Monday, February 29, 2016

The Bombing War - Richard Overy

I read another of Overy's books, Why the Allies Won, last summer. The Bombing War is, as the title suggests, concerned with the bombing campaigns during World War 2. Specifically the strategic bombing war, as opposed to the tactical. The difference being he uses the former to refer to when you do stuff like a bomb a munitions plant, versus the latter, attacking enemy troops or their lines of supply closer to the front. He's expanding on one of the chapters from the earlier book, which examined the Allies attempts to beat Germany by destroying their economy and will to fight by dropping a shitload of explosives and incendiaries on their homes.

Overy covers pretty much all examples of strategic bombing on either side in the European theater (I was surprised he ignores the Pacific Theater, considering the U.S. firebombed Japan like crazy, and before that, Japan had carried out a few bombing raids against Chinese cities). Typically he assess the aggressor's approach, how that shifts over time, how the people in charge came to decide on the idea of bombing the populace, and how they justified its continuation. Then he'll look at what steps each country took to prepare for having their cities bombed, how well or poorly those preparations fared, and try to assess how the populace reacted to it, who they were angry at, what they were focused on. Those were often the most interesting parts, because the bombing often did not produce the responses either side was expecting

That the various bombing campaigns largely failed to achieve the goals their supporters claimed was not a surprise. I've read too many books already about how horribly inaccurate high-altitude bombing was in World War 2. Overy notes that during some of Britain's earliest nighttime raids against germany, their attacks were so inaccurate the Germans could not figure out what the British were trying to attack. So they concluded these were random attacks carried out specifically to terrorize the German populace.

Of course, then the British decided to just roll with their inability to hit anything smaller than a city, and opted to just target entire cities and bomb them, figuring hey, it kills Germans, that's good enough. I mean, the Americans were pretty inaccurate as well, but were in theory at least trying to hit specific targets they thought might hamper the German war effort, like oil refineries and railway hubs.

There are times I think Overy includes too much information, and I started to get bogged down in numbers that probably could have been summarized to the same effect. That said, he set out to do a thorough look at those bombing campaigns, and he did it. I learned a lot from it, so no complaints there. It could be a frustrating book for me to read, because the whole attempt to defeat another country by this method seems like such a waste of time and lives, something acknowledged by many of the people making decisions during the war, yet they kept doing it. Because they figured they had to do something, essentially. Also, there's a section in the chapters on bombing Italy that discusses how worried the Allies were about destroying some of the valuable works of art there, or possibly pissing off Catholics by bombing the Pope with mis-aimed bombs. It's like, sure kill children and nuns, but don't damage that statue!

'The destruction of Hamburg in an uncontrollable firestorm on the night of 27-28 July 1943 is often presented as if it were an accident, the result of exceptional meteorological conditions and the failure of German defences, and not a product of deliberate intention. This is to misunderstand entirely the purpose of the city-bombing campaign, which was predicated from the start on causing as much general damage and loss of life as possible by means of large-scale fires. The firebombing of Hamburg was not exceptional. Not for nothing was its vulnerability rated 'outstanding', it was expected to burn well.'

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Zorro 2.16 - The Gay Caballero

Plot: Once again, we open on Garcia and Reyes singing in the tavern, this time about how wine is the soldier's best friend. Then they are forced to perform their duties when the stage arrives, carrying one passenger with a lot of luggage, an Estevan de la Cruz (played by Cesar Romero). Estevan immediately makes himself a figure of interest, both by offering to by drinks for all the taverns' patrons, and by grudgingly showing Sergeant Garcia that he's carrying a small sack of jewels. Then he really gets Garcia's attention by stating he wants to stay in the de la Vega hacienda while he's in town, and he plans to simply take it over. He settles in comfortably, and while Garcia and Reyes dread the moment Alejandro returns and finds out, it turns out OK. Because Estevan is Alejandro's brother-in-law.

That night, at a party Estevan has cajoled Alejandro into throwing to welcome him, Estevan is quite busy trying to convince the wealthy landowners to purchase the jewels he brought. Or rather, he's showing them the jewels, then feigning as though he does not wish to sell them. Alejandro fears they're fakes, and that it would ruin the de la Vega name if Estevan succeeds, so he and Diego send Bernardo to swipe them. Only to find Estevan is even more nimble-fingered and stole them back. And now he's suspicious of Bernardo, though not of Diego or Alejandro. So, new plan: Have Zorro steal the jewels. Problem: there were two suspicious fellows at the party who saw the jewels as well, and they ambush Estevan and take the pouch first. Zorro finds Estevan unconscious, but that doesn't last, and soon the whole hacienda knows Zorro is on the premises. Which leads to him trying to keep the true thieves from departing, but having difficulty with both Garcia and Estevan. Eventually, though, Zorro is able to capture the thieves, swipe the jewels, and escape. Estevan takes it well, since he knows the jewels are fake, but also decides he likes it here and wants to stay a while.

Quote of the Episode: Corporal Reyes - 'Si. People can't help it if they have relatives.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (7 overall). On the coat of one of the thieves, with his whip, no less. Clearly he's gotten bored of leaving his mark with a sword.

Other: They dispensed with the theme song entirely this week. Just a few clips from the episode they were about to show, and then an announcer telling what show it was, and that it starred Guy Williams and Romero. I don't approve. I like that opening song.

The show only periodically uses Bernardo's skill as a pickpocket, but it does come up often enough that having him be outdone by Estevan tells us a bit about the man. That he's alert to that sort of thing, and can counter it, even while continuing his sales pitch to Don Marcos. Although the fact he's willing to let Marcos bid against himself for a fake diamond as a gift to his daughter, with no apparent compunctions, says a lot more about Estevan.

I'm a little surprised at Alejandro. I know it's necessary for him to be unwilling to confront Estevan directly, so that first Bernardo and later Zorro can take their turns. But it seems out of character for Alejandro not to speak his mind. Though again, the fact Alejandro is so afraid of Estevan's ability with words that it makes him hold back, says much about the guy's capabilities.

When they sent Bernardo off to swipe the pouch, He cracked his knuckles to show he was ready, then wagged his fingers at the pain. It made me think of that Simpsons joke about Bart's bones being brittle, despite his drinking plenty of malk.

So, just as with last season, the de la Vega's have another pushy houseguest. But Estevan might be even worse than the Eagle, both because he's not so evil they can justify running him through, and well, he's family. PLus, it might just be better to keep him close by, where they can keep an eye on him.

Friday, February 26, 2016

May's Looking Like The Last Quiet Month

May, much like April, looks like more of the same for me on the comics front. Wynnona Earp and Roche Limit will both still be partway through. There aren't any new series starting up at Marvel I'm pumped for.

Oh, but Civil War II will be starting, which means some titles are hinting at tie-in issues. Or maybe they were Avengers: Standoff tie-ins, which is only marginally better, if that. Why does Ms. Marvel want to test me like that?

Image does have Drifter coming back from what I presume was an artist's break. I haven't mentioned that one here before, but I did get the first trade a couple of weeks ago. There's a second volume, which would catch me up to the 11th issue, coming in May, but I haven't decided if I want to get it. The first five issues left me with mixed feelings. Oh well, three months to make up my mind.

Which leaves DC, with their Rebirth announcement. But until they actually announce who is writing and drawing all these books, there's not much to delve into. Even once they do announce the creative teams, we have to wonder if a) those announced will actually be on the books when they hit stands, b) are they going to stick for longer than the first story arc (which is what Marvel tends to do with their more high profile artists who are also slower than hell), and c) can DC avoid the sort of heavy-handed editorial interference that drove some of the talent initially enlisted for the new 52 off their books? Considering at least some of the brain trust behind that relaunch is in charge of this one, I have my doubts. Besides, even if Johns wants to bring back the legacies, there's no particular reason for me to think he's interested in the same characters that I am.

We'll start finding out next month, I guess.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Not-So-Smooth Criminal

Thief did not get off to a good start for me. I was barely through the opening tutorial mission - where Garrett squabbled with his old partner/protege Erin and then she fell through a skylight into the middle of a magic ritual and Things Went Wrong - and went into the inventory screen for a moment. Suddenly the screen looked like a kaleidoscope. Going back to the main screen didn't help. If I was looking at any sort of light source, the screen was basically unintelligible. I ended up having to quit playing for the night. That only happened one more time as I played through, though there was also a stretch where the sound stopped working, but it's not encouraging a game that's been out for over a year - is it two years now? - can still have a serious bug like that.

The story is that Garrett's been MIA for a year since that ritual, but has no clue where he was. The City is worse off than ever, and Erin is nowhere to be found and presumed dead. But he's still going to take jobs stealing things and, as usual, he ends up stealing something that could be very dangerous in the wrong hands, and then presenting it to said wrong hands. Then he has to try and steal everything back, or otherwise stop the plans. I think this is the basic plot of all Thief games. Garrett should probably just stop stealing anything that has even a whiff of mysticism around it. Or else steal it and give it to someone else.

They went back to first-person perspective, which is traditional for the games, but I've only played Thief: Deadly Shadows, which went with 3rd-person perspective, and I prefer that. I felt like I got surprised a lot. The fact the dialogue of characters around you is limited, and will repeat a lot doesn't help. Frequently a character would start saying something and then, somehow, their voice would start again with the same statement, while the first one was still going. Like a chorus of clones. Which made it a little hard to try using sound to judge where threats were, since I was busy trying not to be driven nuts by it. Not that it seemed to matter. Almost without fail, if I decided to knock someone unconscious, another person would come into view just then. If I watched a guard walk by, then waited, waited, waited for them to return, the moment I opted to break from cover, they'd come back around the corner and spot me. I started to suspect the game was just screwing with me.

