Thursday, October 30, 2014

These Solicits Are More Depressing And Strange Than Scary

Tomorrow is Halloween, so I guess these should be Spooooooky Solicitations? So try this one on for size: She-Hulk is cannnnnnceled with issue 12!

Wait, that's not scary, that just stinks. Let's try this again. Ahem. Nightcrawler will be fighting the Shadow Kiiiiiiiiinnnng! What, seriously? Dang it, Claremont, I don't think anyone actually likes the Shadow King but you. Admittedly, I am curious to see how Kurt is going to fight a non-corporeal foe, but I may really have to drop this.

All right, third time's the charm. Squirrel Girl is getting her own ongoing series, starting in January. OK, now that's a sign of the Apocalypse, and not the one from the X-Men comics. That being said, will I buy it? Yes, I definitely will. I'm gonna have a She-Hulk-sized hole in my pull list soon, anyway.

OK, enough of this faux-holiday nonsense. Captain Marvel is doing a Christmas-themed issue, proving that holiday spirit, like light, takes time to travel through space. Even with Christmas creep, it can't make it there on time.

Deadpool's done with Axis, which means it's back on my list, and I'm debating keeping Rocket Raccoon after all, because the solicitation for 7 promises that Rocket is trying to make amends for his past, because I'm a sucker. Rocket might actually behave like a good guy. On the other hand, it remains to be seen what his definition of "making amends" looks like. Well, I haven't shipped my order off yet, there's still a little time to decide.

I suppose after I proclaimed my love for Scott Lang, I really ought to buy his new ongoing. I don't really want to pay $5 for the first issue, though. Perhaps I'll start buying it with the second issue.

I know this has been really Marvel heavy, but there isn't a lot else I have comments on. Klarion is at least making it to issue 4, Catman has a new outfit, Harley's dating that guy who escaped from prison a couple of issues ago.

Roche Limit will be wrapping up its first arc. They had said in an interview the book will be three distinct 5 issue arcs, so I'm curious if there'll be a gap now, to give them time to get the next arc finished, or if the whole this is ready to go. Won't know the answer to that until next month, though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Can't Let October End Without Discussing Heroclix

Here I was, worried I'd have enough things to post on until comics showed up (which should be this week), and I almost forget to do my yearly look at the Marvel side of Heroclix.

Hey, where are you all going?

Marvel had a busy year in terms of number of sets. There was Invincible Iron Man last winter, Deadpool in the spring, and Guardians of the Galaxy over the summer. There were also smaller sets for Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Days of Futures' Past (though in terms of character look, it more closely resembles the comics than the movie), and a different Guardians of the Galaxy set, based on the film. Generally speaking, I ignore the movie sets. They generally aren't the characters as I'm thinking of them.

So, the characters I was hoping to see were, in no particular order:

Ikon, Rage, Silhouette, Stacy X, Triathlon, and SHIELD Agent Derek Khanata. Past that, it would have been the other three members of the Slingers (Ricochet, Hornet, and Dusk). And of those we got. . . Ikon! Well, one is better than none, and the others were all longshots.

I can't complain too much. We did get a lot of new characters that hadn't been clixed before, and some new versions of characters whose previous versions were over 5 years old. We got the Grasshopper, so that's another member of the Great Lakes Avengers I hadn't even thought of. They gave us Agent X, the freaking Unicorn got a figure. Iron Man fans must have been in hog heaven. We got a new Silver Sable, a new Mantis, a nice Darkhawk, a lot of the classic Alpha Flight members. They gave us Colleen Wing and Misty Knight as separate characters, which was nice. I'm not sure we needed Iron Man in the Guardians of the Galaxy set after he had an entire set based around him barely 8 months earlier, but he was a member of the team, so it at least made sense.

Going forward, I don't see the odds of any of the characters I wanted showing up improving. I'm not sure what Marvel sets are coming down the pike (the only set I know of for sure is the Flash set coming in about 2 weeks), but I'm also not sure what kind of theme you'd need to get them out there. Maybe something about the Avengers Initiative/Academy/Undercover could get Rage or some of the Slingers out there. Possibly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Multiverse Should Offer A Multitude Of Solutions

I was, for some reason, still thinking about Spider-Verse. This isn't about Spider-Girl, no real complaining here today.

Otto Spidey has Parker's memories, right? That's how he fools everyone. That and they were hit with the Idiot Stick before they started, but neither here nor there. Otto should remember how Peter beat Morlun the first time: Pump himself full of radiation and rely on it to block Morlun's ability to absorb the spider-totemic energy stuff.

Now obviously all these Spider-Folks don't want to get cancer like Peter did (or whatever it was he got from that which prompted The Other storyline), but see, this is a spot where Otto should actually be ahead of Peter. Parker's a biologist, Otto was the nuclear scientist. That was why he built the arms, to handle dangerous materials safely. He should be able to devise some method of replicating it that won't kill everyone sometime after it has saved all their lives.

Orrrrrrrr, they could just go find a Spider-Man who still has the Captain Universe powers he gained during Acts of Vengeance. You know, the powers that let him drop Graviton with one shot, punch the Hulk into orbit, fight Magneto to a standstill, and destroy a Tri-Sentinel augmented by Loki's magic. Go get one of those Spideys. Better yet, get 5, or 20. Then send them after Morlun and his crew. Pretty sure he'll find it difficult to grab hold of someone and drain their life force when that someone can fly and shoot energy blasts. And if he does grab hold, congratulations! he's a second away from being punched to the Moon. Problem solved.

I suppose there could be some issue like the Enigma Force can't leave its universe of origin. So trick the Morluns into that universe. He's not that smart. Eh, maybe they've addressed these ideas already, but I'll never know, unless one of you tells me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Has The Forest Claimed Another Victim?

{Last time, Clever Adolescent Panda and Deadpool were horrified to learn the cookies they so enjoyed eating were made out of the melted down remnants of objects that held great love. With Calvin, they've ventured off to the tree bakery to put a stop to it. Or get more cookies. It could go either way.}

Clever Adolescent Panda: No, it couldn't.

Deadpool: [I don't know, I could use some cookies after our week-long trip down this road. So many obstacles in just a half-mile!]

CAP: Yeah, sorry about your hoodie, Calvin. Who thought that undead ferryman would be so excited about something warm to wear on his trips back and forth?

Calvin: *crestfallen* {I really liked that hoodie.}

CAP: Don't you have two other hoodies?

Calvin: {Not one that's bright blue, though!}

Deadpool: [Less whining, more striking cool poses. I think that's the tree.] *launches flying kick at the tree* [Come out, you little cookie-making monsters!] 

{Deadpool rains blows and invectives upon the tree, but there's no response. Finally, a voice pipes up from the tree next to the one Wade's hitting. It's high-pitched, but with a certain twang to it.}

Voice From Within The Tree: Hey, y'all wanna keep it down out there, idiot? You're disturbing the cookie makin' magic.

Deadpool: [Sure, absolutely, I'll do that. Say, you think you guys could make up a batch of cookies for me if I provided you the materials?]

CAP: Wade!

Deadpool: *puts finger to lips, winks* [Shh!]

Voice From Within Tree: Yeah sure. We don't guarantee the taste, though. That's on you to bring the good stuff. *A large opening appears in the trunk of the tree, roughly five feet up*

Deadpool: [Don't worry, there's a lotta love in what I've got for ya.]

Voice Inside the Tree: Awright, whatever, just give it to us.

Deadpool: [You ready for it?]

Chorus of Voices Inside Tree: Yes, get on with it!

Deadpool: *slips on special Deadpool brass knuckles* [Here you go!]

{And Deadpool punched into the tree with his right fist, the one with the "Dead" knucks on it. There was a noticeable sound of two impacts, one from the fist striking something, the other that something flying across the interior of the trunk and hitting the far side. Then there was a groan.}

Angry Voice Inside Tree: He hit Dwiddel! Grab him!

Deadpool: [Hey, wait, let go of my hand!] {Wade attempts to withdraw his arm, but is pulled forward sharply, slamming his face and torso into the trunk.} [Don't just stand there, help me! Agh, they're smashing my fingers with a rolling pin!]

{Clever Adolescent Panda, recognizing the hole is too small to fit into, and that sticking its arms in there would be a poor choice, opts to leap onto Deadpool's shoulders. From there, it braces its feet against the trunk, grabs Deadpool under the chin, and commences pulling. To little effect.}

Deadpool: [What the hell are you trying to do, readjust my neck? Your claws are in my face! That's my moneymaker!]

CAP: What, like playing the penny slots at the casino?

Deadpool: [It's part of my overall image! People want a mercenary who looks like he's been through some wars! *loud scream* OK, they're removing my fingers, would you do something?!]

CAP: Where are your grenades?

Deadpool: [If you want to go that route, just take a sword and cut my arm off! It'll grow back!]

CAP: You were open to that? Why didn't you do it already?

Deadpool: [It hurts, ya know! And I don't want them makin' cookies out of my arm!]

Calvin: {Just cool your jets.}

{During all the shouting and maiming, Calvin has been calmly putting on the proper safety equipment for operating a chainsaw, which he had opted to go back for after the run-in with the bear-riding Vikings. Now he removes the chainsaw from the case, check the fuel and bar oil levels, and starts struggling to get it running.}

Deadpool: [Would you come on? I can smell parts of me being cooked in there! I know what my burning flesh smells like!]

*at that moment, several more doorways open in the trunk, and little guys in overalls and combination wool sock caps/chef's hats come pouring out, gagging and retching. Wade and CAP go flying backwards as the opposing force to their pulling abruptly vanished*

One of the little guys: Oh God, it's horrible!

Another one: Like a tire fire someone threw up in!

A third: The smell is in my hair! It's in my hair! Somebody burn my hair!

Deadpool: *examines hand* [My fingers are gone! The thumb is all alone now! My left thumb is going to make fun of it now! And how will I dual-wield two weapons to kill these little bastards!?]

CAP: *peering into the trunk* Oh great, it's one of those places that's bigger on the inside. Hey, I see that Frisbee you gave the Ghost of the Forest!

{Calvin has finally gotten the chainsaw started. He turns to face them, looking grim through the protective screen on the helmet.}

Calvin: {Alright, where's my ghost friend?}

Little Guy In a Red Cap: I don't know nuthin' about no ghost. How about you, Stevedolino?

