Friday, November 30, 2012

How Did I Wind Up Supporting The Spurs? Oh Right, David Stern's Ego

I don't know what to make of the fact I've reached the point I'm now supporting the San Antonio Spurs. I used to hate them, in the sports sense, not real hate. I like lots of offense, the Spurs preferred to play defense, and not only that, but knock the teams did score a lot (like the Suns) out of the playoffs. The Spurs were worse in some ways than the Jeff van Gundy Knicks/Pat Riley Heat teams of the late '90s. Those teams didn't score much, but I could understand it. The personnel wasn't necessarily there, but more critically, the coaches simply weren't going to do it. The Spurs would show every so often they could score a lot, they simply chose not to.

Their defense has slipped these last few years, they've cranked up the offense to compensate, so I tend to enjoy watching them more. They aren't a favorite team, I don't root for them generally, but they're enjoyable to watch. Plus, I love Popovich's whole attitude. He's got this grumpy smartass thing going that's hilarious. That game last year where Duncan was listed as "DNP* - Old". The screwing around he did with Barkley last night**.

But now it seems Popovich has gone too far. He sent home four of his starters before last night's game against Miami. Sorry, last night's nationally televised game against Miami, which is probably the real issue. This prompted David Stern to don his tinfoil "King of the World" hat and promise 'substantial sanctions' against the Spurs.

I find this to be ridiculous. Whatever sanctions Stern levies, I hope the Spurs challenge it. Popovich is the Spurs' coach. It is, therefore, his decision who plays in a game or not. It's not David Stern's. Popovich has to do what he feels is best for his team's larger aspirations, which in San Antonio's case is to win a title. if he wants to give some key players extra rest before Saturday's game against Memphis (a pretty damn good team themselves), that's his call. About the only person Popovich should have to answer to is the Spurs' owner, who is his boss. If Peter Holt trusts Popovich's judgment, that should be it.

Yeah, I'm sure there were people who wanted to see Duncan/Parker/Ginobli vs. LeBron/Wade/Bosh, but that's the risk you take. There is no guarantee you'll get to see the players you want to. They might get hurt, or sick, have a funeral or childbirth to attend. They might get in quick foul trouble or get ejected. Or yes, the coach might decide to give them the day off. It happens and as fans, you and I have to roll with it. Tony LaRussa did this all the time, with his "travel day" lineups where he sat five starters. It's frustrating because as a fan, the gut reaction was to want them to win all the time, and this is not the best way to accomplish that. But their best interests will not always coincide with ours.

I don't see what leg Stern has to stand on here. He could try to invoke "the good of the game", but that's a nebulous argument, with limited precedent. Popovich did this last year, resting key guys for the long haul. Adam Silver, who will be taking over from Stern as commish (and it can't come soon enough), said there was nothing wrong with it (albeit near the end of a condensed season). Why is it wrong now? Why isn't it wrong when bad teams sit their best players with bullshit injuries to tank for higher draft picks? Or sit guys near the end of the season to try and draw more favorable playoff matchups? It's absurd for the league to now decide it will dictate roster decisions, because of a single game in late Novermber.

What the hell is the league office doing messing around in a team's roster and playing time decisions anyway?  How much would Popovich have to play his guys to appease Stern? Could he have started them, then pulled them one minute into the game? Does he have to play them for an entire quarter? If Duncan lands awkwardly on a rebound and blows out his knee, does Stern apologize to Duncan, Popvich, the Spurs organization, and their fans for assassinating their season with his meddling? Would it have been enough if Popovich had made up some injury each player had sustained. 'Oh, Tony sprained his ankle and Tim has a groin pull, Manu's having back problems. . .' Is it that Pop couldn't be bothered to bullshit about it?

I understand that sitting your best players simultaneously kind of goes against the idea of trying as hard as you can to win each game, but the Spurs hardly rolled over. The guys who did play gave Miami all they could handle last night, and I imagine Popovich was trying every strategy he could think of to win. I'm sure he wanted to win the game, but not at the expense of bigger goals.

So we'll see what happens. Maybe Stern slept on it and when he woke up this morning, his head had dislodged from his ass. I doubt it, so I hope to hear about the Spurs appealing the sanction roughly five minutes after it's handed down.

{Edit, Saturday morning: Stern fined the Spurs 250 grand, essentially under the 'good of the game' umbrella. It's still a bunch of crap, and I still hope the Spurs appeal. Stern's trying to argue the Spurs didn't give everyone enough notice. They're supposed to let the league know as soon as they know. Well, they played a game the night before, it's possible Popovich was waiting to see if they won that one before making his decision. Then you want to get a good night's sleep and before you know it the game is less than 12 hours away. Yes, it's also possible, even likely, he's known he was going to do this since he saw the schedule, as a way of taking the piss. But as Indio said, that's very hard to prove, Cuchillo. I'm not even clear on why he needs to inform the other team which players he won't be using tonight. Don't even get me started on needing to tell the media ahead of time. Let 'em figure it out on their own. That's their job, ins't it?}

* DNP means "did not play". Typically, it's DNP - CD, meaning "coach's decision".

** I fully support Barkley doing more announcing this year. That bit last night where he said he wasn't sure Duncan was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer because while Duncan is the greatest power forward of all time, Charles and Karl Malone get votes, and they'll both want to keep him out as long as they can. It was hilarious, especially with Reggie Miller's incredulous "Are you out of your mind?"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

I can't believe I didn't have a "ghost rider" tag prior to this. I briefly mentioned watching this two weeks ago, but I thought I could go a little more in-depth.

Not that I really need to. If you've read a review that cited Nic Cage as the weakest part of the film, then that pretty well covers it. The parts with the Rider were entertaining. I didn't understand some of it's mannerisms, but I like the dickish attitude it takes. It enjoys terrorizing these people before it kills them, and mocking their attempts to stop it. And like many others, I could have watched the Rider transform different vehicles to suit its purpose all day. Ghost Rider in a bumper car! Ghost Rider on a lawnmower. Ghost Rider in a fighter jet!

I thought everyone else did a good job, even if they weren't necessarily given much to work with. I don't know a lot about Moreau other than he likes to drink and he's a religious man willing to kill. but Idris Elba made me care about him.

Violante Placido as Nadya is kind of a mid-stage Sarah Conner. She's not the badass we saw in Terminator 2, but she knows a few things, and she has resolve. She's made mistakes, but she's determined not to let Danny pay for them. She doesn't want to trust other people - with good reason since it backfires pretty consistently - but she's willing to try for Danny.

Johnny Whitworth plays Carrigan as a completely unlikable, sleazy, asshole, with a very punchable face. Which makes him a good villain for this. I want to see the Rider mess him up. I love it when Ghost Rider throws his 'Did that hurt? It looks like it did.' back in his face. In a lot of ways, Carrigan feels more like the main bad guy than Roarke. Roarke's the boss, but he's so limited in what he can do he spends a lot of time just running. It might have helped if, at the end, he'd decided to hell with it and tried to destroy the Rider. He'd already missed his chance to transfer into Danny, he might as well see if he can remove the Rider as a future impediment to his plans. That body wasn't going to last much longer, anyway.

But Nicolas Cage, oh dear. He's so twitchy, and his delivery is so strange. It kind of worked in that scene where he intimidated that buddy of Carrigan's, yelling about eating his soul and all, but mostly, it doesn't. It just looks awkward and silly, and not in a way that fits with the rest of the film. I preferred the first glimpse we got of him, passed out on that table, a burnout case drinking himself into oblivion. A guy trying to keep the demon down by keeping himself sedated, basically. Instead he played Blaze like he was Tweek from South Park.

Other observations:

- Did Carrigan in his new form have to be careful when he went to the bathroom? Or was Roarke smart enough to have the decay touch not affect Carrigan himself? I thought it was funny when he was trying to eat, the food kept decaying first, and I said to myself, 'Try a Twinkie.' Next thing he tries? A Twinkie. Though he kept the plastic wrapping around it and squeezed it into his mouth. I was hoping he'd touch it and it simply wouldn't decay.

- I like that the Devil makes sure to include the little sticker on his contracts indicating where to sign. That's exactly the kind of little touch I'd expect from the guys who brought us the Crank movies. That and those parts where Johnny narrates his backstory over those sort of animated scenes.

- I love that odd sound that precedes the Rider. I think it's supposed to be his laugh, but it's this strange, sort of strobing whirring sound. I can't describe it, obviously, can't even begin to guess how to write it out so it would make sense. But that's what makes it work. I can't imagine where you'd hear that noise otherwise, and that plays up the unearthly aspect of the Rider.

- Right as the final chase scene starts up, the Rider comes out heading to his bike. I thought he was walking a little funny, like his leather pants were too tight. Then I wondered how his pants could be too tight. He's a skeleton. He should have no ass whatsoever.

- I didn't realize Anthony Stewart Head was in this. For about three minutes, but still. We had Heimdall, Rupert Giles, and the Highlander/Raiden in a Ghost Rider movie. It probably would have been a much better movie if Blaze had been the Rider for say 90% of the film, and just let those guys do most of the talking that isn't going to Nadya. Johnny can appear occasionally to be confused and tired.

So there you go. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Not bad, except for the lead actor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Photo Time

I'm seriously lacking in inspiration today. I feel like I had a post in mind last night, but it's slipped away like quicksilver since then.

What I do have are photos, so let's look at a few of those.

First up, we have your common snapping turtle. Don't worry about the red mark. It's just fingernail polish. Cheap and easy way to identify recaptures. I have about a dozen photos of snappers from a stint over the summer trapping turtles, and that's the only one with its mouth shut. Of course, with its mouth shut, how can it bite unwary fingers off? It can't, which suits me right down to the ground.

Really the hardest part about dealing with snappers was getting them out of the hoop nets. They all like to grab hold of the net with their claws. You get one foot free, start on another, and they get that first one hooked again. The whole time you're trying to keep away from their mouth.

