Saturday, January 31, 2015

2014 Comics In Review - Part 5

I had to make a few alterations to the list post this year. Not a lot of one-shots, even fewer mini-series, and no anthologies. As always, Best Ongoings is limited to books which shipped at least 6 issues during the year, which. . .  does not narrow the field much. Favorite Trade is among things I bought this year, whether they were released in 2014 or not. Favorite Artist is restricted to the people with at least 110 pages, though others are eligible for Honorable Mention.

Best Ongoing Series:

1. Ms. Marvel
2. Daredevil
3. (tie) She-Hulk/Deadpool
5. Superior Foes of Spider-Man

A new champion! For the first time since Darkwing Duck won in 2010, Daredevil is not in the top spot. Reasons include DD having an Original Sin tie-in, I didn't really love how the Shroud was portrayed, and I felt like restarting at issue 1 was an unnecessary move designed only to provide an excuse to jack up the price. In contrast, Ms. Marvel has no negatives against it, only good things that I enjoy, and that's why it's the winner!

A lot of good ongoings this year. She-Hulk and Deadpool are both real close to Daredevil, good writing on all three, which means DD maintains the edge on the strength of a stronger art team. Superior Foes is just a bit below that, because, even accounting for the entire story being told by an unreliable narrator, it kind of makes normally competent characters look like total morons. At least it does it with a twinkle in its eye, unlike say, when Mark Millar is writing something.

Best Mini-Series:

1.Atomic Robo - Knights of the Golden Circle

Yep, the only mini-series I bought all year. I suppose you could think of all these Marvel series that only run for a year as mini-series of sorts. They really aren't all that different from the 12-issue "Welcome Back, Frank" mini-series Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon did with the Punisher back in the day. Except those ongoings could in theory continue beyond twelve issues, so I don't count them. Have I padded this out sufficiently?

Best One-Shot:

1. Deadpool Annual #2
2. Empowered Special - Internal Medicine
3. Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day 2014

Those are the only options, and none of them are standouts. Three solid, but not exceptional stories. So the Annual wins for that 'Spider-Man is a champion against dumb!' line. Hey, Deadpool wasn't wrong.

Favorite Trade:

1. Deadpool Volume 3: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
2. Arsenic Lullaby - The Devil's Decade
3. Locke and Key Vol. 4 - Keys to the Kingdom
4. Adventures of Dr. McNinja Omnibus

I didn't buy as many trades in 2014 as 2013, not as strong a year overall. I could have put any of the first 4 volumes of Locke and Key in there, or either of the subsequent two Dr. McNinja trades. Take the inclusion of one as a blanket vote of support for the others. Anyway, I mentioned that Deadpool trade as the early frontrunner when I did this series of posts last year, and here it is, still on top. To be fair, nothing was going to top that panel where he proclaims, 'I'm Deadpimp! You dumb grocers better have my money!' I laugh at that every single time, partially for his outfit, partially because the grocers are Luke Cage and Iron Fist, wearing aprons over their superhero outfits.

Favorite Writer:

1. G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel)
2. Brian Clevinger (Atomic Robo)
3. Charles Soule (She-Hulk)

Could probably put Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn in there as well, but I'm not sure how you break down credit for Deadpool between the two.

Favorite Artist:

1. Adrian Alphona
2. Chris Samnee
3. David Lopez
4. Javier Pulido
5. Todd Nauck

I went to 5 because I wanted to get Nauck on the list. I don't like his artwork as much as the people above him on the list (obviously), but his work on Nightcrawler really has been better than anything of his I've seen previously, and I wanted to give a nod to that. Also, I vastly prefer Alphona's looser style on Ms. Marvel to his work on Runaways back in the day, which is how he got ahead of Samnee.

Honorable mentions: Kev Walker, Javier Rodriguez, Jacob Wyatt, Skottie Young

Let's see, tomorrow is the final episode of Invisible Man, and then on Monday, we actually start reviewing all those comics I got earlier this week.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2014 Comics In Review - Part 4

I really enjoy these posts. It's a fun excuse to go back over all the books, see the things I might have forgotten over the course of the year. I still need to decide what from this year is staying, and what's going. There's definitely a few things I won't end up keeping.

Roche Limit #1-3: Michael Moreci and Vic Molhorta set up a colony on a planet orbiting a strange anomaly. The colony was built by someone with big dreams, but fell prey to the usual human follies, and now its kind of a dump. It started with a bog-standard plot about a detective teaming up with a drug chemist to find her sister, but has started to get weird and metaphysical, with a doctor who believes he's found the soul, and some weird possession thing going on that's speeding up the disintegration of  the society in the colony. Which is good. I was going to be seriously disappointed if they wasted this setting on a story you could tell in any seedy urban locale.

Rocket Raccoon #1-6: Skottie Young wrote and drew the first four issues, then he and Jake Parker shared art duties on issue 5, before Parker did issue 6. It started with Rocket wanted for murder, which hardly seemed surprising considering how much he seems to murder these days, but he was innocent this time, and he had perhaps found another of his kind. Then the other raccoon turned out to be Blackjack O'Hare, and I don't know why they're enemies again, but they are. Then Rocket was attacked by the League of Justifiably Angry Exes. Then Groot shared a campfire story about a treasure hunt he and Rocket went on, and then Rocket helped a former war mech save some of his buddies from being sold back into combat.

High point: Young's artwork is excellent, naturally, and especially well-suited for drawing weird aliens. It's been a very funny book at times, and kept up a fast pace. I liked the story with the mech, for the appearance of Cosmo, for Rocket's annoyance with being stuck with another partner with a limited vocabulary. In general, I like the fact there's a lot of action, but things aren't taken terribly seriously. It's strange and absurd, but it works.

Low point: Rocket objecting to be wanted for murder at the exact same time he's drowning a cop was an extremely uncomfortable moment. That and him being essentially one of those scam artist boyfriend types was not what I wanted in a Rocket Raccoon book. Now that he seems to be actually helping people, albeit with a lot of grumbling and crabbing, I'm enjoying the book a lot more. I too, help people while grumbling and crabbing a lot, so you know, identifying with the character.

Secret Six #1: Ha, well, this is awkward. I haven't gotten this yet. But I know it was written by Gail Simone, and drawn by Ken Lashley. I've heard mixed things about it so far, but we'll see what I think next week.

She-Hulk #1-10: Charles Soule and Javier Pulido set Jen up in her own law office, with a curious assistant and Hellcat. She helped Kristoff assert at least a little independence from Dr. Doom, with the power of words (and smashing robots). She helped recover a scientist with a new, but not entirely perfected shrinking method, then helped defend Steve Rogers from a charge he was responsible for the death of a man's brother back before he became Captain America. Then Titania showed up to start a fight over a mysterious blue file.

High point: Soule seems to get two critical aspects of Jennifer Walters: She's a good lawyer, and she's a Hulk. So legal shenanigans, and robot smashing. Then he went and added Hellcat to the mix, which is never a bad thing. Also, Matt Rocks was great throwaway funny idea. Pulido's done some great work throughout. I like how he bulks Jen up a lot when she starts smashing versus when she's in the courtroom. Nice demonstration of how she keeps herself in control, unlike her cousin (for much of his history, anyway).

Low point: Those two issues Ron Wimberley drew. That art did not work at all. And it isn't just me. My coworker friend and her sister both complained about it (especially the sister, who was not aware of fill-in artists), not to mention I know Mike Sterling said it tanked the sales of the book at the store he used to work at. Not sure it would have made a huge difference in the long run, but I would have taken all the extra issues of this book I could get.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8-17: This thing turned into a huge series of double-crosses, with Boomerang engineering a set-up where everyone is running around after the von Doom painting, or the head of Silvermane, double-crossing each other constantly, while he goes after what he really wants. No idea if he got it or not, so I like to think he didn't, because he's a little too convinced of how clever he is for a schmuck. Though there's a good chance he's massively embellishing the whole thing. Steve Lieber and Nick Spencer handled most of it, and crafted a funny, engaging story.

High point: The comedic asides, the thought balloon illustration things Lieber draws. Those are always good. In general, Lieber and Spencer have a good sense of pacing on their jokes. The gag with Mach-7 breaking a bunch of stuff in a furniture store because he keeps forgetting about his wings when he turns around. The way they draw it out and keep compounding his embarrassment. It's cruel, but then you remember Fred is telling the story, and he hates Mach-7, so it makes a little more sense.

Low point: Those two fill-in issues, the one about the retired super-villain support group sharing horror stories about Spider-Ock, and the one where our protagonists sit around a bar and share war stories. The second one wasn't bad, but it didn't advance anything, and it was a waste of my money to buy them.

Tomorrow is the last part, the list portion, when books are ranked against each other. That's right, some titles and their creative talent will have their self-esteem bolstered by the denigration of other books and the talent involved. Or they would, if anyone was paying attention (or was already down enough on themselves to let my blatherings bother them).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2014 Comics In Review - Part 3

I always keep track of which artists drew the most pages, using 110 and 154 pages as arbitrary cutoffs. That made more sense when Marvel and DC did 22 page books instead of 20, but oh well. Nine artists hit the 110 page mark, with Mike Hawthorne (120), Scott Wegener (144), and David Lopez (152) coming up short of the 154 mark. So close for David Lopez, but nice to see him back on the list for the first time since 2010, when he was drawing Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Please keep in mind this is just counting pages they drew in books I actually bought. I know Mike Hawthorne drew a lot more than that overall. Of the other six, Chad Hardin, Steve Lieber, and Adrian Alphona made it to 160, Javier Pulido and Todd Nauck reached 180, and for the second time in three years, Chris Samnee leads the way, with 221 pages. Congratulations to Chris Samnee for winning this totally arbitrary award I just made up that confers no prize whatsoever!

