Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Don't Care What He Says, I Don't Hate Clark Gable

When we finished watching Betrayed last night, my dad said he hadn't realized Mogambo would turn me against Clark Gable so much. I'll explain. Spoilers throughout, if you need such a warning for movies made in the 1950s.

With Mogambo, Gable plays Vic, a hunting party leader/animal procurer in Africa. Eloise Kelly (Ava Gardner) shows up, expecting to meet a maharajah who was on a hunting party. But poor Maha was at risk of losing his kingdom, and had already left. So she's stuck until she can catch a ride downriver. Vic's irritated by her at first, but there are some sparks by the time she leaves on the boat with the animals he'd caught for a zoo. Enter Donald and Linda Nordley (Donald Sinden and Grace Kelly). Donald has a bad reaction to a tsetse fly immunization, and while he's laid up, Vic makes some sparks with Linda, right as Eloise returns (the boat got stuck on a mudbar). Vic's leading the Nordleys north, for an anthropological study, and Eloise comes along.

So it goes. Eloise likes Vic, but so does Linda. Vic likes them both, but will more readily admit his affection for the married woman, though not in front of her oblivious, but generally nice husband. Vic does have the decency to eventually feel bad, because Donald's a nice guy, who does care about Linda, but he's too geekishly excited about his work at the moment, and Linda's, I guess impressed with a guy who shoots a panther for her. Ultimately Vic settles things by getting a little drunk, then acting drunker and speaking harshly to Linda, so she'll hate him. Then Eloise makes up a story about Vic drunkenly trying to put the moves on Linda while Donald was out. The Nordleys go home together, Eloise stays with Vic.

Am I supposed to like Vic? He's a two-timer, he's messing around with a married woman. Yes, he ends up shot in the arm for his trouble, and Donald, who really liked him, now probably hates his guts, but he still wound up with a woman who likes him a lot. But I don't know how Eloise can go along with it. She ought to be able to see that as long as Linda was around, she was #2 in Vic's eyes. But it's OK because Linda's gone now? Linda's infidelity is swept under the rug. She didn't seduce Vic, but I'm not sure he seduced her, either. There was a mutual attraction, and they both made a decision to act on it, to the extent even Vic's drunken loser of a lackey, Boltchak, could tell they were messing around. The only person in the cast I really liked with Brownie (Philip Stainton), who was a friend to Eloise, but otherwise stayed out of the mess. It wouldn't have hurt him to tell Vic to pull his head out of his ass, though.

Which brings us to Betrayed. Gable plays Pieter DeVenter, a Dutch intelligence agent during WWII, who approaches Carla van Oven (Lana Turner) as a possible agent. This is despite the fact she seemed pretty chummy with the Nazis, but she assures Pieter that ended when they executed her husband. He trains her, but they fall in love, or so I was told. I remain unconvinced. She's sent to Holland to try and convince a local resistance leader, The Scarf (Victor Mature) to work with the British intelligence. He agrees after some of his mother's neighbors shave her head on suspicion of being a Nazi collaborator. The British will send the mission specs to her, she'll pass them along to The Scarf.

Almost immediately, the Dutch resistance starts taking heavy casualties on every mission. Someone's a traitor, but who? Carla? The Scarf? DeVenter? SPOILER!

It was The Scarf. He hated his people for what they did to his mother. He even faked being shot and captured by the Germans so he wouldn't be caught in Arnhem when Operation Market Garden went balls up. DeVenter manages to get in with a captured German intelligence agent, and get back out with the Scarf. He accuses him, the Scarf throws a knife and gets shot before he can make it out the window.

About the time that I happened I stood up and proclaimed, 'That ending blows.' I figured it ought to have been Carla, my dad asked if I didn't believe in true love, I responded not in that case. The movie had failed to sell me on Carla and Pieter, because based on the actions described for her before meeting Pieter and the name of the movie, I had no reason to take her at face value. I don't think that qualifies as turning against Clark Gable, other than recognizing his characters' tastes in women are questionable. If it's not a married lady, it's a manipulative schemer like Scarlet O'Hara, or a possible Nazi friend like Carla. Guy's taste in women is worse than Alex'.

Monday, January 30, 2012

That's A Serious Thespian Mismatch

It really isn't fair. I mean, the Germans get Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Michael Caine, and even Donald Pleasance (as Himmler), and the Americans get Larry Hagman and Treat Williams? Poor Winston Churchill is doomed. Or not.

Certainly the Germans have the star power in The Eagle Has Landed, not that it ultimately did them much good. And I guess they aren't all Germans, since Sutherland plays Liam Devlin, an Irishman who works with the Nazis because he really hates the British. Which makes a lot of sense. I'm sure if the Nazis succeeded in conquering the world they would have been the best pals the Irish ever had. That Jack Higgins (who wrote the book the movie is based on) decided to make Devlin the star of several of his subsequent books does not make me want to read any of those books.

Anyway, Hitler had been very impressed by a commando raid that spirited Mussolini away, and wanted a similar one to capture Churchill. Colonel Radl (Duvall) took the order to do a report on the feasibility a little too seriously, Steiner (Michael Caine) and his men figured it was better to go on this mission than be stuck piloting one-man subs that were gradually whittling them down, and here we are.

Maybe the book fleshes it out, but Larry Hagman's character seemed pointless. He's a gung-ho colonel who really wants some action before he's transferred back home. So when he gets word there's a German commando unit posing as Poles in a British village not far from Churchill's estate, he rushes out there with pitifully few men, and gets his group mostly slaughtered. But in terms of the story, it doesn't accomplish much. Steiner's unit doesn't gain some advantage from it. They're stuck waiting for Churchill to come through, which isn't going to happen. It doesn't present them with an opportunity to flee, either. So I guess Hagman's character served the same role as Deputy Chief Robinson in Die Hard: To be wrong all the time.

I guess it could establish how professional the commandos are compared to these green Americans, but the Americans are so poorly led it's hard to conclude much about their ability. And even so they managed to destroy the Germans escape truck with a bazooka. Even a fledgling can get in a peck or two.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 27 - High Treason, Part 2

Plot: As you might expect, the execution of Brisco and Bowler does not goes as planned. Wickwire made some rubber bullets, Viva, Whip, and Pete pretended to be the undertaking detachment to pick up the guys. Socrates has no idea what's happening, but that won't stop him from waving his coat over his head wildly in joy.

The quintet splits up again, with Brisco and Bowler heading south to find Jennifer Hart, since she's the only one who can clear their names. Unfortunately, General Quarry has sent Colonel March (still played by Terry Bradshaw, BOOOO!) after Jennifer and Carlos Falco. He captures Falco, but Hart escapes with the good guys. They aren't out of the woods yet, though, because March has himself an elite squad to pursue them. Aldo Bertucci (Ken Norton Jr.), who can track a man over solid granite. If only they could get his subtitles to match what he's saying. Yes, they gave him subtitles even though he's speaking English. Gristle Wallens (Carl Banks), who once carried his horse across the Colorado River. Cowboy (Jim Harbaugh), who um, uh, well, he's good at menacing defenseless peasant women. I shouldn't be surprised at such behavior from the future coach of the 49ers. Bill Walsh used to steal oversized lollipops from babies in strollers (Note: May not be true). Anyway, they doggedly pursue as Bowler, Brisco, and Jennifer try to arrange for a pick-up, from the last direction March would ever expect.

Meanwhile, Pete, Viva, and Whip's attempt to flee didn't go so well, and they wind up in jail. Thus are we presented with a situation where Whip Morgan is the most mature person in the room. Frightening, I know. They do manage an escape, just in time to save the President from an assassination attempt by March (disguised as Falco). And so, the day. . . is saved. Thanks to the Powerp - er, thanks to Brisco County Jr., and his faithful companion Lord Bowler!

Does Brisco use his gun? No.

Stuff Comet does: Knows Morse code - sort of. Can lead other horses. Can get himself a ticket for a train.

Kiss Count: 0 (22 overall). I forgot to mention this last week, but just before the execution, Brisco asks Socrates to tell Dixie he was thinking of her at the end. That's sweet.

Is Pete Hutter in this episode? Yes. He also nearly dies. Again. And he loses his piece. Again.

Pete Hutter Quote: 'I scoff at your moronic interpretation of hoosegow architecture.' Screw it, it's the last episode, let's do a twofer. 'Ergo, when fleeing, I suggest you follow the flight of the flea who knows how to flee the fastest. And that would be me.'

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: March - 'Aldo, follow that thing.' Aldo - 'But that thing, it don't lay tracks, do it?' Subtitles: The situation seems intractable. Don't you agree?

Coming Things: Wickwire's airship, now with helium!

Other: With it being the season finale (they didn't know it would also be the series finale), they went all out on the humor. Jokes about helium in the airship, several football related jokes (but how can you both blitz someone, and burn them deep? One's defense, the other offense!), Brisco and Comet arguing over Morse Code, Aldo's subtitles, the whole bit in the jail cell. You will believe Bradshaw can quote Patton!

Pete and Viva play so well off each other. Pete has a tendency to speak with an air of authority or knowledge, and even though he'll inevitably be proven wrong, Viva can't help needling him. But Viva's an easygoing guy, so it doesn't feel too mean.

Not all the gags were winners. I couldn't believe they spent 2 whole minutes on a bit about Bowler's ears being jammed because of the pressure change.

There is a sequence where Cowboy tries to give orders and March cuts in. Cowboy - 'Everybody spread out, wide formation.' March - 'I give the orders here. Everybody spread out, wide formation.' A classic dick move, but they're both quarterbacks, and Bradshaw's the one with 4 Super Bowl rings. Titles talk, losers walk, so get steppin' Harbaugh. Also, Bradshaw had the single most accurate line he's ever spoken: 'I'm a little slow'. Yes, you are. For some reason I made a note that "Andale" is the extent of Harbaugh's Spanish.

Oh, Bowler said "Damn!" twice. Which brings the Unofficial Bowler's Damn Count up to 9. Those are the first ones I have for him since "Bounty Hunter's Convention". Also, Bowler will not remove his hat when getting his picture taken with the President, which I find amusing somehow.