This other one is a juvenile hognosed snake. I showed you one the last time we did photo fun. This one's colored differently because it's in a sand prairie (such as there is around here), instead of in the woods. Different soil, different plants, different circumstances, meaning different requirements to blend in. You know how it goes. This one did the hood thing as I was trying to get it out of the trap, and it actually sort of worked. It didn't make the snake look bigger necessarily, but it made the shape of its head resemble that of a viper, a copperhead or something equivalent. Which gave us a use for the terrarium we brought. I'm not dumping a snake of indeterminate type directly into my hand, gloves or no.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's The Keeper In Your Collection?

I mentioned yesterday I'd been reading some Australia-era X-Men comics. I was doing that because it was time for another periodic culling of the collection. Going through trying to find comics I don't really like any more, or that were a disappointment.

What happens a lot is I get a complete run of something, then reading through it all reveals certain weak points. Particular threats or plots I wasn't interested in. Issues by fill-in writers that are just marking time until the regular writer gets back, fill-in artists doing piss poor work. With newer comics, it's more the story is stretched over so many issues that there are some comics that are superfluous. Not enough happens to make it worthwhile. That's how my Ultimate Spider-Man collection is a third of its former size.

Here's my question to you: Are there any series you own, or specific stretches on a title, where you wouldn't consider getting rid of any of it? Like you might, either for monetary reasons or space concerns, get rid of every other comic, but you ain't touching that set?

For me it's GrimJack. I still haven't sat down and read it the whole way through since I finished collecting it, though it's on the to-do list. But the slow-building of the world, of Gaunt's character, the way every issue has something happening. Even the issues that seem like standalones, or rather inconsequential, can end up being important in some way. Gaunt himself hits me in a particular spot, his doubts and fears, his attitude all mirror questions I have, or illustrate dangers in some of the ways I've thought in the past.

What about you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Curious Case Of The Shadow Danvers

I was rereading some Australia era X-Men comics over the weekend. The team's first encounter with Genosha also raised some issues for Rogue. With all her powers nullified, Rogue feels completely helpless, to the point she's besieged by the shadows of the minds of the people she's touched over the years. Until Carol Danvers steps in and drives them off. She's stronger, more solid since Rogue took everything of her, and she makes Rogue a deal: She'll get Rogue out of this, but she gets to run the show. Rogue is understandably concerned about the chance Danvers will decide to keep control afterward, but doesn't see another option and agrees.

Turns out Rogue was right to be worried, as Danvers starts taking over on a more regular basis after that*. Danvers even decides to redecorate Rogue's place in the headquarters to suit herself, much to Rogue's consternation. And when she complains, Storm essentially tells her she brought it on herself. Which is true enough, but not at all a helpful thing to say. It's the sort of stupidly blunt comment I'd expect from Logan. Rogue gets all set to leave in a huff, and Danvers takes control again, stating she wants to give Rogue time to cool off. I think it would have been better to let Rogue fly off and calm down, rather than essentially jamming her in trunk of her own mind. That seems likely to only increase the resentment. But hey, I'm not espionage expert Carol Danvers, so what do I know?

The thing that only just occurred to me this weekend was that Carol Danvers was already up and moving around. I don't know why, since I knew about Binary, but I had been assuming that if Carol's mind was manifesting in Rogue's head, then Carol herself was still in a coma. I guess I figured if she was up and about, they would have gotten those memories back to her, and the Carol in Rogue's head would be the same sort of shadow as all the rest. Wikipedia says Xavier got her the memories back, but whatever he did didn't clear her presence from Rogue's mind.

But the whole thing raises a question with me of what are that Carol's rights. She has all the memories, up to a point, of Carol Danvers. She is Carol up to that point. But at the same time, there's a Carol Danvers out walking around that also has all those memories. This isn't a case like Ben Reilly/Peter Parker, where Ben has all of Peter's memories up to a point, but he has his own body (even if it is an exact copy of Peter's, it's a separate entity).

Memory Carol is in someone else's body. Not willingly, but that's how it is. Given that her body is moving around, and it has all the parts of her as well, would that make her no more than a copy at this point. Does she have any right to assert control over Rogue? It isn't as though Carol Danvers ceases to exist when she isn't running Rogue's body. Carol Danvers has her life, so does this one have a right to one taken at the expense of someone else? Kind of makes Memory Carol into a more benevolent version of the Shadow King.

* Something to do with Inferno, which followed on the Genosha arc's heels. I don't know, I skipped those issues. I'm not interested in the crossover that, near as I can tell, demonizes Maddy Pryor so that Cyclops and Jean can have the baby. No thank you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Burn Notice 3.16 - Devil You Know

Plot: We pick up where the last episode left off: With Michael bailing out of an SUV before the bomb strapped to Gilroy explodes. Farewell Gilroy, you were one of my favorite sub-bosses. After a quick phone call to Sam (who is not happy to hear Simon escaped), it's time for Michael to run from the police. He even incorporates a jet ski into it. The whole crew is supposed to meet at the 'emergency emergency spot', but Madeline is intercepted by FBI Agent Callahan before she can get out the door. He finds the shotgun she packed incriminating, and begins badgering her to get Michael to come home. Maddy, naturally, tells Michael to stay away, and they set off to find Simon, after Mike promises no more 'lone wolf crap'. Combat knives for everyone.

When goes to pick up the Charger, he finds Simon as well. More accurately, Simon found him. Turns out Simon did all the really awful things Michael's burn notice accuses him of doing. Simon isn't happy he was locked in a hole while someone else got credit for his work. Simon wants Michael to get Management to Miami, or else he'll detonate a bomb he had stashed in a hotel somewhere. So Michael has to keep Simon happy while Fi and Sam try to track down first, Simon's explosives connection, and then the bomb. Meanwhile, Callahan has finally figured out Maddy warned Michael off, so she tells him they were going to meet at a mall. Fi and Sam take the bomber by surprise (by driving through his living room), and Fi gets him to reveal the location of the bomb in her usual pleasant manner.

Michael gets in touch with Management, even warns him it's Simon. Despite the ruthlessness with which these people have dispatched people they don't like, Michael still figures he's better off siding with them than the 'lone crazy guy'. Simon and Mike elude police pursuit with a bit more collateral damage than Michael would like, but since Simon has his cell phone, Mike has no way of knowing Sam and Fi found the bomb. Thus he doesn't realize that he could go ahead and shoot Simon. Until Simon's dropped him off, promising to see him again at the meeting with Management. By this point, Callahan has returned from the mall, now thoroughly steamed, and finding all Michael's supplies (ammo, explosives) in Maddy's garage, has him in a mood to arrest someone. And Madeline decides it's going to be her. So Callahan, unable to intimidate an old woman, arrests her instead. Bravo, sir. You have yourself a nice tumbler of scotch when you get home tonight. You've earned that manly drink.

Michael, Sam, and Fi reunite at the meeting point, and Mike is ready to kill Simon if they get the chance. Which they don't, because Management is just a little too cocky. He honestly thought Simon would entrust this to a bunch of local hired guns, ignoring Simon's expertise in explosives. Michael avoids getting two in the head, thanks to his combat knife, but has to flee, leaving Management in Simon's clutches. Well, the old man's a bastard, he deserves it, but Michael isn't content to leave it there. Breaking his promise to cut out the lone wolf crap, Michael steals a truck and chases Simon, who is driving an ambulance. There's a crash, a big fight, and Michael accedes to Management's wishes and does not kill Simon when he has the chance. He gets arrested, but we learn along with Madeline, that the feds had him for about 10 minutes before he was taken into someone else's custody, somewhere else. Somewhere rainy, with guards, chain link fences, and headbags. Somewhere. . . with opulently decorated sitting rooms. Um, what?

The Players: Agent Callahan (FBI), Simon (?), Simon (The Client), Keith (Hotel Bomber), Management

Quote of the Episode: Simon - 'Just think of me as an instrument of justice.' Michael - 'Yeah, I'll try to wrap my head around that.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No. I'm not counting the detonator. It wasn't her bomb, and Sam threw it anyway.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 0 (41 overall). Drinking is down a little bit. It was 46 drinks last season.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (2 overall). Definite drop off in Sam getting hit this season.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (5 overall).

Other: There are certain things about this episode I don't understand. How did Simon find Michael's car? It doesn't seem to be anywhere near the deserted bridge Mike was ordered to defend. How has Simon been keeping track of Michael's career well enough to know about his helping people? I can buy him getting messages to Gilroy from a secret prison, but regular updates of Westen's comings and goings. Did Michael really never tell Maddy about the things he was falsely accused of doing? He's seen the file, he didn't ever tell her anything? I'm not talking specifics, I'm talking a general mention that they pinned a bunch of awful crap on him. He may have done so, but I don't recall it offhand. And it may not have mattered anyway. With all the secrets he keeps from her normally, she might have thought he was lying to her. I just thought it was strange she was fazed for even a second by Callahan's accusations.

I'm annoyed that after Michael promised to work as part of a team, he went off and did everything by himself again. And he didn't buckle his seat belt again! He is the worst role model for small children. Doesn't follow the rules, doesn't play well with others. I'm being sarcastic, sort of. It did bother me he felt he had to do everything on his own, again. I understand his desire to keep Fi and Sam clear of the shitstorm that was about to land on his head, but I think 3 people could have stopped Simon, rescued Management, and slipped away clean, whereas one could not. Didn't they demonstrate at the end of last season they could tkae care of themselves? They shot Carla and got away clean.

Also, how the heck did Management come out of that car wreck unscathed? I know Mike hit the cab of the ambulance, and presumably Management was in the back, but he's still an old man. Getting thrown around like that couldn't have done him any good. Maybe he's the only one smart enough to wear a seat belt.

