Saturday, August 31, 2013

Two Years Of The New 52, About A Year Of Marvel NOW!

I did this last year, but I'm cutting it down to one part. In terms of quantity, Year 2 (35 comics) was basically even with Year 1 (36). Keep in mind that both of those include some issues of Batman Beyond Unlimited, which isn't really part of the New 52. Even so, both are still well behind the last year before the relaunch (48). That would suggest my purchasing habits have largely stabilized for the relaunch, but I'm less sure. 2010 was a high water mark for DC with me, at 47 comics and 35% of my total. It's been downhill since then. Last year was 38 comics and about 28%, this year I don't expect it to reach 30 comics and 25%.

It's a missed opportunity, since the number of Marvel comics I was buying kept shrinking as well. Marvel was 79 books in 2010, but down to 65 last year. The space was there on my pull list, but DC couldn't take advantage. This year, Marvel looks as though it'll rebound to roughly 2010 levels. May be a temporary blip, or it may be a resurgence.

OK, that's a quantity perspective. In terms of quality, it's a mixed bag. Green Arrow never stopped having the same problem it had this time last year: Inconsistent art. Katana, which was the title Nocenti left Green Arrow to write, has much the same problem. In some ways it's worse, because at least Green Arrow typically used only one artist per issue. Katana is at two artists as often as one, and they aren't terribly similar artists. Both books also have a feeling of being overstuffed or rushed. My theory is Nocenti knows titles have a short leash these days, so she's trying to do as much as she can as quickly as she can. But it feels scattered. Maybe I'm just out of practice reading comics that aren't decompressed.

All that aside, Dial H was a distinct bright spot. I mentioned last year I thought it could be the new 52 title that would come closest to replicating Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl's quality, but I was hedging my bets 4 issues in. It's done now, cancelled far too soon, but it lived up to my hopes. When Resurrection Man was cancelled, I didn't mind much. It had meandered so much my goodwill was squandered. I wanted Dial H to go on for at least a couple more years. I feel like there was so much Mieville didn't get to do, or had to speed through to provide some sort of conclusion.

I've read retailers in a couple of places detail how Marvel NOW! (which is approaching one year at this point), as a sales strategy, didn't work as well for them as the New 52. I can see it. It's easier to explain to a customer how the entire fictional universe is being started over from scratch (except for the things that kept trucking along, like the Bat and Lantern books), compared to a strategy which seems to have been, "Give creative teams books and characters they want, let them tell the stories they want."  The latter does have the distinct advantage of not throwing a host of characters into the dumpster, compared to all the ones DC swept out (the Dibneys, Cass, Cain, Steph Brown, insert favorite character here), but that probably doesn't work as a selling point to people wandering in off the street.

For myself, I'm at the point where I'm buying titles because I want to see what the creative team will do with it. I'm not interested in tie-ins to whatever the latest Event is, unless the team has plans to use it to further their story. Marvel's largely given me that. Hawkeye and Daredevil predate Marvel NOW! (they feel like the precursors that convinced the higher-ups to try it on a wider scale), and both largely keep to themselves. DD crossed over with Amazing Spider-Man once, for a month, but Mark Waid wrote both parts, and made it fit. And there was the Omega Effect crossover, which felt less natural, but didn't screw with the direction of the book in any way. For all the problems I have with Captain America, Remender and Romita Jr. were left alone to do their thing. Ditto Avengers Arena, and until this Infinity tie-in, Captain Marvel (I wouldn't count the Avengers Assemble crossover since DeConnick wrote both parts. It wasn't the strongest part of the run so far, but I didn't feel like being a crossover was the problem).

It isn't as though Marvel hasn't had its share of letdowns for me. I dropped Fearless Defenders, I'm dropping Captain America. At the same time, I'm still at 5 other ongoings, I'm going to try Deadpool and Superior Foes of Spider-Man here in a few months, and I regret not trying Journey Into Mystery with Sif when I had the chance (I bought the first trade last month, loved it). Even though they're all within the superhero genre, there feels like there's more variety among the books. It isn't all distrust, anger, and clandestine government organizations (though there's still plenty of that). Contrast that to DC, where I'll be down to one ongoing here, at least until Harley Quinn starts, and I don't expect Katana has much time left.

Dial H carried that same sense of creative freedom. Mieville, with Santolouco at first, then Ponticelli, seemed free to do what he wanted. He didn't have to send Nelson on a jaunt to Gotham to tangle with the Court of Owls, or mess with Rotworld. He had some things he wanted to do, he did them. I loved it. So it got canceled. Naturally. I feel like Nocenti's books try for it, but the inconsistency in the artists hurts the effort. It isn't as though Marvel keeps the same artists on titles, certainly not with all their double-shipping, but they do a better job finding artists whose styles compliment each other, or divvying up the work by story arcs, so that at least each story maintains a style, if not the book as a whole. It isn't perfect (Captain Marvel going from Dexter Soy, to Emma Rios, to Andrade could give a person whiplash), but there's at least the appearance that some advance thought was put into it.

I don't know how long the two companies will continue with their respective strategies. DC might decide it's a good idea to stop annoying the vast majority of their writers and artists by messing with their stuff constantly. Marvel might decide they want to have a tighter hand on the reins for their stuff. At the moment though, Marvel's plan is working much better with me than DC's.

So I'll turn to you. How is the New 52 working out for you? How about Marvel NOW!? Have your buying habits shifted at all, or remained largely the same?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beat Them Down Any Way You Can

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the reason I decided to get an XBox 360. Well, the inclusion of Rocket Raccoon as a playable character in the game was the reason, but close enough. This, despite the fact I'm nearly as bad at fighting games as puzzle games.

It's been a mixed bag as far as results, though. The closest I've come playing anything in the MvC series was the old Marvel Super-Heroes arcade game. So I was operating on the idea it would be one-on-one fights. Instead, it's more a like a six-person tag team match. I pick three characters, the opposition is three characters, you can switch in and out as you like, characters can do brief run-ins to pile on the damage or buy their teammate some breathing room, things like that. It wasn't what I expected, but I got used to it, though my instinct is still to use a character until they get KO'ed, then let the next one jump in.

Iron Man's Hyper Attack in Marvel Super-Heroes was to materialize a huge beam cannon on his shoulder (even Cable would have been jealous of this thing), and then fry you with it. He didn't have that here, but Rocket sort of did (scaled down for his smaller stature). That's about what I was hoping for from Rocket. That or Groot appearing out of nowhere to smash your enemies while bellowing "I AM GROOT!" Ah well.

Playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 led me to realize something about my preferences for fighting games. I prefer fighting games where it's relatively easy to perform the special moves, but they aren't going to guarantee you a victory. Take Super Smash Bros. I'm playing as Mario, so I want to be able to throw fireballs. Good news, all it takes is tapping the B button! I'm not going to win doing nothing but that, but it's nice it's there when I want it. which is why I ended up playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on Simple Mode. I did not feel like going through all the perfectly timed joystick swinging and precise button pushing just do to a Hadouken, or have Spidey web Dr. Doom in the face. It's lazy, sure, but I enjoy myself a lot more that way.

I can tell because if you play the Missions mode, you have to use the Normal Control settings. Actually, the control settings were only the third most frustrating part of Missions mode.

The first problem was I expected something called "Missions", to have actual missions. Maybe something similar to the Smash Bros. series' Event matches. Defeat 15 of this character is X minutes. Protect this character from a giant version of this other character (say Chris Redfield from Wesker). You'd have to adjust it some for the differences in gameplay, but you get my point. Missions mode, instead, is essentially training. They tell you to try and perform some move, or string together a specific combo, and if you do, mission complete. There's no larger goal, except unlocking titles if you manage to complete enough of a character's missions. The Dead or Alive series has something similar with the Sparring option, where you run through a character's moveset, but they place that in the Training mode, so there's no doubt about what it is.

Gripe #2. Fine, this is specified training. If you want me to complete the combo, don't have the other character randomly block. I had multiple times where I pulled off the exact order of the button presses, but because the opponent randomly blocked one of the kicks, it doesn't count. Why block that one, when he was standing there like an inanimate punching bag otherwise? Who knows? It's maddening. After that, then you get to the issues with the Normal control scheme.

OK, so Mission mode is a bust, but I do enjoy Story mode. Some characters play better than others, but I'll try with everyone (which is standard for me with fighting games). The animation looks good, the controls are pretty smooth, each character gets their own theme music. I'm not sure why it always plays my opponent's music. Maybe so I don't get sick of hearing the same three songs over and over again.

I like some of the victory trash talk. The first time I won with Iron Fist, the last guy he knocked out was Deadpool. So I thought his 'losing to you would have set the Iron Fist legacy back decades' was specific for Wade. Which seemed unduly harsh. Turns out he'll just drop that randomly. She-Hulk, on the other hand, enjoys trash talking 'Pool. To be fair, if you had to deal with Deadpool's incessant chatter during a fight, you'd probably throw some back at him after you punched his face off, too.

The game isn't exactly what I want, but I knew that wouldn't happen. There's no way the fights could be as smooth and variable as I can make them look in my head. Even if the game could incorporate every variable, move, assist, whatever that I could conceive of, it'd probably be so complicated I'd be helpless trying to play it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is Fish Part Of The Balanced Desert Breakfast?

I had a coworker watching Trigun over the weekend. There's a point at which Vash explains why he passed of the reward for recapturing two members of the Nebraska family. One of the reasons is that, since he essentially saved the town, the kindly old lady who owns the diner they're sitting in has promised him all the salmon sandwiches he can eat.

Which sounds great until I remember they're on a desert planet. I suppose the salmon could have been brought along in the great ships they used to reach this planet, and that they could have survived the rough landings like the humans did. But salmon seem like a very inefficient food source to maintain on a desert world, where people are so heavily dependent on those plants of theirs.

Maybe Knives was right about humans being worthless garbage that should be exterminated.

