Monday, December 31, 2012

The Reversal

The Reversal isn't Michael Connelly's first book where he brings two of his main characters together. He had at least one where Detective Harry Bosch teamed up with fed (or former fed) Terry McCaleb (the character Eastwood played in Blood Work*). Normally, it isn't too hard because both the characters are in law enforcement, or one is and the other is some nosy reporter that uncovers pertinent details.

With The Reversal, he decides to pair up Bosch with Michael Haller, the so-called "Lincoln Lawyer", which is kind of strange, as Haller is a dedicated defense attorney. Not exactly the sort of person Bosch would be eager to work with. Connelly's solution is to have a case of an alleged child murderer, Jason Jessup, that needs to be retried 24 years later. The D.A. asks Haller to do it, wanting someone seen as independent from the District Attorney, and Haller accepts, thinking he can get something out of it.

There's some pretrial work, planning the case, finding key witnesses, anticipating the defense's plan. After that, most of the book is focused on the trial, with a running subplot detailing Bosch's concern about Mr. Jessup's nighttime travels. The comes quickly, and rather abruptly. At first I was surprised. It felt like Connelly had run out of pages, and had to wrap everything up in a hurry. On reflection, I think he chose to show how quickly things can turn, and how quick turns can produce unexpected results.

Connelly never encourages the reader to sympathize with Jessup. He's consistently painted as being guilty of the crime he committed, and all his protests to the contrary are merely efforts to get free so he can resume the child killing. It's an interesting choice, considering the story is told from Haller's perspective. Haller is typically a defense attorney, and proud of it. He enjoys the idea that he's standing up for the little guy, against the Man. But if he ever entertains the notion Jessup is innocent, he doesn't let it affect his approach to the case. I guess you could argue he can't worry about that, he has to focus on getting the best result for the prosecution he can, as he would focus on getting the best result for his client when he's the defense, regardless of innocence.

But it's still a curious choice, because it makes the reader view Jessup's attorney poorly. He tries to attack the credibility of the deceased's sister, to defend a person we basically know did it. He tries all sorts of sneaky bullshit to win over the jury. he generally behaves like every sleazy mob lawyer you've ever seen in a movie or TV show. And he's one of Haller's colleagues, so is there a difference between the two? Haller notes more than once he would play things exactly the way Royce does. Which doesn't make me terribly inclined to like Haller. It could have been a simple bit of luck that lands him as independent prosecutor, and Royce as the defense, rather than the other way around. However, if the first line of the story is any indication, Connelly's already written that story for Haller.

Enjoy your New Year's Eve, folks.

* Connelly had another book where Bosch investigated Terry's death. It came out after the movie, and multiple characters complained about how inaccurate the movie was. That got tedious fast. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Burn Notice 4.5 - Neighborhood Watch

Plot: Michael has himself a high tensity tape drive that belonged to Kendra, the woman who killed Jesse's contact, "Cobra". Problem being, Michael can't find anyone who both has the equipment to read it, and can decipher what's on it. The good news is, Kendra still wants it back. An initial attempt to capture her fails, but Kendra does leave a phone so she and Michael can discuss making a swap: The tape for 50 grand.

While Michael has this to contend with, Madeline brings him more trouble. Lauren and her boyfriend David run a clinic in a nearby neighborhood. Someone's been dealing drugs right outside. David, a strong believer in law and order, called the police, which didn't really solve the problem, and drew the ire of the head drug-dealer, a Vince Cutler. Michael isn't any more eager to get involved than David is to have him involved, but he relents in the face of a two-pronged guilt attack from Maddy and Jesse.

It only takes a quick conversation with Mike's old neighbor, Sugar, to confirm getting rid of Cutler won't be easy. He took a major loan from a Mexican cartel, so he has to sell, sell, sell, or he's going to die, die, die. The plan becomes make Cutler have bigger concerns than David, by finding his stash house and destroying it. Which leads Michael to pose as a fast-talker with a line on horse tranquilizers Cutler could lace his drugs with. While the plan's in motion, though, Cutler's still trying to get rid of the clinic, and David's being stubborn. Eventually, Michael figures out a way to get rid of Cutler by making him fear David. And by destroying all the drugs Cutler got from the cartel, so he has to run from them. Little from Column A, little from Column B.

His meeting with Kendra isn't a pleasant one as - surprise! - she tries to kill him, but Michael succeeds in defeating her with a briefcase. Now it's just a matter of getting her to talk.

The Players: Kendra (Friendly Neighbor/Professional Killer), Lauren (Concerned Girlfriend), David (The Client), Sugar (Michael's Old Neighbor), Cutler (Drug-Dealing Plague)

Quote of the Episode: Fi - 'Someone's getting a little too flirty for his own good.' Mike - 'I'm trying to snatch Kendra off the street and tie her to a chair.' Fi - 'You are not helping your case.' Mike - 'This is just a harmless game of cat-and-mouse between me and a professional killer!'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Cutler's car, and his stash house. Plus, she got to shoot at Cutler and his guys multiple times with rifles, and make Michael uncomfortable by dropping hints about what she'd like to incorporate into their sex life. Good week for Fi.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 4 (9 overall). I might be fudging that a bit. He didn't drink the beer that got delivered as Mike called, asking to set up the first trap for Kendra. But he'd already finished one, so it's probably a wash.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 7 (8 overall). Yeah, Vince really did a number of Sam, but Sam can take it better than Sugar could. And Sam got a little back. Broke a bottle over Vince's knee.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 1 (1 overall). Right after David hit him in the face. Funny how people are always eager to help Mike sell a cover identity when it involves him being beat up.

Other: Michael's alias this week was "Kyle Barkley". Kyle. Call him Kyle. Mr. Song-And-Dance was his father. I like Kyle, he's animated, especially when he's excited. Hands moving all over the place. Reminds me of me, though Kyle's much more glib than I am.

I wonder how uncomfortable Jesse and Sam get when Fi and Mike have conversations like the one I included above. Jesse was there for that one, and Sam was there for the sequel. I'm not sure I would want to be around when my best friend's girl is making those suggestions to him. Some places your brain is better off not going.

Hey, it's The Shield alum Benito Martinez as David! Always good to see somebody from The Shield. I've been considering getting that on DVD, but I wonder if I'd enjoy it as much. I like David more than I did Captain Aceveda. Aceveda was an antagonist for Vic, for one thing, but he was also such a politician. Condemning Vic when it was convenient, turning to him when he needed results. David objects to Michael's involvement throughout, consistently hopes the cops will be enough. Critically, he's willing to bend, to work with Michael and his crew when it's needed. He doesn't want to go outside the law, but he wants his clinic to be there for the neighborhood, and Michael was willing to come up with a plan that worked within David' moral constraints. Which Michael probably would have gone with anyway, since I doubt he wanted to kill Cutler.

I should mention the product placement, I suppose. it was pretty flagrant during the sequence where Jesse has to make a quick escape. All the talk about rear-wheel drive, and 300 horsepower, while the camera looks directly at the front of the car as it zooms off. It's not that they haven't done it before - the motorcycle chase with Carla in the middle of Season 2 had something similar for whatever Fi was driving - but it the way it was shot this time was so blatant.

Love that track suit Vince wore to firebomb the clinic. Jeez, you're a head drug-dealer, try not to dress like your average retiree. I wear t-shirts and jeans 90% of the time, and I still dress better.

I like Sugar. I don't need him in every episode, but a brief appearance like this, where he brings some levity to the proceedings, it works. It works because it's a situation that shouldn't call for that, so Mike and Sam are dead serious. They still could have given Sugar a fist-bump. Leaving a guy hanging, not cool.

Now that Michael has captured Kendra with Briefcase Fu, the challenge becomes getting something useful from her.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What I Bought 12/16/2012

I did some back issue buying a couple of weeks ago, and went ahead and picked up the two most recent issues of Daredevil, since it appears Diamond is never going to remember to ship any to Jack ever again. Imbeciles.

Daredevil #20, 21, by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Ah, Paolo Rivera covers. I especially like #21. It's a very well done coyote skull, plus the little strain lines above the billy club to show it bowing under the force of the jaws. Nice touch. Plus, it's damn creepy.

So Matt's head has been separated from his body by the Spot, in his new identity as the Coyote. Neither part is dead, and Matt can still give his body orders, he just isn't physically connected to it. He learns Coyote's been using his power to run guns at first, but has moved to abducting people and selling them into slavery, using the same method he's applied to Daredevil. Most people, with their heads in a closet somewhere, while their bodies are somewhere else, are completely helpless. Daredevil is not one of those people, and chats up Coyote while his body roams the complex, finding (though he doesn't know it at first) the Spot?! Wait a minute! Yep, Coyote is not the Spot, but he has noticed something's up. Not in time to stop Matt from getting his head reattached, or from snapping the collar responsible around Coyote's neck. Well all right, he's got the guy who committed all the murders, got his head back on his body, everything's groovy.

Except when he freed himself, he freed all the other people, too, and they're just a little mad with, well, rage. At everyone. Including Daredevil. His attempt to create distance does seem to startle them enough to concentrate on escape, rather than revenge, but there are a couple of problems. One, it damaged the machine that powered the collars, which artificially replicate the Spot's powers, and are messing with Coyote's. The collar stops working, Coyote bolts. Two, he freed the Spot, and if you thought those abducted people were pissed, you haven't seen anything yet. At least he's only after Coyote. Except Matt can't let him kill Coyote, so Matt's still in the line of fire. He does use Coyote's terror to get his origin out of him, and a confession - in front of all the abductees, who found no exit - to all the crap he did to mess with Matt. Matt lures the Spot into contact with all those collars, which begin to drag him somewhere, but he's not going without the Coyote. And so Matt is left stumped as to who sent Coyote after him, though I imagine it's the same person who approached the echo of Klaw to kickstart the first arc.

