Thursday, July 31, 2014

Too Many Hours On The Road Makes Calvin Something Something

When they get around to Expendables 4 - because I'll believe they'll stop at 3 precisely never - which action stars are left to add? The third one is going to have Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, after all the ones they've used in the first two movies. I guess they could dig up Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin, just run a current through them periodically to make them move semi-convincingly. Or put some headphones on them, see if Weekend at Bernie's 2 was right about the animating abilities of music.

Or they could go in another direction, and just branch out, get serious dramatic actors, comedians, dancers, whatever. Like the big pie fight scene in Blazing Saddles, but everyone involved is a big name actor or actress. And it lasts for two hours. And they use bullets and knives instead of pies. Or in addition to pies. Whichever.

But definitely have Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman be the bad guys. You telling me Streep can't befuddle Stallone with some cutting remark, then stab him in the eye? She's Meryl Streep, of course she can! She probably even has a couple of shivs she made out of spare Oscars just for kicks, maybe while she was in a crafting phase. Morgan Freeman lulls a couple of the good guys in with his soothing narrator voice, then BAM! duel-wielding machine guns! He said he liked to play bad guys, because they're the most interesting and generally guaranteed to survive until the end of the film, so let's hook both these fine thespians up with the opportunity to go nuts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I've Had Metroid Prime On The Brain

The thing I most want to know in the current volume of Captain Marvel is why the toxic planet of Torfa is toxic. It wasn't like that until a couple of centuries ago, but then it became a poisonous world, and that apparently hasn't faded in the time since then. It's also pretty clear that someone - Star-Lord's jerk father no doubt - is using those pirates to cut off the shipments of aid to the refugees there, so that they won't be as inclined (or able) to resist relocation.

My idea is something crash-landed on the planet back then. Not a meteorite that instantly exterminates everything in a flash of heat and concussive force, more gentle. Something that crashed somewhere secluded, then gradually leaked toxic substances into the planet. Something entirely undetectable, which makes it valuable. Think of it, a plague weapon that can't be found. All the aggressive space empires are gonna want that, and Marvel has a lot of aggressive space empires. Can't search for the source with all those pesky refugees around, so relocate them, under the auspice of compassion. Heck, you could even try and relocate them near a potential target, so the eventual sickness could be blamed on the poor refugees.

I'm curious as to what could cause the sickness, and how it can't be found or neutralized. Sounds like some sort of ancient, malevolent presence. Maybe some attempt by Ego the Living Planet to reproduce, or some weapon that's leftover from some long-past empire that had been floating for untold eons. Space is big, and the Kree, Skrulls, and Shi'ar weren't always the top of the heap. Hopefully whatever it is, it's something Carol could track down by a trip through perilous terrain and ultimately engage in a spectacular running battle, with lots of punching and energy blasts. Carol would make a pretty good Samus, even if she can't double-jump or curl into a ball and roll through small spaces.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Film About As Subtle As A Sledgehammer

I mentioned in yesterday's post that the characters in The Ratastrophe Catastrophe might actually be fairly smart, if they could get over the personal failings. A Man Called Sledge is all about people making the wrong decisions because of their personal weaknesses. In this case, it's always greed.

James Garner played Sledge, who led a gang of robbers. The film starts with he and just one member of his gang robbing a stage, then reaching a saloon to warm up. While Sledge spends some time with his lady friend, his partner decides to get in on a card game. Normally a bad player, he can't stop winning. . . until the losers shoot him in the back. Sledge staggers drunk down the stairs, and doesn't particularly want to kill anyone, but they press the issue by not allowing him a proper grieving period, and so he kills them both. He also attracts the attention of a weather-beaten old man, who follows him to a town. But the old man isn't interested in Sledge, he's interested in the heavily guarded shipment of $300,000 in gold being brought into the prison there. A prison where he spent 20 years in a cell next to the vault. It seems to have driven him a little mad, and Sledge gets the fever soon enough, growing determined to steal one of those shipments.

To the film's credit, Sledge doesn't pretend this is his retirement score. As Hans Gruber once said, if you steal $100, you can just disappear. If you steal $100 million, they will find you. So Hans said that in the 1980s, Sledge probably lived 100 years earlier, and 300 grand is roughly equivalent, once you adjust for inflation or whatever. Sledge understands that it's going to end ugly for him, he just wants to be able to enjoy the good life for awhile before then. I guess because the idea of faking his death didn't occur to him. Well, we can't all be as smart as Alan Rickman.

The movie really wants to hammer home the greed issue, because once they pull off the heist (with a few casualties), the survivors start playing poker for each others share. One person ends up with all of it, then kills the a guy who tries to shortchange him. Then Sledge, who had stayed out of it, plays cards with that guy and takes everything, then leaves with all of it. Then his former gang kidnaps his lady to draw him in to try and take back the gold, and you can guess how that goes. I guess that's meant to be a greed thing, but it really just comes off as Sledge being kind of a dick with no gift for employee relations. Seriously, you won all the gold, just give each guy back his share, then leave. If they want to start gambling again, or kill each other, fine. Your hands are (relatively) clean, and there's extra time to get away.

Also, the film isn't helped by the fact every time guys start playing cards or whatever, the movie starts in with an annoying song about remembering the danger of greed and coveting other men's gold or something. It's a too on the noise, they use it too often, and oh yeah, it's really irritating. A Man Called Sledge feels like one of those American-made Westerns that was trying to copy the success of the Leone films, but whiffed on it. Contrary to what the filmmakers (or my dad for that matter) think, it isn't about everyone being a bad guy. Clint Eastwood's character in the films always looks like a fairly remorseless killer interested only in money at the start, but the key is he demonstrates there are lines for him, and he can help people even when it isn't in his benefit. Sledge, on the other hand, starts out decrying the death of the stagecoach driver as senseless (he dropped his shotgun as ordered, and it discharged when it hit the ground and killed him), but generally demonstrates that he's mostly just a greedy, vicious ass as the film goes on. And the guys in his gang aren't any better, and there really isn't anyone else.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ratastrophe Catastrophe - David Lee Stone

There aren't a lot of options around here if one wants to go book shopping. The Ratastrophe Catastrophe was the best thing I could find in the local thrift store. Turns out it's written more for kids, but what the hey, it was 50 cents. It's set in your sort of typical fantasy land - goblins, dwarves, magic, things like that. Except most everyone is either corrupt, stupid, or both.

A farmboy named Diek is possessed by some remnant of ancient, dark forces, which prove to  make him fairly mesmerizing. Also unsettling, so it isn't long before his father sends him away to a nearby town. Where he learns that the Kingdom of Dullitch has a major rat problem, and is willing to pay handsomely to anyone who can rid them of the pests. Diek uses his flute to lead them out of town and into the river, where they will surely not pollute the water supply and cause dysentery or something. Not that Diek (or the force possessing him) would care if they did, because he gets stiffed. So he abducts the town's children, leaving the politicians to scramble to find some heroes to rescue them, which turn out to be a barbarian, a dwarf, and a former sorcerer having an end-life crisis who only remembers 3 spells.

It's the sort of story where the characters might actually be fairly intelligent, if they could stop falling prey to their worst habits, be they greed, arrogance, cowardice. They can't help themselves though, because that's always the easy way to them, ignoring the possible long-term consequences. So it's an accurate representation of humans, then, slightly exaggerated for comedic effect. Stone adopts a fairly dry tone for the humor, describing the events in a fairly straightforward manner, as if there's nothing unusual about most of it. It works well for me, but others' mileage may vary. It's also the first book in a series of six as far as I can determine, but I'm not sure I liked any of the characters enough to particularly want to follow their further adventures. I suppose if I stumbled across one of the later books for a reasonable price, I'd give it a whirl.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.18 - Frozen In Time

Plot: We start at an open market, as Darien shops for clothes to match his questionable fashion sense, including a leather jacket with tassels. However, Fawkes soon realizes someone is following him and it turns out to be Kate Easton, the creator of the quantum computer in episode 1.8. She's returned from England because some of her associates have gone missing, and another, who she knows only through online conversations as Hit-O-Rama, has gone into hiding. The Agency can't afford a safe house, so she has to stay with Fawkes. There's a very male gaze sequence where Kate stretches the kinks out after her long flight, which causes uncontrollable invisibility in Darien again. Kate unwittingly takes care of that right quick by telling him she's engaged. Well then.

The next day, Darien tries to convince the Keeper to look into whether Kate's story checks out, without telling her what's going on. Eventually he has to tell her, though I'm not clear on why he was be secretive in the first place. Turns out 16 scientists have gone missing, experts in a variety of fields. Darien and Hobbes return to Fawkes' apartment to find La Llorna from 1.15 hauling Kate away. Turns out La Llorna is actually Allianora (we don't learn that until later in-story, but I had the captions on and they listed her name right off). With Kate abducted, the only hope is to find Hit-O-Rama, but the Internet service provider he's been using is not friendly towards the government snooping around. . . until they find these guys are from Fish & Game, pursuing a vile whale meat smuggler. I laughed out loud just typing that.

So they find him, but he wants no part of anybody, and opens up on them with a shotgun. They decide to wait for Allianora to arrive, capture him, then they'll find out where they're taking them. This leads them to a tractor-trailor with a cyrogenic unit inside, because nobody noticed the really obvious package van following them down an otherwise deserted road. Fawkes distracts the guards outside with a beehive he finds nearby. Aaah bees, they're stinging. And Africanized! He does rescue Hito, and captures Allianora with the same drugs she's been using on the scientists. It turns out that while whoever designed these freezing units has devised a way to safely thaw them out, that window only lasts 48 hours, and Kate's been missing 36 hours. And the Official and Hobbes' attempts to interrogate Allianora fail miserably. Darien cuts to the chase by offering to help her escape in exchange for rescuing Kate.