I'm not really clear on the limits of what the plants can do. They're a massive energy source, so maybe they have a machine that can create salmon flesh, ready to eat, without needing to make an actual fish that would require additional resources to maintain?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Your Cheating Heart

For much of the time I spent playing Catherine, I wanted to punch the main character Vincent. First I wanted to punch him for cheating on his girlfriend, Katherine. Then I wanted to punch him for not telling her about it, and for not telling the girl he was cheating with, Catherine, that he has a girlfriend already, sorry. Then I was irritated by his excessive drinking - this was before I began enabling/encouraging it, we'll come back to that - and then there was a long sequence near the end where he was annoyingly whiny.

There's a little meter that appears throughout the game, and the needle moves left or right depending on Vincent's responses. In turn, his reactions at certain spots in the game are determined by where the needle sits. I thought it was a matter of Good vs. Evil, and I was pushing Vincent towards the good side as hard as I could. But it didn't seem to matter. Vincent would not tell either girl the truth. He'd just feel guilty about not telling either one the truth. It was maddening. Then at the end, I found I was completely wrong about what the meter represents - which explained some of the times the needle didn't move as I expected - and things made more sense.

Vincent's waking hours are spent trying to think of some way out of this mess, mostly while drinking with friends at the bar. He can talk to anyone in the bar, and the patrons will change over time as people show up, or get tired and leave. Or, you can ignore everyone, listen to the music, play the arcade game, drink, leave if you want. You'll receive texts on his phone, from both girls. You can respond if you like, selecting from a limited variety of appropriate responses. Or ignore them, or just ignore one of them. I didn't respond to any of Catherine's, because I didn't want to risk that encouraging Vincent, not when i was trying my hardest to guilt trip his lazy butt into doing what I thought was right.

When Vincent sleeps, he finds himself in an immense tower, climbing row after row of blocks, trying to avoid falling to his doom. All around him are sheep, some with familiar voices. Some are climbing for all they're worth, others are ready to give up. Some are willing to share what they've learned about climbing, others are looking out for #1. In between climbs, he finds a sanctuary, complete with a confessional, where a sly voice asks him questions. Vincent's answers are not regarded as right or wrong, but they are reflected by that meter.

Catherine's part puzzle game, part dating sim. I stink at puzzle games, but the game includes an easy setting for those who are more interested in the story than the gameplay. Still gave me some problems, but like I said, I'm bad at puzzle games, especially working on the clock. The blocks gradually fall into the abyss, you've got to keep moving up, and the pressure doesn't help. Neither do the controls. They're mostly fine, but you can climb around on the edges of the blocks, including around to the back. Unfortunately, once you get back there, the controls start inverting, and it can become a real pain to move anywhere, especially if you end up one the side of a block as well. I had situations where climbing left meant alternating pushing the controller left and right, which is not intuitive. Combine that with boss battles where the camera will shift focus away from Vincent to get the boss on-screen when it attacks, and it can be disconcerting. I should appreciate the heads up, but typically the boss affects the blocks, and those targeted glow red, so it isn't as though I can't tell where I need to not be.

I do like the odd voice that gives commands at the start of each climb, especially for the boss battles. 'Vincent's Shadow emerges. It's a killer. Do not die.' I don't know why they included that, I hardly need a reminder to not die. But the delivery is funny to me. It's unsurprised by the whole thing, but has an undercurrent of urgency to it, as if this is critical information.

I did start to get the hang of it near the end, so it doesn't put me off from playing through it again. There are supposed to be multiple endings depending on the meter and how you answer some questions near the end. I think there are certain events that have to happen, but I'm guessing there are others that could change if I played Vincent differently. Which I'd like to try. Plus, I let some of the other sheep down, and I'd like to correct that if I could. I might enjoy trying a different strategy in answering the confessional's questions than, "Guilt Vincent relentlessly". I'm not sure how I'd approach it, though. Answer them how I think Vincent would, or how I would, or just pick whatever sounds strangest?

I said I'd come back to my enabling Vincent's drinking, so let's touch on that. For some reason, the more Vincent drinks in the bar at night, the faster he can move in his dreams. Yeah, I don't understand it, either, I might need to consult with some of my friends who do drink about that. Anyway, once I twigged to that little effect, I figured I could use all the help I could get. Besides, Vincent was already getting soused every night, I might as well get some benefit out of it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It Might Explain How Everything Ends Up There

I had a thought while I was doing that Dial H post two days ago. I was thinking about how odd it would be that so many dials wound up on Earth: Roxie's, Nelson's, the Canadian's S-Dial, Yabba's dial, and now the E-Dial wound up there. Plus, there was O's observations that if he were to use his Doom Dial, he'd more than likely dial an Apocalypse from Nelson's Earth.

You know those representations of the curve of space time? Like this one here? Where the mass of the object - star, planet, what have you - is causing a depression in the fabric of space time, and that's the representation of its gravitational effect.

At the end of Flashpoint, as Barry tries to make it back to the present and fix everything he fouled up, a woman speaks to him, Pandora. She tells him the problem is bigger than he thinks. There are three universes that were once one, and need to be again. And that's how we wound up with the new 52.

Here's what I was thinking. Could combining three universes into one produce a similar effect in the multiverse? Make the resulting universe a super-dense universe, a larger-scale neutron star? You can travel between them - we saw it in Dial H, and we've seen it with both Power Girl and Huntress, and with Mr. Terrific. The universes don't exist entirely separately from each other, they are in the same, I don't know, super-universe, meta-reality, whatever the term is. So the universes themselves could exert a pull on each other, or things that move between. The universes do contain matter, which has mass. So if there's one that's three times larger than the others, it would exert a greater effect on the others, draw things to it more readily.

Like dials, for example.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Burn Notice 6.2 - Mixed Messages

Plot: Fiona's trying to adjust to life in prison. Given that prison is all about other people dictating the schedule you live your life on, she's not doing so well. Then the boss of her cell block, a nice woman named D.B. decides to test Fiona's will. Predictably, Fiona refuses to submit, which means she's got a target on her back. But she has a helpful little friend, named Nicole, giving her advice, and plenty of pent-up aggression to work out, so she might be OK. Or she might be worried about the wrong person.

Meanwhile, Michael's dealing with not being able to see Fiona in perfectly reasonable ways. Namely, tossing furniture around. Capturing Anson might get her out, but he'll need to earn points some other way if he wants to visit her. And that's why he turns to his training officer at the CIA, Tom Card. Card's in Operations now, but he's having a little trouble with the Zetas cartel. He needs a way to get close enough to bust a major drug smuggling operation. The plan is for Mike and Jesse to pose as crooked DEA agents who who killed their boss before he could expose them, only to learn he was ready to bust this big shipment. They approach the Zetas' enforcer, a loon named Rafael Montero, with this information, so he convinces his boss to change the drop off point. Then they just so happen to know a helpful place to use, which just so happens to actually be swarming with federal agents.

Great plan! One problem. Montero is having lunch with the cartel's attorney, one Bruce Gellman (last seen in 1.3, "Fight or Flight"). So Michael's out, which means Jesse's going in alone. Michael, Card, and Sam will have to listen in on the bug Jesse's wearing, and adjust on the fly to keep him alive, and the plan in action. Harder than you might think, since Montero is a little, shall we say mercurial, in temperament.

In more personal news, Nate is back in Miami, because Ruth has left him and returned to Miami with their son. The exact reasons are unclear, but Nate is feeling a little abandoned, so he wants to be there for Mike, so Mike will be there for him.

The Players: Tom Card (The Man Who Trained Michael), D.B. (Queen of the Cell Block), Rafael Montero (Security Expert/Psychopath), Ramiro Salazar (Drug Kingpin)

Quote of the Episode: Montero - 'You're one hell of a salesman.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Nah, she creates a small incendiary device out of batteries and stuff, and beats up 3 larger women, though.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (1 overall). Card didn't approve of Sam's drinking on the op, but Card's an ass, so who cares?

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (2 overall).

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

Other: If Mike had an alias, I missed it, but it hardly matters, since he never got to use it.

Lot of interesting parallels in this episode. Michael's desperate enough to turn to Card, and Card knows it. Card is desperate enough to actually talk to Michael, to consider using him, and Michael knows it. Nate is feeling abandoned by Ruth, left questioning what he did wrong, why his efforts weren't appreciated. I think Michael's feels that, too. He tried so hard to save Fiona by playing along with Anson, and then she went and left him. To try and save him, but you can sort of see why he would feel abandoned. Fiona is in prison because she wanted to protect what she loved, and Nicole does what she does to protect someone.

It is encouraging to see Michael trust Jesse to get things done. Yes, Mike has the ulterior motive that he badly wants this mission to succeed, but he does advise aborting it as soon as he sees Gellman, because there was no way they could approach together. This leads to him being stuck on the sidelines for most of the mission, which has to be killing him. It's already in Michael's nature to take risks so others don't have to, but here he has to sit and watch Jesse do it. Of course, Card had to sit back and trust Michael to handle things for him, and Fiona is likewise sitting in prison, waiting to see if there's going to be a way out of it. Little like Russian nesting dolls of dependence.

When Card was describing the mission to Michael, he said that it would be just the two of them, with their butts flapping in the wind, and how did that sound? Michael said it sounded like a risk he was willing to take. I wanted him to say, it sounds like Thursday to him. It's like these people have no idea what Mike's been up to for the last few years.

I like Anthony Ruivivar's portrayal of Montero. He's just so gleeful all the time. Even when he's brandishing knives, or encouraging people to stand next to him with assurances he won't shoot them. he absolutely has that manic glee. It's endlessly entertaining. I do worry it's too over the top, though. It feels like his impulse control issues would create problems even slick lawyer Bruce Gellman couldn't get him out of. So maybe not right for the tone of the episode, but still fun.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

At The Tone, The Time Will Be. . .

One thing I've been wondering about with the conclusion of Dial H is how long the Dial Bunch spent trying to reach the Exchange once they left DC-Earth.

Until they reached the world of Meta-Castle and were given a J-Dial, they were reliant on all the winding, backwoods routes the Dial Fixer used, and didn't have any clear idea of where they were going. They just tried following his back trail and hoped it would lead them to where he started from.

