Monday, November 30, 2015

There's All Kinds Of Things To Look At In February

With solicitations for the first two months of 2016 out, I still haven't seen anything from DC I particularly want to buy. Which means I should probably start picking up some series that are currently going that are well-regarded, but somehow none of them really excite me. I don't know, maybe Omega Men, or Gotham Academy eventually. I've got three months, plenty of time.

At Marvel, I'm thinking about that new Power Man and Iron Fist series, but I don't love the art, so, again, not sure if I can pull the trigger there. I kind of want to buy the Mercs for Money mini-series, but also kind of don't. I don't want to encourage Marvel to saturate the market with even more Deadpool than they're already putting out there. Admittedly, we're still not near the heyday of a five years ago, when he had three ongoings, plus I don't remember how many mini-series and one shots. But still, one mini-series ending - Deadpool and Cable - a new one starting, plus that team-up series with Spider-Man, plus the ongoing (which is only shipping one issue this month, but it's a $10 issue to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first appearance. Pretty sure I'm going to wait a few months on that). This is how you get the backlash against the character from the people who get sick of seeing him everywhere. If the books are good quality it shouldn't matter, but who knows on that score.

Also, remember how I wondered how long we'd have until the next event? We'll they're releasing something like a prelude to something called Avengers Standoff, so I may have given them too much credit when I picked May of 2016.

Outside those two publishers, I'm still waiting on Copperhead to start back up, and I thought the third and final Roche Limit mini-series was supposed to start in February, but there's no sign of it. Devil's Due is releasing a Badger mini-series. Is that Mike Baron's character, or something different using the same title? I've read scattered issues of the stuff from First Comics occasionally, not enough to ever make sense of what was going on, kind of like Nexus. I kind of doubt this would be the right place to jump in.

IDW has a Street Fighter vs. G.I. Joe mini-series starting. Does that mean Cobra teamed up with M. Bison? That's hard for me to picture, but I still visualize Cobra Commander as the sort of ridiculous coward villain he was in the '80s cartoon. Still, Bison does strike me as the sort of guy who would appreciate the utility of a good Weather Dominator. He appreciates a flair for the dramatic. I don't see myself buying that - I have no nostalgia for G.I. Joe - but it caught my attention. And there's a new Wynonna Earp mini-series, for you Beau Smith fans out there. I didn't even know there was going to be a TV series, but I'm frequently out of the loop on such matters.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Zorro 2.3 - Horse of Another Color

Plot: Those bandits are still at it, as we open this week on them chasing down poor Lt. Santos. He's wounded, and has his papers and uniform stolen, despite the best efforts of his horse. Elsewhere, Diego's in conversation with Senor Verdugo, who is really committed to getting on a ship personally to run the blockades and reach Spain to get those supplies. And here's Senor Serrano, absent last week, and accompanied by the false Santos, who says there is a ship stopping over in San Francisco on its way to Spain, and Verdugo should prepare to depart immediately (with the money, naturally). Diego is surprised to learn Anna-Maria is going as well, but she's eager to see Spain.

Soon it's time to depart, and oh goody, Senor Serrano will be riding along as well. Garcia hands over the money to Verdugo, who promises to keep it with him at all times. And Diego bids farewell to Anna-Maria, to Serrano's consternation. Though the lieutenant appears to be alone, he assures them his men are waiting 10 miles down the road, to avoid raising suspicion. Even though the innkeeper and everyone else knows all about Verdugo's mission, but sure. And with that, Verdugo heads for San Francisco, and Diego and Bernardo leave Monterrey. Diego seems rather sad to be parted from Anna-Maria, seeing as they'd just started getting along, but there's no time for mushy stuff, because he's the true Santos' horse, playing at being Lassie to lead our intrepid duo to its master. Who is just able to give his name to Diego before dying. Realizing there's trouble afoot, Zorro rides on Verdugo's trail on the dead soldier's horse (named Phantom).

Good timing too, as Pablo and the other bandits make their move. Verdugo is able to kill on with his pistol, but there's the two other bad guys to contend with. It's about then Zorro creates a distraction with some gunpowder in the campfire. Santos tries to run, only to find his path barred by Phantom, who herds him back to the camp where Zorro prepares to interrogate him. Santos won't talk, and when he tries to run, Serrano shoots him. Serrano had chased Pablo, but lost him, and wanted to make certain Anna-Maria would be safe. That seems perfectly above suspicion, but Zorro is perhaps more interested in making time with Anna-Maria, who is quite enchanted with him. So a kiss, and then away he goes.

Quote of the Episode: Senor Verdugo - 'If we fail, then I am sorry. Many of you will have lost your money. I will have lost my life.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (0 overall).

Other: Senor Verdugo was remarkably cool with a masked man kissing his daughter full-on the lips. I thought there were rules about that sort of thing in society back then? What has happened to the traditional values? *clutches pearls*

I can't decide if the innkeeper is part of all this or not. He recognized the false Santos, but raised no alarm, and they were conversing until Pablo came along and said the mysterious - OK, not so mysterious, it's almost certainly Serrano - boss wanted to talk to Santos. I just wonder if the innkeeper's strictly mercenary, and they pay him for what he hears, or if he's really part of the gang. Will Zorro have to stab an old man? If so, will I make jokes about Zorro's lack of respect for his elders? No to the first, but I would if he did.

Sergeant Garcia seemed pleased at Diego's farewell to Anna-Maria. Not that he was happy they were parting, that they seemed to like each other. Certainly, when Serrano puffed up his chest in irritation and rode over to butt in, Garcia had a moment where he scowled at the man. Sergeant Garcia: Quietly rooting for his best friend to meet a nice girl and settle down.

Diego said Phantom might have been faster than Tornado, which, eh, I doubt that. Wasn't fast enough to keep Santos from getting killed, was he? Check and mate. I have not idea why I'm being like this tonight. Just feeling silly.

Senor Verdugo says he has to risk his life running the blockade to get those supplies {Edit: It has been pointed out by a helpful commentor that Diego returned to California in 1820, not 1810. I knew the first episode said what year it was, no idea why I remembered it wrong. Anyway, ignore all the stuff below about Joe Bonaparte, and replace instead with Ferdinand VII, which if anything, might be even worse. It would at least explain the apparent indifference to keeping California supplied}, because otherwise the people of California will lose faith in their country and their king, and turn to foreign countries for supplies and aid. I can admire his conviction, even if I think he's a sucker. Assuming this is within 3 years of Diego's return from Spain, which was in 1810, the king is Napoleon's brother, Joseph. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that a ruler who couldn't even control the country he was in charge of, and couldn't stop Venezuela from declaring independence doesn't give a crap about California. It doesn't even sound like he wanted the job. But Verdugo wouldn't be the first to back the wrong horse.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Eating While Driving's A Distraction, But So Are Friends

UnCalvin: This is a dreadful idea.

Calvin: You've said that already. Pass the stuffing.

Clever Adolescent Panda (CAP): No! Do you want to get us all killed?

Calvin: For the 17th time, no. I just want some stuffing.

CAP: You are driving, in the middle of a rainstorm. This is not the time for foods that require utensils.

Deadpool: [I have a funnel. I normally use it for hot sauce, but if we use the opposite end of the serving spoon, we might be able to cram stuffing through it.]

Calvin: Hmm, sounds like it's worth a try. Funnel me!

UnCalvin and CAP: NO!

CAP: Why are we even doing this?

Calvin: Because I have to be on the road today, so there was no other way to do our day-after-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.

Deadpool: [We could celebrate it in October, like we do in Canada. I'm Canadian, it would fit.]

Calvin: *turns to look back at Wade* You may have noticed this entire meal is leftovers from what my mom made, so unless you're going to cook, you can cram your Canuck holidays -

UnCalvin: Look out! *grabs wheel*

Calvin: Panda, UnCalvin's trying to kill us! Get her!

CAP: I think she was trying to keep you from killing us.

Calvin: Please, sideswiping a minivan wouldn't have killed us, and UnCalvin almost spilled the mashed potatoes.

Deadpool: [There are still mashed potatoes? Pass those over here.]

CAP: Sure, but let me get some of the pie.

UnCalvin: May I have the cranberries?

Calvin: Figures you'd like cranberries. At least that means plenty of dark meat for me, if someone will fork it over already.

UnCalvin: Not a chance, I hate white meat.

Calvin: What? Damn, normally those inconsistencies in the evil opposite thing work in my favor.

CAP: What is she doing here anyway?

Calvin: She's been living in my car for the last two months, 'cause she's too depressed to go back to the company she lost.

UnCalvin: That's a blatant falsehood! You called and invited me to this!

Calvin: Oh yeah.

Deadpool; [I could help you get your company back. It won't be cheap, but for an old friend, I'll sned my best stand-in.]

UnCalvin: I don't even rate the real Deadpool?

Calvin: At least don't give her Foolkiller.

CAP: Or Madcap.

UnCalvin: Or Solo.

Calvin: What happened to that guy? He used to be all, 'While I live, terror dies!' Now he's working for Wade.

Deadpool: [Higher visibility being linked to an A-list character like me. He's hoping to make an appearance in one of those Netflix series.]

CAP: *snorts*

Deadpool: [Yeah, he's delusional, but it works for me in the meantime. I'm a busy guy.]

Calvin: Killing zoning commissioners is time consuming.

CAP: Wade, you can't tamper with the zoning board!

Calvin: I dunno, we all want to kill zoning commissioners sometimes, especially crooked ones. Like that time they wouldn't let me build a 20-foot high brick wall with guard towers around my apartment building to keep the riffraff out.

UnCalvin: You never did that.

Calvin: Maybe I just dreamed doing it.

UnCalvin: Have a roll. *jams roll in Calvin's mouth* Now that he's shut up for a few minutes, let's discuss what we're thankful for. *pause* I've got nothing.

