Monday, October 31, 2011

You Go Offline For A Weekend

I typed up Saturday and Sunday's posts on Friday morning, since I wasn't sure if I'd have a chance over the weekend. Turned out to be a good plan because I didn't have the opportunity. The downside was it's Monday before I can get around to mentioning the Cardinals winning the World Series. Which was nice, if certainly unexpected 2 months ago. When September started, I was looking forward to the Cards using the fact they were out of contention to give some younger players some run. That was what made September of 2010 enjoyable. But they played well, and Atlanta collapsed beyond what I expected, and here we are.

I hope they don't take this as a sign they should keep Theriot, because he imparts winning intangibles or something similar.

I spent the weekend (well, Saturday) running around with Alex, because he had a show. So there was traveling, and his desperate search for a costume, because the club was having a contest. He dressed in a sombrero, big fake mustache, and a shirt he thought worked. I dressed as nothing, though with my Cardinals' cap and sunglasses, I was only a Cardinals' jersey and empty wine bottle from being Tony LaRussa when he fails a sobriety test. Not even winning another title will stop me from poking fun at him, though perhaps a phone with "BULLPEN" on it, and me yelling futilely into it would be more appropriate.

A guy in an excellent Ace Ventura costume was the winner.

It wound up being an excellent show. Alex killed it with his set, huge sombrero and all, to the extent people were chanting for him during the next guy's set. Which can't be fun for that guy, but was pretty great for Alex. We made it back to his house by 6 a.m., so at least the sun wasn't sitting on the horizon burning out my eyes on the drive back for once.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 14 - Mail Order Brides

Plot: Brisco and Bowler are on the trail of the Swill Brothers, who have been pillaging as they go. Their most recent victims are three young women on their way to Preacher's Head as mail order brides. Except, minus their dowries, they can't get married. So Meg, Sally, and Caitlin convince Brisco and Bowler to bring them along as they try to run down the Swills.

Meanwhile, Socrates has somehow wrangled a position as an enovy for the governor, as the city of Madrid, Spain is presenting a gift to the town of Madrid, California. A gift of the royal bull, El Magnifico Quinto, a bull so beloved that Spain will go to war if it is mistreated. Rest assured, eating the bull would qualify as mistreatment. As the Swills home in on the bull, the bounty hunters and the brides have to evade the brains (and I use the term loosely) of the Swill family, Lil Swill (Nan Martin).

Does Brisco use his gun? No.

Stuff Comet Does: Nothing in particular.

Kiss Count: 1, Meg (19 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically Count: 0 (7 overall).

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Quote: 'No, you don't. . . don't. . . really believe you're going to eat the royal bull?' - Socrates.

Brisco's Coming Things: flamethrower.

Gang Count: N/A (6 overall).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: The Swills are back for the first time since "No Man's Land", minus Gil, who apparently died when the mobile battle wagon got blown up.

Thre are dime novels being published about Brisco's exploits. They are not very accurate, and they refer to Bowler as Brisco's 'faithful companion'. Bowler is not amused.

I like how the minute Socrates sees Brisco he gets concerned, and he gets very concerned once Brisco mentions a bull. He's learned by now that if trouble doesn't follow County, it's because County's the one doing the following.

Senor Mendosa as Spain's envoy is very amusing, but I wonder if Castillian's really thay their "s" like thith? He's certainly a passionate fellow, which made him a fun foil for Soc. There's something that bothers me about this episode, as I don't enjoy it as much as I'd like. There are parts that are good. Lil Swill, as the aggravated, vengeful old broad that runs the Swills. Socrates and Mendosa, but the whole bit with the brides I don't care for. Perhaps I'm too much a romantic, like Bowler. Or it's the part where Meg keeps trying to be headstrong and do things herself, then needs Brisco to step in. She does save his bacon once, and bails him out of jail, but there's something that nags me about how she seems long on guts, but short on common sense.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Perspective Shifts With The Starting Line

This is over a week old by now but that's never stopped me before.

Ann Nocenti's going to be writing Green Arrow in a few months. Now me, I liked Nocenti's work on Daredevil. There were times it was a little hard to read, but by and large, I thought she did some interesting work with the character. So I'm curious to see what she does with Ollie. Yes, curious enough to contemplate buying the book, which is not something I've said about Green Arrow in, oh, a long time. I bought some of the Kevin Smith stuff, however long ago that came out, but it was more a matter of opportunity than me putting it on my pull list.

I did find the discussion over her admission she wasn't familiar with the character interesting. I don't know whether I consider being well-versed in a character's history absolutely essential. A writer can know a character backwards and forwards and still not be able to write them well. And considering DC just rebooted/restarted/revamped their line, I'm not sure how necessary it is to follow past history. I imagine how much it matters relies on how invested one is in the character to begin with. I'm not a huge GA fan, so whether Nocenti's precisely follows what's come before isn't the concern for me it may be with others.

The argument about her assessment (based on Ollie's Wiki page) of GA as a 'thrill-seeking activist' leads me to another point. That sounded about half-right to me. maybe more. Certainly, Oliver Queen as an activist seemed accurate, or at least as someone who talks a lot about activism. Does being a vigilante count as activism? It's working to improve one's community, albeit outside the law, and in a manner determined primarily by one's one code of ethics. 'Thrill-seeking' I was less sure of, but it really doesn't strike me as a stretch to see Oliver as someone who enjoys the danger and action of being Green Arrow.

But depending on where you draw the line, those aren't Ollie's defining qualities. As Scipio pointed out, the Golden Age Green Arrow wasn't really either of those guys. I think we could debate whether that version of the character is superior, but if you start his history from there, then 'thrill-seeking activist' doesn't really fit.

I will confess this happens to me frequently. Part of the reason I was annoyed (putting it mildly) about wiping out the Peter/Mary Jane marriage was because for my experience, that was part of the deal. They weren't married right from the start, but soon after, and so that seemed perfectly part of the character. For someone who'd been reading the characetr going back further, probably it wasn't as big a deal. I think that shift five or so years ago, where it seemed every Marvel writer started insisting Gwen Stacy was Peter's true love was much the same thing. Depending on where one started from, how important she is may vary. There are other things like that. Magneto being trusted and respected enough by Xavier to be placed in charge of the school, and actually trying hard to be a good guy, Cyclops not being part of the X-Men. Looking at the entirety of the X-Men's history, I can see how those might seem odd decisions, but there were in place when I came in, and so seemed perfectly natural to me. Which was why Magneto going huge, murderous super-villain in Morrison's X-Men seemed off to me, but was in fact, consistent with at least some of his past history. Just not necessarily the past history I was familiar with/fond of.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What? What Did I Say?

A week ago, I was watching the last Inspector Alleyn mystery with my dad. It concerned a waterfall with alleged healing properties that the locals had turned into a cash cow. This being England, all their property (and the waterfall) are owned by some English woman who doesn't live there, but strongly disapproves of the commercialization of the falls. She visits the town to make her feelings known, and squabbles with the biggest booster of the falls. Then said booster winds up floating facedown in the water, someone having dropped a rock on her head.

Throughout the show, my dad had been wondering why the old woman was so deadset against the deal with the falls. I pointed out she wasn't against people visiting, or dunking their hands in, she was against the whole ridiculous show that had built up around it. Turns out she had another reason for hating the whole operation. Which doesn't mean she's the murderer, alright?

While we were arguing about this, I said, 'It doesn't matter anyway. Now that a person's been murdered there, any healing properties will be tainted, or outright gone. Like desanctifying a church.'

Dad paused for a beat, looked at me, and said, 'I wish I knew where your brain gets these little bits of information.'

Do you think telling it was from an issue of Shadowpact would have been a good idea or not?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

C'mon, Stop Being A Giant, Angry Green Guy Already

At several times in his history, Bruce Banner's transformations into the Hulk were triggered by anger, or more generally stress. Banner would get angry about something, and transform into the Hulk, who would also be angry, though it seemed variable as to whether he was angry about the same thing as Banner, angry about something else, or just mad in general.

But I releazied, rather abruptly, that in various Essential Defenders collections, there were several scenes of the Hulk being calm, or even happy. Gerber had at least a couple, where the Hulk was trying to play with the little girl*, and the one where he was watching the deer frolic**.

The moments of calm don't last long, but thinking about it, I was surprised they were happening at all. I figured if Banner became the Hulk when he was angry, once that anger was expended, he'd revert to Banner.

What would the in-story explanation be? Hulk doesn't change back because Banner is there inside, and he's still angry about whatever it is that set him off originally, so he can't change back? Or is the Hulk on some level, probably unconscious, able to assert himself and block the change? Hulk doesn't like Banner, and when he's aware they're one and the same, he doesn't like being trapped within Banner, so he might naturally try to resist that. Which could be a source of stress for both, which might mean that even when the Hulk appears calm, he really isn't. Not inside, anyway.

Sounds as though they're being split into separate entities again, so at least they won't have to worry about that issue.

* Right before her father sees him and rushes the Hulk, worried his daughter might be harmed. Which angers the Hulk and leads to him wrecking their home.

** Moments later, a hunter killed the doe illegally, which lead to Hulk skipping that man across the lake like a stone, and bringing the orphaned "Bambi" to Dr. Strange's.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All Parents Want Their Children To Exceed Them, Even At Getting In Trouble, Right?

There was one other thing about the The Wild Geese. Seeing the movie reminded me Kohta Hirano used that same group of mercenaries in his Hellsing series. They were hired after all of the Hellsing Organization's actual soldiers were killed.

What I thought was interesting was that in Hellsing, the leader of the Wild Geese is a Frenchman named Pip Vernedead. Well, depending on who translates it, I guess, since Wikipedia says his last name is actually "Bernadette", but my copies had Vernedead, so that's what I'm sticking with. In the movie, Janders (Richard Harris) played the tactical genius for the Geese, and he was a bit of an idealist, so he naturally died. Point of fact, he begged Faulkner (Richard Burton) to kill him so the army wouldn't be able to torture him, which Burton did*.