Back in New York, there were two developments. One, Kirsten McDuffie's attempt to get her boss to send out warrants for a possibly unstable Daredevil went horribly, as her boss acted entirely unprofessionally by suggesting it was a lover's spat. And here I thought people became D.A.'s by being good politicians, rather than good lawyers. This guy is clearly neither one. Two, Matt and Foggy have it out, as Foggy apologizes a bit, Matt bitches a lot, and Foggy admits he still has doubts. Primarily, he isn't sure this is even the real Matt. Oh Foggy, Secret Invasion is long gone. I'm not sure whether I would say "thank goodness", since it was followed by Siege, Fear Itself, and AvX, all gigantic loads of crap themselves. Anyway, Matt storms off pissed and self-righteous, as Kirsten, not realizing Matt wasn't nuts, enlists the help of, sigh, the Superior Spider-Man. Oh joy. At least it isn't a crossover.

I love Samnee's design work on both the villains for these issues. Coyote has that sort of classic scary, where there are all these aspects that are a little strange, but combined, work. The oddly shaped head, coming to a ridge at the top. The exaggerated canines, the three diamonds on his face we assume are eyeholes. The Spot when he breaks out, though, is a more obvious "this is wrong". It's one thing when he creates a portal somewhere else, like a wall, and his hands emerge. But not his hands and arms are emerging by the dozens from his own body. He's so enraged, it's like he's tearing himself apart to get at Coyote. The last panel before he goes into the collars, it looks like the arms are carrying him forward over the ground, rather than his legs. He's a guy completely out of control, his or anyone else's.

Have to talk about Javier Rodriguez' work, too. The page where the Spot finally gets a hold of Coyote, the moment he grabs him the background is a bright blue flash. The next three panels, as Daredevil tries to hold on, the background gets steadily darker, shifting through different shades of green. Matt's losing another lead, and by the end, he's left alone with the empty colors, shadows all around. Works very well with the gritted teeth and clenched fists Samnee gives him. Also, how he draws Spider-Wannabe almost entirely in shadows on the last page, helps sell there being something wrong there. Spider-Man wouldn't lurk like that when someone comes to him for help. Combine it with his stated goal to crush Daredevil, and the clenched fist, and the fact everything is slightly titled, off-kilter. Everyone's working to show this isn't the right Spider-Man.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Energy Into Other Matters

I've been thinking about Captain Marvel #7, a lot of different things. So let's take it one thing at a time.

Frank Gianelli's trying to get Monica Rambeau to do something about the state of the levees. Monica - who is a little preoccupied with the missing ships and boats - points out she can't just magic up concrete and steel for the levees. Depending on who's writing him, she might be right about Dr. Strange being able to manage it, but that's not what I'm really interested in. There'd be all sorts of issues about what would happen if he did just create something like that out of thin air, anyway, I'm sure.

Isn't there the possibility Monica could create concrete and steel, though? She converts her body from solid matter to energy. and back again. Given the power levels she demonstrates, she would seem to have a lot more energy in her than your average person. Which makes a certain amount of sense. I was looking at her Marvel Wiki entry, and it says her powers came from being bombarded with extra-dimensional energies, from a machine designed to tap into energy sources from other dimensions. It could be she's still tapping into that other-dimension for power, not unlike what Carol did with the "white hole" power sources that made her Binary.

It would seem like Monica has access to sufficient energy, at least for a starting point. Normally, she uses that energy to simply reform her own physical form. But we know she can project the energy away from herself, since she's blasting people with it all the time. The trick would be to project in a controlled manner (which she clearly knows how to do), then try to reform it into matter that isn't her. That would be really tricky, since I don't even know how exactly one goes about it. My guess is to solidify herself, Monica just pictures herself and it happens. The Silver Surfer does it, or Firestorm if you don't mind switching universes, but I'm not totally sure how. I imagine they know the composition of what it is they're trying to make, and they picture that.

Now the Surfer was a scientist in a pretty advanced society once upon a time (and he may be centuries old, depending on who's writing him), and Ronnie Raymond, at least at the start, had an actual scientist inside his head for guidance. But Monica's no idiot, and in the case of the levees, we aren't discussing doing this under fire. She could research what she needed to make ahead of time, then take her time in doing it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Things I Fixate On

Everybody has interests, "enthusiasms", as DeNiro put in in The Untouchables. If you're reading this blog, then comics are probably one of those, but I'm thinking besides that. The sort of hobbies or interests that might be woven into the story, maybe as a key part, maybe as just background detail. Maybe it's just me, but I find those are the sorts of things that stick out. Especially if they're used wrong.

For some people, it might be a language, or history. Greg Burgas at CBR seems to be a bit of a history buff, so inaccuracies in that area seem to annoy him. Other people are art buffs, or into sports, computer systems, physics. It could be anything.

Atomic Robo Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #4. Takeshi tells Robo he had 23 kills in 1941. Twenty-five if you count shooting Robo down twice, which I think they would. He shot the plane down, it's not his fault the pilot was a metal man that didn't die from it. He claims he was the top ace pilot in the world. All I could think was, bullcrap. Erich Hartmann flew for Germany throughout the war, racked up 352 kills. Now as it turns out, Hartmann didn't get to be a fighter pilot until '42, but Guenther Rall had 37 victories by the end of 1941, and he's just one guy who managed to make it to the end of the war. There were probably lots of guys, in all theaters, who had more than 25 kills in 1941.

Does it have any bearing on the story? No. In the next panel he says he joined Chokaiten to bring greater glory to Japan. Taken together, I think they're revealing, because it shows Takeshi takes pride in his skill as a pilot, but that he recognized how things stood, and that his skill alone wasn't going to win the day for Japan. So even if he doesn't like Chokaiten's methods, and I don't think he does, he understood that he needed to sit out the war and wait for the moment his skills could make a difference.

It's an interesting sequence, but that first part still bugs me, because it feels false. Even if it might not be. Maybe none of those other guys exist in Robo's universe. It's possible, but the universe Clevinger and Wegener built has enough similarities to ours that if feels familiar, and so part of me expects those things would be the same. There are any number of areas Takeshi could excel at I'd know nothing about. If he was painter, for example, Clevinger could have him make just about any statement related to his skill and I'd never know the difference. Someone else might, but not me. Everybody's suspension of disbelief gets strained in different places.

It does actually make me want to see him shot down even more, because he's being too boastful, you know? Claiming a title that isn't rightfully his. Acting as though he was the best pilot,but wasn't afforded the chance to prove it. I'd like to see Robo disabuse him of that notion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 7

I probably shouldn't dither. The Internet's been acting up lately. Might go out at any moment. Yes, i really should get on with it, no messing around I-

Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #3, 4, by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - I don't know if Samnee intended it that way, but the covers sort of go together. Two different perspectives on the same moment. Sort of. It'd be more accurate if there was a background for #3's cover.

Cliff manages to avoid being thrown to hungry dinosaurs by triggering his rocket and slamming the evil guy into the roof of the ship's hold. This also lights the guy on fire, and the fire spreads to all the crates. The goons, being stupid goons, elect to punch Cliff rather than fight the fire or help their boss. The fire triggers explosives in the crates, the dinosaurs escape, and before the evil guy dies, he asks Cliff to stop the dinosaurs using Lucy 34. Cliff is befuddled, but fortunately the captain realizes the guy meant Blue C-34. This moment of discovery is ruined as the dinos escape the ship and move into downtown L.A. Cliff finds the appropriate crate, and it's a super-awesome ray gun. Perfect for frying dinosaurs. And off Cliff goes. You know, the connection went down as I typed that last sentence. Serves me right for joking about it.

Anyway, Cliff flits about zapping dinosaurs, until it runs out, or breaks. Sally and Earl arrive, and Sally's at least able to rewire it to explode, thanks to Betty buzzing the T-Rex with Cliff's plane as a distraction. Cliff tosses the gun in its mouth, the dino explodes, problem solved. Cliff and Betty reconcile, Betty and Sally bury the hatchet, Earl helps Sally enlist, but Earl is also receiving angry phone calls from a shadowy figure with bad teeth and a severe underbite. Oh well, that's his problem.

I feel that not being familiar with pulp heroes is leaving me in the dark a lot. I know from reading it somewhere that it was Doc Savage in the comics who built the rocket, not Howard Hughes. So I assume the  bad guy on the ship is one of his old foes, name of John Sunli-. But it doesn't mean anything to me. Honestly, with what the captain said about the guy telling you to do something and it getting in your head, I'd think he was a foe of the Shadow, who I do know Cliff met. I recognized him in in the Rocketeer trade I bought two years ago. I don't think all that really hurts this as a Rocketeer story, necessarily, but I have a definite sense this is supposed to be one small skirmish in a much larger struggle between a bunch of people I don't recognize. It's a frustrating feeling.

I'm also not entirely happy with how Betty gets framed as the bad guy between her, Cliff, and Sally. It's mostly Peevy, and I understand why he's doing it, but she still got a raw deal. It was a change of pace to see Cliff as the calm one for once.

Chris Samnee draws dinosaurs very well. That panel of the T-Rex bursting up through the deck of the ship especially. His sailors are pretty good, too. They look how I picture sailors from that era would. Big, scruffy, kind of ugly. The guy in the red-and-black striped shirt has a sort of McCrea vibe to him, like he wouldn't be out of place at Noonan's. Maybe it's his teeth and big, punched in nose.

Hurray, the Internet's back! Post, post, post!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 6

Hopefully you're all having a nice Christmas, if you celebrate it. If not, hopefully you're having a nice Tuesday. Unless, you're across the International Date Line, in which case hopefully you had a nice Tuesday (whether you celebrated Christmas or not), and are having a nice Wednesday.

I think that covers all the bases.

Hawkeye #4, 5, by Matt Fraction (writer), Javier Pulido (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer) - I'm still not a huge fan on these covers, but I don't like the connection between these two. Before and after, or the clean lie and the messy truth. Can I also say, I don't care what Fraction says, Clint is not "Hawkguy"? He's Hawkeye, period. Except when he's Goliath, which hopefully isn't going to happen again any time soon.