Stevedolino: *drawls* Nope, not a thang. Haf to be pretty silly to believe in ghosts.

CAP: Then where'd you get the Frisbee?

Little Guy in the Red Cap: We found it in the woods. We collect everything we find.

CAP: How are you gonna make cookies out of a Frisbee?

Red Cap Cookie Maker: You don't make the cookies out of it, you add it to the cookies you already were making. You break it down to an atomic level by slow-melting it over a convectional aperture. Then you spin it for an hour in a Hugterfuge, which separates the distinct emotions from the rest. You let the intense emotions cool, then grind them with the Power Pestle and sprinkle it on the cookies.

Deadpool: [Blah, blah, blah, nerdy nonsense talk! *kicks one of them wearing white overalls with orange polka dots on them* My hand demands JUSTICE!]

Stevedolino: He kicked Mercanser! What is it with this guy and violence?

Dwiddel: *through swollen jaw* I don't know, let's get him! With violence!

*The bakers go on the attack, using their various cooking implements and surprising strength to good effect. Wade finds it difficult to hit them when his right arm is ineffective, and trying to jam daggers into his fingers to give himself stabby hands proves to be a distraction and a waste of time. Clever Adolescent Panda is doing better, but the sheer numbers cause trouble. It has the reach advantage, but they swarm from every angle. CAP does better when it opts for a pinballing strategy, charging forward full tilt, then ricocheting off trees to come from another direction at high speed. But here, the presence of two allies blunts its effectiveness, as one has to be careful to not crash into them. Calvin is swinging the chainsaw, but in a mostly defensive manner, as he doesn't really want to cut anyone in half with it. Trying to explain gnome or whatever guts in the filter would be a real pain. 

Mercanser: *mocking* What ya think you're gonna do with that chainsaw? We're magic! You can't stop us with that, we'll just poof out of the way, like this! *disappears in a pink cloud, reappears a second later* Hahahahahaha!

{They gradually back him up to the tree, and one of them, wearing a cap with a skull-and-crossbones on it lurks in the limbs above. He draws a paring knife, then drops towards Calvin's neck. At the last instant, a gust of wind kicks up and slams him into a tree.*

Calvin: {Ghost! There you are! It is you, right?}

{In response, the wind whistles into the tree, and sends the Frisbee spinning out. It hovers for a moment in the air, then abruptly slams into one of the bakers that is dancing just out of Deadpool's reach on his right side.}

Deadpool: [It must be Storm, my teammate on the X-Men, taking a break from her hopefully wildly successful solo title to help us out!]

CAP: No Wade, it's a ghost. We've met it before.

Deadpool: *still slashing at the bakers* [Nah, completely improbable.] *the Frisbee hits Deadpool in the face* [That Storm, what a kidder!]

Calvin: {I may not be able to hit you guys - or want to really - but I bet the tree can't "poof" out of existence. *turns to face tree, revs chainsaw* Time to bring this factory of shattered dreams down! Bore Cut!}

Dwiddel: No, don't cut there! It's where we store the negative emotions!

{Calvin can't hear a thing over the saw and his hearing protectors. He cuts into the tree smoothly at first, then there's a moment of sparks and resistance, and then a dark violent fluid comes bursting out of the cut, enveloping him entirely. The chainsaw cuts out, and there's only the sound of a low groaning as the liquid seems to boil over him. The bakers utter not a word, only begin to back up slowly. Clever Adolescent Panda rushes forward.}

CAP: Calvin, are you OK? Wade, get some water! We'll get this stuff off, don't wor-urk!

{One gloved, steaming hand shoots out, and grasps the panda by its furry throat. Calvin rises slowly, breathing heavily, face gone, leaving only a blank space.}

Calvin?: *low, throaty hiss* {Haaaaaaaate. . .}

Deadpool: [Quick, Storm! Freeze him with an Arctic wind, or stun him with some lightning! *waits* Storm? Are you still there? Is the team-up over?]

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.8 - Den of Thieves

Plot: Fawkes is working with a group of thieves to steal various high-security items. This is part of an attempt to capture a well-known terrorist, Javier, who is playing the Charlie to this group of fallen angels. On the heist to gather the last piece of equipment, an alarm is somehow triggered, and Fawkes and Dante, the leader of the bunch, are arrested. But since the other two thieves escaped with their target, Darien has to stay in prison to see if Dante call lead him to Javier.

Unfortunately, there are two other inmates of the prison who know Darien from some previous incarceration, and Luther and Russell aren't happy about Darien stealing that candy bar from Luther 5 years ago. Darien only staves off violence by insisting he can help them escape just like he says he did the last time he was busted, and to prove it, he sneaks into the warden's office and steals his nameplate, plus a few other goodies.

Meanwhile, Claire has deduced that the items stolen will make an EMP generator, and then she has to explain to the Official why this is something a man who bombed a crowded stadium would be interested in. Darien has gotten Dante to confide in him about where they can escape to, and has passed to info along to a prison physician, meaning Claire, there to administer some counteragent. A good thing, the way Darien's been using Quicksilver. Claire passes this along to Alex and Hobbes, and Alex bluffs her way into the hotel room, where she learns the bomb will be planted at a power-switching station.

Back in the prison, it's break out time, and no stupid tattoos will be required. Darien gets Luther and Russell to start a fire, he sneaks into the guard watchtower, decks the guards, unlocks a couple of doors, and he and Dante go one way, while Luther and Russell go another - right into the guards' locker room. Once outside the prison, Darien and Dante find the escape vehicle, but they aren't going to the motel Dante told Fawkes about. No, as Alex and Hobbes are learning, the power station is a decoy. The real target is an FAA control station, and Fawkes and Dante have the real EMP generator. Fawkes knocks out Dante with some Quicksilvered binoculars, and then drives the car with the bomb off a pier, saving the day, although Javier is still out there. Back at the office, Alex needles Hobbes about the thing he said when he thought their fake bomb was going to blow them up ('I love you, Claire!')

Quote of the Episode: Fawkes - 'Did you just say, "premature evacuation"?'

The "oh crap" count: 3 (13 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Someone who said once a thief is committed past a certain point, he should stop worrying. And then the line about how you can't go home again.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (2 overall).

Other: First things first, Alex officially impressed me with how she walked into that hotel room and bluffed those two guys. Yes, she ended up overplaying the hand when she asked to see the bomb and their plans, but that's an overall underestimation of Javier's craftiness, not strictly hers. She even quietly asked Hobbes to cover her, which was nice for showing she understood the risks, and for all the crap she gives Hobbes and Fawkes, she at least trusts him. Even when she questions Darien's undercover capabilities, it wasn't too off base, because I remember him blowing that gun deal in Season One (the one with the new guy in Hobbes' ex-wife's life) by not having a proper naval haircut.

Of course she undercut that somewhat by teasing Hobbes about that declaration. I suppose she could simply be encouraging him to confess his feelings, but I doubt it.

Fawkes punched out at least three guys while invisible this episode, plus Dante with the binoculars, and he busted the hand of one of Luther's goons by Quicksilvering a weight plate. And he didn't drop the invisibility too soon even once. Which is nice. He's been doing that way too much this season.

The scene in the prison shower, with the Fabio like guy warning Fawkes not to use prison shampoo if he wants to keep his hair, was pretty hilarious. I'm not sure Darien would have been as uncomfortable if the guy had come on to him as he was during all that.

Also, Hobbes trying to get Darien to put his hand up on the glass over Bobby's when he came to visit. That was great. Bobby just doesn't know how to act around people sometimes.

I'm curious whether Javier will become a recurring threat. They can't deal with Chrysalis or Arnaud every week.

Would an EMP generator actually harm a human? Everybody was treating it like a huge threat to their physical well-being. I guess it was an EMP bomb though, and it was the exploding part they were worried about. Second question: Would dropping the bomb in the bay actually block the majority of the pulse? I guess try to move through water could cause difficulties, but the energy from it has to pass through the walls of buildings and the hulls of airplanes. I did like Fawkes trying to slow it down by Quicksilver cooling it, though.

I also liked the bit when Eberts comes to deliver the bad news (that Darien has to stay in prison and finish the assignment), and Fawkes confesses that he sometimes misses being a thief. Then he says that being back in a featureless cinderblock room in an orange jumpsuit reminded him of all the reasons he shouldn't miss being a thief. It's all fun and games until you get caught. It's an interesting contrast to the season one episode, "Liberty and Larceny". There, it wasn't so much that Darien objected to thieving, it was he objected to stealing things that would get people killed (like the location of a federally protected witness). Now Darien's at least anti-stealing, at least as far as not wanting to pay the consequences goes. So it's maybe a slow progression, but it's something. Maybe he'll abandon stealing all together here eventually.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Widow's Wait

The trailer for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron movie is out. I don't quite know what to make of it. The Hulk is fighting his friends, when Banner doesn't look really sad. Hawkeye's running around in the snow, Captain America's kicking open doors in monasteries. Ultron looks about as good as I could have hoped, but who knows if it'll come together well? Even after all the superhero movies I've seen I enjoyed, I'm still gunshy. Batman and Robin casts a long shadow, and it's very cold.

I didn't really want to talk about the trailer, though. Among the reactions to it elsewhere were some noting that there's still no sign of a Black Widow movie among all of Marvel's projects. It does seem strange Marvel seemingly isn't even trying to make a movie about Scarlett Johansson kicking people in the face and tasing them with the Widow's sting. She seems open to the idea, people seem willing to pay to watch movies where she does cool stuff, Marvel Studios likes money, what's the problem? Are they really worried it wouldn't do well? They're trying to make a Dr. Strange film, not to mention Ant-Man. Guardians of the Galaxy has made over half a billion dollars. I think Black Widow: Choose Your Own Subtitle Because "The Widow's Kiss" Was The Best I Could Manage And That's Terrible would do all right.

