Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I Bought 4/17/2015 - Part 3

I should probably mention that the place I’m staying now doesn’t have internet. There are plenty of places within driving distance that do, but it’s a matter of having time to drive there, plus not wanting to waste a lot of fuel. So consider this the official declaration of “possible erratic posting ahead” for the next 3 months or so, barring changes in circumstance.

Ant-Man #4, by Nick Spencer (writer), Ramon Rosanas (artist), Jordan Boyd (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), Idette Winecoor (designer) -  Oh jeez, a Miami Vice cover. It was inevitable given the location, I suppose.

So Augustine Cross has covered all the bases in his attempts to bring his father back. He’s got the right doctor, he’s got the goons to kill her and her son if she doesn’t comply. He’s got Cassie Lang, whose heart is accustomed to being large and the strain that comes with that, and donor hearts the doctor can transplant into Cassie after. And he has an adaptive security system full of things designed specifically to stop Scott Lang. But Grizz has been attending the Super-Villain Anonymous chapter in Miami, and that’s how he ropes in Machinesmith to take out the security system, enabling Scott to get in. Where he is promptly stepped on by Darren Cross. Crap monkeys. At least it saves Scott from anymore awkward conversations with his ex-wife about where her daughter is.

I’m sure Cassie will pull through – Spencer doesn’t strike me as the sort to kill her off, not after Fraction and Allred just brought her back – but I hope having a new heart doesn’t signal the end of her superhero career entirely (since it presumably wouldn’t be accustomed to size-changing). I still hold out hope for father/daughter crime-fighting adventures.

Additionally, I don’t see this continued recruitment of super-villains ending well for Scott. Grizz seems appreciative, but Machinesmith is pretty clearly already looking to make it pay off for him, and I don’t think Scott’s providing medical and dental will change that. Letting criminals be involved in setting up security for places in probably bad, since they then know how to get in. Since Stark has apparently gotten Scott blackballed from the superhero community, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the Avengers show up to defeat Scott and what they’ll think is his new, second-rate Masters of Evil. I wonder, though, whether this is Scott trying to give people a second chance because he got one once, or if, as Tony suggested, he’s just taking the easy route? Rather than try to force Machinesmith’s hand, or use his parole officer as leverage, he just agrees to give him a job, because it saves time, regardless of the consequences.

Rosanas’ artwork helped carry the scene where Augustine makes his pitch. Spencer writes him as though it’s just another sales pitch, so he’s mostly calm, but occasionally gets either excited or tender, for that human touch. And for the most part, Rosanas draws him as calm and collected. He’s almost always gesturing in some way with his hands. Either putting a finger to his chin to appear thoughtful, or pointing with the index finger to illustrate some point. He even hugs the tank his father is in, to better illustrate his point about bringing a family together. It also has to be significant that during that whole spiel, we only see Darren Cross’ legs, or parts of his arms. We see him in his entirety earlier in the issue, but once Augustine starts the sales pitch and moves closer, we’re too close to see all of Darren. It creates a sort of distance, because we don’t see him as an entire person, just parts. This makes me wonder if Augustine is really trying to revive his father, or just looking for a chance to unlock some secrets trapped within him. The last time Darren Cross appeared, Dr. Sondheim double-crossed him, by putting his worn out heart back inside him. She’s not in much of a position to do that this time, so perhaps Augustine’s going to pull the fast one.

Rocket Raccoon #10, by Skottie Young (writer), Jake Parker (artist), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (color artist), Jeff Eckleberry (letterer) – Even Cable thinks that’s too many guns. Haha, just kidding, Cable never thinks there are too many guns.

Rocket’s trying to make some cash to pay off his court costs. Then he gets word from a criminal who says he has info on the Book of Halfworld, but Rocket will have to pay. Bye-bye clean record, hello arrest warrant. Klep shows him a photo of a case kept in a vault in a place called Tower City, and Rocket’s off, though he has to beat up some more cops and Cosmo first. Cosmo got jobbed in that fight, I tell you. Didn’t use his mental powers at all. Anyway, now Rocket’s in Tower City, and he’ll get right after that case, as soon as he finishes barfing.

