Saturday, May 31, 2014

Favorite DC Characters #8 - Enemy Ace

Character: Hans von Hammer, the Hammer of Hell!

Creators: Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert

First appearance: Our Army at War #151

First encounter: Hmm, could be any one of my dad's various war comics. Let's go with Star Spangled War #151, it's the earliest issue of that title he had. I'm using an earlier cover because by issue 151, the Unknown Soldier was the lead feature, and I wanted one that highlighted Rittmeister von Hammer.

Definitive writer: Robert Kanigher

Definitive artist: Joe Kubert. Who else would it be, in either case?

Favorite moment or story: And again, lack of handy back issues rears its ugly head. If only I had known five months ago, that four months from then, I would finally get down to working on this series, I would have done my preparatory research. So no specific issue numbers, sorry. There's a story where von Hammer shoots down an enemy pilot, but as he does so notices the man has both hands in the air. He recognizes the symbol for touchdown, and experiences intense regret as he had badly wanted to learn about American - no wait, it's the sign for the other guy being out of ammo. He had shot down a man with no means to defend himself. As all his squadmates whisper at how he is a heartless killer, he dwells on it. Eventually, a wingman of the pilot he downed issues a challenge, which von Hammer accepts, naturally. And he goes up with empty guns, relying purely on his skill to keep him alive. Eventually the other pilot recognizes this, ceases his attack, and the two part ways.

What I like about him: First off, "Hammer of Hell" is a great nickname. Second, his only friend in the world is a lone wolf that lives in the forest near the airfield, who accompanies him sometimes on walks through the woods. This wolf once killed a bear single-handedly right in front of von Hammer. Which was probably a good thing, seeing a von Hammer had one arm in a sling from a wound he sustained in a dogfight. He still completed his mission, naturally, just as the wolf won its fight alone, despite being wounded early on. Kanigher wasn't exactly being subtle. Third, he's a pilot, and I'm an aviation fan (even if the idea of flying, or more accurately, landing a plane terrifies me.)

The thing about Enemy Ace is he's very good at what he does, some of it by skill and determination, and some of it by luck. He doesn't take any particular joy in what he does, it is merely the task given him, and he feels bound to do it to the best of his ability. Other people read things into this. To nearly everyone else, the Hammer of Hell is a 'merciless killing machine', or an Angel of Death. They regard his calmly efficient manner as a sign of something inhuman about him, a complete lack of concern for the lives lost as he carries out his work.

But that's not really the case. One refrain von Hammer issues frequently is the sky is the only true victor, and it wins out over everyone eventually. This could be seen as more indifference, but it's important to remember that at the time, DC would often end their stories with a little caption box in the corner that stated, "MAKE WAR NO MORE". Viewed through that, it could be that Hans is meant to recognize a futility in all this killing and fighting. The two sides fight for "control" of the air, but the sky will be there long after von Hammer, as well as all the men he's flown with or against, are long in the grave. Nobody is really winning anything, and taking that approach, there's no reason to show elation or fear. The Enemy Ace will fly to the best of his considerable ability, pit his skill against whoever rises to challenge him. Maybe he'll survive, maybe he won't. If he survives, he'll respect his opponent's honor and courage (the men von Hammer faces seem to be uniformally as brave and honorable as he).

There's a certain pragmatism to that I enjoy. Not the general lack of concern over death, but the resolution to carry out his job with a minimum amount of fuss and theatrics. Hans von Hammer doesn't care a whit for all the trophies he's awarded for his kills, why would he be? He's merely carrying out his duty, as ordered. I think he likes flying, taken by itself, can appreciate the grandeur of it. The fighting, the killing, no. Those are just the price of it, the things he has to do because his honor dictates he serve. So he goes out, does the job, gets it over with, and goes home. Maybe takes a moment to appreciate the view on the way to the aerodrome.

Can't discuss Enemy Ace without discussing Joe Kubert. He draws von Hammer rail-thin, and frequently with arms folded across his chest, or in close to his body. There's a distance between him and everyone else, and he's very closed off to the rest of the world. And Kubert's outstanding at drawing an aerial battle. He can draw back for these beautiful shots that emphasize how small the planes and their pilots are against the sky, or these pages that shift between the acrobatics the planes are put through and zooming in on the pilots to show the tension and reactions as the advantage shifts between them. He has all these great techniques. Just doing an image search on-line there are pages where he has 3 slanted panels in the upper left corner of the page, and 3 more in the bottom right. In between is a long narrow panel of the two planes dogfighting. The panels in the top show von Hammer getting ready to strike, and the ones at the bottom show the attack. Sometimes Kubert uses basically a full-page splash to provide a nice visual with a couple of small round panels in the corners that give a little extra information.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Heat Of Summer Keeps The Solicits Quiet, Too

August is going to be a pretty quiet month, comicswise. No shake-ups to the pull list, so I'll just note a few things quickly.

- Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14, originally solicited to appear in June, will now appear in August. I guess we can figure on the series ending in September then.

- Hawkeye is missing once again. At this rate, Marvel will be on All-Newer Marvel Now! 4.5 by the time Fraction and Aja wrap this thing up. 

- Daredevil will still be doing Original Sin tie-ins, but at least they aren't forcing it to double-ship this month. The same goes for Deadpool, for which issue #33 will mark the 5th Original Sin tie-in issue. I really hope my faith in those two creative teams isn't misplaced.

- At least Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, and Nightcrawler aren't doing any tie-ins. Yet.

- Avengers Undercover is the only Marvel book on my list double-shipping, which is right on schedule for it. However, Harley Quinn is also double-shipping. Chad Hardin won't be drawing both issues, and Amanda Conner is sadly not the fill-in artist. Ah well, it makes up for the fact there won't be an issue of Harley for me in September, since I already know I'm skipping the Future's End mess.

- Atomic Robo: Knights of the Golden Circle continues. Impressed that so far they aren't suggesting any skip months for it. Usually there's at least one somewhere in there. Maybe next month, but hopefully not.

And that's it. There wasn't anything new starting up that even tweaked me interest a little, but that's OK. It's still about a dozen books.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Prelude to Foundation - Isaac Asimov

Looks like my exhaustion with books lasted a full month. All it took was having some time to kill waiting for a store to open. Which led to me killing some time in the local library. Start looking at some sci-fi titles, and I could feel that itch coming back. Or maybe that was a tick bite. No, no, I'm sure it was the urge to read.

Besides, it gives me something to do while I'm hiding from the birders.

I had opportunities to read the last two books of Asimov's Foundation series, Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation, at least as far back as high school. I passed them over because I suppose I didn't think it was necessary to know how Hari Seldon created psychohistory. The important thing was he did, were the details really important.

Well, once Seldon brought up the immense challenges he would face to even begin developing the equations that would be needed, well that sort of piqued my interest. I hadn't considered just how many factors he would have to assess, just in terms of figuring out which ones are important and which aren't. How strong they are in relation to each other, how they interact, on and on.

However, if it had just been Seldon poring over math, I likely wouldn't have found it a good read. The story is an extended chase, with Seldon being sent running from the Emperor of the Galaxy (and his man-behind-the-throne, Eto Demerzel) and anyone else who might try to use his idea for their own gain. Never mind the fact Seldon considered it basically impractical, nobody ambitious would take that chance. He's set on this flight by a remarkably influential journalist named Chetter, and accompanied by a historian, Dors Venabili, who very quickly takes her job of protecting Hari very seriously. But in each place, Seldon finds some way of falling into danger, usually in his attempt to find something that could help him make sense of history.

Prelude isn't one of Asimov's stronger works, perhaps because he's trying to draw the threads of his different series together. I'm not sure when he decided to try and weave the Robots series and the Foundation series together, but this book does a bit of that. Since it takes place in between the two, the story is constrained a bit by the things those two series have already set in place. In some parts it works well, in other places you can see the flow of the story being disrupted as Asimov's working to tie things together.

The end in particular, he spends a lot of time with two characters sitting and explaining why one of them is doing what he does. It resembles the end of a detective story, where Sam Spade explains everything. Those are tricky to do without bringing things to a screeching halt, and in this case I don't think Asimov managed it. Maybe because I had already pieced a fair amount of it together, and the parts I hadn't figured weren't the most important ones. This is probably a book better read in the order the events take place, rather than coming around to it a decade after reading Foundation and Earth and Robots and Empire.

So the end stumbled a bit, but the middle section where they're on the run and meeting all these disparate cultures that make up the Throneworld were good. I'm not sure at the moment whether I'll read Forward the Foundation if the opportunity arises again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Winter Soldier Was Even Better Than I Hoped

The second movie they were showing, and the one my coworker and I both actually wanted to see, was Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. You might recall I absolutely loved Captain America: The First Avenger, so I was hopeful for this, but had some reservations. The first movie was a period piece, Cap got to punch Nazis, so certain inherent advantages there. Would they be able to do well when they moved him to the present day?

Assume SPOILERS past this point. I don't know what would qualify for a movie that came out 2 months ago, so better safe than sorry.

As it turned out, I loved this one as well, maybe even more than the first movie. Which of course, only served to make Amazing Spider-Man 2 look worse in comparison. There was not one thing I thought that movie did better than The Winter Soldier, and that includes the credits. Spider-Man's credits were the standard, boring "white text scrolls against a black background". Captain America had all these nifty visuals - apparently drawn by David Mack - for each of the main characters. Here's a handy link to some of them. They were striking, they were cool, it was a nice way to wrap things up.

I think mostly I was worried we'd get some morally compromised Cap, but the movie went at that head on by showing how Cap wasn't really on board with how Fury and SHIELD were doing things. I liked how Fury tries to compare what he's doing to what Cap and the Howling Commandos did during World War 2, and Steve ain't buying that false equivalence. Captain America not agreeing with the idea of sacrificing your liberties for some amorphous and ill-defined sense of "security" felt on the nose.

