Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Ant-Man #1-3, by Nick Spencer (writer), Ramon Rosanas (artist), Jordan Boyd (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer), Idette Winecoor (designer) - OK, what the heck does "designer" mean? Also, between the first and second issues, Boyd went from "colorist" to "color artist". Just pick a job description!
Scott's trying to put his life back together, trying to get gainfully employed and be a good dad for his recently back from the dead daughter, Cassie (really glad they brought her back). He tries applying to be Stark's security consultant, and even gets the job. By breaking into Stark's apartment and hacking into his Iron Man helmet, but that's what Stark wanted anyway (and it's bigger jerk than normal "Superior" Iron Man, so whatever). Then Scott learns his ex-wife is moving with Cassie to Miami to get away from hero stuff, so Scott ditches the job and moves to Miami. Family first!
Once there, he tries to get a loan from a bank to set up his own security consulting company, but bank turns him down. Because banks are run by jerks. Jerks who hide a Nazi robot that turns things into gold in their vault, which Scott recaptures, because it was kind of his fault it got free in the first place. Upside, the head of the bank finds him interesting enough she invested in his company. Downside, Taskmaster's got him in his crosshairs, but not before he shatters Scott's illusions that they're arch-foes. Really though, he's just keeping Scott busy while the head of Cross Enterprises abducts Cassie. Cross' father was the guy who abducted Dr. Sondheim to perform a heart transplant and save his life, only Cassie need the good doctor for an operation of her own, prompting Scott to steal the Ant-Man outfit in the first place. Anyway, the son wants his dad back, and I'm guessing it'll be Cassie's heart he's going to use.
Oh, and the lamewad villain Crossfire is the son's uncle? Jeez, I hate that guy. Such a loser. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson after that time he tried killing Hawkeye with his own bow, only Crossfire was too weak to pull back the string and only succeeded in knocking himself unconscious with a concussion arrow. Some dudes aren't meant to be villains, because they suck.
Speaking of embarrassing defeats, Taskmaster might want to watch the ridicule. I haven't forgotten the time Rick Jones got the drop on him (it was in Busiek's Avengers run, and hey, Scott was there for that too!) That said, Scott, do not diss Taskmaster's outfit. I love the pirate boots and the cape. I do not have any idea how Taskmaster made paperclips form into a giant sword just by pushing a button. I assume magnets were involved, but how are they manipulating the whole thing? Unless Tasky has learned to imitate Magneto. No, I didn't think so either. Oh, and what the hell is he doing calling someone else "rip off"? Taskmaster's whole shtick is he copies other people's moves. There isn't an original bone in his body! Oh Tasky, there's a reason I enjoy watching you get punched so much.
I'm pretty pleased with the book so far. Scott's likeable enough, but he still shows just enough unscrupulous behavior I can see things blowing up in his face. He tries to be a smooth talker, but he's not really good at it (his attempts at sales pitches are consistently awful), and he does lack of commitment. Unfortunately, I don't think Stark was wrong about Scott looking for the quickest route. But I'm looking forward to seeing Scott and Cassie hang out together, and the Grizzly could make an interesting sidekick.
Rosanas's artwork and Boyd's colors work fairly well together. It's not a dark book, but it's not a wild and crazy one either, so the colors are muted without being murky, and the art is fairly realistic. I like the way size-changing is portrayed, with the progressively smaller, creamsicle colored outlines. It's a nice shorthand for the process that's going on with the Pym Particles. The facial expressions aren't always great. There are a couple of consecutive panels of Cassie where I'm not clear what emotion we're supposed to see. Based on the dialogue, I'd figure concern, maybe trepidation, but there's really no expression. For the most part, though Rosanas does well. The mass of ants looked good, and he draws paperclips that appear giant really well. I also like how, when Tasky pushes that button to control the paperclips, the concentric circles of the signal/pulse extend into the panels below, where the paperclips are starting to move. Nice touch.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Secret Six #2, by Gail Simone (writer), Ken Lashley (penciller, inker), Drew Geraci (inker), Jason Wright (Colorist), Carlos M. Mangual (letterer) - That's a really nice cover by Eaglesham and Wright. The design for the spears, the contrasting light and dark, and everything draws you to Catman, cornered and under fire.
So 18 months ago, someone captured Catman and locked him in a cell for a year. Someone with a very Joker-like smile, but it's hard to tell with the coloring what the guy's coloring is. He did let Catman out after a year, and Blake vowed to find and kill him. The guy said Blake owed a debt, and these people who locked our cast in a coffin at the bottom of the sea mentions a woman was killed 2 years ago, so is that the issue? Hard to say, but the old lady with the ventriloquist dummy is a telekinetic, so she raises the coffin to the surface, Porcelain weakens its walls, and Blake tears through, because he has cybernetic claw things, I think. Anyway, now the group seems to committed to finding the people who locked them up and killing them. We'll see how that goes, 'cause I have no clue who they should be looking for. Someone amoral with money, I guess.
The art on this shifts a lot depending on who inks it. With Geraci's inks, it's almost like he's doing a charcoal drawing. Much heavier on the black, deeper, thicker, wider shadows, and it seems to simplify the art considerably. It's an extremely notable transition for when Lashley inks his own stuff, is what I'm saying. Wright goes heavy on the blues in this issue, which does make the occasional red or green shaded panel more noticeable, but it's a murky feel most of the time. Appropriate considering both plot threads involve someone locked in a dank box.
At least we're starting to see the outlines of the character relationships. The big guy is going to be kind of paternal towards Alice, though I've got a hunch he won't last long. He seems a little out of his depth. The old lady is kind of Ragdoll, with a little of Jeanette in her, and I have a hunch Catman's going to form a friendship with this Strix person. Not sure why, I just have a hunch Blake will appreciate someone who doesn't talk, but prefers to just kill things. Still not sure whether I'll buy the next issue, but at least I have until June to decide. Maybe by then they can get the book back on schedule.
She-Hulk #12, by Charles Soule (writer), Javier Pulido (storyteller), Muntsa Vicente (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I went with one of the variant covers, since there wasn't a difference in price. I just like this one more than the main cover. It says "final issue" to me more than the other did.
So, Nighteater - when did he become Nighteater? - hired Dr. Druid, Vibro, and Shocker to help him cast this spell, which sacrificed every in Divide County, except George Saywitz (the source of the Blue File), because Jen got him out in time. The purpose of the spell was to make everyone remember Nighteater as Nightwatch, a now-retired hero. Not a great one, just an OK hero who would be respected and remembered well. Trench has Jen under his control because of a spell he set when he appeared back in issue 5 and 6, and he seems to be about to tie up all the loose ends, but Angie called Shocker and told him what happened, and Hermann isn't happy. Why didn't he get to be a hero too? That disrupts Trench's concentration long enough for Angie to dispel his control of Jen, and she whups his butt. After, Angie appears ready to move on, bu Patsy convinces her to stay by pointing out things will fall into total disarray without Angie. Because Patsy sure as heck isn't doing any filing. And we end with Jen preparing to defend The Inhumans against a case being prosecuted by the firm Jen left at the start of the series.
There's a recurring theme in this run of people trying to blame others for their mistakes, or wanting to be redeemed/forgiven without actually repenting. I think it's something to explore further later, because I'm not quite sure how it relates to Jennifer yet. Is Soule saying something about lawyers, that by representing the law, or taking part in the judicial process, they're helping to ensure power is used responsibly? Or is it something about Jen being a Hulk, having all that power, even if the source of it has caused a lot of destruction? I'm not at all sure.
I'm also not sure about Trench. So did Soule just rewrite Trench's entire history? Is he saying the guy was never a hero, he just cast a spell to make people think that? So he didn't actually try to help Spider-Man during Maximum Carnage? He might have been on Carnage's side, or more likely, wasn't within a 1000 miles of the thing at all? That's. . . I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's the sort of giant, retroactive thing I tend to hate. Like trying to make the Sentry the most important guy ever in the Marvel Universe, except this is the character trying to do it for themselves. It's not that I have any fondness for Nightwatch, but there might be someone who does, and who knows how they feel about it.