I don't know what it is about these stealth games, but between this and Deus Ex, they really like making you ride in elevators. Spent a lot of time in those between these two games. Which is kind of lousy in a stealth game, because you're typically lit up like a Christmas tree, while trapped in a small box, with no idea what the game plans to have waiting for you at the bottom. Neither game was so cheap as to have well-armed guards just standing staring at the doors when you emerged, but I never felt I could rule out the possibility they would.

There are a few spots in Thief where you're encouraged to run. Like a brief scene where you just have to make a break for it with people chasing you and hope for the best. I guess it's supposed to be a change of pace, but the end result was I started to think of that as more of a viable strategy. I didn't feel like I had a good grasp on just how aware of their surroundings most of the people in the game were, I didn't trust I could knock out a guard without being spotted, or sneak through the shadows without someone conveniently passing by as I dashed through some light, so screw it, just run and hope it works out.

It usually didn't work out. Except that one time in the lowest level of the asylum. But that doesn't really seem like how I'm supposed to be playing it. I guess I needed to try throwing things to make noise to lure people away more often.

It would help if I had more faith in the controls. The left trigger is sort of a catchall action button. It makes Garrett run, or climb ledges if those are nearby, or use this claw tool he has to gain purchase on any number of convenient grates scattered around town for no apparent reason to reach higher ground. Except I would frequently scramble up to one of those, trying to make it to the roof before some guard turned around, hit the left trigger and. . . nothing would happen. Garrett stood their like a dope, me tapping the button frantically trying to get him to do what I wanted. More thought put into the control scheme wouldn't have hurt. I'd also have appreciated it if you could have more than one manual save at a time. Deadly Shadows let you save whenever you liked, as often as you liked, and you could keep all of them. So if it turned out your most recent save was in a bad spot, you could load an earlier one and try a different path. Here, the best you can hope for is there's a checkpoint save you can load instead.

Speaking of characters just conveniently popping up at the worst moments, the Thief Taker General. He's the chief of Watch, and he's a complete ass with a limp, a wrist crossbow, and an unfortunate hairstyle (big circular bald spot right on top). And he keeps popping up when you least want it to happen, when it doesn't seem as though he should. I could sort of see him being there when I try to rob the Great Safe, although, with a full-scale riot pulling down the tower we're in, shouldn't he have bigger concerns? And I'd only been back in town for a week, after a year absence, did he sit there every night waiting to see if I showed up? Then he's somehow in Baron Northcrest's basement lab, again, during a full-scale riot, and again one more time near the end of the story. Each time I'm wondering how this gimpy, loud, arrogant, very obviously part of the establishment asshole has made it this far without being killed by the crazy rioters who hate the establishment.

So I didn't really care much about the main story. The whole mess with the Primal, and Garrett trying to help Erin, maybe to make up for earlier mistakes. None of that really worked for me. I did enjoy the side jobs I could do for Basso, or just roaming the City stealing stuff. The level design allows for a fair amount of finding my own way, although some of the options require spending money to purchase wire cutters or a wrench. When possible, I tried to take the high road, since I figured there would be less guards up high. It didn't always work out, but sometimes it did.

One point in the game's favor, unlike Deus Ex, when Thief presents you with a boss fights, it does give the option to continue to play as I had up to then. When you face the Thief-Taker General the final time, it gives a choice to fight him, or just get around him and continue on your way. I opted to kill him, in part because I didn't figure I could stealthily avoid him, but also I was done with his shit. Plus, it was the same basic conclusion I came to in one of my early Dishonored playthroughs: If I was willing to kill some poor, nameless guard who just happened to be in the way and I couldn't render them unconscious without risking myself, why would I suddenly get merciful with this actual scumbag who abuses his power to make an entire city suffer?

I knew going in Thief had generally not gotten a good critical response from reviewers. I distinctly remember one review calling it a shambling mediocrity, so my expectations weren't high going in. But I've played games that were certainly mediocre before that I still enjoyed, so I had hope. And I did enjoy parts of this, but on the whole, I still felt let down.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Not One Of Marvel's Dracula's Better Moments

I bought Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet a few weeks back, in single issues. I'd been looking at the collection for awhile, but the price refused to drop, so I went the back issue route.

It was all right, not my favorite Deadpool story Duggan and Posehn wrote, but it worked well enough to get to the point of Deadpool and Shiklah being married. You can see the seeds of the current issues they're having, since they really only got married because Deadpool could not think of any other way to try and throw off Dracula's plan to kill Shiklah as soon as he married her and could claim her holdings as his. Shiklah and Wade had only known each other a few days, she knew no one else in the modern day, and they both enjoy sex and violence. It doesn't really seem like a combination designed for a lasting relationship, even before you get into Wade's shift in priorities with his finding his daughter Eleanor and deciding maybe he doesn't want to kill people as much as he used to.

As to the rest of the story, it felt overlong in places. I don't particularly care about the monster characters Duggan and Salva Espin would use again in Mrs. Deadpool and her Howling Commandos. Jack Russell and the Living Mummy don't interest me. The outright war between Shiklah's followers and Dracula's felt big enough it needed to be its own thing, rather than just a background. Wade calling in the Thunderbolts (that team Red Hulk put together with Elektra, the Punisher, etc.) made sense, but still felt like a needless, if brief distraction. The story got out of control, basically.

My favorite chapter was the one after all the fighting was over, of Wade and Shiklah just enjoying a day out on the town. Reilly Brown drew Shiklah wearing this little boater hat as the two left a Yankees' game that I enjoyed somehow. Then a cabbie nearly hit her and responded scornfully to her yelling. So then we got a panel of the cab upside-down and burning, with Shiklah in full monster form chasing the cabbie, while Wade laughs his ass off in the foreground. Which probably summarizes their relationship remarkably well, and made me laugh. Brown's art is strong throughout (although Scott Koblish has to draw a few pages near the end), and, as with Deadpool & Cable, there are some sequences in there surely designed for the digital format it was originally published in. I imagine the bit where Blade almost slices the top of Wade's head off, and over the course of three panels the cut gradually closes again looked pretty cool. It's still a good sequence as still images.

I was amused how, when Shiklah confronts Dracula (who she was supposed to marry, uniting their kingdoms), and tells him she and Deadpool already got married, thwarting Drac's plans, the vampire complains about being cuckolded by a lunatic. It didn't surprise me to see Dracula whining about that. It seems appropriately petty and stupid for the current iteration of Marvel's Dracula, certainly. He never cared about her, was going to kill her himself, and had already decided to toss even that plan out the window, and just wage open war upon her and her people. But he still can't tolerate the idea she slept with and married some other guy. Just a complete loser, who gets beat by Deadpool stabbing him in the chest with the bones from Wade's own severed hand. A far cry from the Dracula who forced Dr. Strange to use the Darkhold to destroy all vampires everywhere to defeat him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Bonus Army - Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen

The Bonus Army is a look at the overall history of that movement, stemming initially from the fact that the people who went overseas to serve their country in France got the short end of the stick economically, compared to how they would have done if they'd worked in a factory in the States instead. The best they could manage was, after five years of trying, a bill that agreed that veterans were entitled to $1 a day for service at home and $1.25 for service overseas over a two-year span of 1917-1919. This came out to about a $1000 on average per soldier. There was, of course, much handwringing about how the government could afford to pay - ignoring all the money they'd been doling out to companies in the form of massive war contracts - and some representative got it set up so the bonus could not be redeemed in full until 1945. Soldier could borrow against it until then, but the only way to get all of it earlier was to die, and then your family could have it.

In the early stages of the Great Depression, this lead to veterans marching on Washington to lobby for the immediate payment of the bonus. The Chief of police, a man named Pelham Glassford, busted his ass trying to help them find places to stay, and food, and the great majority of the men (and their families) behaved themselves, set up homes as best they could in cobbled together shanties. But the longer things went, the more people in the government got nervous, and the more impatient a few of the veterans got, and someone called the Army in, and that's how you get Army troops - commanded by Douglas MacArthur - firing tear gas at veterans and their families, or stabbing them with bayonets to get them moving (Patton was in charge of a cavalry group and boasted about that, because of course he did). That didn't end it, though.

I learned a lot of things I hadn't known, or had wrong. Like I thought MacArthur's troops had fired bullets, and killed people, but no, just tear gas. Two men did die, at the hands of police officers. But those officers were in the middle of being attacked and beaten by an angry mob. I still don't like MacArthur, who after driving out the veterans, held a press conference where he claimed most of the people weren't really veterans, just layabouts and bums, and Commies. Which is, of course, largely false, but you wouldn't have known it by what the Army, and men people in Herbert Hoover's office were saying.

I also didn't know that FDR tried to get the veterans into some of his Civilian Conservation Corps outfits, but in ones separated off from the rest of the population, which were mostly full of younger guys. Then a few hundred of those men died in a horrible hurricane on a Labor Day weekend, when the people who should have been getting them evacuated largely sat around twiddling their thumbs until it was too late. Just in case you thought the nation's trend of not looking after our veterans was a recent occurrence.

Anyway, there's a lot in here, as Dickson and Allen address things from the perspectives of several of the veterans, as well as government officials. They detail the efforts of some representatives to keep trying to get that bonus paid, and the maneuvering other politicians put in to block it without killing their election hopes. There's a lot about how the government twists facts and data, the uses the media to bolster their arguments (vastly overstating the influence of Communism among the Bonus Army). There's a bit in their about how the veterans' "Hoovervilles" in D.C. were largely integrated, despite the Army's contention that black and white soldiers couldn't serve together (a belief that was adhered to in the civilian work camps some vets would later join). If that could have been expanded on, I think it would have been good. Why it seemed to work there, but not in so many other places in the country.

