Thursday, June 30, 2016

Quietly Quality Months Are Fine

Last month's solicitations had quite a few things going on I was interested in. This month's solicits, not so much. First order of business: the Atomic Robo mini-series is "Temple of Od", not "Temple of Ood", which I think is what I typed last time.

Deadpool is finally emerging from the haze of Civil War II tie-ins, so maybe it would be a good idea for me to just wait until then to start picking the book up again. I sat out Axis, but I want to think the creative can make something of this tie-in. Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat is wrapping up its second arc. More importantly, there's no indication the book is ending with said second arc. I worry because I'd read it's not selling in the direct market, but maybe digital sales or critical acclaim is carrying it forward. I'll take whatever I can get.

Detective Comics is going to have a crossover with some of the other Bat-books. Pass. As someone (potentially) buying the book for Cass, Steph, and Tim, I'm disappointed the solicits only ever seem to mention Batman, Batwoman, or sometimes Nightwing. I don't give a crap about any of them, and this makes me think I'd be wasting my time buying the book. Wonderful when I can practically talk myself out of buying something before I've even started.

DC's also shipping the Rebirth issue for Batman Beyond the same month they ship the final issue of the current Batman Beyond series, which seems as though it could cause confusion. I doubt they'll screw it up this severely, but I'd laugh pretty hard if the Rebirth issue ships before the other one. I'm lying, I wouldn't laugh, I'd shake my head like an adult deeply disappointed by their child or pet doing something stupid.

Other than that, Henchgirl, Wynonna Earp, and Darkwing Duck are all chugging along. Nothing else really jumped out and demanded my attention, but that's OK.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What I Bought 6/21/2016 - Part 3

Long day on Monday, thus no post then. But here's a post now!

Darkwing Duck #1 and 2, by Aaron Sparrow (writer), James Silvani (writer/artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), Deron Bennett and D.C. Hopkins (letterers) - Poor Launchpad, he got left off the first issue cover.

The way I understand it, this is picking up somewhere after the end of the second story arc of the Ian Brill/James Silvani volume BOOM! published 6 years ago. But it's ignoring the last arc, where the book crossed over with their Ducktales comic, for reasons I'm unclear on (I'm guessing some powers that be didn't like how that story went, but I don't know).

St. Canard is celebrating opening a new supermax prison for all their super-villains, the Mayor brings a bunch of schoolkids to the celebration, because he's an idiot. Darkwing crashes the party because he's incensed he wasn't invited, which works exactly as Negaduck planned, as he gets the prison to go into lockdown, trapping everyone inside as he releases the prisoners from their cells. Issue 2 is Darkwing trying to recapture the villains while they all try to kill him, as Negaduck watches. There's a few other possible subplots, including Mortimer, a classmate of Gosalyn's who was briefly a super-villain in the earlier volume, enlisting the help of a Hannibal Lecter-themed cat villain, but it's unclear if they're going to end up helping or harming. Probably one, then the other.

There are some decent one-liners, and the dialogue feels about right. Silvani was always good at the action sequences, but I think he's more willing to loosen up his style some. Really embrace the cartoon aspect of the series he's working with. I might be wrong, it's been a few years since I reread the earlier volume. Either way, he's still doing a good job with expressions and body language. There's something a little different about the colors, but I'm not quite sure what it is. The art has this slightly, greyed out looked to it, like things aren't quite as bright as they ought to be. I think the inking's different, a softer line being used, but again, not sure about that (or whether that would have anything to do with this). It's not awful by any stretch, it just feels more subdued. Maybe it's something about the printing process.

I'm not sure about starting the book by having Darkwing fight his entire rouge's gallery right off the bat (that always seems like it makes a hero's enemies look kind of incompetent), but that misgiving and whatever it is about the shading that's throwing me, I'm enjoying the book.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Destiny of the Republic - Candice Millard

Destiny of the Republic is about the slow, drawn-out, unnecessary death of President James A. Garfield. Garfield was officially killed by a man named Charles Guiteau, who had first convinced himself he was of major importance and should surely be awarded the ambassadorship of Paris, and then, when this didn't happen (because he had absolutely no qualifications or connections, regardless of what he thought), decided Garfield needed to go. Garfield was, after all try to do away with the cronyism that saw important civic posts handed out to lackeys and major campaign contributors, and actually get people selected based on merit.

As it stands, Garfield would likely have survived Guiteau's attempt if not for the attending doctors. Millard weaves into Garfield's story the resistance by the established American doctors to Joseph Lister's ideas about trying to create an antiseptic environment, to avoid getting germs in wounds. The idea had taken hold in England, but for whatever reason, most American doctors in the 1870s thought it was hokum. Which is how you get a situation where one doctor sticks his unwashed finger into Garfield's bullet wound, looking for said bullet, while Garfield is still laying on the 19th century train station bathroom floor.  In reality, Garfield died because his primary doctor, a Dr. Bliss, got him riddled with infection and was too dumb and stubborn to realize it.

Millard brings in several variously connected threads and makes an engaging read of them. The early lives of both Garfield and Guiteau, and the distinct contrasts between them, but also the issue of Roscoe Conkling, a major adversary of Garfield, and the man who was certain he owned Garfield's Vice President, Chester Arthur. Arthur's transformation, thanks is large part to a series of letters from a Julia Sand, is detailed, and so is Alexander Graham Bell's involvement in the attempt to save Garfield's life. It's impressively done, and highly recommended.

'Not only did many American doctors not believe in germs, they took pride in the particular brand of filth that defined their profession. They spoke fondly of the "good old surgical stink" that pervaded their hospitals and operating rooms, and they resisted making too many concessions even to basic hygiene.'

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Zorro 2.33 - Invitation to Death

Plot: A tranquil morning at the de la Vega hacienda is disturbed by the noisy arrival of one Captain Arellano, who was providing security for the governor's wagon, which has overturned nearby, gravely injuring His Excellency. The governor is soon brought to the hacienda and set up as comfortably as possible in the sala while Diego fetches the doctor. The captain explains to Diego and Alejandro that he suspects foul play at the hands of a group called the Rebatos, who resent the governor's call for all Californians to take a loyalty oath to Spain. In fact, the governor was coming to Los Angeles to make a call personally for the people to take the oath. He won't be making that appointment, but Phelipe (the captain), will as he is appointed temporary governor. While Phelipe seems uncertain of himself, he makes an impassioned plea in the tavern, and aided by Alejandro vocally and publicly standing up to be first to take the oath, seems to have carried out the governor's wishes. As other citizens line up to take the oath, a Manuel Larios approaches the captain, and asks if he has considered that, were the governor to die, the captain could continue being governor, which might be very good for the captain. Phelipe says that sounds an awful lot like treason, but the idea takes hold in his mind.

Back at the hacienda, poor Sergeant Garcia is stuck as the governor's orderly, which means trying to get him to take his foul-tasting medicine, with poor results. Meanwhile, Diego is outside talking with the governor's daughter, who is concerned for her father's safety and wonders why there is so much political violence. Diego's attempts to lift her spirits catch the eye of the captain, who fancies the young lady, despite her complete lack of interest in him. So he makes a bit of a scene, and implies she's been behaving improperly and that he will not allow her to do so going forward. Which earns him a well-deserved smack in the face from her, and later still, a dressing-down from her father, who has apparently decided Phelipe will never become the man he hoped he would. Having lost the confidence of the governor, Larios' suggestion is much more appealing to the captain, and he soon rides into town, dragging Garcia and Reyes with him.

Fortunately, Bernardo notices and warns Diego. Unfortunately, Larios' men are wasting no time going on the attack, and Diego apparently needs a year to change into Zorro, so Bernardo has to enter the sala through the secret passage and stop the first killer (though not before the governor takes a bottle to the head). Bernardo and Zorro move the governor to Alejandro's room, and Zorro places the first would-be assassin in the bed with the blanket over him. Two more rush in, and while Zorro is busy with one, the other knifes what he thinks is the governor. The two killers then flee, having failed in their mission. Afterward, Captain Arellano gets the third degree from everyone as to why he took away the guards, but the governor tells them to stop, out of pity, perhaps.

Quote of the Episode: Governor - 'This will be an opportunity to show what you are made of, to vindicate my faith in you.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: Little surprised Zorro didn't draw his sword when dealing with two assassins. Yeah, the governor is safe elsewhere, but perhaps you don't want these killers to escape without finding out who they're working for and with. It's the second week in a row he doesn't seem to be taking the actual fight entirely seriously.

I don't know what it is the doctor is making the governor take, but hopefully he won't die because he's making Garcia take it instead.

Arellano correcting Garcia and insisting on being referred to as "His Excellency", but only because of tradition was a pretty great slimeball move. You can tell Garcia doesn't buy that explanation at all, either.

