Friday, April 29, 2016

Sabata Returns, Less Serious Than Before

Return of Sabata is my favorite of the three films, if only because it seems like the strangest. It opens with Sabata (played by Lee van Cleef again) in a gunfight for his life against 5 men in some strange room with green and red lighting, while a different group of guys sit behind a conference table and watch. All of which turns out to be a carnival game. Pay your money for the chance to duel the famous Sabata (with blanks). Then he sees one of his old lieutenants from the war, and the opening credits is said looie trying to run all over town to escape, only to find Sabata always waiting. Like one of those Droopy Dog cartoons where the wolf can't get away from him. That's the first 5 minutes.

After that, it settles into slightly more standard fare of Sabata deciding he's going to rob the local big shot, who adds ludicrous taxes onto everything, with all of it supposedly going into a community fund to build a hospital, a newspaper, all that stuff. Except he's really using it to buy gold for himself. And his bride to be is fooling around with the lieutenant (who runs a tavern/casino) behind his back. And the lieutenant can't get it through his head to quit trying to double-cross Sabata. You'd think the first time it failed would have been enough. Why take chances that Sabata's patience is going to run out?

Van Cleef seemed to be enjoying himself on this one. Sabata seems constantly amused through the film, and more than willing to play along. When the lieutenant tries to trick them during the heist, Sabata just removes the bolts from the carriage he had waiting out back, the leisurely rides along behind. There's an absurd sense to the whole thing, and he's embracing it. Ignzaio Spalla is in this film as well, this time as a sort of town crier, maybe a hype man for McKintock (the local big shot). He does use his wagon like a taxi service, but he also carries around a drum and frequently publicly derides Sabata for refusing to pay the ludicrous taxes. In turn, Sabata makes fun of his cheap cigars, and keeps not paying the ludicrous taxes.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Arsenal of Democracy - A.J. Baine

The Arsenal of Democracy is broadly about the United States trying to get its vast industrial capacity into a wartime gear. It's easy for FDR to say, "We're going to produce 60,000 warplanes this year," but actually getting that done is another matter entirely. What companies are building them? Do they have the facilities? Do they have the workers? Are the workers trained? What's the incentive for these companies to stop making cars or dishwashers and make guns and planes instead?

Baine explores this mostly through Ford, the automobile manufacturer. By the 1930s, Edsel Ford, Henry's son, was running things. Edsel had been kept out of the draft for World War because Henry used his influence (without consulting Edsel) which meant Edsel took a beating publicly as being a coward and draft-dodger. So as another war approached, Edsel wanted a chance to prove he was willing to do his part. As we've discussed here previously, a big part of the U.S. strategy was a belief in the ability of heavy bombing to break the enemy's will to fight (which didn't really work out, but that's what they thought would happen). One of the bombers was the B-24, initially produced by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation. But their production approach was a mess, and there was no chance they'd be able to produce enough bombers to meet demand. Edsel and Henry Sorenson basically decided to take the assembly line approach used for cars, and apply it to airplanes, and they vowed that they would be able to produce one of these 60,000 pound (fully loaded), four-engine planes every hour, at a plant they were going to build specifically for that purpose.

So Baine goes through the many difficulties they face in making that a reality. All the problems I mentioned in the first paragraph, and more besides. Labor shortage led to hiring lot of black workers (male and female), which didn't go over well with certain segments of the workforce. The U.S. Air Force keeps changing what it wants out of the B-24, without realizing the problems that creates. Henry Ford had long ago hired a morally questionable guy named Harry Bennett to be his security guy, and Bennett is causing all sorts of problems. Henry himself is a pacifist, and not really on board with making munitions (Baine mentions Ford was also against the U.S. being involved in the First World War, and charted a vessel to travel to Europe and try to work for peace. Only to get over there and realize he was wrong. Yet he seemed to learn nothing from the experience. I'm curious what exactly he saw that made him change his mind that first time, though). And Edsel is dying, while trying to make all this work, protect the people he trusts at the company from Bennett.

It's an interesting story, especially for what it told me about Edsel, someone I knew nothing about, and also Henry Ford II, his son who takes over after Edsel's passing. Henry the Younger has a surprising arc because all through the book, Baine gives us these snippets of what's going on with him - flunking engineering, trying to be a commander in a naval training exercise and failing miserably - and he just sounds like someone who will be in over his head. But when the time comes, he shows he has a strength to him his dad didn't necessarily has, along with the sense to try learn whenever the chance arises.

'As Knudsen had said, what was a bomber but a large machine made of small pieces? Pieces that could be crafted just like automobile parts? Like a car, an airplane was a frame built with seats for humans, housing an engine that provided propulsion. The leap from a car to an airplane required the added theory of aerodynamics to supply liftoff and control of the skies, and heaps of horsepower to put that theory into practice. A car could conquer time and space. The airplane increased the distance exponentially and added an all-important dimension: altitude.'

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

July Brings Questions

So, looking over the July solicitations, not a lot of good news. None of DC's new offerings that month appeal, and practically everything at Marvel is doing Civil War II tie-ins. Even Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat is doing a tie-in. I don't see how that's going to work, frankly. Marvel is, as usual, trying to make the Big Event seem like a big, serious deal, but the general tone of Hellcat so far hasn't been anything I think can convey "big, serious deal". Maybe if Leth and Williams goal is to take the piss with the whole thing, but I don't get the impression that's what they're going for.

At least Black Widow and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (which is another book I couldn't see keeping a straight face if it tried tying in to Civil War II) are avoiding it so far. Please, please, continue to avoid it.

Also, I meant to ask this last month but forgot: I want to know which one of you is responsible for Deadpool vs. Gambit. Come on, fess up. One of you must have given them the impression this is a book people wanted, which is a damn lie. Just cop to it.

Let's see, outside those companies, there wasn't much I got excited about. Wynonna Earp will be wrapping up. There'll be a new issue of Henchgirl, that's good news, at least. It'll probably be another month or two for the next Atomic Robo mini-series to be released in print. July does bring issue #1 of IDW's new ROM series. I'm curious to see how that works with ROM divorced from the Marvel Universe setting the original series was placed in. Bill Mantlo came up with a lot of stuff for that series - though I don't know how much of that Christos Gage will get to use here. Does Marvel own Galador and the SpaceKnights as a concept? - but the fact the series took place in a setting somewhat familiar to us from other Marvel comics probably helped.

I'm also curious to see how Gage writes Rom. Is he going to try and mimic Mantlo's style, or stick to his own. Because Rom launched into soliloquies more often than he banished Wraiths to Limbo, and he banished those guys to Limbo a lot. And again, I'm guessing at least some of the people who buy the series are going to have a specific idea in their mind of how Rom talks, and if he doesn't match that, then what? I've liked Gage's writing fairly well in the past, myself. He's never written anything I can recall just loving, that really got me going, but he's a solid, smart writer. He knows how to work with preexisting characters, so he'll probably do OK.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Forsaken - Tim Tzouliadis

With a title like The Forsaken, you know it's going to be a really cheerful read. And indeed, the book is broadly about the Soviet Union under Stalin, the show trials, the Terror, the state-sponsored fear, denouncing, torture, and of course, the Gulag.

Tzouliadis focuses mostly on Americans caught up in, many of whom had emigrated to the Soviet Union during the Great Depression because of the promise of jobs. Once there, they found it very difficult, if not impossible, to leave. And the State Department, even once the United States officially recognized the USSR as a country in 1934, was no help. In many cases, the emigrants passports had been collected when they arrived in the Soviet Union, and they'd unwittingly signed paperwork making them Soviet citizens. But even when that wasn't the case, the U.S. government basically sat on its ass. Frequently because the midlevel people felt it was useless for them to try negotiating Soviet bureaucracy, and their higher-ups were too busy trying to make friends with Stalin (at FDR's behest). It's incredibly galling, if not exactly surprising. The Soviets even helped themselves to American prisoners of war in Nazi POW camps the Soviets liberated, and the U.S. government basically did jack shit. Oh, they did send the Russians soldiers they had captured who had been forced to fight for the Nazis back to the Soviet Union. Where most of them were executed or sent to the Gulag, which is basically the same thing.

It's hard to fathom. Not that people can do that to other people, or even that a few could survive it, and a few of the people Tzoulidas follows do survive the Gulag, and even make it back to the U.S. Just the sheer scale of it, the number of people being denounced, arrested, tortured, shipped to the ass-end of nowhere and set to laboring until they die from the cold, the malnutrition, being shot, whatever. That the country could swallow up that many people, however many millions - Tzoulidas mentions a census done in the late '30s where the Soviet statisticians noted the population was only 157 million, when it had been projected for 176 million, which probably gives some sense of the number of lives lost, a number which soon included those statisticians - and continue to function.

If you would prefer to maintain any faith in humanity whatsoever, or you have blood pressure problems, I would not recommend this book. I had to stop fairly regularly to either shake my head at the imagery brought up by something Tzoulidas described, or to rage at incompetent diplomats. If those aren't concerns, and you aren't already well-versed in this dark corner of 20th Century history, give The Forsaken a chance.

'Around six months later, in the spring of 1933, Beal had made a second trip, this time to a Ukrainian collective farm, near the village of Chekhuyev, and walked several miles east. Here the atmosphere was thick with the cloying smell of death, hunger, and despair. By the side of the road, the Massachusetts-born trade unionist came across a dead horse still harnessed to its wagon, and a dead man holding its reins in his hands. Walking into an empty village, Beal looked into a peasant hut and saw a dead man still sitting by a stove: "His back was against the wall, he was rigid and staring straight at us with his faraway dead eyes." On one village door someone had written: GOD BLESS THOSE WHO ENTER HERE, MAY THEY NEVER SUFFER AS WE HAVE. Inside the house, two men and a child lay dead beside the family icon.'

