Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving To A Game I Managed To Beat. . .

We have Wild Arms 3. I've mentioned previously that with the RPGs I've purchased, I've been lucky enough to pick games that each had something unique about them, to make them distinct from the others. I wouldn't always say that feature is a good thing - the issues of weapons repair and necessity of having water in Dark Cloud got old real fast - but it's something to start with.

With Wild Arms 3, it was the Old West setting. It's still some fictional planet with magic and monsters and such, but the fact the characters use guns, rather than swords, and wear some odd combination of the types of clothes common in Westerns, if not real life, it helps the game to stand out a little. And it fits with the overarching story in the game, that the planet is dying, gradually drying up, and nobody is quite sure why. This leads some people to live concerned only with getting what they think they need or want, while others are more concerned with protecting the innocent, or proving themselves.

One of the members of your crew has no past, and so he lives to get what he can now. Or so he says. Under that wealth-obsessed exterior, he might be a bit nicer than he appears. It's a bit of an Eastwood character in a Leone western, where you don't really know anything about him other than what he does (gun for hire), but over the course of the story, you learn he's not as mercenary as he appears. Things like that, and the history of the world they inhabit, make for some interesting fodder.

I won't claim I understood everything characters said about harnessing energy or dream demons, but I didn't find myself bored by the story, or the writing. There's enough humor to keep things from getting too introspective. Which is nice. The game doesn't fall into the trap some games I've played do (Okami), where they kill all the tension and momentum of a boss fight with some dull, overwrought, extended cut scene. It also sorts of twists the pattern where the heroes defeat several bosses, then learn that doing so has enabled the real threat to emerge. It still sort of happens, but in this case it's more like the true threat had plans of their own that would have been interfered with by the other evil schemes you stop.

And it avoids the typical strategy of gradually building your team up which most of the others I've played follow. Where you start with one of two characters, then, like Baron Munchausen, you keep meeting oddballs you decide to join your cavalcade for one reason or another. With Wild Arms 3, everybody meets at the same time. There are Prologues, which are very short dungeons that detail each character's abilities and how they got to that place. Took me about an hour for all four, but it'd take someone more observant a little less. I had a hell of a time finding the dungeon Gallows' part was supposed to take place in.

Which does bring up one thing I didn't like about the game. Trying to find where you're going is a pain in the ass. You wander the landscape, hitting a shoulder button which causes your characters to emit some kind of radar pulse, and if there's anything (dungeon, sign post, random goodies), it'll appear. If you aren't close enough, you'll walk right by without a clue, which, combined with the randomly spawning monster fights, gets irritating. Especially if all you have is some vague description of their being monsters to the northeast, given to you by some bartender or townfolk to work with.

The gameplay's nothing too complicated. Travel to location X, find Bauble Y, fight randomly spawning Cannon Fodder Q, until reaching Boss. Since each of the characters has various tools they can use to help the team get around, and they acquire these as they progress, there's a bit of that backtracking to old locations that always reminds me of Metroid Prime. There's not nearly as much in Wild Arms as there was in that game, but it happens occasionally. With the fighting, you give the characters the standard commands like shoot, defend, use magic, use item. Because they're using firearms, they do have to periodically reload (if the fight goes long enough), but they do that automatically if you tell them to defend. They eventually collect these mediums, which grant them access to guardian spirit powers, which is helps with the magic.

What's nice is you can swap the mediums around, since they each carry different spells with them, and in theory, you can put your force together in a way to give them the best chance to win. There are several different approaches to take, depending on whether you want to focus on keeping all your character alive, or killing the boss as quickly as possible, or attack magically, or whatever. So that's nice. I'm usually trying to strike some balance between "kill them fast" and "Don't die", but sometimes (if the enemy has strong attacks of a type one of my characters I highly vulnerable to) I just accept that character's going to die, and I'll bring them back when the fight's over.

I would say the final boss battle is a little overboard. I get what they were going for, the new version of the planet defending itself with progressively more complex lifeforms that would gradually inhabit it, it's a neat idea. But when I'm on my 9th consecutive boss fight without any sort of break in the action, and I'm still not to the end, it's getting a little overboard. I spent almost 3 hours on that fight. But. . . they didn't kill the tension with lots of overwrought dialogue, so I can't complain about that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pimp Slapped By The Hand Of God

I was sure I would have done a post about God Hand at some point, but I can't find it. Maybe I was waiting until I beat it. Since I don't see that happening any time soon, the wait is over.

God Hand (on the PS2) is a beat 'em up, plain and simple. There are a few mini-games, like blackjack and betting on chihuahua races, but those are just ways to get more money so you can buy more power ups or new, devastating attacks. The rest of it is sending Gene around each level to beat up every hostile weirdo he sees, before they do the same to him.

Since many of these weirdos are possessed (or empowered) by demons, this can be quite a challenge for an ordinary human, as Gene learned when his right arm was lopped off for trying to rescue some poor schmoe. Fortunately, Gene crossed paths with Olivia, the last member of a group of people tasked with protecting the God Hands. She attached one (it's not just a hand, it's an entire arm) in place of his missing limb, and now they travel together. She's usually forces Gene to get involved, either by kicking him out a hotel window into the middle of a fight, or by threatening to take back the God Hand - with a hatchet.

There are around 100 different regular attacks you can purchase for Gene to use, though you can only assign about 10 of them to button commands at a time. There are Orbs you can purchase or find, and these let Gene perform big attacks. Some are for one target, others for a group, some long range, some short. Again, you can decide which ones will be in the "roulette" when you decide to use the orbs, so if one isn't suiting your fancy (I eventually dumped Mule Kick because I got tired of an attack that was useless if unleashed against a female opponent), you can swap it out once you find enough other techniques. I'm fond of Kung Fu Samba myself.

In addition to your health bar, there's a second bar representing an energy gauge for the God Hand. When it turns from purple to orange, you can activate the God Hand and go to town. It only lasts for a limited time, and refills as you land strikes, so I try and save it for boss fights, or desperate situations. My strategy usually involves throwing anything I can first, then hammering away with any blunt instruments that are handy. After that it becomes strike, retreat (when they block), counter (when they start to attack), repeat. It's a little tricky fighting lots of opponents at once (I was hung up awhile at an 8-on-1 battle which included a boss character along with the usual goons), but it mostly works. When I can keep my reflexes up.

In spite of all the stuff about demons, and people getting arms lopped off, the game doesn't really take itself seriously. They have Daran Norris, who voiced Spottswoode on Team America: World Police as the voice of the Belze, the leader of the demons. Maybe it's just me, but that makes it a little hard to take that guy seriously as a threat. Plus Shannon's attack that turns Gene into a chihuahua, and then there's Elvis. Not Elvis Presley, but a fat stereotype Mexican guy who smokes cigars and keeps calling Gene "cabron", but mostly "pendejo".

Then there's the lower level bosses like the gorilla luchador, the dwarf Power Rangers, the demon rock band, or Tiger Joe, the man dressed like a rugby player with an eye patch. And the cannon fodder of amazons in spiked bikinis, samurais, fembots, and all sorts of people who must have been on loan from Road Warrior. The Road Warrior guys are fond of proclaiming "I'm Alexander the Great!" right after punching me in the face. Which, hey, whatever amps you up for a fight, I guess. Tiger Joe likes to describe his style as "impetuous", usually after kicking Gene in the face five times.

The game's a bit sexist. The guys dress strangely, but outside of what I think were 2 fellows dressed as Vegas showgirls*, they're mostly covered up. The women not so much. Also, if Gene can land enough strikes on one enemy without getting hit in response, said enemy will get dazed. Gene's then free to assault them with rapid pressing of the circle button. On some foes that means pummeling them with fists or feet in rapid succession. For others, it means repeated knees to the face. For all the female characters? Spanking, the finale of which sends the enemy flying across the room to either hit a wall or skid along the ground. It doesn't do less damage, but it's a little awkward to be playing a game that encourages such activity. I'd really rather just punch the crazy Amazon repeatedly, OK?

Most of the violence is like that. Cartoonish. Contrary to the image I included above, you don't see blood, the enemies and Gene don't show visible signs they're getting beat up as fights progress. I don't know that I'd quite equate it to an '80s cartoon like G.I. Joe, since the cut scenes do show enemies dying, being incinerated, whatever, but the actually gameplay doesn't go the Mortal Kombat "cheap gore" route.

* They seemed like guys, considering their flat chests, and the game doesn't skimp on cleavage typically, but the Mule Kick was useless, so perhaps they were just very muscular women.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hate Doesn't Always Stick With Me

Someone posted this question on a forum, and I thought I'd ask my audience. Is there a character you disliked when initially introduced to them, who you later warmed up to? The shift in your opinion can be caused by anything. The thread starter listed Amanda Waller, because they didn't like her on the Justice League cartoon, but changed their mind after reading some Suicide Squad.

I was having a little trouble thinking of one at first. It seems like if start out not liking a character, then I usually avoid them after that. Or any appearances they make after that are viewed through my biased perspective, and aren't able to change my mind. I didn't care for Cyclops when I first read comics with him in them, and that hasn't changed 20 years later, for example. I did come up with a few, but I only listed the first one that came to mind.