Natasha is contacted by some old contact of hers, an informant, an old lover or compatriot in arms, take your pick, who warns her about some major threat. A gene bomb that will randomly mutate a stadium full of people, killing most of them, leaving the rest with wild, likely uncontrollable powers (could play off the idea of Strucker's experiments we heard about at the end of The Winter Soldier, where Wanda and Pietro were the only survivors). Or AIM developed their own Stealth Helicarrier, or there are remnants of the aliens that attacked in the first Avengers flick running about, selling their remaining scraps of technology for some unknown motive. Whatever, Natashe finds out about, but can't get ahold of anyone else as backup, so off she goes. Maybe, I emphasize maybe, Hawkeye could show up late to lend a little assistance, just to continue building the friendship there, but it's still 95% Black Widow.

So Natasha's tracking the leads, using the skills she has none of the rest of the bunch do, but she's a more public figure since all her history got released along with SHIELD and Hydra's. There are a lot of people with scores to settle, for revenge over allies and loved ones she killed, or for plots or weapons buys she thwarted, for humiliations she brought upon them by making it look so easy. While she's hunting whatever we've decided the threat is, all those people are on her tail. It may even be the people she's after who have alerted all these old enemies to her location, to keep her occupied.

Am I hoping this would pit the Black Widow against a host of Marvel's hired guns? Yes. Would I like to see Batroc reappear? Yes. Would I like to see the Black Widow fight Taskmaster? You betcha. Paste Pot Pete (sorry, the Trapster)? Heck yeah. You could even let Natasha be the one who prompts the name change, either now, or in some past meeting, depending on which name you want him to have in the present. Could we play up the "former Russian spy" angle and perhaps get the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes? OK, that's probably pushing it - but what about Arcade? You know you want to see the Black Widow escape Murderworld.

I'm sure they must have a possible script floating around somewhere, it just seems strange they won't go for it. C'mon Marvel, you feel bulletproof right now, don't ya? And you could beat Warner Bros' Wonder Woman movie into the theaters, and then talk big about that, which I'm sure you'd love to do. Just make sure you focus on her being badass and good at what she does, maybe include an attractive guy as either an antagonist, or someone she has to protect for reasons, to give the ladies or interested fellows some equal time gawking. Get a solid plot that keeps things moving, doesn't get bogged down in too many meandering sideplots (like say Amazing Spider-Man 2), some good action set pieces, fights or Natasha avoiding fights by being sneaky and clever. Some good dialogue, maybe let her play up Natasha's sense of humor some (she'd have that sort of fatalistic Russian humor, right?), and there you go. I'm pretty sure it's doable.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dipped My Toe In Spider-Verse And Nearly Got It Bitten Off

'When your mind is a blank, and you've got nothing to post on, you can always trust. . . Dan Slott!'

(sing it to "Downtown")

Not sure how he became the comic writer most likely to do something that causes me to roll my eyes, but here we are. Probably because while Millar is off doing his creator-owned stuff, and Bendis and Hickman are mucking about in sections of the Marvel Universe I can ignore, Slott's got his hand around Spider-Man's throat.

This week, the Spider-Verse event paid a visit to the Spider-Girl universe. One of Morlun's, cronies, cousins, whatever, killed Peter and Mary Jane (and possibly also Mayday's boyfriend Wes, I'm not sure about that), while Mayday took her baby brother Ben and ran. Two Spider-Guys from other universes showed up just in time to tell her it was too late to save her parents, and they escaped. But not before Mayday swore to the trenchcoated murderer that she'd forget everything her parents taught her about being a good person and hero to get revenge on him.

So yeah, Spider-Girl's about the DARK VENGEANCE now. Because a young hero vowing to avenge their dead parents hasn't been done a thousand times before.

The issue before this, Morlun personally paid a visit to the universe for the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon, and slaughtered the lot of them. Even had a nice chuckle about how that Spider-Man literally had no words for what was happening (since nobody ever got killed on the show, I guess, so murder didn't exist until Morlun arrived). I'm not sure what it was supposed to accomplish. I mean, I didn't know which Spider-Man it was until Morlun was leaving and we see Firestar and Iceman's corpses. This isn't even setting up cardboard cutouts just to immediately knock them down and hope for dramatic effect. It's just thrown in casually, after the fact. "Oh yeah, by the way. . ." At least Peter and MJ got to go down fighting together, albeit off-screen.

I don't see the percentage here. If you're someone who doesn't know anything about the characters, the couple of pages they get before their death probably aren't going to sway you. It's possible they could I suppose, I know Mightygodking once argued Marv Wolfman did a good job giving a minor hero (Sunburst) in Crisis on the Infinite Earths a little arc before his off-screen death, but I don't think Slott's putting in the effort to manage that here. If you're a fan of these versions of the characters, are you supposed to be happy about it? To want to keep reading, excited to see if Slott kills off some other alternate version of Spider-Man you like?

I've seen some suggestions among fans online Slott's doing it intentionally to piss people off, that he's said as much at conventions. I have to wonder if that's legit, or if he's just playing a heel. Get some talk going about his book, get people interested to see what everyone is yelling about. Or maybe he got tired of everyone yelling at him about Brand New Day/One More Day and decided, "Heck, if they're going to scream no matter what, I'll give 'em something to scream about." I'm not sure fostering a hate-filled and adversarial relationship with your audience is the best strategy, but history suggests that in the short-term, you can do worse than to write something that will piss everyone off, then count on the fans to buy the comic so they can rail on about how much they hate it. I don't think it's viable long-term, but maybe that's not his concern.

{Brief aside: I will admit I don't understand buying a book you expect to hate. I have bought a lot of comics I hated. If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you know this. But I'm not going into it wanting to hate it, I'm hoping it will be good. Even when I was buying Uncanny X-Men during the Austen run, because I was still very much a completionist and the idea of dropping a book just didn't register, I kept hoping the book would turn around. It never did, but I never stopped hoping. It's the same thing with Hawkeye now. For all I'm disappointed in it, I'm still hoping Fraction and Aja pull it out at the end. It's why I didn't buy Civil War, and why I dropped Amazing Spider-Man before One More Day started: I didn't see any way I'd enjoy either of them, so it was better to not spend money on them. Aside over.}

The funny thing is, as far as I go, Slott's strategy backfired. I had a certain curiosity about Spider-Verse, in no small part because Mayday was going to be involved. Except I had been expecting a couple of the Spider-Guys to show up and ask if she would accompany them to help with this threat. She agrees, hugs her parents, and off we go. She gets to meet 616-Parker, her dad at a younger age. She did this once before, early in her title, but it was during his high school days, so presumably this Parker would be a little more mature. And Parker could meet the daughter he could have had if he didn't reveal his identity to the world like a schmuck, setting a whole series of stupid events in motion that culminate in deals with Mephisto (where he even showed them the daughter they were losing for making the deal).

I'm not sure why Marvel works so hard to make me not want to read Spider-Man comics.

Anyway, I was not expecting Mayday to go on the run as an orphan to keep her baby brother from being eaten by the Douchebag Goth Brigade, to have to leave her parents' (and possibly her boyfriend's) bodies to burn in the remains of her home. I was not expecting her to be out for revenge. Also, I am really concerned at the idea of Spider-Ock being anywhere near a baby with spider-powers. There's no part about that I like. I know he can't die there, because he has to go back and finish the last 10 issues of his title, but he needs to.

I'm not angry, more annoyed he couldn't think of anything better to do. But he's not the first to go for the cheap pop with a quick death he didn't build properly, he won't be the last. I've long ago decided to pretty much ignore anything I don't like. If the writers, editors, and artists can do it, so can I.

The end result is, my interest in Spider-Verse evaporated like water on the highway in Death Valley at noon in July. Not only that, I had been planning to add the various older She-Hulk series to my back issues searches, including Slott's run, but now I'm wondering if I want to bother. It's possible he wasn't always this kind of lazy writer; I picked up Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. earlier this fall, so I know Geoff Johns wasn't always about dismemberment and gratuitous double-page splashes. Writers can change over time, or certain assignments just aren't suited for them. I'm not sure any longer I want to waste the money to find out if that's the case with Dan Slott.

On the plus side, that whole mess did make me want to reread all my Spider-Girl comics, and maybe track down some of the ones I missed or let go of previously. So, uh, thanks, Dan Slott?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Italian Secretary - Caleb Carr

A friend was planning to give it away and asked it I wanted it. I said sure, figuring I can always donate it to a library later if I don't want to keep it. As it stands, I don't think I've read anything of Carr's since The Alienist, which my dad gave to me back in the misty days of junior high. I can't tell you if I enjoyed that book or not, since I probably read it grudgingly, as that was my default response to pretty much anything my parents offered or requested at that time.

In this case, Carr has eschewed stories set during Teddy Roosevelt's tenure as New York City police commissioner in favor on a Sherlock Holmes tale. Mycroft Holmes requests Sherlock and Watson travel to Scotland, where two men involved in the upcoming renovation of the west tower of Holyroode - where Mary, Queen of Scot often stayed until a man named Rizzio, the Italian secretary in question, was murdered by people who didn't want Mary hanging about any dadgumed Catholics - have been found dead, stabbed many, many times. Holmes confounds Watson by not immediately dismissing the notion that the ghost of Rizzio has something to do with it all. I will admit I was also confounded because having Holmes admit the possibility of the supernatural seemed as out of place as having Scooby-Doo contend with real werewolves and ghosts of space aliens, rather than cantankerous people in goofy costumes.

As it turns out, and as Holmes explains near the end, he meant something different than Watson (and I) thought, but Carr still seems to hint at there being a spirit running around the house, and that it was getting involved in the whole mess for some reason. I've no idea why it would get involved, nor does the book offer an explanation, though horror movies have taught me the best explanation is, "ghosts are jerks". Stop bothering innocent living people, innocent dead people!

The story breezes by; I read it in an afternoon, and it didn't seem to cover more than two or three days. Holmes seemed to know basically what was going on by the time they reached the castle, and put the remaining pieces together by that evening. It wasn't a terribly difficult mystery, seeing as I had most of it figured out before the end. I did make a mistake on how they shattered the bones of one of the victims, but on the whole, things were straightforward. I wouldn't consider it essential reading for a Holmes fan or, a fan of mysteries in general.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Man From St. Petersburg - Ken Follett

Spur of the moment buy from a thrift shop. It's the summer of 1914, and the Czar has sent one of his nephews, also an Admiral, to England to negotiate a treaty with the British. The British want Russia onboard as an ally against Germany, the Russians want what they always want: a warm water port. The British enlist one Lord Stephen Walden to handle the negotiations, since he's an uncle to Alecks Orlov by marriage. A small anarchist sect has gotten wind of all this, and one of their members, a Felicks, travels to England. He hopes that an exiled Russian political activist killing the Czar's nephew in England (which allows exiled Russian dissidents within its borders) will put the kibosh on these talks, and spare millions of young Russians from being drawn into a war they know and care nothing about.