Diego frames the actions of the people trying to kill the governor as those of people looking to claim the considerable natural resources and wealth of California for themselves. I guess as opposed to letting Spain have it all. He's probably right, but people might also resent being told they need to publicly affirm their loyalty to a country that really doesn't seem to give much of a damn about them. It sends them brutal Army officers and corrupt government officials almost constantly. And just because Arellano pulls a JFK a couple of years early (asking the people to ask what they can do for Spain, rather than the other way around) doesn't change that. I'm not blaming the governor for that state of affairs, but he hasn't made a visit to Los Angeles for anything else that we know of, so this is what he's apparently deemed most important, and it really isn't.

Friday, June 24, 2016

What I Bought 6/21/2016 - Part 2

So like I said Wednesday, I didn't buy Deadpool #13 yet because it was too expensive for my cheap ass, even though it was probably a good value, in terms of cost per page, relative to other comics these days. But here's two other Deadpool comics, because Marvel publishes plenty of them.

Deadpool: Last Days of Magic, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Guru eFX (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - That is an awful cover. Just boring as shit.

So Dr. Strange is dealing with a threat trying to wipe out all magic in his book. Deadpool has some magic-using friends, plus his wife is a succubus that rules a Monster Metropolis, so this actually makes sense as something he'd get dragged into. He and his friends stave off total annihilation, but the Ghost of Ben Franklin decides it's time to move on to the afterlife (after confirming that story where he and Clea did the nasty in the past-y is in continuity), and Wade's necromancer friend Michael dies stopping the Empirikul's magic-eating machine. Wade does a spectacularly poor job delivering the news to Michael's girlfriend Daphne, who also has magic abilities, and may have actually cursed Wade. Or it may have just been a generic "Curse you!" When things go to shit in Wade's life, it'll be hard to tell.

I feel like Koblish was homaging/doing a parody of Barry Allen's death in Crisis on the Infinite Earths with Michael's death, mostly the panels at the bottom of page 23 where Michael slowly crumbles to dust. Except Koblish's art makes it seem slightly less heroic, slightly more comical. I don't know that it's intentional, although most of the moments for Michael up to then are making fun of him. Puking after using the teleportation spell, failing to try and heal someone (because the spell doesn't work anymore), the echo of the Ancient One facepalming at Michael planning to use Togbon's Journal. I think that's the point, he looks like a screw-up, and he isn't any sort of great mage, but he still saved a lot of people (albeit temporarily if Strange doesn't get his shit together and deal with this problem). Anyway, Koblish does an excellent job on Deadpool's desperation to try and help his friend, and his sadness when he can't. His immediate turn to Doctor Voodoo to find some way to bring Michael back, the way he stands there and takes Daphne's hatred. And the moment when Michael promises to make the Ancient One proud before teleporting away (followed by that facepalm), he had such a look of happiness, it was heart-wrenching. Guru eFX softened the color scheme a bit for those two pages as well, which helped. It's a quieter moment, the colors aren't attacking my eyes, things don't feel as frenzied, and so it lets everything sink in.

It's an effective tie-in, I just would have preferred it not whittle down the parts of Wade's supporting cast I actually care about.

Deadpool #14, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I went with the Koblish-drawn continuing adventures of Deadpool and the UPC code through time. This issue, they landed in the worst story in Simonson's Thor run, that one with Justice Peace of the Time Variance Authority. If they erase that story and replace it with something better, the whole thing will be worth it.

The Ulysses kid with the precog stuff warned all the heroes about a Celestial (I think?) showing up, and the day was saved. But Wade is not being properly appreciative to his Mercs and they're planning to go into business for themselves. Oh no, please don't, you are such an integral part of my enjoyment of this book, he said with no emotion whatsoever. That's pretty much it, other than the Mercs trying to convince Cable to fund them, and Adsit leaving to return to SHIELD. After a half-dozen issues, where he did almost nothing as the guy running Mercs for Money day-to-day. I suppose this could all be part of the curse, shit falling apart rapidly for Wade, although, again, it's hard to tell. Deadpool is the last person who should be trying to run a business, given his lack of attention span and routine indifference to the problems (like bills) of others. But given Ben Franklin's warning of dark days ahead before his departure, and Ulysses telling Wade he wouldn't want to be believe in predicting the future either, if he had Wade's lifeline, yeah, it's probably the curse. Still, the rapid dumping of Adsit feels like I'm back in Daniel Way's run on Deadpool, where he careened one way then the other with seemingly no plan. That's not something I wanted to be reminded of.

At the end of the day, Duggan hasn't done enough with the Mercs for me to care if they stay or go. There's a lot he could do, since all of them represent different facets of Wade (which is no doubt why they were picked), but so far, it hasn't materialized (except with Madcap, I guess). The Mercs are just baggage distracting from the cast members I'd actually like to see Wade interact with (because it's actually been established how they play off him, resulting in me giving a crap about them): Preston, Eleanor, Adsit, Michael, whoops he's dead, oh well. If it's a point about Deadpool getting everything he thought he wanted, and losing all the stuff he really cared about (Last Days of Magic points out Wade has pretty much dropped his friends from the previous volume now that he's a big Avenger), fine, but it doesn't make it anymore enjoyable.

The high point of the issue is Cable explaining to the Mercs how he has money, which involves a flashback to Cable traveling back to the 18th Century with some cash, which he deposits in a bank, and draws from when he returns to the present. Not so much for that explanation, but Mike Hawthorne drawing Cable in a top hat and coat with tails, plus an eye patch to cover the glowy eye. I had not realized I ever wanted to see Cable dressed up like that, but it was great. Deadpool thinking precognition is a bunch of crap feels appropriate too. Otherwise, he'd have to acknowledge what everyone's been telling him about how it's all going to end badly for him, and I don't think he wants to do that.

That turned out very angry, but the books happened to combine to form a perfect combination fo everything that's frustrating me with Deadpool right now.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jack Staff - Everything Used To Be Black And White

One of the occasionally frustrating things about reading Jack Staff is how many plates Paul Grist has spinning at one time. Normally, this isn't the sort of thing that bothers me; I grew up on '80s Marvel comics with multiple subplots. But Grist moves back and forth between them so frequently that just as I'm settling into one thread, he jumps to another*.

What helped though, was an introduction Grist had on the inside cover of an issue of Weird World of Jack Staff. He explained his approach was the book was essentially a whole lot of different comic strips, which all just so happened to be taking place in the same universe, and all of them were kind of happening around the title character. So Jack isn't necessarily the main character, he's the lucky (unlucky) fellow who keeps getting sucked into other people's problems, in addition to some of his own. The structure of the story made more sense after I that.

That actually isn't an issue in Everything Used to be Black and White, which contains the first 12 issues of Jack Staff, those published under Grist's own Dancing Elephant Press. It's just a particular thing that keeps cropping up in my mind as I reread the issues. In those early stages, Grist has to go through the process of introducing these characters to us for the first time, sketching out personalities and quirks, backstories, making us care, and getting the ball rolling.

He's very successful at all that. He starts with a story that moves between a wartime adventure of Jack's and the present, when the threat seems to have reemerged. From there, some of the characters have to deal with the fallout of the battle, the injuries, changes, or even deaths they incurred, and then it moves into a couple of odder stories. One about a book actually coming to life and trying to construct a physical form for itself. Then one about a "time leech", which had tangled with a master escape artist a century ago, and is just now starting to get back into circulation (as is the escapologist).

I'm very impressed with how Grist weaves it all together, bringing in new characters, who end up starting their own arcs and progressions, but it doesn't feel forced. He introduces them smoothly, and then later starts devoting more page time to them. So we're introduced to the Q Branch (who investigate "question mark crimes") in the initial story, but we don't necessarily know that much about them. Then Grist gives them a little more page time, and we see how Harry Crane and Ben Kulmer got into it. If we don't learn the same about Helen Morgan just yet, we do learn about some of her abilities, and her personality**. Or we meet Detective Inspector Maveryck's partner, "Zipper" Nolan as they investigate a murder, and the story hints at something going on with Nolan, but that also won't come to the forefront until later. It's all very skillful, and I wonder at how mapped out Grist had all this beforehand, and how much he pulled together as he went along. Either way, it seems to run together very well, one story creating situations that lead naturally into another.

I think, on the whole, I prefer the book in black and white, compared to the later volumes published through Image in color. Not because the color work is bad - it's vivid and bright, and used effectively to create mood. Like I've said before, I'm a sucker for using negative space, or letting shadows or their absence suggest at things, and Grist does that quite well. And it seems more natural when the whole book is in black and white. Either way, Grist has a good sense of page layout and design, and he's able to create distinct characters who all seem as though they can occupy the same world, be it a regular cop, a demon, or a giant robot person.

I really like the page above, with the Spider's lair shown as this cavernous place where anything could be lurking, and you're stuck navigating by moving from the platforms. Which are in a web motif, so Jack is caught in the web, even when it appears his old foe is being entirely polite and open with his intentions. And the image of Jack on the monitors, which could be the appearance of him being a barred gate, suggesting the Spider's possible eventual plan (I'm not sure if he counted on Maveryck to that much of a crooked cop as to try burning evidence that exonerates a suspect).

