Sunday, July 31, 2016

Zorro 2.38 - Senor China Boy

Plot: Diego and Bernardo are in town, relaxing outside, as they observe Tomas Gregorio, merchant, return with a wagonload of goods from San Pedro. He also has a stowaway, who is eventually captured by Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes. Unfortunately, their prisoner is a young Chinese boy, and no one present, including Diego, speaks Chinese. However, Bernardo is able to communicate enough for the boy to indicate that he was a prisoner. As to why, he writes a note, which none of them can read. Garcia feels he has no choice to place him in a cell, though he tries his best to make it a comfortable stay. Diego is trying to translate the note, with limited success, and has Bernardo take a copy to Padre Ignacio, who must have spent time in China.

The padre is indeed able to translate some of it, but by then, a Mister Vinson, first mate on a ship from Shanghai, has arrived in town, and he claims the boy is a murderer. The boy is, obviously, unable to speak in his defense, so Garcia reluctantly turns him over to the brute. Fortunately, Bernardo observes all this as he prepares to return to Diego and is able to let him know, as well as present the padre's translation. Which says the boy is a prince being held for ransom. While Bernardo delivers that note to Sergeant Garcia, Zorro heads Mr. Vinson off at the pass. Though the sailor makes a determined attempt to split Zorro's skull with a tree limb, he ends up falling to his death off a cliff. Zorro departs as the lancers arrive, and soon enough, Garcia has all his soldiers out to see off Prince Chia Ch'ing in the proper fashion. The prince is kind enough to be understanding of the sergeant locking him in a cell.

Quote of the Episode: Garcia - 'Imagine, royalty in my jail.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (15 overall). On Vinson's jacket, before the guy falls to his death. Some people just don't know how to quit while they're ahead.

Other: No "baboso" this week, but Garcia did call Reyes stupid. Which isn't true at all. Reyes was clever enough to tell Garcia, 'Corporals never go first,' when they were pursuing the prince into Gregorio's warehouse. I'm surprised that line of reasoning worked, though.

Diego knows German and French in addition to Spanish, and I guess he must also know English since he was able to speak with Joe Crane. I can't really see Joe knowing Spanish.

The most interesting part of the episode was that James Hong plays the prince. Hong, of course, has been in hundreds of roles, from Big Trouble in Little China, to the Adventures of Brisco County Jr, to, well, take your pick. He doesn't get to do much here, other than be sad and frantic. Which are understandable reactions for his character, but since they have to play up the fact no one in Los Angeles can actually communicate with or really understand him (save the padre, who doesn't actually meet him until the end), it's hard to convey a lot to the audience.

Friday, July 29, 2016

What I Bought 7/26/2016 - Part 2

We're going with the other two Marvel books. One is doing its best to incorporate changes the event is bringing to its supporting cast, the other is mostly taking a piss on the whole stupid thing. Which is truly the most noble act of all.

Deadpool #15, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I went with the Scott Koblish variant again. Wade kills Justice Peace and the rest of the Time Variance Authority, and makes the UGC code help him bury their corpses. Sorry, he lets the UGC code help bury the bodies. Big difference (according to Wade).

Wade breaks into Ultimates' HQ because he says he wants to kill Ulysses (he's narrating out loud on the assumption Ulysses can hear him in his visions), but since the kid didn't actually have a vision of Wade doing that, that must mean the kid is full of crap, right? Maybe. Wade is more interested if Ulysses saw anything about Wade's daughter, which he hadn't, so Wade starts to leave. And gets blocked by T'Challa, who behaves like a douche, and they fight. For really no reason. OK, Wade may have spoiled Game of Thrones, and he was leaving an upper-decker in their bathroom, but they were fighting before that happened. T'Challa even says Steve Rogers may have been brainwashed if he trusts Deadpool. Says the guy who was on a super-secret team with Namor and alcoholic butthole Tony Stark, that failed in its mission to save the universe, so cram it, T'Challa.

Also the Mercs have learned Wade has a safety deposit box in a bank in Jersey, and go there to burn their contracts so they can be their own team. But they suck at stealth, Ulysses saw them on a newsfeed, he told Wade before the fight started, and now Wade's going to try and kill them all. Unless that was Madcap, posing as Wade again. I don't believe it is, though.

The whole thing is a farce, but that's roughly how much respect I have for Civil War 2 myself, so that's fine. I really enjoyed the fight. Wade pretty much gets whooped anytime he tries to fight conventionally in it, but when he starts getting weird, he does better. The portion of the fight on pages 10 and 11 is very nice. Hawthorne does an excellent job of showing the progression of it, the back and forth, with moves being started in one panel, and then finishing in the next. I especially liked when wade launches a flying headbutt at T'Challa while he's trying to backflip away from Wade. That was Raphael's special move in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3; The Manhattan Project. Maybe next issue Wade will use Leo's spinning swords move, or Mikey's kangaroo kicking attack thing.

I'm a little surprised at T'Challa's behavior. Wade is actually trying to leave, he didn't kill the kid, he just wants to stop off in the men's room, just let him go. That's what people usually want, for Deadpool to leave their vicinity. But that's point, right? It's a big event so everyone has to act more stupid and belligerent than usual. And we get to see the Black Panther take a toilet upside the head, and actually respond to being kicked in the junk, by kicking Wade in the junk right back. Participation in this event has cost everyone their dignity. Fantastic.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #8, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Such a sad cover, given the context.

Patsy had a feeling something has happened to Jennifer Walters, and she's right, because here's America Chavez to tell Patsy She-Hulk's in a coma, and to bring her to see her friend. Though the medical staff are insensitive jerks. Where's the bedside manner? Patsy and her friends are all very sad, and this causes some difficulties for the landlord of Patsy and Jen's office space, so she asks Patsy to temporarily move her office into Jen's. And Jubilee, still a vampire, is joining the cast apparently. I wonder if she still has that baby she basically stole from the wreckage of a destroyed hospital in Eastern Europe? Shogo, or whatever his name was?

It feels bizarre to have Patsy switching offices when she literally moved into that one about two issues ago, but it works as part of the way these sorts of big, crazy events, throw people's lives into chaos. Patsy is deliberately trying to stay out of big superhero stuff. She doesn't care about Ulysses or any of that. But it can still cause problems. Friends get hurt, or die. Then there are complications arising from that, which have to be dealt with at a time when you really don't want to have to deal with them.

 Can't believe that mugger actually wanted to fight Patsy and Jen. It's She-Hulk, and he is some French-speaking guy with a knife. This was never gonna end well for him.

I liked how Williams drew Howard the Duck's beak more this issue than the last time he showed up. Much closer to a real duckbill. Also, I think Williams uses a thinner line when she draws more serious scenes. The weight of the line Patsy's drawn with in the panel on page 9 when she's looking at the picture is a lot different from the one of Jennifer getting ready to fastball special Patsy on page 13. I'm not certain why take that approach. Maybe the lighter lines are just better for more subdued scenes. The character doesn't bound off the page by being so sharply outlined from the surroundings.

I do think Williams needed to draw the giant pizza as even larger. As big as it is, I still think I could eat it in one setting, though I'd hate myself after. And I don't have that big of a stomach, but it isn't quite daunting enough. So that's my one complaint with the art this issue. I really wouldn't have expected Williams' style to work so well for such a somber story, but she handled it well. I think Rosenberg went with colors that weren't quite as bright as Megan Wilson normally does, which might have helped, too. Not positive about that, might just be letting a few panels influence my perception there, but it didn't seem quite as vivid. In a good way, like there's a dark cloud hanging over everything.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Depressing Film About People Being Cruel To Others

The Stanford Prison Experiment is about, surprise! the Stanford Prison Experiment. Where a professor in the 1970s paid some student volunteers to be prisoners and others to be guards, the idea being to observe their behavior over a 2 week period. Except it was called off after 6 days because things had gotten entirely out of control. The "guards" were abusing their power to an absurd and disturbing degree. The "prisoners" were begging to be released, but were being confronted with the professor and his assistants, who adopted the role of being an unsympathetic parole board. So they browbeat them, accuse them of slacking or trying to shirk their punishment, promise them one thing, then refuse to honor it. And even though the contract the students signed states they can leave at any time, they are repeatedly blocked from doing so, only being allowed it when it really looks as though they're going to snap entirely.

So it's a depressing, infuriating viewing experience. Because it isn't people with power or authority hurting others through indifference or ignorance of the damage they're doing. It's people deliberately choosing to hurt others. One of the guards at one point tries to heckle a "prisoner" about how much he probably misses his home. The "prisoner" admits he doesn't have one. He can't afford an apartment, so he'd been living in his car. By volunteering for this, he gets a bed (or cot, at least), some food, some money. The guard is temporarily stymied by this, but by the following night, he's decided to try even harder to humiliate and abuse this guy, who is being totally obedient. Because he can, basically. It amuses him to do it, or maybe it infuriates him that this guy isn't being broken and degraded. They show some footage of interviews with the volunteers after, and that guard tries to claim he was doing his own experiment about how vicious he could get before someone spoke out, but it reeks of him trying to justify his actions after the fact. Or he's a sociopath. Whichever.

I don't know how historically accurate the film is. I assume there are some things that were exaggerated for dramatic effect, but I don't know which parts. The part where the lead professor is sitting in the hall keeping watch, because there's a rumor the first "prisoner" they released from the experiment is going to come to spring a jailbreak, meets another faculty member, who innocently asks what the independent variable is in all this, and the professor can only bluster because there isn't one, that felt a little fake. A little too much of the obvious moment where the supposedly noble scientist has a chance to realize this can't prove what he wants, but pushes ahead anyway out of ego. But maybe it actually happened that way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What I Bought 7/26/2016 - Part 1

So hey, comic books, I bought some, let's talk about one. I figured I'd start with the one Marvel book I got not tying into the current Big Event at the month. We'll get to the two that are Friday. Or Monday, if I decide to go with the stuff from other publishers on Friday. I don't know, I'm making this up as I go along.