Monday, April 25, 2016

Can You Say Adios When He Won't Leave?

Adios, Sabata seems to have higher production values than Sabata did. It also has Yul Brynner in place of Lee van Cleef in the title role, which, eh. I know Brynner is the more highly regarded actor, but I tend to not have strong feelings one way or the other about him.

In this case, the film uses the setting of the Mexican Revolution against Maximilian. Sabata is hired to try and steal a shipment of gold from the Austrians, and then take it across the border into Texas to buy guns. Except the nefarious Colonel Skrillim had already planned to attack the shipment himself, to hide the fact he mostly sent bags of sand and kept the gold himself. He hadn't counted on Sabata and a handful of revolutionaries finding this out, and they try to infiltrate his compound to get the gold back. When they get caught, they decide to just kill all the Austrian soldiers and take the gold that way. Which works, somewhat remarkably.

But there's a lot of odd or silly things in the movie. The colonel has a little trap he likes to use to kill people, hidden in a model ship. One of the revolutionaries, Septiembre's, favored weapon is a pair of slings he has set up on the tops of his shoes. He drops the steel balls into the sling, and then does a sort of roundhouse kick to fling the projectile and hit people in the head. I guess you could get more velocity on it that way. Again, Sabata also pairs up with a former acquaintance he seems to find very annoying. This time it's a guy named Ballantine, who is also a halfway decent painter and keeps a book with him to makes notes because he apparently can't remember anything. Brynner has this look of almost pained exasperation when Ballantine is around. Like the guy is giving him a headache just by being there. Yet he keeps saving the guy from being killed by Escudo (Ignazio Spalla, who was also in the first movie, as a different character) when Ballantine keeps trying to betray them or ditch them. But Ballantine is actually doing a portrait of the Colonel, so he's supposed to be their in. Yeah, that worked well.

The writing is a little dodgy. There's a sequence, before they realize the shipment of gold they stole is mostly sand, where Sabata and Ballantine try to convince Escudo to just divvy up the gold. The Austrians are retreating all over, the revolution is won. Why waste this gold on more guns and weapons? Escudo resists, claiming the money is for the revolution, and he seems to have won the argument. Then the camera pulls back to a long shot, and we see the wagon do a 180, and before you know it they're opening the chest and pouring out the gold in the few actual sacks of it on top. I guess we were supposed to take it as Escudo changed his mind after the camera pulled back, but it seemed like he'd won the argument.

There's also a point where three different groups - the revolutionaries, Skrillim, and Sabata, all plan to blow up the same bridge, albeit at different times. So Sabata is climbing down into the supports to set nitroglycerin in there, when there's already dynamite tied in. Also, the Austrians plan to retreat into Texas? I had a hard time picturing the Texans just opening their arms to a foreign army retreating into their country.

And the Austrians really like to remind you they're Austrians. Skrillim does it more than once, sometimes in consecutive sentences saying, "We Austrians. . ." But this was an Italian film originally, and Italy does have some history with the Hapsburgs, so maybe it was trying to play that up? Austria-Hungary had collapsed over 50 years earlier, but people might still remember. Or are the Austrians stand-ins for the Nazis here?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Zorro 2.24 - Zorro and the Mountain Man

Plot: We open with a large, bearded fellow pulling a donkey along behind him, singing about mountain men as he descends from the hills. We'll learn soon enough he's Joe Crane, an American, but for now, he's just some guy who happens along Bernardo, stranded in the mud, his buggy having lost a wheel. Crane can't understand Bernardo's sign language, but he still puts the wheel back on the buggy, and the two go their separate ways. For Joe, that's into Los Angeles to the tavern for some food and drink. He introduces himself to Sergeant Garcia, and then sufficiently butters up Garcia so as to avoid being arrested for not having permission to enter Spanish California. He also receives the thanks of Diego for helping Bernardo.

Unfortunately, Joe also decides he'd like to kiss a pretty girl, insisting that all women want to be kissed, over Garcia's response that Spanish women don't. Joe insists that if you trick the lady, then it's OK because no one will think badly of her, and she gets to have the fun of being kissed. So he sets to tricking Carlotta, the waitress, into leaning close enough he can kiss her on the cheek. Which draws the ire of Don Carlos, who slaps Joe with a glove, and gets backhanded over a table in response. Things nearly get bad, but Don Carlos can't back up his confidence, and Garcia arrests Joe for his own safety. But Carlos is not willing to let things slide, and is determined to sneak into the cuartel to finish Crane off while he's trapped in a cell. Good thing Diego overheard, and so Zorro slips into the cuartel and liberates the cell keys from under Garcia's pillow. The sergeant awakens and makes an attempt to stop Zorro, only to get his suspenders cut. By that time, Zorro has already freed Joe, but forced him to leave without his harvest of furs. Zorro easily eludes the lancers, and even rides past Don Carlos as he approaches the cuartel to mock him on having missed his chance. Don Carlos isn't about to give up, though.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'I understand how the Americanos won their country from the English. They talked them out of it.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (9 overall).

Other: Joe's donkey's name is Esmeraldie, if you care. And Joe wound up in California because he pissed off a group of Paiutes, and that was the available safe direction.

Have to love Carlos insisting that murdering Joe is patriotic, because California must be free of foreigners. I'm sure the people who were there before the Spanish would agree with you, Don Carlos. So why don't you hit the bricks?

I'd like to be happy that Joe's insistence that girls want to be kissed blows up in his face, except Carlotta seems quite taken with him. You could figure her not letting Carlos run Joe through was just figuring that was an extreme reaction to Joe's offense, or not wanting to have to clean blood off the floors. But she brought him cupcakes in jail. And made sure Sergeant Garcia couldn't have any. At least Crane recognizes women get unfairly judged for kissing a guy, even if the rest of his logic is a little cockeyed.

It's worth mentioning that when Don Carlos prepares to kill Joe in the tavern, Diego tries to intervene and is stopped by Carlos' servant jamming a pistol in his side. But when Carlos starts losing, and the servant goes to help, Diego judo flips the guy. I feel as though Diego's been letting his disguise, the scholar who has no interest in anything but books and music slip more and more. He was already getting involved in political matters in Season 1, albeit always advocating writing letters, or trying to speak to someone. But he seems bolder this season. Is he just getting tired of the facade, or does he not even realize it's happening?

Friday, April 22, 2016

What I Bought 4/19/2016 - Part 2

One thing I forgot to mention from Cape-Con. I stopped at Brian Rhodes' - creator of Mike and the Ninja - table, and bought a collection of ink drawings he did as part of something called Inktober. Which was pretty cool, but he also mentioned he had a new comic coming out later things year, Six Legs, No Heart, so I'm excited for that.

Deadpool #9, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lollia (artist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Again, I bought a variant cover, in this case Scott Koblish's cover, which is a continuing comic in itself of Deadpool's adventures with a sentient UPC-PO cover code. This month, Wade got shot in the Deadpals by the Rawhide Kid, because Wade's life is pretty awful.

Somehow, considering Wade had his boot on Creed's head and sword back, he failed to kill Sabretooth. They fight a bit, Wade gets disemboweled in front of a busload of kids (great set of reactions from Lolli. Love the two kids high-fiving), Sabretooth shoves him in the way of a passing car, then goes to a crappy bar to wait for Wade. Because Sabretooth thinks it might be better for him to take the blame for killing Wade's parents. I agree, mostly because I'm hoping taking the blame will involve Sabretooth dying.

There's really not much to the issue. The gag about Wade trying to be a good role model in front of aforementioned bus full of kids is probably the high point. There's some stuff about Creed having an abusive dad, which is why he liked Butler's idea of having Deadpool kill his own parents, which, I don't care. There's also a bit where Magneto shows up and gives Sabretooth crap for caring about Deadpool, who is beneath them according to Mags. Nice of Erik to conveniently ignore how much higher his body count is than Wade's. I haven't forgotten that time you hit the entire planet with an EMP, killing how many people as airplanes fell from the sky and hospital generators failed (Claremont and Jim Lee's last story together)? I'm sure Magneto would justify those actions somehow or the other, but it'd be bullcrap. You know it, I know it, and to Sabretooth's credit, he knows it and tells Magneto they're both more like Deadpool than they'd care to admit. We aren't supposed to agree with Magneto, but it still bugs me he cops that attitude.

That one thing that got me riled aside, it's a dull middle chapter of a story which is ultimately not likely to produce a satisfying result for me. It's interesting, but something about how Lolli draws Magneto, he almost looks like a different artist drew him. As though he doesn't even belong in this book. Bit of a Jamie McKelvie vibe, which isn't who Lolli's art normally makes me think of. It might be Redmond's colors, there's a shininess to Erik's outfit that reminds me of McKelvie's work, even though that'd be someone else's colors? Mike Norton? Or is Redmond McKelvie's colorist too? Maybe Magneto just looks out of place because he's not bleeding and torn up like Sabretooth and Deadpool.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Chip Zdarsky (writer/trading card artist), Joe Quinones (van art artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer and production) - Again I went with a variant, I think Kamome Shirahama's. It wasn't cheaper or anything, I just liked it better. The Squirrel Girl-shaped Kool-Aid Man hole in the wall was pretty cool.

Set sometime before the time jump that happened before/after Secret Wars ('cause Hickman did a time jump in his books, but everyone else did a time jump after it was over, and I don't know it it's the same time jump or a second one). Anyway, months ago, Howard tried stealing Mew, because he was hired to retrieve a cat, and can't tell cats apart. Doreen stops him easily, then Kraven the Hunter shows up, grabs Squirrel Girl by the tail and hurls her into the air, and abducks Howard. I misspelled that intentionally.