'America's elected leaders were not disputing the veterans claim to back pay for wartime services. They just did not want to write the check.'

Monday, February 22, 2016

What I Bought 2/12/2016 - Part 3

It figures. I typed up that Foucault's Pendulum review the weekend before, but then it goes up, and Umberto Eco dies a day or two later, and now I look like a jerk, ragging on the guy's book right when he croaks.

Ms. Marvel #4, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - News flash! Ms. Marvel was able to prevent the Midtown bus from crashing into her logo this afternoon! Local protests emerged, demanding to know why she was impairing traffic.

Kamala's trying to keep too much in the air. Her grades are slipping, she's not making time for friends, she's exhausted and off her superhero game, the Avengers are doubting her (we'll come back to that), and now she's been drafted into heavy service for her brother's wedding. But Bruno's been fooling around with trying to replicate Loki's golems with his polymers and the 3-D printer, and Kamala gets the idea for him to make her some extra Kamalas, to cover for her in school or during wedding prep. An army of (extremely) low-rent Superman robots, essentially. Bruno has misgivings, but goes along with it, because it's Kamala, and things rapidly spiral out of control.

I have a bit of trouble with Sam Wilson being so quick to dismiss Kamala as "not being ready" because she had one bad night. I expect it from Stark - this is a man convinced of his own infallibility despite all evidence to the contrary - but I expected Sam would recognize that losing one fight doesn't mean someone can't hack it. Even Steve Rogers got beat down occasionally, or even just needed a hand. That's why he had partners like, gasp, Sam Wilson! So I don't entirely buy that side of this whole thing. That Kamala would be getting stretched thin, be getting tired, and that it would start to impair her ability to fight crime or do well in school, that all makes sense. I do question why her mother, knowing about Kamala being Ms. Marvel, isn't stepping in to try and at least lessen some of the burden with the wedding stuff.

So a couple of issues with the writing, in terms of how Wilson is trying to crank up the pressure on Kamala, but nothing too serious. I wasn't familiar with Nico Leon, but he's not a bad artist for the book. His faces and style remind me a bit of Alphona's, which isn't a bad thing. I was about to say "not as much background detail", but I noticed there's a raccoon with an ice cream cone hanging out on the docks during Kamala's less-than-successful mission there, so maybe I'm wrong. Also, the look on that one goons face when Kamala uses the stretchy leg kick was pretty good. Ian Herring's colors help to maintain the feel of the book with the artist shift. The pink glow he uses for the early day scenes at school, and the oranges for the afternoon are pretty consistent for this title, so that, combined with Leon using similar clothes designs for the characters to the other artists, so Herring can use similar colors there, helps keep the familiar feel. I don't think that's really giving Herring enough credit, but it's the best way of describing it I've got, that's there are certain tones and colors I associate with this book I my head, and those are due to Herring.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Have the squirrels form a giant ball to imprison your enemies? Another brilliant strategy! Unless, do they all just lay flat on the ground so Doreen can roll one down a hill, and they gradually collect into the ball and then smush the enemy?

In the present, Doom rules (and renames) all. In the 1960s, Doreen and the CS students try to stop Doom from winning in their time. While the CS kids try to cobble together some EMP generators, because Mary is sure she remembers how to build one, Doreen and Tippy try to find Doom's new hideout to steal his time machine. Both plans fail, the first because Doom builds his arm to be shielded from EMPs (unlike that dope Tony Stark), and the second because he also set his time machine to basically not function without a code sequence. Doreen futilely tries fighting him while convincing him to change his ways, which does eventually get him to stop whooping her butt and explain how awesome his way of doing things is. Then he resumes trying to kill her, only to be interrupted by that one guy we keep seeing back in the present, and an old Doreen in one of Doom's suits, on Doom's time machine.

So, how many squirrels did Old Lady Doreen stash inside that armor before traveling back in time? She did think to bring a squirrel army, right?

The whole bit where Doom calmly explains his thought process to Doreen was well done. Offhand it's like, "Oh that sort of makes sense, I see what he's saying about," then you see him taking it to an absolute extremity and it's like, "Yes, but it's also terrifying." Besides, I always enjoy scenes were Doom is cordial and willing to chat pleasantly. I love the yelling his name and swearing vengeance too, don't get me wrong. But those scenes where he turns on the charm, and you can see why some of his citizens legitimately love the guy, and why he's such an implacable enemy. That absolute conviction he's right, so that he doesn't even need to consider the viewpoints of others, and he just needs to keep moving forward to achieve his goals and everyone will see how much better off they are. It's hard to deal with someone like that. I can't see Doreen being able to redirect him with a nice speech. The panel of him holding out his hand to help Doreen up, then leading her around the room by it was a nice touch. Plays up Doom's ability to be civil, or adhere to his own ideas of courtesy or whatever.

I'm just gonna ask, was Doreen wearing a Vietcong Army outfit when she infiltrated Doom's new lair? Maybe it was supposed to reference something else - a martial arts movie I'm not thinking of? - but the all-black pajama look, that's what comes to mind for me. Kind of an interesting choice, if so, given Doom as the seemingly overwhelming technological power, and Squirrel Girl as the resistance to his attempts to dominate having to try and fight on her terms, not his.

One of you is going to tell me what the outfit was actually referencing in the comments, and I'm going to feel like a dope, I'm almost sure of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Zorro 2.15 - The Iron Box

Plot: We start with an opening shot from above, with us looking upon two blacksmiths, who we're soon to learn are Salvio and his son Eugenio. The shot pans to some suspicious types on a balcony, who observe Diego and Bernardo riding to the cuartel, to turn in their taxes. Sergeant Garcia is looking forward to getting all the taxes collected and shipped to the governor in Monterey, and has even gone to the trouble of commissioning a special case to transport the money, the iron box named in the title, which was built by the aforementioned blacksmiths. The box weighs a thousand pounds and has a huge padlock, with only one key, which Garcia is sending on the governor by special messenger tonight, since all the taxes were collected so swiftly.

But all is not well between the father and son. Eugenio badly wishes to rush to the tavern and see his lady, an older woman called Moneta. Salvio doesn't trust her, and tries to warn his son, but you can guess how well that goes. It turns out the old man's instincts are good, because Moneta is in league with the sinister men from the balcony, and was getting close to Eugenio so as to get a look at that key. Too late now, though. Or is it? Diego had, in jest, told the sergeant he should make a big presentation and speech out of the departure of the iron box, and so, the next day, Garcia does. And while showing off the padlock, he closes it, before putting it on the box. Oops. Fortunately, Salvio and Eugenio are able to create a makeshift key, get the padlock opened and back on the box. And Bernardo cleverly grabs the key and melts and warps it over the fire before Moneta's guys can grab it. Strike two for the bad guys, so their next brilliant plan is simply to take advantage of Garcia's overconfidence. Because of how tough the box is, he only sent a couple of soldiers as escort, and the goons are able to kill them swiftly. The driver of the carriage then detaches the wagon holding the box so he can escape, and the box goes tumbling into a ravine.

So Moneta lures Egenio out there and tries to force him to open the box, since he's such a great blacksmith and all. Oh, but he isn't actually a great blacksmith, he was just talking a lot of hot air. But he might make an effective lever on Salvio. As it turns out, Bernardo, Diego, Garcia, and Salvio had been celebrating the successful departure of the box for most of the day, and so Bernardo happens to be nearby when one of the goons come to get Salvio, and he sees them ride off. Recognizing it as one of the men too interested in that key, he warns Diego, and so Zorro arrives, just in time. Salvio had been resisting, but once they threatened to hurt Eugenio, he had given in. But with Zorro there to even the odds, the two are quickly able to subdue the bad guys, and Eugenio is able to keep Moneta from sneaking away. Salvio seems sure he and Eugenio can not only keep the bad guys under control, but get that box out of the ravine, so Zorro takes off.

Quote of the Episode: Salvio - 'I am a blacksmith. I have been burned before.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (6 overall). He carved it on the fabric of the villains' wagon with a hot poker.

Other: I wonder who footed the bill for that box? Given how much trouble the soldiers have just getting their pay, it's hard for me to see the cuartel having that kind of dough laying around. Although maybe all the payroll problems where the result of having so many crooks running things in Los Angeles. With no Monastario, or any agents of the Eagle purposefully mucking things up, it could be things are actually running the way they're supposed to. and I can't help noticing the taxes were all collected ahead of schedule, without any need to resort to jailing people or beating them up. Good work by the sergeant there.

Let's make sure to remember the whole reason the bad guys nearly got their hands on a makeshift key was that Diego had to go and suggest to Sergeant Garcia he make a big show of putting the money safely in the box. I appreciate the desire for transparency with the public, but if he hadn't been playing to the crowd, I'm pretty sure the sergeant wouldn't have goofed.

I'm not at all sure how Salvio and Eugenio are going to get that box out of the ravine on their own. It's upside-down and weighs a thousand pounds. For that matter, shouldn't someone let the sergeant know? I figured that's what the wagon driver was up to. He knew he could outrun the bandits' horses lugging that box, so he cut it loose so he could get help. But the bandits have enough time to lure Eugenio, try to force him to open the box, realize he can't hack it, then go get his father and bring him back and torture him futilely. Still, no one else knows anything is wrong. Did that soldier just cut and run entirely?