Deadpool: [I'm thankful for my meteoric rise to most beloved hero, a position I will never, ever lose in the hearts of the famously loyal citizens of the Marvel U - I'm completely screwed.]

Calvin: Like it was a demonstration at a Phillips convention.

CAP: At least you have us! We're your friends, right guys?

Calvin: Sure, why not? You haven't nerve struck me and stolen any of my stuff in years, that's close enough.

UnCalvin: I suppose, those that realization hardly improves my - AAAAAAAH!

Calvin: Sorry, that minivan cut me off. It doesn't even have its headlights on while using its wiper blades. Lawbreaker!

Deadpool: [Criminal activity? I'll handle it *draws machine pistol* Just let me lean out the window. . .]

CAP: No killing Wade!

Calvin: Let him, it's a minivan, they're only owned by devils, anyway.

Deadpool: [I'm just gonna shoot out a tire. They re-instituted that rule against Avengers killing with the reboot. Hawkeye wouldn't shut up about it.]

CAP: You don't think them going out of control when a tire blows on a wet highway at 65 miles an hour will kill them?

Deadpool: [Not if they know what they're doing!]

UnCalvin: Stop him, panda! I'm not trusting this buffoon driving to avoid a minivan careening out of control without wrecking us in the process!

Calvin: Hey, I'll have yo - *UnCalvin jams another roll in his mouth*

UnCalvin: Cram it.

*Much scuffling ensues. The panda has its teeth locked around Wade's trigger finger and is trying to use its bulk to pull him away from the window as it leans back. UnCalvin was trying to help drag Wade away by a leg, but was only succeeding in pulling his pants. Fortunately she decided to switch tactics before everyone went blind, but opted to reach across Calvin to roll up Wade's window, trapping his head outside. Wade, thinking Calvin was responsible, punched him in the back of the head, causing him to nearly choke on the roll. The coughing fit that followed sent the vehicle swerving about, making everyone stop fighting and start screaming. Well, Wade was already screaming about having a window closed on his neck, but you know what I mean. Calvin eventually gets the vehicle pulled over and under control.*

Calvin: All you jerks get the hell out or I'm busting your freakin' skulls!

*Brief pause, followed by incredulous laughter from all three of the passengers*

CAP: That's a good one.

UnCalvin: Indeed.

Deadpool: [Can someone open the window? My mask is getting soggy, and it's washing all the food stains out.]

Calvin: *grumbling* Fine, whatever. We're not moving now. Will someone pass me some food, that's not a roll?

CAP: Sure, have some pie.

Calvin: Great! Where's the Cool Whip?

CAP: *looks around* Er, splattered all over the back glass, and your wrench sets?

Calvin: What?! Aw, damn it. I should have just invited Makes Brakes Fail Lass and the Blender Furby.

UnCalvin: Here's an unopened container.

Calvin: *sniffs* That's, that's the nicest thing you've ever done for me.

CAP: I think your mom packed it.

Calvin: Yeah, but UnCalvin didn't hide it, which is pretty nice by her standards.

CAP: That's true.

Deadpool: [Yep.]

UnCalvin: I can be nice!

CAP: You rebuilt the Blender Furby as an assassination device.

UnCalvin: And positive reinforcement fitness machine!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bond Might Consider Putting Some Points Into Sneak

It's Thanksgiving, so let's talk about the new James Bond movie, Spectre! I know it doesn't have much to do with the holiday, but it's this or a review of another book about France in the interwar period. I'd say take your pick, but I haven't finished the book yet, so you're stuck with this. There will be spoilers, I suppose.

My dad wanted to see it, so we went. He thought it was OK, not as good as Skyfall or Casino Royale, with not enough plot, and falling prey to a "It's been three minutes, time for another explosion/fight/chase!", which he figured had something to do with the lack of story. He also gets annoyed that, even though the films are filling in Bond's backstory, they're set in the present day, rather than the past, before the time when all the past films were set. He understands why*, he just doesn't entirely like it. He liked Lea Seydoux as Dr. Swan, really thought she had "it", whatever that is.

So of the Craig Bond films, I've seen all of this one and Casino Royale, and bits and pieces of Skyfall (mostly during one of my dad's attempts to catch it on TV earlier this fall). So the reveal Blofeld had been behind everything thrown at James over the prior three films, fell a little flat (also I'd read a review at some point that alluded to that, because I didn't expect to watch the movie anytime soon). I kind of hate those reveals, having been soured on them by years of the Spider-Man comics playing, "Everything going wrong is the work of Norman Osborn!" over and over again. The significance of the reveal of the identity of the shadowy head of Spectre was completely lost on me, because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to recognize him or not. I was left wondering whether he was someone Bond had shot in an earlier one of the movies.

I wasn't as enamored of Seydoux as my dad. She fine (though I kept thinking it was Scarlett Johanssen and then thinking, no she wasn't in the credits), but I was curious to see if she had a character arc. I'm not sure she did. She was confronted with the sort of work that had distanced her from her father, and remained committed to staying away from it? There seemed to be a theme about choice, given M's speech to C about how a license to kill is also one to NOT kill, and Blofeld having made his decisions on how to handle certain events, so Swan's choices, in particular the one during the sequence where Blofeld tortures Bond, might play into that. Not sure if that counts as an arc, though. I didn't really buy the two of them falling for each other. It felt sort of perfunctory, it's a Bond movie, he and the attractive young woman have to sleep together. Similarly, the film wasted Monica Bellucci, I really expected her to have more of a role in things when she appeared, but no.

I liked the car chase sequence (the one on the mountain, with the plane was a bit much), even had a little humor in it, which I appreciate in action movies. The fight in the train was good. Not as good as some of the ones in John Wick, but for a Bond movie, pretty solid. Bautista as the physical threat was credible, though the metal thumbnails were dumb and unnecessary. He's a big dude, I'm pretty sure he doesn't need those to gouge someone's eyes out. I did keep expecting him to reappear at some tense moment, maybe as the base in the crater oasis was exploding, but he didn't.

I actually kept expecting a lot of gotcha surprises. I thought there'd be one about Swan somewhere near the end. She was actually behind SPECTRE all along, or had decided to use James partway through to take control. I don't know why. It was very convenient that C fell to his death, since he hadn't done anything illegal I know of, and even if he had, I don't believe they had any actual proof, what with Bond blowing the crater base to hell and back. Also, I expected Moneypenny and Q to do a bit more at the end. Especially Moneypenny, since she was an actual field agent, and more recently than M. And why did M think "grounding" Bond after the Mexico City incident would do anything? Bond had already been running around unauthorized, what was going to stop him from doing so again (the tracking bots in the bloodstream, obviously, but the grounding isn't required for that).

I don't have nearly the experience of fondness for the Bond films my dad does. The thing that most forms my opinion or image of Bond is still the N64 Goldeneye game. In my mind, he's supposed to be stealthy, sneaking around shooting people in the back of the head with a silenced weapon. Not blowing up buildings and having fistfights in helicopters in broad daylight in the middle of a Day of the Dead celebration. Kind of missing the "secret" part of "Her Majesty's Secret Service". I know he's been involved in big, flashy stuff in the past, but it seems to be this Bond's go-to move a lot of the time (my dad describes him as a "brute", which amuses me). It was notable to me that in the opening bit in Mexico City, while he does prevent an act of terrorism at a stadium (which is good), he does cause a building to explode and collapse, and when he eventually emerges on the street, there's smoke and dust and people running, and I thought about how he'd just created his own, smaller act of terrorism. Not intentionally, but he was kind of sloppy and/or unlucky, and there you are.

So it was OK, nothing I'd have gone to see on my own, nothing I'll likely feel compelled to watch again anytime soon. Or possibly ever.

* Though he says Bond keeps wearing suits that were fashionable in the '60s and doesn't understand that if you're going to set it in the present day. I'll take his word for it

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sometimes The Actors Can Carry It For Me

I'm still reviewing movies, because I haven't finished any books yet, so Designing Women. Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck. Screwball comedy about a fashion designer and a sportswriter meeting and getting hitched, then experiencing problems because of the writer's past relationship with a dancer Played by Dolores Gray), who happens to be in a musical Bacall is designing the outfits for. And Peck's pissed off some big wheel in the fixing boxing matches, played by Ed Platt (who was the Chief on the TV version of Get Smart).

It's one of those movies where things would be simpler if people would just talk and listen reasonably, but they don't. By the time anyone is ready to talk, they're too worked up or suspicious to listen. That can be frustrating, but I enjoy both Bacall and Peck enough that it carried me through. And they're both a bit against type here, or what I associate as their type anyway. I tend to think of Bacall as playing characters who are very clever, very observant, they pretty much know the score, and won't let you see them sweat. Here she's more emotional, not ditzy exactly, but kind of unaware of things outside a narrow range. Peck's a little more rough around the edges than I'm used to. It's hard for me to picture him getting blackout drunk as he was at the start of the film (and the film amplifies all the sound effects for the first several minutes to play up the hangover).

Still, my favorite scene was the one when he breaks the news to his now ex-girlfriend Gray. They're at an Italian restaurant, she's taking things well, then she asks about Bacall, and Peck goes into great detail describing her, and Gray pushes his plate of ravioli in his lap. What I like is how much they downplay. There's no histrionics or shouting. It plays off that dignity Peck's characters usually have, with him being unwilling to react. So he sits quietly, tries to unobtrusively ask the waiter to find him some pants, and generally pretend nothing happened. Gray doesn't apologize profusely, but she also doesn't laugh. She seems slightly embarrassed she did it, which is why she doesn't want to bring attention to it. Something about how calm everyone is being made it funnier than if they'd started freaking out over it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Not The Most Efficient Way To Rob A Bank

My dad and I had more fun at the expense of Experiment in Terror. Considering it's a film about a shadowy criminal with a raspy voice threatening to kill either Kelly (Lee Remick) or her sister if Kelly refuses to steal 100 grand from the bank she works at, with Glenn Ford as the lead FBI agent trying to catch the crook, it's hardly a film for jokes.