SHIELD had a tape of a sensitive operation. This tape has been stolen. Clint is tasked with going to Madripoor and getting it back, presumably by purchasing it. Which raises the question of why you need him, specifically, if all you want is for someone to take your unlimited credit card and go spend, but whatever. Clint avoids being beaten up by security forces, gets his wallet pinched during a cab ride, which, you have a 4-man team to steal one wallet? That's horribly inefficient. You'd think Madripoor would have smarter crooks.

Clint finds the auction eventually, and promptly gets grabbed by Madame Masque's goons. Which is how we learn where Clint hid the credit card. Jeez, Clint, really? Masque performing a proctology exam on you wasn't something I expected to see. Not without getting on the Internet, anyway. Clint's left tied up in a room, where ninjas try to kill him, and Clint decides going out the window is a good idea. Well, no one ever said Clint was a tactical genius. Masque wins the auction (and when the hell did Fisk take control of the Hand? Is that some Shadowland fallout?), and we find out it's Kate impersonating Masque, who is tied up in her own hotel room. That's issue 4.

5 is Clint not dying, Kate's cover getting blown, Clint saving Kate, and the two of them beating up lots of people to escape with the tape. Which they manage, but not before Clint takes one in the chest from Madam Masque. At least Clint remembered to wear a vest. Then we find out the tape of Clint killing the world's biggest terrorist was faked, to keep the identities of the soldiers who really did it safe. And it was leaked by the new Nick Fury to help ferret out a leak in his new SHIELD, which he says will be much better than his dad's, and ugh, shut up, you irritating smug, fuckwitted progeny of some writers desire to synchronize with the movies.

That was an interesting story. Clint's even worse at espionage work than I thought he'd be, but I can buy it. Let's talk about the art. Javier Pulido filled in, and while he's not Aja, he's not bad. The panel layouts are less inventive (though I liked the gunshot sequence with Masque near the end of #5), and Pulido uses fewer panels per page, I think. I might need to check that. Aja might balance out some of those pages with over a dozen panels with more splash pages, while Pulido settles into a 5-6 panel per page average. Yeah, I need to check it. Looking at issue 5, there were 121 panels across 20 pages, but it varies from 2 up to 9 a couple of times, but yeah, there are a lot of 5 to 6 panel pages. It's 129 in #4, ranging from 1 (on the first page) to 9.

Pulido does a better job of sticking to Aja's version of Clint than he does with Kate. Hollingsworth has some decent color cues in #4 when she's in disguise to help, but when she removed the mask I had no idea who she was until I saw the real Masque in the background. Hollingsworth altered his coloring style a bit for Pulido. The colors are softer, more mixed and muted then they were for Aja. But Aja's stuff also had a lot of those purples against black outlines, and Pulido doesn't do that much. He opts for having the clothes colored, but Clint and Kate's faces blacked out. Maybe for the theoretical covert nature of the mission, their identities will be hidden, denied by the authorities? There were times Pulido's faces had an Archie (so would that make it Dan Decarlo?) quality to them. Expression through exaggeration, which is true overall, his style is more exaggerated than Aja's, but it works.

No trouble following what's going on, and I think Pulido does his own sound effects. Some of which are kind of silly. Arrow shaters a window to "KGLASSSSS". Door kicked open to "FOOTOOMP". Stuff like that. I appreciate the effort, but the silliness of them kind of distracts from the story. Whatever, it was a good story all around, except for stupid new Nick Fury.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 5

I'm not much of a holiday person, but I am getting anxious about those presents under the tree. It's a nice tree, too. That being said, I don't know how people in retail tolerate this time of year. I don't even like going in the stores briefly to buy something, with the crowds and especially the incessant Christmas music. Having to be in there for hours on end, day after day, sounds like some lower level of Hell.

Green Arrow #14, 15, by Ann Nocenti (writer), Freddie Williams (penciler, inker #15), Rob Hunter (inker, #14 & 15), Robin Riggs (inker #15), Richard & Tanya Horie (colorists), Rob Leigh (letterer) - It seems like it would be a good idea for either Ollie or Hawkman to watch their back, instead of both looking the same way. I do like covers that incorporate the title of the story into them. Don't know why, but a big stone carving of "The Fall of Green Arrow" with dudes with guns shooting at Green Arrow in front of it is cool.

Things pick up where 13 left off: Ollie jumping out of his jet and into the middle of a fight between bird-people. Hawkman's trying to defend himself and a lady named Emma from 5 guys, so Ollie helps the underdog. Things go all right at first, but eventually the Thanagarians cut their losses and take off with Emma. Hawkman collapses, Ollie takes him home to recuperate and regroup. While Jax cooks up something to act against the Nth Metal, Ollie meets with Emerson, who claims Ollie destroyed the company, not him. And for some reason, the stocks in Ollie's company haven't come back to him. They're held somewhere in Seattle. That's set aside while the boys go rescue Emma and learn where Shayera is. So Hawkman can clear his name, I guess. That's where it ends, only to continue in some other title I'm not reading.

I don't know how it played out, other than Ollie didn't die, but he does have a head injury. Which didn't stop him from grabbing a shipment of illegal weapons and dumping them in the ocean. Which earned the ire of the owner of those guns, a rather angry fellow named Harrow. Ollie's fairly blase about having a hit put on him, which might have something to do with his head injury. All his friends are worried about him, but Ollie brushes that off, too, setting out after Harrow. Who's busy yelling at his guys to kill Green Arrow, when he isn't running dog fights. And losing those fights, because his little lackey Pike beats his best dog, and Harrow's lady beat on Pike. Then Ollie barges in and things gets a little wild. We'll see if the old "the first 10 guys get dead" threat saves Ollie's bacon or not. Next month.

I could have done without the Hawkman crossover. Nocenti generally managed to work it into her stuff. Ollie's still rushing in, not thinking things through, refusing to listen to things that don't jibe with what he wants to hear. Even so, the Hawk stuff is still a disruption, and more critically, I just don't care about Hawkman. In any iteration. Doesn't matter if it's John Ostrander, Tim Truman, Joe Kubert, it's Hawkman, so I don't care.

As for #15, it's interesting to watch Ollie fall apart. He's just about out of money, but he either doesn't notice, or doesn't care. Little of both, I think. His friends are getting fed up with offering advice that's ignored. I guess Ollie needs to take lessons from Batman on how to manage that. He does seem to have the city on his side, though. We see one person greet him cheerfully, another express concern for his health, and a crowd cheers when he stops a gunman. He's got the public with him, just as everything else is falling to pieces. I do wonder if the public really cares, or if Green Arrow is just some flashy tourist attraction to them. That first lady was pretty unconcerned that Ollie was in a standoff with Harrow.

I don't know why #15 needed 3 different inkers. I don't think Williams should ink his own work. The anatomy and the faces get looser on the pages he did (7, 8, 11, 20), especially compared to the pages Hunter inked (1-6, 9, 10, 12, 13). Williams also goes heavier on the inks, so the lines are a lot thicker, but there's less detail. It's a simpler, more exaggerated look, but it doesn't work so well with the other pages. Riggs' inks look good when it comes to Green Arrow, but for everyone else, the art is more similar to the Williams' inked pages than the Hunter ones.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Burn Notice 4.4 - Breach of Faith

Plot: Fi and Jesse have traveled to the Bahamas to investigate a corpse who may be Jesse's informant Cobra. Swipe some keys from a coroner's assistant, snoop around in the morgue, make a narrow escape, and it's back to Miami. By the time Michael's brought into the loop, the deceased has been identified as Jeremiah Kassar, who does seem to be Jesse's guy. For Fi and Jesse, it's off to a post office to try and get his address. For Michael, it's off to help Sam with a favor.

The favor is for a couple who run a charity helping soldiers' and their families. Except they invested all their money in a group called Blue Crest, and now it's gone. Before any advice can be offered, we learn Josh already went to Blue Crest HQ to try and get the money back from Nick Madison. And Josh brought a gun. And Nick's assistant called the cops. It's a hostage situation!

Mike and Sam try to find the money, or trick Nick or Pamela into revealing it before the cops come busting in. They ultimately aren't successful, but Fi and Jesse, having found Kassar's home, and having failed to get in past the nosy neighbor, are able to find an associate of Nick's, who tells them there's a floor safe in an office where Nick keeps the cash. Well great, they found the money, but they still have to find a way to get out without going to prison. It won't surprise you to know they manage it, with a little help from Pamela, who was touched by the spirit of the season. Well no, it wasn't Christmas during the episode, but it almost was when I watched it. That counts.

Michael and Jesse make a return trip to Kassar's home, and while they do get in, they find nothing. The place has been professionally cleaned. So they ask the neighbor, Kendra, if she saw anything. She says "no", but Jesse's notices a couple of curious things about her, and they barge in. She shoots at them and bails. The lady can move, but she left behind some tape cartridge, so that's something.

The Players: The Bahamas (A Desirable Destination), Ty (Coroner's Assistant), Lila (Concerned Wife), Josh (Out of Options), Nick Madison (Thieving Bastard), Lt. Casey (Tough S.O.B.), Tom Norris (Scam Artist)

Quote of the Episode: Sam - 'Armed kidnapping, unlawful confinement - Madison's right, we're looking at some serious jail time.' Mike - 'You're not helping the mood, Sam.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Nope. Does get to hit a guy with her car. I feel a lot of their chases go that way. Mike (or Jesse) follows on foot, but it's Fi who brings the guy down in the end.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 0 (5 overall). Blue Crest doesn't keep liquor around for clients, apparently.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (1 overall).

Michael Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall).

Other: Mike brought the Ned Gordon identity from last week out when he approached Kendra. I guess it worked better here. He didn't get punched repeatedly.