With Amazing Spider-Man 2, there were these seemingly interminable stretches where nothing interesting happened. Winter Soldier wasn't having any of that. It's like the directors, writers, and cast recognized this was an action movie and audiences want to be entertained. Every few minutes something cool would happen, or there'd be a nice bit of dialogue. Here's Cap running around taking out pirates and getting to fight Batroc. Setting aside my disappointment of no "Zut alours!", after a few minutes spent showing Steve's discomfort with how SHIELD operates, Nick Fury's under attack and involved in a car chase. Then Fury gets shot and Cap has a brief pursuit of the mysterious shooter with a cyborg arm. Then Cap's fighting in an elevator and taking out one of those hoverjet things. And so on and so forth. They kept things jumping, and they switched it up. Added different elements or characters, changed the stakes, kept thins interesting.

I know it would have been too silly, but I kind of wish that during the elevator sequence a random technician had wandered in among the goons, completely oblivious. Then Cap has to fight and protect the tech, who perhaps helps at a key moment, or not, but is the only one left in the elevator with all the unconscious dudes when the doors open.

I thought when Steve entered his apartment and some nice music was playing, that Peggy had found a way to get off her sickbed and come to his place for that dance. Instead it was Nick Fury. Never been so disappointed to see Samuel L. Jackson. But Steve and Peggy's conversation prior to that was really touching.

The movie does that surprisingly well. I thought they did an excellent job with the scene where Steve learns the identity of the Winter Soldier. The way he's simply shocked into stillness, but the Soldier keeps trying to kill him, only to be deflected by first the Falcon, and then the Black Widow. And Steve's still just standing there. The way he's so stunned he's oblivious to these people having to risk their necks to save his - the sort of thing that normally sets him springing into action - says a lot. It could have been silly, but I thought it worked well. Chris Evans sold it, Sebastian Stan sold it by not reacting initially. Oh yeah, the fights between those two guys were really good. I know a lot of that was probably stunt guys, and they also did an excellent job. The film mostly avoided the herky-jerky camera stuff, so the action was easy to follow, which is something I require from my action movies. Let me see what's happening, let me be impressed by your fight choreography.

The whole cast did a good job. Redford may have been wasted a bit, because the moment his character showed up, defending Fury, buddying up to all the good guys, he might as well have sprouted a Snidely Whiplash mustache and tried tying Natasha to a railroad (note I said "tried"). Anthony Mackie was an outstanding Sam Wilson. He's trying to help other people adjust, and in the process help himself a bit, but when the help required is a little more physical, he doesn't hesitate. Like Steve, Sam has a strong sense of right and wrong, and he'll follow it. I'm curious if we'll see them disagree on things in future movies, and how that'll be presented. They did a little bit here, with regards to whether the Winter Soldier could be saved or not, but since that was something for Steve to deal with alone, it doesn't really produce much difference of opinion.

Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow got to have a nifty arc. In Avengers, she wanted to stay in the shadows, where she'd always worked, didn't necessarily want to get mixed up in this public stuff. But I think she sees the advantages of being more public. It's easier to see who you're helping, easier to tell if you're doing the right thing, compared to carrying out secret missions for Nick Fury where you ignore the hostages to secure "vital" information. By the end, she's the public face of the whole thing about SHIELD. She's the one facing a bunch of blowhard politicians, while Steve and Sam prepare to hunt down and HYDRA, and Fury does whatever he was planning to do. It takes a lot of guts on her part, because she's the one with all the aliases, the one who ran a lot of missions that ruined other people's plans, that took the lives of people close to them. Now they know precisely who to blame, and she stepped onto the bullseye willingly.

Beyond that, I enjoy how she and Evans interact. Natasha respects Steve, but she's also pretty amused by him. He clearly has no idea how to do the espionage stuff - witness the sequences in the mall where he keeps getting ready to fight, and she keeps managing perfectly simple ways to avoid that - and she doesn't mind teasing him about it. Because she knows he won't be hurt or offended. If she tried it with Stark, he'd turn it into a pissing contest as a matter of ego, and that would get exhausting, but Steve goes along with it.

One last thing: I notice Captain America really likes jumping off high things. Elevators, helicarriers, airplanes, if it's high enough in the air, Steve Rogers wants to jump off it. I wonder if that's him reveling in the ability to do that, after all those years as a sickly youth? Or does he keep thinking he could have just wedged the shield in the cockpit to make that plane crash at the end of the first movie and jumped out, sparing himself 70 years in ice, and he's making up for missed opportunities?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Movie Didn't Deserve This Much Discussion

Saturday, after having cared for our coworker's cat and other pets, and having concluded not buying that Castlevania game ourselves was a wise decision, we went to the movies. The drive-in down the road was having their opening weekend of the season, and it was a superhero double feature. We both really just wanted to see the second movie, and I'll get to it tomorrow, but since I had to sit through Amazing Spider-Man 2, you have to sit through my review.

OK, you don't have to. There's a whole big Internet out there you could explore instead. Or even a world outside, if you're feeling bold.

The quick, no-spoilers review: Too long, but with too many dull spots and even with about 130 minutes, they included so many different plot lines that none of them really got fleshed out. The sequences where Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man are nice, though. There are some decent funny parts, but the music is noticeably bad.

Longer Review: This will probably include SPOILERS, assuming that you a) haven't seen the movie yet, and b) you actually care.

I don't normally discuss music in these movie reviews, because it's rarely something I notice. If I don't have captions on, I have to concentrate on the dialogue to make sure I don't miss anything. That being said, the music in this film was pretty lackluster. There was what closed captions might describe as a "triumphal score" at the very end that seemed fitting, but they also used one at the very beginning, and at the start of the credits, and neither of those worked. They felt better suited for a Superman flick, where he's soaring majestically, rather than Spider-Man swinging through NYC, being sort of goofy. I kind of liked that thrumming bass line or whatever they gave Electro, except he wasn't really presented as a guy who was a serious threat until the end fight. Up to then, he was a sad, lonely guy, who was tired of being ignored, but honestly could have been a good guy if Spidey had been a little more convincing.

The scene where we see Max' apartment covered with Spidey stuff reminded me of Batman Forever. You know, how Nigma's work space was covered with pictures of Bruce Wayne? As a general rule, films should not remind me of Joel Schumacher Batman films. It's a bad sign.

Not sure how I feel about Peter not being much of a science guy. Gwen being smart is cool, but it's almost an Inspector Gadget situation, where Peter has the powers, but the smart girl and the dog have to do all the real legwork, because Peter's a total dope. Not sure who the dog is in this situation.

The comedy of him trying to fix his web-shooter was one of the better moments in the film. The movie actually does comedy fairly well, and they make decent use of the spider-powers. The bit at the beginning where Pete's struggling to grab all the radioactive canisters and using all his limbs was a good touch. Him sleeping up in the corner of the skylight after he fixed his web-shooter was another. It emphasizes the oddness of some of his powers, which is good. It's not just punching and jumping a lot, it's weird stuff like sticking to walls, that can also be really cool.

I get that Sony is trying to cram as many characters as they can into these things so Marvel can't use any of them in their films. Not that I expect Marvel Studios was clamoring to use the Rhino, but heck, they've got Drax appearing in a movie this summer, better safe than sorry, I guess. Problem being, it's too much. There's no time for anything to develop. You have the intro of Max Dillon, then he becomes Electro, is misunderstood, then angry, then abused, then trying to take over the city. Harry Osborn's introduced, learns he's dying, tries to assume control of his company, decides he hates Spider-Man, goes nuts. There's the evil businessman trying to force Harry out. There's whatever they were possibly building with Felicia Hardy. Is she just loyal to the Osborns, or to Harry because he gave her more authority? Does she have ulterior motives? We don't know. I have very little certainty why she's doing anything she does, though a fair amount of that is because they named her "Felicia Hardy", and so you kind of have to suspect something's up there.

There's all the stuff about Peter's parents, the occasional stuff with Aunt May, and of course, all the Gwen/Peter stuff. None of the stuff I mentioned in the sentence above interested me. I know a lot of people cited Garfield and Emma Stone's chemistry as a strong point of this movie, but I was bored to tears. In theory it ought to have been good, but in practice, nope. Maybe because I knew how it would end, maybe because I've never cared about Gwen Stacy, though I thought Stone gave a good performance. I don't blame her for how the writers set things up. I thought Gwen should have stuck to her guns about breaking up with him and gotten the hell out. Quit waiting to see if Peter's going to get his act together and just go. And don't sort of roll your eyes in bemused exasperation when he confirms he's been following you!

At any rate, the film jumped from one thing to another so often, it was hard for anything to resonate. And the film goes through long stretches where nothing interesting happens at all. It's kind of astounding. Sure, it can't all be Spidey fighting bad guys and making quips, but it's possible to have interesting conversations, or amusing banter. Seemed to be beyond this film's abilities, though.

I really think the arc with harry Osborn could have been good if it had been played out over 2 films. Introduce him in one, show the gradual deterioration in his health and relationship with Peter. Play up the forces working against him within Oscorp, and his own desperation to live driving his erratic actions, and by the end of the second film, he goes full costumed bad guy, but with a possible sympathetic core because of his circumstances. As it was, everything was rushed. Also can't help noticing that in the second film in the series, Harry Osborn makes a deal with another super-villain to attack Spider-Man. Doc Ock in the Raimiverse, Electro here.