Hawkeye #15-20: The book that's taking so long to come out, they're going to go ahead and start the next volume before this one even finishes. Unless the last two issues come out in February. Matt Fraction writing, David Aja drew a couple of issues, Annie Wu drew three others, normal letterer Chris Eliopoulos drew that issue where Clint dreams about a holiday special. Kate's big battle with Madame Masque didn't exactly end well for either of them. Hawkeye got deafened, but looked like he was finally going to stop moping and do something by the last time we saw him. Which would be a nice change of pace.

High point: Kate's solo adventure officially marks the most I've ever cared about Kate Bishop. Up to that point, I felt like she was the one who talks a lot of junk at Clint, but doesn't have the credentials to back it up. I wouldn't say her stint in L.A. provided those credentials, but at least she was trying to do something good for people.

Low point: In spite of everything, I still hope that when this thing concludes, Fraction and Aja will give Clint the badass moments I've been expecting this book to provide since it was announced. The way things are going, I'm not sure we'll ever see the conclusion, though. So, the delays are the low point. Also, I don't have much love for cheesy holiday specials, so that issue didn't do much for me.

Klarion #1-3: I bought it because Ann Nocenti was writing it. I recognize seemingly no one else is enjoying her current work, but screw it, I always find it interesting. Trevor McCarthy was the artist to start, and once once they figured out the book was going to die in five minutes, they started bringing in other people, so Sandu Florea is credited with finishes on issue 3 (and neither of them worked on issue 4, which came out this month.)

Ms. Marvel #1-10: Written by G. Willow Wilson, with most of the artwork done by Adrian Alphona (outside a 2 issue arc by Jacob Wyatt), and color art by Ian Herring. A young girl who idolizes Carol Danvers is exposed to Terrigen Mist and gets the opportunity to become a superhero for her town, and winds up fighting a clone of Edison crossed with a cockatiel who seems to be abducting kids. She's already teamed up with Wolverine and Lockjaw, while charming seemingly everyone she meets. Does that make her the superheroic version of Mary Tyler Moore?

High point: Jeez, everything. Kamala struggling to be a hero while being herself. The montage of Bruno helping her figure out her powers. The way Kamala's idea of being a hero centers on helping people, not beating people up. The way Wilson shows that the adults are clueless, in that her father and Sheikh Abdullah both understand the kind of person Kamala is and don't try to bar her from what she's trying to do (even if neither one totally understands what's going on). Alphona's art, which is just great. Every character is easily distinguishable, his form is loose enough to work well with the weird shape-changing stuff Kamala's powers allow. He draws great robots, though I think my favorite panel is still Kamala giving a very happy Lockjaw a big hug. That one always puts a smile on my face. Even the 2-issue guest appearance by Wolverine was fun. I didn't think Wolverine guest appearances could still be entertaining at this stage.

Low point: I'm still waiting for a conversation between Kamala and her mother that fleshes Ammi out more. So far, Mrs. Khan is kind of the rote, hysterical overprotective mom, and I figure there's got to be more to her. That hasn't hurt the book, it's just the one thing I'm slightly dissatisfied about. Nit picking, essentially.

Nightcrawler #1-9: Chris Claremont writing Kurt's return to the land of the living, which unfortunately made him of interest to his adoptive, power mad sorceress mother, Margali Szardos, and cost the life of Amanda Sefton. Then Kurt got mixed up with some intergalactic pirates/kidnappers, mourned the death of Wolverine, and because this is Claremont, now Kurt's got to deal with the Shadow King. Ugh. Todd Nauck's done some of the best work I've seen from him.

High point: I want to give some credit to Rachelle Rosenberg and her color work. She's made the book very bright and colorful, kind of fantastic, which is preferable for me when it comes to Kurt. More swashbuckling high adventure, less moping.And credit to Claremont, he's certainly trying to get Kurt into high adventure, while also dealing with the very real fact that is has to be kind of disorienting to leave the afterlife Paradise you always believed in, to return to the world of the living.

Low point: All that being said, the book has never quite clicked as much as I wanted it to. Bringing in the Shadow King certainly didn't help, and I'd say that's the official low point (either that or the Death of Wolverine tie-in), but there's just something off. There's some spark, or bit of whimsy or something, that I want to see that hasn't materialized. Maybe because Kurt is still trying to sort out why he's back and what he should be doing, it's still too serious.

OK, one more batch of titles to go. It's a high quality batch, though.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 Comics In Review - Part 2

I bought 128 new comics this year, down three from last year (though if I'd stuck with Deadpool through Axis it'd be a slight uptick from 2013), and a new low. Marvel came in at 101 books, or almost 79%, which is their best showing since 2009 in total books, and 2007 in percentage. DC had 16 and 12.5% respectively, which are both the worst since 2007. It continued a downward slide that's been in effect since DC's peak in 2010 (47 books, about 35%). Everything else added up to 11 books and 8.59%. Overall, it's a throwback to 5 or 6 years ago, though the non Marvel/DC category would do a lot better if I factored in trades (most of those are from before 2014). Looking at the first 4 months of 2015, DC looks like it'll rebound to 2013 levels, and Marvel might backslide to 2013 as well. Of course, I don't know what effect Secret Wars is going to have on my purchases, though I doubt it'll increase them, depending on how long it goes and how much it fouls things up.

Daredevil #0.1, 1-11: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee collaborate on most of it, with Javier Rodriguez coloring it. Rodriguez also drew the 2 issue Original Sin tie-in, where Matt had to travel to Wakanda to save his mother, who had been illegally detained and shipped there as part of some scummy below the table arrangement between Wakanda and the U.S. military. The 0.1 issue was about Matt's trip to California, where he got dragged into chasing an Adaptoid being used by the Mad Thinker. Besides that, he's trying to settle in to running a practice with Kirsten McDuffie in San Francisco, to pay for Foggy's cancer treatments without anyone realizing Foggy's still alive. He's run into the Owl since then, as well as the Purple Man's creepy kids, and then the Stunt Master, seemingly down on his luck and watching someone else steal his name and glory.

High point: Rodriguez' coloring, Chris Samnee's art. So much of the books feel is because of their work. Dark when it needs to be, but bright a lot of the time. The nearly constant needling Kirsten and Foggy get in on Matt, which plays nicely off Matt's ego and tendency to self-aggrandize. To wit, the differences in Matt's version of his first meeting with Hawkeye, compared to Foggy's retelling. Also, those Purple Kids were damn creepy, but in a way that was also sad, so pretty effective.

Low point: I didn't find the 0.1 issue all that useful, and found Matt's argument that it was OK to kill the Adaptoid to save the Mad Thinker, because it wasn't really alive, pretty weak in a universe with so many artificial intelligences which have shown the capacity to think and feel. The thing was at least as alive as the Mad Thinker, and had less criminal history. The Original Sin tie-in didn't feel like it fit with the tone and arc of the rest of the series.

Deadpool #22-35: Wade hunted down Gorman, the SHIELD agent who stiffed him on his money for killing the undead Presidents (and was selling secrets to Ultimatum), surviving the bounty Gorman put on his head in the process. Wade got Agent Preston into an LMD body and out of his head. He got married to an Empress of the Monster Metropolis, and then saved his daughter from the inept forces of Ultimatum, though that meant leaving Shiklah and a Dazzler he brought from the '70s alone against a bunch of vampires. Oh, and he beat down an antique Spider-Slayer piloted by a crippled Dracula. Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn write it, Mike Hawthorne drew a lot of issues, and Scott Koblish drew some others, and John Lucas drew the Original Sin tie-in. Oh, and there were a bunch of 5 page stories in the marriage issue by different creative teams that have worked on Deadpool books in the past, but there is no way I'm listing all of those. Go find a copy of Deadpool #27 and see for yourself.

High point: It's grim, but the way Wade tears through the Ultimatum schmucks on their faux-Helicarrier in issue 23 was hilarious. It was also disturbing in how casually Wade slaughtered them over money, but Deadpool works well when there's that conflict between the comedic and the frightening. The scene in issue 25 where 'Pool is beating Crossbones to death as Sabretooth comes strolling around the corner, musing how Wade will be easy prey. He takes one look at what's happening and reverses course. Hawthorne did a good job laying that out over a couple of panels. The whole honeymoon in Japan issue, #28, was excellent. The chase that just keeps getting larger and more ridiculous, and the way Shiklah resolves things definitively, while also finally getting some food. I just realized I haven't even mentioned Deadpool fighting alongside Cable to protect 1950s Nick Fury from time-traveling Hitler in a future mech-suit. So yeah, that was also good.

Low point: The first two issues of the Original Sin tie-in were pretty underwhelming. It was a lot of set-up, but nothing that held much weight. Wow, Calvin hates books he likes tying in to stupid events, what a complete surprise. I didn't like Lucas' art on that tie-in at all. Then they went almost immediately from 3 months of Original Sin tie-ins, into 3 months of Axis tie-ins, so I decided to drop the book temporarily. Which I will probably regret, because that one sounds like it was a lot better, but goddamnit I am sick of events. Maybe I'll grab the trade.

Deadpool Annual #2: I got this when I wasn't supposed to, but kept it because it was by Christopher Hastings and Jacopo Camagni, who did that very nice Longshot mini-series the year before. In this case, Wade impersonates Spider-Man, who is exhausted because the Chameleon is hounding him relentlessly somehow (hint: it's Spider-Ock's fault). It's not anything special, but Wade has a fun moment where he fights a new villain and declares that Spider-Man is, 'A champion against dumb!'

Empowered Special - Internal Medicine: Adam Warren and Brandon Graham give us a story about Emp and Ninjette going inside a baby bio-ship to remove a parasite, so the bio-ship's huge mama doesn't lay waste to the city. It was OK, nothing great. I liked Nine Beers with Ninjette from the year before better.