Janders left behind a young son, who he had earlier asked Faulkner to look after. Or the boy's meant to look after Faulkner, who described himself as an out of work drunk, when he isn't killing people for money. Faulkner does take on this responsibility.

Vernedead was a Frenchman, albeit one whose name is "Pip", and whose father died as a mercenary, and the boy in the movie's mother was French. I assume, Janders tells Faulkner she moved back to Paris and rarely sees her son. There was a scene in the manga where a young Vernedead comes home crying from school, because the kids are teasing him about his father being some scummy hired killer, and his aged grandpa confirms this as truth, says it's been true of the family for generations, and it'll likely be true of Pip as well.

It amuses me to think the "grandpa" was Faulkner's character (who the years had not been kind to, but according to me dad, the years and liquor weren't kind to Burton himself), and that Harris' son grew up to help the British fight off an invasion by Nazi vampires.

* There was a point earlier where Burton's character killed one of his men who was badly wounded and would have to be left behind. It actually reminded me of the sequence at the end of the battle that killed most of Hellsing's forces, as Integra has to kill all of her subordinates who were turned into ghouls. The leader's responsibility, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That Music Doesn't Work At All

I watched The Wild Geese over the weekend. There isn't much to say about the movie itself. All the characters I liked died, and I was strangely unmoved by Richard Burton's getting his revenge at the end. The way the inspirational leader Limbani gradually reached the South African Coetze was kind of touching. So naturally they both died, Coetze trying to say Limbani, only for Limbani to die hours later.

It did give me an idea of a question to pose to you. Actually, hang on. My dad convinced me to watch Donovan's Reef, and John Wayne just spanked another lady. How many movies does he do that in? Oh well, at least it had Lee Marvin being drunk and violent. Back on topic.

The movie also had this utterly inappropriate opening and closing theme song. Some sort of orchestral music, with gentle singing about wild geese. This after all this shooting and killing, which ultimately amounted to nothing, because it was originally set up by a banker wanting more favorable copper prices, and the military dictator was willing to negotiate. The killing served no purpose, and it was largely done by men not motivated by ideals, but by money, or frequently to simply escape the drudgery of their lives, perhaps recapture past glory. Nothing beautiful or graceful about it at all.

I only know of two movies with less appropriate closing music. One is the original Last House of the Left, which had some sort of twangy, goofy banjo thing going. This in a movie about rape, murder, revenge killing, and so on. The other was Panic in the Year Zero, which had a jazzy tune which made no sense in a film about the breakdown of society after a nuclear war.

To that end, what are some movies you've watched where either the opening or closing music seemed completely out of place with the movie?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Congrats! You've Conquered A Beach Without An Ocean!

I don't think he meant it this way, but Douglas Porch titling his book Conquest of the Sahara felt highly sarcastic by the time I finished reading it. The book details the attempts of the French to conquer that expanse of sand and the people within it, for whatever reason the procolonialists can muster at any given moment. Sometimes they base it on perceived economic value, or when discussion of a Transsaharian railroad emerged, as a way to connect their colonial holdings along the Mediterranean coast with what they had in central Africa. Other times it was framed as necessary to protect themselves against other imperial powers, to take it before Britain or Germany could, not that either of those powers had any interest. And frequently it was an issue of national honor, especially after some poorly conceived expedition is wiped out by bands of Tuaregs.

Porch more or less wraps up the book after the French are able to send military units into the Ahaggar - an area the Tuareg controlled - and not get exterminated. This apparently demonstrated the French were there to stay, and there was no place they wouldn't go if they saw a need to. Porch says this opened up the Ahaggar to more Arabic trade, since the French would presumably protect the region, which lead to a shift in Tuareg culture to more of an Islamic style. Unfortunately, Porch leaves this for a brief epilogue at the end, which undercut his assertion. The prior 290 pages were mostly about the French stumbling about, lead by guides who might be leading them into traps, and were almost certainly robbing them blind, with the French either dying, retreating to the coast, or reaching their destination half-dead. If they're very lucky, they get where they're going, but have left a trail of destruction and pillaging behind them, which doesn't do much to help future expeditions. The French wanted to set the different groups against each other, but the way their soldiers behaved, they primarily succeeded in setting everyone against the French.

In discussing it with my father, he compared the situation to the United States in Vietnam (or France in what was then Indochina, for that matter). Wherever France had soldiers in the Sahara, they might control that location. If there were no soldiers, they controlled nothing. I suppose by the end, there may have been a sense of menace for the locals, that the French aren't here now, but if they caused trouble, the French would arrive and at least attempt to hunt them down.

One thing this book would have benefitted from was a map. A nice two page map, right at the beginning, with relevant locations marked, maybe the routes Flatters or Pein took marked on it. Because as it was, I had a difficult time understanding where a particular group might be coming from, or going, or how great the distance was. I will say Porch's descriptions of the landscape are quite excellent, but that really just gives a picture of a particular location, not so much its relation to anything else. It does take some time to get to the early attempts (roughly 100 pages before the ill-fated Flatters expeditions), but I like that Porch includes the various political struggles going on in Paris, and how they influenced what went on. He also looks at the difficulties the central government had in controlling the officers in Africa, especially those coming to the Sahara from the south, and why those offciers were so difficult to control.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 13 - Steel Horses

Plot: The story begins with Socrates bringing Brisco to a warehouse owned by one of the tycoons. There's a "coming thing" there he thinks Brisco will want to see, but he has to keep it quiet, because no one is supposed to know about them. Too bad Juno Dawkins, the 'most fearless member of Bly's gang' does know about these steel horses, and he's riding away on them, along with his gang (including a crazy guy who likes dynamite, a nerd, and a German wearing a pickelhaube.

Somehow, the tycoons decide Socrates should be fired for this, even though Dawkins was already there when he and Brisco arrived, and the only way to save Soc's job is for Brisco to get those motorized cycles back. And away he and Bowler go, to retrieve the cycles, and to stop Dawkins from hijacking an Army wagon transporting a certain object to a lab in Nevada.

Does Brisco use his gun? No.

Things Comet does: Get his feelings hurt.

Kiss Count: 0 (18 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically Count: N/A (7 overall).

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'What kind of gang is this Dawkins? He can't hear, he can't speak English, you can't explain what we're after.' - Mr. Beck

Brisco's Coming Things: Motorized cycles, rubber tires, nitrous. Wickwire's "see-through looking glass", which is basically a one-way mirror. Bowler comments that he'd like to have one in his house, that he could turn on and watch whenever he wanted. Perhaps "Good cop, bad cop".

Bly Gang Count: 1, Juno Dawkins (6 overall). Take 1 hotshot kid on motorcycle, add 1 cliff, and what do you think you get?

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: Wickwire returns for the first time since "Senior Spirit". He's returned to teaching, but is also running a still. A true Renaissance man. Somewhere along the line, he convinced the Schwenke sisters (see "No Man's Land") to come to San Francisco with him, where they have some sort of musical blacksmithing show they put on at the Horseshoe Club.

I'd take Dawkins more seriously if his mustasche didn't suggest he and puberty had only recently made each other's acquaintance.

Horses do not like motorcycles. Bowler doesn't much care for them, either.

This is a very focused episode. There aren't really any subplots. It's Brisco and Bowler trying to overcome the speed advantage Dawkins and his gang have before they get the "himmelskorper", as the German put it. The closest we might get is Bowler's growing udnerstanding of what Brisco means when he talks about "the coming thing", but even that is driven by their chase of just such a "coming thing". Which is OK. I don't love this episode, but it's fine, and I like how it ties in with the episode I'll get to in two weeks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Still Wishin' For Clix

Last month, I looked back at a post from the previous year about which DC characters I'd been hoping to see show up in Heroclix. The results weren't exactly great. I thought we had a shot at Sand with this Fan Vote thing, but Barda ended up winning. Which is fine, I guess, her previous 'clix is probably pretty out of date, but at least she's been made once before, you know? Oh well, it's a year since I did the same thing for Marvel, so I wanted to check back on that front as well.

Marvel released two large sets in the last year, Giant-Size X-Men and Captain America. GSX included Siryn, so that's one for my X-Factor team. Captain America had Jack Flag, Doorman, Mr. Immortal, and Squirrel Girl (with Monkey Joe!). I'm not at all sure why they only made half the GLA, but what the heck, half is better than none. Besides, there are three Marvel sets due to be released between now and the end of next summer. A Hulk set, then Galactic Guardians (oh, I'm hopeful about that one), and a Mighty Avengers set in the summer. Maybe we'll get the rest of the GLA then. Anyway, let's see what's left from last year's list, with a couple of additions.

Cosmic: At this point, Cosmo's the only Abnett/Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy figure left, so yes, I'm hopeful Galactic Guardians will provide me with a telepathic cosmonaut dog. I know we're getting some of the old-school GotG, as Charlie-27 and Martinex are already confirmed, so that's good for fans of those teams. Also, Ikon would be nice. They made a new Quasar (Wendel Vaughn version) in the Cap set, and he had "Annihilators" as a keyword, so they could build on that.

Street-level: Eh, that's not the best description, but I'm trying to limit this to five categories, since I'm not holding myself to five characters. I'm still hoping for Rage and Silhouette for an original recipe New Warriors team. I figure Rage might have a shot with Mighty Avengers, since he was one for a little while. It also occurred to me that I'd like to see Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. I think they may have been pogs once, but so were Jimmy Woo and Gorilla Man and that didn't stop those two from getting actual 'clix (a development I was perfectly fine with). I figure KnightWing have a chance with the Hulk set, since it's also including Shadowland-related figures (such as demon-possessed Daredevil, and the current White Tiger). Misty and Colleen were mixed up in that, so why not?