I didn't see the need for two planes on a collision course during the big Electro fight. He's already shut down all power in the city, and plans to place everyone at his mercy. What more do you need? If you must hammer home the stakes, they briefly showed May working as a nurse in a hospital struggling to help patients with all the life support systems off. Follow that, maybe some young kid with a heart condition going into cardiac arrest, and May's helping the doc's keep the kid alive while Peter and Gwen try to get the power going. If you needed something like that, which I'm not convinced they did.

OK, so the Gwen thing. Possibly big spoiler for the end, if you care. Ready? I'll wait a few more seconds if you'd like. OK, here we go: Gwen dies. I know, stunning. They beat Electro, Harry shows up on a glider, pissed and crazy, figures out Peter is Spider-Man, grabs Gwen, Spidey purses, fight inside a clock tower, Gwen falls, Peter tries to catch her with a web-line and. . . well, that's the question. Did the sudden stop kill her? Did they go with the neck snap, or did her head hit the ground? It wasn't entirely clear, but it seems like they were going for "Peter killed her". Which would fit with him seeing her father everywhere throughout the film (after Captain Stacy told him to stay away from her for that precise reason at the end of the first movie), and Peter's own fears which prompted the break-up (Gwen having no time for Peter's weepy, "It's not safe for you to be around me" stuff).

Except she pretty obviously would have died from the fall if he hadn't caught her. They were several stories up, she was going to hit a solid floor, and then large, jagged pieces of metal were going to crash down on top of her. Unless the plan was to reveal Gwen Stacy once received a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner, as Sony tries to lay claim to She-Hulk, she wasn't living through it either way. Why dump that on Peter? He wasn't angsting and moping enough?

I know, that's how it went in the comics. Sometimes. 'Cause sometimes writers decide it's a bad idea for Spider-Man to directly cause the death of a loved one, and argue the shock of the fall already killed her. I tend to agree with those writers. Spidey's got enough guilt from people dying he couldn't save, don't add to it by giving him people he killed while actively trying to save them.

But why kill her at all? Yes, the comics did it, but the comics also had Captain Stacy ask Peter to look after Gwen, not stay the hell away from her. Throughout the movie, Peter's been struggling with the fact that he loves Gwen, but can't decide whether that means they should be together, and risk her dying, or apart, and be sad. Gwen's been trying to do her own thing, pursue her career, hang out with other friends, and see if maybe Peter can come to a decision. Gwen seems to love Peter, but has no use for this "Gotta protect you" stuff, and would just as soon not be with him as accept it. Ultimately, Gwen rejects Peter's attempts to sideline her again, forces Peter to accept she isn't going to play that game, helps stop Electro. Yeah, Peter and Gwen are together! Adventure in England awaits! Then she gets grabbed by Harry, and dies. If you're going to play it as Gwen took the risk, and this is the price, then just let her fall and don't have it be Peter's rescue attempt that kills her. Or, you know, let Peter save Gwen, since she had just used her science knowledge twice to help Peter stop Electro.

So neither amazing, spectacular, nor sensational, and I have to continue to wait for a really awesome Spider-Man movie.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Stay Hidden In Those Shadows, And You Can Lord Over Them All You Want

One of my coworkers went away over the weekend, and asked a few of us to look after her pets in the meantime. Even offered use of their extensive video game collection, which is how I ended up playing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and ugh.

I guess if you enjoyed the God of War games, it might be more fun. I've watched people play them, but never felt any burning urge to do so myself. Not that I don't play a lot of games that are essentially, "run into a room, kill everything, then everything in the next room, then maybe flip some switches". I started Deadpool this morning, thus far that's nothing but killing everything in one room before moving to another room, where you also kill things. I suppose I like to think the games I play in that vein don't take themselves so seriously. God of War was nothing but angry-faced shouting. There wasn't much shouting in Lords of Shadow, but it still seemed to take itself very seriously. Guy's wife died like 2 days ago, and he's already off on some quest, not to save her, but just to find her spirit so she'll tell him why Heaven has been cut off from Earth. Take a little time to grieve, guy. They even hired Patrick Stewart to do their breathless, important-sounding voice-over narration. My friend and I were both tired of it before the first loading screen had even finished, because it was so dire and overwrought, it didn't allow Stewart to show any range.

The combat isn't bad against standard foes, but the boss battles are all terribly tedious. You hack them down to almost no health, then you have to correctly perform some sort of timed button press sequence. Screw it up and they recover health somehow while you get smashed to the ground, and have to start all over. Just let me slash them to death with the stupid whip if I feel like, and leave that nonsense as a way to earn bonus points. The last boss fight I got into was against a giant stone statue that was in a frozen lake in the land of the dead, which makes no sense, and the game had a funny idea of what constituted contact. I'm up on the side of its head, trying to smash a rune, I see it reaching its hand up to swipe at me, I crawl around, it maybe, maybe, grazes me with a fingertip and I go tumbling off. Which leads to a while mess of climbing back up and it trying to buck me off, and it was horribly tedious and here I am complaining about it.

So yeah, if I'm going to play any more Castlevania games, I'll stick to the 2-D versions.

Tomorrow, a movie!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.9 - Separation Anxiety

Plot: Hobbes has an ex-wife, named Vivian. And he's following her. But only because he's convinced her current boyfriend, Brock, is up to no good. Vivian has apparently heard such things before, and doesn't want to hear it again. But Hobbes is not to be deterred, even when the Official reverses the roles and places Fawkes in charge of watching Hobbes. Which means Fawkes gets dragged into Hobbes' investigation into Brock, because Fawkes isn't any better at controlling Bobby than Bobby is at controlling him.

Lo and behold, Brock does appear to be up to something. At first, he just seems to be buying spark plugs from a guy at a sports bar(?), but after Hobbes makes a fool of himself confronting Brock, Fawkes trails the guy and his fellow naval buddies and hears them talking about a deal. So he stashes himself in the van and rides along to a demonstration of the newest military weapon, a gun with a thermal imaging system that guides the bullet. Upon learning this, the Official is very interested in making a bust, but opts not to inform NCIS. Having watched more episodes of NCIS than I'd care to admit, I can understand the impulse not to share information with them, if they act like Agent Gibbs. In this case, it would have been a good idea, because Brock works for NCIS, and he was trying to use the two other guys to get his hands on a major arms buyer, Mr. White. Now his two partners are in custody, so the whole thing is going up in smoke.

But wait! So far as Mr. White is concerned, Brock just works with two guys. Fawkes and Hobbes are two guys, and agree to step in. Hobbes and Brock even bury the hatchet a bit, though Hobbes learning from Viv that she and Brock are getting married may have something to do with it. The arms deal is going mostly well until Mr. White manages to throw of the scent of all the naval police that were supposed to follow Hobbes and the truck full of guns. The Bobby mouths off to Brock a little too much, and Darien's unmilitary haircut seals the deal. It's only because Fawkes is able to avoid thermal seeking bullets by Quicksilvering (which reflects light and lowers ambient temperature) that they're able to avoid death. Of course, now the military will believe the gun is defective, so, that could be a lot of research down the drain. Oh, and Hobbes takes a bullet for Brock, which seems to convince Vivian to have one last, quiet conversation with him.

Quote of the episode: Viv - 'Send Bobby my love.' Fawkes - 'Definitely.' Viv - 'And tell him I never wanna see him again.'

The "oh crap" count: 0 (15 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week: A Chinese proverb about how if you save someone's life, you're responsible for it. Which seems backwards to me. You saved them, they owe you.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (4 overall).

Still Fish & Game.

Other: I'm quite impressed with Mr. White's willingness to shoot people while wearing all white. It's a bold choice, or an appreciation for wearing non-objective art, with the shirt and pants as the canvas.

I find it really funny the Official and Eberts watch soaps together in that big old TV in the Official's office.

I've been meaning to mention this for a few episodes. Darien wears a jacket, maybe from a bowling team, or some plumbing place, that has the name "Randy" on it. What is that about? Because I keep thinking of the "everybody loses their memory thanks to Magic Abusing Willow" episode of Buffy. Spike believed he was Giles' kid (as they were the only two people speaking in British accents), and was quite put out that his coat had the name randy stitched on the inside. All I can think of is, 'Randy Giles? Why not name me Horny Giles, or Desperate for a Shag Giles?' Seems a bit of a crude joke for Fawkes, though.

During the fight at the end, Fawkes drove a forklift loaded with pallets into the goons, who were knocked unconscious when the pallets landed on them. Are pallets normally that heavy? I've found them to be awkward to carry, partially because all the boards get in the way, partially because they're made of cheap wood that splinters easily, but not terribly heavy.

Man, when Vivian gave Hobbes back the autographed menu from Legoland, that hurt. Oh, and the wedding video, that was probably also painful.

The whole thing with Viv and Hobbes is a little awkward, because Hobbes is basically stalking her, which is not acceptable, regardless of his desire to protect her. Which is undercut anyway because he also clearly wants to break her and Brock up as much to give himself the chance to patch things up as anything else. The show at least seems to acknowledge this by showing Hobbes can't even think or say anything related to the idea of Viv and Brock being intimate, but I'm not sure Hobbes really gets hammered enough for it. The Official is willing to ignore it when it seems Hobbes' suspicions paid off, but I shouldn't be surprised. The Official is not terribly concerned with the actual well-being of his employees, only how they reflect upon the Agency. Fawkes is trying to dissuade him, but ultimately keeps going along with it.

But Hobbes is also at least somewhat ill. By his own admittance, he's fallen in love with 7 therapists. He's supposed to be on Zoloft. He didn't have imaginary friends as a child, only imaginary enemies. He's been fired from practically every other intelligence agency around, in large part because of his personal issues. I don't know what you'd call all that - the paranoia, the difficulty interacting with people, the tendency to try and make decisions for everyone else - but it adds up to something. How much slack does that cut him?