And yet, we were cracking wise throughout. The killer's voice is undoubtedly the result of smoking inferior, foreign cigarettes, rather than ones made with smooth Charleston tobacco. He makes Kelly attend a baseball game between the Giants and the Dodgers, and since it's in San Francisco, I said she'd be pissed because she's a Giants' fan. Then she showed up after the game was in progress, so it became clear she was a Dodgers' fan after all. There was a lot of commentary about how bad the FBI agents were at observing unobtrusively. Yep, just two guys in trench coats and snap-brim fedoras, sitting in an unmoving car at night. Nothing suspicious there. There's a reporter/snitch character played by Ned Glass, who was one of the three people who attended the funeral of Audrey Hepburn's husband in Charade, so we made jokes about that.

Jokes aside, it actually is a very tense movie, if a little long. There's a bit too much spinning tires in there. I think the Gordons, Gordon and Mildred, who wrote the story and the script I guess, wanted to show how the feds were trying to track this guy down from multiple angles, and trying to close the net before he slipped through. It's not a bad idea, but at a certain point, I kind of wanted the movie to get on with it. Just a little shorter, 10 minutes would have been enough.

As it is, Remick's quite good. She's aware enough to be scared, but not so much it keeps her from calling the feds. She's trying to protect her sister, which simultaneously gives her some extra courage, but is also a lever the killer can use against her. The interactions between Remick and Powers are strong, they sell the familial affection well.

It's a little late in the game to be worried about spoilers for a 1962 film, but I'll keep the killer's identity a secret, since that's how the film was done. You don't see his face until halfway through, and his name was kept out of the opening credits (at his suggestion). Even after that, he's mostly in shadow, or disguise, or extreme close-ups of his mouth while he's on the phone. There was one point late in the film, when I realized he'd been on screen in disguise earlier and I'd missed it, I kicked myself. So I guess it was effective makeup. Also, the scene was shot from a different angle than a lot of his others, and the focus wasn't really on him, so it was a good job all around by the crew.

My dad kept expecting Glenn Ford's character to either get rough with someone, or to get his wheels turning too fast and make a bad leap, but it never really happened. There's no romantic tension between his character and Kelly, and he's mostly very steady. A change of pace from thrillers where it's deeply personal for the investigator, or he gets too involved with the person in danger. Ford's character is just trying to do his job, best he can. He's a calm center for the movie, with the killer trying to apply pressure to Kelly while staying mostly out of sight, while Kelly's trying to hold it together herself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lee Marvin: Still Always Drunk And Violent

I felt sure I'd seen Point Blank at some point, but perhaps I've just seen people talking about it. It's based on the Richard Stark story The Hunter, like that Mel Gibson movie Payback, except this one stars Lee Marvin. So that's an upgrade right there at the start.

The broad outline of the plot is largely the same. Marvin's character (called Walker, rather than Porter in Gibson's version or Parker in Stark's novels) helps his friend Reese (John Vernon) steal a money pickup from a mob, then is betrayed by that friend who needs all the money to pay off a debt he owes to a different criminal organization he's a part of. Walker doesn't die, and is approached by a man (played by Keenan Wynn) who wants the Organization torn down, and since Walker would likely have to do that to get his share of the dough and his revenge, they agree to work together. Although in practice Wynn provides addresses and then stays out of the way.

It was interesting, the differences between this and Payback. In the latter film, Porter contends that if you go high enough up, eventually there's always one man in charge, and he ultimately runs up against Kris Krstofferson. Here, if there is one boss, they never make themselves known. Instead, there seems to be a trio of co-bosses, each handling different aspects of the organization. Here, there's no big denouement where all the bad guys end up dead. Which would have been tricky, since there aren't any good guys.

Walker's certainly no winner. He occasionally turns on the charm, but only briefly. He has no compunction about using anyone who is willing to help him to the limits of their patience, and beyond. That's usually where the charm comes in, mostly with Angie Dickinson playing his former sister-in-law, leading her on to help him just a little more in his vague quest. I suppose the fact he charms her rather than just hitting her like he does everyone else is the best indication he cares for her. Even so, it's immensely satisfying when she cracks him over the head with a pool cue.

I will say it was hard to buy this bunch as much of a criminal organization. Everyone we see is a complete moron, right up to the guys at the top, like Brewster and Carter. The goons are hapless, and they were a lousy enough bunch to let Reese join in the first place, then let him back in because he came up with the money (rather than just taking it and killing him), and then aren't smart enough to hang the guy out to dry when Walker shows up and starts causing problems. I suppose there was probably some idea that it was bad business to let a guy show up and kill one of your own, but I think there'd also be value in sending a message to others in your organization not to let your personal messes interfere with operations.

As it is, none of them seem to grasp the kind of person they're dealing with in Walker, maybe because even he isn't sure what's driving him on. He gets revenge, but that's not enough. He wants his money, but he also just seems angry in general. He hurts people who aren't his enemies, and maybe he regrets it after, but it doesn't stop him from doing it again. He's kind of stuck in a cycle of being bitter and wary of everyone, which is probably the right attitude for dealing with a bunch of crooks, but not so much for everyone else. So I'm not sure whether I feel bad for Walker or not. I'm not sure I'm supposed to. He seems haunted by some of the things that happens, there's times I think he's having traumatic flashbacks, but he's still a cold, person, who only seems to care after the fact, so it's kind of hard to give a damn about him.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Zorro 2.2 - Zorro Rides Alone

Plot: We open on yet another courier trying to reach Senor Verdugo, only to be chased down and robbed by bandits. Fortunately, this one survives to reach the inn at Monterey, where his arrival interrupts Diego's attempts to come up with a plan to find the man he shot in the left arm in the last episode. Learning of the courier's plight, he rides to Verdugo's home, where he spies Verdugo talking to Lee van Cleef's buddy from last week about some matter. And Verdugo's left arm is in a sling. Diego's attempt to gain an audience with the man is stymied by Anna Marie, who claims her father is laid up with an old injury and can't see anyone. Diego refuses her demand he leave, and the two sit in silence in the parlor until the old man comes along. He seems surprisingly happy to see Diego, and is happier still when Diego tells him that not only did he arrange for two soldiers to deliver the money from Los Angeles, he told them to take the less traveled Guadalupe Valley Trail instead of El Camino Real. It's around that point Verdugo's servant, Pablo, brings the wine and the old man and Diego share a toast.

As it turns out, Diego was lying, and Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes will be coming by the El Camino Real, while Zorro waits at the way station on the Guadalupe Trail in a trap. Sure enough, the bandits arrive at the way station, including Pablo, but Zorro opts to do nothing. Instead he heads for El Camino Real to ensure the money gets there safely. Unfortunately, Garcia had the bright idea to take the road less traveled to throw off any would-be robbers (and to pass by a famous winery), and so he's coming down the Guadalupe Trail. Zorro tries to warn him, but since he isn't on Tornado (since it would have been hard for Diego to bring him along), the soldiers book it for the way station, where they are promptly captured, and Reyes is wounded. Then the sergeant is forced to dig graves for both of them, as Zorro tries to signal him of a plan, which eventually succeeds, sort of. Before Zorro and Garcia can challenge the two remaining bandits, Verdugo arrives, and it turns out he's innocent. He had hired the bandit on Pablo's suggestion, to watch over the soldiers. He tries to fight them alone, but with only one good arm, he's having some trouble until Zorro crashes in through a window (the sergeant's attempt to follow is somewhat less successful). Pablo is able to escape, and Zorro takes off into the countryside.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'So even the innkeeper knows how much money Los Angeles is sending Senor Verdugo.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (0 overall).

Other: We had one "baboso" this week, when Garcia asked Reyes what everyone expects them to do with this large sum of money they're delivering, and Reyes responds, 'Steal it?' Well, yes, Corporal, they probably do expect that, no more often than you guys gets paid, but that's not the point.

Pablo had some good turns of phrase. When he explained why they had to bury Garcia and Reyes, he said if it was known they killed soldiers, they'd hang like so many dried peppers. Whoever is behind this plot - and I'll just mention Anna Marie says Senor Romero of Santa Cruz is away on business this week - is hiring some erudite goons, to be sure.

In all the time Zorro wasted trying to pantomime his plan to Sergeant Garcia, he could have just snuck up and kayoed the bad guy 5 times over. That said, I laughed at the part where Zorro mimics hitting the guy over the head with the pommel of his sword, and Garcia responds out loud, 'But I haven't got a sword.' It's like, you cannot be that dumb, sergeant.

I have to assume it was because Zorro wasn't riding Tornado that Garcia and Reyes ran from him. Garcia actually mentions that Zorro rides a black horse, so the implication is he thinks it's a common robber impersonating Zorro, that's all I can figure.

Now that Senor Verdugo is cleared of suspicion, the search for the one behind the robberies will have to continue.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Trauma Lingers

I was still thinking about the odd break Harley had in Harley Quinn and Power Girl #5. When the Harvester of Sorrow unlocked her "inner Joker", though I'm still unclear on what that meant.

When Harley was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, and developed over the course of her experiences there, she was a tragic character. She'd fallen for a guy who didn't regard her as anything other than an occasional amusing distraction from his real interests, and she couldn't turn away from him. The longer she was around him, the more she seemed to realize that Mistah J's interests were not really her interests - even their goals with regards to crime aren't the same - but it didn't matter. Harley could go off by herself, but if she got too close to the Joker, it was like he had a gravitational pull and just drew her back in to his orbit, and his plans.

Now, that's no longer the case. I don't know how, but Harley's finally realized that relationship was a disaster for her, and seems committed to staying away from him. Some of that may simply be that the Joker's mostly been confined to Snyder/Capullo's Batman title, but there's been no indication Harley is wistful or yearning for the clown to return to her. She's not looking for him, inquiring about him, committing crimes to honor him, nothing. This is good. Even if Harley is still prone to destruction and antics, she's at least trying to direct that energy in productive ways (in her own book, at any rate).

