Monday, April 30, 2012

Rogue Moon - Algis Budrys

There's a structure on the moon. No one is sure how it got there, who put it there, or why. All they know is anyone who goes in dies. It can be in any number of ways, and for practically any reason. Even with the ability to create a duplicate of a person, and transmit that to the moon, the cost in lives is becoming prohibitive, because most people can't handle experiencing their own death. But if the secrets of the structure are going to be uncovered, Edward Hawks needs someone he can send in there to die. Again, and again, and again.

So that's the impetus for Rogue Moon, but Budrys isn't particularly interested in the object. No explanation for it is ever provided, save that different people will perceive its interior differently. Budrys' real concern is with people. What drives individuals, and how easily those drives can lead us down paths that trap us. How, once on those paths, it can be difficult to change course. How you have to live with the decisions you've made, right up until you die. You can't go back and change them, you can only deal with the results as best you can. I would say there's something in there about what we're prepared to do in the name of scientific discovery, but I think it's really just a reflection of Hawks' personality, his need to figure things out. I do think there's an interesting point about how technology often runs ahead of the ethical questions that accompany it. The cynical part of me would say that's because humans are too greedy to waste time worrying about such things in the race for progress, but I'm not sure it isn't that we simply can't perceive all the issues a particular advance might raise.

I read the book in the early summer of '04, when I went on a general reading binge for about six weeks. It was a little surprising, revisiting it, how much I'd forgotten. A lot of the details of the character interactions had slipped away entirely (I didn't remember either Claire or the personnel man, Connington). I'd also forgotten how fond Budrys is off letting the characters have long speeches about themselves. Here's one from Hawks:

'That's true of everyone. No one sees the world that others see. What do you want me to do: be made of brass? Hollow, and more enduring than flesh? Is that what you want a man to be?' Hawks leaned forward, tight creases slashing down across his hollow cheeks. 'Something that will still be the same when all the stars have burned out and the universe has gone cold? That will still be there when everything that ever lived is dead? Is that your idea of a respectable man?'

That, admittedly, is one of the shorter ones. Barker and some ensign spend over two pages quoting a back-and-forth between Merlin and Lancelot at one point, which seemed to be excessively beating the point to death.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Burn Notice 2.2 - Turn and Burn

Plot: Michael finally gets to meet Carla face-to-face. The meeting doesn't go as well as he'd like, since Carla's boys grab both Sam (who was trying to get photos of Carla) and Fi (who was waiting at the Charger to tail her). He does get a new assignment, though: Contact a Tunisian counterfeiter and get him to make a duplicate of a passkey.

While Michael's trying to track down Barry to facilitate contacting this counterfeiter, he gets roped into another job by Sam. Seems a waitress who takes a cooking class with Sam and Veronica is having problems with a stalker. Of course, it just so happens this stalker is in the drug trade, and Sophia isn't really a waitress. Which means Michael needs to buddy up to Raul, so that he can set him up and bring him down.

Added to all this is Madeline's insistence Michael attend counseling sessions with her. Somewhere in Fort Lauderdale, Nate breathes a sigh of relief without knowing why.

The Players: Carla (The New Handler), Sophia (The Client), Raul (The Stalker), Barry (The Money Launderer), Campos (The Boss), Nefzi (The Counterfeiter).

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'That stalker happens to have a MAC-10 in his jacket!'

Does Fiona blow anything up? A car, so she's definitely getting to have more fun this season. She also got to fire rifle repeatedly at a window.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 2 (6 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (0 overall).

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 2 (2 overall).

Other: Sam's officially become a friend who used to inform on Michael to the FBI in the opening sequence. I can't recall Fi ever becoming a trigger-happy girlfriend, instead of ex-girlfriend, but that situation changes so often they'd have to redo the opening sequence three times a season.

Sophia says she heard a rumor about Michael taking on a cartel sometime recently, which is why she approached him. I'm guessing that means episode 1.3 (Fight or Flight)?

I made a note (but didn't mention it) for last week's episode questioning whether the 'I didn't get your name' trick ever works. That generally continues this week, but it is impressive to see Michael's constant quest for information. Still, if Carla's as clever as she seems to be, I'm not sure why she rose to the bait of responding to Michael's Arabic farewell in Arabic. Maybe she's just too cocky, been running these kinds of operations so long she figures there's no worries. Or maybe it was an odd enough tactic she didn't have her defenses up (though she didn't seem to regret speaking afterward).

I'm also not real clear on why it had to be Nefzi. Presumably he's the best, but why not just say that? Why specify you want Michael to use a Tunisian counterfeiter, instead of telling him to contact Nefzi, or telling him to find the best counterfeiter? I do agree with Michael that quality work takes time, and Carla shouldn't be so impatient.

While I do enjoy Michael's constant digging, and his work to set up Raul, the highlight of the episode was his and Madeline's trip to the counselor. The whole bit about "communication", Michael's explanation for not calling on her birthday that one time, how pleasantly surprised he was that he got a chance to mention an example of Maddy failing to communicate. I suppose he might have enjoyed Madeline's discomfort a little too much, but she was the one who dragged him into it.

When Michael initially contacts Raul, he's told at one point that 'talk like that will get him killed.' I wasn't clear on what part was going to get Mike killed: Saying he used to work for the Mexicans, or saying 'cut the crap'. I don't know, perhaps the restaurant has a strict policy against bad language. A really strict policy.

I love that Sam is the go to guy when you need someone to be really annoying. If you need to start a fight, or just need lots of armed guys kept busy trying to make someone go away, Sam's your man.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Along the same lines as last week's post about Norm Breyfogle, I thought we could do one looking at some of Bill Sienkiewicz' work from Rocketeer Adventures. So here's a page.

It's strange, because normally I don't think I'd like artwork that was so scratchy looking, but the way Sienkiewicz' art seems to work, there's enough obvious detail I can follow the action, but if I slow down a little more, I pickup new things every time I look at it. Like in the last panel, the flame and "sss" lead to the Ducketeer crash landing and his face, but then I notice the legs bent backward and the way he's laying on one arm.

Anyway, I love how the sound effects really direct the action in the lower two-thirds of the page. The "FFFOOOOOM" leading up to the general and the dialogue balloon, where the "s" trails off through the "WOOOM" and continues down to his landing place. Plus, you have the general's reaction shots running parallel to the falling "s", and the the way the same word balloon connects to the Ducketeer in two different panels. My first thought on that was it demonstrated how he says it the same way each time, what would be the same volume or inflection if this were an actual cartoon. But it occurs to me now that it shows how long he dragged out saying "Up to the skies".

Which is kind of cool, because it makes the actual panel where he takes off stand separate from them. He's saying his catchphrase before and after it, but not during, like it's a virtual split second where he wasn't making a sound during the whole takeoff/explosion sequence.

We need to talk about the colors as well, I imagine. That first panel, where the Ducketeer is surrounded by bright oranges, while the General is surrounded by a sort of grey, dull blue almost. They're both primarily in outline (the Ducketeer is just detailed enough you can make out an eyehole in his helmet), but one is brightly backlit, the other shrouded in shadow. Well, given the Ducketeer is Daffy Duck, who was always an attention hog, it makes sense, but it persists throughout the remainder of the page. The takeoff and explosion are both in bright oranges and reds, the General's reaction panels in the sort of dull blue again. A soft, understated color, hemmed in by all of the Ducketeer's bombast, as all the General can do is watch this idiot. I do find it interesting that the red/orange persists through most of the final panel, but the ground itself, at the very bottom, shifts more towards the General's color scheme. The Ducketeer's bold move fizzled out, and he's been literally brought back to Earth with the rest of us.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What I Bought 4/21/2012 - Part 2

I will confess this new set-up does make adding links easier. Still not wild about the mew image adding procedure, though. In other news, Jack did not send along the first two parts of "The Omega Effect", which is OK. I was having regrets about ordering them as soon as I sent the list off, so it's no big deal. Saves me a few bucks.

Defenders #5, by Matt Fraction (writer), Mitch Breitweiser (artist and colorist), Bettie Breitweiser (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - The Surfer looks like he's holding his breath on that cover, which wouldn't be necessary for him. Then again, there are all kinds of things floating in the ocean, so it might be better to keep his mouth shut.

In plot matters, the Atlanteans found a tomb, whose door is covered by the same symbol as the Concordance Engine, which none of the Defenders can actually say, for some reason. The Surfer burns through the door, they find the Nautilus buried in a monster's (looked more like a giant M-11 from Agents of Atlas to me, but whatever) chest. Then a bunch of warrior fish women burst forth, attack until Namor gets them to calm down, then leave. When they return, they diss Namor, and state they've sort of declared war on the surface world. They aren't attacking cities, but any humans or human stuff in the oceans is fair game. Then Fat Cobra interrupts Danny and Misty Knight's romantic evening to say someone is killing them, and it's Danny's fault. Sigh, Fat Cobra, we went over this in your issue of Immortal Weapons. All those people trying to kill you are the various children you've sired from your numerous liaisons over the years, remember?

I honestly have no idea where Fraction is going with this. I mean, these "Daughters of Pontus" or whatever, that are promising to overthrow Namor, on top of whatever the deal is with the Engine and the Prestors, and now the Immortal Weapons are under attack? His Namor's a bit different than I'm used to. Still high-handed and arrogant, but in a distant, cold way as opposed to his more typical hot-headed, loud proclamations way. The Breitweisers worked together on the art and some of the scenery is vivid and beautiful, but the faces are frequently indistinct or sketchy looking. But not always, so I don't know if it was a time issue, or if their art style doesn't lend itself well to small panels. It's not a huge style shift to come to this from Michael Lark last issue, but if the Dodsons come back next month, that's going to be quite the change.

Secret Avengers #25, by Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer) - Much as I hate to admit it, the new Venom design is growing on me. I can't believe I just admitted that. That's a classic Art Adams' pose the Widow's sporting, isn't it?