Black Widow #5, by Chris Samnee (writer/artist), Mark Waid (writer), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That's a cool cover. I don't have anything substantive to say about it, I just like all the different elements. And they're actually relevant to the story, it's not just a cool pin-up, though it works that way as well.

Natasha awaits the Weeping Lion's courier, but is visited instead by SHIELD agent Elder, who pretends to be the guy she's waiting for. And Natasha pretends she buys it, while trying to get them someplace safe. This doesn't work, as Elder gets shot. Natasha tries to get him to safety by car, that doesn't work either, and two of the Lion's agents use Elder as leverage to get the files. Natasha relents, so Elder blows himself and the goons up. And the files, which means she can't complete her task, so the Lion's going to release whatever it was he had on her, which involves Iron Man.

I have no idea who the guy seated at the table the Lion is working for or with is. Surprised Waid and Samnee shuffled Agent Elder off the table so quickly. Of course, I was thinking he actually was the Weeping Lion, and either he was a traitor to SHIELD, or this whole thing was some cockamamie scheme SHIELD cooked up to get this information while not appearing to have done so. It would have explained how they had so many gunmen at a supposedly secret SHIELD cemetery.

I think the Lion should have the tear track on his mask that he does on the cover. Which yeah, he's supposed to be actually crying because he's sad about killing people or something, but screw it. Add something unique to his otherwise boring-ass ski mask look. You're supposed to be a big wheel, show some visual flair. I do like that Samnee and Wilson keep practically all of the Lion's peoples' faces obscured, at least partially. Not just the Lion, with his mask, or the guy at the table. Even the goons and the people keeping an eye on Natasha. Either they wear ski masks, or their faces are in shadow, or not even in panel. If they're really going with the idea this guy has eyes and ears everywhere, it plays to that. They're an anonymous, faceless army. Also liked the concerned look on Natasha's face as she starts to apologize to Elder for him getting shot. Most of the issue, she looks to be scowling, or maybe just concentrating on what's going on around them, but she does care. She was taking steps to try and protect this guy, it just hadn't worked as she hoped.

It seems like Wilson used shades of orange a lot this issue for things connected to the Lion. The lighting for the sniper in his room, some of the background lighting wherever it is the Lion's hanging out. Wilson uses it repeatedly when the Lion is reacting badly to something, like the panel with his clenched fist, or the one where he hears the bad news some poor dope delivered. The scenes when the SUV with the armed goons arrives are done with largely orange tints. Most of the other panels during that sequence are mostly blacks and cold blues in the background, but then there are those noticeable orange backgrounds. A contrast between the threat to Natasha and Elder outside, versus the threat to her from Elder inside the car?

I could have done without Natasha's dig at Hawkeye when asked if she had what she'd been sent to retrieve. I did not expect Mark Waid to jump in on the, 'Clint Barton is an incompetent fuck-up' bandwagon. Took me right out of the story because it bugged me so much. It's still bugging me a little, obviously.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell

I have no idea why this post went up last week, even when it agreed I'd scheduled it for today. Homage to Catalonia is Orwell writing about his time in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, during which he served in a militia organized by the POUM, which was a relatively small communist (more Trotskyist than Stalinist, though not entirely either) party in Spain. Orwell talks about his time at the front, which was mostly uneventful, but did involve some occasions of combat, but also the difficulties in turning a group of workers and peasants and foreigners into some sort of unified combat, especially when they were all supposed to be part of a classless society. It is somewhat difficult to pull rank when everyone believes they are equal.

The second half of the book covers the point when Orwell returns to Barcelona (where his wife is staying), and things start to swing away from the classless society towards one with definite upper and lower classes. More troubling, it's the point when the Stalinist Communists are using their leverage to take control of the Government, at which point they start rounding up members of the other revolutionary party groups (like POUM or the Anarchists), and throwing them in prisons. Or killing them, of course. Orwell, who is recovering from being shot in the throat when the arrests really take off, barely manages to escape Spain with his wife.

I expected Orwell to be more furious in his writing, raging at the injustice done to people of Spain whose only crime was joining one group to help fight for their country, rather than a different group that is supposed to be allied with them, but that doesn't really come through here. He's writing six months after, so perhaps he'd had time to come to terms with it, or perhaps none of what happened really surprised him once he had time to think about it. This is an edition that contains revisions he made some years later, so two of the chapters in the original text are now appendices, and the latter of those deals entirely with the official government line on what happened during the street-fighting in Barcelona in early May (which Orwell was there for, on leave from the Aragon front), how much a load of bull it is, why the Spanish government is saying it, and why the various Communist newspapers abroad are swallowing it. Even there he seems more resigned at the duplicity, maybe gently amused at the naivete of some of the journalists, than angry. He does still feel confident the Government would defeat Franco. But he also expects that afterward, it will assume the form of a dictatorship, at least for awhile. He's also certain that dictatorship would be infinitely preferable to a dictatorship with Franco in charge.

He wound up being wrong about Franco being defeated, though given the stories he tells of the material shortages the militias were facing, it's perhaps not much of a surprise. In some cases, you only received a rifle when you reached the front, and were given one by a soldier you were replacing on the line. The soldiers cycled in and out, the firearms stayed put. He noted that the Soviets and Mexico were the only countries selling guns to the Government, while the Italians and Germans armed Franco. The liberal democracies - Britain, the U.S., France - couldn't be bothered*. Of course, it appears the government was putting a lot of its armaments into Assault Guards/police, to keep their own populace under control, because that's a productive use of energy when fighting for your survival. But if the Spanish Communists were taking orders from Stalin, and he didn't want a true revolution to take place in Spain, as Orwell contends, exerting energy to disarm and lock up the elements most likely to push for a permanent status quo of a classless society makes some kind of sense.

I did feel there was a certain undercurrent of that kind of feeling of cultural superiority you see in the writings of some British or American writers. It's not quite the "noble savage" thing, but there's a definite sense Orwell brings certain expectations about how things should be done from England, and the Spanish failure to match that provokes certain reactions in him. He seems very fond of Spain, and most Spaniards, but there's a certain backhandedness to the compliments. There was a line, which I can't find now, about how he didn't think the Spanish had the discipline or efficiency to run an effective Fascist government, anyway. Gee, thanks?

It's an interesting, if brief, look at a particular section of the Spanish Civil War, albeit from a foreigners' perspective, but some many of Orwell's points about the how and why of the changing nature of the conflict were well-made. I don't find him a vivid writer, in terms of painting a picture of a scene, but he's a solid writer at this stage.

'The war was essentially a triangular struggle. The fight against Franco had to continue, but the simultaneous aim of the Government was to recover such power as remained in the hands of the trade unions. It was done by a series of small moves - a policy of pin-pricks, as somebody called it - and on the whole very cleverly. There was no general and obvious counter-revolutionary move, and until May 1937 it was scarcely necessary to use force. The workers could always be brought to heel by an argument that is almost too obvious to need stating: 'Unless you do this, that and the other we shall lose the war.'

* Leon Blum tried to send some guns when he had some power in France,, but his efforts were blocked. Because the Third Republic couldn't have taken a step out the door without tripping over the shoelaces it couldn't agree with itself to tie that morning.

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Too Hot To Get Too Excited For October

October is a quiet month for solicits in some sectors. As far as things I'm interested in, there's no sign of Wynonna Earp, so I don't know if that's a skip month, or it's an 8-issue mini-series that's ending. Henchgirl is also absent, I'm pretty sure that's a skip month.

DC is past all the Rebirth stuff, so now we see how long they run with this before they start retooling things again. I'm sort of interested in that Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love mini-series. Could be cool. Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye seems like it's trying to too hard. Isn't that going to be a total mess on the cover?

Then there's Marvel, which has not actually posted its solicitations anywhere I can find {Edit: I typed this yesterday, and the solicits appeared today. Figures}. Seems like it happens every year around the San Diego Comic-Con. Which is too bad, since they're releasing several new first issues that month. Sure would be nice to have a little more to go on. I'm at least curious about Prowler, and certainly I'll give Great Lakes Avengers a look. I really want to point at laugh at Marvel for believing they're going to have success with solo books for, well, Solo, but I just admitted I'd consider buying a book about the Prowler a sentence earlier. I'm not in any position to talk. {Edit: OK, never mind. The Prowler solicit mentioned the Jackal. That's a definite "No." Sorry Hobie.} There's a Luke Cage mini-series by Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky (how did I spell that right on the first try?) that's been in the works for almost a decade.

Deadpool has two issues of his ongoing - including another $10 issue which I will hopefully show some damn patience when it comes to buying - plus two mini-series, plus his team-up book with Spidey, plus the Mercs for Money ongoing. At some point this is going to fail for Marvel, right? They went crazy with Deadpool back in 2009 and 2010 with multiple ongoings, and eventually sales crashed, which paved the way for the Posehn/Duggan writing team, and now it's bloated out all over again. I know, this didn't just start this month, it's been going on for a couple of years, I just keep expecting it will end at some point.

