Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do You Want It Now, Or Do You Want It With David Aja?

Here's your hypothetical for the day: Say you could go back and be in charge of Marvel in late 2007, early 2008. David Aja lets you know he's not going to be able to draw his parts of the concluding issues of "The Tournament of the Heavens" arc in Immortal Iron Fist. His wife just had a baby, and he's going to be a little busy with the child rearing and all.

Would you have gone with Marvel's plan, to find some good artists to take Aja's place until his schedule opened up (he drew #16, the final issue before Swierczynski and Travel Foreman took over), or would you have waited, so the book would have a constant look throughout, and really be a Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run? If you prefer, use a different example. J.G. Jones on Final Crisis, Quietly on New X-Men, whatever works best for you.

At the time, when Aja wasn't available for Immortal Iron Fist, I wanted the book to stay on schedule. I'd been annoyed when it skipped some months early in the run (though I think that was because there were things in those issues that would spoil developments in Civil War), and I didn't want any more delays. I wanted to see how the arc ended. Once the book was there, it didn't feel quite right. Tonci Zonjic (and some others, Clay Mann, maybe?) gave it their best shot, but I'd have loved to seen it with David Aja the whole way. So the me of today given those sorts of mythical powers back then, I'd have waited. These days I already wait a month to get comics most times, what's a little more waiting to get the best product possible?

Of course, I have no idea if that makes good financial sense from Marvel's perspective. If we wait, that's months where there's no dollars coming in from sales of Immortal Iron Fist issues that could be released with guest pencilers. At the same time, the delays certain books (Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man) faced while waiting for Steve McNiven to get caught up on Civil War didn't seem to hurt their sales once those delayed issues actually shipped. Civil War itself apparently still sells well in collections. I don't know whether Marvel waiting and letting Steve McNiven draw the whole thing is part of that or not. If so, then it would make sense to wait, let David Aja draw the parts he was originally going to draw, and then here's this lovely trade or hardcover, and new editions can be published whenever from now until the cows come home. Does that even out, financially?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Transhuman Wants Something Different Than I Thought

I just figured out last weekend that when the Transhuman said he was at that rest home because he was waiting for Mitch Shelly, it wasn't because of Mitch's resurrection ability. It was because of the work we saw Mitch doing in the flashback in issue 5. An injection that enables one to heal from almost any wound* would sound promising to someone aging rapidly.

I'm not sure if what the Body Doubles have is what he needs. The compound, whatever it is, might simply perceive his aged body as being in a natural state, with nothing that needs fixing. Which could be a horrible twist for the Transhuman if he later did find a real reversal. He takes it, and the earlier compound registers the changes the true cure is trying to make, and blocks them. He might find himself not aging any further, which isn't terrible, since he's still young and healthy enough to be in full possession of his faculties, but he also couldn't get his body back to the appearance he desires.

* Does it work on illnesses? Can you stop Carmen and Bonnie with Spanish influenza, or would their bodies quickly overwhelm that, too?

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Forget I Have A "Board Games" Tag Sometimes

We tried a game called Name 5 on Saturday. You try and get your piece around the board, and when it lands, you take a card. The card has five topics on it, and you have 30 seconds to list five things for the topic which is the color of the space you landed on.

There are also Double Downs, where you have to get five things each for two topics in 30 seconds, though at least you get to look at the topics on the card and pick two. If you succeed, you get to move double your dice roll. My team had someone very good at rolling 5s and 6s, so we let her handle that (I, unfortunately, am a low roller). At one point, we settled on "Mystery Writers" and "Disney Princesses", because my teammates assured me they could handle the latter, and my dad's books have offered plenty of opportunities for me to get acquainted with the former.

So naturally they froze after being told "Sleeping Beauty" didn't count, because that isn't her real name. Time was ticking away, so I had to blurt out "Ariel and Jasmine", which the rest of my coworkers found hilarious. Whatever, we won that Double Down, and the game. Suck failure, freaks!

Anyway, besides the Double Down, there's also an All Play, which isn't really accurate. That space has two colors. Without looking at the card, the team that lands on it has to pick which color they want. One of the other teams gets the other color. One person from each team looks at the card to see the topic, then they tell their respective teams simultaneously. First team to hit five for their topic get to keep rolling. Our team lost our one brush with that when we had "Motown singers/groups", while the other team got "George Clooney movies".

What? I don't know which groups qualify as Motown.

The finally twist in the game is Flip Flop, which taught us a valuable lesson about following the rules. You take the topic, and each team has 10 seconds to name something that fits. It keeps going round until one team can't answer. We threw out the time limit, which was a bad idea when the Flip Flops started lasting 10 minutes. Eventually, teams would just surrender so we could move on. Always follow the rules, kids! Or Iron Man will throw you in a Negative Zone Prison! But only if you're unpopular.

Us ignoring the rules for Flip Flop aside, I think my biggest problem with the game is that if you succeed in naming 5 things in the allotted time, you get to roll again, up to 5 times. With Double Downs, this meant my team had essentially reached the end of the board before one of the other teams even got to go. I understand the idea of sticking to the "5" theme, but in that case, 2 might have been better. That way it'd be less likely to have one team go on a run and essentially eliminate the others from winning.

That's not exclusive to Name 5, though. We played Cranium earlier in the evening, and in that case it was my team that hadn't even gotten to start before another team was at the end challenge.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Burn Notice 1.4 - Old Friends

Plot: The episode starts with a little male bonding between Sam and Michael at a sports bar. The bonding is ruined by the arrival of an old acquaintance of Mike's. An acquaintance who wants to kill him, which means. . . Sam won't be running a tab at that locale any longer.

Michael's attempts to capture Jan without dying or getting injured are complicated by his brother, Nate showing up with a job. Another old acquaintance of Mike's has lost contact with his daughter, and Nate has promised he and Michael will look into it. Of course, it turns out Nate has his own angry past associates looking for him, which is why he needs the cash this job will bring in.

The Players: Jan Haseck (Czech Assassin), Nate Westen (The Brother), Bill Reese (The Client), Brandon Diggs (The Boyfriend), Wilhelm Brothers (Pimps), Jenna Reese (The Daughter).

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'We want all the records from all the girls you pimped.' Wilhelm - 'Pimped! I'm not a pimp.' Michael - 'You say "tomato", I say "pimp".'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe's Drink Count: 4 (17 overall). Beers, some mojitos.

Sam Getting Punched Count: He threw himself in front of a car hard enough to damage its windshield. That has to count (4 overall).

Mike's Fake Laugh Count: 2 (8 overall).

Other: This episode contains my favorite line from this series ever: 'Dwayne Wade SUCKS!' Not because I have anything against Dwayne Wade, mind you, even if he's no LeBron James (he doesn't vanish as often in the 4th quarter for one thing). I just like how Michael said it. So much volume and false drunken boorishness.

Introducing Nate continues to flesh out the Westen family. Though all the flesh is starting to look awfully similar. Nate is irresponsible and tries the easy way, Michael is frustrated by this, and Madeline makes a conscious decision to ignore their problems. It does explain Michael's periodic tendency to try and do things all by himself, excluding Fi and Sam. Judging by his family, Mike had to do everything if it was going to get done. You think that way often enough, it becomes instinct. We even saw some of it in this episode. Mike tries to exclude Nate from rescuing Jenna. Fiona has to point out she might be better suited for Luring Brandon out than him. He won't cut Sam in on the fact Jan's hunting him. Sure, he claims that's to protect Sam, but it's because he doesn't trust Sam to keep it quiet from the feds until after Michael gets what he needs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Different Interpetations Of What My Closed Wallet Is Saying

I always feel strange when the discussion on comic blogs turns to boycotts. Not because I object to people not buying stuff from DC because of Before Watchmen, or not going to see Avengers opening weekend because of (among other things) the Gary Friedrich contentiousness. I have no issue with people making those decisions, and I more than likely won't be going to see Avengers at all. But that's because I think it's going to be a train wreck. That with the cast size, characterizations will be wafer-thin, villain motivations will be vague or uninteresting, and there'll probably be too much stupid 3-D crap. Ultimately, my decision's based on an issue of quality, rather than any ideals.