Mutants: We got Siryn (and some new Madroxes), but I'm still hoping for a Monet and a Layla Miller for X-Factor, and there's always Stacy X. I don't know when we're likely to see any of those characters, especially Stacy. Unless she becomes an Avenger in the next 2 months, which hey, it could happen. every other sucker on the planet gets to be one these days.

Avengers: Bertha, Flatman, Dinah Soar. C'mon GLA, you're halfway there! The other figure I'd add is the Eric O'Grady Ant-Man. Not that I actually like the character (Scott Lang Ant-Man 4evah!), but I could use O'Grady for my Secret Avengers team. I'm still hoping for a Dr. Hank Pym (with red jumpsuit) one of these days. Not a new figure, but rather a different version of a character they've made before.

Atlas: Triathlon would have fit under the "Avengers" category, but I'd be using him as a member of Atlas, so that's where I'm listing him. Thought I guess he'd be "3-D Man" in that circumstance. Ugh, I do not like that name. I'll add former SHIELD agent Derek Khanata to that, since he's part of Atlas now, too. Plus, they gave us Scorpion (not the Spider-Man enemy, the teenage one whose mother is AIM's Scientist Supreme) in the Cap set, and Khanata was her handler when he was in SHIELD. It'd be a natural team-up.

OK, I got that out of my system. Brisco tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

You'd Watch Ride The High Country For Randolph Scott

Randolph Scott!

My dad doesn't think I have a proper appreciation for Randolph Scott. I don't think that's entirely accurate.

I didn't like To The Last Man, this is true, but it had to do with the theme of the pointlessness of revenge being poorly handled. Scott was not the issue.

My problems with The Spoilers were due to a) John Wayne covering his face with soot to rob a bank, making me wonder if "John Wayne wearing blackface" was an proper description, and b) the approach Wayne's character takes to dealing with women, which is a problem I tend to have with lots of John Wayne movies. I thought Scott played a rather good villain.

There wasn't anything wrong with Virginia City (other than they told Humphrey Bogart to play a bandito when he can't hold his terrible Mexican accent for more than two sentences in a row). I simply didn't agree with Errol Flynn's decision with regards to his mission to keep the Scott from getting that $5 million in gold to Jefferson Davis. I understood it, but I didn't think it was the smart play at all. Especially when it almost got him shot for treason by his own government.

At any rate, we wound up watching Ride the High Country, which I did very much enjoy. It reminded me a bit of Unforgiven, so that isn't terribly surprising. I think Scott, and Joel McCrea, each play characters who are the logical endpoints of the characters they'd played in Westerns for years, much as William Munny, Little Bill, and English Bob were the likely results for the sorts of guys you'd see in an Eastwood Western.

Gil (Scott) and Steve Judd (McCrea) were both lawmen at one point, one frequently serving as the other's deputy. Now they're older and things aren't going so well. McCrea's spent most of the last few years in crap jobs like bartender or bouncer. Scott's traveling in a fair, wearing as a disguise as he plays "Omaha Bill", who defeated any number of dangerous outlaws. Now he's running a crap shooting gallery, bilking yokels out of nickels and pennies. Gil has a partner, a kid named Heck, who tricks cowboys into racing their horses against his camel over a quarter-mile. Horses can't outrun camels over a quarter-mile, apparently.

But Judd's got a job now, bringing miners' gold from the camp in the mountains to the exchange in town. It's not quite as big a strike as he was originally told (for $250,000 to $20,000), but that's how things go, since as the exchangers put it, 'The day of the Forty-Niner is gone. The day of the steady businessman has arrived.' How horrifyingly dull.

Judd needs some help, so Gil and Heck agree to help bring the gold back safely. Along the way they stop at the farm of an extremely religious man and his daughter, Elsa, who would very badly like to get away from her protective father, and marry that nice Billy Hammond up at the mines. To say she has poor taste in men would be an understatement, though I don't know how many she knows, besides Heck and Billy, so we can chalk it up to not knowing any better. So there wind up being fights over Elsa, and conflicts over the gold, though not from the same direction. It all ends with the good guys squaring off against the bad, face-to-face, if not at high noon, at least in a nice afternoon sun.

My caveats are that I found Heck extremely annoying early on, as he tended to behave stupidly, and by so doing, create trouble for Judd and Gil. It reached a point where he was being insulted by the Hammonds, and I was actually surprised he didn't lose his cool. Still, he's a young man, and they're prone to acting stupid, especially where their pride or a woman is involved, so it makes a certain amount of sense, and provides a nice counterpoint to Judd and Gil, who have very different approaches for most of the film. Judd is very much about the letter of the law, Gil is more of a pragmatist. He may follow the law, or break it, but it'll be based on which is the best path to getting what he wants.

The other caveat is that Elsa has more than one close call at being raped, which I understand is pretty common in Peckinpah films. The whole sequence of her wedding plays like a nightmare, which is about what you'd expect for a matrimonial ceremony that takes place in a house of ill repute, presided over by a judge described as so drunk he 'can't hit the ground with his hat'. On the one hand, Peckinpah films it well, making it this dizzying, horrifying affair for the viewer, who's seeing it through Elsa's eyes. So it's very well done, but it's very unpleasant to have to watch, made worse when neither Gil nor Steve show much interest in getting involved (again, each for reasons consistent with their characters up to that point).

Aside from my squeamishness at that, and my early irritation with Heck, I'd highly recommend the movie.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You Can Go Your Own Way

Go your own waaaay! Is it a Fleetwood Mac kind of day? Hell if I know.

I saw that image on Kalinara's Tumbler, and it's from X-Men: Regenesis, the follow-up to the whole Schism thing in the X-Books. I guess Caveman Scott and Logan are meant to be a metaphor, although it really suggests their conflict is less an ideological thing, and more an alpha male pissing contest. Pounding their chests and roaring.

Which is fine, I do that sometimes. Just yesterday I was digging up some invasive autumn olive trees from along my father's fenceline, and when I removed the last one, I pounded my chest a bit. I also yelled "Buuuuuu!", because I was always amused when Majin Buu would do that. I loved him as the villain for those later stories in DragonBall Z. Goofy, yet menacing.

I wandered off-topic.

So I'm looking at this picture, and I'm struck by. . . actually, it reminds me of that Jeph Loeb Wolverine story about tribes of feral people where the light-haired one and the dark-haired one are always in conflict and -

Well, anyway, when I recovered from my subsequent seizure, I noticed whoever is speaking, I guess Cyclops, said people could go off on their own if they wanted. He frames it as neither side needing people who don't believe, but I think someone opting to strike out on their own is good common sense. Westchester has a long history of being targeted, and Utopia's pretty clearly sitting (floating?) on a giant bullseye. Trying to find a safe distance from both sounds like a pretty good idea.

Perhaps it isn't practical for someone with a mutation that's difficult to hide, but there are plenty of the remaining mutants who look enough like an average human that if they don't make showy displays of their powers, they can pass mostly unbothered. In a meta sense, it's safer to go off over the horizon and be forgotten, than to hang around with the big-name, money characters, where you're likely to get sacrificed so Wolverine or Cyclops can look pained about your death in whatever Big Event nonsense is coming over the horizon.

Coming over a different horizon than the one they walked over to get away from it all. Because otherwise they'd be walking over the horizon right into the Big Event as it comes over the horizon, and that would likely get them killed by said Big Event before it's even begun. Can a Big Event kill someone before it's a Big Event, or would that necessarily signal its beginning? Like Ted Kord getting shot in the head. Poor Ted. Anyway, the Event would be coming over a different horizon. Or is it all the same horizon? Then a different side. The character leaves going east, the Event comes from the west, that sort of thing. The exact opposite side is best, but as long as the Event is at least 90 degrees off from where the character exited, the character is probably safe from being sucked into its vortex of horrific deaths.

At any rate, it's not safe to be near Scott or Logan, because all the enemy fire is going to miss them and hit the other characters. Or hit Logan, keep going, then hit the other characters. He has a healing factor (did you know Wolverine has a healing factor?) so he'll be fine, but the poor Generation Hope kids (or whoever) will be up the creek.

I'm guessing no one took that option, though I did hear Polaris and Havok may be joining X-Factor. That's not exactly stepping off the bullseye, though. It's a smaller bullseye, though, and it has to move around as they pursue cases. Like in the animated Robin Hood movie, when the Sheriff had his deputy hide in the target for the archery contest and move it so he'd hit the mark. Only in this case the bullseye is chasing the heroes, to mark them as the target, rather than the projectile designed to hit them.

I've gotten lost again.

I blame myself. Not for the getting lost, the fact everyone chose sides. Well, also the getting lost part, that's on me, but that wasn't the specific thing I was blaming myself for here. I gave Dr. Strange loads of crap for sitting out Civil War, after all, even though avoiding that load of cow flop was a wise decision. No one wanted to be the undecided who incurred my wrath this time, which is silly since I've hardly noticed the X-line in the last 3 years.

But these days everyone has to choose sides on everything. There can be no uncertainty or middle ground. One or the other, people. If Dogma taught me anything, it's that God hates people who try to stay above the fray. God also hates people who side against it, but I don't think Cyclops or Wolverine are God. The writers might be, though.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'I Think You're Just Naturally Hostile'

Extreme Prejudice, where Nick Nolte holds one facial expression the entire film, a pissed off glare. We finished watching Poirot a week or so ago, and since then we'd been watching the Inspector Alleyn mysteries, which I've quite enjoyed. But Monday night, having finished one, my dad proclaimed that to be enough of British detective, it was time for some Amurican violence.

Which the movie delivers in spades. A restaurant is blown up with a bomb hidden inside a cute little bunny in the first 30 minutes. Not a child's stuffed toy, an actual, live rabbit. Here I thought between action flicks and comic books I'd seen every sort of violence conceivable, but I was left agape at that one.

