Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.13 - Immaterial Girl

Plot: The Agency is under the Bureau of Weights and Measures now, and Fawkes and Hobbes are sent to a bottled water company suspected of fudging how much water they're actually bottling, I guess. But they get distracted talking to an employee, Megan McGrier, who has a burned out computer, and initially wonders if they're FBI, here about her mother. While Hobbes talks, Fawkes goes invisible to snoop, and sees a floating pink human form hanging out near Megan. At the office, Eberts is unable to determine how the computer could have been fried by a power surge, but Darien is too distracted by the fact the floaty thing is following him, which we can tell because it causes lights to flicker. He goes home, and the thing followed him there, and was watching him shower.

At this point, Darien visits the Keeper for help.  When Darien admits the light are in the shape of a woman (which he can tell because when it turns sideways. ..), Claire wants to call in a psychiatrist. She feels the gland makes Darien feel isolated, and his loneliness is making him see things. This is not helpful to Darien, so he storms out of the lab, and there are the lights, floating around in the hallway. So Darien follows them, and they eventually lead back to the bottled water company, and Megan. Megan can't see them, but she says she can feel her mother around her. Her mother went missing a few weeks ago, after coming to visit Megan at work, and seeming upset. Lucille worked for Sandrea, a company with a particle accelerator. Darien presents the case to his coworkers. Hobbes suspects Arnaud, the Keeper still wants to bring in a shrink, and the Official orders him to stay out of it.

So Darien travels to the police station, accompanied by Hobbes. Bobby still thinks it's a trap, and won't leave his partner out in the cold. Unfortunately, the lead detective, a Det. Mishka, is a fat, unhelpful douchebag, who makes fun of them for being from Weights and Measures. The second detective, Willard, is more helpful, and this leads our boys to Sandrea, where two scientists think they're hear to calibrate the accelerator, leading to awkwardness. Then a Dr. Henry shows up and tries to give them the bums rush. Hobbes creates another distraction, allowing Darien to follow Henry invisibly, where he overhears a phone conversation confirming Henry threw Lucille in the accelerator as a way of killing her and leaving no trace.

This leads to Darien reading Particle Physics for Imbeciles, and bouncing some ideas about it off Claire. She admits it is possible someone's thoughts could be turned to pure energy by the accelerator, and perhaps they would persist in a sort of loop. Except when Darien presents that argument to the Official to explain what he sees, Claire distances herself from it. C'mon Keep, have some courage in your convictions! When Darien argues it's possible, Eberts chimes in that anything is possible, theoretically, leading to a triple "Shut up, Eberts!" from Claire, Darien, and Hobbes. Anyway, Lucille gets fed up enough to set off every electric thing in the room, and Darien Quicksilvers the Fat Man's eyes so he can see her, and they're off. At Lucille's house, we find Megan being attacked by two guys, who Darien fends off. The guys had been tearing the place apart looking for something, and it turns out Lucille had devised a formula for a controlled fusion reaction at a subatomic level, which she scribbled on the back of pictures in the family photo album. There's also a sad, lovely moment where Darien uses "special eyedrops" so Megan can see her mother.

That night, the 3 of them travel to Sandrea to scare a confession from Henry. But Hobbes gets locked out in the process of distracting the two guards (or mooks, as he insists). Oh well, two people ought to be enough, right? Wrong. It starts well, Megan pretending her mother's energy has given her power, when it's really Darien invisibly clocking Henry (though Megan thinks her mom is doing it, while Darien waits outside). Then Darien gets himself hit by a lamp, Henry pulls a gun, and throws Megan in the accelerator. Things look bad until Lucille arrives, shorts out the accelerator, causing Henry to panic and charge in to try and kill the girl by hand. Darien finally gets his act together and makes the save, getting Megan out. At which point Lucille restarts the accelerator, and fries Henry. Then she dissipates.

Quote of the episode: Darien - 'You're saying I'm seeing light 'cause I'm horny?' Claire - 'Lonely.'

The "oh crap" count: 3 (25 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? A Yiddish proverb that states let it be worse, so long as it's different. Francis Bacon, who said there's a superstition in avoiding superstition, and a Samuel Taylor Coldrich who said a mother is a mother still, the holiest thing alive.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (5 overall).

Other: I like that they've maintained Darien's unwillingness to believe in the supernatural - established in 1.15, "Ghost of a Chance". It may be a little strange, coming from a guy who met invisible Bigfoot, but I guess that had a scientific explanation, so not supernatural.

It amuses me that Claire keeps having these sort of sex talks with Darien. The one at the end of season 1, after his encounter with Allianora, and now this. Though I find it a little odd that when Claire assumes the floating woman Darien is seeing has large breasts, and he points out he never said anything about that, she commends him for his good taste. Those are her words, 'I commend you for your good taste.' Kind of an odd statement, though I guess she could just have been trying to lighten the mood. Darien wasn't taking well to the implication he was seeing imaginary women while Quicksilvered because he's mad the gland makes it difficult to be with a lady (given his tendency to Quicksilver uncontrollably when he gets excited).

Anyway, I know Claire is the scholarly, typically most adult member of the crew - the Official enjoys tormenting Hobbes too much sometimes - so it might naturally fall to her for these sorts of discussions. I just keep finding it funny, because she does come off as sort of the exasperated parent (something she has to do a lot with Fawkes and Bobby, to be fair), but there's a genuine core of concern. Especially this time around, when she fears Darien is having psychological problems. Allianora infecting Darien with some nanobug is one thing, Claire can probably deal with that. If he is hallucinating because the gland makes him feel alone - and we haven't seen Darien maintain any sort of romantic relationship on the show - what can she do about that? She can't get the gland out, and I doubt Darien would appreciate her trying to play matchmaker and find him a lady friend with sufficient clearance that the gland wouldn't be an issue. And it's just awkward for him. Darien doesn't seem to enjoy discussing intimate matters with anyone, and I think it's extra awkward with Claire. Hobbes would present his own set of problems, but Claire is already inside his head so much anyway, I don't think he likes letting her in any more. Plus, I think it makes him feel like a lad specimen again, when Claire starts getting all analytical.

Hobbes played the decoy for Darien's invisible shenanigans 3 times this week. I wonder if that was by design, or just how it worked out. It's not abnormal for Hobbes to do that, but usually not that much.

I was disappointed in Darien making fun of Hobbes for naming the van. OK, "Golda", or whatever Hobbes said, is not a good name, but so what? He likes the van. Not everybody forms attachments to their vehicles, but some of us do, and we just want to live our lives without being judged.

As for the overall story this week, it's kind of a nifty idea, though I'm surprised Lucille's final thought of "protect my daughter" allowed her such a range of motion. I would have expected her to just hover around Megan, trying to protect her, but no. She's able to determine Darien can see her, then follow him around, until she can lead him where she needs to go. She can think enough to recognize when a demonstration is in order to convince the Official (though I'm not sure how she'd know Darien could make them actually see her, maybe she was just trying to get his attention so he'd come save Megan). She can turn off or short out a particle accelerator, then turn it back on. And manipulate a door, which came out of left field. But there were some solid emotional beats, though I wonder how Megan felt watching her mom straight up kill a guy. The guy who killed her and tried to kill Megan, true, but still, I feel like that might have been a shock to her daughter.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 8

I finally saw The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension last week. Well, I saw part of it. I was flipping back and forth between it and Alien, which is why this is just a intro paragraph and not a review. But everybody in the corners of the Internet I travel talks about it, so it was nice to at least sort of understand what they're going on about. Very strange film, feels almost like something I would right in terms of throwing weird crap in there, only more so.

Rocket Raccoon #4, by Skottie Young (words and art), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (color art), Jeff Eckleberry (lettering) - Rocket, you're going to get in trouble with Rachet and Clank if you keep swinging that oversized wrench around.

The evil raccoon buys off all those crooks, then blows up Groot, removing all of Rocket's backup. It turns out to actually be Blackjack O'Hare, out for revenge. Blackjack was supposed to kill that princess Rocket rescued (Amalya, who is leading the Legion of Angry Exes) in the first issue, and his single failure ruined his entire reputation as a mercenary. So he's framed Rocket for murder (except Rocket kills people all the time), and done all this just to mess with him. And now he's going to kill him. Except the Exes show up, and Blackjack gets shot by Amalya for failure to monologue to himself. Then Rocket has to defend himself against the horde of exes, which he does just before Star-Lord and the Guardians show up. On the ship, Rocket declares that this team is his family, but breaks down once he's by himself. Except there is another raccoon out there, an one-eyed lady one, who is after that book they mentioned last issue.

On my first read, I really enjoyed this. There's plenty of action, Rocket's still a smart-mouth, Young draws very well, the sound effects are funny ("Gut", for a kick in the stomach, "jack" for a punch in the jaw, "Nope" when Rocket catches a fist). I don't know if that's Young or Eckleberry, but either way, it's quality work. Rocket actually seems to avoid killing anyone, and he admits he treated all these ladies badly, and really doesn't want to hurt them. This struck me as being very good.

The more I think on it, the less sure I am of that. It would be one thing if Rocket were just a cad, a love 'em and leave 'em guy who can not or will not reciprocate the intense feelings he apparently sparks in these ladies. I wouldn't necessarily love Rocket as a philandering, Gambit style playboy, but I would generally agree he shouldn't be killed for it. Amalya and the others have the right to be hurt and angry, but killing him is a step too far.

Except that isn't all Rocket did. He convinced Amalya, for example, to let him borrow 2 million giffs, and then ran off. Which got her disowned by her family for shaming them. Rocket is a scam artist, one of those dudes who meets ladies so he can get their bank account numbers and steal all their savings. Which is not just shitty behavior, but actually criminal, so maybe I should be rooting for them to kill Rocket. I mean, he's fighting against overwhelming odds, and I'm sitting there thinking, "Maybe it would be better if he got torn to pieces." This is not really the reaction I want to be having to a Rocket Raccoon story, you know?