It was long enough for Roxie to learn more about fixing dials from Bansa, for Nelson to learn more about using them from Yabba. It took them longer than it did Fixer and the Centipede, and they took a fair amount of time themselves, judging by the Fixer's story of how Centipede finally convinced him they should work together. And then they both had enough time to convince O they should all work together, and he should make a special dial for the Centipede.

But time is kind of screwy anyway in this book. I mentioned this in the review of the last issue, but the theft of Bumper Carla's powers (as highlighted in #0) is suggested as one of the incidents that spurred the other realities into war against the Exchange. But the fact her powers were stolen, rather than copied, suggests it was the result of using of the defective, junk dials that was blown across space and time (along with O) near the end of the war. It landed in Laodice's time and altered reality around it, disguising itself as a sundial (just as Nelson's first dial disguised itself as a phone booth).

Another thing. Bansa sought out Open Window Man to apologize for the death of his ally, Boy Chimney, caused because Bansa's H-Dial always steals powers. They went on to form the Dial Bunch and pursue the Fixer. This would seem like something that happened some time ago. Yet Nelson's first hero dialed was Boy Chimney. We know time moves at different paces in the different realities (the Squid mentioned falling through a reality that was very tiny, where the lives of the inhabitants played out in instants from his perspective), so that could be the case here. It can't have been more than a few months, maybe a year between Nelson finding the dial, and the Dial Bunch finding him and Roxie. But could it have been years for the Dial Bunch?

It's that Villains Month issue that's got all this rattling around in my head. The E-Dial. My guess is still it's the Centipede's custom dial, blown across realities when Roxie crossed the Exchange's wires to defeat O. And it just so happened to land on DC-Earth. We know Nelson dialed the Flash's powers the same day he and Roxie left with the Dial Bunch. And he didn't dial away Barry's powers from the past or future. When Nelson had the powers, then Barry didn't. In theory, we'd know how long it's been since then on DC-Earth when Villains Month/Forever Evil kicks off. My guess, considering how slowly stories move these days - is that we're talking a matter of weeks, at best. Which wouldn't seem to jibe with the lengthy trip the Bunch took through all those realities. So it could be a matter of time moving more slowly on DC-Earth than everywhere else, or the explosion Roxie triggered was like a second Time Bomb, a repeat of O's first defeat, and it blew things backwards through time (and possibly forwards? Could the Centipede's helmet show up randomly some time in the future?).

Time moving at different rates seems likely, but the Dial Bunch didn't react as if it was the case in any of the worlds they reached. And if time passes faster in all the other realities, wouldn't the memories the populace had of the dial-wielding thieves have faded, become legends and myths largely dismissed by the locals? Because for everyone they met, the memories of the Exchange were plenty fresh in their minds.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When The Universe Drags You Back Home

The name of the current (and final) arc in Angel & Faith is "What You Want, Not What You Need". Near as I can tell, it's all about pitting the characters with that choice between the two, wants against needs.

Sophie and Lavinia have to decide whether to bail out on the whole conflict or not. Despite not being fighters, or having any magic to draw from, they opt to help, rather than thinking strictly of themselves. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if they can't find a way to get the various altered citizens to lend a hand against Whistler.

Alasdir is presented with the chance to regain some of his past prominence, and Giles with a chance to be an adult. each of them sees a chance to get something they want, but recognizes the risk, and passes. I mean, they blew by dithering around for so long Nash could steal the orb back, but they came to a decision at least to not use it recklessly for their own benefit.

Angel confronted Whistler with the cost of his plan, hoping to make him abandon his plan. Angel's contention is Whistler just wants his pain to stop, and the plan Whistler's set on, with its considerable death toll, isn't necessary to save the world. So far, Whistler is unmoved, still believing this is the only way. Both of them think they're acting on a needs basis, and that the other is doing what they want. Angel thinks Whistler wants to end his pain, Whistler thinks Angel isn't willing to do what it takes, so to speak.

Pearl and Nash are after their mother's goal of a world with people and demons combined, and it's right there. But Nash dies, and that's the cost. The siblings always had each other, and if they'd stuck to more gradual, quieter plans, they might still have each other, and still be working toward their goal.

All that's preamble, because Faith is the one I'm really interested in. Her moment of clarity in #24 was recognizing that she ought to have been more concerned with stopping Pearl and Nash (and Whistler, I suppose), rather than on Angel's latest attempt to, in one big act, Fix Everything he screwed up the last time he tried to Fix Everything. Well, she only says she ought to have been after P & N, I'm editorializing about Angel, but that is what she's been concentrating on. Instead of stopping the people putting together a plan that will kill billions, or even helping the young Slayers under her tutelage, she's been helping Angel sort through his depression by resurrecting someone who would not have wanted to be resurrected.

Because she felt she owed it Angel, and because she wanted Giles back. For better or worse, she's a Slayer, she's supposed to protect the world by killing monsters that threaten humanity. I don't imagine she could handle Whistler, given how strong he seems to be, but if she'd worked with her Slayers, I think they could have dispatched Pearl & Nash. And maybe doing that while Nadira still had a support network would have stopped her self-destruction.

It's disappointing for Faith, though. For her, it always seems to come down to killing. That's what people see her as, and that's part of why she started trying to help other Slayers, and part of why she helped Angel. It's nice to do something that wasn't about death. So this is a rude reminder that she's still a Slayer, and there are certain responsibilities that come with it. She can try and step away from it, like her proteges, but it's too much a part of her to ignore it entirely. Trying to do so just makes things worse. I worry where this is going to leave her for the next season. The Slayers are gone, I'm not sure what's going to happen with Giles, so that's leaves Faith with what, Angel? Given I expect he'll have some new mess to clean up, and I think she'd be better off getting well away from him for awhile. Focus on herself.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Can You Get What You Want Sometimes?

Have you read an ongoing series that was exactly what you wanted from it? When I realized Captain America wasn't going the direction I wanted, I started to wonder if any series had done that.

Normally if I start buying something, it's because the concept sounds interesting, based on where I think it might go. But in a lot of cases, the creative team opts for something different, and often it's still very enjoyable. I still wish Abnett and Lanning had given us a Magus vs. Kang war, with the Guardians of the Galaxy caught in between, but I was still pretty satisfied with where they went given the limited time they had.

The Jen van Meter-written Black Cat mini-series from 2010 was pretty close, since it opted for a "heist gone bad" approach, and I definitely wanted a caper flick feel. Power Girl might be the closest, for the first year, with Conner, Palmiotti, and Gray. I wanted Peej to have some sass, beat up bad guys, and enjoy doing so. I didn't want the book to take itself too seriously, and it didn't. The Aguirre-Sacasa Nightcrawler series wasn't, because I would have preferred something more light-hearted, more swashbuckling. Fewer grim demonic threats from Kurt's past. It's still pretty good, but it wasn't really my ideal for Nightcrawler.

Thinking about it, a lot of times I don't know what to expect. I had no idea what Immortal Iron Fist was going to be, other than it would involve Iron Fist, and that turned out just fine.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cap's Trip Home Is Where We Part Ways

I mentioned yesterday I'm going to drop Captain America. October will be the end. Cap returning to Earth and fighting Nuke seems like as good a time as any to cut bait. Not really what I signed on for, especially Nuke. Didn't Jeff Parker turn him into Scourge in his Thunderbolts run?

I never did get what I wanted out of the book. I wanted the focus to be on Steve surviving in an alien world, meeting new people, new settings, new threats. If Zola had to be the trigger, have him dump Steve in some random dimension and forget about him. Take what samples he wants of Rogers' DNA, then open a portal to wherever and chuck him in. Even if Sharon Carter or the Avengers track Zola down, he can't tell them where Steve is for certain.

In the meantime, Steve is on his own, trying to survive, helping people where he can, but recognizing he's in a situation where he doesn't understand all the rules. Remender and Romita Jr. did a little of that early on with the Phrox, but the focus was ultimately on Zola. Because he was always there, he was always the focal point for Steve. If there's no sign of him, then Steve has to find some other way of getting home, and the antagonist can be whatever you'd like. I guess I was curious to see a world strictly of their creation.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Change Is Afoot In Novermber's Releases

November's solicitations are out. I thought about waiting a little longer, but there's something I'll mention today I want to expand on tomorrow, so obviously I need to post this first. Besides, there's no reason to wait.

There's actually quite a bit more activity on the pull list this month, compared to last. Rocketeer/Spirit: Pulp Friction is missing again. Did it shift to every other month and nobody told me? Captain Marvel's off for a month, or so they say. A double-sized issue follow by a skip month sounds like a stealth cancellation to me, but everyone says it's a skip month, so I'll take their word for it. I'm dropping Captain America, so that's three books absent in November.

Sounds like a pretty slow month, right? Well, Avengers Arena is doing the double-ship thing again to wrap up it's first season/arc/storyline whatever. I'm not sure where you'd go from there, presuming Arcade's defeated. The kids trying to figure out how to escape, or how to stop Katy from usurping Arcade's set-up? Hawkeye's back, though the book is listed as a resolicit from July's solicitations. So it's two months behind now, or is it back on schedule?

Besides that, I'm giving Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe a try. I thought it was an ongoing at first, and was pretty surprised they were going to try a Longshot ongoing. Still, they tried a Sif ongoing, so I wasn't prepared to rule it out. A mini-series makes more sense. On the DC front, I'm going to try Harley Quinn. I'd be more excited if Amanda Conner was drawing it and writing it, but I'll wait and see. They certainly have a lot of good artists lined up, though looking at some of them, I wonder what the tone of the book is going to be. I'd like it be more light-hearted, which is probably a pipe dream in the nu52, but it could happen. I'm not sure most of those artists would work for that, though. Maybe it's moot. What are the odds DC would actually keep a Simonson or Cooke as primary artist on a Harley Quinn ongoing for any extended period of time?

Terry Dodson is back drawing X-Men. Does that make him the regular artist, or is he alternating with Lopez? They don't seem like their styles are that similar, where they maintain a similar feel to the title. I guess If they alternate arcs it might work.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett

I've watched The Maltese Falcon twice now, but I had never read the book itself until this weekend. A coworker finished it and loaned it to me. It's a fast read, never bogs down. In some ways, the story goes faster reading it than watching it, especially near the end. I think I can read dialogue faster than Bogart speaks it.

