Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yotsuba! Volume 12

I don't read a lot of manga, and most of what I do read is several years old. The exception is Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba!, the new volume of which was released here in the U.S. less than two weeks ago. The story is about a small child, named Yotsuba, who lives with her father and spends most of her time exploring the world around her. I've seen it compared to Calvin & Hobbes, which is not a bad comparison, but not entirely the same. They both have that ability to see how odd some things are that we take for granted. Calvin was in some ways wise beyond his years, certainly more cynical than Yotsuba, but possessed of a vast imagination that made for some fun adventures. The reader was sort of tagged along inside Calvin's head, so that when he saw his parents or teacher as a hideous alien, threatening the valiant Spaceman Spiff, we saw it the same way.

With Yotsuba, we're firmly outside her mind. Azuma will draw things so we see them from her perspective, but in the literal sense of us looking up at them as she would. Which can make them seem giant and/or intimidating, but if shes's picturing them as something else entirely, we don't know it. Yotsuba seems more surprised by everyday things than Calvin, so a lot of the humor is from her excited or exaggerated reactions to events we'd barely notice, and the reactions of everyone else to Yotsuba.

In Volume 12, she learns how to tie knots, the dangers of playing with paint without permission, goes trick-or-treating*, and the last half of the volume is a camping trip with some of her friends, and some her dad's friends. It's less about what Yotsuba's up to specifically, and more about how she interacts with everyone. Her varying responses to people noticing her hands are blue, her continued animosity towards her dad's friend Yanda, her brief attention span. There's a gag where she sees a flying squirrel on TV, and rushes in to tell her dad about it. Before she can, she notices he's cooking dinner, and gets distracted with that. So the story goes through dinnertime, Yotsuba fooling around with her new bike helmet, and then bedtime. It's only as she's falling asleep that she remembers to mention the flying squirrels to her dad, which leaves him completely befuddled as to what she's talking about. I don't know if that's an accurate representation of a kid or not - I can't remember if I was that easily distracted at that age - but it feels right. And it's funny, which is the important part.

There's also the variety of ways the supporting cast respond to Yotsuba. Her dad and his friend Jumbo mostly humor her - they're like big kids themselves sometimes - but can't resist messing with her. Fuuka tries to play the wise, cool older friend, but it rarely works. Yanda antagonizes Yotsuba, because it's fun (this is how I'd like to act around small kids). Torako doesn't know how to behave around her, and so she's awkward and mostly quiet (this is how I actually am around small kids).

What really makes the book, though, is Azuma's art. He has this wonderful knack for expressions and body language. Especially Yotsuba's expressions. I cracked up at least a dozen times just from faces he gave the characters. And he's very good at pacing the gag. Those faces often get their own, largely silent panel. Not a large one, but it's set up so that a) that face is the focus of the panel, and b) the eye is naturally carried along right to it. So I don't find myself breezing past without noticing.

* Apparently Halloween isn't a widely practiced holiday in Japan. Which sort of makes sense, given its origins. I assumed a holiday that encouraged kids to dress up for candy would find its way. Because kids like candy, and because adults love dressing kids up in silly outfits and taking pictures.

Friday, November 29, 2013

I'd Have Been Better Off Shopping

Clever Adolescent Panda: I don't understand why we couldn't come for Thanksgiving yesterday.

UnCalvin: Because he doesn't want us around his family, obviously.

Future Deadpool: *lifts face out of the bowl of mashed potatoes* We do blow things up a lot. *notices everyone staring at him, looks at bowl of potatoes* That was rude of me. I should have put some on my plate instead.

UnCalvin: Quite. Now hand me the cranberries, please.

Clever Adolescent Panda: You aren't going to use them as explosives, are you?

UnCalvin: *snidely* I don't know, are you and your silent partner there going to destroy my business and push me to the brink of financial ruin over a gag gift?

Cassanee: I'm here to be polite. And eat.

Future Deadpool: I'll say. You can really pack it away! I love a girl that eats! Sorry, woman. Woman that eats. Here, have some liquefied chicken bones. it' what we eat since chickens are extinct.

Cassanee: *shuffles chair away from Future Deadpool*

Clever Adolescent Panda: How many times do I have to say "I'm sorry"?

Future Deadpool: In my time, we had a machine that took money from your account and gave it to the person you were talking to every time you said "sorry". Then our Xavier destroyed it because he said it was oppressing mutants. Really, he was mad I kept tricking him into bumping into me and apologizing for it. Then Future Molly made me eat my arms.

UnCalvin: *pushes away plate* Thank you, Wade.

Calvin: Yeah, Wade, swell.

Clever Adolescent Panda: *whispering* Why did you invite him?

Calvin: He said his team told him there were timeline disruptions that wouldn't let him return home with them.

Clever Adolescent Panda: They ditched him.

Calvin: Pretty much. I felt bad for him, so here we are.

UnCalvin: *loudly* What are you two plotting over there?

Calvin: We were deciding who had to tell you there's no pecan pie.

UnCalvin: *outraged* What?! How could you not have pecan pie? I specifically requested it!

Calvin: Then why didn't you buy one?

UnCalvin: I'm busy! I have employees, and new shareholders to find, thanks to someone *glares at the panda*

Clever Adolescent Panda: Oh, let it go already.

UnCalvin: *undeterred* You've been lazing about for weeks! You couldn't even go buy one at the store?

Cornelius Potfiller: I brought a pecan pie.

Calvin: Yeah right. I could barely move yesterday, which is why we're doing this now. And if I had gone store bought, you'd have complained about how lazy THAT was. "Why didn't you make a pie? I grew these fruits personally.' Who brings fruit to Thanksgiving? Even Future Deadpool brought appropriate fare!

UnCalvin: Pizza rolls?!

Calvin: They're rolls, aren't they?

Future Deadpool: I missed pizza rolls. We had to kill them all 15 years before I came here when Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime hypnotized them into sentience.

Cornelius Potfiller: I brought a pecan pie.

UnCalvin: *irritated* Well then where is it?

Cornelius Potfiller: Oh sorry, it's behind the centerpiece. I didn't realize you couldn't see it.

UnCalvin: Oh. *takes pie* Thank you.

Clever Adolescent Panda: How did you know to bring one?

Cornelius Potfiller: I caught my maid cooking it for her family's dinner, using my kitchen. SO I took and brought it along. Can you believe the nerve?

UnCalvin: *stops eating* What?

Clever Adolescent Panda: What?

Calvin: *facepalms*

Future Deadpool: I find that really hilarious, but recognize it's also in poor taste. Also, I'd like to stab you.

Cornelius: *nervous* What?

Calvin: *sighs* I don't need blood all over the place. Cornelius take all the food that's leftover, give it to the maid, apologize for taking her pie.

Cornelius: Now see here. . .

Calvin: Otherwise, it's an open question which one of these three will kill you first.

Cornelius: *resigned* Very well. *muttering* I should have gone to the club for brandy and cigars, rather than consort with this gutter trash.

Calvin: Look this is running really long already. Why doesn't everyone say what they're thankful for so we can wrap this up?

UnCalvin: But I'm having so much fun! Fine. I'm thankful for my boundless intellect and good looks, which will see me through any crisis brought about by your meddling.

Clever Adolescent Panda: I'm thankful for UnCalvin never giving up, because it's so much fun to wreck his life.

UnCalvin: *outraged again* What? Impudent scamp! *reaches for blaster*

Cassanee: I'm thankful I live far away from all of you. *swats blaster away, aided by turkey grease on UnCalvin's fingers. gun lands in mashed potatoes*

UnCalvin: Curses!

Cornelius: I'm thankful for the whiskey and cigars awaiting me at the club, where I may scoff at your paltry repast with my similarly wealthy friends.

Future Deadpool: I'm thankful to be in a place that has indoor plumbing and mashed potatoes that come with prizes. Check out this nifty ray gun!

Clever Adolescent Panda: They have time travel when you're from, but no indoor plumbing?

Future Deadpool: Turns out mutant governments aren't any better about spending to maintain infrastructure than human ones.

UnCalvin: Delightful. Give me back my ray gun!

Future Deadpool: OK, but only because I'm highly physically attracted to you. *tosses blaster to UnCalvin, casually smashes Cornelius in the face with the bowl of potatoes* You can shapeshift to look like Pyslocke, right?

UnCalvin: *looking very uncomfortable* Um, Calvin, what are you thankful for?

Calvin: Besides being thankful I don't bring all of you together more often? Well, there's someone I want to express thanks to I never thought I would.

UnCalvin: You've finally recognized I'm the only thing keeping your blog going?

Clever Adolescent Panda: Get real! I'm the one who moves the needle!

UnCalvin: Please! You stopped being a draw after Calvin stopped posting pictures of adorable baby pandas! And those weren't even you! I know you were using body doubles!

Cassanee: What?

Clever Adolescent Panda: It's not true! Besides, you can find cute panda pictures anywhere. I'm the only one that fights ogres and evil opposites!

Calvin: The panda's right, as far as I know.

UnCalvin: I've asked you not to use that term. "Evil opposite" is hurtful. I prefer "metaphysically reactive".

Cornelius: *still on the floor* Could someone call a physician? I believe the clout to my cranium has caused my humors to mix dangerously.

Clever Adolescent Panda: *ignores Cornelius* That term is nonsense!

UnCalvin: Your face is nonsense! *Clever Adolescent Panda leaps across the table and the two begin scuffling.*

Calvin: *sighs, rises from the chair, walks around, and helps Cornelius up* You'll be fine. I put all the food in Tupperware bowls just in case someone tried to use them as weapons.

Cassanee: So who were you going to thank?

Calvin: Deion Sanders. *UnCalvin and Clever Adolescent Panda stop fighting*

Clever Adolescent Panda: *takes UnCalvin's hair out of its mouth* Wait, really?

Calvin: Yeah. Last week they were talking about the NFL Hall of Fame ballot, and Deion mentioned former Cardinals' cornerback Aeneas Williams as a guy he thought deserved to be elected. I don't know if it'll make a difference, but it was nice to see Williams get some acknowledgement. I always worry he gets overlooked because he played for the Cardinals. And Michael Irvin even backed him up on it. So, you know, thanks for that, guys.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Are you sure you aren't UnCalvin in disguise?