Nolte plays a Texas Ranger named Jack whose childhood friend, Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe), has become a big time drug dealer in Mexico. Nolte is determined to stop him, but really doesn't want to kill Cash, and Cash doesn't want to kill Nolte, either. Plus, Nolte's current girlfriend Sarina (Maria Conchita Alonso), used to be Cash's girlfriend, and Nolte is (naturally) unable to tell her how he feels. Or speak of his emotions in any form whatsoever, really. You know how it is with these tough guys.

Into this comes Michael Ironside and his eltie squad (including Clancy Brown) of presumed dead soldiers, supposedly on a mission to shut down this drug ring. They initially try to keep undercover. As much as you can when you rob a drug dealer's safety deposit box in broad daylight because you distracted the cops by blowing up an abandoned warehouse with a tanker truck full of hydrogen. When their attempts to lay low fail, Ironside opts for the direct approach, offering to bring Nolte into Mexico with his team, and give him a chance to get Cash and Sarina first. But gee, Ironside sure seems to be sweating more than everyone else. . .

It's a very '80s action movie. Lots of machine gun fire hitting nothing, lots of tough talk, lots of explosions and quick cuts. I wish Boothe had been more consistent about whether Cash was going to refer himself in the third person or not. Personally, I was pro-third person for Cash Bailey, but just pick one or the other. At least he didn't use second person. Because of the sort of movie it is, there isn't much subtlety, which means that when Cash and Nolte are set to have an old-style faceoff, Cash must behave in a crude manner towards Sarina, to emphasize he's the wrong guy. I thought that was unnecessary. He's already a drug kingpin, who killed plenty on his rise to the top, and has killed more since then. But if he'd been kind to her, open with his feelings, it would have made a nice contrast to Nolte's character, who does the right thing, but is emotionally closed off, to the point we don't know how much he really cares about her. I mean, did he come to Mexico for her, or to bring Cash to justice?

I don't think it'll be a surprise that Cash dies The biggest of his surviving men agrees to let our heroes leave because hey, now he's in charge. At the very end we see him yelling at the other cannon fodder to get back, so he can take Cash's watch and hat. I thought it would have been funny if, as he put on the hat, one of the other shot him. Then that guy picks up the hat and is shot, but the third guy stops just before he picks up that hat with a "wait a minute. . ." Then we could either see them all nervously eyeing each other and the hat, or it could fade to black on the sounds of lots of gunfire.

Yes, it sounds farcical, and it probably is, but these guys were cannon fodder five minutes ago, so based on what's typical for action movies of the time, they were probably barely smart enough to tie their shoes. It's a feasible ending.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I read Barrett Tillman's Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945 because, as I've mentioned before, I have sort of an interest in World War 2 aviation*. I don't think it was quite what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a focus on overall tactical decisions, and the problems faced, and there is some of that. However, the book feels more focused on specific missions (with a nod to how they factored into an overall strategy). The parts that do refer to the larger strategy and logistics problems were things I'd read in books I read over a decade ago.

I did appreciate the parts which discussed how unprepared Japan was to defend itself against the sort of bombardment it was subjected to once the United States had the B-29 (and once they had a base close enough they could reach some worthwhile targets). That's one thing most books I've read haven't touched on. The texts will frequently discuss the different forms of bombing: night, day, "strategic**", area bombing, precision, and there'll likely be mention of how the prewar belief that bombers didn't need fighter escort was completely mistaken, but there's rarely much discussion from the defensive point of view***. Here we get the challenges of trying to catch a B-29, of trying to adjust to a change in the U.S.'s tactics (they started coming in very low, at night, instead of at high altitude during the day), and most interestingly, the state of Japan's preparations in case of fire, which unfortunately for them, were not up to snuff.

I didn't find his final chapter, which focuses largely on whether to drop the atomic bombs or not, particularly useful, since it felt like a lot of editorializing. That wasn't what I was reading the book for. Otherwise, I don't have any complaints about his writing-style.

* I'm pretty sure I mention that every time I review a book about that topic, but since those reviews are usually a year or more apart, maybe that makes sense.

** The U.S. talked a lot about strategic high altitude bombing, but it's a bunch of bunk. They were entirely too inaccurate for most of the war. The British were much more honest when they talked of area bombing, because that was really the best they could hope for.

*** With Wings Like Eagles was an exception, because it was about British Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, so it was naturally focused on the defender's side.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's How They Respond To The Loss That's Important

One of the recurring themes of Liss and Zircher's Mystery Men mini-series seems to have loss. I finally noticed that around issue 4, when Ezekiel (the Revenant) reveals how he became a vigilante because a moment of spite by a cop destroyed his life. He talks of never being able to go back home, or return to his job. It remined me of Professor Green (Achilles) making similar comments in issue 3. How the search for the amulet on behalf of the General had cost him everything. Even after he harnesses its power, only to find that won't win his fiancee back, he says "Over and over, I lose everything."

The Surgeon makes similar comments when his life is destroyed in that issue, as his home is burned down by a crooked sheriff, and again, later in the same issue, when he learns his entire town was destroyed, killing everyone*. Sarah (the Aviator), thought she'd lost the chance to ever fly again, as well as her best friend, when the plane she took joyriding turned out to be poorly maintenanced. Ezekial also has a caption box in issue 4, expressiong concern about how she and he are both losing their innocence with what they find themselves doing to stop the General.

Which is a trend in itself. A loss that prompts the character to action, but then another loss brought about by that action. The aformentioned loss of innocence, Green's realization that Bridget didn't leave him because he wasn't manly enough, but because she really didn't love him. The Surgeon's would be an exception, since his killing the sheriff is not what lead to the General having the town massacred (that was the sacrifice needed to bring Nox physically to this plane).

Even the General has lost things. He's losing his health, to lung cancer, or given his age, perhaps exposure to gases during the first World War. That may have been what prompted him to ally with both the Board, and Nox. The Fear Lord, because she knew of something that could help, and had the knowledge to guide him. The Board, because they had the money to make it happen. Then he loses the amulet, when lead him to wear the bracelet that made him Lysseus, but seems to have placed him more firmly under Nox' control. He's speech is more halting and robotic over the last issue and a half.

It ties in with the air of fear throughout the world the series is set in. One thing that can scare people is if they start losing what's important to them, be it a home, a loved one, a career. When that happens for no discernible reason, or because of the maliciousness of others, it can be even worse. Especially when those others seem immune from repercussions for their actions. The cop who tried to pin a crime on Ezekiel almost certainly faced no reprimand for doing so. I would imagine if the woman who was attacked brings it up with his superiors that she said a white guy with a German or Irish accent, and this crooked bum tried to arrest a black guy, she'd be none too kindly encouraged to clam up. And she'd more than likely comply, because she wouldn't want police harassment or brutality. More fear.

The Mystery Men take that loss and try to use it as a motivator. To get back in the sky, to fight injustice, to get revenge on the General. That's the difference, even between them and the General. His losses create fear. He could accept his eventual death, but he forms alliances with a being far wiser and more powerful than him, thinking he'll get what he wants. His fear drives him to push Green too far, and he loses the amulet as a result. If he had simply waited until morning to meet Green, as agreed, then let Green go after receiving the amulet, he'd have what he wanted. But he sent thugs to roust Green in the night, then tried to shoot him, because he was too afraid, and it cost him.

Oddly, the only character who makes no direct reference of his own to "loss" is the Operative, the one it all started with. There is a point in issue 1, as he defends himself from more crooked cops looking to pin his girlfriend's murder on him, when he talks of a point of no return:

'That stench in the air is the smell of burning bridges. There's no going back. Sometimes you make your mistakes with your eyes wide open. Sometimes you don't have a choice. Nowhere to go but forward. All the way.'

In a sense, that's also speaking of loss, since passing the point of no return means one can't ever go back to what was before. Obviously. But there's no real mention of what he's lost at this moment. Alice is already dead. The cops are after him, but if they'd known he was the cat-thief The Operative, they'd be after him anyway. The General isn't protecting him anymore, but it isn't as though that was done out of any affection for Dennis. It was more a case of nobody wanted to nose too closely to The General's business.

We see in issue 5 what kind of upbringing Dennis had under his father, so you could make an argument he lost his innocence long ago, whenever he understood what kind of man his father was, to make his son fight for his very life as training. That could be the loss that prompted him to become the Operative, seeing how his father used his power mde him decide to act for people without power. The moment in issue 1 could be a loss of innocence. It's the point where Dennis realizes robbing the rich to feed the poor isn't enough, because it doesn't do anything about men like his father, who are the ones putting the screws to the poor in the first place. But rather than give up at that realization, he changes tactics. Some, maybe most, of it is revenge, but there's still a desire to stop what the General and his Board are up to.

Even amongst people who refuse to lay down, the response to loss won't be the same. Achilles' first loss makes him want to address a personal problem, and the second drives him to pin the blame for everything on the General, and pursue him regardless of the cost. Revenant's first loss drove him to fight injustice for those the law chooses not to protect, while Sarah's made her strive to reach the sky again somehow. But their second losses are I think what lead them to each other. They wanted to find something good again, admist the violence and horror, and they found it with each other, while still working to be better as vigilantes. I can't say that the second loss prompted much change in the Surgeon, but in a sense, he'd already lost everything the first time. He couldn't stay in his town, or see his mother, hurt as he was, so he was dead to them, in a sense. The second loss means he can't take some solace in the idea they're continuing on with their lives as before, while he pursues this new path. The biggest change might have been the realization he needed allies. He wanted to team-up with the others even before, but after, he knows he has to. This is too big for him alone.

* When we're introduced to the town, it's population is listed as 167, which is how many are claimed to have died in the newspaper article. Obviously they're wrong about the Surgeon, but how could you kill everyone in a small town like that so readily? Wouldn't there be lots of people who didn't live in the town, but lived on farms nearby that might see or hear something, or just happen to be in town at the time?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 12 - Crystal Hawks

Plot: Brisco is wanted for the murder of banker Sherman Paulson, and with a $50,000 bounty, he'll have to dodge plenty of bounty hunters - including one Crystal Hawks (Sheena Easton) to track down the man he insists is responsible: Big Smith (M.C. Gainey)?!