The problem with this being an episode where Mike helps Sam is it means Michael complains a lot about it. Fi didn't help any by telling him this is why he shouldn't do favors for Sam. As if things go any better when Michael helps her out. As if things go any better when Sam or Fi agree to help Michael out with his myriad problems.

Besides, Sam was right. Mike has no social life, so it's not as though he's missing out on anything he'd be doing other than helping a charity. What's Michael doing when Fi and Jesse get back from the Bahamas? Cleaning a handgun. Which he had probably cleaned multiple times already.

I thought the hangdog look Mike got on his face during his phone conversation with Fi (while she was at the bar chatting with Ty) was hilarious. I'm guessing he was sad he wasn't there to help get the files. It wouldn't be like Michael to be disappointed he didn't get to enjoy the beauty of the Bahamas.

I'm growing to believe Jesse doesn't have a subtle switch. His, I guess it was supposed to be a Bahamian, accent seemed over the top. The way he tried to casually stroll out of the morgue, right past Ty (who he'd already fought with). The whole thing about being part of "Deadbeat Dad Trackers". It's probably why he and Fi get along so well. Neither one has patience for the long game like Michael.

At this point, we know Cobra is dead, and we know who killed him. Finding that person, and learning the whys of it are the next step.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 4

What do you know? The world didn't end after all. Imagine that. Little disappointed I missed Turner Classics showing The Last Man on Earth. Even though I own it on DVD. No, it doesn't make much sense, except perhaps for the idea that if it's being shown on TV, there are other people out there watching it, too. We're sharing the experience in some way. And yet, I almost certainly wouldn't want those people in my home watching my DVD with me. I mean, I might, but given my mostly antisocial tendencies, the odds are against it.

Dial H #6,7, by China Mieville (writer), David Lapham (artist), Tanya & Richard Horie (colorists), Steve Wands (letterer) - The cover for 6 still lists Santolouco, but I suppose he's moved on. That is one incredibly detailed drawing of a hand. I'm jealous. Pretty sure I couldn't do that.

Issue 6 deals with the delicate topic of offensive superheroes. Nelson dials up Chief Mighty Arrow, and he and Roxie/Manteau agree it's better if he not go outside like that unless absolutely necessary. So Nelson sits and watches the news, wishing for something dire enough to merit his going out (because he's an action junkie), and we get a little more about Roxie. She's had some really terrible dials over the years, but that isn't necessarily why she wears the mask and cloak. That's to help her maintain her sense of self. Which is a nice touch, because Nelson's finding the memories of the heroes he dials are more resilient than he might like.

Issue 7 has the pair traveling the world to "centers of dial worship". Finally, one person knows something useful, with the proper incentive, and that's how they end up on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Manteau dials herself into The Planktonian (that's it on the cover; I had thought they were stars or something), and down she goes into an deserted outpost of Atlantis. The dial is already gone, but there's a large whale. Which promptly gets punched out by a mass of plankton. That was definitely one of the high points of this batch of comics. Stupid whales. Yes, the dial's gone, but there were still clues, so it looks like they're on their way to the Great White North. Better hope they can get it before The Centipede tracks them down. Or the "shadow on the line" that took Roxie's dial.

So Santolouco's gone, at least for the time being, and David Lapham is in. Lapham's a good artist, but his work is a bit too realistic, perhaps. His heroes look weird, which is good, but they lack some of the manic energy Santolouco brought to the table. He's very good at drawing an array of body types, faces, clothes, expressions. All that stuff is top-notch, so I can't complain too much. The Centipede has a suitably creepy smile, and is otherwise deadpan to a troubling degree. I will admit, a human Centipede triggers imagery I'd rather it didn't. And I never even watched that movie.

Give me a second to look at the whale-punching again. Ah, much better.

I think I really like where Mieville's going with this. He's putting other parties in play, because if the dials are well-known to the point religions have formed around them, there would have to be people who would keep an eye out, just in case. Assuming they didn't already know for certain about them. We havewhoever took the dial at the bottom of the sea, plus, the Centipede and his bosses, it's worth a guess the cultists have stumbled on one. And there's the shadow on the line, now out and about. My guess is he'll save it for a final threat, the big problem that looms over everything. Hopefully it'll show up every so often to remind readers why they need to worry.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 3

Got some snow here yesterday. That wasn't so bad. The wind, on the other hand, was brutal. Simultaneously shoving me around and freezing my ears off. It subsided overnight, or at least it was calm during my run this morning. You know the problem with running on roads after a winter storm? They're slick from ice and packed snow, so every step, your feet slip a little as you push off. So you expend just the little extra bit of energy each time. It's the same problem I have trekking up hills in the boonies when it rains. Feet slip on the wet leaves.

Captain Marvel #7, by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Christopher Sebela (writers), Dexter Soy (artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I don't know what it is about McKelvie's art. It's technically fine, but it leaves me cold. Maybe the noses are too pronounced? There's something about it that just jars my eyes.

Monica Rambeau's called in Carol to help investigate some missing boats in the Gulf. When Monica is busting Carol's chops about taking the name "Captain Marvel" without telling her, and Carol isn't giving Monica grief about Googling herself, we learn boats have been going missing, and Monica had a bad experience underwater in her early Avengers days (there's even a helpful editor's note!), so she doesn't go down there anymore. Thus, Carol. Back on shore, they're approached by an old employee of Carol's, some photog named Frank Gianelli. Frank's on Monica's ass to do something about the levees, ignoring, as Monica notes, that her powers and expertise are not useful for something like. Frank puts it on the back burner to get in on what the ladies are investigating, though. The source of the problem seems to be a very large thing, constructing a body for itself out of the planes and boats that have gone missing.

Oh crap, this isn't some prelude to Age of Ultron is it? I really hope it isn't.

I think Soy's coloring is well suited for underwater sequences. He gives it a bit of murk, without making everything so dark you can't tell what's happening. Also, I like that he draws Monica as slightly taller than Carol. I'd have always figured it the opposite. At the very least, they aren't conveniently the same height. I do think DeConnick and Sebela went a little overboard on the cutesy name usage. "Captain Whiz Bang" and all that. It isn't at Fraction using "Bro" levels yet, but after awhile I was had enough. I'll have to wait and see whether it persists into the next issue, which will presumably involve lots of smashing and blasting.

Defenders #12, by Matt Fraction (writer), Mirco Pierfederici (penciler), Veronica Gandini (colorist), Clayton Cowlers (Letterer) - One last generic posing cover to ring in the end of the series. The fact Namor only managed to get his legs in the picture is funny. Suits him, too. "The Avenging Son has no time for such pettifoggery!"

The world is about to die, and it's the Defenders' fault, because they took one of the Engines. Except the fucking thing was still on Earth, even when they weren't, so what's the problem?! Why use the stupid Engines to help create heroes do defend the planet, if the heroes can royally fuck everything up by investigating weird crap like magical wishing machines?!  Strange uses the Engine to go back in time and change things so he isn't at home when the Hulk comes calling, instead going to see Molly and try to. . . make amends for sleeping with her, I guess? While the rest of the team runs around in a dying world trying to save people and wreck the Engines (and where were those Engines Prestors?), only to end up dying before that one Prestor gets off his lazy ass and does. . . something. And I'm not sure what it matters, since according to the Surfer, Strange changing the past undid it all anyway.

I said before that I'm giving Avengers Arena a try. The Internet, in its typically hyperbolic way, has given me reason to think that's a mistake. We'll see. Even if it is, I doubt I'll wind up regretting it more than I do buying this series. Cripes, what a disaster. I don't do a "Worst Ongoing" in my Year in Review posts, but rest assured, if I did, this would take it. Easily. Even the disappointment that was Resurrection Man wouldn't come close. Let's end with something nice. Pierfederici is fairly skilled at facial expressions, and I like that bit with Fury standing up to the Death Celestial. The little explosion of the grenade at its feet, as it unmakes him and a bunch of other people.

Secret Avengers #34, by Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (artist), Matthew Wilson (color art), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - What do you think the yellow circles are on the cover? Lamps? Imprisoned souls? The eyes of some otherworldly horror? I'm only asking because I need something to distract me from Hawkeye's feet. I imagine Adams always draws them that way, but it's the first time I really noticed. Clint got bit by a radioactive kangaroo, apparently. Also, it's kind of strange that on the recap page, all the character's pictures are drawn by Hardman, except Pym, who is from one of Adams' covers. I guess Hardman never drew Pym as Giant Man during this run.

Flash manages to reconnect with his symbiont, and get himself and Val inside the burning Watchtower. Fire is still bad for the symbiont, but Natasha returned (outfit still ridiculously unzipped), and they all teleport out, winding up back in the Descendants' base. Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Braddock retrieve the Orb of Necromancy, but find Undead Brother Voodoo can block their escape. Hank McCoy arrives, but lets the portal close behind him, so now all three are trapped in an undead universe. Joy.

In the Core, all hell is breaking loose, as all the different A.I. factions are at war with each other. Not sure what that's about, unless it's some Apocalyptian "survival of the fittest" deal. Meanwhile, Father reveals that his plan is to enable all humanity to scatter their minds across the universe by combining them with nanotech. Because every other group in the universe is just going to sit still for that. Senile fool. Original Recipe Human Torch seems on board, though, and Deathlok Wasp has made Hank Pym like her. No, not a woman. A Dethlok-thing. Oh, the heartwarming reunion.

I don't like Scalera's take on Father. He makes him look less aged, more like someone who suffers from a bad skin condition. I did like the pouty face he gave Parvez in the panel where Father ruffles his hair. His rendition of the Core is lacking that hodhgepodge style Hardman gave it, but given the civil war that seems to be raging, a burned out, post-apocalyptic look isn't bad. I do like his Undead Universe. he gets that Gothic horror and gloom, the sense of rot in everything. Also, his Undead Celestial is much more imposing than any of the Defenders' artists' version of the Death Celestial. Matthew Wilson's colors help a lot on both counts, all the purple and black, the darker shades contrasted against Braddock and Barton's lighter blues and purples. Helps them stand out, demonstrate they don't belong.