UnCalvin: Imbecile. You're sitting on me.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Yeah, but Calvin thanking two guys who played for the Cowboys? Oh no, we're trapped in an awful mirror universe.

Calvin: If we were in a mirror universe, I would have cooked a pecan pie for UnCalvin, and it would have been delicious. Also, Future Deadpool wouldn't be hitting on UnCalvin.

Future Deadpool: Yeah, I'd be hitting on you. Aw, that's an unpleasant thought.

Cassanee: *pushes plate away* Agreed.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Yeah, that's not right Future Deadpool.

Cornelius: What foul sentiment! This is the most farcical eating I've attended in many months, and furthermore - *Future Deadpool punches Cornelius in the face*

Calvin: Yeah, I think we're done here.

Clever Adolescent Panda: You aren't going to thank your audience?

Calvin: Not for another two weeks or so.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Two weeks? Oh, the blogiversary! Great, I'll see you then! *starts to leave*

UnCalvin: I'll also be here, to class up the proceedings.

Future Deadpool: And I'll be here to chat you up when you get drunk and cry a lot!

UnCalvin: *chants mystic incantation, vanishes*

Calvin: Guys, that really isn't necessary.

Cassanee: I'll pass.

Clever Adolescent Panda: Don't be like that. It'll be fun! We can bring the Ghost of the Forest along, too!

Calvin: Hey, at least one of you could take Cornelius with you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Silly Sartorial Question

When it comes to superhero teams, do you like it when they have matching costumes? Think the Fantastic Four, the original five X-Men, maybe the Avengers when they were all rocking the bomber jackets in the '90s. Or do you prefer each character follow their own sense of style? Think, well most all the other teams.

I prefer letting each character go their own way. There's something to be said for presenting a united front, but the variety's nice. Capes work for some characters, but not others. You can even draw some conclusions about the character's personality based on their costume choice. Even if a lot of times, the conclusion is the character doesn't know anything about clothes.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trades Are Nice, But Sometimes I Prefer Single Issues

I mentioned on Saturday that I've been considering trying to convert my existing comic collection to trades. Most of the stuff I own in single issues exists in some collected edition or another. But I generally dislike double-dipping. Having spent the money to buy them once, why buy them again?

Which isn't to say I don't do that on rare occasion, but it's usually a special case. Last week, I picked up 10,000 Clowns, the trade of Beechen and Breyfogle's stories in Batman Beyond Unlimited. Earlier this year, it was that Rocket Raccoon/Groot collection, even though I owned pretty much all of it except each characters' earliest appearance. But that's about it.

I mentioned there were two other reasons I haven't gone for it. One is there are still space issues. Going with trades means I'm looking for shelf space instead of box space, but it doesn't make much difference otherwise. The other reason is something where I consider single issues to have a decided advantage. If I buy a trade, I'm stuck with all the issues it contains. This isn't always a problem, but with more recent, more decompressed stories, it becomes one. Because you get entire issues, sometimes more than one, where very little happens across a single six-issue story. With single issues, I can easily excise those non-factors from the collection. That's how I go from 120 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man to roughly 40. I chopped out all of Bendis' chaff.

With a trade, I can't do much about it,. Unless I want to mangle the nice paperback or hardcover collection I went to all the trouble to purchase by ripping out entire chapters. The nice thing about single issues is I can prune selectively.

Those two trades I mentioned above were a rare case where the roles were reversed. Buying 10,000 Clowns gave me the Batman story I wanted, without all the JT Krul/Howard Porter Superman stuff I so disliked. The Rocket Raccoon/Groot collection let me keep their stories from the two Annihilators' mini-series, without the actual Annihilators stories. It's the same principle, just working the opposite way because the material was originally in anthologies.

I don't have any objection to trades otherwise, really. When I want all the material they contain, they're perfectly fine, and whether I buy them or the single issues depends on which comes cheaper. But that flexibility the single issues provide comes in handy sometimes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Green Hills of Africa - Ernest Hemingway

I'm starting to think I enjoy Hemingway's non-fiction more than his novels. The real people he knows are frequently less irritating than the ones he makes up. Green Hills of Africa is his recollection of a particular hunting trip to Africa. The primary external conflict is Hemingway struggling to land a bull kudu before the rainy season arrives and they have to pack it in. The internal conflict is the strain the repeated failures and complications cause in him. There's another hunter along with them, a fellow named Karl, who consistently gets the best example of whatever species they're hunting, but never seems satisfied with it, or with his shooting. Then add Hemingway's struggles with jealousy, and that makes Karl that much less pleased with his trophies, because he can tell his friend isn't happy.

In the end, the two aren't really very different. They each have some animal they're trying very hard to get, and as time runs out, they each get more frustrated with those around them. Karl's a little different in that he doesn't like to have people watch him shoot, whereas Hemingway doesn't mind if people are watching, so long as they don't spoil his shot. Karl seems to feel other people rush his shot, while Hemingway is rarely rushed by anyone other than himself. Maybe a little too eager to show off.

One thing about Hemingway's writing that impresses me is how interested he can get me in things I ordinarily don't care about. I don't care much for bullfighting, but Death in the Afternoon was a fascinating read. The scene with the marlin was probably the best part of Islands in the Stream. Jake and Bill's fishing trip in the mountains was certainly my favorite part of The Sun Also Rises. The way he wrote it, I could feel how perfectly relaxing and pleasant it was to be out in nature, just relaxing with a friend, fishing, enjoying some good food and drink. He pulls that off again here. That quiet tension as they pursue a rhino or a buffalo into high grass, the awe and excitement when they finally see it. I don't hunt, but I do enjoy target shooting, and I know that moment before the shot, when you're trying hard to remain calm and concentrate, just shoot the way you know you can.

One of the other things, beyond conveying the mood and emotion of a moment, is how well he describes places, so I can picture it well. Maybe I'm not seeing the huge salt lick as it was, or as he saw it, but there's a clear picture of sorts in my mind. You may have noticed, I don't spend a lot of time on setting in my stories. I think about it, but it always feels so irrelevant compared to describing the action or trying to come up with some decent dialogue that I only make a sort of half-assed attempt at it, if that. Plus, I always worry those stories get too long as it is. I suppose I ought to spend more time thinking it all through ahead of time, so I had a clearer picture in my head I could try and describe to you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Burn Notice 6.15 - Best Laid Plans

Plot: Schmidt is safe from angry Syrian intelligence agents for now, but with his last warehouse now a crime scene, Mike and the others need to raise some dough to pay for their new identities. 200 grand per person, 800,000 total since Sam will be coming along. He went to see Elsa, and she told him the man she fell in love with wouldn't abandon his best friend, so he's sticking with Mike.

Jeez, I think I'm falling in love with Elsa, but no time for that, there's money to be raised, and it just so happens Schmidt has a piece of equipment that will net him a cool million when he delivers it. He just has to get it out of that warehouse the cops are swarming over. Fi and Jesse help him recover the package, but he tries to take some bottles of booze as well, drops one, alerts the cops, and the cops shoot the package during the escape. So it's a non-functioning piece of junk. No problem, Mike says, paint over the bullet holes, make it look good, deliver it, get the cash, take off. This seems to overlook the fact Thorne, the buyer, will begin hunting Schmidt down as soon as he realizes it doesn't work, but I guess Mike figures that isn't his problem. It becomes his problem when Thorne gets suspicious and Schmidt oversells by promising he has a technician who can verify the modifications and run the thing. Which is how he and Sam end up tagging along on Thorne's dry run at a pharmaceutical company, and then on the real heist, a gem exposition. Thanks to Mike planting a gun and a bug in the device, everything works out OK. Thorne goes to jail, nobody dies, there's enough money to take care of their new identities with a cool 200 grand left to spare.

Or maybe not. While all this has been going on, Maddy's still sneaking around trying to help Michael. She gets cuffed and dragged into interrogation, then released after letting slip that Michael hasn't left the country yet. Then she visits Barry and has him transfer money from Mike and the others' now flagged accounts to countries all over the globe. But Barry made the mistake of canceling a couple of grooming appointments which tipped off Riley and he winds up arrested. And since Maddy smoked some cigarettes while she was there, now she's on the run. There goes that other 200K.

The Players: Calvin Schmidt (Smuggler), Thorne (Not Schmidt's Favorite Client)

Quote of the Episode: Barry - 'Excuse me for not wanting to screw over my manscapist. You know, helping your family is like having a venereal disease. It's the gift that keeps on giving.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? Nope. She did drive a forklift through a wall.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 1 (26 overall).

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (6 overall).

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (1 overall).

Other: There were quite a few exchanges I liked in this episode. 'Schmidt, when in doubt, keep your mouth shut.' Or, 'No, no, my client robs and kills people for a living. So we don't have to feel bad about ripping him off.' Schmidt's constant nicknames for Jesse. I still have difficulty buying Patton Oswalt as a successful smuggler, but he's certainly amusing.

So Mike's idea with the money transfers was to get all these intelligence agencies busy looking for him and his friends in these countries. Like they had arrived and were now trying to bring their money over. Since Riley knew by that point that Michael hadn't left the country, didn't that render it moot? It's already a stretch to assume Riley or anyone else thinks Michael Westen so stupid as to believe his bank accounts aren't flagged. It just seems like once Riley interrogated Maddy and Maddy made that little slip, that plan should have been abandoned.

Certainly would have worked out better for Barry. Yes, as Maddy noted, Mike has saved Barry a few times. But Barry isn't wrong when he notes that he's saved - or at least helped save - Mike's bacon multiple times. No matter how radioactive Mike has been, Barry's always been willing to help. Some times out of fear or for money, true, but he has never turned his back on him. And now he's in jail for who knows how long. Hopefully he managed to destroy all his records, or jail probably won't save him from his irate clients. Assuming they aren't too busy fleeing prosecution themselves.