That aside, it's a good last issue. Wraps up the Blue File thread, leaves a useable status quo for future writers. I don't know what Pulido's moving on to next - I have a vague feeling he's lined up to do something for DC? - but hopefully it's something good. Soule's already writing like 15 books, he doesn't need anything else extra.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Monastario leaves to continue the search, but leaves Garcia and two other lancers to keep an eye on Diego. He also tells Garcia he will be shot if he loses Diego, having already threatened to have him executed for sleeping on duty. Diego promptly convinces them to retire downstairs, and orders Bernardo to bring out 5 more bottles of wine. Which is all the encouragement those lancers need to start drinking and for Garcia to start singing tavern songs about a soldier's life. So nobody notices when Diego slips out with those supplies for his dad. Except Alejandro has regained consciousness sufficiently that he can get up and stagger out of the cave, still determined to kill Monastario. The lancers find him soon enough, and the Capitan decides to have himself some fun with the 'wild boar', but Zorro arrives and quickly knocks Monastario off his horse, grabs his rather and rides away.
As they flee, the come across a wagon with Don Nacho Torres in it, surrounded by soldiers. These men, led by a Sergeant Espinoza, are under orders from the governor to guarantee Torres safe conduct back to Monterey, and to Monastario's dismay, he finds this will apply to anyone with Torres. Like Alejandro, who Zorro quickly hands to Torres. Zorro then rides off, and eludes Monastario again, though it looked like he'd trapped himself on a rock pedestal for a second. Furious, the Captian returns to the hacienda to find Garcia and the lancers will into their cups and, having run out of friends to toast, are toasting their enemies, starting with the Comandante. Oh, but a different Comandante, and old one, from back in Spain. Somehow, Diego sneaks back in through the front window and makes it appear he'd fallen asleep behind a couch, which at least spares Garcia one of those painful deaths.
Quote of the Episode: Monastario - 'Does His Excellency the Governor also protect the outlaw Zorro?' Sgt. Espinoza - 'From what I have heard, Senor Zorro does not need protection.'
Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (5 overall)
Other: Sergeant Garcia has some good pipes on him. Maybe he missed his calling as a tavern singer, or a minstrel. He could help young men whose voices haven't finished changing by singing from the shadows for them. The sons of wealthy aristocrats probably pay better than service in the King's Army.
I still don't understand how Diego made it back into the main room through the front window. Monastario had just marched through there with six lancers behind, who he left outside when he barged in on Garcia. When he leaves a few minutes later, all six are waiting by the gate. How did none of them notice Diego come down the stairs and then through a window?
I like that Espinoza. He wasn't cocky about standing up to Monastario, just very confident because he knows he got his orders from someone higher up the chain. So long as he's outwardly respectful, there isn't jack shit Monastario can do to him. I can't decide whether the line of his I quoted above was strictly a comment on Zorro's skill, or a dig at Monastario's.
Monastario reminds me a bit of Dr. Doom, in that he has a certain appearance of honor or fair play, but only insofar as it feeds his ego. But it helps undo him. He didn't need to take Zorro's bait and start jousting with him. He could have ordered all the lancers to keep Zorro busy while he finished off Alejandro. But he thought he'd appear sporting (while it's really just supposed to ego boost himself when he defeats Zorro, ha), and it backfires. He gets humiliated, even laughed at by his own men, Zorro not only gets himself and Alejandro away, he gets Alejandro to someone who can provide actual medical care for him. It's a good thing Monastario isn't completely ruthless.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Gotham's out. I'm not getting my kneecaps busted by Batman, nor am I going to run the risk of dealing with his whackjob enemies because I made the mistake of trying to swipe that statue that was partially disfigured in a fire on the 2nd day of the month, same as Two-Face. And even beyond that, there's Gotham's notoriously crooked cops to worry about. They'll shoot me, hide my loot somewhere, tell their bosses they never found it, then sell it themselves later. No thanks.
Metropolis is a nice, shiny city full of nice, shiny things, but 1) Superman's maybe a little too much of a challenge, 2) every nice thing in town probably belongs to Luthor, and I'm not that crazy, and 3) too high a probability of being squished by a random giant robot attack.
I have a feeling the Rogues guard their turf against interlopers pretty fiercely, so Central City's out. Again, I'm looking to avoid death, so Hawkman's home turf (whatever that is this week) is a no-go. Death from above with extremely pointy medieval weaponry is not high on my list of career goals.
I figure there's three pretty good options. One, Coast City, because Hal is hardly ever there any more, and even if he is, I'm pretty sure I can outsmart Hal Jordan. Just distract him with a skin mag and drop a convenient light fixture on his head.
Two, Star City. Admittedly, Green Arrow's presence would seem to trigger the "fear of death by pointy medieval weapons" clause, but I'm going to be stealing from wealthy people, so I'll promise to donate over 50% of my proceeds to soup kitchens, or children's literacy funds, or something. More money for no-kill shelters, whatever. That should work.
Third, Opal City. I'll get around to reading Starman one of these days, but Opal City generally sounds pretty cool. The heroes that live there aren't too crazy or violent, though having the Dibnys in town to investigate my crimes might be a problem. Ralph would sniff me out before too long I imagine, unless I'm Black Cat-good at stealing. Which sure, why not?
I know the simplest answer would be to avoid cities with superheroes entirely, but come on, the cities with superheroes have all the best stuff to take.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Klarion #5 and 6, by Ann Nocenti (writer), Trevor McCarthy and Szymon Kudranski (artists), Guy Major (colorist), Pat Brosseau (letters) - So McCarthy stuck around until the end. I didn't expect that. I figured they'd move him to some other project since this book was basically dead on arrival. Hopefully he gets something that'll last for his next project.
Klarion eats Swag's nanobot, which boosts his power enough to get everyone out of his "pocket", although there's an ancient monster he'd angered in the past hot on their heels. Back in the world, Klarion tries ditching everyone for awhile, but Zell and her nanotech-based Buddydog track him down, just in time for his Buddybot to emerge from his hand. It has his face and hair, but also insect limbs growing out of her back, and Klarion wants nothing to do with her. He'd rather go fight Coal and his swarm of nanobots, and he beats him, and even shows some concern for his new "Daughter" when she showed up (mostly to yell at him for abandoning her). Then everyone has to work together to banish the thing that followed them from Klarion's pocket, which was some ancient beast from Jack Kirby's Demon series.
I'm not even going to try and claim I understand everything here. Coal was beaten, and it seems to have served as some representation of the public's struggle with the questions of what it means to be human raised by the Buddybots, since the public turned against them. But Coal's not finished entirely, he's just coming back with something new. Technology marches forward, and the questions can't be put off. Also the idea that we frequently implement something new without having a firm grasp of the implications. What we've created, how it reflects us, what its relationship is to us (Rasp was distinctly uncomfortable when it was pointed out Contessa was either his sister or daughter, considering he'd been wanting to mack with her).
I'm also not sure what to make of Klarion. Maybe that's the point, he's still a kid, he's still prone to mood swings, and even he isn't sure what he wants. Does he want to be part of the gang at the Moody Museum? Well maybe, it's nice to have people who care, but it would mean caring about other people, taking their needs and desires into account, and I'm not sure he wants to do that. He likes Zell, but he's afraid she's bound him to her in some way, and naturally, that she used magic for it. Better explanation than that he's developed feelings for her. He's confident in his power, but not confident enough to let that speak for itself. He's like those young hotshots in Westerns that think they have to challenge everyone to prove how good they are, when the ones who are the best don't feel the need to prove it. They know how good they are, and that's enough. Klarion isn't there yet.
I think he's also repeating past mistakes. He said his teacher would break his fingers if they were out of place during a spell, and eventually whatever it was about that guy that drew Klarion to him, it soured and the kid killed him. When he's confronted by his Buddybot, Klarwitch, he abandons it, and when it finds him, he smacks it away. Then he tries to teach it magic, but when it doesn't grasp it immediately, he knocks it off its broom and casts the spell himself. He seems to develop some concern for Klarwitch after that, but the damage may have been done. Klarion's already made himself look pretty bad.
McCarthy and Kudranski are a little awkward on their figurework - there are pages where Piper and Noah are almost unrecognizable, and Klarwitch never really comes together as a design - but the page layouts are pretty good. The double spread of them being ejected from the pocket, as the ancient beast comes charging in from the left in pursuit, that was pretty cool. The pages where the panel borders form the creature's mouth, so the interior of the border is ringed with teeth, also pretty cool. Guy Major helps, because his color work is nifty. I especially like at the beginning of issue 6, Coal's swarm (which has formed into a giant spider) has the same green glow letters and numbers get coming off computer screens. You know, the shade of green they used in the Matrix films? It contrasts with Klarion's blues nicely, but it does work as a good shorthand for technology.