Harley Quinn #2-13: Harley's tried settling into her new home, only to have people constantly trying to kill her because of a huge contract her own subconscious put out on her. She's worked a little as a psychiatrist, though she spent more time helping an old spy eliminate some old enemies of his, and she's done a little work in a roller derby/fight club thing. Oh, and she had one of her tenants build a poop catapult to deal with all the waste the animals she stole from the shelter produce. And she just wrapped up a stint teaming up with an amnesiac Power Girl. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti write it, Chad Hardin drew most of it, plus one issue done by Stephane Roux, one by her and Hardin together, and one by John Timms.

High point: I think issue 4, when Harley hears a tale of woe from an elderly lady who feels neglected by her family, then kidnaps and torments that family until learning the old lady has Alzheimer's and they visit her three times a week. It was kind of what I expect from Harley: trying to do the right thing, but going about it in a screwed up, overreacting way. It's also why I'm enjoying this interlude with Power Girl, because Harley was actually trying to be crimefighting buddies with her. Well-meaning, but twisted. Also, I appreciate that Conner and Palmiotti are devoting some time to Harley's tenants, trying to at least give them some personalities. Always going to support building a supporting cast.

Low point: Overall, I don't think the book is great, but it isn't bad, either. The biggest problem I have is they introduce a lot of elements, but use them sporadically. The psychiatrist thing, the roller derby thing, they pop up when convenient, then vanish. It's almost like a sketch comedy show with a few recurring gags, but not much of a throughline. It's hard to describe, just that everything feels ephemeral, without substance, and that's holding it back.

Marvel not releasing mini-series any more really cuts down on the number of titles I cover each day. Everything is ongoings now, far cry from a few years ago when I was buying as many mini-series as regular series.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014 Comics In Review - Part 1

We'll get to proper reviews of the stuff I got in the mail - some of which is in here - next week. For now, you know how this goes. Go through roughly a quarter of the new stuff I bought in the last year each day, talk about who worked on the books, what the major plot arcs were, hit some some high and low points.

Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day 2014: It's a quick little story by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener about a college kid who goes snooping around and finds some eggs belonging to the Yonkers Devil, necessitating Robo and his action scientists step in to save her. As far as their FCBD offerings go, not the strongest, maybe because the Yonkers Devil isn't interesting as an antagonist. It's a big dumb animal, no personality.

Atomic Robo - The Knights of the Golden Circle #1-5: OK, here's the good stuff. Robo is blown back into the 19th century by the conclusion to the mini-series we'll get to next, and teams up with a federal marshal and Doc Holliday to stop a plot by an old enemy of his to to conquer at least a portion of America with primitive cyborgs. Oh, and Robo's power source is about to run dry.

High point: This series had me the moment Robo started wearing a Man with No Name-style poncho (as seen at left), which was pretty much at the very beginning. But also the fact that gun-toting goons are no real threat to him, that it's the limits of his fuel supply. Also, I thought Jeff Powell's lettering did a good job showing those moments where he was getting run down in his dialogue bubbles. Doc constantly trying to find some way out, or to ditch the marshal, and the marshal constantly ruining his plans.

Low point: Umm, I wanted to see more of Robo's everyday life in the Old West?

Atomic Robo - The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #5: Turns out Dr. Dinosaur did build a time bomb, though he didn't succeed in completely wiping out humanity. The magma worm appearing helped, as did Bernard helping free the magma people from Dr. D's. control. Pity he couldn't stay with his silicate organism wife. The whole, "I need food and water" thing ruins so many relationships.

Avengers Undercover #1-10: Follow up to Avengers Arena, as the survivors try to cope not only with what Arcade put them through, but the fact he posted it all online for the world to see and dissect. Then they get suckered into killing Arcade on video, then busted out of SHIELD custody by Zemo's crew. They tried to rehab their image by playing along, hoping to figure out Zemo's scheme and call in reinforcements, only to learn calling in reinforcements is what Zemo wanted all along, so he could steal a Helicarrier. But he was at least partially thwarted by Cammi, who was working with a not-dead Arcade. Hmm, considering Zemo still had the Helicarrier, maybe "thwarted" is too strong a word. Written by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker drew 5 of the first 7 issues, Tim Green II drew 3 issues, and Tigh Walker drew 2 of the last 3. Jean-Francois did some great work on the colors, especially when combined with Kev Walker's art.

High point: Cammi didn't die, and got to smackdown everybody. Arcade didn't die. Kev Walker's art. The idea of the series. The kids struggling to deal with what happened, and with everyone judging and analyzing them. Their attempt to try and salvage it with a con, which doesn't work because they don't have the experience at it, and they tried it on the fly, so the plan wasn't clear to everyone.

Low point: The rushed ending, for certain. Things had to move too fast the last 3 issues. Also Green didn't do his strongest work, which was disappointing as I've liked his work a lot in the past. There was also the ludicrousness of SHIELD arresting the kids for "killing" Arcade, considering all the heroes - like Wolverine - who kill with no repercussions. Necessary for the story, but it doesn't hold up in the larger framework of the Marvel Universe. Also, I still can't take Constrictor seriously as a major player among the villains.

Captain Marvel #1-10: Kelly Sue DeConnick tries again with Carol Danvers, this time taking her into space, where she helps a planet of refugees from Infinity, then deals with her cat not being a cat. Recently, she's helped interstellar rock star Lila Cheney get out of an arranged marriage, and received some news from home. David Lopez drew most of it, Marcio Takara the rest, except for a 9-page segment in issue 10 drawn by Laura Braga. Lee Loughridge's colors worked very well at creating a mood.

High point: Lopez' art. I still haven't seen him on a series I've really loved, but this is the best one so far, and he does some great work with body language and facial expressions. He draws maybe the best evil, shit-eating grin I've ever seen. That sort of totally arrogant look that makes you want to mash the person's face into unrecognizable pulp. Or maybe I just have anger issues. The last few issues have been good. The quick snapshots of different peoples and places across the universe, Carol's diplomacy involving a lot of punching.

Low point: I'd really like it if DeConnick stopped opening these books with six issue arcs. They're always too slow and too long, when they need to be short and punchy to grab attention.

Daredevil #35, 36: The last two issues of the prior volume of the book, as Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and Javier Rodriguez bring Matt's battle against the Sons of the Serpent to a head, as they try to make him get one of their members off, or risk being disbarred when its revealed he lied about not being Daredevil. So Matt went into court and copped to it, effectively unmaking their sword. And then he moved back to San Francisco, because he could still practice law there, and make money to pay for Foggy's cancer treatments. But we'll get to that tomorrow.

All right, that's day one, and look at that, we actually got past the As! I'm not sure I've managed that in years.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Feel I Should Be Angrier About This

I called him on the 9th, to ask if he'd shipped the comics. He said he had that morning. By the 16th, they still hadn't arrived, so I called again. He said he didn't have the receipt with the tracking number with him, could I check in tomorrow. Sure.

The next day, he says he forgot it.

I try again on the 21st, because they still aren't here. I don't like bugging him so much, but hell, there's nothing I can do to fix the problem, and since he doesn't get paid until I get the books, you figure he'd want to know if there was a problem. That's what I tell myself, anyway. He says they were in St. Louis as of the 20th. Neither of us can explain why it took them over a week to travel only 100 miles, though he suggests maybe the box got damaged and set aside temporarily. He says call back on Friday (the 23rd) if they haven't arrived.

By the 23rd, they hadn't arrived, I call again. This time, he has the receipt in his car, and the tracking data says they'll be here the 26th. He says he can give me the tracking number if I'd like, though he seems reluctant.

I ask for the tracking number. When I try to enter it, it doesn't work, until I figure out the sequence of three consecutive 9s was actually 4. It does say the books will arrive on the 26th, but interestingly, it says the package was only received at the post office in Jackson (where he lives) that morning (the 23rd).

It's long been an internal debate of mine whether he's incompetent or lying. I suppose we still can't rule out incompetent, but lying was confirmed. The books did arrive today. Well, some of them. He missed more than a few from November, (plus Squirrel Girl's first issue) so that's going to make the remainder of this week a little awkward.

The thing is, I haven't sent him any of my orders for anything after January. I was waiting for the next shipment to send them back with the payment. I'm not on the hook for anything. Since he can't seem to remember to ship the books without me reminding him 5 times, I'm going to leave it in his hands. If he actually remembers to send them along in a month or so like we had agreed upon, swell. If not, OK then.  There are other places that sell comics.

It isn't as though Jack, the guy he bought the store from, had a great track record of shipping on schedule. But when I would call Jack to ask if the books were on the way, he'd cop to it, and ship them out as soon as possible. I don't see the percentage in bullshitting me for a solid two weeks while he tries to get his act together. How the fuck long does it take to get a box of comics to the damn post office? Now I feel bad because I was thinking disparaging thoughts about the Postal Service, when it wasn't their fault.

2014 Comics Year In Review starts tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Invisible Man 2.21 - Enemy of My Enemy

Plot: So, Chrysalis is preparing to remove the Quicksilver gland from Arnaud's head, and they aren't particularly concerned whether Arnaud survives or not. But Arnaud isn't a complete idiot, and rigged all the medical personnel's fanny packs with explosives set to go off if his brain waves deviate too far from normal, or if he simply doesn't wake up soon enough. All of this amuses Stark, since he's not sticking around for the operation.