This series is not exactly packed with plot. Young seems content to allow space for gags and reaction jokes, most of which involve Groot. Either Rocket’s irritated with how much Groot enjoys his drink, or Groot’s dealing with some surly bartender. Which is OK, I suppose. The relatively low number of panels – this issue averages a little over 4 per page, and only tops 5 panels 3 times - gives Parker space to draw weird aliens and hideous undersea beasts. The number of panels does increase near the end of the issue, as Rocket has to flee and fight his way through security. Which I’d guess is meant to convey a rising sense of tension or danger. Except Rocket dispatches his opponents so quickly it’s hard to buy in. Oh well, we know someone else is out there looking for the book, so that’ll be a problem for Rocket eventually. Something about Tower City makes me think of Ratchet & Clank, which isn’t a bad thing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Least Favorite Female Character

This was surprisingly hard, but for the opposite reason from last week. There weren't many female characters that jumped as being not favorites. There are some I dislike to be sure - Emma Frost and Monet to name two - but I feel like that's intentional. It's part of their character that they're kind of arrogant and condescending, and if they seem like people I would not want to be around under any circumstances, they do work well in a team setting. Every team needs a jerk to cause friction. Eventually I settled on a character I'm just never happy to see.

Sorry Jean.

I don't know what it is specifically. There's nothing intensely unlikeable about Jean Grey to me, but there's nothing about her that I found terribly engaging, either. The stories they do about her, the directions they take her character, they don't do anything for me. I'm sure there are plenty of interesting stories out there about her, but I can't say I've seen them, or felt compelled to seek them out. As far as telepath/telekinetics with a connection to the Phoenix Force and the last name Grey go, I've always been much more interested in Rachel.

The fact that where she goes, Cyclops is sure to follow certainly doesn't help. Though it was more that if they were together, I feared the book was going to waste a lot of time on their relationship it could be spending on characters I actually liked. I remember having that specific thought pretty much any time in the '90s I'd see an X-Men comic with one or both of them on the cover. "Aw man, I bet there's not going to be anything about Wolverine, Rogue, or Psylocke in this issue. Booooo."

The fact she was still dead when I first got into comics - OK, still in a coma in an energy cocoon at the bottom of the sea - didn't help. There are a lot of characters that were dead at that time that have always struggled to get traction with me - Adam Warlock, Mar-Vell, Gwen Stacy - I guess because, even if their death or sacrifice is important, that doesn't mean I see the need for them to return as an active character. I know that certain status/alingments/rosters that were in effect when I got into comics have a huge effect on what seems important or normal to me. Rachel was on the X-Men at the time, so that seems normal. Cyclops wasn't, so his being part of the X-Men doesn't essential at all (Chad Nevett wrote once he couldn't understand liking the X-Men without liking Cyclops and I thought, it's easy. Just start reading Uncanny X-Men when he isn't there). Jean being completely absent doesn't seem out of place, or any sort of a detriment to the story to me. That isn't the character Jean Grey's fault, but it's part of what drives my general apathy to her.

I can probably pin a lot of the blame on the early '90s X-Men cartoon. Jean tended to try and do something useful, fail, and pass out, possibly while crying out for Scott. She didn't really get a lot of opportunities to shine. She saved the universe in the Phoenix Saga, but that kind of gets tainted when she goes nuts/gets possessed by the Phoenix Force and has to sacrifice herself. That's roughly how it went in the original comics, but cartoon was my intro to that, which is why I'm mentioning it here. I feel like X-Men Evolution did somewhat better by her, but by then, my feelings were pretty well locked in. Plus, there were still a bunch of other characters I liked much better/found more interesting.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What I Bought 4/17/2014 - Part 2

Moving on to DC, one book leftover from March, and the only one of those Convergence books I’m going to end up buying.

Harley Quinn #16, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Chad Hardin (artist, pages 1-15, 20), John Timms (artist, pgs. 16-19), Alex Sinclair (colors for Hardin’s pages), Paul Mounts (colors for Timms’ pages), John J. Hill (letterer) – Harley and dynamite is not an advisable combination.