So that does it for Klarion. Not sure it accomplished what it set out to do, it certainly didn't if keeping going for any extended period of time was the goal. As far as Nocenti's recent DC work, I'd rank it ahead of Green Arrow (McCarthy's a significantly stronger artist than what she had on that book), but behind Katana (which I think had a stronger central premise, and had a little more time to deal with it, rather than being rushed).
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Harley Quinn #14 and 15, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Chad Hardin (artist), John Timms (artist #15, pgs. 10-12 and 15), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Paul Mounts (colorist #15, pgs. 10-12 and 15), John J. Hill (letters) - Looks like Harley's going crazy. That really shouldn't be much of a stretch for her.
This is point where all the different balls Harley's trying to juggle start to be too much for her. Her workload at the hospital is increasing, she's missing Skate Club engagements, the hot water heater in her building broke, and she missed her date with Mason, the guy who broke out of prison a few issues ago, which made both him and his mom kind of sore at her. Plus, she's still trying to help the helpless, but there are a whole lot of helpless to help. She's tired, frazzled, and depressed, but that's when friends can help the most. And here's Ivy, to talk her through her problems, and to offer a good suggestion: get an assistant. Being Harley, she posts an ad online for 12 assistants, which makes sense, considering she's going to have them fighting crime with/for her. Fortunately, there's no shortage of take-no-shit ladies looking for a challenge.
Two questions: Where is she getting the money for all this? She took two jobs originally because the rent from her tenants wasn't anywhere near enough to cover the bills on her place. How the heck can she afford all the food, all the repairs, all the assistants? Especially since she isn't even making it to Skate Club on time? That's half her income.
Second question is, will this outbreak of violence and chaos end up having a root cause that Harley can deal with, or are Palmiotti and Conner just giving a realistic idea of how much crime there can be in a city that size? I feel like there were too many references in the book to just how much is going wrong for it to be a coincidence.
So this could be ill-advised. I'm not convinced having that many assistants is actually going to simplify or streamline Harley's life. If anything, having that many employees would seem like it'll add more complications. And when you specifically cite "insubordinance" as a desired quality, then you're going to have to expect them to be insubordinate. Which is another complication.
I think Hardin's getting more confident on the book. His work is a bit smoother, less busy, especially around Harley's face. Which works for me, and I think he can still loosen up some more, exaggerate more still at times. Harley's reaction to Mason ripping his shirt up to use as a bandage was good. It's a little comical, but it still gets across what you need to know.
I noticed that after Shona whupped those cheapskate, racist douchebag customers, every other customer we see in the restaurant is smiling. I'm going to choose to interpret that as they all agree those jerk got what they deserved, and that when the cops arrive (assuming the jerks carry out their threat), there will be a lot of people who didn't see nuthin'. Yeah, this Legion of Harleys thing could be really interesting, though I'm not sure the creative team will actually stick with it long enough.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Richard Rider, the late Nova Prime.
Rich had a decent (if obviously and awkwardly shoehorned in) heroic death at the end of Thanos Imperative. It was him and Star-Lord, giving their lives to keep an unkillable Thanos trapped within the collapsing Cancerverse. Except Hickman brought Thanos back (though if he hadn't, I'm sure Starlin would have), and Bendis brought Star-Lord back. Nova's the only one still dead, and that's stupid as hell (every account I've read, Bendis' attempt to explain how that happened in Guardians of the Galaxy's Original Sin tie-in was as bad as I'd expect). So there's no reason for Rider to stay dead.
This isn't me trying to get rid of the new kid, Sam Alexander. I may not have anything for Sam, but I don't have anything against him, either. He can be Earth's Nova (or the New Warriors' Nova), while Rich has all the fun, cool adventures out in space. Or Sam can drive Rich nuts by doing typical impulsive teen hero things. Whatever. I don't want Sam gone, I just want Rich back
I miss this guy. He believes in what the Nova Corps is supposed to stand for, to the point he won't abandon prisoners to an army that will almost certainly brutally kill them for sport. He has enough experience under his belt to know how to talk his way out of it. But he still has enough of that old cockiness he can't resist poking the bear a little bit, because he's confident he can back it up. And he's powerful enough I want him to poke the bear, because I want to see that fight. I was always disappointed we never got to see any payoff between Rich and Blastaar.
First image is from Nova #3, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Sean Chen (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Guru eFX (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer). The other two are from Nova #28, Abnett and Lanning (writers), Andrea Divito (artist), Bruno Hang (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer).
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Watching my friend try to play Starfox 64 on my console, I finally understand all those complaints I heard about the N64 controller. They hadn't made a lot of sense to me back in the day, since my only console before the N64 was the original NES, and I'd adjusted all right. But having to explain the C button, which is actually 4 different buttons was illuminating.
So was the fact that while you use the right shoulder button for a hard right turn (and double tap for a barrel roll to the right), you don't use the left shoulder button for left turns. You use the Z button on the back, which is a little counter-intuitive. Although, the one upside to that layout is the player can effectively ignore left third of the controller. The only things over there are the D-pad and the left shoulder button, and the game uses neither of them. Which, if you have small hands, means you can position them to more effectively reach all the buttons you'll actually use. I'd like to think they designed it that way, but I can't be sure.
Though watching her play, I was struck by how much of that game is just experience. Knowing where attacks are going to come from, when your wingmen are going to need saving. It doesn't work like that in the all-range mode sections, those are free-for-alls, which can be really fun. But for the rail-shooter portions, absolutely. She got better as she went along, and seemed to have a good knack for dodging enemy fire right off. Not crashing into enemies (or random buildings or mountains) is another matter, but you know, you have to start from somewhere. Now she just has to get used to the idea of firing constantly. All the time, at anything that moves. But don't hit your wingmen! But don't stop firing! Why aren't you firing?
I think we determined I'm not much of a coach, even on games I'm pretty good at. We were playing a lot of Super Smash Bros., and it seemed to take a long time to get Smash Attacks down. Couldn't properly describe the correct combination of control stick and A button to her. That's OK, though, she just kept spamming Captain Falcon's special attacks. So many Falcon Punches and Kicks.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Anyway, Superman 3. It's not good in any artistic sense, but I like it in the same way as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. It feels like they realized they were dealing with a concept that tends easily towards the fantastic, and went with it. Sure, a weather-monitoring satellite can be turned into a weather-controlling satellite from a computer. A corrupt businessman is totally going to have a ski slope on top of his skyscraper. If you make cigarette tar an ingredient in your homemade Kryptonite, you make Red Kryptonite. You can totally make a massive computer shut down by removing one screw. It's bizarre from the outside, but it seems to fit with the internal logic of that world.
It's a Silver Age Superman story, which I'm generally not a fan of. To be fair, Superman doesn't save the day with some deus ex machina power like super-willpower, and he doesn't spend a bunch of time playing tricks on his friends to teach them some lesson. Those are two of the elements I hate the most about Silver Age Superman, so leaving them out helped. Plus, it avoided the first two movies massive over reliance on Krypton. He has powers because he's from Krypton, but he's Superman because he was raised on Earth (something the movie nodded at when Evil Superman has his fight in the junkyard with his good side, represented by Clark Kent). I don't need a bunch of portentous speeches from Marlon Brando in my Superman movie.
It's still odd to me Richard Pryor was in a Superman movie. I'm just trying to figure out how they came around to that idea. He wasn't bad in it, though I doubt they really used him to maximum effect. I'm not sure whether full force Richard Pryor would work in a Superman movie. Still, there's an interesting core to the character. He's mostly a pushover, a person with undeniable skill, but no real drive to do anything with it. But he'll show these flashes where he understands when to leverage his talents. When he recognizes Webster is too invested in his big plan to throw Gus in jail, if he can just give him something that'll keep him happy and working instead. It's just that most of the time, Gus doesn't have any concrete goal of his own he wants to work towards. Also he's always looking for shortcuts. Talented, but undisciplined and unmotivated, but at least a sort of decent person at heart.