I was really excited to see the new Ghost Rider film (figuring even if it was bad, it would be the entertaining sort of bad), but had decided I'd at least wait a few weeks, maybe even hold out and buy it on DVD. Then most of the reviews described it as simply being bad. Never mind that then. Maybe Alex will get a copy I can watch someday, like Iron Man 2, X-Men First Class, and Elektra.

That's how it typically is for me. If I want to buy something, I do, and if not, I don't. I buy about a third the Marvel comics I did 5 years ago, but it's because they kept canceling every book I enjoyed, and their subsequent shift in publishing direction means there are fewer new books I want to try. It comes out to the same result, they have less of my money, but if it's a statement at all, it's one about their product, rather than their poor employee relations.

It wouldn't be too hard for me to cut out Marvel or DC entirely at this point, given how few of their books I purchase, but there's the fallout. Am I making some kind of statement about Waid, Rivera, and the rest of the Daredevil creative if I drop the book? As far as I know, none of them are involved in the shadiness*. It doesn't help Jack at the comic book store any if I start spending less. I don't get to read a comic I really love. Do the people doing the things I actually don't like even notice, or care? Hell if I know.

My primary strategy has simply been to be more discerning about what I buy. If they're going to get my money, then I want it to be strictly for things I feel I got my money's worth from. That way it feels fair. They produced a quality product, I purchased it. That's remained a hit or miss proposition. Legion of Monsters was a hit. Unless Avengers Solo turns around significantly in the last issue, chalk it up as a "miss". It's not much of a system, but it's one that minimizes how often I feel ripped off or suckered.

* Yes, I know legally Marvel's in the clear with regards to Friedrich and/or Jack Kirby. And I could swindle your life savings, and if I did it right, be completely legal about it. Wouldn't mean I wasn't a scumbag, just that I wasn't technically a crook.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I'm Ready For The Weekend Because My Thoughts Are Turning To Murder

I had an idea that perhaps all of Matt Murdock's misfortunes over the last however-many-years it's been for him were because he wasn't really Matt Murdock. He was actually one of Arcade's Murderbots in disguise. Yep, a Murdo-bot living his life, surreptitiously killing and torturing all of Matt's nearest and dearest.

Failing that, we could always learn Matt had been infected with an artificial version of Omega Red's "death spores". Assuming one could turn them on or off remotely, it would be a great way to get revenge. Infect your hated enemy and watch as their very presence slowly destroys their loved ones. Just remember to turn spore production to "off" if they come to see you. Really, I can't believe there isn't some unscrupulous former Soviet scientist in the Marvel Universe selling those. Surely one of the guys who bonded carbonadium to Omega Red was clever enough to keep a few samples for study. Oh, and survive Logan and Maverick blowing stuff up on a covert mission.

One more, a different take on the first one. All that misery and woe was because Daredevil spent an unfortunate amount of time in a highly realistic Murderworld. It wasn't Arcade's first choice to try and slowly grind DD down, but that's the risk of work for hire. Meet the customer's specifications. The upshot to this is, we could theoretically cram years of bad happenings into a weekend, if we figure Arcade utilized some perception altering hallucinogenics, or some sort of subtle sensory input Daredevil's heightened senses were able to perceive which was throwing him off without his awareness.

Fine, that one doesn't explain how people actually keep dying or going nuts, but heck, if Daredevil's occupied in this hellish Murderworld, anything could be happening in the outside world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Six Options, Which Will Take My Money?

It's that time, when I have to send in my order for May's new comic releases. For the record, not even a crossover with Resurrection Man will get me buying Suicide Squad again. I'll take my chances with being confused. May also happens to be the starting point for the second wave of DC ongoing series. Which in theory, offers a chance to add something to my shrinking pull list*.

Ravagers and Batman Incorporated got cut from consideration right off. I've never been that big of a Gen13 fan (there was a year there where I bought the title), and the book seems like it'll be connected to a lot of the other titles starring younger characters, which I've ignored. As for Batman Inc., it's a book starring Bruce Wayne and his snotty kid. While I might pick up an issue heavily featuring Cass Cain or Stephanie Brown, it's not something I care to read on a monthly basis.

I was intrigued at first by G.I. Combat and Earth-2, but ultimately decided against them. With the latter, it was as easy as seeing a variant cover of the Trinity fighting Parademons. If I wanted to read that, I'd buy Justice League. I don't. With the former, I like the creative team on the back-up story, and I like the Unknown Soldier concept, even if I'm not necessarily wild about setting it in the present day. But the main story however. . . I don't have anything against J.T. Krul as a writer. I haven't read anything he's written, so how could I? That cuts both ways, though, meaning I don't have any reason to trust he'll write something I want to read. And what I've seen of Olivetti's art at Marvel was extremely unappealing. Maybe there'll be a complete style shift at DC, it could happen. Ian Churchill was drawing more like McGuinnes there for awhile on the Hulk books, but that Ravagers cover suggests he's sliding back towards what I think of as his more typical style. So maybe Olivetti shifted styles to match what Marvel's higher-ups wanted, and will change to something else now. I haven't any proof of that, though, and I'm not excited about paying $4 for strictly a backup story**.

Which leaves World's Finest and Dial H. I was leaning towards the first title, because I like Power Girl (and while I don't love the new costume, it's not a sticking point by any means) and hey, George Perez art! I really like George Perez art. Then I remembered the last time I decided to buy something because he'd be drawing it (Flashpoint: Secret Seven) I got burned. Besides, with the way DC keeps shuffling the creative teams on their books, buying based on the writer or artist seems like a sucker's bet. How long will they stay with book? Seven issues? 3? Will they be replaced before it even starts (ala listing Marco Rudy as the artist for Suicide Squad in the original solicitations)? I guess if you wanted, you could use that as an argument to buy G.I. Combat. Maybe Krul and Olivetti won't stick, but if they do, and I didn't like them, then I'm up the creek.

Plus, I don't care about Helena Wayne. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I'm some huge Helena Bertinelli fan, but she was an OK character by me. Going back to Helena Wayne feels like more of the same rolling back that leaves us stuck with Barry Allen as the Flash again. I know, his book looks gorgeous, but it could look just as good and star any Flash. Jay, Wally, Bart. Helena Wayne's not my dad's Huntress (he'd stopped reading comics a few years before she was introduced) like Barry's his Flash, or Hal's his GL, but it still has that feel. I know that Helena Wayne and Power Girl were great friends, and it makes perfect sense to have them as the two heroes who are friends trying to get home. Not disputing that, though I think good times could be had with two heroes stuck in that situation who don't get necessarily along.

Anyway, after all that, we're left with Dial H. I haven't read anything by Mieville, or if I have, it didn't stick with me. Still, I like the concept of the dial, and I quite liked Will Pfeifer's H.E.R.O. series, though how relevant that is here, I couldn't guess. What the hell, it's worth a shot.

* Marvel's apparent decision to cut down on how many different titles they ship in favor of more issues of the big stuff isn't doing me any favors. They can release as much Avengers movie tie-in stuff, of Avengers vs. X-Men junk as they want, I'm not buying any of it. Though I did consider that Hulk Smash weekly mini-series. Then they went and used Red Hulk for the last part, and I can't stand Red Hulk, so never mind.

** Yet I'll pay that for the new Batman Beyond Unlimited, even though I don't care about the future Justice League. But I really want to see Norm Breyfogle art.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Not Continued From Any Post Previous

Another quick post. If you're reading the current Defenders title, how do you feel about the little comments/blurbs/directions Fraction has at the bottom of each page?

I swing between being amused by them to being irritated. I liked the one about Werewolf By Night Nurse!, but the ones like "continuing from second page previous" are trying too hard to be clever. Some of them feel like they might be from the same mysterious third-person narrator the actual story has, but others are simply advertisements for other Marvel comics.

Fortunately, they're relatively easy to ignore (I have to make a conscious effort to read all of them), but I kind of want to read them all because I think Fraction may be using them to drop hints about the story.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

World War Z - Max Brooks

I wouldn't say I'm a fan of zombie films, but these days it's more about execution than the concept. "Oh, look at the zombie rip that person's throat out! Look at the blood spray and flesh hanging from its teeth! Isn't that cool?" No, no it's not.

Maybe the key is to stick to books about zombies, then, where the visualization is left to my imagination. Or to read something Like Max Brooks' World War Z, where the majority of the zombie-related action is over. Not entirely mind you, there are still some frozen in the northern reaches that will thaw and begin shambling about in spring, and there's who knows how many in the ocean (poor whales). But for the most part, the living have regained control of the planet from the undead.