Escape they do, despite Hobbes putting bullet holes in the drywall. Allianora keeps her world and brings Darien to all the cryo-tubes, as her employers are creating what they call a library. And seeing as they've scrambled his GPS tracker, well, things ain't looking good for Fawkes. Oh no, another faceless goon and he's using the drugging thing on Darien! Oh never mind, Fawkes replaced the sedative with water before he left, and he easily escapes the cyro-tube and rescues Kate. Darien takes her to the hospital and calls Hobbes, but by the time he finds the "library", all the other tubes are gone. In the aftermath, Kate and Darien discuss how she and her fiance will go ahead and get new i.d.s, while Hobbes and the Keeper compare notes in the hallway.

Quote of the episode: Allianora - 'Saving books is useless without the minds that create them.'

The "oh crap" count: 5 (31 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Henry Kissinger, who noted even paranoid people have enemies. Probably because they, like Kissinger, are assholes. And someone said opinions are made to be changed, because that's how you get at the truth.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (6 overall).

Other: Not sure I agree with that quote I used. Presumably other smart people would come along who could build on the things they found in the books.

I notice Darien doesn't have the uncontrollable invisibility issue when he makes out with Allianora.

There's a weird conversation between Darien and Hobbes about who Britney Spears was married to at that time, while they were following Hito's abductors. That was odd. Something else that's strange is that Hobbes is perfectly willing to make dirty innuendo about Fawkes and Kate, but is also unable to actually directly mention sex, as he's demonstrated in the past , such as when dealing with his ex-wife. I guess that's something to do with his difficulties with intimacy.

Speaking of intimacy, he and the Keep are moving closer. He was sleeping in the chair in her office when she and Darien came in. Sure, he says it's because there's no couch in the building where he can nap, but we know better. Keep came with him when they rushed the "library", and sure I think she really wants to get into a gunfight, and yeah, they needed someone to safely thaw people out, but you know she can't get enough of Bobby Hobbes.

Oh yeah, one thing about the freezing. How is it going to help preserve knowledge for a post-apocalyptic world, if you can't thaw the geniuses out after 48 hours? Were they going to hope some other geniuses survived who would figure out a proper thawing for people in longterm deep freeze? I have to assume they already have some method for that, but if so, why have the Keeper describe it in those terms to Darien?

In next week's episode, my single favorite line from this entire series.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Favorite DC Characters #4 - Sgt. Rock

Character: Frank Rock aka Sgt. Rock, the Rock of Easy Company

Creators: Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert

First appearance: Our Army at War #83

First encounter: It could be any one of my dad's old Our Army at War comics. Offhand, I'm going to guess it's either issue 213, 214, or 234. Those are the ones I have the oldest memories of reading through.

Definitive writer: Kanigher and Kubert. Most of my dad's comics are from the period when Kubert took over writing, and Russ Heath drew them, but not all, so I'm going to credit them both.

Definitive artist: JOE KUBERT! Even though Heath drew most of the ones I have, Kubert still did his share, plus the covers, and it's his Rock, a little more worn, a face that's more creased, the whipcord arms, that I think of.

Favorite moment or story: Look, there are a lot of moments of Rock being awesome, beating Nazi's butts and saving the day, but I'm picking Kanigher and Kubert's "Easy's Had It", which was in Our Army at War #203 (I'm not sure if it was a reprint or that was its first appearance). The story is about how all of Easy Company is convinced Rock is this invincible super-soldier and that he's all that keeps Easy going. Rock continually tries to beat it into their heads that no one is indispensable, and everyone is expected to carry on if any of the others fall. Unfortunately, he keeps undercutting his point by saving the entire company with single-handed exploits of awesomeness, as he takes out two Tiger tanks, and later shoots down an Me109. Then Easy Co is sent to take out an entrenched group of Nazis on a hill overlooking a critical road, and Rock gets hit. As Easy Co seemingly has no medic, the guys are convinced Rock is dead (though he's merely stunned). For a moment, all seems lost as his guys carry him down the hill. Then they stop, and set him to, as Bulldozer puts it, 'watch them finish. . . what he started.' Then they start back up that hill as Bulldozer exhorts the guys to show how combat happy they can get. . . for ROCK! It gets a little dusty every time I read that story. 

What I like about him: Well Rock won Toughest Guy in Comics in a 2006 poll conducted on Chris Sims' original Invincible Super-Blog, how can I go wrong with that?

I was not initially a big fan of Sgt. Rock, or any of DC's war comic characters. I wanted superheroes, and my dad had relatively few of those in his collection. And most of what he had was DC, and I wasn't up for Silver Age Superman and the constant stream of tricks he played on his friends. That changed as I got a little older. Part of it was, since the war comics featured characters who were human, they were more in the underdog vein I found I preferred. The Haunted Tank was this little M-3 Stuart that constantly found itself up against German tanks many times larger than it was. The Losers were 4 guys always up against superior numbers (and their own neuroses about being losers). The Unknown Soldier, even with all his skills and tricks, was usually alone in hostile ground, with no hope of back-up if things went wrong.

Then there's Rock. He's tough, but not bullet-proof. He gets wounded, he gets beat up sometimes. He's experienced, but not infallible. The Nazis can still get the drop on him sometimes. He's a good solider, but he's not some specially trained secret agent master of disguise, nor does he know how to fly planes or pilot boats, and he doesn't have the ghost of a Confederate general giving him hints and warnings. The closest thing he has is his "Sergeant's Radar", and that's something he developed by virtue of having fought in the war for awhile. He became a sergeant by, as he puts it in "Battle of the Sergeants", 'just by bein' lucky and lastin' longer than anyone else atop a certain hill I'd rather forget.' Rock might have been a little tougher than your average American citizen who was drafted to fight (by virtue of being a steel mill worker and semi-pro boxer before the war), but at the end of the day, he was mostly a regular guy who had to stay alive long enough to learn how to fight in a war, just like most people.

While Rock is generally a tough, no-nonsense guy, he does have a sense of humor. he's not likely to unleash a gut-bustin' laugh, but he's getting a decent bit of amusement out of Easy's attempt to surprise him with some new duds in the picture up above. Beyond that, he has a solid core of compassion the war hasn't dimmed. Rock looks after the guys in his company, even the ones who cause trouble. When PFC Hogan shows up in issue #214's "Easy Co. . . Where Are You?" and immediately starts in with the sass mouth and questioning Rock's competence, Rock refuse to give in to the urge to whip Hogan's butt. When Hogan gets himself captured (because he thought he could handle everything himself), Rock's determined to save him, and leads the charge on the enemy position to rescue him. When Smitty finds himself too scared to fight, Rock talks to him about how everyone has hang-ups, and the key is to turn them to your advantage. In Rock's case, he cares about his men to the point he nearly gets killed trying to gather the dog tags of the fallen under fire (and we see it in other stories of that time, so this wasn't a one-off thing). But it also manifests itself in the way he doesn't ostracize Smitty for being scared, but instead calmly works with him to conquer his fear, to realize he's part of the group, and while they rely on him, he can also rely on them. That lesson of "Easy Had It" again, that no one person has to win the war themselves, it's everyone's job.

The compassion carries beyond Easy Company, though. Rock's inclination when meeting people not in uniform is to consider them friendly or non-hostile until they give him a reason to think otherwise. In issue #234, when Easy takes part in the invasion of Italy, they make their way into an old pisan's house. He's not out to make any trouble, so when three Tiger tanks rumble up, Rock tells his guys to get ready to hightail, so this family and their home aren't destroyed. As it turns out, the home has a basement, and the pisan encourages Easy to duck down in there with his family, but Rock's first instinct was to draw the war way from these innocent people. A few issues prior to that, Rock was attacked by an enemy soldier in the snow, who turned out the be a 17-year old boy. Rock's exhausted, maybe at the end of his tether, so it haunts him, and ultimately he finds the boy's home to deliver his effects personally to the family. It's not the smartest move, but Rock doesn't want to kill anyone, certainly not a kid, and he felt like he owed it to him. It's one of the key things in DC (and probably also Marvel's) war comics, there's no glorification of the person who loses himself in the opportunity the battlefield presents to kill.

In fact, in issue #233, Rock may have killed one of his own men, Pvt. Johnnie Doe, who was committed to killing anyone he could justify as an enemy. Could be Nazis with their weapons in the air, could be people dressed as farmers carrying guns, Johnnie didn't care, he just shot them. They hadn't said they were resistance fighters, or that they were surrendering, after all. He was just being careful to protect his guys, he might claim, but it's all an excuse. Eventually, he was ready to drop a grenade down the chimney of a house that had enemy soldiers in it, but also a family they were using as shields. Johnnie proclaimed the whole thing a set-up, even as Rock shouts at him not do it, it'll be murder. And then Rock fires in the same panel the grenade explodes, and Rock's left with questions as to whether Johnnie held the grenade too long, or Rock killed him.

Certainly, Frank Rock is a bit of an idealized vision of an American soldier, but I don't think that's a bad thing. He's a citizen solider doing his best to carry out orders, while not spilling any more blood than he can avoid, on either side. He was asked by his country to try and help stem the tide of totalitarianism and help people in other countries be free alongside millions of other people, and that's what he's trying to do. He doesn't take any joy in killing or death, it's just an ugly reality he has to deal with. The goal is to help something better come about, and there have to be people alive afterwards to enjoy that something better for it to mean anything.