Harley is going to reduce her stress by interviewing 80 applicants to be her crew, selecting a dozen of them, finding a place for them to live, and getting it renovated and furnished. As a plan to reduce her responsibilities, this would seem to fall under “spending money to make money”. Or perhaps burning money to make money. Anyway, after the interviews, and the battle royale, she’s got her group, and their all decked out in her colors, to represent her values and honor. That’s a little terrifying, but sure, why not?

So we’ll see how this goes. Harley as a leader is not something I see ending well, and I’m more than a little suspicious of Holly, the blind, wheelchair-bound girl with an alliterative name that made the cut. Holy crap, it’s Barbara Gordon in disguise, isn’t it? Or it’s a reference to Matt Murdock, one or the other. I shouldn’t be surprised someone in the Bat-family would be keeping an eye on Harley, especially after she went on that date with Bruce Wayne.

I like the idea of the movie posters in the theater being those homage variant covers DC did a couple months ago. I saw the Batgirl/Prince one, and the “Superman and Doomsday are Bill & Ted” for certain. Might as well use them for that. Also, I loved Ivy’s sad face at the ketchup covered fries. Not sure why, maybe because it plays off Harley’s energetic attempts to get still more ketchup out of the bottle. By the next panel, Harley’s trying to use a knife to scrape it out, and looks perfectly content at that moment, while Ivy looks just slightly repulsed. I wonder if it’s because she objects to eating potatoes, or just hates seeing them in ketchup? 

The humor is still broad, and nothing made me laugh out loud, but I smiled at quite a few of the lines in there, and I appreciate the effort, anyway. The creative team is clearly just doing whatever they like, making any jokes they choose, from one about a particular apparatus a woman brought to a recent movie based on a book, to a gag about poor, mistreated letterer, John J. Hill. If they aren’t going to loosen his collar, they could at least give him a clean shirt.

Batgirl: Convergence #1, by Alisa Kwitney (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciller), Mark Pennington (inker), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Dezi Sienty and Tom Napolitano (letterers) – If there was only going to be one, you knew this was it. And it’s your fault it’s only the one Internet! You did too good a job telling me how dull and repetitive most of the other books were!

Steph gave up being Batgirl because of something that happened at the zoo shortly after Brainiac whisked away the city. Brainiac either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, because a year later, he tags her to fight for the survival of her city against the Catman of Flashpoint. At least she has Tim and Cass with her, even if Tim spends all his time running her down, while Cass just can’t figure out what to do to help. The answer is nothing, really. Steph’s been out of costume for a year. Unless Cass can use the ole Ariashikage Mindset on Steph, nothing’s going to fix that inactivity. Especially now that Gorilla Grodd’s in the mix.

So first off, I’m not sure I buy Steph giving up being Batgirl. Considering all the crap she went through and was put through, and she kept on as Spoiler, it seems unlikely. But fine, unprecedented situation for her, being trapped inside an unbreakable dome, produces an unprecedented response. And I do like that’s she continuing to help people in her own way, which involves being fairly clever and good at understanding what motivates others. Cass can read a body, but her life experience is so different, there’s no guarantee she can understand what she sees. And Tim seems to have ventured too far down the Bat-path, where people are abstract collections of traits to be analyzed and managed. I don’t particularly like Tim here, but Steph and Cass’ interactions feel roughly on the money. Cass has never held back what she thinks when Steph pressed her on it, but she’s still cared about her. And Cassandra keeping Steph’s costume, but never bothering to wash it was perfect. I laughed.

This is. . . not Rick Leonardi’s best work. Maybe he was rushed, or maybe Pennington is just not an inker well-suited to him. I know his work looked a lot better when he was inked by Jesse Delperdang on Cass’ series. There are still good panels or pages here, but a lot of stuff seems unfinished, or overshaded in places. There’s one panel on page 2 where Tim looks really gaunt because of the shading on his cheeks. There are sequences where the shape of Steph’s face seems to shift considerably from one panel to the next, and in one panel her face consists of two dots for eyes and nothing else. Not even a hint of a mouth or nose. Leonardi's artwork was actually a strong selling point for me on this, so it's kind of a letdown. 

