Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It Could Be A Cold, Dead Winter

November's solicits are not entirely promising. A lot of books I've been buying are missing. No sign of Henchgirl, or Darkwing Duck. The Wynonna Earp mini-series, ongoing series, whatever it is, isn't there, although there is either a one-shot or another mini-series depending. IDW's page says it's a mini-series focusing on Wynonna and Doc Holliday, but the Previews' order form lists it like it's a single issue. I'm not sure whether I'd get it anyway. Holliday is not really my favorite part of the book.

Over at DC, I didn't see that Deadman mini-series anywhere. Also, I saw an article that said that Prez book that appeared and went away after 6 issues last year isn't coming back for another "season" after all. I bought the trade earlier this spring, I would have picked it up if it came back. Which raises a question I have about DC's "Young Animal" line. Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye book and that bunch. If those books need time to build buzz (and sales), will DC wait? How much patience do they have before they decide it isn't working?

Then there's Marvel. Civil War II will finally be ending. Make a note in your schedule to savor that brief moment between then and when the next event starts, the same month. Did you love Avengers vs. X-Men? No? Of course not, it was stupid bullshit. Well, now it's the Inhumans' turn to fight the X-Men. I'm sure the fanbase will root for the Inhumans, right? No? Of course not. Last time, Cyclops planned to use the planet-destroying Phoenix Force to turn people into mutants without ever bothering to ask those people if that's what they want, and otherwise intelligent people still insist "Cyclops was right". The Inhumans aren't winning this p.r. battle no matter what.

There's also a host of first issues out, none of which interest me. Good call though, making that Thor the Unworthy thing a mini-series. If he only needs to draw 5 issues, Coipel might actually get the whole thing done on schedule. They're restarting Ultimates, after one year, brilliant. New ongoings for Venom, and Foolkiller. Oh, and Thanos, where he has to deal with his family. And you'd think I'd be happy about the Occupy Avengers book, hey it's Hawkeye doing. . . something. But I look at him and think, Clint ought to be in prison for killing Banner. They're giving their newest Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, another shot at an ongoing, probably because the character is going to be on Agents of SHIELD. I actually have no criticism of this. I'm actually surprised they're trying to get more material with the character out there ahead of his appearance. I know there's a trade of his previous attempt at an ongoing, and that Ghost Racers mini-series from Secret Wars, but I guess they're wanting consistent new stuff. I don't think there's been much evidence TV or movie appearance drive repeat consumers, but credit for effort, I guess.

On the good news side of things, Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat is still not canceled. I know I keep mentioning that every month, but I honestly keep expecting to see "FINAL ISSUE" in the solicits each month. And she's in the midst of tangling with the Black Cat, that should be good. And we still have Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Deadpool's having it out with Madcap, I'm hoping that's going to be good.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Making of Modern Japan - Marius B. Jansen

So I realized that because of reading Rurouni Kenshin, I was curious about the civil war in Japan that ended the Tokugawa shogunate and lead to the Meiji Era. I asked my dad if he, having experience tracking down history books, could find me one good book on the subject. Just one. I specified because I idly asked if FDR interfered with her generals two and a half years ago and I'm still getting books on World War II. Better to stop him before he starts.

Even so, he couldn't restrict himself to fewer than two, this being the broader, more general history, running from the formation of the shogunate up to the modern day. I went ahead and read the sections on the shogunate, because I figured it would be useful to have an understanding of what it was doing that people found objectionable enough to rebel against, but stopped once I got to the end of World War II. I might read the last two chapters some other time, but they're outside the scope of my interest at the moment.

I don't know that the book really helped me understand what I was interested in exactly, but it did cover a lot of other things I didn't necessarily know or grasp. That Japan was still trading with China (or China through Korea) during those years when it was supposedly closed off to the world. Really, it was mostly closed off to Europe, because the power structure in Japan didn't see Europeans as a positive influence so much. Especially worried about Christianity. The whole peculiar aspect of the Restoration, where the Emperor is supposedly restored as the supreme power from which all authority is derived, but they don't want him to actually make any decisions. Because if he does, and they're the wrong ones, that contradicts the idea he's infallible. So you have various ministers in the government trying to maneuver to gain his approval for their plans, to essentially use that as a bludgeon against forces opposing them. The way the shogunate seemed more concerned with keeping all the domains under it from cooperating, rather than trying to bring everyone together as a cohesive nation.

Some parts of the book are more interesting to me than others. As usual, discussion of art and literature are not terribly engaging, although I did have the suspicion contributions by Japanese women were being short-changed. I know when I read that book on Japanese history last fall, women were quite influential in writing stories among other things. But here, women get almost no mention at all, which is the sort of thing I have to wonder about.

'By the same token, foreign borrowing in the nineteenth century could also be justified. Mori Arinori's debate with the Chinese leader Li Hung-chang in 1876 expressed this perfectly. Li, looking disdainfully at Mori's Western suit, asked if Mori's Japanese ancestors had dressed that way. No, Mori had replied, they had adopted Chinese dress, but it was no longer practical; Japan had always taken the best of other civilizations for itself, and it was doing so once more.'

Monday, August 29, 2016

Another Trip To The Ol' Ballpark.