Basically, the Avengers get their butts kicked, barely escape, and are tricked into thinking they actually won something. Not a great start to Hawkeye's stint as team leader. Turns out I was right to be suspicious of O'Grady's return from the dead, though I guess we'll see if the rest of the team sits down and compares notes. I suppose we learned Father's deal, and what's up with the Descendants, assuming we can take the story at face value. Deathlok Miss America says she has free will, but given Father at one point said he had called all those artificial lifeforms there not to hear their opinions, but to tell them their opinions, I have my doubts. Besides, even if she has free will, there's nothing to stop her from lying.

It's interesting, since Bettie Breitweiser is involved in the coloring of each, but the colors on this seem more vivid than they were on Defenders. I suppose the colors on that could have been dulled to represent being at the bottom of the ocean, where it's dark and murky, the light probably coming mostly from the Surfer. It could just be that Secret Avengers had a lot more action this issue, and that lends itself to brighter displays.

It's a good thing Marvel's a month away from releasing solicitations for August. Having finished his initial story, I'm questioning whether I want to hang around with Secret Avengers to see where Remender and Hardman go once these interminable AvX tie-ins are done.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What I Bought 4/21/2012 - Part 1

Three whole posts with the new system, all without incident! Except now I hear people can't post if they use particular browsing engines? Sigh. Upgrades have never actually made something better, have they?

Batman Beyond Unlimited #3, by J.T. Krul (writer), Howard Porter (pencils), John Livesay (inks), Randy Mayor (colors), Saida Temofonte (letters); Adam Beechen (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist), Saida Temofonte (letterer) for "The Trigger Man"; Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen (writers), Nguyen (pencils), Fridolfs (inks), Randy Mayor (colors), Saida Temofonte (letters) for "Konstriction" - If you look at the credits for the latter two stories, Nguyen is credited as cover artist, but I'm pretty sure that's Porter and Livesay's work on the cover. Not that I wouldn't prefer Nguyen, but whoever put in the credits needed to get off autopilot.

So they added a Superman story to the mix. Whatever. It involves Superman flying around and wondering if there's any place for him, in Metropolis or on Earth, and we learn Lex Luthor has a daughter. Or the silver card claims she's his daughter. With Lex, who knows. I don't really need to read a story about mopey Superman, partially because I think he'd have continued to make friends throughout his life. Not that he wouldn't miss his parents, or especially Lois (I notice Jimmy Olsen isn't listed among the deceased, interesting), but there would be other people to keep him connected. Porter's artwork seems more stiff than I remember from JLA or The Ray. It's all awkward poses and no energy, everyone has either a really long neck, or shoulders that slope at an unusually steep angle. It's off-putting.Also, there's one bit of dialogue (That one knows how to make an entrance though; I'll give him that) which feels like it should be in Superman's thought captions, but is in a voice bubble for one Metropolis' new super-cops.

In the Batman story, Mad Stan gets away, but has agreed to a swap with the arms dealer: Their supplies for his dog. Bruce expects Terry to deal with it, but Dana showed up asking for help with her brother, so what's Terry to do? Also, Max missed out on a chance to tell Terry what she's mixed up in, as she's finally getting a sense this is too big for her alone. So a little advancement across multiple plot lines, which isn't bad. One of the things I liked about Breyfogle's Batman was how he'd have that huge cape, this source of shadows obscuring his body, which made him this almost supernatural force of darkness. Terry doesn't have a cape so that won't work, but what Breyfogle and Elder seem to be doing is making him this slim, dark shape, everything ending in a point. More like an actual creature that would hunt in the night, which is still effective, but works as a sign of differences between Bruce and Terry.

Over in the JLA story, Amanda Waller breaks down what Kobra's after, which is not the Midgard Serpent, but close enough. It's still a big snake thing that will end the world, though it has to destroy New Genesis first, because their scriptures say so. Which sounds a little dodgy. Is Granny Goodness up to something again, a repeat of her taking over the Amazons?

Resurrection Man #8, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Fernando Dagnino (artist), Jeromy Cox (colors), Rob Leigh (letters) - I like the color scheme from the Death portion of that cover carries over into the shadows being cast by Mitch's fleeing form. Very nice touch.

Mitch is trying to learn about who he used to be. Unfortunately his quiet day at the library is interrupted. First by private investigator Kim Rebecki, using her psychometric abilities to track him down. Then by the Butcher, a necromancer who killed people to find Shelly. Mitch tries to avoid dying, doesn't pull it off, but comes back to life right as the Butcher was trying to use the power Mitch's death had provided him. The power went away, and the Butcher burned himself out. Before Mitch can take advantage of the fact Kim knows about who he used to be, the people who hired her show up. That would be the Suicide Squad.

This was a quietly solid issue. Not great, but I like that even as Mitch focuses on trying to learn who he is, the various forces interested in him aren't content to wait. I don't know who the Butcher is working for, and if he's really gone, it may be a moot point. Although, what if it were Constantine? He's kind of a bastard, right? I could see him justifying sending a monster like that after someone if he thought it was the right move. Why he would think that, I don't know, but I'm just spitballing here. More likely one of the afterlife realms contacted the necromancer and promised him his soul back if he eliminated Mitch once and for all.

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #2, by Tom Taylor (story), Colin Wilson (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Robbie Robbins (letters) for "Work to Do"; Paul Dini (story), Bill Morrison (art), Serban Cristescu (colors), Chris Mowry (letters) for "Betty's Big Break"; Walter Simonson (story), John Paul Leon (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Shawn Lee (letters) for "Autograph" - That's a sweet image on the cover, with the exhaust making a heart shape, but the dog's face is freaking me out.

In "Work to Do", Cliff's fighting on the European Front, and after being knocked for a loop by some contraption, rushes a wounded soldier back to an aid station before returning to fight the war machine. Cliff's voice is off somehow, too calm, but the idea behind the story, that Cliff really doesn't like being in the middle of this war, even though he knows he needs to be there, is a good one. Colin Wilson's art is solid, the war scenes look suitable ugly and grimy, and Dave Stewart's colors add to that. Cliff's helmet doesn't shine like it sometimes does, the soldier is a very pale grey, getting across how poorly he's doing.

"Betty's Big Break" involves Cliff not trusting Betty on the set of her first supporting role, going to spy on her, and then saving her when the special effects guys overdo it on the explosives. The catch being, because the studio is so cheap, they didn't redo the shot and there's the Rocketeer on film, exposing Cliff's chicanery to Betty. Which is as it should be. Cristescu's colors are much brighter and more vivid than Stewart's were on the previous story, which makes sense. This is a more lighthearted tale, and it's a movie serial being filmed, sort of cheesy and unrealistic, everything exaggerated. Though I guess the film wasn't in color, but you get my point.

"Autograph" has Cliff saving Judy Garland from some kidnappers while he's waiting on Betty to get back from seeing Judy Garland put her handprints in the cement outside that Chinese Theater. Which she wouldn't have gotten to see if Cliff hadn't rescued Garland, so I guess he came through for Betty on that one. Bound to happen eventually. I think this might have been my favorite of the three. Not sure why, maybe because Cliff did something for Betty that didn't involve rescuing her. Some of Shawn Lee's lettering for the sound effects was pretty good, the scrheech of the car curving out from the tires to where Cliff stood, for example. John Paul Leon has this nice trick he uses a couple of times where Cliff's exhaust trail is rendered all in white, and it comes out of the gutters between two panels. Kind of showing the reader how there's action going on between that panels because here's the Rocketeer flying from those gutters into the next panel.

No spectacular books, but all solidly good books, which is nice. Will tomorrow be as fortunate? Eh, probably not.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tales From the Woods #13

While I was constructing an e-lite assault team, CAP and Cassanee were tied up in Guyamo's kitchen. His exact words had been, 'If you will not serve your king, you will be served to him - as stew!' Then he barged off to prepare for his repast, leaving CAP to badger Cass with questions. Anything to blot out the drone of the Darkle kitchen staffs singing (it resembles an old diesel engine with a bad fanbelt. All screeches, rattles, and clanks).

"So you weren't trying to get anyone to follow you?"


"Had you been leaving Calvin presents?"

"I tried to give him a flower that day. He looked depressed."

"He always looks that way." (Thanks a lot, squirt.)

"Oh." A pause, then Cassanee calmly said, "Are you ready to escape?"

"Absolutely. I can't take any more of this singing."

At that, the Darkles looked up from their vegetable cutting and spice selecting, though I don't know why they bothered. With only three of them, no chainsaws, no Guyamo and his staff, they had no chance. After Cassanee booting the cauldron in their direction sent them scattering, CAP had plenty of time to chew through the ropes around her wrists so she could drop them. Once they were both freed, it was time for the next step.

"We have to get his staff before he can use it on us," CAP declared. Cassanee's look said this was obvious. The castle wasn't large, which was good, but its hallways were sparsely furnished, which meant no cover. They exited the kitchen into a hallway that ran both left and right. The panda sniffed the air, and without a word they went left, each staying close to a wall. At the end were two doors on either side, both closed. Some water puddled on the floor. CAP paused, sniffed again, and pointed left. Cassanee waited beside the door as her furry partner smashed through it. No one was there. It was a simple bathroom, with a pool (or very large tub) that showed signs of recent use.

"The scent was fresher here," CAP sounded disraught, "I didn't think he'd bathe. . ."

A screech emanated from behind them, like trying to use a pencil eraser worn down to the metal. (I hate that scraping sound. It makes my teeth ache.) A Darkle had emerged from the opposite room and was raising the alarm. Before a second warning cry could be issues, Cassanee had silenced it with a sharp blow to the throat. CAP barreled into it, perhaps releasing some frustration over a plan gone awry.

"Now what?" CAP asked.

"Find Guyamo and his staff before Darkles overwhelm us." If Cass was bothered at the prospect of their escape being broadcast, she didn't show it. They moved into the room the Darkle had come from. Inside were two large mattresses side by side on the floor, and an old wooden bureau stood against one wall. Inside was a wide assortment of clothes: Hunting jackets, t-shirts, a button down shirt with ruffles, camo pants, straw hats, boots, ball caps, a mumu. None of it seemed large enough for Guyamo, except perhaps the orange vests, but the top coat hadn't been large enough, either. Finding clothes in an 80, extra fat, must be a real pain.