Hank Pym.

I hadn't read much Avengers prior to picking up Kurt Busiek's run, so I'm not sure how much I knew about Pym prior to that. Busiek made it clear Hank had made some mistakes in the past, and had some problems he was still working through, both in how he viewed himself, and in his relationship with Janet van Dyne. These problems were brought up, dealt with, and at least somewhat addressed. I don't have the comic with me, but I feel like Hank and Jan agreed reaffirmed their friendship, though they weren't back together as a couple, which is still nice. Soooo, great. Problem solved.

Naturally, subsequent writers went back to the well and tried to put them together again, seemingly so they (or the next writer) could have the fun of breaking them up. They became one of those comic couples doomed to try and get together only to have it destroyed somehow. With Hank and Jan, it seemed like it was his periodic mental instability, or the time he backhanded her. Which isn't something to be brushed over lightly, but it was strange how much of an issue it would be. It wouldn't prevent them from starting to get together, but it would eventually rear its ugly head and split them up again. Tedious.

Somewhere along the line I put together a run of Steve Engelhart's first 2 years on West Coast Avengers, where he did his own arc with Pym, and it was actually deeply satisfying to read. Hank was struggling with his various issues, almost killed himself, and Firebird (or La Espirita) came along and helped him out, by demonstrating he wasn't a big failure, as he believed. he had made mistakes, but they were ones he could learn from, so he could succeed the next time. It didn't solve all Hank's problems, but it gave him a way to go forward, and I was interested.

Eventually, I figured out it was better to simply ignore all the stories I didn't care for, and once I excised all those repetitive stories from my personal Hank Pym continuity, I liked him a lot better. He still has recurring difficulties with self-doubt and relationships, and that makes sense. Those sorts of insecurities and issues don't go away easily. But they're aren't occurring as frequently, the issue isn't always the same (like most recently he's had to cope with Janet's death or dissolution) and his solutions seem a little different each time. As though he's trying out different theories on how to get it right, which seems appropriate for a scientist.

Anyway, that's how Hank Pym won me over. A few good writers, and a conscious decision on my part to ignore all the other writers. Who's the character for you, and how did they win you over?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 18 - Hard Rock

Plot: Bowler's received word from an old flame, name of Lenore (JoNell Kennedy), asking for his help. So he heads to the town of Hark Rock, faithful companion Brisco County Jr. tagging along. Once there, they find the entire town is being terrorized by Roy Hondo, who offers security services. Lenore is the last person who refuses to pay, and coincidentally, she's the only person whose business keeps getting attacked. The town's sheriff, one Aaron Viva (Gary Hudson, bearing an intentional resemblance to a certain King of Rock n' Roll), can't catch any of the bandits, so he can't prove they're doing so on orders from Hondo.

In the midst of all this trouble, a young hotshot named Whip Morgan (Jeff Phillips) arrives. He's after Hondo for killing his uncle, but he may not be good enough to carry out his ambition. Just don't try telling him that. Don't try telling him anything actually, because he's not likely to sit still long enough for it to sink in.

Does Brisco use his gun? He shot Whip's holsters off. He shot one of the lines holding up a sign so it would swing down and conk a guy. He shot another man's gun from his hand, and there was a lot of general firing in the direction of Hondo's gang.

Stuff Comet does: N/A

Kiss Count: 0, for Brisco, anyway (19 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: N/A (11.5 overall).

Is Pete Hutter In This Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Whip - 'He got even?' Brisco - 'No, he got justice. It lasts longer, and in the end, it feels better.'

Brisco's Coming Things: The 'walk-up window' for eateries. Viva's 'day glasses'. The 'cow pie' sandwich. Relax, it's better than it sounds.

Gang Count: 0 (8 or 12, overall).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: Contrary to my use of it, nobody busts out the 'faithful companion' line in this episode. I thought the song went "Viva Las Vegas", but apparently it's "A-Viva Las Vegas"? Which would explain the sheriff being A. Viva. Little depressed I learned that from watching that Looney Tunes movie Brendan Frasier was in. I still can't figure out what Steve Martin was shooting for with his character. I find it funny they had an Elvis sheriff in a show starring Bruce Campbell, and years later Campbell would play Elvis (in Bubba Ho-Tep).

The former sheriff and current mayor of Hard Rock was named Sonny Red. I looked that up, figuring it'd be the name of Elvis' manager or something, but it's the name of an alto saxophonist. He had some success in the 1960s, but nothing related to Elvis. Elvis did have two bodyguards, brothers named Red and Sonny, so maybe that's it.

In addition to all the names U.S. Attorney Breakstone listed for Bowler in "Deep in the Heart of Dixie", we can add the one he used while serving in the Army: James Lonefeather. I still like Joe Echohawk better.

There's a lot going on in this episode, and all of it's interesting. Bowler gets to be the focus of a romantic subplot for once. He and Whip both have the opportunity to confront some painful history. For Bowler, it's a chance to make up for missed opportunities. For Whip, well, it's what he's spent half his life preparing for, if we can believe him. Bowler, in essence, is going back to his past to try and start again. Whip's been focused on the future in his constant preparation for facing Hondo. Unless we think of it as living in the past, because he can't move on from what Hondo killing his uncle. Whip's situation also puts Brisco in a mentor role, since he knows a little something about pursuing the man (or men) responsible for killing his father (Whip's uncle raised him).

I think this is the second time we've seen the Brisco crew apply police techniques (or TV show cop techniques) to get someone to talk. The Schwenke sisters played "good cop, bad cop" with that German who was in Juno Hawkins' gang ("Steel Horses"). Now we have Brisco and Bowler playing the "We'll let you go and arrest everyone else so the boss thinks you squealed, and you'll be dead. Unless you really squeal, then we'll protect you." Maybe I should have just said "coercion"? But that sounds like they used phone books, and it was nothing so guttural.

Viva can get a little tiring at times, because he's so obviously out of place, it feels silly, even for a show that heavily involves special orbs from the future that give people power. Fortunately, the next time he shows up, the cast is a little larger, so they can pick their spots with him. Also, he finds an excellent foil.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Again I Consider My Pull List

Question for the audience. Do you think Rick Remender on Secret Avengers is going to be worth buying? I was going to try the series originally, but Brubaker kind of punked out Nova for the first story arc, I'm not really a big fan of Deodato's art*, and I tend to find Brubaker's pacing pretty slow, so, yeah. Then there was the 4 dollars per issue aspect.

People seem to like Remender's X-Force work, which is encouraging, since it indicates he can write an good team book, unlike certain people Marvel handed the keys to the Avengers kingdom. And they're pairing him with Gabriel Hardman! That's a good sign. The book's still 4 dollars an issue, but I wasn't planning to let that stop me from trying Defenders. It isn't as though I have some major affection for Fraction's work, outside of Immortal Iron Fist, which was a collaborative writing project (David Aja on the art chores didn't hurt, either). Remender's not coming off writing a complete dud of a Big Event comic, either, for what that's worth**.

* I don't hate his work, it has its moments. That issue of Moon Knight he did a couple years ago, with Werewolf by Night? That was pretty good, and with the way he uses shadows (or the way his inkers do), he's suited for those sort of dark, spooky, stories. But his women seem to have their hips permanently locked in the "sway" position, which is a little distracting.

** It's amazing, I think Fear Itself had a more negative response than any of Marvel's other Big Events. Even Civil War has its supporters out there, as terrifying as that is to contemplate.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I'd Like To Blame This On Post-Turkey Gorging Brain Haze, But I Can't

One series I've been trying to piece together a complete run of is the first volume of Resurrection Man. I'm a little over halfway there. It's slow going, because I like to collect them in order, so I'm not trying to read issues with big gaps between them. Sometimes I break that rule, which is how I wind up with issue 25, when I haven't made it past #18 otherwise.

By the 25th issue, Mitch had crossed paths with the Forgotten Heroes, because they think he's their old friend Immortal Man, and they need help to stop Vandal Savage. The thing that caught my eye* was Cave Carson sporting a cyborg eye. Because it was the Nineties, I assume. I couldn't find any explanation online for that. I'm pretty sure he last appearance before these was in Wonder Woman, and judging by the covers, he wasn't rocking any techno-parts then. At least he hadn't started wearing massive shoulder pads.

Everyone on the team was wearing these matching collars. Basically three rings stacked on top of each other going around the neck, which seemed like an odd choice. The belts with "FH" on them made a little sense, but the neck bands, I don't know. When I saw Shelly and Carson wearing those and talking, I figured they were prisoners, and those were power inhibitors, or something designed to shock them if they tried to escape. Nope, just part of the team uniform. Like those bomber jackets the Avengers were fond of a few years earlier.