I do love this two-parter, and it makes me sad this was the end of the series. The extras on the DVDs indicate they were considering making Brisco the sheriff of a particular town for Season 2, which could have interesting. If he still works for the President from time to time, there's nothing to prevent him from continuing to travel. I do wonder what changes to the cast that might have brought about. Would Dixie have settled there, or only passed through occasionally? I can't imagine Bowler's going to move out of his nice house on Nob Hill, or that Socrates would move to whatever place Brisco chose. Oh well, the world may never know.

So, next Sunday, a new series begins. Likely not the new series I was planning on originally, but it'll be some show, I can practical guarantee that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Starting Off From That Steve Rogers Thing Again

During the discussions of Steve Rogers giving the OK to torture in Secret Avengers, there was a point raised about whether superheroes do this sort of thing in comics all the time. A commenter pointed out it isn't uncommon to see superheroes beat people up until they provide information. The question was if that's any different from Rogers letting/telling Moon Knight to stab people in the hand until someone talks.

I had to think about that, because you do see heroes going into bars to threaten their friendly neighborhood snitch, or Batman's dangling some guy off the roof by his ankle. If I wanted to try splitting hairs, I could argue the people being dangled are usually career criminals, whereas there was only a 1 in 3 chance (six possibilities, two Avengers) the Secret Avengers were actually going to hurt the guilty party. I don't want to split that hair, though. Just because someone made mistakes in the past, shouldn't mean they have to be subjected to that the rest of their lives. They decide to rob a jewelry store and Daredevil shows up and kicks their teeth in, fine. They made a decision to commit a crime, they can accept the risk that accompanies that. In our world, that's jail time, maybe getting shot depending on how far they go in trying to escape incarceration. In a comic book universe, add a guy in a costume swooping out of the night to beat them up. To have Costumed Person come into a bar where they're getting a drink and starting punching them in the face until they say something the puncher wants to hear/believes, because they committed crimes in the past, no.

I started thinking about specific examples, and most of them were older comics. In most cases, the hero was presented as not being himself. The worst thing I could remember Captain America doing was holding a couple of teenagers up against a wall by their shirt collars to learn where he could find some drug dealers. That was during Gruenwald's "Streets of Poison" story, when Cap had been caught in an explosion at a factory where they were producing heroin or cocaine or something. He was probably concussed, and definitely having a reaction to drugs he was exposed to. As a result, he was behaving strangely, hearing voices, distrusting his friends, beating the crap out of Daredevil. He even had scruffy stubble to show how out of sorts he was.

During the "Death of Jean DeWolff" story, Spider-Man comes charging into bars, busting heads in a search for Sin-Eater. One of the random mooks in the bar comments he recalls seeing Spidey like this once before, when he was searching for the Master Planner. What I took from that was this is atypical behavior from Spider-Man. Daredevil alludes to it later on when he has to fight Spidey, that the webslinger was too worked up, probably feeling the situation too intensely. There's also a scene where Spider-Man drags a drug pusher to a known criminal hangout and makes a big show of how they're such good buddies in an attempt to force information out of Mr Jablonski (Spidey at least feels bad about doing it). It doesn't work (Gerald doesn't know anything), but it does force Jablonski to turn state's evidence so he can go into witness protection before all those questionable characters who saw him talking with Spidey pass that along to the wrong person. It's ugly, but again, Daredevil calls him on it, though he tries to make the distinction between that and roughing someone up for info, which yeah, I'm not so sure about that.

It happens with Batman too, sometimes, where if he gets rough with someone it's taken as a sign he's not quite himself (slapping Snitch around in the Untold Legend of Batman, though Snitch had pulled a gun on him by that point).

I feel like, for the heroes who aren't known for their excessive violence (Frank Castle, Wolverine, Moon Knight sometimes), the more standard progression is: Hero enters hive of scum and villainy. Hero requests information, either of specific person or the crowd at large. Some of the crowd object, try to rearrange hero's face with pool cue, chair, broken bottle. Hero defends self, much larger fight may break out, or may not. Eventually someone decides it would be better to talk than waste time fighting badly, tells hero useful information (or is suitably convincing that they don't know anything useful). Hero leaves, possibly thanking informant. Note: Thank you may be sarcastic, depending on hero.

In the cases where the hero comes in spoiling for a fight first and foremost, it was presented as unusual, a bad reaction to stress or some outside influence. When Spidey's after the Master Planner (psst, it's actually Doc Ock!), it's because the Planner stole a serum Spidey needs to save Aunt May, who is dying from the radioactivity in Peter's blood after he helpfully gave her a transfusion. So yeah, he's feeling the pressure a bit. In a more normal circumstance, Spider-Man would stick to the reactive model of superheroics. He's already reacting to a theft by searching for the Master Planner, but he wouldn't resort to violence until someone else resorted to violence against him first. The Jean DeWolff thing is similar. He's too worked up, nearly beats Sin-Eater to death, but when he's calmed down, had some time to think (and Daredevil's gotten himself in trouble), he swings in and saves them both from an angry mob. He reacts, and he saves people in trouble, even if he doesn't like either of them very much at that moment, because that's what a good guy does.

Of course, all the examples I mentioned and can think of are from the early '90s at the latest, going further back from there, so perhaps not terribly relevant, except as comparison between then and now. I think the point then was to illustrate that a hero might use violence, but it was as a way to protect innocent people. When the hero uses it out of frustration, anger, whatever, that's out of line, it's wrong, and typically unproductive. Might have been to make a point to younger readers, because the writers truly believed it, or because of the heroes' vigilante status. They're already operating outside the law, it's risky enough to be intervening in actual criminal operations. Seemingly hurting people unprovoked in some vague "search for information" might have been a step too far.

Maybe that isn't such a concern anymore, at least in the Marvel Universe where so many heroes seem to be connected to a government somehow. Or they were, I'm not clear on what the status is these days (What's Rogers a Commander of, for example). I would think working for an official governing body would mean more oversight, but maybe it's a suspicion of authority theme. The idea people in power will cover up and sanction what you do if it helps them. That's fairly cynical (though not without justification), but not new to superhero comics. How many times has a plot involved a hero uncovering a seedy operation an agency was running quietly? The difference now is the heroes may be the ones doing the things being covered up.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let's Try For A Twofer

I watched both these movies before the Year In Review posts, so we'll see how much I can remember

Six Three Three Squadron - A Royal Air force squadron is tasked with destroying a German factory producing fuel for V-1 and V-2 rockets. Except the factory is positioned within a narrow fjord with a significant rock outcropping above it. So it's highly dangerous, but Commander Roy Grant (Cliff Robertson) and his pilots aren't given a choice. No worries, those Norwegian freedom fighters led by Lt. Bergman (George Chakiris) can knock out the German division manning the AA guns guarding then length of the fjord. Then he can return to England and be reunited with his sister Hilde (Maria Perschey), who may also be getting through Roy's cycnical, hard bitten shell.

What about two German divisions, though? Uh. . .

It's not a happy ending. Unless you are comforted by the idea that the squadron will continue to exist even though every single guy on the mission died. What? That's what Air Marshall basically says when it's pointed out they all died. But the squadron lives on. Oh, well, la-dee-da. Men died, but abstract constructs survived! Whoo!

The thing I don't understand is why, if the mission was so vitally important, they couldn't assign a few Mosquitos for ground attack. They send a dozen to drop bombs; they couldn't find two or three more to load up with guns and send in first, to try and wipe out the gun emplacements? I get they were working under a time constraint, but that didn't stop them from expecting the Norwegians to do all the prep work without support. If the mission has to succeed that badly, you go the extra mile to make sure it succeeds. As an added bonus, maybe you don't have as many of your men die as a result. Just a thought.

Saddle the Wind: I picked this one to watch because Rod Serling wrote the screenplay. I wanted to see what he'd do with an actual Western film. As it turns out, we have Steve and Tony Sinclair (Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes), owners of the Double S ranch. Steve used to be a hired gun who had to raise his brother. Tony's the kid brother who learned the wrong lessons, or perhaps just came out wrong. He doesn't really understand the difference between using a gun because you have to, versus using it because you want to, or think you have to. That's how it goes. Tony kills a man, a gunfighter that was looking for Steve. This causes problems with the local big wheel who knows about Steve's past, and does not want the kind of trouble it can bring.

That leads to Steve trying to rein Tony in, which only makes Tony buck harder. He thinks he has to prove how good he is, which only makes things worse, naturally. There's also Joan (Julie London), who Tony became smitten with on a business trip and brought home with him. She was looking for anyway out of singing in dive bars, but Tony's not as much of an upgrade as she hoped. But she still worries about him, and that leads to more trouble.

It's hard for me to decide whether Tony's actions are a consequence of growing up watching his brother, or something else. There's a sequence where Tony's practicing with his new gun. When he tires of firing at a skillet, he opens up on his own reflection in a puddle. Subtle it isn't. Still, there's the idea growing up with a skilled gunman for a brother, Tony learned what you'd expect a kid to learn. Guns are cool. Real men are good with guns. Any person who disagrees with you is disrespecting you, and the only answer for that is shooting. I don't think Steve wanted Tony to learn that, but there it is.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Whether The Enemy Is Below Or Above Depends On Your Perspective

That and likely more blindingly obvious statements coming to you courtesy of this discussion of The Enemy Below!

Robert Mitchum plays the new captain of a destroyer escort in the South Atlantic. Curt Jurgens is a U-Boat commander on a mission to pick up a code book from a raider and return said book to Germany. Jurgens is sick and tired of war, and drinks to get to sleep. Mitchum has had two boats torpedoed out from under him, including a merchant freighter that his wife was on. She died, but Jurgens' son died in the war as well. Which man has more pain?!

The destroyer escort comes across the U-boat running on the surface, and doggedly pursues. Mitchum is able to anticipate Jurgens' every move, but only because Jurgens is so stubborn about staying on course 1-4-0. Mitchum is able to count on the sub always returning to that course eventually, and work accordingly.

