Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Black Dragon

My thought process for ordering Black Dragon (which originally went by the title Miracles) was something along the lines of, "OK, it's a period piece romance set in 1930s Hong Kong, starring Jackie Chan - who is looking quite dapper on the box art - and Anita Mui, who was outstanding in Legend of Drunken Master. Yeah, I'll try that.'

The film didn't quite end up being what I expected. Chan's this country rube Cheng Wah Kuo, who comes to the big city, and through a series of events centering on his buying a rose from an older lady selling flowers (called Madame Rose), he finds himself the head of a criminal syndicate. Cheng doesn't want any part of criminal enterprises, so he tries to redirect the organization to running a nightclub, and a singer named Luming (Mui) just so happens to show up looking to repay the debt her late father owed to Cheng's predecessor.

As it turns out, we don't see much of the romance between Luming and Cheng. The majority of the story is taken up with Madame Rose's troubles. Her daughter is coming to visit with her prospective fiance and his wealthy father, and Rose has been telling her for years about how she and Belle's stepdad are doing well, they're wealthy aristocrats. So Cheng gets roped into helping put on an elaborate hoax to help Madame Rose appear to be what she said. While he has traitors in his midst, and a rival crime boss trying to take over. The plotline between Cheng and Luming is largely nonexistent, beyond her yelling at him for always listening to "Uncle Hai", who was the chief adviser to Cheng's predecessor. That basically boils down to her wanting him to make his own decisions (which will match with her wishes, naturally).

There's a decent idea in there about Cheng trying to do the right thing, help people, while also making some decent scratch for himself, but it kind of gets lost among all the other stuff. Mostly it gets buried under the "fool the in-laws to be" stuff. If you aren't really interested in that (and I wasn't particularly), it can be a slog. Waiting for the next meeting with Tiger, or the occasional fight scene, or even the arrival of Inspector Ho. He's the high point of the false identity thing, because he wants to butter up the father-in-law, but Cheng foists the con man they hired to play Madame Rose's husband on him, and that guy fleeces Ho. I'd feel worse for him if he wasn't such a lousy boss, and a lazy cop to boot.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Stick To The Small Things, Hank

One thing I've enjoyed recently is this scattered, low-key rehab for Hank Pym.

During Avengers Arena, he was the one working hardest to try and track down the abducted kids. In Avengers Undercover, he was the one pushing Maria Hill to go into Bargalia and pull them out, and he was the one Hazmat called for help, who immediately agreed to help. He's been doing what he can to help Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson, from trying to slow the spread of Foggy's cancer, to aiding in the faking of Foggy's death. And he's showed up to help She-Hulk as soon as she called about the Shrinko issue (and at the time of her call was helping to construct/fix some wind turbines).

None of this is earth-shattering, world-saving stuff, but that's a good move for Hank. His problem always seems to be his feelings of insecurity compared to other heroes. He thinks being Ant-Man doesn't measure up to Thor or Iron Man, so he becomes Giant Man. That doesn't work so he becomes Goliath. Then he snaps and becomes Yellowjacket, an arrogant hotshot to try and make an impression. Oh, and somewhere in there he creates a genocidal artificial intelligence, presumably to show Reed Richards and Tony Stark aren't the only smart guys around.

Point being, when Pym starts trying to prove himself, things go badly. So this is a good move for him. He's just trying to do his best to help where he can, how he can. It isn't trying to make himself look good, just him trying to be good. It won't last, I know. Pym will eventually overreach and be back where he started, trying to pick up the pieces after his next screw-up. But for now, this is a good direction for him.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.4 - Johnny Apocalypse

Plot: So we open on the Official arguing with Alex. She wants Fawkes and Hobbes for a mission, but refuses to tell them what the mission is really about. The Official is opposed to this, but ultimately acquiesces. Neither of them realize Fawkes was there the entire time, though he doesn't know what the mission is, and Alex isn't any more forthcoming to he and Hobbes the next morning. So the three of them set off in Darien's car, eventually stopping at an ordinary suburban home, where they find a nearly teenage boy named Adam. Who Alex convinces to come with them, though Adam gives them a lot of static, and makes fun of Darien's name. Not endearing the kid to me here, writers.

When they stop to stretch their legs at a park, Darien and Adam begin to bond over basketball, until a helicopter lands in the park and a bunch of guys try to abduct Adam. Guys with thermal vision sunglasses. Yep, it's Chrysalis again, but they're able to fend off the bad guys and reach a hotel, where Alex finally spills the beans to Darien. Adam is being used as an incubator for some incredibly lethal virus. Like, wipe out the West Coast lethal, and it will be triggered when his testosterone levels jump with the onset of puberty. Which will be any day now. Adam naturally overhears all this and freaks, but Fawkes is able to catch up to him and bond with him by demonstrating how he was used as a guinea pig. They reach their destination without further incident, the destination being a dilapidated shack with a big sterile lab hidden underneath. Adam would like Darien to stay, and Darien wants to stay, but Alex is certainly eager for he and Hobbes to leave. So Darien snoops invisibly and finds the doctors there aren't planning to cure Adam, they're going to incinerate him.

So they grab Adam and bail, hiding him at Eberts' house, where we learn Eberts is quite the dab hand at Perfect Dark (unlike Darien). Meanwhile, Fawkes takes a blood sample to the Keeper, who can't be certain she can find a cure before the virus is released (Adam was fitted with a bracelet that turns red as we near the danger zone by the people who were going to cremate him). Before a new plan can be determined, Alex catches up to Fawkes demanding to know where Adam is. There's an argument about the usual stuff: acceptable sacrifices, who is cold-hearted, but that gives Darien a flash of inspiration, and he's shortly meeting at night with Jarod Stark. Fawkes is willing to turn Adam over to Chrysalis, just so long as they will freeze Adam until after Darien's dead. Stark, curiously, agrees. Naturally it's a set-up and Darien steals the truck with the cyropod while the Agency's guys shoot it out with the Chrysalis goons. Back at the office, Adam gets into the pod and is frozen, though Fawkes isn't happy about doing it. And the episode ends on Darien sitting next to the pod, telling Adam about some new snowboarding game Eberts got for his N64.

Quote of the Episode: Fawkes (and Hobbes) - 'The old need-to-know.'

The "oh crap" count: 1 (5 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Some philosopher, something about knowing too much. I couldn't understand what Fawkes was saying.

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

Other: Darien has got to learn how to fight. He's useless if his enemies can see him. I do like that they apparently brought back that one big Chrysalis thug from "It's a Small World". The one that whupped Fawkes' butt with ninja weapons, then nearly drowned him in the pool at the school? I'd like for him to become a recurring sub-boss Darien has to deal with.

Love that nobody from the Agency or from Chrysalis brought anything other than handguns. No rifles, no machine guns, not even a shotgun. Just a bunch of dudes with 9 mils plinking away at each other.

The scene where Eberts manages to lie right to the Official's face about hiding Adam, Hobbes expresses admiration, and then Eberts blows it by arguing that technically, he wasn't lying. Ruined slightly by the Official's creepy line, 'You aren't allowed to have a sex life, Eberts.' Also ruined by the fact Eberts has a photo of the Official on the table behind his sofa.

The scene where the Official was trying to block Alex' demand to send back-up along with Hobbes and Fawkes to get the pod. He spreads his arms out, and Darien and Bobby roll their chairs so that the fit in under his arms. That was very sweet. Sure, the Official is really just trying to regain some of the authority he's lost, and sure, it failed utterly, and sure, she was right to insist on back-up, considering the number of guys Chrysalis brought along, but still. It was a touching moment.

In other news, I still don't really like Alex. I don't even like that she keeps going over the Fat Man's head. It's starting to smack of Major Houlihan constantly threatening to go over Col. Blake's head on M*A*S*H*. Any time he didn't do what she wanted, she'd just threaten to call some general she was friends with, and that's kind of where Alex is at. If she doesn't get her way, she just threatens to call the President. What I enjoy with Fawkes, Hobbes, and the Keeper is that when the Official tries to block them, they find some sneaky way around him. Or just ignore him and do it anyway. It's the underdog finding a way to triumph. Alex is just using greater authority. Not much fun with that, unless the Official is gonna start finding ways around her.

Plus, she's treating Fawkes and Hobbes like expendable idiots. The Official asked what happens if they get killed on this milk run mission of hers, and she responded she thought she'd survive. Well I sure hope not. Come home with your mates, or in a pine box with them. She's callous towards the characters I actually like, the sporadic moments that are supposed to show her nicer side don't begin to overwhelm that.

So let's talk about a character I do like: Hobbes. This episode reminds me of 1.2, "Catevari", in that you have Fawkes confronted with a lethal person made that way against their will. Heck, without even knowing it. And Fawkes is reluctant to punish the kid for something that really isn't his fault. But Hobbes, back then, he and Darien had a very adversarial relationship. No trust going either way. And there was the scene where Fogerty attacked the now-Senator that had put him through it. Darien failed to stop him because he was saving a baby. Hobbes got in his face about doing his job, and when Darien pointed out he saved the kid, Hobbes retorted, 'That's not doing your job. That's being a nice guy.'

Yet here we are, Adam loaded full of a virus that will kill millions, and Hobbes sides with Darien. Not only sides with him, encourages him to snoop, and when Darien comes charging out with Adam in tow, Hobbes is behind the wheel of the car, ready to go. To "go Starsky," as Darien put it. What changed? Did Hobbes resent being kept in the dark? Did he, like Darien, simply trust the Keeper would find a way to save Adam, so there was no need to kill him? Did he distinguish between Fogerty, who was choosing to take revenge, and Adam, who was an innocent? Or is he changing from prolonged exposure to Fawkes and his insubordinate ways?