Even as Bowler and Socrates try to find Brisco and help him, Brisco finds out he's not the only one on Big's trail. John Bly's reenters the picture, and when he's involved, you know the Orb must be somewhere nearby as well. But what does the federal government have to do with all of it? And why is Big playing at Robin Hood?

Does Brisco use his gun? He uses it to stop a falling piano, and he uses a different gun to get himself out of some chains.

Stuff Comet does: Follow Brisco surreptitiously, worry about whether there's a bounty on his head.

Kiss Count: 1, from Ms. Hawks (18 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically Count: 2 (7 overall). I might be fudging a bit. One was while he was holding a gun, and the other while he was tossing his hat aside. But he doesn't need to spread both arms for that.

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'Crystal, darling, hey there, baby, ma'am. Best of luck to you, honey.' - Brisco, as he makes his (first) escape from Hawks.

Brisco's Coming Things: The used horse salesman. Does a bank giving free branding irons to people who open new accounts qualify?

Bly Gang Count: Now let's see. It was 5, but Big isn't dead, so that makes it 4. But he and Bly both get arrested, so that's 6. But Bly killed Big and escaped, so we're right back where we started.

Stuff the Orb Can Do: Big has superhuman strength, but we knew about that already (see Pilot). He also has either mind control or telekinesis, as well as heightened senses (at one point he states he sensed County the moment he entered the building).

Other: Bly's back for the first time since "Senior Spirit", and Big for the first time since he fell in the river at the end of "Pilot". While Crystal's the bounty hunter who receives the most attention, Bowler identified several others to Socrates, including Gentleman Jim Conner, Mountain McClain, and El Gato, who only brings in the heads of his bounties.

The Unofficial Bowler says "Damn!" count is up to 6.

Crystal Hawks has at least 7 rules she follows. I won't list them all, but Rule #1 relates to all those names Brisco called her in the quote above. She will bend Rule #1 a little in the event someone is being helpful. She also can't cook, but she can dance.

Big tells Brisco he has a destiny with the Orbs, echoing Professor Coles's statement in "The Orb Scholar". Big also knows that Coles has one Orb, and the government the other. It's interesting what happens with Big, given some of the things we know about the Orb. It gave power to Coles and those Chinese laborers, seemingly without ill effect. But when the tycoon took it's power, he was killed by it. Bly said its power can destroy the one who uses it ("Senior Spirit"). Did the Orb change Big when it granted him power? He knows the truth about it, where it came from, and what it's purpose is, so maybe that knowledge is what did it. Or maybe it was the near-death experience. Or perhaps his heightened senses extend to empathy, and having senses others' fear and pain, tried alleviate those feelings.

In certain respects, this episode is structured like "Deep in the Heart of Dixie", only instead of everyone being after one person, it's more jumbled. Bly's after Big, and so is Brisco, though he's also after Bly once he realizes he's involved. Bowler and Soc are after Brisco, as is Crystal, not to mention all the other bounty hunters. Still, I like this episode a lot more than the previous one. John Bly's a much more interesting villain than Winston Smiles was. I particularly like how, as he interrogates Big's brother, who runs an outreach shelter, he somehow senses Brisco come in behind him. He gets this huge smiles and whirls, half-snarling, half shouting "County!" as he draws and fires. Brisco might be a nuisance, but he's one Bly is eager to kill, so in a way, he's happy to see him.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

He Can't Worry About A Past He Doesn't Know When His Present Is In Danger

Watching Mirage only a couple of weeks after Charade has been kind of interesting, in that I've somewhat reevaluated my opinion of Walter Matthau. When I was growing up, he was mostly in movies like Grumpy Old Men or Dennis the Menace, so my image of him was someone who plays crotchety old guys in comedies. And he isn't a completely serious character in either of these movies I've watched recently, but in both cases his character is definitely more clever than he appears, and doggedly persistent, which makes him either a strong ally, or a dangerous opponent.

As to Mirage, it stars Gregory Peck as a man who suddenly feels out of place. He's certain he's worked at Unidyne for the last 2 years as a 'cost accountant', but things don't fit. People he remembers well act as though they haven't seen him in forever. People he doesn't know act as though they know him well. Sub-basements seem to disappear. And everyone's telling him there's a "Major" expecting something of him, but he has no idea what.

Also, he can't recall anything past 2 years ago.

This is the sort of story idea that really appeals to me, where someone believes one thing about themselves, but finds everyone else insisting something different is the truth. It's what made me want to read I'm Not Stiller, even if I never articulated that in my review. Something about the difference between how people perceive the same thing, or the idea that reality is subjective, or highly malleable.

The movie makes an interesting choice in that Peck is most confused and concerned with all these people who act as though they know him and want something, but won't actually tell him what, than with the part of his life he's lost, and the why of that. That ends up being relevant to the plot, but it's an interesting choice, albeit an understandable one in-story, since some of these people who know him seem apt to kill him.

My favorite scene in the movie comes when Peck finds yet another person who could help him dead. Up to this point, he's mostly been confused, maybe a little irritated, both with himself for not remembering, and with the shadowy figures moving against him, who are trying to isolate him. At this point, it all boils over and he lays waste to the room, kicking in doors, throwing chairs, overturning furniture. He's well and truly fed up, dealing with people who won't just tell him what they want, and kill everyone who tries to help him.

There are a few things that don't add up, including why no one will tell him what's so important until the very end. Maybe the hired goons don't know, but it would have killed the Major to call him and say what he wants? Also, where did the woman who knew him go when she ran down the stairs during the blackout? Peck thought the she ran to at least sub-basement 4, but there was no sub-basement 4 in that building. And when he went down later and learned that, why was one of the hired goons in disguise in the boiler room? Did he think Peck would just randomly show up there, and if so, why did he stick to his act of being a maintenance guy or technician, or whatever? If he was supposed to keep Peck under observation, he picked a funny place to do that from.

Friday, October 14, 2011

In Harm's Way

Before we'd even started watching In Harm's Way, Dad was telling me the story he'd heard about how the director, Otto Preminger, nearly got beaten up by Robert Mitchum once. Mitchum was starring in a film with Jean Simmons that Preminger was directing (my guess is Angel Face), and the director was trying to get Simmons to cry. By repeatedly slapping her. Either Mitchum came in while this was in progress, or got sick of it, but he basically told Preminger if he'd did it again he'd be sorry. Apparently it wasn't enough of stumbling block to keep Mitchum and Preminger from working together on River of No Return about 3 years later.
Two things about In Harm's Way. One, it's long. Almost 3 hours, and it really feels like it sometimes. I would have been content for it to end about an hour earlier. Two, it's quite the cast. John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Burgess Meredith, Carrol O'Conner, Henry Fonda's in there for about 10 minutes, Patricia Neal's familiar to me somehow, but I can't figure out from what. Oh, she was in the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, that what I recognized her from.

I feel silly saying this for a movie released 45 years ago, but SPOILERS!

The starts the day before Pearl Harbor, runs through that attack, as we see Rockwell Torrey (Wayne), whose ship was out of the Harbor, try to lead some other ships in hunting down the Japanese fleet. To get the most out of his fuel, he opts not to zig-zag, which gets his ship hit with a torpedo, which gets him behind a desk. He meets Maggie (Neal), a head nurse, and learns her roommate Annalee is dating his son, Jene, a lieutenant on a torpedo boat. The son he hasn't seen in at least 15 years, which makes their interactions pretty awkward. The fact his son's getting out of being on a ship to serve as an aide to a Congressman Owens who left office to grandstand as a "Commander" doesn't help. Eventually, Rock gets promoted to Rear Admiral and put in charge of an operation to take some islands, where he runs into his son and this troublemaking politician again, and his second in command Eddington still hasn't really dealt with the emotional fallout of his wife's infidelity and death. So people's personal lives go down the tubes even as the military aspects seem to go well.

Preminger seems to like to play with things that way. Eddington dies providing intel on Japanese ship movements, but this comes after he rapes Annalee*, which leads to her suicide. My theory was he didn't really want to be put on trial so he went, knowing the plane didn't have enough fuel to get back (they'd been pleading with command for a long-range recon plane, to no avail). My dad thinks he did it because somebody had to, and it might as well be him. It's true Eddington didn't care about his military career, but that doesn't mean he'd want to go to prison.

Then there's Jene, who eventually turns against the politician and returns to motor torpedo boats. This comes after Eddington suggested Rockwell wasn't actually Jene's father, because Jene stuck up for Owens. That's before the rape and suicide, fyi. I thought it rather curious Jene would take that rebuke and choose to go back to MTBs, but I think it's meant to be that he saw the respect his father commanded and how he earned it, versus Owens, and that tipped the balance. At any rate, Jene dies in the big naval battle. You could say he died a hero, since he took command of the boat after his superior officer was killed. It could also be argued he didn't care much, with Annalee gone, and of course, if he'd stuck with Owens, instead of trying to live up to his father's image, or the image men like Eddington have of his father, he'd have been fine.

As for Rockwell himself, he was put behind a desk for being too aggressive, and getting his cruiser damaged. In the climactic battle, he loses seven ships (and I don't know if that includes the torpedo boats or not), but because they did enough to drive off the battleship Yamato, he's getting put in charge of a big fleet, once they attach a peg where his leg used to be, anyway. Admittedly, the Admiral who told him he'd face a court of inquiry for that first incident said that if he'd waited until they were fully into the war, he'd be rewarded for that aggressiveness, and it turns out that was true. Still, it seems strange he gets a reward after losing a lot more men for trying to fend off a considerably more powerful force than he did for simply trying to extend his ship's range. Of course, the tradeoff is he lost most of his close friends in the battle, and his son, but he and Maggie seemed to have formed a strong bond, so I don't know if it all balances out.