* Besides the fact The Ray was on the team, whoo! Ray Terrill appearance, and it even makes sense, considering Ray spent the second half of his series trying not to be manipulated by Savage. When he wasn't fighting a sentient computer program he'd created that was obsessed with pushing him to his limits, that is.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Talking About A Fat Guy On Thanksgiving

Specifically, Mojo. Because what topic could be more appropriate for the holidays than a fictional representation of crass commercialism that TV executives so covet? Maybe I should have saved this for Christmas. Or Sweeps Week, if I knew when that was. But who has the patience to wait for stuff these days?

Moving on.

Mojo's currently messing around with Rocket Raccoon and Groot after captured them and putting them in ridiculous staged adventures to boost his ratings. Which is how I wound up thinking about him. I haven't read a lot of comics with Mojo in them (counting the first two issues of Annihilators: Earthfall, I think it's less than 10), but I'm curious about the change in his presentation. The Nocenti version from the Longshot mini-series reminds me of a child, albeit an extremely powerful one. He acts without considering consequences, or is completely unaware of them. He's a bit silly, and prone to panic, but he's still dangerous. His very presence on Earth was toxic to everything around him, without any active effort on his part. If he put his mind to it, he was a threat Dr. Strange was hard-pressed to deal with.

The later versions seem less, hmm, "simple-minded", perhaps. He has a greater awareness of his power and influence, and his attention span seems to have improved, but he's a bit crazy, in a Robin Williams' character kind of way. It feels like an act, which if I accept that Mojo's making himself part of his shows, could be his idea of being an interesting character, to boost his ratings. Either way, he does seem to be capable of forming ideas and holding to them for at least a little while, whereas the Longshot version didn't seem to know what he was doing half the time, or remember why he was doing it. I'm not sure which version is more cruel. The Nocenti version is at times unaware of the suffering he causes, and the rest of the time he doesn't care. The later version seems aware, but it's all part of the show, so it's for a good cause (as far as Mojo's concerned).

I wonder if the shift in Mojo's character could relate to the repeated mindwipings Longshot's suffered. Longshot is continuously being reset to a blank slate, and has to start building up who he is all over again. He gets to start his character arc from scratch, and he doesn't always end up in the same place. The Longshot that was on the Australia-era X-Men wasn't the same as the Longshot on Bedard's Exiles. They both had a bit of that cavalier style, but Claremont's was more of sweet, curious kid, and Bedard's had more of a hard edge. He was still a nice guy, but the warrior part of him seemed to have taken a firmer grasp (which might make a certain amount of sense for a guy trying to lead a revolution).

Longshot is forced to start over, but Mojo keeps going. Is his later personality his own attempt to change himself, or is it that he keeps moving down the same path, and where it leads is a overacting ham? That'd be kind of interesting, Longshot stuck in a cycle of rebirth, so to speak, while Mojo keeps plodding along to some final end. Or, here's a question: what happens to Longshot's memories when they're removed? Those recollections, emotions, personal reactions to Longshot's adventures would be like DVD commentary, or a remastered edition. Which sounds like something Mojo would value keeping. Is it possible he stored them within himself, and they've brought about this change? Experiencing the world through Longshot's eyes gave him a greater awareness of the world, but for Mojo, that only gives him a better idea of how to exploit it, because he understands the players and their motivations better now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can You Have Too Much Sex And Violence?

Well, I hit my limit for the latter when Alex dragged me to the first Saw film, but I guess it's really more about presentation than quantity. Rol at Sunset Over Slawit was nice enough to send me a digital copy of the first issue of his new comic, Too Much Sex & Violence a couple of weeks ago. The least I can do is try and write up a proper review.

The story (outside of a few pages in Leceister) takes place in a town called Fathomsby. To the majority of the outside world, Fathomsby is considered a quiet, sleepy village. While I wouldn't classify it as "quiet", what with regular cattle mutilations and children firing guns at front doors for their version of "Ding Dong Ditch". Still, the residents are certainly accepting of a wide array of people, with diverse skills and interests, so it's regarded as a good place for people who don't feel as though they fit elsewhere to move. It's also a good place to dump someone you'd prefer to have out of sight, out of mind.

The basic structure is a series of scenes introducing us to several of the locals, as well as hinting at several mysteries, which may or may not be connected. It works rather well, because we get an idea of how some of the characters are connected, who has the power in town, and enough of the characters' personalities that I can start wondering about their backstories, goals, and motivations.

I want to know what Harry Hall's problem with Magaret Thatcher is. Is whatever Toby let escape from the attic responsible for the cattle mutilation the police were fielding a complaint about? Is Dermot the one responsible for Fathomsby's wider reputation as a dull hamlet, or does he just take advantage of it, the fat toad croaking in his little pond? What's the deal with Wonderful, the large fellow who follows Dermot everywhere? Him I'm especially curious about. Maybe because he's mostly silent, and I figure still waters run deep, but also there's the way he interacts with Dermot. He follows Dermot everywhere, follows his orders, but he doesn't address him as "Mister", or "sir", anything formal like that. Which makes me wonder if he's more than a lackey or trusted assistant. On a meta-level, I'm curious whether the local DJ being a vampire who receives donations from his listeners is commentary on life in that particular business.

There's a fellow named Rusty trying to find out what's up with this town, and he sent his girlfriend a comic breaking down his thoughts (apparently he can run off in tangents as easily as I do). In the second panel he was standing on a beach, with a seabird and a lobster-thing, but there was a figure he'd drawn in one the cliff above and behind him. It wasn't the last time in those pages he drew some shadowy figure lurking above him, which makes me wonder if that's something he knows about his situation he isn't saying. Or is it something his subconscious knows the rest of him hasn't tumbled to yet? Meanwhile, his girlfriend Kathy could really use him being around to think sexy thoughts. Or perhaps a visit to Xavier's Institute is in order. But I'm not sure she handle being on a plane for the flight. What else do people have to think about?

The art chores are handled by several different artists, each handling one of the different scenes. There are some styles I like more than others, but I like the sense that everyone is one the same page. There aren't many characters that appear in two different artists' parts, but they're recognizable when they do show up. This extends to buildings as well. Kelvin Green, Paul Rainey, and Adrian Bamforth all depict the police station at some point. Even though their styles are very different, they made sure to get the details right. The roof in the front comes to a point, with a circular seal just below it. The waist-high, wooden slat gate out front. Those are little things maybe, but it's an attention to detail I can appreciate. People are communicating, making sure they're on the same page.

What's more, while everyone has their own particular way of representing the buildings in town, they aren't so wildly disparate that they would seem strange to be in the same town. At the same time, there is enough variety to give the sense of a town large enough to have a pier/beachfront section, a district for shops, residential areas, including some houses that are fairly isolated (there didn't seem to be any other houses near Harry Hall's, for example). Like how the buildings in Grand Theft Auto 3 (or Vice City, or whichever version you prefer) vary depending on what part of town you were in. The fact it isn't all the same, like some creepy suburb makes it feel like more of a real setting. Plus, the greater variety provides a wider range of places for potentially strange things to take place. One thing I like is the tendency for the buildings to be set very close to each other, with either no space between them, or only a narrow alley. Combined with the tendency of roads to disappear diagonally off between buildings, it makes things sort of sinister. There's no place to get off the main, obvious thoroughfares, except places you really wouldn't want to travel down.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Care To Wager Your Life?

Once I recognized him, I was very happy to see Chance pop up in Avengers Solo #1. Sure the Marvel Universe already has a bunch of hired killers, but I always liked the idea of Chance treating his jobs as bets. Most of the time, he wasn't simply betting that he could kill whoever it was he was being hired to eliminate, he'd put a time limit on it. That's confidence, plus it's a little something unique about him.

Also, he was clever enough to recognize loopholes in his agreements. There was a time he agreed to eliminate some engineer who had created a box you could lie down in, and it stimulated muscle growth. Chance was hired by a rival executive who was worried no athletes would buy his performance-enhancing drugs. Chance didn't manage to kill the guy - thanks to Cardiac - but it turns out whatever the box did to enhance muscle growth also damages the mind. The target hid in one, it got overloaded by accidental exposure to the power source Cardiac replaced his heart with (as one does), and the guy's mind was completely wiped. He doesn't remember who he is, so he can't make any more*, removing him as a threat, and letting Chance claim victory. it's a bit sleazy, but at least he didn't have to kill the guy.

He didn't insist on killing him, either. A lot of the hired killers in the Marvel Universe are practically mad dogs. I like Deadpool, but he does kill an awful lot of people - not as many as Wolverine, mind you, but still - he probably could have simply knocked unconscious or mildly wounded. With Chance, he's in it for the thrill, which is why he bets his paycheck he'll succeed. But if he can get the job done without killing, or if the job falls through for reasons outside his control, he's not going to keep trying to kill the target. He has too much class to lose control of himself like that.

I'm hoping he'll show up again in Avengers Solo. I'm not much of a Paste-Pot Pete fan, myself.