Friday, July 25, 2014

October's Shaking Things Up A Little

First things first, Avengers Undercover does end in September. Marvel might want to consider using the same sort of tag DC does in their announcements. "FINAL ISSUE" OR "LAST ISSUE", whichever. Case in point, Hawkeye is projected to ship in October, and it's described as the Final Round between Clint and the tracksuits. It's also listed as the final issue in the fourth trade paperback collection that's popped up in my Amazon recommendations. So maybe it's the last issue. 22 issues in 27 months. 23 if you count the annual. Seems like it's missed more months than that, though it remains to be seen if the book ships when it say it will.

Moving on, there's a few things of relevance. Superior Foes wants us to know it still hasn't been canceled, and neither has anything else I'm buying. Yet. However, as I mentioned earlier this week, I'm skipping the Axis tie-ins for Deadpool.

Deadpool: WHAT?! You're abandoning me?

Only until the Axis tie-ins are over. I'll be back afterwards, assuming the creative team doesn't change.

Deadpool: But Axis is going to change everything, and none of it will ever be the same again!

Yeah, that's why the Red Skull is running around in Onslaught's old clothes. And why the world is being covered in hate. I seem to recall it was being covered in fear just three years ago. Fear Itself ring a bell?

Deadpool: That was totally different. Now the Avengers and the X-Men are going to work together!

Hey, it's great the heroes will actually fight villains instead of each other, but your Original Sin tie-ins haven't convinced me there's going to be anything worth seeing.

Deadpool: Hater.

Scram would you? I think the birders are rifling through your pouches! The only other possible change of note is Ann Nocenti's going to be writing a Klarion series. I have no idea what to expect whatsoever, other than it probably won't resemble Klarion's Valentine's Day team-up with Stephanie Brown. Oh, and it'll probably be canceled in 8 issues. So I'll probably try it. Why not? I know, everybody's all giggly in anticipation over the new direction for Batgirl, and I hope it does well, if only because it might encourage DC to diversify the tone of their line a little more. But, Barbara's still not a Batgirl I'm particularly interested in, so it'll fall to the rest of you to make it a success.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wolverine's Causing Some Problems For Me

One problem I have with Avengers Undercover is this idea that the kids won't receive any benefit of the doubt for their actions, because they're considered damaged goods. That they were considered unstable after Murderworld, and now they straight up murdered Arcade, and that's it, they don't get to be good guys or make any excuses for their actions.

The problem with this, as he so often is in such matters, is Wolverine. The kids were put through Hell, and when given the opportunity to face their tormentor (who had in no way repented or attempted to make amends for his past actions) they killed him. How is this different from the relationship between Weapon X and Wolverine? They experimented and tortured him, and now he kills people connected to the project whenever he gets the chance, and has done so for quite some time.This isn't taking into account his typical slaughterings of the Hand, the Yakuza, random biker gangs or hate groups, etc., etc.

That Wolverine's done these things isn't the problem. It's that he's done them, and continues to do them, and it doesn't seem to hurt his standing with the rest of the costumed hero set at all that's the issue. If Wolverine can kill people for no greater offense than they stand between him and the guy he really wants to kill, and he can still be headmaster of a school, serve on 3 different X-teams, and be an Avengers, why can't Hazmat, Cammi, and the rest be cut a little slack for cutting Arcade? I'm not saying sign them up for the Avengers - frankly, you could hardly blame any of them if they never wanted to do the hero bit ever again - but they shouldn't be in a situation where they're being thrown into SHIELD lock-up and treated like super-villains.

I think sometimes the worst thing that happened in the Marvel Universe was Wolverine became popular. Say what you will about whether the Punisher fits in the Marvel Universe, at least he's still generally regarded with wariness or outright distrust by the heroes (his odd team-up with Dr. Strange in Original Sin aside). I don't know if Wolverine's reputation was ever that bad, but in the day, Spider-Man and Daredevil fought him as often as they worked with him, and Captain America told Logan the Avengers would never have him. Even the X-Men weren't quite sure of him. Most of the time he was a trusted friend and ally, but every so often, he'd lose his temper, lash out at them with his claws, storm off on his own, disregard somebody's orders. Even they couldn't entirely drop their guards around him. He was a bit of a wild card, because he wasn't as merciful as the other costumed do-gooders. If it had been him on top of the bridge watching Gwen Stacy be knocked off, the Spider-writers in the '90s would have had a heck of a time explaining how Norman Osborn engineered the Clone Saga when he'd been hacked into little bits.

Which might have been a blessing for all of us, as it would have spared us the next 15 years of attempts to make Norman more like the Kingpin or Lex Luthor, but I digress.

The key was despite Logan's penchant for bloody revenge, he still had enough kinder, more noble moments you could understand how the X-Men stuck by him, even if the rest of the heroes kept their distance. He was capable of warmth, bravery, sacrifice, compassion, all those good qualities. He didn't always default to them, but they were there.

The problem is, while those qualities haven't vanished over time, neither has all the killing. If anything, it's getting worse, as he grew overexposed and writers couldn't think of any better stories than to have Wolverine slice up 50 bad guys. No, 100 bad guys. No, 200 bad guys. And the bad guys all have laser chainsaws! Ahem. Until you get to Millar who has Logan setting out to kill everyone in HYDRA, which is apparently over 40,000 people. I don't know if he managed it or not (given HYDRA's continued existence, I'm guessing not), but that's ridiculous. Yet Logan only seems to grow more accepted. He and Spidey have breakfast at Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum. He and Ben Grimm share brews and play cards. Everyone seems to have simply decided that's who Logan is and they'll just ignore that massive pile of bodies behind him. Which makes it kind of strange when they get bent out of shape about some teen heroes killing one guy, or they treat Deadpool like garbage because he kills people for money (but also saves the world sometimes), even though Wade has a legitimate mental illness.

I don't know what the solution is. Wolverine could stop killing people, or at least kill people much less frequently. Him being dead ought to help in that regard, at least until he comes back. Though I wouldn't put it past Logan to continue to kill people after he's dead. Or, go the other way, let him keep killing people, but make this an actual sticking point, where the Avengers aren't so happy to have him around, and making him headmaster of a school is not a good idea. All that ninja-killing has to be cutting into his time and availability to handle the administrative duties of the position in a timely fashion. Let him be a part-time history teacher, or something. Professor Howlett's Tour of Deaths of the 20th Century. The problem there is trying to explain the sudden about-face everyone would have to experience to put Logan back on the "not approved" list.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What I Bought 7/3/2014 - Part 5

All right, last pair of comics for a couple of weeks. One book has a guest penciler, the other one is getting back its usual artist.

She-Hulk #5, by Charles Soule (writer), Ron Wimberly (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I have never tried that "tape all the pieces of evidence on the wall" thing you see people do. It always looks too messy and disorganized for me. I'd just get distracted by it.

We're into the "let's split up, gang, and look for clues" portion of the investigation. So Jen visits the Shocker, who is both more and less pitiful than he is in the book we'll be discussing further down. But Jen manages to avoid a fight, and the Shocker manages to remember a few things after he zaps himself with his gauntlets. Patsy goes to visit Tigra and they have a pleasant chat until Patsy mentions the name of the guy who brought the case against them. Then Tigra tries to kill her, and herself, though Patsy narrowly averts both those things. Angie's up in North Dakota trying to find the original documents, which she does, but the person at the courthouse is about to shoot her. Which means it's probably a bad thing Jen wraps up the issue calling Wyatt Wingfoot to discuss the case with him.

So we have post-hypnotic implanted suggestions, a mysterious person was up to something and needed two villains with similar shticks to help, and the resultant effort by the heroes to stop it destroyed a town. I have no idea how all that pieces together. I also don't know if it's significant that Wimberly used the same spiral in the eyes thing for the country clerk when he's getting ready to shoot, and for Angie and the monkey when they saw whatever it was they saw in the ruins of that town. Is she (or the monkey) connected to all this?  Is there some sort of illusion cast over the town, and it requires a similar effect to the hypnotic suggestion to see through it?

Can't say I care for Wimberly's art. Everything's too wrinkled, and he draws things so I feel like I'm looking through a fish-eye lens, kind of like Tan Eng Huat does, which is not an effect I'm terribly fond of. He does good work with the sound effects, though. I especially like the SCREEEE when Angie hits the brakes, the way it follows her across the panel. Don't understand why he uses quote marks around them sometimes (like the THMMM when Jen lands on the fire escape. I like Renzi's colors. They're very, "Day-Glo" is the word that comes to mind, and maybe a little unusual, but they evoke the mood well and make sure things stand out. Angie's car against the frozen expanses of North Dakota, or that pink-purple sky over Tigra and Hellcat's heads. It's a good backdrop for their color scheme, and it looks odd enough to put the reader slightly on edge.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12, by Nick Spencer (writer), Steve Lieber (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Hmm, I get that Wimberly is trying to make their costumes look like they fit as real clothes would, but no. He made the Shocker look even dumber than usual, like it's some common hood trying to pretend to be the Shocker with a custom made ski-mask.

After two issues of stupid time wasting crap, back to the actual storyline. I mean, jeez, did Lieber and Spencer think they were Fraction and Aja, going to stall for time with a bunch of stupid ancillary nonsense? Whatever. Boomerang manages to convince his team that it was really the Chameleon who screwed them over, which wouldn't have worked if the Owl wasn't there backing him up (because Spencer's Owl is about 1/100th as smart as Mark Waid's Owl). And the Owl wants them to help get back his painting from the Chameleon. He even went out and hired a bunch more super-villains for Boomerang to dupe, er I mean lead in an assault. Isn't this a little small-time for Bi-Beast, though? The others, sure, I could see them getting on board (maybe not Shriek), but I kind of thought Bi-Beast was into destroying humanity or taking over the world, stuff like that. Just being cannon fodder here, so I guess it doesn't matter. Boomerang suckers Overdrive into taking a fake of the painting (because Fred's such an expert on art he can detect forgeries now?), and that leaves Boomerang free to loot the safe. The other thread is that Hydro-Man told Hammerhead how Shocker has Silvermane's head, and now Hammerhead's guys are going to storm Hermann's apartment. Hmm, now would be a good time for She-Hulk to show up and ask more questions.