No idea what happened to the font there at the end.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What I Bought 4/17/2015 - Part 1

Yes, let’s review some comic books. That sounds like a fine idea doesn’t it? No? Too bad, we’re doing it anyway.

Descender #2, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer and designer) – There’s that “designer” credit again. I have no idea what it means. I’ll have to try asking someone the next time I go to a convention.

Alright, I still don’t have the first issue, but it’s easy enough to follow along. TIM is an android, and this is not a good time to be one of those, because he’s being pursued through the remains of a mining colony by some robot-hunting mercs. TIM tries his best to defend himself, but is critically injured, at which point his brain tries to upload all his memories of his life up to that point, as he’s being rescued by a large drilling robot which apparently hates humans. 

The interesting bit with regards to the issue’s structure is that we are shown TIM’s past in flashbacks interspersed with what’s going on in the present, as he’s being chased. But the actual partial upload takes place in the span of two pages after he’s gravely injured. Reading through the first time, I’d assumed we were seeing the flashbacks because TIM was racking his brains trying to figure out why he was being hunted – he’s been asleep for some time, and presumably doesn’t know about humanity’s fear of robots. It works as contrast between his past situation – where he found a loving family that really took to him, as he did to them – and his current troubles, alone and hunted for reasons he doesn’t understand. And Nguyen draws him so that he looks like a scared, confused child in the present. His posture when he runs, the way he freezes up at the wrong time. It plays off nicely against what we see of him in his memories, where he often has a blank stare, or attempts to mimic a human stance in a way that is clearly off. When he talks to Dr. Quon on page 3, he goes for a head tilt, but it just looks like he’s tilted too far. Since he adapts and learns as he goes, it stands to reason that in his first moments of existence, he would get human mannerisms quite right. He hasn’t had time to adapt yet.

I like the color work, too. The flashbacks aren’t quite sepia-toned, but it’s close, and it provides a clear break from the blues and yellows of the present day scenes. And I really like the shade of orange they used for Bandit’s – that’s a small robot, dog thing TIM found – sound effects. The really pop against the backgrounds, and the letters themselves are well done. Each letter itself is rigid, but they aren’t perfectly spaced, they tilt into or away from each other, probably representing a different inflection. Maybe when the top of the R leans into the A it’s an alert, but when the bottom of the R leans in, it’s a confirmation?  Not related to color, but I’ll mention it: I figure there’s some significance to the first flashback page ending with a fairly large close-up of Dr. Quon, who TIM immediately thought was family, and the 4th flashback ending with a similar view of Mrs. Travers, who TIM clearly comes to identify as his mother. She’s making slightly more of a head tilt than Quon, but they’re in almost the exact same place on their respective pages. Maybe it’s something about the various importance in his development, each important to his past in their own way.

Run Love Kill #1, by Jon Tsuei (story, writer), Eric Canete (writer/artist), Leonardo Olea (color, lettering, and design) – I picked this up on a whim, because I had seen it recommended online somewhere, and the cover was striking.

The book opens with 10 silent pages showing two scenes, switching back and forth between them. In one, a woman plays a cello, or a similar instrument beneath bright lights, in all shades of blue and violet. In the other, a woman escapes from a prison, though the last we see of her, she was hit by a dart and fell from the wall into the ocean. From there, it moves to a woman named Rain living in a city named Prygat, which is controlled by a minister named Origami, and is about to finishing completing a Wall, which will ensure their safety. And Rain wants out, presumably before then. She’s supposed to be riding out on a transport, but she doesn’t have quite enough money for Elsie. Not that it matters much, as Elsie is working for the state, because they have some interest in Rain, who is almost certainly the lady who escaped from prison. She might also be the musician, maybe earlier in life.