And I'm not sure why Young is playing games with Rocket's origin. What was wrong with his being the hero of Halfworld, who left to help keep Star-Thief locked up (or because the world was safe and he wanted to find further adventures?) Why all this muddle about, "maybe you're a robot, or a lab experiment"? Why do he and Blackjack know each other, if the Halfworld thing is possibly up in the air, but hate each other, when the last time I saw them, they were sort of pals? I don't know if this is playing off the movie version or the Bendis version, or just something Young came up with on his own, but it's really discordant with all the stuff I'm familiar with about the character, which is kind of distracting.

I feel like I'm back where I started with this comic: it's a good comic, but not a good Rocket Raccoon comic, but the potential is there.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Bloated Narrator Voice: At Calvin's house, burp, the Day After Thanksgiving Thanksgiving get-together!

Calvin: *laying on floor* Oof.

Clever Adolescent Panda: *also laying on floor* Ooo, I ate too much.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *propped up in corner, sleepily* Uh-huh.

CAP: Too. . . much. . . food.

Calvin: Non, nonsense. No, no such thing. Right, Cassanee?

*Cassanee, sprawled on the floor near a heating vent, can only raise one hand in a lazy thumbs up*

Calvin: OK, maybe there is such a thing.

CAP: Why didn't you invite more people?

Calvin: I told you to bring the little robot wizard along!

CAP: Lufonz said he won't come out of the Citadel. He's worried about being found.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Found by who?

{Back in a familiar section of woods, two figures stand, surveying the downed trees and assorted destruction. One gleams dully in the late fall sunlight, ignoring the chill. The other is wrapped in a thick coat, a low, wide-brimmed hat pulled down firmly, their beard blowing in the wind.}

Beardo: Yes, there's an unmistakable trace of magic here.

Metallico: There are several oil residues. Gun oil, bar oil, cooking oil, something else. It is difficult to confirm precisely whether there is any conforming to robot specifications.

Beardo: *scoffs* So much for your vaunted robot senses.

Metallico: Warning, vaunted robot senses have detected the presence of my fist in your face in 5.7 seconds!

Beardo: *draws a staff from the coat* Just try it, soulless abomination! We should never have agreed to renew alliances with your kind!

Metallico: Agreement.

{Out of the shadows, a figure emerges. Fairly large and solidly built, with a round, stubbled face. He grins.}

Mysterious, Upbeat Voice: Easy now, boys, focus on your real problem.

Metallico: Identify self.

Mysterious, Upbeat Voice: No one you know, big guy. But I can tell you there was a robot wizard here, and it left. . . with a panda.

Beardo: A panda? Then the robot wizard lies within their Citadel? A thousand curses!

Metallico: Expression of alarm!

Mysterious, Upbeat Voice: Come now, fellows, I'm sure if your two sides put your differences aside, you can deal with this. Or, you can give up and accept the existence of something you both find abhorrent.

Beardo: And just what do you gain from helping us, stranger?

Metallico: Agreed. Query of motivations.

Helpful Stranger: Maybe I just wanted to help. Or maybe I hate robot-wizards and pandas, too. Like I said, the next step is yours. *fades back into shadows*

Beardo: *uncertain* I must report to my elders on this.

Metallico: Agreed.

Bloated Narrator Voice: *to itself* Deep breath, you can do it. BACK AT CALVIN'S! BURP! Ugh, I need to lay down, I'm outta here.

CAP: Why did it say that? Did we go somewhere?

Calvin: Probably just talking in its sleep. Meat sweat hallucinations. Ignore it

CAP: What about Deadpool?

Calvin: He wanted to spend the holidays with his family. Which one, I don't know. I'm not sure Eleanor is ready to meet Shiklah. I figured there'd be a fight if I invited UnCalvin. And Cornelius Potfiller declared us 'ill-mannered louts', and said he was going to have a quiet dinner with his family full of strained conversation and snide remarks from his mother that would drive his wife into the absinthe.

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: Absinthe, wow. Well now I'm thirsty. Can you throw me another beer? I can't seem to get up under my own power.

Calvin: Ugh, fine. *Calvin rolls over and pushes himself up, then staggers into kitchen and grabs beer from the fridge.Returning to the living room, he sits heavily back on the floor and rolls the can across the carpet.*

CAP: Nobody likes Cornelius, anyway.

Calvin: Exactly. He'd just steal his contribution to dinner from his servants, and then you'd beat him up, and I don't want any fighting this year.

CAP: It wouldn't be a fight, it'd be a slaughter *mimes high kick, then lays back down woozily* Woof, I need to sleep for a year.

Calvin: Feel free to do so right where you are. We can use a throw rug.

CAP: Why you!

Calvin: You doing OK over there, Cass?

Cassanee: Uh-huh. *Cassanee then rolls onto her side, pulls her cloak over her, and within a few moments, there's a soft snoring sound*

Makes Brakes Fail Lass: *crumples beer can, sizes up trash can* OK, here we go. *Lobs the can, misses garbage can by five feet, can bounces off wall and then Calvin's head* Sorry.

Calvin: *picks up can, tosses it into garbage* Nice shot. And here I was about to give thanks for a holiday get-together without head trauma for anyone. Maybe next year.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 7

Hope you're having a good turkey day. Oh, who am I kidding? You're probably reading this on Friday, having only just emerged from a food coma. It's OK, I totally understand. As for something to be thankful for - besides the obvious stuff like family and having a warm place to live and be shielded from the elements - I'm going to pick the news that volume 1 of the current Ms. Marvel series was the highest selling trade paperback in October, at least through Diamond.

Roche Limit #1 and 2, by Michael Moreci (writer), Vic Malhorta (artist), Jordan Boyd (colors), Ryan Ferrier (letters) - I'm going to have to keep track of the changes in the planets on these covers, I think. The second issue is a little different from the first. Have to see if there's a trend there.

OK, this is a new fictional universe, so let's try to establish the basics. Roche Limit is a colony built inside a dwarf planet (known as Dispater) that orbits an anomaly in the Andromeda Galaxy. The colony was built by an eccentric billionaire known as Langford Skaarged, who hoped it would be a shining beacon of humanity. It is, unfortunately, populated by people, so it's actually a shithole where the people at the top took all they could grab, and leave everyone else to scrabble over the scraps. Earth still exists, and people do travel between it and the colony.

Sonya Torin is a cop on Earth, who has come to Roche Limit to find her sister Bekkah. She meets with little success until she encounters Alex Ford, who is the creator of a drug known as Recall. The drug allows you to relive any memory you so desire, as if you were truly there again. Only he knows the formula, which would put him in the driver's seat, you'd think, but no. That would be Mr. Moscow, a seemingly blind swordsman who is also sort of a mob boss. Moscow has also been having his men abduct people recently, for some mysterious group who keep throwing those people into the anomaly, then having them hauled out. The people survive, but are generally catatonic. Sonya and Alex don't know that's what happened to Becca, Moscow doesn't know what the purpose is of these tests, and all the club owner Gracie knows is someone is taking her girls, and Alex is looking into it. And two teenagers found a glowing rock that is important to other parties. And according to some creepy dudes, the Hour of the Black Sun draws near.

At this point, the story feels like an old detective novel, or noir story. The tough, burnout cop or P.I. determined to find the missing girl, with a tough but probably good night club owner, and a dangerous mob boss mixed in. Except the cop has her act together, the burnout is a drug dealer, the club owner has a serious injury to one eye (as in, it's missing), and the mob boss is a blind swordsman (maybe). of course, you also have to throw in all the other stuff about the three weirdos, and whatever it is they're expecting to find in the people that get dropped into the anomaly.

This is my first encounter with Malhorta's artwork, and it seems to suit the story. The people look fairly normal and realistic, most of them look a little worn or scruffy (except Sonya, maybe because she's not been there long?). Despite the setting, this is still a fairly down-to-earth plot, so that makes sense. There aren't gleaming, pristine spires reaching to the sky. What tall buildings there are look dark and untended. Nobody's much keeping up appearances or trying to win Village of the Year.

Most of the colors are either dull or dark. Oddly, for a city inside a planet, they don't seem to make much attempt to brighten things up. There's no artificial sun, just enough light to get by, mostly. Makes it easier to do what you like, perhaps. It does help the moments of more vivid colors stand out. Gracie's office is bathed in a deep red which really catches your attention, and for 4 pages in the second issue, they almost frame the tops and bottoms of the pages with it. It seems to work as a marker of the start and finish of small parts of this overarching conversation. Here's Gracie tersely demanding information, but at the end of that page, she's almost offering info herself, as a question. A couple of pages later, she asks Alex if he loves Bekkah, which triggers Sonya barging in an punching Alex, which sets another confrontation in motion (because up to then, he was playing the Good Samaritan, pretending he didn't know Bekkah).

The red has this interesting effect where it's so bright, whatever isn't outlined against it almost fades from sight. You get so focused on Alex standing in front of it, you almost don't notice Gracie on the far side of the room, and then boom, in the next panel she's right behind him. It's startling, almost a jumpy, disconnected effect. I'm not sure if that's the goal - with drugs that involve memories in the story, I can't rule out they're trying to play with perception - but it was a reaction I had.

Issue 3 just came out this week, so hopefully, it'll be on its way shortly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Villains Are Lazy And Self-Deluding

I had never pictured the Purple Man as someone who desired a family prior to this Daredevil arc, but it's an interesting idea, especially how he goes about it. Because he recognizes that all these women he's controlled didn't really care about him, he was merely forcing that response from them. A good person (or at least a not terrible one) might recognize the fault in themselves and work to improve as a person. Killgrave decides the best strategy is to still control women, and simply take their children away in a few years.

I don't know if Killgrave was always like this, even before his powers, but by this stage, he's too accustomed to having everything he wants, when he wants it, with no real effort. That has become normal for him, and regardless of what he tells the kids, it's what he expects. Like how Doom fools himself into believing he's trying to act in the world's best interests, when it's really an ego trip. Killgrave tells himself he wants people to choose to love him. His recognition that any pronouncement of love from people he controlled being meaningless is probably the closest he gets to acknowledging how wrong his actions are. But at the end of the day, he's too selfish to do the things that wold actually allow an emotional bond to form. He expects these kids - who don't know him at all - to love him, just because. He hasn't done anything to earn that love, but he expects it, demands it, nonetheless. He wanted children with powers like his so they'd be able to resist his control, so he couldn't make them love him, even by accident.