Over these recent episodes, the story has really been harping on two things: How far Mike, Sam, Jesse, and Fi are willing to go for each other, and how desperate Mike is to fix things. That second one especially. Mike's been offering a stream of platitudes basically since he shot Card. He's sorry for this, he's sorry for that. He'll fix it. . . somehow. It's the final third of Season 5 all over again, except this time it isn't just Fiona's head on the block, it's everyone's.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Shortest Month Has A Few New Titles For Me

The solicitations for February were released last week, and things picked up a little bit from last month's selections. Not a lot mind you; I'm still probably in the single digits on total comics, even with all of Marvel's blasted double-shipping.

If they're just going to cancel the book every time the creative team wrap up their storyline, then why the need to rush? It's a month here or a month there, what's the big deal?

DC is still just Harley Quinn, but they solicited another trade for her fist ongoing series. Issues 14-25, to be exact. I've been trying to track that series down for years now, but I either can't find the issues, or they're prohibitively expensive. 12 issues for 20 bucks is a good value, but I already own 7 or 8 of those issues. I hate to double-dip (it's one of three reasons I haven't seriously considered trying to convert my collection to trades). I'll probably end up biting the bullet. That's about the point where the issues I have run out, so I should definitely encourage DC to finish collecting the series, so as to save me greater struggle. On that series, anyway. It seems there will always be another series I'll want to track down, and some of them are inevitably going to be a pain in the rear in that regard.

Once again, I didn't see much of interest outside Marvel/DC, though I did note a solicitation for the collected Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur. At the current rate, the mini-series will only finish in January, unless they accelerate shipping on the final two issues to make up for the lengthy delay between 2 and 3. Which maybe they will, but probably not. I can't decide whether releasing a trade of a story roughly a month after it concludes is a good idea or not. It's certainly good for people who prefer to trade wait, as it reduces that wait time. And that's good for the creators and publishers, too, because the longer the wait, the greater the chance the potential customer may forget they wanted it, or it may fall down the priority list behind other things. If they've already waited six/twelve/eighteen months, what's a little more waiting? I'm the impatient sort myself - it's why I rarely trade wait - but also cheap, which creates an interesting sort of friction. Just how long can I wait for the price to fall, if I wait at all? Depends on how much I'm willing to pay, it is.

Marvel, for better or worse, is where most of the action is at. The new She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel books are starting up, and I'll be trying both of those. I'm hopeful for both, and I figure if Marvel is going to sell them at 3 bucks an issue rather than 4, I might as well encourage that business decision. Plus, Javier Pulido and Adrian Alphona as the artists, respectively. Hopefully this won't be an "opening arc only" bait and switch like some of their other titles.

Besides, the pull list has room to spare. Even adding those two titles, we're only talking six titles. And this marks the end of Daredevil, unfortunately. I'm sure this new digital Daredevil series Waid's writing (with a different artist), will eventually get collected, but until it does, it's a no go. And even then, it'll end up as the occasional trade purchase, rather than a monthly thing. Unless Marvel goes the route DC did with Batman Beyond Unlimited and the other digital first stuff like Batman '66 and so on.

Even with Deadpool and Superior Foes of Spider-Man double-shipping, that only comes up to 8 Marvel comics for February. It could have been 10, but I'm pretty sure I'm saying farewell to X-Men. I'd like to say I was making some principled stand in response to the whole situation involving writer Brian Wood and Tess Fowler, and that whole thing sounds off-putting and creepy, but I was already thinking about dropping it. SO I'd be using that as an excuse. If I'm looking for excuses, I might as well just drop it. There are things I liked - the combination of characters, Jubilee as a vampire and a young mother, David Lopez' art - but things haven't really come together. I'm sure wasting two months on Battle of the Atom didn't help, but even before that, things felt out of sorts. I couldn't tell what was poor writing, and what was Wood trying to drop hints/be mysterious/foreshadowing. Now Kitty's off the team, there's no Rogue on that cover, and it's a $4.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Arcade's Brought Out The Best In Cammi, Not The Worst

One of the things I've enjoyed about Avengers Arena has been Cammi's role in the whole thing. I've been fond of Cammi since I first encountered her, because surprise! I like teenage smart aleck characters. She's been generally smart and level-headed, but she hasn't descended into a ruthless attitude, or a defeatist one. She didn't go along with Bloodstone's belief that they were doomed, and she hasn't adopted Katy - or more recently, Nico's - position that she might as well kill everyone else and save herself. Some of that is pragmatism - Cammi's on the low end of power scale, though I think she's sneaky enough she could handle most everyone except X-23 and probably Original Darkhawk - but some of it is an admirable shift in her perspective.

When the whole thing started, Cammi was in the middle of being interrogated by Agent Brand for trying to steal an interstellar cruiser. As far as we know, Cammi's been on her own since the end of Annihilation. Well, there was that chaos sprite that had been hanging around Thanos prior to that, but they parted company at some point. Drax did go looking for her later (after leaving the Guardians of the Galaxy), but got sidetracked bringing his daughter back to life. He never did get back on Cammi's trail. So she's had to survive by herself, an Earth teenager out in the universe. She made herself strong enough to survive it, and she's justifiably proud of it. 

But in her current situation, she might not be strong enough, and the circumstances work against her. On a spaceship, she can probably manipulate its systems to give herself an advantage of her enemies outnumber or outpower her. But in Arcade's world, he controls everything. She can set a few mines, but in a place as large and variable as this new Murderworld, that's only going so far. When X-23 nearly kills her, then lets her go because she's not the one X was after, that's a bit of a blow to her confidence. She was completely helpless, and the person who had her didn't even consider her worth killing. She didn't take it well, since stopping to do push-ups while castigating yourself is not the smartest plan.

The key is what came after. She started forming alliances. First with Darkhawk, then later Chase and Nico, and eventually the rest of the non-evil kids. It isn't a case of her using them as shields or cannon fodder, like Katy was doing with her boyfriend or Deathlocket. Cammi generally tries to make peace, come up with plans, get everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal. She's consistently approached the situation as though there's a solution other than playing by Arcade's rules.

Which makes sense, given her past. I was introduced to Cammi during Annihilation: Nova, and then she reappeared in Annihilation proper. Consider what she saw there. A diverse group of people, many of them with past conflicts, some dating back millennium, banding together to fend off a seemingly overwhelming force bent on killing them all. Annihilus' forces destroyed entire worlds, entire empires, he had Thanos, and eventually even Galactus as an unwilling weapon. And he still lost. Because people worked together, because they didn't give up, because they kept learning from setbacks and failures to try different approaches. Compared to all that, the current situation with Arcade probably didn't look too bad, provided they didn't wind up at each other's throats. Which, thanks to Nico and Chase, is exactly what happened.

It's a little like the shift Abnett and Lanning tried to bring about in Drax. When he joined the Guardians, he tried to be less Destroyer and more human, as he put it. There was the friendship with Phyla, trying to reconnect with his daughter Moondragon, trying to come to grips with the number of lives he'd taken over the years, the people he'd lost. It didn't necessarily make him less violent, but he was more, selective, or precise about it. And he had maybe a more concrete idea of what he was fighting for, beyond some vague sense he was supposed to "get" Thanos (that's how the brain-damaged version of him I remember from '90s Silver Surfer comics seemed). For as much as Cammi might want to be the tough, emotionally closed off badass who doesn't care about anyone, she can't help herself. She formed attachments whether she wanted to or not. The question now is whether those attachments are going to save her life, or get her killed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

To Have and Have Not - Ernest Hemingway

I don't believe I'd read this one before. I've seen the movie, an enjoyable sort of Casablanca ripoff, but the book isn't like that. The movie was more about a guy setting aside his cynicism, and letting the honorable man inside out, whether he really wanted to or not. The book is about what hard times will drive a man to do.

It still prominently features Harry Morgan, and for the start of the book, he does own a charter fishing boat that he sometimes lets his rummy pal Eddy crew on. But when he turns to smuggling people, it's Chinese laborers, not resistance members. And, figuring a double cross, he kills the man he made the deal with, and dumps the laborers off back on Cuba, rather than delivering them to their destination. Things go downhill from there. The economic situation isn't getting any better, so he starts running liquor, then he agrees to ferry some bank robbers to Cuba. He feels he has no choice. He's almost broke, he has a family to support, and he sees this as his best option.

There's some other threads about a writer who didn't realize he was losing his wife, and some reflection on how the wealthy are generally indifferent to the suffering of the less fortunate, and if they bother to think of them at all, they don't understand them. It feels tacked on near the end, and only serves to dilute the book.

One thing that kept jarring me was the sheer number of times he used the word "nigger". He's used it in the other books, but not so frequently that it disrupts the flow of the book for me. So that didn't help, and then you throw in all the stuff about the wealthy right at the end, and that throws things off some more. The idea of all these people sleeping soundly in their yachts, worrying about their comparatively small problems, oblivious to the guy who's nearly dead because he felt he had to throw in with thieves, it isn't a bad one. He needed to do a better job threading it in earlier in the book, so it didn't just appear, poof!, at the last moment.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Could Be Earth's Mightiest Hypocrites, Am I Right?

On my way out of the boonies back at the beginning of November, I stopped along the way at a store to look through the back issues. While I was there, I also skimmed through a recent issue of Superior Spider-Man. I've said previously I don't have any interest in Octavius as Spider-Man, but they had the Black Cat on the cover, and I was mildly curious to see how they were playing off each other.

As it turned out, Ock caught her robbing a place, kicked her butt, and left her webbed to a wall for the cops, her swearing revenge under her breath. That along with a few other things that started to go wrong for him in the issue, reminded me of a post on the Legion of Doom several months back. The idea was that Slott's whole plan with this is when Parker inevitably gets his life back, Octavius will have ruined it. Peter Parker's rep will be destroyed - because he looks like he's stealing Octavius' ideas, and siphoning money from Ock's hidden offshore accounts - and so will Spider-Man's, because Ock will screw up something catastrophically, or just do something villainous he thinks is heroic. Which means that Parker will be back to the old status quo: single, broke, no steady lady in his life, the other heroes unsure of him, the public against him.

