Friday, August 31, 2012

One Year Of The New 52, Part 1

It's been about a year for the "New 52" DC. The first issue of Justice League came out in August, but there were also books from the old universe shipped that month, so I think of September 1st, 2011 as the starting point. Or ending point, as the case may be.

I felt like talking about the New 52 one year in over the next two days. In terms of quantity, buying habits, things like that today, and quality of the books tomorrow.

Some things to consider: Are you buying more DC comics now than you were before the relaunch? Less? Have there been other changes in your buying habits? These could include buying more books from other publishing companies, be it Marvel, IDW, Red 5, whoever. Maybe you've switched to trade-waiting, or switched to buying single issues (because you decided to try some of the first issues and just couldn't wait for the trades). Maybe you decided the New DC wasn't your style, and your focus turned to back issues. Or maybe you stopped buying comics entirely. And there are plenty of other paths, I'm sure.

As for me, I tried to do a count and what I came up with was:

September 1, 2010 - August 31, 2011 (the year prior to the relaunch): 48 new single issues
September 1, 2011 - August 31, 2012 (Year 1 of New 52): 36 new single issues

It's a definite step down from the previous year, though it only represents one fewer comic a month. The dollar gap is even smaller, since Batman Beyond Unlimited is a 4 dollar book. Though it is a bit questionable to count it, since it isn't part of the New 52, but a different title off in its own corner, doing its thing. But what the hey, DC publishes it, I buy it, I'll count it.

I have a general idea what the total for 2012 will be, and it's not only less than the previous two years, but also less than 2008. DC's percentage of the whole for 2012 should be better than '08's, but still not at the levels of 2010 or 2011.

For me, the sales that DC's losing are going to other, smaller publishers, Red 5's Atomic Robo being a major part of that. To be fair, I'm buying less Marvel as well, and the piece of the pie they're losing is going to the same place, so it isn't a DC-specific trend.

I haven't decided to trade wait on anything, though there are a couple of series I've heard enough positive things about to consider picking them up. Eventually. There are a lot of other trades on the list already, and anything else will have to wait its turn. I've continued picking up back issues of things, but I wouldn't say it's accelerated because of the relaunch. There have been a few mini-series I chose to buy as a spur of the moment thing, but all the ongoings I've been tracking down are ones I was already looking for prior to the relaunch.

So my trend since the relaunch is "less money for DC". Well, alright then. Feel free to share how things have been going on your end since the relaunch started, and be sure to come back tomorrow so we can all gripe about how terrible the current crop of books are compared to the ones that were canceled.

Alternatively, we can all gush about how much better the current books are than those that were canceled. Whichever.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Haywire has a pretty basic plot when you get down to it. You have Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), who works for a company that sometimes gets hired by government agencies. She's on a seemingly easy job when she finds the body of a guy she helped rescue on her prior mission, and his corpse is holding a broach she had been told to wear for a meet. So she uses her various skills to stay alive until she can figure out what's going on and track down the people responsible.

The first hour of the film is Mallory relating the story thus far to Scott, a sort generic, friendly, everyday guy who tried to help when she was attacked in a diner. So she stole his car and brought him along. Eventually the story reaches the present, and the plot largely proceeds without Scott. He's fulfilled his plot function, I suppose. It feels a bit awkward, but I can sort of excuse it because I think Mallory intended to get where she was going, then give Scott his car back, so better to bring him along. Plus, it helps to have someone who knows her side of things.

And she would have gotten away with it if not for that pesky deer division of the local law enforcement.

Mallory's mostly all business, with a bit of sarcasm thrown in, and Carano handles that well. She doesn't tend to express much of a softer side, as she's kind of gruff even in her directions to Scott, but she is certainly concerned for his well-being (since she dragged him into this and all), so I take that as being her way. Mallory does look a bit uncomfortable when asked to wear a pretty gown, which fits with her claim that she doesn't play eye candy. Carano, being an actual mixed martial artist, excels in the fight scenes, and the film leaves her to it. There aren't a lot of fancy camera cuts, no nausea inducing, shaky camera crap (hear that, Bourne films?), and no soundtrack. It's just people hitting each other with whatever's available until the other person stops. There was a very nice funk beat during the sequence in Dublin where she escapes from the police over rooftops.

Mallory tends to get hit first in most of the fights, but I take it as her letting the other person commit themselves to this. She won't hit unless they give her a reason. There's also a sequence at night where she's decked out in dark clothes and camo makeup on her face. She charges down a hall, out a door and over a railing and it was a bit like watching a jungle cat move. A panther, or something else lean and dangerous that should be given a wide berth. There's another bit where Mallory runs down an alley and people appear in shot behind her almost like the wake from her passing is sucking them into the shot.

The movie has several stretches of no dialogue. A character walking, along a beach or to a hotel room, or perhaps sitting and talking. In some cases, it's a bit like a horror film, where the viewer knows the attack will come from somewhere, but where? Other times, it's more like a Leone film, where it's two characters, and they both know there'll be violence, but each one is waiting for the moment to start. Combine this with the lack of musical cues for a fight scene and there were two different occasions where I glanced away briefly from a seemingly calm scene, only to whip my head back to see someone's face being bounced off a countertop. It's a sort of sparse, efficient style, characters who are focused on their goal, not spouting pithy one-liners or mustache twirling speeches. That decision works with the direction the film goes, that this is about people just trying to do their jobs, and it isn't about being cool or glamorous.

All the other actors do their jobs well (of course Antonio Banderas' character would end up on a sunny beach with a beautiful woman in a bikini bringing him drinks. He's Antonio Banderas.), especially Ewan McGregor, who does a good job of playing a guy trying to look in charge, who is really struggling furiously to keep his head above water. He has this sweaty, disheveled look most of the film that undercuts the image he's trying to present.

All in all, I'd recommend it, moreso than I would Chronicle, if you're keeping score at home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Joke's Flying Right Past His Radar

I was thinking back over Daredevil #12 this weekend. Early in Matt and Kirsten's date, he's reflecting on how her attempts to prove he is Daredevil have become a game between them. Her tossing pencils at him, him wearing sweaters that say "I'm Not Daredevil" as she prepares to use a slingshot on him, which seems like its upping the ante a bit. She could put one of his eyes out.

Oh right.

Anyway, the last attempt we see involved Kirsten lifting her shirt to display a bra with the phrase "You are Daredevil" on it, while she and Murdock are discussing a case they're on opposite sides of. Matt's a little unnerved, which certainly amuses her.

What amuses me is she's going through all that because she's convinced Matt isn't blind, because he's Daredevil. Except he is Daredevil, and he is blind, at least in the sense she's thinking. What strikes me as funny about it is that even with all his enhanced senses, Matt can't read the message on her clothing any more than your standard sightless person can. His radar sense doesn't work on flat objects.

I don't mean it like that! Cripes. I mean the lettering is probably flat and not providing any sort of outline to differentiate it from the rest of the clothing, so Matt's radar can't tell it's there. So Matt's missing her response to his little joke almost entirely.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Thoughts About Cyclops' Mental State

I did flip through a couple of issues of the main AvX mini-series two weeks ago. I was in Hastings, they were there, I'd heard Spider-Man was gonna get a cool moment, and what the heck. I'm not made of stone here people.

And it wasn't a bad moment. Probably a bit silly he survived the first hit from Colossus, but heck Piotr always (or at least used to be) a pretty nice guy, so he probably held back. Even if I should question whether someone dumb enough to think simply giving whales arthropod legs would enable them to live on land (without regard for how their bodies are designed to work with water to support them) would be capable of restraining himself enough to not kill a much weaker opponent. And that wouldn't apply to Illyana, but she was probably taking her time, a kid pulling the legs off an insect one at a time.

Anyway, I'm always up for Spider-Man being defiant and refusing to quit.

I did have a though about Cyclops, and surprisingly, it wasn't "Loser!" He's so convinced Hope is going to save mutantkind, and that the Phoenix Force is how she'll do it. I don't entirely understand the first (though I can guess, based off what I hear other people say about the X-Books), but I certainly don't understand the second. The Phoenix' job is to protect life by guarding the M'Kraan Crystal, correct? Making certain no one unleashes the neutron galaxy contained within. When it isn't doing that, it occasionally goes nuts from experiencing life as a human and destroys a bunch of stuff. So I don't know how that translates to "Will restore mutantkind", unless he figures the Phoenix Force can allow Hope to use her powers on a worldwide scale all at once. Which is, maybe, possible? I don't know.

But I wonder if Summers has stopped to consider what he's asking her to do. To take control of this entity, incredibly powerful, ancient, sometimes destructive force, and use it in a specific way. It seems like he would pay more mind to the "control" part of the equation. A lot of Scott's life has been about control. He has considerable power, Phoenix Force or no, but it's on all the time. So he always has to keep the ruby quartz eyeglasses on, or the visor. Cyke can't even do an '80s style glance over the top of the shades without risking blowing someone's head off. I think he'd have the most respect for the enormity of what he expects of her, especially as his allies all seem to be losing their grip on what is, at most, a portion of the Phoenix.