* Because she and Jene had broken up, and she and Eddington met, but then she and Jene got back together, and were engaged, but she didn't tell Eddington that until they'd been frolicking on a beach together for awhile, and he went to kiss her, and he snapped, basically. Lots of issues he hadn't dealt with as regards to his wife dying with another man. Unless you count drinking and sleeping around as dealing with it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Leningrad - Anna Reid

Anna Reid's Leningrad: The Eipc Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 showed up as part of some book club order of my dad's. It is what the title suggests, a history of the Siege of Leningrad, focusing primarily on the people inside the city, though it also includes letters and journal entries from a German soldier stationed as part of the besieging force.

Reid's purpose seems to be to present the experience as honestly as possible. In the last chapter she expresses the opinion that many of the earlier descriptions of it have been skewed, focusing on only the good things the ordinary citizens did, or being too kind towards the Party officials in charge. Reid focuses primarily on the first year, when things where the worst (by the second, less harsh winter, the Party seems to have gotten its act together), it's more than simply looking at the Soviet Party, its corruption, incompetence, or perhaps outright indifference to the plight of the people trapped within Leningrad. While using the records left by people who spent at least part of the war in that city, she highlights both the good and the bad of the regular citizens. The ones who made up fictious jobs at their places of business for a friend, so that person could have a worker's ration card, rather than the more meager dependent's card, or hiding them from the NKVD, which was still rounding up people on the typical bullshit charges*. The people who stole other's bread as they left the store, or bought starving people's possessions for a ridiculously small portions of food. The difficulties families had, once evacuations over Lake Ladoga were possible, about whether to bring weakened loved along, and risk their death on the trip, to stay and hope they could keep themselves and the loved ones alive, or to split up, with maybe one person staying behind to look after the elderly or extremely young.

Reid also looks at the situation from the military perspective occasionally. What the Soviets were doing to open rail lines to Leningrad, Hitler's absolute insistence that the city be taken and utterly destroyed, which at least drained off German soldiers that might have been useful elsewhere. It's a sad situation, because I had the feeling Leningrad, despite having a Baltic sea port, wasn't really strategically that important. But Hitler really badly wanted to make a statement, and for a long time, the Red Army was too poorly trained, equipped, and perhaps most critically, poorly run to do anything. Except get killed in staggeringly large numbers, of course.

Having not read any other books on Leningrad, I can't judge this one against others. I found it highly informative, and Reid uses the entries from people who lived through it to good effect in describing what it was like to live through. Also, the book was affecting enough that I had a deeply detailed dream that seemed heavily influenced by what she describes. It's a little staggering to realize, though, that the conditions in my dream were significantly better than what those people in Leningrad went through. Either my subconscious can't match up to reality, or it didn't want to try.

* One man, Ivan Zhilinsky, was arrested in March of 1942 for 'slandering Soviet reality'. He was initially supposed to be executed, but then received only 10 years in prison. Apparently relevant quotes includes stating the Brits and Americans were supplying the Soviets just enough to keep going, but not enough to launch a counter-offensive, and that even if Russians aren't natural Bolsheviks, they hate invaders. Another man was sent to prison after the war, when Stalin cracked down, for 'advocating the revolutionary idea of "art for art's sake".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blue Aliens Are Hiding Inside Everyone, Sure They Are

I was thinking, do you think Grifter could work as a series if the reader wasn't sure of what was going on? This isn't meant as a comment on whether it works as presently constituted, it's just a thought I had.

What I mean is, we would know what Cole thinks is going on (weird creatures pretending to be human or hiding within humans for some reason), but we wouldn't know if that was true? Say Edmonson had opted to leave out the section where Cole wakes up in a warehouse, with wires running from him to the creature floating in the tube, and Cole's subsequent escape. We might know something happened to him, that he lost time, that he's hearing voices, but we wouldn't necessarily know that the situation is what he believes it is.

In the audience's mind, there would be the question of whether Cole's right about what's going on, or if he's crazy. Maybe some person he conned in the past caught up to him and tortured him. Maybe he decided to celebrate his succesful con at the start of the issue, and took something that doesn't agree with him.

The problem might come with the fact that Cole's already killed two people*. Since we know they're creatures in disguise out to kill him, it's more excusable. He's acting in self-defense, since he didn't kill either of the people on the plane until after they attacked him. If there's the possibility he's imagining all this, then there's also the chance he killed two innocent people. It would require the scenes be presented differently in the comic, since it would have to be ambiguous whether the woman pulled a metal spike from her arm and tried to kill him, but it's workable. Make it so we don't see where the stabby object comes from, or perhaps we don't even get a good look at what she attacks him with.

The part about him being on the run from the authorities wouldn't be altered all that much. We might wonder if it wouldn't be a good thing for him to be caught, but his flight and attempts to evade capture would otherwise play out the same. I think it'd be possible to portray the forces pursuing him in such a way the reader wouldn't be sure whether they're after Cole because they think he's a terrorist, or because they're some of these creatures trying to keep their existence secret. It's a question of how long one could go with the "is he crazy or not" storyline before there would need to be some resolution one way or the other.

* Three, if we count him clubbing Xavier to death in the warehouse with the pipe, but in this hypothetical scenario, we wouldn't have seen that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5ive Days To Midnight

My dad's wanted to watch 5ive Days to Midnight ever since it was first advertised on Sci-Fi. Sorry, Syfy. He bought the DVD at least a year to two ago, but we only got around to watching it over the course of last week.

The mini-series starts with Professor Neumeyer (Timothy Hutton) getting shot in the head. Then it flashes to five days earlier, a day which is simultaneously his daughter's birthday, and the day his wife died. While they visit her grave, a metal briefcase with "Professor J.T. Neumeyer" stamped on it appears out of thin air. They take it home, and after deciphering the passcode, Neumeyer finds a police file inside. The unsolved case of his murder in a strip club he's never visited, five days from now.

From there we see Neumeyer first try to determine if this is legit, by having a friend test the briefcase, check the blood on the slug that supposedly killed him against his own, and talk to the cop listed as the investigating officer. As he becomes more convinced that it's a real thing to be concerned about, we see him try to circumvent fate, by trying to flee, then by trying to remove all the people listed as suspects. No, I don't mean he turns into a serial killer, disposing of the people he fears may kill him. He tries to figure out what their grievance with him is, and resolve it. Unmake the sword, so to speak.

It's an interesting story at times, and I like that Neumeyer doesn't attempt to be secretive throughout. He doesn't start off telling everyone, but as he needs the help of his friends, he lets them in on what he's up against. You could argue that helped put him in danger, but given the circumstances, he was better off trying to enlist all the help he could. He's a physicist, not John McClane.

However, I don't entirely follow how he wound up dead in the original timeline. My dad's conclusion was it happened the same way. I pointed out that in the new timeline, there were several people at the club not mentioned as being there in the police report. People who would have to have been dead or not there at all, because if they had been present, there would have been no doubt as to the identity of the killer. He argued they were probably killed elsewhere. So why would Neumeyer and his murderer have ended up at this strip club? He had been there earlier in the series, as part of his "convince people not to kill me" strategy, but he was there at least partially because of the briefcase. He wouldn't have known the guy was a problem if his girlfriend hadn't seen the man's name listed as a possible suspect in the casefile. So I can't figure how things reached the point of him being shot without the briefcase's contents driving him to find who shot him and setting the whole thing in motion.

I may be overthinking again, but I can't understand why the killer would leave an unused bullet on the corpse, which just so happens to fit a gun Neumeyer can use to protect himself. Unless the person who sent the briefcase was there and found that extra round, and left it there in the hopes it would point the way to the killer. That having failed, it was at least in the casefile to be sent back to help the Professor.

Massive headache induced by time travel aside, it was a pretty decent mini-series. Some people give in to their worst demons, others act selfishly at first, only to come through when it counts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Connected Are They Going To Be?

How interconnected do you think the new DC titles are going to be? Should we be expecting crossovers, with a story going from say Batman, to Nightwing, over to Batwoman. Or will it not go any further than the occasional acknowledgement of events occuring in other titles?

I saw it mentioned somewhere that Grifter and Voodoo both take place in New Orleans, which, having not read the latter, I wasn't aware of. It makes me wonder if it means something that Cole grabbed what became his mask from a stand selling Mardi Gras costumes, where the word "Voodoo" was prominently placed on the sign*. Or was it there because this is Nawlins, so there's old bayou witch doctors out in them swamps, doing their hoodoo magic?

I believe Madame Xanadu showed up at the end of Resurrection Man. It was some woman looking at Tarot cards, anyway. Which could mean Mitch Shelley will be meeting the Magic League** soon. That, combined with things like Batman showing up in Batwoman would suggest there'll certainly be guest appearances, but I don't know about back-and-forth between titles.

From a storytelling perspective, whether it's a good idea boils down to what the creative teams do with it. I'd think it should be kept to a minimum to start. Let creative team get their legs under them, get the title moving under its own steam before doing stories that hop from one title to the next. I think the reader needs to have a reason to care if you want them to follow a story to a different book they may not be reading. Letting a title be self-contained to start, where the team can concentrate on their story, on whatever hook it is they hang the book's metaphorical hat on, seems like the best way to do that.

I don't know how the alleged new readers would take to it. Maybe they'd really enjoy the idea of all these books being interconnected, I don't know. Something to ask Alex if I ever get him to do that survey, I suppose.

* That hooded lady that's showing up everywhere was floating adjacent to the word in the panel as well, for what that's worth.

** Zatanna: We've come up with a new name for our team: The Magic League. Now you see us *waves hands in front of face* Now you don't.

Deadman: That's the stupidest name I've ever heard.

Shade: Is it, Boston? I think it's a good name. I think you wish you came up with it.

Deadman: You're right, it's a great name, I'm totally jealous.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 11 - Deep in the Heart of Dixie

Plot: There is a wax cylinder out there, that recorded a conversation where John Bly promises to help a possible presidential candidate. That cylinder is in the hands of one Dixie Cousins, which makes her a person of interest to a great many people. Brisco is sent after her by one such group. Bowler is appointed as a special government agent by U.S. Attorney Breakstone to bring her in as well. Then there's Bly gang member Winston Smiles (David Warner), an assassin who enjoys fine dining, but doesn't tolerate failure. . . or poor manners.