There's also the fact that Felicks knew Lady Lydia Walden (Stephen's wife, and Orlov's aunt) long ago, before her marriage, and the Walden's daughter, Charlotte, has reached the age of 18, which means she's being sent out into society now. But she's much more interested in the inequity of the world she's just now seeing, the fact of which - along with quite a few other things - her parents have kept from her.

I guess I had missed early on when they mentioned the year, so for quite some time I was wondering if Follett was going to explore the futility of Felicks' act. After all; the Russians got drawn into the war because they decided to tangle with the Austro-Hungarians over Serbia (or they saw that as a good opportunity to start a fight that might net them territory). So it seemed as though, even if Felicks succeeded, it wouldn't matter. As it turns out, Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated during the course of the book, and Felicks does contemplate whether he can accomplish anything at this point. But he carries forward, and as it turns out, still isn't allowed to accomplish anything.

I'm actually curious who, if anyone, Follett expects us to root for here. Felicks is at least trying to minimize casualties, but he's willing to kill, willing to burn down an entire building just to smoke out his target. And he's willing to use people who care for him to achieve his goals. He might feel bad about it, but he does it anyway. He is capable of kindness, especially towards people worse off than he is, and his intent is to try and keep many people from dying in a war, by killing just one of the people who treats them as disposable pawns. And he finds essentially all of England's constabulary, government, and even military set against him.

Walden is the very model of conservative English landed gentry. He and Orlov have a conversation where Orlov asks for half of Thrace to be given to the Russians. After all, they would prefer Russian rule to Ottoman. Walden notes they would prefer self-rule even more, and Orlov basically laughs and responds that neither he, Walden, not either of their respective governments actually care what the Thracians want, and Walden agrees. Which pretty well sums it up for Walden. He's had a very privileged life, but either he can't see that, or he does see it but has decided it suits him just fine.

Lydia drives me nuts because she can't make a decision. When confronted with a man from her past, set against her present family, even once she understands Felicks goal and that Stephen bars his path, she chooses to . . . take laudanum. Swell. I suppose I feel bad for her, because a lot of her actions and decisions over the previous 18 years seemed to be in reaction to how she was raised, and the fact she was told feelings and thoughts which are totally natural, were actually wrong and evil, and she was wrong to be having them. So I think she drugs herself to try and shut that part of herself down. But at a certain, she needs to do SOMETHING. At least try to warn Felicks off, or convince him to run away with her. Or warn Stephen. Or warn Orlov. Or kill one or all of them herself. But flippin' take action, make a choice, even if it's a conscious decision to sit back and see how things play out. I wouldn't necessarily respect her for that, but I might more than I do for trying to drug herself to the point she forgets what she was worrying about entirely.

Follett spends a lot of time demonstrating the British upper class haven't a clue what it's like for the lower classes. They have all the resources, all the power, and they use it to ensure their goals are carried out. And at the end, after Felicks actually did outmaneuver them, they use their influence to essentially wipe away Felicks' act, and indeed, his very existence. So I guess I was supposed to root for the underdog, or maybe it's just me. I rooted for the assassin when I read The Day of the Jackal, too. Or it's Charlotte who is the key. Seeing the world, being outraged by poverty, by the way women are treated, are ignored, are blamed for things that are done to them, and wanting to change all that. Maybe the point is that Felicks' methods won't work, because there are always more aristocrats than a lone person can handle, but the aristocrats will gradually be overcome by the subsequent generations, who will see the world differently, and won't be satisfied with as much of it as their predecessors.

'The train appeared, smoke billowing from the funnel of the engine. I could kill Orlov now, Felicks thought, and he felt momentarily the thrill of the hunter as he closes with his prey; but he had already decided not to do the deed today. He was here to observe, not to act. Most anarchist assassinations were bungled because of haste or spontaneity, in his view. He believed in planning and organization, which were anathema to many anarchists; but they did not realize that a man could plan his own actions - it was when he began to organize the lives of others that he became a tyrant.'

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Paranormal Activity 2

The off-and-on horror movie watching spree continues. I watched Paranormal Activity some years ago with Alex, and it was solid. I was watching for the moments where something would start moving closely enough none of it had much success at surprise scares, but it had its strong points. The sequel actually takes place about two months before the first movie, as Kristi (the sister of Katie from the first one, and Katie and her idiot boyfriend Micah appear here as well) and Daniel celebrate the birth of their first son.

Then things start moving around, there are noises, their older, possibly Latin American housekeeper/nanny Martine keeps burning sage in the house, the dog keeps flipping out. You know, the usual stuff. An early incident, where practically everything in the house was tossed around, led Daniel to have a lot of security cameras set around the house, and so that's how we see a lot of the film. The rest is through handheld cameras character have for various reasons. They're documenting the child's early life, Daniel's teenage daughter from an earlier relationship, Ali, starts carrying one because what's happening around the house is freaking her out.

I guess the subsequent films continue to go back in time and address why this presence is around, but through this film and the first one, you only really know that it seems fixated on either Kristi or Katie, but you aren't sure why, or what can be done about it. Martine knows a way to get it off Kristi's back, but this ultimately accomplishes nothing. It diverts the threat for a time, but it really only succeeds in getting more people killed. This is probably isn't accurate, but it's what I think Lovecraft stories are a bit like: Character confronted with something they can't really fight, that's pursuing goals they don't understand, and which tends to break all the ideas they have about how things are supposed to be.

Of course, Dan's response to all the strange happenings is to insist there is some logical explanation, which for him is apparently, "blame my teenage daughter and her mop-topped boyfriend". When we watched The Conjuring, we all appreciated the fact that the husband didn't try to dismiss his wife's concerns, and supported her seeking outside assistance. By the time Dan gets on that track, it's way too late for anything other than ineffective damage control. At one point near the end, he literally leaves Ali alone with Kristi and the baby because he can't put off meeting with some guys from Portland any longer. This coming the morning after the dog had a "seizure". Brilliant work there, Dan. None of us felt terribly bad for him. I did feel really bad for Ali and the dog, Abby. Poor dog, just trying to protect that baby, and no one was helping it.

It's basically like the first one: You watch the screen, and wait to see something move that shouldn't be moving. Then you wait to see if someone reacts to it or if something else starts moving and they react to that. It's strength in being able to scare you comes from the fact that for me, at least, the characters I cared about were the ones most aware something was wrong, but least willing or able to just get away. And I didn't find it likely the presence would flinch at collateral damage.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Picking Up Where We Left Off. . .

Calvin: *monotone* {Well, now that Deadpool has finished destroying the coffee pot and my coworkers have finished cooing over you, Clever Adolescent Panda, we are free to continue over conversation from just a few minutes ago while continuing to eat delicious cookies.}

Deadpool: [That was the driest, most boring exposition ever. And it was a week ago.]

Calvin: {You're crazy, it is still Columbus Day! Stop being crazy Deadpool! Wait, what am I saying?}

Clever Adolescent Panda: It was a week. He really smashed that coffee pot.

Deadpool: [Along with the other two coffee pots and a breadmaker!] 

CAP: And a microwave.

Deadpool:*wistful*  [Oh yeah, I really smashed that thing good.]

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *sarcastically, as she puts instant oatmeal in other microwave* Yeah, thanks a lot for wrecking the big microwave. Great work.

Calvin: {Yeah, those belonged to my coworkers, Wade. I'm gonna need you to replace those.}

Deadpool: [I'm not going to be doing that.]

Calvin: {CAP, if you please?}


Deadpool: [OK, OK, I'll get new ones.] *accusatory* [I thought you weren't a fan of forcing people to be good.]

Calvin: {I'm not, but it has its uses.}

CAP: Forget that, what about me?! My fur is nearly gone from all that petting. And I feel all jangly, like it's weird nobody's petting me now. Somebody pet me and tell me I'm pretty!

Deadpool: [Aw, it's baby's first fetish! *sniff* Always a proud day for a parent.]

CAP: Ew.

Calvin: *sighs, leans forward, resting forehead against his fingers* {Yeah, sorry about that. It was a long week for them, too, and they have poor impulse control. It's over now, they'll keep their distance now that Wade threatened to drink all their alcohol, so we can get back to other matters. You wanted to pay UnCalvin a visit, right?}

Deadpool: [My unrequited? I mean, ex-unrequited, because I'm a happily married man.]

CAP: Does that count if it's in another continuity?

Calvin: {I frown on cheating, so I'm going to say yes, yes it does.}

Deadpool: [What about your tourism slogan: What's happens on Earth-58008, stays on Earth-58008.]

Calvin: {I told you, Deadpool, this is not Earth-Boobs if you look at the calculator upside down!}

CAP: Why wouldn't it just be Earth-80085? Why does it need to be upside-down?

Calvin: {You know, I don't remember.}

Deadpool: [Me, either, but that's no surprise.]

Calvin: {Something to do with how the numbers look on an old-style calculator? The 5 looks more like an "s" upside-down? I don't know. Anyway, we've padded this thing out sufficiently, so no infidelity for Wade, and a visit to UnCalvin pending?}

CAP: I can't show up with all these bare patches!

Deadpool: [Heh, "bear".]

CAP: *glowers* Wade, don't start with me. They'll all laugh at me. Her security is supposed to be terrified of me!

Deadpool: [You know, people used to laugh at me. But then I let them see who I was underneath the mask, and they started to scream. Then I stabbed them.]

CAP: What?!

Calvin: {Umm, what I'm going to take from that is, once you start tearing through them, they'll fear you again. And maybe you won't even have to fight. We could just show up and ask to see Blender Furby. I bet if we're polite, UnCalvin will just let us in to see it, so we go away without destroying anything.}

Deadpool: [I'd like to vote against this "ask nicely" plan, and speak in favor of maximum devastation.]