Still, I don't think the episode does badly with it. They don't end up together, but I think Vivian will be able to remember the things she liked about Bobby, while also remembering why it wouldn't work between them. And Hobbes seems to have accepted that. I like how Paul Ben-Victor plays Hobbes when he's in scenes with Vivian. He starts the episode with a lot of yelling and trying to tell her what to do, and why she has to listen to him. But as the episode goes on, and Vivian grows more determined to sever all ties, Hobbes starts to get this quiet, maybe shell-shocked look on his face. Especially when she shows up at the Agency's office looking for him. He seems completely stunned by it, and spends most of the conversation just absorbing Vivian's anger at his actions, as she gives back all these mementos of their time together. When he visits her at home, and sees her trying on a wedding dress, he spends a lot of that conversation on the verge of tears. Maybe anger he was used to, even if this was a little much, but now he had been trying to accept and listen to what he she said, probably in the hopes there was still a chance to fix things. But there's nothing to fix, and he knows it. He listened too late to send things back to as they were. And by the end, he's OK with that. Vivian is her own person, on her own path, and it doesn't go the same place as Bobby's. But she reaffirms that he's a good person, in spite of his flaws, and that even if what they had is over, it did still happen. It was probably as gently as that could go and still actually get through Hobbes' skull.

It also helps contrasts Darien and Bobby some more. Darien, as Hobbes noted last week, has this thing he can do no one else can, but he fights against the opportunity to use it. Hobbes has skills, and while he might not be the best, he's still valuable and he embraces that. Even so, he sabotages himself by his own behavior. Maybe nobody's ever totally happy with their situation.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Favorite Marvel Character #9 - Ben Reilly

Character: Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly)

Creators: Ross Andru and Gerry Conway (weird how the artists' last names keep coming before the writers alphabetically)

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #149, as the Scarlet Spider it would be Peter Parker, Spider-Man #52

First encounter: I was getting comics as gifts from the Sears Christmas catalog, along with grabbing whatever looked good off the spinner racks at a bookstore in the mall, so the chronology is fuzzy. It was either Amazing Spider-Man #400, Web of Spider-Man #121, or the aforementioned Peter Parker, Spider-Man #52 (though it didn't add the "Peter Parker" to the title until later). I know that cover isn't from any of those books, I just picked it to appeal to the ladies.

Definitive writer: Hard to say. the Spider-books were all so interwoven during that stretch, it's probably a group effort between guys like Tom DeFalco, David Micheline, Howard Mackie, J.M. DeMatteis. I might lean towards DeMatteis, because he wrote The Lost Years mini-series, and that established certain things about Ben I find interesting.

Definitive artist: Again, hard to say. The different images I see when I think of the Scarlet Spider are a mix of artists. Mark Bagley's in there - big surprise, since he was drawing Amazing at the time. Steven Butler was drawing Web of Spider-Man, so some of it is him. And some of it is Tom Lyle, who drew the future Peter Parker: Spider-Man title. If I had to pick, I'd guess Lyle for Ben as the Scarlet Spider, Bagley for when he became Spider-Man.

Favorite moment or story: Ben cobbling together a costume and rushing out to stop Venom, when he isn't even sure of the reasons in Peter Parker Spider-Man #52, 53 is a nice one. His trying to fight Sentinels during the whole Onslaught mess was another (PP: S-M #72, Amazing Spider-Man #415). I'm always down for Spider-Folk fighting against serious odds.

What I like about him: Now I know what you're thinking.

'Calvin, we know you're going to put Spider-Man on this list. You just wanted to put him on the list twice!' But you'd be wrong.

Obviously, I put the Scarlet Spider on here to indulge in my love for hoodies. Three guesses who'll be representing on the DC list.

Seriously though, I liked the hoodie as part of the costume as a kid, and I continue to enjoy it now. It was meant to be a hurried, rushed-together costume Reilly made out of what he had handy, and questions about why he had red spandex with no webs on it, but a blue hoodie with a spider on it aside, that's what it looks like.

It might work better if he occasionally had used the hood. You know, he's observing some criminal from a rooftop, it's raining, he pulls the hood up. It wouldn't work when he was web-swinging - either it'd be blowing off in the wind, or it would impair his hearing (and possibly peripheral vision). But there are times it would have been practical. You don't always want to waste web fluid making an umbrella, or rely on old newspapers.

Moving past the hood, I find the stories of people who were essentially created to be someone else's weapon, who try to move past it/deal with the consequences of it kind of fascinating. Cassandra Cain for one, Ryoko in the Tenchi Muyo universe for another. For Ben, it might be worse in some ways. Miles Warren (or Osborn working through Warren or whatever) didn't simply create (or try to create) a perfect killing machine. He made Ben a copy of Peter up to that point, with all the memories, thoughts, and feelings Peter has, then tried to use him as a disposable weapon.

When Ben survives the initial encounter, he's left with an ugly realization. He doesn't have a life of his own. The person who created him was a crazy, evil person who tried to make him do things the person he's a copy of wouldn't do, and so Ben believes those things are wrong. Ben resents this because that morality was imposed on him. In theory, a person would develop their own beliefs over the course of their life, based on their own experiences. Ben wasn't given that opportunity, knows it, and so fights against it. He actively tries not to be a hero because that's not him, it's Parker, and he's not Parker. He rejects the idea of great responsibility tagging along with great power. Ben Parker wasn't his uncle, the spider didn't really bite him, that was all someone else.

And that's always in the background for Ben, the question of how much of what he does is his decision, and how much of it is the Parker influences he tries to reject. Whatever he might say, he couldn't stay away when Aunt May was in the hospital. And one of the enduring images for me of Ben is from Amazing Spider-Man #400, as Peter, MJ, and Aunt Anna cry over May's body as she dies. Ben had told Peter earlier he was leaving. He came to New York to check on May, she appeared to be fine (it was only a brief improvement), he should leave. But as she passes, Ben's sitting alone on the roof, crying his eyes out. Like it or not, those feelings and memories are part of him.

Even so, I still think Ben, when he decides to truly start helping people, as opposed to merely defending himself and Peter from a myriad of threats - Kaine, the Jackal, all the rest - is done from his own desire to help. I'm sure he feels Peter's guilt over Uncle Ben's death, but I think he rejects it, since it isn't his memory. Which means it shouldn't be driving him to help people as it has Peter at times. Ben's helping because like it or not, it's the right thing to do. This is the attitude I think Peter has most of the time, the guilt thing just kicks in when he starts thinking of throwing the costume in a trash can again.

Plus, there's the aspect of Ben returning to a place he remembers, a place full of people he remembers, none of whom know him. He has all the memories, but it's a one-way street because someone else already occupies the spot in their lives he would. Which makes him feel that unreality of his existence more keenly. He stays, partly for selfish reasons, partly to help Peter, and he's able to build a life of his own. Get a job, make some friends of his own, build acquaintances with people he knows from Peter's memories, but all those people know him as Ben Reilly. Being around Peter actually gives him the chance to try and define himself more fully from Peter, to show he's a separate entity by leaving a legacy of his own. One of the things I like about Spider-Girl is he's her "Uncle Ben", and it's his costume she wears, rather than her father's. Ben is able to overcome the ugly particulars of his birth and with a lot of ups and downs, formed connections, formed a life and is carried forward in the memories of others and his deeds, which is maybe the best you can hope for in life.

I enjoy how Ben is kind of a study of what defines a person, and how sometimes it's hard to tell when our actions are influenced by others. The idea that everyone has worth, and no one is just a copy to be used at someone else's discretion and tossed aside. Not to give up on people just because they get a little lost or confused for awhile. Also, he had impact webbing and those little stinger things he could fire out of his web-shooters and I thought those were pretty cool.

As a final point, having Peter retire from web-slinging to focus on being a husband and expectant father, handing the title of Spider-Man off to Ben is a heck of a lot better way to get single Spider-Man than the One More Day nonsense Quesada and Co. foisted on us.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Dark Night Outlasts The Dark Knight

So I rewatched Batman: Mask of the Phantasm last night, which is still probably my favorite Batman movie. Certainly its Batman is the closest to how I see him. But watching the film, seeing the flashbacks to when Bruce met Andrea, I started thinking about the Animated DC Universe. Justice League, Batman Beyond, the Timmverse stuff.

It's how Bruce and Gotham end up. By the time of Batman Beyond, Bruce is a bitter old man living alone with his dog in a largely shuttered mansion. Tim Drake stays away from him, Grayson wants nothing to do with him, Barbara only comes to see him once Terry dons the costume. If Superman shows up, Bruce is hostile towards him. This isn't totally surprising if you've been reading Batman comics over the last 20 years, but in the cartoons, he seemed to have accumulated lots of people around him that cared for him, and that he cared about. But even in the cartoons, Batman was often obsessed to the point of damaging his relationships with people. He can't find the balance between fighting crime and having a family, even when that family helps him fight crime.

What's a little more disappointing is the state Gotham's in. It's kind of a dump. There are Joker gangs running amok, people using what's left of his company for nefarious deeds, the cops aren't openly corrupt as far as I can tell, but they sure aren't very effective, lots of people living in poverty on the lower levels. I know it's necessary to show Gotham has problems as sort of an impetus to convince Bruce to let Terry keep using the suit. At the same time, it kind of makes Batman look futile. Not just as a crimefighter, but all those dollars, all the philanthropy Bruce Wayne was involved in, did any of it do any good?

You could probably ask the same question of The Dark Knight Returns universe, which looked worse in some ways than Batman Beyond's, but maybe not across the board. I know Batman's goal, as created when he lost his parents was, "stop crime", and that's probably completely unrealistic, so maybe a true happy end for Batman is out of the question. But is the end result of that necessarily that Batman lives to see it all come for naught? That his options are to either try and throw the suit on again and hope his heart doesn't give out, or find some other poor, angry kid he can aim at the problem?