* Also, coming to the series now, after the fact, there's the knowledge a lot of those threads are not likely to ever be resolved. Which, again, is something I should be used to from Claremont if nothing else, but it's still a little irritating.

** In general, Helen seems like the sort of person I'd want to trust, because she seems to be generally decent, but I don't think I could ever be certain she wasn't just setting me up to be used for something down the line. Has that air of constantly appraising whether everyone around her is useful or not. With reason, which makes her both a sympathetic and frustrating character, in addition to frequently being very cool.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What I Bought 6/21/2016 - Part 1

I didn't get every book I intended to from the last 3 weeks. Deadpool #13 and Detective Comics #934 were far more expensive than I was willing to accept. Maybe next time (although I've seen scans of Detective Comics, and can't decide whether it's going to be for me or not.) Better to deal with the comics I have than the ones I don't, right?

Black Widow #4, by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (writer/artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I like the two birds watching the whole thing. Don't know why.

Natasha doesn't die of her wound, because she's saved by an old friend. Said old friend also tells her who is behind the little kid that stabbed her, where to find them, and hooks her up with some equipment. Which Natasha says is really old, but we didn't really see her use any of it, so I don't know what it was. She retrieves the file she was after, because the head of this new training program was waiting for her and gave it to her. Maya wants to kill Natasha, as a "prove myself" thing, but is advised to do it when Natasha is 100%. So Natasha has what she needs, but her comes that one SHIELD agent. Is he the Weeping Lion? Probably.

Things are starting to gain momentum, though I'm surprised by how many old friends Natasha has, given the mortality rate for espionage. But every time you turn around (or every time she gets a new series), there's another friend, still alive. And another enemy. The situation with her and Maya is going to be ugly, considering the very attitudes Natasha took to keep herself alive in the Red Room, are what helped her make an enemy of Maya in the first place.

The panels Samnee did of Natasha breaking in, set within a larger panel of a maze, was obviously some good work. I notice that when Natasha retrieved the file and went to the spot to drop it off, she started wearing some sort of eyeliner. Either that or she's really tired. Does it subtly alter her face, so people might not recognize her as readily, or is she just more relaxed now? I also like how Wilson colors the outfit Natasha uses for the break-in. The interplay between black and red in this series seems like something I need to look into more, when I get a chance. The red tends to be intense, but sometimes, even when a character is standing in a spotlight of it, if they're wearing black it doesn't seem to be affected. Anyway, I'm enjoying the book more the farther in we get with it.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #7, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Megan Wilson (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I can't quite parse Jessica's expression there. It looks slightly weary to me. I'd be more befuddled, wondering how Patsy got into the Blonde Phantom's wardrobe, but whatever.

Jessica offers to help Patsy by going to visit Hedy (who of course owns some stupid froo-froo dog) and see if she can find anything they might be able to use to block Hedy's attempt to discredit Patsy. She also convinces Patsy to do a book signing at Tom's store, which is painful enough for Patsy she compares it to being dead. She and Jess try breaking into Hedy's apartment, and get caught. Smooth. Patsy finally blows her top, but sadly, does not kick Hedy in the teeth. Right about then, She-Hulk discovers Patsy's mom was doped up out of her mind on morphine when she signed the rights over to Hedy, so the contract is void. Well then, all's well that ends well, until next month when the book has to deal with Bendis killing or making comatose a member of the cast.

I admit I expected Patsy and Hedy to have some heart-to-heart, and Hedy would reconsider, and they'd mend fences, because Patsy's been making friends with enemies some of the time in this book. But no, I don't see that happening after how this ended. Which actually bums me out a little, I liked how they were portrayed as actual friends by Steve Engelhart when Patsy first came back to life.

I laughed at Luke Cage's reaction to reading the (I'm guessing) fan-comic of him and Iron Fist as a romantic couple. C'mon Luke, do you not spend any time on the Internet? Right, he has a kid, meaning he has no free time. Never mind. Huh, I just noticed Squirrel Girl came to the celebration at the end of the issue. Will Marvel do a crossover between those two books, or at least a team-up? C'mon, they had Squirrel Girl team up with X-23, sorry, Wolverine.

Williams uses the bit where she's goes a bit more exaggerated with character expressions judiciously, which I appreciate. It makes it more effective. Like the panel of Hedy being huffy and put off after Jess leaves at the end of her first visit. It's different enough from her regular style to catch the eye, but still recognizable. And I laughed at her drawing herself getting to meet Patsy. I wonder if that bit where she says she loves how mean Patsy and Hedy were is reminiscent of something she experienced at a convention (being complimented on something kind of awful), or something else.

Also, there's two panels in this issue where the character is placed in front of a solid black background. One is when Patsy mentions that her mother tried to make a deal with a demon to steal Patsy's body, and the other is when Hedy, having heard this, reacts with a blithe, 'Is that all?' The two panels are pages apart, but revolve are the same selfish (possibly drug-induced) act, one framing it as the fairly hurtful thing it is, and the other completely dismissing it. It's like two ends of a conversation the characters weren't even necessarily having with each other at that specific point in time.

I continue to greatly enjoy this book, and hope that it continues for a long time

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fraud of the Century - Roy Morris

My dad sent more books, so brace yourselves.

Fraud of the Century covers the extremely questionable election of Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden in 1876. Tilden by basically all accounts won the popular vote handily (by over 250,000 votes, in an election with roughly 8.5 million votes cast). Unfortunately, there were three Southern states where there were extensive claims of fraud, violence, and generally illegal activity, on both sides. The return boards were dominated by Republicans, and so threw out many thousands of votes for Tilden. The Democrats, who were winning most of the state offices, disputed this, it went to Congress, an Electoral Commission was formed, the attempt to make it even between Democrats and Republicans failed, the Republican majority voted to award all 20 of the electoral votes to Hayes, and he was given the Presidency, basically in exchange for the feds agreeing to back off and let the southern Democrats do whatever they wanted in their own states. "Whatever they wanted" translated to, "Oppress black people as much as they possibly could," which turned out to be quite a lot.

So it's all a massively depressing mess. There are some interesting parts, such as the fact Hayes won the nomination by being the potential candidate who had avoided making any enemies, even if he didn't necessarily stir strong passions, either. he was the candidate all the republicans could compromise on, just like Warren G. Harding would be 45 years later. In general, I don't think it's a good thing if you can apply the phrase, 'just like Warren G. Harding' to someone, but here we are. Tilden seemed unwilling or unable to use the passions of his voter base or the party. He was deliberate, calm, sensible, but he needed to rally support at key moments, and instead went about things at his own pace, which let key moments pass by. I kind of wonder if he really wanted to be President, or just felt it was a duty/burden he should take on. Credit to him for resisting the suggestions he rally armed supporters to him. That would have ended badly.

There is one thing about Morris' arguments that bothers me. He mentions early on that other recent histories of the election have argued that the Republicans were merely countering the southern Democrats' many violent efforts to suppress other voters, and that he doesn't truck with such 'moral relativisim: many wrongs do not make one right.' OK, fine, fair enough. But it feels at multiple points in the book as though he handwaves some of the violence that does occur. And some of it is probably made up by Republicans to give them excuses to question the voting results of particular districts, so those votes can be excluded. And some of them are by Republicans (white and black) against Democrats (white and black).

But it still has the feel of him dismissing all of it as paling before the actions of elected officials, especially when he argues that the numbers of votes lost as a result couldn't equal the number of Tilden votes thrown out by the return board in Florida, for example. But if the violence doesn't excuse the fraud, then by the same token, the fraud doesn't wipe away the violence. Also, it feels as though he's only counting votes that might have been lost to violence or intimidation during the actual 1876 election. But how many were lost to people being killed or bullied in all the years leading up to it. Morris discusses the actions of white Democrats in the south after the Civil War, the killings and intimidation, along with many states instituting Black Codes as a way to keep African-Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote. I don't know what all that adds up to, and no, it doesn't excuse electoral trickery, but it felt like it wasn't given the proper weight by the book.

'It was a coarse, even cynical reduction of the campaign to a single divisive issue, but Hayes had not won three statewide elections for governor and two terms in Congress by being overly subtle or idealistic. Besides, as his advisers told him, he had little hope of winning any southern states anyway. He would be better served by shoring up his base of support in the East and Midwest - and that meant waving the bloody shirt as long and hard as he possibly could.'

Monday, June 20, 2016

Who's Up For An Inventory Issue?

*It's a sunny day, a month ago, a few scattered clouds, and enough breeze to keep the temperature just below the point it might start to get unpleasant. Calvin and the Clever Adolescent Panda have left Calvin's car at a locked gate and are walking steadily along a deserted paved road*

Clever Adolescent Panda: . . . and so I just got by on my exam for Understanding Societal Trends. I guess I don't really understand them very well.

CAP: {Hmm.}

CAP: But my work with Lufonz getting his new body ready is going well. It'd be going better if the panda who filled in for me when I came to visit last time hadn't blown up half the workspace.

Calvin: {Really?}

CAP: [No direct human translation, roughly corresponds to, "deeply flowing current"] tries hard, but he gets distracted easily, and engineering isn't his strong suit.