CAP: No, he's right, it'll probably work. But I still don't want to go out like this.

Calvin: {You can borrow my blue hoodie.}

CAP: I don't know. . .

Calvin: {Your choices are the hoodie, my rain jacket/trashbag suit, and this orange shirt I got from a dentist's office. Or you can take your chances with what's in Wade's pouches.}

Deadpool: [I almost definitely have clean underwear in here someplace. Also, Kevlar.]

CAP: Kevlar's tempting, but I'll take the hoodie. As soon as I get some more of these cookies. They're fantastic!

Deadpool: [I know, they taste like rum and cordite!]

CAP: I was thinking Kool-Aid and warm soup, but OK. You don't want any Calvin?

Calvin: {No, better I don't. The secret ingredient is love.}

Crowd noise: Awwwwwwww.

CAP: What the hell was that?

Calvin: {No idea.}

Deadpool: [Who cares? Gimme another cookie!]

CAP: Seriously, though what's in these cookies?

Calvin: {I told you, love. There's a bunch of elves, or gnomes, or something, down the road. They take things with strong feelings of love attached, melt them down, and stir them into the cookies.}

CAP: What?!

Calvin: {Well, they tried making them with hate. Plenty of that to go around. Overabundance, really, when the birders were here. But everyone complained the cookies were bitter and sour. Love's less abundant, which is what makes each bite taste so special. Or so they say. Could just be pharmaceuticals in there.}

Deadpool: [So I could be eating some little girl's happy memories of playing with her Big Wheel?] *pushes away from table* [THIS WILL NOT STAND!] *grabs another cookie*

CAP: He's right, why haven't you done anything about it?

Calvin: {Hmm, let's see. For one, I don't know where it is exactly. In case you haven't noticed, we're in a forest, there are a lot of freaking trees. I tried asking the Ghost of the Forest, but I haven't heard anything from it since. Don't even know if it went looking. Two, they're little magic cookie making forest critters. I'm not qualified to handle something like that. But you guys are, so yeah, let's go get 'em.}

CAP: But you don't know where they are.

Deadpool: [I've got it! We'll burn the whole forest down! I just need a jet fighter and some napalm!]

Calvin: {NO.}

Deadpool: [I can make it work with a crop dusting plane, lighter fluid, and some matches.]

Calvin: {Still no.}

CAP: He's right. We have to rescue all the items they've stolen, and return as many as we can. But we still have to find them.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass (Still waiting on oatmeal. "Instant", my eye): They're in a walnut tree at that bend in the road with the berm before you get to the mailbox, about 40 yards down the back slope towards the pond. I can show it to you when we get there.

CAP: How do you know?

Calvin: {She has very good vision.}

Deadpool: *flatly* [Really.]

Makes Brakes Fail And Sees Things Lass: Yeah, I also know exactly what time it is when I wake up without looking at a clock!

Deadpool: *deadpan* [Wow, Cyclops and Wolverine will be fighting it out to recruit you.]

Has The Power Of Lots and Lots of Powers Lass: Cyclops? Blech. What a loser.

Deadpool: [While I concur that he is terrible, you'll never get the cool recruitment visit gifts if you don't play them against each other. You want car dealerships to give you a new ride under the table, don't you?]

Has The Power of Lots and Lots of Powers Lass: I'd rather they paid off my student loan debt.

Deadpool: [Let's not gets nuts. We're talking about a pair of paramilitary organizations with state-of-the-art technology and security. Not some magical world where elephants sneeze platinum for peanuts.]

CAP: Let's get going!

Lots of Powers Lass: OK, just let me grab my oatmeal.

*opens microwave door*

*oatmeal explodes in her face*

Lots of Powers Lass: Dammit technology!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.7 - Insensate

Plot: Darien comes home at night to find a strange little man in his apartment. Thomas Walker claims to be largely insensate, save for a sense of touch, and a sensor array that allows for some rudimentary sense of sight and sound through electrodes that connect to his head. He's looking for Kevin Fawkes, who worked on the project that made Thomas this way, along with a man named Augustin Gaither. Thomas was hoping Kevin could undo what has been done to him, but on learning Kevin is dead, is somewhat despondent. Darien on the other hand, is intrigued by the possibility this Augustin may have worked with Kevin on the gland, and so maybe he could remove it. In the meantime, though, Kevin directs Darien to a building filled with other subjects of the experiments, ones with no senses at all.

But Darien's snooping did not go unnoticed, and the man in charge of that ward (a real Heston/Rutger Hauer looking old man badass) is so powerful, even the Official is cowed by him when he comes a calling. I mean really cowed, like Charlie can't make eye contact. The Official orders Hobbes to find Darien and find out what's going on, but this results in the two of them and Thomas being grabbed by a bunch of guys in SWAT gear and thrown in a room. Thomas tells them they're prisoners of the SWRB: Secret Weapons Research Branch, which Hobbes insists is a myth, but the rumors are it has no oversight, reports to no one, and the people who work there aren't nice people. Some of those not nice people barge in and grab Thomas, despite Darien and Bobby's attempts to protect him. Fortunately, the Fat Man shows up and bails them out, then orders them to forget everything. Which Darien ignores, and he and Hobbes go back, and Darien rescues Thomas, tossing him in the van with Hobbes, then going back by himself to capture Augustin.

But the evil Rutger Hauer guy isn't Augustin. Thomas Walker is Augustin. Tommy Walker was the name of the project, named after the character in Pinball Wizard. Darien is able to talk his way out of this problem by leveraging the importance of the gland, and by promising to hand Augustin/Thomas to the SWRB guys after he finds out what he knows about the gland. As soon as the uncuff him and put him in a nice Humvee, Darien bolts. But Nameless Scary Guy anticipated this double-cross and slipped a tracker on Darien's jacket. Darien reaches the safe house, where Hobbes has made calzone for Augustin, who of course, can't taste it. Darien accuses Augustin of hiding his identity, but the man seems completely bewildered by all this, and then the SWRB blows up the house with some tiny tinkertoy looking plasma cannon. But Darien got them all out safely. Back at the Agency, the Official isn't happy but has agreed to set up Augustin in a basement cell, contingent on them finding a psychologist that can draw those repressed memories out.

Quote of the Episode: Thomas Walker - 'You'd be surprised how much you can remember when you have no place to go but inside your head.'

The "oh crap" count: 3 (10 overall)

Who's getting quoted this week? Shakesspeare said the thief fears each bush is a cop, Hitchcock said the terror is in the anticipation, and some Russian author whose name I must have written down wrong because I can't find him online said something about it being best not to recollect at all.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (2 overall). Surprising considering how much he snuck around this week.

Other: Second week of Fawkes trying for a way to get the gland out. They'd actually moved away from "Fawkes attempts to get gland out" story of the week for awhile, but it's come back a bit here. I also thought it was interesting that while Darien was horrified by Augustin's experiments (and was concerned Kevin had been a part of it), he never loses sight of that possibility Augustin is his way out. Sure, he wants to protect Thomas, but it's an open question whether he's more concerned with Thomas or himself. I mentioned last week that I'd be curious to see fallout from Kevin's decision to not get the gland out, and I wonder if this is the start of that.

I do find it interesting Darien keeps interacting with these evil overlord types, and keeps making agreements with them, only for Darien to immediately double-cross them. Stark a few weeks back, this nameless guy this week. These are the bad guys, but the hero is the one breaking his word. Sure, Nameless Guy was almost certainly going to kill Fawkes, Hobbes, and Augustin even if Darien played it straight with him, so I guess credit to Darien for striking first. Still, little odd for the good guy to not wait to be betrayed, then find a way to work around it. But it suits Darien being a thief, not entirely an honorable profession. He'd have learned to be ready for the double-cross from working with other thieves.

I don't have much else to say about this episode. I feel Nameless Guy would have worked better as an antagonist if there hadn't been all the hoodwinkery about him being Augustin. Like, what's his deal? How did he get in that position? How does he know the Official, and what's their backstory? It's hard to figure out his character, because the episode was so deliberately trying to obfuscate who he was.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

He Doesn't Get A Spoon Until Issue 7

I picked up The Tick: The Complete Edlund collection a month or so ago. There are a lot of Tick comics, I was curious, and starting at the beginning seemed like the best idea.

I'm pretty sure I'd read some older collection of some of this in a bookstore in the '90s, because I remembered the Tick fighting lots of ninjas and being very confused by that (my only experience with the character having been the cartoon up to that point). Early on, Edlund pokes at Superman a little bit by having the Tick meet a Clark Kent analogue called the Caped Wonder (from the planet Otter Creek) who believes himself the protector of The City. Shortly after that, it shifts to more of a Frank Miller Daredevil pastiche with "Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas" (also, "Early Morning of a Million Zillion Ninjas". Complete with a lady ninja in a familiar (albeit color-swapped to yellow) outfit named Oedipus. Oedipus Ashley Stevens.

Arthur, the Tick's sidekick, doesn't appear until near the end of that story, and he asks to work with the Tick because he wants an extraordinary life and was finding that difficult to manage on his own, even with the flying suit. They leave the City shortly thereafter (because there's very little crime), get into a few hijinks on the road, and eventually reach New York City, where there are so many superheroes they have to reserve a section of street ahead of time to patrol, and there's still almost no super-villains to fight. By the end of all that, Tick and Arthur decide they want to go back to the City, though the next collection was Karma Tornado, and they didn't do it there. Because that was sort of a placeholder while people waited to see if Edlund came back to work on the characters some more. I wasn't as enamored with that one, maybe because it felt a little too obvious it was spinning its wheels.

It's interesting how different Tick is initially. Maybe it's due to the story opening with him escaping from a mental institute, but at times he's almost sinister. While he's working at the newspaper (as Mr. Nedd, the new crossword editor) he seems to delight in tormenting the Jimmy Olsen analogue, and in making life difficult for the Caped Wonder. I'm not sure how much of it is meant to be purposeful, and how much is the Tick unwittingly using his power of dramatics. Apparently his presence will make any situation more dramatic. So maybe he's behaving that way to try and spark a hero versus hero brawl. But when it nearly happens, he immediately breaks Clark's glasses, and here comes the Olsen analogue, so Clark has to stop fighting and come up with some ludicrous way to maintain his secret identity. It's like Tick's genre savvy without realizing it.