Setting aside whether Hope even wants to try and control the Phoenix Force (or restore mutantkind), there's the idea of whether she can, and what'll happen if she can't. I picture a failure being something similar to what'll happen if Flash loses control of the symbiont, only the planet will crack in half. The Phoenix was destroying worlds on its way to Earth (would it be funny to find out Earth simply happened to be in the way, and the Phoenix was actually headed for Knowhere, or the Badoon homeworld?), then it was split up and used for purposes it might honestly not give a damn about, and it might be a little pissed.

I'd kind of come to see Cyclops as a pragmatist, looking at the current mutant situation and trying to figure out how to keep as many of those remaining alive until they could figure out how to fix things. And to that end, he'd plan, play nice when needed, intimidate when needed, but he'd be trying the best idea he could to keep mutants alive. I don't know whether this whole cockamamie idea is a sign of how desperate he's become, or if it shows he's always been desperate, the drowning man, grasping at straws.

Monday, August 27, 2012


No, not the Creedance greatest hits compilation CD. Chronicle is about three high schoolers - Steve, Matt, and Andrew - finding something underground while at a party. The something gives them telekinetic powers, and we watch as they start off experimenting, mostly pranks or Jackass style nonsense. Gradually, their power increases and they're flying about. Then things start to go wrong, as one character finds that having cool powers hasn't magically gotten rid of all the lousy things in his life.

The movie is one of those "found footage" types, where everything is observed through cameras that are in world, as opposed to the sort of omnipresent camera we watch a movie like Jaws through, where characters are unaware of being observed by it. Most of the footage comes courtesy of Andrew, who purchased a camera and chose to take it with him everywhere. My guess is he either wanted documentation of his life, or he wanted to force people to think about how they behaved towards him before they acted. Other sources - convenience store security cams - are used as appropriate. I wasn't entirely clear on whether we're watching the story as it unfolds, or we're law enforcement or whoever trying to piece things together after the fact. I lean towards the former because I'm not sure otherwise how we'd see the footage from the first camera, since it was lost down in the hole. It's not a deal breaker, only something that occurred to me.

I found the film kind of predictable, but still enjoyable. The early scenes, where they're just screwing around with their powers, I thought all three actors did a good job of showing how much fun they were having. The flying parts, especially, conveyed how much fun that would be, but also how potentially terrifying it could be. Given my extreme distaste from unsteady heights, there's no way I could do that, I'd spend the entire time terrified I'd forget to use my powers and fall to my death.

And it builds the friendship between the three of them well. Dane DeHaan captures Andrew's mix of hopefulness and anxiety, that fear about putting yourself out there and getting humiliated. And Michael B. Jordan plays Steve as someone who is genuinely friendly. He's not a smug jock, he's not a jerk who's toying with Andrew. But at the same time, because he's popular and finds it easy to talk with people, he can't really understand what eats away at Andrew. Andrew won't come out and really say why he wants to fly to Tibet rather than Maui, and Steve just doesn't quite get it on his own, so there's always a divide there, despite Steve's best intentions.

I think it's worth renting, or purchasing if you can get it cheap enough. Not a must see, but not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Burn Notice 3.3 - End Run

I haven't typed one of these in about 7 weeks. Seemed like a good idea to set them up before I traveled to the land of limited Internet. Do I still remember how it goes?

Plot: Michael starts off the episode impressing me with his coordination. He does this by reading a newspaper while spooning yogurt out of a cup sitting on a table next to him without even glancing in its direction. How the heck does he manage that without accidentally tipping over the cup or dragging it off the edge?

Ahem. Yogurt Time is interrupted by none other than his brother Nate, who has just spent a rousing 5 hours being grilled by Detective Paxson and her partner. She warns Michael she'll be going through his friends and family until she finds one who knows something. That reeks of harassment to me. Granted, most of those people (if not all) have been involved in some illegal activity at some point, but still. After returnign Nate to his car (so he can meet with someone who wants to invest in Nate's limo company), Michael's left to decide how to get her off his back. The team settles on making it appear he's buddy-buddy with someone with clout, like a mayor's aide. Go Sam!

Michael's involvement in this plan is fairly nonexistent as he gets surprised by Tyler Brennen, who has returned with a singular purpose. No, not to kill Michael Westen. To make Michael acquire something for him. If he refuses, Nate dies. Yes, Brennan (and his Sicilian enforcer buddy) are Nate's investors. Which leaves Michael in the position of doing as Brennan asks until he can contact Sam and Fi, then hoping they can find Nate and rescue him. If that fails, then Michael will have to find some leverage on Brennan to make him back off.

The Players: Nate (The Brother), Detective Paxson (Someone Very Interested in Michael), Brennen (Arms Dealer with a Grudge, Michael's New Boss), Jonathan Carver (Man with the Right Clearance at the Right Company), Mayor's Aide (Michael's New Business Partner) The titles are getting kind of long-winded.

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'You financed a private war so you could get back to Miami?'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Brennan's new house in Miami.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (10 overall). Between fixing Maddy's house (this week it was installing windows) and trying to track down Nate, no time for booze.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (0 overall). Sam's off to a pretty good start avoiding damage. Nate on the other hand. . .

Michael Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall). I really should think about dropping this one. Either it's never happening, or I'm too busy taking notes to notice.

Other: Michael uses two aliases this week, Simon Davis and John Dixon. One to pose as a drunk janitor, the other as a very poor driver (though one very concerned with how close cars are parked to the curb).

There were a lot sentences this week that ended in "Nate dies".

I've mentioned this before, but I love Brennan as an antagonist for Michael, simply because he generally doesn't care about Michael. Westen is at best, a tool, at worst, a roadblock. That's all. Brennan doesn't care about Michael as some longterm asset, like Management, Carla, or Dead Larry, nor does he hate him the way some of his old enemies do. He understands Michael's skills, certainly, that's why he uses him, but he doesn't care about him, not anymore than he did about Samantha, or all those South American guys he armed so they'd kill the guys after him. Nothing matters but him and his objective.

That lets Brennan keep a clear head about Michael, and it's why he's more annoyed than anything else by Michael's attempts to mine information. Or why he finds the bit when Michael finally gets Carver to say "eight" so amusing. Michael's not much more than a pet to him, with all the frustration and enjoyment that comes with training them. I think it also leads to overconfidence, because Brennan is just a little too sure he has Michael mapped out, but there's a real risk he might decide to simply kill Michael, which is fairly rare for most "serious" threats the Burn Notice team has faced (Is there a good name for the team?).

Which is what makes his shooting Nate so chilling. There's no heat behind it, I'm not certain Brennan even cares that Michael knows what he's stealing. He felt the need to make a point, to discipline his dog for poor behavior. Nate's the equivalent of a rolled-up newspaper on the nose. We've seen that sort of impersonal violence before, but it's usually directed towards large groups of anonymous people. Usually when a named character is in danger, there's some actual animosity behind it.

Anyway, props to Jay Karnes. I love how he plays Brennan, especially when Michael does hit the right spot, and Brennan unravels a bit. It happens so fast, because things have turned so fast. Suddenly, he's the one with a loved one in danger, a possibility he'd obviously taken measure to guard against. But he'd never considered those measure would fail, and suddenly, he finds out he's wrong. The stammering call to Anna Belle, the apology for forgetting the time difference, it's amazing how fast his confidence vanishes, but it works perfectly, especially contrasted with how cool he's been up to then.

I mentioned before I've grown tired of villains in the comics only plotting revenge on heroes, and that I miss guys just going out and robbing banks or whatever. I think that's another part of why I like Brennan. If he decided to go after Michael, it would be because he had some larger plan he knew Michael would interfere with, so best to get him out of the way right off. A few revenge-based foes are fine, but a story needs a change every once in awhile, if not more often than that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Let's Talk Favorite Gamecube Games

The 'Cube was a Christmas gift in '01. That's over a decade ago now, jeez. The N64 still worked fine (still does, in fact, even if there are still 4 games I need to retrieve from wherever Alex thinks he may have left them), but there weren't really any games coming out for it by then. So the 'Cube was the new hotness so to speak. The fact it was small and easily portable didn't hurt any, not for someone who had to periodically pack up all his stuff and move to or from a dorm.

I'm pretty sure the reason I wanted a Gamecube will be game #4 on the list, but on the whole, the system didn't work out so well for me. I bought 28 games all told, but there are at least 10 I'd classify as "duds", and probably at least another 5 that had certain aspects I enjoyed, but had enough frustrating things to ruin the experience on the whole. Baten Kaitos: Origins would fall squarely in that category. It's predecessor might, as well. Of course, there were certain games I intended to buy for the Gamecube I wound up having to purchase for another system, which skewed things a little. If I'd managed to get Beyond Good & Evil for the Gamecube instead of the XBox, that might change my perspective. On the little purple lunchpail, at least.

#5. Skies of Arcadia: Legends
#4. Super Smash Bros. Melee
#3. Timesplitters 2
#2. Metroid Prime
#1. Resident Evil 4

Skies of Arcadia narrowly edged out Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker for the 5th spot. One RPG, two first person shooters, a fighting game, and a survival/horror/adventure/3rd person shooter(?) I'm not entirely sure how to classify RE4. It's less of a horror game than RE2 or Silent Hill 2, but adventure seems a little, I don't know, cheerful for it.