Octavius destroying Parker's life I can see easily enough. His ego is burning bridges left and right.  In a vacuum, I can see the Avengers not wanting anything to do with him under certain circumstances. The problem is that I don't see how the Avengers don't cut him some slack if he just goes to them and says, "Hey, Doc Ock had control of my body for the last several months." Wolverine gets let off the hook every time someone mind controls him into killing a boatload of people, which is funny considering Wolverine kills boatloads of people even when he isn't mind controlled. I've harped on Tony Stark's actions during and after Civil War for years, but he seems to have been welcomed back into the fold, and all it took was him rebooting his own brain so he doesn't remember what he did. Hawkeye was a crook at one point, the Black Widow a foreign spy, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were terrorists originally, who have both had mental breakdowns that pitted them against their friends from time-to-time. They all seem to get welcomed back eventually. Stark, Hercules, and Carol Danvers have all been guilty of trying to fight crime while intoxicated. Hank Pym seems to catch more flak than most anyone, but even he gets let back in eventually. None of those folks can claim their arch-foe was running around in their body committing those acts, which really ought to cut Spidey some slack.

Maybe that's not what Slott's going for. It might be sufficient for the public to distrust Spider-Man, but the Avengers know the score. Or perhaps he's going to have Ock piss off the other heroes so much they won't even listen to Spidey when he tries to explain. That would be hard to believe for certain characters, but it could always turn out Spidey doesn't get a chance to talk with any of those. I think Carol Danvers would be a receptive audience - certainly she understands having your life stolen from you - but she's going to be out in space more, so not much overlap there. If it does turn out like that, it may be one of those things where the reader just has to treat the book as existing in its own little world. Ock-Spidey was a jerk, so all the Avengers hate Real Spidey, and just don't look at the fact most of those Avengers don't have any moral high ground for their behavior.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway

The thing that stood out to me with A Farewell to Arms was the progression Henry went through. Over the course of the book, I saw him as going from being a young man to an old one.

When the book starts, he's just a kid, nothing is serious, nothing is well thought out. He tells Catherine he loves her when he doesn't, because it makes her more likely to make out with him. After his injury, he seems to fall in love with her, or maybe he's just looking for someone stable to hold onto. But he does seem to love her, wants to be her husband, is willing (I wouldn't say "eager") to be a father. By the end, he's alone, left to bury a wife and child. In someways, he's old, having outlived his loved ones. Maybe Count Greffi is the same, though he doesn't give the appearance of one weighed down by the loss of those dear to him. Still, to have reached 94 years of age, he must have lost someone.

There's also the shift in Henry's attitude to the war. There was his discussion with his drivers just prior to his injury. They all think it would be better for Italy to stop fighting, no more dying or killing. He disagrees; defeat would be worse than continuing the war. He envisions the Austrians charging into Italy, attacking homes, trying to force the Italians to fight for them. His drivers counter that how can you make people fight for you? They'll just run once the battle starts, then you can either waste bullets on them, or on whoever you wanted them to fight (who is presumably taking advantage of the chaos). And as for their homes, let each man defend his own. For them, nationalism isn't anything worth thinking about. They don't see their lives as changing much whether it's Italians or Austrians who run the country*.

After his wound and return to the front, Henry seems to have come around. He's "gentle" about the war, as the priest describes it. There isn't any real fire to fight or win, just get it over with so he can go back to Catherine. Maybe the difference is less that he nearly died, and more that he has someone he could lose because of the fighting. Although then I have to wonder if the injury, that brush with mortality, was what intensified his feelings for her. Then the disaster of the retreat, the military police executing people, essentially, for not looking Italian enough, or officers for begin separated from their men. It's the point where the whole thing becomes not about defending the lives of the citizens - because if it was, they'd be establishing trenches to halt the advance - and more about salvaging military pride by scapegoating. And what the hell point is there to being part of that? So he's gone. He volunteered to help the Italians, wasn't drafted, by his own admission things ran smoothly without him, so no reason not to check out. I think he entered it on a lark, out of some ideal that no longer holds true in the face of what he experienced.

This isn't connected to the rest of this, but I was a little stunned to read the doctor advising Catherine to drink beer because it would keep the baby small. Well, the idea of encouraging an expectant mother to drink in general was strange. I realize they probably didn't know about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome back then, but it's still startling. As for Catherine herself, I have a hard time pegging her. She tried to keep Henry at arms length initially, probably because she recognized he wasn't serious about her, but also because she was concerned herself about becoming attached to him, because of the first fiance she lost. Once she falls for him, though, she seems determined to be whatever she thought he wanted her to be. Is it because she didn't marry her first fiance before he died, so she's afraid she caused his death somehow? So she molds herself to what she believes Henry wants, because somehow that'll keep him alive? She's very mercurial, but I can't tell whether that's just Hemingway's attitude towards women, or just a reflection of him. A lot of his characters are like that, shifting quickly between happiness and anger, or brooding, which sounds similar to the author himself.

I wonder about the Count character. He reminds me a bit of the baron from The Sun Also Rises. The much older character, one who survived his own battles, and is wealthy enough and confident enough in himself to live as he pleases. The baron enjoyed meeting new people, drinking, being with women, but none of it seemed too important to him. I'm not certain if that makes him in reality, what Barnes, Brett and the others were trying to be. They play at being affluent, living the high life for the sheer enjoyment of it, but really, their personal lives are disasters, they live beyond their means. So is the baron the real deal, or is he a cautionary tale? Does he have nothing else in his life, and so he tries to fill the emptiness the same as them? Or is he really just living as he pleases, with no worries? There's a line between the two, but I'm not certain which side he falls on.

As for the Count, his pleasures are considerably simpler - billiards figures prominently - but he seems largely content. I don't know if he's a sign of where Henry might end up in several decades. The fact that the Count now finds himself slipping into Italian naturally, rather than German or English seems significant in light of Henry being an American with no strong ties to his family back home. he met an Englishwoman in Italy, fled to Switzerland with her, and lost her there. During their time there, he didn't do any work that I could discern, he just passed the time with Catherine. But Henry is religious, and the Count is not, is actually disappointed he didn't become devout as he aged. Maybe because death doesn't bother him, is that why he he thought he'd become religious, he'd fear approaching death? I notice Henry prayed more after his injury, and especially after Catherine was pregnant and the delivery grew closer. When things beyond your control grow near, you turn to something beyond yourself is the point. The Count either doesn't have any such concerns, or he abandoned them, and so it doesn't work for him.

'This was a strange and mysterious war zone but I supposed it was quite well run and grim compared to other wars with the Austrians. The Austrian army was created to give Napoleon victories; any Napoleon. I wished we had a Napoleon, but instead we had Il Generale Cadorna, fat and prosperous, and Vittorio Emmanuele, the tiny man with the long thing neck and the goat beard.'

* This reminds me of those Mussolini biographies that noted that, contrary to his claims, Mussolini's policies did very little to affect the lives of the average Italian citizen, especially in rural areas. Their culture and lives didn't change much to reflect his Fascist ideals.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not That Lawyers Need Magic At Their Disposal

Reading Daredevil #32, I noticed when Matt was speaking with Dr. Strange, that he described Strange as being very precise with his words, and mentioned that Strange always is.

Which makes sense. Magic is typically presented - at least in the Marvel Universe, but other fictional realms as well - as something prone to unintended consequences. If you aren't careful about what you say, or don't have your intentions clear in your mind, things will go awry. You can't simply cast magic about willy-nilly, because there's no telling what the end result will be. Strange has been at it enough, and made enough mistakes, to understand that.

It occurred to me, though, as a lawyer, Matt works with words, and meaning is important. Witness testimony, reasonable doubt, discussions of intent, state of mind, definitions of a variety of terms - clinical, scientific, legal, contractual, economic. So many things, and a lot of it comes down to what you say, and how you say it, how you can present it in the way that makes juries or judges see things as you want them to.

So I wondered, Matt Murdock as a practitioner of sorcery (I'm sure the idea was influenced somewhat by that image of him as a stage magician from issue #22)? There would probably be an issue of whether Matt could even perceived mystical energy to manipulate with his senses as they are, but I doubt that sight is essential to Strange's work. But I'd also guess that magic isn't something you normally perceive with your senses, so much as you feel it spiritually, and I wonder if Matt, so used to his enhanced senses being able to pick up on almost anything, would be able to adjust.

That's something that could be addressed with sufficient training, though. Matt's personality, that might be more trouble. Matt's very slick, very good at thinking on his feet, but as he's noted, he relies a little too much on flash and showmanship at times. It's why Matt and Foggy work so well together. Matt projects the confidence and ease you want in your attorney, but it's Foggy's attention to detail that gives Matt a foundation to stand on. That might be Matt's biggest problem, learning to stop and think, to study, to plan ahead, as opposed to leaping into the fray and trusting that he'll come up with something.

Honestly, maybe Foggy should look into it. I doubt he has the temperament, but that could work in his favor. He'd be overly cautious, but you wouldn't have to worry about him overreaching, or not thinking through what he's getting ready to do.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Burn Notice 6.14 - Down and Out

Plot: Having been branded as traitors, it's time to flee the country. Sam has a tearful good-bye with Elsa, that is cut short when they realize Riley had already gotten to Fi's fake passport guy. The crew makes a narrow escape, but has to leave Elsa behind to be questioned by the CIA. Sam isn't exactly ecstatic about that, but the more pressing problem is where they're going to find some decent fake passports now. Sam's hacker acquaintance, Dixon, knows a guy, but Calvin Schmidt isn't in the mood to see or speak to anyone, seeing as he hiding out from a former Syrian Intelligence agent. Schmidt helped the guy's wife escape him, and now Jabbar Hamady is dismantling Schmidt's smuggling operation one warehouse at a time. If Mike can remove Jabbar, then sure, Schmidt will send them anywhere they want to go.