* Though there were surely plans or blueprints, but I suppose the reveal of the deleterious effects on one's mind would get it banned. Which means athletes will use it illegally, giving the sportswriters of the Marvel Universe something else to wring their hands about. Though between mutants, mutant growth hormone, knockoff Super-Soldier Serum, the fact radiation is roughly 900 times more likely to give someone superpowers than to kill them, I'm not sure what would qualify as illegal performance enhancers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Go Right Ahead And Waste Their Lives, Chief

Over the weekend I came across this Clone Wars Star Wars cartoon that's been going for awhile. The episodes I saw were about a bunch of Clonetroopers who find themselves serving under one of those typical jerk commanding officers you see in war flicks. The one who throws his men's lives away in ill-advised strategies?

In this case, the Jedi wasn't getting them slaughtered out of incompetence, but because a) he was planning to defect, and thought causing the Republic to lose this battle would look good on the resume he was going to send to Dooku, and b) I think he was a little, hmm, what would be the equivalent of "racist" when referring to someone who hates clones and regards them as inferior? At any rate, he had issues with the existence of clones.

I'm a sucker for films about soldiers trying to do their best under hateful or stupid commanding officers, so the story worked. . . until I remembered the clones are the instrument used to wipe out the Jedi. Not just the actual, accomplished Jedi, the little kid that hadn't even started training with lightsabers yet. I'm supposed to feel bad a group of those guys are getting wiped out by their evil commander?

I suppose there's always a chance these clones might refuse to turn on the Jedis, form the backbone of the early Rebel Alliance, but I don't know. These guys had been serving under Anakin, and near as I could tell, they thought he was a good boss. So they'd probably follow his lead, which brings us back around to the kid slaughtering.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 17 - Fountain of Youth

Plot: Brisco and Bowler are trying to track down Professor Coles, who sent them an urgent telegram. Instead they find Lil Coles, a relative of the professor's who suffers from arthritis (for which she has some "special medicine"), under attack from a gang of Fabios. After driving those buffoons off, our heroes agree to bring Lil along while they search for Coles. Only, surprise!, Coles didn't send any telegram. The situation is made worse by the arrival on scene of John Bly, who still wants one of those Orbs. This leads to many double-crosses on all sides, along with more than a couple surprise reveals. And into all this rides Socrates Poole, on a special mission from Li Pao to deliver a key to Brisco.

It all leads up to a final confrontation between Brisco and Bly. Until their next final confrontation, anyway.

Does Brisco use his gun? He uses it to shoot Bly with a magic bullet. Don't laugh, I'm serious!

Stuff Comet does: He can tell when someone is following them, and he knows the difference between genuine and false apologies.

Kiss Count: 0 (19 overall).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 4.5 (11.5 overall). I guess he dramatically spread 1 arm at some point.

Is Pete Hutter In This Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'Well, am I the only one who don't got a destiny with this stupid Orb thing?' - Bowler.

Brisco's Coming Things: N/A

Gang Count: 1 Bly (imprisoned), 8 or 12 overall, depending on the Swills.

Stuff the Orb Can Do: Make medicine, restore youth. I'm not sure whether Bly demonstrated telekinesis, or if that wind represented elemental manipulation. Probably the former. We know people can use its power for stuff like that.

Other: Li Pao is back for the first time since the pilot, and we hadn't seen Professor Coles since "The Orb Scholar". Bowler's able to track Coles because he got a look at the professor's wagon in that episode, so he recognizes its tracks. Bowler makes mention of the dime novels being written about Brisco, when he says he hopes their punching out guys using aloe liniment doesn't make it into the stories.

There were actually a lot of quotes I wanted to use from this episode. Bly had at least 3 good ones, but I was trying to find one that sort of summed up the episode, without revealing too much. I do laugh at him describing Brisco as a cretin from an antediluvian world. More people need to use "antediluvian". Or the line about Orb hating evil.

I find the limits on the Orb's awareness interesting. It's established it hates evil, and will destroy those who use it if possible. Which is why Bly's been so leery about messing with it himself. Yet, it can't do anything if a good person uses its power in a way that helps an evil one. Coles touched an Orb rod to water to make Lil's medicine. The Orb doesn't harm him because he reads as good. Yet Bly can drink the medicine to give him superpowers, and suffers no ill effects. I'm still left confused as to how Big Smith was able to receive power from it without being destroyed, which is why I wonder if the Orb produced some sort of change in his, soul, or psyche, or something when it gave him power.

And how is Bly able to use it to return to his time? Shouldn't it be destroying him for trying that, or had the power he received from drinking the "medicine" made him strong enough to resist it? And how the heck was anyone able to make a bullet out of Orb metal?

All those questions aside, I did enjoy this episode. Billy Drago as John Bly is always fun, even when he's playing at being unnerved by one of the Fabio wannabes complimenting him on how good he looks in black.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Some People Are Hard To Be Friends With

I really enjoy the dilemma Gage and Isaacs have presented Faith with so far in Angel & Faith. Namely, the dilemma of how to be a good friend to someone making bad decisions.

It didn't do Angel any good to sit around brooding (even if he is very good at it), so anything that gets him up and moving sounds good at first. Then it turns out he's decided resurrecting Giles will fix everything. Which, look, back when the Scoobies brought Buffy back, Spike was the only one who realized it was a stupid idea. When even Spike - impulsive, damn the consequences, do anything for love, including that, so whatta ya say now, Meat Loaf? Spike - knows something is unwise, that should be a tipoff it's not the smart play.

You'd think Angel, after all the time he's spent 'helping the helpless' to atone for his centuries of horrific acts, would know it can't be made all better with one stroke. He's the one who told Faith they never stop paying for their crimes*. Still, the big, grand gestures are a lot easier than the daily grind, so it's understandable he sometimes forgets.. It's just forgetting usually involves distancing himself from his friends, or taking over an evil law firm.

Now the problem becomes how far to support him. Faith knows this is a bad idea, she had a discussion with Giles about the very subject (with regards to the vulcanologist she killed in Season 3 of Buffy). She also knows Angel is too bull-headed to be talked out of it easily. If she threatens to withdraw her help if he doesn't drop this, she knows Angel will just go on without her. So she sticks with him, and makes her own plans to make him human with the Mohra demon blood.

I wouldn't say it's a good plan. There are people Angel could save as a vampire, that will die if he's only human. Not that he wouldn't try to save them, which is the critical flaw in her plan. Just because he wouldn't be a vampire, doesn't mean he'd stop trying to fight evil. Which means he'll wind up dead for real soon enough.

Also, if Faith succeeds, there's a very real chance Angel will get his nose bent out of shape over it, which could cause a rift between the two. This probably wouldn't be good for either of them, since neither one has a lot of people they can call friends, while they each have enemies lining up around the block. I think it'd be worse for Faith, to lose one of the only people who ever believed in her, or gave any sign they cared about her. I believe the official list is her first Watcher (Dead), Giles (Dead), Angel**. Maybe she'd be OK with it, feeling she did the right thing, but if he goes out and tries to fight evil as a human, and winds up dead, I could see her taking that badly.

That's kind of how things go for them, they support each other, regardless of what it costs them. Angel protected Faith from the flames of Buffy's self-righteousness, which didn't do the tentative "exes as friends" thing he and Buffy had any good. And Faith nearly killed herself capturing Angelus so he could be reensouled. Which is one of the things I like about those two, that they'll go to the wall for each other. This situation's a little different for Faith, though. A grand sacrifice isn't likely to straighten Angel out. If anything, he'd add Faith to his list of people to resurrect. What she has to do is figure out some way to convince him to redirect this drive towards something constructive. Which can be tricky. If she pushes too hard, he'll get defensive, and trying to force him off this path (by making him human) won't do anything but breed resentment, and lead him to carry out his plans on the sly.

Words have never been Faith's strong suit, so it'll be interesting to see if she can talk Angel down, or if she'll even try.

* Back in Season 4 of Angel, when they took the magic drug fueled trip through Angel's head.

** Xander might have qualified briefly during Season 3, but she blew that to Hell with the nearly killing him and all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

He'd Take Speed Dating To A New Level

Has Quicksilver been in any relationships other than his marriage to Crystal?

Near the end of Avengers Academy #20, he came across Pym and Tigra 'behaving like two animals in heat', and complained about it, as he tends to do. My initial reaction was either "Oh, like you've never had a public display of affection" or, "Jealous, Pietro?" Then I realized I couldn't think of anyone he'd been in a relationship with.

Then my brain kicked back on again and I remembered he'd been married, had a kid, all that jazz. However, I couldn't think of anyone else, Madrox' jokes in X-Factor about Pietro and Rictor aside. Which in of itself seemed kind of strange. Admittedly, Quicksilver seems to spend about half his time being evil, or crazy, or misguided by messianic notions, which is perhaps not the ideal time to be starting up relationships. The remainder of the time, he seems focused on either protecting his sister, or trying to be a good father and husband.

Even then, he and Crystal aren't really together all the time. At least, not judging by Crystal's relationship with Dane Whitman (the Black Knight). But Pietro doesn't seem to show any interest in finding someone else. Which is interesting. It we go by his "Pietro Maximoff Syndrome", then it's because he's so easily frustrated by how slow everyone else is compared to him, though I'd think the time he spent depowered might have altered his outlook in that regard. But his frustration could overwhelm any attraction he might feel towards someone.