I was trying to beat Metroid Prime again this spring, which didn't really work out, but anyway. I was being repeatedly killed by the Omega Pirate. Or more accurately, I was being killed by the various Beam Pirates it was calling down to protect itself while it tried to rebuild its Phazon armor. After several days of trying once or twice and failing, I threatened the game with demotion to #3 on the list if it didn't let me win. That didn't have an immediate effect, but I let it keep its spot. Metroid Prime is one of those games where it's really fun when things are going well, and I enjoy the efforts to flesh out the world with the Chozo Lore and Pirate Research entries. Although that Space Pirate planetarium is about the saddest thing ever. When the planet with the virus that is about to kill you when you start seeing double is the happiest place, you know it's a hellhole.

Looking back at the review, I may not have given Timsplitters its fair due. At one time, I owned it and Halo, and Timesplitters 2 is the one I kept. I'd regard it better if they'd fixed some of the co-op glitches, and if it had gotten some of the character building Timesplitters: Future Perfect did. As to Smash Bros., I find I'm getting progressively worse at the games with each new iteration. The more new moves and control functions they add, the more I struggle. Granted, I didn't put in as much time on Melee as I did on the original, but even when I play it a lot, some of the moves never become second nature to me.

This isn't a particularly close list, RE4 is well ahead of the others. I've played it to completion multiple times, and I likely will again. I'm just so happy the camera plays fair now, even if that's makes it a less terrifying game. The gameplay is just a lot of fun, and the timing button commands to kick or escape added an enjoyable bit of flexibility to the game (I know people who love to shoot out the legs of attackers, then either slice them with the knife, or kick the hell out of them.) I would put it behind RE2 from a story perspective. That game's characters and their arcs have always been more interesting and felt more filled out.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Are We Sure This Man Should Be Flying Planes?

That wasn't actually where I planned to go with yesterday's post. Originally, I was going to talk about how Carol's refusal to use her powers to save the T6 reminded me of the only two Green Lantern comics my dad owned.

Like Captain Marvel #2, they both featured stories where Hal refuses to use his power ring to deal with a problem, opting instead to rely on his natural abilities. He's doing this as a way to prove something about himself, much like Carol. Since this is Hal Jordan we're talking about, though, he can't help putting his own twist on things. Two twists, in fact.

The first is that Hal takes this approach to his superheroics, rather than his day job. This translates to relying on fisticuffs and the fact he's apparently an excellent skier(?) to fight crime. This is somewhat passable against a couple of art thieves (though it makes things much harder than they need to be), Even against a former circus clown/acrobat who developed magnetic bracelets that let him move through the air like he's swinging from an invisible trapeze, it can work. The Aerialist is a fine athlete, but no superhuman. When it involves an alien overlord roughly the size of the Hulk, it's a less advisable. Fortunately, Thraxon was foolish enough to think a blow to the head would finish Hal, and grew overconfident. If you've spent any time on comic blogs, you know head injuries are a common occurrence for Hal Jordan, but hardly a game ender.

The second is that, unlike Carol Danvers, who is trying to surpass an older pilot she considers her hero, Hal is trying to prove himself better than. . . Green Lantern?! Because first Carol Ferris, and then a lovely young lady who ran a ski resort Hal worked at after leaving Ferris Aircraft, both fell head over heels for the ole' ring-slinger. They both think GL is so ginchy, Hal can't see straight. Or maybe that's all the blows to the noggin. At any rate, that's how you get a superhero who refuses to use the most powerful weapon in the universe, which is sitting on his finger, in favor of slugging it out with big blue guys in feathered helmets.

Leave it to Hal Jordan to endanger his life - and his entire sector of space - because he's jealous of himself.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Carol Danvers And Surpassing Her Inspirations

Reading Captain Marvel #2, I was struck by Carol's determination to pull Helen Cobb's T6 out of its icy stall without resorting to using her powers. It tied back into something DeConnick had written in the first issue, where Carol mused on how she couldn't compete athletically because her powers give her an unfair advantage. In the cockpit, though, her ability to fly under her own power, or to bench press a tank are irrelevant to how good a pilot she is.

Carol Danvers takes being a pilot as seriously as she takes being a super-hero, and takes a lot of pride in her abilities as both. In the hero biz, Carol may be measuring herself against Mar-Vell, or Captain America, or maybe just her own standard of what a hero should be. As a pilot though, it's Helen Cobb who's the measuring stick, and DeConnick's done a good job already of suggesting that trying to surpass Cobb is something that's driven Carol for years. Carol was impressed by Cobb, maybe even a little in awe of all she'd accomplished when they first met. But not so much that she didn't get a little irked when Cobb suggested she and her contemporaries weren't a patch on Cobb and the women she flew with. That's not such an unusual thing. Old people have been telling young people that their accomplishments or idols aren't shit compared to the previous generations since, well probably forever. But I get the feeling from the fact Carol is still trying to surpass Cobb, that her attempt to show what she could do wasn't as impressive as she hoped.

Which brings us to the T6, where Carol first demonstrates that yes, Helen Cobb could reach 37,000 in a T6, then sets out to go higher. She could simply claim the record for herself (and that may be how it would go down in the record books, since she can only show it was possible Helen could do it, not that she actually did), but she wants to first establish what Helen can do, then use it as something to try and beat. It's just kind of interesting that it's important to support Helen first, then press forward. That's the key to Danvers, I think. She's not content to merely be as good as those who came before her. She feels the only way to truly honor their accomplishments is to better them.

Because Helen wouldn't have had any superpowers, Carol naturally can't use hers when the plane begins to stall. It'd be a cheat, a crutch, even if no one but her would ever know. She'd know. I think in her mind, she figures Helen tried to go higher as well, probably had the same icing issue, but obviously recovered, since she delivered the plane to the Peruvian general. Carol using her powers would be an admission she's not a good enough pilot. That Helen beat her again, and Carol has too much pride to accept that willingly. I'm curious to see how that resolves once she returns to the present. Will she have the chance to pull the plane out, will she have to use her power, or will it be too late entirely?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Little Bit On Marvel NOW

What are people's thoughts on the Marvel NOW! thing? Do you think it's a better way of, I guess "retooling" their line, than DC's approach? I know I saw a few people who said they would have liked to try more of the new titles, but with DC launching 52 books all at once, they just couldn't afford to try everything. I'm not sure if that was a widespread issue or not.

DC's approach seems better suited to garnering that media attention they and Marvel so desire. Which maybe, potentially, attracts some new readers (but probably doesn't hold them). It's a little easier to say "we're starting everything over from scratch*", than "we're canceling a few titles over the course of a few months, and launching some new titles with those characters in different situations". Maybe's that a misreading of the situation, but it's how I perceive what Marvel's doing, based on solicits and such.

I do like that Marvel isn't canceling everything and starting over, because it means I don't lose books I was enjoying in the service of some sales gimmick that otherwise doesn't affect me. That was the most frustrating aspect of DC's relaunch, that I lost Batgirl, and it's yet to be replaced with anything I enjoy quite as much. I don't know if that makes it a better approach than DC's, but it works better for me.

Thus far, Marvel hasn't solicited much that interests me. Maybe the new Captain America series. Putting Cap in another dimension is an opportunity to introduce interesting concepts, and Remender has been pretty good at that. Plus, the idea of putting Steve Rogers in a strange land, and seeing how he applies what he believes there sounds interesting. Put him in contact with people who, for example, don't value individual freedom. It's not a concept of importance to them. They like groupthink, or whatever. How does he react to that? John Romita Jr.'s artwork doesn't hurt, either, though it's been several years since I bought a title he drew regularly (Amazing Spider-Man with JMS?)

Maybe that book can take Defenders' place.

I don't expect this to help Marvel's sales in any significant way, certainly not in the longterm. But hopefully we'll get some good books out of it, and perhaps Marvel could even leave them alone long enough to find their footing. That was what really surprised me, that they would cancel Uncanny X-Men so soon after they just restarted it. Gillen really didn't have much time to do anything. Maybe that just means writers should learn to move their stories along faster. Less decompression, unless you want everything you have planned hopelessly disrupted by the next stupid summer event!

* Except not really since the Bat and Lantern books mostly kept the same plots going.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

John Carter

I watched John Carter with the coworkers over the weekend. What strikes me now, thinking back over the movie, is how little of it made an impression. I know I enjoyed watching Carter's difficulties walking in his first minutes on Mars/Barsoom. The superfast dog, Woola? Loved it. Actively wondered why John didn't just use it to get around at multiple points in the story. But no, he always has to try and use one of those flying machines.

I think the part that made the strongest impression was the part about Tars being Sola's father, even if she didn't know it. The idea that Tars is more compassionate than most of his people, and maybe that's because he knows she's truly his daughter, not the group's. Yes, he scars her when she breaks the rules, but I have the feeling those are "warnings", and anyone else would have been killed long before they could run out of space for warnings. As leader, he can't ignore the things she does entirely, but he can still cut her more slack than he would any other. I don't know whether it's these relative kindnesses that created her sense of compassion - because she knows how nice it feels to have someone who actually cares - or if they merely allowed her own sense of compassion to survive.