There’s not enough here to bring me back for a second issue. It isn’t bad, but I guess I needed the book to jump more directly into things. If Rain is going to be pursued by the instruments of the state, start with that, then work forward and back. As it stands, this is too much preamble, and there’s nothing in the writing that really stands out. Canete’s art is OK, his characters have this angular, long-limbed look to them that suggests a certain fluidness to them. Especially when they’re in action, the limbs are drawn in a way that makes me wonder if the bones are rubber. Which is a nice touch, it suggests speed and force, like the character is moving so fast their skeleton has almost given up the ghost. But it isn’t enough by itself.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Zorro 1.12 - Zorro, The Luckiest Swordsman Alive

Plot: We finally learn the name of the hotheaded stranger from last week, and it's Martinez. We learn it because he was killed trying to escape by the crack marksmanship of Sergeant Garcia?! As it turns out, Martinez isn't dead, only in hiding as part of Monastario's latest plan to discredit Zorro. Martinez is to once again impersonate the outlaw, and this time he's going to steal some jeweled crown off a statue of the Virgin Mary from Padre Felipe's Mission. Since the fake Zorro is believed dead - they even had a public burial of a rock-filled coffin - everyone will believe it was Zorro. Martinez actually balks at it, but as his other option is a trip to Hell with a rope around his neck and a price on his head, he agrees. Besides, Monastario promises him passage on a ship leaving at the end of the week, and the authorities will never be looking for a dead man.

So he infiltrates the mission, but his horse is observed by Inocente, one of the Native Americans at the mission, and Inocente winds up dying trying to prevent the theft. And "Zorro's" flight is observed by Father Felipe. At the de la Vega hacienda, Benito brings word to Alejandro and Diego that Zorro was seen riding toward the mission. Diego excuses himself and goes to investigate as Zorro, only to narrowly escape all the Native Americans at the mission outraged at the death of their friend. He returns home to find Felipe discussing the matter with Alejandro. Apparently all those times Zorro saved people's lives count for nothing, as the whole countryside is up in arms against him over the theft of a religious relic.

Catholics, man.

Diego is stymied, but he's sure Monastario has something to do with this, and there is the question of what the thief will do with the jewels. And Diego just so happens to have some fake jewels he bought in Mexico, so it's off to the tavern, where he drops the jewels surreptitiously, and they produce quite a commotion, especially in Monastario's old ally Licenciado. The lawyer rushes to tell Monastario, who rides to Martinez' hiding place, planning to kill him in his sleep if he is there. Martinez is there, but not so stupid as to sleep where's he's expected to be, and the two quickly set to fighting. Monastario loses, but Martinez would rather run than stay to kill him. Diego and Bernardo trailed Monastario, but there's no time to change to Zorro, so Diego has to face Martinez as himself, and triumph while pretending to be an incompetent swordsman, lest the Capitan become suspicious. He manages to set Martinez on his heels, but Monastario takes the opportunity to shoot the fleeing criminal, who then falls to his death. But the jewels are recovered, and with Diego as a witness, Monastario will have to admit that Zorro did not commit the robbery. He does, however, once again blame Martinez' escape from jail on Sergeant Garcia.

Quote of the Episode: Martinez - 'I have never seen a man so awkward live so long!'

Times Zorro makes a "Z": 0 (7 overall). I'm still not counting Zs made by imposters.

Other: That was a heck of a shot by Monastario, considering the type of pistol and the distance. Very impressive. I did expect Monastario to win the swordfight, though. It wasn't as though Martinez did well against Zorro last week, and the Capitan really ought to be improving from all the times he's fought Zorro.

Though the gap between Diego and either of them must be immense if he can still win a fight while pretending to be a clumsy oaf. He was doing some absurd faces and swings against Martinez. He defeated him by getting his sword stuck in a crack in the rock they were fighting on, and when Martinez went for a finishing thrust, Diego was able to finally pull his sword free with an uncontrolled jerk and accidentally knocked Martinez' sword out of his hand.

Despite his performance, Monastario's suspicious now, and he's not the only one. When Benito delivered his news, Diego was playing his guitar for his father. He feigned being tired so he could go change to Zorro, but left his guitar behind. Alejandro picks it up and something about how it was tuned caught his attention. I think he suspects Diego is not as bad a guitar player as he lets on, and now he's going to wonder just why that's the case. But that is probably not going to come to a head for a while.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Coins Are Serious Business

I saw a bit of American Buffalo on Wednesday. I'd never seen a Mamet-written film before, and this is clearly not the one to make me seek out more of them. I do finally understand all those comments I've seen over the years that described Bendis' writing as Mamet-like. His characters do have a tendency to repeat the same point over and over again. On the other hand, they're at least saying something beyond variations on "Really?" "Yeah." "Ugh." "I know." "Ugh!" "Yeah, I know." Still, there was a definite sense of spinning their tires. Which is maybe the point, these guys can't get what they think they deserve because they can't get it in gear.