Then again, he does spend a lot of time out of his mind. Someone who tries to destroy his sister because he doesn't approve of the man(droid) she married might not be seen as much of a catch. Though being a periodically evil jackass hasn't hurt Namor's sex appeal, but he also walks around shirtless most of the time, which might have something to do with that. I'll defer to the ladies on that one.

Maybe Pietro doesn't think he's worthy of it? That's certainly something he's struggled with from time to time. That might have been the big reveal of that first conversation with Doc Samson in X-Factor #87, that he holds everyone to an impossibly high standard they don't meet, including himself. By that measure, with all the times he's been manipulated, lost his mind, or not been there for Luna or Crystal, it might be he doesn't think he should get involved with anyone, because he hasn't earned the right. Kurt Busiek addressed it, in a way, while he was writing Avengers, as Pietro would confess that he enjoyed combating evil, because it was where he felt like a success. I'm pretty sure Quicksilver referred to himself as a failure as a husband and father on at least one occasion.

Is it a conscious decision on his part to not get that close, because he thinks he'll let whoever it is down?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

I may have read it wrong, but when Cole's brother came after him at the end of Grifter #2 I had the impression Cole was the older of the two. I suppose it was Cole's comment that he taught Max how to shoot, which seems like an older brother sort of thing.

If I'm right, it could switch things up from what I expected. When we learned in the first issue that it would be Cole's brother the military was sending after him, I figured Cole was almost certainly the younger brother. He'd tried to be like his big bro, followed him into the military and all, but he couldn't ever measure up. Probably heard a lot of "why can't you be more like your brother Max?" growing up, and while he was in the service. Got fed up with that, and after he was out of the military, put what he'd learned as a 'Delta operator' to use as a con man.

Instead, it looks like Cole might be the older sibling, and so perhaps Max followed him. Max did assure that colonel his loyalty was to the service and his country, not his brother, but talk is cheap, and family can exert a pull whether you want it to or not. It could be interesting. Max might have looked up to Cole in the past, but is disappointed by his more recent career choices. Which wouldn't preclude him from wanting to help or protect his brother, but might make him more likely to doubt his brother if Cole chooses to tell him what's going on. Or Max might secretly envy his brother, who lives by his own rules, rather than following orders. In that scenario, Max could be more inclined to listen to Cole, even try and help him. Which, if Max can use the team he was supposed to assemble (or at least keep them out of Cole's way), could be handy. Or, it could give the aliens one more lever to use against Cole, since it wouldn't surprise me at all if they have people in the military.

What could happen is Cole appears to confide in Max, to trust him, but in fact pulls the wool over his eyes. Could be because Cole is no longer sure who he can trust. Maybe before then he could meet some people who aren't disguised aliens, but are on the aliens side. Their allies or lackeys. Or it could be Cole wants to protect Max from reprisals by his superiors, so he burns that bridge. Or appears to burn that bridge, depending on how much he trusts Max and Max' ability to act. It wouldn't hurt for that colonel to believe the brothers are enemies, when they're secretly still allies.

Or maybe that's just who Cole is now. He's been conning people so long he can't help himself, he's always sizing people up for how he can use and discard them. I don't think it would hold up, Edmundson certainly hasn't played him as that callous. He didn't treat Gretchen as someone he was trying to fool, for example, but it's a possible direction, that Cole's really not a very nice person. He might mostly pull cons on crooked businessman, but that doesn't mean he's all sweetness and light. So even when his brother tries to help, because he cares, Cole can't help but abuse that trust.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

There's More Meaning Than One Might Think

That's a panel from the second issue of the current volume of Birds of Prey. It's fortunate it was posted as part of the 4thletter's This Week in Panels a while back, or I'd have never seen it. Thanks to Gavok for posting it.

Swierczynski used a similar line when he was writing Immortal Iron Fist, during the "Escape from the Eighth City" arc. While imprisoned, Danny starts up a conversation with the prisoner in the next cell, who asks him what his name means. Danny pauses for a moment, and thinks of a line he attributes to Tarantino (I think): 'We're Americans, our names don't mean anything.'

Danny ends up telling the man he was 'named for his father'.

I guess I'm partly amused Swierczynski went with a similar line, albeit changed enough so it fit the situation, but I do like the line in general. It feels accurate, the idea that Americans appropriate things from other cultures, but frequently don't know or care about the history behind it. When I was in junior high, one of my social studies textbooks had this bit at the end of a chapter. It was a story about a family that gets together on the 4th of July, and some of the relatives (in-laws, I guess) are British. The way it plays out, the father/husband tries to boast about all these great things that are American, and the British in-law calmly points out all those things (like hot dogs) originated somewhere else. I don't remember whether the point was to emphasize the "melting pot" idea, or to try and temper potential jingoism by reminding students a lot of the things we love weren't actually devised by Americans. But we forget that. Or ignore it.

I don't necessarily mean it as a negative, since it could relate to the sort of thing Garth Ennis had Tommy Monaghan tell Superman. That it doesn't matter where one came from originally, they're here now, they're Americans. There's the risk that comes with ignoring history, and thus repeating it, but the idea of setting aside the past and everyone simply sharing what they bring to the table is kind of nice, if ridiculously naive.

Maybe none of that has anything to do with why I or Danny Rand don't worry about where our names came from, or why Starling has the tattoos she does (though it may turn out she has a reason for those particular designs). For me, my name is something that was given to me, and its origins are purely academic. Whatever it meant before, it's my name now. Does that make it a shorthand method of describing me? You say my name to someone who knows me, and certain descriptors or images come to mind**. There's a self-centeredness to that, obviously, but my feeling is there are a lot things involved in my being the person I am, but the origin of my name isn't one of them.

Alex has a lot of tattoos. A person who didn't know him might look at all of them and come to the same conclusion Katana did, they don't mean anything. True, some of them weren't chosen for any reason other than they looked cool. Some were picked by Alex with a specific reason in mind. Whether the meaning he derives from them is the same as that which the originator intended I don't know, but for Alex they do mean something, even if the rest of us can't recognize it.

* The St. Louis Cardinals acquired a pitcher this year named Mark Rzepczynski. His nickname, appropriately, is Scrabble. I propose we assign that nickname to Swierczynski as well, because Scrabble is much easier to spell.

** To use a different example, I don't know what "Benito" or "Mussolini" mean, but if I read them together in a sentence, certain things are going to come to mind. Mostly him standing on a balcony, arms crossed, nodding his head vigorously, or trying futilely to get the rest of Europe to agree to limits on the size of their militaries so his could avoid falling behind.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Annihilators Might Want A Different Pitchman

I kind of like Ronan and Gladiator calling out the Avengers for their limited sense of scale in Annihilators: Earthfall #2, but I think it would have carried more weight coming from different characters.

If you haven't read the issue, Ronan's trying to beat down Captain America so the Annihilators can get on with their mission and tells him to get lost, he has no place here. Cap responds that this is his planet. Ronan flattens Cap and 3 other Avengers while stating 'Hardly a courtesy you extended to my world during the Kree-Skrull War, Avenger!'

Then Gladiator (who's trying to melt Iron Man with eye beams, go Kallark!) chimes in, asking where the Avengers were during Annihilation or War of Kings. The answer to the first is they were too busy punching each other over stupid legislation. As for the second, um, that was during Dark Reign wasn't it? So they were busy dealing with the incompetence on their part which let Norman Osborn get a hold of everything. Still, those are pretty small potatoes compared to what as going on in space. And the heroes on Earth really don't ever get involved in the big stuff until it shows up on their doorstep. Then they'll get involved, but until then, out of sight, out of mind.

Yet, there are a few holes in the arguments. I'm pretty sure the Avengers got involved in the Kree-Skrull War because those two parties brought their conflict to Earth. I really dig ya, Ronan, cause you like to hit people with a giant hammer, you're totally devoted to your people, even when they don't deserve it, and you've even displayed a romantic side. Still, once you drag other people into your fight by having it in their house, you can't really complain when they come to your house to wreck your stuff.

As for Gladiator, well, I don't recall seeing the Shi'ar anywhere during Annihilation. And Gladiator could have averted War of Kings if he'd popped Vulcan's head like a pimple and put Lilandra back on the throne well beforehand. I distinctly recall he was the one who whipped that Summers brat's butt when Vulcan first entered Shi'ar space looking for revenge, so he was more than capable of it. But noooooo, Kallark just sat around twiddling his thumbs, and look where that got him.

The overall points are good ones, but they'd be stronger if Quasar, or Beta Ray Bill had delivered them. Guys who have been mixed up in the cosmic badness, but don't have quite the checkered history of the other two. Of course, if they'd kept Quasar there, and sent one of the other two with Ikon, he could have probably defused the whole thing in short order. Which makes me wonder if they sent him away on purpose. Ronan was the one who told Wendell to go with Ikon, and he and Gladiator didn't seem shy about kicking the Avengers around. Maybe Ronan just wanted to crack some Earth skulls, and the zealots from the UCT weren't proving satisfying enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Bought 11/9/2011 - Part 4

Today's the day for mini-series that are just getting started. So why don't we get started as well?