This leads to an episode long game of cat and mouse, as Brisco pursues Dixie, Bowler, pursues them both, and then Smiles hunts all three. There's also Socrates' romantic pursuit of his boss' personal secretary, Ms. Rita Avnet (Andrea Parker). Or is it the other way around?

Does Brisco use his gun? In the opening sequence he shoots a man trying to abduct Dixie in the leg. Later he uses it to cut the ropes holding up some nets blocking the road.

Stuff Comet does: Nothing of note, other than express displeasure at being left behind when a train comes along.

Kiss Count: 6 (17 overall). Brisco and Dixie were clearly making up for lost time.

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 0 (5 overall).

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Dixie: 'Brisco, put me down!' Brisco: 'Alright, you look bad in a wig and were too easy to find!'

Brisco's Coming Things: He forsees hard copies of music, when he talks about how with the wax cylinders and the player devices, one could listen to a piece of music whenever they wanted.

Bly Gang Count: 1, Smiles (5 overall).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: As I mentioned last time, Breakstone's going to become a more frequent supporting character.

Dixie appears for the first time since "Riverboat". I agree with Brisco that it isn't much a disguise for her to add a wig, but otherwise go on singing in saloons as she heads south. She was on her way back to Jalisco, and over the course of the episode, we learn she has been immortalized in a coin in Mexico, as Dixie Cousins, Lady of Liberty (see "Brisco in Jalisco")!Dixie, in her lifetime, has lived with Cherokees (after her family was raided on their way west), been rescued by Mennonites (who died of yellow fever), and lived in a convent for 15 years. I know, I had a hard time picturing Dixie in a convent, too.

It's been a few episodes, but Bowler said "Damn!", which brings the unofficial count for that up to 5. We also learned he has several names. Pierre Lamont, Ervin Paults, and Joe Echohawk. I like that last one, myself. Bowler used a green apple (the horse's weakness, establish in the pilot) to enlist Comet's help.

This episode was some good, some bad. Brisco and Dixie are always fun together (I can't believe they actually went with multiple "train as a metaphor for sex" visuals. That may have violated their "just under over the top" credo), and there are some amusing scenes and fun narrow escapes.

But it's hard for me to figure why Bly cares about a presidential election, though that's doubtlessly my knowledge of future revelations regarding him affecting my perceptions. Also, Smiles makes too many food-related witticisms, and it started to grate. I also couldn't understand why, after he planted a bomb, he made no attempt to escape to a safe location. And is Dixie's testimony on its own, without the cylinder, going to be any good?

Apparently Brisco and Bowler hadn't entirely learned their lesson from "Pirates!", because Dixie has to give them grief about how much better they'd do if they worked together instead of against each other.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

It's Strange How They Sometimes Know What I'm Thinking

Two and a half weeks ago, I looked back at the DC figures I'd hoped would show up in Heroclix a week ago. With Ragdoll having been made, Sand had moved to the top of the list. Last week, thee folks at Wizkids/NECA started a fan poll to choose a character that will get made in the next DC set, which comes out sometime next summer. They listed 12 characters, and Sand was on the list.

Thus far, he's made it through the first round of voting, where the field was culled to six. The next round has begun, to cut the field to three. I'm thinking he has a good chance, but there are some fairly popular characters he's up against, including Kyle Rayner (as a Blue Lantern *rolls eyes*), Starfire, and Big Barda. Also, Captain Atom and Gentleman Ghost. I get Ghost; he's a spirit who wears a top hat and monocle on an invisible head, but Captain Atom? Ugh.

I'm a bit disappointed, though, as he's the only one of the six who hasn't been been made at least once so far. There were several options along those lines in the original 12 (Kanjor Ro, Thorn, Red Star), but most of those who made it past the first round have been made at least once, if not several times. Hey I wouldn't mind a newer version of Starfire for my Teen Titans team, but I at least have one to use. People who like Sand, or Red Star are out of luck thus far.

Frankly, I'm most concerned that Kyle will end up winning. It isn't that I don't like Kyle Rayner, I do. He was #9 on my Top 10 DC characters list. He's already been made 3 times, you see, including in the DC 75th Anniversary set, which came out last year. Not as Blue Lantern, mind you, but cripes, haven't they made enough freaking Lanterns the last few sets? There weren't any in this recent Superman set, but over the two large sets and four minisets DC's had in the 18 months or so prior, there have been almost 60 figures from the various Lantern corps, counting White and Black Lanterns (that's out of I'd estimate 170 total figures).

I know the Green Lantern franchise is a big deal for DC these last few years, a real mover and shaker, but it starts to get ridiculous after awhile. Give someone else a turn, eh? Hoesntly, while I want Sand to get made, I'd be OK with any of the others. Like I said, I could use Starfire for a Titans team, or a L.E.G.I.O.N. team, though there isn't much point without a Vril Dox. I could put Barda or Captain Atom on a JLI/JLE team. I put my Mister Miracle figure on a JLE team, which I know isn't accurate, but I didn't want the JLI roster to swell out of control and I'd figure commuting to Europe isn't much trouble for a guy with a Boom Tube. And who wouldn't want to use a Gentleman Ghost? He's the classiest ghost of a highwayman around. Hopefully one of them can triumph over the Lanternocracy, if Sanderson Hawkins can't.

Friday, October 07, 2011

How Much More Quickly Would He Solve The Case If He Didn't Have To Worry About His Mustache?

I've been watching a lot Hercule Poirot mysteries lately, with David Suchet as Poirot.

I'd watch several of them in the past, but I did not remember Poirot being so quick to toot his own horn. On at least a couple of occasions, Poirot tells the murderer something to the effect of, "Your plan was almost perfect, but you did not count on Hercule Poirot!" Doesn't he know the murderer is supposed to say things like that? Scooby and the gang never said things like that; it was always Old Man Jensen who ran the amusement park that complained he'd have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids and their dog. You make the villain admit you beat them, rather than do it yourself. It's more impressive, and it sounds less like boasting that way.

I should be used this, after all the epsidoes of Monk I watched, but the explanations Poirot comes up with for how the mruders were committed seem truly convoluted, and I sometimes wonder how he'd prove them if the accused didn't always conveniently break down and confess, or flip out and try to kill Hercule. Take Death on the Nile. Poirot's explanation is Simon faked being shot, convinced the witnesses to see his ex-fiancee (who had fired at him) and take her to her room, then took off his shoes, picked up the gun, ran to his wife's room, shot her, ran back, swapped out an empty shell for a fresh one (so it would appear the gun had only been fired twice), shot himself in the leg for real, wrapped the gun up and threw it out the window, all before anyone could return with a doctor. There were unexpected witnesses, they were killed, so and so forth.

It works as an explanation, but it seems hard to prove. I'm trying to find whether they knew how to test for gunshot residue on a person's hands in the 1930s (they may have had the paraffin test back then, I'm not sure). Even if they did, how much will that help? Yes, the ex-fiance would have the residue if she shot one of the witnesses as Poirot says. But the residue could also possibly be there from her shooting Simon in the leg, if it went as we were allowed to believe through most of the story. The answer may seem perectly obvious to Poirot, but they have to convince a jury of it.

Regardless, they are excellent explanations, and I'm suitably impressed with Poirot's deductive ability. I think what I like most about him is that in some of these cases, he gets a feeling a death is about to occur, and works to prevent it. He hasn't succeeded in any story I've seen so far, but it's a nice touch, to make him more than the guy who steps in after a murder and puts everything together. When I get irritated with how he treats people at times, I think uncharitably that he only cares about the case as a puzzle to solve. These moments, when he tries to dissuade someone from acting rashly, help counter that feeling.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Nobody Around Her Is What They Seem

When I was asked, I said I hadn't seen Charade before. Once the film got going, I realized I had seen at least part of it. Maybe I didn't know the name of it when I saw it previously.

Audrey Hepburn plays a Regina Lampert, whose husband has been killed while she was away on holiday. His death leaves her with very little in the way of possessions, as well as the realization she knew nothing about him. That includes the fact he was part of the OSS during the war and made off with a quarter of a million dollars that was meant to be used on a mission. Now the CIA, represented by a Mr. Bartholemew (Walter Matthau), wants that money back. Unfortunately, so do the men who were on that mission with her late husband, all of whom are rather sore about being double-crossed. Then there's Peter Joshua, who she met on holiday. He seems such a helpful man. . .

Everyone is convinced she must know where the money is. She's equally convinced she doesn't know. And everyone is lying to everyone else, so there are lots of fights, threats, foot chases, and hiding in phone booths. It's a very tense movie, though the tension is frequently broken up by Hepburn and Grant bantering during quiet moments. Those work very well, because the banter gives the audience a chance to relax before the next startling reveal or dead body turns up. They're necessary breathers, and they remind us that we do care about the characters.

I really like how much Hepburn's outfits stand out in this film. Everyone else is dressed in drab colors, blacks, and greys, and browns. Grant tends towards blues, but they're dull blues. Hepburn spends most of the movie in these ridiculously bright yellow coats, or orange dresses. When she tries to covertly follow Joshua, she wears this all white ensemble with huge black sunglasses. It worked, though I can't quite figure out how. But it does serve to emphasize how out of place she is in all this. Regina spends most of the movie swinging between being terrified for her life and treating it like some fun adventure. The latter mostly comes in the quiet moments with Peter Joshua, but I believe she enjoyed the idea of dressing up in what she thought of as covert dress and trailing Joshua.

I was paying as close attention to the music as I ought to have, but when I did, it worked very well. Tense when it needed to be, quick during the chase sequences. I really enjoy the opening, too, with the cast and crew's names appearing against the backdrop of all these bright lines forming concentric circles, mazes, and other strange patterns. It's weird, but it really set the tone very well.