There are a few things I want to bring up for consideration:

Jurgens is discussing submarining in the Great War, and how it was a lot of guesswork and luck to actually hit a ship with a torpedo. Now the periscope tells you course, distance, and speed, and a computer figures out everything else. He complains that they've removed humans from war. I figure that's bunk because you're still killing humans with the torpedoes whether a computer tells you when to fire or the captain just guesses at it.

There's a subplot in the movie about some of the crew being uncertain of their new captain, especially as he starts his command in his cabin, seasick. It doesn't really go anywhere, because once he steps out of his cabin, Mitchum's performance never gives the crew reason to doubt him. He's always able to anticipate what Jurgens will do, or if he's been given the slip, figure out where to meet him again. That and the bit about Mitchum's wife having died from a U-Boat seem like elements added, but the scenes that were going to expand or follow up on them were cut.

There's a sequence where the ship proceeds to drop depth charges around the sub every hour, trying to hound them into surrendering. One of the crew of the sub loses his nerve and tries to climb out, and when stopped by the rest of the crew, grabs a wrench and starts swinging. Everyone backs off and Jurgens strides in. He basically makes the boy give up the wrench by sheer force of will, standing there, asking if he believes in his captain. Then he tries to lift the crews' spirits with a rousing song. Which was pretty cool except for how indicative it was of the strain they were feeling. Of course, the dedicated Nazi was the only officer to want to surrender. Everyone else (presumably just Germans) believed in Jurgens. And he nearly pulled them through.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wherein I Discuss Several Things About Steve Rogers

About Steve Rogers letting/telling his Secret Avengers torture people:

I'm not a fan.

I read a review (Chad Nevett's) where he said that was something Warren Ellis had been exploring throughout his stint on Secret Avengers. Not torture, per se, but forcing characters to make choices that conflict with their typical morals, or straining those morals, something to that effect. I can see how this would fit that idea, but I can't help feeling Steve Rogers would find a way without actually resorting to torture. Sorry, letting his associates torture people.

Then again, I'm the guy who didn't have a problem with Gruenwald's assertion that Cap didn't kill anybody during the war*, so I'm willing to accept my idea of Captain America is a bit, unrealistic? Antiquated? Something.

I get where the people saying "Commander Steve Rogers can do things Captain America can't," are coming from, but I disagree with that, too. Yes, Captain America is a symbol, and so there are certain things he couldn't be seen (or be known) to have done, but I feel it's flipping things. It suggests being Captain America makes Steve Rogers who he is, when I think it's the other way around. Steve Rogers was a character that was supposed to represent the best things Americans believed their country was about (or liked to believe their country was about, depending on your level of cynicism), but wasn't able to do anything. He wanted to protect those who were weak, at least partially because he knew what it was like, but also because he thought it was the right thing to do. But he couldn't. Spirit willing, flesh weak, as it were.

So he took the Super-Soldier Serum, taking the chance it wouldn't kill him or drive him nuts or whatever, and used the power from it to fight those who abused their power. He still believed the same things as before, but now he could do something.

I got a bit off track, but the point was I think Steve Rogers would be opposed to torture whether he was wearing his Captain America uniform or not. The clothes don't make the man, the man makes the clothes**. Now if you figure Steve would be OK with torture under certain circumstances, then I could follow the idea he still wouldn't do so as Captain America, because that's something larger than him.

For myself, I don't agree with Warren Ellis' idea of Steve Rogers. Especially given they know only one person in there is actually involved with this evil organization they're hunting. They're going to stab and zap people who are most likely completely innocent and unaware of anything they're interested in? That's people with power abusing those without, which feels like exactly the sort of thing Steve Rogers ought to be preventing. I suppose you could have Steve try friendlier methods, fail, leave in frustration because he won't cross than line, then have Black Widow and Moon Knight torture them without his knowledge. Natasha strikes me as "ends justify the means" sort and Moon Knight's crazy, there's not much I'd put past him as this stage. The issue there is it makes Steve look incompetent, his subordinates doing this without him knowing it, maybe even going against his orders.

Which is kind of a problem with him being boss of all superheroes. Before, if the Widow did some periodic ops for Russia, Quicksilver went crazy and turned on the Avengers because his sister married an android, or Wolverine killed 50 guys 'cause it's Tuesday, well, that wasn't great for relations between superhumans and the everyday chuckleheaded morons who inhabit the Marvel Universe, but Captain America wasn't directly responsible for it. Now (in theory) he's their boss, they take marching orders from him. When they screw up/disobey orders/go crazy/get mind-controlled, it makes him look bad. Like he can't control the people working for him. Steve Rogers ends up looking ineffectual if he says anything against their actions, because why didn't he stop them in the first place? But if he says or does nothing, he could be seen to be tacitly endorsing said actions. As we've discussed before, nothing good happens for the person in charge in the Marvel Universe.

One thing I should have realized before that I hadn't was how differently Captain America could appear to someone who isn't from the United States. That shouldn't have been a surprise, since even people in the U.S. don't agree about the character, but the blinders are on sometimes. It wasn't that Warren Ellis hails from the British Isles, it was an Australian commenter on David Brothers' post on the subject. The commenter said prior to the movie, he thought of Cap (paraphrasing) as representing US hegemony, or the current mindset of the country, rather than being a guy that represents some ideal of decades past. I hadn't thought of that before, so it was a perspective I was glad to read.

There are some other thing I want to get into, but they aren't strictly related to Steve Rogers' character, so I'll save them for a later post.

* Though depending on how it's presented, I don't have a problem with saying he did take lives in combat.

** It's kind of funny, I'm typing this while reading a Grantland piece about Bernard Hopkins, and he said the same thing about a shirt he was wearing while training. He makes the shirt, it doesn't make him

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Must Have Forgot To Laugh

But I'm going to blame that on Dark Star, rather than myself.

That's an overstatement. I'm sure I could have figured out by watching it that it wasn't meant to be taken seriously, even without the Star Wars style scrolling intro from Dave O'Bannon that preceded the version on my DVD. I don't think I would have laughed any more without it, but I couldn't have laughed any less.

The film follows a crew of four as they travel the cosmos. Their exact mission is either to destroy planets in unstable orbits in systems humanity plans to colonize. The Lieutenant Doolittle is really just interested in blowing things up, and the captain, well the captain isn't an issue. The ship is in various states of disrepair, the crew is weary of the trip and each other, and frankly, everyone seems to be going a bit batty. Talbot spends most of his time in the clear dome on top of the ship, watching the stars, Boiler is messing around with some laser rifle, Doolittle can't stop talking about his surfboard, and Pinback? Pinback's a different sort of problem.

I suppose that's the problem with comedies. It's either funny to you or it isn't. Take the sequence where Pinback chases their "mascot" (the closest thing to intelligent life they've found) around the ship, and winds up dangling from the underside of the elevator for about 20 minutes in the film. I get it's supposed to be funny. The thing that looks like a rotting tomato with feet outsmarted this guy and left him hanging. Instead I found it tedious. I wanted it over. Whether that meant Pinback lived or died was irrelevant. I was more interested in the conversation Talbot and Doolittle were having. It really seemed to be each of them having a conversation with himself, since neither guy paid the other much attention.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An American Assassin In Italy

When trying to describe The American, "leisurely" is the word that keeps coming to mind. Which seems a strange choice for a movie where Jack (George Clooney) kills three people in the first five minutes. Two of them are people there to kill him (in retaliation for some earlier hit he'd made), but the third was a lady friend he was spending time with in a cabin in the Swedish wilderness, and he shot her in the back, just like that. He did at least have the decency to look panicked about having to do so.

After that, when his handler directs him to an Italian village to lay low, the movie slows a bit. Jack finds a place to stay. He is, against his will at first, drawn into conversations with the local vicar. He visits a brothel, but finds himself attracted to one particular woman. The movie has the feel of an inevitable confrontation, but isn't in any rush to get there. Which is fine. It uses that time to give us a sense of Jack as a man ready for a change, but whose past isn't going to let go.

There is a tension underlying that leisurely feeling. People following Jack, his own suspicious and cautious nature. Watching the film, I wondered whether it was supposed to be something Jack was unaware of, something just for us. What I mean is, we as an audience can see that final confrontation coming, at least partially because we watch movies. We know how these things tend to play out, that they will come to a head eventually. So we're left wondering when. But does Jack have that same feeling? Could he even tell the difference between it and the usual air of danger that pervades his life?

I wouldn't say you have to see The American. The story about the hired gun who is tiring of the work isn't a new one, though this film tells it fairly well. You might find the connections between characters a little vague, which I think was purposeful. My dad and I had some confusion about they were related, who they were calling, and so on. That might have just been us, though. If the opportunity arises to see it, at a friends, or as a rental, I'd say give it a chance.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 26 - High Treason, Part 1

Plot: Brisco and Bowler are placed under arrest and put on trial, accused of treason. At the trial, the story behind this is revealed from testimony by Colonel March (Terry Bradshaw, BOOOO!), Brisco, and Pete Hutter?! Yes, Pete survived a throwing star to the back.

As it turns out, Brisco and Bowler were approached by General Quarry to put together a team to rescue Jennifer Hart, daughter of a powerful newspaper publisher, from one Carlos Falco, who is constantly leading raids across the border to before fleeing back to Mexico. Which is how we get Pete, Whip Morgan, Aaron Viva, and Professor Wickwire all in the same place. Upon reaching Falco's stronghold, it's quickly apparent things aren't as they seem, but due to some communication breakdowns, they end up taking Jennifer back, only to change their minds and let her escape. They facilitate the escape by throwing TNT at approaching cavalry units. Yeah, the Army doesn't like it when you throw dynamite at them. And here we are, as it becomes readily apparent that Brisco and Bowler are pawns in a much larger plan by Quarry and Mr. Hart, with March as the ambitious, boot kissing lackey.

Despite a valiant effort by Socrates in place of the worthless Army lawyer they were assigned, the outcome is never in doubt, and the penalty for treason is to face the firing squad.

Does Brisco use his gun? No.

Stuff Comet does: Play chess.

Kiss Count: 0 (22 overall).

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? Yes.

Pete Hutter Quote: 'I have never violated any agricultural quarantine laws.'