Also, guess we have an answer to the question of whether Chrysalis is waiting for the apocalypse or trying to engineer it. And again, the show does a good job of hinting at their longterm goals. Stark was willing to wait to unleash Adam until after Fawkes was dead. Admittedly, Stark was probably planning to kill Darien and expedite the process, but then again, they'd already waited for Adam to hit puberty, what's a few more years? Probably not going to help Darien in any future encounters that he double-crossed Stark. Interesting that the bad guy keeps his word (so far as we know), and the good guy doesn't. Course, Stark doesn't figure it makes a difference in the long run, so he can afford to maintain his principles. Probably helps his sense of superiority.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Discussion of Ant-Men

Reading She-Hulk #7, something that concerned me was that Patsy made reference to talking to Eric O'Grady, aka the Irredeemable Ant-Man. Setting aside my confusion about when this could happen, because Remender killed O'Grady two and a half years ago in Secret Avengers, or why Patsy would listen to O'Grady. Because it made me think those two had gotten close, and I know Sally and I joked about who Patsy could get into a relationship with that would be worse than Damion Hellstrom, but we didn't actually want it to happen. Yes, O'Grady would constitute a step down from the Son of Satan. At least Hellstrom could be charming some of the time. He would call. O'Grady's the type who tries to pick up the Avengers Academy girls with cheap booze. Guy has "loser" stamped on his forehead in 20-foot high letters.

I will admit, when it comes to Ant-Man, I'm on Team Scott Lang. I find Pym interesting, his constant attempts to find a way to be useful, to get it right. But the cyclical nature of comics means he's pretty much always stuck somewhere in that, either getting it right, or watching it all fall apart. That gets exhausting after awhile. As for O'Grady, fine, you don't have to be nice, or a good person to save the day. But O'Grady's such a scuzzy shitheel I don't want to deal with him.

Lang, though, seems like a comparatively decent and stable guy.  He did spend time in prison, but it was for burglary. We know how I feel about thieves, and other than that, he's been a reliable guy. He's smart, but not overwhelmingly so, although maybe that's changed if Reed Richards is asking him to fill in. He seems to have a pretty realistic idea of where he stands among the heroes, as in, he's not an A-lister, but if you need his help, he'll step up. But his first priority was to his daughter, which was nice. I found it obnoxious they went to the trouble of bringing Scott back in Children's Crusade, only to kill Cassie off a few issues later (and I note Heinberg killed the member of the Young Avengers he didn't create. Great job breaking other people's toys, ass).

I would have loved to see Scott and Cassie fight crime together. Scott would probably have spent most of his time working to pay the bills, but if Cassie wanted them to go fight evil, sure. So many heroes had lousy parents, or good ones who are dead. Or they're poor parents themselves, or they can't be around their kid because of reasons. Scott always seemed like he was trying to put Cassie first, which is maybe the big difference to me. Pym always feels like he's trying to prove something, or make up for one of his past mistakes. O'Grady's, hell, I don't know what O'Grady's after. Money and women, I think. Lang has done things in the past to try and pay back debts (helping Stark in Armor Wars), but even then, he's thinking about Cassie (Stark offered to pay, and Lang's small business could use the cash influx). Lang felt more more like a character I could relate to, and respect, because he's not a train wreck.

But to bring it back around to the beginning, I can't figure why Patsy would have been talking to O'Grady. I can absolutely see him trying to put the moves on her, but I'd think Patsy would hang out with enough of the other heroes to know what scuzzball Eric O'Grady was. That's a toxic waste dump she'd do well to steer clear of. Especially because he's dead.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Pull List Territory Shifts Quietly To End The Year

December's going to be a quiet month for me in terms of new comics. The bad news is Ms. Marvel's taking a skip month. Combined with all the titles that are ending this fall, and my skipping Deadpool for Axis (which I'm starting to think was a bad decision), I'm going to be down to 5 Marvel comics that month. And unless something drastic changes my mind, that's also going to mark the end of the line for me and Rocket Raccoon. A major personality shift in Rocket that involved fewer murders wouldn't be a bad first step.

The good news is, Secret Six is starting back up again. Admittedly, I am somewhat unsure about Ken Lashley's art. I haven't seen it in anything recently, so I'm mostly going a) off those covers he did for the DnA Guardians of the Galaxy run, and b) his stint on Excalibur when Warren Ellis was writing it, which was over 15 years ago. I'm also curious as to whether Deadshot will be in it. He's in the current Suicide Squad book, and I'm not sure whether Harley and Deathstroke will have shared their ability to be in more than one book at a time with him. I'll worry about that when the time comes, I suppose.

It does bring DC up to 3 monthly titles again, for the first time since spring of last year, and just as Marvel's in decline again. If you figure Deadpool will eventually be back on the pull, but Rocket won't, that puts Marvel at just 6 titles. But Captain Marvel, Nightcrawler, and She-Hulk aren't exactly selling like gangbusters, so I have to wonder how long they'll last, though a better question might be how long the creative teams intend to stick around, since their departure would undoubtedly signal the end of the book. Also, the first two of that trio are hardly unqualified successes with me. They're both missing. . . something, that's keeping them from clicking entirely, but I can't quite figure out what.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

This Wouldn't Rank As The 100th Craziest Adventure Superman Had

Over the weekend, I had this dream that involved me reading an old Superman comic. I mean Silver Age Superman, Curt Swan art and everything, or as close to it as my brain could manage. In it, Supes had traveled to the future, and was trying to prevent a planet from being conquered. But he kept being stymied because the villain kept throwing alternate universe versions of Legion of Superheroes members at him. At one point, one of these types made plants come to life. Then the plants grabbed Superman and turned him in to a plant. Superman somehow changed himself back by making his (tree) limbs grow, and they got high enough in the atmosphere he absorbed enough sunlight to change back.

Or something, by that point, my dream self had started skimming the comic. Once I got to the next page, and saw Superman contemplating a giant map of the world - which had color representation of how much of it had been conquered so far - as he planned his last-ditch attempt to stop the villain, and that this plan involved him wearing a space helmet for some reason, I stopped reading entirely. My dream self refused to engage any further, and I woke up shortly thereafter.

What I found amusing was that my brain wasn't rejecting it for being too nonsensical. It was, but in the dream I was completely unsurprised by this. It made exactly as much sense as I expect Silver Age Superman comics to make. I just don't tend to enjoy them very much, and that carried into the dream as well. Still, within in the context of the story, I accepted things as making their own kind of sense. A guy who animates plants, and the plants can make other people plants? And then plants taunt the poor schmoe they changed? Sure, that sounds like it fits perfectly in this kind of story. Which makes me wonder if a lot of the stories of that time period weren't based on writer's dreams. They have that sort of logic where things seem to make sense from the inside, but viewed from the outside, we're left scratching our heads.

I also remember that in the dream, I wondered where the Legion from that universe was, and I half expected it would turn out the whole thing was an elaborate scam they were pulling on Superman, probably as part of a birthday "present". I suppose it's also possible they'd all forgotten their identities, to the extent they also forgot how their powers worked, and were able to do things with them they shouldn't have been. Can't rule that out either.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What I Bought 9/5/2014 - Part 8

OK, last book on the list. Just the one today.

Nightcrawler #5, by Chris Claremont (writer), Todd Nauck (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Paul Smith sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of artists Claremont worked with during his first run on Uncanny X-Men, what with Cockrum, Byrne, Romita Jr., Lee, etc., But either Smith is responsible for a lot of classic images, or Nauck is just a big fan of his, between this and that panel of Kurt on the couch in the first issue.

Having accepted he's back among the living, but having lost Amanda for the time being, Kurt's trying to decide what to do now, while reflecting on how things were. As Paul O'Brien noted, it's hard not to see it as Claremont reflecting on how much things have changed in the X-books since the time when he was pretty much the only writer on them. After a bit of baseball with the Bamfs, he and Rachel spend time training some of the kids in the Danger Room. Afterward, Kurt relaxes by working on the old Blackbird, which Storm has kindly left in his care. He and Rico (the kid who basically looks like a scorpion) take it up for a flight, and then get asked to go investigate a new mutant energy signature. Which apparently belongs to a young girl who is super-smart and about to be the target of an abduction by some villains called the Crimson Pirates. I guess they're leftover from one of Claremont's earlier returns to the X-books. I'm always down for Kurt fighting pirates, I guess, though the leader looks far too much like those Trimega guys from the first 4 issues. Be interesting if that's deliberate, Margali pulling the Trimega's design from a threat she saw in Kurt's future.

I was a little disappointed that Kurt's teaching was, for the moment, relegated to combat. Why not teach German? The Jean Grey School doesn't have a foreign language requirement? Or drama? Kurt's a ham, but he has experience wearing another face (all those years with the image inducer), and later on, in making oneself unaware of the people watching him. Either one of which would seem useful for hopeful thespians.

Claremont on the whole is doing a good job working in the margins of the current status quo for mutants at Marvel. He's not trying to regress everything back to how it was, he's trying to play up the fact things are much different than even Kurt remembers (and Kurt hasn't been dead near as long as Claremont's been away from the main X-books), and use that. You come back to a place you used to know after a long absence, and it can be startling, you can feel out of place. I've experienced it, and I usually try to find something familiar and start from there. Use it as a touchstone, so to speak. So maybe that's Kurt running one of his old high adventure programs with Rachel for the students. Find something familiar, go from there. We'll see.