Now if only he would zip up Natasha's outfit.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 2

Most of the comics in the latest shipment were from titles that have shipped twice since the last one. There are 6 that weren't, though. We covered 2 yesterday, and I thought about just splitting the other 4, but I figured I'd do the DC one today, and cover the 3 Marvel titles tomorrow.

Batman Beyond Unlimited #10, by Dustin Nguyen (writer & pencils), Derek Fridolfs (writer & inks), Randy Mayor (colorist), Saida Temofonte (letters) for "Konstriction Chapter 10: The Mortal Coil"; Adam Beechen (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist), Saida Temofonte (letterer) for "10,000 Clowns: Lights of Gotham"; J.T. Krul (writer), Howard Porter (pencils), Livesay (inks), Carrie Strachan (colors), Saida Temofonte (letters) for uh, I don't know what that title is - Everyone in Future DCU is so judgmental? They're all giving me the eye! Don't blame me for the nu52! You could have done something, Old Superman!

Justice League: Etrigan's out, and attacking everyone. Superman, the Hawks, and fortunately the Serpent. It just so happens the Serpent is vulnerable to fire, as deduced by Bruce Wayne based of what he heard of what happened on Apokolips. Marina gets Micron out from under Spellbinder's control, and the two of them plus Barda deal with the head of Kobra. Then there's a lot of follow up, with the League deciding to expand, Mr. Miracle reuniting with Barda, and Jimmy Olsen's funeral. I'm surprisingly sad about that, but better him than the Wall.

This story had a pacing problem. I feel like things moved too slowly through all those 10-page installments, and now things had to move at light speed. So Etrigan shows up and dispatches the Serpent, and then pick up the pieces. It hurts the sense of scale of the story because the story just ends because it has to end right now. That said, I did love the emotion of the story. Barda and Scott's reunion was lovely (and it's great that Nguyen remembers Barda is much taller), Superman's sorrow at Jimmy's death, Bruce's concern for Terry, contrasted with his willingness to risk Terry's neck (and possibly his soul).

This may be a result of reading too many comics Ennis wrote with Etrigan, but Nguyen and Fridolfs need to up their game on the rhymes.  The ones they had were this combination of simple, awkward, and stilted. Ennis wrote them in a way that the cadence of the sentences suggested Etrigan's personality, but these are sort of there. He's speaking in rhymes because that's what he does. It's the sort of rhyme I'd write, in other words.

Batman: Dana's brother explains to his pal what the Joker got wrong, and sets off to kill Dana and the rest of his family. Tim heads into the cave. Bruce refuses to be evacuated until Dana's father is, staying with her. The heroes (Terry, Catwoman, Grayson, Vigilante) get together just as a power plant explodes, but Terry has a plan cooking, something to do with that explosives trigger he got away from Mad Stan. Meanwhile, the only thing standing between the Joker King and his family is one sickly old man. A sickly old man very excited at the prospect of getting to pummel one last Joker.

Breyfogle's kicking butt as usual. The way he draws Bruce combines perfectly with Andrew Elder's colors to suggest how sick the guy is. The colors, especially, as Bruce is this sort of gray-green that clashes with the colors of everyone and everything else. Combine that with the look on his face in the first panel of the last page, and he's kind of terrifying. Some dying otherworldly horror, determined to get the last laugh.

Also, I like the fact that even as he's gotten older, Dick Grayson apparently still has great hind end. At least, if Catwoman's comment is anything to go by. It amuses for some reason.

Superman: I seriously have no idea what that title is. I think it might just be his Superman emblem, but they've cut off the bottom of it with a panel, which makes it looks like "N7", or "ND" or something. Nice work, people.

Clark's doing the fireman thing, then ducking out when Superman's needed to save one of his coworkers. Bennett doesn't think he needed any help. Afterward, the firemen have a discussion about whether they should just let Superman handle all this stuff, with Bennett saying no, they can't always expect someone else to handle things, they have to do it themselves. Clark, sorry "Kal" agrees, but thinks there's nothing wrong with accepting help when you need it. This will certainly not be a key aspect of this story arc, I'm sure. Also, there are some aliens called Trillians here for Superman because he destroyed their world. Hmm, well, that's ominous.

I can appreciate that Krul's trying to address some of the aspects of Superman and how people would perceive him, but he's being a little too obvious about it. Maybe demonstrate it more through Superman's actions, less through pointed conversations with a specific character in each arc. Bennett in this one, that cop Walker in the previous arc.

So Justice League was good in theory, a little spotty in execution. I loved the art on the Batman part, and Superman's jut sort of there. Business as usual, then. Tomorrow, Captain Marvel, Defenders, Secret Avengers! I'm more disappointed than you might think that Diamond ended up getting Jack his copies of Defenders.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I Bought 12/17/2012 - Part 1

I'm not even sure what date to use. I'm starting the reviews today, but I opened the box on Monday, but the books arrived last Monday (or Tuesday). I plan for this to take about a week, maybe 6 days if I pick up the pace in the middle.

Angel & Faith #16, by Christos Gage (script), Rebekah Isaacs (art), Dan Jackson (colors), Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt (letters) - This cover, that one Isaacs did of Faith and Angel driving through L.A., I'm getting concerned by all these covers of Faith smiling. People smiling in that universe never ends well.

Angel and Faith steal a crown with regenerative ability from albino cave lizards. They'll use this to restore Giles' body, then transfer his soul into it. Except Giles' body is missing! Before they can deal with this, the other Slayers show up, pissed at Faith for protecting Angel, and wanting them to use the resurrection trick on the Slayer Dru killed. I just realized Dru caught up to Spike on Slayer kills. Quick Spike, kill Buffy and retake the lead! Anyway, Angel points out it won't work on Marianne because she doesn't have decades of mucking about with magic like Giles, an explanation Nadira finds unacceptable, but she and the others leave to use Plan B. After the requisite threats and "Besties No More!" comments to Faith. Plan B involves, well then. That was a hell of a surprise until I remembered a particular detail from a certain character's past.

That was interesting. Lots of heavy emotional stuff, most of it coming down on Faith. Angel might be bothered, but he's so repressed and locked up in his guilt complex most of the time, it's hard to tell. I am curious who the flashback between Faith and Giles was about. He pointed out once she cares about someone, she sticks by them, even if it might drag her down. It's clearly foreshadowing, but does it refer to Angel or Nadira? Whatever the Slayers say, Faith won't abandon them just because they've turned their backs on her.

There's a lot of talking and FEELINGS in this issue, so Isaacs has to bring it with the faces, and she really does. Nadira is always angry, always leaning forward, aggressive, into other people's personal space. Sometimes she's on the boundary of a panel, but it suggests she wasn't even supposed to be in that one, but barged by force of will and self-righteousness. What I really like is most of the other Slayers don't look mad, or even sad. They look uncertain, confused. They trusted Faith, and they've not heard why she did what she did. They aren't as clear on who's wrong, if they should be trying this.

Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #4, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Nick Filardi (colors), Jeff Powell (letters) - That's not exactly what I'd call a visually arresting cover. The deep red background is nice.

Robo has been captured by Chokaiten, a Japanese weapons think tank that has continued to work towards winning the war, even after the Emperor surrendered. To that end, they've developed weapons beyond anything anyone has, some of which are based on Tesla's designs. Like the ion guns. Oh, and earthquake bombs, which, if used on the San Andreas Fault, will sink the entire Western Seaboard. Between that and the E-99 bombs in Singularity wiping out the Eastern Seaboard, I'm glad I live in flyover country.

Robo is saved form being dismantled by the She-Devils who arrive in their jetpacks, and Hazel, who has been sticking to the shadows the whole time, as illustrated in a quick flashback page. They pursue Cokaiten' super battleship/sub thing, and the big fight commences. Where it turns out the battleship/sub thing can also fly. Crap. While Robo and the She-Devils try to survive, Takeshi (the guy who shot Robo down twice during the war) breaks off to deliver the bomb (which he seems oddly reluctant about). With no other option, Robo straps his modified jet engine to his back, grabs a .50 cal and goes after him. Good luck, Robo.

I wonder if Wegener was a little rushed on this issue. There are a few panels in the second half of the book where his lines are much thicker than usual, and everything looks a bit rougher. He does get to draw some actions scenes, which are a strength of his, and those look pretty good.

I like the Chokaiten scientists for their comedic aspects. Debating what part of Robo they should remove first and why. trying to save themselves from the She-Devils by threatening Robo, except none of the She-Devils know Japanese. Sadly, one of them didn't survive, so the team of Chokaiten Scientist One and Chokaiten Scientist Two won't be making a return appearance. What was it the Joker said, Dying is easy, comedy is hard?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Long Ships

Going through a box of my dad's movies, I actually saw The Vikings first, but he said The Long Ships might be a little better. Throw in the fact The Vikings had Tony Curtis alongside Kirk Douglas and his terrifying chin divot, and The Long Ships it was.

You have Richard Widmark playing a Viking whose ship was wrecked, leaving him stranded on the Barbary Coast. He makes money on the street telling tales, including one of a glorious bell, tall as three tall men, and made of solid gold brought back from the Crusades*.

Rolfe has unfortunately chosen to tell this story in a town controlled by Aly Mansuh (Sidney Poitier), who is obsessed with finding that bell and bringing back all the gold the Crusaders stole. To the point he's basically frozen out his wife, Aminah (if perhaps not his harem).

Rolfe escapes before torture can start, and apparently swims all the way home. Where he finds his family in trouble. Their village built a funeral boat for their king, but he stiffed Rolfe's dad on the payment, claiming most of it was covering their late tribute payment. This is what you get for settling differences like merchants, rather than cutting the offenders head off like a real Viking. Rolfe's hellbent on getting that bell, so he ropes his brother and several other men into stealing the funeral boat (and the king's daughter, Gerda), and setting out, the king and his guys in hot (if incompetent) pursuit.