There was another door, opposite their point of entry. On the other side was a large dining hall. I'm told it was rather nice. Candle-lit, like the rest of the castle, but combined with the single, long table and the one massive chair, it had an impressive atmosphere, if a tad empty. Plates had been laid out in front of the chair, but the room was devoid of life. From outside came the screeches of Darkles, mingled with crashes, bellows, and a yell quite familiar to CAP.

While they'd been playing "Cribs: Rural Overlord Edition", I'd been storming the castle. The Darkles outside the front gate hadn't know what to make of the trucks barreling towards them. So they stood there dumbly as the first one drove between them and blasted through the gate. The other trucks couldn't afford to be so nice, traveling abreast of each other as they were, and that was it for the sentries. The initial impacts damaged them, subsequent thumps caused them to vanish in a flash of light. The light was accompanied by a wave of emotions, the residual despair they were made of, but there was also a sense of peace, of things being set to right.

I was riding in the bed of the lead truck. It had taken some work to convince the psychic impression of myself to use the truck. You would have thought my being there hale and hearty would have been sufficient proof everything turned out OK, but it took considerable cajoling beyond that. The specter of the truck made it through the gate before it sputtered and died, as the truck apparently didn't think it could go any further. We were able to coast out of the way as trucks came pouring into the courtyard from one direction, Guyamo and his Darkles from the other. The boss was hurriedly throwing on his top coat and scowling at the scene. He might have said something about it, but it was lost amidst the din of the truck engines and chainsaws starting up (Darkles drop start, not safe). I could see his growing frustration as his servants kept getting run over. Oh, they scored the occasional hit with a chainsaw, but they weren't nimble enough to do so without getting flattened. Disgusted, Guyamo raised that staff, and the remaining Darkles began to dissipate. I'd seen this episode before. I dove out of the bed, behind the truck as the wave surged outward. I'm not sure it had the desired effect or not. I was still standing, with only a slight nervous feeling (perfectly understandable considering the circumstances), but all but two of the trucks were gone, vanishing in their own explosions of light when they contacted the wave.

Guyamo roared, "What treachery is this?

I stepped forward as the remaining trucks circled in. "Even this place can't crush hope instantaneously. Lots of people were excited, hopeful, or just determined to do their jobs the first time they came here. Turns out Site 9 swallows that up as readily as their inevitable disillusionment."

"You cannot use a king's own realm to defy him!" What do you say to that? I opted to shrug, and one of the trucks took that as a signal to charge. I hoped the staff wouldn't have sufficient time to charge, but it made little difference. If these psychic impressions were solid enough to run Guyamo down, they were solid enough for him to grab the front bumper in one hand and fling one truck at the other. The second truck avoided the collision, but by then Guyamo had raised the staff and it opted to veer between the two of us. Again I was shielded from the worst of the attack, but I didn't care for my prospects against him alone. I still had the gas gun, but Guyamo had the staff, and an entire miserable land to draw power from.

Oh yeah, and he was nine feet tall and several hundred angry pounds.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Cape Con Recap Post!

Good news, everyone! Yesterday's post went up right the first time. Of course, I didn't do anything more complicated than use italics a couple times. Today we're going to add images. Maybe even a link or two. Can good fortune continue? Let's find out!

Thursday night I had to meet Alex at a club in St. Louis. To kill time until he arrived, I hit a couple of stores in the area on back issue hunts. At one I grabbed the Mystique by Sean McKeever collection I'd seen there in November, to go with the Mystique by BKV collection I bought last month. At my next stop, I grabbed the last 3 issues of Bedard's R.E.B.E.L.S. run I needed, and the last two-thirds of Engelhart's Silver Surfer run. You know, I like Ron Lim's art, generally speaking, and it's probably his Surfer I think of when someone says "Silver Surfer", just based on the level and timing of exposure, but I was kind of sad when Marshall Rogers left the book as artist.

Friday had nothing comic related, other than various errands run in preparation for the trip (oil changes, getting money, so on).

As far as the convention itself, I didn't find too many things I was looking for, back issue wise. Most of the last third of Spider-Man 2099, a handful of post-issue #200 Uncanny X-Men, a couple of Suicide Squad comics. I did buy the Daughters of the Dragon trade Palmiotti, Gray, and Khari Evans did, and I found the Infinity Gauntlet single issues collected for 6 bucks. Had to grab that. I bought more Heroclix than I should have, and a complete set of X-Men Series 1 trading cards, but that was only $7.50. No regrets there. Jack also brought in my comics from the last two weeks, so I'll get to those later this week, such as they are. Alex limited his spending at those tables to mostly Magic cards for his friends and a couple of silk screens he intends to add some designs to. For decoration during his shows, I assume.

From the creators' alley, Alex was picking stuff up left and right. He bought 2 large prints from Robert James Luedke, including one of Bill Murray as Peter Venkman mirroring Murray's pose from the poster for Stripes!, which isn't a combination I'd have thought of, but it makes sense. We also had to stop at Brian Rhodes' table so he could pick up volume 2 of Mike and the Ninja. I was a little disappointed there was no ninja standing at his table this year, as in 2010, but them's the breaks. We learned volume 3 will be ready by next year's con, which is good, but it's the last volume, which is sad. I enjoy Mike and Stu's madcap adventures. Alex also asked Chris Ebert for a sketch of a unicorn, for some lady friend of his. I forget which, hopefully he doesn't.

We left to get lunch while we waited for that, and by the time we returned, two of my coworkers had arrived. One had already commissioned a Nightcrawler from Ebert, but mentioned she had to wait until he finished a unicorn, which caused me to bust out laughing. Both my coworkers purchased some prints from Brian Borders at 7 x 70 Studios, including Gambit. I can't help it if all my friends and coworkers are weird. Alex did get his unicorn, and my coworker got her Nightcrawler, though she said Ebert happened to see them outside, wasn't sure if the unicorn had been for them, but when they said they knew who it had been for, asked if they thought it looked OK. He was worried he hadn't drawn a lot of horses. I thought it looked fine, and it clearly looked good enough to get my coworkers thinking about asking someone to sketch a Dresden unicorn in the future. Apparently unicorns are very strange looking in the Harry Dresden books?

As for me, my Saturday Creator's Alley spending was concentrated on Nathan Bonner, since I enjoyed the first volume of his InDavo work that Alex bought back in 2010. Unfortunately, because I'm an idiot, I bought volumes 2 and 4, instead of doing the sensible thing and buying consecutive volumes. Fortunately, I think Bonner breaks down the volumes so they can mostly be self-contained. All you really need to know will be explained as you go along. I also picked up the 4 issues of the Shamus Stone comic he had. I thought it was pretty cool he was working on a future sci-fi story, and a 1940s detective noir comic concurrently. be interesting to see if there are style overlaps as they go along. Other than that, I bought Brian Koschak's Back Alley Hero. I read through it last night and really enjoyed it, though it's really more of a teaser/trailer, according to him. Worked on me. He was apologetic about it costing 5 dollars, so clearly he didn't realize how many times I've spent 3 or 4 dollars on comics that I wound up regretting purchasing. I'm not going to mind paying extra for something I like.

After we collected Alex's sketch, we hung around long enough to see the costume contest. Disappointingly few people on the adult division. There was a good Barf (Spaceballs), and a couple showed up as a Simon Pegg/Zombie Nick Frost from Shaun of the Dead, which was pretty clever. After we left, the only notable occurrences were Alex complaining about the quality of vodka the hotel used in his free screwdriver, which prompted us to trek to the gas station so he could buy something better to make his own, and my getting to watch actual television for the first time since roughly Christmas. Naturally, there was nothing on.

Sunday, Alex couldn't afford to spend much, so I did most of the buying. Three pictures from Bryan Ward, two of which were for Alex. Well I sure wasn't buying Bumblebee or Sookie for myself. Now Indiana Jones, that was for me. Alex couldn't stop staring at the "Wandering Astronaut" print, which you can see if you scroll down to the March 13, 2011 post on Koschak's blog, and it was only 5 dollars, so I bought that for him. I grabbed 4 prints from Mr. Borders, 2 for Alex (Joker and the Predator), 2 for me, 10 dollars total. I went with Spider-Man and an Injustice Society picture. The latter made Mr. Borders pretty happy, because apparently I was either the first person to choose it, or at least the first to show I knew who they were. What do you say in response to that. I went with, 'Well, that's Gentleman Ghost. Joe Kubert design.' He pointed out Solomon Grundy in the background, which is true, but who wants to notice the scraggly monster thing when there's a floating top hat and monocle in the center of the picture?

We were doing all this to pass time while Chris Ebert worked on a Firestar sketch for me. Yes, it was time to add another New Warrior to the collection, alongside Terry Huddleston's Nova from 2010, and Brandon Rout's Speedball from 2009. It only took him about an hour (he said it just came out well right from the start), and it looks great. Check that out, and for only 10 dollars people! That's good value! He also had a Deadpool picture I really wanted to buy (Wade standing on a mountain of dead ninjas), but he was out of prints for it. Dang.

After that, we were ready to go, but I got waylaid talking to Ken at the entry desk for about 10 minutes. Which was nice, I hadn't talked to him since the 2010 con. We didn't talk about anything of significance, just how he felt the con was going, what I'd been up to. I was glad I got the chance to do that before we left, and I got to see a fair number of people come in for early Sunday afternoon, which is always encouraging. The rest of the day, once we arrived at Alex', was spent throwing junk out, and packing up other stuff in preparation for his move. Not how I wanted to spend Sunday night, but to be fair, he really needed to wash dishes. There were smells emanating from that sink I'd rather not contemplate. Plus, we knocked off by midnight, so I probably got close to 6.5 hours sleep, which might be the best I managed all weekend.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Consider This A Trial Run

Welcome to the first Reporting on Marvels and Legends' post done with Blogger's new, butt ugly interface! It even takes three times as long to load the Create a Post screen now! Superb! The question is how many times will I post this, then go back and try to fix things before it either looks how I want, or I give up in frustration?