He ignored the likely outcome that given the choice, the kids would not love him, because they have no reason to. He hasn't been there for them, has never bothered to put any effort into being a dad. We don't know what kind of lives these kids had prior to Killgrave abducting them, other than Connor's mother was dead, and Shallah's was in jail, but even if their lives were terrible, the kids would probably blame Killgrave. He wasn't there, he didn't do anything to prevent it or improve things until it was convenient to him. For Jamie, who seems like he had a decent life with his mom, Killgrave ruined all that, killed Jamie's mother, for his own selfish desires. Killgrave was so used to dealing with people compelled to love and obey, he forgot how people will normally react towards someone who is an unabashed shitheel. You'd think all those times Daredevil punched him in the face would have taught him something, but evil is dumb, in addition to being lazy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 6

So I wake up this morning to the news they aren't going to prosecute that cop Darren Wilson for murdering Michael Brown in Ferguson. Which did not exactly surprise me, because I'm fairly pessimistic about these sorts of things, but it's still disappointing. I wanted to be surprised, to find out that at least this one time, someone who had abused their power was going to be held accountable for their actions. Yeah, I know, silly Calvin. I don't typically get serious here, and in a paragraph we'll be back to discussing a disappointing pair of comics, but I felt like I should type something. I know things have always been stacked against African-Americans in this country, but have we always accepted so little accountability from people in charge?

Nightcrawler #6 and 7, by Chris Claremont (writer #6, script #7), Marguerite Bennett (plot #7), Todd Nauck (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist),  Joe Sabino (letterer #6), Cory Petit (letterer #7) - Man, that bad guy has a creepy neck. It's like his beard fused into his neck. Please, bad guy, wear an outfit with a higher collar. Nobody wants to see that.

In issue 6, Kurt and Rico fight the Crimson Pirates to protect a young super-intelligent mutant girl named Ziggy. There's a brief moment where they think they've failed, until they realize the pirates' guns actually teleport people, rather than kill them. Kurt pretty well kicks the bad guys' rear ends on his own, but Rico does a decent job protecting civilians considering it's his first time in the field. Considering Kurt was fighting an entire team of villains, he made it look pretty easy, although the bad guys exhibited zero teamwork, which helped. Issue 7 was Kurt dealing with Logan's death, by going to the Danger Room and reliving a bunch of his past history with Wolverine. Then he tries to make design a house that he thinks Logan would like and fill it with his friends for a big party (that is all fake because he's still in the Danger Room), except Holographic Logan won't show up, and Kurt decides Logan would want to be honored by people living their lives.

These were not terribly enjoyable issues. They look nice enough, I'm pleased that Nauck's work hasn't fallen off while sticking to his monthly schedule. The fight with the Crimson Pirates was well-drawn, nothing flashy with the page layouts, just solid workmanship presenting the action in a clear fashion.

But the stories themselves, not so much. Maybe the Crimson Pirates are supposed to look like losers, but Kurt really seemed to handle them easily. I wasn't expecting him to die, obviously, but there wasn't any real tension to the battle, where I thought he might fail to protect Rico or Ziggy. That's probably because Claremont was more concerned with trying to build a bond between Kurt and Rico, or illustrate a point to Rico about being a X-Man, or humans accepting mutants. But if most of the issue is going to be a fight, there ought to be some sort of suspense to it. The story might honestly have needed another issue. End this one on a cliffhanger of Kurt in trouble, or Rico missing, then resolve things the next month. But we had to get to Logan being dead.

It makes sense for Kurt to want to honor his friend's memory, but I can't help feeling Kurt's own return from the dead roughly 5 minutes ago ought to have some effect on that. A quiet confidence Logan will return again. Beyond that, I think Kurt and Logan might have done this better a few issues ago when they had their drinkin' buddy conversation in the Danger Room about Kurt's reservations over leaving Heaven, and Logan having to face his own mortality, and the very real chance he wouldn't live long enough to see Jean's next return from the dead. The discussion felt more natural there, whereas here, it feels more forced. Plus, it has a strong "clip show" element to it, and the idea of Kurt having the Danger Room make a bunch of copies of people for a false wake/party, rather than just go spend time with those people in real life, felt off. I could go with Kurt wanting to be alone, or wanting the comfort of mutual friends, or even him creating just a Logan in the Danger Room to talk to, but the whole big thing didn't seem right. Not even as something Kurt started, then acknowledged as a bad idea.

Oh well, truth be told, I'm dropping the book in a couple of months - because I don't want to deal with the Shadow King - so we're just playing out the string here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 5

So I have seen commercials for a Grumpy Cat Christmas Special? Damn it, people. I blame all of you on the Internet, with your love of cat pictures, and your cat memes.

Ms. Marvel #8 and 9, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (art), Ian Herring (color art), Joe Caramagna (lettering) - I like these McKelvie covers fine, but I'm curious what Alphona would come up with given the chance.

Medusa sent Lockjaw to keep an eye on Kamala, and Kamala somehow convinces her family to let her keep the huge dog with a tuning fork on his head, though he's supposed to stay outside. Yeah, that doesn't work with a teleporting dog. On the other hand, a teleporting dog is quite useful when you're trying to find a mad inventor based on the social media of a recently found teen, and it leads to a abandoned power plant. Abandoned, save for a giant robot, powered somehow by that guy Vick Kamala had to fight to rescue Bruno's brother. Oddly, Vick is not happy to be rescued, but Kamala gets him to a hospital and is only a little late for class. Then a giant robot attacks the school, because the last giant robot snuck  a tracking bug on her. And for some reason, Kamala can't change her appearance, which makes fighting a robot in her school with no costume kind of dicey.

But Lockjaw's a good doggie, so he creates a distraction, Kamala beats the robot, passes out, and is brought to New Attilan, and learns that she's not a mutant, she's Inhuman, which is maybe not a lot better for making her feel less isolated. Medusa would like Kamala to stay, but the Inventor is still out there, so after dealing with her parents, she's off to check out the first lair she found. She beats a third giant robot, but finds out all these kids are helping the Inventor by choice, not by coercion. Which is gonna present a problem for Kamala to sort out.

I did not realize that a dog would be considered impure, and not allowed inside a house in the Muslim faith. I no pork is a no-go as far as eating them, but not even having a dog in the house? Learn something new every day.

For a while there, She-Hulk was smashing at least one robot every issue. Then Soule and Pulido stopped that. So now Wilson and Alphona have picked up the ball and run with it. Three giant robots in two issues, not too shabby.

That panel of Kamala giving Lockjaw a big hug when she first meets him was adorable. It's the huge grin Alphona gives him, combined with the little sign around his neck proclaiming 'I like hugs' that really makes it work. And it's a nice snapshot of Kamala. All these other people see Lockjaw and run for their lives, Kamala sees him and gets really excited and happy. I like Wilson showing us how Kamala is trying to track down the Inventor, and the limitations she has. She might be able to find a likely location from a the missing girl's social information, but getting there was going to be a problem. Even with Lockjaw's help, she still runs afoul of her first period teacher.

Wilson's doing a good job of capturing that Peter Parker-style conflict between the civilian and costumed sides of Kamala's life, but updated and fit to a different character's circumstances. Kamala doesn't have to worry about helping to pay bills, or make web fluid, and she has both her parents. But she still feels like in outsider, in ways different from Peter. And having two healthy, protective parents, presents its own challenges. Plus now she knows Medusa's got an eye on her, and it's likely she wants Kamala to eventually move to New Attilan. And setting aside what her parents would say to that, there's the question of whether Kamala wants any part of it. I'll be interested to see if she weighs the pros and cons of it over the next few issues, since she really hasn't had time yet to let the implications sink in. I'm also curious to see when she tells her parents the truth, and how Wilson handles that. Objections from Kamala's mother are almost a certainty, but we'll see.

As much as I enjoy Alphona's artwork, and I do, he did draw Kamala going for the two-fist smash with the fingers interlocked. I've been told that's actually a good way to break your fingers, so it's really not a smart way to hit people. To be fair, practically every artist I can think of draws people using that, and at least Kamala has the excuse she's a rookie crimefighter, and doesn't have any experience fighting in general. The nifty ways she uses her powers in a fight are still very cool. Making her head swell for a headbutt, or when she sprang into the first giant robot, but rather than leaping, she pushed off the ground with one leg, and stretched it out, so she could put more force behind the tackle. It's a smart move.

I enjoy this book so much.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.12 - The Choice

Plot: Darien reaches the Official's office, but no one's there. It's then the Post-it on his hand that says, "archives" becomes clear in its meaning. The Official has tried to convene a meeting there because they've located another one Chrysalis' abducted kids camps, and he doesn't want Alex to know, since it's personal for her and all. This fails utterly as Alex crashes the meeting and threatens to slit the Fat Man's throat with a pen if he tries to keep her out of the loop. However, she apologizes when the Official says that talk isn't constructive, and he relents. Then they very easily swipe a bunch of babies from the camp with Alex posing as a Chrysalis person warning of an Agency raid. The Official even rounded up some fast helicopters to spook them.

Back at the Agency, Claire's runs the babies' something. It can't be DNA, because while she can verify one of the babies is Alex' son, genetically he is the offspring of Jarod Stark and his wife. Alex doesn't care, she carried the boy to term, James is hers, and she won't be returning him. Interestingly, the Official accepts this without argument and declares it to be the Agency's position on all the babies. They will be returned to the women who birthed them, and the Chrysalis DNA donors can go screw. Then Alex declares she's taking maternity leave, and while the Official doesn't object, he does tell Fawkes to keep an eye on her. A wise plan, as she has barely changed James' diaper back at her place before 4 guys barge in and try to abduct him, though I doubt they'd have thought to look for the baby in a panic box. This development convinces Alex to bring him back to the Agency, but she also figures that won't protect him. So she immediately goes to Chrysalis headquarters and tries to kill Stark, but he gets himself behind a Plexglas barrier, and tells her either he gets Brandon back, or the boy dies with her. Also, he specifically chose her as the mother to carry his boy based on her genetic potential, and describes her as an incubator.