Outside that, none of the books I was already buying are ending, which is good. Civil War II is ending, which seems like it should happen in November, so we can be thankful it's over. I guess this way we can be scared of the next big event.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Zorro 2.37 - The Fortune Teller

Plot: We open in the tavern, as Don Diego and a Don Sebastian sit and watch a dancer perform. As it turns out, the dancer, Lupita, is also a fortune teller, though Don Sebastian is no more interested in that than he was the dancing. Just then Alejandro arrives with the news that the stage to Santa Barbara will delayed two or three hours because of a busted wheel. Sebastian has barely finished bemoaning this when Sergeant Garcia arrives, having been asked to tell Alejandro the damage is worse than initially suspected, and it'll be more like 6 hours. The two dons have a business deal to complete, and they need the 1500 pesos to be sent on its way to Santa Barbara, but no way is Sebastian willing to sit around and wait, and so he suggests having Garcia hold onto it. Alejandro is visibly against this, but is overruled, as Garcia vows to protect the money with his life. Alejandro is mollified with Diego offers to stay in town as well. Off the pair go to put the money in the strongbox in the cuartel.

Unfortunately, Lupita's two-man band saw the sergeant with the money pouch, and inform her of it, and she confidently assures them she can get it from him. At the office, Garcia locks the money away, then decides to return to the tavern, because Corporal Reyes is there to stand guard. Even when Diego opts to remain in the office, Garcia leaves. Sitting in the tavern flat broke, the sergeant is quickly accepting of Lupita's offer to purchase wine, and provide a free reading of the cards for him. She tells him she sees he's accepted a large sum of money, and with a little prodding, gets him to reveal how much. Then she tells him his fate hangs in the balance, and he will be betrayed by the person he least suspects.

Troubled, the sergeant returns to the cuartel, where Diego and Bernardo are playing darts while Reyes watches. Garcia keeps asking Diego if he thinks Reyes or the lancers can be trusted, and Diego, not realizing it, keeps saying the worst possible thing, by assuring the sergeant he should trust them entirely. So Garcia sends all the lancers to the mission to guard it until morning. Then he steps outside the cuartel and actually manages to evade Bernardo. Then, after a near-miss with a dart, his suspicions cause him to confront Diego. Things get heated, and Diego steps outside to find Bernardo, only to be locked out of the cuartel. This doesn't protect Garcia from Lupita or her goons, who have been using a ladder to watch all this play out over the wall. Fortunately, Bernardo spotted the ladder and alerts Diego. Lupita and her boys have found the money and locked Garcia in a cell, but it doesn't mean a thing once Zorro shows up. The goons are easily defeated, and Lupita's brief attempt to backstab Zorro is quickly stopped by the sergeant's big hands. The would-be thieves are locked up, the money is safe, and all is well. Though Garcia asks Diego not to tell Alejandro, since the sergeant can't and won't claim credit.

Quote of the Episode: Lupita - 'That is my specialty, handling stupid men.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (14 overall).

Other: We did have one "baboso", the first since "Affair of Honor", which I forgot to mention then. There's been a marked decline in those this season, since Garcia isn't taking quite as much abuse from crooked commanders, and he's not being quite as rough on Reyes. The two things are probably related, him taking his frustrations over how he's treated out on Reyes.

A little disappointed in Alejandro not having more faith in Sergeant Garcia. Yes, I know, he was apparently justified in this, given the sergeant very nearly blew it. But it wasn't for lack of trying on Garcia's part. He could have simply fled the cuartel after Lupita's fortune, tried to hide himself somewhere far away from the money, where no one he trusted would ever find him. Instead he chose to isolate himself in the money inside theoretically the safest place in town.

Mostly I feel bad for Garcia because he knows Alejandro doesn't trust him to do the job. He phrases it to Diego as him just thinking, sometimes, that maybe Alejandro doesn't trust him, but it's not Garcia's way to be forceful in his opinions, so I suspect he's fully aware of how Alejandro feels about him.

The major issue I have with this episode is, what was Lupita going to do if Sergeant Garcia didn't return to the tavern? Her plan rests on making him doubt everyone he would normally trust, to suspect they will steal the money and kill him. What would she do if he didn't return? I guess she could rush to the cuartel gates, desperate to warn the sergeant of a message sent to her through the cards for him. Although then, Diego, Bernardo, and Corporal Reyes are all present. I guess he still would have tried to get rid of all of them, they just would have understood what he was doing right off. I'm not sure how that would have changed things. Diego might simply have taken the money back.

Friday, July 22, 2016

This May Be The Scowliest Team Ever

Yes, even scowlier than those '90s Punisher/Ghost Rider/Wolverine team-ups. I'm actually surprised I'm sticking to an "every other month*" schedule with these made-up team posts. When I was making a list of possible XBox 360 characters to use, I noticed a lot of my games have similar protagonists. So angry, sullen, violent male protagonists for everyone! With a couple of outliers of course, see how long they can tolerate each other.

The Leader: Wei Shen (Sleeping Dogs) - Wei survived going undercover in Hong Kong gangs, and not only brought down some major Triad leaders, but also exposed corruption in the police force. And he survived, which is the most impressive part of all. Wei believes in the law, but also recognizes its limitations, which isn't the same as accepting them. He will step outside what's legal to extract what punishment he thinks appropriate. How long he could keep his badge under those circumstances is up in the air.

Wei's pretty good at driving, shooting, and beating people up, but I think the most critical skill he has for this circumstance is that he's very good at working with people and gaining their trust, even if he despises those people. That may be key here, him convincing the rest of the team he cares about them, and they can trust him, even if that isn't necessarily the case early on. If they survive long enough, I imagine it will be the case, because Wei also seems to form genuine strong bonds quickly, whether he meant to or not. If something happens to someone on the team after that point, he could get a little out of control.

The Rogue: Corvo Attono (Dishonored) - For the purposes of this, I'm going to assume one of the High Chaos endings, probably one where Emily didn't survive being abducted by Havelock. The game tells you that, in that event, Corvo ultimately abandons Dunwall and flees to who knows where, trying to escape his past. So let's go with that. He left, just kept using Blink until he was exhausted, then slept, woke up, and kept going until he felt he'd run far enough. He may have settled some place, but more likely he drifts. The Outsider hasn't spoken to him in years. Makes sense, Corvo hasn't done anything interesting in years. Corvo opted to focus on the revenge he felt he was owed, rather than attempt to pave a better path for Emily, and look how that ended up. So he avoids trusting his judgment whether to take action or not.

What he's going to get out of all this is unclear. A chance to try again somewhere else, a chance to end it with some higher goal. Perhaps it's that he sees something similar in the other members of the group, and in this case, like attracted like. Or maybe he's noticed that even with his failing Emily and Dunwall, the world didn't fall apart entirely, and it's worth keeping it from being destroyed by outside forces. If he keeps taking action, though, the Outsider will probably start egging him on again, and Corvo might react badly to that.

Corvo and Wei are both experts on infiltration, though Wei's approach is long-term, deep cover, while Corvo's who you turn to when you need something stolen quickly. The two could make quite a team, if they can trust each other. Given past experiences, both are going to be on guard against betrayal from within. There's no telling which way Corvo might break at a critical moment, and it isn't clear if anyone else on this team can stop a guy who can teleport and slow time, though he might not be the only one with that last trick. . .

The Muscle: Rita Mordio (Tales of Vesperia) - Rita isn't a scowly, broody guy, but she is temperamental, she is violent, as well as loud, smart, and fully confident in her abilities. She's a serious powerhouse with the spells she'd learned by the end of the game. Hitting people with tidal waves, meteor swarms, masses of darkness. The tradeoff is she's not the best at physical combat, and it takes time to cast. Good thing she's going to have an entire team of people good at killing with hands, blades, and guns who can buy her time. As it is, she's the smartest member of the team, and if they need a solution to anything related to sciences, she's the best bet. If it's going to require diplomacy, she's the one to keep well away.

Rita was 15 in the game. I though about maybe having it be Rita a few years down the line, a bit older, more powerful, but it might also sand the edges off a bit. Maybe not, she might have grown kinder to her friends, but she doesn't know these guys. She didn't have a lot of patience for people she thought were stupid, or behaved foolishly. This group might drive her up the wall. She is going to yell at and nearly blow up this bunch repeatedly. There isn't anyone on here that resembles the naive innocent Estelle was, which seems to be the sort of person who brings out Rita's protective nature. What's mostly likely to keep her with them is curiosity about the worlds they're moving through, or the threats they're facing. Possibly also the desire to keep her friends back home safe.

The Guy of Mystery: Sean (The Saboteur) - I do really poorly at picking this archetype. I suppose, with Corvo years on from the end of the game, I should have switched him and Sean. Oh well.

At least with Corvo, I could sort of envision what he might do after his game ended. With Sean, I'm not sure. I can't see him staying in Paris, he'd patched things up with Veronique as much as he was likely to. Would he return to car racing? British Intelligence hinted that Sean had a checkered past back in Ireland, so he might not be able to go back home (unless all that killing he did for the Brits causes them to look the other way.) Sean is going to swear constantly, drink and smoke constantly, and want to blow things up. He will probably have some idea initially about needing to protect Rita, because she's just a kid/girl, until she blows something up (possibly his car), at which point he'll mostly abandon that impulse.

Like Wei and Corvo, Sean can be sneaky, although his approach always started with breaking a soldier's neck and stealing their uniform. Not sure how applicable that will be. Probably better to rely on his facility with driving and explosives. Between him and Wei, there could be some pretty great driving sequences for this crew. Have Corvo Blinking from a car, over to a different vehicle to kill the driver, then back before it crashes. Or Rita popping up out of a sunroof to unleash some destructive attack. Sean's never one to pass up making a smartass remark, so he's probably the one who loosens things up from time to time. The others may have their own sense of humor, but most of them don't show it much.