Anyway, I just got back from Cape Con 2012 a couple of hours ago. As this was a weekend that involved hanging out with Alex, I'm fried from too little sleep, so let's save the convention discussion for tomorrow.  Knowing I wasn't going to do a big post, it seemed like a good time to upgrade and start trying to pick my way through the many pitfalls lurking in the new design

However, rather than leave you with this, I will try to briefly discuss Sucker Punch, since Alex was determined I watch that with him on Friday night. Personally, I'd rather we watched Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang again, but oh well. Let's see, too much slow motion, which is no surprise. I don't think I've watched even one Zack Snyder movie the whole way through, and I still know he overuses slow-mo. I'm not sure what we were supposed to think of the abrupt shift from the mental institution to the bordello early in the film. I thought it was pretty obvious it was some strange hallucination she had in the moments before she ceased to think in any significant way, but I'm not sure whether Snyder was trying to trick us, of if he expected us to realize that. At least the way the movie ended explained why Baby Doll was always taking orders from Scott Glenn. I had sort of suspected he was her real father (as opposed to her stepdad), or how she remembered her dad, anyway, but I wasn't sure.

That still leaves the question of why, if Sweet Pea is telling us the story,, we would have all these video game scenes with dragons, and shooting robots on trains, or German zombies. Why would she visualize that as what Baby Doll sees when she starts dancing? Mystery for the ages perhaps. I didn't hate the movie, but I didn't enjoy it. I get the idea of imaging yourself doing something vitally important to get through some drudgery, but their situation seemed so dire it clashed with how, sort of absurd their "missions" were in the fantasy world. Also, I didn't find it necessary for the Blue to shoot two girls. I already disliked him.

Well, so much for briefly. Time to hit the button and see what disaster is brought forth.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Burn Notice 2.1 - Breaking and Entering

Plot: The season opens with Michael and Sam's Caddy still inside that trailer. Then the gunfire, shouts, and explosions start, and Michael gets a call from the smokey-voiced woman who introduces herself as Carla. The trailer opens, and Michael finds himself in the midst of a small battle. There's a burning plane, two corpses, and a man bound and gagged on the ground. That's Jimmy. He was supposed to steal some data for Carla, but tried to flee the country with his family instead. Now Carla has his family, and Jimmy's going to be connected to a double homicide. Guess whose job it is to help Jimmy evade arrest and get that data?

The data is stored in the computers of a company called Security Associates. They're mercs, essentially. Jimmy once worked for them to upgrade the defenses on their computer systems. Michael has to pose as a prospective client to scope out their security measures, then break in and steal the data. Which he does, but not without the head of Security Associates figuring out who did it. On the upside, this presents Michael with an opportunity to put a dent in S.A.'s operations, get the police off Jimmy's trail about the homicides, and make being under Carla's thumb work for him.

We do get to actually meet Carla at the end of the episode, and Fiona also tells Michael she doesn't believe they can be together, because he will always put his work first. Which she did very maturely, not violence or histrionics, and she even promised to continue to help him when he needs it, but it was still undercut by Michael's quiet "I told you so". No, he doesn't actually say that. He says, 'I've been saying that for years', which is essentially the same thing.

The Players: Jimmy (The Client), Ryder Stahl (Mercenary)

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'What are you doing, Mom? Put the shotgun down.' Madeline - 'There are people with guns out there looking for me, Michael!' Michael - 'They're after me, Mom.' Madeline - 'Well you're here, so maybe I should have the gun.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Yes, a rickety old boat. She also takes a swing at Michael.

Sam Axe's Drink Count: 4. It's a new season, so we're starting over.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0. What, the half dozen punches while he was tied to a chair last week weren't enough? Sadists.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0.

Other: Michael's cover identity for this week is "Terry Miller", an Aussie with interest in diamond mining in Kenya.

It had been 48 hours (roughly) from when Michael and Fiona said their goodbyes in "Loose Ends" to their abrupt reunion in this episode. I'm inclined to agree with Fiona that Michael could have found a better way to let Fiona know he was OK than by calling and asking her to come over and help. Then again, he hadn't told Maddy at all, had been planning to leave her hiding in Fort Lauderdale, except she called Fi wanting to know if she knew anything about Michael. So Michael did call her and tell her she could come home. Which is more than Nate got, though if Maddy's so worried about him hiding up there, why not call him herself?

Michael tries to tell Madeline that it's things like this that explain why he never came home all these years, but I have my doubts. That sounds suspiciously like one of those "It's for your own good" lies people tell.

When Fi leaves Michael's apartment after their relationship chat, she left his front door open. I guess being there to help him doesn't extend to common courtesy. It was sad, in a way, this sense that Fiona had some hope she and Michael had been connecting during this time in Miami, but she's realized nothing's changed. Also, I know I said she handled it in a mature manner, but perhaps that's because she vented her frustrations earlier by swinging at him, and shooting at the ground between his feet. I did like her evil smile when she did that, though. That, and Michael's reaction were priceless.

OK, on the lighter side, we do get several funny moments with Sam. He didn't want to visit Veronica looking a tenderized slab of beef, so he was using Michael's loft, and wearing his 'tiny shirts'. We also found out Sam has exactly one friend he could count on to stage an armed assault to rescue him, and exactly one friend with ovaries. How sad is it he has to consider Fiona a friend, when all she ever does is bust his chops?

The one arc within the episode I really enjoyed was Jimmy's. He starts off terrified and confused, understandable with the shooting, the killing, the abduction of his family. Then he gets sort of depressed, responding in a cranky manner to just about everything. But when it comes time, he gets determined to go in. He's realized this is what has to be done to save his family, and he can't leave the most important part in other people's hands. Michael might be an expert at breaking into buildings (and I did love the whole caper flick aspect of this episode), but Jimmy's the one who knows how to get the files out of the database.

Of course, he nearly blows the whole thing by letting his exuberance get the best of him, but it was understandable. That heightens the tension, and he gets angry and confused again, but when it really counts, he comes through and helps get Ryder busted.

So, the season's hardly started and we have a face to go with Michael's new problem, and there's little doubt he and Fiona are going to have some awkward moments going forward. Does it seem like he has the greatest difficulty with women? Fi, Carla, Madeline, Evelyn from last season's "False Flag".

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Something I Thought Of Typing Last Night's Post

Maybe it's because he does care for her, or maybe it's because he doesn't regard her as a threat to his plans in the slightest, but I think Dana's going to be the one who ultimately brings down Doug and his "10,000 Jokers" plan.

He doesn't particularly listen to her concerns, but he also doesn't lash out at her, which suggests she could get close enough to him to try and get him to listen to reason. Or, from another perspective, he's so dismissive of her as being a possible obstacle he'd never see her coming. With his, "batman will be about as much trouble as my sister Dana" comments and all, I think he may find he's underestimated her a bit.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Let's Take A MinuteTo Gush About Norm Breyfogle

{Edit: This was supposed to post Friday. I set it to do that, and it didn't. God damnit I haven't even upgraded to the new Blogger and it's screwing me over. Can't even enjoy a comic convention without something going wrong.}

I mentioned it in the review of Batman Beyond Unlimited #2 last week, but Norm Breyfogle does seem to favor those short, wide panels to depict a quick series of actions. He used it in the previous issue with the two hammer-wielding Jokers, as well as in the scene where Terry meets Dana's brother Doug. The thing it brought home was that he really likes to use them in threes, which I sort of remember from the Hellcat mini-series he did with Steve Engelhart in 2000. It's a way to highlight the beginning, middle, and end of some specific action, I guess. In the review, I mentioned the sequence when Doug cold cocks his father, so I thought I'd show it here.

Yes, it's another photograph, but it's not too bad. You can tell what's happening. I just want to talk a little about it. Dialogue by Adam Beechen, art by Breyfogle, colors by Andrew Elder, and letters by Saida Temofonte.

In the first panel, Doug's eyes and the movement with the towel draw our eye towards the center of the panel, where his father's arm and the word balloon take us over toward Dana on the far side. The second panel has the towel again drawing the eye to the right, but only a third of the way, instead of half. From there, the movement of Doug's left arm brings us to the strike on his father's chin and the jagged "KRAK" that accompanies it. Now that we're roughly halfway across, and seeing his father's face, we can follow his speech balloon over to where Dana's 'Doug!' is, which neatly shows us her reaction. In the final panel, you have his father's blood catching the eye's notice*, the balloon leading us to Doug, whose posture points towards Dana, who's leaning back towards the right edge of the panel.

What's nifty is, even as each panel is laid out so they each draw your eye from left to right, they're also laid out so you can read them on a diagonal. You could go from Doug's flip of the towel in Panel 1 (in the left third of the page), to the actual hit in Panel 2 (dead center), to Doug stepping over his father and moving in Dana's direction in Panel 3 (right third of the page).

The other nifty thing is, there's at least a second or two lapse between Panel 1 and 2, for Doug to have avoided his father falling on him, place the towel over his shoulders, and step over towards Dana, but we don't see it. We're like Dana, whose eyes are still focused on her unconscious father. She might be in shock to the extent, that she never noticed Doug moving until he was almost right in front of her. Those moments in between are blank for her and for us.

I didn't include it in the photo, but the panel after that is a close up of Doug giving Dana a kiss on the forehead and saying 'Love you, sis.', before the next panel pulls back to Dana sitting on the floor, alone in the bathroom with her bleeding father. It's a nice representation of the disconnect in Doug's mind between what he just did to his father, and the affection he feels for his sister. He doesn't see anything incongruous about his behavior, but Dana's sweating and terrified in both panels. She can't ignore what he just did. There's even a thick black border between the top three panels and the bottom one (which the Panel 4 partially overlaps), which presents that brief instance of violence as something separate from everything else, likes it's exists in its own pocket universe.

I feel like I should say something about Elder's colors. The way that their father is the large shape, mostly a heavy black color, versus Dana's lighter blue, and the pale colors of Doug's skin and towel. It's like their father should be the dominant presence, since his are the strongest colors, but he's being dismissed with contemptuous ease. He goes from being slightly taller than Doug, to being pulled a little shorter, to flat on the ground beneath him, and the extent to which the black of his coat dominates lessens with each panel, until the third one when Doug's dark blue pants and speech bubble are each overlapping it. Dana's light blue dress is probably the brightest object in the panel, which helps the reader keep her in mind even while she's essentially a spectator in all this. Doug's colors are the least visually striking, yet he's the one who has the power, and comes to dominate the scene.