Annihilators: Earthfall #1, 2 - Those covers would look a lot better if the colors were a little brighter. Why does everything have to be murky? Anyway, go Bill! Pound him into the ground like a tent peg! Whooo!

The Annihilators (minus the Surfer, who dropped out), have inserted themselves into a struggle between different factions of the Universal Church of Truth. Cosmo learns that the UCT is eagerly awaiting the return of their Chosen One, and that it's going to happen on Earth. Off the team goes, to stop the Magus from coming back. Unfortunately for them, the members of the Church on Earth are smart enough to know when to act like terrified humans, namely, when the Avengers show up and see Ronan the Accuser wrecking stuff. Cue fight scene, and ugh, the Red Hulk? His presence lowers the quality of this book by at least 5%. Blasted Bendis, making him an Avenger. Anyway, the Avengers finally get it through their skulls the Annihilators aren't the bad guys, but by then, the Magus is already up and at 'em. In the form of dozens of creepy children.

The Rocket Raccon/Groot back-up involves them in a series of increasingly nonsensical situations that turn out to be Mojo filming a new series, with them as his captive stars.

Well, I could have done without ever seeing Adam Warlock or any of his various selves ever again, but at least I should get to see Ronan crush creepy children's skulls with his hammer. That'll be fun. The Avengers can stand around and talk about how horrified they are by it all. They've lots of practice at that sort of thing by now. I do wish they had a different artist. It isn't that Huat's art doesn't get things across, but I don't think it really conveys the scale of the battles, or the impact of the hits. Plus, there doesn't seem to be a lot of variation in his expressions. And those noses! You could lose your eye on the end of most of those noses! I'm perfectly fine with Tim Green II's art, though, and Mojo doesn't bother me the way I've heard he does some others. Maybe I don't read the X-books enough to hate him.

Avengers Solo #1 - I bought this because I like Hawkeye, and Jen van Meter earned some trust from me with that awesome Black Cat mini-series last year.

So Hawkeye finds a man running from someone in powered armor. He drives off Armor Guy, but the man runs, only to turn up at the Mansion asking for help. Then he turns up dead, but not before he'd given Hawkeye a disc with a lot of information on it. After surviving an encounter with Chance, wager-killer-for-hire, and the Return of Armor Guy, Hawkeye gets in touch with a person connected to the recently deceased, and learns about a study conducted where people started turning up dead, or missing. Hawkeye agrees to investigate, only to get caught by Paste Pot Pete?! Oh, Hawkeye, that's gonna be hard to live down. In the backup story, Pym takes along Finesse and Striker to investigate why an old acquaintance tried hacking into the Academy's computers as soon as they were set up.

I'm withholding judgment on the plot for now, but van Meter has a solid handle on Hawkeye. The cockiness is there, but more than that, his determination and sense of duty. Hawkeye's likes a bulldog, unwilling to let go. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's bad. Like when he wouldn't let Mockingbird deal with her own problems, and contacted the family that was convinced she was dead, without consulting her first. And being an Avengers means something to him, in terms of how he handles himself, but also what it means about helping people. He wasn't able to save Tulio Guzman, and that bothers him, because saving people is what he's supposed to do, and that feeds into the bulldog thing and makes him that much less likely to drop it.

I think Roger Robinson's art would be helped if they'd lighten the shadows up a bit. When Chance attacked, my first though was it was Armor Guy again, and Hawkeye just hadn't recognized him at first. Then I noticed the armor was different, and then the real Armor Guy showed up. I know a lot of the story took place at night, but it's New York. There's street lights and crap everywhere. Is it really that murky? Seriously, is it?

Legion of Monsters #1 - Take your NextWave fun where you can get it, right? Did I see Machine Man's been regressed to his old look in the Hulk books? Booooo!

The story is this: There's a Monster Metropolis deep beneath New York, where lots of monsters live, and where Morbius and a few other monsters are trying to serve as a police force, to help create a real society. Enter into this one Elsa Bloodstone, monster killer. She says "monster hunter", or perhaps "monster chaser", but I'd say "killer" is accurate. Or "exterminator". She's tracking a beastie that's been killing people in a small town, and it lead her through a portal back there. The creature dies, but not from Elsa shooting it repeatedly. Rather, something messed with its brain with magic, and Morbius would like Elsa to team-up with his crew to find this problem and deal with it. it's only after he points out that will be less dangerous to innocent lives than relying on her ability to kill potentially 400,000 berserker monsters, does Elsa agree. There endeth the issue.

It's not a bad first issue. Dennis Hopeless introduced all the major protagonists, gave us at least a little peek at their personalities, and we at least have an idea of the problem they face and why it's something to be concerned about. I'm not at all clear on how they'll begin to track down the threat, but I'll guess we'll see. I'm also curious whether the Dimensional Man being stuck in a pipe, rather than in that specialized containment unit will be a plot point. I tend to believe he's the gun we're introduced to in Act One, that will have to be fired at some point, but I've been wrong before. Quite frequently, in fact.

Juan Doe's art is pretty stylized so I imagine most people are either going to love it or hate it. I'd fall into the former category, I suppose, or maybe I'm not most people. I'm really impressed by how few lines he appears to use with Elsa, yet he gets her expressions across so well. The action, when there is some works well. I would like to see the Monster Metropolis fleshed out a bit more. Right now it's some shadowy towering stuff and lots of pipes. Which makes a certain amount of sense, being underground and connected to sewers, but there's a lot more one could do with that, isn't there?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 16 - Bounty Hunter Convention

Plot: It's what the title says. A bunch of bounty hunters, including Brisco and Bowler (they brought Soc along for some reason) gather at an island hotel for a convention, ostensibly to exchange ideas, information, and be introduced to some new, non-lethal, crimefighting equipment. But it quickly turns into a reprise of "And Then There Were None", and bounty hunters start dying in gruesome ways, leaving Brisco to try and piece together the mystery.

Does Brisco use his gun? No.

Stuff Comet does: Knocks on the door.

Kiss Count: 0 (19 overall).

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

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'Bounty hunters are a bunch of back-stabbing, egocentric loners. We don't share nothing!' - Bowler.

Brisco's Coming Things: stun gun, bullet-resistant clothing, rubber bullets, net launcher.

Gang Count: 0 (7 or 11 overall, depending on if we count the Swills).

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: El Gato and Mountain McClain from "Crystal Hawks" both make appearances. Mountain is adamant that Brisco keep Comet away from Lily, Mountain's horse. Also, Todd, who appeared as the waiter telling Bowler about the "specials" in "The Orb Scholar" shows up as the guy at the registry desk.

Brisco does not want to share a room with Socrates because he snores (see "Brisco for the Defense"). In addition to laying his pants under his mattress to press them, he hangs his socks from a bookshelf so they'll be warm in the morning.

Bowler's unofficial "Damn!" count is now 7.

It's Brisco as the detective in an Agatha Christie mystery. As detectives go, he's no Hercule Poirot. Doesn't have the impeccable mustache, for one thing. I think Poirot usually keeps the death toll down a little more after he gets involved, also. You'd think Trevor Furlong, formerly of Scotland Yard, would be more of a detective, but I suppose if Sherlock Holmes mysteries taught me anything, it's Scotland Yard was staffed by morons.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What I Bought 11/9/2011 - Part 3

I get sad sometimes, thinking how many Marvel ongoings I used to buy, compared to how few I get now. I think it was 11 at the beginning of 2007, and now it's 2. Course, back in '07, I dropped three of those titles before the end of the year, so I clearly wasn't enjoying them anymore, but I had at some point earlier. I have no real point to this, I'm just struggling with introductory paragraphs as usual.

Avengers Academy #19, 20 - Couldn't Hank make himself only a little bigger than everyone else, rather than gigantic? Then he could stand in the back (behind Pietro and Tigra), and be completely in the picture? I know, it's cute the way he did it, but you think he'd opt for a more practical approach. I'm also surprised Pietro doesn't look more bored, or impatient. And Justice looks really grim for some reason.

In issue 19, the cadets decide they have to cause the Academy to self-destruct before the possessed Absorbing Man enlarges it to their universe, where it'll wipe out a city. To do that, Finesse plans to trigger the destruct, but someone else will have to stay behind to stall the baddies. Two someones, as it turns out. Fortunately, the teachers show up in time to remove the need for sacrifices, though the explosion fails to defeat Titania or Absorbing Man. They leave to go join the big, stupid, fight that wrapped up Fear Itself. So everyone survived, but Veil's had enough of all this nearly dying, so she's leaving. 20 deals with the fallout from that, especially when it's revealed where she's going. Plus, two of the teachers are leaving, and Hank's moved the Academy to the old West Coast Avengers' headquarters, and invited a bunch more students. Oh, and he told Tigra he loved her. Go Hank! Get in touch with your emotions and express them in healthy ways!