But that doesn't mean whatever trauma she experienced with the Joker didn't happen, and that's what the comic reminded me of. Harley's tried to distance herself, tried to take her circumstance and make something for herself out of it, and she's done a good job. But that ugly past is still there, the destructive and cruel tactics and worldview the Joker would encourage, are still something she's learned, or had imprinted on her, and it may only take a sufficiently traumatic experience to bring it out.

I don't know if Conner, Gray, and Palmiotti were commenting on the fact that psychological trauma is not something that just magically goes away, as it is sometimes portrayed in fiction. That one can be doing well for months, maybe years, and then they have a bad day and it comes crashing back on them. If they were, they undercut it by the fact she came out of it a few minutes later like it was a fugue state, and didn't seem to suffer any ill effects, which doesn't seem like something that normally happens. But it did catch my attention.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A History of Japan - R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger

I've been meaning to learn more about Japanese history, so when I saw this book, it seemed worth picking up. It was apparently originally devised as one in a series of texts for Australian schools to familiarize students with influential countries in that part of the world (along with China, India, and Indonesia). It's been revised and updated a bit since its original publication in the '70s.

It's a general overview, from the earliest eras they have evidence of for organized governments, and runs up to around the end of the U.S. military occupation in the early 1950s (there's a postscript that details some of the developments up to the early 1990s). So it covers the rise of the Emperor as a position of power, the stretch where the Fujiwara family was largely running things despite the Emperor not necessarily being part of their family, the eventual pushback from the emperors, the rise of the shoguns, the Meiji Restoration, and so on. It is kind of strange to see how often the Emperor is a figurehead, not really making any decisions, yet still treated as the supreme authority. Like the Tokugawa shoguns might be calling the shots, but they still have to at least pretend they're doing so with the Emperor's blessing, and that he could revoke that at any moment.

I'm not clear on whether the average person knew that was the case or not, though. Still, where possible the book tries to describe how life is changing (or not) for the people not at the top of the ladder. The waxing and waning fortunes of the peasant farmers, the rise of the merchant class, who have to deal with the lack of respect given their occupation by a country at least partially following Confucian ideals. The difficulty for anyone outside the highest social classes to gain education or any sort of government post.  The shift in which religions were most influential. I was trying to figure out how Catholicism did so well when Europeans started arriving, but at least one of the forms of Buddhism described states life is an endless cycle of suffering, dying and being reborn until you achieve that perfect mindset. So compared to a belief system that says in all likelihood all you have waiting after death is another (probably miserable) life, one that says if you repent of your sins, you go to Paradise right off after you die might not sound so bad.

There's also discussion of various art forms emerging or developing, and the most notable practitioners. Which is the sort of thing that usually rolls right off me without registering, but I was interested by a note that mentioned that in the Heian period, men tended to publish their works in the Chinese written language, while women tended to use the recently developed Japanese written language. Up to then, Japan had sort of roughly modified Chinese written language to work with Japanese, and at this point, Chinese was still primarily used in government work, which is what most of those male authors were engaged in. I think Mason and Caiger do a better job describing what some of these art forms or styles say about the period they're in than others, which is the part I'm usually interested in. The technical details are mostly lost on me.

One thing I wondered about what the relative lack of mention of the Ainu people. I was under the impression they were the first people to reach Japan, but are (or were, there's been some intermarriage in an attempt to reduce the discrimination they've faced) ethnically distinct from the Japanese. But they get almost no mention in the book, outside of a couple of references to various emperors or shoguns not having much control of Hokkaido (the northernmost major island, which the Ainu heavily populated), or some battles between Japanese armies and the Ainu. I'm not familiar enough with the history of Japan to know how large an impact the Ainu have had on it, and so maybe in terms of explaining how Japan got to where it was as a society they were a huge influence. Still, writing a history of an area, and largely ignoring an entire group of people that lived there seems sketchy. Something for me to pursue in whatever book I next happen to see that catches my eye.

'Cloistered government (insei) is best thought of as a brilliant holding operation. It is true that under the retired emperors the court enjoyed an Indian summer of political tranquility and cultural lavishness, as both Shirakawa and Toba were good administrators and generous patrons of religion and the arts. Nevertheless the actual sovereign remained without any real power; and though the imperial family had freed itself from the Fujiwara yoke it had done so at a price. It could no longer hope to impose its authority through the public offices of a centralized and aggressively monarchical state, and seemed to have been reduced to simply a great family competing for power with other great families.'

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Surely They Spent Some of the Budget on Spin Doctors

I have a bad feeling things are not going to go as Robo plans.

Not with regards to his strategy to eliminate the Biomega, though I'm sure the target being a living, moving island will complicate things. I'm more concerned about his idea that with Tesladyne and China saving the world, Ultra/Majestic-12 will be exposed as frauds and brought down.

There are too many people who screw up monumentally, are outright wrong in their projections and arguments, or behave in a criminal fashion, yet still manage to skate, for me to expect an organization that's has enough official support and backing that they can seize companies and scientific branches of other governments, not to mention outright abduct people, to be shut down because someone else saved the world. Look at Oliver North, or Karl Rove. One's a criminal, the other a buffoon, but both are still somehow treated as credible by certain segments of the population.

So I'm doubtful this won't end up being a large-scale version of Spider-Man saving New York from Electro, only for Jonah to claim they were in cahoots. Or the X-Men saving the world from Magneto, then having politicians turn around and brand them outlaws and push for more mutant registration. Especially when the person likely to be doing the saving is someone Ultra has worked very hard to have branded as a terrorist. Are they going to try and somehow blame Robo for the Biomega, argue that he's engineered this while in hiding, so he could be the hero and divert attention from that thing about Tesladyne having a nuke on the premises? That he's working in concert with a country that's apparently refused to cooperate with Ultra will I'm sure be pointed out in all the usual news circles.

There's always a chance things are a little fairer in Robo's world than ours, I suppose. That'd certainly be good for him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The First 15 Minutes Are Bad For John, The Other 85 Are Bad For Everyone Else

I read about John Wick at the same time I read about Man of Tai Chi, and since I enjoyed the latter, I tried the former.

The movie spends 15 minutes at the start introducing us to John, who is burying his wife as the film opens after a struggle with some illness. His wife had arranged to buy a puppy for him, so he would have someone to care for after she was gone. Unfortunately, the very next day, his totally sweet Mustang catches the eye of some snotty Russian punk, and when John refuses to sell his car, the punk and his buddies break into John's home, beat him up, steal his car, and kill his puppy.

That's the first 15 minutes of the movie.

As it turns out, the Russian is the son of some big crime boss. Which don't mean shit, because John was an extraordinarily good contract killer who used to work for that boss, until he met a woman and wanted out, and performed remarkable feats of murder to earn that right. And now he wants revenge.

That's basically it for the plot. John wants to kill the kid, Viggo wants his son to live, but knows it's a longshot, because he knows who he's dealing with. He puts a contract on John, but at the end of the day, all he can really hope for is that if he keeps throwing bodies at John, someone will get lucky sooner or later. That is how a lot of the action sequences go. John's doing well, but eventually there are just too many people shooting at him, or trying to hit him with cars. But John's dangerous because there's no other target to strike at, no one Viggo can use as leverage to draw him out. At the same time, John's creating an adversary in the same mold.

If there's nothing particularly new about the story, that's fine, because it makes up for it in style. The fight scenes and gun battles are brutal, and thankfully shot in a way that's makes it easy to see what's going on. The camera mostly maintain a distance where you can get a good view of the immediate action. When I watched Man of Tai Chi, one of the problems I had was that while Keanu isn't a bad martial artist, he didn't compare to all the guys that had been involved in the fights up to then, so he was kind of a lackluster final boss. Here, the fights are considerably messier and less straightforward. Guns, knives, broken champagne bottles, bed sheets, all the stuff gets brought into the fights or discarded throughout. Sometimes one person is just throwing another into a glass case, or over a railing. The fights aren't set up to show what a master of hand-to-hand combat anyone is. More that these people are good at committing violence, but it isn't always going to look pretty.

I especially liked the sequence in the club. The use of the red and blue lighting, the music, how long it all goes as John chases his target from the lowest levels to the highest. It's well executed, and after hearing everyone go on at length about how terrifying John Wick is, it's a pretty decent demonstration of what they're talking about (although the bit where a cop investigates a noise complaint, and he clearly knows John and what he did, and once he sees the bodies, very carefully takes his hand away from his gun, that sent a signal too), but still making it look like there's a chance he could fail.

There is a question people keep bringing up to John throughout the movie, as to whether he is back or not, meaning back to being a hired killer. And when John insists this isn't business, they usually ask whether he thinks he can really just dip his toe back in and then walk away. It's presented somewhat as a question of whether his coming back will stir up old enemies that were content to leave him be, but it's mostly about whether he can just bring out the mindset or whatever it is that makes him the guy who can kill three men in a bar with a pencil, and pack it back up whenever he pleases. The film seems to argue yes, yes he can, because he remembers what his wife wanted, but he'd also killed all the people he set out to kill, which probably makes it easier to go back to his life of no one messing with him, since the people who did died.

I loved this movie. It seems like the people involved knew what they wanted to do, populate this city with cool, classy-acting characters and good action set pieces, and they did it, and it was fantastic. So glad I watched this movie.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What I Bought 11/10/2015 - Part 3

I think my laptop screen is about to die. Granted, I've been thinking that for 13 months now, but the periods where it goes static and unreadable are increasing in frequency. At least it's helping make me spend less time on the Internet. But not so much less I can't do these reviews!