It's not one of my favorite finales. I don't find Simon that interesting compared to Victor, Gilroy, or Carla. It might be something if I though Simon regarded himself as an artist, angry someone else got credit for his work. But he's just another guy screwed over by Management, and not a particularly sympathetic one. I don't disagree with Mike's decision to team up with Management against Simon, but that feels wrong. Management and his cronies are the bad guys, we shouldn't want him to prosper or survive.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Puppet Needs Scissors

One thing about tracking down back issues as singles rather than trades is you get all the ads. There are so many comics out there I'd never heard of, even just from Marvel and DC. Sometimes the ads make them look interesting enough they become the next thing to track down. Which is how I ended up with Skreemer.

I'm not familiar enough with Peter Milligan's work to know if this is Good Milligan or Bad Milligan, as I've seen him referred to online. Steve Dillon and Brett Ewins handle the art chores, though the exact division of labor is unclear. They're both credited as "artists", though several of the faces are strongly Steve Dillon's work.

The present in the story is 38 years after the fall of society. In the aftermath of that, gangsters rose up and assumed power, calling themselves "presidents". Now, however, things have stabilized enough that things are shifting away from them. Politicians and businessmen have begun to reappear and assert themselves, and the "presidents" are going to have to make a change. But one of them, Veto Skreemer (that's him in the middle, with the bitchin' fur coat), the most powerful of them, is having none of it. So there's his plan to turn things back, the other presidents' attempt to remove him (and each grab power for themselves), and there's Skreemer's history, going all the way back to his beginning.

There's a parallel thread about a family, the Finnegans. They aren't gangsters, they struggle to survive, and suffer numerous setbacks because of the actions of Skreemer and his ilk. The patriarch, Charlie, loses faith on more than one occasion, drowning himself in booze, or self-pity and guilt. He's a great fan of "Finnegan's Wake", which I'm sure would have more meaning if I'd ever read it. All I can discern from this is that a guy dies, comes back, and attends his own wake.

That certainly has bearing on Veto, but I don't think he knows anything of the song. The occasions where he met Mr. Finnegan, he paid him little notice. Still, it is relevant. Skreemer believes he knows his future, and has for 30 years. But because he knows it, he feels frozen in place. His every action is preordained, and he merely carries out the stage directions. In a sense, he's been dead for 3 decades, but has been here nonetheless. Which makes everything since his wake, I suppose. It's his opportunity to relive his life with all his friends, such as they are.

What's curious is that, for all Veto claims to despise being "trapped" this way, it never seems to occur to him to try and change it. That's unusual enough in fiction. Most characters, when they glimpse the future, see something they want to change, but can't perceive the consequences of doing so. Instead, Veto takes advantage of it. He takes risks no one else would because he knows what's coming, and in doing so, ensures that he stays on that path. It owes to his feeling damned from birth, that he has it coming, and the only way to get free is to start over, a rebirth. It's a bit ridiculous, because the act he blames himself for, he shouldn't. What he should blame himself for, and what does damn him, if you believe in such things, is all the lives he destroyed because he didn't have the guts to try changing anything. Even when it forces him to take actions that work against himself, he goes along with it. As far as he's concerned, everyone is a puppet. Just because he can see the strings doesn't mean he can cut them.

It contrasts nicely with the Finnegans. They don't know what's coming. There are no certainties for them, other than hardship. They are dealt one setback after another, and they keep trying. Charlie remains a good man, one who loves his family, but doesn't want to survive by hurting other people. He believes he has a choice about whether to do that or not, and he tries hard not to. It's the moments he fails, or the times where he succeeds and it costs them dearly, that hurt the most. But he and his wife keep going. They have faith things will get better.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why I'm Giving Avengers Arena A Shot

I mentioned on Wednesday Fearless Defenders would be the third Marvel title I'd add over the next 4 months. One of the others is Captain America (at least I shouldn't have to worry about fill-in artists). The other is Avengers Arena, which has gotten a bit of a negative reaction, for a variety of reasons, among the fans, the ones I've seen, anyway. Negative Internet reaction is no guarantee of anything, but I figured I could discuss why I'm going to give it a whirl.

1. Dennis Hopeless. The only thing he's written that I've read was Legion of Monsters, the mini-series Marvel published last year. It was pretty good. There was a nice sense of tension, of the heroes working against the clock, which expresses itself in some of the in-fighting and desperate decisions. Which is the sort of thing that ought to fit in a story about a bunch of teen heroes on an island fighting for their lives. The romantic subplot between Elsa Bloodstone and Jack Russell felt a bit forced, but other than that, it was very entertaining. If he goes to that well again, I think it'll feel like more of a fit, since we're dealing with a cast of mostly teenagers under stress, and they can be prone to abrupt, head-scratching decisions.

2. Kev Walker. I haven't read anything Walker drew since Annihilation: Nova, which was, jeez, six year ago? But, other than his Quasar having a Robert Redfordesque, worn boot leather face, it's good work. I know I read some good things about his work on Thunderbolts with Jeff Parker. Of course, with Marvel and their shipping schedule (5 issues in the first 3 months), I suppose I ought to be concerned with the other artists. Just from a few pages of Secret Warriors I found, I'm not sure if Alessandro Vitti's style really meshes with Walker's, but the two of them might be able to modify. Really, as long as they stay on the same page about what characters are supposed to look like, or are wearing, it shouldn't be a huge issue. And Hopeless could always avoid that problem by switching focus to different characters depending on the artist. Like how the DnA Guardians of the Galaxy used Wes Craig on the team that was lost in time during War of Kings, and used Brad Walker for the issues about the group that was still in the present.

3. Arcade and Darkhawk. They're both in the book, I like both of them, especially Arcade, so that's a win. I recognize Darkhawk could very well die, but. . .

4. I'm fairly inured to deaths in comics these days. If a character dies, and someone else wants to use them down the line, they'll show up. There may be an explanation for their not being dead, there may not. I like to think I've reached the point I can roll with these things without flipping out too badly. If it's really bad, I can always ignore it. I've gotten pretty good at that over the last few years. I wonder if it'll really be as bad as all that. They're teenagers who have an adult trying to make them do something, and they're heroes, who have the remarkable tendency to pull the rug out from villains. I figure there have to be at least a few fake out deaths in there.

5. The similarities to Hunger Games don't bother me. Marvel's been pretty open about them, but I know it bugs some people. I get that, in a way. It can be irritating when you something comes along and seems to be ripping off some preexisting thing that we really like. Back when Firefly first started, I about lost my mind on a forum complaining about how it was ripping off Outlaw Star. In this particular case, I have no affection for Hunger Games, so it doesn't really bother me. I'm not sure I even knew what that was until the movie came out. If I'm thinking about stories involving kids being pitted against each other to the death, I'd probably think of GrimJack's time in the Arena, or that Stephen King (written as Richard Bachman, though) story The Long Walk. Heck, I used to make up stories about superheroes being pitted against each other by a villain. What else were action figures for?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

February's Bringing Some Changes To The Pull List

Most of the solicitations for February's books came out last week, but there seems to be an unusual amount of movement on my pull list for month. Two books that January was the last issue, three that will be starting up in February. It's about a 30% turnover.

Secret Avengers ended in January, and I don't have any interest in the new title of the same name starting up, so that's one off the list. I figure I'll at least give Fearless Defenders a chance. I've heard different things about Bunn's writing, but I don't have any experience. Sixth Gun generally gets good reviews, but his Marvel work has gotten a more mixed response. It's probably trickier to write for Marvel. You're taking part in a larger universe, so maybe he has to be careful of who he uses, or what he does. Or it could be a matter of difference in tone between his book, which has always looked like a horror story of sorts, and what he does for Marvel.

The art might be my bigger concern, though. I don't have any experience with Will Sliney's work, so it isn't a gripe against him specifically. It's more a general concern with a book with a predominantly (if not entirely) female cast. Think the Civil War/World War Hulk era Heroes for Hire. I don't think the art did it any favors there. If Sliney can avoid Deodato-style perpetual hip sway, or a Frank Cho abundance of butt shots, that'll be a decent start. I know that all sounds pretty negative, but I'm curious to see a team book lead by Valkyrie, what problems she'll choose to tackle, how she leads. And the Marvel Universe is a pretty cool sandbox to explore that with.

Secret Avengers is the second Marvel title on my pull in three months to get cancelled, and Fearless Defenders will be the third added in four months. Which means Marvel NOW! is working for me, barely. Better than the nu52, certainly. Speaking of DC, February marks a parting of ways for me and Green Arrow, since it has a new writer. I know some people swear by Lemire's work, but I don't know. He's been on Animal Man since the relaunch, and they're still doing this story with the Rot. What's more, they'll still be at it in February, a year and a half since the relaunch. That sounds severely decompressed, and my tolerance for that has started to wear thin.

Anyway, I'm tentatively planning to follow Nocenti to Katana. I don't have any affection for the character, but the whole idea of having a sword that contains the soul of her husband, and might try to take control of her sounds pretty cool. What's the sword's plan, how devious is it, can it be bargained with, feels like there's a lot you could do with that. The bit about restoring the Outsiders I can take or leave, but I am curious as to how one goes about that. It seems like one of those things where a magic sword wouldn't necessarily be much use.

I am concerned about crossovers. It's one of the reasons I passed up Nocenti's Catwoman. I didn't want to get sucked into whatever Bat-nonsense came down the pike. As it turns out, I spared myself Eclipso nonsense rather than Batstuff, but same difference. With Katana, it's more likely to be Justice League of America nonsense. Not sure if that's better or worse. The actual answer is probably "irrelevant", because I imagine the quality of tie-ins or crossovers comes down to the skill of the creative team for that book. In that regard, her Daredevil run leaves me confident Nocenti can a) keep momentum on the stories she wants to do while doing the required tying in, and b) provide enough details about the tie-in so I know what's going on without having to buy those other books. Can't ask for much more with tie-ins.