Some of the Tick's more ominous air is probably the inking. The book is all in black and white, and for the first half of it, the Tick's costume is basically presented as black. Which makes him this huge dark presence on the page. In the latter half, after he and Arthur have teamed up, he's mostly presented as being lighter, with occasional shadows where appropriate. He's a brighter presence at that point. In general, I think Edlund's linework gets stronger in the second half, and he cuts down on the hatching and some of the excess little lines, relies on shading more. I think it works better. The Tick plays out as kind of an old-style superhero, and so the more solid look, with fewer lines fits him well, as a square-jawed do-gooder.

Though the Tick's do-gooding is mostly incidental. As he remarks at one point, he doesn't want to stop crime, he wants to fight it. He's really excited when he gets a super-villain to fight. When an innocent person gets hurt, he responds by getting depressed, questioning his purpose, and then destroying stuff.

There was one sequence in the book I couldn't quite decide on. When Tick first accompanies Arthur back to his apartment, there's a moment where Tick becomes concerned Arthur is. . . funny. Arthur responds that no, he isn't. . . funny. They both agree heroes shouldn't be. . . funny. Then decide they need beers. Manly beers. So is Edlund commenting on the people who makes jokes about two guys in spandex living together, or on the writers and fans who are so eager to assert that no, there's nothing like that about it all, or is he making the "hurr, hurr, two guys in spandex living together" joke himself? The fact that it's Tick and Arthur each getting very eager to prove they aren't. . . funny, by getting beers makes me think it's the second one, but I'm not sure. I just could not decide what Edlund was going for there.

That brief bit aside, it's an interesting book for watching the shift in the Tick over time, and the second half of the book provides the kinds of Tick stories I was expecting. It also introduces a lot of characters and plotlines that made it into the cartoon (though they were often recombined in new ways on TV), as well as some that didn't, but that I would very much like to see followed up on. The first half of the book, while not what I was expecting, was still pretty cool just for seeing the Tick in a story where he seemed so out of place. A battle to preserve or destroy the soul of ninjutsu is perhaps more deep (or attempting to be deep) than what you'd expect for him. Bad guy tries to carve his name into the moon with a laser? Sure, that sounds like something for the Tick. A story about whether opening up something to any schmoe with a few bucks cheapens it, and whether that gives someone who truly loves it the right to destroy it, that's a little more heavy. So it's neat in that it's unusual, and it does give the Tick the opportunity to fight a whole lot of guys all at once, which is something that suits him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Like Little Big League, But With A Horse

Having seen his handiwork throughout the NLCS, I'm pretty sure the Cardinals could replace Mike Matheny with one of those horses who picks football games by tapping the picture of the team, and it would constitute an improvement.

'OK Manager Buttercup (or Royal King, or whatever you name horses), we've laid out pictures of all the players. Now who bats leadoff?'

*horse taps Matt Carpenter's picture*

'Great! What position will he play today?'

*horse taps ground 5 times*

'3rd base, good call.'

Also, a manager might finally win an argument with an umpire. Imagine being an ump and a freaking horse comes charging out of the dugout to dispute your call. You gonna toss a hose from a game? I don't think so. Those things have big teeth. Also, they can stomp on you. Not sure what kind of suspension MLB would levy for stomping an ump to death, but as long as the horse is wearing MLB-approved gear, I'm sure it won't be too bad.

Mostly, I'm pretty sure the horse won't decide that in the 9th inning of a tie game the team has to win to stay alive, that it's a good idea to use a pitcher who hasn't pitched in three weeks. I can't even fathom the train of thought that made that seem like a sound decision, outside of "Man, I really want to start my winter vacation."

Of course, there could be some clubhouse communication problems, and they'd have to replace the dugout steps with a nice ramp so Manager Horse could enter and exit safely. Don't need a manager with a broken leg. But those are minor details, and the horse might enjoy it. I'm sure all the players would try to feed it apples and carrots in exchange for more playing time, and the team would be able to market all sorts of new merchandise for horsey-loving young girls and boys who would adopt them as their favorite team.

Yup, I really don't see any possible flaws in this plan.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Can Scott Pilgrim Overcome How Bad I Am At Fighting Games?

I finally went ahead and downloaded a game from XBox Live Arcade. Two actually, but the old Sega Genesis title Comix Zone is kicking my rear, so there's not much to say. I haven't even finished the second "page". So, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.

It's a game based on the comic storyline, styled as an old-school NES beat 'em up. The game doesn't waste any time on the whole thing where Scott was dating Ramona before he broke up with Knives, or the part where he got kind of whiny about the whole "attacked by evil exes" thing. Which means I didn't spend the majority of the game wanting to see him punched in the face like I did during the movie. Too bad it still happened a lot. Sorry, Scott.

You move through levels, fighting loads of various henchmen types, periodic mini-bosses, and eventually, each level ends with a fight against one of the 7 evil exes. You level up as you go along, learning new moves, and there are stores where you can step in to buy food to boost your health, or other supplies to boost your stats. I don't understand why the leveling up doesn't boost your stats, though. Isn't that pretty standard in games that have leveling up? You get stronger, faster, etc. Here, that only happens if you buy stuff to specifically do it. Oh, beating up people gives you money. I guess I rob their pummeled bodies. Hey, they attacked me first, unless I was able to get the drop on them.

I've never been much good at these sorts of games. Not fast enough, or I'm not smart enough about knowing when to stop attacking and start blocking, something like that. At least this game gives infinite continues, and allows you to save your progress. I appreciate that. I've managed to beat it twice so far, with Scott and Kim. The most consistently frustrating part is the battle with Gigadeon. He's the second stage in the 4 (or 6, depending on how you look at it) part final boss battle. He just never seems to die, especially once he knocks me off the ledge and I lose the really awesome sword. And he's really cheap. He punches me off the ledge, I fall, lose some health, reappear on the cliff. If I don't hit block instantly, he punches me off again. He'll keep that up as many times as it takes to kill me if he can. And, of course, he can just attack me while I'm in the middle of hitting him. I hate that kind of crap.

But it's usually a lot of fun. When I did manage to beat the game, I felt happy about that, even if Scott's ending didn't seem entirely right. You can go back and play earlier levels whenever you want, to level up some more, get more money, or just because you want to have easy fights. I liked the look of the game, it captures Bryan Lee O'Malley's art style, but also looks like an 8-bit video game. Each character gets their own variations on the basic style of attacks, and their own more specialized moves. Kim has this nifty attack when she's in the air where she can dive feet first at an enemy, then bounce back up in the air, and do it again and again, at the same person or a different target.

I love the music, it's all very good for wanting to run around and fight various people. There's even a generic big guy goon in the early levels with a douchey fedora. I really enjoy fighting him, maybe because he's a little bit of a challenge at low levels, so it's nice to see him later on, when I can take him out in one or two hits. Satisfying.

I'm definitely disappointed I have to shell out for downloadable content if I want to be able to play as Knives. She was my favorite character in the movie (her or Wallace, but he didn't do any fighting). She is the default support character, but that means she pops up for a second and helps when you call her. You can also fight and defeat her father, then he'll show up sometimes. Haven't gotten him to show up to help Kim yet. I think it's random. Anyway, it's a really fun game when I'm not getting frustrated enough with that one boss fight that I want to throw the controller.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Horrifying Return Of The "Civil War" Post Label

So Marvel's thinking about doing Civil War with their movies, starting it off or building it up in Captain America 3. Which makes me not want to see Captain America 3, something I wouldn't have considered possible after I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Such is the awe-inspiring revulsion of Civil War.

And the comics, never one to pass up a half-assed opportunity to synergize with their cinematic universe, may be planning to redo Civil War in the comics as well. Sigh. Look, it's not that there isn't a potentially interesting story in there, assuming you hand the job to someone other than Mark Millar. That doesn't mean it's a story I want to see redone. You're not going to convince me government oversight of superheroes is a good idea in a fictional universe where said government is routinely infiltrated by the Red Skull and Mystique, which gives a Cabinet post to a drunken former weapons dealer (Stark), when it isn't handing government agencies to complete psychopaths (Osborn). Given the way things are going these days, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't trust our government to have control of someone like Spider-Man, let alone a Hulk, given how people with power seemed inclined to abuse it these days. Assuming they were ever allowed to do anything*, it would probably wind up being something awful.

There's also the downside that this news lead to other people describing Civil War in articles, and calling the New Warriors D-list, or implying they were totally outclassed by flippin' Nitro. Sure, the team that faced the Juggernaut, Terrax, and the Sphinx can't handle Blows Himself Up Guy. Well, not when Millar is writing, obviously, but see, now I'm angry about that all over again. I had pretty much shoved the general stupidity of that whole event into the back corners of my mind, and here someone went and dragged it into the light again.

I'm hoping it would be relegated to a small mini-series that exists off by itself. Something that can be easily packaged into a single trade you can put in a bookstore for people who see the movie and are curious. Not the huge, sprawling, invasive mess the original was. The last Civil War played at least a part in the decrease in Marvel comics I bought over a span of several years. The tone it established for much of the line, the fact it was a success, so Marvel did more BIG EVENTS which also derailed books I had been previously enjoying. I'd rather not have a repeat of all that.

* I have this picture of the alien invasion in the Avengers movie, and the heroes aren't there, because they have to wait for the President to get Congress to declare war against this invading force. But the Republicans want to use conventional military, and demand more funding for it, which they suggest can be found by defunding the Affordable Care Act. So nothing gets done and Manhattan is destroyed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dealing With Space Stuff Comes With The Name

At some point during this run on Ms. Marvel, I'd like for Kamala to meet a giant alien blob. Who farts wormholes. Yes, just like the one in her Wolverine-and-Storm-in-space fanfic. I leave it up to the creative team whether she encounters it because it read her story and was a huge fan (or was outraged by its portrayal), or for other, more mundane reasons. You know, like one of the wormholes swallowed her school with a bunch of people in it, including Kamala, and now they're on the other side of the galaxy in Badoon territory or something.