Friday, February 19, 2016

What I Bought 2/12/2016 - Part 2

I did end up not buying two books of mine that came out in the prior three weeks. Illuminati #4 because I missed it being listed in last week's releases, and Deadpool #7, because it was 10 bucks. I appreciate it's a larger than normal issue, but that's kind of a steep order. I try to stay below six bucks on individual issues, new or old. Maybe it'll drop in a few weeks.

Descender #10, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (illustrator), Steve Wands (letterer and designer) - I'm going to go ahead and judge by appearances and say those people don't seem friendly.

On the Machine Moon, the Hardwire are trying to be friendly to their new visitors, not that Telsa is making it easy. If UGC officer school had a diplomacy course, she flunked it. The Hardwire wants to hear more about TIM's dream, because they think it represents him having a connection to some server where the A.I.s of all the machines that have been destroyed are backed up. Quon insists it doesn't exist, but TIM is willing to be helpful. Elsewhere, Andy and his partners visit his ex-wife, who leads a group of cyborgs that live on a world hit the hardest by the Harvesters. We'll see if she chooses to be helpful or not. And the UGC has gotten concerned that TIM is somehow going to bring back those same Harvesters.

I'm not sure how to feel about Telsa. I don't particularly like her, but I'm not certain that's fair. It isn't just the gruff demeanor, it's that she doesn't show much common sense for someone who seems very aware of how vulnerable she is, surrounded by being she considers terrorists, who certainly don't want her going home and telling her bosses where they live. Does she try to play nice? No. When TIM asks her if he can go play with the other TIM, she gives him a gruff, "I'm not you mom, do what you want." Maybe you want to keep him liking you, since he's the only reason you aren't dead right now? For someone trying really hard to prove to her father she belongs, and to everyone else that she didn't achieve her rank because of her dad, she's doing a less-than-stellar job.

Interesting contrast in colors between worlds. The Machine Moon is almost all white, with just some faint pink hues in places (except for that sculpture garden, and I do wonder if Telsa's right to be suspicious of that). Sampson, the planet of the cyborgs, is all these heavy greys and blacks, with a few lighter shades, probably to represent a hazy dawn. It's almost the exact opposite. And then the UGC offices are all this light blue. I don't really know what the significance is of the differences. With the Machine Moon, to represent some sort of sterility in their thinking, or a lack of anything to hide or celebrate because their past is so brief. Could be for a general absence, or suppression of emotion. For Sampson, a ruined, patchwork world or horrors, with patchwork people trying to embrace their situation.

Nothing really new for me to report with this book. It's still pretty, but I'm still not sure whether I care about the characters enough to stay with it.

Henchgirl #4, Kirsten Gudsnuk - I was trying to figure that cover out, because it seemed different from the others, less funny and more of a pin-up. And then I noticed Mari's holding her friends security badge and it made more sense.

The Butterfly Gang steals some chemical with Coco claims will help them find the mole in their gang, though she's vague on the "how". Mari then lets it slip her roomie works at the lab in question, and is forced to steal her security badge to aid in the theft, Which leads to a lot of totally deserved yelling from Susan. Then the story shifts, as we learn Mari is actually the daughter of two superheroes, who have published a book about their career, and their other daughter, the really photogenic one who became a costumed crimefighter as well. Mary gets a little frustrated about being left out of the book entirely, and she and her friends end up at dinner with her family. Which has lots of tension and awkwardness, and then Tina lets it slip Mari's part of a criminal organization, and her mom kind of burns down the restaurant.

I hadn't expected that Mary's parents would have powers, let alone they'd both be well-known heroes. I had kind of assumed she got her powers by accident, which might explain her general lack of direction in doing much of anything with them. Although I could see how super-strength could be pain, since people would probably assume she was dumb, and just use her for her muscles. Like the Butterfly Gang. She really needs to just beat them up and take over. Make them do nice things, or else. Yeah, that sounds like a flawless plan.

Gudsnuk occasionally does these more realistic faces, or maybe more detailed is a better description, but she uses them to good effect. Mary's sad face when Susan was chewing her out, because it looks kind of awful, and crying shouldn't look pretty. Plus, she's trying to get her friend to let her off the hook, which Susan really shouldn't. Now the Gang knows Mari's friend works for Gaintech, what happens the next time they want to steal something from there? There was also that extreme close-up on her sister's teeth, which was kind of terrifying. Now I'm wondering if Photo-Girl is going to snap from the constant pressure of living up to her parents' public personas and expectations. Especially since Mary seems to have largely cut off contact entirely. Probably for the same reason.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco

Book #3 from my recent trip to the used bookstore. I bought it because the premise described on the back - three editors mash together all the awful manuscripts they've been getting about weird societies and things go wrong - sounded intriguing. I thought it might turn out to be a decent thriller, or maybe a sort of creeping horror story.

280 pages in, and Eco was still boring the crap out of me will multiple page discussions about Templars, and Rosicrucians, and the truth that exists if you can just rearrange everything in the Torah into it's proper order or whatever. It was Dan Brown mixed with all of Michael Crichton's worst info-dump tendencies.

There was at least some sense, at least for me, of a growing dread in the book. Maybe that was because Causabon was recalling all these past experiences that built to his present predicament with an eye for warning signs he should have seen at the time. But there's how certain names and people keep reappearing, at unexpected times. Like they'd never been gone, or they were shuttled off the stage on an endlessly rotating wheel, and eventually it cycles them back on. Like they're moving to a different type of time from the rest of us. That could be projection on my part. I was bored, I had to come up with something to keep me going with the book as far as I did.  They still hadn't actually begun work on The Plan, as it is endlessly referred to, didn't even seem close to it yet, really. Halfway through and still muddling about.

At a certain point, I couldn't handle any more of these visits to religious ceremonies the editors were making with someone who might or might not be the Comte de Saint-Germain. So that's 0-for-3 on the cheap paperback front so far.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What I Bought 2/12/2016 - Part 1

The store I buy from online got my books here faster than usual, but I still took my time getting around to reviewing them. Maybe they were trying to beat any President's day-induced mail delays. We're going to start things off with a couple of mini-series, one that's wrapping up, and the other that's in the middle of its story.

Atomic Robo: The Ring of Fire #5, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer/designer) - On the list of things you don't want to encounter in space, a multi-armed Nazi death machine piloted by a skull has to rank pretty high on the list. Probably between a Xenomorph and someone with bad flatulence.

Robo is able to trigger the space station's weapons before he and the aforementioned death machine start tearing the place apart in a fight that sends the station out of orbit and into the atmosphere. Robo is narrowly able to get into an escape pod before everything blows and/or burns up. Down on the surface, the lances succeed in tearing the Biomega island to pieces, before ULTRA can hit it with nukes and end all life on the planet, assuming that didn't happen because of the other countries that were ready to fire their own nukes because they didn't think ULTRA was using enough. After, there are congressional hearings! Which we only see briefly, but all the bullcrap laws that let ULTRA exist are repealed, and various science agencies around the world want to establish an organization of their own to share knowledge to better address problems. As it turns out, Broughton mission to visit ALAN's remains was to use it to devise a way to make Robo a new reactor core that would fit inside him, so I guess the Telluric Connector goes by the wayside for now. And Robo wants to get out of the Action Scientist business, and back into just science. Boooooo.

For all I wasn't enthused with the first issue, this wound up being really good, as usual. It drew together some prior stories - ALAN and Robo's struggles to live up to his father's hopes - kept a couple of other long-running subplots moving, with Majestic's leader still working behind the scenes. Gotta love a guy who sees accountability as hampering his goals. Always a good sign that the person in question knows they're going to fuck up, but wants to be able to do so as much and as badly as they please without consequences. And the story's set at least a few things up for down the line. What's the shift in priorities for Robo going to mean for Telsadyne? The Telluric Connector feels like something that can come back in a big way down the line, either as a solution, or a big problem. And there's still the question of where Jenkins is and what he's up to.

I like the whole fight between Robo and the station's watchdog outside the station, as it plummets. Especially that panel where the station is rushing towards Earth, but Earth is in the top two-thirds of the panel, so from our perspective everything is upside-down? Nice reminder of how disorienting it could be in space. Also, Clark's colors, so that everything starts glowing orange, then small flames start to appear, then everything's on fire. The brief bit where Robo's in the escape pod, but the death machine is holding the door open, and there's a silent panel of Robo just looking, and then in the next he's kicked it in the face to knock it away, and then slams the door. Wegener doesn't give Robo and particular expression. Not frustration or confidence, and Clevinger doesn't include any dialogue. But Robo's face is lit by that orange light of re-entry, so there's a sense he knows he's running against the clock. But he's very matter-of-fact about it. It's just another minor problem to be dealt with, I guess.

Deadpool and Cable: Split Second #2, by Fabian Nicieza (story/script), Reilly Brown (story/pencils/inks), Jay Leisten (inks), Jim Charalampidis (colors), Joe Sabino (letters) - Little surprised Cable still wears a watch. He must waste so much time setting it, with all his chronal travels. I know, I know, it's a Back to the Future homage, you don't have to tell me.

Wade and Cable's attempts to stop Split Second (the time traveler person) fail, repeatedly. But the traveler's plan isn't working either, so he keeps going back to a specific point and everyone tries again. Which just leads to total chaos, which Wade eventually is able to traverse and shoots Split Second in the back. Which causes a release of chronal energy which throws him and Cable into a future plagued by random time holes, caused by the work of the guy who was designing the time harness in the first place and apparently continued to work on it after his son was accidentally shot by Wade at the end of last issue. Cable's mind is completely breaking down, so Wade ventures into Timeverse's HQ, and fights some weirdo in another version of the time harness, who seems to be talking in reverse. Who turns out to be him, tasked by the Time Variance Authority to kill Cable so save time.