Nauck's still doing well on the whole. His Beast's head seems small for his upper body, but maybe that's just a function of Hank's most recent mutation. It's the sort of thing that's bothered me about Nauck's art in the past, though, so it might just be him. The burlier characters give him trouble. Or put another way, the way he draws them bothers me. Take your pick. Also, kind of surprised at the outfit Rachel was sporting for that swashbuckling program. Kurt's always seemed pretty comfortable showing a little skin in these things, but I figured Rachel would at least want pants. I do like that she mentions it's one of her and Kurt's favorite programs, implying it's one they've had since way back, and so of course Emma is the villain. Frost has never been one of Rachel's favorite people - that whole thing where she helped break up Rachel's mom and dad probably has a bit to do with it, and Kitty's never been fond of Emma, and Rachel's close with her. So if your best friend hates someone's guts, you might not look on them favorably, either.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Little Bit About Heroclix

We're three-quarters of the way through September, which means it's the little post I do about the DC characters I'm still waiting to see made into Heroclix. I don't play much these days - there aren't any venues within two hours of the boonies, and not a lot of people interested enough for me to teach them - but I try to keep up. I've been considering running some games and talking about them here. I'd try to spice it up, make it a story of some grand conflict to keep from boring you all. Making up stories and dialogue to go with the matches is half the fun for me, anyway.

Of course, they keep adding new elements to the game, so I'm probably hopelessly out of date. They added 4 new powers to the game last year, which unlike most of the newer mechanics, appear to be sticking around. Those Team Bases I complained about last year seem to have fallen off a lot in frequency lately. Maybe because they covered all the iconic teams already: the JLA, the Titans, various X-Men squads, Gen13. Well, I guess they're iconic, they got a team base.

There weren't too many DC sets in the last year. There was one based on the '60s Batman show this time last year, a set based on the Batman: Arkham Origins game last winter, a Legion of Superheroes set in February, and they did some thing based of the War of Light story over the summer. So none of that did much for me. A quick recap of the Top 5 characters I was looking for:

1. Sand
2. Terra (Atlee, Power Girl's friend)
3. Enemy Ace
4. Unknown Soldier
5. Grace

It will not surprise you to learn none of those characters got made, though you can never tell what they'll randomly fit into a set. They put a new Riddler figure in that Legion set. No, I don't understand it, either. Eh, most of them are longshots, anyway, though I keep hoping they'll do a JSA set at some point. Right now, the only upcoming set I know about is a Flash set, but maybe they'll do a JSA sub-theme. They did a Fourth World one in that Legion set, so it could happen. That's probably the best I can hope for, in all likelihood.

On the upside, we did get a new Mister Miracle, and a Stargirl figure. Haven't had either of those in several years. And the upcoming Flash set will probably bring new versions of some of the Rogues. We haven't had a Captain Cold since I started getting into the game.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What I Bought 9/5/2014 - Part 7

Over the weekend I stopped at a video game store to pick up a copy of Super Metroid for a friend. The game wasn't working, and these guys couldn't fix it, and it's a long drive to the store, and I happened to be there on other business. Anyway, the owner is looking through all these drawers for the game and eventually concludes one of the temps must have taken it downstairs. Then he looks at me and says, 'If you promise to behave yourself, I'll go down and find it.' I kind of hope he was being deadpan, because he was younger than me, but it was stupid. Do I look like I'm five years old? Just go get the game already. Cripes.

Harley Quinn #9 and 10, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), John Timms (artist, #9), Marco Failla (artist, #10), Paul Mounts (colors, #9), Brett Smith (colors, #10), John J. Hill (letters) - At least Harley seems to be enjoying herself.

OK, we start with Harley agreeing to fill in on one of Tony and Queenie's burlesque shows, to make up for wrecking that one a few issues ago. Except she kind of wrecks this one when Tony tells her to think of her ex when there's a kissing scene. Her ex being Mistah J, of course. Don't worry, nobody dies, but lots of people get punched, but they're mostly hipsters so whatever. Harley takes a bottle to the head and wakes up cuffed in a cop car with an obsessed fan. Who locks her in a cage in his huge house in Staten Island. They chat a bit, we learn Ed does not have a tragic family history, he's just way too into Harley, and she, interestingly enough, is very nice to him. She gets out of the cage, but they talk and she convinces him to check himself into a hospital, and says if he follows his treatments for a year, she'll go on a actual date with him. Before you worry Harley's totally reformed, Ed had locked some guys from the comic store in the basement for making various comments about Harley's derriere, and she booted the one who said it was no great shakes off a bridge.

The end of the issue brought Harley to her first match at the Skate Club, and that where issue 10 picks up, with harley in combat against some huge lady with titanium knees. Harley does manage to kill her foe, with the help of exploding toothpaste Syborg had with him, but the match had already been declared over, so she didn't win any bets. Oh well, she met a cute guy (who probably escaped from prison at the start of issue 9), she and the other girls on her derby team went swimming, and then Harley is nearly crushed by Power Girl plummeting to Earth after being punched through interstellar space by some monster with one giant fist. I would question what Peej is doing there, since I thought she and Huntress made it back to Earth-2 months ago, but I'm OK with Conner and Palmiotti ignoring all the other books to do their own thing. It means we can also ignore that whole bit about Harley blowing up a bunch of kids with exploding game consoles in last year's villains special.

Issue 10 was the weaker issue, mainly because it felt like filler. Maybe if they really go somewhere with the Skate Club thing it'll be worth it, but there wasn't much too it. Also, Failla's artwork is maybe too stiff for the tone of the book. I felt like the big fight scene needed someone who could go more absurd or exaggerated, make it a little cartoony. I don't think we're supposed to take "Skate Club" seriously, not with Harley winning with exploding toothpaste, then getting in trouble for breaking the rules by using an outside weapon, after being told there were no rules. It wasn't badly drawn, just maybe not best suited for this story.

Issue 9 I liked a little better. It was interesting to see Harley put her clinical training to good use (as opposed to terrorizing a family on the say-so of a grandma with Alzheimer's), and it gives us a little sense of the juggling Harley's trying to manage at the minute. Helping her tenants, trying to pay the bills, and dealing with the usual madness that comes with being Harley Quinn. It's like Peter Parker's old shtick, but run through a funhouse mirror. And I thought Timms' art worked a little better. He didn't have as much extreme violence to depict, which might have helped, but I thought the expression work was good. During her conversation with Ed, they play with our expectations that Harley's going to get horribly violent on him, and Timms helps that with some of the sinister grins he gives her, sometimes hiding her eyes entirely behind the glasses, and of course, the way she hefts the pizza cutter. His work reminds me a little of Dustin Nguyen in places. Mostly in the shape of the faces, the sort of minimal approach. He doesn't use a lot of lines, which is fine. Keeps it from getting too busy.

We're 10 issues in, the book is still up and down, but I feel somewhat more confident in it than I did six months ago. I'm curious whether there's going to be any developments that have real long-lasting effects. So far, things kind of pop up for a few issues, then are resolved and fade out (the bounty seems to be going that way). Which is fine, I like the overall quick pace of the book, but a few longer-running threads moving in the background wouldn't hurt.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.3 - The Importance of Being Eberts

Plot: Someone is hacking into the Agency's computers. I know, I'm surprised the Agency can afford them, too. Hobbes has gotten a line on the hacker through his informants, which he refers to as "HobbesNet". The tip was good, but the hacker escapes, which leads to the Official chewing them out and assigning Eberts to their team as a field agent, over his and Hobbes' strenuous objections. Eberts' involvement does pay off as he was able to trace the hacking attempts to a cyber cafe, but the owner (who raided Sam Axe' shirt supply) is unhelpful. Fawkes and Eberts sneak in the back way, but are discovered before they can make much progress. Eberts does a better job hand-to-hand fighting than Fawkes, but is briefly felled by a chair to the back of the head.

He seems mostly OK, though he actually keeps talking after the Official tells him to shut up. The Fat Man announces that unless this case is wrapped up in 24 hours, they must shut the computers down, which will shut the Agency down - including production of counteragent. Though you'd think Claire would have the necessary components and their ratios memorized by now, but I guess you have to requisition supplies, and. . . whatever. Hobbes is convinced Eberts in disloyal, and tries to keep a close eye on him as Darien gets some counteragent. The fact he and Darien walked in on Eberts holding the Keeper's hands might have something to do with it. Darien certainly thinks so, but when Hobbes mentions Eberts winked at him, Darien's curiosity is piqued enough to ride home in the taxi with Eberts (invisibly of course), where he notes Eberts home is a mess, and that Eberts left again almost immediately. After midnight. Darien didn't follow, so he misses Eberts attaching something to the back of Claire's computer. He does find an odd substance in the bathroom trash can.

The next day, Fawkes discusses his concerns about Eberts with Claire and shares the thing he found with her, the two oblivious to the doohickey that was attached to her computer. Hobbes arrives, telling Fawkes they have to investigate a lead Eberts tracked down, but Eberts won't be going along. It leads to a construction site, but down below there are server banks, with wires leading to a room. A room with a bomb attached to the door and someone inside. Darien Quicksilvered the door so they saw the bomb, and they enter through the roof, finding Eberts, tied to a chair. Rushing back to the Agency, they try to discern why someone would impersonate Eberts, and eventually he realizes there are certain terminals in the Agency which aren't connected to the outside, only to the other secure terminals in the building, and could only be hacked from within. He finds the device, recognizing it as a keystroke recorder, just as the other Eberts has used a different secure terminal upstairs to begin downloading Claire's files.

There's a scramble through the building, and naturally the two Eberts meet first. The true Eberts is swiftly identified, and the fake is. . . Arnaud. Who strips off the disguise (and his clothes), and bails with the handheld device full of Claire's files. Fawkes pursues and we get invisible guy on a skateboard chasing an invisible guy on a bike. Darien is able to hit Arnaud with a rock, causing him to drop the storage device, and it instantly breaks. But then Darien has to swerve to avoid a lady with a stroller and crashes into a car. Arnaud is pretty gleeful, until the bike gets plowed into by a truck. No trace of his body was found. Afterward, we learn about how Arnaud must have used DNA samples from Eberts to clone small parts of his face to make a mask, and also that Eberts' first name is Albert, which is also Hobbes' middle name. Awww, they bonded. Maybe.