I did wind up picturing the characters as they appeared in the film, as far as I could, anyway. Hammett describes Spade's face as being a series of Vs running from chin, to mouth, to eyebrows, and I spent a little time trying to picture that on Bogart's face. It helps in some ways. Spade gets cruel sometimes, and I think Bogart had a gift for delivering dialogue in a way that blunted the cruelty just enough we don't turn against him. He could be cruel, when it was called for ("You killed my husband, Sam, be kind to me. Jesus Christ."), but it has to reined in occasionally.

I notice the movie cut out certain things, mainly related to Spade's romantic life. As my coworker noted, it definitely played down the affair with Iva Archer. So in that regard, the book helps quite a bit, because it explains more clearly why Spade didn't care about Miles' death. I remember watching the move and being surprised by how disinterested Spade was. It seemed like a contrivance, a way to make the cops suspicious of Spade. In the book, it makes more sense, and the reason Spade can't explain why he's not moved makes sense, too.

The other bits the movie excised were Gutman's daughter, Rhea, who to be fair, appears in only one scene, and wasn't really needed. And the matter of Joel Cairo's sexuality. Not really surprised that would be downplayed in the movie, either.

One thing I did notice reading the story was Hammett's consistent use of the word "lighted". Spade lighted many cigarettes, when I felt it should say he lit them. I don't know whether Hammett was being grammatically correct or not, but it certainly felt like a needlessly awkward choice. It's the only awkward thing about the writing. I'm envious of his ability to describe people in colorful ways that still make sense. When he describes Gutman as having fleshy cones for arms, I can visualize what he means by that, and even if I can't quite see it on Bogart's face, I understand the description of Spade's face as a collection of Vs.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Burn Notice 6.1 - Scorched Earth

Plot: We pick up where Season 5 ended. Fiona's being lead through whatever federal building it was she surrendered at and being processed. Michael sits in the Charger, reading Fi's letter to him again. Sam arrives, saddened to hear Mike didn't make it in time. Or is he? Michael thinks it's fishy that Fi overpowered Sam, and eventually, Sam admits that he didn't really fight much, because he agreed with Fi. Not about her going to prison, but about saving Michael from himself. Which, unfortunately, required Fi to go to prison.

At this point, Jesse calls in. he's still at the airport with Pearce, and having access to the Agency's resources, has been watching traffic cams. Lo and behold, Anson shows up in a green Jag, sans mustache. He's headed for Cutler Bay, so probably a boat. Mike hauls butt, steals a rig, blocks the road with it, then sets it on fire for good measure. Well, Anson won't be making it to the marina. But, there's a chemical plant nearby, and he's set up shop in there. Well, Mike and Sam know it, so he's sunk, right? Not quite. He'd been treating an ex-Ranger with paranoid schizophrenia, and his treatment involved making Michael Westen a focus for his anger. So the fellow's headed for Maddy's house. I thought she was still in Daytona Beach with Nate, but no, she's at home, seeing Fiona on the news. Sam recognizes he and Mike are too far away, so it's Jesse to the rescue. Er, until he gets ambushed, at which point it's Maddy to his rescue. Go Madeline!

Oh, and during all this, Fiona is being interrogated by old friend Jason Bly (last seen in episode 2.13, "Bad Breaks"). Fiona tries to convince him that Anson is the one they need to be after, but hamstrings her case by trying to keep Michael out of it entirely. As Bly points out, it's unlikely Fiona would blow up Larry strictly to protect the British consulate. He tells her that she's on the hook for three murders, which is the death penalty, and he can't help her unless she tells everything, i.e., stops shielding Michael. To that end, he even brings her photos of that burned up rig and claims Michael died in the fire. He even ginned up a coroner's report.

Mike and Sam make their way into the chemical plant, find one guard Anson killed, whose death he promptly pins on them, which leads to struggles with other guards, but they manage to convince them they're the good guys. Michael tries triggering the evac alarm to flush Anson out, but it doesn't work. Hey, at least Pearce was finally able to get away from the airport with 3 whole guys. They think they've found the room where Anson's hiding, and Michael prepares to go off half-cocked. Which leads to Sam barring his path, and Michael pulling his gun on Sam. Which makes Pearce pull her gun on Michael. Jeez, first everyone was crying, not everyone's brandishing firearms. However, Mike does agree to calm down, relinquish the gun, and watch the cameras while Pearce, Sam, and the rest go get Anson.

Lucky Mike, Anson already ducked out (leaving some poor employee handcuffed in that room), and Mike catches Anson before he can duck out the back. And then he gets to pummel him. But, Anson gets in a lucky shot with a hacksaw (or a pipe, something metal), and reveals he's rigged a bomb in the plant to a dead man switch, that he's holding. So Mike must let him go, and Sam stays behind to rescue the worker, and the two narrowly escape being blown up since Anson would naturally take his finger off the trigger once he was safe. Because he's a dick. As it stands, Maddy and Jesse are safe, law enforcement is now aware Anson's a bad guy on the loose, though not in a way that can help Fiona, and Fi sees through Bly's deception and refuses to implicate Michael.

The Players: Jason Bly (Not Fiona's Favorite Person). I guess they figure we know who Anson is by now.

Quote of the Episode: Michael - 'You'll never convince me Fiona turning herself in was the right thing to do. Never.' Sam - 'Well, that's why we didn't tell you.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Nooooo. Blowing things up is what got her into this mess. That and loving Michael Westen.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 0 (0 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 2 (2 overall). Once by the owner of the rig Mike stole, once by Mike's abrupt braking. Also, Mike aimed a shot awful close to Sam's head to scare off the trucker.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (0 overall). If you thought he wasn't in a laughing mood last week. . .

Other: Anson shaving the mustache didn't make me enjoy seeing him get pummeled any less, if you were theorizing I hated his facial hair.

I'm not sure how I feel about the revelation that Sam pretty much went along with Fi's plan. On the one hand, it keeps him from looking like a dope who underestimated Fi and got sucker punched (with a bottle). On the other hand, it's not like it's out of the question for Fi to be sneaky like that, and Sam has gotten fond of Fi. He could conceivably fall for it. I don't like that it makes Mike mad, because I feel as though we're supposed to sympathize with the main character, and I'm not mad at Sam. I understand why Mike is, but I've been on Fiona's side in this whole Anson thing for awhile. The idea that she and Sam both decided they didn't like where things were going, and agreed this was the only way to stop Michael from wrecking his life (and many others), I appreciate that. They fulfill that role that Pepper and Rhodey do for Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies, they're the ones who protect him from himself.

I'm curious how much trouble Michael would have gotten into if Fiona had told Bly everything. Certainly, breaking into a foreign country's consulate is no laughing matter, but he was under armed duress. That would have to count for something. I'm also not sure how much that would help Fi. It would explain why she blew up Larry, and would certainly raise the question of why (or how) she put bombs in the lobby, but it hardly clears her of that. Even so, I'm glad Fiona didn't talk. She's taking a bullet for Michael, and she's not doing it halfway. And unlike his attempt to protect her from Anson's blackmail, Fiona isn't destroying other people's lives, or helping a manipulative scumbag rebuild his empire.

How old do you think Anson is supposed to be? He says he and Management built the whole thing together, which suggests they were contemporaries, but we aren't clear how long ago that was. It had to predate the death of Victor's family, since they orchestrated that, and he'd been in their employ for some time before Michael enters the picture. I figure Management is meant to be in his seventies, just like John Mahoney is in real life, but Mahoney looked about that old when he was on Frasier, so he could be in his fifties, which seems more reasonable for Anson.

I'm asking because I was wondering this evening if it was bad that I enjoyed watching Michael whale on a guy who might be old enough to collect Social Security. Jere Burns, who plays Anson, is in his late fifties, but I don't know what age he's meant to be playing. Anyway, I decided I didn't care. If Anson's going to try and wreck people's lives like this, then he better expect people will whup him when they get the chance.

When Anson's puppet went after Madeline, I asked myself, "Doesn't she have a shotgun?" Sure enough, she used it to save Jesse's bacon. I will say, credit to that fellow for knocking politely on the door - twice! - before breaking it open. That was impressive restraint. Of course, I was yelling at Maddy to grab the shotgun and blast him while she knew he was standing right in front of the door. Not very sporting, but hell, it's a crazed ex-Army Ranger against an elderly women who chain smokes! I think she deserves a handicap.

Was I disappointed Anson escaped? Yes. But it's about the only thing I didn't enjoy about the episode. Fiona and Sam's determination, to protect Michael from himself, and from losing his chance at Anson, respectively. Pearce finally getting to chew Michael out a bit for his crap. The way things are sprawled all over the place so the team can't unite and form Burn Notice-tron. Madeline getting to show her stuff. I guess she unfortunately had a lot of practice evading large men out to hurt her from her marriage. At least she could shoot this one. And of course, Anson got beat up. I might pop this episode back in just to rewatch that sequence about 5 more times. Even with his escape, he's been bloodied. Literally. Michael finally went on the offensive, instead of doing what Anson wanted, then trying to reverse and minimize the damage. Now we'll see how much the help he already provided Anson will hinder finding him again.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

PIck A Target And Let Fly Barton

I've been trying to trace my dissatisfaction with Hawkeye recently. I know it's the writing, rather than the art (though I would certainly like it if Aja could draw all the issues, simply for consistency's sake).

I know some of it stems from a sense that Clint is the least competent character in his own book. Kate, Boobi, and Barney all had more success fighting the Bros than Clint has, as he largely ends up beaten into unconsciousness each time he mixes it up with them. I've tried reminding myself that he's usually fighting a lot more of them than any of the others had to deal with, which is helping a little bit. I still can't shake the feeling someone trained to fight by Captain America ought to do better against a bunch of third-rate thugs, but I guess we can argue unfavorable circumstances, especially for that time he fought with no clothes.