Back at the Agency, the Official is irritated with Alex' solo act, but we can hardly get into a lecture before Hobbes' barges into Alex' office and hurls her water cooler out the window. he was warned it was rigged to blow by a woman in the lobby, one Eleanor Stark. Yep, James' other mommy has decided she doesn't want her son killed, and has decided to turn on Chrysalis, telling all about how they're a techno-worshiping group, funded by a consortium of countries that hate the U.S., and she has a bunch of files she stole the Agency could use to put the hurt on Chrysalis. Darien protects her from a two-man attack when she goes to retrieve the files, but the real tension is Alex watching how easily James responds to Eleanor, and how readily Eleanor understands what every little thing the baby does means. Which makes Alex feel out of place as a mom, and she decides James/Brandon will accompany Eleanor into witness security. Which they manage, seemingly without incident, other than Alex' tearful good-bye to her son. Which leaves two things. One, Alex is staying at the Agency, because she likes the unstructured way things work, and the missions are interesting. Two, Eleanor didn't turn on her husband, but only pretended to do so to get their child back. All the stuff she told the Agency about Chrysalis was a crock.

Quote of the Episode:  Alex - 'Brandon. His name is Brandon.'

The "oh crap" count: 0 (22 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Margaret Thatcher, who said it's the female of the species who defends when attacked. Also, he quoted Allianora's warning from Season 1, about how they had enemies they didn't know existed. Then Hobbes went and tried to correct him, which is pretty uncouth, Bobby.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (5 overall).

Other: Apparently the Agency is no longer under Health and Human Services. Which might explain why the door to their building said something about the Department of Weights and Measures last week. Would that be Department of Agriculture?

Alex' story to James, with herself as a warrior princess out to reclaim her son, with the help of a poor kingdom. Run by a grumpy old king. But she called Darien an invisible knight, Claire was a powerful sorcerer, and even Hobbes got to be a brave dwarf. Poor Ebert was reduced to the king's hamster. But at least there was genuine fondness in her voice as she related the tale. Well, except for Eberts, he was an afterthought, the poor guy. But I did find the fact she described Darien as a knight intriguing, since I would have expected "a surprising rogue" to be a more apt description. Darien's not exactly honorable a lot of the time, too much scheming and wheedling. So the fact Alex calls him that, must say something about how she sees him. I guess as far as recovering James was concerned, Darien's been dedicated and brave, with all those trips he made into the first camp, and getting Stark to order the kids to stand down and all.

When Alex got to her place, and started calling out for Fawkes, I got really worried. I guess she was just anticipating that Darien tagged along, but I was sure she was picking up on something, a sound or an air current, and that it was really Arnaud. I'm glad I was wrong. That would be a real waste of the reveal Arnaud was working with Chrysalis.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious to me Eleanor wasn't genuine in her claim of wanting to defect. Why would the guys who attacked her not have thermal goggles? Stark would know she'd gone to the Agency, and he would know Darien would shadow her? He wouldn't send that beefy agent that always kicks Fawkes' ass? That should have been a total giveaway. But I was fooled by her apparent love for the baby that isn't really hers.

There were a lot of good quotes this week, funny ones, but that one I picked, in context, is just heartbreaking. The whole episode, she's insisted that he is James, after her father, and this is the moment where she's truly trying to let go, accept that she can't raise him. Her life is too dangerous, and she would still be learning to be a mom, while, in Alex' eyes at least, Eleanor already has it figured out. Which is junk, because one thing I've seen repeated endlessly in fiction and real-life accounts is that being a mother (or a father, for that matter) is a constant learning process. Eleanor has it figured out now, until the next new development in Brandon's life. Then she has to start learning again. But I don't think Alex can stand not being perfect at it right away. And she probably wasn't wrong that it would be seriously dangerous for James to be around her. I don't see her quitting her job and going into witness security, and Stark wasn't going to stop. So until she could kill him, it wasn't going to be safe.

I'm really hoping Stark ends up eating a bullet, preferably from Alex. I might want to see her shoot him - and Eleanor, for that matter - even more than I want to see Fawkes get Arnaud. I mean, at least I admire Arnaud's style, even while thinking he's a total weaselly heel. Stark's just an ass in a suit. A condescending ass in a suit. He called Alex an incubator to her face (though with bulletproof Plexiglas between them, so he's not an idiot). That's quite impressive dickery.

It was interesting to see Alex behave differently towards the rest of the team. She apologized for using the word freak around Darien. She apologized for threatening to slit throats. She felt bad about explaining to Hobbes he could go along on the infiltration into the camp because he couldn't pass for 30. Apparently none of these Chrysalis kids age past 30? And I like the "it was her, not me" motions Darien made behind her back when she said it. She was nice to everyone, and the Official was remarkably understanding. I mean, Alex kept basically doing whatever she wanted without clearing it with him, and he kept going with it. He didn't object when she went on maternity leave, just told Eberts to make a note approving maternity leave for her. Maybe it's everyone trying to be supportive, or maybe he was still worried about getting his throat slit. I did think it was nice how firmly he accepted Alex' declaration she wouldn't surrender James, and then decided it would the Agency's policy across the board.

I did find it disingenuous of Claire at the end to claim she liked Alex' cheekiness, when she was saying just a few episodes ago that Alex' character was as fake as her hair color. This show doesn't always do the best job of building its emotional connections in a sensible fashion. Sometimes Claire and Alex get along quite well (they seemed like a friendly enough pair in "Going Postal, albeit in an Odd Couple, bickering way), the next week Claire seems to despise her. But what the heck, Alex has been a little nicer the last couple of weeks - she was working to keep the CDC from killing everyone last week, and seemed to be getting along with Bobby - so maybe Claire was reassessing thing while she was puking.

I still don't quite understand what Alex's genetic profile meant if the child isn't genetically hers. Was Stark just assessing how likely she was to give birth to a healthy kid? He figures out she's a top-notch field agent and thinks to himself, "she's strong and healthy, our son ought to come out fine"?

Oh, we can't end this without a moment of silence for Ebert's hatchback, blown up when Hobbes threw that water cooler out the window. And of course, the greatest tragedy of all, Eberts' turtle Alonzo was in there. Though quite why Eberts would bring his turtle to work, then leave him in the car, I don't know. Regardless, a moment of silence.

. . .

OK, we're good.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Problem With Colonies Is All The Other People

I didn't catch all of The Colony when it aired a few days ago. I was flipping back and forth between it and Lakers/Rockets, but I got the gist of it.

The Earth is in a new Ice Age, and we're focused on this one outpost, Colony 7, holed up in some large complex, with Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) running the show. They lose contact with one of the other outpost, and so Fishburne heads out to investigate, along with two other people, including a young man named Sam (Kevin Zegers). Once they get there, they find everyone in the complex has been killed by a different group, a bunch of roving cannibals. Though for awhile, I think the movie tries to play ambiguous about whether they're still human or not. None of them really say anything, just scream, and chase, and kill, and eat.

As it turns out, the now devastated outpost had picked up some radio transmission from a different outpost, one where they had managed to use a radio dish, or microwave emitter or something to force a break in the clouds over their home. The permafrost had melted, and they could grow crops, of they had seeds. This colony had sent people to investigate, they hadn't found anything, and the cannibals found them and followed them back. When the lone survivor relates this story, I wasn't clear on whether "didn't find anything" meant they literally couldn't find the place, or they got there and everyone is dead. Considering Sam was able to make it back to Colony 7, and use their hookup to a satellite to find the location, my guess is the other colony's search team got there and found no survivors, because the cannibals found it first. Then followed the search team back home.

Despite Briggs' best efforts, the cannibals eventually find Colony 7, which is busy with its own internal strife. Briggs' had placed Sam's girlfriend, Kai, in charge, but in their absence, Briggs' old pal from their soldier days, Mason (Bill Paxton), has taken over and become dictatorial. He refuses to believe the cannibals are coming, refuses to believe there could be a place where the sun shines, and is generally showing no mercy to anyone who comes down with an illness. He spends a lot more time threatening Sam and Kai than he does effectively fighting the cannibals, who are pretty clever. I guess they have a lot of experience breaking into these outposts, because they do pretty well for having no guns, or really any weapons. They mostly just charge at people screaming and hit them and bite them. Anyway, fights, explosions, possible hope for the future.

Sam ends up in a fight with the Boss Cannibal, who Sam had winged with a shot in their first encounter, and it's one of those things where the good guy has to get really brutal to win, and you wonder if the film is trying to make some kind of point. Like in 28 Days Later, when Cillian Murphy's character starts killing all the soldiers, and by the time he gets to the last guy, the movie is really playing up that from an outsider's perspective, you couldn't tell the difference between him and one of the Infected. In Sam's case, he hits the lead guy in the head with a pipe at least 10 times. Then when the guy is somehow still not dead, or even unconscious, or even dazed, grabs some sort of large blade and basically cuts the guy's head off from above the lower jaw.

It's pretty brutal, but Sam isn't planning to eat the guy, and he didn't go looking for a fight, so there isn't really an equivalence to me. Maybe it was a point about lengths people go to survive. The boss does utter one word during the fight, when Sam asks what he's after: 'More'. So maybe it's a cathartic thing of watching a greedy asshole get his comeuppance, since it's a safe bet greedy assholes will persist through any cataclysm that doesn't exterminate all of humanity. Or maybe they just wanted a brutal fight scene.

The movie - the parts I saw, anyway - has some good bits. Ignoring the fact that these people look a lot cleaner than I would expect (their hair especially, seems too neat), the movie does seem to recognize the difficulties there'd be in cramming a bunch of people into an underground complex together. One of the reasons Mason starts just executing sick people is because he's gotten concerned that Briggs is being too slow to quarantine and test them for serious contagious diseases. Which would be a problem for a bunch of people living together in a perpetual winter, in a place that looks like it used to be an old foundry or factory or something. It's not the cleanest place, is what I'm saying.

The part where Briggs, Sam, and the other fellow first reach the other colony was appropriately spooky. It's a big place, there aren't many lights, so there's a ton of shadows. There's a pounding noise coming from somewhere, and some occasional howls or screams. It reminds me of some of the early levels of certain scary video games - Singularity came to mind, maybe because of the cold - where you know there's something out there, but you don't know what, or when you're going to find out. So you don't know if you're prepared for it. Of course, then you see what's lurking, and in a game at least, you can usually deal with it. Kill it, most likely, elude it if you can't. Eventually the game has to start throwing more and more of the same thing at you, or bigger and better versions, and maybe that works, and maybe it doesn't. For me, those sorts of games tend to get less scary overall as they progress.