Beyond the fact it's probably what saves Carter, the compassion is sort of a sea change for them. Barsoom is a dying world, in no small part thanks to the invisible movers and shakers. If he is people are going to survive, they may need to change things up. Is their typical method of doing things, which roughly seems to be "the weak are food for the strong" getting them anywhere? For all the bluster, they hide when the sky ships pass over, relegated to placing bets on the outcome of the battle, and then intervening only when the two parties are distracted and weakened. Which makes them scavengers of a sort. It's an existence, but is it the best they can hope for? So why not try something different, like not having everyone in the group constantly eyeballing each other to see who looks vulnerable? If Tars was, on some level, trying to bring that about by protecting his daughter, it isn't a bad idea. Sola eventually found her strength. Not as a bully, but enough to stand up and protect those important to her, which is a much more productive use of it.

So, that part made more of an impression than I thought, but beyond that, I'd have to rate the movie merely OK. There wasn't anything that stuck out as truly bad, but there also weren't any points that made me stand up and cheer, either. It's the kind of movie that having seen once, I doubt I'd watch again, unless there was absolutely nothing else to do.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What I Bought 8/16/2012 - Part 2

It appears I'm doomed to only receive odd numbered issues of Real Science Adventures. Something to address in future back issue hunts, I suppose. It's another all Atomic Robo review post!

Atomic Robo: Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #2 by, Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Nick Filardi (colors), Jeff Powell (letters) - Even though he can't drink, I think Robo would still get hammered faster than Val (the lady in the striped shirt) in a drinking contest. She is, after all, Russian.

The She-Devils want to get to the bottom of the strange planes that attacked Robo, before said strange planes send them to the bottom of the Pacific. So Robo travels with the Captain and Val to Pete's, a 'safe haven' where a brawl nearly starts, and Pete expects them to drink who knows what. They do get sort of a lead from a crazy old man who thinks Robo's a ghost. What is it with old Asian guys thinking Robo's something supernatural? This guy, the one from "Leaping Metal Dragon" who said he was a demon. They do find something, but it kind of blows up before Robo can piece much together. Back at the base, he learns the She-Devils' top engineer has been tearing apart his engine on the sly, but they come to an understanding. Then the base gets attacked.

I like how Wegener make Pete look like a big, friendly fella, but only when he smiles. At all other times he's stern, gruff, intimidating. The smile triggers a complete change in his body language, and its departure signals a similarly quick reversal. Very well done. As to Clevinger, ever since he hinted at Lauren's interest in Robo's jet engine, I kind of dreaded the moment when Robo would learn she stole his stuff, lost his mind, and a big ugly fight with the She-Devils broke out. Clevinger thankfully avoided this by having the two characters decide to collaborate on Lauren's project ideas instead. Science bringing people together instead of blowing them apart.

Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #5 by, Brian Clevinger (words), Matt Speroni (colors), Jeff Powell (letters), and Ryan Cody (art, "To Kill A Sparrow"), Paul Maybury (art, "Bloop"), Jin Clark (art, "Once Upon a Time in China"), and John Broglia (art, "Leaping Metal Dragon") - It's the giant skull head in the clouds from that story in Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1! It's after Robo now!

As I said, I haven't seen issue 4 yet. This is more of a problem on "Leaping Metal Dragon" than "To Kill a Sparrow". With the latter, I knew they were planning to attack a German base, so it really isn't hard to figure Sparrow was captured in the course of that, whether intentionally or not. With the former, the last I knew Robo was going to start working on punches, now we have a jump to Bruce Lee dealing with Tao Jones weeks later. Is it a movie, a real thing? I don't know. Maybe this was hinted at in issue 2, which I also haven't read yet. I'm just a little unsure how this will all come together. Perhaps Robo will capture Tao Jones?

As for the two standalone stories, "Bloop" deals with Robo searching for something that made a large noise at the bottom of the ocean. He came so close. I like how Maybury draws people, as the deckhands on Robo's ship look appropriately weather beaten, while the people in the NOAA office building have much smoother faces. And he makes a good go of showing the scale of the creature, though he showed just enough I'm confused as to how its body is shaped. Does it have a trunk? Is it an enormous squid? Maybe the eye needed to be even larger.

 In the other story, Robo's shot down in a small village in China during WW2, and while he waits for his squadron to find him, he helps out around the village. Until the Japanese firebomb it, at which point he leaves. But the small boy who thought he was really cool survived, and remembered. It's sweet, but also a little sad, to see the boy as an old man, while Robo looks the same. Plays back into that bit about him doing a great Jack Benny, but no one getting it anymore. I like Speroni's colors on this. Mostly cool colors, blues, greys, greens for the peaceful scenes, then more yellows in the violent scenes. And it happens so quickly, from one panel to the next, it emphasizes how fast things can shift from one to another. It's not my favorite Real Science Adventure issue so far, but it's still a good one.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Burn Notice 3.2 - Question and Answer

Plot: Last time, we saw the risk associated with government types being able to find Michael. This week, it's the cops' turn. Specifically Detective Paxson (Moon Bloodgood) and Detective Forget-Your-Name, er Lopez. Seems Paxson has questions about some blown up cars, and Michael's her prime suspect, through her witness description, as Mike points out (white, dark hair, *cough* athletically built), could fit a lot of people in Miami. This argument fails to sway her, so Mike better get that C-4 out of his storage unit before Paxson gets her warrant, or he'll be a sad panda.

Seeing as Paxson also cost Fiona a bounty she'd captured, Fi drags Michael in on a job for the sister of a past bail jumper. Patrica's husband won't let her see their son, and she needs some more immediate help than lawyers can provide. Especially once it turns out their son was kidnapped by Santora, who wants Howard to steal him some diamonds. To find out where the boy is, Michael will have play a junkie informant who heard something about a kid and diamonds. Sam gets the fun job, he gets to play the crooked cop who approaches Santora with this, and asks if he'd like to ask "Shep" a few questions.

Plus, Sam gets to hit Michael repeatedly. Come on, you know he can dredge up some crap Michael's pulled on him in the past that makes him enjoy that part. Michael gives Santora just enough that he fills in the rest himself, and in so doing, reveals to them where the boy is. After that, the actual rescue is fairly perfunctory, and the bad guys even clean up after themselves. Unfortunately, Michael's going to have Paxson on his tail for a little while longer. And even worse, Madeline cooked dinner to celebrate Michael's birthday. Hope he's built up an immunity to poisons over the years.

The Players: Detective Paxson (Michael's Worst Nightmare), Howard and Patricia (The Clients), Santora (The Kidnapper), Jimmy (Santora's Guy)

Quote of the Episode: Madeline - 'Don't fool yourself, honey. Loving Michael is always trench warfare.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Nope, probably a wise idea with Paxson snooping around.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 2 (9 overall). At least he slowed down a little this week, though he supplemented it by snorting lactose. That sounds disgusting.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (0 overall). Sam got to do the hitting this week. About a 5 punches, I believe.

Michael Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall). Little too busy playing tweaked out guy being repeatedly hit.

Other: Like I said, his name was Shep this week.

Sam got Michael beer for his birthday, of which Sam drank two bottles. Fi got Michael a bayonet. I like that a) he goofed around like she might have booby-trapped her gift when he opened it, because it's rare to see Michael relax like that, and b) that when Fi mentioned someone told her loving him was like trench warfare, his eyes fly to the kitchen, where Maddy is. Admittedly there aren't many people Fi would discuss that topic with, but still, it's a nice touch he automatically knows who it was.

At any rate, we appear to be heading into another mini-arc, as Michael attempts to do what he does with Paxson sniffing around constantly. Last season there was the "learn about Carla arc", then "what's the rifle for?", followed by "who tried to blow me up?" I kind of like that. It gives the season a stronger overarching plot than simply "Michael is burned, attempts to reverse that", by giving him something more specific to deal with for a few episodes. And they're usually pretty good about not dragging it on too long.

I do wonder how this protection worked. Paxson shows up not long after the protection is lifted. Was it that she was prevented from knowing Michael was in Miami? This seems unlikely, given the number of people he's helped and interacted with, not to mention the number of shootouts and explosions he's prompted. So was it that she knew Michael was around, but she was specifically warned off by the higher-ups, themselves being warned off by Management? This seems likely, though I'd expect a cop like Paxson to try observing him covertly on her down time, which I assume Michael would pick up on, being Michael. I guess it could be that the specifics of who he is were kept hidden, so while there might be record of a Michael Westen, there wouldn't be any record that he served the government and is an expert with explosives.

At this point, that's probably of less concern to Michael than the question of how to make her go away.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I Bought 8/16/2012 - Part 1

Good news: I have returned to a portion of the boonies where I'll have regular Internet access! No more trying to type 3 days' worth of posts in a hour because someone else might need to use the library's computer!