Quote of the Episode: Hobbes - 'There's no backspace in combat!'

The "oh crap" count: 1 (4 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Billy Joel's song "The Stranger", which I happen to like. Not my favorite, but Top 10, easily.

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

Other: First off, I'd like to thank the writer of Gone Girl for getting it turned into a film. I haven't read the book, mind you, nor do I plan to, but Hulu gave me the option of watching the 2.5 minute trailer in exchange for not having any ads during the episode. So I agreed and went to the bathroom. Outstanding.

I just realized watching this episode that one problem with Arnaud being invisible all the time is we can't see Joel Bissonette's reactions to things. At least we know Arnaud is still working on trying to fix it, in his usual manner of stealing other people's work. Half a scientist, indeed.

I sort of suspected it was Arnaud after Eberts got hit with the chair. Mostly because they made absolutely sure we didn't see any sign of the person who swung it. You'd expect them to at least step into the frame to inspect their handiwork. of course, then Claire starts talking about growing small bits of cloned parts of Eberts' face, and I started to wonder if the Chameleon didn't survive the swan dive into the empty fountain in "Eye of the Beholder". But no, it was Arnaud. I love how it's his ego that ruins it. He doesn't respect anyone enough to let them get the last word, so of course when the Official tells him to shut up, he has to argue. Oh, the Shut up, Eberts count this week was 3.

There is one problem with the culprit being Arnaud: the cab ride home. Arnaud is invisible all the time. Even if he's wearing a mask that has eyes that externally match Eberts, they can't be actual, functioning eyeballs. He still has to be relying on his Quicksilvered vision. And it was already established, and backed up during the chase at the end, that one person who is invisible, can see another invisible person. So how could Fawkes sit there in the cab, right next to Arnaud in the back seat, and not be seen? Even if Arnaud looked straight ahead the entire time, he surely would have picked up something in his peripheral vision.

I like Eberts encouraging Fawkes to make him invisible by describing it as "shoom". You know, you do the thing, and shoom, you're invisible. That was priceless. I wish I'd been paying more attention to Hobbes' reaction. He must have been utterly disgusted. And then he was so disappointed when Fawkes left him behind to sneak in with Eberts. 'He's the computer guy, I'm the guy who goes insane if he uses too much Quicksilver.'

To be fair, Fawkes was nice to Eberts than Hobbes, probably because Fawkes doesn't care about the Official's approval, so he's not in competition for it. During the second chewing out from the Fat Man, when Hobbes suggested Eberts fainted, rather than got hit, and they started sniping at each other, Darien looked distinctly uncomfortable in that position. Maybe he just thought it was embarrassing for both of them, but I think he didn't enjoy seeing Eberts take a bunch of crap.

Anyway, it was nice for Mike McCafferty to get some screen time. Eberts has been almost exclusively a background character, but he's been a fun one. His role as a target for Hobbes' insecurities, and especially the moments where he stands up for himself against Bobby. His somewhat pedantic manner, the way that he often seems to be in perfect sync with what the Official needs, or will need. There's a little Radar O'Reilly to him, so it was nice to see him get a chance to shine, show his mettle and his wits.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Few Thoughts About The Lists

So the Favorite Characters posts are done for the time being. I do think I'll start them up again in the future and cover the characters I considered putting in, but didn't. Like I said at the start, I could replace 80% of the Marvel list and still feel good about it. But I'm not around my collection at the moment, and frankly, those posts are kind of exhausting. The last few, I found myself starting on them the Monday before, and I was still trying to fine-tune them the day they went up. But I wanted to take a moment and kind of consider the lists.

With DC, two of the characters first appeared in the '60s (Rock and Enemy Ace), one in the '70s (Peej), three in the '80s (Starfire, Waller, and Tim, though Tim just barely), and four from the '90s (Kyle, Steph, Cass, and the Ray). Which isn't much of a surprise. I had access to my dad's old comics almost from the beginning, but I distinctly remember not being that interested in DC's Silver Age superheroes. They seemed far too overpowered, and kind of bland, especially compared to '80s Marvel. So when I did get into DC's heroes, it was the new versions that got to win me over. Hal Jordan was my dad's Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner was mine. Dick Grayson was his Robin, Tim Drake was mine. I don't remember him having any comics with Batgirl, but I'm sure he watched the Adam West Batman show, so it's the same thing with Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain. It's not such an either/or thing now, I can better appreciate the older characters, but back then, when I was getting attached to characters, it was a little more binary.

Marvel's a little stranger. 1 character from the '40s (Patsy), 3 from the '60s (Spidey, the Thing, and Hawkeye), 5 from the '70s, and 1 from the '00s (Stacy). What's weird is that the great majority of Marvel comics I read in the first 5-10 years of reading them were from the '80s or early '90s. Yet there's not one character from either of those decades on the list. If I went with the 80% revised list, things would even out more (there'd be one character from the '90s, 2 from the '80s, and only 3 from the '70s), but as things stand, it's the '70s that dominate.

Of course, there's a difference between a character being created in a particular time, and that being the version I like. Take Ben Reilly. He first appeared in the original Clone Saga in the '70s, and was counted as such. But did he really have a personality in that story? I'm asking, I never read it. So the guy I like, the one I know, is entirely from the '90s. So should I count him as such? I like Mantlo's Rocket Raccoon, but I've read a lot more of Abnett and Lanning's version. Should I count him as a 2000s character then? Or Patsy Walker. I haven't read any of her adventures from before she became Hellcat, so how important is the '40s stuff to what I like about her? There's one character I'd consider adding to the DC list that would be a similar case.

One other interesting thing is how much other media helped introduce me to the DC characters, versus Marvel. With Marvel, I feel like my first introduction to each of those characters was through comics. I've seen them in other forms since - cartoons, movies, video games - but the comics set the tone. This is the case for some of the DC characters, but for others - Kyle Rayner, Starfire, and Amanda Waller to varying degrees - it was the cartoons. The Internet also chipped in. I know it was people raving about Suicide Squad that got me into Amanda Waller, and probably people talking about Joe Kubert that got me to reevaluate those war comics of my dad.

But I've always been playing catch-up on DC to a certain degree. When I was younger, I was very much into that DC vs. Marvel mindset. Now it's a matter of which one produces more comics I enjoy, but then it had to be one or the other. And Marvel won. So I largely ignored DC, and then I get on the Internet, and there are plenty of people raving about various DC stuff I know nothing about. So I have to go look it up, and here we are. I like finding something interesting myself by chance, then following it down the rabbit hole, but it can be nice when there are other people who already know about it that can point me in productive directions. Of course, all those helpful people are the reason I can't ever seem to make any headway on my list of old series to track down, but we should all be so fortunate to have that problem, eh?

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I Bought 9/5/2014 - Part 6

From comics about someone very good at what she does for a living, to comics about a group of people not so good at the (bad) things they do for a living. But darn it, they try hard (at double-crossing each other).

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #14 and 15, by Nick Spencer (writer), Steve Lieber (artist), Rich Ellis (artist, #14), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Kind of sums the team up, doesn't it? Standing around in broad (or waning daylight), bickering, with a van that doesn't appear to have much cash inside, judging by the paltry number of bills we can see.

It's a couple of issues setting things up for the big finale. This does not mean it's boring, though. We finally found out why Overdrive and Beetle were driving a hijacked school bus, and how that signaled the end of Overdrive's dream. 'No, and now I never will be.' That was a little heartbreaking. Just a little. Like somebody dropping a really nice muffin on a dirty floor. Basically, Overdrive got his powers thanks to Mr. Negative, but he still owes money on the procedure, and so he and Beetle were involved in a long chase across the city. This is the third book that did a double page spread that was really a series of panels. There was the one in Ms. Marvel, the one in Rocket Raccoon, and now this. And of the three, Lieber (and also Rich Ellis maybe?) did the best job. For one thing, they actually started in the upper left corner, instead of the lower left corner, like you should because that's where the reader's eye is naturally going to go, which experienced comic artists ought to know, but apparently some don't.

Anyway, Boomerang and Speed Demon do much ridiculing of Overdrive, and make several unprofessional remarks towards the Beetle about her getting worked up by fast driving. Given she's probably the most powerful member of the team, they might want to not do that, but whatever. During all this, the Shocker's been hiding, and when Boomerang starts trashing him, Herman's had enough. It looks like he's finally gonna get his moment, but the Beetle zaps him in the head, because he waited too long. Now that the team has managed to pull off a successful (they think) heist, they're fully on board the Boomerang train. So they bury Herman alive. At least they put him in a coffin first. They also took the head of Silvermane and are planning to use it to become head of the Maggia, as you do. Except none of them appear to want to run it, and are each planning to share control with someone else. Mr. Negative, Tombstone, Madame Masque (she's freaking everywhere these days, is she about to appear in a movie?) And the Owl and Chameleon are teaming up to get the painting back from Boomerang.

There is going to be one heck of an insane melee between gangs at the end of this. I really, really hope it ends with Boomerang strutting off, feeling so smart. And then Spidey swings by and just casually knocks him out and leaves him webbed up for the cops. Perfect humiliation. I will give Fred credit, he regurgitated Shocker's speech to the rest of the gang perfectly, so he must have been paying attention, even if none of them were. It's the details that trip you up, so he's covering that base, at least.