To that end, Mike poses as a former employee of Schmidt's, now disgruntled after he was tortured on suspicion of betrayal. The idea being this will get Mike near Hamady and then he can send him wherever he wants, get him to start shooting, and then sic the cops on him. Great plan, except Schmidt - not pleased at losing yet another warehouse full of illicit goods, tried sneaking in to grab some stuff and got captured. So now Mike has to make himself useful when Hamady doesn't need him to help find Schmidt. There's some fake interrogation, some drug use, Schmidt's heart stops, Mike takes advantage of the fake that Riley decided to try and intimidate Madeline by really obviously bugging her house, and Jabbar winds up arrested. Great! Two problems: One, the manner in which it happens made Riley fed up with her cat-and-mouse game with Maddy. Two, because Schmidt took a severe financial hit on this plan, Mike and the others are going to need to drum up 200 grand person to cover the expenses. That's $800,000, assuming Sam's actually going. Which is uncertain at the moment.

The Players: Calvin Schmidt (The Client), Jabbar Hamady (Guy Trying to Kill Schmidt)

Quote of the Episode: Sam - 'Yeah, well, doing something insanely dangerous won't fix things with me and Elsa.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 4 (25 overall). Quite the increase there. Having to abandon your lady really makes a man want to drink.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (6 overall).

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (1 overall).

Other: Mike was "Brent Soder' this week. Fi's i.d. guy proved his evilness by trying to make Sam 'Randy Weems'. At least he doesn't have to use that identity now.

I can't believe Jesse ruled out the West Indies entirely because of one ex-girlfriend. If Sam took that approach, there wouldn't be anywhere they could go. Maybe Greenland.

Maddy's wish for them to say good-bye was touching. I know a lot of it was about Michael, but the fact that Fi and the others have come to mean a lot to her as well, it was a nice acknowledgement of how she's been there alongside them through all of this.

I have a difficult time seeing Patton Oswalt as a successful smuggler. Too many years of the Kingpin in Daredevil comics, I suppose. I figure a successful "import/export" businessman should dress better. And not be such a ninny. Maybe it's meant to be the paranoia. Since Jabbar has informants among Schmidt's men, he doesn't believe he can trust anyone, so he's a nervous wreck.

If Riley really has all the places in the area they could get travel papers staked out, why not travel farther? Go to Alabama, or Ohio, or something. It's not as though Riley's built some impenetrable web of surveillance, or they wouldn't be able to run around doing all this crap for Schmidt. Just get out of the area. Head to a border state, get some appropriate documents, then hop across the border.

I kind of like how they used Riley. If you keep letting her catch up to Michael, only to have him escape, it makes her look incompetent. What they seem to be doing is showing Riley as relentless and methodical. She's done her research, and she's gradually cutting off all their most readily available options. You could even say she was trying to be nice in how she handled Maddy. She had her sign that form stating she'd help their investigation, then made sure Maddy understood what it would mean to break that agreement. She was very open about the fact she bugged the place. Yes, that's intimidation and police state tactics, but from one perspective, you could see it as her trying to keep Madeline from getting herself in trouble by helping Michael. "Don't contact your son, we're listening to your phone conversations. If you keep your distance, you'll be fine, and I don't have to send an old woman to prison." Riley's isn't rainbows and hugs, but she's not a trying to win at all costs, to hell with collateral damage.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Old West Won't Stay Dead

Since the copy of Red Dead Redemption I purchase was the Game of the Year edition, it also came with the Undead Nightmare, what would that be - downloadable content? bonus content? - on a separate disk. So I've been working through that since I finished the storyline of the main game. I'm still playing RDR, but at this stage, it's mostly about completing little challenges. Right now I'm trying to pull off the "pay off a $5,000 bounty with a pardon letter" achievement. It's been slow, not because I keep ding or getting arrested, but I'm having to kill a lot of people to get anywhere. I tried hijacking a train, but it didn't get me anywhere.

Undead Nightmare was set somewhere in between John Marston completing his work for the feds and the actual end of the main game. Something has caused the dead to rise everywhere. John's wife and son are quickly infected, but John's able to hogite them so they aren't a threat to others or themselves. After that, as you might expect, he's off to try and find the source of all this and put a stop to it, in the hopes his family will revert to themselves.

The gameplay is  the same, though the details are different. Towns can still serve as save points, but not until you've cleared them of zombies and rendered them safe - for the time being. The towns come under attack again eventually, and you have to go back to help clear them out again. I'm not sure if a town with eventually fall entirely if you ignore its plight, because I usually try to get there as soon as I can. They added the ability to fast travel from one save point to another, which is really handy if you don't want to traverse the perilous wilderness again. Live bears are trouble enough, I don't need any hassle from undead bears.

There aren't any opportunities to earn money, but money isn't important any longer, ammunition is. Ammo was in short supply early in the game, but the farther I progressed, the less of a problem it became. When you clear a town, there's always at least one cache of ammo, if not two or three. If I spent a lot of time roaming the countryside, or made it a point to kill all the undead you see, that would be a drain on my resources. The corpses of the undead are not nearly as reliable when it comes to finding loot as the the dead you find in the main game. Which is why I stopped doing that. Unless I had a specific mission to carry out, I didn't roam, and I don't kill any more undead than I can avoid. After all, some of those people might revert along with John's family. Or they might just be animated corpses, but I can't tell the difference from riding by on a horse. It fits nicely with my take on Marston's personality. He doesn't kill wantonly, but if you stand between him and helping his family, you will die.

I'm a little disappointed I didn't get to enjoy killing Da Santa again, but that cemetery in Sepulcro was really getting on my nerves by the time he dragged himself out of the ground, so I shot him the once and moved to the next shambling corpse. Eh, I emptied six rounds into his head in the regular game, that was probably sufficient revenge for what was a stunningly unsurprising betrayal.

One little thing they added to the game concerns the horses. Sometimes, when you whistle for a horse, the one that comes running is undead. They're faster, stronger, but a little willful. On the whole, I'd rather have a live horse. I use railways as shortcuts frequently, and the last thing I need when hightailing it across some trestle is a horse that's likely to swerve right over the edge without warning. The addition of the Horses of the Apocalypse was a nice touch, though they behave like ordinary horses. Why War is scared of some scraggly undead wolf, I have no idea, but there it is. It's still a cool enough idea that I had to try, even given the fact that lassoing horses was easily my least favorite part of the regular game. The upshot is, practice made perfect, or more accurately, I figured out what I was screwing up, and so I'm much better at horse wrangling now.

Hmm, maybe horse thievery would dial up the bounty in the regular game. Bank robbery didn't work out so well for me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Islands in the Stream - Ernest Hemingway

Yeah, I'm still chugging along on the Hemingway kick. Probably another month at this rate, unless I take a break. Islands in the Stream is another one of those works his fourth wife arranged to have published some time after his passing. She says in a foreword that it's basically the original manuscript, minus some cuts she made that she felt certain he would have made as well. They could have afforded to make some more cuts. There are some sections where the conversations run on far too long over the same territory. That's a problem I've had with some of the other books, but it was worse here, when it was bad. Still, if they're going to publish it after his death, probably better to leave it as much his book as possible, since one can't be sure what precisely he'd choose to take out, given the chance.

I do wonder how Mary Hemingway felt, reading over these stories, seeing how wistful he was for his first wife? I suppose if you're someone's fourth spouse, you kind of accept that they'll have fond memories of the earlier spouses. Islands in the Stream is ostensibly fiction, but Hemingway is the base for Thomas Hudson. Hudson's a painter, rather than a writer, but he lives on the same islands, had one son who grew up in Paris with his first wife, two sons from the second wife, patrolled for U-boats off the Cuban coast during World War 2. So it's a more fanciful account of his life than A Moveable Feast, but it's also a significantly darker tale than that remembrance.

Hudson is a man far enough along in life to recognize his past mistakes, but to have set himself the task of not dwelling on them. The people important to him are drifting away, and he tries to accept that, use the loneliness to be productive, but he can't quite pull it off. He needs people, but being around them opens wounds and throws him off. He's trying to come to grips with the passage of time, with loss, maybe with the sense he's wasted his talents (or his life), but I'm not certain he pulled it off in time. Not that it matters, the opportunity to put any realizations he might have had into practice doesn't present itself.

As I said, it's a dark book. All three of his sons die across the course of the book, along with an ex-wife. Not sure what that represented for him. That basic fear parents have of losing their children, either in the final sense, or just in the way children and parents grow apart sometimes. Maybe regrets, the feeling he's let them down somehow, pushed them too hard, not been there enough. The whole sequence of Davey trying to bring up that marlin - one of the best sequences in the book - had an air of that after. Hudson feeling he ought to have stepped in, not let the boy exert so much effort only to fall short, as though it damaged the kid somehow. Maybe he feels he put too much of his desires into the boys, made them feel they had to connect with him through the things he liked, rather than him learning about the things they cared about. All the conversations the boys have with him are about things related to him: fishing, Paris, books, writers, painting, horses. I don't have any real picture of things the boys like to do that aren't connected to him some how.

'There are probably politer ways and more endearing ways of leaving a girl than simply, with no unpleasantness and never having been in any row, excusing yourself to go to the men's room at 21 and never coming back. But, as Roger said, he did settle the check downstairs and he loved to think of his last glimpse of her, sitting alone at the corner table in that decor that suited her so and that she loved so well.'

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What I Bought 11/12/2013

I put in an order as part of the never ending back issue hunt. It really is maddening, that even as I finish up three series, I can think of three other things I might want to start, not counting the 4 series I'm still working on (Rom and the Ostrander/Mandrake Spectre are coming along well), or the three others I haven't even started yet. Along with all that, I went ahead and picked up the one book from the Villain Month thing I was moderately curious about.