* Does that seem like a lot of blood for an elbow to the chin? I've been fortunate to not have been struck that way, so I don't know, but it seems like a lot. Unless he bit through his tongue because he was caught off-guard. I imagine that would produce a lot of blood.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Makes A Memory Yours?

If you remove the emotions associated with a memory, is it really your memory any longer?

There was something Jamie Madrox said early in the current volume of X-Factor, that he didn't remember whether it was him or a duplicate that got a law degree, because all the memories mix together inside his head. He added it wasn't so different from anyone else, that when you try to remember something, you reconstruct the past out of a jumble of memories.

But when you do that, there's no guarantee you'd reconstruct events properly. You might forget something, or your perception might be altered by your state of mind at the moment you're attempting the reconstruction. And how you proceed can be impacted by how you reconstruct your memory of whatever it is you're trying to recollect. If a person you have spotty history with asks for a favor, you might think back over that history. Maybe you're in a bad mood, and forget some kindness they showed you. Or you're feeling good and only remember the good times, or minimize the significance of the bad times.

All this come to mind because of Faith going to Drusilla and asking for the Lorophage to draw out all the pain and hurt she's had*. What interests me is the idea of identity, and what makes a person who they are. Certainly our experiences, the effect they have on us, and how we react to them are a part of it. If you take away emotions associated with an experience, be they good or bad, that changes you. That's the whole point of why these people come to Drusilla. They can't handle the pain, they need it excised to go forward. Having done that, do the experiences that brought about the emotional distress play any part in making them who they are any longer?

It puts me in mind of that line from that Bruce Lee movie. 'What is this, an exhibition? You need emotional content.' If you remember something, but feel nothing when you remember it, does it have any impact on your life? It might as well be a story you heard about someone else, or a movie you watched. It's life at a remove, and how much of that can you make of your past before you're unrecognizable? Every change made produces a shift in the person as a whole. Enough little changes, and are you even the same person anymore?

Well that's what Faith's shooting for, obviously. She doesn't want to be this person who can be manipulated by her desire that just once an authority figure would actually care about her for who she is, not what she can do for them. But law of unintended consequences and all, what if she loses parts of herself she likes? That's the trick, it's not so simple to determine what events, and what emotions are connected to what personality traits. Your significant other cheats on you and you break up. This produces a more cynical outlook in you, which makes it difficult for you to trust others. Removing the trauma of that breakup might change that, but you might also learn that while you found it difficult to place trust in others initially, once someone had earned it, you would trust them implicitly. What if that's lost in the process, because you don't have that moment when it was so clear to you how important people you can really trust are?

Which goes back to whether someone who changes like that is really the same person anymore, or are they someone entirely new standing where that old version did. Is there a line, some percent of the total parts of a person that once changed, equals a new person? Or is it something that varies with the observer, each one comparing this version of their friend to the one they think they know, all coming to different conclusions?

* I think it might be a ruse, that Faith needed a way to get close to the demon without arousing the suspicion of Dru or her followers. Something about her tearful, kneeling posture seems so over-the-top. She knows Dru's history, how she thought her gifts were a curse (and how Angelus played on that). Faith might figure a young woman with powers which carry a terrible burden would be someone Dru would instinctively want to help, since no one helped her.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tales From The Woods #12

I considered charging down there. Not to beat Guyamo, but to rescue them. I dismissed the idea. The gas gun was all I had to rely on, and I wasn't sure how effective it would be. It had confused the Darkles, probably blinded them, but they hadn't seemed particularly incapacitated. I knew I wouldn't be able to see or breathe once I was in it. I wasn't sure blinding Guyamo would help, either. He hadn't aimed the staff, merely raised it, which suggested he wouldn't need to see me to let another of those pulses fly. I wasn't fooling myself into thinking I could withstand one up close any better than CAP or Cassanee had. Of course, Guyamo hadn't been affected, so he did direct the energy away from himself, somehow. Which suggested the safest place to be was in close proximity to him.

But that was at cross-purposes with the whole "get your friends out of there" part of the plan. So I slid back into the shadows quietly as I could while Cass and CAP were hauled past the wooden doors of the fort.

Once I felt I was a safe distance away, I turned my headlamp back on and tried to retrace the route we'd taken to get here. As I did so, I reflected on the fact that the situation hadn't changed from where it was earlier this afternoon: We needed more help. Guyamo was using all the negative energy the surrounding area had stored up as a weapon. He'd built an army from it. The actual people were either captured, or in work gangs too worn down to help. What was left, besides psychic impressions of everyone's worst experiences here?

I kept walking. The trail seemed to have vanished, which was unlikely considering how I'd been crashing through the brush trying to keep up. At the same time, whatever trail I was leaving now also seemed to be swallowed up behind me, which ought to keep anyone from tracking me, assuming they were trying. I mused that at least Site 9 doesn't play favorites. I found a trail that looked familiar, and shortly reached the spot my furry friend and I had first stumbled on the Darkles. Continuing what is supposedly north I ran into another version of myself, one that realized just how badly the truck was really messed up. I stopped long enough to tell him it would be OK, but I don't think he believed me. Perhaps he wasn't capable of it, or I'm just not convincing.

The night drug on. I found the other ghost me freaking out at its ghost truck, and the battered trailer. Noises came from the woods on either side, low murmurs and calls I didn't recognize, nor did I wish to investigate. At one point, I spied a weak glow down in a gully, and peering down, observed a horse staggering slowly, then simply lying down. After a few moments, its chest stopped rising and falling in rhythm, and the glow faded. Before it was gone entirely, I thought I glimpsed the bones of other horses all around it, but maybe I was mistaken. I'd never seen the horses on my site glow like that, but none of them had a pointy deformity on their foreheads, either. Part of me did want to investigate that, but another part felt like I'd seen something I wasn't supposed to, a private affair, and I hurried on, muttering, 'Site 9 is. . . the Unicorn Graveyard!'

I was nearing the gate, just one more ridge. Once there, it was just a matter of climbing over and I'd be out. Then I could find help, and not the kind that was going to place me under observation. I slowed as that sank in. The whole thing sounds wild, and I'd never noticed any of this during the time I worked on Site 9. Things seemed too far along to have only started in the last two years, and I'd never heard anything about it from my coworkers, either. Was Guyamo hiding them somehow, using the energy to cloak himself? If so, how'd we find him this time? Maybe it was the site itself. What I was sure of, was this involved magic, or at least the supernatural. Even I could convince conventional authorities to help, could they accomplish anything? I only knew one person with training in magic, and they were more likely to use it against me than to help me. It was starting to look like I should have charged in when I had the chance. Still, I plodded down the slope, almost on autopilot, when I saw the headlights.

Lots of headlights. Belonging to several trucks. Some had only a driver within, other carried one passenger, maybe even two. Some of their faces were serious, others nervous, and a few were even excited. I felt a smile work its way onto my face. We had a chance. I charged down the hill, leaping into the road, waving my arm above my head, trying to look calmer than I felt.

"Could I talk to all of you for a second?" I called out. None of them said anything, but all the trucks came to a stop before me, those inside watching me with looks of curiosity on their faces.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We'd Learn If Batman Has An Enchanted Hammer, Just In Case

I think it'd be pretty cool if the thing Kobra found on the ocean floor in the Justice League part of Batman Beyond Unlimited was the Midgard Serpent. It's usually sleeping somewhere on the ocean floor, yes?

Why not? It's a giant snake. It's supposed to arrive during Ragnarok, the end of worlds, and that's what Kobra is striving for. And it'd be fun. The Justice League vs. the Midgard Serpent. Tell me you don't want to see Big Barda trying to kill the Midgard Serpent. You know you do.

Sure, Kobra worships Kali-Yuga, which is a completely different set of deities, but fanatical organizations dedicated to ending the world can't be so hidebound. Besides, no one would expect it, and it at least works within their snake motif.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Different Perspective On Last Monday's Topic

I mentioned last week I thought Petras and Morley's The United States and Chile didn't discuss Chile very much, preferring to focus on what the United States was doing to Chile. This was not a problem James Whelan's Allende: Death of a Marxist Dream had. It's focus, outside of a 5-page mention of the CIA monitoring events in Chile, is entirely concerned with the day Allende's government was overthrown by the military. Which makes for an interesting disconnect when compared to the other book.

Petras and Morley focused almost entirely on how the U.S. used economic influence to actively undermine the stability of the Allende government, and to strengthen likely opposition (such as the military). Whelan puts the blame for the fall of Allende's government solely on Allende. There's not a single mention of things like the U.S. drastically cutting aid, or how the began demanding immediate repayment of the credit they'd loaned the previous administrations. Kissinger gets one mention, but only in terms of negotiating the release of some of Allende's cabinet from prison.

Whelan does make certain points that suggest Allende wasn't really helping himself or his country with his policies. The near constant shuffling of people in his cabinets, and especially his tendency to assign such positions to people who had just been impeached by Congress, is petty at best, dangerous at worst. The armed raids on anti-Allende radio stations or newspapers don't help either.

At the same time, Whelan's writing is a little too obviously slanted in favor of the coup, without sufficient evidence to back it up. He quotes an Admiral Merino, who says the military conducted its own investigation into the 1973 congressional elections and found massive fraud. OK, what kind of fraud? What's your evidence or documentation? Keep in mind, this is guy involved in overthrowing a government, it might behoove an author to wonder if they guy is inventing justifications for their actions. If he can actually produce the proof, it doesn't hurt his case any, but nothing.

Whelan also tends to bestow dramatic and flowery descriptions to the military, and more derisive ones for Allende and his supporters. Merino is described as, 'a man of such iron resolve it did not desert him even in the shadow of the most momentous day of his life.', which, that's a bit much. Meanwhile, it was also necessary to describe Allende as a 'dandy', because he chose to wear a spotted handkerchief in his pocket as he went to work that morning. Pro-Allende radio stations are uniformly described as 'virulent' or 'churlish'. Carlos Altamarino, who claimed any people who revolted would be crushed by him personally, is mocked for fleeing once the fighting starting. Yes, it's sad he couldn't back up his tough talk, but it isn't as though any of these officers - Merino, Pinochet, or Leigh - were on the front lines themselves. They had other people doing their fighting and dying.