The Marvel Universe is a big, weird place. Why can't there be creatures who can create wormholes, whether consciously or not? Heck, there's probably at least one Inhuman who can do it among all the new ones. There are plenty of teleporting mutants, and ones who can open portals of a sort. Maybe the Blob has been creating wormholes for years when he breaks wind, it's just he doesn't notice, and everyone else in the area is dead from the smell, so they don't see them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Did This Today For One Joke

*We open on a familiar set of low whit buildings set atop a hill. The rain falls in vertical sheets as a lone blue truck with a white camper shell pulls up. One person steps out, covered in a set of shiny green plastic rain pants and coat, the hood obscuring their face. They swing a backpack over their shoulder and trudge through the rain into the building furthest to the west. Inside is the main living room, and we and the backpack haver find two figures flipping over couch cushions and going through cabinets frantically. One is a large, furry animal with black and white fur. The other is probably human, judging by the shape, carrying a lot of weapons, wearing a red-and-black outfit, and talking incessantly. The lone person observes them, unnoticed for the few seconds it takes for the door to slam shut behind him. When it does, the other two look up.*

Deadpool: [Gah! It's Trashbag Man! Stand back, little friend! I'll fend off his barrage of old Chinese takeout and dirty diapers with my, well, I don't really want to get that stuff all over my sword. I just cleaned it yesterday. Bullets would spray it everywhere. Maybe a couch cushion? They're already covered with waste.]

Clever Adolescent Panda (CAP, for short): Wade, I'm pretty sure that's Calvin. Also, put down the cushion. Even your healing factor may not be a match for what's on it.

Calvin: *exasperated* {What are you two doing here?}

CAP: We just wanted to visit?

Calvin: {Randomly, on a Monday? I am highly dubious.}

CAP: Umm.  . .

Deadpool: [We wanted to celebrate Columbus Day, so we barged into some place that wasn't ours, took anything we liked and trashed the rest. We forgot to bring diseases, though.]

Calvin: *sarcastically* {Really, between the anti-vaxxers and Ebola, that should have been the easiest part.}

Deadpool: *enthusiastically* [You'd think so, but. . .]

Calvin: {Wade, I haven't seen the sun in 5 days, and I've been rained on each of the last 4 days. I'm wet, my knee hurts, I'm not catching anything good, and I have a rapidly growing list of things irritating me you two are about to be added to if you don't get to the point.}

CAP: He must be angry if he's listing things. Just tell him.

Deadpool: *sheepish* [The last time we were here, those birders went through my pouches and I'm missing a lot of stuff. My super-bouncy ball, that TV Guide from the week Golden Girls premiered, the adamantium-tipped bullet I carry. . .]

Calvin: {Wade, that was 5 months ago. You're just coming back now?}

Deadpool: [Look, I have a lot of pouches, and I don't need everything all the time, so I didn't notice. Then you try remembering when you could have lost something with my memory. I was experimented on by Weapon X, you know. It was really traumatic.]

Calvin: {You're right, Wade. I'm sorry. Let me get out of this stuff, and we can look together.} *Calvin hangs up his keys and departs room*

CAP: Wait, did you say adamantium-tipped bullet?

Deadpool: [Probably. As much as I talk, the odds of any certain combination of words landing together are pretty good.]

CAP: Why do you need an adamantium-tipped bullet?

Deadpool: [To kill Wolverine. I'll be a comic legend after that.]

CAP: At least that explains why the Death of Wolverine event is running late. You screwed up your job.

Deadpool: [Look, I explained to Soule and Brevoort it was a bad idea to give me the bullet so far in advance. You know those kids, they give them one cookie and say they can have two more if they wait 10 minutes before eating the first one? I'm the one that can't wait.]

CAP: So you already used the bullet on someone?

Deadpool: [Bullet? I'm talking about cookies. But yes, I probably would have shot Flagsmasher with it if I hadn't lost it already.]

Calvin: *returns in a dry set of clothes* {Wade, the birders have been gone for almost three months. Their rooms are in the same hall as mine. You can take a look, but I bet your stuff got taken or else tossed.}

*After an extensive search, our three main characters return to the living room for cookies and beverages:  Milk for the panda, beer for Deadpool, and soda for Calvin.*

CAP: At least we found your garrote and a travel-sized thing of Kleenex.

Deadpool: [Plus, this skunked beer and some porno! And a surge protector! It's like a death auction for some redneck serial killer!]

CAP: Was that blood on the garrote when you lost it?

Calvin: {We didn't find it in the birder hall, so maybe not. Some of my coworkers were pretty stressed back in June.}

Deadpool: [Eh, maybe? Who can keep track? I have a lot of weapons to take care of, including the one in my pants.] *reaches into pants*

CAP: Wade, no! *buries face in adorable fuzzy arms*

Calvin: {Aw geez, we talked about public indecency!} *looks down at his soda, shields peripheral vision with one hand*

Coffeepot: Oh, real high class humor we got going on here.

Deadpool: [See? It's a handgun with an absurdly long barrel. Like that one Nicholson had in Batman. What did you think I meant?] 

CAP: Whew.

Coffeepot: *pfft*

Calvin: {Wade, are you sure you don't have any badgers on your person?}

Deadpool: [As sure as my tenuous grip on sanity allows. You are Calvin, right?]

Calvin: {Yes.}

Deadpool: [Then yes, I'm sure I don't have any badgers.]

CAP: What is it with you and badgers?

Calvin: {They're cool, and also, it seems like the sort of thing Deadpool would carry around to randomly throw at enemies.}

Coffeepot: Just run it into the ground, why don't ya?

Deadpool: [See here, that's animal cruelty and I would never engage in such an activity. Although it does sound pretty cool. You think if I called up Hank Pym, he'd shrink me down some badgers I could carry around and enlarge when I wanted to use them?]

CAP: No.

Calvin: {If you catch him at the right time. Get him in his Yellowjacket persona, he'd think it was a hoot.}

CAP: He'd also think it was a "hoot" to zap Wade with his biolelectric stinger thing, dress him up like Giant Man, and kill him as a way of killing himself.

Calvin: {Then Wade doesn't feel bad when he kills him.}

Deadpool: [That's true, I wouldn't.]

*During all this, one of Calvin's coworkers gets in from the field. It's Makes Brakes Fail Lass, who notices the firearm Wade has left sitting on the table.*

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Oooh, that's a cool gun. Can I check it out?

Deadpool: [Why certainly! Still haven't tried that career change, huh? It can be scary, I know. I was a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, until this old woman thought I was a robber and hit me with a broom. Then I realized print was dead and needed a new career. Or did I learn that from Ghostbusters?]

Calvin: {Wade, don't let her -} *barrel falls off* {- handle that weapon.}

Deadpool: *horrified* [What did you do?!]

Calvin: {Her powers mutated again. Now she makes other people's weapons break.}

Makes Brakes (and Weapons) Fail Lass: That is not true. I didn't do anything to that rifle of yours!

Calvin: {Really? Too bad I'm the one writing the story!}

CAP: *examining remains of the gun* This barrel looks like it detaches.

Deadpool: *slaps forehead* [Right. I forgot it does that because it's really hard to carry around with you otherwise.]

Coffeepot: Can't handle any real emotional weight, can you?

Makes Brakes (and Maybe Weapons?) Fail Lass: See?

Calvin: {Whatever.} *bites into cookie*

CAP: I've been meaning to ask, what's the deal with the coffeepot?

Calvin: {It's a Sarcastic Coffeepot. It makes cutting remarks or dismissive noises about things going on around it.}

CAP: That doesn't sound like a very good product.

Sarcastic Coffepot: Ooooooh, listen to the marketing executive here! A real visionary! Hey, 1947 called, it wants its talking animals with no pants back.

CAP: Hey, you shut up!

Deadpool: [I don't know. I've been in the market for an appliance that makes me feel bad about my life choices every morning.]

Sarcastic Coffeepot: That diet soda won't make up for those 5 cookies you just ate!

Calvin: *ignores Sarcastic Coffeepot* {Good luck with that. It could out-talk Deadpool. I'm pretty sure UnCalvin made it based off the Blender Furby.}

CAP: What? UnCalvin made this?

Deadpool: [What? You think it can outtalk me? I'll take that challenge!]

Sarcastic Coffeepot: You don't want any of this, you walking piece of chewed gum! You're gonna need all the self-esteem you can get after Marvel over-exposes you and then has to cancel your books because everyone gets sick of you!

Deadpool: [What do you know? You're just a stupid, one-note character with no redeeming values!]

Sarcastic Coffeepot: Game recognize game, is that what you're saying?

*Meanwhile, Calvin is trying to stop Clever Adolescent Panda from running out the door*

Calvin: {Just calm down. Another few minutes of insults and Wade will remember he can just shoot the coffeepot. Or unplug it. There's nothing to be ashamed of. You're following in a long line of talking animals that didn't wear pants.}

CAP: That's not it! I wear pants sometimes, when it's appropriate! UnCalvin experimented on Blender Furby! I have to stop it!

Calvin: {Are you sure? Maybe UnCalvin just studied it while fixing it and based these off the design.}

CAP: UnCalvin gave her word she'd fix it!

Calvin: *mutters to self, looks at ceiling distractedly* {Hmm, let's see. UnCalvin gave her word, which would suggest she'd honor it. But she's the opposite of me, and I typically honor my word, sp she wouldn't. But I occasionally don't, not that it comes up much, but still. And Uncalvin deviates from the pattern as convenient for storytelling convention. Carry the two. . . it might bear investigating.}

CAP: Then let me go!

Calvin: {At least wait until Wade's finished with his political roundtable over there and take him along. You can have another cookie in the meantime.}

CAP: *ears perk up* Cookie? That does sound pretty good. *returns to table*

Sarcastic Coffeepot: And moving in across the street from your daughter? Yeah, brilliant move. Next time Sabretooth comes knocking he won't have to travel far to find a chew toy. A couple of 'em, now that I think about Preston's son.

Deadpool: *very cold and serious* [Logan's not the only one who can use an adamantium-tipped bullet to the head.]

Sarcastic Coffeepot: Too bad you lost it, you putz. You're like yesterday's grounds: Cold, wet, dirty, and second-rate. They'd never let you kill Sabretooth.