The book is presented as a series of interviews between someone working for the U.N. in the aftermath and various people around the world who lived through the years of struggle with the living dead. This enables Brooks to present a wide array of perspectives: those who were in power before, during, and after. Children, elderly people, soldiers, rich, poor, people with families, loners. This gives us an idea of how slowly the world responded to the threat, the setbacks and solutions different countries faced, and the problems that lie ahead.

Brooks does a good job of distinguishing the different people being interviewed, either by their speech patterns or their perspective, and he's a very suggestive world builder. There are things the subjects mention, or that the interviewer tosses in to describe the setting that make me want to know more. How did Breckinridge Scott make it to Antarctica (and will the IRS ever get to have that conversation with him)? How did Jacob Nyathi get the funds to purchase a ship that converts seawater to electricity? Things like that.

My favorite section was the short one at the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, which broaches the subject of just where everyone in North Korea has gone to. The suggestion is there were networks of underground tunnels, which brings images of millions of people down there without a clue what's happening on the surface. Conversely, it also raises the possibility of millions of zombies locked up down there, like a Pandora's Box waiting to be unleashed. Which looks terrifying in my head. There are reasons given why it hasn't happened yet, but I had to wonder how long until someone ventures in for the heck of it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Booze Makes Mind Powers Something Something

I'm tired, the day's been long, so let's keep this quick and simple. This question was inspired by rewatching X-Men: First Class with my coworkers.

Would drinking, over the longterm, adversely affect a telepath's abilities?

I don't mean in the sense of trying to read someone's mind while inebriated. I mean do you think that alcohol would eventually damage the portion of a telepath's brain that expressed their powers? Their powers might fade, vanish altogether, or perhaps start to go out of control, thought the last one sounds more like a "teeping while drunk" issue.

Would it make a difference if the telepath was a mutant (in the Marvel Universe sense of the term), or the result of some scientific accident/experiment?

Your thoughts?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Burn Notice 1.3 - Fight or Flight

Plot: In this episode, Mike's landlord agrees to let him live rent-free in exchange for helping one of his waitresses. She called the cops after seeing a man drag a pizza delivery guy out of his car and beat his with a tire iron. Except that guy happens to be the local drug cartel's boss. We all know how they love people calling the cops them for their indiscretions. Which leaves Mike trying to keep them safe against the resistance of Cara's daughter, who doesn't see what the big deal is.

In the overarching plot, Michael infiltrates an international conference to find a spy, any spy, who owes him enough of a favor to give him a copy of his burn notice, in the hopes it can provide a lead. In more humorous developments, Fiona tries to extort a key to Mike's loft, and Mike tries to get regular personal transportation, in the form of his father's old Charger.

The Players: Oleg (The Landlord), Cara (The Client), Sophie (The Daughter), Alvaro DeSantos (Cara's Problem), Bruce Gellman (Cartel Lawyer), Akhum Thabet (Egyptian Spy).

Quote of the Episode: Sophie - 'I don't care. I'd rather be killed then stay here.' Michael - 'Well, those are your 2 options.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? She throws a pair of Molotov cocktails.

Sam Axe's Drink Count: 5 beers (14 overall). Damn, Sam, slow down.

Sam Getting Punched Count: 0 (3 overall). All potential aggressors must have been scared off by his "guns of steel".

Mike's Fake Laugh Count: 1 (6 overall).

Other: Just the for the heck of it, I have to add Mike's dig on Sam: 'If there's a situation that requires showing off your upper body and boozy flirting, you're my guy.'

This episode also starts the pattern of Michael hiding clients at his mother's house. It also reinforces how both Michael and Madeline remember their family life. Michael sees it as nothing but misery, Madeline glosses over all the bad stuff and makes everything seem swell. She talks about Michael and his dad working together on the Charger, Michael rebuts by pointing out his father left him with a scar as a reminder of their work together.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

This Loops Back Around Eventually - Sort Of

I know he was being a smart aleck, but I had to pause for a moment reading Daredevil #8 when Daredevil greets the Black Cat with 'Finally, a woman I don't trust.'

He had good reason not to trust Felicia, since she was watching Spidey get electrocuted, but does that mean he trusted the Black Widow from the first time he met her? I mean, a former Soviet spy, who used to try and kill Iron Man? That is, when she wasn't suckering her previous sucker, er, boyfriend (Hawkeye) into doing it through an effective combination of playing on his affections and jabs at his pride.

Admittedly, that's part of why I like Hawkeye. He fought a guy who was basically a flying tank with a bow and trick arrows, and he did it for love (and out of his sense of bitterness at what he perceived as an unfair world). That doesn't change the fact 'Tasha was manipulating him for her own ends. Which is what spies do, and she is very good at being a spy, so maybe you can't fault her for following her nature.

It's hard for me to picture someone throwing over Hawkeye for Daredevil, but then I remember a) Hawkeye can be an unthinking clod sometimes, and b) Daredevil hadn't suffered through two decades of writers making his life an unending stream of misfortune and woe. Maybe that explains it. Also, lawyer. Wait, do I mean that as a positive (money, crusader for the oppressed), or the negative (lawyer = ethically dubious)? Eh, whichever.

Point is, things are finally looking up for ole' Matty, which is why getting involved with Felicia seems an odd choice. I get the idea dating a woman he already has trust issues with precludes him from being hurt when/if she betrays him/goes crazy/is murdered/commits suicide. Plus, she's a fun-loving woman with a devil-may-care attitude, which goes pretty well with Matt's renewed commitment to things like fun and an upbeat approach. But it still seems questionable just as he's getting his life together. Oh well, usually it's the ladies making the bad decision to date Matt Murdock. It's nice for Matt to take a turn making the bad choices.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Do I Misunderstand The Character?

When it comes to fictional characters, do you ever get the feeling that you've completely misunderstood them?

Take Spider-Man. He's probably my favorite character, but I've started to wonder if I've missed the point with him. I see him as a character who is can be a top-notch superhero, or take care of the everyday aspects of life, like bills, family, girlfriends, and so on. It's trying to deal with both at the same time that's the issue, and so things inevitably fall through the cracks. Maybe the villain gets away because he's tired from studying, or he misses Aunt May's birthday because of a fight with the Vulturions. So he's a capable, intelligent guy, he just has a little too much on his plate.

Nowadays though, I get the impression he just can't handle anything. Can't really keep up with his arch-foes (I remember The Gauntlet seemed like nothing but his enemies kicking his butt, or at least getting away), losing his girlfriend. He's apparently coming off as such a lousy guy the idea he'd sic the cops on her for not hooking up with him seemed entirely feasible to Felicia Hardy.

I expect Peter Parker to have some misfortune, in costume or out. But I've always seen those misfortunes as a matter of circumstance. Like he could or would have avoided that problem, but something else came along which made it impossible. Now I wonder if I've ever really read Spider-Man comics where it went like that, because it's starting to seem like the issue is him, that other people could juggle both sides of his life, but Peter Parker's not cut out for it.

Maybe it's because I only read Spider-Man comics occasionally now. Maybe it's the writers. But I do wonder if I'm just missing the point. Anyway, that's my example. Do you have one, where there's a disconnect between how you see a character and how everyone else does?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dead Men Can Wear Whatever They Like. They're Dead

I received Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid in the same batch of movies as Dark Star and The American. I asked for it for the same reason: It sounded interesting, but not interesting enough for me to spend my own cash.

I feel I miss something with Steve Martin. Outside of very limited circumstances, I rarely find him funny. I'd generally settled on the idea that I missed his prime, that by the time I regularly saw things he was in, he wasn't making his best stuff anymore. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is from 1982, so I figured it might be more representative of his best. I'm thinking that was an error in judgment on my part.

The movie is a play off old detective movies, with Martin in the role of the private investigator hired to look into the death of the beautiful dame's father, a noted scientist who perished in a car accident. Or was it? So it's not an imaginative plot, but that's hardly a deal breaker. There's certainly comedy that could be mined from it.

This film's approach though, is to have Martin's character interacting with character's from much older detective films. So he calls Marlowe on the phone, and it cuts to footage from a Bogart film. Or he's trying to interrogate a woman, and his questions are set up to match dialogue Barbara Stanwyck had in some other film. I didn't find it funny, and it mostly seemed like a crutch. They couldn't come up with enough one-liners, gags, or fake character development to fill 85 minutes, so we got this. Huge disappointment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who Are The Big Bads These Days?