The third and final new book on the list is that Rocketeer Hollywood Horror mini-series Langridge and J.Bone will be doing. J. Bone's a pretty good artist, and I picked up the digest versions of Thor: The Mighty Avenger last winter, so I know Langridge has writing chops. This is the one of the three I have no reservations about. Fully confident it's going to be good. I guess there's a chance Langridge could overload Cliff's jerk factor, or ramp up the problems between Cliff and Betty to an unbearable level, but I doubt it. His work with Thor demonstrated he knows how to write a guy who is genuinely good-hearted, but also short-tempered, impulsive, and occasionally overbearing. And his Jane Foster handled it all very well. Betty is a bit more hot-tempered than Jane, but Cliff's also a little easier to short-circuit, what with being much easier to deck.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First We Consolidate, Then We Obliterate

Because a coworker asked me to try and keep a body count, I watched the 1989 Punisher movie. I have strange coworkers.

The movie was in the box of stuff my dad loaned me a month ago, part of a discount action movies disc. You know, eight crappy films on two DVDs for some really low price? I'm not at all sure why he would buy it, or why he would think I'd want to watch any of it, but I've come to realize I can't always follow his tastes.

For the record, the body count, by my best estimate, is 98 confirmed on-screen deaths. Not bad, I guess. It doesn't count the 125 or more kills he racked up the previous five years, since we didn't see those. I did count the flashback of his family dying, since we got to see that. I didn't count Detective Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard), since the last we saw of her, she was only getting pistol-whipped as the mob rescued Frank. I can't confirm her death, because she drops out of the film entirely after that.

In some ways, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Then again, some of the particulars of a Punisher film are pretty simple. Give him a family killed by the mob. Make him frighteningly determined to kill criminals, but protective of children. Give him a reliable source of information. Using a down on his luck drunk of an actor was a curious choice, but he adds some color.

It's also a very '80s action movie, which isn't necessarily great for the idea of Frank Castle I have in my head now (pretty much Ennis' version). The one-liners felt out of place, the use of a motorcycle stuck me as impractical (it attracts too much attention, and severely limits how much firepower you can carry). I found it curious the big white skull on his shirt was too far, but using a remote control truck with a bottle of hooch to get Shake's attention was OK. I don't really care for either of the cops, Leary or Berkowitz (Lou Gossett Jr.), but I guess they needed some way to get the backstory and emotional depth into the movie. One that didn't rely on Dolph Lundgren, I mean. Some of the faces he makes cracked me up. Especially the one as he surrenders to the cops. Oh well, I wasn't expecting much from him, and that's what I got.

I was impressed by the conclusion of Castle and Gianni Franco's (wasn't expecting to see the evil doctor from The Fugitive in this movie) partnership. Frank agrees to help Franco recover his child from the Yakuza, but promises to kill Franco as soon as that's accomplished. Except you presume the boy will be there at the time, so how were they going to work around that? I figured there was no way they'd have Frank kill the guy in front of his son. I expected them to weasel out of it. Send Tommy away, have Lt. Berkowitz show up and kill Franco because he got the drop on Frank, have Franco accidentally kill himself while trying to get Frank.

But no, Frank actually did kill Franco in front of Tommy, albeit after Franco made a very game attempt to kill Frank, and after Tommy came to Frank's aid. I honestly couldn't decide what to make of Frank giving Tommy the chance to kill him as revenge. Frank's reasoning - that if Tommy gets it out of the way now, he won't grow up to be his father - was a little dodgy. We have no indication Franco acted as he did out of some childhood revenge anger. It's more likely Frank's deathwish coming through than anything, but I have a hard time seeing him encouraging a child to kill someone, even under those circumstances.

Of course, right after that, he tells Tommy he's a good boy, and had better stay that way, because Frank will be watching. Which makes Frank out to be Robot Santa from Futurama, essentially.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Quick Complaint To Start The Week

I feel like this is something I've mentioned before, but I find it really creepy when people refer to their wives as "Mother".

Fortunately, it's never come up in real life, only in fiction. Colonel Potter use to say it a lot on M*A*S*H, and I feel I must have read it in some book recently for the thought to have come to the front of my brain again.

I guess it's the Oedipal aspect. She may be a mother, but she isn't your mother, so why call her that. It always bothers me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Burn Notice 3.15 - Good Intentions

Plot: It's down to the wire now. Mike has a meeting with Gilroy that turns into a shopping trip. The visit to the "Knights of Resistance" goes pretty well. Michael avoids getting beat up, and they get the .50 cal machine gun without paying for it. Gilroy promises Michael he'll learn what it's for. Tomorrow. Michael tries to get the FBI involved, but they're being lazy and unhelpful.

Meanwhile, Fi has roped Sam into helping her with a job. She's very unpleasant to him considering he's doing her a favor. It makes me not like Fi, which is not something I enjoy. This job, brought to her by a loser named Coleman, is a bit harsher than it was sold as. Gabriel is a bit of a stickler for security, and Coleman's attempts to fudge Fiona's resume nearly gets her killed. Turns out Gabriel kidnapped a scientist from Apex Corporation and is holding him for ransom. That doesn't seem to be working, so he's decided to step things up and abduct a major executive of Apex, which is where Fiona comes in. After several more tests and deeply personal conversations.

Sam - with an assist from Madeline - constructs a tracker they can use to keep tabs on Fi, and pretends to be the head of the local homeowner association so he can get close enough to the house to leave it for her. Mike is otherwise occupied with Gilroy, who has given him responsibility for making sure no one gets across a bridge out in the boonies. We also learn that Michael was handpicked for this job by Gilroy's employer. Which is troubling, to say the least. So now Michael has that hanging over his head, and he has to prevent a kidnapping. Fortunately, starting a kitchen fire takes care of the latter problem. Unfortunately, this convinces Gabriel his operation has been compromised (good guess), and it's time to close up shop. By killing the scientist. Which leaves Fiona in the position of stopping a person she understands from doing something she can't allow. She manages it, and even saves Gabe's life (against his will), with a little assist from Michael.

Now the big day has arrived. The plane is on its way, and Mike has wired to bridge to blow. He doesn't know why, but better than leaving people to Gilroy's tender mercies. Then things come into focus. A plane explodes at the airport, forcing flights to diverge, and sending the black flight to a little strip down the road from Michael. And here come the cops. Mike blows the bridge, gets to the rendezvous point, and finds Gilroy, dying. Double cross! By a man named Simon, who is rather fixated on Michael. Also rather ruthless, seeing as he stuck an bomb to Gilroy.

Things are not going as planned.

The Players: Gilroy (Evil Limey Mastermind), Coleman (Harmless Weasel), Agents Lane & Harris ("Old Friends" at the FBI), Gabriel (The Boss), Gabriel's Next Target

Quote of the Episode: Gilroy - 'Time for second thoughts is over. Tomorrow, don't come for me. Don't come for the obscene fortune we're going to make. Come for all the people I'll have to kill if you don't do your job.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 4 (41 overall). He didn't finish the first one, seeing as Fi barged into the loft and stole it.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 2 (overall). Unless insults count, he made it through unscathed. Words do hurt, though.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (5 overall).

Other: Michael wasn't the one going undercover this week, so no alias for him.

I'm always leery of using a Gilroy quote. Not because he doesn't get good lines. He has a higher ratio of good lines than anyone else on the show at the moment. But without being able to hear Chris Vance's voice in your head, the particular inflection he puts on everything, I'm not sure it works as well. I love this line, the whole scene where Gilroy gives Mike his orders, because it added something new. I think Gilroy has seen through Michael all along. All Michael's attempts to appear to be a ruthless mercenary, who spares lives only because corpses get too much attention, it was all useless. Gilroy has always known what Mike is about, because he came to Miami specifically to bring Michael into this job. He says his employer told him to get Westen involved, and the way he tells Michael to do this or lots of people will die, it's clear he knows Michael isn't like him. Michael isn't doing this for money, he wants to protect people, and that's the hammer Gilroy uses to keep him in line. Pretty effective one.

I don't have a lot to say about Fiona's job. I'm impressed by how calm she stays through it all, and it expands a little more on the past we started to learn about in "Long Way Back", but I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other. Everything I feel about Gabriel and what he's doing is muddied up. I appreciate his anger, his desire for revenge, but his tendency to kill people at the drop of a hat, makes it hard to care. He treats everyone as an enemy, even people working for him. They're all disposable, which clashes with this wounded core of the guy he used to be. I basically wind up wanting those scenes to end so I can get more Gilroy. Except there won't be any more Gilroy now, will there.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Melancholy" Doesn't Have The Same Ring To It

I beat Rage about a week ago. I don't understand the title. No one really seems enraged. Angry, happy, crazy? Sure. Tired, dirty, worn out, absolutely. There are a lot of guys with faces that could have been extras in a Leone Western (though all the women are very clean and neat, so it's more like a John Ford Western that way). But there's no one I'd described as enraged.

I haven't discussed the game since I complained about the hoops it was setting before me, but I did continue to play it. I didn't beat all of it. The end came much faster than I expected, so I kind of forgot about all the races and side missions I could have done. That's OK; they all would have boiled down to the same things. Retrieve this, kill that person, escort this moron.

As far as shooters go, Rage isn't a bad one. It's fairly easy to hit what you aim at, though a lot of the enemies fancy themselves acrobats so getting them in the crosshairs is a little more challenging. Also, it takes a lot of bullets to kill enemies. Even ones with no armor. I've wasted entire clips of machine gun rounds bringing down one blade-wielding idiot in a loincloth. I have a love/hate thing with the in-game interface. You can hit the BACK button to get into menu screens if you need to switch what weapons or tools you're carrying, but to switch between them while playing (say from the sniper rifle to the shotgun) requires holding a shoulder button, then moving the right joystick to your selection. If you want to select a different type of round for the weapon, you use the left joystick. Neither of those is easy to concentrate on if I'm trying to do it while retreating from a charging enemy (and the enemies in this game love to charge). I do like having different types of rounds, so I have the option of holding the heavy duty stuff in reserve for the toughest fights.