I think the reveal of where Veil's going would have worked better if I'd read the Point One issue they did. In my defense, I thought those were for new readers, and I wasn't one at the time. Besides, I was thinking about dropping the book when it was solicited, so I wasn't exactly jumping at the chance to buy more issues. Gage makes it pretty clear why some of the cadets and teachers aren't thrilled with Veil's decision, so I'm not lost, but I the effect was blunted slightly. All I have to go on is hearsay from people, most of whom are clearly biased. I assume this Briggs fellow and whatever he's up to will be a running subplot in the future, so it isn't as though Veil's being written out.

I don't have much to say about Tom Raney's art. His faces are a little inconsistent, so I wouldn't say his art elevates the book, but he's not hurting it, either. There's nothing wrong with solid artwork that does the job, though it suffers in comparison with books where the art is really helping sell the book.

Daredevil #5 - Like this one! Oh Marcos Martin, you're so awesome.

It appears shadowy figures he realized that Mr. Austin Cao wasn't fired for being bad at his job, but as an attempt to protect him, and send armed men after him. Too bad for them Murdock's already there. As he put it, 'Oh no! Six armed mercs wearing night vision goggles! Whatever will I do?' *KLIK* Hee hee, I love slightly smart alecky Matt Murdock.

Having dispatched the mercs, Murdock brings Austin to his apartment and helps him remember what he heard, which tells him why someone would fire a man to protect them. Which sets Daredevil on the trail of Cao's former employer. Too bad he gets there just in time to get whupped by some blocky dork in a terrible costume. He has different criminal organization names and insignias all over the outfit, as if a NASCAR vehicle became human and decided to become a luchador.

Also, Foggy's attempts to convince Assistant D.A. McDuffie Matt isn't Daredevil may have made trouble for Matt. Oh, and she isn't his girlfriend, which is probably good. I used to watch The Practice, and it taught me it isn't necessarily smart for prosecutors and defense attorneys to sleep together. Since Murdock can't really go into court anymore, that shouldn't be a problem.

Let's see, I like that Waid's taking Daredevil out of the strictly street crime and ninjas comfort zone, and I'm curious to see if this and the mysterious figure who tried to help Klaw reconstitute himself will be related. As I said, I also love smartass Matt Murdock. Much better than mopey, grim Murdock. As for Marcos Martin, the man knows how to use sound effects. When Brusier kicks Daredevil, and the "KRAK" fills the entire panel behind them, that gets the point across. Or having the sounds of gunfire cross a panel to represent the path of bullets (which we don't see because Matt doesn't see them, either).

Alright, tomorrow. . . Brisco! Because it's Sunday. Monday, Marvel mini-series stuff!

Friday, November 11, 2011

What I Bought 11/9/2011 - Part 2

Today I'm taking a trip outside the Marvel/DC stuff. I still don't have any of the issues of Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X (sad face), but I'm hoping those will show up in the next shipment. Really hoping I don't regret picking up Robo in singles, rather than waiting for trades.

Angel & Faith #2, 3 - The first issue is another thing I'm hoping will be in the next shipment. I went for this because even though I didn't pay too much attention to Buffy Season 8, I still like Faith, and I have a certain amount of trust in Christos Gage. The gist is Angel was controlled by outside forces during Season 8, and did lots of bad stuff, including killing Giles. So he's going to try and fix things now, and Faith is trying to help, because she feels she owes Angel. This while also trying to ride herd on a bunch of Slayers in England, who don't know she's also helping the one who killed Giles. Which will almost certainly cause misunderstandings later.

Angel's current "fix things" plan is to find a source of Mohra demon blood, because he thinks that could resurrect Giles, since it once made him human, instead of a vampire. Faith knows this is the wrong way to be going about things, but isn't sure how to get Angel to see that. As she turns that problem over in her head, they work at finding out where an underworld (in both senses of the term) player is getting his Mohra blood from. There's much killing of demons, trashing of bars, talking to experts, and attempting of undercover work.

I went into this wondering if I'd regret it, but I'm pleasantly surprised. Maybe it's all the fight scenes, or maybe it's all the decompressed stuff I read these days, but I think Gage had a lot going on storywise, and I like the situation he's placed Faith in. Since her character is the primary reason I'm writing this book, the fact he's doing interesting stuff with her is a major plus. Also, he gets across enough information I didn't feel lost. Like, I don't know precisely who Pearl and Nash are, but Gage makes sure I know enough. They worked with Angel at some point, he betrayed them, they don't like Angel, and the feeling is mutual. If there's more that's relevant, it'll come out as things go along. Rebekah Isaacs is the artist, and I like the work done so far. Angel and Faith look recognizably like Boreanaz and Dushku, not just in physical appearance, but also in expressions and posture. I could see the actors sporting those same looks if this were an episode on TV.

So yes, thus far I'm very pleased with the decision to buy this title.

Darkwing Duck #17 - I haven't read Ducktales 5, so I'm coming into this a little blind. The basic are that inklike substance that briefly turned DW and Launchpad against each other has covered most of St. Canard, leaving only the main casts of the two books to try and fix the mess. DW, Scrooge, and Gyro (who created the Gizmoduck armor, though I have no clue why he's here) head for Quackwerks, figuring that's where Magica is at. And they're right, though most of Darkwing's arch-foes are there too, as well as Gizmoduck. I don't know where he's been, either, or how the suit got put back together.

Meanwhile, Launchpad and the kids are trying to find the source of the strange substance, which leads to disaster for Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Also, Launchpad's distressed because Darkwing and Scrooge aren't getting along, and what if he has to choose between his friends? I can relate. I had friends who from elementary school up through high school, didn't like each other, but both got along fine with me. It was always depressing, because I wasn't sure if we could all hang out together without things turning ugly.

The story's hopping back over to Ducktales, before wrapping up in Darkwing 18. While I can follow the general arc of the story without the first chapter, there's enough little things I don't know, that I think I'll be looking into picking up those other chapters. Maybe they have the answers, maybe they don't, but it's worth a looksee. James Silvani's doing his usual excellent work on the art. I especially like the panel of Darkwing puffing away smoke from the end of his gas gun while commenting that he knows a thing or two about picking his battles. He's oozing confidence. Or is it arrogance? Thin line.

Tomorrow, Marvel ongoing series stuff!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What I Bought 11/9/2011 - Part 1

For the record, the comics were here almost two weeks ago, but I wasn't. So it's on me, and not Jack, that these reviews are as far behind as they are. Let's get the DC stuff out of the way first, shall we?

Grifter #2 - Judging by the contents, I'm not sure why the cover says "Daemonites are everywhere - or are they?" I don't think Edmondson is playing much of a game about whether Grifter is imagining all this or not. Also, has anyone in the comic used the word "Daemonite" yet?

In this issue, Cole's partner/girlfriend(?) Gretchen agrees to meet with him in a diner, where Cole attempts to explain what's happening. Then he attacks a cop. Relax, it was a Daemonite, but Cole still set him on fire, which freaks Gretchen out, causing her to ditch him and board a train for . . . Gotham?! Oh, not Batman, that guy sucks! This is the downside to not reading the solicits on comics I'm planning to buy. It maintains the suspense, but can lead to unpleasant surprises.

Cole introduces another cop's (probably not a Daemonite) face to the pavement, and steal his car, until his brother shoots out the tire. They have a brief exchange of gunfire before Cole escapes. In other subplots, the military leader guy who set Cole's brother after him is aware there's more to this, and he knows more than we do. Or Cole, for that matter.

This issue was better than the first, but the book still hasn't grabbed me. I don't know why, I just don't care about any of the characters. Cafu's art still reminds me of Sean Chen's, at least in the faces. One thing I wasn't entirely clear on. Cole tells his brother he saw him at the diner, but we never saw him, at least, not inside. There were a couple of panels set outside the diner looking in, including one where we see the cops roll up, and so I wonder if those are meant to be from Max' perspective.

Resurrection Man #2 - I like the two bullets passing through the sleeve of Mitch's coat. Somehow that conveys how dire his situation is for me even more effectively than the guns being discharged on either side of his head. Which is silly I suppose, but the visible holes show just how close it's coming.

Mitch makes it to Portland, to a rest home that was apparently the final stop of his deceased father. Mitch meets a neighbor of his father's, Darryl Roth, and tries to get some answers about himself from conversing with the man. This doesn't help much, but Roth agrees to look him up online, because as the former supervillain, the Transhuman, he's a whiz at this tech stuff. Not so much of a whiz his search doesn't alert some interested parties, who teleport those Body Doubles ladies to Mitch's location, where they capture him. Well, his physical body. I have a feeling his soul isn't in it at the moment, judging by the last page.

I've never warmed to the Body Doubles. It feels like Abnett and Lanning (who are about the only people I've read who've written them) make them seem too spacey to be as dangerous as they are. I suppose they're certainly cruel, or indifferent to others' suffering, and that can't be underestimated, but I still have a hard time taking them seriously. Which cuts down on my enjoyment of this issue a bit. I still enjoyed it, though. I don't know whether to take Darryl's claims seriously or not. I hope he really is a retired supervillain, but it's hard to tell. The first panel he appeared he, he looks stern and unfriendly, then two panels later, he reminds me a bit of Stan Lee, with the big glasses and the smile. Which I imagine would only cement "supervillain" in some people's minds, but whatever.