Spinning off from yesterday's post, who would you say are the A-list villains at Marvel these days? Besides the real life people who screw over Kirby's family and Gary Friedrich, obviously. Fictional villains.

There are two problems I've encountered with this almost immediately.

1) So many villains are turning good these days, or at least behaving in a manner which makes it hard for me to stamp "villain" over their picture and move on. For example, I was going to start with Dr. Doom, but oh wait, he works with the Future Foundation now. If he's actually teaming up with the Accursed Richards and his kin, rahter than trying to exterminate them, does he still count? Then I thought Loki, but Little Kid Loki doesn't sound too villainous these days. Magneto's back with the X-Men again, which is fine, I came into comics when Mags' was a good guy, I've got no complaints, but it takes him off the board, too.

2) Is "A-list" a relative thing? Wilson Fisk was a big-time villain for Daredevil and the Punisher, but he'd hardly be a blip on the radar to Thor, who would likely just smash Fisk's skyscraper now (after making sure it was safely empty) and worry about public relations fallout later, if ever. Fisk is in one of his periodic lulls anyway, isn't he?

With all that said, Ultron was the first one who came to mind, after Doom anyway. I considered Galactus, but I look at him as more of a natural disaster than a villain. Which means I've bought into his bull about being a necessary force in the universe, but we can debate it if you'd like. The Mole Man seems like he should be, in theory, but I don't quite see it. Sometimes he comes off as a cranky old guy who just wants the surface dwellers to leave him alone. Like a subterranean Namor. The Hood (ugh) is currently out of commission, I think (good riddance). Cain Marko isn't the Juggernaut anymore, which takes him off the table. The Intelligencia were pretty impressive as a whole, but I'm not convinced any of them are top shelf solo acts. Maybe MODOK or the Leader. Doctor Octopus is certainly making a play for it, and he's definitely on Spidey's A-list so hell, let's count him. Annihilus was helping Johnny Storm last I saw, but that might not have been willingly, and it sounds like Ronan went bad again. Thanks Hickman *rolls eyes*.

What's the Mandarin up to? You know, I've hardly ever seen him tangle with anyone other than Iron Man, besides this old Avengers Annual my dad had where he rounded up a bunch of villains and threw them at the Avengers. Oh crap, I have to count Norman Osborn, don't I? I cannot wait until some writer kills him off again. He's not even in anything I read, it's just this awareness of his continued use that grates anytime I think about it. I'm throwing Fin Fang Foom in, to end my list on a positive note. Or use Zemo if you like, he's back to being evil thanks to Brubaker, right? That makes about a half-dozen or so villains, some of which don't seem very active these days. I guess if you rotate which ones are making noise at a given time, mix the second-tier villains in liberally, it can work.

It was mentioned in the comments on House to Astonish, but with practically every hero being part of a team now, the teams are huge, and the villains have been forced to form their own armies to have any chance. Unfortunately, it's hard for a character to distinguish themselves amongst a mob, and even harder when their mob inevitably loses. This is some writer reaction to the old "Why didn't Hero X call in Team Y to help him with Villain R?" thing, isn't it? I always liked the, "Because that team is off doing something else!" answer myself. Like when Spider-Man had to fight the Juggernaut. He tries to get ahold of the FF, Avengers, or X-Men, but they're all off on their own adventures. Ditto Dr. Strange. Spidey had to deal with it himself, because he couldn't afford to wait. Or it can simply be there's no time. Not every threat is going to move at as leisurely a pace as Juggy did in that story. Sometimes it's about doing the best they can.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Even Low Level Super-Crooks Have A Pecking Order

I was disappointed during Villains for Hire #2 that Tiger Shark's diss on the Shocker didn't come back to haunt him. I fully expected Shocker to blast him through a wall. Nice bit of humble pie for the loudmouth. Instead, he throws Shocker through a window. Unless it was Bombshell who did it, but there was no explosion, and Tiger Shark strikes me as more quick to violence, anyway.

OK, so Shocker is a what, C-list villain? We're talking about Count Nefaria here. It's just Tiger Shark. Is "Gets occasionally pummeled but not killed by Namor" that much better than being 'Spider-Man's punching bag'? I've seen Tiger Shark lose to Hellcat and Tigra, and to Deadpool when Wade was lost in some Die Hard fantasy. Repeated defeats to Spider-Man don't look so bad in that light.

Yes, the most notable team I can remember Shocker being part of was the Sinister Syndicate, while Tiger Shark's been part of a couple of versions of the Masters of Evil. My love for the Sinister Syndicate aside, Masters of Evil is a more high-profile group. But in one case, I think Zemo just drafted every super-strong villain there was, a category that includes Tiger Shark. The other I know of was the version the Crimson Cowl put together during the early stages of Thunderbolts. Does that group really even count? There were an awful lot of D-listers on that crew.

The thing about the Shocker is, he's a crook who knows what he is. He's not a take over the world guy, not a mass murdering loon, just a guy with some gear that he uses to make some cash off illegal activities. Lunch pail super-villainy. Tiger Shark is a character who thinks he's a bigger deal than he is. He's a glorified leg-breaker, but we're supposed to be impressed by his stupid costume (not that Shocker's costume is anything to write home about) and pointy teeth. He has the attitude, but not the power, brains, or reputation to back it up. Like the Hood, but without the benefit of a writer (Bendis) who thinks the same way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Questions After 3 Issues Of Defenders

It's what the title says.

Where's the High Evolutionary? Wundagore is his turf, the New Men or whatever his creations. Yet here's Prestor John. Wikipedia says something about the Evolutionary becoming Galactus' opposite or something, but if he kicked that off by stealing the Surfer's power, and the Surfer clearly has his power back. . .

What's the deal with the Prestor Johns? Are they the same guy from two different points in his life, a Kang/Rama-Tut/Immortus deal? Are they the same guy from different universes? Is Prestor John an order rather than an individual, and these are two members? For that matter, what happened to the Prestor John who was Cable's head of security for his island? He's similar in appearance to the crazy one, but he didn't have the Evil Eye.

Why does Nul want to get home so badly? Can't it destroy, disrupt, and otherwise disorder this world as readily as any other?

What was the Concordance Engine doing there? Setting aside the question of what it actually does, did the Evolutionary build it? Prestor John, using the H.E.'s toys? Did it magically appear there one day because it was fated to do so?

I still don't understand why, with a minimum of 2 fliers on the team, they needed Danny Rand's jet to go to Wundagore? I don't know why they took the train to get to Barcelona, either.

Why was the Surfer so insistent on not letting Prestor John get away? Deal with Nul first, then track down John and his Evil Eye! It doesn't matter if he gets away if the universe is destroyed! Prioritize, Herald!

Other than the last one, I'm not sure any are integral to the plot. The question about the Surfer only is because having him there to fight Nul might have made a difference, perhaps eliminated the need for the quiet Prestor to get involved. Even so, they're all niggling details that my mind's trying to turn over as I read the issues. Maybe Fraction plans to explain it all later, but there's this sense I have of everything being off slightly. Then again, I haven't paid much attention to any of these characters in the last few years, so maybe this is par for the course now.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Burn Notice 1.2 - Identity

Plot: Michael starts off trying to track down the people who left the photographs in his loft based on cues from the photos. This unfortunately leads him to need information from his mother (now with shorter hair), who expects something in return. A friend of hers was scammed and left penniless, so Michael is off to scam the scammer. Too bad the two people he needs help from (Sam and Fi) have unpleasant past history. Something involving a Libyan arms dealer.

This leads to much sniping between those two, which means considerable frustration for Michael. Fiona also isn't making things easy, with the job or his mother. Oh, and Sam has temporarily moved into Michael's living space. Drinking in underpants ahoy! Quentin the con artist is eventually shut down, and Madeline even comes through for Michael with a mysterious phone number, which is answered by a mysterious male voice, who is typically unhelpful.

The Players: Laura (The Client), Quentin (The Con Artist), Greg & Bonnie (Apprentice Con Artists).

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'My mother's understanding of my job changes with what she wants from me. One day, she can name everyone on the National Security Council, the next she thinks I'm working for the Post Office.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Quentin's car, but she wasn't supposed to.