The larger issue is I'm frustrated with his moping around. This depressed air he has, where he can't decide what to do, so he sits around drinking coffee and sleeping in. I'm as disgusted with it as Kate, though I still wouldn't have stolen his dog over it. It's been going since at least #9, and probably the latter half of #8, after he got released from jail. Sure, some of it is residual irritation with his cheating on Jessica Drew, but I could accept Clint making bad decisions if he'd get off his butt and try something else. It's one of his defining characteristics, that he will screw up big, but get back up and try again. His ego or confidence might falter, but it never deflates entirely.

But he does need time, and he hasn't had it. Sure, it's August for us, and Clint was arrested back in February, but consider the timeline. He's arrested helping Cherry rob the nightclub in #8. In issue 9, we see his various lady friends got involved almost as soon as he left Avengers mansion with Cherry. So I figure Bobbi, Kate, and Jessica showed up on his doorstep the next day. At the end of the issue, Kate mentioned she had a party to attend that night, which is probably where #10 takes place. Grills gets shot at the end of #10, and that overlaps slightly with #11, which includes the funeral, and then Kate's departure for L.A. #11 also has Lucky mistake Barney for Clint the day after the murder. I think. The art suggests it was the following morning, but there's no guarantee Lucky's story is moving on a strict day-to-day basis. Then again. He saw Barney before the cops had even arrived, so my guess is yeah, Barney showed up the day after Grills died. Which means he and Clint got together some time before Kate left, which had to be at least a couple of days after the funeral.

While it's been about 7 months for us since Clint was arrested, it probably hasn't been more than 2 weeks for him, though I'm unclear on how long the police would hold a body in a murder case. I guess as long as Grills wasn't cremated he could be buried, and they could dig him up later if need be (pending court orders and such). From that perspective, I find it more understandable. I feel like he ought to be doing something - firing arrows compulsively, like he did when things fell apart for him in the Gruenwald-written Hawkeye mini-series - but I can see why he's still stuck in neutral.

In that mini-series, he was doing his job well, he thought everything was going along fine, and it turned out nothing around him was what it seemed. In this case, he screwed up, repeatedly, and he knows it. He rushed in, did things that put other people in danger without thinking about it, and now he has to live with the consequences. He has to act, but he isn't sure how to proceed without making things worse. Because he justifiably doesn't trust his judgement at the moment.

I'm still more than ready to the end of these Bros as a threat, but I've at least managed to talk myself into why it hasn't happened yet. Seriously though, Clint, any time now would be great.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Once Again, I Don't Understand What DC's Thinking

So let me see if I follow this. Next month is DC's Villains Month, when a lot of their lower selling titles will be shelved in favor of shipping multiple issues of the higher selling books, each issue focusing on a specific villain. Originally, these were all going to be 4 bucks, because they had a special 3-D cover, whoo. Which is why I passed on the two I was most interested in, the Dial E one and the Creeper one. Each of those looked to essentially be another issue of the two DC titles I was buying (Dial H and Katana), but I don't care about special covers, and I wasn't willing to shell out the extra buck.

So DC made a big deal that there would be limited numbers of these books, and no second printings or whatever. Now it turns out they underestimated demand, so they're going to ship a few with the 3-D covers, but many of the books stores receive may had 2-D covers, and be only 3 bucks. Which can suck for the stores, since they probably have customers who did care about the special covers that won't get it. Also, it might have been nice to know the cheaper option was available from the start. Like I said, the price made me pass on the two I had mild interest in, but if I could have gotten them for 3 dollars, instead of 4, I'd have done it. I don't know how common a refrain that is, though I've seen at least one other person online make similar statements. Maybe it wouldn't make a difference for the stores. Reading some of Brian Hibbs' work, I think a book has to sell over five copies before the retailer actually makes any sort of profit from it, so one extra copy of a book for me doesn't mean much to them. But I would have appreciated it.

I don't understand the thinking here. I thought I'd read that DC was prepared to take a bath on these special covers, and if so, why not print a lot of them to make certain they have enough? Does DC gain something from the speculator market? I mean, they're selling them at a specific price point regardless of what idiot offers his copy for 20 dollars online, correct? Limiting the amount of product they have to sell doesn't help them that much does it, since it precludes the chance they sell enough to overcome the added cost of the special covers (I assume it's the covers that were going to cost them, maybe it's not).

I'm not angry about the whole thing. Maybe a bit annoyed for the people who own or work at comic book stores that have to deal with this mess. But it doesn't affect me in any real way. It just seems such a strange way to go about things.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What I Bought 8/8/2013

Look at that, two books from last week! I was in town for various other reasons, and I stopped by to check with my comic guy, because I'd told him I needed the wrong July issue of Daredevil. Wanted to get that straightened out. Figured while I was there, I might as well get what came in.

Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #2, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Nick Filardi (colors), Jeff Powell (letters) - Dr. Dinosaur attempts to explain how he wound up as God King of a subterranean civilization. It involves crystals and a giant immortal magma worm. Robo suspects the lava men are instead remnants of an attempt in the '60s to revive the science city. But how does he explain that knocking the crystal off Dr. D's head made the lava men go inert? He doesn't, because he didn't see it, because he and the team were too busy escaping and trying to come up with a plan to recover the nukes from Dinosaur's Time Bomb. I guess we can excuse it. Meanwhile, Majestic-12 is about to assault Tesladyne Island, just as Jenkins and the others realize the point of the smear campaign against Robo.

My assumptions after the first issue that something might be up with Robo himself were obviously way off. Now it's a question of whether Majestic is using Dr. Dinosaur or vice versa. Dr. D seems to have the other missing nukes (minus the one that arrived on Robo's doorstep), which I can't see Majestic simply handing to him. But they were certainly prepared to take advantage of the opportunity that one nuke provided, so I don't know. I could see them having created Dr. Dinosaur as some long-term strategy to distract and torment Robo.

I love the color scheme. Every part has its own background color. The underground section have pink, the climbers a bronzed orange, Tesladyne is a silvery grey, which makes sense with the seemingly fluorescent lighting. You'd think Robo might use more friendly lighting to put employees at ease. I understand relying solely on natural light is out, because some of those experiments can't take place in rooms with windows, but still. Where was I? Right,the colors. Each has a different mood. Tesladyne is stark and grim, very sterile. The pink is soft, not what you might expect, but the oddness of it works with the oddball villain in question, and it has an otherwordly quality to it, also appropriate.

Dial H #15, by China Mieville and Alberto Ponticelli, Dan Green (inker), Tanya & Richard Horie (colorists), Taylor Esposito (letterer) - Nelson stuck sitting in a world of madness. Or, Nelson struggling with all those identities he's dialed that are fighting it out with the Centipede.

What remains of the Dial Bunch has reached the Exchange, where they find Centipede and the Fixer waiting and working together. And both of them are working with O himself, as he works to perfect his Doom Dial. Turns out there were two wars in the Exchange. One between those who lived there and devised dials against the realities whose powers they (mostly) borrowed. The other between O and his brethren, who refused to condone his use of an Apocalypse Dial. He wasn't exiled so much as blown across time and space, along with all those dials the Bunch have been using, which are really discarded junk. The Fixer was one sent to remove those dangerous dials, and had no idea his home fell to the outside attackers while he was away. O wasn't working to bring the knowledge of dials to others to spite those who exiled him. he was just using their resources to try and cobble together a J-Dial so he could get home. Now he's there, and ready to finish his revenge on those who destroyed his home.

It's interesting that both of today's books involve a time bomb. As in, a bomb that would destroy time, or erase it. That's what O was going to use as a last ditch when his brothers drove him away from his early D-Dial.

Nelson convinces the Fixer to switch sides again, but O's the real master of the dials, and his abilities combined with Centipede and his new (I"m guessing) E-Dial are quite the challenge. But for all that O scorns the junk dials, working with them has taught Roxie a few things, and she fixes up one for Nelson with crossed dials, so he gets Amalgam-style heroes that O can't shut off. Which isn't enough to stop the Operator on his own, but it keeps him occupied long enough to do something similar to the Exchange, defeating O, and sending the Centipede and his dial somewhere, and leaving what's left of the Dial Bunch to decide what to do next.

Nice touch making the two armies that stormed the Exchange the Material Protection Alterity Army, and the Rapid Interreality Assault Alliance. The MPAA and the RIAA, two groups determined not to have their stuff stolen by a bunch of people tapping into their worlds (without permission) via wires that connect everything. I don't quite understand the real world version of harmless copying versus actual theft, though. I'm also not clear on how Bumper Carla's powers were stolen by the primitive dial if it happened before the war, which the flashback suggests is the case. Unless when O and the junks dials were blown across time and space, they landed in the past, bringing about the thefts that so terrified the donor realities to begin with. Which means the war in essence created itself?

I'm going to move on before I get a time travel headache. You can tell Ponticelli was rushed, but he drew 38 pages for this issue so, I'll cut him slack. Some of the faces are rushed, and sketchy looking, but I like the mash-ups of heroes, and I love how draws the Exchange. This towering, crumbling edifice, with frayed or broken wires sticking out, sparking all manner of things. It just looks neat, the sort of place I'd look to stumble across one day, recognizing I'd have no idea what to do with it when I found it.

I hate that this book is ending, but this is a pretty good one. I can always hope DC will give Mieville a chance to go forward with it later, since I highly doubt that Villains Month issue is going to wrap up everything. It's too bad, he'd built up so much, there were so many more things he didn't have a chance to fully explore. Nelson and Roxie's relationship kind of got shelved the last few months, because there was just too much to cover in too little time.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What I Bought 8/3/2013 - Part 5

Like I said, posting's going to be sporadic. Hopefully things will be back to normal by next week. I'm missing a couple of books the store was shorted on for July. So this is the end of the July stuff for now. I do have two books from last week to discuss tomorrow.