Back at the Agency, Hobbes is trying to build a voice control system into Golda, to turn her into a real battle van, complete with heavy weapons and armor plating. I wasn't aware that van had a strong enough engine to handle such added weight, but maybe Bobby's freakout last week convinced the Fat Man to open his checkbook. Anyway, this episode of Car Talk is interrupted by Eberts telling Fawkes there's a gift basket waiting for him, encouraging him to "Come See Me" at the Miracosa Vineyard. So off the boys go, and once again, despite knowing one of their greatest foes is an invisible man, Chrysalis has failed to outfit its goons with thermal glasses, so Fawkes sneaks right in, and finds Arnaud, and his gland. Except the gland isn't in Arnie's head any longer. It's out, and Chrysalis has cloned it - six times - and put those glands within cows, which they are milking for Quicksilver in a scheme Arnaud notes is 'surprisingly efficient, and strangely erotic.'

Let's all join Fawkes in side-eyeing Arnaud for that statement.

Arnaud wants out, because he's only being kept alive because the gland became dependent on his adrenaline, and thus, so are the cloned glands. So Chrysalis is basically milking him for adrenaline. Stiil, Darien repeatedly refuses to Quicksilver himself and Arnaud and escape, so they wind up captured, despite Darien Quicksilvering a machine gun to get the drop on a guard (he rounded the corner and found 5 more guards waiting with guns drawn). However, without Stark around, Chrysalis is sorely lacking in common sense, and they actually let Arnaud help the one guard they keep around sedate Darien so they can remove his gland. Instead Arnaud injects the guard with alcohol, and they actually escape. One problem once they're out: with his increased resistance to counteragent, Darien is now Quicksilver Mad, and he swiped the gun Arnaud had appropriated from that guard. All Arnaud can think to do, is promise that he can remove the counteragent dependency forever.

When Fawkes got caught, the goons went on high alert and spotted Hobbes, who was forced to flee, and needs to work on Golda's recognition of the word "stop", but he made it home safe, and the Official raised no objections to his demand for a fully armed assault team. Even Claire is coming along, in tactical gear and with a machine gun and everything. But before they can leave the hallway, Darien, still red-eyed, shows up with a wounded Arnaud. He exercised remarkable control and only shot him in the leg. In short order, Arnaud is locked up (after cluing everyone in to the fact that line Stark's wife fed them about Chrysalis was, in his words, 'bilge'), as Hobbes and the guys prepare to go back to the vineyard. But first, Darien needs to as Claire if what Arnaud said about a suicide gene in the gland sounds plausible. Claire agrees it does, and after some trepidation, brings Arnaud's laptop (last seen in "My Brother's Keeper") to him and orders him to get to work.

Eventually she removes a disk drive from the computer to see if he's really doing anything, and returns to her lab. Which is when Arnie decides it's time to escape, and we learn nobody took his computer apart and found the C-4 he hid in there. He makes a big show of refusing to work, sliding the laptop out of the cell, and it kills poor Mike the Guard. Claire hears the explosion and grabs her huge revolver, but ultimately leaves it in the hands of Eberts to try and save Mike's life (she doesn't). Eberts can't handle such firepower, and Arnaud immediately gets a taxi as he charges out of the building and heads for an airport.

Back at the vineyard, Stark still hasn't equipped anyone with thermals, even though he fully expects the Agency to return. But they've already shipped the Quicksilver by air, and are loading the cows onto a truck, which Hobbes stops with the .50 cal he had in the van. Everybody is feeling good, until the driver follows Stark's orders and blows up the truck. Fortunately, Bobby is unharmed, but they still need to find all that Quicksilver, which means it's back to the Agency to interrogate their prisoners. But first, Darien needs to check in with the Keeper. Now, as it turns out, Arnaud did enough before he left that Claire can remove his dependency on counteragent. Unfortunately, with Arnaud gone, and Mike dead, the Official wants to know why she gave Arnaud his laptop, and the Fat Man is not as excited at losing his leash on Darien as Claire is. He pins Mike's death on her, and basically promises he'll kill Darien before letting him off that counteragent leash, and says that will be Claire's fault as well. And so, when Darien asks, Claire says she wasn't able to get anything out of Arnaud. Darien tries to suck it up and go watch Hobbes interrogate. Claire, left alone in her lab, begins sobbing before something steels itself within her, to the point she cracks the syringe she's holding in her hand.

Quote of the Episode: Darien - 'See, I developed an itty-bitty immunity to your counteragent.' Arnaud - 'No, that's impossible.' Darien - 'You can't even screw up my brain right.'

The "oh crap" count: 3 (42 overall). Even one by Arnaud!

Who's getting quoted this week? Nobody!

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 1 (9 overall).

Other: Despite failing to recapture Arnaud, Eberts did at least get to dope slap him on the way to the cell.

When Hobbes opened the side panel of the van to reveal that machine gun, he said "Chrysalis this." Oh Bobby, that's horrible.

I'm a little disappointed there was no appearance of the Chrysalis Goon who always beats up Darien. Maybe next week. On the plus side, I like that when Darien returned to the vineyard, he tricked that one guard into thinking he'd Quicksilvered another machine gun when he was actually unarmed. Nice trick.

When Darien first snuck into the vineyard, he removed his jacket first, and I thought he was going to pretend to be one of the workers picking grapes to sneak by. Then he just went invisible.

Given his rush to the airport, I'm guessing this is the last time I'll get to gush over Joel Bissonnette as Arnaud. I always enjoy the back and forth between he and Darien, p[lus all his little mannerisms. When he's complaining that Chrysalis wouldn't share their gene therapy-aided immortality with him, and called them sociopathic little snobs, Darien responded, 'Pot, meet kettle.' Arnaud had this lovely little smile and shrug, kind of a, "yeah, guilty." I kind of love that, how Arnaud has such a high opinion of himself, but he never really argues when people express their feelings on what a lousy person he is. I don't think it's that he ignores what they say, or that he feeds off their hate. Well, maybe that second one a little bit. Given his ego, people expressing hatred for him means he's impacting their lives. He does have a little of that "kid who acts out for attention", but I honestly think a big part of it is that he doesn't see the things people dislike in him as detrimental, but as positive character traits that help him be successful.

Which is why it's so much fun when things don't go his way. The way he was patting his pockets, trying to find the gun after Darien got him out. The shock and surprise when he found out his counteragent wasn't working any more. His partner in "Diseased" noted that Arnaud was half a scientist, because he never thought things the whole way through. He never bothered to consider the possibility his counteragent might not work forever. Either because he didn't have a chance, because he was unable to get a gland to study longterm, or more likely because he just didn't care. The idea probably never entered his mind. And now it was going to get him killed.

Except it didn't. This is one of the things that bothers me about Quicksilver Madness, how inconsistently it's portrayed. Sometimes Darien's a goof, sometimes a maniac, or a horndog, or just cruel. And when he is Quicksilver Mad, he usually doesn't want to stop being that way, like when he was in Stage 5 at the end of Season 1. When he's in that headspace, where he sees no limits, and cares nothing for anyone else, he doesn't see anything wrong with it. It's only after he's bothered. So it's hard to see why he chose, as Arnaud put it, freedom over revenge. From Crazy Darien's perspective, he's already free. Kill Arnaud, Hobbes isn't around, escape and do as you wish forever.

I guess I'm a little disappointed Darien will never get to finish Arnaud off, unless I'm pleasantly surprised next week. Also, I'm a little sad we didn't get more interaction between Claire and Arnaud. We haven't seen those two together since "Diseased", when Claire got quite angry with Arnaud. And since then, we learned she and Kevin Fawkes were a couple once years ago, which put it in a new light. I wanted to see an expansion of that. Claire shooting Arnie in the back as he fled for the exit would have sufficed.

No surprise the Official is opposed to losing the counteragent hold over Darien. Also no surprise he phrases it to Claire in such a way as to abdicate any responsibility for what happens. If Claire does the right thing, save Darien from any further chance of going mad, the Official will have no choice but to watch him more closely than ever. In case Darien decides to run off with government property, you see. And if all that scrutiny and lack of trust causes Darien to bail, then the Official will have to kill Darien to keep the gland in his hands. And it all be Claire's fault.

Which is nonsense, but it's nonsense that works. Because Claire does care about Darien. She doesn't want him to go crazy (at which point he's no good to anyone), but she doesn't want him to die, either. The Fat Man, for all his crabbing at her about getting Mike the Guard killed, is perfectly fine with killing Darien if that's what it takes. And Claire knows that, too. It's a horrible thing to pull, but he's kind of a horrible guy. Much more stick, not much carrot.

But Old Iron Jaw has forgotten that it's dangerous to back Claire into a corner. I'm a little sad this series will be over next week, but I'm looking forward to the finale.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Come On Down To South Park, And Beat Some Friends Of Mine

Finished the story on South Park: The Stick of Truth last night. Took about 4 sessions total, but some of those were 5 or 6 hours stretches. Of course, sometimes a lot of that 5 or 6 hours was me running around trying to find more money to buy stuff I didn't really need, except as progress towards some 100% of the gear achievement.

As the story goes, you're the (silent) new kid in town, and almost immediately meet Butters, who gets you involved in the big game all the boys are playing: a battle between humans - let by WizardKing Cartman and Princess Kenny - and the elves, led by Kyle, over the Stick of Truth, played by a stick. It's a bog-standard RPG in structure. You talk to people, and they ask you to do something for them, and that either progresses the story or gives you cool stuff. In this case, the "cool stuff", besides equipment, can include those people becoming your friend on social media. Gain enough friends, and you unlock perks which will help you in battle.

The game also is pretty good about giving you better equipment as you go along. You don't have to be constantly running to a store to buy new weapons or clothes. You'll get plenty of good stuff as loot from enemies, by checking treasure chests scattered around, or just as rewards for progressing through the game. When I was making the majority of my progress, I bought weapons and armors mostly because I thought they looked cool or would be fun to use.

There's a lot of battling, which is fine, the combat system is pretty simple, once you get the hang of things. Pretty much all attacks or spells require hitting a button when your weapon flashes or something to that effect. Press the button too soon or too late, the damage will be severely reduced. The nice thing is, whatever attack you choose - ranged, melee, magic, special technique, summon assistance - the game reminds you what you have to do. So if Butters is the other character in your party, and you want to use his lightning attack, the game will tell you before you select your target that you're supposed to hit "A" when the lightning strikes Butters' hammer. Which is nice.