Sam Axe's Drink Count: 4 (9 overall). Beers this week.

Sam Getting Punched Count: 2 (3 overall). They were technically slaps, but Fiona really put some force into them.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 1 (5 overall).

Other: I'm very impressed with Michael's ability to text with proper spelling without looking. Michael's alias this week was Peter Jordan, former cellmate of one of Quentin's old cellmates.

The fact that Fi and Sam have bad past history is an interesting choice. Not really a necessary one at this stage in the series, though. It's a way of adding conflict to have Michael rely on two people who bicker almost constantly, but thus far, Fiona's been enough of a problem herself. Whereas Sam seems mostly eager to help, if only to make up for spying on Michael for the feds, Fi is almost constantly busting Michael's chops, going too far with the explosives, making things more difficult for him with his mother. Not that Michael doesn't have at least some of that static coming, but it makes me wonder if you need additional friction between Fi and Sam.

Later in the series the past history becomes less of an issue and Fi and Sam's issues are more of a personality thing. The best friend versus the girlfriend. Neither one really wants the other around Michael, and their perspectives on things are so frequently different it makes sense they clash. At this point in the proceedings, that hasn't really been set up yet.

Madeline's insistence on the importance of family is certainly irritating to Michael, maybe because she uses it to get what she wants. Or because she takes such a rose-colored glasses look at their family life. I didn't mention it last week, but the line Michael had about the last thing his father said to him was, 'I'll see you in hell, boy,' so he figured they'd had something planned was very funny.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

That's Some Mighty Fine Hair-Splitting

When Marvel's publisher Dan Buckley says, 'I want to clarify we do not do "crossover" events,' what are the odds he said that with a straight face? 5%? 10%? Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit for believing his own spin. Let's say 64%.

I do see this distinction he's trying to make. He argues Marvel does 'line-wide editorial events', as opposed to crossovers. Oh, that's much better. Yes, it's not a crossover because it's one main title with all these other smaller titles branching off of it, rather than two books bouncing the story between them.

Seriously though, the idea being you can read the parts you want and still get a complete story. It's a nice idea, but in practice, it's a load of crap. If you really want to follow Fear Itself, the main mini-series, there's probably going to be relevant stuff taking place in other mini-series. The ongoings may not be essential to the process, but you'd be hard pressed to now that from the marketing machine, with their massive checklists telling you what related books are coming out each week of each month for the duration of the crossover, oops editorial event. It's pointless to complain about the hype machine, I suppose.

And what was that Amazing Spider-Man/Daredevil thing I reviewed earlier this week? I don't think you could read the first half and get the whole story. It ends with Spider-Man being electrocuted while the Black Cat looks on. You'd have to read the other half to find out what happened to Spidey, if they found the holo-device, and if they cleared Felicia's name. Unless the recap pages are really thorough.

That said, the writers on the ongoing series are usually pretty good at incorporating events into their stories. Peter David and Fabian Nicieza handled Civil War well (on X-Factor and Cable/Deadpool). David used it to look at Madrox' indecisiveness and Layla's manipulations. Nicieza had it widen the divide between Wade and Cable, explored some of Wade's issues, and even presented a fairly reasonable point of view for the pro-reg side. I wasn't a big fan of the Secret Invasion tie-ins for Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, but they were set up in a way that made a certain amount of sense. Actually, I did like the Nova tie-in, I just didn't like that it lead to the book being set on Earth for about five more issues after that.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Mysteries Deepen

I'd like to know what it means that there was a skull left behind after Suriel killed Mitch Shelly. Because he isn't there anymore. Somehow, being killed caused him to appear close enough to Gotham that he was remanded to Arkham Asylum. Still, he left a corpse behind (part of one, anyway) but doesn't seem to be missing any vital bits in intensive care. Maybe instead of a new soul after every resurrection, he gets a new body? Except he usually pops back up where he fell. Unless her attack severely dispersed his atoms, and they didn't recombine until near Gotham. Which might jibe with Suriel's concern that she had perhaps destroyed his soul.

Frankly, if we're going to buy into the notion of a soul, the idea one can be completely eradicated is a little frightening. Can it be done without destroying the body, in which case you end up with one of those Hollows, like Green Arrow was when Kevin Smith, er, Hal Jordan brought him back? Can the body operate as before without one? Say, an angel destroys your soul, do you go, "Ouch," rub your chest, but continue on your morning search for coffee and crullers? Does having or not having a soul make a difference in terms of taking part in creating a child? I'm guessing a infant's soul does not come about in quite the same way as its genetic code, but in the new DC, who the heck knows? Maybe that's how we get a Ragdoll with no soul.

It could be connected to his being injected with that regenerative compound we saw during the flashback, but I think that's a feint. Certainly it gave Bonnie and Carmen healing factors and considerably greater than human strength and speed. Mitch dies, then comes back to life, hale and hearty, rather than simply healing before he can die. He only has superhuman strength and endurance if that particular resurrection provides him with it. Maybe the compound unlocked something in him, something the weird creature saw which prompted it to give him the injection, but I have my doubts.

Even the alien feels like part of something else. It may have recognized something inside him, but that wouldn't mean it's responsible for his resurrections. We can't be sure he hadn't had resurrections before then. It might have been awhile, he might have been better at hiding them. Maybe the compound is the reason his memories are so shot, and it doesn't have anything to do with his powers. They only had one test on one subject where it showed promise, which is no guarantee it wouldn't have different effects on someone else.

One other thing I find interesting is Suriel simply assuming Mitch's soul would be on its way to Heaven. Certainly he's seemed like a well-meaning guy thus far in the series, but as we've seen, he was a right bastard just a few years ago. We know the other side is interested in his soul as well. Is there any guarantee the good he's done the last few years would outweigh the bad? Of course, Suriel basically caused a plane crash, then shrugged it off claiming it was supposed to happen, so perhaps they're unfazed by Mitch's past actions. If the Spectre and Eclipso are any indication, Heaven is run pretty shoddily. Or stupidly, whichever.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Some Pasts Don't Take Kindly To Being Ignored

Angel & Faith #6 offered a pretty solid rebuttal to Harmony's "don't waste time thinking about past mistakes" philosophy from the previous issue. Which was fine with me, as that attitude had really bothered me. Not surprised me, this is Harmony we're talking about, but it did irritate. Maybe because I have a tendency to dwell on missteps myself, but more because coming from Harmony, it's a feint.

Harmony doesn't look back on all the people she killed as a vampire because it would take away time she could be spending thinking about herself. She can try and frame it as concentrating on what she can do, not what she did, but it's a matter of self-absorption. Just as Harmony doesn't espouse this idea of not siring or even biting without permission out of some high ideal. It has the benefit of a) maintaining her celebrity, and b) keeping her from being staked by some Slayer who, unlike Buffy, doesn't regard her as a complete joke. I'm surprised she was so worried about that video. Seems like the sort of thing a celebrity would play off as a youthful indiscretion, or as a weakness she could play for sympathy in some public apology which ends with Harmony pledging to go into rehab. Works all the time in our world with drugs, booze, and politically incorrect statements. Why not in theirs over vampiric-related issues?

Beyond that, the reason Faith and (especially) Angel can't ignore their pasts is because their pasts are still an active threat. Sure, Angel could just try washing his hands of Drusilla. That's what he did for the first century after the curse dropped the Soul Hammer on him, but that didn't mean she stopped killing people, with or without Spike and Darla. Now she's here, and she's sane, so I'm curious to see how Angel deals with her. Hopefully more efficiently than that half-assed immolation he tried on her and Darla during, what Season 2 of his series? I don't mean kill her necessarily, it might be possible to reason with her. So far, if she's breaking the "no siring/no biting without consent" rules, she's being sneaky about it.

As for Faith, she tried ignoring past mistakes, and it lead to her working for the Mayor, ending up in a coma, and then in prison. Going the other direction is producing substantially better results thus far, even if she did befriend that snooty British Slayer, only to end up killing her. And she's using her mistakes to guide these younger Slayers so they don't step on the same land mines. That being said, this appearance of her "father" is definitely trouble, and you could consider that a part of her past she's tried very hard to forget. I don't know whether he's real or a fake, though my money's on fake. Even if he is real, I have doubt he's there out of some altruistic desire to reconnect with his daughter. More likely he thinks he can get money or fame, or even more likely, he's in debt to some demon like Vinnie the Shark. Perhaps Angel can try the immolation thing again, only on the alleged Mr. Lehane?