I think Gus and Lorelei would have been much more successful criminals if they hadn't been working for Webster. I don't mean in this movie (Webster's overwhleming greed and megalomania make for a pretty good villain), I mean in general. Gus is a computer savant, but he never considers the implications of what he's doing, and he's easily intimdated. Lorelei is a genius, and smart enough to keep it under wraps so nobody gets suspicious or threatened by her. She wouldn't try to push Gus around, and he wouldn't make her feel threatened,so she wouldn't have to hide. Those two could have been a great buddy crime team, and I'm sure they would both have been endlessly supportive of each other.
I like that after everything, Superman tries to get Gus a job. Gus doesn't take it, but it's very Superman to still want to help someone, even though that guy helped try to kill him multiple times.
The part where Gus' ultimate computer grabs Webster's sister and converts her into, a host body, a cyborg soldier for it, something. That was more intense than I was expecting, though I was a little distracted by the fact she reminded me of Livewire a little. I know she wouldn't exist as a character for about another decade, but that's what the shiny blue skin made me think of. I guess it was more likely to be a Brainiac reference, a melding of a super-intelligence with flesh.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
As you can imagine, Diego's pleas to handle things with reason fall on deaf ears, and the Dons prepare their attack on the cuartel, which Monastario now knows all about, thanks to the eavesdropping corporal. He orders his men to hide, and not emerge until all the Dons are inside and the gate is closed behind them. Zorro attempts to ruin this by sneaking in and attacking Monastario, hoping to draw the lancers into a chase. To the Capitan's credit, he sees through the ploy, and sends just a few men with Garcia to chase Zorro, but only for a little while, then double back, so they can catch the Dons between two forces. The plan seems sure to work, but Zorro somehow beats Garcia and his men back, and cuts off most of the Dons before they make it inside. His father is not so lucky, and Zorro has to venture inside and try to get him out over the walls, which he does, but not before Monastario is able to shoot Don Alejandro. Zorro is able to get them under cover, and use Tornado to lure the lancers away, but he's now on foot, with a gutshot old man. Good luck with that one.
Quote of the Episode: Alejandro - 'For a few moments tonight, I almost felt what it is like for a father to be proud of his son.'
Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (5 overall).
Other: I get there's a lot of ideas about manhood and the proper actions of a Spanish gentleman driving Alejandro, but that quote was cold. He said that right to Diego's face. It's not even about the fact he doesn't realize Diego is actually Zorro (at one point, delirious, he tells Zorro he is the man he hoped his son would be when he returned from Spain), it's just a really shitty thing to say to your kid. He's saying he's never been proud of Diego, because he won't go rushing off to die in battle with a bunch of foolish old men?
And they would have died. They're old, bent over, moving slowly even when they need to be hustling. Even if Monastario hadn't known of their plan, they'd have been slaughtered. The lancers might look bad against Zorro, but they aren't that bad. And Monastario is ruthless. He specifically ordered his men to kill all the Dons in the battle, though there's a fair chance they wouldn't have surrendered, and they would technically have been criminals and insurrectionists, so I guess he could have justified it (especially since they'd all be dead, so it's just be his version of the story the governor would hear).
On a lighter note, credit to Sergeant Garcia. Zorro tried to bait him into continuing the chase, even called him a fat, stupid pig and a coward, but Garcia did not take the bait. Like Diego, he didn't allow someone questioning his manhood to drive him to do something he shouldn't. Of course, Garcia is declining because he fears Monastario (and also would probably like better odds than him and 4 lancers against Zorro), whereas Diego withstands his father's scorn because he recognizes he can't talk the old man out of it, and Zorro will be better suited to save lives than Diego. Still, good to see the Sergeant not rise to the bait. Oh, and boo to Zorro for those harsh words to Garcia. Don't take out your daddy issues on the sergeant, Diego.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
I did that once, in the first six months of this blog, when I went to Devon Sanders' old blog and basically told him he didn't understand Cassandra Cain's character and he should shut up until he did. Which was out of line, and thankfully, he didn't tolerate it. He deleted the comment, and told me I wasn't welcome any longer, which was the smack upside the head I needed. That wasn't the person I wanted to be, so I sent him an apology, which he accepted (he didn't have to, but he did), and since then, I think I've avoided personal attacks on other bloggers. I still disagree with other people a lot, but I try to stick to addressing the problems I have with their opinions.
It took me a little longer to extend the same courtesy to comic creators. Probably because I had it in my head they were getting paid at least in part by me, so I could throw out all sorts of insults here. Which is stupid. Also, I'm sure I thought it was cool and edgy to talk about wanting to hit Chuck Austen with a pipe wrench for the sin of writing bad X-Men comics. Which is also stupid. And I still think they were bad comics, just like I think Civil War was a disjointed mess of moments that were meant to look cool, but didn't really make any sense, especially when viewed in the larger context on the shared universe they were taking place in. But it's one thing to say that, and another to go, "Augh, Mark Millar sucks and he should die!" I don't think I said that specifically, but I'm sure something along those lines was typed at some point.
Disliking something or a person's body of work is fine, and talking about the whys can be a productive exercise. And heck, if you met the someone and they were an ass, then sure, say so. The problem with me was, I don't know any of those people I was talking shit about, and so it seems foolish for me to be getting personal about it. I doubt any of the professionals ever noticed me, I'm one voice in a wall of voices screaming either praise or invective. But it's still embarrassing to look back on some of the stuff I said in the past, because there just wasn't any need for it. So I'm sorry for all the out of line things I said in the past, and I'm trying my best to make sure I don't repeat those mistakes now or in the future.
Friday, March 20, 2015
On to DC. It's the first month of post-Convergence, and there's a lot to unpack. Secret Six #3, which was originally supposed to come out in February, is pushed back to June. These sorts of delays don't bode well for the book. It's starting to remind me of that Grant Morrison/Jim Lee WildC.A.T.S. book that only shipped an issue or two then vanished. So maybe it'd be best to give up on Secret Six.
Harley Quinn got bumped up to $4 an issue, which is probably the tipping point for me to drop it. I'm thinking about buying the Harley Quinn/Power Girl team-up mini-series instead. It's still at $3 and I did find Harley and Peej's interactions amusing.
They gave Bryan Hitch a Justice League of America book to write and draw. Over/under on number of issues he completes before fill-ins or a new creative team shows up is set at 2. Place your bets! Also, because Comic Book Resources put all the Joker variant covers first, I thought they were adding him to the Justice League, which would be bold. Though I'd call bullcrap if Batman's head didn't explode on the first page. I have no intention of buying that book, it just seemed worth mentioning.
As far as new offerings I'm interested in, Starfire is a sure thing, though I wonder how much different of a tone Conner and Palmiotti will take from their work with Harley. I'm not sure they can write the books the same way, considering Starfire isn't crazy. Section 8 is almost a certainty, the only thing that holds it back is the promised appearance of Batman. I fear Ennis' usual "hur, hur, superheroes are dumb and useless" shtick, and I'm not sure I can handle multiple issues of it, even if he's poking fun at Batman. But I'll have to at least try it.
Beyond that, I'm thinking about the Lost Army Green Lantern book. It could be kind of cool, but I'm not sure about Cullen Bunn as writer. The only thing of his I've read previously was Fearless Defenders, which you may recall I dropped not because it was bad, but because it felt relentlessly mediocre. There was no spark to the writing (or the art), and I worry that could be the case here. Maybe Bunn only gets amped for his own stuff, as opposed to work-for-hire. And then there's the Batman Beyond book. The idea of Terry lost in a weird mash-up of Kirby future concepts, all on his own has promise. It seems like an odd enough setting to allow for some good stories, and you do something with trying to ration the Batarangs and such, since there's no one to make more, or to patch up the suit. Have him scrounging around, trying to help people as he can, finding lost caches of technology. Fallout 3 as a Batman comic, basically.
Of course, that's essentially what I was hoping for when I tracked down back issues of Bishop: The Last X-Man, and I wound up hugely disappointed. And I don't have the best track record with Dan Jurgens' stuff, so who knows.
On the Marvel side, we're another month into Secret Wars stuff, and a lot of ongoing series have just vanished. I could at least understand if May was the final issue of Daredevil. I don't recall it saying that specifically, but with that book, once I confirm the creative team hasn't changed, I'm in, so the solicit doesn't get much more than a glance. But Rocket Raccoon and Ant-Man are both gone, too. But Ms. Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are still there, although Kamala's stuck in a "Last Days" tie-in. Boooooo, boooooo.