Then Rolfe wrecks that boat. Then he gets his guys captured by Mansuh's guys, has to agree to help find the bell to save them, there's fighting, so on and so on.

First things first. There's a really uncomfortable scene where the Vikings, having escaped confinement, stumble into the harem's quarters, at which point it becomes a rape party. Except it's set to this lively music and treated more like one of those silly brawls you see in older Westerns, where guys are swinging off chandeliers and stuff. It's played off like it's funny, which it really wasn't. So that's a problem.

The acting has to be largely carried by Widmark and Poitier, because they get most of the lines and time. Rolfe has a brother, Orm, played by Russ Tamblyn, but he seems to be there largely to look pretty and be in love with Gerda. There are signs he finds his brother very frustrating, but the film doesn't do enough with it. Poitier's character is obsessed with that bell, but they don't give him enough into why exactly. Is it simply because of the stolen gold? What does it represent to him, and why is he so focused on it he constantly rebuffs his wife. They do have him make a move on Gerda, which I guess we could take as a sign he's the sort of guy who considers everything within his view as his.

As for Widmark, I've mostly seen him in movies where he plays scarily intense, possibly psychotic characters. Like Road House (not the Swayze one), or The Bedford Incident. Here, Rolfe is more a character I could see Martin Lawrence playing. He's kind of a goof. Always talking, never thinking ahead, trusting in his moth's ability to get him out of trouble, apparently an inveterate liar given his repeated complaints that no one ever believes him. Widmark plays it less for comedy than Lawrence would, but there are certain similarities.

I would have liked to see more of Rosanna Schiaffino as Aminah. While Gerda is mostly there to look pretty, be scared, and have guys interested in her, Aminah's getting things done. If she's angry with Mansuh, she tells him. If she knows he's fooling around with Gerda (or trying to), she'll have Rolfe brought out of the cell and work out a deal with him behind Mansuh's back. Oh, and fool around a little with him in the process, because why not? Mansuh is still the top dog in the area, but you get the feeling Aminah rules as much as she can manage without his knowing it. I'd be curious to know how much of the day-to-day decision making was her responsibility with him so tied up in the bell.

One other thing. For a movie with so many fight scenes, they were really poor at choreographing fights. Everything is ugly, clumsy, guys clearly not knowing how to ride horses or fake fight. The strategies used make no sense, it's terrible. I know it wasn't a "fight" movie, per se, but if they're going to do that much of it, they could at least put some effort into it.

* But wait, you say, wouldn't a solid gold bell weigh thousands of pounds and sound crummy? And I - having also seen Futurama - would tell you you it's mostly for show. But no, actually it's quite impressively loud.

Monday, December 17, 2012

And Comics Came The Day After I Left For The Week

Conversation between my father and myself, as I drive down the highway:

Dad: Does your cruise still work?
Me: I never use my cruise.
Dad: I know, that's why I'm asking.
Me: Well then how would I know?

It does still work, by the way. I find it damned unnatural, that extra bit of control I'm sacrificing to the car. I imagine people who know how to drive stick shifts feel the same about automatic transmissions.

It's been a week on the road, visiting friends and family. Things were largely peaceful at my dad's, except there's something wrong with his stove, so no pleasant fire in the living room at night. Charlie's become much calmer than he used to be, which was a pleasant surprise. He'll sit calmly in the living room for more than five seconds now. Unfortunately, Lacey has taken advantage of this to seize the title of "Most Annoying Dog", and she works quite hard to live up to it.

Thursday through Saturday were spent with Alex, which meant one thing after another. He played in two shows, one on Thursday, the other on Saturday in StL. The first one was a charity event for World Hoop Day. Which I'd never heard of, but they raise money to buy presents for kids who don't get any toys for Christmas apparently. Good turnout, Alex had a great set, real crowd pleaser. Saturday was Wompin' 3, the same show that was shut down two years ago for being several hundred people over capacity. And because drunk people shouted "Fuck the police", and cops don't appreciate that. Larger venue, so no such issue this time. However, the second stage was downstairs and a private party had booked it until right before the show started. Naturally they all decided to stay around and chat when they needed to get lost, so the first act got delayed. Also, it's not a good room for. The ceiling is so low the music is too loud (even with ear plugs), and there's no ventilation. Get more than 12 people jumping around, and it gets far too hot. This problem was solved by the speakers blowing out a few minutes into the set of the guy after Alex (who went second). Other than that, it was a good show, I guess.

Let's see, Thursday had a meteor shower and Alex demonstrating how bad he is at giving directions. Friday we helped a guy move to Bloomington, IL, where he'll set up an art gallery if the contractors finish renovating on time. We left one bar there because the DJ was lousy and they told Alex and J to straighten their caps. Because caps tilted to the side spark fights or something. I was designated driver 3 nights in a row, and Saturday night included dropping off a guy at the airport, who was badly wasted. Because that's the condition you need to be in to go through security these days. He made it through, apparently, but fell asleep and missed his flight. All the designated driving is enough to make me consider taking up drinking just to get out of it. But then I'd have to trust other people to stay sober and drive me around, and I don't trust any of the people I drive to do that. I'm not sure I'd trust them to drive my car sober.

Estimated time I fell asleep those three nights: 3:30, 2:30, 6:30. I really resented that last one since Alex was riding shotgun snoring, and the sky was just starting to brighten up as we pulled up to his house. Plus, my body only let me sleep to 10 before it woke me up.

I spent Sunday in sort of a haze. I was more alert than I thought I'd be, but I was also more chatty than usual, and the world seemed too bright sometimes. And now I'm back, trying to get into my routine again. So far it's a work in progress.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Burn Notice 4.3 - Made Men

Plot: As Michael and Co. have agreed to help Jesse continue his investigation, he lets them in on certain aspects of it. One of those is a contact of his, who Jesse dubbed "Cobra", who was working at the docks and has gone missing. As they question deckhands about shipments from Algeria, Jesse sees a security guard getting hassled, and gets involved. Seems Hank is getting pressure from a Tony, the local boss, to look the other way while Tony's boys lift some merchandise. Jesse told Hank they're working undercover for a shipping company, and they'll take care of Tony if he gets them some shipping manifests. Michael, as usual, isn't enthusiastic about getting involved, but does it anyway. His attempt to approach Tony as a fed on leave for drinking falls apart because Tony has a guy at the FBI.

The good news is, Tony's getting pressure from above to make more cash. Sam poses as a member of the family, sent to kill Tony for not earning, which pushes Tony to make a big score. Once they convince him he can't trust his own guys, and will have to use Chuck's, things are looking good. Tony's even willing to go on the heist himself after Jesse brings up a story from Sam's past. Sam didn't exactly love dredging up those memories for a crook, but it worked. Too well, because Tony really buys into 'No man left behind". So much so he abandons the haul to "rescue" Chuck from Hank. Well, that's awkward.

In other news, Madeline takes advantage of Jesse's presence in her home to pump him for information. This leads to a bit of a strained conversation about the death of Jesse's mother, which explains a lot about Jesse's unwillingness to look the other way. It also leads to Maddy realizing Michael got Jesse burned, which brings about an angry conversation between mother and son. Not nearly as awkward as the conversation between Michael and Jesse will be when Jesse figures it out. Bullets are not great conversationalists. On the plus side, they found Cobra's plane, but it looks like he stepped out of it somewhere over the Bahamas. Looks like someone needs to take a trip.

The Players: Jesse (Recently Burned Spy), Hank (The Client), Tony (Mr. Clean), Gio (the New York Guy)

Quote of the Episode: Sam - 'I think it's time for him to meet Chuck Finley. Now there's a code name.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Tony's car. It was a fairly mild explosion for Fi. The one she blew up the office with last week was considerably larger. Which is odd, considering that was a distraction, and this was meant to look like a hit.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 3 (5 overall) Bit of an uptick, but he actually didn't want a beer at one point, which is never a good sign.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (1 overall). Michael was the one getting hit this week. Quite a bit actually. Had two meetings between his face and a table.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall). Would you laugh if your face lost two arguments with a table?

Other: Michael was Ned Gordon for about five minutes.

I find it hypocritical of Michael to criticize Jesse for a plan that would put untrained Hank in the field. Michael puts untrained people in the field all the time. Like his mother. And his brother.

Things I liked: Sam and Mike busting Jesse's chops about how stupid Cobra is as a code name. Fi's confidence Michael can handle himself when his cover identity gets blown. Jesse's interactions with Maddy. That someone already warned Jesse not to eat cookies Maddy baked. All the stuff between Chuck and Tony.

It's weird, I know Tony's a murdering sleaze. His guys broke Hank's hand. The first time we hear him, he's threatening a shopkeeper's sick kids. Even so, I felt a little bad for him when he challenged Gio, only to turn and realize he'd been abandoned by Chuck and his guys. But if Gio is Tony's boss, then it's a safe bet he's even worse than Tony, which makes Tony the lesser or two evils. Plus, Tony had come back to rescue Chuck, which was sweet, if unnecessary and wholly unwelcome.

Sometime I really ought to chart how Michael responds when Maddy gets angry with him. Sometimes he tries to soothe her, talk his way out of it. Other times he responds like he did here, where he gets pissed off and yells right back at her. I'd like to think the anger comes when he knows how badly he screwed up, but I'd say Maddy is usually justifiably angry at him, and Michael doesn't always gets angry, so perhaps not.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Break Out The Celebratory Corn Dogs!

It's the end of Year 7 here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends! I don't know what the standard gift would be for a 7 year anniversary, thus the corn dogs. It's heartfelt, yet stupid. So perfect for this blog.

Let's see, the past year saw the end of my longest consecutive days posting streak, running to 385 days, I believe. I kept the episode rundowns going, transitioning from Adventures of Brisco County Jr. to Burn Notice. I've talked a bit about DC's new 52, and I talked more about AvX than I had any business doing. By which I mean five posts, but that's still more than it deserved. I did some posts listing my favorite video games on different consoles. I still haven't figured out the order for the PS2, so who knows when that'll come down the pike.