Kraven is payin' the bills by kidnapping intelligent animals for a nutso cosplayer named Shannon Sugarbaker, who wants to hunt them for sport. She also is the one who took the cat Howard's looking for, and turned it into one of those cyborg animals from that one series Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did. We3? I assume that's what they're referencing, maybe it's just a coincidence. Doreen has tracked them, but even having beaten Doombots, she's not match for Shannon's functional superhero dress-up garb. So now she's prey as well, and so is Kraven.

I like Henderson's Howard better than Brittney Williams. The beak looks better. I like the parallel panels on pages 14-16. Doreen up top, fighting Doombots that are imitating Spider-Man enemies. Below, Shannon leads Howard past her other prisoners down in the basement, until at the end, Doreen smashes the bots right through the floor and into the other set of panels. Can't believe Doreen stood there and let Howard draw all over her Deadpool's Guide to Super-Villains card for Howard. Now she doesn't have a mint condition set! Truly Howard the Duck is Marvel's greatest villain. Which is why Squirrel Girl needs to fight him. He's the only one left after you beat Dr. Doom and Galactus.

I was unsure if I was going to bother to get the Howard the Duck issue, since I kind of resent these attempts to make me buy books I don't normally buy. But this was enjoyable enough I want to see how it ends, so I will get the other half. Plus, I'm curious to see how they work Erica Henderson into that issue. Quinones got to draw Kraven's airbrushed van, Henderson's going to have to come up with something pretty great to match that in terms of scarring my brain.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Long Shadow - David Reynolds

The Long Shadow is about the legacies of the First World War. The first half of the book deals with the effects it had in a number of different eras going forward. Politics, literature, that sort of thing. Most of this is focused on the time prior to and during the Second World War. The second half deals with how differently it was viewed after WW2, how that experience shaped how people interpreted the first one.

This is not exactly what I expected when I started reading it. I also wasn't expecting it to be so heavily focused on Britain, because that's where I'd say Reynolds focuses a solid two-thirds of the book. He will usually, in any given section, briefly discuss Germany, France, the United States, and maybe the Soviet Union or Japan as seems relevant, but it mostly keeps coming back to England.

Mostly because Reynolds finds their reactions to be so different. Their government doesn't collapse into a totalitarian one after the war, and expanding the electorate doesn't bring about any sort of societal collapse. There's also the fact that for Britain, the threat to their country in WWI was remote for the most part. They had generally framed their involvement as reacting to "Hunnish" aggression against poor Belgium. This made it harder to justify the loss of life, especially when 20 years later, it didn't seem to have accomplished anything, because here come the Germans again, bigger and more dangerous than ever.

If you studied American literature in school, you probably were taught about the "lost generation" of writers in the 1920s, who struggled to find meaning after the experiences with the First World War, and struggled to find meaning in that war. The way it comes off here, there was some of that in England, but it didn't actually achieve a mass consciousness until the 1960s, when it was contrasted so unfavorably with their "finest hour".

All of this can be interesting, but it can also be immensely tedious. I don't even enjoy reading poetry, you can imagine how little interest I had in reading about poetry. And, again, I expected a somewhat broader focus. I expected more about how the decisions made while drafting the Versailles treaty had long-reaching effects in the new countries created out of it, or in the places that got short-changed. Like China, where Japan was allowed to maintain control of the territory they took from Germany. Or the Middle East, where the British and French formed a bunch of "mandates" that they'd run to various degrees until they decided the people there were capable of governing themselves. Or anything much at all about Africa. I figured just for how it shook up the various imperial powers there would be some impact, either in giving independence groups new hope, or resulting in a crackdown by the authorities (which produces its own reaction), or something. And Reynolds does discuss India, a bit, but again, mostly in the context of England.

It was a book with just enough interesting bits to keep me plodding through all the stuff I either already knew or didn't care for.

'This peculiar British preoccupation with the Great War via poetry rather than history became dominant during the 1960s. It reinforced another contemporary trend, emphasizing the experiences of individual soldiers rather than the big-picture issues of strategy and diplomacy, finance and production. This trend was evident elsewhere in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, but as we shall see in the next chapter, once again the British pattern was unusual.'

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What I Bought 4/19/2016 - Part 1

All this month, I've been expecting certain books to be released, and they keep not appearing. Which is why there are only four books in this batch (and because the store was out of the most recent issue of Henchgirl). So the last week of April better have a ton of books for me.

Illuminati #6, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Mike Henderson (artist), John Rauch (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Nice touch by Rossmo having Crusher's right hand starting to absorb the properties of the ice cream cone.

This issue takes place after the Illuminati - or Hood and Titania anyway - rescue the Absorbing Man from the Pleasant Hill virtual reality prison place. And most of the issue is taken up with Crusher explaining to the Hood what was going on before they got there. He worked in an ice cream shoppe. He had a crush on the sheriff, who turned out to be Elektra. Oh, and he decided he liked the normal life, but not until he wasn't around Skeeter, as she points out before she storms off. So now Crusher is pissed, and wants them to recruit all the villains that were kept prisoner, and then go wipe out SHIELD. Because that's a productive and intelligent plan. What am I saying, this is Absorbing Man we're talking about. He has the brainpower of a turnip.

That was not really what I expected. I was hoping for more of a caper approach, the Illuminati trying to break into Pleasant Hill, figure out what's going on, find Crusher, figure out how to get him to remember who he is, escape SHIELD, maybe tangle with some confused Avengers. Instead, it's a recap issue. I know the book is on its last legs, but it's a letdown.

The variation in the colors between different parts of the issue is interesting. The sections in the Hood's lair are dominated by a black, featureless background, with scant sources of light that begin and end abruptly. The reality in Pleasant Hill has a dusty feel. Sort gritty, dirty, you wouldn't want to breathe the air too much. And the false image is bright and cheery, blue skies. The teenager that was actually Whirlwind(?) has cheeks that almost glow, they're so cherubic. Everything looking pretty, but it's all garbage underneath.

Black Widow #2, by Chris Samnee (writer/artist), Mark Waid (writer), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I actually got the variant cover drawn by Bengal, because it was being sold more cheaply, and I am cheap. It's not a bad cover, except for the fact it's a Civil War variant, even though that hasn't started yet.

This issue explains why Natasha stole from SHIELD. She was trying to stop a group led by the Weeping Lion from attacking SHIELD at a funeral, except she was the target all along. And this Weeping Lion has records of something Natasha did that's so awful, she will steal from SHIELD just to keep it from leaking. Now, I fully expect that down the line, we will learn Natasha doesn't really care if it leaks, and was just playing along to find out what this bad guy really wanted. But as it stands right now, it's pretty hard for me to believe she did something that would make all her friends and allies turn away. Deadpool is an Avenger right now, with full support of Steve Goddamn Rogers. Wolverine was an Avenger, he's killed more people than organized religion. Tony Stark does something horrible every five minutes, they keep letting him in the door. I think Natasha would be fine. But as I said, it's probably all part of a plan on her part.

That aside, it's still a nice issue. I had wondered, after Natasha trounced her captors, why they would thoroughly search her for tracking devices, but not remove those bracelets of hers. And a page later, we get the answer: They were amateurs, set up by their boss for her to trounce. I like Wilson's occasional use of red during the fights in the cemetery. He doesn't use it every time Natasha strikes, I think he saves it for the moments of greater tension. When she's having to rush, or struggle a bit.

One page I'm trying to figure out is page 18, where the Weeping Lion is standing along the left side of the page, and he stretches vertically across four panels. Including a panel that is just a close-up on his face. That's not really something I can recall Samnee doing before, so it must mean something. The guy's dialogue starts with that figure, but then moves to other pictures of him within the panels. But that larger, full-body image of him is still there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Enemies Who Were Allies Who Sandbagged You Are The Worst

I've been replaying Tales of Vesperia recently, because I realized I missed a lot of side quests and little scenes the first time through. I'm not sure how I was supposed to know to go back to a particular random village after a given event and talk to one particular person there to trigger the sidequest, but that's what the Internet is for. Anyway, things are progressing fairly nicely there, but that's not what I wanted to discuss today.

Replaying the game has reminded me of a certain thing some JRPGs do that I always find really annoying. That is, when you learn a member of your group is actually a traitor, and have to fight them. And it turns out they are vastly more powerful than they showed when they were on your side. Or they get controlled and attack you. Tales of Vesperia uses both, within a relatively short amount of time, in-story. So the character goes from having maybe 2000 hit points when they were on my side, to 50,000. And they're busting out attacks that are far more powerful than anything they unleashed on my behalf.

I know in terms of gameplay, this is because if they were only as powerful as they were when they were on my side, the fight would be over in 30 seconds. Which would be kind of a letdown after the shocking reveal of their betrayal. And it can easily be argued they're ramping up the strength of their attacks because they're either being forced to, or because they're being more reckless with themselves. At the same time though, I think about all the times our group lost fights and had to try again, or nearly lost fights. Or even just times that character was knocked unconscious/killed and had to be revived. Where was this extra power then? They were that committed to maintaining their cover?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cape-Con 2016 Recap

I did get to make it to Cape-Con on Saturday. Didn't even have to fake being sick. Pleasant enough drive, got their basically as the doors were opening at 9.

Seemed like a good sized crowd, especially after about 10:30, people really started rolling in. If the convention is continuing to grow, Ken might have to look into a larger venue. It wasn't impossible to make your way down the aisles, but there were some definite logjams at times. One thing that was pointed out to me was the convention didn't have particularly defined areas, with an Artists' Alley here, and special guests over there, and the people selling back issues and toys in a different section. In the past it's had that sort of general set-up, but this year everyone was sort of mixed together. So there'd be a guy with three tables worth of old comics, then someone doing commissioned sketches, then a person selling cupcakes or homemade jewelry.