As far as the horde of mini-series they're unleashing go, I'll probably try Marvel Zombies, because Elsa Bloodstone's in it, and Kev Walker's drawing it. Also Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos. A story where Shiklah gets to be the star could be good, and it's not as though the pull list is stuffed to the bursting. Most of the mini-series, though, are either ones that don't sound good, or I can't deal with the creative team. Like, oh look, a Hulk-based mini-series written by Peter David, but oh, oh no, they put Greg Land on art chores. Or look over there, a mini-series where Peter Parker and MJ are married and have a baby! Oh, Dan Slott's writing it? Never mind. At this stage, I just can't trust him not to write something that's going to really irritate me, so the smart play is to simply avoid him.
At least it wasn't a boring month.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
They might not have asked, although they brought in Braddock and Amadeus Cho, and it's not like Namor is some super-genius (also they might have expected him to reject the "destroy other worlds" plan the way Steve Rogers did). Generally, Peter hasn't been portrayed as being on the Richards/Stark/Pym level. But I feel like they've ramped up his intelligence over the last couple of decades, the way they tend to increase characters' strength over time. That gradual escalation of the character's abilities, so they can face ever greater and more extreme problems. They've done the same thing with Hank McCoy, since I'm pretty sure he wasn't this smart back in the '80s. Stark, either (I mean in a scientific knowledge sense, they've all gotten dumber when it comes to exercising common sense)..
Anyway, I'm just grateful they didn't ask, because I have zero doubt Octavius would have taken them up on the offer, since it would mean saving his own skin. And then Peter would feel a lot of guilt about destroying an entire world, even though he had nothing to do with it. There's been enough missteps with Spider-Man lately, he doesn't need another one.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Anyway, I strongly considered Steph and Cass here, but I'm pretty sure I've gone on at length about those two several times. So in the spirit of not retreading over entirely old ground, let's discuss two good buddies, who are themselves a mismatched pair. One, a devil-may-care adventurer, the other more grim, a living weapon.
Beer will be a recurring theme.
Despite the likelihood that we'd be attacked by ninjas, or Omega Red, Kurt and Logan are still the two comic book friends I'd most want to hang out with, if only because I think we'd have more common ground to discuss than I would with Steph/Cass, or say, Booster/Beetle, even if I don't drink. Kurt could help me polish my German, and I think we all like to play pool and avoid large crowds, so there you go.
At the same time, Logan struggles with the gap between who he wants to be, and the man he frequently is. He doesn't want to be someone who fails to protect people, and is only good for avenging them by brutally hacking to pieces their killer, but that's how it ends up going a lot of the time. And that eats at him, that he keeps falling back into old patterns, whether they're ones shaped by choices he made, or that Weapon X made for him, and maybe that's who he is. Kurt, though, has a hopefulness about people that enables him to believe that Logan is gradually moving towards who he wants to be. So he lets Logan let it out, and then he explains what he thinks, and Logan can accept it or not.
Logan's seen enough not to be bothered by Kurt's appearance, and Kurt's seen enough actions motivated by blind hatred to recognize that isn't the case with Logan. They both like to fight, albeit at a somewhat different level of intensity. Logan prefers brawls, Kurt likes something with a little more flair and style, but it works out. They'll both play wingman for each other, or conversely, help the other keep things casual with a lady friend. And there's only one guy Logan trusted enough to bring beer for his wedding to Mariko. Marriage that never happened, but the point remains, he asked Kurt.
Also, I love Uncanny X-Men #183, where Kurt and Logan give Colossus the business for how he broke up with Shadowcat, then let Peter get his ass beat by Juggernaut. Logan does most of the talking, and you think Kurt's just there to make sure it doesn't turn into a fight. But then Kurt keeps chipping in with brief comments to keep Peter's head on a swivel. And I like the placement on the page at the end, as Logan gets to the point of why they think what Colossus did was a shitty thing. Logan's still doing all the talking, but Kurt's the one standing closest to a kneeling Colossus, completely in shadow. It makes it feel like Kurt's glare is weighing Colossus down, so he doesn't have to say anything.
Edit: Forgot to give credit where it's due. First panel is from Uncanny X-Men #211, Chris Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. and Bret Blevins (artists), Al Williamson (inker), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist). Second panel is from Nightcrawler #3, Claremont (writer), Todd Nauck (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Cory Petit (letterer). Third panel is from Wolverine #6, Greg Rucka (words), Darick Robertson (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Studio F (colors), Rus Wooton (letterer). Last panel is Uncanny X-Men #183, Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. and Dan Green (artists), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Glynis Wein (colorist).
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
It turned out alright. I still like Captain America: The Winter Soldier a lot more, but my fears were largely unfounded. I had already mentally prepared myself to not expect the characters to resemble their Abnett and Lanning-written versions, so that helped. Ronan allying with Thanos was probably the part I found the oddest, but I liked the fact the movie hints at the idea that Ronan's position as an outcast among the Kree is for show. The bit where Glenn Close asks the Kree (who had just signed a peace treaty with the Xandarians) to at least publicly condemn Ronan's murderous actions, and basically gets, "Not our problem" in return, was telling. Ronan may not be some Kree agent posing as an outcast, but the powers that be certainly have no problems with him. It was a nice bit, suggesting how old the conflict is, how not everyone was happy with the way things had been resolved, and wouldn't mind this loose cannon prompting a return of hostilities.
That was probably what I liked most about, was the feeling there was a lot of past history we were only getting parts of. The rivalry between Nebula and Gamora, egged on by Shitty Dad Thanos, Rocket and Groot's history, both alone and as a team. It's still sort of an origin story, but for the characters, it's starting in the middle. They've all lived wild, horrible, crazy lives already, this is just another (hopefully happier) chapter in it. Which was a nice touch in itself, the idea of making them a band of outcasts and misfits who help each other not be alone. Wasn't something that could really happen with The Avengers, since most of them still had someone to lean on. At that point, Thor still had his parents, Tony had Pepper, Natasha and Clint had each other. Steve and Bruce were kind of on their own, but I don't recall it really being played up as much in that movie.
I thought the facial expressions on Rocket were well done, especially his sad face. It was a little heart-wrenching when he'd look sad. I didn't laugh a lot during the movie, but there were a few parts. The "pelvic sorcery" comment, Rocket's "I need his eye" gag. The bit at the end, where the John C. Reilly explains to Rocket that no, he can't take something that belongs to someone else just because he wants it more. Though, given that his family was murdered, shouldn't Drax understand the concept of "murder" as a crime? Maybe it's the fact he was allowed to kill as many of Ronan's soldiers as he wanted, so he can't see why killing isn't always OK. I could buy that.
I would like to see more of Gamora and Nebula, which presumably we will in the sequel, since Nebula's still out there. There's an interesting relationship there, where Gamora seems to have gotten all the love (such as it is) from Thanos, but doesn't want, while Nebula wanted it real badly. So it's hard to say whether she resents Gamora more for being the favorite, or for being able to walk away from it with no regrets So seeing where Nebula goes from here - works independently, tries to be more like Gamora to please Thanos, some other option - and what that means for her next meeting with her sister, that could be cool.
One thing I was surprised about was it was only two hours. Not a complaint, I've just grown used to all the superhero movies being 150 minutes now. Nobody seemed able to do a good job (or a bad one) in less time.
Monday, March 16, 2015
That was kind of a recurring theme for the day, the place being so huge, and there being so many things to see and spend money on. There was too much for me, frankly. When you enter the main floor, there's a nice lady offering these booklets that tell you all about what's going on at the convention, when the panels are and were, costume contests, stuff like that. They also had a map of the floor spread across four pages with all the booths numbered and a corresponding index. I wandered through, circling any booths that had something visible that caught my eye, and wound up with about 2 dozen booths to come back and check out more thoroughly. Which in practical terms meant a lot of booths I wound up not being able to spend money at. Which is frustrating, but that's how it goes. It's just that the other conventions I've attended didn't make me as acutely aware of the problem.