Justice League #23.3: Dial E, by China Mieville (writer), You Don't Actually Expect Me To List All Those Artists Do You? Fine. Mateus Santolouco, Carla Berrocal, Riccardo Burchelli, Liam Sharp, Jock, Tula Lotay, Marley Zarcone, Brendan McCarthy, Emma Rios, Emi Lenox, Jeff Lemire, Frazier Irving, David Lapham, Carmen Carnero, Sloane Leong, Kelsey Wroten, Michelle Farran, Annie Wu, Zak Smith, Albert Ponticelli and Dan Green, Eva De La Cruz (colorist), Taylor Esposito (letterer) - I got the 2-D cover. No way was I shelling out extra cash for some stupid special cover. Oh yeah, Irving, Wu, and Smith did their own coloring, too, if you care. Right now, I'm mostly just pissed DC thought this was a good idea.

So these 4 kids swiped a dial from some wannabe big-shot crook, and once they start using it, they attract lots of attention. First the cops, then the hood himself, and then things get real bad, because the Centipede claws his way back into the universe somehow. The kids haven't got a chance, and soon enough the Centipede gets his dial back. But you know how it goes with villains, they can't resist gloating, and he gets taken down by, I think it's Roxie. Maybe. The hair's the wrong color. Roxie and Nelson couldn't have had a kid, could they? I thought she was a bit old for that, but hell, I don't know how long it's been for them. Who else would know about Nelson briefly calling himself "Rescue Jack"? There's always the possibility that in some universe, there really was a Rescue Jill, or perhaps Nelson creating that identity caused one to come into being, somehow?

In theory, this could be a good issue. We got at least some resolution with the Centipede - it did my heart good to see him finally shut up, he'd been insufferable since he struck out on his own - and at least a hint of the fates of the heroes we last saw at the Exchange. At least one of them made it home safely. Some closure, but some things left open in case Mieville gets a chance to come back to it some day, or if some other writer wants to use the concept. The former seems unlikely, and the latter, I'm not sure who DC has writing for them I'd trust to do a good job with that. It'd be a short list.

Note that I said, in theory. The artist shuffle does not help the book. It's a cute idea, letting each artist draw a different villain on their page, but it doesn't make for a visually coherent book. The 4 kids don't always look terribly similar from one page to the next, to say nothing of the hood, Tibbs, or his lackey. Liam Sharp and Tula Lotay (pages 4 and 6, respectively) draw them at completely different sizes relative to each other, for example, and I think Jock added a third guy to the mix on his page in between them. Some of the artists are good, some of them have styles I hate,  it turns into a mess. I would have much preferred they let Ponticelli draw the whole thing, or failing that, divvy it up between Santolouco, Lapham, and Ponticelli. They were the three guys who did basically the entire series (except for the 0 issue), so that would have been fine. You telling me those guys couldn't find the time to do 6-7 pages each?

Ultimately, not exactly the conclusion I would have wanted, but the conclusion I wanted wouldn't have come for quite some time, when Mieville was ready to end the book. Say 2 or 3 years from now?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

As Hal's Bad At Being In Charge, Kyle's Bad At Being Low Key

I don't read any of the Green Lantern books, but I read enough blogs by people who do that it isn't hard to keep up with what's happening, now that this latest crossover event thing is done. I think it's funny - and great -  that with Johns gone, Hal's lost that seeming air of infallibility he had for so long, but he's still carrying on as if nothing's changed. Which makes sense; Hal's a fictional character, he doesn't know there are different writers handling things, ones perhaps not so enamored of him as their predecessor.

Putting Hal Jordan in charge of the entire Green Lantern Corps? That's a terrible idea. Hal's not a bad guy to have around for bad guy punching, last minute heroics, stuff like that. But he's not cut out to lead, certainly not on a level with that many administrative headaches. He's like one of those field commanders that's great on a squad level, where there's only so much to keep track of, but he can't handle the extra responsibility that comes with the promotions, the logistics, paperwork, etc. Honestly, the Corps might be better off keeping Hal in reserve. "In case of Universe-threatening emergency, break glass". Don't let him out before that, because he'll rush in recklessly and make things worse. But if you wait until things can't get any worse, then he seems to be pretty good at turning the tide.

But as a boss? No, bad idea. Witness sending Guy off to join the Red Lanterns pretty much on his own, in spite of the risks to Guy's life. At least let one of his friends in the Corps go along, say Guy convinced them to defect, too. Then they can watch each other's backs. Now he's instituted some rule about not using the emotional spectrum energy without authorization, which comes from Hal, apparently. He's the boss for a few months and already he's making laws he's specially exempt from to use against people he considers a threat, while cutting his friends slack. Ah, cronyism and corruption, ain't it a wonderful thing?

 I've always thought it was a little dodgy the way the GLs seemed to police things whether they were wanted or not, but Hal just making up a new law all by himself, then rushing off to arrest someone with that new law as one of the charges five minutes later, that's going pretty far. Gavok noted it on 4thletter, Hal's veering into Tony Stark circa Civil War territory these days. Nobody needs to go there, especially Hal. The last time he got a swelled head and started trying to dictate how things were going to be, it ended with Ollie shooting him with an arrow before he wiped out the entire universe. Though if Hal does go on another trip to looney land and tries to remake existence, it might be better to let him. He could hardly do worse than Barry Allen, who's responsible for the current state of things. Plus, if this leads to several months of all Hal's friends taking turns calling him a jerk and punching him in the face, it might be a lot of fun. That was certainly one (the only) result from Civil War I enjoyed, everyone - Spidey, Dr. Strange, She-Hulk, Nova (especially Nova) - taking a shot at Stark.

I really didn't mean to speak so much about Hal, this was more about Kyle. I guess he joined the Source Wall for about 5 minutes, then got popped back out after everyone had left. But he's going to pretend to still be gone. Well, nobody seemed very broken up about it, which doesn't make a lot of sense, but maybe it needs time to sink in.

As it is, I don't see Kyle managing to keep his status a secret very long. He's an artist whose super-power is using energy to do stuff, which usually means "Big, flashy constructs". Not exactly subtle. Then there's his inherent personality. He's very nice, loyal, brave, clever when he needs to be, but I wouldn't say he's good at really thinking through his actions ahead of time. Consider how bad he was at something as basic as a secret identity. He'd switch into costume in full view of a coffee shop worth of civilians at the drop of a hat. If you needed an Earth Lantern to pretend he was dead and make it stick, I think John's your choice, assuming you could convince him it was necessary, which I think would be harder than with the others. The same thoughtful, steady approach that would make him think out how he was going to do something while not blowing his cover, would probably also make him question just why he needed to play dead in the first place. Recall how he wisely balked at becoming an Alpha Lantern.

Anyway, Kyle strikes me as such an absent-minded type I could easily see him deciding he was lonely or thirsty, and heading for Mogo to visit Warriors. Wait, was Warriors still on Oa when it went, and if so, did it get incorporated into Mogo? Let's say it did. The GLs need a place to relax, and I bet Mogo could grow some stuff that would make some wicked brews. So Kyle lands, and walks in, says hi, asks for a drink, starts up a conversation with Kilowog or Soranik like nothing happened. A couple of minutes in, he's still chattering along, he notices everyone's gawking at him, and it dawns on him they're supposed to think he's dead. At that point, I sort picture Kyle letting out this shriek, maybe creating one of those dressing screens to hide himself, or a bunch of giant hands to cover everyone's hands, maybe while yelling, "Don't look at me! I'm not supposed to be seen!"

OK, I stole that last bit from an issue of Groo, but Sergio Aragones is a pretty good guy to steal from when you want knuckleheaded hijinks. Point is, Kyle's not a good person to ask this of, so I don't expect it to be long before he blows it in some ridiculous manner.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Must Not. . . Play. . . Sports Games!

One result of being out of the boonies for a while is getting a chance to watch sports again. We don't have any TV service out there, and given the number of people sharing the Internet, streaming games isn't viable unless you wait for everyone else to be gone (happens one day every 2 weeks at best), or you're an inconsiderate jerk.

It's mostly been the NFL so far, with a little NBA thrown in (I don't get heavily into basketball until at least January, once Arizona's season is usually done). It's nice; watching games is much more interesting than reading about them online, though it's more tense as well. Reading about a player dropping a key pass isn't nearly as frustrating as seeing it happen in the moment.

One side effect, and it's one I should have expected, is I started feeling that itch to play sports video games again. That comes up every so often. The results aren't going how I'd like, or seeing players I like near the end of their careers makes me nostalgic for them earlier (current example: Josh McCown with the Bears. I still have a certain fondness for him from his Arizona days). Since I have not, as yet, developed powers over reality, I must turn to games to produce the results and scenarios I desire.

I usually manage to suppress the urge. I remind myself that I only really have sports games for my Nintendo 64 now, and most of those don't play in a way that satisfies the urge. The passing is poorly designed, batting is awkward, offensive sets run by the computer are predictable, whatever. At the same time, the few newer sports games I've played seem to be complicated in such a way it takes a lot of the fun out of it. I figured I could split the difference find a Madden game newer than the one I've got (Madden '99), but not too new. Then I remember I'll inevitably get steamed at the computer after it pulls some dodgy stunt to beat me and the game will probably wind up broken like last time.

So I'm holding off for now, mostly. I have an old Ken Griffey Jr. baseball game with a season saved on it I don't even remember starting. Wouldn't be surprised if it's been waiting over a decade. So I've picked up that season, and I'm making a little progress. The game is a little strange because you set the difficulty level, but I'm sure the game adjusts as it goes along. I played a "pennant" once - basically the last month of the season. Initially, I was winning every game by 20 runs or more. By the end, I was having to scratch and claw to score 3 runs. All the groundballs stop making it through the infield, the liners and flies are getting run down. It's strange, but it makes me feel better about stealing lots of bases, and sacrifice bunting runners home even when I'm up 12 runs. I treat it as practice for when the hits stop falling, which with a full season, will probably be around June. Assuming I don't get bored before then.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I Bought 10/31/2013 - Part 6

Last review from this round of books. Saved the best for last, as usual.

Daredevil #32, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (storytellers), Javier Rodriguez (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I like how Satana is completely unconcerned. I expect that from Simon Garth - he's a zombie, reactions are not really in his repertoire - but she looks mildly put out, at best. I guess fire wouldn't be much of a threat to an alleged daughter of the Devil. I also love Simon's banging '70s medallion. Doesn't look quite as nice on him as the Phantom Stranger's did, but P.S. also had the fedora and that swag opera cape. Does he still have that medallion? I haven't even glanced in the direction of his current title.