I also managed to do a couple of stories with perennial blog favorite Adorable Baby Panda! Admittedly, the Panda wasn't supposed to appear in the Tales from the Woods series. I'm a little disappointed in myself about that. I still like the story, it just bugs me I screwed up my original plan with some idea of tying it all together. At any rate, it was nice to get back to posting some stories.

Sadly, we have gone another year without me starting up the Spider-Man: Giant Slayer posts. Maybe someday.

As to Year 8, the biggest change is I'm not going to try and force posts as much. One thing about that consecutive posting streak that bugged me was that I wasn't happy with several of the posts. They were just me trying to get something up for the day. Not all, or even most, but some of them for sure. So I'm going to try and avoid that going forward. If I don't have an idea, or I have one that I feel needs more time, then I'll wait. I'm hoping this won't mean too much of a decline in the posting schedule. It may not even come to that. I may be so inspired this year there aren't enough days for me to post everything.

I can hope at least.

As to specific posts, I'll keep the episode rundowns going. I need to get around to buying the Fall of Sam Axe movie, since it establishes certain characters appearing in Season 5. Right now I'd assume I'll wind up Burn Notice next fall. I don't yet know what's next. If I stick with hour long shows, it'll be Season 1 of The Invisible Man, even as I hold out hope for Season 2. If not, I'll probably go Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I'm working on trying to finish writing the Ink-Stained Trail. Of course, I've been doing that since I finished posting Tales from the Woods, and I'm nowhere near done. I hope to have the now-Clever Adolescent Panda show up again, and UnCalvin is assured to appear at least once. There'll still be the reviews of new comics, and probably reviews of trades whenever I happen to pick those up.

One thing I've been meaning to do is a "favorite characters" series of posts. Last year, the Comics Should Be Good blog asked for everyone's Top 10 Marvel and DC characters, however one chose to define that. So I thought I might do a post for each character. First of course, I have to decide what it is I like about each character, plus I thought I'd list the writer and artist I associate with them, and that's proving tricky in some cases. Then there's the fact I could almost completely redo the Marvel list if I took a notion to. Anyway, it's another thing I'm hoping to get done.

That's where things stand at the moment, looking ahead. Thanks to everyone who reads the blog, and especially those who comment. It's nice to get other perspectives, even if we don't agree. Forces me to think about things more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Omega Man

Well, that covers all the film adaptations of I Am Legend. I'd say The Omega Man was definitely the least faithful, and the most firearms-intensive of the three. With Charlton Heston involved, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. It plays up a romance angle more than the other films, spends less time on the day-to-day necessities of life, but Heston does show the strain well. You can see him gradually getting more careless, or just being off, from the solitude.

I was disappointed there was no dog in this film, but they left that out of The Last Man on Earth, too. It's funny the things the films all chose to ignore. They all made Neville some sort of medical expert or research scientist, when he was no such thing in the story. That's part of the frustration in the story, when he begins trying to educate himself about disease and gradually realizes he's hopelessly out of his depth.

None of them opted for the story's ending, either. In Matheson's work, Neville is captured and set to be executed by the society the living infected have built. The fact they'll execute him isn't exactly condoned, but it's apparent they are trying to rebuild civilization. The Vincent Price version comes closest to this, as it shows the living infected still willing to use cars, guns, to reason and care for people. They're even working to develop ways to overcome the weaknesses of their condition (sunlight aversion, for example). The goofs in the hoods that are after Heston opt to reject technology, and seem only concerned with destroying everything they fear. Maybe Mathias has something in mind beyond that, but all he shows interest in is scapegoating to keep people scared and obedient. Tony Stark circa Civil War, then. The infected in Will Smith's version don't seem likely to be building any civilization. They still have some intelligence, but they're mostly just killing machines.

The other bit is Neville's fate. In the book, he realizes he'll be the boogeyman the new society uses to scare their children. That's who is going to regard him as legend. It won't be surprising if, in a few generations, he'll be described as ten feet tall with laser eyes, and subsisting off the eyes of bad children who don't eat their vegetables. Heston and Smith are both legends because they provide a cure for the disease, giving humanity a chance to get back to how it was before. The infected will, in theory, eventually either be cured or wiped out.

Price's fate is more similar to the original story, but even there, his end is more about his defiance as the "last man on earth". Which paints the people killing him as not human, even though they look human, talk like humans, fear and destroy what's different like humans. Price's death signals the end of the line for people, and rejects any potential these people who have survived the disease, and learned to live with it, have for growth.

Maybe someone will do a straight adaptation one of these days. The ending is kind of ugly, the group hunting and destroying the individual, but it also suggests that humanity, for good or ill, can persevere through most any obstacle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dead Again

Jeez, I mention I've never watched anything with Kenneth Branagh other than Hamlet, and the next thing I know, I'm watching a movie about solving a decades old murder through the power of hypnosis and past lives.

Dead Again splits its time between the late 1940s, where composer Roman Strauss (Branagh) was executed for killing his wife Margaret (Emma Thompson). In the present (the late '80s), we have a woman (also played by Thompson) with no memory of who she is, but terrified nightly by dreams about Roman stabbing someone with scissors. The Catholic Church/orphanage, demonstrating its legendary compassion, refuses to let the obviously confused and terrified woman stay, but hey, they do contact private investigator Mike Smith (also played by Branagh, which I didn't realize until I looked at the credits) to help her out. So she winds up staying at his apartment, and shortly an antiquities dealer who claims to know hypnosis shows up to help "Grace" (as Mike dubbed her), by regressing her until she regains her memories. Except he regresses her back to a past life in the Strausses. Then her memories suggest Mike is also involved in the Strauss thing somehow, threatening their burgeoning sexual chemistry. Oh noes!

Mocking aside, the movie is actually pretty good. Andy Garcia plays a reporter in the '40s, who manages to have a certain charm despite his stubble and somewhat boozy demeanor. Wayne Knight plays a buddy of Mike's who works in the newspapers. All his "S" sounds come off like a tea kettle, though, which is annoying, but it's consistent, so I have to think it's a deliberate choice. And he's an empathetic enough character I don't hold it against him. A bit of pig, but in a nice way. Dr. Carlisle is a former psychologist who lost his license, and they don't mention the actor in the opening credits. So he was a surprise, but it works. Bitter, jaded, but still with enough scientific curiosity to want to help. Branagh must have done a good job carrying himself as two different characters since I didn't even recognize him. Or else it was how immaculately done up his facial hair was as Strauss that threw me off. Mike is clean shaven and his hair is a bit disheveled.

The movie has some nicely shot scenes, and some that are terribly overdone. One of the nice ones is when the hypnotist is urging "Grace" to take a firearm as protection from Mike, while Pete (Wayne Knight) protests that Mike would never hurt her (it's also an argument about a predetermined universe versus one where free will exists). The camera switches from looking over one of her shoulders to the other when looking at either of the two standing in front of her, so it suggests the little angels and devils on her shoulder. It just isn't clear which is which.

On the other hand, the climax scene is completely overboard. They go nuts with switching between the action in the present, to the moment of the murder in the past, with a lot of slow motion leaping around in the present day, and piano music from the opera Strauss was composing playing throughout. The film is trying to suggest this a pivot point, where even with all the same players as last time, things could go different. But all the slow-motion just wrecks it. Maybe people have a hard time not looking silly in slo-mo. Gives the audience more time to notice some of the more peculiar expressions we make.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Characters I Care About, Even When I Don't

I got involved in a discussion recently about Angel & Faith, and the other person mentioned they didn't care about the other Slayers Faith is mentoring at all. I found that I sort of agreed with this, but not entirely.

I don't care about any of them as characters, in the way I do about Faith, or even Angel (who I would mostly like to see take a baseball bat to the face repeatedly). Other than Nadira (the Slayer hellbent on finding Angel and killing him), I don't even know their names.

The thing is, I do still care about them, but it's because Faith does. Whether she wants to or not, Faith has assumed responsibility for them. In that sense, I do care about them. Faith struggles with the fact that all anyone ever seems to want from her is wetwork. Kill this, kill that, do the work no one else can be bothered to soil their hands with. The Slayers (and Angel) are Faith's attempt to do something positive that doesn't involve violence. If Nadira gets consumed by vengeance, or one of the other Slayers gets killed by Pearl and Nash (or some random villain), it's going to bug Faith. She's going to feel like she failed again.

I would like to see Faith have some warm, fuzzy success for once, and that means the Slayers need to come through whatever lies ahead largely unscathed. So I do sort of care about them, even if I couldn't pick a one of them out of a lineup.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Burn Notice 4.2 - Fast Friends

Plot: Michael has all those files he stole at the end of last week, but it translates into a few thousand pages of stuff. What's more, Jesse Porter, the man those files belonged to, and the one Michael got burned, is trying to learn who burned him. Michael keeps Vaughn from having Jesse killed or thrown in a secret prison by saying he'll befriend Jesse and use him as an asset. It takes a bit of breaking and entering - and then a lot more breaking once they've entered - to accomplish that, but they find Jesse. Unfortunately, an old enemy of Jesse's found him, too, and Jesse's bolts before they can approach.

Good news, Jesse found Mike in hopes of getting some help with his problem. Seems Jesse helped a criminal by the name of Ming Khan move himself and his money to America in exchange for certain information, and couple million dollars went missing along the way. Michael adopts the, "get Khan busted doing something illegal" strategy, and presents himself as another person with a grudge against Porter. He can get them weapons, if Khan's willing to pay. After some initial reluctance (and an off-script mock attack by Jesse on Khan's home), Khan ignores his right-hand man's advice and goes for it. And promptly gets busted with a grenade launcher. Good thing he has friends in the DEA. Too bad Jesse didn't know about that before he went back to his apartment. It's going to take a little magic from Barry, and Jesse actually following the script for once to get Porter out of this one alive.