I did cross three more of the New Warriors off my commissioned sketch list. Bartholomew Schmidt had this nice print of Nightcrawler sitting out, so I asked if he could do Night Thrasher for me, and he did. Then he gave me a discount on the Nightcrawler print, which was nice. Emily Rose Romano had a print of Spider-Gwen sitting out that convinced me to ask her for Namorita, and that turned out lovely. Also, Spider-Gwen has really taken off as a request judging by the number of people who had prints of her available. Third, I had Amber Stone draw Rage for me. I'd bought her Amaterasu (from Okami) and Squirrel Girl prints at Project Comic-con back in 2013, so I thought her style would work for Elvin. Despite his name and size, Eldon was really a sweet 13-year old kid, and so it seemed fitting. It worked out better than I could have hoped. She drew him playing with some Spider-Man and Rhino action figures, which I would never have thought to suggest in a million years, but is perfectly the kind of thing I was hoping for. So that worked out very well overall, and Marvel Boy is the last one left. I need to start thinking about the next theme I want.
My friend was more interested in the actors present than I was, and she got her picture taken with Mitch Pileggi, though afterward she felt she had acted terribly geeky around him. I'm fairly confident he's seen people act more geeky than her, though. Anyway, she was very happy about that, so good. She got Dennis Hopeless to sign a couple of issues of Avengers Arena for her, and talk to him about the abrupt end to Avengers Undercover. She bought this nifty print of Storm in her current look from a nice lady named Rori, but then lost the print at some point while roaming the convention. Remarkably, someone found the print, and rather than keep it, returned it to Rori, who was able to return it to my friend when she went to see if she could get another. That's really surprising to me, that they'd notice it and return it to the artist, rather than keep it for themselves or just ignore it. Apparently they took the time to roam the artist's booths until they found her, they didn't automatically know who did it, which is really heartening.
Then Rori did a sketch of Cammi (Avengers Arena/Annihilation's Cammi, not Street Fighter Cammi) that turned out fantastic. She didn't have her color markers with her, but the fellow at the next booth had some neon ones, so she was able to use the neon green for that light that was around the collar of Cammi's space suit, which really played off the pencils and inks nicely. I was very jealous, so maybe Cammi needs to be on that next list of characters I get sketches of.
I saw a lot of cosplayers where I had no idea who they were supposed to be. Not in the sense they had bad costumes, just that I clearly had no idea what they were referencing. Did see at least a couple of Agent Carters, and one very good Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel, among other outfits, which was nice. Good to see those characters getting traction, having fans that come out to represent.
We were there pretty much until it closed. An old coworker showed up about 2, so we hung out until she could get to see things (also some of the sketches took right up until the end). The downside was trying to get out of downtown K.C. right when the Big 12 Basketball Tournament was wrapping up, which meant navigating a bunch of stupidly laid out one-way streets clogged with sad, jaywalking Kansas Jayhawks' fans. Got kind of lost, had to take a roundabout route home, but made it eventually. Which counts as a successful convention trip, I guess.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Back at the de la Vega hacienda, Diego's father is ready to round up the other rancheros and ride into the cuartel guns blazing to rescue the ladies. Diego astutely points out that is a horrible idea, because acting in open rebellion would certainly put the governor on Monastario's side, and grant him leeway to abuse his military power even further. So Diego resolves to go and try to talk to the Capitan. But first he has to try and talk down the lovestruck Benito, who is desperate to save Elena.
In town, Diego meets Padre Felipe, and the two doubletalk their way past Garcia to see the Torres' women. They find Monastario has refused to give them any food or water until he sees them, and he's in no hurry to see them, because he's busy stuffing his face in his office. He informs them that he will free the two ladies just as soon as they make a full confession of Don Nacho's traitorous actions. Before the conversation can progress any further, Benito is dragged in by the lancers, as he was caught trying to get past them, and Diego has to talk fast to save the vaquero's neck. Benito promptly throws away this reprieve by trying to sneak in again that night, disguised as Zorro. He's captured when he he can't find the right key to unlock the cells, and Monastario orders him hung. That prompts Elena to say she will sign the confession in exchange for Benito's life, and Monastario turns her down?!
Fortunately, the Padre who was hearing Benito's confession or whatever was actually Zorro, and his surprise reveal, combined with Monastario granting Benito's wish to not die with chains on, enables them to make their escape in first a wagon, then on one of the horses (when the wagon falls apart. Zorro delays pursuit of Benito by engaging pretty much all the lancers in a battle on some scaffolding, before making his own escape on Tornado.
Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'Philosophy teaches us violence is not the solution to the problems that plague mankind. However, it is a tempting idea.'
Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (5 overall).
Other: 2 more "babosos" this week, and Monastario called Garcia an imbecile as well.
The episode ends with all the lancers, even Monastario sitting dejected on a curb after Zorro escaped. It's a little silly, but I like it as an expression of their total failure. Didn't catch the guy they were really after, didn't even manage to kill the guy they had caught.
While we're discussing that, though, what the hell was with Monastario? He told Elena her signed confession would only free her and her mother, not Benito. Why draw a line there? Getting Don Nacho denounced as a traitor is what he's been working toward. Benito's life isn't worth that? All I can figure is Monastario figured an immediate threat of death would draw Zorro more quickly than Elena and Louisa's discomfort. Which is stupid. Zorro is an outlaw, the governor will support Monastario's attempts to capture a vigilante, at least as long as he doesn't hear from Don Nacho about all the crap Monastario's been up to. If he gets the confession that makes Torres a traitor, that removes him as a threat, and Monastario could deal with Zorro at his leisure. The Capitan had a good plan, he just didn't seize the opportunity it presented.
Right after the first time Benito got caught - when Diego managed to talk him free - Diego pretty much outright calls Monastario a tyrant to his face. He sort of says it as a sly comment to the Padre, but Monastario is standing right there, and doesn't take kindly to it. And you can see Diego forget the role he's trying to play. he straightens up a little, nostrils flare, throws his shoulders back. It's a nice touch, because it shouldn't be easy for him to play the non-confrontational scholar when he is really a man of action. The facade ought to slip occasionally.
Sergeant Garcia gets a few good moments this week, at least ones where he gets to show he's actually a kind person who really doesn't enjoy the duties he's been given. The other soldiers try to roughly drag Elena and Louisa from the wagon into the cells, and Garcia berates them, apologizes to the ladies, and politely (and sadly) asks them to please step into the cells. It makes Diego's later comment to the Padre that Garcia is a friend and a good man, ring true.
Friday, March 13, 2015
With a title riffing off The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, I pretty much had to watch this.
Directed by Jee-Woon Kim, The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a South Korean film, set in Manchuria, probably in the early 1930s, judging by Japan's military presence. There's a map, that leads to something valuable, that everyone wants. An official of the Japanese Imperial Bank bought it from some underworld kingpin type, but the kingpin then sent gangster Park Chang-Yi (played by Byung-hun Lee) to steal the map back, so they have it and the money. Except a petty bandit named Yoon Tae-Goo (Kang-ho Song) steals it first, which is especially maddening to Chang-Yi, since he has some issues with Tae-Goo. Then there's also a duster-wearing bounty hunter named Park Do-Won (Woo-sung Jung) who gets involved, mostly for the reward on Chang-Yi. He initially catches Tae-Goo as bait (and for his minor reward, Tae-Goo laments that he's only worth a piano, a used one at that), but eventually agrees to get in on the treasure hunt.
But there's also the Ghost Market Gang lurking about, trying to get their hands on the map. And then the Japanese military gets involved, because they want the treasure, and things start to spiral out of hand. There's a chase scene that involves all those players riding across a perfectly flat, seemingly endless plain. For awhile, everyone is focused on chasing just one guy, ignoring the presence of all these rival groups, and right about the time I started to wonder about that, they all started shooting each other. It involved horses, motorcycles, jeeps, trucks, rifles, swords, maces, machine guns, artillery pieces. It felt much more like something I'd expect from Road Warrior than a Leone film.
Which is sort of the interesting thing about the movie. It does a lot of deliberate callbacks to Leone's films, but it's very much of a different style. There is a 3-way gunfight at the end, but it's the opposite of the Eastwood/Eli Wallach/Lee van Cleef showdown in almost every way. The do the "shooting the other guy's hat bit" from For a Few Dollars More, but again, the reason behind it is opposite. It isn't a film much interested in the sort of long stretches with no dialogue Leone favors, but it Jee-Woon Kim does populate it with all manner of odd secondary characters, from Tae-Goo's granny, to an opium den owner posing as a revolutionary. Chang-Yi has a big lieutenant who carries a huge wooden war hammer, and Do-Won has Song-Yi who is, I'm not sure what she is to him. Sister? Wife? Just an old friend? There's a backstory there, but we never get it. It all works within the context of the film, it's just interesting to note.