I wonder if that's better for the vendors and artists, because if you want to see all of the artists, for example, you have to move through the entire place, rather than staying in just one section. And then maybe you see something else you want. Have to ask the vendors that. I know my legs got very tired after 7 hours of pretty much trooping in circles, but I had a lot of trouble deciding what I wanted to buy, so I'd loop past a particular table again and again, weighing the decision. I suppose I could have stopped, but that might have resulted in conversation, and then there could be sales pressure, even if unintentional, and I'm no good with that. I really needed Alex there as the gregarious person who could talk easily to others while I agonized over choices, but no such luck.

I did buy a few back issues, mostly from Ben Grimm's John Byrne/Ron Wilson '80s solo series, plus a few issues of the John Arcudi/Tan Eng Huat Doom Patrol series I found in the dollar bins. I might have bought more comics, I had written up a list of things to look for the night before, then forgot it. Though I couldn't find most of the things I remembered from it. Bought a few Heroclix out of the dollar boxes as usual. As far as art goes, bought three prints from Brian Koschak, including a nice alien costume Spider-Man and one called "Droids" of an android sitting on an amp playing guitar. He always has something new every year I can grab, which is fine by me. I bought a couple of other prints here and there, and got two commissioned sketches.

One was a Darkhawk by Lorenzo Liana of Lion Forge Comics, which turned out very well. He got the glider wings and that grapple-claw thing in there and it was just outstanding. The other was an Amanda Waller piece by Matthew at Capybara-Ink. Original, short and wide Amanda Waller, naturally. He said that was the oddest request he'd had, in terms of a character, but that it was cool, because if you're going to request here, you have to really like her. True enough. I just knew when I saw his work I wanted to get something by him, but there wasn't anything in his prints that was quite it. So then I started thinking about my Favorite DC characters list, trying to decide which character matched his style best. And the Wall seemed right, and here we are.

I did feel slightly awkward when he asked if I was excited for the Suicide Squad movie (though he's not the first or the last), since I haven't even seen a trailer for it. My basic hope is that John Ostrander's getting a decent check out of this, but I'm not sure how that works. Does he get some money every time Waller shows up in something, like the Justice League cartoon, or Arrow? Or is it just a one-time deal? Fingers crossed for the latter.

Lotta cosplayers, and I think every year the number who are something I don't recognize increases. That gag from the Simpsons comes to mind. With Grandpa telling a teenage Homer he used to be with "it", but then "it" changed, and what he was with wasn't "it" any longer, and what was "it" seemed strange and weird, and it would happen to Homer, too. So true. Saw three or four Deadpools, including one that was part of a trio of people dressed up as members of the Tune Squad. From Space Jam? One was Lola, one was Bill Murray, and Deadpool was Jordan, albeit wearing a jersey with 91 on it, which was Rodman's Bulls' jersey. Which is appropriate. Several Harley Quinns, usually in groups, either with a Joker, or a Poison Ivy and Robin. Couple of Riddlers, always nice to see. One father and son as Iron Man and Captain America. A couple of Deathstrokes, one Winter Soldier, couple of Daredevils, one Rose Quartz from Steven Universe. Saw one young boy going as Krillin, which was pretty great. Drew the dots on his forehead with marker, and he had bit fake paper eyebrows taped on. I salute you, small Krillin fan!

I didn't a chance to talk to Ken much, since he was busy all day. That was the nice thing when I was able to attend both days. Sunday is usually much more sedate, so there was time to sit and chat. But it was good to see him running around with his usual energy and enthusiasm.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Zorro 2.23 - The Brooch

Plot: Gonzales arrives at the de la Vega hacienda with a buggy. He's here to collect Anita's luggage, as her near disastrous attempt to reach the mission last week has done nothing to change Alejandro's mind about sending her back to Spain. This means Gonzales gets the cold shoulder from Cresencia, for helping to send the girl away. Like it's his idea. Cresencia holds out hope Diego will not let them send Anita away, but inside, Diego is struggling to make his case with no physical evidence to support Anita. Just then, Anita enters the room, and Alejandro notices a brooch she is wearing, and becomes agitated. He eventually explains the brooch belonged to Diego's mother, and 4 years ago, Alejandro donated it to the church to be auctioned off. Anita had received it as a gift from her father, who must have been at the auction. Which means he exists.

Diego, Alejandro, and Sergeant Garcia haul it for the church, with Anita being left behind under Bernardo's watchful eye. In town, Raimundo and his vaquero buddy watch someone enter the church first, and then go back to ransacking that person's home. They don't find any jewels or valuables, but they do find Anita's letters, both the ones she sent, and those she received. Raimundo decides they should wait for the resident to return. Meanwhile, Diego and the others reach the church. The padre isn't there, but they step inside to check his journal, only to find the page in question missing. Then comes an odd sequence where Diego finds the shopkeeper, Senor Avila, lurking outside the door, and he falls under suspicion, until he explains he was looking for Garcia to report that those two vaqueros tried to rob his store. Also, Diego notes that whoever stole the page had dirty hands and smudged the book, and Senor Avila's hands are clean. So Garcia goes off to search for someone with dirty hands, other than himself, leaving Diego and Alejandro waiting for the padre to return, to see if he can recall who bought the brooch, four years ago. Meanwhile, the mysterious figure has returned home, only to get promptly knocked over the head by Raimundo, who plans to ransom him to Anita.

Back at the hacienda, a small boy comes looking for Anita with a message. He has a note for her, telling her where to go to find her father, and that she better bring cash. The boy says he was promised a coin, and Anita gives him that big horse statuette that sits in the cabinet in the sala (where the secret passage is). Of course, Bernardo was listening in said secret passage, so Anita has to outsmart him. It takes a few tries, but she manages it. Out into the desert she goes, and she does find her father, held captive by Raimundo. And her father is. . . Gonzales. Anita willingly gives Raimundo her money, but, of course, he can't let them live. But he didn't count on Anita packing a derringer. She and her father manage to dash into the rocks, though Gonzales does get wounded in the shoulder. But now he's using the gun, even if he is up against two enemies. But as Raimundo tries to sneak behind them, here comes Zorro. He chases Raimundo further up the hillside, dodging rocks, until Raimundo reaches the top, picks up a frankly not very big rock, overbalances, and falls to his death in a ravine. Now Anita and her father (who is being referred to as "Don Miguel" again), are heading back to Spain, together.

Quote of the Episode: Raimundo - 'Servant to horses! You've got one minute to live! You and your fancy daughter!'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (9 overall).

Other: That thing with the storekeeper abruptly being suspected really came out of nowhere. Just the fact he was sort of lurking/listening at the door, I guess to determine if they were inside, even though he said he saw them enter. And then it was over in a couple of minutes, because he showed he didn't have dirt on his hands.

Credit to the little boy Raimundo sent as a messenger. Even with Anita assuring him Bernardo couldn't hear, he would not deliver the message until it was just the two of them. Which makes him significantly more careful than 95% of Zorro's enemies.

They tried to continue with that motif of the mysterious figure being observed only by his shadow when he entered his home. Except this meant the door swung open with no hand or foot visible to push it open. Kind of pushing it a little bit there, although the effect of watching the shadow enter the room is still a nice touch.

I'm a little confused about the sequence of events with Gonzales' life. He left Spain after Anita's mother died, and came to California. He runs a stable and delivers the mail in Los Angeles, sending letters and whatever little treasures he can back to his daughter. Was he a Don originally, and suffered financial ruin after coming to California? Did it take all his resources to support Anita back in Spain, and he had to become a "servant to horses" to support himself? Or was it a conscious decision to abandon that life and take up another, even though he feared he would never be able to show his face before his daughter? Because at the end, Diego and Alejandro are referring to him as "Don Miguel", and that seems like the sort of title you need property and social standing to carry.

Zorro's really good at finding people in the middle of nowhere based on no discernible evidence. Anita hid the note the little boy gave her, and there was no sign Bernardo found it. Maybe Zorro heard Anita yelling, or heard the shot that wounded Gonzales.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I Guess I Want Buddy Cop Hijinks

I'd like to see Nightcrawler and The Thing hang out sometime. They seem like they'd get along well. Both affable, friendly guys. The exterior can seem fearsome, but they're actually softies. Best friends with a couple of hotheads*. Both enjoy beer. Kurt fancies himself a swashbuckler. Ben was Blackbeard the pirate.

I don't think they've interacted much. They were both in Secret Wars, but the X-Men split off fairly quickly. Kurt was out of commission during the Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men mini-series. Ben's off in space right now, but that's fine. Kurt's done the outer space thing before. And Kitty's out there now, too, so he could visit her. Although I'm leery about adding another character from a different franchise to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but it could just be a short stint.

They could use his help with something - maybe they need a teleporter that's not technologically based, or they could just use a wild card - and Kurt's not the sort to turn down a friend. Then there's time for sitting around and talking, or getting into mischief. Kurt and Ben get into a high-stakes intergalactic poker tournament against the Grandmaster, or they help some rebel group overthrow a brutal dictatorship (that just happens to be run by Star-Lord's jerkwad dad, probably).

* I admit I'm counting Johnny as Ben's best friend, rather than Reed. I could see Ben still being Reed's best friend, but I feel like Ben has other best friends. But it's hard for me to picture what being best friends with Reed would be like. Doesn't seem like someone to whom hanging out would come naturally.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Death of Caesar - Barry Strauss

I guess I should have reviewed this a month ago, but oh well. The Death of Caesar is, as you might guess, about the assassination of Julius Caesar. Strauss looks at what Caesar had been up to that might have convinced people they needed to get rid of him, as well as looking at the people involved in the conspiracy, and who they chose to include or exclude from their group. He also goes into the fallout from it, the attempts of the conspirators to frame their actions in a positive light - we saved the Republic! - the responses of those who opposed them, and briefly at the end, the civil wars that ensued (or resumed, since it hadn't been that many years since Julius had thrown the empire into civil war himself).