I'm still having a hard time buying Boomerang being smart enough to even come up with a scam like this, let alone keep it together this long. He's a putz. He's always been a putz. He couldn't out-maneuver the Beetle for leadership in the Sinister Syndicate, because he's a dope. Fortunately, everyone else in the book is an even bigger dope. It's like the Futurama episode where the giant brains make everyone except Fry complete idiots. But there are no giant brains to be seen. The book is still funny, but remember how I said a couple of weeks ago that I've grown really impatient waiting for fictional characters to get their comeuppance? I'm kind of itching to see his team kick his butt.

All that (extensive) complaining aside, credit to Spencer and Lieber for making me care about the Shocker. He's a chump, the guy who figures if you say you're a team or a gang, it means something, in spite of all evidence in his life to the contrary. I've always kind of liked the Shocker, because at his core, he's just a thief. He doesn't care about world conquest or bloody revenge. If he never saw Spider-Man again, I'm sure he'd be just fine with that. But he can't help himself being a thief. He either can't, or won't change, and so he's stuck. There's always going to be a hero there to ruin his day. Now he's got to deal with the fact the people in the same boat as him don't even treat him well. I'd really like to see him get a good moment here, just trounce Hammerhead and his guys, but it's probably not going to happen.

OK, that's weird. I was looking back over it, and the Owl says he hired more guys, and that Fred requested 11 more villains, Fred's response being that now they're the Sinister 16. Except with only 4 members (Boomerang, Overdrive, the Beetle, Speed Demon) to start with, that would only be the Sinister 15. But Lieber drew 12 villains, which would make 16. I'm confused. I also notice Speed Demons is nowhere to be seen during the attack on the Chamleon, so either he's got something planned with Fred, or he's hanging back, waiting to pounce when Fred tries his double-cross.

It's interesting how much more subdued Rosenberg's colors are here than on Nightcrawler. It fits; there's not weird magic, super-powered robots, or schools with training rooms that cost billions of dollars. It's a bunch of cheap crooks running around making fools of themselves. It's basic greed and stupidity, just dressed up a little.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Apparently I Don't Trust Anyone In The Marvel U Anymore

A few months back, I was complaining about how, in the pages of Avengers Undercover, Constrictor part of Zemo's little cabal, seemingly get to stand on the same level with what I see as much higher-quality villains. And then I noted that all four of the main villains - Constrictor, Zemo, Madame Masque, Hellstrom - have been heroes or helped heroes in the past. And since then, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that something about the whole situation feels off.

Both sides are trying to run scams, of course. The kids have their plan to go along with the baddies until they can find a way to bring Zemo down and rehabilitate their images. The villains are trying to snooker the kids by presenting being part of the gang as really cool and awesome. And Hellstrom's lying through his teeth when he tells Nico he hasn't done anything to Cullen. We know that's nonsense, because we saw Zemo asking if Hellstrom had Cullen under control at the end of the first issue.

Also, the whole situation with Arcade screamed "Set-Up!" The bad guy's plan to get Cullen his shot at Arcade just so happened to be ready to go right when the others came looking for Cullen. But at the same time, there was no opportunity to check if all the kids were on board with it. Nope, just chuck them into the middle of it. Then, there's how convenient it is that SHIELD just so happens to find Arcade's secret lair - which has presumably been up and running for awhile - right as the kids are trying to bail. This one could be explained as Deathlocket disabled whatever jamming or scrambling devices Murderworld had when she shut down Arcade's powers, but it seems questionable those systems were shut down (even though they're hardly related to Arcade's powers), but not the recording or transmitting equipment that would broadcast Hazmat killing him across the globe. And wasn't it convenient that SHIELD brought along some mages who could block Nico and Cullen's abilities, even though Arcade's never demonstrated mystical abilities? And rescuing them from lock-up makes it look like the kids pulled a jailbreak.

It's pretty obvious the whole thing with Arcade was Zemo's way of boxing them in, so his offer looks that much better, so maybe it's the only option, really. But I can't shake the feeling there's more to it than that. That conversation Zemo had with someone over the phone. The smart money is it's Techno/the Fixer, but what if it's Tony Stark or Hank Pym? I have this feeling the kids are being tested by the Avengers (or SHIELD) as part of some psychological evaluation. What's their decision-making process like, what direction does their moral compass point, how deeply affected are they by their time in Murderworld, how much of a potential threat are they, stuff like that.  It would be really messed up, but a lot of alleged good guys seem to be operating under a vague umbrella of the ends justifying some really awful means, so I could see it.

Now you say, why would these bad guys help with that? Who says they are? Constrictor and Hellstrom have both done the good guy thing before, they could easily be in one of their good phases, or else they're being paid well (or Constrictor could just be a dupe). Zemo and Madame Masque not as much, but by the nature of their outfits, there's no guarantee those are the real Zemo and Masque. We haven't seen their faces, it could be Winter Soldier and the Black Widow for all we know. If Kate Bishop can pretend to be Madame Masque through an auction, I'm pretty sure Natasha could pull it off in her sleep.

Maybe, instead of letting the bad guys infiltrate their peacekeeping organizations, the heroes decided to infiltrate the bad guys, take control, and try to limit the damage. What have we seen the bad guys do so far, besides beat each other up? The kids killed Arcade with an assist from Hellstrom, and a bunch of them attacked an A.I.M. installation. And only Captain America shows up to get involved? With roughly 5 million heroes as part of the Avengers these days? Uh-huh. Sure, the villains could theoretically use AIM stuff to cause all sorts of trouble, but given the structure of the organization they're in, it'll only happen if the top dogs tell them to. And in this scenario I've constructed, that won't happen because the head honchos are really good guys. There was the attack on a SHIELD base at the end of the first issue, but that could be a put-on, just to maintain appearances

I'd say the chance I'm right is 10% or less, that I'm jumping at shadows because the writers these days seem so inclined to have heroes do shitty things and try to justify it somehow. I'm not even sure I'd want to be right, because it would such a lousy trick for the good guys to pull on the kids, but it's an idea I've been mulling over for some time, so there you have it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Bought 7/3/2014 - Part 4

And now the weather is behaving as it normally does in July. Blerg.

Ms. Marvel #5, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (art), Ian Herring (color art), Joe Caramagna (lettering) - I noticed that on the credits page they screwed up and listed this as "Part Four Of Five". Getting so people can't even count to 5 anymore. Ah well, that's a nice cover, though. Quiet, reflective, pretty.

Kamala's initial rescue attempt fails miserably. She gets injured right off the bat, and only narrowly escapes. Then she falls asleep at her kitchen table surrounded by food (she's got to feed that metabolism if she's gonna heal), and gets caught by her mother, who is freaking out. Her dad steps in and calms things down, then turns the emotional thumbscrews. I'm sure it's not (totally) his intent, but I can't help reading those sort of touching parental confession moments as a bit of guilt tripping. I'm sure he's sincere, but it did make Kamala feel bad, so there you go. Anyway, she resolves that she has to be more prepared, so she and Bruno start testing her powers, and he's uses his experimental polymer to make her a stretchy costume. Hey, when you can't afford (or steal) unstable molecules, get super snot. Thus, her next attempt goes very well. She's shrinks down, rides in on one of the little robot things, gets it to zap Doyle, she grabs Vick, and they're out and gone. But Doyle's boss isn't happy, and Doyle's boss is. . . a Terrigen-evolved pigeon? Great, a giant rat with wings. I imagine that's going to produce a dumbfounded reaction when she meets him.

Nice touch by Caramagna altering the font size based on Kamala's size. I especially like the panel where the words get smaller as you go through the sentence because she's shrinking as she's talking. Alphona's still doing an lovely job on the artwork. I don't know if it's intentional, but when the Inventor leaves his message for her at the end of the issue, the way Kamala's holding her mouth mimics the way the mouth was drawn on the large stuffed version of her the Inventor left.  The range of expressions he gives Kamala and Bruno when she's convincing him to help on page 10. She's goes from this frustrated and determined look to being cheerful, to then sort of smugly pleased when Bruno agrees, and the whole time Bruno has this clearly pensive and uncertain look and posture. He really doesn't want to encourage her, but he cares about her, and his brother needs saving, so what can he do?

Three things about the writing. One, how long was the Inventor going to have Doyle watching Vick in that basement? Kamala and Bruno must have needed at least a couple of days to run all those tests on her powers and to make the costume. I guess the Inventor could just be very deliberate in his decision-making, though deliberation isn't a quality I tend to associate with pigeons. Two, I'm hoping Kamala and her mother get to have a reasonable discussion soon. So far, Kamala's only had those with her dad, while mom tends to freak out and start wailing about how her child is going astray. Maybe she's just like that, all histrionics and overreacting, but I hope to see another side soon. The other characters are getting more facets to them. Third, I like that when she manages the rescue, we see very little fighting. because Kamala isn't the sort to enjoy beating people up because she can, and she's there to rescue someone. Once she's got that someone, she's getting the heck out. She wants to help people, not necessarily beat up bad guys if she doesn't have to.

Nightcrawler #3, by Chris Claremont (writer), Todd Nauck (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Cory Petit (letterer) - I wonder sometimes if I'd want a tail like Kurt's. Given all the things he can do with it, it seems handy. But then I'd have to cut holes in the back of all my pants. Plus, it would throw off my posture, probably mess up my back.