The film's pacing isn't quite right, though. It's about 130 minutes, so 20-30 minutes shorter than The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, but it feels longer. There are parts that just feel unnecessary, where the focus drifts from the three main characters. Also, I think the fact there are so many more extended action scenes plays into it. The film isn't much for the drawing out the tension of the moment before the shot is fired, as it is having lots of people firing lots of bullets. Except it's one of those situations where characters are really excellent shots, except when that would enable a fight to end quickly, at which point their aim turns to shit.
One other thing, and it made a lot more sense once I knew it was a South Korean film, is all three characters are Korean, but they all live in Manchuria. It gets referenced a couple of times that at this time, Korea is also under Japanese control, and so there's at least an implication some Koreans left their homes to try someplace else, or to work toward expelling the Japanese. With these three, I think it's as much about escaping from their pasts, but there's a fair chance that for some of them -Do-Won in particular - that past involved pissing off the new Japanese overlords. Although the part I noticed the most was Tae-Goo's general indifference because, as he put, for guys like them, it doesn't really matter whether it's the Japanese or the nobility that's running things. Which jibes with what I read in A New History of Korea last fall. It makes me think I need to look up books on Korean expats living in Manchuria. I doubt their stories will involve gunfights where a guy swings from a rope over the roofs of a shanty town with one hand while firing a Winchester in the other, but that's OK.
Pacing issues aside, I really enjoyed the film. My guess is if you know more about the history of the region than I did, you'd get more out of it. Even without that, it's still a solid to very good action movie, with some decent comedy bits sprinkled throughout. And Byung-hun Lee as Chang-Yi looks very awesome. He brings a real, slightly unbalanced swagger to his character.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
It was still an OK movie, nothing spectacular, but some good jump scares. What interested me was they showed the original ending, as opposed to the one used in the theatrical release. Spoiler: When I saw it in theaters, Cusack's character survived, I think because the room's attempt to torment him with his deceased child backfired, and she was able to spark his will to live. Either that or the room was trying all along to make him believe in something and pull back from his self-imposed cynicism. I forget, it's been 8 years. In the version I saw this weekend, the room tells him it will never let him out, so he might as well kill himself. He decides that if he's going, he's taking the room with him and burns the whole thing down.
I don't normally default to the idea that more depressing endings are "better", but this one did seem to fit more naturally with the story up to that point. The room presents it as an hour of torment (that seems a lot longer), but just when you think he's narrowly survived its attempt to tear him down entirely, the hour starts over. It presents false hope, the idea there's an escape if he can just endure, and then pulls it away like Lucy with the football.
Besides, I like Cusack's response for the sheer "fuck you" nature of it, even if I'm a little surprised an evil room can be killed with fire. But maybe it was the emotion behind his act that gave it power.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
So he has some grudges, and they're justified, he just happened to go after one guy who a) recognizes the revolution hasn't ended and works to improve things his own way, and b) hadn't taken any benefits or perks from his service. The fight ends - though Sanosuke lost convincingly - and he resolves to stick around and see if Kenshin is who he appears to be, or if this is just another trick. They pretty quickly become friends, since Kenshin isn't the sort to hold grudges, and Sanosuke has Kenshin's back through pretty much the remaining 26 volumes of the series. Except for that stretch where Kenshin kind of gave up, and Sano left for awhile in frustration and disgust. But he came back for his friends when they needed him!
They are very different characters, though. Sano is blunt, direct, and open. Whatever he's feeling, you'll know, whether because he tells you, or because he slugged you in the face. It doesn't matter who you are, he's not going to stand on ceremony. There are times I'd like to be more like that. Just tell people what I think of them and go forward from there. Like Kenshin, he wants to try and make things better, but whereas Kenshin is more concerned with protecting the weak, and will accomplish that without violence if possible, Sanosuke is more inclined to just go beat the hell out of the bad guys. Like the picture below. Those poor dopes are part of a gang of 200 serving under a disgraced sumo wrestler/Yakuza helping a crooked government official to corner the silk trade in a small village, garnering huge profits for themselves, while putting a chokehold on the locals. Kenshin could have wrecked that official's plans with one word to any number of people in the government who owe him their lives. But he was in the throes of depression, and Sano was in a foul mood, so things were resolved with beatings. Which is more fun, anyway.
Most of the characters in Rurouni Kenshin are older than Sanosuke, who is 19 went the series starts. They're contemporaries of Kenshin (who is 28). People who fought in the war, rather than serving as aides or assistants. People who had extensive training and survived dozens of battles against opponents who also had extensive training.
Sano doesn't have that advantage, he's starting from behind and trying to catch up, but that never deters him. He's almost constantly underestimated. Kenshin thought he could beat him with one hit. Shinjiko felt he was stuck fighting 2nd-rate goods because he had to leave Kenshin to his boss, Shinomori Aoshi. Saito dismisses Sanosuke for a long period of time (and never gives him credit to his face, even if he admits to Kenshin he knows Sano is reliable). Shishio's right-hand guy, Hoji, dismisses Sano as a "tagalong", right before Sanosuke destroys their ironclad.
But it never stops him. Sure, sometimes Sano gets his ass beat, but he always goes down swinging. His fighting style pretty much mirrors his personality: He doesn't know or care a thing about defense. He'll take your best shot, then deliver his own. This isn't necessarily a smart approach - even when he wins, he's almost as beat to hell as his opponent - but I still like it. You don't have to be versed in some otherworldly sword art, if you can take the pain and keep going, you've got a chance.
He's usually an underdog, but that's fine, the supporting characters usually are in shonen manga. The main characters are almost always going to win, and even if they do lose, it's always to some high level opponent. Kenshin doesn't have really have an equivalent loss to those two times Spider-Man lost to Stilt-Man, you know.
Also, he's an important character in the series for occasional comic relief. On the one hand, you have Saito constantly needling Sano, in large part because Sano can't control his temper, and so long as Saito knows he can get your goat, he'll keep doing it. Because he's kind of a dick. Or Kenshin saying something and Sanosuke overreacting to it.
On the other side of things, Sano's willingness to say whatever's on his mind can lead to a lot of funny stuff. Comparing Kaoru's cooking to poison, trading barbs with Megumi, tweaking Yahiko in much the same way Saito does him (though I think Sano's is more good-natured. He cares more about Yahiko than Saito does about Sanosuke). It's a little bit of the same role Hawkeye plays among the Avengers, but with more of a comedy bent, as opposed to creating conflict among the characters. It's mostly friendly ribbing and jabs.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The Magus was in charge of the Universal Church of Truth and its billions of fanatical adherents, whose faith energies were ramping up his powers considerably. Star-Lord was supposed to have stopped that with the Cosmic Cube he got from Kang, but Magus outsmarted him and then kept himself in the shadows for awhile. So figure Kang shows up, either with his usual forces, or the army of Starhawks he'd compiled from across the multiverse (as the Magus' ascension was somehow going to spread to dominate all timelines), ready for war against the Magus. Maybe Kang stops to kick Star-Lord's butt for being useless and reclaim the Cube, or maybe not.
One of the end results of War of Kings was the Fault, the result of the explosion from the Inhumans' Terrigen Bomb tearing a huge hole in space, leading to a place where anything was possible. Nova and Darkhawk eventually encountered not just one Sphinx, but two, one young and one old. The old one was struggling to correct past mistakes, the young one didn't see himself as making any mistakes. And each of them had an immensely powerful Ka Stone, and if either got both, well, that would be a serious problem. So have one of the two emerge from the Fault more powerful than ever, with the Sphinx' usual plan to become a living god over all humanity. Clearly not something either of the other two would-be despots is going to tolerate.
In the middle of that, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Darkhawk, Namorita (who was brought from an earlier point in her life by the Sphinx, and then Nova kept her from vanishing when the whole place fell apart). Commenter Sean Greyson had mentioned wanting to see a Guardians of the Galaxy/Young Avengers team-up, so throw them in there. This story involves Kang, which is who Iron Lad became (and who that version of the Vision's brain patterns were based on, if we want to use him instead), so there's a reasonable justification.