I'd like to think all that work he put into being the Night and rebuilding Gotham would have helped a little, but it's hard to tell. If Batman is as obsessed with an unattainable goal as he appears to be, there's no reason he couldn't continue to fight what crime, even as crime dwindled because he was actually having success in improving Gotham and addressing some of the causes of crime. There would still be a few crimes, a few criminals, and he's still be obsessed with stopping them, because even one crook is capable of stealing away some child's parents. But things would be better, overall.

Maybe that goes against Batman, somehow. He's not a source of hope, like Superman, he scares criminals rather than inspiring people. And fear only goes so far. But then how do you account for Dick Grayson, the boy Bruce Wayne raised specifically so he wouldn't end up like Batman, and who did, indeed, prove much better at sustaining interpersonal relationships? Although, he didn't come out so well in either of those futures. Frank Miller in particular did him no favors, which I can't say surprises me. So Batman's own nature, his obsession, undermines the very goals he hopes to accomplish?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Think My Brain Finally Broke

It's amazing how quickly things can go into a tailspin sometimes. Things had been going pretty well, and then everything fell apart halfway through Monday. Even if I had an idea for a post the last two days, I doubt I had the time, energy, or initiative to do it. Last night, I resorted to locking myself in my room to have dinner and watch a movie in peace. I picked Tropic Thunder, because I haven't watched it in a year or two. There are so many great lines in that movie. I try to work 'like pistol-whipping a blind kid' into conversations whenever possible.

There's the scene where both Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) and Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) take turns trying to convince rookie Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) the other guy is screwing things up. Kirk is convinced things are not going as planned (he's right) and Tugg's leading them into trouble (also correct). Tugg's convinced Kirk is trying to wreck the movie because he's scared he made a mistake with the role he's playing. Kirk is a white Australian playing an African-American U.S. Army Sargent serving in Vietnam.

What's funny is Kevin is just trying to relieve himself and then first Kirk, then Tugg walk over and start these conversation with him. So as not to arouse suspicion, each one tries to act as though they too, needed to drain the lizard. How they go about it relates back to the conversation Tugg and Kirk had about acting earlier (when Tugg discussed his attempts to play a character with mental disabilities in the box office bomb Simple Jack). Kirk (still completely in-character as Osiris) opts to just stand there, whispering to Kevin, then utter a ridiculous statement when he's "finished". Tugg opts to puncture a can of energy drink with a combat knife.

It just struck me (because I was completely addled after work last night) that it kind of sums up their approaches to acting. Tugg was concerned with surface details, that the other three guys needing to believe he was peeing required there to be actual water. It's sort of a low-level special effect. Kirk figures that if he's standing next to someone else draining their bladder, and he's adopted similar posture, people will draw the obvious conclusion. It's more understated, believing in his audience's intelligence (or banking on their indifference). Of course, then he utters a completely ridiculous line when he finishes and walks away, because he's still in-character, and thinks someone would comment on how it 'smelled like bologna'. It gets back to this idea of Kirk trying to really be the person he's portraying, but at the end of the day he's still relying on guesswork and stereotypes, so it's just kind of ridiculous.

Seriously, I've had to use public restrooms a lot over the years, and I have never heard a person make that sort of comment to the rest of the people. But for some reason, Kirk thinks that's a natural line for a former saucier from San Antonio. Or maybe it just means neither of them has any idea how to relate to average folk. Tugg seemed to think smacking Kevin on the rear when he was done made perfect sense, I assume as some sort of solidarity thing, when it's really just awkward.

Monday, May 19, 2014

And That Little Paperboy Grew Up To Be One Of The Guys From Contra

Lately, my coworkers have gotten into playing Paperboy on the original NES one of them brought. We've been keeping track of the high score, since the game doesn't save them after you turn it off. I had it for awhile at 38,000, then one guy pushed it up to 47,000. He went into the kitchen to check on what he was making for the potluck, I sat down and went to 50,000. I didn't even get to tell him, because somebody else just had to rush in and spill the beans. I was accused of being a robot-wizard.

It sat there for about a month, but two nights ago he started in again and pushed it to 53,000. It took me a few tries, but I was able to respond with 56,000 that night. Last night he marched in, declaring he was a little drunk, but going to try again. Then he couldn't even find the game in the box of games. He wasn't looking in the right place, which is hardly an auspicious beginning, but when it was all said and done, he got to 65,000.  I thought I was probably cooked. I was able to beat Paperboy, but that was long ago, and I have no idea what my best score was. Lo and behold, I beat the game and scored a cool 85,000. I had two lives left, so who knows how much higher the score could have gone if the game kept going. I even made it through the training course at the end despite one of my other coworkers accidentally spilling their water down my back. The fact I didn't pause the game or even look back, only jumped from the seat and exclaimed 'What the fuck?!' while continuing to play, greatly amused both of them.

It's probably only a matter of time before he raises the bar again, and then we'll see if I can respond. It's a running joke among them that I'm a machine, just grinding through relentlessly and without emotion. In reality, each time I pick up the controller, I wonder if he's surpassed me. His score on Duck Hunt is already 3 times higher than anything I've been able to manage. Stupid laughing dog.

In spite of my overly competitive nature, it is nice to play Paperboy again. I'm playing Tales of Vesperia at the same time on my 360, and the contrast is striking. There's so many things to do, little quests, weapons to find, people to talk to, skits, a million different things to do. I've been ready to beat the final boss for a couple of weeks, but I just keep screwing around. There's none of that with Paperboy. It's straightforward. You start at one end of the street, and try to make it to the other, delivering papers to your subscriber homes, and feeling free to break anything belong to non-subscribers. Everything else in the world, whether intentionally or not, will try to stop you from completing that task. It's a nice change of pace to play a game where you don't have to worry that you missed an entire subplot or quest, because there's barely a plot, and the only quests would be the ones you make. Break all the windows, get all papers in the mailboxes, smack every one of those stupid dogs in the nose, whatever.

It's a game where you have to plan ahead, because certain obstacles are best avoided in certain ways. At the same time, you can only plan for what you can see on-screen, which equals about 3 seconds ahead. You have to constantly adjust and adapt, sometimes you just wing it and hope for the best. The game does somewhat telegraph what's coming. Either that or I've played the game enough I'm developing that "combat antenna" Sgt. Rock had.

It likes to throw the skateboarders in at times when there's no place to go, because skateboarders take up an extraordinary amount of space on the sidewalk. At one point, I went into the lawn of a house to avoid a guy with a jackhammer and another guy breakdancing on the sidewalk so I could still deliver their paper. Then I see a dog, and if I try to keep it on my right, I'm doomed because you can only throw papers left, and outrunning it is a no-go. So I cut hard into the sidewalk to get the dog on my left, and then here comes Skateboard Joe. I was busy dealing with the mutt, and I died. Afterward, I started keeping an eye out for situations like that and was ready to dive into the street and take my chances with storm drains and automobiles.

There's a limited numbers of threats, and only so many houses to use them around, but the combinations are nearly limitless. It's a game that's predictable in some ways, but still capable of catching me by surprise.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.8 - The Value of Secrets

Plot: Darien is so desperate to get the gland out of his head, he's reading scientific journals in the hopes of finding some method they can use. Unfortunately, all the ones he can find, the Keeper has already investigated and ruled out as being exceedingly likely to kill him. Fawkes is not sure he can trust her, in spite of her assurances that is she finds a method to remove it that's safe for him, she will put his interests ahead of the gland.

But there's not time for Darien to pout, he and Hobbes have a case! The Official has an old friend who runs the Mayer Foundation, a big think-tank, and they've had a theft. The Official can't say what was stolen, because he didn't know, because it's classified. So they have to investigate the theft of something when they don't know what it is, what it does, and can't even inspect the place it was being kept when it was stolen. Fawkes and Hobbes agree this is nonsense, and so Fawkes sneaks in after hours and catches Dr. Easton using the "stolen" invention, which she created, to make herself about $20 million richer in 10 seconds. But Fawkes isn't the only one nosing around, there's a suspicious Asian fellow with a gun, too, and so Fawkes has to Quicksilver Dr. Easton along with himself to protect them.

This does have a benefit, though. Dr. Easton trusts Fawkes enough to explain what her device is, and the answer is a quantum computer, which is apparently capable of analyzing and coming up with all possible solutions to a problem. Which is how she was able to bilk the stock exchange in China for all that money in a matter of seconds. It told her exactly what would rise and fall. She stole it because the Department of Defense - who commissioned the project - now want it, and both she and her boss know that kind of power in the government's hands won't lead anywhere good. Fawkes, however, sees it as a way to finally get the gland out of his head. Surely this computer can find the non-lethal solution to that problem. So he lets he escape, and deflects Hobbes' questions about what happened. Hobbes sees through him almost immediately, but oddly enough, he covers for him with the Official.

Which gives Fawkes and Kate not only a little time to grow closer, but also gives Darien a little time to get his hands on all the files pertaining to the gland. Interestingly, he approaches the Keeper directly, rather than trying to steal them first. Claire is resistant, mostly out of uncertainty over the idea of the quantum computer (she's not convinced they'd have a working one already), but once she meets Kate, hands over the files. Almost immediately after that, Kate gets abducted, though Fawkes has the computer. So he and Hobbes have to stage a rescue, which they manage, but the computer is wrecked in the meantime. Kate moves to England for her own safety, and can't risk building another quantum computer even long enough to search for an answer to the gland problem.

Quote of the Episode: Hobbes - 'Fawkes, you have found the one thing that you can do, and you will always be the best at it. Why don't you just do it instead of wasting your energy and mine, trying to find a way out?'