One other nice thing about combat: Status effect attacks actually work on bosses. This is one of the most maddening things to me about RPGs: Attacks or spells that cause enemies to fall asleep, or get slowed down, or poison them so they take a little damage every turn, NEVER work on boss characters, no matter how high level or powerful your character is. It's maddening. It's why I never use those skills in fights, because I see no reason getting used to that strategy when I'll have to throw it out the window come the boss fight. Stick of Truth on the other hand, doesn't play favorites. Oh, an enemy may be resistant to certain types of bonus damage - there's Fire, Frost, Shock, Bleeding, and Gross Out that I know of - but not all. And at least some of them will work on bosses. Since you can't summon your assist characters for boss fights - all of them make a point of telling you they won't help with bosses, they're too tough - the extra types of damage can be crucial. For that reason alone, the game has my respect.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though. The game has an annoying amount of moments where to progress you have to pass a quick-time event, usually mashing one button a lot really fast. And if you botch it, you just have to keep trying over and over until you hit it fast enough. I'm apparently not very good at those, and considering I already broke the A button on one controller because of the stupid way you had to tap it to run faster in Red Dead Redemption, I'm not real keen on it in general.

The other issue had to do with farting. In Stick of Truth, magic is expressed through farting, because of course it is. That isn't the issue, it's perfectly in keeping with the tone of the series. The problem was that in battle, using magic requires this mess of pulling the right thumbstick down, then moving the left one to find some sweet spot, then pushing the right thumbstick up, all of which felt needlessly convoluted. Each time the game would want to teach me a new type of magic attack, my progress would screech to a halt. The character would demonstrate it, I'd try, fail, have to sit through the demonstration scene again, try, fail, etc. It felt like I was stuck on the "Squeaky Stinker" forever, especially when, after learning it, the game required me to use it to get past some soldiers and sneak into the Taco Bell/government lab investigating a crashed UFO.

The strange thing is, most of them time when you're in an area where you might have to fight, the game will give you options. Not to avoid the fight entirely, but ways to use the environment and skills you've learned to take out a couple of the enemies before you have to face them. Maybe you can use the Alien Probe to teleport up to a ledge and flip a switch, sending a current through a wire sitting in a pool of water the foes are standing in. Or aim your magic at a torch to blow up a barricade. You don't have to do that stuff, but it makes fights a little easier. But sometimes the game decides not to provide those options, and it's usually at the most irritating points.

On the whole, the game was what I wanted, in that it feels like being in the South Park world. The humor, the conflicts, some of the specific enemies, some of the ridiculous things you have to do. I highly doubt I will play another video game that asks me to complete a fake abortion mini-game, twice. There's even a segment of the game where you travel to Canada. Unlike the much-too-long stint in Mexico of Red Dead Redemption, this trip north of the border doesn't overstay its welcome and was perfectly charming. I read somewhere that Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted this to be an actual good video game, as opposed to a cheap licensed piece of crap that gets 4 out of 10 on a review website. Well, they succeeded. It isn't a spectacular game, but it's good, very good if you're less bothered by the mechanics of the fart magic and the quick time events. I mean, I'd give it at least a 7 out of 10, probably an 8, for what that's worth.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Can You Feel The Indifference, The Apathy?

Soooooooooo, who's excited for Secret Wars?

Wait, where are you going? It's going to change everything!

Oh, you've heard that before? Lots of times? But they really mean it this time! For real!

Ech, I can't even continue this half-assed attempt to pretend to care. Which, frankly, is Marvel's fault.
Even beyond all the nonsense about "changing everything" they've broken out 2-3 times a year for the last decade, there's no reason to care. The creative teams do whatever they want, whether it matches up with prior continuity, or even what some other creative team is doing at the exact same time. Everything is constantly changing anyway, and I'm sure if some writer - Bendis, most likely - doesn't like something that gets put in place after all this, he'll just ignore it and do what he wants.

That's not entirely a bad thing. I've been glad there are books I can read which completely ignore whatever stupid bullcrap is going on in other books. I much prefer dismissing things I think are bad to raging about them here. Even if I still can't entirely shake my "that's out of character!" impulse at times. Thing is, once I'm conditioned to stop caring about the line as a whole, to stop expecting developments in one area of the shared universe to be reflected in relevant places elsewhere, and I've been convinced it's a good thing (because I think the guys with the most power are schmucks), surprise! I stop caring about your latest attempt to shatter your universe.

My only concern is whether this is going to mess up the books I like. Granted, several of those books seem to be ending, but for the few that remain, are they going to get sucked in? Or will they be allowed to just go on doing their thing (which hopefully won't involve tying in)? Or is it going to be like DC with Convergence, where the ongoings are on hiatus until this is over, and we get a bunch of mini-series about the different sections of Battleworld? That would certainly do my wallet some good (I'm just going to assume that the majority of the mini-series would fall under my previously mentioned "stupid bullcrap" category).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sure, Let's Talk About Convergence, Why Not

I'll get to my usual solicitation/pull list here sometime, either at the end of the week if new books don't show up, or after the Year in Review stuff. Still, since DC is benching their new 52 line for two months in favor of all these Convergence mini-series, I thought we'd focus specifically on them for a minute. I'm going to list all the ones I'm considering picking up, and weigh the pros and cons. What I did when DC announced their original new 52 back in the summer of 2011, though that's hardly a strong argument in favor of my judgment. I picked Suicide Squad, Grifter, and Resurrection Man. Swing and a miss times three.

Convergence: The Question - The pro side is quality of the creative team, Rucka and Cully Hamner. Rucka clearly has a lot of fondness for Renee Montoya, and he and Hamner have worked on stories centered on her as the Question previously. The con, for me, is that I don't really have a particular fondness for Montoya or Harvey Dent. Don't dislike the characters, but they don't move the needle much. So buying this would basically be trying to convince DC to continue with their recent trend of getting talented people to work on their books, then letting those people's talents and styles show through.

Convergence: Batgirl - I'm not at all familiar with Alisa Kwitney's work, and this is going to involve the Flashpoint universe. Those are the red flags. On the other hand, I generally like Rick Leonardi's work, and this has Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. So there's no real question. This is the one sure thing buy in here.

Convergence: Justice League International - Ron Marz and Mike Manley. I will admit I don't understand the thinking behind some of these creative teams. I'm sure in some cases there was bad blood between DC and particular creators, or exclusive contracts, or the creator in question was too busy or not interested. But Giffen and Dematteis are already working for DC, on a book where they are gradually bringing in the old JLI bunch. So why not get one of them to write this? I don't have any objection to Ron Marz specifically, and I liked Manley's art on Darkhawk eons ago, though I haven't seen anything of his in a while, it's just a bit curious. Anyway, in this case the pro is the characters, and the con is I'm not sure how well the creative team will mesh with each other and the characters. Also, what the heck is Red Tornado doing there? He's Satellite Era!

Convergence: Suicide Squad - Pro, stout, old school Amanda Waller. Con, fucking Deathstroke in the Squad, again. Getting so sick of that guy. Pro, Tom Mandrake on art. Con, not sure about Frank Tieri. I've never seen him write Amanda Waller, and she's easy to write badly. And since when are Poison Ivy, Deadshot, and Bane some of 'Metropolis' most dangerous villains'? If the cover is misleading, maybe I'll at least be spared more Deathstroke.

Convergence: Justice League of America - Pro, I'm a pretty big fan of Nicieza's work, and the Detroit League is the sort of oft-maligned group of misfits I find interesting. Con, well, Chriscross is kind of vocal about being anti-gay marriage, so I'm questioning whether I ought to support a project he's working on. I've bought stuff he drew in the past (before I knew that) during various back issue hunts (Slingers most notably). I like his work, and I'm sure he's hardly the only person working in comics with such views. Still, I feel I should draw some sort of line. I'm never sure about refusing to buy a collaborative project because of one person's views, but I can't exactly claim ignorance in this case, can I? I'm probably going to have to skip this just so I don't feel like the other comics bloggers are judging me.

Convergence: Booster Gold - I liked Booster's time-traveling adventures, though Jurgens' run on that volume didn't do much for me. But a prison break story with two Boosters sounds intriguing. Alvaro Martinez' art looks pretty solid, based on the samples of it I found from a quick online search.

So those are the ones I'm seriously considering. 6 total, one a certainty. I imagine someone who was a bigger fan of Wally West and his family than me will be excited about the Speed Force book (don't let the Brett Booth cover put you off, Tom Grummett's drawing the interiors, though again, why not put him on Superboy, which he drew for so long?) If Amanda Conner was drawing the interiors for Action Comics I'd probably go for it, but while I'm fine with Claude St-Aubin's art, it's not a selling point. Neither is Red Son Superman's inclusion. That's one of the bigger problems for me with this. They mixed in all this stuff I don't care about, with the stuff I do. I just have to hope it's more "peanut butter and chocolate", and less "horse shit and my shoes". If they'd gotten someone other than Scott Lobdell to write it, I probably would have gone for the Blue Beetle book with the Charlton heroes, but oh well.

Is it ass backwards to find it easy to not buy something because I don't like the style of the writers or artists involved, but hard not to buy something because I do like their talents, but think one of the people involved holds some lousy views?

Anyway, which books caught your eye, good or bad? Is this going to be a month for you to save some cash, or one you better start saving up for now? Like me, are you looking at this simply as a chance to see some old favorites again, to heck with the overarching story? Or are you interested in what Brainiac is up to?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World - Jack Weatherford

Prior to reading this, I didn't know a whole lot about Genghis Khan. I knew he conquered a huge portion of the world, and that, in Western writing at least, he and his armies tend to get a bad rap as murderous thugs. Except on that episode of South Park, where the Mongols taught everyone a valuable lesson about not letting fear lead you to try and wall yourselves off from the rest of the world.