There's a strong driving component to the game as well. You're assigned your missions in the various towns you'll live in during the game, but they frequently require you to venture into the Wasteland to get where you need to go. The trails are pretty clearly marked, and the onscreen map will show you how to get where you're going (wish they did that when you're on foot during missions), but it also limits where you can go. It isn't a wide open environment; you're working within a fairly restricted area. Also, you'll almost certainly be attacked by gangs in their vehicles while you're out, so there's a lot of car-to-car combat. I imagine there could be an element of strategy to it, but I mostly just get them in my sites and shoot until they go "boom". The races are pretty enjoyable, maybe just as a change of pace. There are no consequences if you lose, you just try again.

Credit to the people in charge of the music, they knew how to manipulate the player. There are several missions where the soundtrack will have a sequence that to my brain screams "You're under attack!" Nobody ever attacks during those moments (I'm pretty sure the music shifts to something else entirely when shooting starts, but I'm too preoccupied to notice), and the music is on a loop. Even so, it would get me every time. I'd be creeping along slowly, hear the shift, and begin swiveling my character in all directions, scrambling for cover. Part of that is also enemies' tendency to come from all angles. Through walls, through the ceiling, over the railing of the catwalk you're on. When they do that, they intend to get up close, so they come straight for you, and it's a question of whether I can shoot them enough before they reach me. Because they're relentless and quick, so it can be easy for even one or two of them to make me feel overwhelmed. It made me expect attacks all the time, and the music keyed in on something that preyed on that expectation. So kudos there.

Pity I can't say the same for the story. I said I never met anyone I considered enraged. Well maybe it's supposed to be me, but the game certainly doesn't give any indication of it. I don't even know my character's name. I know he has one, I remember other characters using it, but it doesn't stick with me. He's a cipher to the extent his name is irrelevant. I don't know why he was part of the ARK Project, I don't know why he's so willing to go along with joining the Resistance, or why he doesn't seem bothered that everyone - and I mean everyone - just assumes he will go kill people for them. I know nothing about him, his interests, motivations, beliefs, what he left behind to go into that ARK, what he hopes to accomplish having seen the world that's here.

Take Timesplitters 2 as a comparison. There's no dialogue, the cutscenes are rather short, and don't necessarily tell you much. Even so, I know Cortez grew up in a world overrun by the TimeSplitters, and he's gone back in time to gather Time Crystals that can help overthrow them. I understand what he's doing and why (and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect fleshed out his character somewhat, if not entirely seriously). It's not that hard, but Rage failed. Scratch that, "failed" implies an attempt. They didn't even try. I find I don't like or dislike my guy. I'd feel bad for him being sucked into this, but he doesn't mind, so why should I? Any feelings I experience are towards other characters. Pity for regular folks, hatred of Redstone, irritation with the Resistance, who supposedly have plenty of members but expect me to do everything.

I don't even feel much towards the Authority. I shoot them and they shoot me, but it's because I've barged into some place that belongs to them, like a prison. Not terribly surprising they shoot at me. The towns the game is set in mostly to run themselves. The Authority show up when I start causing trouble, and they act as an occupying force, but you don't see them do much. They stand around, tell people to move along, but as far as acting like assholes, no. The one time you enter what I assume is a city wholly Authority is at the very end, and all you see are sentry robots, soldiers, and mutants who've been modified with armor grafts and pulse cannons. That kind of experimentation is certainly questionable, but I'd like to see more of what life is like in an Authority city. How crushed the people are (if they are).

I think they're planning a sequel, because that ending was incredibly abrupt and unsatisfying. I'm not opposed to setting up sequels, but there's a way to do it and still have a satisfying ending for the current game I'm playing. Activating a satellite so other ARKs emerge and that's it, ain't much of an ending. It's more the sort of thing that signals the middle of the book, the start of rising action leading to the climax. I didn't feel like I'd done anything. I at least expected an escape sequence before the place blew, or to steadily fight my way out past even more mutants, but no. Kind of a letdown.

Oh well, they can't all be winners. Rage might have been banking on the multiplayer aspect to carry the game, but I don't have a hookup for that, so it's a non-starter, at least for right now.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Don't Want To Know What Yellow Bricks Are Made Of In Quor'Toth

I told you I'd get back to this cover eventually.

There are a couple of small details I like I want to mention fist, just to get them out of the way. One, Angel's cautious glance over at the spider, fitting for a Cowardly Lion to be nervous about giant arachnids. Two, Faith and Connor both have strides that suggest they're skipping, which fits with the the Wizard of Oz motif (even if Connor looks like he's skipping off the edge of the road).

OK, on to possibly more substantive analysis. The first thing, and it's something I just noticed, is they appear to be moving away from the Emerald City. In the original Oz story, that was their destination, to go and see the Wizard. So you could take it to mean they're completely lost. The goal of the trip to Quor'toth was to get Willow's plan to bring back magic in gear (and in doing so, get her to cough up the scythe and a chunk of Giles' soul). We could take it to mean they're going about this entirely the wrong way. Certainly, Whistler's plan suggests there are other avenues to explore which didn't involve visiting Quor'toth (but did involve killing lots of people).

There's another aspect to consider. In the original story, the quartet visit the Wizard because they all want something. What they find is they already have all the things they desire, meaning the Wizard was unnecessary. So this could mean Angel & Co. are simply smarter than a young girl from Kansas and her weird friends, and figured out what they needed and what they had before they started. The other side of it is that Dorothy and the rest had what they needed, but it took the Wizard for them to realize it. Which means by possibly forgoing a visit to the Wizard our heroes are ignorant of some key information. Perhaps Connor and the scythe could have been used to restore magic some other way.

There's also the matter of who the characters are depicted as. Connor's the Scarecrow, who wanted a brain. Connor seems to have mostly wanted a relationship with his father, which is more of a "heart" issue, but part of the reason he didn't have one is because Angel screwed around with everybody's brain to set Connor up with another family. A spell which crashed once magic vanished, meaning Connor has his true memories or the first 17 years of his life back again. At the same time, the family he was placed with no longer remembers him, so he's lost that period of his life. In a sense, mind is still an unstable thing when it comes to Connor, because there are always people he should be close with that he can't, because they don't remember him. If it isn't one, then it's another. At any rate, Connor does seem to have the relationship he wants with his father, as their jaunt to Quor'toth established. He has family, even if he doesn't always know it.

Willow's the Tin Man, who wanted a heart, presumably to be able to feel things. Willow wants to bring magic back, supposedly because the world needs it, but let's be honest here, she likes having power. She's always going to like having power, and she wants it back. Which is kind of interesting, as it means what she wants is potentially harmful to a lot of other people. I'm not sure how she already has what she's looking for. If we go with the idea that Willow wants control, it could be that with her brains and knowledge of computers, she already has what she needs. If it's more about how magic helps her feel connected to the world, well, it's not hard to envision Willow being so wrapped up in misery of magic's disappearance she's closed herself off, experiencing only anger and resentment. Most of what I've seen of her is angry retorts and sarcasm, which is really more Faith's bag, you know? In which case Willow, quite simply, just needs to get over her mopey, self-pitying self. Third possibility, that she's out to save the world, well, she has the scythe in the picture there. It has some connection to the Slayer line, plus it was used to smash the Seed/Egg, so why wouldn't there be residual magic stored within, along with Giles' soul?

We all know what Angel's after: yet another chance at the Big Redemption Play. I mean, Giles' soul. The Lion wanted courage, which was inside him all along, naturally. Angel is gathering up pieces of Giles' soul within him, but those are coming in from other places. The redemption thing is the key bit. Angel is always making this big attempts to fix things, as a way to try and make up for what he's done. This even as he acknowledges that he'll never stop paying, that it's never as simple as making the number of lives you save outnumber the lives you take. Which means, since he can never get clean, he keeps beating himself up over it. I think it boils down to the same thing it always does with Angel: he needs to stop trying for these big plays. Stop trying to fix the entire world, because that always turns him into a puppet of some big power. He needs to accept he did awful things, but now he's going to help people in need as he comes across them. Stop acting like Angelus is some other bloke who just happens to look like him, whose messes Angel is left with. He keeps trying to stick with that lie (as Dru pointed out), and it's a dodge. As long as he didn't do the awful things, he can't receive forgiveness for them, but he can still beat himself up for them, like a dog owner whose pet gets out and mauls someone. He's the only one who can make himself stop with that noise.

Finally, Faith. Dorothy was kind of the odd one, since she just wanted a way home. Home can be a state of mind, a place you feel uniquely comfortable, that fits you just right, but it was also a definite destination. I don't know if Faith has a home. Where's the place she feels right? She and Angel form a decent support group for each other, but they're different enough they grate on each other (Angel's perpetually dour mood would wear on anyone eventually). We've seen her father, that's a no-go. Even if Giles were alive, Buffy would always come first for him. I don't think she has a place, a person, who puts her first. Which is incredibly sad. Is that what Faith wants? Maybe on a macro scale. More immediately, for this story arc, I think she wants somebody else to take over. She keeps having people dump responsibility in her lap. She has to keep an eye on Angel. She has to keep an eye on Willow. She has to keep an eye on all these kid Slayers, including the revenge-obsessed one. And since she doesn't trust her judgment (because all everyone else has ever done is make her question it), she hates it. She can't make decisions without worrying she's wrong.

Dorothy wanted to go home. Even though home was a crappy little farm in Dust Bowl, Depression Era Kansas. Even though she was in a strange magical land where she had seemingly just eliminated the two greatest threats to peace and stability (I'm sure there were others, but at the time, the Wicked Witches seemed to be the only game in town for Evil). I thought perhaps Faith would rather be alone, no responsibility to anyone but herself. But, she's pretty happy on the cover, and they're headed away from the Emerald City, away from the Wizard who could tell her how to get "home".