So the robot attacks again, and we find out it's called Trimega because it can split into three, each which seems to control a different element. Kurt and his friends from the circus aren't doing so well until Margali steps in and banishes the baddies. Kurt convinces her and Amanda to return to the school with him, where Margali receives a very cold welcome from Storm, and I am missing some backstory here. I have no idea what atrocities Margali's committed, though I can't help wondering if she's killed more people than Wolverine (a thought I have often these days). Kurt's a little peeved and goes to the Danger Room to contemplate the fact that he turned his back on Heaven (and I got to say Kurt, my experience reading GrimJack suggests this was a bad idea). It falls to Logan to bring beer and talk with him about accepting that he made the decision, and needs to make the best of it. Which is good. It's always a little odd those two are such close friends, but they are and Logan would definitely not want to see his buddy so down.

Unfortunately, that's the last good thing that happens because, in order: Amanda drops Rachel like a sack of potatoes, Margali does something awful to Storm and Beast (turns them into photos, extracts one from each, and lets the rest collapse into a pile), and then a whole lot of those Trimegas attack the school. I'm not sure how Margali figures Kurt will continue his new in life in peace after what she just did to his friends. Geez, between her, Mystique, and Maddy Pryor, do any of the X-Men have moms that aren't completely demented? All of them seem to be "I'll slaughter village full of babies for my child", which is just messed up.

Well, I don't have any idea what the robots are up to, but I'm pretty sure this arc is going to end with Claremont putting a his own final end on anything between Amanda and Kurt. It's becoming more and more apparent Amanda's claims that she doesn't know what's happening are a load of garbage, meaning she's lied to Kurt and put his friends in danger. That revelation will go over well, I'm sure.

Rachelle Rosenberg's doing a good job on the colors. Every setting had its own sort of palette, and they remembered that if it was near dusk in Germany, it would be much earlier in the day back in New York. So the skies are going orange at the circus, but it's all bright blue skies back at the school. It's a little thing, but I appreciate that they paid attention to that detail. The rosy pinks of Kurt's recreation of Heaven, versus that metallic blue of the regular Danger Room and the interrogation rooms. The deep purple in the school hallways when the attack begins. It's a nicely ominous color, though I wonder if it's a coincidence that the light coming in through the windows is similar to the color they use for Kurt's teleportation cloud effect.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Invisible Man 1.17 - Perchance to Dream

Plot: Darien shows up needing a shot of counteragent and notices the Keep looks tired and stressed. He asks her if she'd like to hang out with him and Hobbes sometime, she declines. As she gets ready to give him the shot, her watch goes of and she abruptly leaves. Darien purses her across town and finds her chasing after some guy out for a jog. Then has to tackle her so she doesn't kill the guy, even as Claire insists she has to kill him before he kills her. This despite the fact she has no idea who the guy is.

Back at the office, the Official orders Claire to stay in the building under watch/guard, while Fawkes and Hobbes investigate this Mr. Burton. Except Burton has no idea who Claire is, or why she'd be scared of him, and he's a busy man, with an insistent business partner who just lets himself into Burton's backyard to ask for some papers. That having proved to be a dead end, our boys turn to the FBI and oh god, it's Jones again (see episode 1.3, "Ralph"). Jones will not share info with these "bozos", which gives us Darien and Bobby irritating Jonesy by bantering about whether they've been insulted until he leaves.

So Darien breaks into the FBI's office, and we get a funny exchange where he admits he doesn't know how to use a copy machine. Hobbes manages to talk Darien through the mysteries of the copy machine, and they pull it off with only minor chaos. Going through the files reveals there have been 4 recent murders where the killer and victim were seemingly unconnected, and in case the killer offed themselves after. It's also noted all four killers were going to sleep clinics for sleeping disorders. The guys had better hurry up, because Claire is getting impatient and hurtful, telling Darien outright that her life is in his hands, and she doesn't trust him. Really? Where's all the trust and warm feelings of the last few weeks? Darien and Hobbes have a conversation, where Hobbes suggests they go bowling or play mini-golf since there's no point of breaking into a sleep clinic during the day. Fawkes doesn't seem inclined to go along with this. At any rate, the sneaking about the clinic reveals a guy sending impulses to one of the female patients to stimulate her pleasure centers, which he is waaaaay too into. Not sure about Darien basically threatening the guy with jail and prison rape if he doesn't quit and leave right now, but it's hard for me to feel bad for the technician, little creep that he is.

This does give Darien the idea that someone sent a message to Claire through similar impulses while she was at the clinic, which is not a theory that impresses Claire. She outright says there's another answer, and that Darien and Hobbes aren't smart enough to find it. And then, she mentions the nightmares she's been having, the ones that remind of the time a stranger nearly pulled her into his car as she was walking home from school. So, great, they added a run-in with a child predator to Claire's backstory. Booooooooo. Basically her nightmares were that predator coming after her again, and somehow, she's convinced Burton is that guy, even though she has no idea who Burton is. And then Wil Wheaton enters the picture. He's runs a computer software company, and works on the systems at the clinics. And yep, you guessed, he (and his partner) are using that access to send images to patients to make them serve as assassins. A drone strike, if you will. And having overheard the boys questioning people at one of the clinics, now he's ready to send someone after them.

At the Agency, Claire is in a near panic trying to get out, and has already knocked out her two guards somehow. Darien and Hobbes manage to restrain her, and set Eberts with the task of keeping an eye on her while they chase leads. Except now they're being followed by Wheaton's assassin, a guy on a bicycle. Then Hobbes just has to stop for a coffee, and Bike Guy gets his chance. Darien thwarts it, but can't stop the guy from killing himself. Jones arrives, extremely pissed because he's certain they broke into the FBI's office and stole files, they even saw the van outside. His mood isn't helped with Darien and Hobbes  taking bets on how long it would takes Jones to arrive, or Hobbes claiming he was there because he gets nostalgic for his time with the feds, and that it's like checking in on an ex-girlfriend. At this point, we learn that Burton's partner hired Wheaton to eliminate Burton, because the partner's been embezzling funds. We also learn Wheaton's partner is getting cold feet, but not soon enough, since Darien finally had the brainstorm to check into the people who maintain the clinic's systems. Catching the two nerds is easy enough, but bad news, you can't erase the impulse they've placed in Claire. And then Claire escapes again. Man, those guards are having a bad time of it. Well, you get what you barely pay for, I guess. She purses Burton on another jog, and this time succeeds in killing him and herself, in front of Darien and Bobby no less. But wait, it was all fake, which explains the guards getting dropped twice in one day. Since they couldn't remove the program, they had to let it run its course, so they somehow sent that into her head to accomplish this. Also, Claire doesn't remember any of it, though they are nice enough to explain it during a pleasant walk in the park. Oh, and Claire kisses Bobby on the cheek. That's very sweet.

Quote of the Episode: Hobbes - 'Fawkes, you don't know how to work a copy machine? It's a copy machine. Every American knows how to work a copy machine. You stick the paper in. what are you talking about?' Fawkes - 'Hey, you know, if I needed a copy of something, I just stole it.'

The "oh crap" Count: 2 (26 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Homer, who said sleep is the twin of death. Hobbes quotes Metallica as having said ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you. And then the Beatles, in that we all get by with a little help from our friends.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (6 overall).

Other: I really enjoy watching Fawkes and Hobbes banter when there's a third party there. Especially Jones, because it bugs him, and he's a jerk, so it's good to annoy him. Also, they're starting to do synchronized handshakes, which is kind of cute. And I like how effectively Hobbes winds up Jones. Jones knows Hobbes' weak points, but the reverse is true, and I like to think Jones' insults are growing less effective because Hobbes is growing happier where he is. Well, happy by Hobbes' standards.

If Wheaton and his partner are just sending images of the target into their victim's brain, how do they find them so unerringly? I could maybe understand if Burton's partner told them he always goes for a jog along a certain route at a certain time, though I don't know how you convey that information in a way that sticks. But how the hell did Bike Guy find Fawkes and Hobbes? All Wheaton knows is a couple of government guys are after him. Don't tell me he managed to successfully tail Hobbes long enough to learn things about him. And how is it Darien turned invisible and knocked their would-be assassin off his bike, but was completely unable to get the gun away from the guy or at least stop him from killing himself? That makes no sense.

I forgot to mention this last week, but Claire telling Darien he's not smart enough to see the real answer jogged my memory. Kind of surprised Darien didn't ask super-intelligent Hobbes for a way to get the gland out of his head safely. Oh well, opportunity lost.

Have to say I'm disappointed in Claire not having more faith in the guys. I get she's scared, convinced this guy is after her, convinced she has to kill him, but I thought there was more trust there. This was like a flashback to episode 1.11, when she and everyone else seemed convinced Darien had beaten the hell out of the Official. Which OK, his body did it, but not Darien himself. Which is another thing. How can Claire be so sure Darien's theory about someone sending impulses into her brain is bunk? Set aside the fact he turned out to be right, and just look at recent history? Last week, Hobbes was infected with a retrovirus that made him the smartest guy on the planet. Before that, they ran into a woman who seems able to become water. Go back before that and you get a situation where Darien's being taken over by the memories of a dead man that are stored inside the invisibility gland. Why is "they sent an urge to kill someone to you through electrical signal while you slept" where the line has to be drawn? Is it just because it's happening to her that makes it difficult to accept?