I appreciated the little bar fight in the second issue. It's a small thing, but Lieber did a good job giving it the look of a sloppy, stupid brawl between a bunch of losers who just happen to have powers. So there's a lot of sucker punches, cheap shots, ear pulling, that sort of thing. It just also involves people getting electrocuted and a guy turning one of those fat people scooters into a steamroller. And I like that he uses the circle effect for Speed Demon's legs when he's using super-speed. Like how they would show the Road Runner or Sonic the Hedgehog when they ran fast? I don't know, I just enjoy that he went that route. Also how Overdrive somehow turned a wheelbarrow into a backhoe (complete with the sound effect "BACKHOE!") to bury the Shocker. Poor, poor Herman. Maybe he could get She-Hulk to beat them up for him, since she's his new buddy and all.

Nah, Herman wouldn't do that. He still believes in the loyalty thing, even if nobody else does.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A New History of Korea - Ki-baik Lee

It isn't really new any more - this is something like the 7th revised edition, and it was still released all the way back in '84 - but I wouldn't have expected to see this in the local library, and I don't really know much about Korean history, outside of what I learned from M*A*S*H.

It's also designed I think for someone with more of a familiarity with Korean history, or at least the basic. Lee will mention the names of various people without necessarily expanding on them, and so I get the sense these are people known to those who have already done some basic study. Like how someone who hasn't studied U.S. history might not recognize Daniel Webster if you mentioned him as an example for a point you were trying to make.

The book starts are far back into Neolithic times as there was any information for, and runs up to 1960, through the various kingdoms and ruling classes that have dominated or fought over the peninsula through that time. Certain things come up repeatedly, like those various kingdoms trying to adopt things from the larger powers around them, without winding up under those same powers' thumbs. Like China has a nice written language and some good advances in science, let's see if we can bring those over here and incorporate them, but not in a way that gives them dominion over us. It isn't always successful (Japan turned them into a colony for over 30 years in the early 20th century, among other times), but it's a fairly consistent tightrope they try to walk.

Well, sometimes they walk it. Sometimes the ruling classes don't even bother. There's a line Lee writes at roughly the time Japan is throwing away any pretense of trying to protect Korea and is basically abolishing its sovereign government: 'The fact is that Kojong and his government feared the censure of the people they governed more than they feared the threat from Japan.'

Something that comes up a lot in this book is the common folk, the peasant class, get left holding the bag for the excesses and stupidity of the folks running the show. There are at least a half-dozen occasions in the book where Lee describes the conditions for farmers as being so bad that many people simply abandoned their farms. They were being forced to bear pretty much all the tax burden, and corrupt officials were screwing them over on loans of grain, or adding charges onto their taxes, so that over half, maybe up to 75% of what they produced was going to the government or their local magistrates (who were often given land by the government as a form of payment, and could then require the local farmers to tend it for them). Faced with that, a life spent begging, or as a bandit, seemed preferable. But the government response is frequently to crack down harder, to make the neighbors pay the taxes of those who abandon their lands. When the Mongols invade, the government retreats to a nearby island, since the Mongols aren't adept on the water. So they can claim they weren't conquered, but in the meantime, the majority of the citizens are stuck dealing with an invading army wrecking everything. It reminded me of the things I read about the Spanish Civil War, how the government had historically failed to recognize how vital the peasants were, and how the Republic also failed to capitalize on the initial good will a lot of the villagers had towards it. The various Korean kingdoms rarely did much to encourage the populace to fight hard to preserve their power.

The book is a fairly dry historical text, though that may owe to something being lost in translation, but there's a lot of interesting information in there. I didn't know Koreans were responsible for the creation of movable metal type used for printing, or that South Korea was briefly a dictatorship in all but name within a few years of the end of the Korean War. Lee discusses the roles Buddhism, Confucianism, and later Catholicism played in shaping society, and why he thinks they grew or shrank in popularity, looks at how the development of their own written language (prior to the han'gul, they used the Chinese written language, but it didn't match up precisely with what was spoken in the peninsula) held open literature and education to a wider segment of the population, and how art would reflect the feelings of the people at that time.It's an impressive work in the amount of ground it covers in a fairly short amount of pages.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What I Bought 9/5/2014 - Part 5

Big ups to all the meteorologists who said there was no more than a 10% chance of rain before 10 a.m. That was great comfort as it started to rain on me at 8:30 this morning.

She-Hulk #7 & 8, by Charles Soule (writer), Javier Pulido (artist), Muntsa Vincente (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I get Jen looking like she's ready to fight, and maybe even Patsy seeming slightly disgusted or put off by life at an inch tall (I'm reminded of Ray Palmer's observation from the Dark Knight Strikes Back about how at a certain size, nothing a body does looks pretty). Not sure why Pym has such a slack-jawed look on his face. Surely the fact things are going wrong when he shrinks other people down with him cannot be a surprise.

In issue 7, Jen is approached by a fellow renter at her office building about finding his partner. They've successfully devised a shrinking device other people can afford, but his partner doesn't wish to sell to the prospective buyer, and has used the Shrinko to shrink himself and hide somewhere in his backyard. Jen calls in Hank Pym, who mentions he's studied the Shrinko and it doesn't work properly on living things. The shrunken fellow will eventually start to grow again and when he does, he'll blow up like a small nuclear bomb. But before Hank can set any ants to finding him, he's grabbed by a sparrow, leaving Jen and Patsy alone with his helmet, which Patsy can not successfully control ants with. Jen disrespects Patsy a bit, but Patsy does save her from a pack of cats, and they find the guy they were looking for. And Pym got the bird under control. Turns out Pym is the prospective buyer, because he wants to iron out the kinks in it before it hits the open market.

In issue 8, Jen is approached by the now aged Steve Rogers. He has been accused of wrongful death by the family of a man who came out of a decades long coma just long enough to tell them something, then die. Jen agrees to defend him, but needs a firm licensed to practice in California to let her work under their umbrella. But Matt Murdock won't take her calls, so she turns to a duplicate of Jamie Madrox who works as an entertainment lawyer in L.A., and then when they get to court, she learns she'll be facing Murdock. Well, I think I know the pretext for Spider-Man beating up Daredevil in that story I'd never actually write. Helping to put Steve Rogers in court is un-American, I'm pretty sure.

I love that the dupe calls himself Matt Rocks. It's like a play on Madrox and Matlock. Maybe. Definitely on Madrox, but Matlock would fit, being a lawyer and all. Kind of surprised Steve Rogers still looks so good. Admittedly, I'm not clear on why he's old all of the sudden, but I figured it would be related to the Super-Soldier Serum wearing off or something, and he'd go back to being the scrawny asthmatic he was before. Although, the years of keeping himself in fighting trim could simply pay off, and maybe the serum permanently removed any ailments when he received it. When Peter Parker lost his powers for awhile, he was still a lot more agile and strong than he'd been back in high school, just from the years of exertion.

At any rate, Steve still prompting swooning among the ladies was impressive. And I like Soule's Steve. He's principled, polite, straightforward, but with a bit of a dry sense of humor. In other words, a perfectly pleasant person to be around, which seems about right for Steve. I imagine it's something he works at, because he knows people have a tendency to get stiff and formal around CAPTAIN AMERICA, and that's not something he enjoys, so he tries to get them to relax.

The brief blow-up between Jen and Patsy was interesting. I wonder if Jen's attitude isn't something similar to Superman's where, he feels compelled sometimes to try and do more in a team setting than he needs to, even though his teammates are also awesome heroes who can carry their weight. Jen's a Hulk, and maybe being that strong and tough makes you tend to underestimate the people who aren't Hulks. She may have taken the Shocker's spiel about the different levels of do-gooders too seriously.

Pulido's work is interesting in that it isn't a style I could really see myself trying to emulate, the way that I might want to draw like Alan Davis, but it works well. Vicente's colors help, everything is vivid and bright, and that helps it jump off the page, but Pulido does good work. I like the squiggly lines for the transmissions to and from the helmet, I like how Jen keeps her hair in a tight ponytail or bun when she's lawyering, but let's it hang loose when she's superheroing. Also, they're definitely having it work so Jen can Hulk up more when she feels like it. Pulido draws her as thicker, accentuates the muscles more when she's in that wrestling-style outfit, as opposed to when she's in business casual.

So on the whole, I really enjoy this book, and hope that it continues for some time (though judging by the sales figures I've seen, I may not get my wish).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Impact - Douglas Preston

I was in the mood for some more fiction, and this was the most promising fare the local library had.

A meteorite hits Earth off the coast of Maine. Two ladies in their early 20s, Abbey and Jackie, take Abbey's father's lobster fishing boat and go hunting for it, hoping to get rich. A host of radioactive gemstones start coming out of Thailand and the U.S. government sends ex-CIA guy Wyman Ford to find the source, since the radioactive material could be ground up and turned in bombs. And Mark Corso inherits his mentor's job at the National Propulsion Facility, and becomes engrossed by some very odd gamma ray data their Mars Mapping Orbiter registered.

As it turns out, the gemstones are coming from, well, not an impact crater, but an exit wound. The rock that hit off the coast of Maine went all the way through the Earth and came out the other side. This ultimately leads Wyman into contact with Abbey, and eventually they get wind of Mark, which only succeeds in putting them in a hitman's crosshairs. And there's still the question of where the meteorite came from, and why it's made of strange matter, and what the deal is with the gamma ray source.

Honestly, the gamma ray source is a MacGuffin. People chase and kill for it without having a strong grasp of what it is. The answers are presented at the end, and neatly wrapped up to be deposited in the trash, unneeded. Preston seems much more interested in having Abbey and Wyman get chased by a hired killer. Abbey is a fairly smart character struggling with deciding on goals or motivation. She went to Princeton but dropped out for failing organic chem, and can't seem to decide what to do next. I think she seized on the meteorite hunt as either an escape back to earlier days, or a quick way to turn things around. It sort of worked for her.