Bad news: The arrival of comics becomes a once a month thing again, now that I'm far enough away driving there regularly is no longer appealing. Always a tradeoff.

With only two small weeks comes only 4 comics.

Captain Marvel #2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Dexter Soy (artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Not that I don't like McGuinness' art, but I'll be glad when he moves the covers past a posing stage. I mean, yes, it's a Rosie the Riveter homage, but maybe add some cool or inspirational slogan or catch phrase on there? Go for the wartime poster feel. Juan Doe did a good one for Nova during the book's post-Secret Invasion stint on Earth.

Carol sets out to reach 37,000 feet with Helen Cobb's T6, because if she can do it, that lends validity to the late Cobb's claim that she did it years ago, when she was delivering the plane to a rather ungracious Peruvian general. I guess he was steamed she used his brand-new plane to do it? Which is stupid. I'd be glad she not only flight-tested it for me, but ensured I'm getting a plane that set a record. I'm too reasonable to be a South American general, clearly.

Carol does reach 37,000 feet, but when she attempts to go higher, things go bad and she winds up in the Pacific in 1943, where she's rescued from some Japanese soldiers by a gung-ho group of lady soldiers. Who are then attacked by some giant, floaty metal thing Carol finds vaguely familiar. At which point she decides to stop worrying about changing history, and save lives instead. Might have been good to decide that before some got disintegrated, though.

I don't know whether to be amused or surprised Carol doesn't remember Avengers' time travel protocols. She strikes me as the sort who takes being an Avenger seriously enough she'd have it memorized (I think of Hawkeye that way, too). But it's sort of irrelevant since she's not going to stand by and let people die, a decision I wholeheartedly endorse.

Soy's art is still a mixed bag. It occurred to me it reminds me a bit of Clayton Crain's, probably just superficially, but Soy's figures don't look quite as plastic, which I think is down to Soy's coloring style. The colors are less shiny, and more smeared, so the art avoids that smooth plastic sheen Crain's work has. Maybe it's the use of night scenes, or all the khaki colored uniforms around her, but the Captain Marvel suit seems brighter this issue. Not as much as I'd like, but better. And the smile Soy gave Tracy in the last panel on page 1 really did look amazingly forced, which is what I think he was going for, so kudos.

Resurrection Man #12 by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Javier Pina (artist), Jeromy Cox (colorist), Rob Leigh (letterer) - I like the visual there with Mitch blowing away piece by piece. I don't even really care about the big head with the glowy eyes in the background, just Mitch falling apart. But I always have liked "Dust in the Wind".

Mitch is being killed in virtual reality again and again. By Gotham City cops, Aquaman, Darkseid, whoever. All to study how the Tekites work in him. Daryl finally gets wise that he's made a mistake siding with the lab, and goes to free Kim Rebecki. Together they free Mitch, and thing were looking good until the boss showed up and Daryl says goodbye. And the boss is, well, I wasn't expecting that. I had figured Vandal Savage, actually. I'm very curious to see the explanation for all this. Don't know if it will be worth all the muddling about the book through most of this year, but hopefully it will.

Javier Pina takes over art chores entirely this month, which is fine. Maybe because he worked on the book with Jesus Saiz last month, the story is at least maintaining a visual consistency. The Body Doubles, Kim, the Lab, everybody still looks the same. That's a basic thing, but when the story's already using a virtual reality world as part of the plot, it's probably wise to avoid any more potential confusion. Not much else to say, really. I'm kind of sorry to see the Transhuman go (even if I wasn't as interested in him when it turned out he wasn't simply a guy who'd been a superhuman assassin for decades), but it's all going to boil down to the answers we get in the 0 issue.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dial Up That Crossover

I was thinking about how you could do a Dial H/Secret Avengers crossover, were such a thing allowed. I kind of assumed when resurrected Rasputin mentioned "Abyss" he meant death, and its possible all of Max Fury's lackeys think that's what he'll use the crowns for: death to their enemies, to anyone who stands in their way.

But he could be looking a for sentient void, something that would enable him to travel between worlds. He could sense the connection between the dials and one of these voids, one that was banished with the power of the dials. In the same way seeing Abyss' banishment left an impression on people that could be sued to guide it back to Earth, being involved in the banishing could leave a residue on the tools used, meaning the dials. So Max is trying to use the crowns to home in on the dials, because he thinks they can help him find Abyss. Or he believes he's tracking down Abyss, but really is following a false signal. Perhaps he's been in contact with Ex Nihilo, and they're working together. He's an LMD that's gained autonomy, might be considered alive, but might be a living empty vessel, animated by nothing, in a sense. Which she could find intriguing.

At any rate, Max gets the third crown, and contacts the Abyss, which is perhaps more hostile than he expected. After all, the last one who summoned it - Ex Nihilo - immediately tried to contain it. It doesn't want to be contained. It wants to eat. It wouldn't be hard for it to be called while Jent and Manteau are trying to deal with it, or for a dial be carried along with it. Either way, Hawkeye's team has to contend with it, which ought to give all the geniuses something to keep busy, and they could all get flung to different worlds.

I've kind of assumed Max is that LMD Scorpio had, that's he is how he is because of being close to the Zodiac Key, and so it wouldn't be a stretch in that case to say Max is looking for Scorpio, believing he must be alive in some universe, and Abyss will help him find him. Scorpio could even be what's hitching a ride inside Abyss, and he could come out just as mad as Abyss. And if Max were to give him the crowns, a gift to his dear "brother", well, that could be a serious problem all on its own.

The idea obviously needs a lot of work. The dials are kind of sidelined, but I don't really understand enough about where Mieville's going with them yet to figure out how to incorporate them or "O" into it. So something to revisit later, perhaps.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

That Sense Something Is Just Out Of Place

There are times when I'm reading Secret Avengers and I think it must be taking place in some alternate Marvel Universe from the one I'm mostly familiar with. Hidden cities filled with artificial intelligences convinced the Avengers wiped out mutants and will do the same to them. "Red light nations" where Arcade is a bartender at a strip club, and people are absolutely terrified of Taskmaster.

Don't get me wrong, Taskmaster's no slouch, but he's lost enough fights that I wouldn't expect his reputation to be that highly regarded.

It's like everything is almost how I remember it, but just slightly off-center. Maybe because it's sort of an espionage book, everything is a little darker, a little more grim, a little uglier than I thought, so it feels like a universe where the heroes have fallen behind just a little too much. Like, you're trying to catch up on paperwork, yardwork, whatever, but you find once you get a certain distance behind you just can't seem to make up the ground, and thing snowball. Or, there was a study in Australia about whether foxes could be used to control the rampant rabbit populations and they found they could, up to a point. But once the rabbits' numbers reached a certain level, the foxes just didn't eat enough of them to bring the numbers back down.

That's kind of what it feels like. Which really ought to feel right, since pretty much every future we've seen for Marvel Earth is lousy, and it had to start going down hill sometime. But those were always possible futures, so they could theoretically be averted, and they were always, you know, in the future. They hadn't arrived yet. This one seems to have arrived.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Perspective Vaires With What You Bring To The Table

There's a sequence in Duck You Sucker where a man in a black trenchcoat and large hat is walked off a train and in front of a firing squad. He's a tall thin man, with a long nose. The coat is ripped off him, revealing the same uniform as the men in the firing squad. He's spun around and summarily shot in the back.

The commentary track says Leone selected the actor because he strongly resembled a young Mussolini, and Italian audiences in the early '70s would get a bit of a kick out of seeing "Mussolini" shot for desertion.

I like knowing what Leone was going for. The scene works towards the purpose I think he was aiming for even if you don't know that, but knowing who the man was intended to represent adds an extra level to it. A touch of dark humor.

Even so, I guess the audience will always take what's relevant or notable to them from a work. I never would have realized who it was supposed to be on my own, but even knowing what Leone meant, my reaction is still the same. I'm curious. Why was he deserting? Did he believe they were going to lose, that he'd die horribly in the process? Or was he leaving because he couldn't be a part of the acts the military was conducting (though maybe he didn't want to be a part of him because he knew how much mercy the soldiers would receive, which is to say, none)? Maybe it was more mundane. His mother was sick, perhaps. Or maybe he was a spy, though I doubt it based on his posture.

But in a movie were people act out of revenge, greed, idealism, cruelty, and everything else, I couldn't help wondering what drove him to try and escape.

That and why he and the Strangers from Dark City had the same tailor.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Who's On The Line?

After Dial H #3, I thought the dials were connected to Abyss, because Nelson saw someone during an aborted dialing, and Manteau said she could sense someone else on the line, getting closer.

After issue #4, it would appear I was wrong. Ex Nihilo is using a dial, but Abyss doesn't seem interested in it in the slightest.

I did think of something else, what Manteau said about the mysterious "O", who was involved in every early attempt at telephones. Exchanging information with all these scientific minds, looking for something else. There's also what Manteau said about how it's important to remember who you are every time you dial. That it's Nelson, not Boy Chimney or whoever. Which suggests maybe the heroes are real, in some sense, that they're called in from some other world and share space with the dialer. That's why Nelson would remember a fight with a Rake Dragon he never had. Because wherever he came from, Boy Chimney did have that battle.