So in some ways, the book was informative, and written by a more objective author, it probably would have been an even better book. As it is, Whelan comes off like he has some anti-Marxist axe to grind, and unlike Morley and Petras, who also clear had a slant against the U.S. and its policies, Whelan didn't bring nearly enough supporting evidence to the fight. One might argue he's isn't attempting to justify the revolution, merely describe the events of it, but the language he uses throughout suggests otherwise.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Burn Notice 1.11 - Loose Ends

Plot: We open the episode learning that Michael's spending his days doing inverted shirtless crunches to pass the time. When he's not giving Sam grief about his bucket of fried chicken. Seems Mikey is a little stressed about Philip Cowan coming to Miami, but no worries, Cowan has sent him a text, specifying a meeting time. Which Cowan doesn't keep because Sam came along as backup. Well what do you expect after you tried to kill him, Phil? Trust? Cowan instead leaves an insipid greeting card with a newspaper clipping related to one of Michael's old jobs inside. This leads to a back and forth through the episode of Michael and Cowan leaving coded messages for each other about times to meet, because Michael keeps getting roped into Sam's job.

Gillian and Melissa work at SXG, and Melissa's having an affair. Gillian let her boyfriend in a few times to visit, but he stole some files, and now he's blackmailing them into signing for some shipments he wants brought into the country (drugs). Except it's more complicated than that, and even with Fi charging Sam an exorbitant amount for her help, they do need Michael to unravel all this, especially once Melissa and her partner have a breif conversation with an RPG, and Sam winds up a prisoner of the real trouble. But Michael might be a little too busy dodging the people who cut his conversation with Cowan short.

The second half of the episode sees Michael trying to deal with multiple problems at once. He has to help Fi escape the drug dealers. He has to keep away from the people pursuing him, and protect his mother from them, and figure out who the drug dealers are, and once he's done that, he has to save Sam, which means keeping Harrick from killing Sam until he can mount the rescue. And if he can survive all that, he may just get some answers about his burn notice.

The Players: Philip Cowan (The Man Who Burned Michael), Gillian (The Client), Melissa (The Other Client), Ray Wagoner (Hustler), Kent (The Husband), Harrick (heroin Importer), Barry (Money Launderer), Carmelo (Heroin Dealer - 2nd Biggest)

Quote of the Episode: Madeline - 'We're your family. You need to trust us.' Michael - 'When would I have learned to do that?'

Does Fiona blow anything up? She gets to blow up a gangplank, and at least some of the rusted hulk it lead to.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 4 (35 overall)

Sam Getting Hit Count: 6 (10 overall). He even lost a tooth. On the good news, it taught us what Green Berets do: Beat up people tied to chairs. Or maybe that's what ex-Green Berets do.

Mike's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (11 overall)

Other: The one thing that comes through in this episode is when Michael has time to think about what might be coming, he becomes a huge asshole to everyone. He gives Sam grief about the chicken, about being asked to help Sam (never mind Sam always helps Michael) gives Sam crap about being shot at on what was supposed to be an easy job (Gillian: 'He tried to kill you.' Michael: 'Happens all the time. Especially for part-time help on easy jobs. *pointed look at Sam*). Michael's remarkably unsympathetic to Gillian after her near miss with a car bomb. Yes, he's the one who saved her, but she's clearly in shock, and he's just cold about it. He threatens Barry if he doesn't help Michael get in touch with heroin dealers, regardless of Barry's (entirely reasonable) desire to stay away from drug dealers.

As you can see from the quote of the episode, he's a real peach to his mom as well, and that continues throughout the episode, though at least she gets a couple of good lines in on him (Get yourself some furniture. I didn't raise you to live in a warehouse and eat off a bench!) When he it comes time to act, or when there's no time to think, that's when he behaves better. It could be the true reflection of him as a person, how he acts when there's no time to spend putting the defenses he's built into place.

It's interesting, because he basically says he doesn't trust Maddy or Nate, and it's certainly true to a point. He keeps refusing to explain what's going on, why people are calling Madeline, why he's giving Nate a gun, who is after him. He impresses upon them that they need to do what he says, but won't tell them why. Nate rolls with it, partially because he's lived a life where he can't or won't always explain why people are looking for him, but Madeline's not used to it, which causes friction. But it seems as though it would be much easier for Michael to just explain what he knows to her. Who is she going to tell? There's a lack of trust, and yet, he still feels compelled to protect them. Maybe because he's responsible for them being in danger, since it's him the mysterious people are after, but it could be some basic warmth towards them, even if he doesn't like physical contact (he shies away from Madeline at one point). You can care for someone without trusting them, though it's entirely possible he's behaving like this to try and keep from caring about them. It's easier to travel the world and do his "spy thing", if he has nothing to go back home to. His comment that the clean cellphones are for emergencies only, because they 'want to keep communication to a minimum' was telling.

Of course, none of the guys in this show are able to express their feelings. When Mike tries to thank Nate, he's told not to try talking like that, because he's bad at it. Sam has a hard time thanking Mike for saving his life. It's always the intended recipient sparing the person from having to say it.

On a completely different note, when Michael and Fi make explosives together, I'm reminded of the pottery scene from Ghost. Which is not something I'd want to be reminded of, but that's how it goes sometimes. Clearly Fiona enjoys it as an activity for couples, and Michael's smile indicates he's enjoying himself, too.

When the boat explodes, I like that Jeffery Donovan went with the badass "ignore the explosion behind you " approach, while Bruce Campbell totally sold it by flinging his arms and getting a real surprised look on his face.

That concludes Season 1. Next week, Season 2 begins, and Michael finds out he's not going to find out as much as he hoped about his burn notice.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What I Bought 4/11/2012 - Part 3

I can't think of anything good to start this post off with. So let's just get right to Daredevil, because that's good.

Daredevil #10, by Mark Waid (writer), Paolo Rivera (pencils), Joe Rivera (inks), Javier Rodriquez (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That is an outstanding cover. It looks like it could be a medieval wood etching. The style for the "D"s on Matt's costume, the way his radar sense is portrayed as a glow emitted from his head, the different things all the Moloids are doing.

Inside, Matt avoids digestion. He tracks down the Mole Man, and they have an extended stick fight, where MM demonstrates much greater agility than I would have expected. Turns out he had the coffins stolen so he could say goodbye to the one person who was nice to him in his days on the surface. When Matt points he and other people had loved ones there as well, whose remains have been scavenged by the Moloids, Mole Man's response is that those bodies aren't their loved ones anymore. Well, then why the hell did he steal that woman's corpse? It isn't her, either. Is it that talking to even her remains could bring him some solace, whereas those other remains weren't providing similar comfort to other people?

Anyway, Matt decks the bad guy and returns to the surface with Lorna's body and some luminescent diamonds which are affixed to markers in the cemetery for all the people whose loved ones he couldn't recover. Then we find out Felicia didn't steal the Omega Drive, she just wanted to see if he had it hidden securely enough (he doesn't), and Matt may or may not be hallucinating Black Spectre agents.

Quite a bit going on. Megacrime plot continues, Matt's battle to not sink into depression and paranoia heats up, and Daredevil "wins" a battle against a grave robbing supervillain. I like how the staff fight is depicted, with neither of them looking at each other (they have their backs to each other for the first page), because neither one uses their eyes.

Daredevil #10.1, by Mark Waid (writer), Khoi Pham (artist), Javier Rodriguez (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - For this issue, theoretically designed for new readers, Waid had Matt visit a super-criminal in his holding cell as his attorney. The criminal is claiming rights' violations because of the conditions they're using to keep him from being able to activate his pyrokinesis. This enables Waid to give a reader an idea of some of the minuses associated with super-senses.

The other thing this story does is get the new reader up to speed on the whole "Megacrime" thing, as it turns out word has started to leak about Daredevil/Murdock having the Omega Drive, and parties other than the original criminal organizations are getting involved. By hiring idiots like Pyromania here. For good measure, Waid doesn't settle for merely recapping the situation, he moves it forward a little bit, as Daredevil's apparently getting tired of waiting for them to make a move.

I'm surprised Reed would let him keep it, but I guess he has other stuff on his mind. And what are they all doing meeting in the Latverian Embassy? And does it even matter if the police have a warrant for their arrest while they are in an embassy? Pham is not on the level of the other artists the book's had thus far, so the backgrounds aren't as detailed, and the action scenes are as nice, but there is still a decent go of incorporating the sound effects into the panels. It's probably the weakest issue so far, but I'm still glad I bought it.

Secret Avengers #24, by Rick Remender (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (color art), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer) - Heavens, hordes of Visions and Jocastas, each one less interesting than the one before it!

Basically, the Avengers get their butts kicked by mechanical loons. The only one who avoids that is Jim Hammond, who they all call "Grandfather". Makes sense (I'm not being sarcastic). Meanwhile, this Father guy is up to something, but what I'm not sure. He talks about striking the Avengers down from within, and about how the fools have no idea what's going on. The first one makes me suspicious of O'Grady's abrupt return from apparent death. The second, I'm not sure he isn't talking about his various mechanical children. Oh, and Hawkeye's sorry he's been a jerk, and Flash is probably going to show up with the symbiont. Maybe he'll eat someone!

I did get a copy of #22 a couple weeks ago, so I get why these Adaptoids are big trouble now. At least that question's been answered. I don't know. I'm curious to see what's going on, since I still don't understand what, exactly, a Descendant is, or how they and all these various legions of artificial lifeforms mesh. If the Descendants are yet another of those "real next step in evolution" types that show up periodically in X-Men books, wouldn't they be an even greater potential threat to Lord Doombot, the Sentinaughts, etc.? I guess if Father can teach them all to get along, no. Which might explain why he wants to gather them all. Unless, the Descendants are the most human artificial beings ever, to the extent they don't even know they aren't? Is Secret Avengers Blade Runner now?

Friday, April 13, 2012

What I Bought 4/11/2012 - Part 2

Before we get to the DC section of our selection, I want to take a moment to congratulate friends of the blog Papafred and Tomato, who found out this week they're going to be parents! While the idea of being a parent is terrifying to me, other, more mature people are naturally excited at the prospect, so congrats to them.