This is a strange episode in general. The plot feels a little weak, Burton's got someone trying to kill him, but that's barely touched on. The killers only appear halfway through, there's not much to them. The story just seems to meander. There's a lot of joking, a lot of banter, from the stuff with Hobbes and Jones, to Hobbes wanting to go bowling, to the copy machine, to the Official and Eberts musing whether Hobbes might actually be more of an expert on mental issues than the doctors. But then you have the creepy tech who's basically sexually assaulting that lady by sending her impulses without consent, and then the writers dumped Claire's childhood encounter with a predator right in the middle of the episode like a giant turd. It bugs me, because it comes out of nowhere, we've never seen any indication of how it has affected Claire prior to this, and it doesn't come up again. It's just the particular trigger the writers decided Claire needed so she'd be scared enough she could be driven to kill Burton. It's just kind of a plot device here, so Fawkes can feel bad, and I don't know, make Claire seem vulnerable, which didn't seem necessary to me. The Keep's been pretty rock solid up to this point, her sorrow when she thought Hobbes died a notable exception. We've seen her happy, amused, angry quite a bit, worried, but she's still professional, while also having been allowed to show more compassion as the season progresses. But I don't know that we've seen fear so far.

 The episode just has a very uneven tone, where everyone's joking, then BAM! here's a lady being violated in some way. Pause for moment of somber reflection (or dude getting angry), then more joking.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Favorite Marvel Characters #5 - Nightcrawler

Character: Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner)

Creators: Dave Cockrum and Len Wein

First appearance: Giant Size X-Men #1

First encounter: Nightcrawler #4. I didn't pick up that reprint of the X-Men's run-in with Doom until sometime in the early '90s. The first X-Men comic I owned was Uncanny #202, but Kurt's not in that. But in the same batch of comics that landed me that book, I got the final issue of the four-issue mini-series Dave Cockrum did back in the '80s. So it must be that.

Definitive writer: Chris Claremont or Alan Davis. It probably ought to just be Claremont, but I really like Davis' portrayal of Kurt during his stint as writer on Excalibur.

Definitive artist: Alan Davis! That sleekness Davis gives almost all his characters works really well for Kurt. Also, Kurt's an expressive guy, and Davis is very good at conveying that.

Favorite moment or story: Kurt's got a lot of good moments, from single-handedly protecting the heir to the throne of some kingdom from Arcade, to just managing to stay alive against the Wendigo that one time. Hey, Wolverine barely managed any better, you have to grade on a curve a little. He punched Mephisto right in the chops once (that was in his previous ongoing series, Aguirre-Sacasa/Darick Robertson one). I'm fond of the brief period where Technet was stuck on Earth and Kurt, laid up with a busted leg (thanks Captain Britain), turns them into a cohesive team, and uses them to stop a creature stealing mystical artifacts for a big bad. It showed Kurt relying on his wits, leadership abilities, and his skill connecting with others. That's from roughly Excalibur #45.

Why I like him: For starters, teleportation is a really cool power. I've always been a fan of those powers that make it quicker, easier, or just cooler to get from one place to another. Super-speed, heightened agility, intangibility, flight obviously, and teleportation. Maybe because I'm one of those folks who struggles to embrace that idea about it being the journey, not the destination. If I'm going somewhere, I want to get there now, not later. Plus, it makes for a lot of fun in fight scenes, letting Kurt wreak havoc attacking all over, turning enemies' attack against each other.

Kurt's got a cool look, for another thing. With the yellow eyes, the fangs, the two toes, the three fingers, the tail, the blue fur, the red, white and black costume that contrasts nicely with the fur. Throw in the distinctive style of his teleportation, with the explosion of smoke and the "BAMF" effect, he's well-designed to get a kid's attention. I've said it previously, but I think it really helps a character's chances to get the reader's attention if they're eye-catching, then the reader pays attention long enough for their personality to shine through.

Beyond that, there's the fact that Kurt looks scary, but generally he isn't. Oh, he can get angry, just like anybody else. One moment I considered mentioning above is from Excalibur #62, when he has to defend an unconscious Cerise and Shadowcat from a host of "warpies", only his powers have been blocked. Kurt's already feeling down because the Phoenix Force has dashed off into deep space with Rachel Summers and he thinks he should have done something, and now two more friends (or more than friend in Cerise's case) are in danger. So he unloads on those poor suckers. Those periodic badass moments are always appreciated.

But really, Kurt's a pretty gentle guy. Yes, he's handy with a sword, and quite willing to sock someone in the jaw if he thinks he deserves it (that warpie storyline ends with Kurt satisfyingly uppercutting Britain's version of Peter Gyrich), but he's pretty restrained. It's what makes the moments where he cuts loose more noticeable and effective, because he normally turns the enemy's strength against them. Let one bad guy hit another with an attack intended for Kurt. Use a judo toss and turn their momentum against them. All else fails, grab 'em and 'port them around until the strain conks them out. Kurt enjoys fighting, and he's good at it - hardly surprising given his powers and training - but I think it's less about hurting people, and more about the physical challenge it presents.

And the opportunity for dashing heroics, of course. Because Kurt fancies himself a swashbuckler, in the fictionalized form, anyway. I thought it was a good idea of Cockrum in that '80s mini-series to let Kurt spend some time with real pirates, as kind of a reminder they aren't all "yo ho ho" and good times. Still, Kurt's more the dashing rouge than the scalawag, which is the best way to go. It means you get a character who enjoys the challenge, enjoys saving the day, certainly enjoys impressing pretty ladies, and isn't likely to turn into one of those grim heroes who is all about the job, and can't take any real positives from it.

That's maybe the best thing about Kurt, his largely positive attitude. Sure, he gets frustrated, doubts Xavier's mission, doubts himself. Who wouldn't? He's watched friends die, or lose their powers, watched he and the other X-Men scrabble and fight and struggle to protect this world that continues to hate and fear them, him in particular. But he eventually resolves to go on, even if he isn't sure why, he sticks by his friends and hopes the reason will present itself in time (I think it's interesting that even in Uncanny X-Men #188, when he seems incredibly frustrates and angry, he's still on-board with finding young mutants and helping them learn to control his powers. He hasn't given up on that, he's just tired of protecting assholes like Gyrich from the Blob or whomever).

And his appearance prompted a lot of ugly reactions for a long time. Xavier found him being pursued by the stereotypical torch and pitchfork wielding mob. When he was gravely injured fighting Nimrod in Central Park, the response of the dock workers was not, "hey, this guy needs medical attention, let's help," it was "Get that stinkin' mutie!" His mother threw him off a damn waterfall to save her own neck. She's been more of a mother to her adopted daughter than she's ever been to him, to the extent that when they did Age of Apocalypse, one of the things they did to show how different this world was from the normal Marvel Universe was give Kurt and Mystique a close relationship, where she actually seemed to care for him. Then again, given Mystique's shitty track record of parenting with Rogue, Kurt's probably better off without her in his life.

And yet, here's Kurt, still finding things to enjoy in the world, still hoping he can make things better. He's still charming, friendly, funny, drinking beers with Logan, sword-fighting skeletons alongside Rachel or Kitty in the Danger Room, and apparently charming practically every lady he meets. I will readily admit the fact that Kurt is a character with a, let's say "unusual" appearance (because he's probably quite conventionally attractive without the fur and tail), who still manages to be incredibly successful with the opposite sex in part because of his personality is part of his appeal. Anyway, Nightcrawler seems like someone who would be a lot of fun to hang out with. Shoot some pool, help me brush up on my German, entertain me when he brings Logan along and they inevitably end up fighting a bunch of ninjas on my front lawn (though Logan would surely try to leave without helping to clean up the mess).

I feel a certain amount of similarity with Kurt. He's a lot more outgoing than I am, but he frequently only shows his positive emotions. When he's around his friends, he's all too willing to share in any revelry, to play the jokester, the one who keeps things lighthearted. But his doubts, his concerns, his fears, those he tends to tamp down, keep to himself. I'm not sure if he's trying to deny them, or if he just wants to sort everything out on his own, but that's my tendency as well. When the Phoenix takes off into space with Rachel, Kurt gets a little more angry, a little more brusque. Kitty keeps trying to talk to him about Rachel, and he keeps changing the subject or teleporting away. Whatever his feelings (he blames himself), he doesn't want to confide in others.

Likewise, for a long time, Kurt isn't comfortable being a leader. He's forced into it for a time after Storm is depowered and leaves the team, but he isn't comfortable in it, and doubts himself constantly. He seems better by the time Alan Davis is writing Excalibur, but he still second-guesses himself every time a snag crops up. Rather than adjusting and moving ahead with a new plan, Kurt is spending time worried he's made a mistake. That's because he cares deeply about his teammates and doesn't want to have put them in danger, but it also shows a certain lack of trust in his judgment (not to mention his teammates' abilities and experience). Even so, if you need a leader, Nightcrawler's willing to step up and give it a try, which is my feeling. I'm OK if presented with something I can do solo, where I'm boss and crew, but I'll issue commands only if nobody else is taking charge and there are things that need doing.

I haven't mentioned Kurt being a religious fellow yet. In truth, the swashbuckler was much more interesting to me than the priest. Especially because when writers start delving into Kurt's religious beliefs, they have a tendency to write a mopey, navel-gazing Kurt. While appropriate in small doses, it's not the Kurt I really want to see. I do appreciate the idea that the Elf believes in helping others, in love and compassion for those different from him, in spite of the fact he's seen precious little of that directed his way in life. It's nice, the same way that Steve Rogers was the right guy to get the Super-Soldier Serum because the man without power understands its value and potential for abuse, the guy who receives mostly hatred and scorn for being different understands how valuable it is to offer love and forgiveness.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What I Bought 7/3/2014 - Part 3

I had a chance recently to at least glance through some recently released comics I don't normally read, and wow, the current Iron Fist book did nothing to make me think I made a mistake giving it a pass. I'm not really a fan of Andrews' art to begin with, but the story was basically taking everything I remembered from Immortal Iron Fist, and burning it to the ground. No thanks.