The Man with a Carriage: Nigel West Dickens (Red Dead Redemption) - I couldn't resist putting this goober on a team. Dickens was a snake oil salesman, but clever enough to be useful to John Marston on occasion (and clever enough to get a lot of help out of Marston before providing assistance). Despite Marston saving his neck multiple times, Dickens was never happy to see him. Because John Marston was an exceptionally violent man with a short temper, who didn't entirely like Dickens. Still, as penance for all those people he swindled, he can be saddled with three John Marstons. Though Rita is the one most likely to torment him. She'll see through his spiel right off, and while she may not have much sympathy for the people he suckers, she'll be entirely contemptuous of his nonsense.

It's really a crappy carriage drawn by some poor horse, so except in certain circumstances, they'd probably rely on Wei and Sean's cars, or whatever else they can scrounge up. Dickens is going to wind up in this entirely by accident, but be unable to safely get out. Like it or not, the safest place for him is next to these people who have the capability of protecting him, if not much interest in doing it. So how is Nigel West Dickens going to earn his keep? The carriage is, if a slow conveyance, at least an unassuming one. There might be times you can't use a car or whatever. For all that his medicines don't actually help people, he does have that sort of fictional idiot savant ability to stumble into something useful. His zombie repellent did precisely the opposite, but there might be an occasion where you want to attract the undead. And he must know something useful about medicine or chemistry that could come in handy.

While he's not as smooth a talker as he likes to think, he does have some skill at it, or he wouldn't have survived as long as he did. Wei is good at working undercover, but only when posing as a tough guy. The, "Hey, I'm good at breaking legs, why don't you let me join your gang?" approach. Which is useful, but not going to work in every circumstance. Sean and Corvo aren't that different. They can't play harmless. Dickens can probably serve as a distraction, simply by not shutting up long enough to be told to scram. If he really needs to, he can play an unassuming old man quite easily. There would have to be a scene where he and Rita have to work together, her as the clever and exasperated young girl, accompanying her sweet, slightly addled grandpa, and use that to get into somewhere, past a border crossing, something. Dickens' nerves and Rita's impatience would make for a fun combination.

The Wild Card: Nathaniel Renko (Singularity) - I haven't decide whether Renko is part of the team, or the antagonist. He brings them together either way. In the ending I like best - Renko kills Demishev and Barisov and keeps the TMD - the game says Renko vanishes, but there are rumors of someone wielding great power building a new empire in the ruins of the U.S. That wasn't how I interpreted my taking that approach - I thought of it as Renko simply being tired of these two Russians trying to jerk him around - but we can go with it.

Armed with a TMD with unlimited energy, it wouldn't be difficult for Renko to recreate some of the horrors he faced on Kartorga. If he keeps mucking about with the TMD's ability to warp time, maybe he punches holes through into other universes. All the other characters' worlds (except Sean's) had some aspect of the supernatural or bizarre. Demons, witches, zombies, a world-spanning octopus-looking thing made of energy, you name it. And after dealing with Nazis, Sean may not be fazed by the science-spawned horrors anyway. This team is comprised of the people who encounter these rifts, and while exploring them or fending off what's emerging, they run across each other. Except for Dickens, who blundered in while fleeing angry townspeople, but whatever, he's there, and escape isn't going to be easy. They'll have to decide whether to try and defend their homes first, or head for the source of the problem. Renko may not be content to stay in one place, and try to take the fight to their homes directly. Or try to take them over while they're running around in his world.

* I looked it up, and "bimonthly" can mean either twice a month or every other month? That explains why I'm always unsure when to use it. Just an awful decision by the English language right there.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Brute Force - John Ellis

Half of the point of this book is that the Allies won World War II because they were able to overwhelm the Axis powers with the sheer weight of their industrial production. The Germans had no chance of being able to produce tanks, guns, planes, fuel, whatever on a scale that could keep them on relatively equal footing with the U.S., the Soviets, and the British. Ellis has a lot of facts, and figures to detail just how outmatched the Axis powers were, to the point that, even when it looks like they were close to achieving some sort of victory, they really weren't. For example, during the Battle of the Atlantic, between the U-boats and Allied shipping, even when the Germans were sinking a huge amount of merchant ships, Britain was apparently still building up their overall merchant fleet (from ships they'd added from other nations or countries, as well as ships they or the Americans built), the Germans were still falling behind. Especially because Hitler didn't put enough emphasis on building U-boats, and even when he did, they couldn't build them fast enough to tilt things.

The other half of the point of the book is that the Allies could have ended the war quite a bit sooner if they had been smarter about using their material edge. Ellis details repeatedly how the Allies largely fail to use any real inventiveness in their tactics, and often fail to show the necessary urgency that might have enabled them to capture large quantities of German soldiers. So the commanders frequently seem perfectly fine with simply throwing wave after wave of tanks at entrenched positions, except at times when they could have made a major breakthrough, which is when they always seem to lose their nerve. The moments when large advances are made is typically when the Germans have decided to fall back, and so the Allies are merely taking land, but not really disrupting what effort the Germans can make to fight by capturing their forces.

In the Pacific theater, Ellis criticizes the Army and the Navy for being unwilling to work together (or more accurately, both being unwilling to be under the other's command) and go with a single advance, with Ellis arguing for MacArthur's idea of cutting through New Guinea and the like to cut off the supply of raw materials to Japan. I think it's worth mentioning that just because MacArthur said his goal was to cut off Japan's supply lines, that doesn't mean that's what he would have done if he had been given overall command (which, had they settled on a single approach, and chosen that one, there's a good chance he'd have been given the overall command). He said he was planning to move around islands that possessed strong Japanese forces and simply cut them off to die on the vine, but he still attacked well-defended islands in the Philippines, even when told to leave them, as Ellis mentions. So there's a big difference between what MacArthur says he'll do (or says he did), and what actually happens.

It does come off as a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, something Ellis acknowledges as well, but even acknowledging can't hide the fact it gets tedious to hear again and again about how Allied commanders were unimaginative screw-ups who seemingly always make the wrong choice. They're too cavalier with their men when they shouldn't be, and too cautious with them when they shouldn't be. Maybe he's right, especially in the situations where Allied commanders had access to decrypted communications and knew their opponents' strength and intentions (such was the case for Montgomery when plodding after Rommel in North Africa). But it's hard to believe they were always this consistently fouling up.

Besides that, there isn't really anything substantive in here I haven't read in any number of other books on the topic. Overy's Why the Allies Won, for example, cover a lot of the same ground in terms of production. This is a nice way to have a lot of the relevant numbers in one place, but it's not new ground.

'In short, Hitler was not faced with a sort of military IQ test in which the correct sequence of binary decision-making would lead to the correct answer, but was trapped in a maze in which every option was ultimately meaningless because all the exits had been blocked behind him. His military incompetence in the Barbaroosa campaign was revealed not so much by his inability to get out of the maze, as by his ever having allowed himself to be immured there in the first place.'

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It's Been A Week, Let's Discuss This

I figure by this point that you've either seen or heard about last week's Civil War II issue, or you don't care. But, just in case, this deals with some of what happened there, so if you are trying to remain unspoiled, come back for tomorrow's post. I mean, it'll be a review of another book about World War II, but it won't spoil this comic for you.

OK, everybody good? Fantastic.

Clint Barton killed Bruce Banner. Ulysses said Banner was going to become the Hulk again and kill a bunch of people, all the heroes rushed over there. Banner, while insisting he can't become the Hulk anymore (and I think the week before, Totally Awesome Hulk did a whole issue just about the fact Banner can't become Hulk any longer, full stop), got progressively freaked out about all this, and it turned out he'd given Clint some special arrow months ago, just in case he did turn back. Clint says he saw Bruce's eyes turning green, he fired, he turned himself in. Here we are.

I will say this for Bendis: A lot of his characters may sound alike. He may have no ability to properly pace a story, meandering along at issues for a time before rushing a conclusion. He may promise one thing, then dawdle along for months or years without ever doing anything. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, despite all that, he is very consistent about wanting Clint Barton to kill people.

He had Clint get murderously angry during Secret Invasion, he somehow decided that Clint was the member of the New Avengers who would try to kill Boss of All Superheroes Norman Osborn. When Clint was on a team with Wolverine, Bucky Barnes, Carol Danvers, and Mockingbird, to name four characters all much more willing to go that route, historically. I vaguely remember him having Clint kill someone in House of M, or try to at least. And now this.

I'm not sure why Bendis is so hellbent on having Clint kill people, when, for much of his history, Clint was a vocal opponent to Avengers killing people, ever. His stubbornness on that point (along with some communication breakdowns and Clint's own belligerence) helped kill his marriage to Mockingbird. He convinced Abner Jenkins to turn himself in and go to prison over a murder Abe had committed. He was on Captain America's side about not killing the Supreme Intelligence in Operation Galactic Storm, whether it was an artificial intelligence or not. Bendis can accept a guy with a remarkable talent for archery can hang with the Avengers, but not that he can do so without killing people, even with a quiver full of trick arrows that can do pretty much anything you need them to do and the ability to hit basically any target he needs to, no matter how ludicrous. Or else he thinks someone having a rule against killing is silly, but he seems to let Spider-Man stick to it (pun not intended, but not objected to either).

After Bendis left the Avengers books, I felt there was a small pushback from a few other writers to reassert Clint's anti-killing stance. Remender had Clint be adamant Avengers don't kill in Secret Avengers, and for all my issues with Fraction and Aja's Hawkeye book, at the end, they did have Clint defeat the sad clown assassin guy without killing him (though I'm not sure Clint avoided a body count up to that point). It seemed to get buried a bit under the portrayal of Clint as kind of a moron (rather than a fairly clever guy who happens to be hotheaded and impulsive too), but it was there. Now this.