Just don't do another half-assed job of it, Peaches.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What I Bought 2/3/2012 - Part 3

I'm not sure I'm ready for a world where Eli Manning has 2 Super Bowl rings and I have to take the "Eli is an elite QB" talk seriously. Then again, I wasn't ready for a world where Tom Brady had as many Super Bowl rings as Joe Montana, so I was in trouble either way. This is probably the lesser of two evils.

Defenders #2, 3 - Danny Rand does not die of a gunshot wound. Hooray! The Defenders still wind up getting beat by Prestor John and the animal men that usually follow the High Evolutionary. John knows this Nul thing is on its way. It's looking for something called a Concordance Engine, which he has. It's going to use it to get home, and that will enable John and the beast guys to leave this universe. The universe will be destroyed in the process, so it's probably good he's planning to leave. The Defenders escape, they fight the beast guys for awhile, Nul shows up, they fight him for awhile, but another Prestor John, who has been sitting there the whole time, is the one who stops Nul. The Defenders might have managed it if the Surfer hadn't gotten a bug up his ass about not letting Prestor John get away.

I have a lot of questions about what's happening. I can't tell whether I have these questions because they're part of mysteries Fraction will be exploring in future issues, or because he thinks I've read comics I haven't. I'm also not sure about the characterization of Dr. Strange, but again, I'm not sure if Fraction's going somewhere with it, or this is just the voice he's chosen for Strange. One thing I wish he'd do, ditch the color coded caption boxes for the characters and go with thought bubbles. Or get rid of the third-person narration caption boxes. It's just bugging me that we have caption boxes of the Defenders' thoughts, and the narration of whoever is rambling on pretentiously. It's not a crime to use thought balloons, Fraction.

Amazing Spider-Man #677 - It's a book I'm only buying because it crosses over with a book I really like! Damn it, Marvel.

Peter Parker is depressed because his girlfriend broke up with him recently. He tries hooking up with the Black Cat, but she shoots him down. Then finds a spider-tracer on her costume when she gets home, and she gets arrested for stealing a holo-doohickey from the people Peter works for. Peter goes to Matt Murdock for legal advice, and some investigative help. They travel to the home of Wasserschmidt, the guy who made the stolen dingus, and see him being held hostage. Or not. Holograms! The follow into a tunnel, it collapses, Peter tries to dig his way out and grabs an exposed electrical cable, while Felicia looks on. Flash-fried spider, blech. Discussion to be continued with. . .

Daredevil #8 - DD and Felicia wrestle around a bit. Not like that. Well, sort of like that. She's angry because she thinks Spidey sold her out to the cops because she wouldn't sleep with him, which ouch. I thought she knew him better than that. Disagreement settled, they snoop in Wasserschmidt's house, find him, find out he stole his own invention, find out he was poisoned, and while Spidey saves the guy's life, the other two get to stop the bad guys, which they do. Holo-device recovered, Felicia's name presumably cleared, and she Matt resume their wrestling in his apartment. Whether that's because of a mutual attraction, or because of that conversation she had with one of the guys who framed her, we'll have to wait and see.

I have a hard time believing the Black Cat would actual suspect Spider-Man of such an underhanded trick, all because she wouldn't be his rebound girl. To steal Daredevil's line, who does she think he is, Batman? That's my one misgiving with the crossover, Spidey plays the fall guy through most of it. I know, in a three-way situation like this someone has to play the chump and Spider-Man has more history of it than the other two. Everyone has a role, and that's his. It's like Albuquerque. Randolph Scott marries Catherine Craig, Gabby Hayes gets his beard cut off while everyone tries to watch and laugh. Sorry, Webs, you're Gabby.

As to the art, I'm somewhat intrigued by Emma Rios' style. I heard she'd changed it a bit since the last I saw (filling some pages for Bachalo in "Shed"), and it's not bad. Kind of sketchy and murky at times, but not always. Mostly just when there's a lot of movement or some other reason for things to be like that. I would like it if she'd draw the eyes on Spidey's costume a bit larger, but minor quibble. Kano drew the Daredevil portion of things and he seemed closer to Paolo Rivera than I remember him being. Maybe that's the way his style's shifted, or maybe it was a choice on his part to more closely resemble one of the regular artists on the book.

All in all, it was an OK crossover. I can't say it fills me with confidence that the Daredevil/Punisher/Avenging Spider-Man crossover coming up is going to be any good. It doesn't help that the artist for all 3 appears to be Marco Checchetto, who typically draws Punisher as having a cast member who looks startlingly like Morgan Freeman in Se7en. That kind of thing really irritates me. Then again, it's going to be a hard sell for me with my "I don't need to read any more Punisher comics" stance anyway. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What I Bought 2/3/2012 - Part 2

Today's a day for Marvel mini-series. Unfortunately, the best of the lot is coming to an end, while the other two continue on towards their conclusions.

Avengers Solo #4 - On the cover, are the helicopters chasing them, are they rushing towards the 'copters, and we're seeing the reflection in the windows of those buildings. Basically, is Hawkeye shooting at the helis, or at something else.

Hawkeye was probably supposed to follow the van that whisked away the doctor inside the Trace armor at the end of the last issue, but you know Hawkeye. He got impatient and decided to save her, and they wind up with Dr. Forrest in the process, who was involved in the study that gave these women powers. Forrest provides his version of the events, but there's no one to corroborate that, so take it for what it's worth. Hawkeye and the others make a plan to find Angela Golden (the one behind the whole thing) and stop her, I guess. I'm not sure what precisely their goal is, besides not being killed by Ms. Golden's amped-up goon squads.

One problem I'm having with this mini-series is none of these characters Hawkeye's trying to help are making any impression whatsoever. I can't even remember which one is wearing the armor at a given moment most of the time. Roger Robinson is back this issue as the artist and it's a little easier to tell what's going on, though there are still times I can't entirely figure how the action in one panel connects to the one following it.

Legion of Monsters #4 - Morbius finally figured out the virus came from him, but he's ready to give up and simply destroy the Monster Metropolis before the infected inhabitants leave and begin wreaking havoc on the rest of the world. Elsa, surprisingly, is not down with the "blow up all monsters" plan, and sure enough, the Dimensional Man they locked up in issue 1 becomes important at the end. The real key lies in Morbius figuring out who is exerting control over the virus, and once that's determined, things fall neatly into place. No explosions required.

It does seem a little strange that Elsa became so deadset against just killing all the monsters. Sure, she'd developed a fondness for Jack, werewolf or not, but she's still a monster hunter. It's nice that she's mature enough to be discerning about which ones she kills. Juan Doe does get a little weak on the backgrounds during action scenes, by which I mean they vanish, but otherwise, I think he does a lot with relatively few lines for expressions. I'm pretty satisfied with that mini-series.

Villains for Hire #2, 3 - I like some of the little details there, like the gun crumpling where it's being bitten. Although, I thought the fin was part of Tiger Shark's head, rather than a piece of costume. Maybe that varies depending on how animalistic he is. He was considerably less human in that Deadpool story in '09.

We start off with Misty's crew beating Purple Man's bunch to another deal, which has apparently finally exhausted P.M.'s patience. Which leads to Headhunter buying off Tiger Shark and Bombshell so he can learn the location of Knight's headquarters. That accomplished he sends Scourge off for recon, and Scourge gets to see Misty shoot Paladin in the back. Well, then. From there, Purple Man sends his entire bunch to attack her. Misty's attempt to call in her crew for protection falls apart when Tiger Shark blows the lid on her identity. Oh, and because Purple Man will pay them to switch sides as well. Misty's good, but she can't beat all those crooks on her own, especially not if she's being controlled by someone else.

Whoever handles the recap pages needs to get their act together. The villains are listed according to which crew they work for, but they're all screwed up. Monster and Crossfire are both listed under Misty's crew, even though Kilgrave called in Monster to deal with Crossfire, for example.

You can tell they had to speed things up after the mini was shortened to 4 issues. I don't imagine everyone was going to switch sides so quickly originally. It's not terrible, but given this story had been written as sort of a power struggle between the two sides, it would have been more interesting to see Kilgrave gradually buy away Misty's crew, but for her to have enough time to try some sort of reprisal.