Non-Pete Quote: Bowler - 'Tell me that ain't Jennifer Hart with her arms around Carlos Falco?'

Coming Things: Rhinestone jackets, there's mention of an airship.

Other: Obviously we just saw Whip in the previous episode, and Pete in the one before that. We hadn't seen Viva since "Hard Rock", or Wickwire since "Steel Horses".

I don't normally mention the chapter titles, but the first one in this episode was "The Unprofessionals", playing off the movie The Professionals, with Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode, and Robert Ryan trying to rescue Claudia Cardinale from Jack Palance and make it back across the border. I still haven't decided whether Palance played it too crazy, or not crazy enough. Things were not as they seem in that film as well.

Pete's middle name is Leviticus. His demands for his assistance have decreased since "Baby Makes Three". Now he wants a pardon and his piece back. No air screw? He's great in this episode. From his premature insults to his cellmate, to bringing his own Bible when he gives his testimony (which he sets down and nudges away with his foot eventually). Even Pete knows Wickwire is a father figure to Brisco.

The serious flaw in Brisco's plan was he never worked out an "abort" signal with Pete.

The trial is an irritating thing to watch. Intentionally, I'm sure, since it's so rigged. Their defense lawyer asks open-ended questions on cross examination. The prosecution is allowed to ask blatantly leading questions, and make long-winded, prejudicial, ass-kissing speeches during what is supposed to be cross-examination. The tribunal even threatens Brisco and Bowler with contempt of court, which is pretty funny considering they're trying them for treason and planning to shoot them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Don't Forget The Violent Women

That whole time I was doing the year in review posts I was watching movies, so now it's a matter of trying to catch up. Might as well start with The Violent Men.

Something I realized watching Key Largo was I can't take Edward G. Robinson seriously when he plats a gangster. I keep thinking of a Bugs Bunny cartoon that had a version of him in it that Bugs humiliated. I see Johnny Rocko acting tough, and all I can think of is cartoon Edward G. Robinson on his knees, pleading with "Bugsy" not to rub him, while Bugsy grimly informs him, 'It's curtains for you, Rocky.' Cue, slamming curtains over his head and running of, as Rocky snarls, 'Oh, Rocky's really mad now!' Kind of nerfed him.

I mention that because Robinson plays Lee Wilkison in The Violent Men. Lee runs the Anchor ranch, which dominates the valley it occupies, and is in the process of cementing that grasp, by harassing all the other ranchers, the farmers, and so on into selling at pitifully low prices. Well, Lee lowballs them, but he lost the use of his legs in some earlier land struggle, so his brother Cole (Brian Keith) has returned and is leading the fear campaign. The next target is the last rancher, John Parrish (Glenn Ford), and he shouldn't be much trouble. He doesn't carry a gun, and he only moved out West because the climate was good for the wound he suffered in the Civil War. Now that he's healed, he's ready to sell and move east with his lady love. He initially pretends to take offense at the low offer, but he still plans to sell.

Cole proceeds to bollix that up, by sending out a bunch of the Anchor guys, who kill one of Parrish's men. Parrish, knowing the sheriff is a crooked, cowardly sumbitch in the pocket of the Anchor ranch, manages to goad the guilty party into drawing on him, and kills him with his deceased man's gun, thus sparing his other employees the trouble of being accused of murder. But now the hand is dealt, Parrish can't leave. Despite his best efforts, he cares enough about this valley and the other people in it he can't leave and let the Wilkison's dominate it. So it's to be war.

The real star of the movie for me was Barbara Stanwyck, who plays Martha Wilkison, the matriarch of the Anchor Ranch, and the true power. Everything Lee does, he does for her, because he promised her the entire valley would be hers. The twist is the same is true of Cole, who is here at her urging, because Lee seems to have mellowed with age. Perhaps the loss of the use of his legs has given him a greater appreciation for the cost of violence. Martha supports him publicly, but privately carries on an affair of convenience with Cole to keep him wrapped around her finger. Eventually, Cole figures this out, and chooses to leave and live with his actual girlfriend, Elena. But the moment it appears Lee is out of the picture, he throws Elena over and runs back to Martha, every true thing he knew about her having flown out of her head.

I'm very impressed with Martha. She's devious, cunning, and cruel (and more than a little racist). It's not uncommon to see an evil rancher in a Western with those attributes. Robert Ryan played Ike Clanton that way in Hour of the Gun. It's a little different for a women to get to play that character, though. She manipulates Lee and Cole into doing her bidding. Even when Lee grows tired of the violence, or Cole tired of her running hot and cold on him, they still do what she wants, because she knows what to say to override their common sense. She uses her daughter's temperamental nature to sabotage her attempt to blow the lid on Martha's scheming. Takes advantage of Parrish's aggression to remove another roadblock, and get the full force of the law behind her side of the conflict. It all falls apart on her eventually, because this Western was made in the '50s, not the '70s, and so ambiguous or crappy depressing endings were not the default, and it is immensely satisfying when it happens.

There is a romantic occurrence at the very end that doesn't feel properly built up to, but it's late enough in the film, and short enough that it doesn't detract from the movie overall.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's The Value In It?

I've been thinking about why it's so vital to the powers in the afterlife that they get Mitch Shelly's soul. Offhand, it seems like there's some sort of cosmic rule that when someone dies, one of the afterlife realms/dimensions/planes has to get their soul. Total # of deaths = Total # of souls. Mitch, having died a whole bunch of times, would throw things out of whack. This also leads me to wonder how someone like pre-relaunch Ragdoll would fit in, since he had no soul at all, and it was indicated that while rare, that is not a completely unique situation. That would mean more deaths without souls landing anywhere.

The angel did make a comment that Mitch's soul shines brightly from all his resurrections, but I can't quite figure what that would mean. Are resurrections supposed to be the sole province of divine beings, and that fact Mitch can manage it so readily and so frequently makes him extraordinarily powerful, and thus valuable? Or does it make him an affront to their sense of superiority, and that's why they want to stop him? Neither side seems particularly nice, as I don't buy that bit about how the plane from issue 1 was destined to crash. Yes, it crashed because you attacked Mitch while he was on it and it was in the air. If she exhibits more restraint, or heck, less restraint and attacks while it's still on the ground, things would have been fine.

Then I had another thought. What if Mitch's soul does cross over every time he dies, but he gains a new one when he comes back? It could explain his lack of memories, if we go with the idea certain strong memories would be attached to the soul, rather than particular neurons in the brain. It might also relate somehow to his having a different power each time he dies.

In that circumstance, if Mitch is more frequently a good man, there would be an imbalance. Heaven, or whatever realms collect good souls in the DCU, would be getting a surplus thanks to Mitch dying all the time. He might be a jerk some of the time, so the other side would get a few, but on the whole, they'll be losing out. Which could be a sticking point, if you figure that the afterlife realms are in conflict with each other, and more souls equal more power. It would certainly be in the losing side's interest to cut that off, but it might also be in the interests of the side that's currently ahead. After all, given enough time, Mitch might grow bitter, resentful, angry, and lash out in ways that would start sending his souls the other way. Better to stop the whole thing while they still have the edge.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Good Thing Asking For Movies As Gifts. . .

You don't feel bad for wasting your own money if you don't like them.

I hadn't head of Twelve Chairs before, but I figured Mel Brooks has a pretty high success rate with me, it was worth a try. I didn't realize the movie is based on a story by two Russian journalists. I think that, combined with being made somewhat earlier in Brooks' career (it's his second directorial credit, after The Producers) is why it doesn't feel very much like one of his films.

The story is set in 1927, and former aristocrat Ippolit Vorobyaninov (Ron Moody) is still struggling with being a menial clerk in the new Soviet state. His mother, on her deathbed, confides that she hid her jewels in one of the 12 chairs they had in their dining room before the Revolution. Vorobyaninov sets off after the chairs, which naturally leads him all over Russia, in the company of a sort of roguish beggar named Ostap Bender (Frank Langella). Before she died, Ippolit's mother also revealed this secret to her priest (Dom DeLuise), so he's in the mix as well.

There was on bit in the film that really made me laugh. A street sign said "Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky Way", except Trotsky had been X'ed out. What? On the whole, I didn't find it very amusing. If DeLuise had toned things down about 4 notches, I think his character would have worked better, but as it stood, he overdid it so much it was mostly annoying.

I couldn't understand why Bender didn't ditch Ippolit sooner. I understand the thematic reason, assuming I understand what Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov were going for, but on a pure story level it doesn't make sense. Bender does more of the work in finding the chairs, getting them into places, past guards or employees. The few times he asks Ippolit to do something, such as taking part in a play to maintain the lie that he's an actor), Ippolit utterly fails.

I'm sure there's a point to that. The bourgeois are greedy, selfish, proud and haughty without having any particular skills to merit being proud. They are completely worthless, existing only to drain others' wealth and prosperity. The one time Ippolit is useful, it's by pretending to have epilepsy so that people will take pity and give him money they need to continue. But Bender is the one who conceived of the idea, and he likely could have figured another way. Granted, it probably would have been something sleazy like wooing some housewife (he clearly fancies himself a ladies' man), but still, he could have managed without Ippolit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's Under The Surface?

Something else I'm wondering about in regards to Grifter. What exactly happens when a Daemonite hops into a human body? Is it simply a soul/mind transfer, or something else? We see this blue mist or ghost leave the bodies they were inhabiting when one dies. In some cases, it's more like they took a person's skin, and fit it over their regular bodies. The cop in issue 2, the one the military has video footage of impersonating a soldier.

The first method seems more careful, since it wouldn't seem to leave any evidence the deceased was anything other than a normal human, but the second seems to make them more powerful. At least, those Daemonites have kicked Cole around more than the one on the airplane was able to.

Maybe it's a progressive thing. They transfer their essence into a human, but gradually they form a body inside the person. Sort of the reverse of how a pearl is formed, where the oyster gradually coats the grit and builds up this shiny coating so it doesn't irritate them.