The Jester's attempt to spook and kill Matt with a fake dead Foggy fails utterly, because the Jester's banking on sight alone to guide Matt's reactions. It is funny that all of Matt's enemies believe he is Daredevil, so none of them buy that he's blind. Except Bullseye, I guess. Revenge having failed, the Jester's back on the clock for Sons of the Serpent, impersonating Mayor Jameson (I wonder how long Jonah as mayor is going to last?) urging all New Yorkers to arm themselves for their own protection. That's not going to end well, but Matt is too absorbed in RESEARCH! to deal with it. It's a little beyond Daredevil's capabilities anyway, and Foggy found something interesting. The Serpents had (or have) a certain mystical bent to their order, and it involved the Darkhold. So it's off to visit Dr. Strange, who tells what he knows, but directs Matt to Jack Russell (Werewolf by Night) as the real expert. You know, considering he used it to once kill all vampires, I'd think Strange would be the expert, not to mention the whole "Master of the Mystic Arts" thing, but whatever, I'll roll with it. So it's off to the wilds of Kentucky, where Matt immediately stumbles across an angry, intolerant mob out to kill some people. Who turn out to be Satana and that Mummy. When the other monsters show up, it turns into a huge mess, with Matt having no idea who to help or what's going on, and eventually, he gets shot. Well then.

A lot of this issue seems to be about the limitations of Matt's other senses, or maybe it's about how limited sighted folk are because we rely on it so much. The Jester's trap falling apart because Matt can't see the dummy is meant to be Foggy, but instead focuses entirely on the scent, which gives it all away. That Matt can't see what Satana's allies look like, and so doesn't have any idea what he's up against. Even if Matt could see the locals were pursuing a veritable horror ensemble, he'd still likely defend them, if only because the locals are so danged eager to kill them, but he'd also likely question what he was getting mixed up in first. I assume Matt saw at least a few monster movies when he was a kid, so he'd have some frame of reference. There's also the part where Strange and his Sanctum wig Matt out, which makes a lot of sense. Even though they're enhanced, Matt's senses still operate on much the same principles they did before, just to a greater extent. Magic has its own set of rules, but they aren't necessarily the same as science's, so things would be a little tricky.

That page of Matt being shot was effective. Played against the previous page, of Matt seemingly getting out of the line of fire, up in the shadows planning, then I turn the page and BLAM. I think Matt's stunned face was the first thing I saw, but then I'm drawn the the blood, which Rodriguez made brighter, more vital than the red of Matt's costume. That's one of those times I think a panel deserved the full-page treatment. It's a big deal, and it needs to grab my attention. Mission accomplished.

Beyond that Samnee and Rodriguez did their usual excellent job. Love the Jesters outfit, though I have never seen a person eat popcorn by just tossing a handful in the general direction of their face like that. Villains have lousy table manners, I guess. I like how absolutely pissed Matt looked that the dirty cops couldn't tell him anything. Disgusted and aggravated. Matt's continuing aggravation with Foggy's dietary habits, and the way Matt perceives the smell of Cheese Cheez Puffs as a toxic cloud. That was my first thought, actually, that the Jester had either gassed the office as another trap, or just mailed a bunch of garbage to Matt as a prank. Also, as Matt heads off to talk to Strange, the panel were he's still Matt (but changing into his costume), but his reflection is Daredevil already. I always like things like that, or the old bit with Spidey where his spider-sense goes off, and half his face is Peter, and the other half is Spider-Man.

And of course, the bit where Strange warns Matt he will have to travel to a strange land to see Russell, and we see the outline of a wooden sign and a spooky tower, then in the next panel lightning flashes and we see it's in Kentucky. Good one, fellows. I'm going to assume the rural folk are so violently intolerant because they're members of the Sons of the Serpent, and not simply because they're rural folk. The snake iconography Samnee worked in there a couple of times makes that a safe bet, so hopefully that's how it works out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Burn Notice 6.13 - Over the Line

Plot: Picking up where the least episode ended, Sam rushes in to find Tom Card dead, and he's none too pleased with Mike's decision. But there's no time to kick Mike's butt, because Card's team is on their way up and calling for reinforcements. Those reinforcements quickly close off the building, so Mike and Sam try and get a bit tricky to escape, assuming "Mike drives a car through the wall of a parking garage" can be considered tricky. Sam's attempt to walk out posing as a concerned hotel employee falls apart when it turns out the Agency person running things is well aware of who he is. Say hello to Olivia Riley, Sam.

So now Riley has Sam and is trying to use him to hunt down Mike and the others, even as Mike, Fi, and Jesse are scrambling to escape and get some supplies. Riley's pretty clever, though, and she's close behind. Close enough Michael decides to leave a bug on Fi's car (which they're leaving behind), to see if he can pick up anything useful. Which is how they hear Sam try to buy them some time by suggesting Mike has a boat stashed at a marina. Naturally, Mike decides it would be a better idea to try and ambush Riley's forces there to rescue Sam. Great plan, but Riley outsmart Sam again, and the ambush fails. Riley's called for backup and is willing to wait, until Mike convinces her he has a helicopter on the way (he uses a tapped phone line to call Sugar and gets him to play along), so she has to go now. And while her team is busy chasing Mike, Fi and Jesse can sneak up and capture her, rescuing Sam and enabling Michael to walk right past a lot of very angry CIA guys. Some place far away from there, Mike frees Riley and tries to explain his actions, what Card was up to, etc. Riley either doesn't believe him, or doesn't care. He's a traitor, she's bringing him in, end of discussion. One thing she hasn't counted on is that Madeline's decided to stick around, and assuming she can get the CIA to keep underestimating her, she's going to funnel any information she can pick up to Michael.

The Players: Olivia Riley (CIA Heavy Hitter), Sugar (Michael's Old Neighbor)

Quote of the Episode: Riley - 'I'll never stop, Westen. I'll hunt you down to the ends of the earth if I have to!' Mike - 'Then I'll see you there.'

Does Fiona blow anything up? No, the explosives were found and disarmed. As an aside, I did not approve of Riley busting Agent Fuller's chops. So he didn't want to get close to live explosives. Pardon him for having common sense.

Sam Axe Drink Count: 0 (21 overall). The CIA Battle Van either doesn't have a stocked fridge, or Riley wasn't offering.

Sam Getting Hit Count: 0 (6 overall). At least Riley hasn't resorted to torture. Yet.

Michael's Fake Laugh Count: 0 (1 overall). Man, this is the least laughy season ever.

Other: We might be past the point of aliases, when even Chuck Finley is failing to get by.

I don't have a lot to say about this episode. Riley seems a capable foe. Intelligent, experienced, unmoved by Michael's heartfelt explanations and demonstrations of loyalty. There are times where Burn Notice is almost a shonen manga, with Mike winning people over through the power of friendship and self-sacrifice. Not this time, maybe because Riley was loyal to Card.

And so Mike's really put his friends in hot water this time, especially since there wasn't time for anyone to get out. Sam got caught, and the others were too busy fleeing the cops to try bowing out. Not that they would have, though I think Jesse was having some thoughts about it. And I wouldn't blame him. Of the three of them (Fi, Jesse, Sam), Jesse has the least history with Michael, and the highest proportion of bad history with him. He isn't in love with Mike, and he isn't the guy who would be his best man at the wedding. Plus, I think Mike's admission that he murdered Card in cold blood troubled Jesse as much as it did Sam, though maybe for different reasons. I think Jesse's a little more concerned with laws, and Sam a little more with ideals, honor codes, unspoken lines you don't cross. It ends up in the same place with both of them looking askance at Mike's decisions (or Fi's for that matter), but it isn't quite the same path.

While I'm thinking of it, when they showed Card dying at the beginning of the episode, I'm more convinced Mike always intended to shoot Card, and just wanted to be absolutely clear about why he was doing it. With all the shadows, deceptions and cover-ups that are part and parcel in his life, he wanted this to be unambiguous.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

You don't need me to recap the plot do you? Fine, The Sun Also Rises about a bunch of people living in 1924 Paris doing their damndest to find some kind of meaning to life. Either that or they're trying desperately to avoid recognizing the lack of meaning in their lives.

I'm pretty sure I read this during that original Hemingway phase a decade ago, but I'm less sure now than I was before this week. I definitely didn't remember there being so much Antisemitism among the characters. It didn't reflect well on them that it wasn't enough to dislike Cohn because he was a bore, or because he wouldn't stop mooning over Brett, his heritage had to be brought into it as well.

Maybe it's that I've changed since then, but I don't recall being incredibly annoyed with most of the characters, especially during the fiesta. The fact, Jake, Brett, and the rest do very little other than drink and behave like asses to each other was off-putting. While I don't drink myself, I have no particular problem with people who (basically everyone I know besides myself drinks to varying degrees), except for when they become belligerent, or if they start repeating the same phrase or sentiment. That in mind, it wasn't surprising I found myself wanting Mike Campbell to be trampled by a bull at some point, since he alternated between the two behaviors. Even when sober, his attitude was irritating. That he was bothered that someone who loaned him money in Cannes - and presumably had not been repaid - who be irate to see him living it up in San Sebastian didn't help. I'm not sure whether that's his privilege showing, or a simple lack of self-awareness.

He's almost - almost - pitiable, in that he can't seem to stop spending beyond his means. The scene near the end in the bar with he, Jake, and Bill , where they start betting to see who pays, and before you know it, he's out of money again. He seems embarrassed about it, but he doesn't seem to have any self-control, and he sort of accepts that. It's happened before, it'll happen again. They're all like that, to varying degrees, caught in these cycles, doing the same stuff over and over again. I don't think they even expect a different result, they simply can't or won't change course. Either they can't decide what they want, they know what they want but can't have it, or won't let themselves have. Brett and Jake might do well together, regardless of his war injury, but he seems to think it makes him unworthy of her, and Brett doesn't seem to think too highly of herself, either, such as her concerns she'd ruin the young bullfighter, Romero.