Dagnino's still doing fine on the art. The Body Doubles are ridiculously cheesecakey, no doubt about it, but I'm pretty sure that's how they were designed. So I don't fault Dagnino for that. I do think his art reminds me a little less of Gene Colan, a little more of Ryan Sook this month. Which is fine, I think a Gene Colan style worked better for the first issue, with its sort of horror theme, and maybe for the third issue, if Mitch is going to be wandering some forbidding spirit realm.

Suicide Squad #2 - Why is there a cable wrapped around Deadshot's arm on the cover? Did he rappel down from the roof of the stadium? Is someone trying to capture him?

In this issue, the Squad kills lots of zombies. Techno-zombies. Deadshot turns out to be in direct contact with Waller, so it seems he may have been in on the whole "test" thing from the start. Maybe. The target is a woman who seems to be the origin of the virus, or more accurately, her baby is the target. Get the baby, kill everyone else. Including one of the Squad members, who will take the fall for all these deaths. Of course, this Waller isn't competent (or concerned) enough to get her team out properly, so now they have to escape on their own, with Checkmate after them, and the timer's on their head bombs ticking down.

I'm sure Alex would have loved this, but my past attachment to certain characters is killing this book for me. I keep thinking, "That's not right, Waller wouldn't order that," or "Harley ought to be actually funny," or whatever. Of course, it's a whole new ballgame, but try telling my preconceived notions that. I suppose I should have seen the double-cross coming when Floyd didn't have a comment on his teammate Voltaic like he did on all the others.

About the art. Ransom Getty's gone, and Andrei Bressan is in with Dallocchio. I can't determine a pattern to when they switch off, though Bressan did draw the one page flashback of a person explaining how all this started. I suppose I prefer Bressan's art to Dallocchio's, as well. He's more exaggerated in his style, which makes the violence seem a little less real. Which makes it less horrifying, more absurd, which is fine with me.

I didn't notice the glowing, floaty lady in the cloak anywhere in these. was she a one-month occurrence?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What I Think Of Driving In Blinding Rain

Morbid Hypothetical for the day: Would it be more a dark turn for a fictional character to die in a car accident driving back from an interview for a job they ultimately were going to get (if they had survived), or an interview for one they weren't?

The first one has that old-style horror twist to it, where the story could end with a panel of an answering machine picking up a message saying they job's there if they want it. So there's the idea things were going to turn around, but the character couldn't weather one last bit of bad luck. The other is more a "futility of it all" statement, a life wasted on an ultimately meaningless quest. The former feels more like the end of a Twilight Zone episode, the rug being pulled. The latter makes me think of a comedy, oddly enough. That last kick in the teeth for the character that's been getting their chops busted throughout.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What Am I Doing In The Age Of Apocalypse?

I largely missed the Age of Apocalypse story back in the mid-90s. That was around the time my limited allowance started to go towards Game Gear games, rather than comics. Blame the state of the Spider-books at the time, if you'd like. As much as I like Ben Reilly, I'm not going to claim those were great books. I picked up that issue of X-Calibre somewhere along the line, and there's a sequence in it that's always bothered me.

The basic plot is Nightcrawler and Mystique (and they're fully aware that she's his mother in this reality) are traveling to Avalon/savage Land to convince Destiny to come check out this time traveler the X-Men have, who claims this world is wrong. I think it was Bishop, might have been Cable.

The dark-haired woman with the Dr. Strange gloves is Damask, one of Apoclaypse's Dark Riders. When the issue starts, she's just finished killing one of her coworkers, named Dani (Danielle Moonster?), much to the consternation of Dead Man Wade. He's practically blubbering, asking why she killed Dani, and the basic response is they don't need her. Then Damask throws in this little jab: "She never liked you anyway.", and smirks at Wade's stunned "What?!" I don't know if she's telling the truth, but either way, she clearly enjoys the pain it calls Wade. So, OK, she's a wretched human being.

They track the heroes to Avalon, and Wade goes on the attack. Everything here is alive, birds, trees, all that stuff, and he hates it. He's going to burn it all down. But Damask has a change of heart. She's never seen a place like this, and she likes it, so she won't let Wade destroy it. Cue her stabbing Wade in the neck, him shrugging that off (because he's freaking Deadpool, getting stabbed in the neck is probably foreplay), then Nightcrawler teleporting his head off his body.

The Age of Apocalypse universe: Where even Nightcrawler casually uses lethal force. No wonder I ignored it.

Anyway, Damask decides to change sides, and when it turns out the Shadow King had hitched a ride in Wade's head, and was now making the residents of Avalon tear each other apart, she helps the other folks on the cover bring him down. She can project these telekinetic - or telepathic) blades, and basically flense someones psyche. Was she supposed to be A0A Betsy Braddock?

What's always bothered me about this is a sense of unfairness. Damask takes away someone important to Wade, not only doesn't feel remorse, but enjoys twisting the knife in Wade afterward. When she finds something she cares about, though, oh no, Wade can't take it away.

No, it isn't the same, since Damask kills one person (a killer like herself), and Wade was out to slaughter dozens of people who only wanted to get away from Apocalpyse and wound up in the same place as someone important to Apocalypse's enemies. Still, something about it feels wrong. She was a villain five minutes ago, a sadistic killer. Now that her interests coincide with the heroes I'm supposed to root for her? It'd be like rooting for Norman Osborn in Secret Invasion because it's as much in his interests to drive off the Skrulls as it is the Avengers'. I don't care, I'm still not rooting for him.

Maybe if I thought she was looking for redemption, it'd be different. I'm usually down for a good "character tries to make up for past misdeeds" arc. But I'm not sure there's much evidence that's happening here. It appears she may have realized she's been lied to for years, lead to believe whatever Apocalypse says is the truth about the world, and this place contradicts that truth. And she's decided she'd rather defend this new truth, rather than the old one. But there's no real sign she regrets what she did in those earlier days. She's still a killer, she's just killing for the other side now.

There's a sense to me it shouldn't be that easy, that she shouldn't be able to say "Oops, I was wrong! I'm on your side now!" and everything is hunky-dory. Maybe that's wrong, and heroes should be willing to extend trust readily, to give enemies a second chance, though I still think there should be some sign the villain really wants to change first. But in an Age of Apocaypse universe, where things are harsher than they are in the everyday Marvel Universe, I would think that sort of leeway would be hard to come by.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Adventure And Romance On The High Seas

The last two nights have been Errol Flynn nights, first with Captain Blood, then The Sea Hawk. I initially thought they were part of a series, as the latter could have been a follow-up to the former (if we assume Blood decided being governor wasn't for him), but no. They're just two different nautical films starring Errol Flynn.

Neither movie entirely held my interest, but of the two, Captain Blood had more success. I liked that Blood was a doctor with no alliegance except to those in need of his services, a stance unacceptable to King James. Which is how he winds up a slave in Jamaica. Once there, the amusement came from his consistent ability to put his foot in his mouth. Olivia de Havilland keeps getting him out of trouble, and he keeps being rude to her. To be fair, he's a slave, and she hasn't actually done anything about that, so I can't fault him for being bitter about his circumstances. Still, if not for her, he'd be in truly awful conditions in the mines, or she could easily have told her uncle that he was down at the docks, when he had no suitable alibi. Instead, she covered for him. He does eventually admit his rudeness, although by that time he's a pirate and she's being rather judgmental towards him, in spite of her attraction to him, so maybe it all evens out. They love each other, they each get to be snippy, it's all good.

After he escaped from slavery and became a pirate, I found myself less interested in the movie. Except for Basil Rathbone as the French pirate captain. He was highly entertaining, and I was pretty disappointed at how things turned out for him. If he had remained a pirate, spurning the offers of the new monarch at the removal of his criminal record, I might have been more interested, but it felt a little cliche, and frankly I didn't understand why he did it. He admitted early in the movie he'd fought for the French against the Spanish, and vice versa, but had no interest in getting involved in the current struggle in England. Which doesn't necessarily suggest a deep loyalty to England. So why care enough to help?

The Sea Hawk, didn't interest me nearly as much. The intrigue in the English court caught my attention, but that wasn't a huge part of the movie. I did like the bit about the Spanish using a glimpse of the partially completed map Thorpe's men would use for their mission to figure out where he was going, so they could trap him. I know it wouldn't have made for much of a movie, but I was disappointed Thorpe, when reaching his ship and finding the Spanish in force on it, didn't draw his sword and make a go of it. His other option was capture and being brought to Spain, and does he really want to face an Inquisition? Besides, I don't care what the Spanish captain said, I don't think "accurate" is a word one can use in conjuction with "muskets". Especially when the Spanish captain is down on the same part of the deck with Thorpe and his men, while all the soldiers are on the higher decks. They'll have to be very careful not to hit their captain while they try to shoot Thorpe.

But if he'd gone for the blaze of glory, he couldn't have escaped from the belly of a Spanish galleon, and I wouldn't have wondered about bathroom facilities for the slave rowers in the galleon, so there's that at least.