Weatherford covers Temujin's life as best it can be determined, his upbringing, important decisions he made that shaped his life and policies as a ruler. Then he follows the Empire through Temujin's descendants, up to the Black Plague. One of the key sources is The Secret History of the Mongols, which is a group of documents that apparently detail Temujin's life, but which had been indecipherable for a long time for various reasons. First, you had to find a copy, then you had to figure out the code, which is Chinese characters representing Mongolian sounds from their language, circa the 13th century. Oh yeah, and if you were doing this in Mongolia during Soviet occupation, you'd have to be careful not to be discovered and killed. Weatherford got to be part of a team that used the deciphered text to venture into the Mongolian steppe and try to find the actual locations where key events took place.

Weatherford details the code of law that Temujin implemented for his people (and how he had a written language conceived specifically to be able to write the laws down). These laws included entirely reasonable things like no enslaving other Mongols, religious freedom for all, widows receive their husbands share of the loot from battle if he dies (good way to ensure loyalty), and that no one, including him, was above the laws. Genghis Khan comes off as generally a reasonable guy, in that his conquests are typically conducted to provide more goods for his people, but he'd just as soon get them without bloodshed (Weatherford says Temujin's overriding purpose was to preserve Mongol life). To that end, he, his subordinates, and their descendants, always give whatever location they're attacking an opportunity to surrender and plead fealty. If they do that, and keep the goods flowing, they're free to otherwise go on about their business. If they refuse - and a lot of people refuse, and commit the grave error of killing the Mongols envoys to demonstrate their refusal, because while the Mongols may have fully supported the idea of immunity for diplomats, no one else seems to have - they all die.

To be fair, when Temujin first conquered the Jurched Empire, he left their aristocrats and officials alive to oversee shipping the tribute, and those guys reneged on the deal the second Temujin left to go home. So he had reason not to offer second chances. That experience also taught him to just kill all the aristos when he took over a place, because you couldn't trust them. They'd sacrifice everyone in their city to protect what they had, so screw 'em. But maybe he's downplaying the violence, though he notes Mongols were largely opposed to torture, which at least gives them a leg up on the Catholic Church.

I don't know how fully I'd buy his argument for Genghis shaping the modern world. He does a good job of laying out his argument as he goes along, the way Temujin and his descendants encouraged the spreading of ideas across the known world, be it medicine, navigation, metallurgy, literature (Khublai Khan apparently helped spark one of the greatest eras of plays in Chinese history). How overthrowing the rulers in one area helped other peoples in those locations get up off the floor, or how resisting the Mongols helped unite feuding factions (Japan as a notable example there). It all sounds good, it's just that part of me finds it hard to attribute this to one guy and his family). It seems like too much, to the point I wonder how much of it might have happened eventually anyway. Also, Weatherford suggests the Black Plague started with fleas the Mongols picked up on an excursion into southeast Asia, and scattered from there along the various routes, and the Plague helped wreck feudalism in Europe, and I don't know how well supported that theory is, or if that isn't going too far. Still, I think he makes a persuasive argument for the considerable influence Genghis Khan had.

One interesting note is that the largely negative view of Genghis and the Mongols here in the West has only really developed in the last couple centuries. Back in the Renaissance, they were generally well-regarded in Europe, since once they stopped conquering, they were maintaining an Empire that was bringing massive amounts of goods and ideas into Europe. By the time of the Enlightenment (ha!), though, with European Imperialism such a big hit, the tide and turned, and the white man sure as hell wasn't going to acknowledge some guy from an "inferior" people as having been anything but a rapacious murderer. Certainly he wasn't someone who recognized the value of education, of the exchange of ideas, who promoted and assigned positions on the basis of skill, merit, and loyalty, rather than nepotism. Certainly not. Which is how you get all that racist crap about "Mongoloid" features being a sing of mental retardation or whatever. At the same time, this helped bolster Genghis Khan's image in the areas the Europeans were conquering, because he was proof whatever crap they were spewing about white superiority was crap. Because the Mongols had conquered more, and done it better and more wisely, than these Johnny Come-Lately Brits and Frogs (and eventually, loudmouth Americans).

'Whether in their policy of religious tolerance, devising a universal alphabet, maintaining relay stations, playing games, or printing almanacs, money, or astronomy charts, the rulers of the Mongol empire displayed a persistent universalism. Because they had no system of their own to impose upon their subjects, they were willing to adopt and combine systems from everywhere. Without deep cultural preferences in these areas, the Mongols implemented pragmatic rather than ideological solutions. They searched for what worked best; and when they found it, they spread it to other countries. They did not have to worry about whether their astronomy agreed with the precepts of the Bible, that their standards of writing followed the classical principles taught by the mandarins of China, or that Muslim imams disapproved of their printing and painting. The Mongols had the power, at least temporarily, to impose new international systems of technology, agriculture, and knowledge that superseded the predilections or prejudices of any single civilization; and in so doing, they broke the monopoly on thought exercised by local elites.'

Monday, January 19, 2015

This Is Sour Grapes. I Don't Care.

It's fortunate the NBA season has a lot going to keep my interest, because this isn't much of a Super Bowl match-up for me. Admittedly, my interest in the playoffs faded rapidly once Arizona (predictably) lost behind the craptastic quarterbacking of Ryan Lindley*. but hell, Arizona has typically been eliminated long before the Super Bowl, and I'll still have one outcome I find more palatable.

Not so much in this case. I don't want Brady to tie Montana with a 4th ring, or for Belichick to get another one, either, so rooting for the Patriots is out. At the same time, the Seahawks are a divisional foe of the team I root for, so I'm not rooting for them. besides, their fans are already a big enough bunch of dipshits after one championship, I'm not sure the world could handle them if they repeat. And because the Super Bowl is in Arizona's stadium, I can't even root for the ever-popular Meteorite Strike.

So. . . yeah, how 'bout that race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference? Can Russell Westbrook use his total disdain for the local media to propel the Thunder up the seedings? In all seriousness, the West is fascinating, because I feel like the team that wins it will be the one that best manages to avoid those one or two teams that are just lousy matchups for them. Well, that or it'll be the team that's healthiest at the end of the season.

* I've seen a lot of bad QBs start for Arizona. Max Hall, Derek Anderson, John Navarre, Stoney Case, Matt Leinart, the desiccated remains of Jim McMahon in 1994. Lindley's the worst though, to the point that when he starts, I can barely even fool myself into believing maybe the defense and special teams can pull one out on their own, because I'm sure he'll undo whatever success they have. If he ever starts again for the Cardinals, I'll have to assume Bruce Arians actually really hates the fanbase.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Invisible Man 2.20 - Possessed

Plot: Darien's tearing his apartment to pieces in the throes of Quicksilver Madness, while Claire tries to keep him calm over the phone as she and Hobbes rush over. She suggests watching something nonviolent on TV, and so Darien turns to the news, where he sees Father Tom Moore at some special event for the kids, and this infuriates Darien sufficiently that he hurls the TV across the room. His friends arrive and the counteragent is administered, but surprise! that little tattoo on his arm has two sections that are still red afterward. Yes, as prophesied by Claire early in Season 1, Darien is beginning to develop an immunity to counteragent. At this rate, it may only be a matter of weeks until it fails entirely. However, she has a new version, but it needs at least a month of testing to hammer out the effects. Darien convinces her to forgo that and give it to him now, and it seems to work. Until that night, when the tattoo goes entirely red in seconds while he sleeps, pushing Fawkes immediately back into Stage 5 Madness.

Darien heads down to the park, where he leers at women, ruins barbeques, and interrupts a tough football game by invisibly running over all the players. Then he travels to a nearby church, where he disrupts a funeral by making the deceased sit up in the casket. And then he finds Father Tom, conducting a Sunday school class, and it turns out he was Darien and Kevin's pastor when they were kids. Darien's being off-putting enough the padre dismisses class early, and they get down to brass tacks. Seems Darien had a childhood friend, Callie, who killed herself because of things her father was doing to her, and Darien wants to know if the padre knew and did nothing, because of the sanctity of confession. Claire and Hobbes barge in about the time Darien is advancing on Tom with a lighter, having been alerted to what's going on by the Official receiving reports about a silver-eyed maniac at the park. Claire quickly tranqs Darien, and they hustle him back to the lab.

Curiously, the Quicksilver that flakes off Darien when he reappears isn't dissolving, which is how they tracked him (that and the people fleeing the funeral). Claire had collected it to run tests, and against her orders, Hobbes touches it. The flakes turn liquid again and are instantly absorbed, and now Hobbes is in Stage 5. He hustles off and attacks the Official, complaining about receiving no credit for all the work he does, for being saddled with a crappy van (he ahd been complaining to Claire about it getting a flat and him having no jack or spare when the Official brought news of Fawkes' rampage), and makes the Fat Man do push-ups while he gets fed the Official's Chinese takeout by Eberts. Darien arrives and gets his ass beat, but Claire is able to avoid Bobby's fist of fury long enough to administer counteragent. Oddly, Bobby awakens remembering exactly what he did, and apologizes profusely to the Official, while Darien didn't remember a thing. Well, Darien remembers one thing. Hobbes and Claire should have collected 3 sets of flakes, not 2, so it's back to the church. The flakes are gone, so they try the burial, with no success. Because the one who found them was Father Tom, and he's headed off to deal with the abusive father of one of his current students. Bobby and Darien get the story out of the kid, and they and Claire rush to his home, narrowly stopping Tom from killing the guy with a fireplace poker. Although then Darien kicks the hell out of the guy until his son tells him to stop.

