But, we see later they didn't kill him, so I'm not sure what that was about. I'm pretty sure intimidation was unnecessary, as Wickwire would probably jump at the chance to test out his suit for real.

In the pilot, there was a runaway stage scene. Brisco details to Dixie all the (highly dangerous) things he could do to bring the stage under control, then opts to have them both bail out instead. This time, he predicts a desperate stuggle underwater against Randolph, Brisco struggling for air while Randolph grins smugly within the suit. This one actually happens, so perhaps it was easier to film, or they didn't want to bait-and-switch too often.

Two sequences I find interesting are the one I quoted between Brisco and Wickwire, and an exchange between Brisco and Randolph in the jail. I like the Brisco/Wickwire conversation because it continues to build John Astin's character as a father figure to Brisco in certain ways. Much of Brisco seems derived from his father the Marshall, but Brisco's curiosity is more simila to the Professor.

As for the chat with Randolph, I like that Brisco's outside the cell, but he's the one who seems impatient, leaning forward, grabbing the bars, trying to push Randolph to tell where the plate is. Randolph, meanwhile, is sitting calmly on his bunk, leaned back against the wall. You'd think he has all the time in the world. It's a nice contrast, though you would think if Randolph is prtending to be someone else, he'd act more panicked. Pleading that he doesn't know anything about plates, Brisco has the wrong man, please let him out.

Next time, the Orb is back, and so is John Bly.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

So we went to see Cowboys and Aliens. Afterward, we never discussed whether we thought it was a good movie or not, which is telling. I didn't think it was horrible, but certainly not good. Not something I'll want to watch again.

Mostly we discussed little pieces of the film. My dad appreciated the diverse array of firearms, rather than everyone carrying the same thing, but felt the various leather gear (saddles, gunbelts) looked far too new. He thought Harrison Ford, Clancy Brown, and Olivia Wilde all knew how to ride horses properly (well, proper cowboy style), but some of the others didn't. He figures if Craig had done any riding prior to this, it was probably English style, so that might explain his tendency to bounce on the saddle. I thought Harrison Ford spent most of the movie walking funny, as though his boots didn't fit. My dad countered that Ford's pretty old, and riding a horse will make you look old. I haven't ridden horses, so I defer to his farmboy judgment.

Watching the film, I wondered why the aliens bothered to examine humans, if they consider us insects. I suppose we examine insects for more efficient means of killing them, but I think the aliens had it pretty well figured out. They just needed to be more careful with their stuff. I couldn't figure out why Ella (Wilde's character) didn't bring anything with her to help. Sje must have used some sort of advanced technology to make it here, she couldn't bring her own blasty weapons? Why did they dump the steamboat in the middle of the desert? They couldn't take what they wanted from it on the river, they had to drag it 500 miles first?

For a species Ella says don't like the light, there certainly had no compunctions about rushing out in the middle of the day to kill people during the climactic battle? Why do that? yes, the annoying humans damaged their flight deck/hanger, but wait until night to come out and kill them. Then they'd have the advantage, or force the humans to try and come in and fight on the aliens' turf.

Mostly while I was watching, I was thinking of how certain things reminded me of other movies. The opening shot going from a panning long shot to an abrupt closeup reminded me of the open of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. When one of the aliens got very close to the kid's face, I thought of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens 3, and the aliens having a chest cavity that opens so they can reach out with two other arms was reminiscent of Independence Day. When the spaceship lifts off, I thought of Apollo 13*. For some reason, Craig blasting away with that wrist cannon made me think of Mega Man. OK, that's not a movie, and Doom was probably a more apt comparison, but I liked Mega Man 4 more than Doom 2. It's my brain, I'll make the connections I want.

My dad thought there were two bits that referenced Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when Craig meets his old gang, and when he and Wilde crawl out of the water after a crash landing.