Which raises the question of how far they got with Cole. He can hear them and he's at least occasionally showing greater-than-human reflexes (catching an arrow fired at him). Whatever the Daemonites were transferring into him, it doesn't seem to have a consciousness of its own. That doesn't mean there couldn't be something forming inside him as things progress.

This is the frustrating thing about Grifter. There are all these conceptual things, world-building I guess, that I find really intriguing. Yet I didn't stick with the book because the characters failed to engage me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dilemma Of The Gun

It's interesting that James Garner played Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun, since he'd play Earp again years later in Sunset. I wonder how often that happens, an actor playing the same character in unrelated films.

Unlike Sunset, Hour of the Gun is a more typical Earp film, focusing on the OK Corral and the aftermath, with Jason Robards as Doc Holliday, and Robert Ryan as Ike Clanton. I still prefer Tombstone myself, but this version has some things to recommend it. It's either more focused, or just less subtle about the idea that Wyatt is going against what he believes in. When the Earps are put on trial for their actions in the shootout, Wyatt makes it clear that he's not prone to killing men, except in upholding the law. This in contrast to Doc, who has mostly killed men over money since the war ended. Once of his brothers is killed and the other crippled however, Wyatt is depicted as having accepted the federal marshal position as a way to get revenge. He uses the badge as a license to kill, at one point goading one of the men responsible into drawing his gun so Wyatt can kill him.

That's contrasted with Doc who has signed on to watch out for his friend, and also because he seems to find the idea of serving law novel. At one point, while searching for liquor, he comes across one of the men with two buddies, and makes an honest attempt to arrest him. The two friends object, shooting ensues, and Wyatt, who had trailed Doc, gets to kill the guilty party. Doc ends up being Wyatt's conscience, for all the good it does.

My dad pointed out that Wyatt was throwing away everything he believed in, and for what? I said, the satisfaction of killing the men who killed his brother. Great, he says, what's he got left after he does that? Which made me think of two things. First, Ennis' Widowmaker arc in Punisher, where Jenny has to deal with the same issue.

Second, the idea of situational ethics. I considered bringing that up with him then, but the movie was still going, and it seemed likely to distract. I wondered if Wyatt couldn't set aside his principles because of the circumstances. Normally, he wouldn't abuse the power of the law to carry out personal scores, but in this particular situation, he had to bend his principles a little, or he might break. There were no witnesses, there was no legal way to arrest and convict those men, and Clanton made it quite clear he wasn't willing to settle for merely driving the Earps away from Tombstone. In that case, standing to his principles was a good way to get him and his entire family killed. Even if he survived somehow, he'd have to live with everyone else being dead.

Monday, January 16, 2012

What's Their Game?

The last page of Grifter #4 reminded me of certain questions I've had for awhile. One of the Daemonites interrogating Ms. Reese states that it hates this world, and this body it's in, and will do anything to get away from both.

I've wondered pretty much since the series started what was the Daemonites' purpose on Earth. They don't seem to be making a concerted effort to conquer the planet. There isn't yet any pattern apparent to the people whose appearances they assume. If Cole's near miss was anything to go by, they mostly work by opportunity, seizing easy targets. Which minimizes the risk, but doesn't allow for a strategic approach. Maybe they couldn't manage that, if what the one Daemonite said about Earthlings all looking alike was true. They wouldn't be able to distinguish people in useful positions to replace. At any rate, Dire Wraiths they aren't.

I thought there might be a chance they were searching for something. An object, maybe a person. They showed up five years earlier, right around the time all the superheroes and other strange things appeared in the DCU. Maybe something they wanted fell to Earth. That's how Earthworm Jim got his supersuit, it was lost in transit, and he ended up having to fend off all the alien weirdos who came looking for it. Admittedly, different universe, but the point is, that's something that happens in fictional universes where aliens show up. So far, there hasn't been any indication they're looking for something.

Mostly, they seem concerned with staying hidden. Which would explain why they're so freaked about Cole. He can hear their discussions, which means he can help locate them, which means their covers aren't secure. But if they hate being here, and hate pretending to be human, why not leave? The simplest answer is they can't. Their ship or transmatter portal is busted, and they're stuck here until they fix it, someone comes to pick them up, or they stumble across a man-made method of getting where they want to be. In that case, why impersonate people? There have to be places on the earth they could go and retain their regular appearances and just wait, or work on their ship.

The other possibility is they're hiding from something else. Something that scares them so badly, they hide in the bodies of creatures they despise because it offers them some protection. In that case, it might be better to randomly take people to hide within, because they can spread out over a larger area. That might prevent whatever they're afraid of from wiping them all out in one go. Assuming it doesn't have the firepower to level the entire world, or if it does, that it's unwilling to do so without evidence Earthlings are in cahoots with the Daemonites. Being scattered, if one of them was attacked, it could alert the others and their distance would give them a bit of time to prepare.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 25 - Bad Luck Betty

Plot: It's Socrates' birthday, and the celebration's being held at the Horseshoe Club. Whip Morgan (having returned quite quickly from Arizona, where he said he was going at the end of the previous episode) has even finagled Soc a giant cake. With a girl inside, naturally. The lights go off, and when they come back on, the cake is there, and so is the girl, but Soc is not.

The trail leads to Midnightville (Population: Strange). Unfortunately, Sheriff Hyde's in a full body cast, which means the only help from local law enforcement the guys can expect is Deputy Betty O'Donnell (Annabella Price). "Bad Luck" Betty, as she's known. With the hotel burned down, the guys seek lodging in a funeral parlor-turned- boarding house run by a Diana Grayson (Jane Sibbett). Diana is young and pretty (which means Whip's head get turned), but she's also a bit strange herself, setting a place at the table for her deceased father, discussing his theories on people returning from the dead. And wouldn't you know it? That's just what seems to have happened. Donald Grayson, dead for 10 years, is back and taking revenge on those he feels executed him unjustly, including Socrates.

Does Brisco use his gun? He fired repeatedly at the ghostly hearse, and he shot through some hangin' ropes.

Stuff Comet does: Know when to take cover.

Kiss Count: 0 (22 overall)

Is Pete Hutter in this episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Quote: Betty - 'Oh, it was an accident.'

Coming Things: Hot showers, battery-powered horseless carriages, girls jumping out of cakes!

Other: I wrote in my notes, 'Does everyone on this show have 2 dead parents?' Diana, Bowler, Brisco, Whip's mother and the man who was like a father to him are dead, though his biological father isn't. No idea about Soc's parents, though.

The episode is pretty clearly doing a Psycho homage, between the ominous boarding house set on the hill, the truth about the killer, and they even do a gag based on the shower scene. And it is a pretty grim episode, with at least two murders, and several other close calls for Brisco, Bowler, Whip, Soc, a Mrs. Van Allen, and so on. But when you incorporate Betty into the mix, plus the general humorous tone of the series, it feels like a Scooby-Doo episode.

'I'd have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling bounty hunters and their horse!'

Next week, we start the two-part season (and series) finale.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Seven Months Behind Everyone Else. . .

It's an X-Men First Class review! Well, calling it a review may be a bit strong. I tried watching the film two Wednesdays ago while Alex was at work. I got as far as Little Charles and Raven's first meeting before turning it off, and watching Rio Bravo with the commentary on instead. I was in some strange mood that night, I don't know. So I tried again the next morning, and made it the whole way through.

Which makes it sound like more of a chore than it actually was. I think I may have liked it more than any of the other X-flicks. I never watched X3, the first two were OK, and Wolverine would have been better if it had decided whether it wanted to be silly or ultra-dramatic, and then stuck with it*. First Class seemed better written, and had a more consistent tone. Serious, but not to such an extent there couldn't be some funny moments.

I still wouldn't rank it with my favorite comic property movies. I took about a page of notes while watching it, and when I'm not complimenting Kevin Bacon on his stylish coat, or calling various characters "Man of Action", I'm asking questions.

Is it a good idea to disrupt the concentration of the guy levitating your submarine? *Erik drops sub on beach, submarine breaks open* I guess not.

How were the non-Sebastian Shaw mutants going to survive a nuculear war when their sub was right in the middle of it? Could Shaw absorb the energy in a sufficient radius to shield them? What were the Cubans up to during all that? I at least expected the military to show up and defend their own beach.

Why couldn't Darwin adapt to having an energy ball dropped down his throat? I wasn't under the impression his power required conscious control. Why say afterward you can't even bury him? You can bury ashes.

During her visit to the 'Russian military retreat'**, why did Emma remove her coat, when she was just going to use telepathy to make the Russian general think he was getting some? That was a big house, with large windows, probably inefficient central heating. She didn't need to remove her coat. How did Erik manage to crack her neck if she's really diamond in that form?

OK, most of those are petty little things, and by and large, I enjoyed the film. Xavier's portrayed as vastly overconfident in his ability to manipulate people, which fits with a young man who hasn't had much difficulty in his life up to then. So, faced with real challenges, he makes mistakes, like misjudging Raven's inner turmoil, and I wasn't a fan of his mindwipe of Moira. I know, he had to protect his students, but there had to be some way to pull that off that doesn't leave the CIA director saying essentially, 'This is why you don't let skirts in the Agency." Anyway, it is interesting to see that Charles in his own way, is ruthless. He's not as indifferent to other's suffering as Erik, but he can still be the cause of it easily enough.

Erik, of course, loves to play the victim, even when he has enough power that shouldn't be an issue. He immediately blames Moira for Charles paralysis. Never mind he was the one who simply altered the trajectory of the bullets when could have easily stopped them like he did the dozens of missiles moments before. I guess that's the good things about Erik and Charles, they call each other on their bullshit. I'm not sure how much either one listens to the other, though. They both seem too entrenched, even at their relatively young ages, to consider the weaknesses of their respective positions.

I'm glad I watched it the whole way through, even if I don't feel the need to see it again. Alex Summers' Hula Hoops of Death alone were worth seeing once. Oh, and Oliver Platt as the Man in Black. So happy to have his theory validated, and just as quickly he loses control of the situation, when Charles points out his telepathic amplifier is useless without a willing telepath to use it.