Right. That's why we're trying to kill Cable.

So it's silly. Not a surprise. I can't decide whether I can make heads or tails out of the time travel or not. The stuff going on with "Loop" as they were calling the Deadpool in the time harness took me awhile to follow, but as for what's going on with Cable, I'm pretty well lost. then again, I'm pretty sure the disembodied head claiming to be the head of the TVA is actually Digital Scientist Guy. And I feel like the TVA is bigger and more multiversal spanning than that. Not that Deadpool would know that.

I'm still curious how this reads as a digital comic. There's certain things to how panels are laid out that makes me think they were designed to take advantage of that. I feel like in panels where Split Second is popping in, you'd probably see the panel, then he'd appear in it a moment later. And I feel like that panel of Loop doing the mid-air spin with his energy sword to cut through the drones was probably animated, and looked pretty awesome. Heck, it looks awesome as a still image on paper. The shade of red Charalampidis used is really nice.

I'm clearly still a target audience for Nicieza's humor. Wade's solution to the problem being to just chuck an armful of grenades, while Cable exclaims, 'Are you insane?' That should have been the first sign something was wrong with Cable's brain, because he already knows something is wrong with Wade's. Also, 'Let go of my flaming scimitar of temporal cleavage now!' 'Better men than you have tried to make me let go of my cleavage!' Ha! I'd laugh harder, but I'm coming down with something and it makes me cough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I Can't Forget To Mention This

This is your official two months away heads up for the 2016 Cape Girardeau Comic Convention! I didn't attend last year's, because I decided to hang out with my friend and help him with all the work-related crap he had going that weekend instead, so I can't speak to how that one went. I still feel confident in saying I made a mistake, and should have gone alone.

That won't be a problem this year! I'm prepared to go if I have to tell my bosses I have pancreatic cancer to get out of any weekend work crap. I may also be willing to get pancreatic cancer to really sell it. Then it's not lying, just a poor life decision.

It looks like they're still adding guests and vendors on the web site, since I checked early last week, and Rich Burchett wasn't there then, and he is now. Maybe I can ask him to draw Night Thrasher again, like I did at Project Comic-Con in 2012, and see if he reacts incredulously again! One thing I've enjoyed about Cape Con over the years is that, for the size of it, I think it has a lot of smaller press and independent press artists and writers, and that seems to be the case again this year, judging by the list of them on the vendors page.

Anyway, now that you've been reminded, there's no excuse for not making some reservations to be there April 16th and 17th.

Monday, February 15, 2016

There's A Review In All This Somewhere

Calvin: {Did I go to see Deadpool opening night? Of course not, don't be silly. Did I go to see the earliest possible showing of Deadpool on Saturday? Yes, yes I did. And now I'm going to tell you all about it, and then you won't have to go- *audible sound of gun cocking*

I mean, I'm going to tell you about it so you can decide if you'd like to go see it or not.}

Deadpool: [Better. Now spoiler warning this post, cubby.]

Clever Adolescent Panda: Yeah.

Calvin: {What are you doing? He's holding a gun on me!}

CAP: People who don't give spoiler warnings are the biggest jerks!

Calvin: {I never said I wouldn't! Spoiler warning! Spoiler Warning! Please Heed this SPOILER WARNING!, my life depends on it! I know Barry Allen asked you to read something once to save him, and maybe you said you'd never listen to one of those pleas again, but seriously, I'm so much better and more interesting than Barry Allen. Not more interesting than Wally West, but Barry? Absolutely.}

Deadpool: [Plain oatmeal drying on stucco is more interesting than Barry Allen.]

CAP: *nods sagely*

Calvin: {OK, so the short review is - and keep in mind this is not terribly objective, even if the title character wasn't standing right here with a firearm - I liked it a lot.}

Deadpool: [Whew! That is such a relief.]

Calvin: {Sure, I probably had a fairly low bar set for it, like I do with most comic book adaptation movies. Batman and Robin will always cast that long shadow over my expectations. Plus, just the general rule that most things in any form of entertainment are terrible. Spurgeon's law or whatever. But I really did have a good time, and judging by the amount of laughter in the audience - pretty decent crowd, too - so did a lot of other people. Oh, and one more time for the cheap seats: SPOILER WARNING! I'm not sure when things considered spoilers will start, but they certainly exist in this review somewhere. You were warned, so no bitching afterward.}

Calvin: {It is definitely an R-rated movie, though. There's dismemberment, lots of profanity - maybe even too much, I thought Deadpool was forcing it a bit near the end - nudity - both male and female, for those of you who wanted see Ryan Reynolds with no pants, congratulations! It's your Christmas!}

Deadpool: [There was not nearly enough nudity. I go pantsless way more than that.]

Calvin: {Not on this blog, and certainly not when the panda's around.}

Deadpool: [Did you take the little one with you?]

CAP: *pouting* No he didn't. He went alone! Jerk.

Calvin: {*laughs nervously* Ha, ha, yeah, I just forgot to call.}

*Flashback to last week. Calvin is backed up against a wall, Intimidating Mama Panda glowering at him.*

Calvin: {OK, OK, I promise, I will not take the kid to see Deadpool! I swear! Just don't tear my face off.}

*flashback ends*

Calvin: {Ha, ha, yeah, just plumb forgot, is all. Where was I? Oh, and so many jokes about masturbation. Seriously, if they got 50 bucks for each one, they could probably cover the budget of the film right there. I'm surprised they didn't do a product placement for some lotion or something. They've plastered Wade's (masked) face all over the place.}

CAP: Ew.

Deadpool: [I sent them notes! But I think my mail gets stopped because all the explosive residue sets off the bomb-sniffing dogs.]

Calvin: {If I were going to compare it to something readers of this blog might know, I'd say it's kind of like Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Marvel Knights Punisher run. With the Russian, and all the kind of dark humor and cartoon violence. But maybe both a little sillier and a little bloodier than that, though it's been awhile since I read those books, I may not be giving Ennis and Dillon enough credit. It is definitely not a superhero movie that takes itself too seriously, if that was something you were worried about. I'm not sure why you would have been, I feel the marketing has been clearly indicating that, but just in case.}

Calvin: {They've been doing some of the marketing for the film portraying it as a romantic comedy, and it does have elements of that. Boy and girl meet, bond over seeing who had the worse childhood, as well as having sex on holidays in ways that were thematically appropriate. Boy contracts cancer pretty much everywhere. Relationship is strained, they're separated but still love each other. Tragedy forces him to get over his whinging bullshit and go be with her. Swelling music*pauses, looks at Wade expectantly*}

Deadpool: [*looks over from staring out the window at the snow* Oh, right! Not the only thing swelling!]

CAP: *Shakes head*

Calvin: {You can't miss your cues like that. C'mon, maximum effort, right? When did that become your catchphrase anyway? Is that a Joe Kelly thing I just missed? Anyway, I did actually buy into Wade and Vanessa's relationship, though she doesn't get a whole lot to do. Kind of falls out of the movie as an active presence once Wade goes to be a guinea pig, until near the end. Might have been good to check in occasionally and show what she was doing while he was off suffering from Ajax' tender mercies. She did get to save 'Pool's bacon at one point.}

Calvin: {Actually, I enjoyed that whole final action sequence. There were two different spots, within a couple of minutes, where I thought there were going one way, and then went another. For one, I thought Wade was going to get so hung up on killing Ajax/Francis that he forgot about Vanessa. Mostly because I don't expect Deadpool to get happy endings. But the first chance he gets, he takes steps to make sure she doesn't die. So that pleasantly surprised me. Also, I liked Deadpool/Colossus/Negasonic Teenage Warhead as a trio. I thought Reynolds and Brianna Hildrebrand, who plays Negasonic, had a good back-and-forth. Colossus gets to be the role model one, exasperated by Deadpool's immaturity, and she gets to be the one who thinks Wade's just a moron, and calls him on some of his stuff, but grudgingly accepts he can be OK, sometimes. Admittedly, Colossus gets stuck as a total square, the kind of square-jawed, "Drink your milk, kids" type people think Captain America is sometimes. So he ends up the butt of a few jokes, and oh crap, I'm the Colossus in this group, aren't I?}

CAP: It sure sounds like it.

Deadpool: [Yeah, obviously. And I'm Negasonic Teenage Warhead!]

CAP: No, you're Deadpool, Deadpool.

Deadpool: [That's boring. And I want a cooler codename!] 

Calvin: {Wait, I can't be Colossus. I've never tried to be a role model in my life. That's the panda's job, to be the mature one in the bunch! I'm all about long silences, punctuated by sarcasm. So that makes me Negasonic Teenage Warhead! Whoo! Whoo! In both your faces! Wait, why am I so excited to be a teenage girl?}

Deadpool: [Sounds like you need a session with Dr. Deadpool, Surprise Psychiatrist. Just lay down on my couch. . .]

Calvin: {NO. Back on topic. So, yeah, the interplay between the three was enjoyable, everyone takes a turn getting poked fun at, because no one in this movie is going to escape a little of that. The world this movie inhabits doesn't play favorites that way. I liked how the first third, half, of the film was set up. Rather than the more standard origin film approach of showing us Wade, then the cancer, then the experiments, then, tada! Deadpool, it starts with an action sequence in the present, which it occasionally takes a break from to flashback to the earlier stuff, and the flashbacks gradually catch up to the present. It probably helps as a way to compare and contrast Wade Wilson with Deadpool, and it keeps the movie from getting too bogged down in the more slow-paced stuff from the past. I think they understood their audience was going to want action sequences.}

CAP: I love action sequences. Why didn't you bring me along again?