Calvin: {Then why sub him in?}

CAP: He's pretty good at the math part, when he concentrates. He just isn't good with his paws.

Calvin: {Hmm.}

*The panda looks around, noticing the old telephone poles, all with the wires gone. There's no other human structures in the surrounding woods.*

CAP: This place is pretty neat. It's like some mysteriously abandoned colony. All the people and their possessions gone, and just the road to show they ever existed. *moment's pause* The road's in surprisingly good shape, though. How long ago did they shut this part down?

Calvin: *shrugs* {Couldn't tell ya.}

CAP: There's no signs left. How do you know where we're going?

Calvin: {Looked at a map online, put a dot on my map. Now I'm just guessing which road will take up the right way. Cut through the woods if we have to.}

CAP: That seems remarkably like winging it, coming from you. You aren't Pollock in disguise again, are you?

Calvin: *silent smile*

CAP: Don't make me hit you.

Calvin: {The fact I'm doing a geocache thing without using a GPS is Luddite enough to prove I'm me, isn't it?}

CAP: I guess so, Captain Flip-Phone. I'm surprised your ancient laptop can even pull up maps. *pause* I didn't even think you were into this kind of thing.

Calvin: *shrugs again* {I know the people who set it up. I want to help it be a success, so I'm participating. *walks silently for a few seconds* And it's something to do.}

CAP: That's it?

Calvin: *shrugs*

CAP: I figured you were expecting trouble. Bandit bears, or sky pirates.

Calvin: *mock-serious* {There are no bears here, and what, I can only call you to come visit when I'm expecting trouble?}

CAP: *hastily* No, it's just that's how it usually works out.

Calvin: {I think you've got it backwards, chum. You usually show up, and then things start exploding or punching me.}

CAP: Don't start with that! Pollock tried that once, and it really bothered me.

Calvin: {Fair enough. But you do like to fight.}

CAP: Besides, it makes you sound like one of those jerk Marvel citizens that says the superheroes creates the supervillains.

Calvin: {That's hitting below the belt. And I don't believe I ever described you as a "superhero".}

*The pair continue the jibes as they amble down the road for another 10 minutes. Birds call steadily from the woods, squirrels make a surprising amount of noise moving through the leaves. Eventually the road turns into a loop in the remains of a campground. The parking areas are still distinguishable from their gravel, and there are even some stone tables left around, most of them tipped over or broken apart.*

CAP: *getting excited* Look! There's a fresh, well-worn footpath! I bet it's down there!

*The panda dashes ahead, Calvin picking his way through the high grass more carefully, trying to avoid ticks as much as possible.*

CAP: *jumping in the air* I found it! I found it! I mean, I think I found it. It's an orange box right?

Calvin: {Yep.}

*The box is sitting next to the broken remains of a tree trunk. Still partially attached, it forms a nice diagonal platform to stand on, providing an excellent view of the cliff face ahead of them, and the lake it overlooks. A hawk flies by to the right, and directly ahead they can see the far side of the lake, covered completely with more trees. The illusion of being all alone is somewhat spoiled by a powerboat zooming past in the middle distance. CAP opens the box as Calvin takes a couple of photos.*

CAP: Do you want a cool name written down in the log book?

Calvin: {Nah, use the real one.}

*The panda dutifully fills in first its name, then Calvin's, while Calvin continues to watch the lake silently.*

CAP: What are the tags for?

Calvin: *absently* {You collect 'em all, you get a special coin.}

CAP: *tackles Calvin* You mean there are prizes?!

Calvin: {Yes?}

CAP: Well then let's go! Let's get the rest! Right now!

Calvin: {Hang on a sec, would ya? Can I take a moment to enjoy this place? They picked it for a reason, ya know.}

CAP: Oh yeah, I guess so. Sorry.

Calvin: {Sheesh, so impatient.}

*The two sit quietly, enjoying the breeze off the lake. It's a well-chosen spot, and Calvin feels more relaxed than he has in weeks. The panda is still being a little twitchy.*

CAP: *looks around* I still keep expecting someone to attack us.

Calvin: *exasperated sigh* {You keep bringing it up, they probably will. *enjoys the view for another few moments* All right, let's go.}

CAP: Yeah, onward! *pumps fist, charges ahead*

Calvin: *watches the panda rush off, starts to follow* {Maybe this is why we only hang out when I'm about to die. You'd kill me from exhaustion otherwise.}

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Zorro 2.32 - The Sergeant Sees Red

Plot: Sergeant Garcia returns to Los Angeles with Padre Simeon after a two week absence to discover almost the entire town shut up in their homes with measles. Corporal Reyes is the only soldier not afflicted, and reduced to sleeping outside the cuartel gates. As Garcia puts Reyes through his paces, the padre returns to the church, and Diego rides up, having been busy making delivers to the sick in the ranches. The padre wants to go along, and bring a gold chalice he brought back from Spain for the christening of a church. He shows it to both Diego, and the padre's cook/servant, a man named Carlos.

That evening, Diego and Bernardo drop the padre off at the church, promising to return to pick him up in the morning, then stopping to laugh at Garcia and Reyes sleeping under and on a collapsed tent in the square. Inside the church, the padre gets a rude surprise as Carlos decides to steal the chalice and melt it down. The padre implores him not to return to crime, but is locked in his bureau. Carlos then leaves a "Measles, Keep out" sign on the door, so no one will find the padre for two weeks. In the morning, Diego finds Garcia putting his lancers through their drills by yelling through a hole in the gate. He's preparing them for the Military Forces Day parade, but mentions the padre must have come down with the measles. Diego is suspicious of how the padre could have contracted them so quickly, and barges in (over Bernardo's concerns), and finds the padre. Simeon is still hoping Carlos will reconsider and return, and Diego is certain the man's conscience will speak to him.

Sure enough, Carlos' conscience finds him, assuming Zorro qualifies. After a fairly intense struggle on Carlos' part, he yields, and agrees to return the chalice. Zorro, in turn, allows this, but vows to be watching Carlos from now on. And every time Carlos considers changing his mind, he looks up and sees Zorro watching him. So the chalice is returned, and Diego, Bernardo, and the padre enjoy the Military Forces Day parade, consisting of Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes.

Quote of the Episode: Padre Simeon - 'A man's conscience will often assume many shapes and forms.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: I would imagine in the 1820s that the measles are nothing to scoff at.

Even though Garcia is, as usual, not being as nice to Corporal Reyes as I'd like, I appreciate that once he understood the situation, his first concern was whether the sick soldiers had all the supplies they would need to see them through their quarantine. Garcia is pretty consistently portrayed as caring about the well-being of his men (it was a snag in the Eagle's plans, to the point the Magistrado ordered their mole among the lancers to do something to spoil the food so the soldiers would become discontented).

I'm surprised the Church would send such a nice chalice to a church in Los Angeles. It's a decent-sized town, but doesn't really seem like a major metropolis yet.

I have to give credit to the padre. Nearly died of heat stroke or something in that cabinet he was locked in, but still blaming himself for Carlos' return to crime.

Nothing good ever seems to happen in a blacksmiths' shop in Zorro's world. Always crimes going on, or about to be going on. On the plus side, there are plenty of implements to throw, or try to bash someone's head in with. Not that it helped Carlos, and Zorro didn't even need to draw his sword. Maybe not a surprise; it's a safe bet only one of the two of them has any significant training in fighting, but it does speak to Zorro's restraint, his attempt to carry out the padre's wishes that Carlos return the chalice himself. Zorro could easily batter or kill this man and return it, but the padre would still feel he had failed. Better for Carlos to return it, although if he explains what happened, will that nullify the effect?

I did find it interesting Zorro drew his sword after Carlos surrendered. I know he's making a point - no pun intended - about the consequences if Carlos doesn't follow through. It still felt a little like unnecessary, like if Batman goes ahead and drops the thug he's dangling from a rooftop while interrogating him (while having a line of rope around the guy's ankles). An added bit of terror to an already beaten opponent. Maybe it was necessary, and I definitely understand why Zorro might not have been too worried about it, given Carlos was fully willing to lock the padre in a dresser for two weeks, which would, you know, kill him, I don't know.

I guess it bothers me because it implies Carlos is only repenting out of fear, rather than an actual recognition he did wrong. Which, OK, seems pretty bog-standard for Catholicism to me, but not really what I'd like to see. It seemed as though initially, when Carlos surrendered, that he'd been jolted enough to think about what he'd done, and perhaps felt guilty. And that was why he was going to return the chalice himself. But then Zorro threatens to watch him constantly, and basically threatens to run him through if he steps out of line, and so now Carlos is acting because he fears what will happen if he doesn't toe the line. Which is something different altogether.

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Fair Keeping Secrets From The Reader, Wade

At the end of Deadpool's recent, aborted attempt to kill Sabretooth, Magneto was preparing to kill Deadpool, only to be stopped by Sabretooth mentioning Deadpool's daughter is a mutant (something Wade did not know, fyi). But once he's free, as Mags mentions never expecting to have a reason to keep Wade alive (namely, to be a protective father of possibly one of the last mutants), Wade grabs Magneto by the shoulders and says he has one more reason.