Deadpool: [Turns out I didn't lose it. I found it in a different pouch when I was putting up the barrel of this gun. And I wasn't talking about using it on Sabretooth.] *Wade starts to load the bullet into one of his many firearms*

Sarcastic Coffeepot: *ENTER SELF-PRESERVATION MODE* Easy there, chief. Don't do anything stupid. Even though it's what you're best at. What? *SELF-PRESERVATION MODE NON-FUNCTIONAL* Those idiots, leaving my burner on all night!

Calvin: {Wade, don't waste that on this thing. It's not worth it.}

CAP: He's right Wade.

*Deadpool slowly puts up the gun*

Calvin: {Use this pickax instead. It's cheaper, easily replaceable, and smashing things by hand is fun.}

Deadpool: [I do like reenacting that scene from Office Space with things that can tell me how much they're suffering.]

Sarcastic Coffeepot: I'm not programmed to feel pain, jackass. *SMASH* Oh god, yes I am. Why?

Calvin: {UnCalvin can be really rough on her creations.}

CAP: *thoughtful* Yeah. Give me a turn, Wade!

Deadpool: [My turn's not done yet!]

CAP: *tugs Wade's arm* But you're gonna smash it all! C'mon, gimme! Calvin, make Wade share the pickaxe!

*More of Calvin's coworkers have gotten back, and are starting open-mouthed at the scene. Calvin shrugs sheepishly.*

Calvin: *unconvincing tone* {I don't know you, talking furry critter, but if I did, I'd tell you I'm not about to argue with Deadpool when he's swinging a tool with killing intent. Also, I think you're about to get hugged a lot.} 

*Three coworkers run over, squeeing over the panda. Clever Adolescent Panda finds itself being repeatedly petted and given big hugs, all the while it's demanding the pickaxe, to no avail. Deadpool is busy smashing the now-silent coffeepot across the room, then chasing after it to swat it again. Calvin sits back in a corner and just watches the show.*

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.6 - Brother's Keeper

Plot: We open with Darien charging into the offices of the Agency, Hobbes hanging on for dear life. Yes, it's Darien's first Quicksilver Madness episode of Season 2! Pity Alex isn't here to see it. Claire appears holding the shot of counteragent, and Darien charges at her, and she and Hobbes manage to keep him still long enough to administer the shot. After, we learn the boys successfully retrieved something from the Cuban Embassy, but Darien had to stay invisible a bit longer than expected and went nuts on the ride back. And he's sick of it. Later, Hobbes finds Darien standing at Kevin Fawkes' grave. Hobbes comments many people talk to the dead as a sign of hope. Fawkes opines that it's pathetic, and worries he'll wind up like Simon Cole. Which gives him an idea, a wonderful, terrible idea.

As Darien maps out on a whiteboard for the Official and everyone else, he wants them to inject some of Kevin's memory RNA into his gland, so that it will connect with the pineal gland, giving Kevin control of his body, just as Simon did. Claire tries to argue that Kevin has been dead over a year, but Eberts pipes in that all the scientists on the project were required to give samples which are still in storage. Which leads to the only "Shut up, Eberts" of the episode, as the Official declares that such activities will not be carried out on his time or his dime. He even has the agents watch Fawkes to ensure he doesn't break in and steal the samples. Well, at least he didn't accuse Darien of dishonoring his brother, and while everyone is watching Fawkes, Hobbes nicks the goods. Darien waits for Claire outside her apartment in the rain, and asks if she really meant it when she said she'd choose him over the Agency. So Claire is in, the material is injected, and voila! Kevin Fawkes walks among us. And he knew Claire from grad school. They dated for a year?!

Of course, this is a Kevin from earlier on, before Darien was brought into the project, but he's very excited that the gland worked, even if he's having a little trouble with it himself. Then the Official steps in, and any possibility of keeping this under wraps goes out the window with Kevin referring to the Fat Man as "Charlie", and commenting that he's lost weight. The Official confirms Kevin died at the hands of Arnaud, and at this point we switch to Arnaud, who apparently didn't kill his lady doctor friend, and is trying to wear a sort of plastic skin mask of his face. But he isn't satisfied, and he claims the only one who could fix the gland is Kevin Fawkes. And it so happens Kevin and Hobbes are looking for Arnaud, and tracking the doc. But Kevin's still having some trouble maintaining invisibility, and he doesn't know how to fight, and Arnaud would have killed him if Hobbes hadn't shown up.

Back at the lab, Claire doctors a cut on Fawkes' head, and then there's romantic tension between Claire and Kevin. Intimate hand holding, oh dead, there's hugging, and now there's kissing, geez. After that extremely uncomfortable scene, Kevin goes to sleep, which enables Darien to take control again. He is less than pleased to learn Kevin has not provided the answer to removing the gland, and that they're endangering his life going after Arnaud, and says something that pisses Claire off enough she slaps him and calls him selfish. Well yes, he wants his brother to get the fucking gland out of his head the way he promised he would before he was murdered by the terrorist he hired as an assistant because the Agency doesn't do thorough background checks. Anyway, Darien returns home and goes back to sleep, and when Kevin awakes in control, Darien has left him a videotape, pleading with Kev to get the gland out. But Arnaud is there and captures Kevin, bringing him to his place to demand his look at a model of Arnaud's gland and fix it. Then Kevin goes into Quicksilver Madness, and Arnaud gives him the counteragent. Except counteragent also somehow neutralizes the effect of the memory RNA (Claire mentioned something about it), so now Arnaud is dealing with Darien, and Arnie gets hurled out a window.

Back at the Agency, Kevin is back in the forefront, with Arnaud's computer (which Darien grabbed). Kevin is depressed the gland has hurt so many, but the Official arrives to make the sales pitch that Darien has saved many lives with it. Kevin asks for a quiet place to work, and as Hobbes escorts him, he talks a bit about how Darien has changed. How he even plants a little flag at Kevin's grave on Veteran's Day. Kevin locks himself in the lab, and writes Darien a note explaining why he can't tell Claire how to remove the gland, and then takes the thing that will flush him out of Darien's system entirely. Back at Kevin's grave, Darien is down, feels alone, and doesn't want any reassurance from Hobbes, leaving Bobby to plant a little flag at Kevin's grave.

Quote of the episode: Darien - 'Well, I have a gland in my head that makes me go insane if I don't get a shot. I just tried to kill you. I just tried to kill Hobbes. My life is driven by fear of me. That's not what's wrong. What's wrong is that it's business as usual.'

The "oh crap" count: 2 (7 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Thomas Mann said a man's life is more the survivor's affair than his own. Hobbes' therapist says to hear the past, live the present, dream of the future. James Beddell said if you have nothing to die for, you have nothing to live for. da Vinci said our life is made by the death of others.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 2 (2 overall).

Other: So I missed some dialogue this week because the background music from one of the ads during the first commercial break kept playing for the entire rest of the episode. This story is trying to be touching and I've got some stupid jazzy beat going in the background constantly. Was ready to kill something by the end of the episode.

Thought Darien's initial Quicksilver Madness was a little off. Like someone playing crazy, with all the barking and weird faces, more than actually being crazy. If Quicksilver Madness Darien doesn't want counteragent, why run directly at Claire, who has a syringe of counteragent, especially without even bothering to go invisible? I mostly prefer the Q.M. Darien from the end of Season 1: very dangerous and violent, but still capable of maintaining focus and being clever.

I really enjoyed Darien's big diagram detailing his plan to put Kevin's memory RNA in his brain. He was so excited about it. Also, it actually built off previously established continuity in the show. If it worked with Simon Cole's RNA, why not Kevin's?

Was something wrong with Joel Bissonette? He looked skinnier than usual, a little unhealthy. Maybe that was intentional, a combination of the limitations of Arnaud's false face technology, and his state of mind from being invisible all the time.

I'm confused as to why Kevin being knocked unconscious by Arnaud didn't bring Darien out to begin with. I honestly thought it had, because the initial exchange 'I don't understand. Why I betrayed you? No why someone would go to the trouble of crafting a face uglier than their real one?' screamed Darien. But I guess snarking at Arnaud runs in the family.

That whole scene between Kevin and Claire was really uncomfortable (though I do find it interesting Kevin didn't Quicksilver the way Darien does whenever he gets excited). It may be Kevin's mind, but it's Darien's body. It might explain a few things about why Claire as the Keeper. I know there was the whole bit about Gloria and that premature aging virus (1.5, "Impetus"), but was Claire also interested in what Kevin had been up to? It certainly causes her 'YOU ARE CERTAINLY NOT KEVIN FAWKES!' outburst at Arnaud in "Diseased" make more sense. Beyond his being a dick, confronted with the guy who killed someone she cared about (and is endangering another friend) without the slightest bit of remorse, Claire being pissed is understandable.

As for Kevin's decision at the end, it sort of fits with his attitude towards Darien. Kevin is used to being the younger brother who has to behave like the older one. He shows up with his guinea pig offer to get Darien out of prison. He pushes him out of the way of bullets. And now, he leaves the gland in. In each case, because he thinks he knows what's best for his brother.

Which is small consolation to Darien. Kevin wrote something in his letter I considered posting as a counterpoint to the quote of the episode: 'Even though you may fear it, I believe it's made you a better man, closer to yourself.' But Kevin kind of ignores the fact that he's essentially making Darien a better man at gunpoint. By leaving the gland in his head, Darien has to keep helping the Agency so he keeps getting counteragent, so he doesn't go irretrievably mad. While I would agree that Darien's reasons for being there are largely irrelevant to the people he's saved along the way (and notice the Official showing up to point that out right when Kevin was ready to get rid of the gland), I'm not sure this won't foster an environment of resentment and anger, possibly despair. I doubt they will, but I'd liked to see this followed up on in subsequent episodes, as a running subplot. Show Darien isolating himself from the others, being less concerned with getting the counteragent, with helping out. Have him backslide a bit as sort of a "fuck you" to his brother, who he sees as having not come through for him again. Eventually you can show that it's something he has to make real efforts to maintain, and when he doesn't he slides back into being a good guy because that's who he really is, but for the time being, this should produce some sort of fallout. Because Kevin may think bringing Darien into the I-Man project saved his life and is improving him, but there's no guarantee Darien sees it the same way.