* Not that action movies can't have humor. I like some funny with my fighting and explosions, but Wolverine swung so wildly from one to the other it was jarring. All the dramatic screaming at the sky, then lets have a boxing match with a really fat guy, or see Logan destroy the kind old couples' bathroom.

** I love those titles. That one and 'Covert CIA Research Base'. Apparently they hadn't hit the Age of Cool Names for Places yet.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 Comics In Review - Part 5

This brings us to the end of the year in review posts. After this, I'll get back to the usual mix of books, movies, Brisco, and yes, comics.

I was looking at the Part 5 lists from the previous two years, and I'd say 2011 was somewhere in the middle of them. It was a better year than 2010 in terms of ongoing series (I could have done a Top 1 for 2010's ongoings), but not nearly as good for mini-series. On the flip side, 2009 was generally a better year for ongoings, but it wasn't quite as strong on mini-series. It's close, though.

Favorite Ongoing Series (min. 6 issues purchased):
1. Daredevil
2. Batgirl
3. Heroes for Hire
4. Darkwing Duck

1 and 2 are pretty close, then there's a bit of a gap, because H4H didn't have as strong a stable of artists as Batgirl and DD.

Favorite Single Issue of Each Ongoing (min. 4 issues):
Angel & Faith #3
Avengers Academy #14
Batgirl #18
Batman Beyond #6
Daredevil #6
Darkwing Duck #13
Grifter #3
Heroes for Hire #6
R.E.B.E.L.S. #27
Resurrection Man #4
Secret Six #30

Favorite Mini-Series:
1. Mystery Men
2. Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X
3. Legion of Monsters
4. Annihilators

MM gets the nod because the next 2 haven't finished yet. There's a chance Clevinger or Hopeless could flub the ending, like DnA did on Thanos Imperative. Other than that, those 3 are pretty close, with Annihilators lagging because of the art on the title story.

Favorite One-Shot:
1. Defenders - From the Marvel Vault
2. Avengers Academy Giant-Size
3. Thanos Imperative - Devastation

Those are really the only options.

Favorite Trade (bought in 2011, regardless of whether it was released then):
1. Atomic Robo Vol. 4 - Other Strangeness
2. Suicide Squad - Trial By Fire
3. Taskmaster - Unthinkable
4. Dr. Strange - Into the Dark Dimension

Favorite Writer:
1. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
2. Christos Gage
3. Ian Brill
4. Brian Clevinger

Favorite Artist (min. 110 pages produced):
1. Tim Green II
2. Patrick Zircher
3. James Silvani
Honorable Mentions (artists I like who did reach the page cutoff): Fernando Dagninio, Juan Doe, Rebekah Isaacs, Marcos Martin, Dustin Nguyen, Paolo Rivera, Ryan Stegman, Brad Walker

That covers everything I can think of. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Comics In Review - Part 4

It's rare DC wreaks more havoc on my pull list then Marvel. 'Course, it's also rare they cancel and relaunch their entire line. Usually my pull list dwindles slowly, due to the steady attrition of Marvel canceling something I'm buying every few months.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #24-28: I think this was actually canceled to make room for all the Flashpoint garbage, but a cancelation is a cancelation. The only real story was the revenge of Starro the Conqueror, who fell a bit short, largely because he's terrible at employee relations. Tony Bedard wrote all 5 issues, and Claude St. Aubin drew most of it, except for 10 pages HDR (is it H? I keep thinking it might be KDR, the font isn't terribly clear) drew in #26.

High Point: The back and forth between Starfire and her sister was entertaining, and Lobo and Smite deciding they liked fighting and drinking together too much to kill each other was a nice turn of events. The tone of the book in general wasn't overly serious, which I appreciated.

Low Point: There isn't much that stands out. Not because it was a great book, but it was a solid one. Not ground-breaking, but getting the little things right. Except for that bit in the last issue where some of the pages were stapled in the wrong order.

Resurrection Man #1-4: Mitch Shelly tries to figure out his life while avoiding people from his old job, as well as some very determined otherworldly soul collectors. More DnA writing, with Fernando Dagnino as penciler, Santi Arcas as colorist, and Rob Leigh as letterer.

High Point: I'm really enjoying the idea of the afterlife realms being after Mitch, even if there are aspects of it that don't make sense to me. The Body Doubles have been more fun than I found them last time, and Dagnini's art channels Gene Colan occasionally. Not always, but sometimes when it's appropriate, that's what it reminds me of, and that's never a bad thing.

Low Point: I was a little disappointed the Transhuman wasn't really an old man assassin.

Rocketeer Adventures #1-4: Anthology series are always dicey. I mentioned that last year with Girl Comics, but the stuff I like is over too soon, to make room for stories I may not like. This was definitely a mixed bag, but I'll still give the next round a try.

High Point: The John Cassaday story that led off issue 1, and the one Darwyn Cooke did in issue 2 as sort of a movie serial where Betty saved Cliff.

Low Point: Lowell Francis and Gene Ha's story where Cliff tries to retake some over flight prototype, with the broadcast of a prize fight mixed in. The boxing match aspect of how the story was presented that bugged me. Ryan Sook's offering was a bit overdone. Oh, how awful Cliff saved Betty and everyone in the theater from being robbed at gunpoint!

Secret Six #29-36: The Six survived working for Luthor, squabbled with the Doom Patrol, went to Hell, and tried to destroy Batman's family. They failed at the last one, though Bane seemed sastified with disentangling himself from the rest of them. Gail Simone wrote all the issues, J. Calafiore drew 30-36, Marcos Marz drew issue 29.

High Point: I liked the Doom Patrol match-up. Couple of oddball teams, with oddball bosses. I'll have to get around to getting the second part of it one day. Bane's trip to the carnival with Spencer was amusing in its awkwardness. I must say, Spencer was remarkably open-minded about Bane's life. King Shark's version of Hell. Clearly I like the book best when it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Low Point: Catman trying to threaten Etrigan was a bit ridiculous, to the point I wouldn't have minded the Demon handing Blake his entrails. The Luthor match-up did nothing for me. I don't care about the pissing match between Vandal and Lex, and I already knew Vandal was a terrible father.

She-Hulks#3, 4: This book kind of caught a bad break. Changed to a mini-series before it even really got going. Jen and Lyra continued to capture Intellegencia members, only for the Wizard to use what he received as bribes for helping to escape and attack Lyra at the prom. Which outed her as a Hulk and ruined her life. Funny, I thought things went better for the ladies, and it was the guy Hulks who had all the bad luck and hated being Hulks? Harrison Wilcox wrote a fine story and Ryan Stegman drew it well, with an assist from his inker Michael Babinski. Guru eFX helped make everything bright and clear (I really prefer books with bright color schemes. Maybe because so many books are dull and murky these days).

Suicide Squad #1-3: Ugh, do I have to? Fine. It's the last book I tried coming straight out of the relaunch. Adam Glass writes it. Federico Dallocchio drew part of issues 1 and 2. ransom Getty drew the other half of issue 1, Andrei Bressan the other part of issue 2. Cliff Richards drew all of issue 3. While Alex loved the first 3 issues when he read them, I hated them. The sex and violence don't seem to have a purpose other than to be edgy or mature, and the way the characters behave not keeps butting up against how I think they ought to act.

High Point: Captain Boomerang didn't have a bad entrance. Getty's art wasn't bad.

Low Point; Everything else.

Thanos Imperative: Devastation: The one-shot that outlined certain aspects of the post-Thanos Imperative status quo, and assembled the Annihilators for their mini-series. Still more Abnett and Lanning, this time with Miguel Sepulveda as artist.

Villains for Hire #0.1, 1: Purple Man escaped from prison during H4H's Fear Itself tie-in. Since Misty had taken control of what was originally his idea, he's started up a separate enterprise, using villains to do his dirty work, rather than heroes. Which is probably safer, if less personally satisfying. His problem is that Misty has her own crew of villains working against his. The last thing we'll touch on written by DnA, with Renato Arlem on art chores, and Jay David Ramos as colorist.

Wolverine and the Black Cat - Claws II #1-3: Arcade and the White rabbit find a friendly alien, steal some of her weapons, and send the heroes into the future where they team-up with Killraven until they rescue that same alien, who helps them travel back to their time. Jimmy Pamiotti and Justin Gray wrote it, and Joseph Michael Linsner drew it. I was hoping for a lot more Arcade, personally.

I'm just going to skip "High Point, Low Point" for that one. Which brings us to the end of the comics. All that's left is lists made according to my arbitrary standards.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2011 Comics In Review - Part 3

The last few years I've kept track of which artists I was buying the most of work of, out of idle curiosity I suppose. I usually track who makes it to 110 and 154 pages (5 and 7 22-page comics, respectively). So it was 13 and 6 in '09 (I typed 15 in a post back then, but I can't remember the 15th artist, and the 14th was Gabriel Hardman, who was actually a few pages shy), and 9 and 3 in 2010.

This year I considered lowering the cutoffs to 100 and 140 pages, since DC and Marvel have each gone to 20 pages an issue. If I do that then it's 10 and 3, but if I stick to the 110/154 line, then it's 7 and 2, because Pere Perez (101), Sean Chen and Brad Walker (108 each) are all a little short, and J. Calafiore (140) did draw 7 complete comics, but they were each only 20 pages. The only artists to clear the 154 line were Tan Eng Huat (160 pages) and James Silvani (250). There's always one artist way ahead of the others. Silvani this year, Calafiore in 2010, Paco Medina in 2009. I'm sure you've had enough numbers talk, so I'll get to the books.

Defenders #1: By Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson, as the Hulk asks his old Defenders acquaintances to track the physical manifestation of all his rage and anger. It could be an interesting story, but I have some concerns about Fraction's approach to Dr. Strange and to a lesser extent, Namor.

Defenders - From the Marvel Vault #1: I bought this because I liked the Busiek/Larsen Defenders series, and I generally enjoy Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley, and Kurt Busiek's work. This was a fill-in Nicieza and Bagley did just in case, that never ended up being needed, and the script's been lost over the years, and so Busiek basically came up with a story based on the art. Which is pretty cool.