I thought, given the aggressiveness with which he grabbed Mags, and Magneto's surprised expression, Wade was about to knee him in the groin. Not sure how that was going to qualify as a reason not to kill him, but I expected there would be some joke in there. But no, Wade whispers something to him, Magneto is surprised, says he'll hold Deadpool to his word, then leaves.

The question is raised, what did Deadpool tell him?

I know Gerry Duggan is also writing Uncanny Avengers, and the Red Skull, still possessing telepathic abilities from Xavier's brain (or something) is moving around in the background, doing stuff. And just from bits I've seen posted online, it seems as though Deadpool might know something's up*. Which would make sense, as it's been long established Deadpool's brain is pretty resistant to telepathic jiggery-pokery. And given Magneto hates the Red Skull, what with the Skull being a huge Nazi, and having Erik's best buddy's brain or whatever, Deadpool might have mentioned he knows the Skull's around and up to something, and he's going to take care of it.

Part of me thinks it's something much more absurd, except this is Magneto we're talking about. He doesn't really have a sense of humor, at least not the kind of one that would appreciate Deadpool's. But it could be something else, so if you have an idea, let's hear it. 'Cause I'm just guessing here, as usual.

* The Skull was able to deceive Rogue by appearing to be Gambit, though she's had enough training to, on a subconscious level at least, realize something is off. And the Skull was able to hide himself from Quicksilver when he went to check the old Avengers Mansion vault on the suggestion of, you guessed it, Deadpool!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

As If Skateboarding Orphans Don't Have Enough To Worry About

I picked up this hardcover collection of Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's Street Angel a couple of months ago, because I'd seen some panels from some the current issues they're releasing online, and it looked interesting. I'm ten years behind the curve, but that isn't anything new. I was pretty sure I was going to like this a half-dozen pages in, as the title character kicks in the door of the mayor's office, then delivers her half of the conversation through a megaphone, just to be a jerk to him (he deserved it).

Street Angel stars Jesse Sanchez, a junior high aged orphan who is also an ace skateboarding, kung-fu crimefighter. None of the 5 issues in the hardcover are connected to each other, and each one seems to be playing with different tropes or common superhero comic concepts. Mad scientist threatening the city, time-travelers (who are conquistadors), spacemen, killer robots, demons trying to make the plucky female lead their bride, randomly capricious religious figures. For the most part, Jesse reacts as someone who has seen all of it before, and is just annoyed by most of it. She'll point out the stupidity of some of it, but for the most part, it's just one more problem to deal with, like homework, or food..It feels a bit like Rugg and Maruca are pointing out how ridiculous this gets, while also gleefully embracing it for the sake of having cool stuff in their stories.

It reminds me of other comics from the mid-2000s where everyone was adding whatever random weird stuff they thought of because it would be cool or awesome. A lot of times it involved Tesla, I think. I did it in some of the stuff I wrote, in my own limited way, so this isn't a complaint. I love that Rugg and Maruca will decide that time-traveling conquistadors invading Wilkesborough isn't enough, they should hate and fight ninjas they find there, and also, an Irish astronaut should show up. And Jesse's plunked unwillingly in the middle of this, wondering how the hell to get all these idiots out of her neighborhood.

Rugg's art works well for both the more action-oriented and quieter parts of his and Maruca's stories. He has a good sense of pacing in the fight scenes, and he can vary it up. Go with the full-page splash that shows a sequence of events, or a bunch of small panels focusing on different moments in the progression of the fight, or a combination of both. Sometimes the violence is graphic, other times it's over-the-top to be funny (in a sort of dark way), but it works whichever way. Rugg also likes having the sound effects react similarly to the objects they're related to. Door gets kicked in, the sound goes flying along with the pieces. Jesse gets hit by an ambulance, the sound is going to get scattered all over by that same front bumper. He doesn't do it all the time, and it doesn't distract from the story, it's just a nice touch he throws in.

Since the whole thing is in black and white, he does the same thing with using negative space, scenes where Jesse's in a dark place, and an object of person is indicated by the absence of more shadows. Again, not all the time, but occasionally, and effectively. Although it frustrates me since I always find that kind of thing very cool (it's something I like about Joe Quesada's artwork too, maybe the only thing), but I can't quite get right myself.

I like that transition in the panels above. From the white to black background in an instant, even as the guy is finishing his sentence, and helps draw the eye to the fist. And the unfinished sentence's placement carries over to the actual violence, which is why that schmuck didn't finish that sentence.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Really, It's Kind Of Her Job

So the crossover with Howard the Duck was not my favorite Squirrel Girl story in the Henderson/North tenure. That said, there is one element I would like to see carried over, and that is Weapon II. Not because I want a Wolverine in the book that is also a squirrel. Well, maybe that is part of it.. But that main reason is it makes sense to me that Doreen and Tippy would want to help Weapon II readjust to no longer being someone else's weapon/experiment.

It was in the Weapon Plus program, and we know what they did to Logan and Deadpool, among others. It wasn't pretty. And Weapon II is still at the stage where it wears that VR helmet and slips into berserker rages every five minutes. So the other squirrels should be trying to help it reacclimate, and since Doreen is very concerned with squirrels, she should be helping when she can. And if this mean she gets an occasional helping hand from an angry squirrel with adamantium claws, well, that's a perk. Or a side-effect she's just going to have to tolerate.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling

Tony Cliff's initial entry in this series, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, was my #4 trade paperback/graphic novel of 2013. Which I'm sure means much more to him than those accolades on the back cover from people like Kate Beaton. I didn't review that comic, because I'm bad about getting around to reviewing larger comics, but I'm going to review this one, yes sir!

This one is set in 1809, as Delilah and Erdemoglu Selim (the "Turkish lieutenant") are in Portugal, helping a family be reunited with their grandson. They've been working together three years, and this is largely how it goes: They explore what strikes their fancy, and help people in trouble that they hear about. The rescue goes off with only a minor hitch, but does prompt a brief disagreement between Dirk and Selim. His concern was to complete the job, and preserve their health. Delilah had been wounded by the boy's father, and was more concerned with wounding, possibly killing the guy in retaliation, framing it as necessary to maintain her good name.

Not long afterward, they run afoul of an English officer who successfully frames Miss Dirk as a French spy, and gets her branded as a traitor to the English. Which means he's tarnished her reputation, so she's dead set on undoing the damage. Once in England, Selim learns Delilah has been keeping many things from him, like her real name, and is forced to constantly adjust to playing roles that will keep her two worlds separate like she wants them. Which quickly begins putting a strain on their partnership at a point when they can't really afford it.

It would have been very easy to make Delilah a complete villain in her disagreements with Selim, but it's to Cliff's credit that even as she is being entirely stubborn and more than a little selfish, she still retains a lot of her positive qualities. She still tries to take the majority of the risks, she still tries to assure Selim's well-being, and she is trying hard to stop the Major, who has other schemes in action. It's a little harder to handwave not telling someone you've been traveling with for 3 years your real name, but I can understand keeping parts of oneself secret, and seeing how much she struggles fitting back into upper class English society, I can see why she's reluctant to open that can of worms if she can possibly avoid it.

Selim still comes off as a real trooper, though. He's not at all good at smoothly maintaining a deception or that sort of spycraft stuff, but he tries. And his naturally polite demeanor fits much better than Delilah's blunt approach. Although hers is much funnier, throughout the book. Her explanation to Major Merrick of how she and Selim avoid French patrols in the picture above cracks me up every time. Cliff's very good at body language, and at knowing when to zoom in on a face for a good reaction shot. There's one a couple of pages before that, after Merrick has insisted on being referred to as "Major", where Delilah tacks it on at the end of some remark, and Cliff leaves it for a separate panel entirely, so he can really show how contemptuously she's doing so.

I like how Cliff does the sound effect lettering, too. Not so much the particular sounds he chooses - at times he uses the actual verb that describes what the character is doing, like "LUNGE" - but the lettering of them. The thin, sort of loose font for noises like the swing of a sword, versus that big, block lettering for a solid punch in the stomach. It's "thin" noises versus "thick" ones in my head, if that makes sense. The ones you can only hear, versus the ones you could feel, if you were there. I think it's the shading on the bigger sound effects that works, gives it a feeling of three-dimensions, more weight, more solidity. But the effect is also a little ragged around the edges, like it's vibrating from the force of whatever is generating it. And it's supposed to be sound, so it is vibrations, so that's appropriate.

I generally enjoy Cliff's artwork all around. He occasionally does some nice bits with panel layout, but mostly I think it's solid focus on expressions, body language, action, comedic timing. There is one thing he does I'm not a huge fan of (which the picture above is meant to illustrate, and that's sometimes he'll have a panel along the top half of the page that crosses both pages. Then on the bottom half of the two pages, the other panels don't follow suit. They go left to right and down on one page, then you switch over to the other page and do the same. I feel that, if you're going to tell the reader to just go across two pages on the top half, you shouldn't switch it around on the bottom half. There's nothing wrong with what Cliff's doing within the panels, it simply doesn't seem like the best way to guide the reader around.