There are two scenes after everything calms down. Darien apologizes to Father Tom from what happened, driving him mad and all, and tries to pretend it was God that stopped Tom. But Tom knows about the gland, because Kevin confessed to him near the end that he had doubts about what he was doing to his brother. The other development is that it's back to Original Recipe counteragent, and it's less effective than ever. And Claire has no idea what to do about it.

Quote of the Episode: Claire - 'Even if we give you this and it works, we can't be sure what the side effects will be.' Darien - 'Well, it can't be worse than me going coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, can it?'

The "oh crap" count: 1 (39 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? George Bernard Shaw again, noting we haven't lost faith, we just transferred it from God to the medical profession. Hey speak for yourself, I put all my faith in myself.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 1 (8 overall).

Other: See, Quicksilver Mad Hobbes is good scary, because all that paranoia and self-pity shifts from bravado into grudge-settling. Plus, Hobbes has mad skills, so he's not likely to get his ass kicked like Darien did by Alex that one time. Also, his line about how he pushed the van a half mile, the Official ought to be able to push himself 12 inches in the air 20 times was hilarious. And deserved. The fat man doesn't even open his own takeout boxes. What a lazy, fat bastard.

I'm still curious how, if Darien can build up an immunity to counteragent, he can't also develop an immunity to the narcotic effects of the Quicksilver. Or at least a heightened resistance. But at least they did foreshadow this occurrence way back when. And Darien hasn't really been careful about now overusing the gland, as evidenced by his and Bobby's water park escapades last week.

When the Official told Claire and Hobbes about Darien running amok in the park, Claire said, "Bloody Hell". That amused me since she usually doesn't go big for the stereotypical British slang, and that's one I'm fond of using myself. Though given the reaction "Christ on a cracker" got from Alex and his friend last week, maybe I should use that one more often.

When they introduced the Father Tom character, I winced because I was sure it was going to reveal some repressed memory of Darien's about abuse at the hands of the priest, and I haven't exactly been impressed with the series handling of things like that (especially with regards to Claire in "Perchance to Dream"). And child abuse was brought up, but as something Tom learns about, but isn't ultimately able to stop. Val's father beats Val and his mother, but Tom can't do anything about it, because it isn't the dad coming to confess, where Tom could talk to him, counsel him about finding other ways to deal with whatever causes that. It's Val telling him, so Tom is kind of stuck, just as he was for Darien's friend Callie.

I'm not sure how Tom deals with that, really. Does he live on the hope he can give these kids a safe place, and that will be enough? Is it a trust in God having a plan? How does that jibe with Callie killing herself? He can't turn away from their suffering, doesn't want to turn away, he seems to take his duties seriously, but he can't make it stop for them. His actions under Stage 5 Madness suggest there's frustration, he's aware of the limitations of what he can do as a priest, but how does he deal with it when he isn't in a frame of mind to go beat the offender up?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before. . .

I have no idea where my books are, and because he completely forgot to look up the tracking number last night, neither does he. My brilliant plan to review those comics, then actually get the Year in Review posts done before the end of January for once is pretty much shot. So that sucks.

Let's see, something else to mention. There's a Paddington the Bear movie out now. I have some vague memories of watching the cartoon when I was much younger, probably around the same time I watched Danger Mouse, but I don't have any particular nostalgia for it. I did read a review, that mentioned that in the film he joins this British family, but the teenage daughter is worried about this, because she thinks it will make her less popular at school.

This makes no sense to me. Having a talking, hat-wearing bear living with you seems like it would make you more popular. Admittedly, it has been a long time since I was in high school, and I was never one of the popular kids (nor am I British or a girl), so maybe it's a much different circumstance. Still, a polite bear as a houseguest would appear to be quite the status symbol. None of the other kids would be able to say they had one.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's Mike Sterling's Favorite Non-Swamp Thing Movie!

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched Frank Miller's The Spirit last night. I knew from reading Mike Sterling's past comments on it to expect to place the emphasis on Frank Miller, and not The Spirit. Even so, I would say the number of times I uttered some variation on "What the fuck is -" topped 20. Like, "Why the fuck does Death want to make out with Denny Colt?", or "What the fuck is the deal with the Octopus and eggs?"

The answer, I guess, is "Because Frank Miller", but that maybe doesn't explain as much to me as it would to someone else. Parts of it seemed very much like a Frank Miller story, the look of the film with all the deep shadows, and things being mostly grey or white so what color there is really stands out. The Spirit talking about the city as a living thing (a female living thing, naturally), that provides for him and is his one constant.

But the tone of the film didn't seem to match the look. The film's look reminds me of Sin City, which for as hyper-violent as it could be, was trying to be sort of gritty and ugly. But the violence in The Spirit is almost cartoonish. The first fight between Spirit and Octopus, in the swamp, when Sam Jackson smashes our hero over the hero with a toilet he pulled out of the bog. The Spirit sort of sighs and rolls his eyes, and the Octopus screams, "Toilets are always funny!" Then the Spirit throws a double, cast iron sink at the guy and hits him square in the face. The way the two of them deal out all this punishment to each other, but just bounce back up. I know there's an in-story reason for that, but it feels like Looney Tunes, or like it would have fit better in a film that looked like The Mask.

I don't have any particular affection for the Spirit, so I'm not going to complain it was a travesty what was done to the character. The movie didn't really jibe with the hazy picture I have of the character (which is almost entirely formed from that Rocketeer/Spirit mini-series, and the covers of that ongoing Darwyn Cooke did for awhile a few years ago), but it's more the film didn't match itself. It looks like and the Spirit narrates it like, it's this deeply serious thing. But it's almost comically absurd. The incredibly wealthy fence who has a copier in his office for no other apparent reason than so Eve Mendes can photocopy her butt (for no apparent reason). The Octopus dressing up like a Nazi for his big "villain explains everything speech" (which still involves digressions on eggs and melting a kitten). Maybe that was the point, the ridiculousness of these characters in that world, but I might be giving too much credit. I thought to myself more than once that I hoped everyone involved was getting well-compensated to be in this mess. Or at least were having fun with it.

At least I can say I've experienced it now, for what that's worth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

As Long As I Don't Mention Killer Cyborgs, I'm OK

Terminator 2 was running last weekend, and watching it, I was kind of struck by the shitty picture it paints of the mental health industry. Not just the creepy security guard who licked Sarah Conner when he thought she was unresponsive, though that's disturbing. But I knew that already.

But this was the first time I really noticed that mocking laugh the lady doctor gives as Dr. Silberman describes Sarah's "delusion". We know Sarah's not crazy, but it's not so much they're wrong and stupid, as that they treat it as a joke. They actually think she's sick, but there's no compassion, or attempt to understand. Silberman doesn't even explain why he thinks she'd have this belief. She's a joke to them, a curiosity to gawk at. It means they don't have to take her seriously, which is why that creepy guard can assault a patient like that. Either she's comatose and won't remember it, or she will remember, but no one will believe her.

And that whole bit where they watch the recording of one of her earlier sessions, where she's yelling about how they're all dead, and Sarah mentions that Silberman had said if she showed improvement, she might be allowed to at least see her son. Silberman blows her off with some line about how he thinks she's just pretending so she can get to a lower security wing, where it'll be easier to escape. And so he's going to keep her where she is for another 6 months.

Here's the thing. Silberman is right. Sarah is trying to behave - by a definition of that word that means, 'tell the doc what he wants to hear" - so she can get to lower security and escape. And given she stabbed him with a pen just a few weeks ago, she's hardly been on her best behavior for very long. Still, there's something a little scary about that. Silberman dangles that carrot in front of her, so she tries to be what he says he wants (even though he's an idiot). And then he decides, "Nope, not good enough," and stretches the stick out further. It feels like a way for him to get less trouble from her, without having to ever deliver on his side of things.

This is the thing that's always spooked me about the mental health profession. That someone could declare me crazy and have me locked up, and then where the hell am I? Once you're in, how do you get out? They make the rules, they guard the gate, they can move the goal posts as often as they'd like. That's the sort of thing that concerns me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Time Travel Story That Didn't Give Me A Headache

OK, Predestination. It's a time travel movie, so keep that in mind. I'm not sure how to describe this without spoiling the hell out of it, so let's see how it goes.

Ethan Hawke works for an agency in the 1980s that uses time travel to save lives by averting tragedies. He's been trying to stop a bomber known as the Fizzle Bomber in the New York of the '70s, without success, and so travels back again, this time as a bartender. He gets in a long conversation with one of the customers, John, formerly Jane (played by Sarah Snook), where we learn about John's life, which has been a constant string of him striving to succeed or to find a place in the world, and the world constantly screwing him over. And now this attentive barkeep offers John a chance to go back an kill the person who hurt John the most: the guy he fell in love with in college, when he was Jane, and look, I have no idea if I'm handling the pronouns properly for Snook's character. She identifies as a woman through her early life, but now she's a guy, but that's something John still seems to struggle with (understandable considering the circumstances), so I don't know if I should just use female pronouns constantly or not.

At that point, the film is more a matter of how all these jigsaw pieces fit together. If you have much familiarity with time travel stories, it shouldn't be hard for you to figure out. Also, the way they shoot a lot of the scenes in the flashbacks through Jane's life are telling. The way you only see people from certain angles. There was one reveal near the end that caught me by surprise, mainly because I was thinking about how an entirely different character tied into the whole thing. I was left wondering if they were making any sort of difference at all, or if this is just some crazy closed circle where everything that happens one way or the other is canceled out at some point or the other.

I suspect Predestination may not be the kind of movie that holds up to repeat viewings, but it's definitely worth seeing once.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sometimes I Just Want To See People Getting Punched

OK, my trip to visit Alex wasn't filled solely with crappy movies and disappointing books. The same series of posts that got me to give Legend of Drunken Master a chance also suggested Man of Tai Chi. And Alex' roomie has Netflix, so that made it easy.