The book as a whole is mediocre, at best. I didn't feel a lot of tension in the chase sequences, probably because I was more curious about the deal with the gamma rays. I didn't expect the book would actually invoke aliens directly, because it seemed at odds with so much of the rest of the story, which is a standard thriller, hunted/hunter situation. Someone had mentioned early in the book the U.S. was very nervous about China beating them to Mars, and so I thought either the Chinese had built something, or at most, they had found something and started fooling around with it. Nope.

I thought there was also a sort of recurring theme of Islamophobia, running through the book. It's the gemstones falling in Muslim terrorists' hands that has the U.S. government most concerned. Preston makes a point of mentioning at the end of the book that the worldwide reveal of the origins of these meteors has united almost everyone in the world in a quest to make preparations, except the Middle East. But then he makes certain to mention Israel is on board with helping to get ready, so he's really just singling out the Muslim part of the world. Maybe that's how it would go, though personally I highly doubt it would be so stark as everyone except adherents of the Islamic faith is ready to resist conquest. Like, no Christians or Hindus or atheists are refusing to get on board? It's just cheap fear-mongering, using them as a convenient punching bag.

Though I should mention it probably doesn't even matter, because in the final chapter we learn that the Earth's various equipment picked up a signal being sent from the gamma ray source to another star system entirely, one which seems to have been destroyed some time ago. So we're meant to take it as the aliens won't be showing up, because they blew themselves up already. See what I mean about the gamma rays being on no real importance?

My question is, are the authorities going to let the rest of the world know, so they can stand down, or just keep everyone in a panic? Wyman expressed the opinion that it's only when people panic that anything gets accomplished, so are they going to keep people scared to see if it causes a dramatic leap forward in technology or cooperation? Sure, they believe that alien threat to be gone, but now they know there have been other intelligent species out there, far more advanced than humanity's present level, so do they figure they might as well keep driving ahead, just in case?

Monday, September 15, 2014

What I Bought 9/5/2014 - Part 4

So, um, what's going on in the world? No, don't answer that, it'll only depress me. Wait, Mike Sterling of Progressive Ruin is soon going to open his own comic book store. I'm always impressed with people who start their own businesses. Obviously somebody has to try, but it just seems like such a daunting idea to me. All the money and time you have to expend. Also, you need customers, which means dealing with people. Who wants to do that?

Avengers Undercover #8 & 9, by Dennis Hopeless (writer), Tigh Walker (artist, #8), Timothy Green II (artist, #9), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - So I should assume Zemo hurling himself into Pym's mouth is all part of his brilliant plan?

The story jumps three months ahead, though I'm unsure whether that was always Hopeless' plan, or he's merely kicking things into overdrive for a rushed conclusion. The kids have spent their summer vacation attacking SHIELD posts. Deathlocket's having a grand time, Hazmat and Anachronism are getting closer, but they're also ready to call in the big guns. So Hazmat manages to get a call out to Pym, and then tries to gather the troops. But Deathlocket's thrown in with the bad guys, and Anachrnoism's finding out Hellstrom is controlling Cullen. Oh, and the heroes showing up to attack Zemo's stronghold has been his plan all along. So as the Avengers are SHIELD charge in, Zemo and his crew teleport out, seize the Helicarrier, and seal up the entrance to Bargalia behind them. But hey, Cullen's out from under Hellstrom's control. That's good news. And Cammi got free somehow! Whoooo, best news ever! Stab Zemo right in the liver!

So yeah, it's very much rushed. It would have been nice to see how seriously each kid committed to the cover, or if they found ways to appear to carry out their missions, but not actually do so. Let the target escape, appear to blast the dead body into a river, but really you just stunned them and arranged for them to be recovered downstream, stuff like that. I'm still not clear on the Zemo's plot.  I get he wants the Helicarrier, especially now that they have the codes to use it, but he was really expecting that having the kids would accomplish the part where he lures a Helicarrier in close enough to steal? You would think the repeated attacks on SHIELD outposts would have been enough, kids or no kids. I suppose this has the added advantage of trapping all the super-heroes in Bargalia, so Zemo and his bunch can wreak havoc, though I can't imagine some tons of rock are going to stop freaking Hyperion.

When I saw Tigh Walker listed as artist, I thought it meant Kev Walker decided to go by a different name. Not unless he also decided to completely change his style. Some of it is good, Tigh's style is simplified, lot of thick lines, it worked well for the quiet moments in issue 8. But several of the faces look lopsided, and his fight scenes aren't anything spectacular. Tim Green's work is more energetic, though he still needs to work on diversifying his female characters' body types. But I like how he draws Cullen's soul monster thing.

I like how Hank Pym is instantly ready to help as soon as Hazmat contacts him. We know he was ticked Maria Hill wouldn't do anything, but it's nice to see how, when he hears from one of his old students for the first time in months, he wants to be there for them immediately. Besides that, it's a nice touch because it shows the adults haven't abandoned the kids, for all that we might be fooled into thinking so otherwise, what with their complete absence from their lives over the previous several months (Cammi's mom excepted).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.2 - The Camp

Plot: The Agency has rather abruptly been shuffled over to the Department of Health and Human Services. Even the Official is in the dark, until on Alexandra Monroe strides in and informs everyone she used her connections to have it done, that she is now a part of the Agency, and that she has an office on the next floor up. Fawkes goes up to schmooze, but is mostly stunned by how well furnished her office is, and then get shot down when he tries to be smooth. Eventually, after he and Hobbes are finished making fools of themselves, we find out why she did all this: she's running an investigation on a series of baby abductions (including her own child), and she needed an agency small enough she could move it into this department, where such a thing would fall within their purview.

Alex still hasn't found a connection between all of them, even with her totally awesome (by early 2000s) computer that she promises to hook Claire up with. Hobbes suggests looking into a connection between the dads, and there you go: All the parents went through a Stork Corporation fertility clinic. Alex and Hobbes pretend to be a couple as a pretext to visit, while Darien snoops around invisibly. For the record, while Alex refuses to react to Darien going invisible in front of the boys, she is amazed when they aren't looking. While snooping, Darien finds some room full of computers that monitors, the parents I guess, for when the mother goes into labor. So they can send a team to take the kid. Darien rounds up his partners, and they stake it out. That night, a nurse comes in and takes the baby. Darien follows to a waiting ambulance, goes visible, and gets beaten up by her two goons. Fortunately, Alex steps in and beats up both guys, and recovers the child, though the nurse is able to escape, being followed by Hobbes to a camp. Darien sneaks in and finds a camp full of kids being put through rigorous physical and mental training while adults patrol with automatic weapons. And who is behind all this? You guessed it, Chrysalis!

The Official says they can't do anything without a warrant, which they can't have without proving the kids were abducted. So Darien sneaks back in, steals some used tissues and swabs the babies (chrysalis has a huge room full of little cribs and apparently no video surveillance) and comes back out. The Keeper notices none of the kids DNA sequences have introns, which means maybe the kids won't age or something. Regardless, the DNA samples are evidence enough, and the warrant is acquired, so all hands on deck for a raid. Except someone inside noticed, and they're arming the kids. Well even the FBI is not ready to shoot a bunch of kids. So Darien sneaks in again, and holds the head counselor at gunpoint, telling him to contact Stark.

Stark arrives, and he and Darien shoot the breeze for a bit, after Fawkes makes him remove his coat, shirt, and pants. Just to mess with him, mostly. Stark argues the kids belong to Chrysalis, because it was actually DNA from Chrysalis employees that makes up the kids. I'm not clear on whether they swapped in their own egg and sperm for the parents, or did some DNA switcheroo thing, but whatever, the moms were unwitting surrogates. All of this is being recorded by Darien's sock cap camera (provided to him by Alex), but isn't producing results fast enough to suit her, so she sneaks into the camp, right as Fawkes tries to bluff Stark by saying the feds are ready to come in guns blazing. So Alex' impatience helps, because she trips an alarm, which convinces Stark the feds really are going to kill kids. So he agrees to tell them to stand down, and that Chrysalis will leave them alone until they reach adulthood. After, we learn none of the kids are Alex', which means Chrysalis has more than one of these camps, and Alex steps outside to cry alone for a bit.

Quote of the episode: Stark - 'You're really becoming a festering wound, Fawkes.' Fawkes - 'That's about the sweetest thing a grown man has ever said to me.'

The "oh crap" count: 0 (3 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Princess Diana, who observed that if men had to have babies, they'd only have one. Woody Allen, who said something about not knocking it until you try it. And a poet named, um, Jabron, I think, who said your children aren't your children, that they come through you, but not from you. Which is factually untrue, half their DNA comes from you. Stupid poets.

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

Other: I don't think the Official told Eberts to shut up this week. Kind of hard to tell, I'm not sure how well this Hulu experiment is going to go.

They changed the opening credits. Not sure I like the change, but at least Mike McCafferty (who plays Eberts) gets to have his name in them. Go Eberts!

Stark's suit seemed to fit a little better this week. At least until Darien made him take it off.

I have to admit, I like these plots they keep finding Chrysalis involved in, if only for how much they indicate longterm planning. It's going to be years before these kids are ready to do, whatever it is Chrysalis has planned for them. Likewise it would have been awhile before those kids they were going to vaccinate with nanobots were in positions of power (though they still might have provided valuable information on their parents). But if you're thinking decades ahead, then that's fine. Though I still don't understand the freezing the smart people plan, just because they said you couldn't safely unfreeze them after 3 days. Doesn't that mean you should wait until right before a cataclysm, freeze them, then thaw them out shortly thereafter? Also, I'm not sure if Chrysalis is expecting a disaster, or is planning to unleash one. Maybe it's either one, take advantage of events, or make something happening if nothing comes along of its own accord.

Though I still cannot believe a company with the resources of Chrysalis cheaps out and doesn't put monitoring devices in their room full of stolen babies. Darien went in there twice, not Quicksilvered either time, and no one noticed.