That whole bit was one of the scenes I found the most interesting. Jake and Montoya discuss whether Montoya should mention the wealthy Americans who want Romero to attend a party with them. Montoya asked Jake because he feels Jake has a true passion for proper bullfighting as Montoya does, and they both recognize Romero could be great. Thus, they both agree he shouldn't pass the invitation along, that those sorts of people will ruin Romero. Of course, alter that same evening, Romero ends up drinking and dining with Jake and his compatriots, becoming smitten with Brett, Jake tacitly encouraging it, out of some idea of chivalry. If he can't make Brett happy (because impotence removes all possibility of that, naturally), he'll help her pursue any man who temporarily catches her fancy, even though he ought to know by now it won't end happily for anyone. The shift in Montoya's attitude towards Jake after that, it's silly in a way, but I understand it. Ultimately, Romero's life is his own, to live as he wants. Montoya, a random hotel owner and bullfight aficionado, is irrelevant. But Montoya's a fan, and I know that fannish desire to see someone great realize their potential, and how ugly it could be to see someone he thought felt as he did turn out to be just another leech.

That whole thing reminded me of the end of A Moveable Feast, when Hemingway described his foolishly associating with wealthy people at that lodge in the mountains as he was nearing completion of The Sun Also Rises. I wonder if he incorporated that experience into this novel, or if that was simply a coincidence. Along those same lines, the first chapter gave me a clue as to why Hemingway didn't want to Fitzgerald to see the book for as long as possible. I feel like Cohn was strongly based on Fitzgerald, and Frances seems to be Zelda, with her attempts to undercut Cohn's writing, her heavy drinking precipitating his drinking as he has to attend parties to watch over her. Or maybe Hemingway simply didn't want Fitzgerald making a bunch of suggestions on how to change the book so it would sell better. I imagine Hemingway wouldn't have taken the advice, but I think he also would have struggled to tactfully ignore the suggestions.

I can't really decide about Brett. Part of me thinks she pursues men who in some way relate or connect her to Jake. Cohn, a writer, Romero, a bullfighter (Jake isn't a bullfighter, but he loves bullfighting), Campbell, someone who lost something in the way. On the other hand, maybe she legitimately likes them for a while, then either grows disenchanted with them, or starts to hate herself. Do people look askance at her for her behavior, or does she believe they do? At a certain point, I think the flings and other failed romances create a loop for her where the inability up to that point to find a lasting, happy relationship, makes her think none of her relationships will go well, because there's something wrong with her. And so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, or she breaks it off.

One character I would have liked to see a little more on was Bill. There's a part of me that thinks he's the only one of the five not struggling with someone. I could be wrong, the constant travel could be his symptom, that he's physically trying to find something, but he seems more comfortable in his skin than the others. Or he hides it better.

'"I'm sorry, I've got a nasty tongue. I never mean it when I say nasty things."

"I know it," Cohn said. "You're really about the best friend I have, Jake."

God help you, I thought.'

Friday, November 08, 2013

What I Bought 10/31/2013 - Part 5

From a book that's yet to fulfill its potential, to one that's dead man walking.

Katana #8, by Ann Nocenti (writer), Cliff Richards (artist), Matt Yackey (colorist), Taylor Esposito (letterer) - That's a nice action-packed cover, but the characters are almost too active. It's like Katana and Coil are each trying three different attacks at the seam time. You've got a kick, maybe an elbow strike, plus whatever they're trying to manage with their swords. Can you put any sort of force into an attack when the body is trying to do that much stuff all at once?

Katana's still trying to get into the Sword Clans, and one of the trials is beating a master with his own weapon. Thus, the fight against Coil with one of those whip swords. It's a bit of back and forth, Katana dealing with his greater experience, his mouth, and her own emotions, but she comes out on top eventually. Still, there are other trials, and one of them is to track down the young girl that escaped from her sword and took Shun's foot.  The spirit in question, Mona Shard, is busy possessing a little bully and training her body in to a weapon that can drag her old Dagger Clan to the top. Katana receives some helpful advice from the fellow with the Falcon, though whether it's more applicable to dealing with her sword, or the Sword Clans, I'm not sure. Either way, she has doubts about whether she really needs to kill Mona. I'm not sure myself. She seems vicious, but anymore so than Coil, and Katana spared him, so who knows.

Cliff Richards handles the art chores for the entire issue, so I consider this a real step up from the previous issues. He doesn't do anything spectacular, but he knows how to keep everything clear. When he wants to give one panel a lot of space for a cool moment, he still leaves enough room for the other panels on the page. The action looks good, and I like the panel of Katana and Shun walking through town together. They look so relaxed and confident, each wearing the marks Coil tried carving into them, not giving a damn who sees them.

It fits nicely with what I think is one of the themes Nocenti's been working with in this title, the whole aspect of men trying to keep women down, to dictate what they can and can't do. Coil's a perfect example because he spends the entire fight running down Tatsu, criticizing her for getting emotional, laughing about things her husband (allegedly, though I wouldn't doubt it, Maseo seems like kind of a hypocritical dick) said about her behind her back. When he tries to tell her that she's accomplished nothing with all her scrambling about, she takes control of the fight, rebuffs his argument, and says she's enjoyed every minute of it, regardless of whether it got her anywhere. Then he tries to undercut that by claiming she's "sick", but she blows him off, and leaves, head high, Shun at her side.

I also don't think it was a coincidence the billboard the two fought in front of was showing some ad for women's perfume, and emphasizing what I'd guess were the sort of traditional limitations we impose on women. Look pretty, smell nice, wear heels so a guy will want to kiss you, because otherwise there wouldn't be any point, right? And Katana's rejecting all that, she'll decide what she enjoys, why and for what she fights, and anyone who tries to dictate her life without her asking them to first, is going to learn just how bad an idea that is. Shun's a part of this, since she didn't choose to be covered in these tattoos, they were put there on the orders on 'officials', who I would guess were guys, and given that, it really makes me question the one about Katana. A prophecy that says if a woman takes power, it will ruin everything. Gee, what a shock. I think that's part of why Tatsu's unsure about killing Mona. She recognizes Mona probably isn't any worse that Coil or Sickle, so why does Mona have to die. Besides the part where she's already dead, but you don't see the boys telling her to go after Maseo, the samurai, or the Creeper. Possibly because none of them have demonstrated their intent to upset the current status among the different clans.

See, this book makes me think in a way a lot of the other titles don't. I'm gonna miss that when it's gone. That being said, I did think that during the fight between Katana and Coil, things turned awfully quickly. Some thoughts balloons allowing us to track Tatsu's thoughts might have helped. The way it played out, I think Coil's attempt to deride her efforts at cleaning up the Outsiders, triggered a realization, or helped coalesce her thoughts, and that gave her a clarity that let her turn the tables, start mocking Coil, rather than let his taunts goad her. But with no peer inside her mind, it just looks like she decided to start fighting better all of the sudden. I do miss thought bubbles, but everybody loves those caption boxes now, assuming you even get that.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

What I Bought 10/31/2013 - Part 4

What the heck, I enjoyed talking about a book that hadn't shown up in two months due to artist complications so much, let's do another!

Hawkeye #13, by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (lettering) - I don't really understand the hexagonal patterns all over the cover. It's a nice honeycomb, patchwork effect, but I'm not clear on the purpose. Does the next cover follow that? I guess if the book is going to alternate issues between Clint and Kate, it could be to represent their being separated.

Over the past few issues we've had events from Barney's perspective, Pizza Dog's perspective, Kate's, and now it's Clint's turn. So it retreads the same territory as the previous three issues, just as Clint experienced. Which does help to tie things together. I hadn't realized Barney showed before Kate even left, for example. Still, though, you know how I complained about Clint's moping about, but tried to be reasonable because while it was 6 months for me, it was maybe two weeks for him? Well, this is more moping about, only with drinking and painkiller use mixed in. On the plus side, it looks like it's really only been about 4 days for Clint. Of course, it's been 9 months for me by now. One step forward, two step back.

I'm still not sure why Kate left, though. On the ride to the funeral, she told Clint she was going to be there for him, next thing you know she's jetting for the coast. What, because he fell asleep when she was making her heartfelt speech in the car? Fleeing emotional commitment is a Hawkeye characteristic.

I don't sound terribly pleased with the book, I know, but it's hard for me not to be frustrated. The Punisher could have handled these dopes in five minutes, and Clint's still futzing around feeling bad for himself. At least he has good taste in movies. He fell asleep watching Rio Bravo, which is not exactly a subtle foreshadowing of his and Barney's situation, having to defend a set location against an enemy they may not even recognize, what with it being a largely faceless mass of morons.

Aja did the entire issue in 9-panel grids. I admit, when people talk about how different layouts make them slow down or speed up their reading, I don't get that. I tend to fly over pages at roughly the same speed, adjusting for the amount of dialogue or if the art is unclear. So I can't really say what effect Aja and Fraction were driving at there. It does seem to be effective at forcing me to focus on a specific thing. I've been looking back over it, trying to figure out if there's a pattern or meaning to what's depicted in the first panel, and that bag of blood on page 3 was pretty arresting.

Maybe it's between the last panel on a page, and the first one on the next page? Clint rushes upstaris to get his costume and we see it in the closet. Next page, Clint's wearing, lying flat on his back after a tough battle. The risks you take? Lucky licks Clint's face on one page, the next one they're sitting on the stoop together, waiting for Barney. But then, the last panel of that page was Barney following Clint into the apartment building, and the first panel of the next page is a roll of toilet paper. Family means letting your brother use your bathroom, even if he tried to kill you and your ex-wife, because you took all his money? Or something.

I'm probably overthinking the whole thing, but given the limited plot progression, I have to think about something. Like whether Barney's slumped posture as Clint introduces him to everyone and says he's going to help means he's actually there to kill Clint, or if he's just uncomfortable being the good guy. Or if he just doesn't want to get involved emotionally, either. Maybe that's why they're all archers, they like to keep people at a distance. Works for Ollie Queen too, you know.