It's a frequently tense movie, with the tension broken up by the banter between Grant and Hepburn.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What I Bought 9/30/2011 - Part 3

If I were getting comics on a weekly basis, I wouldn't have a single one coming in this week. Considering I should have 11 or 12 this month, it seems a little strange to have nothing at all one week. In moderately related news, I went back issue hunting at a sort of nearby comic store yesterday. I took a list since there were about a dozen different series I wanted to look for issues of. Didn't have much success. In fact, the title I bought the most of was some of Engelhart's run on Silver Surfer, which wasn't even on my list. Sometimes you see Galactus straight decking the In-Betweener, and you are lost.

Daredevil #3 and 4 - I love that cover for 4, the gun barrels that look like buildings. Marcos Martin is awesome.

Issue 3 resolves Mr. Jobrani's problems, as Daredevil deals with Klaw. An echo of him, left behind after the original was shot into space as a wave in some story I didn't read. Judging by Thor, Iron Man, and Reed Richards' costumes it was fairly recent. The echo is constructing an antenna in Jorbani's basement to collect Klaw (I just realized I'd been typing Kang, which wow, if DD could beat Kang that'd be more impressive than his victory over Ultron), and now he plans to use the captured Daredevil as a physical template for Klaw's energy to solidify around. Matt objects to this and escapes, causing himself some pain the process, and isn't able to hear who helped the echo come up with this scheme.

Issue 4 shows the start of Matt and Foggy's new venture. Since they can't represent anyone without the whole Daredevil thing causing problems, they use their legal expertise to coach people in how to represent themselves, and they've just added a new client: A Mr. Cao, who was fired because he identified some of his company's clients as Latverians. There always an extended bit on what it's like for Murdock to try and get from one place to another in the city. Suffice it to say, he gets distracted frequently and loses a lot of suits.

I like the idea of Nelson & Murdock helping people in this fashion. It was something Nocenti did during her run, but the dynamic between Foggy and Matt is different than it was between Matt and Karen Page, and it's actually legal this time (Matt's law license had been revoked back then), so it feels a bit different. I like Waid's Murdock, a good guy, strong-willed, definitely a smooth talker when he wants to be. And he enjoys being Daredevil, always a plus.

As for Paolo Rivera (who drew issue 3) and Marcos Martin (who drew #4), they each have their own ways of representing things, and they both work well. When Matt's hearing and radar senses were damaged escaping Klaw, Rivera has the sound effects whited out. We can make out the outline, but not the individual letters, symbolizing Matt's inability to hear at the moment. Martin had a great panel of Matt ditching his clothes and rushing into the city where the sounds of people crying for help formed the walls and everything around him. Plus a panel where the bullets whiz by his head, with a small sound effect right next to his ears, but the "BANG!" of the gun is this large effect dominating the background.

In the "no accounting for taste" department, there was a letter from a dissatisfied fan in #4. He complained that they'd abandoned the 'groundbreaking' Shadowland and Daredevil Reborn. I hadn't realized "hero being torn down entireby external forces and nearly destroyed" was a groundbreaking story. It certainly isn't for Daredevil, and hasn't been for what, 20+ years? He also complained the book looked like it was set in Spain, whatever that means.

Heroes for Hire #11 and 12 - 11 is the end of the Fear Itself tie-in. Misty comes face to face with the creature that becomes a person's worst fear, and that kind of backfires on Monster. Not that it's something he consciously does. but it still didn't work out for him. I had figured Elektra and the Shroud were holding their breath when Kilgrave thought he was contrlling them. Turns out only Elektra was, and she sends him packing, but doesn't kill him because that was part of the contract. He survives part of the prison collapsing, and finds himself back on the mainland.

Issue 12 sees the Heroes for Hire hitting this Hook operation on multiple fronts, as Moon Knight and Silver Sable have apparently put that whole "being used by the Puppet Master" thing behind them. Misty, realizing her group doesn't have the firepower to stop the flow of drugs at the source, is hoping to make enough noise to attract someone who will, and yes, Namor will suffice.

I know he wouldn't stay dead, but I'd really have enjoyed it if the Purple Man was killed. At least he'd be off the board for awhile. I guess that would kind of screw with the plans for Villains for Hire. I thought the last issue worked fairly well as a wrap-up for the series. Kind of gets at the heart of what it was about, and Misty does stay in control, whatever she might have told Namor. He is going out to deal with a problem she wants dealt with, after all.

Kyle Hotz' figures in issue 11 are still odd-looking, but I still think his work's appropriate for a Fear Itself tie-in. Kilgrave certainly looks creepy. Brad Walker returns for the final issue, which means some interesting panel layouts, and good action pieces. I thought his facial expressions were good, too, a bit less strange looking than they are sometimes.

It bothers me this series couldn't even last as long as the last volume did, which I don't think was anywhere near the quality of this one. That's how it goes these days.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What I Bought 9/30/2011 - Part 2

I was hoping when he'd finished the rundown from 50 to 1, that Cronin might show us a master list of all the characters that recevied votes in his "Top 100 Marvel and DC Characters" poll. I had 4 characters from each list show up, but I was hoping to find out how the others did.

Darkwing Duck #16 - Darkwing, Launchpad, and Constance are about to be burned at the stake by the Suff-Rage-controlled citizens of St. Canard. Constance is making with some bold backtalk, while Darkwing nearly sets himself on fire trying to escape. Gosalyn realizes that Suff-Rage is a projection, and the real one is in a secret base in one of the other towers on the same bridge DW's headquarters are in. She and the other kids are captured, but disrupt S-F's concentration enough for the people to snap out of it, and DW and Launchpad come to the rescue. Well, Darkwing gets buffaloed by Suff-Rage's mind powers. She loses eventually, we learn her identity, Launchpad becomes mayor, destroys the town, pledges to use Quackwerks money to fix it, which riles Scrooge McDuck. Hey nobody told me there'd be a Darkwing/Ducktales crossover. Dagnabbit.

I had to look up the surprise villain reveal near the end. Not because I didn't recognize him, but I couldn't remember what I recognized him from. Have to see how it plays out, but it could be fun. I especially like the bit about Darkwing's fears, though I'm a little surprised it would be about when he's going to lose for the last time. I was surprised how quickly Brill threw away "Launchpad as mayor", but it makes perfect sense. James Silvani continues to crank out high-quality work as the artist. He did an excellent job with the sequence in Darkwing's mind, the villains getting larger in each panel, dominating more of the view.

Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #4 - I really was hoping Jack would forget to send this along. We learn where the No-Thing that Howard has came from, but it doesn't really matter sense Howard can't get it to work. They try to fight Man-Thing by hand, which is futile. Howard realizes they all have to confront their own fears, right as Man-Thing uses the Nexus to throw them into situations requiring them to do just that. Having succeeded in that challenge, they then realize they've been making things worse all along, as their fear of what a hopped up on fear Man-Thing would do has only made him stronger. So they stop being worried about that and he powers down, and the day is saved. I guess everyone else in the world being afraid of death by nazi mechs or hammer-wielding lunatics didn't register with Man-Thing.

There's a decent idea in there, about fear feeding into itself, and making things worse. But I have a hard time believing that it was the concern these four had about Man-Thing that was what drove him nuts, and not all that other fear that is supposedly running rampant across the world. There were four different artists on this issue, and I don't have anything in particular to say about any of them. Let's move on.

Mystery Men #5 - The Operative still wants to find those missing children, and he and the Surgeon find themselves a member of the Board they can lean on for information. This member's not comfortable with the idea of ritualistic slaughter of children. At least, not when there isn't any money to be had in it. New ally Baron Zemo doesn't agree, though. The good guys all get back together and launch an assault on the General's zeppelin, a locale the Operative is quite familiar with. He dispatches his father, and Achilles tries to destroy Nox with all the life energy he's taken from the criminals he's killed over the last several weeks. Doesn't quite take, but they rescue most of the children, and the one they miss is even returned to its parents by the villains. A good baddie knows how to adjust.

I thought initially that the battle between the Operative and his dad ended too quickly, but given the disparity in their powers, it probably had to. Liss does provide an ending of sorts, while still leaving open the possibility of more stories. Most of the heroes are still in it, and the suriviving villains certainly haven't stopped scheming. Patrick Zircher's art is still excellent.

Wolverine and Black Cat Claws 2 #3 - Guess we won't be ending this post on a positive review. Wolverine, Felicia, and Killraven's bunch escape confinement, trash the ship that was about to take them to Mars, and destroy the lead bad guys. They meet the alien Arcade and the White Rabbit stole the time device from, and get her to send them back to the version of herself it was stolen from, before it was stolen. Which enables Logan and Felicia to humiliate Arcade and the Rabbit when they arrive at the ship. Logan puts alien lady in tocuh with his many, many hero friends so she can help prepare for the Martians, and he and Felicia hang out in the Savage Land.

Let's see, Linsner's art is fine, though the action in one panel doesn't always seem to match what I'd expect from the previous panel. Wolverine's dialogue still seems off. It's isn't Spider-Man stupid joke dialogue or anything, but his version of tough guy talk here doesn't quite fit. 'It's so cliche at this point, but I'm your worst nightmare!'? Perhaps there's too much of a knowing wink there, a "we know he says stuff like this all the time, and we know it's silly, just go with it". Well, don't point out it's cliche, and I will go with it.

I know part of my disappointment is I was hoping for more Arcade, not Martians. Really, the whole Martian thing just felt strange in the middle of this story. You start and end with Arcade and the White Rabbit, who are mostly presented as losers, not credible threats. Then it shifts to this Martian threat, where people are dying, being enslaved and experimented on, and there's only a small, out manned resistance. Then back to treating Arcade and the White Rabbit as jokes. It feels very awkward.

Tomorrow, two issues of Daredevil! Two issues of Heroes for Hire! I get to be much more positive!