Coming in during the second half of the movie wasn't optimal, there were certain connections I didn't understand. But it was obvious Don and Teach (Dennis Franz and Dustin Hoffman) were planning to rob someone of valuable coins, but mostly spent their time arguing about how to go about it. Don wants to bring in another guy, Fletch, but can't get ahold of him. Teach is opposed to bringing in a 3rd guy, which is funny since, as my dad explained it to me, Teach himself has forced his way into the mix. The more they delay, the more they squabble, the more they get paranoid about everything. Bobby - who alerted Don to the opportunity originally - brings a coin of his own he's hoping to pawn off on Don, and Teach gets suspicious. Fletch still won't answer the phone, Teach gets suspicious. Don starts getting fed up with Teach.  It keeps spiraling out of control, and nothing gets done.

Don's really only on this because he thinks someone got one over on him, and he wants to get him back, get what he thinks he deserves. Teach saw an opportunity, but now they're letting their own natures undermine their goals. They suspect others are trying to beat them to it, or undermine them, and they waste time complaining about that, rather than trying to pull off the robbery. Not that it matters, because the whole thing is a fool's errand, anyway.

I couldn't understand how Don put up with Teach. Hoffman's character carries himself like a genius among dopes, and he's extremely passive-aggressive, questioning every decision Don makes. He even tries to come off as a heavy towards Bobby, which, I understand Bobby is supposed to be a kid, and Teach just clocked him in the head with a rotary phone. But the idea of Dustin Hoffman intimidating anyone is laughable.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Being A Vigilante Is A 13-Episode Work In Progress

Thanks to having access to a friend's Netflix account, I got to watch that Daredevil series last week. I'm not sure whether binge-watching it over 3 days was a good idea or not. Anyway, there might be spoilers, if you care.

I can't decide how I feel about D'onofrio as the Kingpin. He doesn't match my idea of Fisk, but he might work for this series. It isn't his size, D'onofrio's not a small guy, and the cameras are positioned well-positioned to make him look bigger. Look up at him, lots of close-ups so he fills the frame. His shyness around Vanessa, how out of control and brutal he can get where her safety is involved, that felt right. But the social awkwardness, that was unexpected. I'm used to a Kingpin who is comfortable at those charity galas, glad-handing potentially useful politicians. D'onofrio is so uneasy around everyone, unable to even fake being comfortable around others. It does actually help him in a way, because of how unwilling he is to emerge from the shadows, it makes his claims of concern for the city's well-being ring genuine. The fact it isn't an act is strange.

I saw an argument that Fisk doesn't become the Kingpin until the very end of the season, in the same way Matt doesn't become Daredevil until the very end. The point when Fisk is either so confident or desperate he will boldly flaunt his power with shootouts in full view of everyone. When all the other major players in organized crime are either dead, or have departed on other enterprises. Except I'm not sure what they do with him given how the season ended, so I'm not sure it holds water.

The rest of the cast was pretty good. It's not a cheery show, much more Miller's Daredevil than Waid/Samnee's or the early Lee/Romita swashbuckler, but Charlie Cox does have a little of that cocky breeziness. The glib, cocksure attitude Matt has a lot. Deborah Ann Woll plays a good Karen Page (I like how she struggles with her desire to see the people behind the murder of a friend exposed, and with the fear other people she cares about are going to be hurt. She's been through a traumatic experience, and she's struggling to deal with it, but there's conflicting impulses. Elden Henson works well as Foggy, has his own mix between wanting to make being a lawyer pay off, but also helping people who really need it. He knows Matt is right about helping people, but he also knows they have to keep the lights on. He's a little more practically-minded, which isn't saying much when compared to a guy who puts a mask on and punches criminals. I'd agree I didn't see much romantic tension between any of the three, but that's OK. Let them be friends and coworkers. Also, Vondie Curtis-Hall was a good Ben Urich. Dedicated journalist, good man, bit of a realist, and he has this slightly slumped shoulders, hang-dog look to him. It works for the weight of all his various fears and concerns. On the whole, the casting was solid.