The "Oh crap" count: 1 (15 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week: Thomas Huxley, with regards to the question of how much knowledge is needed to be safe.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (4 overall).

Still with the Department of Fish & Game.

Other: If I didn't think the count would run higher than the Sam Axe Drink Count in the early seasons of Burn Notice, I'd try and keep track of how many of her lines Shannon Kenny (the Keeper) says through gritted teeth. Fawkes and Hobbes - but especially Fawkes at this stage - are frequently exasperating to her. This is the second week in a row Darien used something she said to him earlier to convince her to help him under the table. Last week it was the bit about taking responsibility. This week, it was her claim she'd put his interests ahead of the Agency's. It's a nice bit of Fawkes' character. He might lack the larceny sense, as Liz put it last week, but he's still very good at finding that weak point and leveraging it when he needs to.

The counterpoint to that is that, too often he defaults to that mode, trying to work an angle, and this can not only get him into trouble (his attempt to help her in "Impetus"), but also makes him suspicious of those who help him. Case in point, Hobbes this week. Maybe this is the turning point I thought we had two weeks ago between these two. There's a lot of banter, especially after Fawkes' break-in at the Mayer Foundation, and the fact he clearly let Kate go. Hobbes takes a lot of jabs at him, but there's no heat to them, and Fawkes mostly laughs them off. Hobbes claims he doesn't want to go through the hassle of breaking in a new partner, and I'm sure that's some of it, but a new partner probably wouldn't complain as much as Darien does.

That quote I used is kind of illuminating. Hobbes has been portrayed as someone who believes deeply in what he does, in his duty, in doing his job. But he's at the Agency because he's been fired from every other branch, due to his paranoia, his persecution complex, whatever. But this is where the skills he has are most valuable, where he can be the best at what he does, and so it's where he stays. And he sees that in Fawkes, and he wants Fawkes to see it, too. Maybe Hobbes figures they can be friends, or just that this guy can help him do something he thinks is important, but it's a shift either way. Up to this point, Hobbes has treated Darien mostly like a petulant child or a misbehaving dog. Always trying to keep an eye on him, crack the whip if he steps out of line. And Darien, no fan of law enforcement or the rule to begin with, has pushed back against it. Now, Hobbes is trying a more relaxed approach. It's more mentor-like, try to provide helpful advice, note when the pupil screwed up, try to help them see the mistake to avoid it in the future. It's much less antagonistic.

I was convinced the Scowling Asian fellow was part of a different threat to Dr. Easton, related to her messing with the Chinese stock markets. They'd tracked the money transactions to her and wanted to know how she did it. Didn't turn out to be the case, and just as well, it would have overly complicated things as it played out.

I did think it funny the guy behind Kate's abduction told Scowling Asian fellow to confirm they were handing over the computer at the exchange. Was that guy even qualified to know what he'd be looking at? Maybe try painting a Gamecube chrome and see if he's fooled.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Favorite DC Character #9 - Kyle Rayner

Character: Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)

Creators: Darryl Banks and Ron Marz

First appearance: Green Lantern (vol. 3) #48

First encounter I had with him: It might actually be the episode of the Superman cartoon he showed up in, where Kyle was the new cartoonist at the Daily Planet. In the comics, I probably skimmed an issue of Green Lantern at some point in a store, but the first book I could point to for certain is probably JLA #47, which marks the point I started buying that book regularly.

Definitive writer(s): Grant Morrison or Joe Kelly, most likely.

Definitive artist: Doug Mahnke.

Favorite moment or story: There are a host of moments of Kyle being a dork that amuse me. Go to Devon Sanders' old blog, Seven Hells, and peruse the "Kyle Rayner, Adult!" posts for a string of them. In that JLA story arc I mentioned, where the League battles the Queen of Fables, there's a good one between Kyle and Wally West as neither one of them can bring themselves to play Prince Charming to Wonder Woman's Snow White. But for a favorite, it has to be Obsidian Age. Kyle's freaking out throughout the story, shaken by prophetic dreams of his and the rest of the League's death. Even so, he saves them early in the story, and offers his heart as the receptacle to maintain their spirits across 1,000 years or however long it was.

What I like about him: Almost all my experience with Kyle comes from JLA. I own more issues of Hitman that feature Kyle than I do his own series. In JLA, Kyle was the guy who wasn't sure he could play in the big leagues. He was the replacement alongside the legends, and it freaked him out, no matter how reassuring Wonder Woman, Superman, or J'onn tried to be. Batman giving him grief, and Wally giving him the side-eye out of some loyalty to his "Uncle Hal" probably didn't help (though Kyle and Wally's gradual friendship was a nice growth out of their initial hostility, and something I enjoyed about alter issues of the series).

But Kyle stepped up. He made mistakes, often spoke without thinking, but when it was all said and done, he'd come through. That's an encouraging thought, we can overcome our fears and doubts when it matters. That was the nice thing about Obsidian Age. Kyle was really badly shook by those visions, apprehensive about going into the past, leery of staying once they were there. Everyone else on the League seemed fine, business as usual, no big deal. But when it all went wrong, Kyle was the last man standing, and it was his actions in part that convinced Manitou Raven to shift sides. Looking back, I wonder if that story (or Kyle's story in general) wasn't a major building block for Geoff Johns' Green Lantern: Rebirth. The key for Kyle in that story wasn't that he was without fear, Kyle had plenty of fear. It was that he knew it and was able to overcome it, anyway. Kyle gets scared, he's not unflappable like Batman, but he fights through.

Beyond that, Kyle's just a pretty pleasant guy. Little melodramatic, little quick to run his mouth, certainly not the brightest bulb. Doesn't always show good judgment when it comes to his romantic relationships (not so much in who he falls for, more in the decisions he makes while in those relationships). But generally sweet, fiercely loyal to his friends, creative, and resilient. Having the ring has given him the chance to see and experience things few people have ever seen, but it's also cost him dearly. And yet he keeps going, keeps showing a willingness to sacrifice when it's needed. The one issue of his series I own is the last one, where Major Force tries to talk him into giving up the ring, and Kyle actually does it. For a moment he decides he doesn't need the hassle. Then Force implies Kyle wasn't cut out for handling such power, that the government will find someone appropriate to carry the load, and Kyle remembers all he's seen and done (and who he's talking to), stabs that asshole in the eye with some glass, takes back the ring, and kicks his stupid butt. There's that instant of self-doubt, then he stands firm and takes care of business.

I've mentioned visuals play a role. With Kyle, it isn't his costume - my favorite is the one he wore around Obsidian Age, and I completely understand people who say it looked like a sneaker - as the potential of the ring. You can create anything you can conceive of with it, and because Kyle is an artist (also a bit of a goober) the things he uses the ring to make can be really cool, or really silly. Witness the scene above, where Kyle rides to the rescue on a giant cat. One of those GL issues I skimmed had Kyle and Alan Scott skirmishing a little. Alan created a giant bee for some reason, and Kyle responded with a giant green Stone Cold Steve Austin, who unleashed the Stunner on said giant bee. It's silly, but if I had a ring that created whatever I could think of, it'd probably wind up creating a bunch of silly stuff based on whatever amused or entertained me, too. Giant Green Earthworm Jim! But it can be silly, because it works. Just offhand, Kyle once made a steam shovel that lifted the entire city of Manhattan out of the path of a tidal wave. That wasn't even the big climax of a story, it was just something he did at the beginning of a story arc, a response to the initial sign of a threat. Cool scenes, sometimes that's all you need.

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's A Bleeding-Throated Hummingbird!, Or "Hell Comes Back To Capistrano!"

Deadpool: [Last time, I got to blow up a road! Kiss your tax dollars good-bye!]

Calvin: {Wade, I told you there's no recap page!.}

CAP: Will you guys focus? The birders are almost here!

Calvin: {Hide!} *scrambles up the hill*

Deadpool: [Hide, schmide. I got this all planned out.] *steps into the road, waving*

Stupid Birder: *extremely cheerful and chirpy voice* Oh boy, I sure am excited about starting this job! I hope there are other people there whose peace and tranquility I can destroy with my lack of consideration! Hmm, why is there a man in a black-and-red body stocking in the middle of the road and waving to me? Well, he has an orange vest and hard hat, he must be a road worker.

*The stupid birder follows Wade's instructions and drives over the tarp. And promptly falls into the hole. Deadpool steps into the middle of the road, and looks down at the vehicle's rear end*

Deadpool: [Hello, stupid person? Could you possibly hand me that tarp? Hello?]

CAP: Where did Wade get that hard hat?

Calvin: {It's part of our safety gear when we use chainsaws. I told him where to find it.}

CAP: *concerned* Were there chainsaws in plain sight there?

Calvin: {They were in plastic cases, but those cases were sitting in the open, yes. Why?}

CAP: You don't think Wade being around chainsaws is a bad idea?

Calvin: {Piffle. You haven't seen our chainsaws. If he can manage to get one started, more power to him. Besides, what's the worst case scenario? He attacks the birders? Those chains'll be dull by the time he gets through one limb. Can you see Wade taking time to sharpen a chain?}

CAP: That. . . makes sense, in a callous way.

Calvin: {Wade, look out!}

*Another birder, driving down the road in their oblivious manner, slams right into Wade's butt, sending him into the hole and through the rear window of the first car.*

Deadpool: [Wow, my cranium is undamaged! Helmets do save lives! My butt isn't so lucky, and it's almost swimsuit season! Hey, will you stop screaming, I'm trying to commentate.]

*Then the second car falls into the hole on top of him.*

Deadpool: [My intestines, the helmet does nothing!]