Could it go both ways? Could someone from Nelson and Manteau's world have been lost in the heroes' world, maybe like Adam Strange being Zeta-Beamed to Rann, only they were never sent back? Maybe that's what "O" is after. It occurred to me that "H-E-R-O" could be "HER O". O could have been trying to find some way to get "her" back, and the dials are the closest approximation they could manage. The dial pulls someone from that world, but it's aiming blind. However, perhaps she's able to sense it, home in on the dialing to find her way home.

Or O could be calling someone for a ride. O could be the one lost, trying to contact its people. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Joe Kubert

Joe Kubert passed away over the weekend?

I've probably told this story before, but my introduction to DC was from my dad's late '60s-early '70s comics. While most of the superhero fare didn't do much for me (other than the Atom), I loved the all the war comics. Most of his Sgt. Rock's (Our Army at War, technically) were actually written bu Kubert and drawn by Russ Heath, but he had a few of the 80 pagers with reprints of earlier stories Kubert had drawn, and that rough edge he gave Rock has always stuck with me. Plus there were some of the early Unknown Soldier stories, which also had the Enemy Ace backups, so a double dose of Kubert art.

One of the techniques he used I really liked was to have a full page splash, but framed with a couple of smaller circular panels, one in the upper left, the other in the lower right. So it pulls in close, maybe for a reaction shot, then back to show what they're reacting to, then zoom in one some other key detail. It seems really simple, but it works so well at giving you an really outstanding image - two GIs watching a horde of Japanese soldiers charging out of the jungle, or two biplanes flying towards each other as a group of others form a ring - and still keeps the story and the themes it wants to get across moving.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Burn Notice 3.1 - Friends and Family

Plot: We pick up where Season 2 left off: Michael needing to swim 5 miles to reach the land. Having accomplished that, he's immediately of interest to the cops. Realizing he can't fight the entire Miami PD, Michael surrenders. Well, he could fight them, but it'd be a bad idea.

In jail, Mike receives news from Sam. He's still burned, but his status is no longer shielded from the cops or or foreign agencies. Which would be that bit about hell raining down on him once Management stops protecting him. At least they were nice enough to ship his sunglasses to the loft. Michael is eventually bailed out by Harlan, an old partner, who just so happens to need some help. He needs to capture one Rufino Cortez, who needs to stand trial for various crimes back in Venezuela. He could also bring down some corrupt judges who assist in the illegal land grabs Cortez has going. After Harlan's simple grab fails, it's down to Mike.

Mike's plan involves presenting himself as an attorney working for some wealthy men looking to get in on the land grab action. After some difficulties with Falcone, Cortez' right hand guy, he gets a meeting with Cortez. Then he gets Cortez.

Then he finds out Harlan's working for the crooked judges, and it's Michael the Venezuelan special ops team will be picking up. You know how Michael can be kind of abrasive and condescending to people who screw up his plans, or don't think things through (Larry mentioned it during his visit)? Yeah, Harlan got a little sick of that during their time together.

Michael does turn that around on Harlan, but it emphasizes the danger he's in. His lack of protection is already putting him at risk, and he hasn't even faced any real enemies yet.

The Players: Harlan ("Old Buddy"), Marta (The Client), Rufino Cortez (El Jefe), Falcone (The Gatekeeper). I feel like there's a Ghostbusters joke to be made about Falcone, but I don't know the movie well enough to make it.

Quote of the Episode: Madeline - 'When you asked to borrow your father's old briefcase, I didn't know you were planning on stabbing someone.'

Does Fiona blow something up? No. There was an explosion planned, but then Cortez didn't show up for that meeting.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 7 (7 overall). And Sam's off to a blistering pace. Must be a response to Madeline cranking her sarcasm up to 11. Geez, you blow up a lady's sun room and she never lets you forget it.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (0 overall).

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

Other: Michael's alias is Tom Wellington, Esquire. Michael didn't love that one, but like Sam said, you want to pick the name, you got to come to the meetings and listen to Barry discuss his skin care regimen. Sam's heavy alcohol consumption is seeming more reasonable all the time.

One episode after Sam impressed the seriousness of a situation on Maddy by refusing beer, Fiona actually told Michael now was not the time to blast when he was surrounded by cops. Combine that with Mike telling Fiona he appreciated her help dealing with Carla, and we are through the looking glass.

Madeline's tendency to revise history reminds me of a quote from Volume 27 of Rurouni Kenshin: 'Life must be full of joy, with a mind like that.'

During the scene where they try Harlan's plan, the hat Michael's wearing looks terrible on him. I don't think it goes with suit, or maybe he shouldn't wear hats with part of the brim pulled down lower than the rest.

I enjoy the fight at the end between Michael and Harlan, since it highlights the differences between the two of them. Harlan talks constantly, Michael talks until it's time to fight, then he shuts up, which has been true throughout the series. Still, the best scene is the bit between Sam and Fi, as Fi picks his brain on what he thinks Michael will do. That Sam tries to dodge the question, because he knows she won't like the answer. That Fi, as he guessed, doesn't like the answer. That her response is largely based on entirely reasonable emotions and her own self-confidence. And that Sam, once he's given his answer, doesn't back down in the face of Fi's anger. It's a good bit of work that tells you a lot about the characters, their views, their preferred approaches to problems.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Will They Ever Work Together Again?

Reading Secret Avengers, the reanimated Rasputin (among others) made mention of the Abyss. And being the smart aleck I am, I wondered if that meant the living void from Dial H was going to make an appearance. Because that would be a pretty strange pair of books to do a Marvel/DC crossover with. But of course, there haven't been any of those in a few years. At one time, I recall hearing that the higher-ups at DC didn't care for Joe Quesada (possibly because of all the potshots he liked to take at them), and so there would be no more crossovers until he was gone. I don't know if that's the real reason or not, but it sounds plausible. The comics industry seems rife with people who make decisions based on such stupid, petty bullshit.

OK, that's hardly limited to the comics industry.

I was thinking, do you think being owned by larger companies (Time/Warner for DC, Disney for Marvel), would make crossovers more likely or less? I'd presume those executive muckety-mucks wouldn't care about any beefs the comic folk have with each other (assuming they care about the comics whatsoever, which they may not), but they could very easily have their own gripes with the executive muckety-mucks on the other side. I could see there being more licensing issues, where there might be questions of who gets publishing credit or whatever, but there might also be more people who would see it as potentially lucrative to get Superman and Spider-Man teaming up again, or whatever.

I'm not particularly clamoring for a crossover, I'm just curious whether people think it's more likely now, or less.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Observations From The River #2

Somewhere there are a bunch of lazy lumberjacks lying in their graves. They have a lot to answer for.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

What I Bought 8/3/2012 - Part 4

Will taking a three-day break from posting make this last set of reviews more coherent, or less? Let's find out!
Green Arrow #12 by Ann Nocenti (writer), Harvey Tolibao (artist), Tanya & Richard Horie (colorists), Rob Leigh (letterer) - Ollie goes a few rounds with Fang and his goons. He doesn't win, but Fang lets him go, stating that if he doesn't get the recognition software, he'll turn Ollie's company into a pet food chain. What's wrong with pet food? Ollie did manage to steal his cell phone, but promplty blows this advantage by not listening to his advisor, storming out into the streets, and being cpatured and thrown in an 'illegal jail'. Who's calling it illegal? I have to assume the citizenry, because the government would claim any jail they set up was A-OK, wouldn't they? *Shrugs* Ollie escapes, but even as his advisor negotiates with China's premier hero to keep her from getting involved, Fang has woken up his parents' corpses and sent them after Ollie. Which is a surprising turn of events to say the least. Can't say Nocenti doesn't keep things happening, which is one of the things to love about this book. No flippin' decompression.

Even though the Hories are the colorists for this and Dial H, the books look very different. All the colors here are kind of washed out, not the deep hues the other book has. I assume that's a purposeful choice, but I don't understand the reason. Unless they're concerned about overwhelming Tolibao's linework. His lines are quite a bit thinner and lighter than Santolouco's. Deeper colors might muddle the art even more. The purples of the robes of the now animated corpses do pop a bit, maybe because so much of the book is set against gray jail walls, or a grimy brown background out in the city. Which does work with what Jimmy Crew said about air pollution, at least.

Secret Avengers #29 by Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (artist), Matthew Wilson (color art), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - It's seems unwise to jump off a building with one's hands full of machine pistols, but I guess the Black Widow knows what she's doing.

Safe now from AvX, the team returns to dealing with the Shadow Council, who only need one more Serpent Crown for real bad things to happen. And John Steele's attempts to escape to warn the Avengers gets him killed, but not before he warns them. So now the team, somewhat reduced in number, has to find that last crown in a "red light nation" populated seemingly entirely by super-villains or wannabes. And it appears either Flash ahs lost control of the symbiont (which makes me wonder if that reanimated Rasputin attack wasn't more successful than it appeared) or if Flash is just embracing his inner whatever it takes.