The fight scenes were pretty good, and I liked the lighting in a lot of the scenes. They used this sickly yellow-green light a lot that made everything look alien somehow. Which is strange, because I think it's just the color of streetlights, maybe slightly dimmed by the light going through a window, which would be perfectly normal in New York. But it works. I'm not as sure about how they depict Matt's view of the world. He describes it as everything looking as though it's on fire, which seemed a strange choice. It lead to a good line from Rosario Dawson's character to the effect that if she saw everything as being on fire, she'd want to hit things, too.

I was a little disappointed they wasted Leland Owlsley the way they did - he's essentially a money manager - but hopefully we'll get some of the stranger costumed villains in the other series. The opportunity is there to get weird, but I'm not sure they'll take it. This is silly, but I'm a little concerned about how they show the Iron Fist, when that series premieres. That show is a year or two off, but there were a lot of hints and nods towards it in Daredevil.

It's a decent enough show. At times it feels too much like a prologue, but there is a lot of good stuff in there. I really liked the episode where Matt and Foggy have a difficult conversation about Matt's double life. Foggy's anger and confusion is palpable, and Matt would clearly rather not have the conversation, but he's too beat up to even get off the couch. He feels completely helpless in the face of Foggy's sense of betrayal. So I didn't love the show, but I thought it was worth the time I spent on it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Favorite Team/Corps/Family

I had some trouble with this one, because I found it vague. When it refers to team, does it mean a general group, like the Avengers, or a certain lineup? There are 3 or 4 specific X-Men rosters I like quite a lot (some because of the stories told with them, others because I thought there was a lot of potential), but I don't give a tinker's damn about any of the current X-groups. I don't even know which teams there are these days. The trend towards vast superhuman armies has something to with that. Who isn't an Avenger these days?

Ultimately, I decided there was one team I like in almost every version, and I went with them. That's the Suicide Squad, provided John Ostrander is writing it. I haven't read Keith Giffen's work, so I can't speak to it one way or the other. But Ostrander's work, oh that's some good stuff. I like the Task Force X years, and the "if you can find them, maybe you can hire. . . the Suicide Squad" years.

The roster changes as frequently as you'd expect with a name like "Suicide Squad". People die, or leave, or just get banged up. New villains get arrested, or new heroes sign on, but it always works, because Ostrander takes the time to flesh them out, make them interesting, make the reader care about them. Dr. Light was mostly a miserable coward and butt of a lot of jokes. He still demonstrated on a couple of occasions that he could be cruel and dangerous, and then he even tried to be the big hero on Apokolips.

Fine, it backfired horribly, and he was left as a ghost, watching Boomerbutt use him as an example of the dangers of heroism. But it was interesting to see that Light recognized there was some strange camaraderie among all these people (even though a bunch of them hate each other), and decide he wanted in. Count Vertigo's this ruthless but flexible individual who struggles with severe hereditary depression problems. Captain Boomerang is a complete scumbag and opportunist, who nonetheless is just skilled and valuable enough he doesn't get killed. Rick Flag's doing the best he can with a job he doesn't want, subordinates he mostly hates, a boss who doesn't trust him, and a massive guilt complex that gets him into trouble. Deadshot. . . Deadshot's just severely messed up, but strangely reliable. If you know how to approach him, you can work with him, assuming you can keep him alive. Waller truly believes she can make something good out of this, and that it needs doing, but she has to compromise herself a lot. Fight dirty, but as she once noted, she's good at that.