That minor complaint aside, I love this story, and I've reread it multiple times in the two months since I got it. You don't need to have read Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant to follow what's going on here, though I would recommend that book as well. It's been a year or two since I last read it, but I didn't have any troubles with King's Shilling. Cliff admits in a little piece at the end the book isn't entirely historically accurate, but I don't know enough about the era or the locations to know that, so I can't speak to whether it'll detract from the enjoyment of someone more well-versed. I wouldn't think so.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I Might As Well Make The Argument

Comics Alliance did a "100 Greatest X-Men" poll that wrapped up a few weeks ago. Their panel of five judges rated the characters on 1-10, and their scores added up to half the total. Everyone else could vote, and we made up the other half. I did vote, but only once on each character, though I considered stuffing the ballot box for Stacy X. But this blog does not support electoral fraud!

I didn't always understand the rationales behind how their panel was voting. Some characters were getting credit for actions on various X-Forces or Excaliburs, but Strong Guy, for example, who get knocked for most of his best stuff happening with X-Factor. Mystique got high scores despite all the panelists lauding her work as an X-Man villain, which seems like it should result in low scores for being a great X-Man. It's almost like the whole thing was a silly and completely subjective fun exercise!

Really, my biggest issue was their panel was 80% Cyclops fans, which is some Olympic ice skating levels of slanted judging.

Also, someone actually described Jean Grey as "the heart and soul of the X-Men," which, ha, no

To that end, I thought I'd argue Deadpool's case for Greatest X-Man. He has an extremely limited resume, partiallu because the X-Men are jerks who won't let him on the team (even though they welcome people like Magneto, and Namor, and Mystique, and Gambit. Freaking creepy scumbag Gambit!) However, the few things he's done could be argued to have an unexpectedly large effect.

Point #1: When Hope was born, as the first mutant since House of M, Cable rescued her from not only a bunch of racist Purifiers, but also Mr. Sinister. But he wouldn't have managed it without Deadpool's help. Now, however you feel about Hope, or Avengers vs. X-Men (I'm not particularly a fan of either), Hope was pretty instrumental in making it so there could actually be more mutants. If only anyone had bothered to ask those folks if they wanted to be mutants. . .

The fact this was also hamstrung within what, three years?, by this Terrigen Mist nonsense is not Deadpool's fault.

Point #2: Evan Sabahnur, possibly to become Apocalypse in the future. Or maybe not. I know Fantomex set him up to be raised initially in a more peaceful environment to try and stave that off, but from what I can tell, Wade is the one playing the (bizarre) older brother supporting Evan's efforts to avoid that fate. Probably because Wade knows a little something about people trying to make you into something they want, rather than what you want. Also about how it can be easy, but ultimately suck, to play into others' low expectations for you (basically, don't start acting like a world conqueror, or a buffoon, just because everyone thinks that's what you are or will be).

If Evan does avoid becoming Apocalypse, I'm going to credit Deadpool as one of the major positive influences. When Evan got inverted during AXIS, became Apocalypse, and rampaged, it was Wade who tried to talk him down (and got torn up pretty badly, even by his standards). And Wade who found a place for him to hide after he reverted to his usual self, with everyone now freaking out about Apocalypse. And Wade kept urging him not to take this as some sign he was destined to become Apocalypse.

So, might have helped block the return of a serious X-foe, and helped keep the possible jumpstarter of the mutant line out of the hands of one of their other serious foes. I think that's a pretty solid couple of things to hang one's hat on. And it doesn't even include the time he gave the X-Men a serious PR boost by pretending to be a dangerous lunatic who thought he was an X-Man, allowing them to save the jerkass father of one of their students from Wade (see Daniel Way's Deadpool run). Or all the help he gave Cable during his "show the world a better way" phase, even when Cable would act like a dick and treat Wade like a chess piece to manipulate.

So yeah, limited resume, but it's a good one. Like, "solved cold fusion", and "found Grand Unified Theory". OK, fine, maybe it's more like, "built coffee pot that turns on automatically when your alarm clock goes off", and "women's jeans with practical pockets". Although I've been told that last one would be pretty popular. Point is, he's doing more with less.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Zorro 2.31 - An Affair of Honor

Plot: Senor Avila is an expert swordsman who comes to town and fights people for money. He and his partner, Senor Pineda, are trying to make it to San Juan, but aren't going to manage winning 5 peso bets. So they set their eyes on bigger game: Diego. They enter the tavern, and Avila tries to join a poker game Alejandro and his haciendaro buddies are having, but they don't play with strangers. Avila takes great offense at this, and ultimately strikes Alejandro. At which point Diego - enjoying a drink with Sergeant Garcia at Corporal Reyes' expense - rushes over, grabs Avila, and backhands him over a table. Well, the duel is on.

At home, Diego and Alejandro try to figure out a plan. Diego raises the idea of fighting clumsily and winning, as he did once against Monastario, but Alejandro contends Avila is too good for that. Along that line of thinking, Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes arrive, to try and give Diego lessons on fencing. Which gives Diego a good laugh, but doesn't really help. Bernardo suggests fighting as Zorro, but Diego argues there is no good reason for Zorro to get involved. That evening, he gets a reason when Pineda shows up with the time and place of the duel, and then offers to call the duel off for a measly few thousand pesos. This gets him bodily hurled out of the hacienda. So now Zorro's going to get involved, but here comes Sergeant Garcia again, his horse having pulled up lame. But it's a ruse to knock Diego out and tie him up, to save him.

So Zorro does not ride, and when Bernardo reports this to Alejandro the next morning, the old man decides they have to go to town. Garcia and Reyes play dumb - poorly - as to Diego's whereabouts, but do so well enough Alejandro decides he may have to fight in Diego's place. Which convinces the sergeant they better go retrieve Diego, a plan Bernardo overhears. It becomes a certainty when Avila accuses their entire bloodline of being cowards. The old man gives it his best shot, but Avila is playing with him, picking him apart slowly to try and scare him into agreeing to pay. Fortunately, Bernardo got to Diego quickly enough that Zorro is able to show up. He and Avila have themselves a duel, and Zorro pays Avila back for the wounds he inflicted on Alejandro, and tells him to get out of town. Garcia and Reyes show up, confused as to what's happened to Diego, and make a half-hearted attempt to capture Zorro. He easily eludes them and rides away.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'The trouble is, Father, I don't know when to think like Zorro or when to act like myself or what's expected of me. I just don't know anymore.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: I mentioned back during the Joe Crane arc it seemed as though the lines between Diego and Zorro were blurring more and more, and here Diego admits it. It makes sense, it must get frustrating to have everyone believe one thing about you, and it not be terribly complimentary, when it isn't so. Diego's already considered abandoning being Zorro once this season, only to be talked out of it by his father. Oddly, though, I wonder if Alejandro revealing that he knew, hasn't made it harder. The two of them had a contentious relationship through Season 1, with Alejandro often openly expressing disappointment in Diego's behavior. But now that they're sharing the secret, they get along much better, and it's been fine. Alejandro knowing the truth hasn't made things harder for Diego, but easier. And I wonder if he doesn't think of Anna-Maria, and wonder if there's any reason she couldn't also know. Or some of his other friends, since Zorro is so well liked by almost everyone.

At the point when Alejandro entered the tavern alone, that's when a Western would have the piano player abruptly stop playing. I would have enjoyed that if they'd done it, but no piano in that tavern.

Maybe it was just the angle, but I'd swear Sergeant Garcia looked thinner this week. Maybe he wasn't extending his gut as much as usual?

I have to wonder at that one fellow who admits 5 pesos is all he has, then bets it on himself in a swordfight with Avila. I'm guessing he meant that was all he had on him, but that's not how I'd spend all the money I had with me at the moment. I mean, there's a tavern full of food and drink right there.

I liked Sergeant Garcia's line about there not being a man alive who could beat Zorro, and so perhaps that is why he is still alive. I do wish he'd let Reyes drink with him and Diego, though. The peso could cover three drinks, right?

Friday, June 10, 2016

What I Bought 5/31/2016 - Part 3

The last of this round of reviews. It was not a very busy three week stretch. Oh well, quality not quantity, right?

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #6, by Kate Leth (writer), Natasha Allegri (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Warning! Hercules does not actually appear in this comic! It is still pretty good, though, and you should buy it, because I saw someone mention that it isn't selling well.

Patsy is hard at work getting her temp agency going, but Jen, Tom, and Ian feel she needs a day off, and drag her to Coney Island. Where they run into Arcade, revisiting his first attempt at Murderworld. and look, I know Marvel is going continuity-optional these days, but Arcade did not start out 'trying to make games more fun.' He found out he had a knack for killing, and wanted to do it with style. Respect the Claremont, damnit! Kids can handle that. They watch Bambi, they understand death's cold embrace!