I don't think Villains for Hire would have been a great mini-series if given the chance to run it's originally planned length, but the compression after it had already started isn't helping.

Monday, February 06, 2012

What I Bought 2/3/2012 - Part 1

Five weeks brings me. . . 10 comics. It'd be 11 but the last issue of Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X was delayed. I read Mr. Clevinger's explanation online, and it's fine, they want to assure quality, that's cool. It doesn't really validate my decision to buy the book in single issues instead of waiting for the trade (which I likely would have purchased used, at a reduced price), does it? Ah well, that's the unfortunate chicanery of life.

Angel & Faith #6 - Russian Nesting Doll Giles is kind of terrifying. Actually, at first glance I thought he was one of those punching bags that won't stay knocked down, which seemed like a mean thing for someone to do, turn Giles into one of those.

In this issue, we learn what event prompted young Rupert to bail on being a Watcher to spend his youth being "Ripper" Giles, and that the monster responsible, called a Lorophage, was not destroyed, and may be active again. This investigation intertwines with one concerning a mysterious vampire calling herself "Mother Superior", and so Faith and Angel will get to kill two birds with one stone. Or get twice as stoned while bird-watching. One or the other. Also, a man purporting to be Faith's father has shown up. Yes, no chance that won't end horribly.

It's an interesting issue. Lots of stuff about pasts. Giles', Faith's, Angel's. We'll see how it goes. I'm leery of this "Faith's dad" arc already, and it's hardly even started. It feels like a way to possibly throw into a relapse of her wild child mode, but who knows? I don't have much new to say about Rebekah Isaacs' art. I still like it. The Lorophage seems to be based on insects, which is a good choice because bugs are creepy looking when you inspect closely enough.

Resurrection Man #5 - Mitch has developed explodey hands power! Hmm, what was the name of that Bloodlines guy who could turn anything he touched into a weapon? Ennis made fun of him in the Hitman 1 Million issue? Firearm? Gunfire? Perhaps Mitch has the power to make his hands hand grenades. I'd imagine he can only do it once, though.

There are three stories running through the issue. In one, Suriel (the angel) tries to determine what happened to Mitch's soul, and curbstomps the Body Doubles and the Transhuman off-panel. Another thread is set in the past, showing Mitch using wounded soldiers as unwitting test subjects for his experiments with regeneration abilities. This explains how Bonnie and Carmen met, and also probably explains the Director who wants Mitch back. Oh, and Deathstroke was there, taking a moral high ground with Mitch. Which is a) funny, because he is a guy who kills people for money, and b) terrifying, because he knows what he is, and he still finds Mitch's actions repugnant. The third thread is Mitch beat up on a gurney being transported somewhere. Where? Arkham Asylum!

I have no idea how Mitch wound up there. Especially since there's still a skull on the ground where he was standing when Suriel did. . . whatever on the first page. Art gaffe, or clue? I don't know how everything ties together yet, because I'm not convinced the drug Mitch was injected with explains his resurrections. It doesn't work that way for Bonnie or Carmen. It feels like a ruse. Still intriguing. Fernando Blanco's the artist and I miss Dagnino. Blanco isn't bad, but his figures look odd, like the perspective is off, sometimes. Also, his Deathstroke looked really clunky, but I guess we blame that on whoever designed Slade Wilson's New 52 look. Anyway, the mystery surrounding Mitch is what keeps me reading. I'd really like to know what's going on.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Burn Notice 1.1 - Pilot

Yes, the next series on the list is Burn Notice! So I broke alphabetical order, but um, they both have Bruce Campbell!

Plot: Michael Westen is in Nigeria, trying to pay a Russian fellow a large sum of money to protect some oil fields. The deal falls apart when he is blacklisted, or put on a "burn notice", and the agency he's working for breaks contact with him in the middle of the mission. One beating, some fast talking, and an escape on a dirtbike later, Michael wakes up in a Miami hotel, his ex-girlfriend Fiona there waiting. Michael quickly learns all his accounts are frozen, no one will talk to him, he has an FBI tail, and unless he wants a serious manhunt after him, he better stay in Miami. Oh, and his mother won't stop calling.

Michael does manage to find lodgings over a nightclub, though they come with an idiot drug dealer as a neighbor, and he finds work, helping a Javier, a man under suspicion of stealing art from his employer, Mr. Pyne. While not high paying, it's also not the most challenging operation he's ever undertaken, so he makes some bread and does some good. Have to savor the small victories as it becomes apparent there are other forces watching him other than the feds.

These other categories are under construction, we'll see what goes and stays.

The Players: Fiona (The Ex-Girlfriend), Sam (The Buddy), Javier (The Caretaker), Mr. Pyne (The Rich Guy), Vincent (Security), Oleg (The Landlord), Barry (Money Launderer), Dan (The Handler), Sugar (The Drug Dealer), Walter (the Art Dealer).

Quote of the Episode: 'We got a burn notice on you. You're blacklisted.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe's Drink Count: 5 ( a couple of beers, an umbrella drink, some other stuff)

Sam Getting Punched Count: 1

Mike's Fake Laugh Count: 4

Other: I like that Michael won't mess up your car if he steals it, and he'll return it by 5 if it's a work day. Unless, of course, he steals it with you in it and uses it total another person's car.

It's strange to see Madeline Westen, Michael's mother with longer hair, since she shortens after this episode. Thinking about now, it seems odd Michael was all right with a new home with so many windows. Beggars can't be choosers, I suppose.

I'm pretty sure Michael killed those two Nigerian fellows in the bathroom. He's generally a bit abrasive in the pilot. Snide to Javier about how much he's offering, rude to the free hat girl, simply assuming Fi will make that distraction for him. He is fairly understanding about Sam informing on him to the feds, but even there he felt vaguely threatening with his suggestion to tell them just enough to make them leave Michael alone. Then again, Michael taking his friends for granted will be an ongoing concern in this series. He does have a soft spot for kids, though.

The FBI surveillance seemed pretty lazy, with that sequence where Agent Harris is sitting in the car, and Agent Lane leaning against a low wall. It might be they don't realize Michael's importance to certain parties, and simply regard it as scut work. Their willingness to loan Michael their binoculars was a nice humanizing touch.

I still don't entirely understand how he rigged the gun with the flare and the phone to trick Pyne. Calling the phone triggered the gun going off, or something.

Next week, Michael tries to track down the person who decorated his floor with photos of him. He'd like to see if they could do up the ceiling with some nice snapshots of cuddly puppies, you see.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Drunk And Flirty Is No Way To Go Through A War

The Sea Wolves was about a group of retired British soldiers being called in for an under the table mission. Allied shipping is being consistently wiped out by U-Boats as it leaves a harbor off the southwest coast of India. British Intelligence would like to stop that, but can't act officially since the harbor is in neutral territory. So Gregory Peck and Roger Moore recruit these fellows who haven't seen combat since the Boer War to go on a covert mission. If they fail, it'll just look like a bunch of old Brits got drunk and attacked a German ship out of stupidity.

It's a decent enough film, and it has a lot of fun with the idea of all these old fellows eagerly volunteering, but then having to get themselves into decent enough shape to go through with it. I found Roger Moore's character most interesting. Not because of his motivations or some barely hinted at aspect of his character. I found him intriguing because I can't shake the feeling he was some sort of commentary on James Bond. Gavin Stewart is supposed to be an intelligence agent, but he clearly thinks he's smarter than he is, and he spends a lot of time drinking and flirting with Ms. Agnes Cromwell. That fooling about leads to the death of one of the old men, because Stewart isn't focused on his work.

By that time, Moore had played Bond in 4 movies, so maybe he was just getting typecast. His character in The Wild Geese seemed a bit of the ladies' man as well. He did go on to play Bond 3 more times after The Sea Wolves, but it still feels like a point was being made. That James Bond's cavalier style isn't suitable for that kind of work. That he relies too much on luck and being more clever than everyone else and it's likely to get anyone relying on him killed.

Friday, February 03, 2012

For Once I Won't Be Three Weeks Late To The Discussion

In the wake of the announcement about Before Watchmen, here's a question for you:

Let's say DC didn't screw Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. They let Watchmen go out of print as had sort of been agreed upon, and the rights to the book revert back to writer and artist*.