Deadpool #30, by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn (writers), John Lucas (artist), Val Staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Mark Brooks does some really excellent cover work these days. I'm not sure how he is as a interior artist - the last time I saw his stuff was the late stages of the first volume of Ultimate X-Men, and it was solid if unspectacular, but that was many years ago. He may have moved forward considerably.

Deadpool and '70s Dazzler rush around killing Dracula's enhanced vampires. Agent Preston tacks down Eleanor using the clues she got from the thing that happened in Original Sin with the eyeball. Adsit is still shook up and hostile from what he saw, but at least we know Butler did trick Wade into killing his own daughter at some point in the past. I was concerned that would be the case.

That's about it for the plot, really. I mean, there are some details, like Deadpool switching into the same gear he wore in that '70s "lost issue" where he teamed up with Power Man and Iron Fist to fight The White Man, and Preston reflecting on how hanging around Wade has changed her, but for the broad strokes, there's not much. Which makes me think I'm going to give Deadpool's Axis tie-ins a pass. Getting really tired of Marvel's next big event hitting the solicits before the current big event has even finished.

Lucas' art is still not to my liking. He has some good panels here and there - I think he's pretty good at sinister or ominous faces, especially when he can use the approach of putting them mostly in shadow, with just their teeth or eyes highlighted. But the anatomy is wonky sometimes, Adsit's head still looks too squashed (though that stupid SHIELD neck brace thing isn't helping), and he doesn't nail the expressions often enough. At one point, Shiklah is negotiating with Dracula's emissary as a stall tactic. He says one thing and in the same panel she laughs and waves her hand dismissively. In the next panel she stands up and slams her fists against the table, but she doesn't really look angry enough or outraged to go with her body language.

Harley Quinn #7, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Chad Hardin (art), Alex Sinclair and Paul Mounts (colors), John J. Hill (letters) - When I was going through my collection, I found out Hardin drew some of those Bloodrayne comics I bought many years ago, a fact I'd completely forgotten. His work's loosened up some since then, though I can't help being a little disappointed when I go from the Amanda Conner drawn cover to the not-Amanda Conner drawn interiors. But that would be true with the majority of artists out there.

Ivy has found out (with some help from Syborg) that the bounty placed on Harley is being posted from Harley's own laptop. It's updated every five days, which means the next update should be that night. Ivy proposes to hide in Harley's closet and wait for them to arrive. Which takes longer than she'd like because Harley takes awhile to go to sleep. Once she does we find out that Harley's the one posting the bounty. She's subconsciously worried that her new life will be ruined, and so had decided to cut the problem off before it starts. Thus, a bounty on herself to lure out potential threats so she can kill them. Instead, she nearly gets Ivy killed dealing with a couple of them who come swinging through the window, but the girls dispatch this latest threat. Not before Harley upped the bounty to $3 million, though. The good news is that one of the now dead assassins had a phone with a message about a big meeting of local hired guns, so our protagonists travel there to tell everyone there is no bounty. Ivy enlists a tree's help to keep everyone tied up while Harley collects their wallets so she can threaten to kill their loved ones if they come after her. Which mostly works, and the one who won't play ball gets killed then and there.

Darn, I really liked my theory that the person gunning for Harley was the mysterious, recently deceased former patient who left her that building. Oh well. Harley setting hundreds of bounty killers loose on herself is perhaps too on the nose that she's her own worst enemy, but it is accurate for her. Historically, any time she starts getting her act together, Mistah J shows up and she pitches everything else down the incinerator to be treated like garbage by the insane clown.

Hardin tries a cool layout on page 9, but I'm not sure it works. When Ivy hits the killer's gun so it fires into the floor, Hardin goes with a vertical panel running from the top of the page to the bottom, showing the bullets rushing through different rooms in the building. It's a nice idea, but the firing of the gun takes place three-quarters of the way down the page, and then there's one more panel below it (of Ivy kicking the guy in the face), so it forces the reader's eyes to jump all over the place. Do you finish the actual fight panels, then look at the bullets, or jump to the top of the page, follow the bullets' path to the bottom, then hop to the left for that last panel? The idea is good in theory, but the execution isn't quite there. Might have been better for the bullet firing to take place in the first panel, at the top of the page, so it would be like the bullets are traveling down through the building simultaneous to whatever is happening in the fight scene upstairs (which will be running parallel to it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Smart Do You Need To Be To Make Power Rings?

I've been going through my comic collection, trying to clear out stuff as I do from time to time. I was up to Tony Bedard's R.E.B.E.L.S. run, and I was rereading the Blackest Night tie-ins, when something struck me. At that point, Vril Dox' kid, Lyrl, has his 12th-level intellect back, and has thrown in with Starro the Conqueror. Vril has figured the best way to get rid of the Undead Lanterns that were coming after him was to sic them on Starro, and Starro's quite enjoying fighting an enemy he can't manage to kill. Meanwhile, Lyrl's trying to come up with some weapon that can mimic that particular energy emitted by a Lantern's ring, since that's all that can destroy these things. But nothing he builds works.

So, like the title of the post says. Coluans are supposed to be about the smartest species in the universe, and Lyrl is exceptionally smart even by their standards (Brainiac 5 is listed as a 12th level, so the only one I know for sure as being smarter is the original Braniac, who was listed as being some degree greater than 12th-level, meaning they can't accurately gauge it, I guess). It's not like one has to come up with a power source, the rings run off the emotional spectrum or whatever, the ring just has to tap into that. I know, I make it sound easier than it is, but come on, the Guardians managed it.

OK, they're a really ancient race (of little twits), they had a long time to study the emotional spectrum, figure out how to build something you can control mentally that runs off willpower, and they don't share their work. So unless a Coluan is brought into the Corps (which must have happened at some point), Colu doesn't get to study a ring, so they have to work off whatever they can observe at a distance. Even so, the Qwardians were able to cook a yellow ring up for Sinestro, and it didn't seem inferior to a GL ring. So they're smarter than the Coluans? Or is this a case where they're "Weaponeers", so they possess some limited brilliance that only expresses itself when they make weapons? Still, I wouldn't think that would somehow restrict the Coluans from figuring it out. They certainly possess sufficient understanding of the universe to make all sorts of interesting weapons.

Maybe it's supposed to be the emotional aspect that escapes them. They can't figure how to measure or quantify emotions, so they can't devise a weapon that absorbs and controls an energy they don't understand. Except the Guardians divorced themselves from emotions, didn't they? I guess it's a question of whether they did that before or after they made the rings, or maybe the Manhunters, since they ran on the same power source as the rings. Though the Guardians don't have to use the rings, so it wouldn't matter if they can't or won't feel anything, because they find others to handle that part. The Coluans would have to rely on themselves (I can't see them making power rings, then being dumb enough to hand them to some other species to use), and maybe that won't work. So it's considered a dead end field. Which doesn't explain Lyrl's failures, except if it was strictly a matter of time. He only had a couple of days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What I Bought 7/3/2014 - Part 2

Since I'm back in a place with actual TV, I've seen a couple of commercials for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and eeh, I grow increasingly concerned it's going to stink. A lot of things I think are meant to be funny feel like they're trying too hard, which worries me.

Captain Marvel #4, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), David Lopez (art), Lee Loughridge (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That's a nice use of contrast between the red and the green. It's even set up so our eyes go from the cover and the starburst, down to her fists, which brings us to Carol's new team there in the background.

Carol meets with the representatives of all the different people who tried to make a home for themselves on Torfa. There's a lot of arguing among the species about what to do, because they're pretty set on not leaving anyone behind. It's heartening actually, unless I get cynical and see it as a competition to see who can martyr themselves the most. I think that's that stinking Support Your Local Wizard book talking. Carol suggests building large barges which could be towed by their smaller fighter craft to some other world. Except none of the fighters actually work, which leaves them helpless before the attacks of those same pirates Carol ran into on the way here. Carol does have a ship, though, so she and her little band hop in and pursue. Then they steal a bunch of stolen goods from the pirates. Meanwhile, the Spartax emperor (Star-Lord's dad) is laying down the law on the Madame Eleanides, the dragon lizard lady who's head honcho on Torfa. There will be a certain number of transports on Torfa in a few days. They will evacuate the people who aren't sick, and only those. The sick will be left to die, or everyone will be left to die.

I liked Star-Lord's dad more when he was dead. Or at least effectively dead because he wasn't appearing in any comics. He's all of Tony Stark's overbearing arrogance without any of his charm, wit, or compassion. The Avengers should have held off fighting the Builders until this guy was dead. Oh, and couple of his agents were on the planet Carol tracked those pirates to. This somehow leads us back to where we started in issue 1, them stopping on Alien Marrakesh to buy. . . something. I'm still not clear on what the thing they bought was.

Real talk? I'm considering dropping this book. It hasn't clicked for me. Not sure why; DeConnick's a fine writer, she's trying to build a supporting cast, I feel like Carol has character traits that should make her a character I'd like, Lopez' art is very pretty (we'll come back to that in a second), but. . . no. Maybe it's taking too long to get anywhere. We're just now finding out Emperor Dork of the Spartax is up to something, but no clue why. No progress on why the planet Torfa is mysteriously toxic. So the book is on the clock.

One of these days, David Lopez is going to land on a book where I'm going to unreservedly love everything about it, and I'll just enjoy his art for years. He doesn't do anything particularly wild with the layouts, but he's really good with facial expressions and body language, and I'm more interested in that stuff, anyway. It's easier for me to notice. The way that Jackie's "hair" shakes hands with Carol's hair, even as Jackie and Carol are themselves shaking hands. Also, the way that Jackie gives Carol a sly wink as she introduces herself as a goddess, leaning forward conspiratorially. Carol's posture when she asks Gil if he'd like to punch her again. It looks exactly what I figure it should look like if you lean forward mid-sentence and encourage someone to paste you one. Everything on Torfa is colored this diffuse yellow. Like it isn't overcast, but the sun's light isn't completely getting through. Or the star is dying, like the people on the planet it shines on.