In a movie, there isn't technically any such guarantee. Though yeah, you can probably figure at least one of the main characters is going to survive, and they'll win out ultimately. But maybe not, depends on how dark the filmmakers want to go. Even so, the thing didn't seem quite as scary once I saw who was actually responsible. That initial moment where Sam and Briggs find the cannibals and their makeshift butcher shop was pretty horrifying, but then Sam shoots one in the head, he falls down, and it's like, oh, they're not invincible killing machines. I shouldn't have switched back to the game during their escape from the outpost, though. I feel that could have been pretty well done, the two of them scrambling to find their way back out from these narrow, dark passageways, the sound of pursuit echoing crazily around them. No idea if that's how it played out, but it could have been.

The end battle was kind of lackluster. Felt paint-by-the-numbers, the beats coming in the progression you've seen plenty of times in these sorts of "last stand" scenarios in films. It might have been clever to have the cannibals never make it to Colony 7. Briggs managed to destroy the bridge, and while I'm sure the river below was more than solid enough to walk on, it looked like a pretty steep drop on either side. Have the cannibal bunch die trying to find a way around. They didn't seem terribly bright or resourceful when they weren't laying siege to a place, and it would play up how utterly indifferent the planet is to all the stupid crap people do to each other. There's no big final conflict between civilization and savagery because nature gives zero fucks about your denouement.

Or, that conflict will come when Sam makes it back and has to convince Mason they should travel to the place the sun shines. And then it's a struggle between the side that wants to take a chance they can move forward and rebuild, and the side that isn't willing to take the chance, that wants to huddle in the decaying corpse of the last civilization for as long as they can manage.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 4

I've kept forgetting to mention it, but Monday's post was my 3000th here. It's the 3001st overall, because Papafred posted that picture of Batman kicking that dude with the ice cream cone that one time.

Klarion #1, by Ann Nocenti (writer), Trevor McCarthy (artist), Guy Major (colorist), Pat Brousseau (letters) - The way that creepy guy's face is surrounded by the blue aura, he looks like the ugliest Metroid ever. Or a Pac-Man ghost.

Klarion has left his home of Limbotown. He wants to practice magic his way, to learn new things, to not feel restrained by people less talented. Also, he killed his teacher. He gets a ride from Beelzebub, which brings him tan extremely magical section of New York City. There's the Moody Museum, which seems like a home from magic-wielding orphans. And there's the Necropolitan Club, which wants to attract some of those magic-wielders as well. Klarion takes a job as an assistant chef at the Museum, but ends up going to a show at the club with a girl he meets at the museum named Zell. And by the end of the issue, he's fighting with the first person he met in NYC, a technomage named Rasp, who is probably already on board with what the Club is offering.

You can't say Nocenti and McCarthy didn't throw a lot at us, which is one of the things I've appreciated about Nocenti's DC work. Whatever other problems it might have, it isn't decompressed. Klarion's going to be an interesting character. One of the Museum's owners/staff notes that he's only concerned with whatever gets him where he wants to go. Which seems to be wherever he can learn and explore magic without feeling held back. Of course, there's no guarantee he'll read things right in that regard when presented with a choice, and I don't imagine every problem he'll face with involve that decision. Making friends with Zell and Rasp seemed more about being lonely than anything else, and his fight with Rasp started because he was concerned his new friend was out of control, and well, Rasp is out of control. I expect Klarion to make some bad choices, but I'm not sure what kind.

Beelzebub makes a comment I find interesting on Page 3. He tells Klarion all roads lead to the same place - yourself. But that where he (Beelzebub) is going, it's chaos. But he's driving a car there, thus he's on a road. So if Klarion is going with him, isn't he just going to find himself again, if that's where all roads lead? Unless that's the point. Klarion is chaos, and he doesn't realize it, because he's only looking at what he wants, and not the ripple effects of his actions.

One problem I've had with the books Nocenti's written for DC has been the artists not being up to the job. I don't think that's a problem I'll have with McCarthy. He does a lot of cool stuff with panel layouts, and borders. Pages 2 and 3 have these sort of eye-shaped panels that move in a counter-clockwise arc across the page as Klarion thinks back over his recent past, but they stop at the point he stops reminiscing, then resume after, when they move in for a close-up of his conversation with Beelzebub. The next two pages, the panels are this series of loops running diagonally across the page, with a yellow line and some dots separating the top half of the page from the bottom. That one doesn't work quite as well, because if you follow the loops it seems like you ought to read the top left panel first, then follow the road to the bottom left, then up and to the right, then down, and so on, rather than going straight across the top, then straight across the bottom. Still, it isn't that hard to follow, everything within the panels is clear and easy to read, and I appreciate the effort to do something cool.

Major's colors help. A lot of deep blacks that seem irregularly shaped, making the shadows seem ominous. They help Klarion's blue stand out, or the sickly green that's all over the Necropolitan Club. The eerie deep reddish-purple of the sky over the Moody Museum. The colors give the book the right sort of atmosphere, vaguely threatening and a little off-kilter. I still don't expect the book to last long, but I'm all in with it right now.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 3

I was getting gas a couple of days ago. While I'm at the pump, this old woman pulls up right behind me and just sits there. None of the other pumps were occupied, but she just sits there and waits until I'm finished. What the heck?

Hawkeye #20, by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu (storytellers), Matt Hollingsworth (color art), Chris Eliopoulos (lettering) - I still can't shake the feeling all these Aja covers with the hexagons are meant to fit together into some big collage. Perhaps I should cut up the covers to find out?

The plot jumps all over the place time wise, as Kate is relating recent events to a pair of people that turn out to be Maria Hill and Agent Coulson. Does SHIELD even have any other agents these days? Kate gets hauled in as a suspect in Harold's death, what with her arrow in his chest and all, but she has a good alibi. Also, Harold isn't dead. Masque has some deal where she provides the wealthy with essentially, LMDs to download their minds into, and Harold's got the same deal. In his case, it's so Masque can kill him when she wants, but still bring him back to torment further later. Anyway, Kate finds out the flower shop guy can give her an inn to Masque's headquarters through some creepy party, and she uses Clint's USB arrow to download a bunch of incriminating files, which unfortunately, also incriminate her father. Then she burns down Masque's house, gets beat up by her goon squad, saved by SHIELD, and then Hill takes the USB arrow for their own purposes. Which I'm pretty sure is theft, but hey, it's OK if BIG INTERNATIONAL ESPIONAGE AGENCY does it, right Marvel?

I really can't decide whether Marvel wants me to like Maria Hill or hate her. I still lean towards "hate", though. Once a lady who orders SHIELD agents to attack Captain America, always a lady who does that thing I wrote.

Anyway, Kate's out of jail, she got the nice gay couple she helped have their orchid for their marriage to front her two grand for a Trans Am, and she's on her way back to New York. Why not just get a damn plane ticket? Surely she could transport Pizza Dog by air. Or if she can find a Trans freaking Am for a couple grand, she ought to have been able to find something less gaudy for less money. Common sense isn't much of a Hawkeye trait, anyway.

As much as Kate irritates the hell out of me, with her (unmerited in my opinion) arrogance, with her stealing Clint's dog, and apparently his trick arrows, I did feel bad for her. She really was just trying to help people, and it went mostly horribly. She let some people down (the old ladies whose trailer was burned down), and Harold snookered her. Let's pause for a moment to admire that spell check does not recognize "Hawkeye", but it does recognize "snookered". Was all this meant to be some lesson for Kate, about not judging Clint so harshly for being mopey after he screwed up? She thought it was so obvious and easy, and now she's finding out how tricky things really are? Her dad's a crook, the victim she thought was working with her just used her, the other good ostensible good guys took all her hard work and put it towards their own purposes without a thought about helping with hers.

Or was it about not running from problems? She bailed on Clint, but not only did that leave him with only his morally questionable brother for backup, it meant she was on her own against Masque. Clint, for all his bullheadedness, has often extolled the virtues of teamwork (he did it a lot during his time with the Thunderbolts), and that you don't have to do things alone (even if he often tries to do things alone).

OK, I decided that we're supposed to hate Hill. If you recall, Clint sort of pissed off most of these crime bosses when he stole back that fake tape of him killing a prominent terrorist, along with a lot of their money (and a boat). That was also when Kate got on Masque's wrong side, so really, this is all Hill's fault for being incompetent enough to lose the damn tape in the first place. She really ought to be putting a little more effort into helping the Hawkeyes. Maria Hill's not the worst character created in the last 15 years (the Sentry, everyone!), but she's the worst in terms of being a lousy person, for certain.

So I guess this is it for Annie Wu on Hawkeye, unless Marvel asks her to draw the last two issues just so the damn book can actually finish before all the polar ice melts and drowns humanity. It's a good issue to end on, at any rate. I like that second page, the one with just the two panels of Kate getting her mugshot taken. Don't know why, exactly, there's so much blank space, but it forces me to regard Kate, see just how tore up she is, and the way she can only maintain the cheeky attitude for the first picture. In the second one, she just looks tired. I also like the panels where she's telling the story from whatever room she was in. The way she's nearly enveloped by the shadows, how dark the circles around her eyes are in the panel where we're standing behind Hill and Coulson as Hill holds the arrow (though we don't know that's who they are yet). It plays up the fatigue, the wear and tear, and how completely isolated she is, nothing around that gives a damn about her. Also, I don't know what this meant, but the panel of Masque and Harold looking out the window Kate escaped through. One of Masque's eyes in obscured by a shard of glass, and so it's just shadows, no pupil or anything visible. Don't know if that was supposed to mean anything - maybe the inhumanity of Masque, hiding in some fake body - or if Wu and Hollingsworth just though it looked cool. It's certainly does, at any rate.