What do you think Moore and Gibbons would have done with the property in that event? Would they have worked out a new agreement with DC to allow new print runs every so often, or found a different publisher for that? Would Moore have wanted it to go out of print and stay out? Would they have returned to it somewhere down the line? Maybe in the mid-90s they would write a story showing how things have progressed in the years since Ozymandius' plan**.

It doesn't matter as this point, since DC shows no sign of ever letting the rights revert back to the creators, and frankly, I'm not sure Moore would even accept the rights now if they did. I suppose Gibbons would. He seems more amicable about the situation, or perhaps just more of a realist.

As to the actual spin-offs, I'm not particularly interested in any of the projects. There are creators involved I like (Amanda Conner, Joe Kubert), but I suppose I really ought to read the real thing first. Actually, I think DC ought to dump JMS and Andy Kubert of the Nite-Owl book. Just let the Elder Kubert handle it. At least that way they know it won't be abandoned halfway through by its writer, or get interminably delayed by a slow artist. I don't begrudge anyone working on these projects. They gotta eat, too, but I'll wait for something they're involved in I like the sound of to start tossing money their way.

* I have this picture in my head of Moore and Gibbons having a meeting with DC execs over how this'll work. The contracts signed, everyone goes to shake hands. But as Moore reaches out for one executive's hand, the exec abruptly pulls it back and uses it to slick back his hair instead. I'm seeing the exec as some biker rebel type from a James Dean movie, or maybe Travolta in Welcome Back, Kotter.

** I haven't read Watchmen, but based on what I know from reading about it, I'm not sure his plan was a lasting solution. And there can always be effects he couldn't anticipate. Though I suppose Dr. Manhattan would have seen them coming.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Old Dog Already Knows All The Tricks

Maybe it's me, but Westerns seem to be a genre that really lends itself to stories about an old dog's last day. I suppose it plays into that mythology of the West, that it was a vast, untamed land Americans needed to alter and make use of. Because it was the right thing to do, Manifest Destiny, all the imperialistic, "White Man's Burden" crap. Thus, a lot of movies about how lawless the West is, but here rides a hero who will protect the weak, uphold the law, enable civilization to flourish, and so on. But what happens once everybody's civilized, or at least is convinced they are? What's left for the hero then, as he gets older?

It's not always about a lawman, but there are a few I can think of about a characters who did a lot of work with their guns in the West, now at the end of their lives. The Shootist (John Wayne), Ride the High Country (Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea), Unforgiven (Eastwood), maybe Sunset (James Garner). The last one is pushing it, but it was about Wyatt Earp later in life, after he'd become a consultant for Hollywood.

I bring this up because I watched The Good Guys and The Bad Guys, with Robert Mitchum and George Kennedy. Mitchum plays Marshall Flagg, who has protected the town of Prosperity for over 20 years. The town's bustling now, cars all over the place, trying to make itself look good by shutting down the local house of ill repute*, and just about to receive a big shipment of money for its newly opened bank. But Flagg's received word that once notorious train robber McKay (Kennedy) has been spotted with a gang of men. Flagg is convinced they plan to rob the train, but Mayor Wilker demonstrates he must be an ancestor of the mayor from Jaws, as he ultimately retires Flagg and replaces him with his deputy who is slow in all senses of the word.

So Flagg sets out to take care of things himself, only to find McKay isn't accorded the respect he used to be either. Much grousing from the two older gentlemen follows, as both feel the new breed has no style and no honor, to eager to shoot people in the back. Naturally, the two team up to prevent the robbery by hijacking the train first, so it won't stop at the station. Which leads to a sequence of the gang chasing the train, and Wilker leading the townspeople in chasing them in cars, wagons**, railcarts, motorcycles, whatever they had.

The movie isn't as serious as the first three I mentioned. Actually it might not even be as serious as Sunset. Flagg and McKay have a fistfight which ends with both of them collapsing in a creek of exhaustion. Their hijacking gets off to a lousy start, though not as bad as Flagg's first attempt to thwart the gang alone. The film has fun with the idea that their best years might be past them, but they aren't done yet. What they lack in physical gifts, they make up for in guile and experience. There's perhaps a bit too much "things were better in the old days" to it, but Mitchum and Kennedy play off each other well, and Martin Balsam as the mayor adds something to the proceedings as well.

* During the sequence where all the ladies are being run out, I complained that it was the Ladies for Law and Order at it again, since we'd watched Stagecoach a week earlier. We were watching this movie right after Mogambo, so my dad questioned why I was so offended on the ladies' behalf considering how angry I'd been at all the fooling around between Clark Gable and Grace Kelly. My response was I wouldn't have anything but scorn for any husbands visiting these ladies, but the women were clearly open about their profession. It's their livelihood, they aren't deluding anyone about how things work, and the husbands make their own decision to visit. It wasn't going to hurt Clark Gable's character any financially to not fool around with Grace Kelly behind her husband's back.

** I'm not sure what the point was of all the wagons falling apart, overturning, or generally being driven ineptly. One man let his horses run on either side of a telegraph pole, forgetting the wagon can do likewise. I guess nobody uses them anymore, so they're in disrepair, and no one knows how to drive one, either.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

When They Have Nowhere To Run

Looking back, the thing I like best about the Fear Itself tie-in for Avengers Academy was the horror movie vibe of it. A bunch of teens, trying to relax, maybe connect a little, and then, uh-oh, unstoppable killing machines arrive to, well, kill them unstoppably. And the teens have no place to go. They're in a mansion floating in a seemingly empty dimension. Hiding is useless, since the monsters can simply destroy the place one section at a time, and there are only so many places to run. Plus, they'll get tired before the monsters do. They can try and fight, or try and be tricky, but it's all delaying tactics when you get down to it.

Thinking about that made me wish Annihilation: Conquest had played more with the same idea. It was there for the taking. The Phalanx created a barrier that was theoretically impenetrable. Nova did manage to get out, but only with some luck and a nearby neutron star. For most people, his escape route wouldn't have been an option. So the heroes are trapped with an enemy that could pursue them, and what's more, can turn any of them they capture against them. You do see that incorporated into the story a bit. When Blastaar is captured, Star-Lord and his crew have to get their plan underway quickly because sooner or later, Blastaar will become a Phalanx Select, and then they'll now the plan, too.

For the most part, though, the heroes aren't trying to escape. Star-Lord and his bunch went right into the heart of the Phalanx compound. The Wraith (wonder if we'll ever see him again?) didn't bother to run. Nova did, but the nature of how Abnett and Lanning went about it meant there wasn't much chance to play with the sense of being trapped. Rich tried to escape, slammed into the barrier, nearly died, became a Select, got Ko-Rel killed, the Worldmind got the infection under control, and Rich escaped using information the Worldmind had learned from Rich's time as part of the Phalanx.

It might have been interesting to see Nova not hit the barrier, then he and the Worldmind struggle to evade the pursuing enemies, remain uninfected by the transmode virus, and find some way to get out, or turn the tide with the resources available within the confines of Kree space. Alternatively, Abnett and Lanning could have chosen not to kill off Ko-Rel, have her help facilitate Nova Prime's escape, but she finds herself still stuck in Kree space, trying to survive/find her son/slow down the Phalanx. Hmm, almost five years on, I still think killing off Ko-Rel was the biggest mistake DnA made on that book.

The writer who came the closest to using that particular feel was Avengers Academy's own Christos Gage, who wrote the Quasar mini-series. He had Phyla and Moondragon searching for a savior (they wound up with Adam Warlock, guess you can't get everything you want). While being relentlessly pursued by an infected Super-Adaptoid. Escape is hampered because Phyla and Moondragon are focused on finding the savior, which limits their options, much like the U-Boat captain in The Enemy Below. Plus, Heather is having some problems (she's about to turn into an actual dragon), and having a sick person in the party slows them down. So there's that sense of looming dread, from the Super-Adaptoid following them, to Heather's problems, to Phyla's doubts about herself, and the fact her Quantum Bands are gradually running out of power. It can all give a sense of inevitability that someone is doomed, whether it'll be Phyla, Heather, the savior, some other poor schmoe. It didn't turn out that way, not during that mini-series anyway (Heather died in the main Conquest mini-series, thanks Ultron, ya jerk), but the feeling was there for a time.