Batman Beyond Unlimited #2, by Adam Beechen (writer), Norm Breyfogle (Artist), Andrew Elder (colorist), Saida Temofonte (Letterer) on "The Trigger Man" and Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen (writers), Nguyen (pencils), Fridolfs (inks), Randy Mayor (colors), Saido Temofonte (letters) on "Konstriction" - I appreciate the attempt to incorporate the "Featuring Batman and the Justice League!" into the cover, but I don't think it works. The words are too orderly to really fit with the explosion design, but if you have the words getting blown apart, then the reader probably can't tell what they say, so what good are they?

What do you know? Mad Stan wasn't killed by Hush. Good. But since everyone thinks he was, his arms dealer is selling to British Jokerz, which makes Mad Stan uh, mad. After some early violence which ended with Stan taking a very dangerous detonator, the arms dealer decided to get it back by stealing Stan's dog. Which leaves Terry dealing with a very angry Mad Stan threatening to blow people up. Which describes Mad Stan all the time, now that I think of it. Oh, Dana's brother has stopped even trying to hide that he's a wackaloon, and Bruce will be supplying the Gotham PD with some nice tactical weapons. That could be interesting, but the real draw is Breyfogle. He really likes that rapid succession of short, wide panels to depict a violent sequence, and he makes it work. Doug decking his dad was laid out beautifully.

In the Justice League story, the League follows Micron's signal to an old Cadmus lab on Dinosaur Island, where Micron steals something and tries to blow everyone up. This fails, and Batman manages to hitch a ride. We don't find out what Micron stole, though we know Kobra plans to awaken something from the bottom of the ocean, and they had Amanda Waller prisoner for some reason. Eh, I'm more intrigued by Kobra's scheme than I was last issue, but that part of the book is still just sort of there. I think of it as a bonus if I enjoy it, since the Batman part is what I'm buying it for.

Green Arrow #8, by Ann Nocenti (writer), Harvey Tolibao (artist), Richard and Tanya Horie (colorists), Rob Leigh (letterer) - What the heck is that little guy in the jar in the upper left. Some toad gremlin? Weird.

We open on Ollie fleeing wolves across a dead landscape. He fends them off without killing them (and without arrows), which impresses the father of the Skylarks, a large fellow named Leer. Ollie gets the one Skylark who seems to really like him to give a tour of Leer's lab, which is full of animals the guy's been modifying to survive - by turning them into monsters, natch. He and Ollie fight, Ollie and the Good Skylark escape, but it was all part of Leer's plan! He's also probably involved with this Emerson fellow back in Seattle who's quite hot to have Ollie declared dead so he can get all of Queen's company. Whether Ollie would even care while he's off playing horndog is another question.

Nocenti has something really interesting cooking here. I'm not totally sure what it is yet - it feels like there's something about the dangers of not caring about people past the exterior for one - but I'm definitely intrigued. Tolibao's art I'm less excited by. Maybe it's personal taste but I feel like he either needs stronger inks, or he needs to simplify. Fewer lines, or make some of them stronger, for contrast. Some sequences or particular panels are good, others are a mess. You would expect the Skylarks to look relatively identical, but that doesn't always happen. Would you ride in a sleigh standing in such a way the your butt is thrust back and you've curved your spine? Seems very uncomfortable way to stand, plus I'd think you want to have a wide stance to give better balance in case the sleigh shifts suddenly. But I don't often ride in sleighs, so what do I know?

Also, what is with the hair pulling? Good Skylark has someone grab a hank of her hair 4 times in this issue. Ollie does it once, so does one of her sisters, and Leer Old Dad (did I just type that?) does it twice. How do they expect it to maintain curliness if everyone's always pulling it straight?

Resurrection Man #7, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Fernando Dagnino (art), Jeromy Cox (colors), Rob Leigh (letters) - My only problem with that cover is the way Mitch's upper teeth are so visible there in the corner. It gives the impression he has a hilarious overbite or something. Kind of at odds with the tone. Otherwise, it's great.

Mitch awakens in Metropolis to the police demanding someone come out. He initially believes it's for him, but no, they're after a meth lab operation downstairs. It occurs to me it might have been safer to get all the residents out before telling the criminals to surrender over a megaphone that alerts them to your presence. At any rate, the cops are overmatched because the lead criminal has a forcefield just like the one Mitch had in his flashback in Arkham. Mitch (after some static from that one cop who always has to be a jerk) goes to try and stop Mr. Untouchable, but gets spooked when he starts to cook the guy from inside the forcefield. He hesitates, which gets him shot repeatedly in the back, which gives him an even better power (with cool glowy green special effects!), and he defeats Mr. Untouchable, and safely channels the explosion into space. Well, I assume he didn't hit an airliner or critical satellite.

I like how on the first page, as you move down, Metropolis gets steadily seedier and more rundown. What's up top is shiny and new, and what's below is grimy and in need of work. That was a nice touch by Dagnino, and it's sort of mirrored by the last page, where the part of the city Mitch walks through (at the bottom of the page) doesn't look nearly as nice as the elevated train zipping by at the top. Other than that, Dagnino had some odd poses for figures. Mitch on page 2, where he seems a bit oddly bent and twisted. It's not hugely obvious like that one I mentioned in Green Arrow, and maybe it's just the angle, but his butt it still seems like an odd way to stand, especially for someone jumping out of bed suddenly. Still, why should female characters be the only ones to stand oddly? Awkward poses for all!

Audience: Booo!

Awkward poses for none!

Audience: Booo!

Awkward poses for some, chromium covers for others!

Audience: You mean poses for the girls and chromium for the guys, right?

*Sighs, shakes head* Come back tomorrow for the Marvel books, won't you please?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I Bought 4/11/2012 - Part 1

Explain this. A package from home can reach me in two days. A package from the comic store, which needs to travel a third the distance, took five (not counting Sunday). Does the weekend really mess things up that badly? Anyway, there aren't any comics from this week, just from the previous four. Which still only adds up to 9 books. Sigh.

Angel & Faith #8, by Christos Gage (Script), Rebekah Isaacs (Art), Dan Jackson (Colors), Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt (Letters) - Does it seem like Faith is supposed to be holding something in her right hand on that cover? Just the way the hand is positioned, and how Morris didn't draw it as appearing tightly clenched, makes me think maybe there should be a knife or stake.

This issue teaches us to never listen to Angel when it comes to family. He told Faith to give her dad a second chance, and yeah, that was a bad idea. Good news: Faith's dad does not appear to be in league with Whistler, Pearl, or Nash. Bad news: He came to see Faith because he owes a mobster money. When it becomes apparent "Handsome Jimmy" intends to bleed Mr. Lehane's new income source dry, he expects Faith to kill Jimmy. His exact logic seems to be, "Hey, you killed people before, why shouldn't you kill for me?"

This guy is a worse father than Magneto. Ha, you thought I was going to take a potshot at Cyclops or Batman, but I didn't. Because I thought of Magneto first, but still.

In defending her father from, ugh, Handsome Jimmy, Faith kinda, sorta, maims the idiot. It was an instinctual thing, not intentional, but neither was the deputy mayor's death. Her father exacerbates things by being a condescending, manipulative piece of trash, and Faith goes running off - to Drusilla. I can safely say I very badly want the next issue in my hands right now. So mission accomplished on the front, creative team! I'm surprised Gage wrapped up the subplot with her dad that quickly. It's possible it isn't finished, but frankly, I'm more worried about that black cat that was sitting on the fence when Angel shoved Mr. Lehane out the door. It was watching them, you know, and cats are evil.

As for the art, Isaacs does a great job on Faith and her father's expressions, his especially. She gives him this smile that's just so disgusting. It perfectly captures just how hateful the words he's saying to his own daughter really are, and that he knows this. I haven't really discussed the coloring much, though I'm considering looking at when backgrounds fade to a simple wash of color, and if there's a pattern to it. Beyond that, I like how Dan Jackson seems to know how to use most of the series being a night to make it moody, but not so murky you can't tell what's happening. Everything's visible, but there's still some sense of atmosphere.

Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #1, by Brian Clevinger (Words), Ryan Cody, Yuko Oda, Chris Houghton, John Broglia, Joshua Ross (Art, it's an anthology book), Matt Speroni (Colors), Jeff Powell (Letters) - I like the fading/staining around the edges, like a real old-time adventure mag. Plus, 'but you will believe a robot can punch!' is a great line.

So it's an anthology series. Always a bit of a gamble, but it's Atomic Robo so the odds are better than most. I do question having two stories (To Kill a Sparrow, Leaping Metal Dragon) that are going to stretch across six issues. Perhaps just devote one full issue to each? Just a thought. "To Kill A Sparrow" puts Sparrow 'the most dangerous Allied commando" together with Virginia Hall 'the most dangerous Allied spy' to kill Nazis. "The Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur" is exactly what the title says, and quite a shift in tone from the Sparrow story. "City of Skulls" is more of a sad tale of how the past can hang on longer than we think (sort of). "Leaping Metal Dragon" is Robo meeting Bruce Lee.

I want to give major credit to Matt Speroni, the colorist. Every story has a different tone, and probably purpose (hard to say with the multi-part ones), and he has a different way of doing things for each one. "To Kill A Sparrow" is flooded with blacks and shadows, the other colors seemingly washed out. "Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur" goes much brighter, with mostly great contrast, but a few places where the colors are almost smeared, in a way that helps them blend smoothly. "Leaping Metal Dragon" has this effect, like old newsprint, or maybe pointillism. Lots of tiny dots all over the art. It's a really impressive bit of work.

If I had to pick a favorite, it's Dr. Dinosaur, since I keep laughing at the ending every time. Sparrow or Leaping Metal Dragon could end up being better, but it's so early it's hard to tell.

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1, by Marc Guggenheim (story), Sandy Plunkett (art), Jeromy Cox (colors), Robbie Robbins (letters); Peter David (story), Bill Sienkiewicz (art and letters); Stan Sakai (story, art, letters), Dave Stewart (colors) - Criminey, why did I have to decide to add full credits on the day I review two anthology books?