Daredevil #4, by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid (storytellers), Javier Rodriguez (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) -  You think there's a way Samnee could have made DD's little horns work as the owl's eyes? The way the scales of Justice worked as Matt's eyes on the previous issue's cover?

So Shroud didn't completely sell out Matt, as he makes certain the star of the book doesn't fall to a fiery death. However, while Matt's saving himself as beating up cannon fodder, the Shroud escapes with the Owl, leaving Matt to escape the Owl's compound and meet Kirsten for dinner. They chat a bit, she reveals Owlsley has been buying up Silicon Valley contracts, except one, which not only refused to sell, but also made some big breakthrough. Matt's off to their labs, and there's the Shroud and the Owl. The Owl didn't break under torture, so if Max wants to know where Julia is, he had to help the Owl get here. "Here" being a lab where they've developed a way to send information in the form of photons directly into your brain. The Owl sees it as a way to true omniscience, but he'll have to get past Daredevil first. Unless the Shroud gets in the way, and he does, which is when Matt figures out something critical about Max: That he's trying to get himself killed, which Matt, good Catholic boy he is, won't allow. But that gives Owlsley time to access the invention, though it's hard to tell what it did, other than seemingly render him catatonic for the time being. In the aftermath, Matt vows he'll find Julia, if the Shroud will cut this "death by super-villain" stuff out, and Max seems to agree. Good lick with that, Matt. I wouldn't expect him to have much patience.

Not really loving the Shroud's portrayal here. For one thing, the idea he's outclassed going up against the Owl seems ludicrous to me. Wasn't one of the Shroud's first battles against Dr. freaking Doom? I know Waid isn't a fan of Doom being presented as having any nobility or honor, but I thought he at least respected him as a serious threat. Isn't Matt the one who dismissed the Owl as dangerous, but not on Wilson Fisk's level? Didn't he also decide the Shroud was a more pressing problem than the Owl? Given all that, I'm not quite sure how he works out that the Owl is too dangerous for the Shroud. Sure, if Max really wants to die, that gives the Owl some help, but I remain unconvinced the Owl is actually beyond Max' capabilities, and it mostly just comes off like Waid and Samnee bagging on the Shroud to make Daredevil look better. I have no clear idea on why I care. I'm not a huge Shroud fan, though I like the character all right, I just feel like he's getting dissed here, made to look like a chump so Daredevil can play savior or win a game of "Who had the shittier life?"

Complaining about the Shroud aside, how was the issue? I do prefer this coldly vicious, knowledge obsessed Owl to the sadist in Superior Foes. Not sure where they plan to go with him now that he tapped into those photons. I'm guessing he'll be the Big Bad for Matt's time in San Francisco, the way Bullseye was in the prior volume. He's theoretically going to know everything, which would certainly make him capable of causing trouble, if he can harness it. I like that they're playing with Matt being a celebrity, people wanting to take pictures with him, and Matt being mostly OK with it. He's enough of a ham and showboat to get off on it. We'll see if it gets overbearing as time goes on, starts affecting his personal life or work. That might be interesting, if it isn't the super-villains knowing that makes having no secret identity a problem, but all the everyday folks that won't quit bugging you.

The art is excellent as usual. I like the brief skirmish Matt has with the Owl's goons, where they're simply dark outlines, because Matt can't see them, and it's such a perfunctory fight they don't really matter. They're just a minor obstacle. And the way their outlines form the background for the room they're in when the fight's over and Matt's the only one standing. There are a couple of things I don't know whether to credit Samnee or Javier Rodriguez. The way that when the Shroud projects his shadow field, it looks like all these little grasping hands. I'm guess that's Samnee, because I think he does a lot of the shadows on his work (which would explain why the coloring looks different from when Rodriguez draws the book, even though he's still the one coloring it), but I can't be sure. The other thing was that swirling light above the new data delivery thing. That massive white whirlpool or whatever it was. It looked really cool, but I don't know if Samnee outlined it first, or if that space was mostly blank and it was left to Rodriguez to make it look good with colors.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ace of Aces

One more movie from last week. Turner Classic was showing a bunch of 1930s war films on Friday. There was one submarine film with Walter Houston, but I never got the name of it, so we'll stick to Ace of Aces.

The film starts with Rocky Thorne, sculptor (played by Richard Dix), and Nancy Adams (Elizabeth Allan), wealthy heiress maybe, she's doing all right for herself at any rate, engaged and very much in love. Then war intrudes, as it usually does in these stories. What's somewhat different is Rocky has no interest in getting involved. He doesn't want to die, obviously, but more critically, he doesn't want to kill. Certainly not for something like nationalism, or because someone else commands him to. For this, Nancy condemns him as a coward and breaks things off. After that, Rocky can't tune out the marching and the shouting outside his studio window, and he joins a flying squadron.

A flying squadron where seemingly everyone has an animal mascot. One guy has a dog, another a pig, a third a parrot. OK, normal enough. But one guy has a monkey and Rocky brings a lion cub with him. Where the hell did he get that, and how was he able to bring it into France with him? Did he steal it from the Paris Zoo? Anyway, Rocky goes up and manages to down an enemy plane on his first sortie, after some hesitation. Back on the ground, his commander chastises him for that hesitation. At which point, a switch seems to flip in Rocky's head. He becomes obsessed with flying and more so with shooting down enemy planes. When someone loads his guns incorrectly, he chews the guy out and declares he'll load his own guns from now on. When he complains his plane is a piece of junk, he's told he's stuck with it as long as it can fly. So he goes on a mission and gets it shot up to where he can't land it without crashing, and it's beyond repair. Presto! New plane for Rocky. Soon he's the top ace on the Allied side.

But he's no longer much of a jovial sort. When one of the other pilots shoots himself, the others all rush to staunch the bleeding, Rocky sits on his cot, preparing his belts of ammo. He cares not a bit for his wingmen while in the air, only for finding and downing the enemy. He runs into Nancy while he has some time off (she's in medic corps), but doesn't care to resume their romantic relationship. He only has a couple of days off, and doesn't want to waste it on that. Physical enjoyment will be sufficient for him. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted anything to do with her, since it was her browbeating that brought him to this, but Rocky seems to love the flying and killing, so I guess he doesn't hold a grudge.

Then he shoots down a young German pilot who was simply delivering a message that one of Rocky's wingmen had survived being shot down over enemy lines. Rocky himself was returning from a solo "hunting" mission, and was wounded, and the two wind up side by side in the hospital. Which brings Rocky face-to-face with the results of his actions in the air. After that, he and Nancy start to reconnect, Rocky accepts a transfer to train new pilots, but can't help going up again when he learns some new hotshot has surpassed his kill total. Interestingly, the movie doesn't punish him for this pride by having him downed by a superior pilot. Instead, he gets in position to strike, then finds he can't do it, and while he hesitates, is noticed by the wing he's following and jumped by all five of them. He survives, though he loses a leg, and he and Nancy return to their prewar life. Except Rocky claims he can no longer sculpt. Creation is beyond him now, only destruction remains.

Ace of Aces is kind of a different war film from what I'm used. My dad had explained that the submarine film I mentioned at the top was made prior to some Code they implemented which restricted certain things from being shown (in that film, the main character was fooling around with a paralyzed pilot's wife, and he said after the Code, people who committed adultery would not been allowed to be shown profiting from it), and I assume this was as well. The cynicism makes sense, considering by 1933 we're into the Great Depression, plus the people who went through the war having some justifiably negative feelings about it. Still, most of the war films, even the other ones TCM showed that day, were about how awful it was to watch the friends you made in battle keep dying, and how hard it was for the commanders to keep sending them off, knowing many of them were going to die.

Ace of Aces doesn't worry about that at all. It looks like that's the direction it'll go early on, when he's being introduced to the other fellows in the squadron, but once Rocky settles into his hunter mindset, that fades away. Instead of war being awful for the emotional toll it exacts from the losses one experiences, it's war being awful because it makes it easy to kill without experiencing the emotional cost of that. Until he meets that rookie pilot in the hospital, Rocky never met anyone he shot down. It's like they were abstract concepts, no more real people than a computer-generated foe you or I might shoot down in a video game. And that made it easy. Rocky could throw away the hesitation he was chided for, the empathy that made him unwilling to enlist initially. Someone becoming unconcerned with the suffering of their enemy in war films isn't unusual, but it's frequently combined with the combatant being greatly concerned with preserving the lives of their comrades. This film ignored it entirely.

I'm also a little surprised he didn't die in the end. That was what I expected. He would let his pride get the best of him and it would kill him. And Nancy, who had reconnected both of them with the man he used to be, would be left to mourn, and she could live with the fact she pushed him to this.I didn't like Nancy much, and I'm not sure I was meant to. She seemed to stand-in for all the people who insisted it was proper to go fight in World War I, to defend God and Country, many of whom did not actually go off to fight and die for God and Country. She might have been sincere in her belief it was a "necessary" war, but that didn't make her telling Rocky his unwillingness to kill was actually cowardice. But he didn't die, and he and Nancy are together again. However, Rocky is still scarred, having lost that leg, and perhaps more critically (depending on how you value things), his inspiration. He can't think of anything to sculpt, or at least can't think of how to represent it. He presents it as his ability to create having been driven out by the military's necessity he destroy. It might be worse in some ways, to live knowing exactly what he's lost, but he is still alive, so he's got that going for him.