OK, fine, sorry. Ian, Jen, and Patsy have to win some games to save Tom's life, which they do. Then Jessica Jones approaches Patsy to let her know Hedy hired her, and what Jess has already learned. Is it a secret that Patsy is Hellcat again? I thought that was common knowledge. She wrote a book, she went on tour for said book. I know this happened. Argh.

My complaints about continuity aside, this was an entirely enjoyable issue. I'm always up for Arcade, and Patsy calmly beating him at the strength tester and explaining it with, 'I do Krav Maga, dude. I'm, like, really fit.' cracked me up. Also her difficulties in mastering arcade fighting games. It's sad how being good at punching in real-life doesn't translate.

Natasha Allegri handles all the art chores this month, and while her style is different from Williams, it works pretty well. There are some spots where I think she didn't ink the figures, but just put the colors directly over her pencil work, and those look rushed and kind of messy in contrast to the rest of the issue, but the rest is good. I like Jen's "powering down" panel, probably because I'm a bit into anime and it reminds me of that. And the panel of her throwing the ball of Arcade's face and into the skeeball hole. Reminded me of Super Dodgeball on the NES. I did think most of the characters' casual outfits seemed young for them, but I'm not clued into what early 20-somethings wear these days. Although Jen and Patsy (and by extension, Tom) should be older than that, surely?

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Andy Hirsch (1918 sequence artist), Chris Schweizer (trading card artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Too many artists! What is this, some way behind schedule DC event book?

Doreen enters the awful world of online dating after finding out Tomas is seeing someone else. At the insistence of her friends, I add, because that is the sign they are terrible friends. So they're actually Manhunters, impersonating Doreen's friends, because this is an Invasion! tie-in. Or was that Millennium? The one that had the Suicide Squad issue where Slipknot got his arm blown off like a chump? That one. Millennium, yeah. She is saved from a particularly awful date with some douchebro by the arrival of the Mole Man. Also, she and her Avengers team fought some giant tree lobster at the beginning of the issue. I just want to say, the alt-text joke for that page is wrong. Hawkeye will never stop trying to solve life's problems with TNT arrows because TNT arrows are an appropriate solution for a solid 75% of life's problems. Explosions fix everything. Also, I would imagine an arthropod would have weak spots in its joints, since the exoskeleton has to be able to bend there, and an arrow should totally work.

But I guess we wouldn't want everyone to see the animatronic wires and cables inside the obviously fake giant tree lobster, I mean, dismembering confused bugs would be too violent for this book. How does my spell-check not recognize animatronic?

I'm feeling cranky today, obviously. I have no idea why. Anyway, the dating sequences were funny, though her dates seem to be skewing old. Fancy Dan has to be like 50. C'mon Marvel, don't perpetuate the Hollywood standard of the dude getting to continue to date young ladies as he ages. There has to be some villain roughly Doreen's age. Current Loki? Maybe a particular version of Kang ("I came to this era because it was the time of the highest success in internet dating, 3%, and Kang will conquer Internet dating!")? Not the Hood, never the Hood (the way Henderson draws Wiccan, every time I see him, I initially think it's the Hood). North completely nailed Boomerang's particular brand of self-justification that Spencer gave him in Superior Foes, although I guess Boomerang would need to be narrating this and frame it as part of some great plan of his to get into the police station to really capture the effect.

That panel of Doreen reacting to Brad's "superheroes don't exist" statement was great. The pause, and the "What.", I thought we were about to see the angriest Squirrel Girl we've ever seen. And then she gets indignant on Howard and Galactus' behalf, so considerate. If the Sentinel can feel heartbreak over rejection, can it feel bad over hating and fearing mutants?

Anyway, the Mole Man has arrived, thank goodness. Punching super-villains is much better than dating, obviously.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Yotsuba! Volume 13

Volume 13 of Yotsuba! revolves mostly around a visit from Yotsuba's grandmother. It marks the first time we've seen any of Yotsuba's family other than her father. This presents Yotsuba with the chance to learn a few things about cleaning, and making bread. (Remember to read right to left with the images below).

Which, I know, does not sound terribly exciting. But part of why it works for me is that it's reminiscent of when my grandmother would come to visit (or I'd go visit her). Not so much the cleaning and making bread specifically, but that there are certain rituals and activities we always did, that were just part of a rhythm we had. Also, my grandmother could be very stubborn about doing something if she felt it needed doing, no matter how hard you might try to convince her otherwise, and the same is true of Yotsuba's.

Yotsuba! is still a comedy though, and there were a lot of good laughs in it. Yotsuba matches my general idea of what a child that age would be like, though I don't know if that's accurate or not. And it's a pretty good age for the main character to be, because she's young enough things that are mundane to me are new and unusual to her, and she's quite open about expressing her astonishment. The peculiar tidbits she's picked up here and there, like black being fashionable, or the idea of a "breakthrough". She's clever enough to recognize adults will make up lies about cleaning being fun to trick her into doing it (see above), but not clever enough to recognize it's still a trick when Grandma tells her cleaning is fun if you take it seriously. Interactions between Yotsuba and her father's friend Yanda are still a high point in each volume for me, given their gleefully antagonistic attitude towards each other. Yanda's willingness to sink to taunting a little kid the way she'd taunt him is great, but still makes him enough of a jerk it's hilarious when Yotsuba gets the chance to return the favor.

I guess people from the Kansai region of Japan are noted for having a different dialect, and that's also true of Yotsuba's grandmother. And the translators did a good job of writing her dialogue in a somewhat different form of speech than the other characters (she uses "'em" for "them" for example, and shortens other words, like "sittin'"). There's also a different cadence to some of her sentences, although could be meant as an age thing compared to all the relatively young people in the story.

Azuma gives her a more detailed, lined face than any of the other characters, which does make her look older, but also means she doesn't get the exaggerated comical expressions - usually surprise - everyone else gets. Even when she does get very surprised (by a memory foam pillow Yotsuba puts out for her to sit on) you don't see her reaction, more the speech balloon expressing her astonishment. Maybe just because she isn't the type of character who would show visible surprise. Yotsuba describes her to Fuuka as not being mean, it's just how her face looks. Yotsuba, in contrast, will have an expression created by maybe a half-dozen lines on her face, total, but it works perfectly. She's largely an open book with what she's feeling, so there doesn't need to be much, and her stern or stunned expressions can make me laugh.

Azuma is still fond of doing two or three silent panels, usually setting up a funny scene, but it works really well. I can tell exactly what's about to happen, but it's being drawn out to where I really want to see exactly how everyone is going to react, and it usually doesn't disappoint. Which is impressive work, since comedy seems like a tough thing to get right consistently.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

What I Bought 5/31/2016 - Part 2

I can't think of a thing to open this post with. Maybe a wrench would work.

Ms. Marvel #7, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (artist), Ian Herring (color art), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Jeez, Kamala's not even officially into Civil War 2 tie-ins yet and she already turned scowly. Just wait kid, it's only gonna get worse.

It's a big Science fair, to hopefully impress people and get into good colleges without going broke! Yeah, good luck on that one, kids. Kamala's there on the Jersey team, and Miles Morales is on the New York team. One team for the entire state? There's snooping, and spying, and possibly some flim-flammery, and then Bruno tries to up the ante with a pocket-sized Mr. Fusion, which explodes, but remarkably, does not kill him or anyone else. And Ms. Marvel and Spider-Miles just happen to both be there, and let that awkward moment pass without comment.

So Kamala knows Miles' secret i.d., but not the other way around. I knew that was the case for her and Nova, but not also her and Spider-Man. It's a "Road to Civil War II" issue, so is this meant to pre-sage trust issues that will tear their Avengers squad apart? Or that super-special future vision NuHuman boy will threaten the ability of people to maintain secret identities? Or just a moment to step back and look at the other sorts of problems a high school kid has. Like getting into college, the pressures that creates, and the questionable decisions that arise from those pressures.

But what was the stuff the New York team was saying about their Re-aktron having a massive draw on the electrical grid? I thought it was supposed to just be "grabbing stray electricity out of the air"? is the whole thing a sham? Is Miles just a P.T. Barnum with super-powers? Eh, he's still behaving better than Peter Parker these days, sigh.

Adrian Alphona returns! This is always good. His art is well-suited for this kind of oddball science. He's draws strange things well, so that they look cool, but not too threatening. He draws the happiest shark I have ever seen, which is kind of terrifying. You know it's just a matter of time until Skyshark masters its floating membrane, and then it can travel anywhere it wants, attacking birds and small planes and hot air balloons. The identical vertical shading on Bruno and Kamala on page 13 was good. They're both, as Mike notes, taking it too seriously, and operating under a dark cloud. I don't know who gets credit for the fonts as each team introduced its inventions, either Alphona or Caramagna, but I really liked the work someone did there.

Wynonna Earp #4, by Beau Smith (writer), Lora Innes (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - That's pretty much how I feel anytime I get out of the mall.