Fear Itself - Fearsome Four #2-4: Jack never got around to sending me a first issue, and frankly, I'd have been fine if he forgot to send the rest of the issues as well. Brandon Montclare wrote it, and a wide variety of artists drew it. Simon Bisley, Ryan Bodenheim, Ray-Anthony Height, and Don Ho for issue 2. Tom Grummet on layouts, with Height doing pencils, and a few pages by Flint Henry for issue 3. Height, Tim Green II, Rick Ketcham, and Michael Kaluta on issue 4.

High Point: The overall idea was sound, Man-Thing driven crazy by an entire world gripped by fear? Psycho-Man trying to take advantage? A ragtag group of heroes left to deal with it because everyone else is too busy getting cool armor from a drunk Tony Stark? And with Man-Thing's access to the Nexus of Realities, having different artists makes perfect sense.

Low Point: The execution wasn't quite there. Still not sure what was up with the New Fantastic Four's attitudes, or Montclare's take on Nighthawk. The idea that it was the fear of the heroes that were fighting him that was driving Man-Thing nuts, amongst all the other terrified people seemed like it was pushing too hard for the idea of fear feeding into itself.

Flashpoint - Secret Seven #2: I haven't read much by him, but people usually speak well of Peter Milligan's work, and George Perez was supposed to draw it, so even if the writing was crap it would look good. But Perez didn't even finish the first issue (which I never got), and Fernando Blanco drew this, and it made very little sense, and hopefully I've learned my lesson about buying tie-in mini-series to Big Events I don't care about.

Grifter #1-4: And we reach the first of my New 52 purchases! With Nathan Edmondson as writer, Cafu as artist for issues 1-3, and Scott Clark drawing issue 4. Cole Cash can hear the disguised aliens, but he's the only one, so he has to try and stop them before they, the authorities, or annoying superheroes like Green Arrow stop him. Whether that happens or not, someone else will have to tell me, because I've dropped it.

High Point: Like Fearsome Four, the concept is solid. Edmondson's dialogue is fine. I really like how Cafu would incorporate the title of each story into the page itself, like making it part of the 'copter's spinning blades in issue 3.

Low Point: The characters failed to grab hold. I don't care about any of them, including Cole. I don't understand why people with projectile weapons keep walking up to each other and standing with their weapons pressed against each other's chest. The point of projectile weapons is you don't have to be close! Oh, and 4 issues in, I have no idea what the Daemonites are up to, why they're here, why they pretend to be human, why they take the humans they do, on and on.

Heroes for Hire #2-12: Hey, only one Marvel ongoing I was buying was canceled this year! 'Course, I've only bought 4 to begin with. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning wrote it, with art by Brad Walker (2, 3, 6, 8, 12), Robert Atkins (4 and 5), Tim Seeley (7), and Kyle Hotz (9-11). The heroes smashed various criminal enterprises, only to learn they were being manipulated by the Puppet Master. Then they had to smash those operations again, with an assist from Spider-Man and some trouble with Batroc the Leaper. Then there was a Fear Itself tie-in, then they smashed the illegal Atlantean drug operation for good by getting Namor's attention.

High Point: Any issue Brad Walker drew was pretty good. Even if I find his faces a little odd sometimes, he knows how to draw action. I liked the Spider-Man team-up, because he was sort of funny, but not as funny as he thought he was, because Misty got out of the chair and did some damage on her own, and because it amuses me how irritated Paladin gets with Spidey.

Low Point: The Fear Itself tie-in worked fairly well for the book, but I still would have preferred to see what DnA would have done with those issues without having to tie-in. It's not like it bought the title much extra time. I don't think Abnett and Lanning get Silver Sable's voice right, which is a little thing, but it does bother me. I also don't think the Punisher would have shot the Puppet Master that quickly, without even trying to torture some information out of him.

Legion of Monsters #1-3: Something is driving the inhabitants of the Monster Metropolis mad, and so Elsa Bloodstone reluctantly teams up with Morbius and his group of monster cops to try and find out what it is and stop it. Dennis Hopeless writes, Juan Doe handles the art, Wil Quintana is the colorist, and Dave Lanphear in the letterer.

High Point: Elsa's assualt on Dracula's castle was entertaining. The bickering amongst the monsters is amusing. Juan Doe's art is very nice. He gets a lot done with what seems to be very few lines, and Quintana's doing some excellent work with the colors. There are plenty of shadows, but not in a way that makes it hard to tell what's happening.

Low Point: That Doe had to draw Dracula in his current, lame incarnation? That issue 2 didn't have nearly as much monsters with motorcycles action as the cover suggested?

Mystery Men #1-5: David Liss comes up with some pulp archetype heroes and sets them in the Great Depression against a group of powerful, greedy people, and a highly dangerous fear god. There's a lot in the story about how what you do when you lose hope is important, and marks the person you are. Patrick Zircher was the artist, Andy Troy the colorists, and dave Sharpe the letterer.

High Point: The first issue had a lot of dirty cops getting beaten up. Always good to see corrupt people in power taken down a peg. Most of the scenes with Nox and the General were good, especially as a counterpoint to how the General behaves with everyone else. Plus, Zircher can draw very good rotting corpses or attractive (but creepy) ladies, both of which are more necessary than you might think for Nox

Low Point: There wasn't one that I can think of.

Power Man and Iron Fist #1-5: It's what the title suggests, the new Power Man and Iron Fist team-up to try and clear the name of Jennie Royce, Fist's old secretary, of a murder charge, and run afoul of many different problems, from corrupt companies, to freaky gamblers, to shadowy killers, to a comic opera troupe of assassins. Fred van Lente writes it, Wellinton Alves drew issue 1, 4, and 5, and about half of issues 2 and 3. Pere Perez drew the other half of those two issues. Alves has Nelson Pereira as an inker and Bruno Hang as a colorist. Perez inks his own work, and Antonio Fabela colors it.

High Point: The Commedia Dell'Morte, Noir, and Pokerface were interesting ideas. Maybe someone will use them again down the line. Always good when someone adds to the toybox. I wouldn't say it was a great murder mystery, but my general feeling is van Lente played mostly fair with the reader, and I was just too slow to put the pieces together. Nothing new there.

Low Point: I don't think all the heavy shadows really suited Alves' artwork. I liked it better on Nova, where things were a lot brighter.

Tomorrow, the last nine titles. There'll be a couple of good ones in there, but also some severe duds.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Comics In Review - Part 2

Compared to 2010, I bought slightly more comics this year. By "slightly", I mean 135 versus 134. By "comics", I'm talking about new single issues, because, while I am doing better at keeping track of trades, I'm still not tracking back issues buys well. As a rough guess, add those two categories in and 2010 was probably a bigger year. Sticking to the new stuff, Marvel dropped to just under 52% of the total, which is a new low, beating 2010's 59%. DC dropped a little, to about 30%, and everything else comprised 18%, a roughly threefold increase on last year.

Of course, Avengers Academy was supposed to stop showing up six issues sooner, so the total should really be 129, unless I had gotten the first issue of Angel & Faith, plus those two Ducktales issues that were part of "Dangerous Currency", and - ugh - Suicide Squad #4 (which I ordered, but Jack was out of, and I told him that was just fine). That would make 133, and Marvel would be 48%, DC would be about 32%, and everything else would be 20%. As you can tell, my mind has lots of time to wander while I walk dogs.

Batgirl #17-24: A highly enjoyable series lost with the relaunch. Stephanie Brown dealt with the Reapers, who were being manipulated by her father, out of some twisted desire on his part to test her and make her a better hero. You couldn't have just bought her some workout equipment, Arthur? Amongst that she had team-ups with Damien, the Boy Irritant, as well as Squire and Klarion the Witch Boy. Bryan Q. Miller wrote all the issues. Dustin Nguyen drew 18 and 21, Ramon Bachs 19 and 20, and Pere Perez drew 17 and 22-24.

High Point: There were a lot of little moments, such as Steph using "SHAZAM!" as a signal she needed assistance, and those pages at the end of 24 that hinted at the stories we didn't get to see were nice, in a bittersweet day. The prize goes to #18, the Valentine's team-up with Klarion. It was a wonderful mixture of strange and hilarious, and beautifully illustrated by Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, with Guy Major handling the colors on the non-painted parts (which Nguyen painted himself).

Low Point: I don't understand what the Reapers' plan was. Maybe Arthur was just playing them for saps, in which case I don't understand what line of bull he sold them to get them on board initially. Money obviously, but how were they lead to believe that what they were doing would accomplish that? What did trying to steal a lot of decomissioned money all at once have to do with a sample from the corpse of a nun with alleged healing powers have to do with each other?

Batman Beyond #1-8: The book hardly got started before the relaunch came along and shut it down. It'll be starting up again next month, with Norm Breyfogle as artist. Whoo! Adam Beechen had Terry team-up with the Justice League against some dying, angry former employee of theirs, then cope with the return of Blight and labor unrest at Wayne-Powers. Beechen also started a subplot about Max trying to uncover the identity of Undercloud, some renowned 'Net presence. Ryan Benjamin drew issues 1-3, and 5-7. Eduardo Pansica drew #4 and Chris Batista drew #8.

High Point: The Blight story wasn't bad, since it'd been awhile since he was an active presence. The Undercloud subplot is intriguing, as Max is trying to handle it without involving Batman.

Low Point: I didn't like the origin story for Inque in #8. The idea of giving her a tragic origin isn't bad, but it plays at odds with her actions in the story, which make her appear to be someone ruthless, who enjoys inflicting pain on people weaker than her. I mean fine, that's what happened to her, violence gets paid forward, but it's not an origin than enhances the character.

Daredevil #1-7: Oh, this is good stuff right here. Mark Waid writes a Matt Murdock making an active attempt to not let his life be all gloom and doom. Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin draw the hell out of it. Javier Rodriguez (Rivera' color artist) and Muntsa Vicente (Martin's) make it look bright and vibrant. Joe Caramagna is the letterer, and he does an excellent job working with the art, especially Martin, who makes sound effects such a big part of what he does. So far DD's interfered with Klaw's attempt to reconstitute himself (at a shadowy figure's behest), made himself the target of 5 major criminal organizations, and saved a bus load of kids lost in a snowstorm. Or they saved him. Same thing.