It's this bizarre, wonderful mix of people. Ostrander sets up not only the villains as people with motives and backstories (Ivy's initially just trying to do her time and get out, but when she sees a chance to use Vertigo, she jumps at it. Vertigo meanwhile, just wants to free his country from their Soviet puppet government), but a whole support staff. Johnny Economos and his stories about his ex-wives. Waller's niece, Flo, her unrequited love for the Bronze Tiger, and burgeoning friendship with Oracle. Oh yeah, Suicide Squad gave us Barbara Gordon as Oracle. Briscoe, who named his attack 'copter after his dead loved ones, and even sleeps inside. Dr. Legrieve's assistant, Marnie, who gets far too involved in trying to help Deadshot. Father Craemer, trying to provide spiritual guidance to this bizarre cast. It's good, not only because it helps Belle Reve feel like a real place, and the Squad feel like something they actually took the time to plan out when they put it together, but the non-costumed folk make for a nice contrast to bounce off the costumed weirdos.

That comes up a lot with most of the characters, they have these hang-ups that they can't get over that keep causing problems for them. Waller can't stop trying to hoard power and keep secrets, and it backfires. She doesn't confide in Flag, so he creates a huge problem with he starts trying to kill Tolliver and Cray for blackmailing the Squad, even though Waller has it handled. Flag tries to take the responsibility for that on himself, rather than confiding in anyone who might have talked him out of it.

There are all these conflicts with other agencies (Zastrow of the KGB was an interesting foil for Waller, and Stalinoivolk was pretty cool, Eiling and Sarge Steel were opportunistic scumbags), but then sometimes they have to work together

I don't know if the Squad ever had a mission that was actually completely successful. Several were outright disasters, like the first mission to the USSR (to rescue an author who didn't want to be rescued), and the attempt to rescue Hawk when he tried to take part in some civil war in Latin America. The mission to rescue Nightshade's brother, except he was already fully possessed by a demon and waiting for her return. Maybe it's a bad idea to ask a group of super-criminals to rescue people? Waller's plan to keep an eye on Lashina backfired horribly.

Even the moderately successful missions were mostly stopgaps. The team-up with Roy Harper that destroyed a major cocaine distributor, but there are more where he came from. They dealt with Kobra on a couple of different occasions, and the Quaraci super-terrorists Jihad on at least 3 occasions, but it was never anything more than a delaying action. Rick Flag blew up Jihad's base with a damn nuke, and it didn't eliminate them. There's a real question whether you can accomplish much of anything good using methods like the Suicide Squad. Maybe the last story in the ongoing, when they helped take down a different Squad that was propping up a corrupt government. But even then, they're cleaning up a mess started because someone saw what Waller did, and decided to copy it. There are no clean victories for them.

But it gave everyone the chance to be badass at least once, or show off how dangerous they were. OK, not Slipknot, he just looked like a chump, but everyone other than Slipknot got a chance to show off, or in some cases, the opportunity to be humanized a little, so you care about them in spite of their being bad people. Punch and Jewelee are this goofy criminal couple, but they show on a few occasions they can be deadly. At the same time, they're oddly devoted to each other (if completely indifferent to everyone else's suffering), and they were really excited at the prospect of being parents. Boomerang, for all that he's a cowardly scumbag, shows that just because he can't kill the Flash, that doesn't mean you take him lightly. Bronze Tiger holds his own against Stalinoivolk, and then Vixen is the one who shows up and ends the fight. Nightshade took out one of Granny Goodness' Furies, and as you see above, Count Vertigo took out Darkseid's own personal assassin. Everyone gets a chance to show how it is they've survived this long, but it's no guarantee they'll survive the next 5 minutes.

I don't know where the top image is from, but I'm pretty sure it's by Luke McDonnell. Dr. Light and Kanto's deaths are from Suicide Squad #36, by Ostrander (writer), John K. Snyder (layouts), Geof Isherwood (finishes), Todd Klein and John Workman (letterers), and Carl Gafford (colors). Deadshot's brief stint as alarm clock and the group shot of the Soviets are from the first issue of the 2007 Suicide Squad mini-series, by Ostrander (writer), Javier Pina (pencils), Robin Riggs (inker), Rob Leigh (letterer), and Jason Wright (colorist). Boomerang waking up with a massive headache in another dimension is from Suicide Squad #11, by Ostrander (writer), McDonnell (artist), Kleing (letters), and Gafford (colors).