That part about open war felt a little undeveloped, almost tacked on at the end. Possibly because that has more to do with Octavian's rise. Although, if Brutus and Cassius were trying to argue they acted to save Rome from a tyrant and restore the power of the Senate, once they're forced to squeeze provinces for every cent they can use to bribe legions to their side to fight other Romans, they've lost their argument. Not that they apparently cared about the provinces. They were acting to preserve the power of their so-called "elite", and weren't too happy with Caesar giving Senate seats to his best commanders and wealthy, influential people from the provinces. More that the situation of open conflict they found themselves in, where it came largely down to who could pay the soldiers enough to earn their loyalty, meant the Senate wasn't likely to regain the whip hand any time soon.

I do wonder about the suppositions and assumptions Strauss has to make. He's working from roughly a half-dozen official histories of the killing, ranging from Suetonius, to Plutarch, to Nicolaus of Damascus. Some of these were written decades after the fact. They're working from sources that no longer exist now, but that means we can't assess the accuracy of those. Strauss talks about how Nicolaus was commissioned by Octavian, which certainly slanted his writing, and the others would have had biases as well. So I wonder about the base Strauss has to draw from for his conclusions and theories. He seems to do a good job of considering a range of possible motivations or approaches, but I'm probably not suitably well-versed on the topic to say that for certain.

'Although Decimus later said that he acted to save the Republic, he was a hard-nosed man, the sort to be moved by fear, honor, and self-interest. And Decimus wasn't alone - other friends of Caesar also joined the conspiracy. That took more than a public relations misstep on Caesar's part - it took a crisis of trust. Caesar abused their friendship by breaking the unwritten rule of Roman life, that loyalty would be rewarded. Indeed, he convinced important friends they were better off without him.'

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

If He Didn't Exist, Someone's Subconscious Would Create Him

No idea why this came to mind, but in the movie Forbidden Planet, the monster turns out to be Dr. Morbius' id, unleashed because he increased his brainpower with alien technology.

Theory: Mark Millar is Garth Ennis' id monster. It's all of the profanity, violence, sexual content, without any of the emotional content or themes that Ennis has in his better work. So it comes off as half-thought out ideas designed to look "cool" or "adult", but are really more juvenile. Not that Ennis doesn't himself produce that kind of crap, but Dr. Morbius didn't keep all his anger and resentment completely under wraps either.

I know what you're saying, Mark Millar has written good stuff, too. I'm just letting my negative feelings about Civil War bias my perspective. And maybe you're right. But first off, I'm not convinced Mark Millar actually exists. I've never met him. He could be a bunch of squirrels in a track suit for all I know. Second, there's nothing wrong with being the monster, necessarily. It gives everyone else something to struggle against, so without it, there wouldn't be a show. How many fewer posts would this blog have if Mark Millar hadn't written a really bad mini-series called Civil War? A lot less? He carried that burden when no one else could, when I was only weary of Bendis, and long before Jonathan Hickman had gifted me with the chance to make snide remarks about Reed Richards being bad at building a universe.

So it's not all bad, being the id monster.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Those Angry Days - Lynne Olson

Those Angry Days is about the struggle to either get the U.S. into World War II, or keep it out, depending on which side of things you fell on. FDR was in the former camp, Charles Lindbergh in the latter, and so they're sort of the two focal characters in the book.

It's not really an equal comparison, because Lindbergh is, for all his fame, a single private citizen, and for much of the debate in the years prior to the U.S.'s entry into the war, he eschews tying himself to an isolationist organization in particular. Of course, while FDR might have very much wanted to the U.S. to lend a hand, he's presented as not doing much to encourage the American public to fall in with him. Even when polls show the public overwhelmingly supports him, he still hesitates to act. Olson attributes this to the drubbing he took when he tried to pack the Supreme Court with judges that would go along with what he wanted, the first time he felt serious resistance from even the people who had supported him all through his New Deal programs. So he never felt as secure in his footing. It's an interesting approach, different from Persico's works that show him as the would-be master manipulator, the man obsessed with keeping his subordinates unsure of what's going on around them, so only he can see the whole picture. 

It's also not the only different viewpoint on a figure in the book. Olson doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of George Marshall, describing him as intensely ambitious, and quotes someone calling him a 'consummate Army politician.' Maybe that was meant as a compliment, didn't seem like it, and doesn't jibe with the guy who really badly wanted to command Operation Overlord (Normandy invasion) but wouldn't directly lobby FDR for it, and ended up passing on it because FDR expressed a desire for Marshall to remain in his current position.

As to FDR, based on some things I read about him in that book 1920: The Year of Six Presidents, I think he's just a politician, in the sense of being more than willing to flip-flop on an issue if he thinks it expedient. Also that he knows words are cheap and easy. So he'll declare the U.S. is to become the arsenal of democracy, but not put serious effort into getting factories shifted over to production of armaments. Because that might step on toes.

I'd never read much on Lindbergh, so the book offered a lot I didn't know, especially about the kind of person he was. I did know that he helped the pilots in the Pacific understand how to get better fuel economy out of the P-38 Lightnings, which is how a flight of them were able to intercept Admiral Yamamoto's plane and shoot him down. I didn't know Lindbergh was in the Pacific on the sly, because FDR would never have signed off on it, so friends of Lindbergh's brought him over without telling anyone. For Lindbergh, emotions did not, or were not, supposed to factor into any decision. Everything he said, about the U.S. needing to stay out of the war, or that the British and French were gripped by a lethargy while Germany had an energy and efficiency that got things done, he felt he was saying from a place of rational and logical observation. To him, there was nothing personal in what he was saying, and he couldn't understand why so many people took it that way. If he wrote something, and meant it a certain way, he could not understand how anyone else might draw any other conclusion from it (say that he was advocating open anti-Semitism). Draw from that what you will.

I also didn't know that Anne Lindbergh, originally Anne Morrow, was a multiple-time bestselling author, who unfortunately seemed to have a difficult go of it. Not in the sense of living in poverty, but in feeling especially trapped by everyone else's expectations of who she was supposed to be. Her mother's, her friends, and later, Lindbergh, who expected her to conform to his way of living. Follow where he went, toe his line, don't get emotional.

There's a lot in the book outside of FDR and Lindbergh. There were a lot of moving parts, groups on both sides, with connections in and out of Washington. Shifting loyalties, a presidential election to deal with, pressure from the British to get on with it (without doing so in such a way as to give the isolationists more fuel for their charge that the Brits were trying to trick the U.S. in again).

'In his tenure as president, Roosevelt, who had been so effective in educating Americans about domestic issues, had never done the same for foreign affairs. As his biographer, James McGregor Burns, put it, "He hoped they would be educated by events." As it turned out, they were, but not in the way he wanted.'

Monday, April 11, 2016

At Some Point, Both Sides Needed To Start Questioning Their Approach

Sabata has certain difficulties with me that aren't entirely its own fault. Namely that it seems very much like it was trying to take advantage of the popularity of the Sergio Leone films. I guess I should be judging it on its own merits, but it does star Lee van Cleef, and there are certain aspects of the film where it seems like it's trying really hard to be like those movies. There are a lot of shots of people's feet, just holding on them as a character walks, and then pauses, and there's the moment of anticipation whether there's going to be violence. That's not too bad.

But the film also really likes having characters look directly at the camera (and by extension) us, which is really unnerving, and doesn't seem to serve any purpose. I guess they could want to unnerve us by having chunky Judge O'Hara look right at us as he delivers more bad news to the villain (who is not standing where we are, fyi). But then the camera holds on him for a beat after he finishes speaking, and he keeps staring at us, and I don't know what that's about. And it happens throughout the film.

There's also this scene where van Cleef climbs the stairs to his hotel room, while an old acquaintance of his plays his banjo at the bottom of the stairs. And as he plays, the camera yo-yos back and forth between his hands and his face. Which comes off as ridiculous, but they're doing it at the same time that they're adding in shots of van Cleef's feet ascending the stairs. So we're meant to take the scene seriously - like van Cleef might get violent, or he can't take this guy lightly - but Banjo just ends up looking like a doofus. You find out later he's got some skills, but during this scene, the movie seems to be arguing with itself.

The movie feels like it doesn't have enough plot for its 100 minute run time. There's a guy who tried to steal an Army safe, to use the money to buy land the railroad will be going through. Except van Cleef killed the guys and returned the safe, and claims he has evidence to connect this wealthy guy to the crime. Rather than pay van Cleef, he keeps trying to have him killed, and it keeps not working. So the movie settles into this repetitive drag of various failed attempts, which only really serve to make van Cleef increase his extortion demands. But since the guy still won't pay, and it does van Cleef no good to kill him until he does, they're just going in circles. And nobody in the movie is really interesting enough to compensate for that.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Zorro 2.22 - Please Believe Me

Plot: Diego and Bernardo have come to town, accompanied by both Anita and Raimundo, that new vaquero from last week. While Diego checks in with Sergeant Garcia, Bernardo keeps a very unsubtle eye on Anita as she shops. The sergeant is ready to send her back to Spain, since she's here to see her father and he apparently doesn't exist. Outside, Anita is getting into trouble by trying to take stuff from a store without paying. Oh, she's not stealing, she just didn't bring enough money and is, 'not accustomed to haggling with tradespeople.' Great attitude there, kid. Raimundo butts in, trying to bully the storekeeper, but then Diego shows up and explains he'll cover the cost. He tries again to question poor Gonzales about whether he recalls sending out any letters to Anita, which he doesn't, but perhaps if he could see one of them. But back at the hacienda, Anita can't find any of the letters, and doesn't take kindly to the sergeant's big wink to everyone else. Still, that shadowy figure is lurking nearby, even if no one is noticing.