I also wanted to throw in the outlaw Avengers team Justice was leading back on Earth - this was concurrent with Dark Reign, when Osborn handed over control of the Initiative school to the Hood. One wonders how that got through Congressional appointment hearings - because that would have been about as close to a New Warriors reunion as we were likely to get. Besides, even with that many heroes, they're still seriously outgunned, both in raw power and sheer numbers. Hell, find some justification for the Agents of Atlas to get involved (have Namora find out her daughter is alive and she'll charge out into space in a second).
Then factor in the Inhumans, reeling from the loss of Black Bolt, dealing with some hostility from the rest of the universe, since it was their bomb that caused the Fault, the Shi'ar having lost Emperor Vulcan and Lilandra, now a pale shadow of their old selves. Blastaar is out there as a king, looking to establish himself, get whatever he can, and settle some grudges (both Nova and Star-Lord had pissed him off recently). The sheer number of players, conflicts, uneasy alliances, the scale of the battle which could be taking place on different worlds across the universe, I would have been willing to spend so much money on something like that.
Monday, March 09, 2015
I find this whole act Yankees' GM Brian Cashman's been putting on tiresome. He's doing everything he can to make Rodriguez feel unwelcome. Sure, he could just release him, but then they'd still have to pay the remainder of the contract, and they don't want to do that. It's the same way they're arguing they shouldn't have to pay him those bonuses he gets if he passes Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, because they had no idea when they agreed to that contract that he was on, gasp!, performance enhancing drugs.
Go ahead, pull the other one. I'd be more accepting of the idea they want to save money if they were just upfront about it. I think we're all used to teams trying to avoid paying any more than they absolutely have to. Look at all these billionaire owners who keep insisting the taxpayers need to cough up for new stadiums. But instead Cashman tries to wrap it up in this same tiresome faux-moralizing about PEDs that Bud Selig* and a host of dipshit sportswriters love to engage in, to give it some sheen of respectability. It's not about saving money, it's about setting a good example for the children, you see. Rodriguez is a nasty cheater, who duped the poor, well-meaning New York Yankees, and now he should go slink off under a bridge. Without his money. The Yankees are a monolithic sports entity that cares. I think I just made myself nauseous.
I've never quite understood the level of vitriol Rodriguez gets. He makes a lot of money, has come up small in some playoff series, and used performance enhancing drugs. Which are things you can say about any number of professional athletes, Roger Clemens for example. But I don't think even Clemens is as strongly disliked by as wide a group of people as Rodriguez. I think it was probably a mistake by the player's union not to more strongly contest Bud Selig suspending Rodriguez a year based on the testimony of a guy the league office paid to testify, without being able to actually prove what he gave A-Rod was a performance enhancing drug (because it was supposedly undetectable, andit sure as hell didn't show in his numbers). Apparently all the other players hate him so much they were OK with it. Rodriguez also seems fairly disingenuous, but it's always felt as though he wants to be liked, but has no idea how to be genuinely likeable. He does things he thinks people will approve of, but it backfires, probably because it's so obviously false. I really think that time he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove was him trying to make the sort of heady, competitive play Saint Jeter gets endlessly lauded for, and it just reinforced everyone's opinion of him as a total goober.
Rodriguez is never going to get a big standing ovation as he rides off into the sunset. Well, he might, but it'll be a mocking one. He probably doesn't deserve one, he's no martyr, a fair amount of this is self-inflicted. But I'd be fine if he has a season he can be happy with, if only because I find the people it'll piss off far more obnoxious than Alex Rodriguez.
* The one major downside to Selig no longer being commissioner is that it's just a matter of time until he gets elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Because pretty much all commissioners do, whether they're massive racists (Kennesaw Mountain Landis), or incompetent boobs who got pantsed in every labor negotiation they took part in (Bowie Kuhn, yet Marvin Miller's not in, despite being the labor leader who did the pantsing). The fact Selig's tried to rewrite history to portray himself as some great crusader, and ignore the nasty stuff like how he took part in a collusion scheme when he was an owner back in the '80s, will almost certainly not slow his induction at all.
Sunday, March 08, 2015
At that point, Diego, Louisa, and Elena are trying all they can to throw off Monastario, and while Don Nacho remains undiscovered, Monastario keeps his men stationed around the hacienda. There was a horse saddled and ready, so he reasons Don Nacho may be planning to sneak in from somewhere in the surrounding countryside after dark. Diego maneuvers him so Bernardo can drop a flowerpot on him, then explains the situation to Elena and Louisa in such a way Don Nacho (who Diego knows is hiding on the window ledge outside) can realize if he disguises himself as Monastario, he and his family can escape in the Capitan's carriage. It almost works, except that once they get far enough down the road Garcia realizes they aren't heading for Los Angeles, he goes to question the Capitan and realizes it isn't the Capitan. Good thing Bernardo brought along Zorro's gear, so he can ride up, un-horse Garcia, and Torres can make an escape. Then it's a race back to the rancho, Garcia trying to find his Capitan, and an irate Monastario seeking Diego, who he suspects of being Zorro. But by that time, Diego and Bernardo have tied themselves up in the cellar, convincing Monastario once again that de la Vega is no threat.
Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'While rivals in love, we are allies in duty!'
Times Zorro marks a "Z": 1 (5 overall).
Other: 3 "babosos" this week, plus an "estupido", and a plain old "idiot". Rough week for the sergeant. Down in the cellar, he was even trying to stay focused on his job, and that darn Diego kept getting him off task with toasts to the King. Then he gets Garcia up on the barrels (the better to pursue Torres, who is already up there), and Garcia's ends up rolling in a huge mess. He gets chewed out by Monastario, and gets his horse stolen by Zorro. At least the other lancers cared enough about him not to try and rush Zorro while he had a sword at Garcia's chest. Zorro would have looked pretty stupid if they'd called his bluff, since I'm pretty sure Diego wouldn't kill Garcia. He's had chances to kill Monastario himself and hasn't taken them, so he's not going to kill a friend who is (relatively) innocent.
Monastario presented Garcia to the Torres' ladies as his aide, after telling Garcia to act like a gentleman, and to imitate Monastario if he didn't know what to do. I really though they were going to do more with that, maybe have Monastario trip, or catch his cape in a door, and Garcia would try to mimic him. But the only time it came up was when Monastario kissed Elena's hand, Garcia tried to do so as well, as she wrenched her hand out of his. Understandable, but a little rude. That comes up a lot in this series. People who are too scared to act defiant towards Monastario, so they take it out on Garcia, who isn't responsible for any of it, but is a clumsy, generally nice fellow.
Looking over my notes, at one point I described Nacho Torres as being as useless as Ron Moody's character - the greedy former bourgeois - in Mel Brooks' Twelve Chairs. And considering the only thing that guy did correctly in the entire film was fall to the ground and fake seizures, that's pretty damn useless. But Torres really is. He knows Monastario is after him, is willing to torture people to try and get him, but rather than haul ass when he has the opportunity, he has to go home to say goodbye. Give the Padre or Diego a message to deliver! He can't sneak to save his life, he's lousy at hiding, doesn't do a terribly good Monastario impression.
Kind of wish Diego would stop using "dumb" when referring to Bernardo being mute. I can sort of understand it when he's talking to others, and it's part of the act, but not when's he speaking to Bernardo himself. I like alliteration as much as the next person who isn't Stan Lee (because I believe he liked alliteration more than anyone), but maybe don't use "deaf and dumb".
Friday, March 06, 2015
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the first Cape Girardeau Comic Convention, and this year's Cape Con will be at the Osage Center in Cape Girardeau, MO, from April 17th through the 19th. I'm going to do my best to be there, barring complications. It looks as though they're going to have some cool guests. Jeremy Haun is back, Cullen Bunn's going to be there. Doug Paszkiewicz will be there again, he's the creator of Arsenic Lullaby, and his Devil's Decade collection ranked as my second favorite trade I bought last year.
There are quite a few other guests as well (feel free to follow this link to the official website), and as usual, there's a sizable group of local talent, both writers and artists, that'll have tables to show off their work. That's where most of my money seems to go these days, if only because they usually don't charge as much, so my money goes further. On those lines, tickets for Saturday are up to $10, which is up from the $5 it's historically been. But that's still seriously cheap compared to most of the conventions around here. There's one in K.C. next week that's like 30 bucks to get in, not counting the cost of parking. And Cape Con is still $5 for admission on Friday and Sunday, if that suits your schedule better.