Calvin: {Because your mot- because I forgot! I forgot! Hahahah! That's entirely why! I kind of hate to say this, but I feel like the film could have been a little longer. It isn't one of the 150 minute things Marvel tends to pump out, it's about 105 minutes, and it feels longer, there's a lot in there, but there were some places I thought they could have used a little more. Like the relationship between Deadpool and Blind Al. I kind of expected some sort of scene where we see what the two of them get out of the whole thing, beyond someone to split the rent with, and it never really materialized. That's me projecting a bit based on what I know from Joe Kelly's work with the characters, and it doesn't get anywhere near as dark as that did, which is good, but I think a couple more relatively brief scenes might have done it.}

Deadpool: [What about our touching scene on the couch?]

Calvin: {The one where you kept creeping her out with your baby hand? That's the closest I saw, but it kind of got short-circuited. Maybe what I'm looking for would have broke the tone of the movie entirely, which would have been jarring, I'm not sure. I just kind of expected Al was there for more than strictly jokes about the old blind lady arguing over furniture with the lunatic.}

CAP: They argue over furniture.

Calvin: {Like a married couple. It's almost sweet. I've been wavering on whether the last bit of the movie, the lead up to the final battle, seemed rushed. It kind of did, but I think it's because so much of what set it up was at the very beginning, and then interspersed between the flashbacks. So maybe the structure of the film messes with the pacing.}

CAP: You just said you liked how they did the first part!

Calvin: {I know, but I can't shake the feeling the pacing was off, and I wonder if trying something somewhat different from the conventional cape comic movie story structure is the culprit. I'd really need to watch it again.}

CAP: Great! take me this time.

Calvin: {No, because you mother will take my face off, and I'm not prepared for that.}

CAP: I knew you didn't forget! Darn it, mom!

Deadpool: [Might be an improvement.]

Calvin: {Thanks, Wade. That means a lot coming from you. Let's see, what else to discuss? Ed Skrein and Gina Carano as the villains were OK. There's not much to them. I guess Ajax is supposed to be a guy who lost his ability to care about the suffering of others when he lost his ability to feel anything. I'm not sure how heightened reflexes and not being able to feel convert to strong being strong enough to pick up a guy by the neck with one hand and hold him a foot off the ground. Even if you can't feel your muscles complaining, if they can't do it, they can't do it. But he does provide for a bit of contrast to Wade. Guy who can't feel, but can still be killed, who doesn't care about causing pain, and the guy who can recover from almost anything physically, but it all still hurts, and he doesn't necessarily enjoy causing pain. Unless the people are bad guys, and he hates them. Because Wade doesn't always rise above his based impulses.}

Deadpool: [Base impulses are fun!]

CAP: Come on Wade, be a hero. Take the high road.

Deadpool: [Now don't you start with that!]

Calvin: {Carano didn't get even that much to work with. I would have at least liked to know why she kept matches all the time, but we didn't even get that. Did she keep lighting Ajax' hair on fire as a joke, and that's why he shaved it? We don't know. So little more time fleshing out the villains wouldn't have hurt, but I guess they're mostly just another obstacle in the love story. A problem to be overcome so our beautiful protagonists, er beautiful protagonist, and her kind of messed up boyfriend, can be reunited. If you're being generous. I really enjoyed the soundtrack. I never got the hullabaloo over the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, because none of it was music I have any particular fondness for. I'm not even saying I loved that many of the songs in this one, taken strictly as songs.}

Deadpool: [Not even the cool rap about me in the middle?]

CAP: You got your own rap song?! Damn it, I want to see this movie!

Deadpool: [With a potty mouth like that, your mother will never let you go.]

CAP: Wade, don't mock me. . .

Calvin: {The rap about you, and the whole costume design/tracking down the bad guys sequence was great. I would watch the movie again, just so I could pay more attention to the lyrics. I was kind of distracted by the violence. I meant that none of them were songs that I would normally consider favorites or anything. But I liked the variety, the sappy stuff in happy moments, some of the choices during your time being experimented on, which were kind of bizarre at first glance, but make sense if I figure Ajax is enjoying the hell out of this, and that it's an awful nightmare you can't escape from. And that you had music picked out for a slow, badass walk sequence.}

Deadpool: [Oh. Well, good.]

Calvin: {Weird thing. That WHAM! song that plays in the movie, when I stopped at a grocery store for bananas and soda after the film, it was playing in there, too.}

Deadpool: [Sounds like we're definitely in the Matrix.]

Calvin: {If we were, you'd tell me right?}

Deadpool: [Sure, absolutely. . . Probably not, assuming they fixed my face and gave me a nice job.]

CAP: Wade, don't be Joe Pantoliano.

Calvin: {He could do worse than being Joe Pantoliano.}

CAP: Well, that's true. This is really running on. Do you want to try summing it up?

Calvin: {Sure? Anything's worth a try. Enjoyable movie, could have stood to develop some of the other characters a little more, lotta funny parts, depending on your sense of humor. There is an end credits sequence, if you want to stick around for that, and a Stan Lee cameo, if you care. Definitely don't take small kids to it. Or if you do, at least don't try and pin the blame for doing so on me.}

CAP: Sounds solid.

Calvin: {I left the movie and ran across the parking lot, I was so pumped after seeing it.}

CAP: You run a lot though.

Calvin: {But not enthusiastically.}

CAP: Oooh, good point. You really did like this.

Calvin: {A hell of a lot more than the last film I saw in theaters. Spectre can choke on my monumental indifference.}

Deadpool: [Do you think I'll win any Academy Awards?]

Calvin: {Have you started campaigning, sending bribes to whoever the hell it is votes on those things?}

Deadpool: [No, do you mean like, threatening to kill them? Or offering to kill people for them for a reduced rate? I offered to kill some people for Meryl Streep, she says she takes care of her own business.]

CAP: She's so cool.

Deadpool: [I know! Maybe I can get her to play Cable!]

Calvin: {Based on those responses, I think you're out of luck.}

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zorro 2.14 - The Runaways

Plot: We return to Los Angeles, and inside the church we find two youngsters, Buena and Romaldo, standing before the padre, ready to be wed. But wait, while Buena has brought a letter from Diego, stating his assent to this event, Romaldo has forgotten his letter from Senor Yorba. So no marriage for them, as they're both indentured servants, and their masters have to give written authorization for them to marry.

This is going to be one of those episodes with some antiquated bullshit that's going to be hard to slog through.

As it turns out, Romaldo doesn't have the letter, because Yorba refused to give permission, and now Romaldo's a runaway. On cue, Yorba and his head vaquero, Lazaro, ride into town, and tell Sergeant Garcia to be on the lookout for Romaldo. Almost immediately Garcia finds them, but while he catches Buena, he then loses her when he goes to pursue Romaldo, and they both escape. Diego and Bernardo soon arrive in town, only to have Garcia break the bad news. Buena is doing her best to try and reach the inn unnoticed, but runs smack into Lazaro, who fancies her himself. He's getting pretty grabby when thankfully, Diego comes along, and then Yorba comes in, and he says he refused Romaldo's request because he believes once the two kids are married, they'll break their contracts and flee into the hills to rejoin their people. Wonder who gave Yorba that idea *looks at Lazaro*? The party splits up, and Diego almost immediately encounters Romaldo, and easily disarms him. He tries talking to him, but Romaldo flees, minus his knife, though Diego still covers for him when Garcia comes by.

This does not stop Romaldo from trying to take Diego hostage in his own home later that night. But Bernardo is able to distract the boy, and Diego relieves him of the knife again. Diego again tries reasoning with the young man, but it's Buena stating outright that, surprise!, she doesn't want them to spend their lives on the run that convinces Romaldo to return to Yorba and finish the two remaining years of his contract. Of course, once he gets there, Yorba has to be a high-handed dick, adding a year of service on the spot, barring Romaldo from going to town, and taking his knife and giving it to that shithead Lazaro, who he puts in charge of Romaldo. 5 seconds later, Lazaro's tried to push Romaldo around, only to get his ass beat, and the boy takes to the hills again. So Lazaro rides to the de la Vega home, and concocts some story for Buena about Romaldo being hurt, so she'll return there with him. Deigo learns this from Bernardo, and that means Zorro's on his way.

Back at Yorba's place, it seems Lazaro's finally overstepped his bounds, as even Yorba agrees he's gone too far trying to use Buena as bait to lure Romaldo back. But at this stage, Lazaro's through taking orders. too bad Zorro's behind him with a sword. Or maybe not, because Lazaro's able to kick the door shut in Zorro's face, giving him long enough to make a stab for Yorba. But Buena takes the hit instead, letting Zorro get in and toss his sword to Yorba (Z's also carrying a dagger). So Lazaro tries to cut and run, but Zorro chases after him and drags him off his horse with a whip. They fight a bit, Zorro wins, and brings him back to Yorba. By that time, Romaldo's heard Buena's there and has arrived, but is talked down from attacking Yorba, who has decided to consent to the kids getting married, and reduced the term of service back to two years. Aw, what a sweetheart.

Quote of the Episode: Yorba - 'I do not debate with servants.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (5 overall).

Other: Shocking lack of awareness by Diego, to be taken unaware in his own home by this awkward teen. It was funny, though, how easily he disarmed Romaldo both times.

It wasn't exactly Zorro's finest showing, either. He kind of looked like a dope, letting Lazaro kick that door in his face. And during their struggle at the end, he does this headfirst slide down the hill, and probably should have been knifed in the back by the waiting Lazaro, if the vaquero hadn't botched the timing. It was just a really poor plan of attack.