There's also a subplot about Madeline taking in a boarder in the garage, out of a desire to have more stable people around her. You can imagine how long that lasts. Well, the boarder part is gonna stick, the stable part depends on what you think of Jesse, I suppose.

The Players: Vaughn (Michael's New Pal), Jesse (The Spy Michael Burned/The Client), Khan (The Psycho Hunting Jesse), Lee (Khan's Number Two)

Quote of the Episode: Lee - 'So when we find Jesse,, we're just supposed to what, share him?' "Turner" - 'That's what we learned in kindergarten.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? An office in that financial center service.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (2 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (1 overall).

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall)

Other: Michael's alias this week is Turner. The voice is kind of interesting, it sounds like he has a throat cold. Kind of congested, but not with a runny nose. I also like the ill-fitting suit. Less high-end than his usual outfits.

Chalk up Khan as another case of the bad guys taking care of each other.

Jesse's a bit of a cowboy. Does what he thinks is right, regardless of the consequences, and does it his way. No wonder he and Fiona hit it off so well. Given Jesse's similarities with Fiona, it isn't surprising he and Sam would butt heads. Fi is more inclined to stick to plans than Jesse. She does have more experience with Sam's tactical sense, though, so it works.

I laughed when Maddy referred to her sun room as a 'solarium', especially since she was busting Sam's chops about blowing it up. I also laughed at Jesse's dive over the hedges at the end of his attack on Khan's place. It looked like he would just belly flop on the other side.

I like a lot of the parts of this episode, but they don't fit together well somehow. Maybe if they'd given the subplot about Maddy and her boarder more time to breathe before they stuck Jesse at her place. As it is, it comes off a seriously contrived way to put Jesse there for awhile without having to explain it further.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Doctor Strange - What Is It That Disturbs You Stephen?

Doctor Strange - What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen?, by Marc Andreyko (script), P. Craig Russell (art), Lovern Kindzierski (colors), Galen Showman (letters)

This is another of the trades I picked up recently. The note inside the back cover from P. Craig Russell says he originally wrote this story in the '70s, and he and Marv Wolfman later shortened it to work as an annual. 20 years later, he took Marc Andreyko's suggestion and resubmitted the idea. It was approved, but when he looked back over it, Russell decided it needed to be almost entirely redone, with some help from Andreyko. Which means, in a sense, the original vision he had in the 1973 never really saw print. I imagine he's probably happier with how it turned out, that's just something that occurred to me.

The plot is that Strange is enjoying a quiet dinner, until he receives a fortune cookie saying 'What is it that disturbs you, Stephen? 7 - 63 - 7 - 66' This brings about a feeling of unease, and upon Stephen's return home, he learns Wong has been abducted. The trail leads to another realm, one called Ditkopolis, ruled by Electra. She wants Stephen's help. Her father split his power between her and her sister Celeste, who appears to exist deaf to the world. The realm is dying, and Electra can not access Celeste's power, so she needs to Stephen's to help. Stephen perceives things are not as Electra has depicted them, and takes steps to set them right. The problem being, this sends Electra into a self-destructive fury, and Stephen is only narrowly able to save Wong, but not Ditkopolis, which is lost to him forever.

It's Wong's abduction that sets things in motion, but the story seems to forget about him in the interests of detailing the truth about Electra, Celeste, and the swan sculpture. Strange gets so wrapped up in the whole thing that when Wong reappears it's as if, "Oh, right, that's what I came here to do!" That being said, I love the last line of the book, the sense of this having been only a small part of something larger. That it wasn't this that was disturbing him, but something more.

I do wonder how much the story is meant to represent real life events. I mean, "Ditkopolis", and the numbers on the fortune correspond to Ditko's tenure as Strange's artist (and for the latter half, writer/artist). Is Celeste Ditko, and Electra Stan Lee, taking all the credit, casting blame for failure in other directions, destroying something beautiful because of an inability to accept that you can't always get your way? I have no idea who or what Galtus would represent in all that. Praise, acclaim?

That's all just spitballing, I don't have any idea, and the artwork is the real show. Russell has a nice sense of design, he incorporates some of the dialogue or sound effects into his art well. Trash blowing across the page from one panel to another, and serving as a caption box where convenient. There's a bit when Strange first enters that other realm where the caption box for his internal narration is circular, but his speech balloon is square, different from all other times throughout the book. Like he hasn't quite adjusted to the rules of the realm yet. A sentence may get sucked down a whirlpool with a character, or a word broken in half as one falls through it. These bits are more prevalent in Electra's realm, which gives it an air of being a realm of the mind. Words could have physical properties there, especially among sorcerers, who use them with their power.

Also, Strange's magic tends to manifest as shapes. Squares, odds spheres with growths coming off them. Electra and Celeste's are limited more to jagged lines, the way a kid might lightning bolt. A mirror plays a pivotal role in the story, sometimes it reflects properly, sometimes, the expressions or positions don't match, which I don't think is an accident. Russell gets several close-ups to show off facial expressions, and he shows a good range, especially with Electra, whose moods shift so frequently.

We have to talk about Lovern Kindzierski's colors as well. A lot of the locales are done in a particular hue, but then Kindzierski uses it as the baseline for contrast. So the interior of the Sanctum Sanctorum is a sort of mellow blue, with black shadows around the edges, but that makes the kitchen, done in a canary yellow stand out noticeably. It's like a different reality entirely. Stephen's dark suit and his lavender caption box seem out of place, which creates a sense of unease, especially as the page continues and Stephen moves through the empty house, but Russell keeps coming back to the teapot.

When Stephen first enters Electra's realm (when his voice balloon is square), it's primarily a warm yellow. Electra's initial appearance brings a green hue in, and until Stephen manages to repel her initial attacks, the color scheme shifts to greens and blues, only to move back towards yellow and orange as he gets his bearings.

It's a beautifully done book. The copy I picked up was about 15 bucks, but it looks like new, so if you're a fan of Dr. Strange or P. Craig Russell's work, I think it's worth a look.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Is It The Superhero's World, Or Are They Just Living In It?

This post originally started as one thing, but I realized there was a more interesting direction for it to go.

During Dwayne McDuffie's stint on Fantastic Four, he was handed a bit of a rough situation. It came immediately after Civil War, when the team had fragmented. Reed had been Pro-Reg, Sue and Johnny switched to the Anti-Reg side about the time Reed and Stark unveiled Murderous Clone Thor, and Ben left the country for a time, unwilling to fight his government or his friends. So McDuffie had to try and patch things up between them, and try and explain why Reed would produce things like Clor and the Negative Zone prison.

The solution he went with was that Reed made psychohistory work. He'd read Asimov's books as a boy, and he tried to make it a reality. At some point, he succeeded, and his actions were an attempt to keep things on what seemed the path least likely to result in disaster. This seems sort of reasonable on the surface, and I do find it kind of cute to think of teenage Reed trying to work out the math behind psychohistory during 3rd period Spanish, or something.

There's a possible hitch, though. In the Foundation series, the flaw in psychohistory is it can't account for random individuals. Large groups of people are predictable, a single person is not. This is how the arrival of the Mule throws everything off, because he's a solitary individual with incredible psionic power, and Hari Seldon's calculations could not account for him*.

Now consider the Marvel Universe. There are dozens of people on Earth alone equal to the Mule's power in one way or the other. The Hulk, Dr. Strange, Apocalypse, Dr. Doom, the High Evolutionary. There are abstract concepts such as Death which are aware and occasionally take an active hand in the universe's proceedings. You have things the Celestials, whose true goals are unclear. You have people falling into toxic waste and developing powers every whipstitch. Time travelers, people from alternate timelines or other universes entirely. Reed Richards himself has shaped the course of the universe more than once. He convinced people to help save Galactus once. Imagine how differently things might go if he hadn't.

Given all these individuals, how can psychohistory work? Can't their powers give them a disproportionate level of control, to the point large groups of people are essentially meaningless? I mean, humans as a group have been trying to exterminate mutants for years. Legally, illegally, camps, giant robots, smear campaigns, using other mutants against them, whatever, none of it worked. The Scarlet Witch, by herself, came closer than all those groups ever had.

Then it occurred to me. Readers of serial comics talk about illusion of change. We also talk about how the genius characters never seem to use their big brains to fix the problems their world (and our own) has. And it's because the writers want to keep the world fairly recognizable to the audience, I presume so things they want to have stand out will. So things may go in a different direction for a time, but eventually, inevitably, they cycle back around. Mutant population was devastated, mutant population is reborn. The government trusts heroes, then it doesn't, then it does.

So what if that's point McDuffie was making? Superheroes and villains, for all their power, don't really make any sort of impact on the world? Or if they do, they cancel each other out? The nature of their stories prevents them from making any lasting change, so any permanent changes we (the audience) see in the Marvel Universe will be a reflection of the changes that come about in our own world, as writers attempt to continue representing the world outside our doors.

In-story, it would come down to Reed having determined that the superpowered individuals will have sufficiently different and opposing goals that they'll all stop each other from accomplishing anything. Which leaves the way open to the masses to determine the path, or be lead down it, if someone knows how to game the system. Say, someone who can predict what those masses will do. Like Reed Richards**.

* Given Seldon's Second Foundation was staffed by psionics, I'm left wondering what it was about the Mule that was so successful. Was it the strength of the Mule's talents, that they couldn't find him and draw him into their organization, or the fact that he set his eyes on galactic conquest? You would think, if Seldon had a group of psionics dedicated to keeping the Plan on course, there would be some way to predict their occurrence and account for it.

** I feel like McDuffie sort of of touched on this in a time travel sense. This is going off a vague memory, so it could be wrong. Reed says one person going back in time can't cause a sufficient difference as to change things, but if a large group of people go back, they just create an alternate timeline. Apparently the optimal number of people needed to change the outcomes without causing divergent timelines was 4.