Calvin: {Well, that's Wade out of action.}

CAP: And there are more birders coming!

Calvin: {Fall back to the housing! We'll throw stuff at them, or fend them off with dirty cookwear!}

CAP: *running alongside Calvin* That's a terrible plan! Let's use your car to block the entryway!

Calvin: {NO. I already lost one vehicle this spring, I won't lost another!}

CAP: Well, the birders are driving over the other two cars, so we're doomed. Or you are, I'll just go home.

Calvin: *dryly* {Thanks ever so. Just for that, I'm coming to live with you. Get your fridge stocked now.}

CAP: Not a chance.

*Our two heroes stop in front of the housing, and turn to see the first car pulling into the parking lot. Calvin begins planning how to dig a tunnel from his room to the kitchen so he can circumvent the birders, and the Clever Adolescent Panda starts planning how to transport Calvin's stuff when he loses his mind and goes to jail after a mass murder spree. Abruptly, a shadow falls over the encroaching car.*


*A giant robot lands with a THOOM, grabs the car with both hands, and hurls it into the sewage lagoon. It narrowly misses the tail section of UnCalvin's jet, which nobody bothered to haul out. There's a faint sound of a birder screaming swiftly drowned out by a splash. The robot is essentially a metal Minotaur, except also with a cape.*

UnCalvin: *floats above the robot on a jetpack, once again sporting the pirate boots and the nice cape* What do you think of my giant robot?

CAP: This cannot be good.

Calvin: {Your giant robot? It was my idea! Though I would never have gone with a minotaur. Gundam all the way, baby.}

UnCalvin: Because you're an uncultured lout. And it may have been your idea for birder defense, but I built it after Deadpool mentioned your idea to me. He was quite willing to sign away all the rights in your name, so all profits go to me.

Calvin: {What?!}

UnCalvin: Really, you should be glad I gave you the chance to see your idea brought to life and shared with the world. I'm sure it will be a big hit at country clubs that want to keep undesirables out.

CAP: Oh, that's just awful. Am I going to have to punch you in the face again?

UnCalvin: *haughtily* Ha! I'd like to see you try from down there!

*Another birder car drives up, the robot turns and casually kicks it back across the road. It lands 20 feet up in a pine tree. Back at the hole in the road, a red-clad arm can be seen crawling out of the second car in the pit.*


Calvin: {That is just awful.}

CAP: I know. Giant robots should be used to save the world, not aid in the oppression of others. I hope my training in Giganto Monster Slaying translates to artificial life. Just keep UnCalvin distracted and I'll climb the robot and then I can jump her.

Calvin: {I mean its phrases. My giant robot was supposed to say things like "REMEMBER ME!", and "CRUSH, KILL DESTROY"}

CAP: As much as I agree that UnCalvin lacks any gift for written dialogue, focus!

Calvin: {Relax, distracting UnCalvin is easy. *walks forward* Hey, look at me! I'm still blogging successfully, completely unimpeded by my incompetent evil opposite!}

UnCalvin: *Nostrils flare* You dare, impudent speck? I'll shall obliterate you from history so utterly, not even your memory will survive!

Calvin: *sneering, waves butt derisively in UnCalvin's direction* {Tough talk from someone who wore a flammable cape with a jetpack!}

UnCalvin: What? *looks back, sees cape on fire* Oh, curse it all.

*UnCalvin has to land immediately, shrug off the jetpack, then remove the burning cape. The villain begins to try and beat the flames out, only to receive a running jump punch in the face from the panda.*

CAP: You know, I haven't gotten to Bonk Tony Stark on the head in years, and I miss it. But that means I have a nice backlog saved up, and you've definitely earned these.

UnCalvin: Don't be too sure. I still have a giant robot, or had you forgotten?

*But the robot is otherwise occupied as Deadpool has not only managed to get one of the chainsaws started, but used it to cut his way out of the roof of the second car. And now he's attacking the robot with it, since he has no idea what's going on*

Deadpool: [I sure hope this robot isn't helping to stop the birders! Too bad I can't hear anything over this chainsaw I keep using to hack ineffectually at the robot with! Man, this chain dulled fast!]

UnCalvin: Wade, stop distracting my security droid!

Deadpool: [What? Don't worry, I won't let this monstrosity hurt my friends! As an X-Man, I'm well-versed in smashing giant killer robots. First rule, attack the groin.]

*Hurls chainsaw at the robot, but since he's not holding the throttle down, the chain isn't turning, and it bounces off. In response, the robot pulls up a section of the barbed wire fence that surrounds the sewage pond and cracks it at Deadpool like a whip. Wade is cut deeply and swatted across the lot, crashing into one of the AC units. Wade then falls to the ground. After a moment, the AC unit falls on top of him.*

Calvin: *sitting off to one side taking it all in* {Hmm, I wonder if they'll revoke alcohol privileges for that?}

*The robot actually preens a bit, flexing its irrelevant muscles, then swinging the fencing over its head like a Terrible Towel that belonged to an Inquisitor. The fence wraps around a tree and gets stuck. As the robot tries to pull it free, its back is turned to the entrance, and so it doesn't see yet another birder car, undaunted - or more likely oblivious - to the carnage around it pull in. The car crashes into the back of the robot's strangely tiny ankles, causing it to lose its balance. It loses its grip on the fencing which wraps around its neck, and as it topples, the head is neatly sheared off. It crashes perfectly in the dumpster, as UnCalvin buries her face in her hands.*

UnCalvin: Why did I listen to Dr. Stephapopolous when he suggested the Minotaur styled designed? All the studies said the legs would have stability issues. *sighs, rolls cape up, tucks under shoulder, slips jetpack back on* Well, back to the old drawing board. *takes off in a roar of exhaust*

CAP: Wow, for once UnCalvin didn't lose any transportation.

Deadpool: [Ah, that thing will never get her home. It can hardly carry any fuel. It's better than jet boots, don't get me wrong, but jetpacks are like puddle jumpers, or energy drinks: Good for the short haul, but leaves you drained and exhausted along a long stretch of road with no idea how you got there.]

CAP: Huh?


CAP: Aw, that's so sad.

Calvin: {Yeah, UnCalvin built a really terrible giant robot, which shouldn't even be possible. But no beam sword, no rocket fists, lousy catchphrases -}


Deadpool: [That'd be a lot more scary if the rest of you was functional, too.]

CAP: He's right.

Giant Robot: . . . I KNOW.

*As this continues, more cars pull into the lot, and cheery young birders pile out with lots of suitcases and bright, curious smiles. Calvin grimaces.*

Calvin: {Let's retreat to my room.} *turns to head inside*

CAP: What about the birders?

Calvin: *shrugs* {Eh, with all this damage, they'll almost surely outlaw booze on the premises. When none of my coworkers can drink, they'll be much more likely to take care of the birders for me. By killing them. Problem solved.}

Deadpool: [You'd think they'd just outlaw you.]

Calvin: {You would, but I'm always just distanced enough from the actual destruction to have plausible deniability. I can't help it if crazy stuff happens while I just happen to be sitting in the vicinity.}

CAP: You know, I can probably get the badgers to salvage the giant robot, if you want it.

Calvin: {Nah, it has to be exactly the way I pictured it in my head, or it's awful. Just like with comic books movies.}

CAP: Then can I have it?

Deadpool: [No way, I want it to show to Shiklah! She'll be so impressed when she sees I killed a metal cow-person!]

CAP: You didn't kill it! A tree did!

Deadpool: [Who attacked it, forcing it to pick up that fence that the tree used to kill it? That's right, not you!]

Calvin: *sighs, continues into the housing alone*

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What I Bought 4/25/2014 - Part 8

Last two comics. Such a sad occurrence. Whatever shall I do for the next two weeks before more comics arrive (hopefully)? Seriously, I'm asking. I have plans through Sunday, but after that, we may be winging it.

Nightcrawler #1, by Chris Claremont (writer), Todd Nauck (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Cory Petit (letterer) - I notice in the upper right corner of that cover that Colossus has gotten some lady to pose for his painting, with at the least no shirt on. Have to wonder who that is. Also, I thought Colossus was on the run with some X-Force bunch.

Kurt's back, and readjusting to life among the living. Reconnecting with friends, adjusting to things that have changed, and being Mr. Charming with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Amanda Sefton. Who is also his adopted sister, if you care. I don't particularly, but I know a few other people that have noted it with some squeamishness, so just throwing it out there. Their conversation is fairly brief, as some big guy in a suit of power armor attacks and tries to abduct Amanda. Kurt manages to fend him off, but the guy escapes, and Kurt is whisked off with Amanda as she seeks out the person responsible.

I like Nightcrawler to be largely cheerful and swashbuckling, and Claremont is thankfully doing that. Perhaps other comic writers should take note: NOBODY LIKES MOPEY NIGHTCRAWLER! There is a certain melancholy to it, though, that I can't quite place. Mostly, I think it's meant to be Kurt struggling a bit with all that's changed in his absence. Wolverine minus his healing factor, all the new kids at the school, the fact that it really is more of a school than it was when he died, mutants being on the rise again. Plus, having people ask if you remember them, and if you're OK all the time, has to get exhausting. Though you'd think the X-Men would have a seminar for people recently back from the dead. Anyway, I had some concerns about Claremont's writing going in. I picked up both X-Men Forever series out of the back issue bins last year, and they were solid, but I still remember how disjointed and confused his work on Exiles and New Excalibur seemed to me. It's only one issue, but so far, so good. Perhaps being able to concentrate on one character helps him focus. We'll see.