Avengers Arena #12, by Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Jason Gorder (inker, pages 7-12, 17-20), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Nico isn't dead after all! She's just amped up on magic and out for blood! And Katy - even with Deathlocked, Chasehawk, and what's left of Juston's Sentinel - is out-classed. Oh, it's a close run thing, but it confirms a suspicion I had for awhile. Namely, that Katy would have difficulty controlling multiple weapons simultaneously in a situation requiring coordination and quick adjustments. If all that's needed is for them to burn down a forest, fine. Reacting spontaneously to a seriously brassed off opponent hurling a variety of offensive magic was another matter.

The Sentinel's trashed, Deathlocket loses her disproportionately large cannon arm, and she and Katy wind up swallowed by the earth. Which puts them in Arcade's base, though he doesn't know it, and Deathlocket found that he's collecting all the dead kids. Plus an unconscious Chris Powell, which doesn't make sense and is disappointing. The former because locking him up takes him out of the game, the latter because I wanted to see what Chris - as the most experienced of the bunch - could manage minus powers.

Kev Walker's back on the art chores, and he inked half his pages. I prefer his inks to Gorder's, because Walker uses a stronger line, which gives the faces more definition. Makes things a little starker, the shadows much deeper, which seems appropriate for this pretty fierce battle. I also like how he lays out the bottom half of page 15. It's four panels, and the two on the end are of the major combatants: The first is Nico looking fierce confident, leaning forward just slightly with the suggested aggression. The fourth is Katy, slumped, bloodied, torn shirt, finally decisively beaten. And in between are the two smaller, more critical panels. First, the Staff of One flying away from Katy, then it reaching Nico's hand as commanded. It's important to show that Katy misjudged the situation, thought having the Staff meant she had the weapon, and the realization that she was wrong, that Nico has the power, and Katy has nothing left to defend herself with.

I've mentioned this before, but I really like the purple Beaulieu uses for Nico's powers. It's a pretty purple most of the time, meaning it's a shade I find aesthetically pleasing. But combined with Walker's shading, it can be extremely effective for that otherworldly, somewhat horror effect. See page 16, when the Earth opens up and reaches out for Katy.

Daredevil #29, by Mark Waid (writer), Javier Rodriguez (penciler & colorist), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - It's nice to know even successful superheroes like Daredevil hate having to listen to noisy children as much as I do. That completely helps me identify with him in a way I didn't before. I'm half-joking.

OK, I don't have #28 yet, but as I understand, Matt's helping a childhood acquaintance defend himself in court. Except this acquaintance known something the racist Sons of the Serpent want kept quiet, and they are all over the place in the judicial infrastructure. Which means the judge can shoot the man and expect he'll get away with it, because everyone else in the courtroom except Matt is a fellow member. Which putts Matt in a situation of trying to protect his client, plus any other innocent people (including one poor paramedic tagged as the fall guy), while also trying to figure out how to stop these guys from escaping scot free, in a situation where he can't be sure who is what they appear to be.

I feel like coming in halfway blunted the impact of the story for me. I like watching Matt try to protect people when he can't figure out who to protect them from. Especially when some of the cops aren't bad guys, just guys who got bad information and are reacting to it. One of their fellow officers tells them that paramedic is the shooter, they trust him. I'm sure it's not a coincidence the paramedic was black, both because we're dealing with an openly racist organization in the comic, and given the recent look into the NYPD's highly questionable practices when it comes to who they decide to "randomly" stop and search. I'm also curious if Matt trying to ferret out this corruption in the legal system will be the backdrop conflict for Waid and Samnee's next big arc (like how Bullseye's repeated attacks were for the first 2 years). That could be interesting, since it's a different sort of challenge, one that's personal in a different way. So even when it isn't an issue I love, it's still an issue I strongly like.

And let's talk about that art. It doesn't happen throughout, but there are a lot of times where Rodriguez draws Matt in such a way that his eyes are covered. I don't know if that's a coincidence, or a deliberate choice because it's Daredevil, so why not cover his eyes. The panel where he's preparing to jump kick the cop from behind, his arm is across his face, for example. I don't know, just something I noticed. Also, Rodriguez' Daredevil seems a little taller and thinner than Samnee's, but they still look similar enough that it maintains the look of the book, though Rodriguez favors a brighter array of colors. The first page has that panel of Matt kicking the bailiff with an extremely bright blue background. It's quite the attention getter. There's also the page of DD leaping down the stairwell, with the three long vertical panel charting his progress. Especially the last one, him diving straight down, the bullets whizzing past on all side. I always like those kinds of images.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Burn Notice 5.18 - Fail Safe

Plot: Michael has finally had it with Anson, and all it took was Vaughn telling him Anson's starting his spy-burning up again. He goes to confront Anson at his day job, with Fi holding a sniper rifle across the street. Finally. I've only been encouraging them to shoot Anson for six weeks.

Except Mike doesn't go for. Anson dangles the carrot of Fiona being free in front of him, throws in some stuff about how burning Michael gave him a life, and Mike falls for it. Like a dipshit. He even shields Anson with his own body so Fi can't opt to shoot him herself. You know, given that it's Fi's life in the balance her, I think she ought to get a little more say in it.

Predictably, Fi is pissed, and Mike is busy trying to explain it away. There's a lot yelling, but Sam has found a warehouse in Tampa Anson purchased that was previously a storage site for weapons. He and Fi go to check it out, while Mike goes to meet with Pearce. Interestingly, Pearce doesn't even broach the topic of the organization that burned Michael still being active. One toothless pit bull right there. Good news for Mike, though. He's being placed in charge of an op, to capture a spy recruiter named Reed (played by Eric Roberts). The CIA even provided a team for him, aw how sweet. I'm not sure how that jibes with their desire to have distance in case it goes wrong (thus letting a supposedly still burned spy run it). The attempt to wreck Reed's SUV and haul him out on the way to the hotel goes awry thanks to a minivan abruptly pulling out. Which proves my theory that minivans and those who drive them are evil.

OK, the first plan failed (as usual). New plan: Have Jesse pose as out or work and disgruntled former spy for Reed to approach. Bug plane they'll be on, capture Reed since he won't have any security with him. Easy-peasy. Problem: Anson wants a new team, and he tells Michael to plant evidence on Pearce's computer that makes it look like the op was botched because she and the others were on the take. While all that's unfolding, Sam and Fi's hopes are dashed. Oh, the warehouse had a ton of stuff in, including the Sam T4 Anson used to frame Fi, and even a guy there Anson had terrified into playing security guard. But Anson had everything tagged, so once they started hauling stuff out, it triggered a self-destruct. So they've got nothing, which leads to Anson being predictably smug, which would also be the perfect time to break his neck, but Michael refuses again.

Yep, he's willing to burn the whole team to save Fi, under the amorphous belief he will somehow "fix" it all later. Sure. It only took him 4+ seasons to get back in officially with the Agency, even though he's still listed as a burned spy, and I guess he fixed things for Jesse, but it sure took awhile, and nearly killed him multiple times. Fi is incensed, and when it becomes apparent that Mike's last hope - that Sam's cop buddies might be able to find something in the warehouse remains - is fruitless, Fiona opts to turn herself in. Mike ditches the op to shackle her in their loft, but Fi hoodwinks Sam and escapes while Mike's occupied trying to save his op. Turns out one of his team also works for Anson, and while Mike keeps her from blowing Reed and Jesse up, her abrupt flight kind of throws things into disarray. Mike pulls it out narrowly, but can't keep Fi from turning herself in. And Anson escaped somewhere with Rebecca so he's still out there somewhere.

The Players: Anson (The Man Who Ruined Michael's Life), Reed (Spy Recruiter), Jake (Anson's "Caretaker")

Quote of the Episode: Fiona - 'That is just wishful thinking! You are delaying the inevitable! There is no happy ending!'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 3 (26 overall). Serious decline in Sam's rate of consumption this season.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 1 (8 overall). We don't see it, but he told us Fiona clocked him over the head with a bottle.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (11 overall). Not a lot to laugh about here.

Other: How did Anson know Fiona would also use T4, so that he did the same in his embassy bomb?

Michael claims Anson wins if Fiona shoots him. Explain to me how Anson - who went to all the trouble of framing her so he could get his records wiped from the CIA database, who got all his money back so he can restart his organization - wins if he's dead. Then all that work was for nothing, seeing as he's apparently the only one left to carry on the work. Mike might not win if Fiona goes to prison, but that doesn't mean Anson wins by default. Sometimes, nobody wins.

Maybe it's standard practice, but the fed who met Fiona seemed unnecessarily aggressive towards someone who was surrendering herself. I mean, whipping out the gun and screaming "Hands on your head! Get Down! Now!" while a dozen dudes with automatic weapons surround her? I know, she's confessing to an embassy bombing, but it still seems excessive. Especially when you consider he didn't demand she hand over the purse. After all, might be a bomb in there, right?

You notice that Michael's bosses are frequently women, and he frequently ignores them? He didn't really have one in Season 1, then there was Carla, Management was theoretically the one in Season 3, but he was hardly around. Vaughn was around, and Mike went behind his back as much as Carla, but Vaughn was also trying to play friendly, rather than authoritative, so he didn't come off as heavy-handed as Carla. This year there's Anson, but also Pearce, and only one of them is consistently outsmarting Michael, while the other can't seem to rein him in at all. I guess there's Madeline throughout, but let's face it, no matter how often she proves she can hang in this espionage world, Michael still never trusts her. Given his family life, I might have expected him to buck against male authority figures more than female, but maybe Maddy didn't give him a lot of reason to trust women in charge?

There may be nothing there, it's just I thought Pearce had a lot of potential, and it's been squandered. I thought she could be a Brennan that worked with Michael. So she would respect his ability, but not be hoodwinked by his charm or bullshit, not let him get away with stuff because of his special snowflake status. So when Mike admits he lied about the organization being finished, she doesn't accept, "I can't tell you more because you'll be in danger." She throws his ass in a cell until he tells everything, and then maybe, she helps. Because lets be honest, Mike has pulled a lot of questionable shit for Anson by the time he admitted any of it to Pearce last week. Most of the people around him are too fond of him to really put the screws to him about his secretive stuff. It wouldn't have to be all the time, and she could be wrong occasionally, but she'd also need to be right sometimes, just to show Michael does overreach or take stupid chances. Part of the problem is they've portrayed Michael as someone who doesn't really need Pearce, so her attempts to exert her authority over him fall flat. It's the same problem I see when I watch NCIS, where disciplining Gibbs doesn't work (even when he's wrong) because he's written as not giving a damn, and the boss always seems to need Gibbs more than vice versa. House had a similar problem. It's some argument that the exceptional among us are not (or should not) be subject to the same rules as the rest, which is a troubling argument considering where it can lead (see Hitchcock's Rope).