On the positive side, Clint turned himself in immediately, so I assume he expects to face consequences and is prepared to do so. Which seems right for Hawkeye. I don't expect Bendis will do anything with it. He's thrown in the shocking moment, it'll fall to someone else to make something useful of it, and that's probably for the best.

As for Banner, it's another pointless death I can't see moving the needle with anyone. I guess it must, though. If it wasn't managing to goose sales temporarily, they wouldn't keep doing it, right? Seems like they could have done something with Banner, even without him being the Hulk. Confidant and helper to Amadeus Cho, consultant for the Avengers, action scientist, something. Or just let him rest for awhile.

And it's the usual Idiot Ball that dominates these things. If you're worried the Hulk will freak out, why send 10,000 superheroes to arrest him, which will probably freak him out? Pick someone calm he likes, preferably one who can get away quickly if need be, and let them talk to him. Like Dr. Strange. He and Banner go way back, Stephen's a calm guy, and he can magic himself away if need be. Just talk with Banner. If we assume Bendis is paying attention to other books, and Strange is still occupied with the war against magic, find someone else. Not Stark, he'd almost certainly foul it up, but there has to be someone. Keep some heavy hitters in the next county over if you really must.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fighting Can Be Productive, Sometimes

Ip Man was a master of the martial art style called Wing Chun, and the film Ip Man, with Donnie Yen in the title role, is about his life in Fo Shan prior to, and during, the Japanese invasion of China. Prior to the invasion, he lives in a big house with his wife and son, the latter of whom he tends to neglect with practicing his form. He doesn't run a school, or take on students, but people still show up to test what they've learned elsewhere against him, and he accepts these mostly good-naturedly.

The invasion begins, his house is seized to serve as HQ for the local Japanese forces, and Ip Man and his family are soon living in a small apartment, and he has to take a job shoveling coal to keep his family fed. Then he learns that a general in the Japanese Army is encouraging local martial artists to come and test themselves against his soldiers in exchange for sacks of rice. Ip Man is not interested, until one of his friends goes, and dies fighting the general.

This leads to the inevitable showdown between Ip Man and General Miura, but there's also several other subplots about the struggles other people in Fo Shan are facing. A friend is trying to run a textile mill, but is seeing his shipments hijacked and held for ransom by some bandit gang, lead by a fellow Ip defeated earlier in the film. The man who was the local police captain before the invasion is now serving as an interpreter for the Japanese, and is responsible for helping get martial artists for Miura's tests.

What was interesting to me was that, despite his own hardships, Ip didn't seem to have considered the possibility others would be facing similar problems. His harsh reaction toward Liu (the former policeman) is understandable in his anger at a friends' death, but in general, he seems to have kept himself somewhat disconnected from everyday life. He's willing to help people in need (which has the effect of others being willing to help him, even if he hates to ask for or accept it), but he doesn't seek out those who need it. He has to be convinced to help, but once he does, he throws himself into it.

The fight scenes are pretty good, excellent flow and pacing. The fact that Ip Man uses the same movements in both the fights earlier in the film, when he's not being serious, and later, when he's furious and determined, works very well. With the early fights, you can see how easily he could hurt someone, but he's not. He's basically humoring these challengers, making light strikes or moving slow so maybe they can learn something from it. When he's serious, it's the same movements, but faster, and with real force behind them. Suddenly people are flying across the room, but they aren't getting up with a surprised or embarrassed look on their face. They aren't getting up at all.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Negative Associations Like This Could Be Bad For My Teeth

In the last month or so, most every night when I use mouthwash, my mind starts thinking about the Kevin Smith/Terry Dodson mini-series, Spider-Man and the Black Cat: The Evil Men Do.

Because at the end of the third issue, the villain explains how he can teleport small amounts of fluid (which he uses as a way to provide heroin for people without them worrying about messy needle marks or being observed purchasing anything). He relates how he discovered this power when he was younger, by accidentally teleporting the mouthwash he was swishing in his mouth into the heart of one of his parents who was yelling at him, killing them.

So I guess that's why it comes to mind, but I'd really just as soon my mind didn't dredge that up. Considering that he relates this story after having used that power to drug Felicia, and is preparing to sexually assault her. If I remember right, it didn't happen (the guy's brother killed him, although Felicia took the rap for it initially), but Smith went ahead and added a sexual assault during college to Felicia's backstory, as her motivating incident to turn to crime. Which I think has blessedly been put in the dustbin of history, since it was completely unnecessary and just a bad idea in general.

Still, not something I was excited to have climb back into the forefront of my memory. Now all of you have to suffer along with me.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Zorro 2.36 - Long Live The Governor

Plot: Diego returns from escorting Leonar on a shopping trip, and seems to be making good time with her, until he notices Bernardo signaling him and breaks off the conversation abruptly. The Captain is meeting with Manuel Larios in the library, and they need to hustle to the secret passage to observe. Alejandro is already there, sword in hand and ready to end this, but Diego points out they don't know all the conspirators. In the library, Arrellano is remarkably cocksure about his importance to the Rebatos, and has decided they will all kill the governor together. The conversation is ended by the arrival of Sergeant Garcia, here because the Governor wants to set up shop in the library for awhile, which involves bringing in all manner of distractions for His Excellency.

It's at this point the captain puts the plan into motion. The other dons are scheduled to come to the hacienda and meet with the Governor personally, and Arrellano suggests that perhaps Alejandro could ride out and extend the invitation personally, so it will seem less authoritative. Diego is close to patching things up with Leonar when Bernardo butts in again, to tell him all the lancers are gone. And soon, as the governor takes a nap with the aid of his music box, Arrellano has Diego taking him to the lake to collect some wild rice for dinner. When Diego mentions it certainly seemed as though the governor was exposed, Arrellano offers to return to watch over him, if Diego will continue on and collect the rice. Diego agrees, then promptly doubles back and changes to Zorro. And Bernardo has somehow already moved the governor, his couch, and the music box into the passage.

Just in time, as Arrellano and the Rebatos - all 5 of them - arrive. Leonar stumbles upon them, but is quickly subdued. Things go downhill for the would-be assassins when they discover the governor not where he's supposed to be, and Zorro quickly sets to picking them off one at a time. The Rebatos make this much easier by frequently splitting up, though Zorro's very good at quickly grabbing and subduing them at every opportunity. Soon it's just Zorro and the Captain, and Arrellano, with no one to use as a hostage (Leonar having already been freed by Zorro), meets a final, fatal end.

Quote of the Episode: Zorro - 'Captain, I am  sorry you do not approve of the display. It would have had a better balance with one more sword. Yours.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (14 overall). On the wall above the heads of the tied up members of the Rebatos.

Other: When the Governor reached the library and saw everything Garcia had laid out for him, he started to pitch a fit, until Leonar stepped in to defend the sergeant by pointing out the governor told Garcia to put his things there. I really like Leonar. It's too bad Bernardo kept butting in with bad news at the worst possible moment for Diego.

The governor remarked to Diego this week that he was disappointed to find Arrellano had neither the temperament or the humility to be a good public servant. That's an astute judgment. Certainly Arrellano lost any pretense of humility the longer he saw the possibility of becoming Governor. His attitude towards the Rebatos was consistently remarkably arrogant for a man willing to kill his boss so as to seize his job. I suppose he figures he can implicate the Rebatos if they tried to turn against him, though I don't think he had met all of them yet either. But it seems to me that, if the Rebatos had been willing to kill one uncooperative leader, they would hardly balk at killing a second, and take their chances on being able to find a different willing partner (or better yet, pawn).

So it does appear the stairs that lead up to the library in the secret passage could come from the cellar, which might explain Alejandro last week. Except there also appears to another landing in between those two levels I can't explain. Is the cellar just really deep in the ground? I could see that. There's no central heating or cooling, it's a hot climate, wine is meant to be kept cool and damp (I think, I know zilch about wine), it might have to be pretty far down.

I do wonder how Bernardo got the Governor and all the stuff in the secret passage. Possibly he could set the music box on the Governor's chest, then carry them in, set them down, then drag in the sofa and end table, and set everything back as it was. Otherwise, I don't know, because he'd have to swing the sofa around to get it into the passage, I think, and that would be awkward with someone sleeping on it.

Arrellano told Diego he had the lancers hiding around the hacienda, but judging by Garcia and Reyes, he actually sent them on a beer run. I guess he thought it would be rude to expect Alejandro to just open his wine supply to all the dons on behalf of the Governor. Or that's what he probably told the sergeant at any rate.

Zorro flat out killed Arrellano. It wasn't an errant pistol shot by one of Arrellano's co-conspirators. It wasn't an oh-so convenient fall off a building. Not as an execution of an unarmed man or anything, it's during the course of their battle. Still, Zorro isn't content to merely disarm or subdue Arrellano as he was the Rebatos. He runs him through. Which I wasn't expecting. When Zorro removed his cape before starting the battle, I thought he was just showing off for Leonar. He seemed to be showing a lot flair, really selling it for her, but perhaps he was just being serious. No cape to possibly hinder his movements, either because he respected Arrellano's skill enough, or because he was ready for this to be done with. The Rebatos at least were not pretending to be the governor's trusted associate, and were open enough with their opposition that they were a known threat. Arrellano was the friend with the concealed dagger, which makes him worse perhaps, in the Zorro universe.

Friday, July 15, 2016

In Superhero Comics, Making Enemies Is Easy

I was thinking about how both the Black Widow and Deadpool are both being menaced by someone they treated badly in the past. The Widow by Maya, the daughter of the woman who taught Natasha in the Red Room. Deadpool by Madcap, who had a bad go of it when he was stuck inside Wade's head.