High Point: All of it. All of it is great, and lovely, and makes me happy reading it. If I were going to pick just one moment, though? Issue 5. 'Oh no! Six armed mercs wearing night vision goggles! Whatever will I do? *flips light switch* That's some good smart-aleckness right there.

Low Point: There isn't one. Accept it. Move on.

Darkwing Duck #8-18: Boom! lost the licence for this, I assume because Disney owns its own comic company now. What can you do? Ian Brill wrote it, and James Silvani drew it. We saw Darkwing and friends fend off Negaduck and Magica once, then again at the end of the series (plus the Phantom Blot, the Beagle Boys, and a horde of other Darkwing and Ducktales' villains). In between, Darkwing was nearly used to summon Duckthulu, faced a horde of new super-villains, and tried running for mayor, which went as well as anything involving Darkwing and public popularity ever does.

High Point: The battles against some of th new villains, like One-Shot and Cat-Tankerous in issues 13 and 14 were fun, and Silvani can draw a good fight scene, so they looked good as well.

Low Point: I thought the final story felt a little rushed. I'm not sure if Brill was ready to make the big reveal about the ink, or have a Ducktales crossover when he did. Maybe he was, and it's just because I don't have the Ducktales chapters that made the story feel disjointed and cramped. I'm hoping to get those two issues sometime soon.

Darkwing Duck Annual #1: This could have been thrown in with the ongoing, but this section is pretty short, so I don't think it'll hurt. Ian Brill (with Sabrina Alberghetti as artist) did a story about Quackerjack trying to make himself a ton of cash by threatening to turn people into toys, while Darkwing tries to get him away from this more violent approach at the urging of "Jacky's" girlfriend, who met him while they all worked at Quackwerks. The story does not end happily, though Quackerjack does return for the final arc of the ongoing. There's also a backup story by Darkwing creator Tad Stones (with Silvani as artist) about a pet turtle with time-traveling powers.

Tomorrow, we not only finish the Ds, we reach the back half of the alphabet! Because there are a lot of mini-series, one-shots, or ongoings I didn't buy many issues of. 9 different titles in all.

Monday, January 09, 2012

2011 Comics In Review - Part 1

Hi there! If you're new to the blog, this is pretty basic: Parts 1 thru 4 are a look back at each title I bought this year, who worked on the books, some of the major storylines, and what I considered to be high and low points. Sometimes those are in story, sometimes they relate to creative teams, and there's no guarantee there will always be a low point, because sometimes I'm so positive. Part 5 is a list post, and the opening paragraphs will touch on whatever stuff related to my buying habits I feel like mentioning. OK, the recap for new readers is over, let's get going. As has been the case the previous years, most of what I buy is in the front half of the alphabet, so we aren't even reaching the Bs today.

Angel & Faith #2-5: I'm sure I'll get the first issue at some point. The question is whether I'll consider it part of 2011 or 2012. The primary arc is Angel's mission to resurrect Giles, while Faith struggles to stop him without completely taking the wind from his sails. Christos Gage is writing the book, Rebekad Isaacs drew issues 2-4, Phil Noto drew #5, which involved Harmony hiring Angel to help her prevent damage to her reputation.

High Point: I'd say it's how well Gage and Isaacs get the title characters. Their attitude and dialogue sound right, and Isaacs draws them looking recognizably like their actor selves, without being overly stiff and referenced, as sometimes happens when the artist wants to keep a character on a specific model. The book feels right, and it has well-drawn fight scenes and bits of humor.

Low Point: I guess issue #5, mostly because Harmony's willful obliviousness to the destruction in her past grated on my nerves. I don't need Angel's sackcloth, ashes, and rats routine, but acting as though none of it happened is a bit much. The presence of Whistler in #4 wasn't welcome, except for the prospect of one of the title character disemboweling him. He's one of those characters that nips at the heels of real movers and shakers, but acts like a big wheel, and all I can do is wonder how he isn't dead yet.

Annihilators #1-4: This mini-series and the next one are what Cosmic Marvel had to offer in 2011. On one hand, we have the DnA team working with Tan Eng Huat on the heavy hitter team Star-Lord always envisioned guarding the galaxy. On the other, Tim Green II is the artist for the story of Rocket Raccoon tracking down his old buddy Groot to help him figure out why a clown made of living wood was sent to kill him.

High Point: Ronan taking down Doctor Dredd, after the dissing Ikon gave him wasn't bad. The bit with Quasar trying to bluff Immortus was nice, though I fear the idea of Quasar having some major role down the line is going to get lost as readily as the idea of Jack Flag dying to save the universe did. I liked essentially all of the Rocket/Groot back-up.

Low Point: Tan Eng Huat's art isn't suited for big cosmic action. His characters look awkward and stiff, and there's not much sense of force or power in his art.

Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4: The follow-up mini-series, where the heavy hitters (minus the Silver Surfer) travel to Earth to try and stop the return of the Magus, only to end up brawling with the Avengers. Eventually the Avengers realize the Annihilators have good reason to be here and both sides manage to tolerate each other long enough to work together. In the back-up Rocket and Groot are trapped in one of Mojo's television shows, dealing with his mercurial artistic temperment, as well as his desire for maximum merchandising possibilities. Creative teams are the same as on the previous mini.

High Point: The back-up. Especially the duo being menaced by a wide variety of variant Rockets. The Church of Truth zealots on Earth being smart enough to play terrified humans when the Avengers arrive. The back and forth between Captain America and Ronan. Tim Green's art.

Low Point: Let's start with the art on the Annihilators' section, same complaints as before, though if anything, Huat's art look more rushed. I'd have preferred to see more progress on the solution to the Magus problem before the last five seconds, which probably could have happened with less pointless arguing about whether it's OK to kill possessed kids. The Avengers weren't gonna go along with it, just move on.

Atomic Robo - Ghost of Station X #1-4: My first foray into Atomic Robo in single issues. Robo is nearly killed after a fake call from NASA lures him into low Earth orbit, then nearly killed some more by armed troop guys in Nebraska. A valuable lesson about staying out of Nebraska. Meanwhile, an entire building has vanished in England, something Robo is supposed to know about, though he hasn't a clue. It's reached the point where both plots are about to come together. Brian Clevinger's writing, Scott Wegener draws it, Rhonda Pattison colors it, and Jeff Powell letters it.

High Point: I liked the Tesladyne staff coming up with a solution to save the nonexistent orbiter in a short period of time, the ideas proposed and dismissed, and how the one was ultimately implemented. I like how Clevinger's gradually revealing what's going on, and I think Wegener drew the bit with the satellite and Robo's near death well.

Low Point: Wegener's backgrounds are not his strong point, and. . . um, I was confused about what the CB and ham radio people were doing in issue 4? The specifics, not the general idea that they were somehow tracing the orbital signal that was being used to track Robo. It would have been quicker to say "No low point", wouldn't it?

Avengers Academy #8-21: This was supposed to be dropped from my pull after June, but Jack kept sending it. By then it'd picked up enough I didn't mind, and was willing to keep paying for it as long as he kept sending it. He must have decided I was only buying it through Fear Itself, because it stopped showing up in November. Which is fine. It was a nice series, but not one I feel I have to keep reading. Christos Gage wrote this too, with art handled variously by Mike McKone, Tom Raney, Sean Chen, and Andrea DiVito.

High Point: The confrontation between Finesse and Taskmaster in #9 was well done. The prom in #13 had its moments, and the cadets struggle against Titania and the Absorbing Man was well-written. I also liked how serious Pym got when he learned the cadets had been sent into battle. Geez, am I turning into a real Hank Pym fan? What's next, rooting for Cyclops?

Low Point: I know it's in her coninuity now, but I could have done without anyone bringing up The Hood pistol whipping Tigra as she cries. It wasn't that Gage's story in #8 was bad, I just didn't want to be reminded of that. Also, I don't give a damn about Korvac, so 11 and 12 were a dud for me. My favorite artist on the book was probably DiVito, who naturally only drew one issue.

Avengers Academy Giant-Size: This was originally a mini-series called Arcade: Death Game. Then it was canceled and resolicited as this one-shot, which is a better value, pricewise, but I'd rather have the triptych cover that was actually story relevant than the generic Ed McGuiness cover that has Spidey, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers in the background, even though none of them appear in this story. Not even as robot fakes used by Arcade. That's how it goes, I suppose. Paul Tobin wrote it, David Baldeon drew it, Jordi Tarragona inked it, Chris Sotomayor was colorist, and Dave Lanphear lettered it.

Avengers Solo #1-3: I picked this up because I like Hawkeye, and because Jen van Meter wrote an outstanding Black Cat mini-series in 2010 (which I ranked my favorite mini of the year). So far the results have been mixed. There's also a back-up story written by Jim McCann and drawn by Clayton Henry involving Pym, Striker, and Finesse against Alkhema, an old Avengers foe.

High Point: Jen van Meter seems to get Hawkeye, that what he has going for him more than anything is stubborness. That and boundless confidence, which is not quite as much on display. Artists Roger Robinson (issues 1 and 2), and Al Barrionuevo (issue 3) have had some good pages, either nicely done fight scenes, or maybe a particularly good expression.

Low Point: This hasn't worked as well as Black Cat did. Part of that is I like caper flicks, so the Black Cat was in that sweet spot, and Hawkeye isn't going to fit that, so some other plot had to happen. I guess I'd prefer it be less tied to the Avengers. The other part is Robinson and Barrionuevo aren't as strong an art team as the pair of Javiers, Pulido and Rodriguez, van Meter had for Black Cat. For all the good panels or scenes the current artists are doing, there are ones with unclear action, strange anatomy, or curious layout choices. Some of it is Robinson's art was frequently murky and difficult to follow. Which sounds like a colorist issue, but Fabio D'Auria's been the colorist for both of them. Robinson apparently inks himself, while Barrionuevo has Raul Lopez, so maybe that's the difference.

That's a quarter of the books done! Tomorrow will only cover 4 different series, but I will make it into the Ds! Not through them, but I'll at least make a start!