I will say I prefer to think the real Masque is hidden somewhere, and these are just bio-duplicates she sends out to do her bidding. That was the direction Busiek and Perez went with her in that Avengers story, and while this Masque doesn't have to be that paranoid, it would make sense to keep her real self well away from exploding arrows and send excellent copies out in her stead. So now we wait for the finale. And wait. And wait.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

That Darn Cat! Er, Flerken

Before we continue with the reviews, I wanted to step back and explore something in some more depth, if possible. Carol Danvers' cat/Flerken, Chewie.

Based on what we learned over these last two issues, Chewie was the last known Flerken in the universe, prior to giving birth to a whole bunch of baby Flerkens. So why did Chewie end up with Carol Danvers?

The fact that Rocket was sure the Flerkens had a language that could be translated and understood, combined with certain of Chewie's actions, suggests Flerkens have some level of intelligence. Chewie understood Carol was leaving her behind, and that Tic didn't want to be left behind either, and was able to transport the two of them safely onto Carol's ship, even as it was starting to move. Which suggests a certain level of comprehension and memory. All of which makes me believe the Flerken sought Carol out. Because this is a superhero comic and there's no such thing as coincidence in an fictional universe where even the concept of Chaos has a personification known as "Master Chaos". How can chaos have a master?

As near I can tell, Chewie and Carol met during House of M, when Carol defeated someone named Warren Traveler by literally throwing a cat at him. Traveler showed up after House of M ended, in the Brian Reed-written Ms. Marvel, and attacked Carol again, but she eventually beat him with an assist from Dr. Strange. The cat actually showed up right before Traveler launched that second attack, and Carol apparently just decided to keep her.

So Carol first met Chewie during a fight with a powerful magician in an altered version of her timeline. I think we're meant to read it as Traveler took the cat with him wherever he vanished to at the end of that fight, and then brought it with him as a warning to Carol. Except why not kill the cat? He's a crazy bad guy. No really, he was kind of nuts because he had melted down the Wand of Watoomb and turned it into a false eye, which had a predictably bad effect on his sanity. If the cat cost him the win, and he's back for revenge, why spare the cat? Unless the cat is actually an intelligent alien species that was able to counter or avoid his attacks - by using dimensional portals to either dodge or divert the magic - until it could find a way back to Carol, presenting itself as a warning to her of the imminent threat.

This still raises the question of why Chewie would care. Why did Chewie, when thrown at Traveler, actually attack him, rather than just running? Why warn Carol? Why stay with Carol after? For that matter, why would there only be one Flerken left in the universe? Given the Flerken's dimensional pocket abilities, it hardly seems like the sort of thing people would drive to extinction. Rather, you would expect interested parties to raise Flerkens, like they raise horses. Breed them to access larger pockets, until they can transport entire starships, or to be able to traverse galaxies, or to not cover the things the store in pink slime. Unless that made them too dangerous. A creature that could transport a small, but powerful bomb anywhere in the universe would be a great equalizer for outgunned factions or planets. Maybe the dominant empires didn't want Flerkens around to shift the balance of power.

Or maybe the Flerkens perceived how they were going to be exploited and ran like hell. Maybe Chewie wasn't the last of the species, just the last one that stuck around in this universe. All the others high-tailed it to some safer universe where they would be looked at like a resource to exploit. Chewie might even have been doing the same, but got knocked off-kilter by Wanda's reality-altering. During House of M, perhaps Chewie was just an ordinary cat, because that world's rules were everyone gets their fondest desire, and maybe Chewie's was to not be hunted.

So Chewie becomes just an everyday cat, nothing special, but that means she can't access her abilities to get where all her friends went. Carol is sort of nice to her (though she also throws Chewie at a crazy sorcerer), and so when things snap back to normal, Chewie seeks Carol out again. Carol can shield Chewie from danger, and by hanging around someone who flies and shoots zappy bolts, Chewie won't stand out as much. Just a cat, on a world that's never heard of Flerkens. A world full of other crazy stuff, that most of the major interstellar species give a wide berth to, because it's so crazy and dangerous. Even if someone learned there was a Flerken on Earth, they might not want to go after it and risk fighting the Fantastic Four, or the X-Men or whoever. Maybe Chewie wasn't initially looking for Carol specifically, she was just the first person Chewie happened upon who seemed like a good person to hang out with.

Of course, that brings it back to a coincidence, at least as far as it being Carol and not say, Nightcrawler or She-Hulk, but it sort of makes sense that way. I can't figure why Chewie would seek Carol Danvers out specifically. What would an alien that can hop dimensions want with Carol? Is it something to do with those "white holes" she draws power from to become Binary? Those lead to another universe on the other end, maybe the one the Flerken fled to. Maybe Chewie can't make it across on her own any longer, and will ultimately need Carol's assistance (just as soon as they learn how to communicate complex concepts to each other). At the time Chewie found her, Carol hadn't been out in space for quite awhile, so I don't know that would be much of a factor. Unless the Flerkens are natural foes of the Brood. The Brood try to lay eggs in people, the Flerkens could just transport the eggs out in space, or store them somewhere until they aren't viable. Which would make Flerken unpopular with the Brood, and Carol hates the Brood, so. . .

* I tried using my old reviews to pin this down, but failed. Fortunately, a person on the Internet had cataloged basically every appearance Chewie had made prior to the current series. It's here, if you're curious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 2

I saw David Brothers' post today that 4thletter's being mothballed, which was a bummer. Reading the explanation though, I can understand the reason. I can't fault someone for feeling they've got other things they need or want to spend their time on. I always wonder what's happened when people just stop posting. Are they OK? Did they just get tired? Are they sick, did they move? At least we know in this case. I've debated whether I should set up some post for this blog, just in case, set for a few weeks ahead, and just keep rescheduling it as needed. That would be more in the event of my untimely death - given the current wind chill, the mostly likely cause will be insufficient layers when I go running - rather than my getting tired of blogging.

Daredevil #8 and 9, by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid (storytellers), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Grand Comics Database didn't have issue 9's cover up yet, or I'd have gone with the creepy kids walking Matt off a ledge made of their dad's face. You'll just have to be content with a picture of creepy kids staring at you. Look at them. LOOK AT THEM!

Looking at the credits, I was confused for a moment to not see Javier Rodriguez' name for color art. Then I remembered he's drawing that Hobgoblin mini-series, so he's busy. To Wilson's credit, I couldn't tell a difference in the color work. It's the usual excellent work we expect on this book. Was it Wilson or Caramagna who colored the text purple when someone is giving a command. I'm guessing Caramagna, couldn't be that hard for him to use a different color ink (font?), but I could be wrong. I like it, though, just as a visual shorthand for how there must be something noticeably different in the tone in those circumstances. A measure of command, or something just being wrong. It's also interesting to see when the kids seem to use it on each other, and raises the question of how much conscious command they actually have.

The Purple Man, mind-controlling creep, has fathered a bunch of kids over the years with women he made forget all about him after. Now he's rounding them up, expecting them to love him by choice, unlike all the people he's forced to love him over the years. Except the kids don't care about some dad they've never known, and they make him walk himself in front of a train. Which still isn't enough to kill him, because he put the mental whammy on himself that it wasn't.

Contrasted with all this, Matt and Kirsten are apparently back to being a couple. I wasn't sure up to this point - she could have simply decided partnering with Matt would be good for business, an assumption that appears to be wrong - but he's getting to meet her parents, as awkward as they turns out to be. Kirsten isn't a big fan of her stepmom, and her dad is trying to pitch Matt on selling his life story for a book deal. Worth 8 million dollars. Matt isn't certain whether to take the offer or not, and Foggy, out to breakfast with them in a fat suit, is worried reliving all his tragedy will wreck the attitude Matt's tried to cultivate. Matt dismisses this, but his run-in with Purple Man's kids has perhaps disabused him of that notion, since it left him curled up in the fetid stuff that runs through a diversion channel.

Well I'm certainly glad to be past Original Sin. Not that the previous two issues were bad, but they did feel awkwardly shoehorned in. I'm a little concerned about the use of the Purple Man, because he's one of those villains with powers that really lend themselves to creepy uses. But for as long as I can recall, he's been portrayed as using them in creepy and sexually assaulting ways, so I guess it's just part of his character at this point. I do like that Waid and Samnee have the kids seemingly eliminate Killgrave at the end of one issue, figuring our sympathies will lie the kids, heck we'll probably even cheer them on. Then we find out having five kids with the same powers, and no compunction about using them, because they're kids, really isn't any better. Killgrave didn't care about anyone's desires or wishes but his own, neither do the kids, but they aren't even bothering to stay off the radar, or consider the consequences of what they're doing, which means they'll probably cause even more widespread damage.

Samnee used the after image thing in one panel in issue 9, which is one of my favorite comic techniques, so that's always a plus. I also like the body language on the 5 kids in the panel at the bottom of that same page (page 16). The way the littlest has his hands folded across his body, the eldest boy with his fists clenched, the girl in-between with one hand in a coat pocket, and the other arm hanging loose at the side, which strikes me as more nonchalant. It's nice. Plus, since it's Matt's radar sense, we don't have any clue as to the kids' expressions, which makes them seem more alien and menacing. Five faceless figures advancing steadily towards him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Bought 11/15/2014 - Part 1

So guys, I got these things in the mail. They're thin booklets, combining pictures and words to tell a story. It's the most extraordinary thing. What do you mean that sounds crazy? OK, fine, I was lying. They mostly only tell part of a story. But sometimes if you read two of them together they tell a story. And sometimes they still only tell part of one. But these two told a story!

Captain Marvel #7 and 8, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Marcio Takara (artist), Lee Loughridge (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I liked both covers, if only for the oddness of Carol doing the horror movie "clutching the sides of her face" pose, but I had to go with this one. The raining cats, er, Flerkens, Rocket's reaction (and the way he's clutching some of Carol's hair), and Carol's grumpy look.

Carol's borrowed a ship from Torfa so she can get back to her ship Harrison, which the Guardians of the Galaxy are supposed to be looking after. Turns out Tic stowed away, and is gung-ho to be Carol's sidekick, over Carol's objections. When they reach Harrison, they find Rocket, who has been messing around with the ship's computer in an effort to make it speak Flerken, since he's certain that's what Carol's cat is. Unfortunately, he also put out some feelers through his contacts about Flerkens, and now there's some alien goo thing attacking Carol's ship to get Chewie. And Chewie lays eggs. Lots of eggs. So it's a Flerken, after all.