Deadpool #1, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Val Staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - You know, I was starting to think I'd imagined the idea Wade was going to be popular in this book. That I'd just seen the cover and extrapolated from that, without considering it might be a joke. But no, he actually is beloved now, which is definitely a new direction for the character.

So yes, Deadpool is a beloved by some member of the Avengers, and even funding them with his merchandise and sales and public appearances (which are mostly being carried out by the other people he's hired to dress as him. Like Stingray, and Madcap!) He is doing some good things for free, though he's trying to keep those on the downlow, because he still wants people to think he's a merc. But also an Avenger. Already the conflicts begin. . .

And he's vowed to find the person responsible for killing his parents. Which was actually him, a fact the still inverted (from Axis, do we remember Axis still?) Sabretooth knows, that Agent Preston knows, but Wade obviously doesn't know. There's no way that can end badly. Oh, and he appears to have killed a zoning commissioner that was giving him static. Oh, and he's neglecting Shiklah, which can also not possibly end badly.

I am fond of hoods as part of an outfit, but Wade is sporting one with his business attire, and it just looks weird. Maybe because it reminds me of Zenpool, and I worry about what that could mean. Also, while I enjoy how expressive Hawthorne and Pallot are making Wade through the mask, I find it kind of disturbing when I can see his eyes through his mask. I don't recall that being a feature in the past, and it unnerves me somehow? Otherwise, this is some good work from Hawthorne, a little more smooth and rounded off than some of his work on the previous volume. I don't know if that's because of Pallot's inks, or because Hawthorne had enough lead time to really work on this. In the past, I think the roughest looking issues tended to come at the end of story arcs, just before Koblish would do a fill-in issue.

I continue to be annoyed by the attitudes of other Marvel heroes other than Wade, since no one besides Steve Rogers seems willing to give him the time of day. Like Rogue - give my regards to your terrorist of a mother, Rogue! - or Daredevil. But this is not a new thing, so no point in rehashing it now. At least Cage has a legit beef about Wade using the "heroes for hire" name. Which makes me wish one of the Deadpools was Iron Fist, in another of Danny Rand's "flat broke" stretches, just for that awkward moment when Luke shows up looking to bust heads and the only Deadpool around is Danny. Maybe I should write them to suggest that. Or not.

I'm actually OK with Wade being an Avenger - more than I was with Wolverine, certainly - and I'm curious to see how this all falls to pieces around him, and how much of that will be self-inflicted. Or maybe it won't!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, by Ryan North (words), Erica Henderson (art), Joe Morris (trading card art), Rico Renzi (color art), Clayton Cowles (lettering) - Is Wiccan's new look? Is everyone in the Marvel Universe going to start sporting hoods now? Is this the new version of the bomber jacket craze of the mid-90s? And why am I not more excited about it, other than I kind of feel like Wiccan shouldn't be trying for an ominous look? Be cheerful, kid!

Squirrel Girl and associates save people from a burning building, and we learn they spent that 8 month gap Hickman threw into his books learning to speak squirrel. Then Doreen drags Nancy along to meet her mother, and Nancy greatly enjoys the embarrassing stories, and we all learn Squirrel Girl is not a mutant any longer. I don't know if Marvel ordered this (because they're trying to downplay mutants in favor of Inhumans), or it's just North and Henderson making fun of all that. Then a Brain in a Jar attacks them on top of Doreen and Nancy's apartment building, and after they beat his crappy, 1940s technology robot butt, Doreen's mother suggests they started the fight, and he was just confused. So they rebuild him and get him enrolled as a computer scientist at their school. Which cannot possibly go wrong, getting a former Hydra guy in an artificial body more well-versed in computers. No chance of this backfiring whatsoever.

I don't think it's a good idea to excuse him bashing doors open with such force they can knock down people with the proportionate strength of a squirrel, either. Intentional or not, it shows a lack of consideration for others. But I suppose it's good Doreen's attempts to befriend her enemies is still working in her book, since I think she tried it in the first issue of New Avengers, and it was less effective. And I'm sure some day she'll meet a robot successfully distracted by computer science facts. Some day.

His disconnected googly eyes in the jar are oddly arresting, so good work there by Henderson. Also with her depictions of Nancy and Doreen in the flashback to some time in the past (Doreen with that odd eye makeup she had in her earliest appearance). And Maureen's shirt, and Doreen's tendency to just pick people up and run places with them. That really seems more like an opossum trait than a squirrel trait, though.

I have no idea what North and Henderson have planned for this series going forward, how much attention they have to pay to New Avengers now that she's in that book, or what sorts of long-term plots they have in mind, if any. It may just be a series of brief adventures, and humorous comments (like observing that squirrels and chipmunks are not very effective against fire). Which is fine.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Zorro 2.1 - Welcome to Monterey

Plot: Diego and Bernardo have traveled to Monterey, to see a Senor Verdugo. Or so the owner of the inn they're staying at believes. And he's not the only one, because within five minutes of getting inside their room, two robbers covering their faces with bandanas barge in and demand 17,000 pesos they're certain Diego has with him. He says he doesn't have it, and one of the robbers (played by Lee van Cleef) beats Diego with Diego's own sack of cash for personal expenses, before departing (with Diego's personalized pocketwatch). Which puts Diego in a sour mood when he goes to visit Senor Verdugo.

As it turns out, Verdugo has made promises to get supplies from Spain for towns, provided they bring the cash, which is why Diego's here. Diego now has some understandable concerns, and says he won't order the money sent until he's certain Verdugo can deliver. At which point in walks a Senor Serrano from Santa Cruz, who brought his cash 2 weeks ago, and Verdugo's daughter, Anna Maria. Her father immediately says that Diego is accusing her of being a thief, and she nearly throws wine in Diego's face. Not a productive meeting.

Some time later back in town, Anna Maria and Serrano observe Bernardo being extremely careful with a saddlebag. As we learn once he gets to the hotel room, it's Diego's Zorro outfit, which Diego did not want brought along. He really wishes Bernardo hadn't brought it when Anna Maria and Serrano barge in and pull a gun on them, demanding to see the money they assume is inside. Bernardo pulls a fast one, stumbling into a curtain and pulling it over him so he can hide the costume beneath it, and the two are left to depart hastily with egg on their face.

Still later, Bernardo's waiting in the inn for Diego to arrive, and notices two men enter, one of whom has Diego's watch. Bernardo tries to sidle up to them at the bar and toast with them, then swipe it from Lee van Cleef's pocket, to no avail. When they leave, he follows, and still hasn't returned when Diego arrives. When Diego inquires if anyone has seen Bernardo, van Cleef's partner comes and claims he was told to deliver a message, namely to get 17,000 pesos if he ever wants to see his servant again. Diego demands proof, and the man says he'll get some, but Diego better stay in his room, because the kidnappers will know if he leaves. Well sure, if he goes through the door, but Zorro prefers rooftops, and easily follows the dope to a secluded cabin. He waits until the man takes Bernardo's hat and leaves, then tries to get the drop on Lee van Cleef. There's a decent struggle, but Zorro triumphs, and Bernardo takes back the watch! Then he notices the villain getting up and hits him over the head. With the watch. At least Zorro didn't see it happen.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'What was I saying about peace and quiet?'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (0 overall).

Other: For the record, Lee van Cleef's character is named Castillo, but whatever. I'm pretty much always excited to see Lee van Cleef. At one point, he describes Bernardo as a "little moon face", which is kind of bizarre phrasing, but I guess I can see it.

I guess I should also mention that during the fight, the other guy came back and tried to backshoot Zorro, but failed. And Zorro grabbed Castillo's rifle and was able to wound the man. That will probably be relevant next week.

There's a nice moment when the kidnapper is trying to make his pitch to Diego when Diego bodily slams the guy against a wall and threatens to take him apart if Bernardo is harmed. It makes sense. This is Monterey, not Los Angeles. These people don't know anything about Diego de la Vega supposedly being a fainthearted bookworm, so there's not as much reason to keep up the facade. Bernardo being in danger surely helps, and the fact people keep pointing guns in his face and threatening him would undoubtedly wear on his temper, but he's handled these things before without losing his cool. Which makes me think it was at least partially a deliberate choice on his part. Just to see if he could rattle the guy a little, maybe get a clue out of him. It didn't really work, but it might have made the guy more amenable to bringing back proof. Maybe.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What I Bought 11/10/2015 - Part 2

Related to Monday's post, a couple of days ago Amazon recommended I buy a dutch oven. Which was kind of sweet, that it assumed I can actually cook. Really it was just confusing, but at least it wasn't insulting.

Atomic Robo: The Ring of Fire #3, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Anthony Clark (colors), Jeff Powell (letters and design) - Since I'm buying through an online thing now, I should have gotten the subscription variant cover. It was more dynamic.

Ultra has, by appropriating scientists and funds from wherever they please, gotten their giant robots up and running and combating the Biomega. They're sort of winning, though the Titans are getting trashed in the process, and thousands of people are still dying in the battles. Robo and his bunch are working with China's defense industry to build Robo a new body, and devise their own plan to save the world. The former involves a different design of Tesla's as a power source (since no one knows how he built an atomic heart for Robo that small and that efficient). The latter seems to involve supersonic nuclear torpedoes. Hopefully that's a viable plan against the Biomega version of Krakoa, the Living Island, because that's now a problem.

I understand why the Tesladyne bunch would have misgivings about working in the labs of yet another government super-secret science facility, and would be worried their work could be used to further possible nefarious schemes. Even so, I wasn't entirely comfortable with Robo's new power supply being a device which lets him siphon up to 1% of China's nuclear energy output from anywhere in the world, while neglecting to mention to the country in question they did that. Feels distinctly dishonorable. Though I have to wonder if the military has video cameras in the labs, and how the countermeasures Broughton designed can stop lip-readers. Not a problem with Robo, but Broughton is a human, speaking with a human mouth in English.