Either way, Alejandro has had enough. He's going to book her fare on a ship leaving for Spain. Anita doesn't know that, though, as she sings on the veranda of a lonely guitar. Diego tries talking to her some more, most likely hoping for some small clue that he can use to stave off his father's plan, to no avail. Anita is as pleased by Alejandro's decision as you'd imagine, and that night sneaks out of her room to the vaquero's quarters. She asks Raimundo if he will take he to the Mission San Fernando, to find the padre who accompanied her on the journey from Spain. Raimundo is not ready to go against his new boss, until she shows him she has 100 pesos. At which point he and his buddy both agree to escort. And they do, right back to that same section of the wilderness she was in last week, a fact Anita recognizes. Up against a cliff, there's not much place for her to go but down, so she does, onto a narrow ledge along the cliff face.

That's not a great situation, but fortunately Cresencia had come in to check on her and found Anita missing, and Diego quickly changed into his Zorro gear and took off looking for her. He and Alejandro also found a set of muddy footprints behind one of those changing screens in her room, but that will have to wait. Zorro finds the vaqueros and Anita soon enough, and Raimundo's attempt to hide a dagger behind his back while pretending to surrender fails miserably. Unfortunately, he and his buddy escape while Zorro has to climb down the cliff face to help Anita back up, then escort her home. Impressively, she will not promise to, as he puts it, try anymore foolish things. She'll only promise that she's going to find her father.

Quote of the Episode: Sergeant Garcia - 'Sometimes young people, they have ideas about things that aren't really so.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (9 overall).

Other: I'm pretty sure that was the same storekeeper who wouldn't extend Estevan a line of credit for that bag oats five episodes back. That poor guy. He must be dreading it every time someone associated with the de la Vegas shows up. Sure he gets his money, but always after some big to-do where he gets made out to be the bad guy.

I appreciate that the story was at least going to try and address the idea the padre could corroborate some of the Anita's story. I'm not sure if the part he can vouch for would be enough to convince Alejandro not to send her home - it isn't as though the padre knows her father - but it might dispel this apparently widespread gossip that she makes stuff up. Seemingly everyone knows about it. Garcia, the shopkeeper, even Gonzales had a certain smile on his face when he asked if perhaps he could see one of these letters she received. Although maybe he resents being put through all this questioning over this. Dude has to work for a living, can't be spending all his time answering questions about some fool letters.

Friday, April 08, 2016

What I Bought 3/29/2016 - Part 4

One last book, all by its lonesome. But it's a villain book, so it's fine. They didn't want to hang out with those dumb super-heroes anyway.

Illuminati #5, by Joshua Williamson (writer), Kev Walker (artist), John Rauch (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I know he's trying to look like a big wheel (not to be confused with The Big Wheel), but Parker just looks like a dork wearing a red suit and a red tie under a huge red cloak. It's just too much.

The team does not die in the explosion. They don't do so well against Odin's Thunder Guard, as it turns out their Enchantress is a fake. There's a fake Enchantress? Anyway, Titania gets angry/desperate enough to trounce some guards and punch the Hood in the face, both buying them time and giving Parker enough of a power boost (blood magic) to get them the hell out of Asgardia. And into actual hell, which is where Parker's hideout is. Brilliant. No possibility of disaster there. Titania is understandably ready to ditch this nonsense, but then the Hood mentions he knows where the Absorbing Man is being held - that Pleasant Hill place where they make the villains believe they're some other, average person - and they should totally go free him. Team bonding exercise!

I'm still waiting to see if the story is going to confirm my suspicion the Hood's staged attack on Titania in issue 1 is behind her power upgrade. Or else what is the explanation. It can't just be her being angry, because she's been angry pretty much every time she's shown up, except those times she was afraid of Spider-Man. Nice touch that of course the villain team is full of people lying about themselves and the resources at their disposal, or how they got them, but there are a couple (Thunderball and Titania) who seem to be open about what they're doing and why. It helps to make me actually care when the Hood gets them in over their heads, and turns out not to have other members he can call in for backup. These others are actually trying to buy in, be team players, and their boss is just screwing them over.

I hadn't paid enough attention to the solicits to know Kev Walker was drawing this issue, but I'm never disappointed to see him. A little surprised. He was drawing Hickman's Avengers books last year, I'd think he would be on a more high-profile book, but then I probably wouldn't get to read it. And it's his usual excellent work. The shift from nice, straight, rectangular panels in the build-up scenes to ones that are tilted and more trapezoidal during action is still in effect. I especially like the page where Titania backhands basically the entire Thunder Guard, and the sound effect is so big it's weighing down the panel below it, where she's still in the middle, breathing hard from the exertion while Thunderball looks on in awe, and the Hood fist pumps in the background.

I do think he draws her a little small, though. She should be a lot taller than the Hood, right? Also, there's a sequence near the end of the issue where she grabs the Hood by his collar, then decides not to hit and lets go, then abruptly grabs his face in one hand, which just feels awkward. Like, she maybe should have grabbed by the face second, when she asserts she won't hit him, then let go as she explains he's not worth it. Because after that she starts walking away, so it's like grab, let go, grab differently, then walk away, and it just feels clunky. Could be a scripting issue. Or it could just be me. If she's running a range of reactions, and not sure exactly which way to go, it would make sense her actions are a little herky-jerky.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Maybe he Should Change The Name, Not Just The Pronunciation

I had never gotten around to see Young Frankenstein, until some coworkers were watching it a couple of weeks ago. For what it's worth, I still prefer Blazing Saddles, but I'm more a fan of westerns than horror movies, so no surprise there.

There are definitely some parts of Young Frankenstein I enjoyed, Igor deliberately pronouncing his name differently because of Dr. "Frankensteen". Marty Feldman in general was gold, and the random appearance of Gene Hackman as the lonely blind man, that was good. Gene Wilder in general is good. He has this air of long-suffering calm, and then he'll just flip out. It's effective, even when I know it's coming, it's still surprising.

Mel Brooks' films seem to do a good job with angry crowds. Whether they're mad about a black sheriff, or a reanimated corpse, or Prince John, he seems to capture that confusion. Everybody's just angry. Alone, none of them would do anything, and you can even reason with them, or get them to stop, because they're just angry about a lot of things (jobs, sickness, whatever it is people get angry about), and taking it out on this one particular thing. Granted that in the real world we usually can't convince them to stop, but it's an interesting idea that maybe people are mostly reasonable if you give them a chance. Or else they're just cowards, and once you make it obvious someone with a clear head is paying attention to the shit they're about to do, they freeze up. I need to think about this more.

I think more Madeline Kahn would have been good. Her character really didn't get to do much.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

What I Bought 3/29/2016 - Part 3

I do still buy some Marvel books, despite the company making a game effort to dissuade me, so let's look at a couple of those books.

Ms. Marvel #5, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Which Kamala are you? I think I'm the kind of disheveled one on the left, who I'm guessing is struggling to get going in the morning. I identify with that struggle.

Free of all her civilian responsibilities, Kamala's enjoying super-heroing it up. Unfortunately the weird duplicates have replicated like crazy, and are causing a panic. Not that they seem to be destroying things, they're just kind of a lot of them, and they're in the way. Even the first two aren't doing a great job of covering for her. Mike seems to have discovered the problem, but there doesn't seem to be a good way to fix it in a reasonable amount of time. And time is an issue, because there's one giant Mecha-Kamala about to completely disrupt her brother's engagement party. On the plus side, the two families seem to be getting along really well, except for all the stuff with Kamala's doppelganger melting after it drank tea.

I liked the slow burn on the reaction to the melting doppelganger. the increasingly horrified expressions as we go from panel 1 to panel 2, and then the complete freakout in panel 3, then the switch to Kamala desperately trying to change to civvies across the street, only to learn she's too late. It's funny, but also a good encapsulation of the way all this is spiraling out of control. She wants to be a super-hero, but there are all these other things other people want of her, too. And she can't make herself simply ignore those people. I mean, she could do the Batman thing, and just cut everyone out of her life and be Ms. Marvel 24/7, but she doesn't want to. Plus, there's no telling how her mother would react, and that is an issue for her that the old Goddamned Batman doesn't have to consider.

Also, were those Canadian ninjas? Their headbands had maple leafs on them. Leon continues the tradition of other artists on this book of adding nice touches to panels, or maybe they're in the script. The one ninja who keeps slipping on banana peels. The doppelganger riding on top of one of Loki's golems, while wearing a tricorne hat (maybe it's a tricorne). Kamala stopping to pet a cat in the middle of the ninjas chasing her down the street. And I like how the doppelgangers' faces are drawn much more simply than everyone else's, because they're cheap copies, comparatively. And they mimic Kamala when she's around, notice the two putting a finger in one ear and their other hand to their other ear while she's doing the same on page 11.

I don't know what the fallout from all this is going to be for her. It seems like it'd be hard to salvage without something giving way. Her friendship with Nakia is looking likely to crumble, but maybe something else.

Patsy Walker aka Hellcat #4, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Megan Wilson (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - And this is why I don't dance in public. You try to use a bat with nails in it to clear some space to show what you got, and Hellcat comes along and kicks ya in the face.

Patsy's on to another job, this time as secretary for someone named Tara, who is friends with Howard the Duck. I don't know, I don't read that book. Howard does drop by, and I gotta tell ya, that is not what a duck's bill looks like. It's more like a tern's bill, or a Herring gull. I can see what Williams is going for trying in trying to draw a duck's bill, but it isn't really working.