I think that sums the movie up pretty well, really. It felt like it was pieced together from other, better films. Well, Independence Day isn't a better film, but the others are. Part of the films' failing is it takes too long to care about the characters. When the aliens abduct people, we haven't seen those characters enough to care they were taken. In the case of Harrison Ford's son, I was quite glad to see him gone. But we also haven't spent enough time with the characters who chose to pursue the aliens to care about them, or their loved ones. Some of that develops as we go along, but the movie would have been better served with more early character development, and fewer shots of Olivia Wilde staring intently at Daniel Craig.

Seriously, there were far too many of those shots in the first half-hour. And even that reminded me of another film, because it was like all those intense looks Chalize Theron gave Will Smith in Hancock, which were also irritating.

* I also thought of a cover to a DC comic I saw advertised in my dad's comics. A cowboy's on the ground, sprawled across his downed horse, watching a massive rocketship either take off or land amidst some skirmish. I'll have to poke through the comics I kept, see if it's advertised in them anywhere.

Friday, August 05, 2011

More Captain America

We went to see Captain America yesterday. My dad thoroughly enjoyed it, all the more so because he said he hadn't slept well the night before, and the movie lifted his spirits. So let's hear it for Captain America! This is part where, if I weren't lazy I'd embed that clip of the soldiers cheering Cap after his rescue mission.

Audience: But you are lazy?

Oh, don't get me started.

Being my dad, the one continuity error he thought he saw was that the Hydra agent who killed Erskine was originally using a Luger, but somewhere along the line switched to a Walther. Which he said wasn't a big deal since they have the same nine round capacity, though he thought he counted 11 shots. Anyway, he really liked the movie and said that once Captain America actually crossed paths with the Red Skull, it felt like the Captain America comics he used to own. He was also very excited to see the Howling Commandos, and asked if they'd have a movie in the near future. He was glad to see Tommy Lee Jones (he's a big fan of Tommy Lee Jones), and he quite liked Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter. During the scene where she catches Steve making out with that blonde, as Steve chases after her, my dad commented 'He still doesn't know anything about women.' Less than 10 seconds later Carter made the same statement, albeit with a "bloody" tossed in there.

When we were discussing the film afterward, he mentioned being impressed with its restraint. I thought he meant the depiction of violence, but he brought up the sequence in the pub. He was surprised that when Carter told Steve that Stark had some equipment for him to try out, no one made the "and I've got some equipment for you to try out line". Obviously Steve wouldn't say that, so he must have expected either Bucky or some random drunk to pipe up. I did remind him of the idiot from the training camp, who got socked in the jaw, which he described as "modern", as opposed to the more typical knee in the groin.

Watching it again, I did wonder why Steve didn't simply use his shield to wedge the stick of the plane in place to keep it in the dive, then jump out. My dad said he hadn't seen any parachutes, but the chance of survival would still be better than staying in a plane he's going to crash. I guess Cap wanted to make sure it didn't crash, and couldn't risk his shield slipping after he'd bailed out.

I had to explain why Nick Fury was Samuel L. Jackson, which meant trying to explain the Ultimate Universe, though I don't know how much of what we saw was from Millar's version of Cap's origin. I did talk about how Millar made Cap kind of a jerk. How all the heroes were jerks, really. Which lead my dad to suggest the writer was probably a "cynical bastard". I didn't mention that was written by the same guy who wrote Civil War which I've described to him previously, though it would have cemented his opinion I imagine. We started discussing how most of the writers today are either cynical like that, or romantics, like him or myself. That was his assessment; I have a hard time picturing myself as a romantic, but I suppose in superhero comic terms, it fits me more than cynic. I don't go in for the "You have to be a damaged individual to do this stuff" line. Some heroes, sure. Not all.

One thing I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't catch until the second viewing was that the Cosmic Cube/Tesseract is the basis for the arc reactor technology that powers Iron Man's armor. It was the scene where Howard Stark's messing with the item Steve brought back from that first Hydra base. I noticed the little circular power source glowed the same as the power source in the center of Iron Man's armor. Then it all sort of came together in my head. I felt very slow.