Speaking of Robo's new look, it's not bad, although his neck having a collared look will take some getting used to. And just offhand, I feel like it isn't as expressive as his old look. Wegener had a real knack for getting across emotions and reactions on a character with not much in the way of facial features. Just going by this issue, it wasn't there. Maybe because Robo tends to show emotion when things start going wrong, and they haven't yet. I wish Wegener could have gone nuts with the Titan designs, but they're being built for the military, and sticking to a standard design would make sense. He gets to have some fun with the Biomega, though, so it all balances out.

Harley Quinn and Power Girl #5, by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Justin Gray (writers), Stephane Roux (artist, pages 1-9 and 19-21), Flaviano (artist, pages 10-18), Paul Mounts (colors), Marilyn Patrizio (letters) - Vartox, it's generally considered polite to ask before introducing tentacles into the, well, I'm not sure what to call that. Hot tubbing, I guess.

The Harvester of Sorrow is a giant head that drives people mad and then feeds on the suffering. He's also so large communication is basically impossible, but his pores do serve as an easy way to get rid of Oreth. Harley decides to try getting inside to wreck things, gets captured, and ends up succeeding in her plans when the Harvester tries to feed on her sorrow, and gets a helping of the Joker, which drives it nuts. And also Harley, who rips the mustache clean off Vartox' face. Ow. Then she kind of snaps out of it in time for everyone to reach a safe distance from the explosion, and when Vartox returns, facial hair restored, he proposes to Power Girl.

I have absolutely no idea who the guy in the leather jacket and sunglasses was that Harley imagined right before charging into the Harvester. Was it Hal Jordan? The sunglasses were green. OK, the Internet tells me it's from a Bollywood film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which doesn't really explain anything, but I guess makes sense considering we're talking about Harley. I should stop expecting this mini-series to make sense. Like what the inner Joker in Harley was? Something the Joker actually put in her, or just the impulses that he would encourage, but which she mostly suppresses or redirects these days. If we're working off the origin they gave her in the first new 52 Suicide Squad book, he threw her into his vat of toxins, which had to do something to her mind. And that might just be the part she remembers, but not all that happened necessarily.

Flaviano and Mounts did combine to make her look suitably scary in the pages afterwards. The laughing while crying, the almost rictus grin where the teeth are clenched. The way she pounces on Vartox, but she jutting out her lower jaw in an aggressive fashion, even as she sort of tousles his hair. It's maybe the closest I've seen Conner and Palmiotti come to touching on Harley's portrayal in other DC stuff of the last few years. She's hurting people, but not restricting it to "bad" guys or whatever, but also allies. She only has limited control. So it becomes less funny and more terrifying how unconcerned she is with what she's doing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

If He Were Really A Radical King, He'd Get Properly Elected

I guess I haven't talked about The Adventures of Dr. McNinja here before, judging by its lack of a label (and none for Chris Hastings either? Did I really not start with the regular use of creator labels until after that Deadpool Annual?). There's no time like the present to rectify that, although starting with the 4th print collection, King Radical, is not ideal. But I hardly ever get around to reviewing trades, anyway.

At this point, King Radical's been an adversary of the doctor's for a while, even though a) most of the Doc's friends are on board with the King's plans to make the world a more awesome place through small business initiatives, and b) the two were forced to team up in a dystopian future where dinosaurs from another planet had conquered humanity. Which sounds pretty radical but, I guess King Radical only enjoys things that are radical that put him in charge. Much like how Darkseid wouldn't be cool with anyone else using the Anti-Life Equation to establish control over all beings in the universe, including him.

Also, the last, desperate attempt of humanity to regain their freedom did result in a pretty cool battle. Which is why you should purchase Timefist, the volume before this one!

Anyway, there's a lot of fighting, surprise reveals, random subplots involving the the McNinja family and evil teachers out to harvest souls that have almost no connection whatsoever to the main story, and we finally learn King Radical's true plan. Which, I realize now is entirely laid one in one of the pages I was gonna to post here, and I might as well not spoil the surprise (to the extent I can do that for a story that was originally posted as a webcomic and finished months ago). Damn, I really wanted to use that to make a joke about whether Claremontian levels of expository dialogue was radical*.

Since Hastings includes some sort of alt-text comment with each page when he posts it, those are included at the bottom of each page in the print version. They might get the biggest laughs from me, between the ones where he chastises himself for the designs of some of his radical characters, to his mention of there being so many violent doctors in the story. I want to see him make good on his boast that he will draw anything in a mask wearing a lab coat. I want Ski Robot and its ski mask to be more than something made up by Gordito's imagination, so we get Dr. McSkiRobot (beep boop)! All the mask-wearing, lab coat-attired weirdos we can get.

There are a few places where it seems like Hastings reuses particular poses for a certain character (there's one of McNinja's father that pops up twice, once as he's walking away from a bridge inside a volcano, and against as he prepares to fight doctor blocking the highway with a tank). I don't know if he did use the image twice, or if it was just a good stance to use that he could draw readily. It did seem appropriate for the character. It's not a major complaint, because it doesn't come up often, just something I noticed. He does an excellent job some extremely creepy and unsavory looking guys in this volume, between a couple of teachers and some of Radical's gang. They're just kind of unsettling in some way, like you wouldn't want to be in an elevator alone with them. They'd smell bad, and be kind of sweaty looking. Ech.

He's also very good at drawing extremely happy people, maybe because he goes for really exaggerated looks of happiness. Doc's joy at the end of this volume is clear even though you can only see his eyes. Maybe it was how he was slappin' dudes. The fight scenes are typically good, though it's better when he sticks to one-on-one fights. The more characters involved, the more things kind of bog down. Maybe how much they stop to talk becomes more noticeable? I shouldn't criticize that, I guess. My characters stop to talk all the time during fights, but there was something about the Doc/Old/Gordito/Hortense fight that just didn't flow as well as the brief fight with the gorilla in the forest. Not enough room in the panels perhaps. Hastings is definitely trying to give people some bang for the buck on most every page, and I'd certainly count King Radical as a success.

I'm curious to see if the fallout from something Doc's mother told his younger brother, about how Doc missed the point of being a ninja entirely (because of how they tried to get him to focus on training). He's been obsessed with stopping Radical, even when everyone else has urged him to knock it off. So far, he's avoided letting it cost him, but he's cut it real close. Not to mention he's basically abandoned his practice, and we've seen that he's one of the only doctors - maybe the only one - qualified to handle some of the strange cases that occur in his hometown. He might argue he's trying to save a lot of lives, and he might be right, but it's unclear if he's done anything but delay the inevitable.

* The answer is no, but it's necessary sometimes, because we don't live in a radical land. Mundane things are still integral here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What I Bought 11/10/2015 - Part 1

Relatively new comics have arrived, as I did not end up waiting a month to buy some really expensive first issues. Yeah, well, I'm kind of in a hurry. Patience is not one of my virtues.

Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas #1, by Tom Taylor (writer), Steve Pugh (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Looking at the cover, it's interesting Zemo has multiple different WANTED posters for Jimmy Woo. It makes me think he (or someone who works for him) had lots of photos of Jimmy, and just wanted to plaster them all over the city.

So it is a one-shot set on Battleworld, in a section controlled by a Zemo - is there more than one of those? - where the Atlas Foundation is an underground resistance movement. SHIELD only works to serve Zemo's interests, but Phil Coulson is tired of that, and wants to help Atlas find their missing leader Jimmy Woo. The team agrees to let him come along, and Gorilla Man finds Jimmy, but doesn't realize the one doing it is Zemo's young son, who kills him. What the kid didn't realize is that whole curse aspect of Gorilla Man's existence, so now he's the talking gorilla. As it turns out, Zemo's whole goal was to lure Venus in, because a transmission of her singing during a raid, made him fall in love with her. And as Venus points out, given her history, that's a bad move for the old man. So now a talking gorilla runs that city. Still better than Mr. Sinister, the Maestro, or any version of Tony Stark.

early in the story, Coulson keeps mentioning his assistant has other talents when Ken complains the kid is too stupid to realize a talking Gorilla (with a visitor badge that says "Gorilla Man" on it) is a gorilla, not a monkey. "Other talents", is the exact phrasing. Does that mean Coulson promoted the guy because they're having sex? Like corporate guys having an attractive secretary who can't type or take dictation kind of thing? Or did he mean the guy is good at busting skulls, but kind of an idiot? I'm inclined towards the latter, if only because there was never any indication of what other skills the guy has.

What Venus does to Zemo is interesting in light of a story I remember Jeff Parker writing during Secret Invasion, where Venus wasn't willing to make some Skrulls march to their deaths in the ocean (Jimmy said he understood, then ordered M-11 to death ray them, because dudes from the '50s don't fuck around when little green men invade Earth). Here, she lures Zemo in and literally walks his stupid ass off a ledge. Steve Pugh helps because he purposefully gives her this neutral look all through the exchange. She doesn't seem angry, but she isn't smiling. She lets Heinrich project whatever he wants so he'll follow her, completely ignoring what she's saying. I guess we could be meant to read she's singing all this to him, so he's enthralled, but I don't think so. There's nothing in Jimmy or anyone else's reactions that suggests that. Zemo's just That Dude, sure he's found a way to her heart.

It was a pretty solid book. The plot was fairly engaging. Though had the team never had Venus sing before? Shouldn't they have known it was a risk before now? That keeps hanging me up. There were some good character bits, although they all rely on you caring about the characters beforehand. I don't think Taylor did enough to where I would have necessarily felt bad about Ken's death if I didn't already like the character coming in. Frankly, I though Gorilla-Man's voice was a little off, and most of the other characters didn't get enough dialogue to tell one way or the other. Except M-11, which I think they did get right. You could chalk the differences up to alternate universe easily enough, though that brings us back to the same point. The story is banking on past stories to provide the emotional connection for the reader, but these aren't those characters, not exactly. It's the New 52 problem all over again, but as one-off, this works pretty well.