In both cases, the protagonist was in a rough place, and simply didn't have much empathy to spare. Natasha was just trying to survive, and had no time to befriend another girl who wasn't trained, and whose injury or death would probably have gotten the same for Natasha. By belittling Maya, describing her as a pet, as one kept safe from the danger every other girl there was being thrown headlong into, she seems to have instilled in Maya a desire to be better than Natasha at what she does. Or what Maya thinks Natasha does and is, anyway. I suspect in their final confrontation, whenever it occurs, it will turn out Maya has fundamentally misunderstood the Black Widow.

As for Deadpool and Madcap, Wade's life has been a steady string of misfortune, one which causes him to lash out or treat others poorly, while trying to keep the causes of that behavior hidden. And here's Madcap, who takes nothing seriously, running around in Wade's head, privy to all his secrets, treating it like some buddy comedy. As Wade points out, he's not a great friend to have even when he's trying to be one, and he wasn't interested in being one to Madcap.

Now, both the characters are in different place. Natasha's old friend may scoff at her being an Avenger, but she is more willing to have friends, to actually care about people. And Deadpool, if his comments to Madcap are to be believed, brought Madcap into the Mercs for Money because he thought the guy was lonely and could use friends. Even if Wade hadn't embarked on his newly found, "let past wrongs go," approach at that point, he still seems to have been trying to make amends.

And it's too late. However current Natasha might treat Maya now, the damage is done. And Wade only reached out to Madcap after establishing close bonds with several other people, most of whom hadn't previously been tormented by Deadpool. With Madcap, there's also the possibility that when he left Wade's mind, he may have taken some of the worst parts with him, in which case Wade has become his own worst enemy even moreso than he was before. You can't necessarily say that about Natasha and Maya (Maya probably has a steep hill to climb to become the Widow's worst enemy, for one thing), but certainly the path Maya has chosen was informed by what she saw the Black Widow doing.

This isn't a new story turn, the protagonist who was kind of an ass but has since reformed, being confronted with people unwilling to accept the change, but it catches my interest. The impulse, when you're having a bad time of it, to dish a little of it out, I get that. And I get that it can make you feel like crap afterward, especially if the person who bears the brunt of it had nothing to do with your crappy situation. And there's nothing that says the person who takes the hit has to forgive and forget, even if I show up later trying to make amends (or went my own way and barely gave them a passing thought, in Natasha's case). It might be healthier for them, but no one is guaranteed a chance to patch things up, or erase a past act of casual cruelty. And how that's handled, that's something I'll be curious to see.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hitler's Generals - Corelli Barnett

Barnett wrote The Desert Generals, a book I very much enjoyed when I read it two and a half years ago. Which is why my dad bought this one, except Barnett is the editor, not the author. The book is a compilation of essays by different writers on various Nazi generals. Most writers are limited to one general, although a few write about two or even three. In most cases, they simply write two separate essays and combine them into one chapter, but Klaus-Juergen Mueller, who wrote about Witzleben, Stuelpnagel, and Speidel, tried to work chronologically, moving between each man's career as was prudent.

As with an collection of writings from various authors, it's a mixed bag. A few of the essays veer into hagiography, Carver's on Manstein and Blumenson on Rommel most notably. One of the more interesting aspects is to compare what the person writing the essay on a general says about him, versus how he's depicted in the other essays, where he can be either an ally or antagonist to the subject. So Carlo D'Este mentions that many of the other general regarded Model as a true believer Nazi, while Este thinks Model was simply an wise opportunist. Then I read Richard Lamb's essay on Kluge, who was replaced on the Western Front by Model, who Lamb describes as a 'fanatical Nazi'. Este also argues that Model was able to argue successfully with Hitler because he also approached things from a military, rather than political, perspective. But I think Robert O'Neill had detailed General Beck's attempts early in the war to do the same thing, without success, so I'm not sure Este is on the mark there.

It's probably not a bad resource to pick and choose from, depending on who you were interested in. Reading all of them back to back got repetitive fairly quickly. There's only so many battles for them to command in, so many opportunities for them to stand up to Hitler or not, or to have a chance to be brought into the plots to kill Hitler or not. It's a real mixed bag on that score, between the ones who were true believers, the ones who were always ready to remove Hitler, the opportunists, who swayed with the fortunes of the campaign, or the ones who didn't like Hitler, but felt a soldier was not supposed to meddle in politics.

Which did raise the question of when a military should defy its country's elected leader. You don't really want to start a trend of armies overthrowing their governments, because some of them aren't going to relinquish control for another round of elections. But this certainly seems like a case where it could hardly have made things worse.

'Perhaps Engel remembered his first meeting with Halder back in 1938. Then, too, he had found the General isolated and threatened. Since then he had trodden a long and hard path. Deluded by hopes of greatness both for himself and for the General Staff, Halder has abandoned his promise to oppose Hitler and followed a course of service without  loyalty and duty without honour that had resulted in the defeat of Germany's armies and the division and humiliation of the General Staff.'

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Qualifies As Improbable In The Marvel Universe?

The best I understand it, this Ulysses kid's brain runs all these probabilities to determine likely future catastrophes, and then he warns people about them. It's like psychohistory, but it actually can predict the actions of individuals, which is sort of crucial in a fictional setting where individuals can potentially destroy entire worlds. This has lead to much punching (or maybe it's still just arguing) about whether people should be getting prosecuted over things they are likely to do, but haven't necessarily done yet. The answer would seem to be obviously, "NO," but apparently not.

Beyond moral questions, I have to wonder how accurate this could really be.The Marvel Universe has multiple characters who have powers that alter probabilities such that things which would otherwise be exceedingly unlikely to happen, happen. Can Ulysses' power somehow account for the actions of people who, by the nature of their powers, should confound his?

Ulysses predicts the, I dunno, Rhino, will steal a gizmo that will cause the Atlantic Rift to open wide, dumping the entire Atlantic Ocean into the mantle, causing some sort of huge problem. This is a bad thing that heroes would reasonably want to prevent, but can Ulysses predict that Longshot's going to come plummeting out of the sky with a jetpack in front of the Rhino before he gets to the device, and he just so happens to have Rhino's dear, sweet mama, who Longshot rescued from an apartment fire without knowing who she was? And that this causes the Rhino to abandon his plan and take care of her, and the whole mess is averted? Even if there is a very small chance of that series of events taking place, Longshot's power set (or Domino's, or the Scarlet Witch's) means it's more likely than you'd expect, but I'm not sure if it would be in a way anyone could account for.

But even past people with powers that specifically mess with probabilities, the Marvel Universe is already a place where probabilities are out of whack. The things people survive that they shouldn't. The times some nutball cooks up a device that could actually, somehow, destroy the planet. The people who get exposed to radiation or dangerous chemicals and get powers instead of horrible diseases. The SIlver Surfer meeting Alicia Masters, and only then deciding to defy Galactus, and in the process, save the Earth.

Stuff that is exceedingly unlikely to happen, happens all the time. Ulysses being 99.9% sure "X" is going to happen doesn't mean a damn thing, because especially on Marvel Earth, that 0.1% possibility of something else happening in our world, is probably more like, what, a 25-40% there, simply because that's how crap works on that planet (and to a lesser extent, that universe as a whole). It's not necessarily to the point where what we'd consider improbable is the most likely outcome in the Marvel U., but it's certainly more likely than it would be here, simply because a lot of things happen there which can't happen here.

Maybe Ulysses' power adjusts for this somehow, though I'm not sure how that would work. "This thing that by all right should almost certainly not happen, actually has about a 1-in-3 chance of happening!" That just seems like it would break his brain. It doesn't invalidate the potential usefulness of his power entirely, but it certainly seems as though Carol Danvers and the rest ought to be taking it with a considerably larger grain of salt than they are.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Useless Review Of A Useless Movie

When I was doing that post about movies I saw parts of last week, I knew there was one other film I meant to mention, but I couldn't remember it. Then I did remember: the Fantastic Four movie from last year. I saw more of this than the other two, but the captions weren't on, and the Composite Boozy Moron in the next room was blasting music so loudly I could only hear the dialogue sporadically, so I missed a lot.

I felt the film kind of merged Dr. Doom with Annihilus. I heard Victor say something about all life being a threat to him, or something to that effect, and his face had these grill bars/horizontal lines across his face that seemed unlike Doom's normal look, but for some reason made me think of Annihilus. I'm probably thinking of the lines on either side of his face that represent the different parts of his jaws. I might have preferred a movie of the team exploring this other dimension they went to, and finding preexisting life which regards them as hostile invaders and tries to destroy them, and the world they come from.

It wasn't really what I think I was looking for in a Fantastic Four movie, at least not the part I saw. The last bit I got to see was Reed basically convincing them all to work together to stop Doom, but not the part where they actually do that. Ben being used as a weapon by the military, and killing dozens of people is definitely not my thing, but within the context of the movie, I guess it made sense*? These smart kids trying to do something for SCIENCE, but the gubmint butts in and tries to take it, the kids make rash decisions, everything goes to hell, which only strengths the Shady Government Guy's claims, and puts them even more under his thumb. I imagine there might be some sort of arc there, but I couldn't really hear enough of what was being said so maybe I'm misreading it. None of the performances really jumped out at me without dialogue, which is too bad. I liked Michael B. Jordan a lot in Chronicle, so I was hoping he'd be a good Johnny Storm, and maybe he was, I just couldn't tell.

* Look, it's not what I want, but I'm trying to meet the film on its terms, as best I can. Open mind, not be the angry, "it's my way or nothing" fan, that well, I usually am.