A scientist has developed a zombie plague he can spread by touch, while remaining unaffected himself. And he's infected a mall full of people to demonstrate it for potential buyers. The Black Badge team kills a bunch of undead, Wynonna and Valdez arguing almost constantly, as Earp refuses to kill a Boy Scout troop, believing there will be a way to reverse it. As it turns out, there is, once they're able to lure the scientist close and neutralize the contagion inside him. Also, Valdez broke his arms. And Earp receives a message from some mysterious sniper demanding she come home and face said sniper.

Innes plays up Valdez' size a little differently from Evenhuis. Innes definitely emphasizes Valdez' musculature more, where Evenhuis went with showing it by how she interacts. Taking a flying punch from Earp and being completely unfazed, or smashing a bar top with one punch. Innes does some of that here, Valdez is the only one killing any of the zombies hand-to-hand, opting for a Mayan sword, but still a little different. Innes' style probably works for the tone of this issue better. It's a zombie outbreak, which means gore and stacks of corpses, but it's treated lightly. There's never any sense the Black Badge division is going to fail to contain the problem, or even that they're in any imminent danger from the zombies, just a question of whether anyone can be saved in the process. So it's more, slapstick isn't the right word, cartoonish violence I guess, which lines up more with Innes' work.

I'm guessing with the mini-series shifting to an ongoing, the Del Ray cartel plot is going to become more of a long-running subplot. Which is fine. I like comics with a mix of immediate, shorter arcs, and longer background arcs that eventually come to fruition. I'm pretty excited for this book going forward.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Not So Much Raiding, More Killing

A friend loaned me the 2013 Tomb Raider game. The only one I'd played previously was Tomb Raider - Legend, which I liked quite a bit, even if it left me wondering why no one can make a decent Indiana Jones game.

This is a younger Lara Croft, who has convinced a crew to go seek out a fabled island of Yamatai, supposedly ruled by a Sun Queen, before the people were destroyed. Their boat gets wrecked, and many of them are stranded on this island, as it turns out with many other people who have been stranded there over the years, who have been formed into a murderous cult led by a guy named Mathias, who reminds me visually of Saddler from Resident Evil 4. Probably just the hooded robe and the staff. Lara has to struggle to survive, try to rescue and protect her friends, and figure out what they need to do to get off this island. Because it's abundantly clear there's a force at work that has no intention of letting them leave.

There's a lot of running and jumping, climbing ledges, figuring out weights and pulleys that need to be manipulated just so. Sometimes the game is forgiving, and you don't have to be precise in how, for example, you pull a bell so the wind slams it into an obstruction. Other times, the game will make you do the same jump over and over until you, I don't know, leap at the wall at just the right angle, or hit the button to use the climbing axe at just the right moment. It's the kind of frustration where I know exactly what I need to do to solve the puzzle, and I'm doing it, but it's not working.

There's also a lot of gunfights. Really, it's hard for me to believe there are that many guys in Mathias' cult. He admits in documents you find just lying around he kills any newcomers who show signs of resistance, or look too weak. The ones with potential they literally hurl down into caverns and leave for weeks to fend for themselves against each other. Whoever crawls out alive at the end is accepted. Given all that, plus the natural attrition of living on this island full of dangerous terrain, malevolent weather, and relentless armored warrior/demon things, how is it I had to kill hundreds of people? There shouldn't have been that many guys left! But the shooting controls are fine, no real difficulties. I was disappointed when the end of the game brought extended battles against the Stormguard, simply because everything I'd hear and seen of them up to that point suggested they were nigh-unstoppable. Once I went up against them, they proved pretty damn stoppable. And I thought they were going to use the huge, war club wielding one as a relentless figure hounding Lara, light Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2 or something. A threat better off avoided as much as possible, but he pretty much vanishes until the final act, and then, boss fight. Ah well.

It's especially maddening because I'll be in a battle, and I'll hear one of them yell, 'She's killing us!', and I want to yell back, "I'll stop when you stop trying to kill me!" I was quite content to run around the island, looking for relics, climbing walls, nosing around the secret tombs. I'd have been more than willing to just sneak past these guys, but they insist of trying to kill me whenever they see me. So yeah, when I get the chance, I put the climbing axe in their neck for a stealth kill, or an arrow in their head and move on. Of course, my attempts to be stealthy rarely lasted long. The game seems to revel in making you do things that would attract attention. Here's a locked door, better loudly break it open with your axe. Or zoom down a zipline and land with a lot of noise. I appreciated that I got to be stealthy in a third-person perspective, but it was hard to tell a lot of the time if I was hidden sufficiently or not, which lead to some rough moments.

There are some definite irritating spots with the story. A lot of points where the game requires you to fight and fight and fight to try and reach this one person, and when you get to them, they die in a cut scene, entirely beyond your control to save them. I imagine this is supposed to be a formative experience for Lara, though I'm not familiar enough with the character to say what effect it's having exactly. Most of the people she keeps failing to save are old friends of her deceased father, so it's cutting her remaining ties to him. Forcing her to hold tighter to what she has left of him, his work? I don't know. The whole lead up to Grim's end, or the first attempt to rescue Sam, leading to the hurried escape from the burning, collapsing palace, culminating with the jump to the helicopter, which goes exactly how the game has been telling me it will for the last hour, and oops, someone else dies. I understand Lara is not the super-competent explorer she'll become, but can I manage to save anyone, even by luck?

I enjoyed exploring the secret tombs, even if they sometimes have the most annoying puzzles. At least I don't have to worry about any enemies, which is nice. The mixture of landscapes and structures to explore was fun. Here's an old village of wood huts. Here's the rusted remains of a World War II naval base! Here's the super-structure for a massive trolley system to hop around on! It's a mishmash that gives that sense of overlapping histories, that suggests there really is something here lots of people want.

So, the exploring was fun, the puzzles were mostly not too irritating, the story had some stuff to it, but how it intersected with the gameplay frustrated me, and the combat was well-laid out, but more of it than I was really interested in.

Monday, June 06, 2016

What I Bought 5/31/2016 - Part 1

I ordered my books two weeks ago, as I normally do, but didn't receive the usual e-mail telling me they'd shipped. So I figured there'd been a hold-up and got a bunch of other posts going for last week. Then they showed up at the usual time, so here we are.

Deadpool #11 and 12, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (artist, #11), Scott Koblish (artist, #12), Ruth Redmond (colorist, #11), Nick Filardi (colorist, #12), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Can't say I loved either issue's cover, although the symmetry of the two Deadpools is nice.

Deadpool does not kill Sabretooth. He does superglue Creed's butt to a motorcyle seat, which is something. And that was after Victor kept Magneto from killing Wade. 'Pool learned quite a bit in this issue. He killed his parents. His daughter is probably a mutant. He's visited Dr. Strange several times for help with his memories, but Strange actually installed mental blocks, and even though Wade made a video of himself for himself, Deadpool had always tried to kill Strange. But not this time. He's decided to focus on the good things in his life and go forward, instead of looking back.

And in issue 12, we see how well that turned out. His daughter from Shiklah still hates him. He thinks Eleanor, his other daughter, is dead (she's not). Preston is a digitized consciousness in holographic form that was gathering dust on a disc in the remains of the DeadCave.

Thank you to Duggan for having Deadpool, when he decides not to kill Sabretooth because he didn't kill Wade's parents, still try to rip him apart with a Mack truck because he did kill Vanessa. I've kept bringing that up for the last two months, so credit where it's due on using that fact well. Boo to Magneto for calling Wade the worst Avenger. Wade was in the middle of avenging someone Sabretooth murdered. That makes him the Best Avenger. Besides, everyone knows Iron Man is the worst Avenger. Nope, not Deathcry or Gilgamesh, Iron Man. That is the official ruling of Reporting on Marvels and Legends, until the next time it's convenient for me to change my mind for comedy purposes.

I'm more interested in the 2099 storyline than I was last time, in part because last time I was really hung up on how the art seemed to be deliberately aping Spider-Man 2099 #1, without being as good as Leonardi's art. I've come to accept that and just read the dang story, and Koblish is a good artist, although there are times he's is putting too much in there and it's hard to decipher what's happening). His emaciated Deadpool is pretty distinct from how I've ever seen Deadpool before. He's still scarred and messed up, but he's mostly frail and hunched in on himself. He's actually a little scared, and showing it, which is unusual. The way he taps his fingers together when asking who sent his rescuer, that's not a normal nervousness from him.

There's one panel in issue 11 that caught my eye, and it's not the one of Wong with an AK-47. It's when Adsit has convinced Wade it is him speaking through Sabretooth - via the power of magic - and Wade tells him to get out of Creed's head. As Wade says it, he has his gun positioned under his own chin, with the finger still on the trigger. Which seemed significant. Deadpool knowing on some level that's the one who actually killed his parents, and aiming his anger in the appropriate direction. Really, Butler would be the most appropriate direction, but Wade already dealt with him.

I think the circumstances of Wade, his family, and his (non-superhero) friends are the parts of this book that I'm enjoying the most. So I'm curious to see what direction Wade's newfound resolve to focus on what he's got and not on what was done to him takes him. I'm not sure I'm going to get that, though.