There's a lot in here that doesn't age well. Romaldo and Buena having met in the mission school, which I'm sure they attended entirely voluntarily and with eager, informed consent of their parents, and surely it did not involve them being taken away by force or under duress. And that having been "sponsored" by Yorba and Alejandro, they are now required to work for those guys as indentured servants for three years (they've already finished one year when the episode takes place). And they can't even get married without approval from those guys. It's not an age thing, it's a, "you're still my property" thing. And sure, it's nice Diego has no objections, and was even going to be there as a witness, but Diego believes in love. But the system is still a load of crap, and he doesn't seem to have any particular objection to it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Musing on a Poll

I was looking over Comics Should Be Good's master list from their Top Marvel and DC Characters poll, since Brian Cronin expanded the list to show the top 100 votegetters from each universe. That added 3 characters from my DC list, on top of the 4 that landed in the top 50. It brought in 2 from the Marvel side as well, on top of the 5 that were in the Top 50.

Although only one of my DC characters was in the top 30 (Tim Drake), Marvel had 4 (which I'm being vague about because I still haven't unveiled that modified favorite characters list, and look, some of the images I tried to get didn't come out as well as I hoped, so there's some delays. Get off my back, man!). Which doesn't exactly surprise me. I've recognized for awhile that my favorite characters from DC are not the iconic ones. More frequently they're the second-stringers, which is fine, but it also means they can go through long stretches of inactivity, or get really bogged down by just a couple of bad stories, since there are so many fewer comics featuring them to wash it out.

It's interesting watching the shift in where characters place over time. I was surprised to see that Richard Rider (Nova) is still making the top 40, even though he's been dead since late 2010. He really hasn't dropped that much from his placement in the mid-20s back in 2007's poll. Rocket Raccoon, has jumped almost 100 spots from 2007 to 2015. I'm more surprised he didn't make the top 50 than that he's climbed that far. Starfire jumped about 30 spots from 2011 to 2015, but all my other DC characters in the top 50 slipped around 10-15 spots. But Tim's not even calling himself Robin anymore, he's wearing a lousy costume, and mostly relegated to Titans' books. I feel like the reception to a lot of Power Girl's appearances since the new 52 haven't exactly been glowing, and Stephanie Brown was absent entirely for the first 3 years of the new 52, which doesn't help.

I'm a little disappointed Arcade can't get in the top 100. I shouldn't be; he finished in a tie with a bunch of other characters for 430th place back in 2007 (when we got to see every character that got even one 10th place vote), so it wasn't likely he'd surge that far, but I guess I figured more people liked him than that. Even Ben Reilly managed to finish in the top 100, although not as high as he did in 2011..

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In the Days of the Comet - Jules Verne

It's been years since I read any Jules Verne. In fact, if you don't count the Illustrated Classics, I think the only actual book of his I might have read is the sequel he did to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, which was, junior high, maybe? For a dollar, this seemed worth a try.

A comet heads right towards Earth, and strikes the planet. The Earth is not destroyed, because the comet just spreads a greenish mist over the world, and everyone collapses for a few hours (so some people die because they fall facefirst into soup, or they were driving at the time, or in surgery). When people wake up, they're different. They still have a lot of the same ideas and feelings, but they can recognize all their more toxic impulses that were holding them back. Resentment, selfishness, greed, hate, fear, all that stuff. And since everyone can see this now, everyone agrees to work together and they make a better, freer, world, or something to that effect.

I think I was expecting something different, more akin to 20,000 Leagues or Journey to the Center of the Earth, where the comet would hit, and the world would be changed in very obvious physical ways. Strange new animals and plants, stuff like that. Not that the world would become some utopian, free love paradise. Because Verne focuses a fair amount on that. How in this new world, it is perfectly fine to love more than one person romantically, and to be open in your feelings about one person you love to another, and everyone is cool with that, and just want each other to be happy, so everybody just loves each other. He doesn't really address what happens if it only runs one way, though.

Also, he spends the first 60% of the book on the world prior to the arrival of the comet, mostly on the life of the main character Willie Leadford, who is mostly obsessed with the fact a young woman he was in love with, and who had agreed to marry him (though neither had discussed this with their families), had fallen for another man. A man of property and social status, and Willie is already bitter and angry about his lot in life and the income disparity that exists in their world. He spends a significant portion of the book hunting down the two lovers so as to kill them. That got extremely tedious after a very short time.

I'm not so sure about this great new world the author describes, either. He talks about how everyone just agrees to tear basically all the homes, all the factories, the railway lines, and then essentially start over. And people will mostly live in tents until then. And everyone decides there's a lot of junk cluttering things up, so they just burn it all. Burn leather boots, burn furniture, smashed marble statues into useful lime, burned paintings, burned books. Because it's all just useless trash, right? Generally speaking, when your society decides burning books is a good idea, I'm inclined to think it's a stupid, shitty society (he says they saved a few things, the classics, however that's defined, but there was probably some good stuff unappreciated in its time they destroyed). The basic idea seems to be, people will never go back to being like they were when they created those things, so we don't need them. There's nothing to learn from history, because the comet's put something in the air that will always keep people in this honest, open state. Which seems a dubious line of reasoning to me.

And I wonder what would happen to someone who was content to be alone, in their own place. Because certainly there should be some people like that. Before the change, Willie loved Nettie, and he still did after the change. The difference was, after he could see how he was trying to possess her all to himself (as he says society teaches men to try and do), and he couldn't get over that and his own hang-ups and bitterness about his lot in life. Now he can, and he still loves her, but he realizes that it's fine if she or he love other people, too. So there must be some people that were content alone before, and find after the comet they're still content alone. maybe it was originally motivated by fear, but they find they like it. Are they left alone? What if the great new society decides they need the land where that person lives? Are they right back to kicking people out for some "the greater good"?

There are some very nice ideas in the book, and it's more than a little depressing that the societal ills and class issues Verne talks about are, if anything, even more pronounced today than they were 110 years ago when this was originally published. But there are some aspects of his vision I can't quite go with, perhaps because they get a relatively short shrift so he can focus overmuch on Willie's issues.

'I perceive that I was an evil-tempered, ill-disposed youth with a great capacity for hatred, but -

There was an excuse for hate.

It was wrong of me to hate individuals, to be rude, harsh, or vindictive to this person or that, but indeed it would have been equally wrong to have taken the manifest offer life made me, without resentment.'

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fight For Your Right To Have Cybernetic Parts. Or Not.

I bought this triple pack of stealth games a few weeks back. I figured three games for 20 bucks was worth a try. It was mostly for Thief, but I'd heard enough things to suggest the game wasn't very good. I needed something else to encourage me, and two extra games must have been enough. I didn't start with Thief though, I started with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It was the game on top of the stack of discs.

So in Deus Ex, there's been progress in augmenting humans with cybernetic enhancements, though there is much protest and argument about this on a number of different grounds. Adam Jensen works as security officer for a top company in the field, their research division headed by his ex, Megan Reed. A group of augmented people attack their labs, appear to kill Megan and her team, and nearly kill Adam. He may not have read his contract closely enough, because his boss goes ahead and rebuilds him and Adam's back as security officer, dealing with continued attacks on the company, which lead him down a trail as to who was behind the first attack, and what they were after.

In any given level, the game is pretty good about giving you options on how to proceed. You can try sneaking from one piece of cover to another, you can knock out or kill guards, either silently or loudly (I like that one version of a silent takedown is Adam grabbing the target by the shoulder to turn them, then punching their lights out. If I had metal fists, I would punch stuff a lot, too). Not sure why silent takedowns use up energy the same as the cloak, it's a real disincentive to use them. You can hack computer terminals or look around for pocket secretaries with relevant passwords stored on them. Crawl through vents, creep along girders up in the shadows. There are a ton of different directions you can go with upgrading yourself. Make it so you can hack more difficult systems, or reduce the chance you'll be detected. Be able to see through walls, or fall from any height unharmed. There's a cloaking device, or the ability to breathe toxic fumes and remain unharmed.

All of this seems pretty good, and then you get to the boss fights. The first one, it's a big guy with a hand that retracts and is replaced with a mini-gun. I had put all my upgrade points thus far into hacking, and the cloak, and was packing a 9mm silenced pistol and a stun gun (a lot of office workers have stun darts in their desks for some reason). I tried cloaking myself and sneaking up on the guy for a stealth Takedown. He very casually turned around, grabbed me by the throat, and punched half my life off. Then I had to sit there and watch while my character staggered to his feet as the boss' fist retracted and the mini-gun came out, and he opened fire at point blank range. That was frustrating.

The boss fights are all just you shooting the hell out of your enemies until they die (that's not an image of a boss fight, fyi, just a "got spotted and decided to shoot it out rather than run" moment). You can't hack them, avoid them, or knock them unconscious. Just kill them. There's an Achievement for going through the entire game without killing anyone, and it specifically says bosses don't count towards it, which seems like a design flaw. It feels at times like the game is going to give you the option, but it doesn't. At the end of the second boss battle, another character asks if you'll save the boss as she bleeds out, and Adam says he'll think about it. I expected this meant the game would let me choose. It ended up I sat and watched a cut scene, it ends and whoops, the boss has finished bleeding out. Oh well, guess I'm not saving her. So the game gives you options on how to play, until it doesn't, at which point you're forced into one particular approach that largely runs counter to the rest of the game.

It's also a little odd that you can read all sorts of random notes and e-mails on computers you hack, many of which give you strong hints about plot developments, but Adam never reacts to them. SPOILER: It was pretty obvious Megan wasn't actually dead, just based on how it was presented and how the characters discussed it. But even ignoring that, during my playthrough I read a ton of things that really strongly pointed to, if not outright said, Megan wasn't dead. But Adam never seems to have read these things as the story progresses. Though he doesn't seem terribly bright. There were at least two or three occasions he would be talking with someone, and it was incredibly obvious they were putting him on, and he was caught flat-footed every time. If this guy was a cop, he definitely wasn't one of the ones with that honed ability to read people.