Anyway, after getting herself a tattoo, of herself, on her shoulder, Patsy heads off to have her meeting with Hedy Wolfe, only to be attacked by Bailey, the girl with magic bag. A girl who has to list jaywalking as one of her crimes is no match for the high-flyin' Hellcat, and Patsy calls in Valkyrie as well, to play bad cop. This seems like the start of a good plan, but then they fly directly to Casiolena's new hideout and promptly get captured. And it turns out Casiolena promised Bailey she would help with her student loans! Wow, that's evil. Also pretty gullible on Bailey's part. No one can help you with your student loans, not even Reed Richards, who totally could have recreated the universe as a place without student loans, but was just too fucking lazy and incompetent to do so. I bet you Doom's Battleworld didn't have student loans.

No, I'm probably never going to stop taking opportunities to pin random crappy things in the Marvel Universe on Reed Richards now. It's fun!

Griping about Howard's bill aside, I do like the designs for some of the other kids Casiolena's suckered into working for her. The redheaded twins with the energy fairy wings, the green looking guy with the diamond in his chest. I imagine Megan Wilson's colors help a lot, because it makes them all very bright and distinct from each other. I have no idea if they'll work as well once violence ensues and they're in action, but that'll be a question for next issue. The art is a little clunky at times, although mostly I keep getting distracted by the fact I think Valkyrie needs either some shoulder pads or a cape again. There's just a few panels where angles or proportions seem off. Williams does pretty well when she can focus a panel on just a few elements, and draw the heck out of those.

I do hope we get to see Patsy do some private investigator work in the near future, but Leth offers at least a sort of workable explanation for Patsy pursuing other lines of work. I don't know that Patsy's ever had what you might call a normal job. Child star, model, super-hero, published a book, dead, gumshoe. I'm probably missing something, but those are not necessarily doors open to every person with powers, which is the whole point of her temp agency idea. So yeah, I guess I can wait and hope for investigating soon.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Friar and the Cipher - Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

The Friar and the Cipher is about a lot of things. It's about something called the Voynich manuscript, an old book found on a bookscouting tour in the early 20th Century by a Wilfred Voynich. The book is written entirely in a cipher no one has yet been able to definitively crack, and illustrated will all manner of pictures of plants, star maps, and naked ladies. The last 50 pages are about the various attempts to crack the cipher over the last 100 years.

The person who seems to be the most popular choice as author of the Voynich manuscript is Roger Bacon, a 13th century friar and scientist. So most of the book is about Roger Bacon. His life, his studies at Oxford, his feeling that the Church should embrace the scientific method of hypothesis and experiment as a way to better understand the universe , and thus, God, the lean years at Paris University where he was kept under lock and key and close observation by the Dominican friars and such who were running things. Because of the role the Catholic Church plays in the proceedings, the Goldstones also spend a lot of time on what was going on with the Church, the formation of the Dominican and Franciscan orders, their struggles against Frederick II, the reaction against scientific progress. And, since St. Thomas Aquinas was the proponent of a rival approach towards science and learning, he gets a significant amount of pages. And so does John Dee, since he was apparently obsessed with Roger Bacon a few centuries later.

All in all, it creates the feeling of a book where the authors didn't have quite enough on any of the subjects they really wanted to discuss, so they mashed it together, along with some other, ancillary information in a general attempt to give a sense of the wider setting affecting the characters. It isn't a bad idea, but if Roger Bacon is the subject of the book, then they probably shouldn't spend so much time talking about all these other things. The stuff about Dee sort of fits as someone who collected as many rare books as he could and shared them, helping to reintroduce Bacon (and other's) ideas to people who'd never heard of them, and he also may have owned the Voynich manuscript. But he wasn't much of a scientist, and the Goldstones don't really do a lot tracing the ownership history of the manuscript.

'After trying cribs, substitutions, concordances, frequencies, combinations, after checking provenance, medical history, philology, botany, and astronomy, after subjecting the cipher to both computer analysis and human instinct, no one was able to (persuasively) penetrate the code. There was too much detail in the manuscript, too much order, too much precision, for it to be a fraud, but too much obscurity to provide an answer.'

Monday, April 04, 2016

What I Bought 3/29/2016 - Part 2

I actually had more books from publishers outside Marvel and DC than from either of those two in this last bunch. Not by a lot, we're talking 4 books to 3, but it's still atypical enough I noticed. Here we have two different books, both starring female leads who are going to have to make some decisions about their careers.

Wynonna Earp #2, by Beau Smith (writer), Lora Innes (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - I feel as though Wynonna must lose whatever is on that string around her neck all the time. Just seems like it would break really easily during strenuous activity like fighting werewolves.

So Mars Del Rey has his illegal organ selling operation inside a milk processing plant, and he's planning to ship out a bunch of brains to all the top presidential candidates. Earp's boss, unsure of who inside the plant is actually a bad guy and who is just someone paying bills by working at a milk plant, tries to keep Wynonna from going guns blazing. But if that's the case, he ought to keep closer eyes on her, because she and this John Henry guy quickly steal a milk truck, drive in, and start a gunfight. Basically because Henry told her everyone in town is a "Chupacabra", meaning part of the demon cartel. Which kind of forces Xavier to send his guys in, which leads to casualties, and so even though Mars is captured, Wynonna still gets chewed out.

I was surprised Mars del Rey was captured so quickly. I had expected he'd be the main foe, but apparently he has a brother. So maybe Bobo will be the main antagonist. Either way, I don't mind the pace. there's a definite sense of forward movement to the book a lot of other things I've read could stand to have. It seemed a little convenient that everyone in the milk plant was a bad guy, but I guess Smith wanted to make the point that Wynonna needed the assurance there wouldn't be innocent bystanders before she went in. I'm just not convinced John Henry is trustworthy enough to act strictly on his say-so.

There are a couple of times I thought Smith tried for some clever wordplay, but he was reaching a bit. Mars' line that, 'It appears my gambling buddy has dumped Lady Luck and taken up with Lady Law. That choice will be his Dead Man's Hand,' was a bit much. I appreciate the effort - I'm always up for a good turn of phrase - but sometimes it just isn't there. More good than bad, though, and a few lines that made me laugh.

There are a few places where Innes' characters have some odd postures and positions. As the gunfight breaks out, Wynnona's on top of the truck blazing away. That's fine, no concerns there. But Henry is down on the loading dock, seemingly not having drawn his guns, and walking like he's doing this odd little strut. It's mostly with people walking that something feels off to me. Innes' facial expressions and body language are excellent. The scared, confused look on Fred's face when he reaches the top of the semi, and finds no Wynonna. Wynonna's calm manner leaning on the milk truck window to convince the guy at the gatehouse to let them in. Innes really seems to like having something going on with Henry's hat. Either he's tipping the brim, or someone else is messing with it, or he's holding onto it to keep it from blowing off. Which is good. My experience with wide-brim hats is they are prone to getting knocked off. Or maybe mine was just poorly fitted.

Henchgirl #5, by Kristen Gudsnuk - The x-axis for the line graph on the wall says "Mountain range". That's a cute touch.

Mary is growing increasingly dissatisfied with her life in the Butterfly Gang. Coco is getting increasingly sadistic, seemingly delighting in any opportunity to hurt people as a way to achieve objectives. The group is certain they have a mole who leaked the whole "rob the orphanage building fund" scheme, but fortunately Mary is smart enough not to give herself away. Not that I think she has much to worry about from this band of dopes. The same can't be said for Fred, aka Mannequin, who the gang found. In desperation he astral projected, but then they just shattered his body. So Mary tries her best to put the pieces back together, and with a lot of tape and super glue, it works.

We also learn her roommate has been honing her power to produce carrots. Now her carrots are alive. They have limbs, and faces, and can cry when people lose their shit at the sight of a tiny, smiling, waving carrot, because what the hell? I mean, I feel bad for the carrot, because it was trying to be friendly and Mary got a horrified look, then ran into her room to put someone's corpse back together with office supplies. But seriously, that's weird and terrifying. I don't want tiny carrots roaming my apartment, I don't care how helpful they are now. They'll watch some TV and end up like that A.I. Microsoft put online that turned into a fascist racist in like 5 minutes. Then where are you?

It's interesting that Gudsnuk draws more detailed faces for what I assume are one-off characters. The son of the guy who owns the pizza place, the random wealthy guy they rob, the old lady Coco was threatening to try and get into the vault. The recurring characters tend towards simpler designs, a lot fewer lines, and I don't know if Gudsnuk does that simply as a time-saving thing, or if there's a distinct point. Like these random characters aren't really part of this story or world, they've just briefly intersected with it, so they don't look like they fit. I was toying with the idea that they're meant to look more realistic, kind of that reminder that even if you're just doing to "fun" crime Mary wanted to do, you're hurting actual people. But I doubt that fits with the overall tone of the series. Probably just me projecting. Besides, when I see those characters, I'm mostly struck by how strange they look, compared to everyone else in that world.

I continue to enjoy the book immensely. It has that silly tone that makes the moments of genuine emotion work as a counterpoint.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Zorro 2.21 - The Missing Father

Plot: We open in the square in Los Angeles, as two passengers on the stage bid each other farewell. The padre is going on to his mission. The young girl, one Anita Cabrillo, is staying in Los Angeles to find her father, a haciendaro known as Don Miguel Cabrillo. But no one has ever heard of him. Not Gonzales, who collects the mail delivery, not Diego, not Sergeant Garcia. Anita admits she hasn't seen her father in 12 years, not since he left her in Spain and came to California after her mother's death, but she has received letters and presents from him addressed from Los Angeles.