I don't think Stark and Fawkes are quite at the level of animosity of Arnaud and Fawkes, which makes sense. Arnaud is really only concerned with himself, Stark is taking a longer view, working towards a goal that will outlive him. He and his wife have placed their own son in one of the camps, believing it better prepares him for what's coming. So he can see Fawkes' interference as minor setbacks, nothing that really changes the end result, since he sees the collapse of global society as a given. The Agency isn't doing anything that will stop that, at most, they're making it so a few more people might die, because Chrysalis won't be able to adequately prepare them for whatever goes wrong.

That being said, there's still some hostility. Stark doesn't appreciate Fawkes popping up, and I think Fawkes would enjoy irritating someone like Stark, even if he were only run of the mill evil, rather than cartoonish supervillain evil. Stark likes insulting Fawkes, and Fawkes likes giving it right back. Stark enjoys flaunting his power and influence - see his line at the end about how he keeps his word, but even if he didn't, Fawkes couldn't touch him - and Darien enjoys any little thing he can do to take that away. Interesting Allianora didn't come up. If I were an unpleasant fellow, I'd say the writers swept her under the rug once she was dead and served their angst purpose. But I'll instead take it as a sign that Stark cared about her enough to not be happy he killed her, and Fawkes knows now isn't the time to confront Stark about it. Focus on the problem at hand. I feel like it's something that should come up at some point, though.

And so we have Alex Monroe, super-agent, sticking around for the foreseeable future. can't say I'm exactly thrilled so far. I thought the rest of the crew had a pretty good chemistry going, and I wonder if she's going to muck it up. Offhand, she seems like she's going to be lording how awesome she is over everyone (except maybe Claire, she seemed friendly enough to her). Now the Official likes to occasionally abuse his power over Darien, Claire, or Hobbes (especially Hobbes), but we aren't supposed to like him when he does that. Because he's being a jerk. Now, it could very well be that Alex has not received the proper respect for her skills in her career because of sexism, and she's trying to set the parameters early, recognize and respect her skills and experience. Darien tried to be smooth almost immediately, and so he got shot down in flames. But I didn't entirely understand the scene in the van, where she sort of toyed with Hobbes, seemingly just so she could shoot him down in flames. He had already issued his 'don't fish from the company pier' motto, and then she says that's too bad, and when he says she's playing with him, she responds, completely deadpan, 'oh yeah'. What was the point of that?

I guess maybe she's going to assume the role Hobbes and Claire shared early in Season 1, where each of them doubted Fawkes, either his professionalism or how much he could be trusted. And each of them withheld a lot of their inner selves from everyone else for a long time. Except Alex is going to extend that attitude to the lot of them. I guess if her opinion is gradually turned around on them, and she can learn to respect their skills (without making her look incompetent, since she's supposed to be a Five Star A agent), that will work. She just met them, trust takes time, maybe she's not the type to share, fine, great. But to try and be so manipulative and condescending from the start, from people whose assistance you require, and who would probably be glad to help if you just asked (other than the Fat Man), is not a great first impression.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Favorite Marvel Characters #1 - Spider-Man

Character: Spider-Man (Peter Parker)

Creators: Steve Ditko and Stan Lee.

First appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15

First encounter: Amazing Spider-Man #273. It would have been concurrent with Spectacular Spider-Man #111, but Amazing was the first issue in a two-parter that concluded in Spectacular. Maybe it should be Web of Spider-Man #12. I received all three simultaneously, but that comes first storywise, as it starts immediately after some punks torch Parker's apartment, and by the time we get to the other two, MJ is helping him repaint it. Somehow, though it's always Amazing #273 that takes prominence in my mind.

Definitive writer: Well, when you boil it down, it all comes back to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, doesn't it? Although the Spidey I'm familiar with is probably more Lee/Romita. But if we're going to stick to writers I've read much of, then it's either Roger Stern or David Micheline, maybe DeFalco after those two.

Definitive artist: Either Mark Bagley or John Romita Jr. There's a lot of others who draw him well, too, but those are the ones who've drawn him the most for me, and their the ones whose version I see in my head.

Favorite moment or story: That's tough, there's a lot of good ones. Spidey taking it to the X-Men in Secret Wars. Peter getting through to Harry Osborn in Spectacular Spider-Man #200. The Firelord fight, the first Morlun battle. Making Loki sit on a rooftop with him and eat hot dogs. The whole saga with the Captain Universe powers - who didn't enjoy watching him punch surly, Mr. Fix-it Hulk into orbit? But if I'm gonna pick one, it's gotta be the fight with the Juggernaut. Spidey tried everything: webbing, dazzling him with speed and agility, thousands of volts of electricity, steel girders, wrecking balls, tanker trucks full of fuel. Nothing worked. With no other recourse, he did the last thing he could - he covered the eye holes on Juggy's helmet. And then he held on. And held on. And held on.

I love those stories where Spidey has to punch out of his weight class. I especially like that Stern followed up that story by spending two issues on Spider-Man having to fight Mr. Hyde.

What I like about him: You cannot possibly be surprised by this. I can't remember a time when I didn't know who Spider-Man was, though that must have been the case at some point. I have a vague sense I watched Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends when I was young, but I don't know if that preceded those comics I listed. However it came about, for me, he is the superhero, the one I compare all others to. I don't know whether it's because of Spider-Man that red and blue were my favorite colors for a long time, or if those were already my favorite colors and Spider-Man wearing them was another point in his favor with me. It seems a silly idea he might be the source of that, but I can't rule it out. And when I was introduced to comics, he wasn't even using the classic costume, he wore the cloth version of the symbiote costume in all three of those comics I listed above. Lucky for Spidey, even his alternate costume is pretty awesome.

I know I liked his array of powers, and the way he didn't seem overpowered. He was strong, but lots of other heroes and villains are stronger. He's fast, but others are faster. He's smart, but others are smarter. He has a spider-sense, and I know I thought the ability to sense a threat and dodge it instinctively was cool, but it wasn't quite precognition or telepathy. He wasn't the best in any one area, but he was good in almost all of them, so he could face a wide array of problems and have some sort of solution, but it wouldn't necessarily be easy.

Visually he was interesting. He could be this bright, colorful figure swinging gracefully through the skyline of New York City. Or he could be an imposing figure, lurking from the shadows in the corner of the ceiling. Or they'd show him moving like a blur, dodging a dozen attacks at once, be they metal tentacles, pumpkin bombs, or plain old bullets. I have always been a fan of those panels with all the after images of Spidey, showing precisely how he's avoiding the threats with a remarkable grace. They're maybe one of my favorite things in comics.

It's hard to describe the things about his character I like because it's probably all of it. I think he's the template for most of the others in some way or another. I like his quick remarks and silly insults, because I'm a bit of a smart aleck myself (I might owe that more to Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, but it'd be close). Peter Parker was a smart guy who liked to read and was interested in science, and I spent a lot of time with my nose in books, too. Peter got bullied as a teenager, and I had some trouble with that in elementary school. I said I thought a spider-sense sounded awesome, well yeah, the idea of being able to sense dangers and deftly avoid them held a lot of appeal to me.

But there were other things, too. In the first few years I was reading Spider-Man comics, he had a lot of guest appearances by former foes who had turned away from crime to become heroes. Some of them were people who made a bad decision under pressure and just needed a nudge to get back on track. Others were long time foes he'd tangled with for years, like Sandman. And yet, Spider-Man was accepting of and encouraged their attempts to go straight. He might not always want help, but he at least appreciated the fact they were trying to do the right thing. Even when they thought the right thing was arresting Spider-Man (see Web of Spider-Man #50). In those early comics, the Puma was not too far removed from trying to kill Spider-Man, and yet, while he and Parker aren't friends by any stretch, Peter doesn't lash out the second he sees Thomas Fireheart. He hears what the guy has to say (that he wants Spider-Man's help in killing the Beyonder), and tries to explain why that's a ludicrous proposition, even if Spider-Man were inclined to kill his foes. Which he isn't, or Fireheart wouldn't be there asking for a partnership.

Parker understands people can make bad choices sometimes. They do the selfish thing, or turn a blind eye to the plight of others, because he did it himself. But he also knows not only the potential cost, but that people can change, and can use their gifts for the benefit of others. So he's willing to give others the chance as well, because I think he believes people are mostly good at heart. He always believed Harry Osborn would overcome his demons. He stood up to Dr. Doom to protect the aged thief the Black Fox. He even trusted Dr. Octopus to help save him from some lethal virus. It takes a person with a very positive (also very desperate) outlook to trust someone who has tried to kill them as often as Octavius had tried to kill Spider-Man. In Web of Spider-Man #12, the ending is that Peter decides not to press charges against the 3 teens who torched his apartment. Through a series of circumstances, they'd learned their lessons, and he didn't want to ruin their lives, when they could hopefully go forward being better people. I'm not as hopeful about people as Spidey, but I like to think people are capable of not making the selfish choice, given the chance.

In Spider-Girl #81, Electro shows up at the Avengers' Mansion. He has a daughter who inherited his powers, that he hasn't been there for much (because he was in prison), and since her mom died she's been out robbing armored cars and such. Max wants to get her out of that life, but has an added problem that his electrical aura and hers don't mix, and any contact between the two causes both pain. He didn't come to the Avengers for help, though, he just wanted them to get in touch with Spider-Man. Because he knows the webhead will give him a fair shake. And Spidey recognizes it's a genuine request to help a guy connect with his child, and he works to find a solution. I also like that issue because of how all the current Avengers, themselves not much older than Mayday, get really excited at the chance to meet the Spider-Man.