There are times I though Pugh might be photo-referencing actual pictures of gorillas for Ken's facial expressions, but I can't be sure of that, and otherwise I was fine with his art. Everything was clear, at least some of the Weapon X subjects had bizarre enough anatomy to suggest Zemo's experiments, and Helmut's transformation looked suitably terrifying to him. Might have been worth dragging out a few more panels, really let the horror sink in..

Astonishing Ant-Man #1, by Nick Spencer (writer), Ramon Rosanas (artist), Jordan Boyd (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), Idette Winecoor (designer) - Here we see Scott after he just promised to provide non dairy creamer in the break room. Although, between the way he has his hand placed, and the position of Beetle's wing, I thought he was carrying a dagger or something. Like Scott was literally going to stab these super-crooks in the back. Also, is Porcupine standing slightly hunched because he knows Beetle's wings are going to obscure his face otherwise, or is he drunk? Or injured? Is Scott skimping on health insurance, too?

Scott's still trying to make his business work, and hasn't entirely pissed off his primary investor yet. He has pissed off his daughter, by continuing to publicly stay out of her life, while secretly watching over her. And Darren Cross is still trying to take revenge on him, though he wasn't prepared for the world of today. He's right, though, paying 1.2 billion dollars just to be on the board of the company. It can't possibly be worth that much just to avoid having to directly converse with super-powered hitmen you want to hire. At any rate, it kept Scott from getting his head lopped off by Whirlwind, but it cost him a security contract at a big art museum, and may have succeeded in pissing off the primary investor. No idea if any of that is why he's in prison.

So, Miami P.D. sent a cop to act as liaison for the possible security gig, and it's the guy currently married to Scott's ex, and what the hell look was he going for? He had the Caruso dark glasses, but with a white suit coat. Just laughable. And they've taken the Pym Particles out of Cassie's system entirely now, so no more Young Avengering for her. That seems more than a little stupid and pointless, but I guess if she could get herself into danger then Scott's excuse for staying out of her life would seem even more obviously stupid. Like a super-villain, assuming they know Lang is Ant-Man and Cassie is his daughter, is going to care than Scott doesn't seem to be spending time with her? No, they're still going to figure she's his daughter, and if they attack her, he will show up eventually. It's just such an obviously bad decision.

The Power Broker - I'm assuming he's new - is a nice design. Little understated with the suit, but the lavender skin and jaw-thing make him stand out a bit. I'm sure he reminds me of someone, but I can't place it. I'm curious how much of an ongoing threat he'd be in this book, or if he and Cross end up against each other, given their differing views on things. Cross is very much about creating or innovating in what he sees as concrete ways, while the Broker is working with what's already there, ostensibly to make it more efficiently utilized, but really just making sure he gets a cut of all the transactions. Beyond the Broker, though, I'm still cold on the art. The colors all seem very calm and subdued, which blunts the effect of important scenes, and the fight scene didn't do much for me, brief as it was.

There's something about it all that doesn't connect, which is true of the book in general. It was on the border with me before the relaunch, and this hasn't changed my opinion. I'm curious to see what Spencer has planned with all the other villains he's going to bring in, but I'm not sure I'll be sticking around long enough to find out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I've Got To Get My Gaming Groove Back

I did bring most of my XBox 360 games with me on this job, intending to replay them. In practice, that hasn't happened. I got a decent way into Deadpool, mostly just to rack up enough points to finish upgrading his weapons, but the first time I actually died, I put it away. I've been playing specific levels of Metro: Last Light, but just to unlock particular Achievements (mostly relating to making it through levels without killing anyone).

I did play the two parts of Fallout 3 DLC I hadn't finished previously, The Pitt and Not of This World, last week, but I'm not sure how much my heart was in it. Especially The Pitt. I earned a meeting with the leader guy, and was, I suppose, meant to find some way to procure his special cure for the toxins that destroy everyone's lives there. But once he revealed he knew that was why I was there, I pulled out some motorized saw thing called a Man Opener and just killed him. Then his wife came at me with a gun, so I did the same to her. Then I stole their now-orphaned kid (who is also the source of the cure). It's a little atypical of me. I'm normally try to handle things more diplomatically, or at least consider that approach, but I was already unsure about the people I was working for (very pushy, very ungrateful considering that once again, I'm doing all the damn work), and just kind of wanted it to be over.

Not of This World went a little better, mostly because I had the stealthsuit this time, and I used that as much as possible to just avoid fighting anyone. Not so much because I objected to killing the aliens - they have no qualms about dissecting or experimenting on humans, so turnabout's fair play - but because they take so damn long to die. That was why I gave up the last time, and given the number of them I snuck past, I doubt I would have made it much further this time if I had to cut a path through them.

The strangest thing I noticed is it feels like certain things in the game have reset themselves. I can't find my buddy Fawkes anywhere. The sheriff of Megaton is back, even though I was pretty sure I accidentally got him killed when I told him about the guy who wanted me to detonate the nuke in middle of town. I couldn't find that sole survivor of Greyditch I was previously criticized for not helping out (again, because apparently saving him from painful death at the mandibles of giant, napalm spewing ants wasn't enough).

It reminds me a little of Fable 3, where certain people were dead or really hated me when the story concluded, but after awhile, they came back to life or got over it. It's disconcerting.

I have, with some reservations, started a new game. I'm already grimacing each time I run up against some Speech or Repair issue I can't manage because my skill scores are so low now, and I know I'm going to miss that stealthsuit, pretty much all the time. I did, however, manage to escape Vault101 without killing the Overseer, which I hadn't done previously. Which was nice. Not because I care about the old man (he was prepared to kill me just because my dad left the Vault), but I hated that doing so poisoned my character's friendship with Amata, his daughter. That's been averted, at least. Hearty handshakes and congratulations all around, then.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Maybe It Wasn't Personal, But I Still Felt Insulted

So when I got home Friday, the Internet was working again. No idea why, and by the time you read this (I'm typing it Friday night) it may be down again, so we'll play it by ear. I hope it keeps working, though. My work computer is an ancient piece of crap, and there's no sign they're going to do anything about that anytime soon.

On another note, I know Amazon recommendations are not always reliable. The fact there's somewhere over 20,000 things I've told them I wasn't interested in thus far is proof of that. But I really wonder what their algorithms think of me, given some of the things they suggest. Last week, they recommended the Adam Sandler dud (to be charitable) Pixels. I haven't felt that disrespected since UnCalvin wrote "DISRESPECT" along the length of her hand and pimp-slapped me with it.

So maybe it's a good thing I can't figure out how to tell it I own things I purchased elsewhere (unless they appear in my recommendations). There's no telling what it would suggest if it knew I bought UHF over the weekend.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Zorro 1.39 - The Eagle's Flight

Plot: Bernardo's hanging out in the square, watching the Eagle's house. The Eagle, however, is watching Sergeant Garcia lead most of his men out of town on some mission. That's all the encouragement de Varga needs to place an eagle statuette on his window ledge, and men start pouring in. Bernardo sneaks closer and sees muskets being handed out, so he rushes home to warn Diego. For his part, Diego recognizes this is too big for just Zorro, and tries to tell Alejandro to alert his militia, but it's too late. The Eagle's men burst in, take the three prisoner, and bring them to Varga, who orders them locked in the cellar, while he orders Corporal Reyes to open the gates, then has his forces storm in and overwhelm the surprised and depleted forces.

Soon the Eagle is sporting an all-white general's outfit, and he and his men await the return of Sergeant Garcia's patrol, whom they'll all kill. But only Garcia returns, and he's taken prisoner (although it takes 3 men with loaded pistols to do it, after he throws aside the two who tried strongarming him). The Eagle has Spain's flag lowered in the cuartel, replaced with his, and demands his payment from Count Kolinko. Kolinko refuses, pointing out Alejandro's militia is still out there as a potential threat. So the Eagle tries threatening Alejandro is exchange for the list, but the old man won't budge. Diego, on the other hand, is willing to barter his life for the list, and Greco and one goon escort Diego back to the hacienda. There, Diego's able to catch them off-guard and escape with the list, and soon enough, Zorro in sneaking through the streets of Los Angeles, trying to free his father and the sergeant. Unfortunately, he's spotted, and Alejandro, Garcia, and Bernardo have to barricade themselves inside the Eagle's house to fend off his army (with the few remaining muskets from his secret armory).

Zorro's running loose outside, doing all he can to help, but things are looking bad when the militia arrives, with none other than Don Alfredo at the front. The Eagle runs for the cuartel, and locks Greco out to take a bullet in the back. But as Sergeant Garcia could have told him, locked gates have never kept Zorro out of the cuartel before, and they won't now. He defeats the Eagle in a swordfight, but doesn't finish him off, instead granting Reyes' plea that he and the other soldiers be freed so they can help in the battle. The Eagle tries to escape across the stable roof and over the wall, but as the gates were opened by the soldiers going out, it gives the dying Greco the chance to take one last shot at the leader who abandoned him, and the Eagle's dead. The battle won, Zorro departs, and Diego arrives moments later, as Alejandro is learning it was Diego who warned Alfredo and the rest of the threat. Even so, Alejandro only back-handedly compliments his son, still describing what Diego did as running for help. Either way, the Spanish flag is raised once more.

Quote of the Episode: Kolinko - 'It's just as I thought, Senor Varga. You control nothing, except a few empty buildings, a few empty streets. And for this, you expect me to pay you 13 million pesos.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (15 overall).

Other: Even Sergeant Garcia couldn't hide his disappointment with Diego when he bartered with the Eagle, which is saying a lot. The Sergeant has always been a pretty staunch ally of Diego's - ignoring the time he went along with Raquel Toledano's plan to accuse Diego of being Zorro and imprison him to catch the real Zorro - and has never criticized him for not being the aggressive man Alejandro wants Diego to be. Some of that is undoubtedly because Diego doesn't give the sergeant a lot of grief about his weight or intelligence. But I like to think that in the same way that Diego recognizes Garcia is an honest, essentially good person doing the best he can, the sergeant knows Diego's a decent person and wants to do the right thing, just not with a sword.