From there Carol and Tic try to fight off the attacker from the outside, while Rocket actually makes a game attempt to protect Chewie from the goo that's already breached the hull. Ultimately, Chewie eats most of the goo, because Flerkens apparently have dimensional pockets in them, or can access dimensional pockets. Carol doesn't feel she can protect them, so she leaves all of the Flerkens with some alien pet rescue center. Except Tic and Chewie refuse to be left behind, and you can use those Flerken dimensional pockets to travel, so they pop back up on the ship, and Carol's stuck with them. Unless she shoots them out a torpedo tube, I guess. But she probably won't do that.

I think DeConnick does better when she sticks to these shorter stories that can feed into a larger arc. But she keeps opening with 6 issue stories, which feel longer and slower than they need to be. But I did enjoy this story, though I'm starting to think we should be concerned about Tic, after her comment that she's older than Carol thinks, and her insistence on traveling with her. I'm suspicious, what can I say? I'll wait and see about Chewie being some alien species rather than a cat. It'll depend on what DeConnick does with the idea. How about seeing if Chewie can send a bomb to J'Son, and blow that guy to bits?

Marcio Takara is the artist for both issues, and I know this is a small thing, but it annoyed me that Carol's hair was not a length consistent with how Lopez has been drawing it. He'd kept it above the shoulders, but Takara has it going about halfway down the back. This was one of the things that bugged me about the previous volume's artists (beyond the fact they all varied so greatly in style the book had no consistent visual look), that nobody could be bothered to mention, "Hey, Carol is keeping her hair relatively short." It shouldn't be that difficult. Beyond that, Takara's work is fine. Reminds me a little of Annie Wu in some places, Rick Leonardi in others. Some of the facial expressions are very good - especially Rocket and Chewie's when they're covered with pink slime, or the bit where Tic and Chewie regard Carol with matching skeptical expressions. I do wonder who did most of the work on the alien goo thing, Loughridge or Takara. It's essentially an amorphous black shape, so maybe Takara did the outline and Loughridge colored it? Or maybe Takara did it all with inks.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Invisible Man 2.11 - Germ Theory

Plot: Hobbes made the mistake of complaining about his workload in the field, so now he's doing filing with Eberts. Darien is ducking it by hiding invisibly in Claire's lab. Also he needs counteragent. Also, Claire is working on a time-released version of counteragent, for times when he can't get back there. But Darien screws around with the beaker and breaks it, then cuts his finger. Come the next morning, his finger is invisible, and he can't make it reappear. Claire discerns the bacteria that were probably on his hand interacted with the Quicksilver and the counteragent and some other stuff, and now they have Quicksilver-producing bacteria. Which sounds pretty awesome to her and the Official, so Darien becomes a lab rat again. Then Claire nicks herself with a scalpel while trying to take a tissue sample (because it's difficult to scrape an invisible finger), and she gets infected, so her hand starts turning invisible. But this doesn't dampen her enthusiasm, until she goes Quicksilver Mad and it requires the combined efforts of Hobbes and the Official to stop her.

The following morning she's quite apologetic for punching the Fat Man in the face, and Darien's invisible up to the elbow, so work continues. Meanwhile, Eberts and Hobbes have begun to bond over filing and various wounds gained in the line of duty. This culminates in Hobbes buying Eberts a burger from a joint with a "C" rating from the Health department, only to take it away when Eberts won't agree to boost Bobby's paycheck. And Hobbes puts mayo on burgers like a heathen. Claire isn't having much success replicating the bacteria outside a host body, she and Darien are getting sicker, and they each have to keep giving the other counteragent shots to stop Quicksilver Madness. When Claire presents her concerns to the Official, he confiscates her antibiotics and tells her to keep working. Because neither she or Darien are life-threateningly sick yet. Brilliant. How about being on the verge of "rip your throat out" crazy?

As Darien stats puking a lot - I hope it was puke - Claire finds that her lab rats have turned visible again. Unfortunately, it's because they're dead. And the Official's head has turned invisible (because his lip bled from that invisible punch to face Claire gave him), so it's time to kill this infection. Oops, it's antibiotic-resistant. And now Bobby's infected because he tried to help Claire when she went to puke after seeing the burger he brought her, and they fell over and he got stabbed with a slide with bacteria on it. And the Official called the CDC for Protocol 34, which means they're going to torch the building and everything in it. Oh, and there's only 1 shot of counteragent left. Hobbes thinks it should go to Claire, so she can keep a clear head, the Official wants her to split it with Fawkes, so he doesn't go nuts, run out of the building, and get shot in the head, destroying the gland. How would they know to do that since he's fully invisible? Anyway, it's a moot point because the Fat Man goes crazy first and his visible lower half takes off, only to get shot in the leg and be dragged back in by Darien. Oh, and Alex came back from a field mission to find all this.

Fawkes and the Official are strapped down, Claire is sad and apologetic about being too caught up in discovery, but Bobby gives her a pep talk, and it's then Claire notices Hobbes' cut is still visible. And it turns out the mayo on that burger was bad, he has food poisoning, and it was the staph that killed the Quicksilver-producing bacteria. Alex commandeers that mayo, and then, oh god, Claire eats a big spoonful of it, I'm going to be sick. But everyone is cured - except now they all have food poisoning - and the day is saved.

Quote of the Episode: Claire - 'If you hadn't so recently vomited, I would kiss you.' Hobbes - 'I could eat a mint.'

The "oh crap" count: 2 (22 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Newton's line about seeing further by standing on the shoulders of giants, and Darien notes that master Japanese composers say true expression is the silence between the notes as much as the notes themselves.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 1 (5 overall). The Official also does once, and Claire twice, I guess. But I did say "Fawkes" specifically, so.

Other: Eberts doing the "I love the smell of napalm" line, only with toner, was really creepy. He sniffed the copies, man, that's just wrong. I did like that even though Eberts refused to cook the books on Bobby's behalf, Hobbes still stood up for him when he wanted to go file near the end. Because Hobbes understood Eberts took comfort from it. And even though it was disapproving (because she didn't realize that), I like Claire using Eberts' first name, just as a reminder they know it.

Considering how he started this whole thing, I couldn't believe Darien would casually pick up a couple of flasks - that had stuff in them - and casually wave them above his head to demonstrate a point. That point being that the circumstances that brought this about are akin to taking all the ingredients of his brother's chemistry set and mixing them together to see how big an explosion you get. I did like Claire's confused, slightly horrified reaction to that. 'Why would anyone misuse a chemistry set like that?' Because it's fun to break other people's stuff, duh.

It's a strange episode, because on the one hand, out of control bacterial infection that's going to kill them, if it doesn't drive them irretrievably mad (or the CDC doesn't incinerate them) first. On the other hand, you get all these silly gags. The Official having been a boxing champ back in the day - "Iron Jaw" - and being slightly disappointed Claire's hand didn't hurt from punching him. Then he goes Quicksilver Mad and flees the lab yelling, "You'll never take Iron Jaw!" Which was hilarious. All the sight gags of characters being partially invisible. The Official with his head bandaged in the classic Invisible Man look. Or the sight of two pairs of legs charging down the hall. It's weird, just seeing two legs doing that, I kept expecting them to fall over, even though I know there's an upper body there. The filing adventures of Bobby and Eberts.

Also the apparent open shipping of Hobbes and Claire by the rest of the team. The Official walks in on Hobbes trying to restrain a Q.M. Claire (who is trying to bite his neck), and he assumes they're making out. Even makes a crack about how he was about to congratulate her on working late. Darien walks in after Bobby tries to keep Claire from pitching over, so they're on the floor in each other's arms. All he says is, "it's about time". Everyone at the Agency is down for Keebbes. Bobaire? I dunno.

That said, Claire eating that big spoonful of mayo - whether it was tainted or not - was the most disturbing thing I've seen on this show. And keep in mind, Darien was hung upside-down from a tree to be sexually assaulted by an invisible Bigfoot that believed he was a female. I hope Shannon Kenny either really likes mayo, or that was actually some watery vanilla pudding or something. Uck.

I did enjoy Bobby being the glue that sort of keeps everything together. Sure, he's not in danger of going Quicksilver Mad like the others (save Eberts), but he doesn't know that. Still, he back Eberts up about needing to file, gives Claire a pep talk, is the one who points out she ought to get the last shot because she's the only one with a prayer of saving them, and is making plans with Fawkes to get some restraints ready for when Darien goes Quicksilver Mad. He's thoroughly competent and cool-headed during the whole thing, which was kind of neat.

I did notice he didn't really comfort Darien much, but Darien also seemed strangely resigned to the whole thing. The Official tries to bluster through it, Eberts files to relieve stress, Claire is depressed and full of self-recrimination, Darien is just.. . Darien. Snarky, generally relaxed. He'd been in favor of getting the bacteria killed from the start, and had seen himself overruled by Claire's curiosity and the Official's desire for something potentially lucrative. He'd watched as Claire screwed around trying to harness this thing until it was too late to destroy it. And frankly, he's had the gland in his head all this time, he may have always accepted it was going to get him killed. If not from going Mad, then from Arnaud, or Chrysalis. If not them, the Official if he decides Darien's not worth the trouble. Remember I said I'd like to see Darien maybe more indifferent to his well-being in the aftermath of "My Brother's Keeper"? I wonder if this isn't a little of that. He saw that as his best chance to be free of all this. Once it was gone, he knew it was just a matter of time. Might not have expected everyone else to be going with him, but his end isn't a surprise to him.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Not Reviews Exactly, Just Revisiting Some Films

The comics did arrive today, mostly. Plus a couple I didn't ask for I'll have to send back. I suppose I appreciate his desire to be thorough (or his attempt to anticipate) by sending me some Harley Quinn stuff (that scratch and sniff annual and the Future's End tie-in), but no thanks. Anyway, we'll get to the comics starting Monday.