Faced with a lack of options, Diego offers to let her stay at his home while this is sorted out, while Garcia and Reyes try to crack the case (Reyes fears foul play). That night as she stands with in front of the window before retiring for the night, someone tries to grab her. Or so she says. We saw the hands, but no one else did, and Alejandro especially suspects her of fabricating this entire thing. The morning, Diego and Alejandro return to the cuartel and go through the records over the last 40 years with Sergeant Garcia, but find no record of a Miguel Cabrillo. Alejandro now really wants to interrogate her, but Diego advises they watch her. Or rather, Zorro will watch her. Sure enough, someone had slipped a note into her room, and she sneaks off that night to a clandestine meeting in the middle of nowhere. There, the shadowy figure tells her it's better to live in Spain than die in California, and so she should return home. Zorro is trying to sneak up on Anita(?), and she naturally freaks when she turns and see a masked guy dressed all in black, and hurls a rock at him. He dodges, but good effort, kid. Zorro initially tries chasing the stranger, but has to abandon the chase. When Anita returned to her horse, it was startled by a suddenly agitated rattlesnake and dashed off, her apparently helpless on it. So Zorro has to hop on Tornado and save her, then lets her return home on her own to recount her tale to Alejandro and Bernardo.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'We will also assume responsibility for her safety.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (9 overall).

Other: I love that Alejandro thinks this young girl came up with the funds to ride a ship all the way from Spain as part of some elaborate, what? Scam? Hallucination? The world he lives in, I swear. Though maybe he doesn't even believe she came from Spain? I guess that's why it was important for the padre to stay on the stage. He'd ridden over on the same ship with her, and could corroborate at least that much of the story. Surely not even Alejandro is so arrogant as to accuse a man of the cloth of lying (this show is, not surprisingly, a lot nicer towards the Church than it has any business being).

There's also a brief subplot about a Raimundo Ruiz and his buddy, who are being hired on as vaqueros at the de la Vega hacienda. That doesn't pay off until next week, though.

After the first attempt by the mysterious stranger to grab her, as Diego and Alejandro debate what's going on, we see the shadow of the person walk across their courtyard to the open gate. Then the shadow merges with the darkness we see through the opening. Which is a pretty neat bit of work, for suggesting he melts into the night, which makes him seem a little more dangerous.

When Zorro hops off the wall onto Tornado, you catch a glimpse of the arm of the person who was holding Tornado's reins. They've used that footage before, but I don't have a lot to say about this episode, so I'll mention it here.

Friday, April 01, 2016

The Eternal Dance Continues

(Clever Adolescent Panda rushes into Calvin's current dwelling.)

CAP: All right, Calvin, we've got to prepare. UnCalvin got us last year, but we'll be - oh no.

(Calvin is dragging himself across the dirty, blood-smeared floor towards the door. UnCalvin stands a few feet away, holding a sword and grinning triumphantly.)

Calvin: *gasping* {You're. . .a day. . .late.} *gurgles, collapses*

UnCalvin: Yes, it looks like someone forgot about the International Date Line when making their travel plans! Mahaha! (It's kind of a weak evil laugh, honestly. Not enough bass in it.)

(CAP dashes forward and cradles Calvin's head.)

CAP: No, I'm sorry. I tried to get here, but the lines at airports, and, and, I couldn't get a cab here, and, sniff, sob, I - wait a minute.

Calvin: *still making dying noises* Urg, gag, blarg.

CAP: *takes a deeper sniff* This is strawberry jelly. *looks at UnCalvin* And you have tried to kill me while I was distracted.

UnCalvin: *mock offended* I would never, eh, yeah, I would.

CAP: And going across the International Date Line didn't cost me a day, it gained me one! You jerks!

(The opposing forces burst into laughter, though they at least have the decency to be a little sheepish about it.)

Calvin: {Sorry, old chap. We got bored and that meant we started considering bad ideas, and well. . .sorry. Forgive us?}

CAP: Hmm, well, *rubs chin* maybe. *Bonks both of them on the head*

Calvin: {Agh!}

UnCalvin: Ow! Damn, I'd forgotten how much that hurts!

Calvin: {I hadn't. And yet I learned nothing from past experience.}

CAP: Now we're fine.

Calvin: {Great, want some oatmeal raisin cookies?}

CAP: Are the raisins actually made of rubber?

Calvin: {No.}

UnCalvin: The idea has potential, though.

Calvin: {No, they aren't.}

CAP: You know I like cookies, as long as they aren't made of love extracted from people's prized possessions. *glares at UnCalvin as Calvin goes to get the cookies*

UnCalvin: *throws hands in the air* I try to make people happy by stealing others' possessions and using them as cookie ingredients and somehow, I'm the bad guy.

Calvin: {Here you go.}

CAP: These are brownies.

Calvin: {Yep. I ate all the oatmeal raisin cookies days ago. So you have to settle for the first brownie out of the batch. April Fools!}

CAP: *eagerly* OK! *begins devouring brownies*

UnCalvin: Not much of a joke.

Calvin: {Nah, but it sort of makes up for the first one. Hey, I said the first brownie out of the batch, not the first 10!}

CAP: *muffled* Ha, ha, too late! *glances at UnCalvin* What's she doing here on time, anyway?

Calvin: {Pollock's been here nonstop since our many near deaths after Thanksgiving.}

CAP: Pollock?

Pollock: It's the name I gave myself, I have not been her constantly since Thanksgiving, and I can, and have, been on time in the past, and you know, you snotty little furball!

CAP: *stands up, still holding bag of brownies* I see Pollock needs a punch in the kisser as much as UnCalvin did!

Pollock: *brandishes sword* Just try it, twerp!

CAP: *looks closely* That sword is made of rubber!

Pollock: *slightly flustered* S-so? I don't need a real sword to beat you!

CAP: You've never beaten me!

Pollock: I have so! Check the records! I defeated you in single combat multiple times!

CAP: And I've destroyed like three of your bases!

Calvin: {Kids, kids, kids, you're both special snowflakes. Now let's not do anything which is going to destroy my home.}

Pollock: *kind of whining* But that's the most traditional part of these April Fools' Day posts!

CAP: She's right.

Calvin: {I know, but they're doing a safety inspection in a week, and I still need to deal with the ant problem and figure out where we put all those smoke detectors we unhooked.}

CAP: You unhooked your smoke alarms? Those are there for your own good!

Pollock: *aghast* You have ants? Also, yes, fire hazards are no laughing matter.

Calvin: {Well thank you, '80s G.I. Joe cartoon. Point being, no fighting.}

Pollock: *exasperated* Fine.

CAP: Darn. So, why are you here?

Pollock: *takes nearby seat* Because work is a drag now. I'm a figurehead. They don't really listen to any my or my staff's cool ideas. It's all boring, practical-sounding stuff that mostly doesn't work. They cut benefits, they cut the number of employees, but not the workload. They've made the Blender Furby into a program that listens to current popular music and pumps out copycat tracks. They even got rid of my last string quartet in the break room!

Calvin: {Why not quit then, if you hate it so much? Go join Sergeant Johanssen on the okra farm.}

Pollock: Quit? Just admit defeat and retreat with my tail between my legs?! I never quit as long as my resources stand! *gets a momentarily thoughtful look*

CAP: *steadfastly refusing to share those brownies* Then take back the company.

Pollock: *still kind of distracted by something* Unfortunately, I don't have enough resources to do so. I can't afford to buy the shares to regain control.

Calvin: {Pfft, that's loser talk. You're a super-villain. Fight them like a super-villain. Sneak into their homes and beat the hell out of them until they do what you want.}

CAP: Calvin!

Calvin: {Or, I dunno, steal some expensive stuff and sell it on the black market to raise funds. Whatever. You're supposed to be the cool one of the two of us.}

CAP: Don't do it, Pollock. I'd hate to have to beat you up and throw you in jail.

Pollock: Ha, I'm rich. I don't go to jail.

CAP: Being rich wouldn't keep you out of Panda Jail.

Calvin: {I hear Panda Jail is pretty nice.}

CAP: Yeah, as jails go. It's not very crowded, lots of books, decent food. But it's still a jail.

Calvin: {I know some folks who'd kill to get into that jail.}

CAP: That is one way in, yes.

Pollock: Focus, idiots.

CAP: Did she mean us, or just you?

Calvin: {She used the plural, I think you're included.}

CAP: Well I resent it.

Calvin: {Well don't re-sent it, or you'll end up with a double-post. Nobody likes those.}

CAP: Ugh, that's awful.

Pollock: Shut it! *both stop talking* Walking away is not my style. And I'm not feeling violent towards others these days. No, I need to tear my company down to its foundation. Then, I'll rebuild it, just as I always do.

Calvin: {Oh. Well, good luck with that. Try to let your employees evacuate before you collapse a skyscraper.}

CAP: I think she was speaking figuratively.

Pollock: A little of both.

CAP: Oh, well that sounds bad.

Pollock: Really? I was going to ask for your help. You were bragging earlier about destroying my operations, I thought you'd jump at another chance to do so.

CAP: I don't know. I usually do it to stop you from killing Calvin. This doesn't sound like that. Maybe you could get Deadpool?

Calvin: {I think Wade's a little busy murdering Sabretooth. Probably not the best time.}

CAP: Cassanee?

Pollock: No. She called me names.

CAP: Makes Brakes Fail Lass?

Calvin: {We were worried about casualties remember?}

Pollock: C'mon, please? *wheedling*

CAP: *Sigh* Fine, I'll help, but we have to make it quick. I need to get home.

Pollock: Oh. I'm not ready to do it now. I'll let you know. Give you a ring, or maybe just drop by. Thanks! *skips merrily out of the house, then reenters the house a moment later* Oh, one last thing.

(And with that, Pollock picked up one of the couches and hurled it through a window. Then jumped through the hole.)

Pollock: Happy April Fools Day! *runs off*