Also, Dorothy killed one Witch without even realizing what she'd done, like Faith killing the Deputy Mayor. And in each case, it made things worse. Dorothy found herself targeted by the other Wicked Witch, Faith found herself hounded by the freaking Watcher's Council (good one Wes, you poncy jackass). What it really suggests, is two characters who find themselves the center of things beyond their control, that they either don't know, or don't care about. Dorothy had no grudge with the Witches, but finds herself a target. Faith isn't sure they should bring Giles back, but she wants to look out for Angel. She isn't sure going to Quor'toth is a good idea, but she gets sucked into that, too. And somehow, she's the one trying to keep things together, even when she'd rather be any place else.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

You Can't Shoot An Arrow Through A Gordian Knot

In July, I discussed how intrigued I was by the problem Ann Nocenti had placed before Green Arrow. If he wanted to save his company, and the jobs of all the people who worked there, he had to turn over his top-of-the-line facial recognition software to Jin Fang, who would certainly use it for evil purposes. Offhand, it seems like a no-brainer to not give human rights restricting technology to such an untrustworthy person. but it was Oliver's fault his company was in such dire straits. If he felt any responsibility to his employees, then he had to do something. I didn't expect the solution to be, "give the Wolf Tech to Jin Fang", but I hadn't expected he'd provide it to Suzie Ming as well, so she can use it to monitor Jin Fang as he monitors other people.

It's hardly a perfect solution. It's effectiveness is dependent on how trustworthy Suzie is, which is true for any of the real world surveillance techniques or laws that we have. Their potential for abuse is only limited by the intentions of the people with control over them. So it does come down to trust.

And it also comes down to China policing itself, essentially. That's another of those conundrums. Jun fang purchased Q-Core under perfectly legal circumstances, Wolf Tech was developed by Q-Core, so he is (apparently, I don't know patent law) within his rights to expect that to be included among the assets he acquired. If Oliver doesn't give it to him, there could be much larger repercussions than what happens to Q-Core, considering the current relationship between China and the U.S. China's connected to the larger world, but some things still have to be settled in house.

Because really, what did Oliver accomplish as Green Arrow? He got himself thrown in a secret jail, broke out, attacked a businessman (albeit one with a flamboyant style of his own), and rekilled a couple of senior citizens Jin Fang only set loose because Oliver refused the offer initially. The only thing he did was delay the sale long enough to meet Suzie and decide he could trust her. Not exactly a banner day for the American barging in and trying to force things to fit his worldview. That's been one of Oliver Queen's problems for decades: The problems he finds himself concerned with are not ones readily solved by shooting arrows at things. I'm surprised Green Arrow attacking a prominent businessman in his own home didn't cause more of a ruckus, but since Fang thinks he got what he wanted, I guess he'd prefer it be kept quiet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can You Bend The Rules Of Time For Humor?

I came across Terminator 2 on TV sometime last week. It was about the point where they blow up Cyberdyne, Arnold's procuring a getaway van and kneecapping cops.

I found myself wondering if John Conner remembered all this as he prepared to send the Terminator into the past. I pictured him looking at the T-800 as they send it into the time machine, remembering it standing on one leg, it swearing it will not kill anyone, maybe chuckling about all of it. "It's a birthday gift for my past self. His very own killer robot, which he won't let kill anyone. He will make it stand on one leg and teach it slang. *shakes head, chuckles*"

I'm not sure if that works with the Terminator universe's version of time travel. "Judgement Day" was apparently inevitable, any attempts to eliminate it merely postponed it. John Conner existed and was able to send Reese into the past to become John's father, which suggests a certain inevitability to that as well. It's like traveling back in time can change certain things, the future will react in response, but it's mostly details. There seem to be certain keystones that are consistent regardless*.

None of which answers the question of whether Adult John Conner would have remembered how things went before he sent the Terminator back. He'd certainly remember after he did it, which could be funny if it happened instantaneously. The T-800 has hardly disappeared and John suddenly starts laughing about his "Uncle Bob" or something. But I like the idea John had been looking forward to sending the Terminator back to protect his younger self, not only because it means Skynet is getting desperate, but because it was in some ways a really good, albeit brief, time in his life.

I don't think that's how it would be, though.

* I haven't seen Terminator: Salvation, so maybe it would force a complete change of that interpretation. I did look around a bit online, and the time travel wiki for Terminator franchise has quotes that suggest changes to the timeline won't be known until after the mission has occurred, but also there's a suggestion the timeline has a set path, and in some way, it resists Skynet's attempts to change it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Maybe You Can't Keep A Good Batgirl Down

For some reason or another, someone at DC doesn't care for Stephanie Brown, to the extent she can't show hardly show up anywhere, even in books that aren't part of the nu52. I don't understand it, but I usually don't understand DC's decisions. However, reading the most recent issue of Batman Beyond Unlimited, I wonder if Adam Beechen, Norm Breyfogle, and company didn't manage to slip her in under the radar.

The evidence is pretty thin, admittedly. So thin this might not even qualify as a hunch, just a hope. There's the fact Steph had a long relationship with Tim in the DCU (if not the nu52 or more critically, the Timmverse). So there's a chance. We get to see Tim's wife in Batman Beyond Unlimited #9, and she's blonde with what may be violet eyes.

More critically, he says that Tim's wife knows Tim's entire history, and that Bruce trusts her. The exact quote is 'Your wife knows your entire history. . . Bruce trusts her, and I can trust her. . .'

That's key, if we figure it is Steph, and Beechen is trying to reference her subtly. I wouldn't doubt that Tim would tell his wife, whoever she was, everything about himself. Tim can be ruthlessly pragmatic at times (he may be the most like Bruce in that regard amongst the boys), but keeping secrets in relationships has always been hard for him. So she'd know most everything, regardless, but just because she knew, wouldn't mean Bruce would trust her. Unless he had some past history with her that lead him to believe he could trust her.

It could refer to Stephanie's long struggle to get Batman to stop trying to make her give up costumed adventuring. It took a while, took nearly dying among other things, but he did eventually give her a thumbs up. And having earned it, he doesn't rescind it easily. I mean, even though Dick Grayson hates Bruce's guts, the old man still clearly trusts Dick. If it is Steph, and she did go through some of the same hoops we watched her jump through in the old DCU, then it would make sense he would still trust her.

Like I said, it's thin. Really thin. But thin is my middle name.

Martin Riggs: With your wife's cooking, I'm not surprised.

I'm not even married! Get out of here '80s Mel Gibson! Like I was saying, thin. She's not wearing anything purple or eggplant colored, for one. I have a hard time seeing Stephanie Brown calling Tim 'honey', but eh, people change with age, and it's not an uncommon term of endearment. It would be kind of cool if they did plan this, and maybe we'll get some more hints down the line. She and Tim might get accosted by Jokerz on the way to Wayne Manor, and they could put a couples' beatdown on them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Marvel Universe Didn't Need An Active Invisible Hand

{Note: There's a possibility that the last issue of Defenders rendered all this moot, but since I don't know, I might as well post it anyway.}

The thing I didn't like about Defenders #11 was Fraction explaining that the Concordance Engines were created by some group of beings with the idea the Engines would help produce beings who could defend their worlds from the Death Celestials. Not unlike the reveal in those Earth X mini-series, where the Celestials place an egg inside a world, then make sure it has beings that can maybe keep the planet from being eaten by Galactus until the egg hatches.

The difference here is that there's an implication that it wasn't random who got powers, that people were tapped specifically. Things like Peter Parker getting bit by a spider, Stephen Strange's car accident wrecking his hands? Those weren't coincidences, or acts of chance, they were the Engines and these beings taking a hand. I don't know, the Engines keep getting called "wishing machines" so I guess they were carrying out their creators wishes.

I don't know why Fraction felt the need to add this as the explanation for the Marvel Universe. We already had the idea that the Celestials came to Earth long ago and messed around with primitive humans, then zipped back into space. I don't understand the need for a "Death Celestial", either, since the Celestials already did that themselves. They come back, check on the results, and if they don't like what they see, you die. This particular Celestial seems less interested in results and more in eliminating everything, but again, what's the point? Why would the other Celestials let this one run around wrecking all their stuff?

The primary thing I don't like about the whole thing is it smacks of predestination. I hate predestination.  I don't mind the idea that you can choose to do something or not, of that you can decide to do something, and it doesn't make a difference. Peter Parker chose to go to that science demonstration even after his classmates cruel words, rather than go home and cry. So he was there, the spider gets irradiated, he gets bit, he chooses to use his powers for monetary gain, Uncle Ben dies, and here we are.

The idea that was all a planned event, brought about by some high beings carrying out some agenda of their own, that bugs me. That he never had a choice, it was always going to work out that way*. At least with the Celestials, it wasn't hard to argue that they were just messing around to see what would happen, and weren't necessarily aiming for a particular outcome. They might have arranged things so there was a greater chance of superhumans emerging, but who those superhumans would be remained to be seen.

Once you introduce the idea there was a deliberate mind nudging events this way and that, well where does that stop? Is every misfortune someone experiences in the Marvel Universe part of some stupid attempt to make them a 'better hero', like the entire planet was under attack by a bunch of dorky Professor Zoom wannabes? How much control does anyone have over their life? Did these guys make Peter Parker fall for Gwen, then have her die, so he could experience that? Did they make Janet van Dyne and Hank Pym meet so they could go through the whole mess they did?

You could say we have the same possibility in this world, that there's a higher power mucking around with us. But I don't know it for certain, so I'm free to dismiss it if I like (which I do). You introduce it into a fictional universe, and even if the characters don't know, I do, so then I'm left wondering. Which, look, I get these stories aren't real, they're fiction, written and illustrated by people here in the same world as me. I'm not so loopy I don't know that, OK? When a story works for me, I can forget about that, get lost in the work and its world (afterward, I might think about the creators, their goals and style). What it feels like Fraction's done is put a batch of writers in the Marvel Universe, or at least one level closer than we (and he) are**. They're the ones crafting the story while Fraction and everyone else transcribe.

That's not an idea I want intruding on me while I'm reading Captain Marvel, or my Amazing Spider-Man back issues. It hasn't been a big issue thus far, and as long as the books I'm currently reading don't bring it up, it should remain that way. I wasn't a huge fan of the Celestials involvement in human development, either, but as the number of comics I read that mentioned it was small, I could mostly ignore it. With any luck, Fraction's insertion will be relegated to something I'll only recall infrequently, and randomly. I have my doubts, since the current crop of writers seem to love things like this. Everything we knew was wrong, vast conspiracies, invisible hands moving things in the shadows since time immemorial and stuff like that. They may not be able to resist.