To other matters. I've been going through my DVD collection, rewatching films I haven't in awhile. Mostly I've been trying to decide whether to keep those films or not. It's 50/50 at this point. All of them have flaws, it's a matter of whether the flaws overwhelm the things I like. Crank 2 doesn't have enough of the strangeness I enjoyed in the first film (even with the fight at the power substation where Statham and the guy he's fighting transform into kaiju versions of themselves), and too often the vulgarity stops being funny, and just seems crass (the first film also did this, but much less frequently, which is why it stays).

But it's fun to rewatch them and see things I either didn't notice, or had forgotten about.

The American: I think I appreciated the long shots of the scenery much more this time around. It seemed so obvious his handler was setting him up. Why would you send Jack to a small town in rural Italy, where a lone American likely sticks out like a sore thumb, if you want him to lay low? Especially a small town with so many narrow paths to navigate? I do enjoy those sequences a lot. It's like he's in the maze of the Minotaur, with all the high walls of the homes around him, the overlapping passages, the odd lighting at night - orange here, green there. I did think a lot of the women looked very similar, hair color aside. I got confused for awhile, thinking the woman he'd fallen in love with was also the one he was building the gun for. You know, that she was posing as someone working in a brothel, the way he pretended to be a photographer. It was weird, but with all the duplicity and false appearances, I didn't think I could rule it out. That doesn't turn out to be the case, but I can't decide if the film was deliberately making the female characters look similar, to illustrate something about Jack, or if it was just chance (and some peculiarity of my mind).

Chronicle: The high point is still Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery. He's does an excellent job playing someone who is legitimately a nice guy, but doesn't quite get that being friendly and popular isn't quite as easy for everyone else as it is for him. That not everybody can take friendly laughter so easily. He really wants to be friends with Andrew, but he can't quite understand him, and Andrew can't just toss aside the things that hold him back. I do appreciate that having powers doesn't automatically make everything better for Andrew, even if I still thought it was tired having the isolated outcast guy be the one who goes nuts and starts abusing his power. The parts where they're messing around, trying to learn how to use their powers were entertaining.

Daredevil: This was the director's cut, which is longer, but maybe ties things up a little neater. I still don't think it's a good film, but certain parts are enjoyable. I like several of the performances. The late Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin. Favreau as Foggy is maybe a little too klutzy, but on the whole, I think he plays Matt's less idealistic, but still hard-working and loyal best friend well. Colin Farrell isn't playing Bullseye as I would normally picture the character, but he plays an interesting character, at least. I'm less sold on Affleck and Garner (I don't think Elektra got enough development), but I don't think either did a bad job. It just doesn't come together somehow. Maybe because Matt and Elektra's relationship wasn't built sufficiently, and it needs to be so that their battle (and her subsequent death) have emotional impact.

Haywire: I had completely forgotten about the RANDOM DEER INTERFERENCE during the driving in the snow. So I got to crack up laughing over that again. I like the soundtrack, but it feels out of place somehow, like it's better suited to a film from the '60s. The thing is, plotwise, this is basically one of those detective stories where the private investigator is the fall guy, just filtered through a current day scenario - private contractor doing dirty work for some national security branch. But most of those guys playing P.I.s couldn't do the kind of stuff Gina Carano does. Don't recall Robert Mitchum doing a lot of flying jump punches, or choking dudes out with his legs. So maybe it's the action sequences, or the fact the movie isn't shot in a high-contrast style with lots of shadows or anything like that. I like the movie, and I like the music, they just don't always mesh. Strange. Enjoyable, but strange

The Heroic Trio: OK, I watched this just a couple of months ago, but I wasn't sure about keeping it. So, watch it again. Still wish the film had a bigger budget, or at least the opportunity to be made a few years later. You can see the struggle between what the movie wants the characters to be able to do, and how effectively they can show those characters doing those things. So a lot of extreme close-ups on projectiles so you don't have to show their actual path through the air, and then cutting back to a longer shot showing the end result - bullet cut in half, baby kept from going splat by pinning their swaddling to a wall, whatever. 

In the version of the film I have, Anita Mui's character is Shadow Fox, which is a pretty cool name. But in at least one other version, her character was Wonder Woman, which fits in certain ways. The parallel I noticed the most was that her husband is a highly successful and dedicated cop, who figures out part way through the film his wife is actually a well-known masked vigilante, and he's totally cool with it. He's not threatened by her being faster or a better fighter, or her being able to successfully battle people he can't match up against. And he doesn't try to ask her not to go rescue the missing babies. Heck no, he trusts she can do it and encourages her. And there's a bit at the very beginning of the movie, where they're looking at a prospective home, and some punk tries to steal their car. The detective casually leaps out a 2nd story window, and lassoes the thief out of the car with some vines that were growing up the side of the house. She casually remarks to the realtor that that's why she married him. So she recognizes how good of a guy he is, and she loves him for it. So it's reminiscent of how Diana and Steve Trevor's relationship has often been portrayed over the years. I don't know if director Johnnie To was a big fan of DC's Wonder Woman, or if it's just a happy coincidence, but it was something I didn't notice the first time through.

That being said, Maggie Cheung's character Mercy is still my favorite. She's kind of spastic, vain, and a little dishonest, but she's still a good person when you boil it down, just not to the point she's ready to throw her life away for a noble cause. I did find it interesting when she's arguing with Michelle Yeoh's character, as she talks about how after escaping the bad guy's influence, it still took her 10 years to become a normal person. Then she says, 'Not even that', suggesting she knows she's still affected by the training and horror he put her through. It's a rare totally serious moment for her in the film, but that helps it have an impact.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

We've Reached The Point I'm Discussing Games I Didn't Even Want To Play

No, I don't know where my comics are. At this rate, I fully expect Fraction and Aja to actually finish Hawkeye by the time my books get here from wherever the hell they are. So you're stuck with something else in the interim.

The Diablo video games have a pretty good pedigree, but I haven't had much experience with them. I watched Papafred beat Diablo 2 back in college, though he'd done that previously, I'm pretty sure. He helped me get a demo of the original game for my laptop at the time. I played through it a bit, and that was pretty much it. I wasn't then, and still am not, much of a computer gamer. No particular reason, except maybe the feeling I'd constantly need to be upgrading my computer to play newer games, and I'm cheap.

My coworker had Diablo 3 on their 360, though, and for whatever reason, wanted to beat it on co-op mode. Which is how I got sucked into it. Joke's on them, we never got around to finishing the game. Ha ha.

Her character got the voiceover narration, and so she was on a quest to get revenge, or was trying to find something, I forget which, I haven't played the game since June. I'm not sure why my character (I picked a lady monk, because I felt like kicking things, I guess) was along. Friend solidarity? Maybe the two of them were on separate quests prior to the start of the game and happened to meet and decided on a team-up. Not sure how else a warrior monk meets a lady barbarian. We eventually rescued this old man, Leoric, who was important in the earlier games, I guess, and then there was a guy found in a crater who turned out to be an angel who renounced his titles to help fight with us, something like that. I'm vague on the details.

Not just because of the span of time, but I honestly wasn't paying much attention. The story seemed ancillary to the gameplay of traveling to a place and killing everything there, then looting their bodies for stuff to either use myself, or sell so I can buy better stuff to use myself. And, since I'd never been all that gung-ho to play in the first place, I didn't feel terribly invested. So the idea that my character - I just now remembered I named her Lei Kung, because I couldn't remember that "Wu Ao-Shi" was the name of the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay from Immortal Iron Fist, so heck, make her the Thunderer-  was just along to help a friend sort of fits. The details in that event are largely irrelevant; I'm just trying to keep my friend from dying until we finish whatever it is she's trying to do, and can go back home and chill. Until then, I'd just keep kicking giant, stupid, ugly monsters in the face until they die.

So the gameplay itself was fine. That particular, three-quarters top-down view was familiar from my limited experiences with the earlier games. It's not a bad view, I can't recall feeling like there were things I ought to be able to see I couldn't, even when there were a whole mess of enemies around us. The various dungeons, caves, lairs, and such that we entered we large enough that it actually felt a little challenging trying to find the proper objective. Sometimes the game might provide an arrow on the map, pointing in the proper general direction, but sometimes you don't even get that. I'm not typically a fan of wandering around blind in a dangerous place, but it made sense in this case. This wasn't like Zelda games, where you eventually find a map of the dungeon that shows you everything. The only way to find out what's there is to go look around.

The game allowed for each character to pick a special attack mapped to each button. As you leveled up, new attacks or skills would be unlocked, or else modifications of ones you'd already learned. But the choice of which ones you used was up to you. And if you decided the one you had wasn't working, or you needed a new approach, you could go into the menu screen and change it up. I found I liked the whirlwind kick that knocked enemies back. That might seem counterintuitive, since I was playing as a character reliant strictly on melee attacks, but I liked being able to make breathing room, it hit a lot of enemies, and it scattered them, so it was easier to charge at one or two and take them out in smaller groups.

The menu screen also had a section where you could just check out how cool your character looked in whatever you'd outfitted them with at the moment. Lei Kung did look pretty cool most of the time. You couldn't really tell when you were playing, because the view is from a distance. Like I'm in the balcony at an opera house. Made sense, given the size of some of the enemies, though. There were times when entering a new area seemed to bring a massive spike in difficulty. We'd breeze through one dungeon, go on to the next one, and almost immediately be struggling to survive against the very first enemies we'd run into. Which is the sort of thing I always worry about in RPGs, that I didn't level up enough. Except I'm usually worried about boss fights, not random monster battles. The game at least usually gives you the chance to resurrect where you fell, so you aren't leaving your partner hanging for more than a few seconds, assuming they can stay alive that long. I tended to fare better than my friend, even though her barbarian usually had equipment with higher defenses. I guess Lei Kung was dodging a lot of attacks.

Neither one of us got any use out of the blacksmith. You had to bring him materials before he could craft anything, then he has to craft lousy stuff first, until he gets good enough to make good stuff, and during that whole time, we'd just be throwing away money. No thanks. I'm not sure if it was a glitch, but at one point it appeared the game was giving us the option to take another character along with us for help. Except the game wouldn't let us actually select any of the options. Maybe since there were already two of us, we couldn't bring a third person along, though the game had let us do that at other times.

Diablo 3 seemed good at what it wanted to be, but it wasn't a game I had any strong desire to continue playing.