Monday, July 11, 2016

What I Bought 7/2/2016 - Part 2

The other two comics I was able to collect during the holiday weekend. One of them is an actual Civil War II tie-in, so brace yourselves for that barrel of laughs.

Ms. Marvel #8, G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa (artists), Ian Herring and Irma Kniivila (colorists), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I know I should recognize the poster Stewart is referencing with that cover, but I can't place. It honestly reminds me of some of the Soviet propaganda posters, but I'm not sure that's what he's going for.

Kamala is called up to Alpha Flight base, and Captain Marvel tells her about Ulysses, the kid who sees probably futures or whatever. They want to try using his abilities to see if they can lower crime in Jersey City with a concerted effort. Kamala is all for leading this group of plucky teens, despite the concerns of her new sister-in-law about arresting people for things they might have been getting ready to do. Good point, although not sure a guy driving a stolen experimental tank through a populated area is the best example. Guy had probably already broken some laws by that point. Anyway, Kamala is soon confronted with the problem when told a student is going to blow up her school and it turns out to be Josh.

There's also an prologue, drawn by Alphona, which I think is detailing the story of how Kamala's family eventually came to the U.S. At this stage, it's 1947 and they're having to leave Bombay and head for the newly created country of Pakistan because things were getting a little heated between Hindus and Muslims in the wake of India's independence from the UK.

So we'll see how this goes. My guess is Josh was going to blow up the school, but on accident. Science experiment gone wrong, that sort of thing, but Ulysses' power doesn't distinguish intent. Kamala will learn some valuable lessons about the limitations of this proactive, punish people for thinking, crap, which will put her at odds with her plucky gang of Crossfitting twit helpers.

I chuckled at Kamala's determination pose when she swears to do what Danvers asks with honor, commitment, courage, and all the other stuff. At least Carol has the decency to look unsure about all this, to the point she wasn't even amused by that. Although I guess she's more worried about untrained volunteers than the fact blindly trusting Ulysses power is dumb as hell. And the design on the tank is great. The scowly eyes, and even a nose drawn on it, the missile with "Oh Canada", and the fact it was hijacked by a Canadian ninja, who runs around in Jersey for some reason. Dude, start with claiming the Dakotas for Canada, then work east.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #9, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Tom Fowler (inker), David Malki (Mole Man's deal artist), Braden Lamb (trading card artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Credit to the Moloids for being so well-behaved on the subway, even if I suspect they probably got on without paying. Probably tunneled right under the turnstiles.

Mole Man is angry because Kraven is terrorizing his monsters. Squirrel Girl apologizes for accidentally causing Moley grief by making Kraven reconsider his life choices. Mole Man blows this one act of decency out of proportion and proposes on the spot. Doreen tries to let him down gently, explaining there are no squirrels underground. So Mole Man drops Central Park into a hole, and tries again, but Nancy's having none of it, and Doreen seems to get through to Mole Man again. So he drops landmarks around the world into holes, and vows to keep doing that until she goes on a date with him, and oh dear, Squirrel Girl is actually, officially angry. She beats Thanos with a smile on her face (I don't care what crap Starlin says, Thanos lost). Mole Man might die, folks. She's gonna punch him once in his 105 year old head and it's going to disintegrate.

OK probably not.

That full-page splash of Mole Man proposing is great. From the large diamond, to the monsters sitting there watching with interest, to Doreen's walrus stuffed animal, to her pose and expression. You see people, when they're proposed to, with that "hands over their mouth" look, because they're trying not to cry, because they're so happy or whatever. But she is just horribly embarrassed and trying to figure out how to get out of here. I'd kind of expect her tail to be drooping, just from being sad, but it might be up from being horrified (I haven't really checked to see how much the position of her tail corresponds to her emotional state in this book).

It's a strange issue, but a good one. The shift from Koi Boi's terrible fish puns, to that intense scene when Nancy smacks the taste out of Mole Man's mouth for touching Doreen, and then we're on to a fight scene and jokes about Doreen tossing in Nancy in the air to keep her safe until it's over. It feels like it shouldn't work, that really serious bit about respecting boundaries in the middle there, but it does, somehow. I guess because Nancy being extremely blunt and protective of her friend is normal for her. This is the lady who tried to help fight Doombots by throwing rocks at them (until Tippy came up with a better plan). You mess with her friend, she will fight you.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Zorro 2.35 - Masquerade for Murder

Plot: A man comes to visit Captain Arrellano at the hacienda, an assassin as it turns out. As Diego and Bernardo observe from the secret passage, Arrellano continues to be a surprisingly high-handed dick for a man plotting to kill and supplant his boss. He flat out refuses to pay the assassin, sticking the Rebatos with the bill, and sends the man away without even letting him have any wine. Diego, Alejandro, and Bernardo debate their next move, but opt to continue observing until they can figure some way to expose the Captain and the Rebatos. The governor, unfortunately, isn't putting anyone in much of a mind to protect, forcing the lancers to lug him around the front porch until he finds a spot to sit he finds acceptable. To improve his mood, Diego suggests they have a party, so the governor can meet the citizens and have a little fun.

Party prep commences, and the assassin pays Arrellano another visit. This time, Diego is unable to get to the passage to eavesdrop, and Bernardo, who was stationed there specifically for this purpose, is asleep. So they have no idea what the conspirators have planned, but soon enough, here come Leonar and Arrellano, announcing they're going to make it a masquerade party. Alejandro is not ecstatic, as his usual choice, a Greek senator's toga, results in people making fun of his knees. Diego attempts to short-circuit the plan to give the killer an easy excuse for a disguise by sending all those invited relatively tiny domino masks to wear, but Alejandro is wearing an executioner's outfit with a full hood he think Diego left for him. Except Diego didn't leave it for him, Alejandro is soon alone out in back of the hacienda, where he finds himself under attack from someone dressed just like him, but with a real scimitar. But Diego had recognized something was wrong, and with some unwitting help by Sergeant Garcia, is able to make sure Zorro arrives in time. The killer escapes, but Alejandro is alive, and so is the governor.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'We'll just have to go on protecting the governor until we can force Captain Arrellano and the Rebatos into the open.'

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

Other: The captions are spelling it "Arrellano" this week, but I was sure it was with one "r" a couple of weeks ago.

Leonar was surprisingly friendly towards the captain this week. I guess because he restrained himself from any untoward advances or jealous rages, and seemed like he was trying to help raise her father's spirits. Still, that feels like the time she should be most on guard, because it seems like exactly the sort of thing he'd try to do to get on her good side before making another unwanted advance.

Diego was delayed in getting to his father by being drawn into a dance with Senorita Nunez, until he was able to drag Garcia in to take his place. She wasn't so pleased, but the sergeant always looks so happy when he gets to dance with a pretty lady. That was nice, especially after the governor was so mean to him for accidentally wearing the same outfit as the governor. That crack about how, if Garcia had dressed as a respectable soldier in the King's Army, he'd have been unrecognizable, that was over the line. The governor is distressingly good at making me wonder whether it'd be such a bad thing if the Rebatos succeeded with so many little things he does. On the larger scale, he doesn't seem like a terrible guy, but he's very much a petulant child, who lashes out uncaringly when things don't go his way.

Our knowledgeable commenter has been pointing out some of the inconsistencies in the layout of the de la Vega hacienda, especially with regard to the secret passages, and this week is a good example. Arrellano receives the assassin in the study, and Diego and Bernardo enter the secret passage through the sala, the next room over. There's a staircase going upstairs, presumably to Diego's room, but Alejandro comes up the staircase, from some lower level. Where was he? Down in the cave with Tornado? The hacienda does have a cellar (presumably it's where they store all that wine), he could have been there I suppose, though I wonder why. Maybe there's another passage access in the kitchen, but you have to go down from there to reach the stairway, then back up? And those passages are remarkably wide. How broad are the walls in this place, it can accommodate a passage that large?

I might have liked to see Zorro's battle with the assassin go on a little longer. It was an interesting contrast between the guy with the scimitar and Zorro. The assassin has the weapon built for power, and actually breaks Zorro's sword when he's able to bring full force down on it, but it's an all or nothing weapon. So Zorro is able to dodge easily and it gets stuck in a post.

Friday, July 08, 2016

What I Bought 7/2/2016 - Part 2

Like I said Wednesday, I didn't find all the new comics I was looking for, Wynonna Earp #5 being the main whiff, but I found a few. So here's one comic that's four comics, which meant there are a lot of labels for this post. Times like this I regret my newfound interest in giving at least some of the creators post labels.

Deadpool #13, by Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule, David Walker (writers), Jacopo Camagni, Guillmero Sanna, Elmo Bondoc, Paco Diaz (artists), Veronica Gandini, Mat Lopes, Nolan Woodard, Israel Silva (colorists), Joe Sabino and Clayton Cowles (letterers) - Jesus Christ that's a lot of creators. Thank goodness there were no inkers involved.

Marvin Shirkley was an investment banker who made some bad choices with several criminal organizations' money, so now they want to kill him. Except they waste time fighting each other and he's able to enlist Deadpool's help, though only once he mentions Typhoid Mary is the chief muscle for the Russians. Wade is still peeved about that time Mary tricked him into thinking she was Siryn and had sex with him, which, I actually did not know about. At any rate, this desire for vengeance causes Wade to act imprudently and nearly get himself and marvin killed, so he takes his client to the D.A.'s office, and tries to get witness protection from Matt Murdock. Who refuses to help until Marvin produces a laptop he claims has all sorts of information on his clients (though Daredevil does appear to help briefly).