This isn't exactly the plot I wanted Remender to pick up, but it beats all the fawning over Mar-Vell. I was disappointed to see Hardman had left the book, but Scalera's art reminds me abit of Juan Doe's which is never a bad thing. His style isn't quite as strong, gets a bit rough in places, but I get the feeling he really enjoys drawing Venom, and he's making good use of him. I do think Valkyrie should be taller than Flash, but that's hardly something unique to Scalera. Val was basically as tall as Dr. Strange back in the Defenders days, so it goes way back, but it just seems like an Asgardian ought to be bigger than your average human. Unless Flash is using the symbiont to make himself taller. Which I could absolutely see him doing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What I Bought 8/3/2012 - Part 3

It's Monday, and I gotta hurry and knock this review out. I think one of those irrtating kids needs to use a computer here at the library. Part 4 will have to wait to be typed on Thursday I guess.
Dial H #4 by, China Mieville (writer), Mateus Santolouco (artist), Tanya & Richard Horie (colorists), Steve Wands (letterer) - That's an impressive chest wound, to be sure.

So things aren't going how anyone planned. Lizard face can't get through to the living void they've summoned. The good doctor can't contain it, or reason with it. Manteau and Hents can't stop it with the powers the dials gave them. The doctor can stop Manteau, and torture her for information before deciding the dial will help her reason with the Abyss. This in spite of her ally explaining that's useless. So the dials and the Abyss aren't connected, but maybe whatever it hitching a ride inside it is connected to the dials. Or maybe the Abyss is about to have babies. Great, a bunch of crazy living voids, hungry for light. That'll be interesting. Anyway, lizard face teams up with Jents, busted dial and all, to rescue Manteau, because I guess he's realized the doctor was never going to really help him, and she doesn't really know what she's doing anyway. And he's not really a villain, more a grabby tourist.

Well, I'm less certain than before about what's going on, but I'm very curious about all of it. And Santolouco's art still works very well. There's a lot of energy to it in the action scenes, but all presented very cleanly. The heroes look suitably bizarre, but the people look at least somewhat like real people (read: not all perfect physical specimens). And the Hories' coloring helps. There are a lot of dark colors, but enough light ones to present a good contrast, and the colors are very deep and play off Santolouco's linework well.

Defenders #9 by, Matt Fraction (writer), Jamie McKelvie w/Mike Norton (artists), Dommo Aymara (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Namor's on the cover, but not in the comic. He's off doing Phoenixy things, probably

The team is in some world not their own, '60s Marvel I guess. Or maybe more specifically, Steranko Nick Fury Marvel. There's Fury and a Frankenstein's monster Hitler, so I don't know. The Defenders have been trying to get ahold of Fury because they figured he'd know something about secret machines that keep themselves secret. Which makes no sense. If Strange's magic is getting nowhere, get Reed Richards, bring science into the equation, not espionage. But they opted for Fury and before you know it they're in the middle of some big fight with HYDRA, and then the Prestor sends them "home", at insect size, and with Fury in tow.

I take it Fraction wasn't a fan of making Fury real old abruptly and replacing him with Marcus Johnson, or however that one mini-series went? I'd say the whole issue seems kind of pointless, but ti did convince me it's time to stop requesting this book, so I guess that's something. McKelvine, Norton, Aymara, and Cowles are doing their job (though there's something about how Red She-Hulk's face is drawn that bugs me. I think it looks too thin in comparison to how the Dodsons drew it maybe. Or her nose is too long? I'm not sure, there's just something off about the face), but the writing simply isn't getting it done. At least, not quickly enough.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

What I Bought 8/3/2012 - Part 2

Moving on to the first issue of a new series, and an old standby. Or what qualifies for an old standby on my pull list these days.
Captain Marvel #1 by, Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Dexter Soy (artist), Joe Caramagna (letters) - Quite a contrast between interior and exterior artists.

I know Monica Rambeau isn't relevant to the story DeConnick wants to tell, but I'm a little annoyed she gets no mention amongst all this stuff about taking the title "Captain Marvel". It just bugs me in that things do. Not as much as the art, which seems too heavily inked and isn't helped by the coloring, which is too murky and subdued. Shouldn't a book like this, which seems as though it's going to deal with high-flying pilots and whatnot, be bright and flashy? I preferred the flashback sequencess which I think were going for a sort of sepia-tone, but weren't so muddied as a result.

As to the writing, DeConnick writes some excellent character interaction. Especially between Steve Rogers and Carol. I like it when people show Cap has a sense of humor. He's serious when he needs to be, but he's not a stick in the mud. That's Scott Summers, people. All the stuff about Carol looking up to Helen Cobb and wanting to break her records, it didn't really have much impact on me as a reader, but I don't have any problem with it. I assume DeConnick plans to do something interesting with it. She'll have to, because this is a book where the wrtiting will have to carry the day. Like Green Arrow that way.

Daredevil #15 by, Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Javier Rodriguez (color art), Joe Caramagna (letters) - When his sense are working normally, how much do you think barbed wire hurts Matt? Actually, I'm impressed he can function anytime he experiences something painful. You'd think he'd want to pass out when he stubbed his toe. Though I suppose that wouldn't happen.

Matt's still in Latveria, and Doom wants his brain researched so they can understand the radar sense. Something like this would have to get him kicked out of that FF things, right? Or would Reed buy his plausible deniability? Or would Reed not care? I could see Reed Richards not caring. Anyway, things aren't going quite as the scientist expected, because Matt's brain is turning his senses on again, sort of. Not the radar sense, but he can see things he shouldn't be able to, like waves of energy that block communications, and he hears in color now. Or maybe that represents him sensing the emotion, if not the actual words? I'm not totally sure. At any rate, his senses are up and running enough for him to finally get through to the Avengers, and Iron Man shows up and saves his butt. Though his armor looks kind of silly. I'm not sure if it's how Samnee draws it, or just the design of the armor itself. I'm not a fan of the current design, honestly. I do like Matt placing a hand to his head and trying to get his new senses to work. Very "to me, my X-Men!" Also that look of confusion and maybe panic as DD scrambles up the roof while there are blasts going on all around him. You get the impression that with these current senses, it's more of risk than ever, and he may not even be totally sure of what's going on around him. Really sells the threat.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What I Bought 8/3/2012 - Part 1

I had business in town, so I went ahead and picked up comics. They were out of Hawkeye, though. Dang. And no Atomic Robo stuff had shown up. Double dang. Might as well press on with what was there.
Angel & Faith #12 by, Christos Gage (script), Rebekah Isaacs (art), Dan Jackson (colors), Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt (letters) - GCD didn't have an image of the Isaacs cover, which is what I got, and I'm on too tight a schedule to hunt it down. On another note, does anyone know the breakdown on what Starkings and Betancourt do as co-letterers? Is one handling dialogue, the other sound effects? That's all I could figure.

Having reached Quor'toth, Willow does eventually get her magic up and running again. While they waited for that to ahppen, the quartet had to survive all sorts of dangers, and learned that while most residents of this dimension regard Conner as the devil, he does have a few worshippers, considered heretics because they embrace the idea the Great Destroyer's power came from love (based on a conversation he was overheard having with Holtz). Now most of the followers are set to be executed, and Conner can't bring himself to abandon them. And Angel won't abandon Conner, so I guess everyone is staying. No chance at all this ends well, especially if Quor'toth does bring out a person's darker nature. Plenty of that to go around with this crew.

So we'll see how this goes. I have two theories about why Faith is dealing with the darker nature issue fairly well, one foe each end of the spectrum. We'll see if either is right. I feel bad for Isaacs, though, because Quor'toth is one of those places that has been built up as such a horrible place for so long in the audience's mind, there's no way the artist can match each person's imagination. And that's the case here, though I also pictured Qour'toth as being in a sort of perpetual blood haze, which is really more a coloring issue, and not one I'm sure would have been practical for an extended story. Probably get pretty nauseating after awhile. Still, those eyeless flying things were really creepy looking. Like a naked mole rat with bat wings. *shudders*

Batman Beyond Unlimited #6 by, J.T. Krul (writer), Howard Porter (pencils), John Livesay (inks), Randy Mayor (color), Saida Temofonte (letters) "Falling Star"; Derek Fridolfs (writer and inks), Dustin Nguyen (writer and pencils), Randy Mayor (colors), Saida Temofonte (letters) "Konstriction: Prophets of Ophidia"; Adam Beechen (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist), Saida Temofonte (letterer) "10,000 Clowns: Crooked Parallel Lines" - Sigh, another Porter cover.

Superman's up against it, as Smart Grundy comes out to play just as Lex and Lucinda get all those Kryptonite asteroids in place around Earth. Not so good for Supes, as the super-cops aren't much use, but look, it's Batman! Old Man Batman, is what looks like a Nite-Owl costume? And he's missing his pupils? I know Bats frequently doesn't have pupils because of the mask, but these are like clear plastic because you can see the skin under his eyes, and so I'm pretty sure his eyes are blank. Which is odd. Oh, and Supes argued with one of the cops about the use of lethal force. If they survive, I suppose that'll be a problem.