In general, the story didn't succeed in making me care about the things I think it wanted me to. I think I'm supposed to care about what happened to Megan, and I was curious about what made her a target specifically, in the sense of wanting to know what I'd be fighting. But I'd spent about 5 minutes in game with her prior to her removal, so I didn't care about her the way presumably Adam was meant to. You know who I cared about? Faridah Malik, the pilot that ferried me around. We chatted a bit, I bounced some ideas off her, got up to speed on things I'd missed, and helped her out with something personal at one point. Her I liked. When she got killed, that really bothered me, because the game took the time to actually establish her as a character. Shocking, I know.

It bothered me even more when I went online and realized if I'd been more aggressive in fighting our attackers I could have saved her, but I'd been opting for an avoid conflict approach up to then, and kind of defaulted to it. If I do a replay at some point, I intend to rectify that mistake.

Overall, it's a frustrating game. There's some solid stealth gameplay, and a few characters and storylines that get fleshed out sufficiently to find engaging. But the game seems to struggle with how much freedom of movement it wants to give the player. Sometimes there are lots of options, but then they'll restrict your choices, and it feels off compared to the rest of the game.

Oh, one last complaint. It is incredibly stupid that Adam can't hack a computer without standing up. There were so many times I crept up to a computer to turn off security measures, and ended up getting shot because Adam stands up like a fucking moron to type when there are guards around. All the computers have monitors that are adjustable, there's no reason he couldn't turn the screen to face down towards him while he stays hidden behind the desk. It's either lack of thought by the game designers, or they did it purposefully to screw the player. The old "dopes or jerks?" conundrum.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Say Hello to the Hit Man - Jay Bennett

The result of my finding yet another used bookstore in the general area, along with some other books I'm sure we'll get to eventually. Fred Morgan is estranged from his successful and powerful father, on account of how his father became successful and powerful. Then he receives a call from someone calling themselves the Hit Man, who say they're going to kill Fred sometime, soon. They want him to sweat first. Which has the effect of driving Fred to seek his father's help, or perhaps just to berate him for this being his fault. Fred meets a lovely young lady from the West Coast, and they hit things off, but it seems as though even his father's power can't save him.

The book is about 130 pages, so it goes fast. The solution to who is behind the whole thing isn't terribly difficult. It was apparent to me from the first moment the character entered the book, though I misjudged their reasons. I didn't really buy the relationship between Fred and Callie, on basically any level. I thought Bennett was going somewhere with a comment one of the characters made about Fred being a loner, but I don't think it really materializes. Which happens quite a bit. Characters get introduced early that seem like they might be important, but they hardly appear after. Also, Fred has this tendency when someone says something about what he's said or done, to respond with, "So it's {Whatever they just said}." He does it a lot, and even if he's supposed to be under a lot of stress, it's such a stupid, odd response to it that it really annoys me. I didn't like Fred very much.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Sometimes There Are More Important Things Than Catchy Branding

I noticed in Ms. Marvel #3 that the name of the 3-D printer in their lab - courtesy of Tony Stark! - is Beastron. This strikes me as a tremendously bad decision.

I know that "-tron" is a long accepted suffix, frequently applied to various scientific disciplines. Still, in a universe where Ultron is exists, and has killed entire countries (and conquered entire worlds in futures that might never come to be, if Richards was smart enough to make sure Franklin left that out of any of their new universes*), it strikes me as asking for trouble.

Though, really, with a name like Beastron, I'd expect the trouble to be something more demonic. Or Hank McCoy, which given some of his recent stupidity, wouldn't be much different. But I wouldn't mind seeing Dormammu, or maybe even some second-rate demon like Deadpool's one-time nemesis Vetis, possess the thing, and then create a bunch of Mindless Ones. Using the power of technology!, which seems like it could have some interesting side effects. Demons created from man-made components. Would they even register by whatever conventional approaches someone like Dr. Strange would use to detect such activity?

That could be a challenge for Ms. Marvel, a little different mystical problem from Loki's fairly benign crashing of her prom last year.

* I'm gradually coming to realize that literally any shitty thing that exists in the new Marvel Universe can be blamed on Reed Richards not doing a better job on quality control checking his son's work, and this makes me very happy.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Zorro 2.13 - Amnesty for Zorro

Plot: The story opens at the inn, with Sergeant Garcia singing about how indispensable sergeants are to the army, while Corporal Reyes looks on sourly. Just then, a messenger comes in looking for Diego and his father. He's exhausted from riding all night, and is barely able to tell them their hacienda was burned down by Indians who stampeded their cattle. Which means the Monterey adventure is over, because they have to go home and pick up the pieces. First, Diego must visit Anna-Maria to let her know, but as he prepares to leave he sees the messenger again. Receiving money from Ricardo, and Anna tells him that man came from San Francisco yesterday to tell Ricardo it's time for him to come home. Diego is furious, and Ricardo even seems a little ashamed, but only because he'd forgotten Alejandro was also around to hear the news. Diego leaves, and Ricardo makes yet another play for Anna's affections, only to be reminded her heart is set on Zorro, a man she barely knows. Yet she is sure she does know him, and the fact he's an outlaw and can't ever unmask bothers her not at all.

Then Ricardo gets an idea. A terrible, awful idea. He pitches the governor the idea of granting Zorro amnesty, if he will ride into town at the hour of Angelus and unmask, he will be pardoned and the reward on his head dropped. Soon Garcia and Reyes are posting notices all over town, but Ricardo is certain Zorro won't do it. The bartender (a different one from that untrustworthy old man who was around at the start of the season) is sure he will. Diego thinks Zorro might take the opportunity to be able to pursue his own happiness, while Alejandro is sure Zorro would not put his own desires ahead of the people's welfare. Sergeant Garcia and the corporal are certain he will, and are despondent, since they will never be able to collect the reward now. Their fears start to gnaw at Ricardo, so he approaches his messenger friend, and concocts a scheme within a scheme. The messenger's sister will come to town, and if Zorro arrives and unmasks, throw her arms around him and proclaim him to be her husband. If Zorro doesn't arrive, Ricardo expects Diego to escort Anna, while carrying some chocolates he bought for her, and the woman should proclaim him her husband instead.

Truly he has a dizzying intellect.

Diego goes to visit Anna, and finds her singing wistfully of Zorro riding up to sweep her into his arms. She is also certain Zorro will unmask, and is equally certain that Diego is a friend to her, but that's as far as it goes. And so, Diego is also certain Zorro will accept the offer of amnesty. So it's off to that hidden stable, but here's Bernardo, tied up, and a hooded figure hits Diego from behind. When he awakens he finds his wrists bound, but is able to seize an opportunity to fight by asking for some water. He's able to first break his captor's sword, then use it to free himself, and easily overpowers his foe, ripping off the mask and finding - Alejandro. Turns out dad has known Diego was Zorro for some time, and doesn't want him to do something now he'll regret later. And the bell starts tolling, so there's no time. Ricardo is left holding the box of chocolates, and here comes his messenger's sister, claiming he's her husband, to Anna's considerable amusement. It's about then Zorro rides up, sweeps Anna up onto the horse with him, and rides off, a gleeful Garcia in hot pursuit. Well, as hot a pursuit as he can manage, considering Zorro had time to set Anna down, and ask her if she can understand why he didn't arrive sooner. She takes it pretty well, and he rides off, lancers still in futile pursuit.

Quote of the Episode: Ricardo - 'I'll bet my life on that.' Diego - 'Would you care to wager something of value?'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (5 overall).

Other: We did get one "baboso" early on, when Garcia told Reyes to get some wine for the messenger.

So when do we think Alejandro knew? He says he's known for a long time, which is pretty vague. Does that mean all those times he made disparaging comments about Diego, it was part of an act? Because those really didn't help much, and were pretty hurtful things to say. There was that one about how, for a moment that night, he'd thought his son had become a man he could be proud of, or something like that. That was completely unnecessary.

I'm not sure I agree with Alejandro's decision to intervene to keep Diego from making the choice to unmask if he truly wanted to. I know that if he did, that'd be the end of the show, but Diego had always entered into this life willingly. It was his decision to play the wimpy scholar by day, and be the masked defender of the helpless by night. Doesn't that mean it's his decision when it's time to stop? But I get it. Alejandro knows, as Diego knows, that there's still corruption out there, and if Zorro unmasks now, it's going to be pretty hard for him to come back later if there's a need for him. Although I feel as though everyone knowing Diego de la Vega was the notorious outlaw could lend him a certain cachet in handling things publicly. A little credibility with the working class, maybe some intimidation factor with the politicians and officers.

Mostly I don't like Alejandro butting in and making decisions about other people's lives. I might have been more kindly disposed to him if he'd taken Ricardo over his knee as he contemplated. I will not be sorry to see the end of Ricardo. One week after he gets outraged over Zorro swiping some flipping chocolates, he pays a guy to tell Diego his house burned down, so that Diego will travel hundreds of miles to find out nothing's wrong. What a sack of crap.

It's funny, we got seemingly everyone's opinion on whether Zorro would unmask but Bernardo's. I thought we'd at least see Diego ask him at some point in the proceedings what he thought. I think Bernardo would have supported Diego's urge to hang it up. He knows how smitten the guy is with Anna-Maria, and for all that he enjoys Diego's adventures, I doubt he enjoys worrying his best friend might die some night.