Tiger Chen (played by Tiger Hu Chen) is a deliveryman who is the last student of Ling Kong Tai Chi. He wants to prove Tai Chi is a great martial art, and so enters a big national tournament, where he comes to the attention of international underground fight promoter Donaka Mark (played by Keanu Reeves, who also directed the film). He's intrigued by a Tai Chi master, and offers him a job. Tiger turns it down, until his master's temple is listed as condemned and ordered torn down to make room for a housing development. So Tiger takes the offer, hoping to earn the money to repair the temple (while his girlfriend helps him file for a permit touting the temple as being historically significant, and thus worth preserving).

Tiger finds out pretty quick the job he's taken is a lot different than fighting in a tournament, and what's more troubling is he grows to enjoy it, ignoring his master's urgings to stop and meditate. Over the course of the film you can see it in his movements. As he progresses through the tournament, he gets increasingly dismissive of his opponents, not even deigning to take any sort of stance when the fight begins. These guys are kids, fighting by rules, and they're nothing compared to the much larger, angrier, more brutal guys Donaka sends to cave Tiger's skull in. Even beyond that, his body language seems to shift. Some of it is obvious, how much quicker he gets angry, the way almost any argument gets him clenching his fists. Or how he can't calm down and go through the steps, the different movements like he's supposed to. His master will tell him to slow down, but he can't, he just keeps moving faster, and his movements are more herky-jerky. It's like this underground fighting has unlocked some huge reservoir of energy in him and he needs to let it out immediately, sharply, violently. Beyond that, I think there's just something different about the way he carries himself, some more aggressive in his walk or posture, also maybe how he's placed in the camera frame. I don't if it's anything as obvious as putting the camera below him and looking up, but he definitely gains more of a presence.

Over the course of the film, Donaka (who is also being investigated by a tough Hong Kong lady cop to provide the bare minimum of plot necessary) keeps asking Tiger questions. What he expected, if he wants to continue, what he wants, etc. At the time, I didn't understand what his goal was, which made the big reveal at the end pretty effective. The presentation of it was more than a little cheesy, but the idea behind it was impressive, and it made sense in the context of things. It also explained a few things about the crowd reactions at different times.

But this is a movie about fights, and there are a lot of those. Long ones, short ones, ones you see coming  or with lots of build-up, and ones that come out of nowhere. Tiger's "interview", where he enters a featureless room, is told to stand in front of a two-way mirror, and then a woman yells "Fight!" and he's attacked by some Muay Thai fighter who seeming appeared out of thin air to hurl Tiger around the room by his tie. The fight against two opponents, the occasional steps back into the nicer, cleaner world of that tournament, with cheering crowds, in bright sunny gyms (as opposed to these grey, frequently empty rooms lit by harsh fluorescent lights he fights in for Donaka Mark), especially his fight with his master, just for the wide disparity in the styles of two people who are supposed to be trained in Tai Chi (Chen's probably made some hybrid style, or else just lost the fundamentals. I couldn't tell you which).

The one problem is the final fight is against Keanu. Reeves isn't a bad fighter, as actors go, he's had some training. But Tiger Chen is a trained stunt man, and my guess is the same is true of most of his other opponents, or else they're all highly-trained martial artists. So in comparison, Reeves' movements look slow and just not as smooth. It isn't a deal-breaker; I could justify it on the grounds that Tiger knows nothing about how Donaka fights, while Donaka has seen all of Tiger's fights and could presumably have studied him extensively if he wished, or even that Tiger just hasn't quite gotten control of his chi back yet, and isn't really at his best. But it does factor in, if only because it means the end battle isn't quite as cool as the others.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Invisible Man 2.19 - Mere Mortals

Plot: We open on Claire in her lab as an emergency strikes. Darien was trying to Quicksilver himself and Hobbes, so they could sneak into the movies, and now Darien can't get his limbs to reappear. Then he goes into Quicksilver Madness, but Claire has the counteragent, and that takes cares of both problems. Also, good news, Claire knows how to turn the gland off. Actually, she's known for 9 months, but the Official has been set against it since Darien is so critical to the Agency's success. Apparently, there's always been a protocol for shutting down the gland, but Claire wasn't sure how the changes Arnaud made to the gland would affect things, so she's going to give Darien an adrenal inhibitor so she can run a series of tests on him for the week it's in effect. So no invisibility, voluntary or otherwise.

Darien takes advantage of this to do all sorts of things that would have been too scary to attempt with an active gland, and as a result, blows off the diagnostics. He even gets picked up by an attractive lady at a newsstand. Surprisingly, he shows some hesitation, because he knows once the gland is active again, he can't see her, and he doesn't want to be a love 'em and leave 'em guy. Fortunately for his conscience, Rachel just got out of a 5-year relationship, so she does want a love 'em and leave 'em guy. Unfortunately for both their sex drives, the Keeper sent Hobbes and Alex out to find Fawkes, and they wreck the whole thing by whisking him away while Rachel's getting changed.

In the meantime, the Fat Man has agreed to help NASA recover some seed crystals. These have proven help in producing new pharmaceuticals, and can only be grown in zero gravity. And some stole them, probably a noted businessman named Shane Waring, and he's producing designer drugs for them. But the Official forgot Darien has no invisibility, and so they have to improvise. What he also forgot is that Darien was a thief before the gland, and so our boy devises a way to break in and recover the crystals. And he does it perfectly, right up to the point he decides to trash the drug lab, which starts a fire, which alerts security, and he gets caught. Hobbes and Alex rescue him fairly easily, and grab the crystals, but then Hobbes gets nabbed. So there'll have to be a trade. By this point, Claire has given Darien the enzyme to break down the inhibitor, but it hasn't kicked in yet, so it appears Alex is on her own. She does recover Hobbes by faking out the goon squad with a fake bomb in a briefcase, but their escape attempt in Waring's limo is halted by Waring's ability to call On-Star and report the theft.

Fortunately Darien followed and brought guns. Unfortunately, he didn't bring extra clips, but as he noted, if they were better shots, they wouldn't need more bullets. By this point they're hiding inside the windmill at a min-golf course Waring built for the city, and it turns out mini golf windmills aren't bulletproof. But it's at that point the gland kicks back in, rather explosively, and the goons are dispatched, Waring is arrested, and the status is quo. All that's left is for Darien to apologize to Rachel and yeah, that doesn't go well for him.

Quote of the Episode: Claire - 'If I reactivate the gland prematurely, it could damage Darien's higher brain functions.' Official - 'He has those?!'

The "oh crap" count: 2 (38 overall).

Who's getting quoted this week? Salvador Dali noted the only difference between him and a madman was that he wasn't mad. George Bernard Shaw said as long as he has a want, he has a reason for living. And that Shakespeare line about the relative number of deaths for cowards and heroes.

Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 1 (7 overall).

Other: I like how excited Darien got at the prospect of working for NASA. I'm sure he was envisioning regular space jaunts.

I'm not sure what orifice all that Quicksilver came from at the end, and it's probably better that way.

I think my favorite scene might be when Hobbes and Alex are being chased and Darien leaps out from the bushes in front of them, and hands them their guns. Mostly because, when the goons come charging around the corner a moment later, Hobbes and Alex swivel and start firing. But Darien skedaddles out of the way. That's really the best word for it. It's this almost comical motion where his upper body leans back and then he kind of slingshots forward out of the way. You can almost hear, "Exit, stage left!" in his head.

Yes, they started in with the cheesy saxophone music when he and Rachel started making out. Oddly enough, they used it again at the end, when he tried to apologize and she slapped him and kneed his groin. I think they must have overpaid the guy playing and just want their money's worth.

I'm sort of convinced Hobbes was willing to interrupt Darien's lovefest as payback for that makeout session between Crazy Claire and Q.M. Darien from five weeks ago. I can understand Alex enjoying embarrassing Fawkes, but Hobbes is supposed to be his partner. Uncool, Bobby.

At one point, Claire approaches the Official and says that the inhibitor isn't stopping the flow of adrenaline, just blocking it from the gland, and if they don't find Darien within 12 hours, he'll die. Which is probably why Hobbes and Alex were so insistent, though surely they could have waited a few hours. But after they find and retrieve him, it's never mentioned again.

When Darien ruined the heist by wrecking the lab, I thought it was because he'd gone Quicksilver Mad. The gland couldn't release any Quicksilver, but it's narcotic properties were still affecting him somehow. Withdrawal possibly. Claire raised that as a risk of removing the gland. Even if she could do it without killing him, she wasn't sure what taking away the Quicksilver would do to him. I was especially sure that was what was happening when he stopped outside the lab to a little kung-fu victory kick, which is something he's done a few times when he went Q.M.

It is consistent with Darien's character, though. His failing as a thief has always been he cares a little too much. It what's got him busted originally, after all. He could have let the old geezer stroke out, but no, he saved him, and for this act, was permanently labeled as a molester of the elderly. His mentor Liz said the same thing. She ditched him because he was always too worried about other people, about not hurting anyone with their crimes. So it fits. Darien enjoys feeling clever and showing off, but he doesn't particularly want to hurt people, or allow others to profit from causing harm. I wonder how much his counteragent leash has to do with that.

Throughout the episode, while all the shooting and chasing is going on, they kept cutting to scenes of Waring and what he's up to, and it usually involves his family. They're watching cartoons together, or his daughter is practicing her electric keyboard. And that continues in the background while he calmly orders somebody killed. And the big shootout takes place in the middle of his public relations move, the mini-golf course meant to make him look like an upstanding member of the community, befriending the local politicians, and giving him an extra layer of security and credibility against any future charges. Kind of slick, even as it makes me a little nauseous.