First story, Cliff crashes on a farm, after being chased by two biplanes. Who would be after the rocket in 1939 that's still relying on biplanes to do it? Yeah, all the world powers still had biplanes in the air corps at that time, but they also all had much better planes available. So Cliff crashes and most of the locals - having nothing better to do - arrive and debate what he is. Having determined he's a vigilante, the preacher says they turn him over to state police. What is it about stuffy preachers hating fun loving outsiders? This is Footloose all over again. Don't impinge on a man's right to get down with his funky self by strapping a rocket to his back, religious authorities! Anyway, a young boy Cliff saved convinces them to let Cliff go by sending them into the corn, I mean, with a heartwarming speech about not treating good guys like bad guys. Then Cliff flies off as Death lurks in a cloud and promises to get him next time, Gadget.

Moving on, David and Sienkiewicz give us the Rocketeer through the prism of a Daffy Duck cartoon. Which is funny enough to work as a short. I'm guessing the way Sienkiewicz spelled his name on the page ("Sinkevitch") is how it's pronounced? I suppose the real fun is watching how Sienkiewicz plays around with the panel borders, sound effects, and character movement to make everything flow. It's incredible.

The last story involves Cliff being shot down over a farm (again? I know the country was more rural in the 1930s, but Cliff sure seems to crash over farms a lot) This time, by an angry fellow named Lex who wants to take the rocket apart to see how it works, then build a better one. Cliff's saved by a small boy with a stick who just wants to fly. So Cliff takes him for a ride, and the boy (dressed in red and blue) greets his parents by rushing out the front door with a cape shouting, "I Flew!" I especially like his mother's reaction, question mark overlaid with an exclamation point. Nice effect.

That was a pretty good first third of the books. Will tomorrow's selection receive as favorable a review? *Looks at next three books* Hmm, probably not.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tales From The Woods #11

The Lady in Orange stood in the doorway, regarding us silently. She wore the same cloak, boots, and pants as before. The boots had a nice fur trim to them, I noticed for who knows what reason. For a moment as my eyes drifted up, I thought she had no face. The possibility we'd been tricked ran through my mind, complete with the fish guy yelling, 'It's a trap!' Then I looked more closely and realized that with the hood up and the Sun behind her, her face was simply shrouded in deep shadows.

Then I noticed that CAP was on edge, clearly tense. Had she approached undetected, and that spooked my pal, or was it something else? I looked more closely at her. She seemed curious, and also a little tired, judging by her eyes. The lids drooped, and they were shadows visible underneath. Either way, I opted to reintroduce myself in the hope it would ease the tension before violence erupted. I'd introduce my friend, but I've been told repeatedly I can't pronounce the name correctly (it means "wondrous ball of lightning").

"So. . . I'm still Calvin. Nice to meet you when there isn't a forest falling around our ears."

She looked at my extended hand for a moment, glanced in CAP's direction, the grasped my hand and shook it firmly. "Cassanee." Actually hearing her speak seemed to relax CAP fractionally, so soon everyone knew everyone else.

She beat me to the first question. "Why are you here?"

"We followed you." Geez, that sounds bad, but better to respond honestly. She cocked her head at that, which seemed to crank CAP's tension up again, so I forged ahead. "I get a note from a bird telling me there's a "Lady in Orange" about, then I meet you, a you know, lady wearing orange, and the Ghost of the Forest tries to drop a dozen oak trees on your head. I wanted to know what was going on. Why were you there?"

She sighed. "To rest. Sometimes the Darkle patrols are too much, and I need to escape from them and the atmosphere. The workers also get to rest more when I'm gone."

I must have looked confused because CAP piped up. "When they can't find her, they think she's up to something, so they expend more resources searching for her." CAP cast a look her way. Right?" Quick nod for Cassanee.

"OK, so what's a Darkle?" I had a pretty good idea, but I was stalling for time. Something I'd seen in CAP's face made me sure the wheels were turning in there, and I doubted I'd like where they rolled us.

"The faceless ones. There are too many to stop alone. But I can't not try, and it slows their work."

"What are they working towards?" I guess in CAP's eyes, Cassanee counted as "help", and so it was back to winning the day in that mind.

Cassanee shrugged. "They gather any purple rocks they unearth. I don't know how, but the Darkles grow stronger just being near them. The rocks emanate the same terrible feelings.

It was my turn to ask a question. "Are they some evil conglomerate?" Blank look. "Are the Darkles running things as a group?"

Shake of the head. "They have a ruler. Guyamo. He controls them, and everyone else who lives here now. He used to live here amongst us, loud, but mostly harmless. Then he found something in the rocks. I can't reach him."

"I bet with the three of us we can get to him and trounce him!" Oh the enthusiasm of youth, though Cassanee's raised eyebrow suggested she was less then convinced. "Calvin and I have all sorts of experience with dangerous situations!" Now that's stretching things a bit, at least where I'm concerned, but too late, the furry one's excitement was catching. Cassanee had broken into a smile, and CAP began digging through the pack.

I remembered what I might have seen as we fled our last confrontation. "What was that thing you threw so we could escape?"

"An Aura Lock grenade. It emits a positive energy that reacts with someone's negative energy to jam up the works. I only had the one, though. Why?"

"I thought it seemed super effective against them, but if you don't have any more, it doesn't really matter." I wasn't real eager to get in close against people - or whatever - with chainsaws again.

"Well, here. I bet you'd like this gas gun."

Gas gun? I perked up. "All right, let's get dangerous!" They both looked at me like I was nuts. I better keep my mouth shut or they'll stick me with some kiddie scissors or a foam mallet so I don't hurt myself.

We stepped out of the trailer as the sun finally began to set. Or, judging by how fast it was falling, it had stayed up until it exhausted itself and collapsed. Cassanee was looking back to the southeast (I think), and turned to see if we were ready. I guess what she saw convinced her we were because she set off with that same easy, bounding stride she used before. CAP dashing along behind her. I ran and stumbled as best I could, but they were quickly at the limit of my vision in the fading light.

The place we'd skirmished with the Darkles earlier was empty, but I saw the Lady and the Panda on crossing the next rise, and set to climbing brush piles to catch up. On the opposite side, I found them already engaged with the Darkles. It was going well. CAP was moving in typical short bursts. Quick attack or dodge, a long moment of stillness, the another quick movement. 0 or 60, no in-between.

Cassanee's movements had a flow to them. She never stopped moving, but her speed shifted constantly, judging by how easily she evaded every attack, and how cleanly her own hits landed. Moving towards a Darkle, she dodged a diagonal downward swing with perhaps a half-step to her side while continuing to advance and readying an elbow strike. At the last moment, her arm shot forward and connected solidly, sending the recipient tumbling. Either she increased velocity drastically in an instant, or she was considerably stronger than she looked.

As far behind as I was, there wasn't much for me to do. I did see a group of Darkles approaching from somewhere to my right and behind at one point. I gave them a round from the gas gun, even remembered to tell them "Suck gas evildoers!" It didn't seem to knock them out - maybe they don't need to to breathe - but they did seemed blinded and confused. Then the fighting ceased.

Through it all, they'd been steadily approaching what looked like an old style log fort. In the center of the fort was an attempt to build a castle from local materials. It might have been sturdy - though it was noticeably lopsided so I doubt it (remember kids, a strong foundation is important!) - but a towering edifice casting its shadow upon the land it was not. It's owner on the other hand, stood 9 feet tall as he emerged from the fort's gates. The legs were relatively short, but thick. A large gut protruded from an elongated torso. The mouth contained several big teeth, one of which was noticeably broken. One massive hand held a wooden staff, topped with a violet gem. The effect was somewhat ruined as the gem appeared glued together, and was shaped like a deflated American football. To add to the odd display, he wore a top hat and coat with tails. The coat was much too short, reminding me or Chris Farley's "Fat Man in a Little Coat" bit from Tommy Boy. I couldn't tell if he wore spats with his humongous work boots, but I wouldn't have been surprised. This must be Guyamo.

He gestured at Cassanee. "Again you challenge Guyamo, lord of this realm! And this time, you bring a pet." Oh, that might cost him. "Why do the two of you bar my way?" With the abundance of torches around, I'd turned off my headlamp as I moved in, so I guess he missed me.

CAP responded before Cass could. "Because you're hurting the people doing the digging! Do your own work!" Straight to the heart as always.

"Oh ho! A talking pet! Most amusing. As to your claim, it is the ruled's privilege to serve their king, uh, thusly." This schmoe was trying too hard. "They will all benefit from my glory, once I take full control of this land. I will rule it all, and none shall take it." At least it's not a world domination scheme.

"No one benefits except you. Everyone else will have fled, or died." Cassanee's voice was flat, as if she'd tried to explain this so many times she didn't have the energy to put into it any longer. Still, there was an undercurrent of anger to that resigned tone. Maybe she saw a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was getting to her. At any rate, Guyamo got a little angry, too.

"No one will be allowed to leave! The living and the dead alike will remain, and with their suffering, ensure my rule forever!"

"Forever, the next thirty seconds before you're pummeled. Whichever comes first," I muttered to myself.

Guyamo raised the staff. "These stones draw on the emotions of my subjects. They are what make this land what it is. And now. . . they make me a God King."

The Darkles began to twitch, then shrink, no deflate. The air filled with wails of anguish that you couldn't hear, but could feel. CAP and Cassanee both moved in, and there was a flash. The feeling when I was hit with the energy from the staff was awful. Something foul reached inside me and ripped everything positive out, chewed it up, then spit the remains contemptuously into my lap. What was left is best described as "soul-crushing despair". I fought the urge to cry, or puke, which didn't leave much to keep my from falling to my knees.

That was at a distance. Up close, my friends lay there, stunned. I could just make out CAP's eyes, but they seemed dull. Not lifeless, but the usual spark, that mischievous energy was gone, or buried under something harsh. I couldn't see her face, but my guess is Cassanee would have sported a similar look. Meanwhile, the Guyamo strode amongst his diminished minions, waving the staff in their direction, causing them to regain their shape.

"Bring the prisoners," Guyamo boomed haughtily. "They shall learn the penalty for trying my kingly patience."