Except it wouldn't fit in Wade's wall safe, so he threw it in the trash. DD is having no truck with that, so Wade enlists Luke Cage and Iron Fist to help him root through a landfill for the computer. It turns up, so does Mary, she steals it, Marvin and Wade pursue, Daredevil shows up again, the laptop is retrieved, Wade chooses not to kill Mary, opting to maybe try and get her some psychological help instead, which confuses Daredevil. And then Murdock shows up to take possession of the diamonds Wade received as payment on the grounds they're stolen goods and evidence. All this is framed as Ben Urich trying to figure out how to sum it up in a story and ultimately giving up. Because Urich gets consistently shittier as a reporter the older he gets. Just like most sportswriters!

Luke and Danny felt superfluous to this whole thing. Maybe if Marvin's case had somehow been relevant to them, or they hadn't decided not to bother helping Wade and Marvin catch the escaping Mary, but they didn't serve much purpose other than padding things out with a lot of jokes about Luke's makeshift non-cursing. Much discussion of the difference in appropriate use of "icky-yucky" and "fiddle-faddle". Daredevil fit better, since it at least made some sense for an assistant district attorney to be involved in the problems of a guy who needs witness protection. Plus, Matt's whole sordid history with Typhoid Mary. Figured that would convince him to stick around longer.

Duggan brought out Mary having raped Wade in the past, something he hadn't brought up previously. He used both characters in Deadpool vs. Hawkeye, and while he alluded to some ugly history between them, he never said specifically what. But at least he did address it, and the fact Wade really wants to kill her over it (in large part because, until her deception was revealed, it convinced him he could be loved), but chooses not to actually fits well with his decision at the conclusion of the recent mess with Sabretooth. Moving past all these old grudges he kept dredging up. Granted, rape is more serious than Iron Fist saying he looked like a melted candle once, but still, it's a new approach he's taking, and he's actually trying to take steps to see she gets treatment. Maybe because he recognizes there's an innocent person in there, and he sees her as a victim of other forces the way he was, only it's other aspects of her own mind instead of sadistic scientists.

The art shifts widely from one part to another. There's no attempt to maintain a similar look or feel within the book, as they opted to focus on having the parts more closely resemble the book they're ostensibly part of. So the Daredevil "issue" features Sanna and Lopes trying to recreate the feel of the current Daredevil series, and sort of succeeding. Sanna doesn't commit to the heavy use of shadows as much as Garney does, based on what I've seen of that book, but it's within range, probably the most of the three parts, though I'm unfamiliar enough with the current Power Man and Iron Fist book to say how close Bondoc's style mirrors it. I don't think it's quite as loose or exaggerated (Luke isn't anywhere near as broad in the chest), but it mostly works.

On the two Deadpool parts, I think Camagni's is closer to the Hawthorne/Koblish styles than Diaz. Camagni's style lends itself more to the comedy aspects than Diaz' which seems to contain many more people gritting their teeth and with the serious musculature. I can't picture what the scene from Camagni's part where Mary sets Marvin's clothes on fire and he does a frantic dance out of them would have looked like with Diaz, but I doubt it would have been as funny.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Seeing Part Of Two Movies Might Be Better Than None

I did get the chance to see two relatively recent blockbuster films. Well parts of them. Alex' roomie got the extended, ultimate, something cut of Batman vs. Superman, and I saw the start of that. I think up to about the point when Superman walked up a mountain and saw Kevin Costner. It was, not good, but not completely horrible. Alex and I fundamentally disagree about Batman, as I pointed out Batman shouldn't be shooting people with guns, and Alex said that was why Batman was cool.

This is why I don't take his opinions on stuff I should watch very seriously. We are fundamentally very different people.

Anyway, Affleck as burned out, possibly crazier than normal Batman was OK. I didn't see enough of Gadot as Wonder Woman to really assess her performance. Eisenberg is not a good Luthor. I don't know if that's his fault, or Snyder's. Why is Lex Luthor this spastic, kind of stammering dope? Did they tell Eisenberg to do that, or did he make that choice and they went with it? Actually, I thought he might have made a decent Arcade, with the elaborate plots, and turning people against each other to do his dirty work. But it wasn't much of a Luthor.

Most of what I saw was just kind of there, it didn't draw much reaction one way or the other (although all the scenes with Perry White were pretty awful, was I supposed to hate Perry?), but I did scratch my head at Superman telling Lois that "Superman" was just something he created for his father, or something like that. Maybe I'm making the mistake of assuming he meant Costner, when he meant Jor-El, but I thought Costner wanted him to hide his abilities, even if it meant people died. That was a thing about Man of Steel I remember people being very unhappy about. That was why Lois was initially tracking these scattered reports of a strange guy saving people all over the world, right? Because Clark still felt like he should help people when he was in trouble, but he was trying to follow his dad's wishes to stay off the radar of the powers that be?

Unless the idea is he became Superman as a way to help people and keep them focused on this bright symbol, and not look too closely for a man behind it, so he could still have a life as Clark.

The other movie was Jurassic World. I only saw the very end of this, from around the point when the two teens get the jeep working. The part where Chris Pratt is riding his motorcycle and the pack of raptors are running with him was cool. That seemed like something that would be cool to do. Alex observed it was crazy Bryce Dallas-Howard's character was able to run throughout the entire film as well as she did in heels, which seemed like a fair observation. Ellie Saddler wore sensible hiking boots. I don't really have anything else to say about it. I didn't have an overwhelming desire to see the rest at some later date.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Return From The Weekend

Long weekend. I got several things I needed to do taken care of, though attempts to find the previos couple of weeks' comics met with limited success. The fun portion of the holiday was constrained by some of Alex' other friends who basically just wanted to drink and wouldn't stop trying to make other people join in. One was celebrating their birthday, the other was depressed over a break-up, and they combined to form Composite Irritating Boozy Moron. With all the powers of Six-Pack and Tony Stark, most likely.

This did lead to them buying $200+ of fireworks, and then, when some of the mortars misfired, insisting on trying to go back and return them, even though it was after midnight. I wound up driving them, because I've learned it's rarely worthwhile to argue with drunk people, and it kept them from potentially dying. Then they tried to buy more beer at the gas station next door, except it was Sunday, so no dice. So they bought frozen pizzas and burritos instead, even though Alex had four pizzas delivered an hour earlier.

Spent some time playing GTA 5 on the 4th, could not successfully steal the fighter jet for any extended period of time. Did help Alex make some forward progress on the story, since I felt bad I was draining the characters' money by repeatedly dying and getting sent to the hospital. Someone proposed they ought to add a mode of the game where you can play and it doesn't impact story progression at all. Call it, "I have friends coming over." Made sense to me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Teapot Dome Scandal - Laton McCartney

Teapot Dome was members of Warren G. Harding's administration making under the table deals with major oil companies to let them drill in what were supposed to be naval reserves in exchange for cash, basically. McCartney's book looks at how those people - most prominently Harding's Secretary of Interior, Albert Fall - got into those positions, how they tried to pull off their deal, and the efforts of some members of the press and Congress to bring their crimes to light and prosecute them.

McCartney has a lot of threads going, because there are a lot of moving parts in all of it. Harding had appointed his campaign manager, Harry Daugherty, Attorney General, and Daugherty and his cronies where using the Justice Department for all kinds of illicit schemes that were largely unrelated to the oil swindle, but they were aware of it. And when one of them, Jess Smith, started to crack, he just so happened to end up with a hole in his head. But Smith had already confined quite a lot to his ex-wife, and she proved a key witness. The two owners of the Denver Post learned something was up from a man named Stack, who owned rights near one of the reserves that were sold off without his knowledge, and he felt unfairly compensated. The two newsmen agreed to help him shake down Standard Oil's Harry Sinclair (a major money mover in all this), to shut them up.

By and large, the corporate guys dodge any serious punishment. Fall is found guilty of accepting bribes from Edward Doheny, the other major oil man in this mix, but Doheny was found not guilty of bribing Fall in a separate trial. People are consistently able to dodge giving testimony before Congress by being out of the country on hunting trips or some other nonsense, and by the end, a lot of the people involved had died, or simply pretend not to know anything. Still, points for effort.

McCartney takes the approach that Harding was largely ignorant of Fall's misdeeds, but that it was by choice. He didn't bother to read Fall's reports outlining why the government should sell off the rights to these Naval oil reserves, or have them checked by a knowledgeable independent source. He trusted Fall, and wasn't really interested anyway, so why bother? It seems likely Harding realized some of the people he'd placed in power were crooks, but they were hiding enough of his secrets he wasn't going to rock the boat much. And then he died, and Coolidge is President, and if there's one thing he knew how to do, it was keep his mouth shut (Coolidge was apparently the first Vice-President to sit in on cabinet meetings, so he'd have been privy to the battles between Fall and Department of Agriculture head Henry Wallace over who should have control of those national forests and what's in them.)

McCartney occasionally throws in these wry comments in reaction to some development in the story as he's telling it to us, and they always feel out of place. Normally that isn't something I mind, but in this case, they don't work, because they usually take on a vaguely folksy feel, as though he's tellin' the tale while sitting on the porch, and just cain't help editorializing a bit. But it doesn't jibe with the tone of the vast majority of the rest of the book, so it doesn't feel natural, and throws me out of my rhythm when I'm reading. I appreciate the attempt to keep these discussions of Congressional hearings and trying to track down missing Liberty Bonds lively, but it doesn't work in this case.

'This was the first of several payments Fall was to receive from the oilman as reciprocity for the Teapot contract. Instead of cash, however, Sinclair gave the money to the interior secretary in so-call Liberty bonds, government bonds that had been issued to support the U.S. effort in World War I. Fall voiced no objections. After all, these bonds yielded at least 3.5 percent annually tax-free. They also had serial numbers, a detail that both Sinclair and Fall apparently overlooked at the time.'