* This is why I didn't mind JMS' Spider-Totem stuff initially, because he left it open at the start. Might have been chance, might have been planned, might have been science or magic, or all the above. 

** There are, or maybe were, Marvel comics in the Marvel Universe, with writers and everything, but they were not generally shown to be causing things to happen. They either told the "real adventures" to the public, or made up some of their own, but that didn't mean the Fantastic Four suddenly fought Ultron because the writer of the comic did a story like that.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Burn Notice 3.14 - Partners in Crime

Plot: Knowing that the flight Gilroy is interested in is headed to Poland, Michael tries to approach Conrad, a low-level, down on his lucky employee at the Polish consulate as a Russian businessman willing to pay for information on the flight. But Conrad, for all his failings, is loyal to his country, and Fi has to come in with the save.

So, new plan: Fi approaches Conrad as a member of American Intelligence, portrays Michael as a Russian spy, and tells Conrad they need to know what's on the flight so they can stop Mike. She also agrees to pay him for the risk, which is why Michael takes up Sam on his request to help investigate a fashion house robbery. Isabella, the owner, suspects Tim, and Sam even finds two sets of ledgers in his office. Sure seems guilty, but that's out the window when Michael follows Tim to Isabella's and they both find her dead, shot with Tim's gun.

Now it's a matter of keeping Tim hidden until they can find and expose the real culprit. It quickly becomes apparent Isabella's partner, Damon, was behind it, but he used a third person to commit the crime, and attempts to bug their conversations are thwarted by the surroundings. Which means it's time to play on Damon's greed. Enter Max, Isabella's silent, other partner, who has working drugs into the fabrics. He's willing to keep the same deal going with Damon, but not if Damon doesn't take care of his loose ends. Despite the usual missteps, they are able to eventually get Damon to hang himself. Not literally. And Conrad comes through for Fi, so we learn the cargo on the plane is a person.

The Players: Conrad (Easy Target), Isabella (Sam's New Client), Tim (Suspected Thief), Damon (Stylish Bastard), Ric (Damon's Partner)

Quote of the Episode: Sam - 'Looks like murder *puts on sunglasses* is in style this season.' One more. Sam - 'It looks like our killer's plan *puts on sunglasses* is coming apart at the seams.' I will never not find Sam's Caruso riff hilarious.

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 2 (37 overall). It's too bad Isabella died. She and Sam really hit it off.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (2 overall).

Michael Fake Laugh Count: 1 (5 overall). It was another one of those in-character, "I'm furious with you right now" laughs.

Other: Like I said above, Mike's alias for the week is "Max".

It's hard to tell, but I think Max threatens Damon's life at least 6 times. I'm not sure whether telling Damon he'll live if he doesn't screw up (implying he won't if he does) counts as a threat. It also doesn't count the sequence in Damon's office when "Max" keeps picking up various sharp objects and testing whether they'd be suitable for killing Damon. I don't think it counts as a threat, per se, because "Max" is meant to be seriously preparing to kill Damon, even if Michael is really just doing it to scare him.

Ric was surprisingly good at killing people and framing someone. I know he had some minor drug busts and an assault charge, but those wouldn't seem to prepare someone for contract killing. Still, the idea of using an explosive to remove Tim wasn't a bad one. Would have worked if not for that meddling Westen.

I'm not sure why Fi bothered to lie to Madeline about why she needed old pictures of Michael. Would Maddy have really been that sore about it? She didn't seem too bothered when Michael told her (which I'm glad he did). That bit about him telling her where he was on the back of a photo, only he had already left that place and wrote that specifically so she wouldn't know where he was, that was cold.

I'm not sure why, when Michael and Tim are trying to escape the cops at Isabella's, they don't climb the trees next to the wall. They aren't that big around, they look sturdy, and they're right next to it. It shouldn't be hard to wedge yourself between the trees and the wall to climb at the very least. Instead they go through this whole mess with boosting and hauling.

Also, Mike explains the risk of listening devices nears speakers by talking about how phones react near alarm clocks. My phone has never reacted near my clock. It does however, react near my computer speakers and my TV all the time, so maybe that would have been a better comparison.

Given how uncomfortable Fi is with all the sneaking around and the lying, I'm surprised she isn't more vocal about not wanting to pull this scam on Conrad. You can kind of tell by her body language all the times she meets with him, that she's tense, tired, not happy about doing this. Conrad's no traitor, and sure, Mike is doing all this to try and stop Gilroy, but I doubt that would save Conrad's bacon if his bosses figure out what he did.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Archer, Amour, And Espionage

Should I take Hawkeye's casual hookup with the redheaded lady in Hawkeye #3 (I'm guessing she's the "Cherry" mentioned in the future solicits) means his relationship with Jessica Drew is kaput?

I'll be honest, I stay so far away from most Avengers books (largely because of Bendis), I didn't even know Jessica and Clint had become an item until I read a review of Avengers #30 that mentioned they came to the conclusion they each had too much baggage to make it work. I knew there'd been some flirtatious banter, but come on, when he isn't in a relationship, Hawkeye flirts with just about every woman.

It doesn't explain that phone conversation he had with Mockingbird in Avengers Solo where he insisted that no, he hadn't brought "her" with him to an isolated cabin of Bobbi's where he was going to hide the people he was helping. I had no idea who the "her" was at the time, but I guess it was Spider-Woman.

Anyway, I figure if Clint's fooling around with other women, then he probably isn't in a committed relationship at the moment. One thing I like about Hawkeye is that, for all the stupid things he says and does, he is generally faithful to whoever he's in a relationship with*. He'll still say and do stupid things - letting his mouth outrun his brain at the worst moment is another of his character traits - but he's doesn't fool around. Not on Natasha, not on Bobbi (he screwed that one up in other ways), not on Karla Sofen. A month ago, I bought the hardcover that collected, among other things, the Hawkeye mini-series from the '80s where he met Bobbi. Though they wind up together by the end of it, when it starts he's in a relationship with Shelia Danning, one of his bosses, and the reveal that's she been up to no good and playing him for a sap sends him into a massive funk. He's pretty much oblivious to the fact Bobbi's interested in him until very late in the mini-series, well after what he and Shelia had is conclusively dead. Of course, it's also clear Hawkeye does rebound, sometimes faster than others, so it wouldn't be a surprise he meets another woman he likes not long after he and Jess split.

However, there was one other thing I noticed thinking over his past history, and that's his tendency to fall for women versed in the espionage trade. The Black Widow and Mockingbird, obviously, but Jessica Drew has a long history as a double and triple-agent. Shelia wasn't a spy, but she was playing at liking Hawkeye to keep him duped. Dr. Karla Sofen doesn't have an espionage background either, but if you consider that part of that job is understanding what makes a person tick so you can move them around as need be, then Sofen's an expert. The only two I can think of that wouldn't really fit the bill are the Scarlet Witch and the Wasp. The former never went anywhere, because Wanda wasn't interested in Clint that way, and the latter was written by Chuck Austen, which I'm guessing qualifies it for an asterisk**.

All the relationships he's been in that lasted any period of time have been with women who are, not more devious, necessarily. More clever, more worldly perhaps? I'm not sure what it means. 3 of the 5 (Natasha, Karla, Shelia) started out with the lady in question manipulating Hawkeye, but Natasha and Karla both developed genuine feelings for him over time (though Karla was having issues with the Moonstone at the time, so I don't know how we factor that in). Hawkeye's attracted to smart women? They're attracted to his honesty and straightforward approach, his openness with his feelings?

Natasha, for example, is very good at concealing her true feelings when she needs to. It's part of the job. Someone may disgust her, but if they are necessary to complete her mission, she sets that aside and works with them. She's probably already thinking of ways to make sure they go down as well, but she doesn't let it distract her. Hawkeye, on the other hand, pretty much says what he feels. If he's angry, he says so. If he likes you, he says that, too. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he lets it rule him if he's not careful. There's also the arrogance and insecurity that can be played with. Which makes him a prime target for manipulation by someone with that goal in mind. Which can certainly explain how things started with some of these women, but not all, and not why things changed between him and Natasha/Karla.

It's interesting, because it's an inversion of that old Western trope where the kind young schoolteacher manages to tame the rough and tumble cow-puncher/honorable bandit guy***. Hawkeye's the more open, naive person, but his honesty and belief in redemption gradually wins over at least some of the cynicism. They see the good guy beneath the bluster, and decides it's someone they like, rather than someone they can use.

In some ways, it could also portray Hawkeye as the younger person in each relationship. It isn't as though he's had an easy life, but he is in some ways so much less aware of the uglier aspects of how the world runs, that it makes him seem less experienced than the woman he's currently involved with. I don't know the ages of everyone involved to know whether that's true or not. The Black Widow is clearly older, by a lot, and I would imagine if Karla and Bobbi had enough time to gain doctorates and become established in their fields then they're both probably older as well. I'm less sure about Jessica and Shelia, but I wouldn't be surprised, and it's a little different for the guy to be the younger person in the relationship. This being superhero comics, none of them look older than Hawkeye, but it's still another interesting piece. That he's consistently attracted to older, more worldwise women, and most of the time, they end up being attracted to him as well (even if it takes awhile).

* This in contrast to Green Arrow who, for all he frequently declares how much he cares about the Black Canary, sure seems to sleep around a lot. I think it's been more of a problem since Kevin Smith brought him back from the dead, but I'm pretty sure there were flare-ups between Dinah and Ollie over prior to his death as well. Which is fine, that can be a character trait, and it fits with all the contradictions in Ollie's character, that he deeply loves one woman, but can't seem to stop being a cad.

** It's hard to tell if anyone would have followed up on it. Hawkeye died in the very next storyline, and I don't think he and Janet had any chances to interact between the time he returned and her death/disappearance at the end of Secret Invasion. That no one made an attempt, though, probably says a lot about the other writers' view on it.