Bit of a mixed season. I thought it scuffled along until Max was killed, which is too bad. I liked Max, it didn't matter if Mike kept him the dark because they were coworkers, not boss and employee. But that plot gave the season a kick in the pants, and I thought the clients improved around then. Starting with 5.6 (the return of Carmelo), I enjoyed quite a few of those. I thought Pearce had potential, and hey, Larry came back! Fi and Mike's relationship progressed, only to be blown apart by outside forces, instead of Michael's emotional distance. Actually, the reversal of their positions was one of the things I liked about the whole bit with Anson (maybe the only thing). That Fi, who usually reacts emotionally, was being pragmatic, recognizing that the longer Michael helped Anson, the worse it was going to be. Michael, who normally doesn't want to get involved with clients because he thinks it's an impractical challenge or whatever, is the one insisting on stringing it out, because he's sure he can find that loophole. He's the one unwilling to make the tough choice for once. Which suggests they rub off on each other, but that Michael tries so hard to remain emotionally detached that once that fails, he gets too attached, to the extent it overrides all reason.

If only they could have run a similar story with Management. I liked him. He was a tough old bird, but he never pretended to be otherwise. Anson has this whole "it's not my fault what happened" line that just irritates the hell out of me, as you have no doubt noticed. He's a HUGE minus for the last third of the season.

So Fiona's going to prison, Mike kept Pearce and the rest from being burned, but Anson's still on the loose. Swell. This is the most depressing season finale yet.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

What I Bought 8/3/2013 - Part 4

Worst part about sporadic Internet access is trying to catch up when I do have access. You people post too damn often.

Angel & Faith #24, by Christos Gage (writer), Rebekah Isaacs (artist), Dan Jackson (colorist), Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt (letterers) - So the magic orb didn't burst at the end of last issue. Its magic is so potent, it alters people merely by being in proximity to it, unless they're protected by runes, like our heroes. So there's a scrum for, which presents characters with the opportunity to confront quandaries in their lives. Giles and Alasdir muse on their current status as very young and very old, dithering about long enough for Nash to take back the orb. Sophie and Lavinia opt out of the fight, and decide to help the affected regain control. It's a little self-serving (since they don't risk harm), but it's also an excellent recognition of where their expertise lies, and shows a willingness to do so. Pearl & Nash are ecstatic that the moment their mother dreamed of is at hand, until Nadira claws herself up to continue her quest for vengeance and stabs Nash. It doesn't kill him, but it presents Faith with an opening, so that's one baddie down.

Meanwhile, Angel's trying to convince Whistler his plan is wrong, by pointing out all the innocents who will suffer for it. It doesn't quite work, because Whistler has already calculated the losses, and justified them to himself. This doesn't present a lovely scene where Angel tries to play the sanctimonious badass (and Isaacs gives him the cool guy slouch, complete with hands stuffed into coat pockets), only to have Whistler throttle him and throw him through a wall, pointing out he was in Hiroshima, so he knows suffering in the name of greater good. Angel's look of surprise when Whistler grabs him was classic. Not the silver-tongued devil he thought he was.

One thing the Buffy TV shows always disappointed me about was their portrayal of werewolves. Oz looked like some giant diseased rat, rather than a sleek killing monster. Fortunately, Isaacs draws a very nice lycan, pretty much how I always picture them. And that poor fellow who was merging with his guitar? That was creepy. The strings were growing through out through his face like giant hairs. Yeesh.

Captain Marvel #14, by Kelly Sue Deconnick (writer), Scott Hepburn (artist), Gerardo Sandoval (artist, pgs. 2, 12, 13, 18), Andy Troy (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Quinones does a good job mimicking other artist on that cover. His Carol has a bit more prominent cheeks than Cockrum's (I think) did in the original image the upper right was referencing, but it's a good likeness. I do wish they'd use some image's from later in her career. Maybe Binary, or her time as Warbird, something from her Avengers stint.

Yon-Rogg's using Carol (or the lesion in her brain) to power his matter creation abilities. His goal is to make a new Kree-Lar and set it on top of NYC. He still has sufficient power to create plenty of Kree war machines to keep the Avengers busy. And Carol's not doing too hot. I'm not sure if that's because Rogg is stealing her energy, or if she's just too messed up from the lesion. Her weakened state means she must listen to his villainous diatribe. You know, he is great, she is terrible, this is payback for how she wronged him in the past, blah, blah. Maybe it was hearing all that blather, but Carol gets her dander up, and takes to the sky. Which causes a brain hemorrhage, which means no more lesion, so no more power for Rogg. The day is saved, but it leaves Carol floating unconscious in the upper atmosphere. The Avengers might want to do something about that.

I've been thinking of Hepburn's art as kind of a mix of Andrade's and Matteo Scalera. He doesn't have Andrade's skill at panel composition, at least with fight scenes, but is a lot better at consistent faces, and he doesn't have the same exaggerated anatomy Scalera was prone to. Unfortunately, he does make Hawkeye's lousy current costume look worse by drawing the sunglasses as goggles. I understand the shades would be impractical, but the elastic band under and over the ear looks dorky. Probably something to avoid if you're going to waste our time with realistic costumes.

As for the story itself, it's a mixed bag. I didn't care much about Rogg as a threat, and the whole story felt like it could have been handled in an issue, rather than five. I didn't buy any of the Avengers Assemble parts, but I don't feel I missed much. So that's bad. The good is I'm curious to see what DeConnick does with a Carol minus her memories. Will she have some innate sense of who she is as a person anyway? Will her behavior alter as she learns things about herself? What if those things clash with who she thinks she is as a person? Will she reject that story, and possibly the person who presents it?  Say she decides Frank Gianelli is really annoying, and someone says they're actually good friends? Would she accept that and hang out with him, expecting those feelings to reemerge? Or would she decide it was a load of bull, and cut off contact with him? I hope I don't have to wait two months for the end of the Infinity tie-in to see how it plays out.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

What I Bought 8/3/2013 - Part 3

Beyond the fact the library here is only open twice a week when I could actually get here, the primary problem to me posting more often is the chance the librarian brings her hyper, noisy kid to work. Every two minutes, he starts bawling "mama", and I just want to shoot him out of a cannon. Children are awful.

Hawkeye Annual #1, by Matt Fraction (writer), Javier Pulido (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - That is kind of an odd dress Kate's sporting. I can't really figure a checkerboard pattern on a form-fitting dress. Eh, it's Kate's world.

Which is why she headed to L.A., to get away from Clint's moping and her father's mid-life crisis. This means she's on her own when Madame Masque decides to take revenge for that little incident in Madripoor. She swipes Kate's stuff, and her car, and get her credit card cut up. Which leaves Kate broke and possession less, thousands of miles from her friends. Then masque presents herself as a concerned stranger (having removed the mask), but Kate sees through it due to a comment about cigarettes, and ultimately eludes Masque's trap. Of course, she's still stuck in Cali, broke and alone (except for Lucky), cat-sitting for two old ladies.

I thought Masque was more reluctant to let someone see her face than that. But all I have to go off is that Avengers/Thunderbolts crossover where she helped them stop Count Nefaria, which presented her as massively paranoid, to the point she made copies of her memories every night. Which did neatly thwart Stark's attempt to wipe his secret identity from everyone's mind. I'm pretty much always in favor of thwarting Stark's totalitarian tendencies. Anyway, it's a nice story, and the little internal monologues - with simplified Kate image - are amusing.

Pulido's art is the sticking point here. Probably two-thirds to three-quarters of the people drawn in this book are strictly black outlines. Pulido actually draws people - with clothes and facial features - in about 2 panels per page. The comic averages 6 panels per page. I can't discern a pattern. Sometimes the ones he draws are consecutive panels, sometimes it's the first and last, or third and fifth. Sometimes he draws Kate, but no one else. Sometimes everyone is an outline. Sometimes he draws Kate along with her little thought boxes, sometimes not. It's like he figured as long as he shows you the details once, that's good enough. You really don't need to see them again. It feels like it was done deliberately, but I can't figure the meaning. It doesn't solely happen to Kate when she's confused or doubting herself (where it might indicate her feeling lost). And it doesn't only happen to other people when she's caught up in her own thoughts (where it could indicate self-absorption). Which makes it feel like Pulido was trying to save time, which is too bad, because I normally dig his stuff. There's one panel of Masque at the head of a group of henchmen dragging Kate to her pain room. The body language he gives her beautifully conveys the frustration and impatience she's feeling. She's in the middle of throwing her arms in the air in disgust with their incompetence and it's perfect. Too bad there isn't more of that.

X-Men #3, by Brian Wood (writer), Oliver Coipel (penciler, inker), Mark Morales (inker), Laura Martin (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Psylocke never seemed like a spear aficionado to me, but she certainly carries it well. I think. Going to take a while to swing it from that position, I suppose, but they'll be too busy dodging the old psychic knife.

Arkea has traveled back to Budapest, where she first landed. There's a hospital full of people with cybernetic implants there she can control, plus she may have left some pieces of herself behind in the landing. The X-Men pursue, the X-Men fight the controlled patients, and Psylocke has a chance to take Arkea out, but hesitates, since that's an ally's body she's using. One wonders whether she'd hesitate if it was someone she didn't know. There's some disagreement about what to do, then Karima reasserts control and throws herself on the psychic knife, apparently killing Arkea and possibly lobotomizing herself in the process. Back at the Mansion, Kitty and some of the students have to deal with the remnants of Arkea wreaking havoc with the environmental systems and using the Danger Room to create lesser forms of Karima to attack. Kitty ultimately shorts out all the servers. And thus, the day is saved.