Superman got the 20 pages, so the other two get 10 each. Turns out Darkseid lost his sight from seeing the Anti-Life, so he turned over control of Apokolips to Orion. So everyone agrees to work together, and Terry almost makes out with Orion's wife, and Nguyen and Fridolfs were the two who wrote the story where Bruce had a rendezvous with her, weren't they? I know Nguyen was the artist, so I wouldn't be surprised if they're doing a callback. As for the Bats story, the Jokerz are in full swing, and Terry ahs enough time to avert a hostage crisis at an elementary school, but not to save a water treatment plant. Which means the plan is probably working. The authorities are being overhwlemed gradually, though the Jokerz have to run out eventually. Anyway, both those two are very well drawn, even if Nguyen just draws people standing around talking. Breyfogle gets to draw Terry leaping and kicking, and does it quite well as usual.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Burn Notice 2.16 - Lesser Evil

Plot: This one's all about Victor and Carla. Carla starts by trying to show Michael what he could get back if he plays ball, which raises the question of whether Mike had much opportunity to eat chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds in the deserts of Afghanistan. Seems like a luxury item. Anyway, Carla wants progress fast, because Management is on the way.

Leaving that, Michael pays Victor a visit, avoids being killed - again - and they have a chat. Wherein Vic reveals how he came to work for Carla, and why he's trying to wreck the organization. As Fi and Mike confirm that, Sam gets a bit more out of Victor. Enough to confirm they're up against a very powerful force. One which has found their location and we're off to the races.

Sam's left to protect Madeline, while Fiona helps Michael and Victor elude capture and reach Victor's back-up plan. Carla uses operative for personal errands, and Victor figures he can use this to blackmail her into backing off. This seems a little dodgy, as long as they aren't being caught at it, why do the higher-ups care? I suppose the logic is if Victor could uncover it, so could someone else.

The plan doesn't work out terribly well for Victor (or maybe it does), but Fi gets to do something she's wanted to for quite some time, and Michael gets some face time with Management (John Mahoney) himself. Michael even gets him to agree to get out of Michael's life. Which may not be the blessing it sounds like, especially as it leaves Michael floating 5 miles out in the ocean.

The Players: Victor (The Client), Management

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'Why don't we start with why you tried to blow me up?' Victor - 'You make it sound so personal.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? 2 cars

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (46 overall). It's worth noting that when he was trying to get Maddy to leave with him, she asked if he wanted a beer, and he loudly said No. What's better is that finally got through to her about the seriousness of the situation.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (11 overall)

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (7 overall)

Other: There were like 5 other quotes I wanted to use up there, so to heck with it. It's the season finale, let's intersperse them as we go along..

Sam (to Madeline) - 'Because it's a magical kingdom with lots of witnesses and great security.'

I enjoy how easily the group communicates tactically. Fi knows her phone's being tapped just by how Michael describes what he wants her to do. Fi and Sam don't even need to talk to know who they're going to look after between Maddy and Michael.

Carla - 'Enough. It's time for you to learn actions have consequences.' Michael - 'Funny, I was about to tell you the same thing.'

It's nice that immediately after that conversation, Victor knows exactly what Carla told Michael. It really sells the idea that he's been under her thumb for some time, and that he's what Michael could be in a few years even if he doesn't get out from under this.

Fiona - 'Putting a bullet in Carla sounds awfully good.' Victor - 'It comes to that, you'll have to get in line.'

At times I think the shift of Victor from foe to tragic figure/ally comes awfully fast. But when I think about it, Michael was already looking to work with Victor, and Fi has always been the sort to let her emotions run her decision-making process. Plus, she knows a bit about losing family to evil. And, if nothing else, helping Victor helps Michael, which is her primary concern.

I do like how different Victor's priorities are from Michael's. Michael wants to know things. Who burned him specifically, and why. Victor doesn't care about any of that. He wants to destroy them, and it doesn't concern him who they are, beyond their involvement in wrecking his life. It could be as simple as the difference in how they were burned, that Victor lost his family at the same time, and Michael didn't. It could be more about who they are as people. Michael seems to regard things as problems, puzzles to be solved. Victor seems to look at them as more like barricades to be smashed. Whether that's something that was true before being burned, or it developed out of anger and bitterness later, we don't know.

I've watched this episode with the commentary before, and Michael Shanks said they didn't want him leaping off the roof of a car, into the back seat of Fi's ride. He did it anyway, because that's how Victor would do things, but looking at it, I can't believe they were worried.  It's hardly any sort of a drop, and the cars were right next to each other.

Madeline - 'I take care of myself and you go save my son. They sent men to me with guns. God knows what they sent after him.'

Tricia Helfer really sells Carla as being desperate throughout this episode. She is terrified of Management, far more than of the Victor or Michael. She figures she has the manpower to handle them, especially once she knows who she's after. Management is her boss. He has more authority, more power, and she knows it. Which is probably why she increases the obvious show of force. When she and her people pursued Michael at 2.9, they were in plain clothes, regular vehicles. Now, it's all black SUVs, sedans, and tactical gear. Subtlety is out the window, likely to reassure herself, and possibly cow Vic and Mike into submission.

Management - 'You have no idea what hell will rain down on you if we stop looking out for you!' Michael - 'I'll take my chances.'

Careful what you wish for Michael.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Behind The Curtain, Another Curtain

I was rewatching Dark City this week, and it made me think of JLA #50, of all things. Well, a specific comment in that comic that Batman made about water representing discovery, or knowledge in dreams. And at first glance, I though that fit pretty well with the movie. Shell Beach representing sort of the key to John's past, the way he, Bumstead, and Schreber take the river to get to "Shell Beach", and discover at least part of the truth of their situation there. The aversion the strangers, or whatever we should call them, have to water, which would fit if we consider that John discovering the truth can help him to destroy them and their little experiment. And the comparison to a dream, where its always night, where things change, people change, and yet nobody notices. Everything seems perfectly natural in that way it can in dreams, where I find it perfectly reasonable that I can teleport, or that I'm Edward Norton, or whatever.

So in that sense, it seems like John finds the truth, oddly enough not at Shell beach, but in that little vial of watery fluid Schreber injects into his brain. He banishes the strangers, creates the Shell Beach he's supposed to remember, brings out the sun. . . but it's still an illusion, isn't it? People are still dreaming, sort of, since they don't have any idea of the truth about their world, they don't know who they were before they were taken. I suppose it's different in that John Murdoch won't be constantly messing with them, so they'll actually be able to settle into the personality and life they currently have and go forward with it, but it's still sort of a trick. Now there's just the one person behind the scenes, and he's much less invasive. I wonder what will happen if someone decides they want to leave the city and go further than just Shell Beach. Surely someone has wanderlust in that city, and won't be content to only travel as far as everyone else.

Maybe at that point John Murdoch emerges and tells everyone the truth, I don't know. It says something I guess about how narrow some people's lives are, and how little we might really understand about the world we inhabit. I mean, I think I understand that I live on Earth, which orbits the Sun, in the Milky Way, etc., but that might be completely wrong. Illusory. If our world were like that of the film, I wouldn't be any more aware of it than most of those people were.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Observations From The River #1

It's when the water is highest that nobody gets wet.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Apologies For The Absence

I'd like to blame it on work, and that is sort of the cause. I simply couldn't get to the Internet on Monday, and that kind of settled that. On the other hand, I was running low on ideas, so I might not have had anything for the next couple days, anyway.

I'm back now, though, but I'm going to ease into it by touching on some things related to past posts.

- I asked once before if anyone wore their watch on their dominant arm, since I've been told it's strange I do. I had two more people tell me last week they'd never see that before. Add them to the list.

- From the Department of Failures in Reading Comprehension, we step back to Batman Beyond Unlimited. I said that while I thought the bit with killing Vixen to get John Stewart and Shayera together was a poor decision, I was curious to see what it was that caused the Guardians to rescend their ban on Earth and hand out another ring. Then I reread the story and the least line the blue twit has says they'll keep an eye out for an Earthling who has achieved unity of mind, body, and soul. Which answers that question, I guess. It doesn't kill my interest in seeing how the kid got the ring, but it takes out its kneecaps with a shotgun (what I call a "GrimJack Special").

- From the Department of "I Flipped the Switch, but the Bulb Blew", I watched Duck You Sucker with the commentary on. While there were interesting bits, it didn't help to explain the slow motion ending with James Coburn, his Irish buddy, and their mutual lady friend. Well, it didn't convince me my theory about the lady being metaphorical is off-base, but that didn't come as any surprise. It does seem to be expected there was some level of a love triangle between the three of them, though one guy suggested there was a lot of jealousy on John's part towards his friend. He even suggested John informed on his buddy to the Brits, then killed him when they did not, which I don't think the film supports. John sees too many parallels between Dr. Viegga and Sean, and nobody ratted out the doctor. He was tortured, he talked, other people died. It's the fact John killed his best friend for that act which haunts him, and is why he gives the doctor a chance to either redeem himself, or prove he's a coward, depending on how you look at it. One fellow did use the phrase menage a trois, though I wonder if he means it the way I think he does. That would explain at least part of why killing Sean hit him so hard, but I don't know.