*** Unless it's just the "make an honest woman of her" thread. Which would be less interesting, and wouldn't really work for Bobbi, certainly, and not really Jessica, either, since they didn't enter into the relationships with Clint with ulterior motives. I prefer the inverted Western trope theory myself, but figured I better at least mention this one.

Friday, November 09, 2012

I See Kent Leaning Heavily On His Sick Days

At the end of his first Superman Beyond arc, J.T. Krul had "Kal Kent" get a job as a fireman. Off hand, this doesn't seem like a bad idea. Superman saves lives, so do firemen. Certainly Superman's powers, employed covertly could prove useful in containing fires or saving lives.

But I'm not sure it's a good idea. One advantage of Kent being a reporter is it provides a way for Superman to become aware of problems that need fixing (including some that Superman can't necessarily solve himself, but perhaps Clark can, by making the public aware of them). There is a possibility of this as a fireman, too, since fires start for all sorts of reasons. Some are accidental, some purposeful, some malicious, some innocent. With his senses and experience, Kal could probably expose a lot of insurance scams, protection rackets trying to scare people, or, if we want to go big (and mystical), someone setting fires in a specific pattern as a way of trying to unleash something. It's certainly still a profession that would expose Superman to things that need his attention. His civilian identity will even remain inspirational, though it might not be as much about inspiring other people to help fix the problems.

However, if Clark has to miss a deadline because Gorilla Grodd has taken control of Titano and is conquering France, well it isn't the end of the world. Yes, Perry White might get sore*, but it's unlikely people will die as a result. If he's a fireman, it seems more likely his presence or absence could cost lives. If he isn't there, are they operating at less than full strength at the next big fire? Sure, if he wraps up whatever he's doing, he can always swing by as Superman to help, but that's possible whether he's a fireman in his secret identity or not.

That sort of issue is up to the writer, as Krul will decide how often being Superman interferes with Kal Kent's life. In story, though, Kent wouldn't have any idea how often that's going to be an issue, so it seems a little risky. Admittedly, if "reporter" was out as an occupation**, I'm not sure what would be a good job for him to have. I do think he should be out in the world interacting with people, and a job which enables him to help people suits him. Firefighter seems to cause more problems than it solves.

* Unless we're operating on the assumption that Perry secretly knows Clark is Superman, like the idea that Gordon knows Wayne is Batman, and they both choose to act like they don't know.

** Though this seems like another place where the freelancer option I've seen people bring up with regards to Nu52 Clark would be a good idea. He can have a secret identity, a home if he needs one, and still interact with and help people.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

This Is A Brilliant Ruse By Hawkeye, Right?

I didn't realize Tuesday's post didn't go as planned originally. Not sure why it was saved as a draft instead. Little irritations.

While we're talking about Secret Avengers and things not going like I'd hope, let's talk about the end of issue 32. The Black Widow accuses Eric O'Grady of being Ant-Man. Hawkeye dismisses her concern. Natasha leaves in a huff. Captain Britain warns Hawkeye the Descendants are definitely up to something. Hawkeye dismisses it, claiming he wants sleep, and everything will keep six hours. Naturally, things go to hell the next issue.

There are just a lot of things that ring false there. Hawkeye dismissing Natasha's accusations for one thing. Those two have had their ups and downs, but Hawkeye knows the Black Widow is the best spy there is, and so when it comes to ferreting out secrets, he trusts her instincts. He may not agree with her on the appropriate response (the Widow is more of a pragmatist, and sees the wider implications more clearly), but he knows she isn't going to make random accusations without a good reason.

Plus, being an Avenger is such a big deal to Hawkeye, something he takes so seriously, I can't see him being presented with two related major problems and just blowing them off. He doesn't even tell Braddock, Natasha, or anyone else who has the energy to start investigating. He basically says, 'It's after 5, I'm off the clock. Come back tomorrow.'

Beyond that, I can't see the Black Widow just leaving like that. She knows the Descendants are a threat, and she's certain O'Grady is one of them. So she's just walking away? Washing her hands of the whole problem. Yeah, I can't see that happening.

What I prefer to think is Hawkeye wanted to hear more about O'Grady, but didn't want the LMD present at the time. So he gave Natasha some kind of signal to indicate they should play it how they did, so that O'Grady would feel he's still secure. The team leader is not swayed by the accusation, and the person making it is gone, he's in the clear.

That may be too much to hope for. Remender's Hawkeye has seemed arrogant in the wrong way throughout this run. Hawkeye says and does stupid things in the heat of the moment, and he certainly tries to get by on bravado too much at times. Like lying to the T'Bolts about the government agreeing to clear them of crimes if they straighten up under his leadership. But this consistent blanket dismissal of anyone's opinions besides his own feels wrong. Hawkeye's cocky, but he knows he makes mistakes. It's why he works as hard as he does. He's human, he has to be that good to run with the big dogs, but working that hard would make him realize he isn't always going to be perfect. He needs to listen to other people, but he's largely refused to do that so far.

I don't think Remender plans to kill the whole team as a way to teach Hawkeye this lesson, but I wish I was more confident than I am.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

What I Bought 10/31/2012 - Part 5

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was on last night, marking the second time in the last week there's been something I wanted to watch on TV (Syfy's showing of Shutter Island on Monday being the other, and how badly did that movie do that Syfy could afford to get rights to show it?). Anyway, I didn't realize Christopher Lambert was in Ghost Rider. That was kind of a neat surprise. I can't figure out why Blaze kept pronouncing Idris Elba's character's name different from everyone else. They all said "Morrow", he said "Moreau". Go figure.

Daredevil #19, by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That is a truly creepy cover. All the little details on Daredevil's head are what make it, since hey emphasize this is really his head, not some dummy or prop. The scrtaches, flecks of blood or dirt, the crack in the eye cover.

So Matt struggles with whether he's lost his mind, and is open enough with himself to admit the possibility. So he goes to Hank Pym for help, but in the process of discussing things, he gets an idea as to what's really going on and why. He stakes a meeting of big drug bosses, and sure enough, the culprit arrives to kill everyone. Daredevil can't do a thing to stop him. In fact, he winds up with his head separated from his body. He's not dead, don't worry, his head is simply no longer connected to the rest of him. Yeah, the Spot, sorry, the Coyote's upped his game considerably.

With the black-and-white motif, I really should have figured that out sooner, but he's so different looking now. I'm not clear on how he pulled off the bit with Milla, given the things Matt's thinking when he returns to find her gone, but I think there's at least an implication the Coyote opens holes in time now, as well as space. So he may have grabbed Milla from before her breakdown. That's all I can figure.

I love the progression Samnee gives DD when he's trying to stop the killing. He starts off confused, but as each subsequent attempt of his is thwarted, he gets more frustrated. He also stops telling people to get down, and instead to just run, which is probably the best sign he's lost control. He knows he can't protect them, so they have to run to survive. Plus there was the deliberate callback to issue one with Matt leaping into one of the holes, fully confident he's got this covered. Things didn't quite go that smoothly this time.

Hawkeye #3, by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer) - I like this cover a bit better than the first couple. Maybe the detail of showing the outline of the two archers within the outlines of their arms and bows. Or it's the arrows pointing to the title.

Today was Hawkeye's day for making bad decisions. Lots of bad decisions. Deciding to label all his trick arrows. Going to a store with no tape. Meeting a woman with a 1970 Dodge Challenger and offering to buy it. Having sex with her. Getting beat up by those incredibly irritating Russian jackass "bros", who abduct her. Chasing them down with Kate, getting his new car, and the lady back, only to have a running/driving battle through New York as Kate tries to hand him the right unlabeled arrow. Other than the car being trashed, and Clint probably getting romantically involved with this lady, things worked out pretty well. Let's just say that after Natasha (and Wanda, I suppose), Clint should have learned to be wary of redheads.

If I never hear or read the word "bro" again, it'll be too soon. I like that we're keeping the trick arrows. It's bad enough they had to go with some stupid "realistic" move costume, but it would have been really annoying if Fraction had dumped all the cool arrows.

Enough about the writing, let's talk about the art. Aja's on his game here, as usual. I will admit I find the panel where the Hawkeye face covers the naughty bits as Clint's dodging gunfire to be stupid. If you're going to cover it up, there are plenty of other ways to do it that are less, shall we say, obnoxious? Or don't cover it up. Whatever. It ain't gonna kill me (though I suppose it would hurt the rating for the book).

That gripe aside, it's beautiful work. There were a couple of different sequences during the chase scenes (one on page 5, the other on page 13) where Aja has these page-wide panels, with smaller panels on top of them (showing specific arrows, for example), and the way Aja laid them out, there were two different ways your eyes could be guided within the panels, and panel-to-panel, and they both work. The level of planning in that has to be considerable. I mean, I try to map my stories out as comics in my head sometimes and even just setting things up to flow properly in one way, for one page, is a challenge. Maybe actually sketching it out would help, I dunno, but still, to be able to set up multiple routes that work is pretty impressive. Plus, Aja does a lot with faces with what seem to be almost no lines. I don't even know how he manages it.

And Hollingsworth's colors are still great. The colors are still muted compared to say, Daredevil, but with the way they use them, those mostly solid blocks of colors, contrasted against other, duller colors (the buildings, the Russian guys' cars), it helps make the important colors pop out more. A lot of excellent work with contrast. The purple on Clint's jacket against the black. Kate's outfit against her hair. It makes it pop. The bit on page 4, where Clint starts talking to her. There's a hint of purple on the door of the grocery that lets the black of his jacket stand out, but the purple on the jacket stands is brighter, and stands out from both. And the line of the purple on the jacket leads to the car, where the red is contrast against the beige or sepia of the background (it's either an off-white, or a drowsy yellow), and the black line leads right to the lady. The raised trunk even leads the eye right to her red hair, which pops against that same dull building outline. Hot damn, that's awesome.