I can't tell you who inked what pages, but I think you can definitely tell the difference between Coipel and Morales' inks. One of them seems to give the work a much smoother line, which also makes everyone look a lot younger. Rogue looks to be roughly Kitty's age on the last page, which isn't the case when she's loading Karima's body in the car on the page before that. Coipel's good at expressions, as usual, but the fight scenes feel perfunctory, though maybe that was at Wood's direction. "Here's a panel of someone making an action pose. Maybe there's an explosion or bodies flying as well." There's no flow between panels, and little sense of real movement or impact within panels. But I've seen that before from Coipel's art, and like I said, the fight felt tacked on, so I'm not sure it was supposed to be impressive. I really doubt this was the end of their problems with Arkea, precisely because things ended so easily.

Of course, I'm jumping at shadows right now with this book. Everything seems suspicious. Karima reasserting control just long enough to stop Arkea. The device Pixie teleported into the upper atmosphere that didn't appear to be a bomb is suspicious (a transmitter? a storage device?). The whole battle at the Mansion seemed easy. If Arkea had studied all their files, wouldn't it know that fiddling with the environmental controls wouldn't do squat to Bling? Is it significant that Bling says she punched the excess Karima's into pixels, but Hellion comments their ordinance didn't feel like pixels? Is she supposed to be lying? Should I be concerned she's currying favor with Kitty, or is that strictly what she framed it as, a way to get someone on the faculty to have her back when it comes time for punishment over that fight in the first issue? Maybe the Hellion comment was meant to be funny. I don't know, I can't seem to tag the tone of this book yet. And with a big Event Tie-In looming for the fall, it may not get any easier.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

What I Bought 8/3/2013 - Part 2

Let's talk comics set in the Forties, and another one starring a guy from the Forties.

Captain America #9, by Rick Remender (writer), John Romita Jr. (breakdowns), Klaus Janson w/Scott Hanna and Tom Palmer (finishes), Dean White (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Sharon Carter, having caught up to Cap, insists he hasn't been gone for ten years. Also, she wired Zola's floating city to explode. Cap pulls it together, determined that even if he couldn't save Ian, he'll save Jet, who is fighting her father on behalf of the Phrox. "Saving" her translates to hitting Zola a lot, who says he doesn't care what happened to Ian. He does however, still care for Jet, and as his city moves back into Earth's dimension, he asks her to kill him. She says she can't, because she loves him, so he pushes her out of the way before the mutates drop a rock on her. So it lands on him instead.

So much for Omni-Senses. It's funny, usually it's other writers who come along and nerf the really powerful new character, but Remender beat them to the punch. It's nice for Zola to save Jet, to show he does care for her, in his own way. It bothers me that all Cap did was hit Zola, though. He didn't shield or protect anyone, he just hit someone. Which doesn't really refute the statements Ian made about Cap's alleged hypocrisy last issue.

It's a 3-man team on the finishes, and some parts look distinctly less finished than others. Jet's nose changed shape - actually almost vanished - between panels 2 and 3 on page 18. The shape of her face shifted considerably between panels 4 and 5 of page 17. When the panel consists of a close-up on one character, or it's a full-page splash, it can look pretty good. But most of the panels lack detail, shading, and sense of depth. On a positive note, Steve's shield didn't change size. In earlier issues, it had gone from it's usually manhole size, down to a standard dinner plate. Sometimes it covered everything from his hand to beyond the elbow, and others it didn't cover his forearm. More consistency is appreciated.

Rocketeer & Spirit: Pulp Friction #1, by Mark Waid (writer), Paul Smith (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Tom B. Long (letterer) - Oh Betty, that masked man's no good for you. Then again, the same could be said of Cliff.

An alderman in Central City protests allowing businesses to control TV. He turns up in L.A. dead the next morning, discovered by Betty. This is apparently a geographic impossibility, which is how the Spirit, Commissioner Dolan, and his daughter Ellen wind up on a flight to L.A. At the airfield, Peevy overhears their plans, and is understandably worried that a masked guy wants to ask Betty about a murder. Cliff zooms in, and gets in a mid-air tussle with the Spirit, while Peevy realizes the Commish is an old war buddy. Fighting ceases, Ellen flirts a little with Cliff, they all go to visit Betty, who deliberately falls into the Spirit's arm, much to Ellen and Cliff's consternation.

I wasn't happy with how Waid portrayed Betty in Cargo of Doom, so I'm gonna be watching this whole thing with the Spirit. I wondered what Waid would do about Ebony White, and his response was to leave him behind in Central City. I think he gave the reader enough info about the Spirit to understand what's happening. Unless I was supposed to recognize Trask. I think Smith draws hands too small. Especially in the panel where the Spirit leaps onto the Rocketeer, Cliff's right hand looks tiny. Maybe it's just the angle.

Smith does some excellent faces, though. The last panel, where everyone else reacts to Betty's tumble, is a good example. Cliff and Dolan are stunned, Ellen's furious, Peevy's amused. The page in general is laid out well. It follows that "Z" pattern the typical comic reader follows on the page, but he does smartly. Betty's faint in the first panel pitches her forward into the center of the page, where she lands in Denny Colt's arms. From there, her legs guide the eye down to the close-up on the two of them, and the direction of the Spirit's gaze takes us to betty's face, and then on to that last panel. Also - and part of this is Bellaire's colors - I love how well they depict snow. Just a little bit of black and it's the perfect suggestion of a footprint.

Monday, August 05, 2013

What I Bought 8/3/2013 - Part 1

Did some checking and Internet access is going to be limited, and thus posting will be, hopefully spotty as opposed to nonexistent. Which is why I'm typing this one up ahead of time while I have the chance.

Dial H #14, by China Mieville (writer) Alberto Ponticelli (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Tanya and Richard Horie (colorists), Taylor Esposito (letterer) - Bolland needs to stop drawing things that look so creepy, or I'm going to start getting nightmares.

As it turns out, Roxie and Bansa can't fix the jump-dial they found on the graffiti world, so the team is stuck trying to find the same weak spots in dimensions to travel through they were using before. This is taking its toll. The team is losing members, as Ejad the robot is killed, and Yabba, Unbled, and Nem get separated from the rest. It's worse than that even, because all the worlds they visit now recognize dials and aren't happy to see them. They remember the war for the Exchange, and so does someone else: O. He's gotten his hands on one heck of a dial, one that can call down apocalypses, and he's turning it against all the dimensions he despises. Fortunately, the last world the Dial Bunch reaches has someone who knows how to fix the J-Dial, and is willing to give it back to them, after they help fend off a zombie infestation. Which brings the 4 heroes to the Exchange, where they find destruction. . . and the Centipede.

My perception of the history here keeps changing. I thought the war in the Exchange was between rival factions of those who lived there, but it seems more likely it was between the residents of the Exchange, and the people of all the dimensions that were having their powers dialed away and were sick of it. I had thought O was running from the Exchange for giving dials to "lesser" beings, Prometheus trying to evade the gods' wrath. But he seems to be angry not at the Exchange, but everyone else. I'm guessing it was his handing out dials that clued those people in to the existence of the Exchange, explained the death of some of their heroes, and that's what triggered the war. I'm not sure. You can feel Mieville having to speed things up to beat the cancellation clock. I doubt the Dial Bunch was supposed to lose half its members in one issue, especially since we'd still only gotten to know a couple of them. It's still an entertaining story, but I'm frustrated thinking how much better it would be if Mieville and Ponticelli had the time to build it up properly

Ponticelli draws the frog people as simply frogs wearing clothes, rather than the hybrid human-frogs Bolland went with. Fine with me, Ponticelli's version is much less freaky looking. The heroes are still suitably strange looking. A moving pipe cleaner? I don't understand SuperOmi, Queen of Soho, though.

I don't know how the finale is going to play out, though I'm hoping my schedule will give me the chance to find out this week.

Hawkeye #12, by Matt Fraction (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer) - You figure it's significant that Hawkeye isn't positioned over the dead center of the bullseye in the background?

I was only vaguely aware Clint even had a brother, had no idea he tried to play at being Hawkeye, or that Clint stole his money. At any rate, Barney Barton's in town to look up his brother. He makes an appointment to meet with Clint, and when that falls through, tries to bum some change from the bros watching the apartment building. They agree to pay him 5 bucks if they can punch him in the face, then welch on the bet. This makes Barney the guy Lucky tried rescuing from a beating the previous issue because he thought it was Clint. The bros return in force later with a roll of bills in exchange for five minutes of Barney playing punching bag. They try to welch again, Barney beats them up and claims his money. He confirms Clint was too vague in when they were supposed to meet, but they do meet up at the end of the issue. Barney even uses a line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Oh, and there are some flashbacks to his and Clint's family life growing up.

I really like the color work Francavilla does. There's always a sort of pattern to the page. Take page 4, 9 panel grid. The top row and the center column are all reds, oranges and blacks. Forms a nice "T" of stupid bros and violence, and the red is more intense in the panels with actual punching. It gets deeper the farther down the page you go. The other panels are mostly yellow backgrounds and a grey violet color for Barney, except for the last panel, where Lucky comes in and the background flips to a light blue.

There's the fight between Clint and on pages 7 and 8, where Clint and Barney are in yellows while they're goofing around, and in the final panel of page 7, everything is yellow, except their booze guzzling, about to explode father, who's in red (and whose face is completely in shadow, in contrast to everyone else). On the next page, pops starts in yellow, then shifts to red as his anger begins to spill out, and Clint shifts to red to match. His mother is still in yellow, except for the red on the napkin she's dabbing at her bloody nose with.

That's followed up with Barney teaching Clint how to punch later than night. That whole sequence is in deep blues and blacks, and as the story shifts back to the present (where Barney sleeps in an alley as the bros doth approach), the blue persists around him, even as the yellow of the present (a more pure yellow, less orange than in the flashbacks) intrudes on the scene. The blue stays on Barney even after the bros start hitting him and the background shifts to pure red. Like he's stuck in the past, remembering Clint taking on their dad or something.