I run hot and cold on Todd Nauck, generally. He's pretty solid on action sequences, the Young Justice I've read suggests he's fair at comedy stuff, but the anatomy can be a little off sometimes. Characters have strangely long necks, or their upper bodies are much too wide for the rest of them. Again, one issue, but this is the strongest work of his I remember seeing. It's less busy than his older work, maybe that's him inking himself, but it makes it look more simplified, with is a look I happen to approve of. Rosenberg's coloring helps, too. It's bright for the most part, but the bit in the Danger Room is cloudy (literally) in a way that lends that feeling of foreboding to things, without muddying the art.

Empowered Special #6, by Adam Warren (writer, black-and-white art, lettering), Brandon Graham (color art, lettering) - What I mean by the art stuff is that Warren drew the pages that are black and white, and Graham drew and colored the ones that are in color. Or so I assume. I couldn't find any other credits.

Empowered and Ninjette are called to a special superhuman hospital. There is a large, living ship hovering over, which has a babyship inside stricken with a parasite. Our heroines have been asked to take a laser scalpel, go inside the babyship (which is much larger inside than out), and kill the parasite before it gives birth, and kills the babyship in the process. If they fail, mamaship destroys the entire city. The two make their way through, Emp distracts the defenses the parasite releases, but ultimately stop Ninjette from killing the parasite, having devised a way to maybe let it survive. Warren drew the two sequences that flank this main story, which involve Emp wandering through the hospital in a scene of carnage, only to come upon an elevator which opens to reveal . . . Emp and Ninjette, fresh off saving the babyship's life. None of which bodes well for our heroines' futures.

This one's a little less serious than the last Empowered Special, even if the fate of an entire city was at stake this time. Weird how that works out, but this one is a little absurd, with the alien parasite hitting a nerve by unwittingly attacking Emp's body issues. More focused on exploring another little corner of the world, rather than an in-depth study of one of the main characters, who just so happens to have had a fairly shitty childhood, and whose attempt to survive and escape that has informed quite a bit about who she is, for better and for worse.

Graham's art is very different from Warren's. His work is less detailed in the characters, but he puts a lot into their surroundings, so you get a good sense of place. And his characters still tell you quite a bit, he gets a lot of information out there with relatively few lines. The colors are kind of muted, not like things are muddied, it's all quite clear, no gauze over the lens, more someone turned down the brightness a bit. It does keep his work from popping off the page as much as I might like, but just going off this, maybe that isn't his style. Warren tends to use fewer, larger panels, and puts the characters large and up close, so they dominate the panels. Graham does that occasionally, but here it's more common for him to place them in the middle distance or further away, so there's more room to show the surroundings. Perhaps to play up the oddity of said surroundings, or the enormity of the task.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Grenade Will Remove That Bump In The Road!

Deadpool: [Hi, welcome to the recap page! Let me just get an appropriately adorable image of myself here and I'll tell you what you missed last time!]

Clever Adolescent Panda: Oh no you don't! I'm the only one who gets adorable pictures of themselves posted on here!

Deadpool: [Ha! Your day is done! I'm the new hotness! Er, cuteness.]

CAP: Never! *sounds of fighting*

Calvin: {There's no recap page! Now, can we focus on my problem?}

Deadpool: [Sure, you're frequently antisocial, and unwilling to share your true emotions. Also, you're going grey.]

Calvin: {Not those problems! The birders!}

Deadpool: [Oh right, giant bird people. Well, I took care of Hawkman for ya, he's a person pretending to be a bird. I'm sure actual bird people won't be any trouble.]

CAP: Wade, I think he means people who like at birds, not people who are birds.

Deadpool: [Well that's even easier then! Plus, no scent of charred feathers when I fire up the flamethrower! Heh, fire.]

CAP: Wade, you can't use a flamethrower on innocent people!

Calvin: {I don't know, the idea has promise. . .}

CAP: No burning!

Calvin: {You're right, a flamethrower may not be enough. Plus, a risk of wildfires. I was thinking mines, though we'd have to keep track of them. My coworkers need to be able to get through safely.}

CAP: Couldn't the birders just watch them to see which way to go?

Calvin: {I think you overestimate their intelligence. But possibly. That's fine, I have an even better idea. It'll look like a bag of cookies, but actually it contains a wormhole which will suck them in when they reach for a cookie and deposit them somewhere else.}

Deadpool: [And we get to eat the cookies that were originally in the bag? I like this plan!]

CAP: I think there are serious problems with it.

Calvin: {You're right. We'd have to let them inside first.}

CAP: No, like where is the wormhole putting them, and how are we even creating a wormhole and stabilizing it inside a bag of cookies?

Calvin: *shrugs* {I dunno. Gravity waves?}

Deadpool: [Sounds about right. The judges would also have accepted "nanobots".]

CAP: *sighs*

Calvin: {OK, what about a giant robot?}

CAP: *perks up* Giant robot?

Calvin: {Yeah, big ole fearsome robot. Maybe with a cape. Not too large, it'll still need both hands to pick up the car, but big enough to hurl it in the sewage lagoon. maybe give it a voice, some fearsome catchphrases.}

Deadpool: [Can we still have cookies?]

Calvin: {Sure! Have some now!} *hands Wade bag of peanut butter cookies*

Deadpool: *muffled by chewing* [I wike this plam! I'm excited about it!]

CAP: Wait, where do we get a giant robot from?

Calvin: {I'm sure Wade has one hanging around. Right?}

Deadpool: [If I had a giant robot, I wouldn't be hanging out with you guys. I'd be smashing Stark Industries. Or fighting a giant, inflatable Godzilla. But I know someone who can make one! Let me make a call!] *grabs cell phone from a hip pouch*

Calvin: {Is it UnCalvin?}

Deadpool: [How'd you guess? She owes me a favor after I acted as security at that last company party.]

CAP: In case one of the employees steals her stuff and tries to conquer the world?

Deadpool: [Nah. One of them got wasted, climbed up on the table and dropped their drawers.]

CAP: And you stopped them?

Deadpool: [That was what we agreed on, but I actually got on the table and did drawer-dropping solidarity. Kind of killed the mood, but nothing got wrecked.]

Calvin: {Maybe we should skip the giant robot idea. Let's just dig a big hole in the road, and cover it with an appropriately colored tarp.}

CAP: *quickly* Yeah, that sounds less likely to get us killed.

Calvin: {Then again, that's a lot of digging. . .}

Deadpool: *hangs up* [No worries, I have plenty of nature's shovels.]

Calvin: {Badgers?}

Deadpool: [Hand grenades. Why would I have badgers?]

Calvin: {Wade, there's not much of anything you could have on your person that would surprise me.}

Deadpool: [. . . Fair enough. To the road!]

*Outside, in the road*

Deadpool: [Now, in case anyone drives by and gets suspicious, we should have road crew uniforms.]

Calvin: {Here, we wear these orange vests during turkey season so no one mistakes us for big, fat birds.}

Deadpool: [Perfect! No one will suspect a thing! Fire in the hole!] *pulls pin, drops grenade at their feet*

Calvin: {Oh, jeez. . .}

CAP: Hang on! *grabs the collar of Calvin's shirt with teeth, leaps away*


Calvin: *searching through smoke* {Wade! Why did you do it? Everything was going so well for him! Aw man, I don't want to tell Shiklah he's dead.}

CAP: Yeah, she'll probably eat you.

Deadpool: *from behind* [What are you guys talking about?]

CAP: *tinge of consternation in voice* How did you get that farther away than me?

Deadpool: [I wasn't hauling that *points at Calvin* for one thing. Second, I have a lot of experience outrunning explosions.]

Calvin: {Well. . . great. Quick, cover it with the tarp.}

CAP: What tarp?

Calvin: {The appropriately colored tarp we discussed before we came out here.}

CAP: I thought you had one, and that's why you mentioned it.

Calvin: *getting heated* {Why would I have a tarp? This was like my fifth fallback plan after you kept killing these others, Doubting Thomas Panda! None of the others required tarps!}

CAP: *yelling* Don't get mad at me because you come up with impractical solutions to your own problems!

Calvin: *exasperated* {Impractical solution lead to more interesting stories!}

*Meanwhile, Deadpool scrounges through his pouches and finds a large tarp with his emblem on it. He lays it out neatly over the hole. He looks at it a moment, then removes the tarp and drops another grenade in the hole*

Calvin: *still shouting* {- even need a tarp for mines or wormhole cookies? That's completely ridiculous!}


Calvin: {Gah!}

CAP: Aah!

Deadpool: *cheerful as he lays the tarp back down* [Now it can hold more cars!]

CAP: *regards tarp thoughtfully* Wade, is there anything you have that doesn't have your image on it?

Deadpool: [Why would there be? Wait, do you think I need to change it, to let people know I'm married now? Hmm, maybe a gold band around the logo?]

Calvin: {That's a good point. I guess the question is, is all this stuff related to your professional life, or your personal, and is Shiklah part of only one or both? Do you have this just because you like it, or because it makes good branding sense to get your name on potential employers' minds?}

Deadpool: [Well, I think it's good to have a consistent message, but mostly I wanted to have merchandise to sell. You know, at conventions. Or to give away. Instead of business cards, knee pads and gloves with no fingers that have my image.]

CAP: Guys?

Calvin: {Well, that sounds like a business consideration, so the question is, will Shiklah be involved with that? Or is she off doing her "Ruler of the Monster Metropolis" thing, while you're being a Extreme Problem Solver?}

Deadpool: ["Extreme Problem Solver"?]

Calvin: {I thought it sounded nicer than "gun for hire".}


Calvin: {What?}

CAP: There's an ominous cloud at ground level headed right for us. Is that important?

Calvin: {Yeah, I probably should have mentioned the birders were arriving today.}

Deadpool: *pulls on fingerless gloves, the right says "DEAD", the left says "POOL"* [All right, kids. Hold on to your butts.]