One of the other things I may have learned from Spider-Man is the idea of not expecting any thanks for doing the job, or even wanting any, really. I make a lot of cracks about the stupidity and general poor attitude of your average Marvel citizen, even before New York City was getting destroyed twice a year in big events, but it rarely seemed to stop Spidey, so I guess that told me if the job was worth doing, who cares if people appreciate it? Right off the bat in Amazing #273, Spider-Man has to stop two cars that sideswiped each other from crashing into a bunch of pedestrians. He does it by webbing the end of each car, and nearly gets torn apart for his trouble. As he's laying there recuperating, one of the pedestrians says, 'Look, Spider-Man tried to run us down with that car!', to which Spidey thinks, 'Oh great.' It's an incredibly stupid reading of the situation - if he wanted to hit you with the car, he'd just throw it - but it doesn't stop him from trying to save people later.

During that Web of Spider-Man story, Peter's built up by folks around the neighborhood as a hero, because he showed hewon't be intimidated. But when he explains at the end how he thinks the boys learned their lesson, the neighbors turn on him. They think he's wishy-washy, and they cancel the "Peter Parker Patrol' they were setting up, because none of them understand why he did it (Mary Jane understands, though, and these early comics, where MJ is both a lightening and steadying influence on Peter did a lot to make me a fan of hers). Again, while Peter questions the point of all that he's doing, I never thought he seriously considered that he should have gone ahead and had the boys sent to jail. He understood what he hoped to accomplish, and if others don't, and it causes them to look at him askance, or costs him some celebrity, oh well.

For a time, Thomas Fireheart owned the Daily Bugle, because he felt he owed Spider-Man a debt of honor for thinking Spidey was a criminal worth killing. So he turned the Bugle into a massively pro-Spidey paper. What's interesting was Peter seemed more uncomfortable with that than he had dealing with Jonah's mudslinging. Maybe because for all those years he could laugh to himself about how Jonah's tirades and slanted journalism were paying Spider-Man's rent and tuition bills, or because he trusted Robbie Robertson to balance Jonah's excesses and get the truth out there. But also, I thought it was because he didn't want accolades for what he was doing. Peter felt being Spider-Man and saving lives was the right thing to do, and so he did it. It's frustrating to be blamed when all you're trying to do is help, but he kept going in spite of it. He doesn't enjoy being called a menace or having rocks thrown at him, but he doesn't need the key to the city. Action is his reward, after all.

I've always preferred the idea that he isn't solely motivated by guilt over Uncle Ben's death, that he helps because he knows it's a way he can make a difference, and he likes helping people. It's the same reason I liked the Spider-Girl universe's idea that he would become a forensic police scientist after his web-slinging career ended. Peter's a smart guy in terms of science, and his years of crimefighting have probably given him some experience dealing with criminals methods, and especially with some of the weird stuff super-crooks would utilize, in a way your more standard CSI wouldn't. Not that he couldn't still help the old-fashioned way.

Also, I think having Peter driven by a desire to help more readily explains some of those times where he decides to chuck the whole thing. It does make sense that at times he would get fed up with all the fearful citizenry and with the complications it brings to his personal life, but it could also be as simple as him not feeling he's make a difference. There are times when so many things are going wrong for the people around him, it would be understandable if he wondered if he was actually helping like this. People struggle with that in their own way, whether they matter or make a difference, and there's no reason it can't happen to Spider-Man as well.

Of course, something always comes up, and Peter always decides to step up. That's something I really love, that if there's a problem, Spider-Man is going to get involved and try to do something, even if he's completely outclassed. It isn't that he enjoys getting beat up, or that he doesn't understand how overmatched he is. When Madame Web asked him to protect her from the Juggernaut, Spidey fairly quickly figured out the size of the gap between his power and Marko's, and advised her to call in more heroes. The X-Men, the Avengers, the FF, somebody. But they were all busy. Likewise, when he tangled with the Firelord, he managed to divert the guy and hauled webs for the Baxter Building, only to remember when he got there that the place had been destroyed recently, and he had no idea where the Fantastic Four were. Which just left him.

But if Spider-Man is all there is, he will hold the line as best he can. Over the years I've seen him tangle with the Juggernaut, the Firelord, the Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, the Wrecking Crew, Graviton, the Hulk, the Tri-Sentinel. He didn't win all those fights - the Surfer nearly killed him, he only saved himself from Doom by playing to Doom's vanity, the Juggernaut reached Madame Web despite Spidey's best efforts - but reading the stories, you never doubted he gave it everything he had, even as he wonders what the heck he's thinking fighting these guys. But he kept swinging right to end. His diverse powers, smarts, and guts give him a puncher's chance against most any heavyweight.

But because he isn't overwhelmingly powerful in any one area, combined with his tendency to overexert himself and to get distracted by his personal life, he can lose to just about any lightweight chump if the conditions are right (or wrong, as the case may be). He can hold his own against an entire Sinister Six, then lose to just Electro later. I don't think he's ever beaten Daredevil (which is something I would immediately rectify if I somehow got writing duties on Amazing Spider-Man. First issue, 22, sorry, 20 pages of Spidey kicking Daredevil's butt. Explanation provided later, but rest assured Matt will deserve it somehow). He's lost to Stilt-Man. Twice! It makes it very interesting because you can't tell how things are going to go for him in any given fight.

Slightly related, there was an issue of New Excalibur, #13 I think, written by Frank Tieri, where the Wrecking Crew are beating up Cain Marko, who interrupted some crime of theirs. This is when he was trying to go straight and so Cyttorak was gradually taking back its power because Cain wasn't using it in accordance with Cyttorak's wishes. The Wrecker is sad about the whole thing, and mentions everyone loved Cain, because he was the one guy who could shut up Spider-Man. Someone else, Thunderball maybe, comments that he hates Spider-Man, and the Wrecker retorts that everyone hates Spider-Man. This might seem contradictory with that story I liked earlier about Electro, but I tend to think that even though Spidey irritates the hell out of all the villains he fights by making fun of them constantly, they know that if they went to him for help, he'd hear them out. You can recognize the good in someone while still being annoyed by him.

The flipside of his fighting everyone is he can't exactly be overconfident, but he can be used to the weird stuff that comes with superheroing. I know some people didn't like that bit from JMS' run where Spidey sat on a rooftop with Loki and ate hot dogs, but I did. If you figure Loki is just humoring Spidey because he's using him as bait for Morwen, it makes sense. What, Spider-Man is supposed to be impressed by the Asgardian God of Mischief, with his flashy light shows and stupid robes? Please. Spider-Man sees better effects when he fights a guy wearing a fishbowl on his head.

Spider-Man's had the Captain Universe powers. He's been dumped into weird Ditko dimensions while trying to help Dr. Strange, been shrunk to microscopic size alongside Ant-Man. He was nearly stepped on by Galactus during a battle on a patchwork planet created by a sentient universe. A sentient universe that later showed up at Peter's apartment with a jheri curl needing to learn how to use the bathroom. He has fought Thanos, not just on Thanos' ship for the fate of the Solar System, but alone in the realm of Death herself for the soul of a young child. And he did it without flinching. There is not much he hasn't seen at this point, and he's survived it all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What I Bought 9/5/2014 - Part 3

Was reminded last weekend that it really annoys me when people are getting ready to go somewhere, but they can't seem to get organized. They keep remembering something they need to bring they haven't packed, or they can't get everyone on the same page about when they're leaving, or who is driving. And so everyone dithers around and nobody goes anywhere. That drives me up the wall, even if I'm not going with them. Just watching such disorganized people is irritating.

Rocket Raccoon #2 & 3, by Skottie Young (writer/artist), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (color art), Jeff Eckleberry (lettering) - This is really strongly giving me the Earthworm Jim vibe, with the talking animal riding a rocket through space and all.

Rocket gets himself sent to the prison on Devin-9, then promptly escapes with the help of Groot, who regrows himself from a splinter Rocket grabbed from the wrestling ring the first issue. See, Rocket requested to be sent to this prison so he could find Macho Gomez (who Rocket sent to prison), and have him bring Rocket to Gomez' boss, Funtzel, in the hopes of tracking down this other raccoon. In space, they rather easily fend off an attack of the space armada of ex-girlfriends, and utilize guppy warp to reach Funtzel's towing company. Once there, Funtzel contends he looked into this other raccoon, but could only finds rumors of some bunch of loonies in a tower, which Rocket interprets as being about the Book of Halfworld. Then the other raccoon appears, having already subdued Groot, and ready to fight.

It doesn't sound like much when I put it that way, but I think the plot is less than relevant for its details, and more for what it weird stuff Skottie Young wants to draw. So Macho Gomez' spacecraft is a sedan crossed with a fish, complete with little squid like space helmets and squid missiles that make a SQUIIIDOOSH effect when fired. So the prison break is a two page sequence that sprawls across the pages like a hamster wheel. This is second set-up like that so far in this batch of comics, the other being in Ms. Marvel. In both cases, I found it difficult to follow, because each one starts in the lower left corner instead of the upper left. The one here works a little better because Young moves the dialogue balloons diagonally across the page with a series of brief exchanges between Rocket and Groot, but actually puts the first balloon at the top each time, whereas that wasn't the case with Caramagna in Ms. Marvel.

So it's still very pretty, and I'll admit I'm curious about both what's going on with Halfworld, and how Rocket's going to make things up to the jilted ex-girlfriends. It's my guess, though not confirmed, that rocket didn't break up with them so much as cheat on one with the next, in a string of sleazy moves. Which is the sort of thing that makes me not like the protagonist, if his tendency to just murder whoever wasn't enough reason. That's still the biggest problem, I don't particularly like this version of Rocket. He's too amoral. He's not someone jaded by experience, or who has lost his ideals, he acts like he never had any to begin with. I'm not sure how long I'll stick with it. Six issues, at least, I guess.