So is 13 million pesos in 1810 a lot of money for California? The Louisiana Purchase cost $15 dollars less than a decade earlier, but that's a lot more land than California. I wonder if Alexander the First approved of Kolinko's decision not to pay up when the ambassador returned home. I suppose the Russians didn't have any troops nearby they could bring in quickly if he had paid up, but to back out of a deal that large because of a single 50-man militia seems nuts.

Nice touch having Don Alfredo at the front of the militia's arrival, after all his uncertainty. I suppose there's a lesson in there about not trying to ignore evil by running from it, but I can't help thinking he stayed because he was pissed the Eagle tried to have him killed.

So that's season 1. Pretty good, overall. I preferred Monastario as a villain, but maybe that's just because the Eagle storyline ran so long. The length did serve to highlight the size of his organization, just by the sheer number of different foes Zorro had to contend with. Also that, for a long time, it didn't seem to be bringing him any closer to the boss. He kept defeating them (or they wound up dead through some circumstance or another), but they were just replaced by another mid-level boss. The Eagle only stepped into the light when he felt like it, albeit because he probably didn't think he could trust anyone else to handle Los Angeles by then. But he'd also been at the scheme long enough to become an Administrano, which gave him all sorts of power and control, so he was willing to wait until that time. Still, he gets so impatient if anyone even remotely suggests he's not in total control, it's hard for me to believe he held things together as long as he did. I guess he's one of those bosses that's fine when things go well, but lousy in a crisis.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Mama's Gotta Watch Her Baby Bird Out Amongst The Hawks Now

I wonder if Kamala's mother will be as OK with Kamala's superheroing now that she's in the Avengers. I know it seems like a positive step, being on a big, public, generally respected group like the Avengers (even if they've diluted the hell out of their name the last 10 years). And it means having some experienced teammates to watch her back.

At the same time, joining the Avengers typically means facing an elevated level of threats (Thor being a possible exception). And while her mother knows she's been out helping people, it's not clear how much she knows about the details. What exactly Kamala's been up against - like giant, remotely controlled alligators - or how narrow some of her victories have been. The Avengers tend to attract media coverage, and if Ammi sees her daughter on TV fighting, I dunno, Korvac, or Ronan the Accuser, is she pride still going to outweigh concern?

And if they're still intent on keeping Kamala's dad out of the loop, can they maintain that in these new circumstances? One of the things in Ultimate Spider-Man that helped Gwen figure out Peter's identity was MJ seeing him losing to Doc Ock on TV and being so unnerved she ran out of the house. Which got Gwen suspicious, and one thing lead to another. Kamala's mother can probably hold it together a bit better than high school MJ, and I doubt Kamala's dad is as suspicious as Gwen was that something was going on, but it's a potential problem.

Assuming they don't take the proactive approach of just sitting him down and telling him themselves.

Friday, November 06, 2015

It's Late, But Here's What I Was Thinking

The Internet in the place I'm staying stopped working Wednesday, and hasn't been restored. No one seems to know why it's stopped working, or when it'll return (or if they know, they aren't saying). This may cause problems for posting, since I'll either have to sneak it in at work, or drive 20+ miles to some place with wi-fi.

I did say I had a post I wanted to do on Wednesday, and two days late is better than never.

I said I expect some major brawl between the X-Men and the Inhumans, but at this stage, there isn't too much reason to fight (although apparently that didn't stop Cyclops?). The damage is done, punching the Royal Family of Attilan in the face won't fix things now. Granted, that's never stopped Marvel's heroes from punching each other, but let's assume for a moment it might.

There are still a lot of people who were fairly recently turned into mutants as a result of Cyclops' Phoenix-controlled-by-Hope Summers plan. There were also a lot of people recently having Inhuman genetics unlocked by Black Bolt releasing Terrigen Mist across the world. None of these people were consulted about these changes beforehand. Some jerkoff decided, "this is a thing that's happening to you now," and that's it.

Some people have adjusted. A lot of kids joined Logan's Jean Grey School, and Kamala Khan's obviously taken to her emerging super-powers. And you have people like Kamran, or those Hellfire Club kids that have seen this as an opportunity to further their own gains, and are seizing it. But there have to be a lot of people who haven't adjusted. None of the X-teams came to recruit them, or they don't know about New Attilan, or their powers are actively harmful to them. Lots of people have to have had their lives ruined by these events, and if they're a mutant, now they get the double-whammy that the Mists inadvertently sterilized them. Whoops.

It wouldn't be stretch for there to be a lot of angry mutants and Inhumans out there. First. angry at the people who did this to them without consent, and resentful of the groups trying to control them (Join my school! No, join my revolution! Move to our floating city in the Hudson River and join our rigid monarchical society!) Since a lot of the people affected on both sides seem to be younger folks, maybe they team-up against what they see as once again an older generation dumping its problems on their laps, then leaving them to deal with it. The reveal of the effect of the Mists on mutants might strain those groups.

So you have a lot of people with powers they didn't ask for running around, lashing out. You have the X-Men and the Inhumans each working to try and minimize the damage on their side of the street, and grudgingly working together when necessary (again, the fact Beast is working with the Inhumans reassures exactly no one on either side). The various Avengers teams are in the middle trying to keep everything cool, although they're being strained from within. Someone - probably Gorgon - gets a little too rough with a recent mutant, maybe because the kid seriously injured Triton or someone else, Colossus objects, and it turns into a whole big thing between the two sides now.

The various (still mostly non-super-powered) governments start to panic, which means we're moving perilously close to "unleash the giant killer robots!", and there are, of course, super-villains spurring the whole thing on. I knows he's essentially dead at the moment, but this seems like the sort of thing Apocalypse would be invested in. I can't tell if this new Squadron Supreme are good guys or bad guys, but they seem to be trying to operate secretly, so they'll accelerate their plans to take advantage of the discord.

Hopefully there wouldn't be too much heroes fighting each other. There could just enough of that to make cooperation difficult, to break lines of communication, which makes dealing with all the other problems harder. Plus, even within groups there could disagreement about what they should be focusing on. Sunspot's modified AIM team could try to work on searching for cures, while Steve Rogers' bunch could be trying to mediate between the sides, while the one with Sam Wilson and Kamala could be actively trying to respond to flare-ups of violence. Or the X-Men could disagree on how publicly they should get involved, while perhaps Medusa is in full damage control mode, but working to absolve her side and blame mutants (I don't have a real high opinion of the Royal Family's level of honor these days, but it wouldn't have to be that).

I don't have any solution for how you end it, though, short of reversing the stupid "sterilized mutants" thing. And even that doesn't address the issue of people who didn't want to be altered in the first place. Those folks might just have to remain as a group of factions that are active. Some more violent, some protesting, others trying to leverage their powers subtly, maybe manipulate politicians to produce results, or maybe trying to withdraw from society to form their own groups, if they feel the existing society has let them down badly enough.

I want to give a nod to Tom Foss, because I feel this post is at least partially inspired by his idea for a more sensible Civil War from a long time ago. He had a good idea about making more than a simple, two-sided conflict, introducing shades to the different sides, that seemed really applicable here.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

These Three Make It Look Easy

Three The Hard Way is a team-up movie. An old friend of Jimmy Lait's (Jim Brown) escapes from an illegal prison run by Mr. Feather, and warns Brown that Feather is working on a scheme to kill all the black people in the U.S., but only them. The friend is murdered soon after, and Jimmy's lady friend Wendy is abducted. So Jimmy tracks down his old friends Jagger (Fred Williamson) and Mister (Jim Kelly) to help him uncover the details of the scheme, stop it, rescue Wendy, and basically kill everyone behind the whole thing.

Since the middle of the film is devoted to the three heroes splitting up to deal with individual threats in different cities, I expected each of them to pair off with one of the motorcycle riding dominatrices Jagger had invited to help interrogate the one hapless goon they captured alive during one of the many attempts by Feather's band to kill them. But no, they arrive, get topless briefly, we hear a lot of screaming, the guy tells all he knows, then dies. We don't see them again. I guess they only like to inflict pain in specific circumstances.

I liked Jay Robinson as Monroe Feather a lot early in the film, when he was very soft-spoken and calm, because it made him terrifying. He seemed rather dispassionate about the whole thing, and I could easily envision him slitting someone's throat without a trace of emotion. The longer the film goes, the more grand speeches he starts making, he starts getting caught up in his own hype, his desire to be remembered throughout history. Which is probably important, that he's not operating on some extremely misguided ideal, he's really just another ignorant jackass trying to feel important off the suffering of people different from himself. But as a villain, he lost a little something.

I don't think the specifics of the villains, their personalities or whatever, are all that important. They're bad guys, they're up to no good, and they die, in large numbers. The heroes occasionally stumble - Jimmy gets wounded once, Mister fails to stop a guard from triggering an alarm - but mostly have no trouble. There's a running thread about Mister relying on his martial arts, and Jimmy frequently urging him to use a damn gun, please. It really comes off as more of a hang up on Jimmy's part, as we don't really see a sequence where Mister not using a gun costs them (a gunshot likely would have alerted people as readily as the alarm), but it's kind of interesting.

It's a decent movie. The film charges ahead towards the climax, and doesn't really waste time on any branching paths, outside of a few scenes between Jimmy and a police inspector that don't go anywhere. The inspector doesn't help Jimmy, but also doesn't interfere, so he's just kind of there. I guess if Jim Brown's character had been a cop, rather than a music producer, they could have done the, "You're off this case, Lait! Give me your gun, and your badge!" bit, but no. The two scenes are brief enough it doesn't make much difference, I just wondered at the point of them.