Last Saturday was the St. Louis Cardinals' now-annual game for the inductions for their Hall of Fame, which my dad and I are making a habit of attending. I figure he was stoked for Joe Torre, while I was there for Chris Carpenter. Of course, we almost didn't make it. He bought the tickets the weekend before, but opted to wait until the day of the game to print them out. Then he couldn't figure out where they were online, then he couldn't get them called up on a computer actually connected to his printer, then the printer didn't have ink and he couldn't find the spare cartridge, but we did get them eventually. Then the shoulder harness in the passenger seat of his car wouldn't work. Which is why we only reached our seats as the first inning concluded.

The Cards are a mess this year, unable to get on any extended winning streaks, but not bad enough to go into a tailspin. Can't write the season off as a chance to see the kids, can't build any sort of confidence they can do anything if they actually manage to make the playoffs. We did catch a break in that the Cardinals started top prospect Alex Reyes, rather than Mike Leake. Neither of us was excited at the prospect of watching Leake pitch. Not so unexcited I wanted him to get shingles, which is why he wasn't pitching, but still, I'd rather see Reyes. He was pretty much what I'd heard: Electric stuff, poor command. He struck some guys out, but also walked several guys. He was pulled partway through the 5th with two men on, and Zach Duke promptly hit the first batter he faced, then walked the next guy, bringing in a run.

Normally reliable Cardinals' relievers failing to keep inherited runners from scoring would be the theme of the night, as the Cards ultimately lost the game when Seung-hwan Oh, their mostly excellent closer, failed to strand two runners that had reached in the 8th inning. On the one hand, holy crap, Mike Matheny actually brought in his best relief pitcher before the 9th inning. On the other hand, it didn't work, so who cares? Figures the one time Matheny does an intelligent thing, it doesn't pan out.

On the other side of things, the Cards didn't get a single person on base after the 4th inning. Perhaps not a surprise considering the lineup had Gyorko, Peralta, Grichuk, and Hazelbaker in it, none of whom are any good at actually, you know, getting on base. They'd managed two runs up to then, one on a Grichuk home run, the other on a combination of hits and defensive ineptitude by Oakland. The A's might actually be a shittier defensive team than the Cardinals, which I wouldn't have thought possible.

So it was a frustrating game, where you can tell the team is letting the opponent hang around and it's going to bite them in the end. The experience wasn't helped because none of the people in our row could stay in their seats. Every half-inning at least, someone just has to get up and go get a drink, or go to the bathroom, or who knows what. Some of it I understood, young kids can't sit still, and it was hot out, although I don't know where someone was going to go to cool off. It was still annoying as hell. The drive back was uneventful, except for the those three pickups, two of them with trailers, that seemed to be traveling together and all of whom needed to stop for a nap. Weaving, couldn't drive a consistent speed, we tried to get past them as soon as possible.

Also, my dad's praise for the old-timey uniforms and how the players actually looked like they were 1920s players, brought us to a discussion of what relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton's 1920s nickname would have been. I argued for "Pork n' Beans" Broxton, which resulted in many jokes at the expense of Broxton's waistline. My dad is more kindly disposed towards Broxton than I am, but we both had a good time with it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Zorro 3.3 - The Postponed Wedding

Plot: Diego and Bernardo are in town, with Diego carrying a doll for some reason. Concurrently, two men ride into town and enter the tavern. They start to question the waitress, but she's distracted by Diego, who wants to know if the stage from Santa Clara will be on time. Fortunately, her poor customer service is not an issue, because the two strangers wanted to know the same thing. Shortly the stage arrives, and out steps Constancia, an old friend who hasn't seen Diego in 10 years, and is who the doll was meant for. She also seems to be of interest to at least one of the two strangers, and Sergeant Garcia, who she calls "Uncle Demetrio". Constancia wishes to speak to the stranger, and manages to get Diego to step away for a moment, long enough for us to learn she and this Miguel Serrano are trying to get married. Diego reenters, and the three begin to chat, with Diego quickly sensing something is up, but Constancia diverts him. Undeterred, Diego invites Miguel to the hacienda after dinner that night.

Miguel does arrive that evening, and Diego seems content to encourage the unspoken, but fairly obvious romance, by letting the two go out on the patio alone together for a bit. Alejandro is quite another matter, since Constancia's father is an old friend of his, and he feels she's been left in his care. Adding to the problem is Bernardo, who had gone to retrieve Constancia's shawl, and happened to open one of her pieces of luggage and find her dowry. He alerts Diego and Alejandro, and while the latter wants to confront her immediately, Diego points out they only know because they went rifling through her possessions. Better perhaps for Zorro to break up another romance. That evening, Constancia leaves a lamp in her window as a signal. So Zorro moves it to the balcony above her room. When Miguel and his friend Ansar arrive, they have to search for a ladder, which Zorro has helpfully left holding shut the trap door for the hay loft. Undeterred, the two set up the ladder, only to find it is too short. They go to grab a box to set it on, and release a bunch of geese, then Zorro sets a hound loose among them. All of which wakes up the person in the room with the lamp, Alejandro, and the two flee.

Constancia slept through the whole thing, and is in a sour mood the next morning. She wants a horse to ride into town, but Bernardo plays dumb. Diego was planning to go and learn more about Miguel, and tries to get her to travel with him. Then Miguel shows up, and tells a story of his being attacked and robbed by Zorro last night. When Diego hears this, he insists Miguel should go and tell Sergeant Garcia, and the three go to town together. While the sergeant listens to Miguel's story (and drinks wine on Diego's tab), Diego tries to find Ansar, and gets hit over the head for his trouble. Soon, Ansar and Miguel conspire to get Garcia alone with Ansar, and he gets walloped as well. Leaving the trio free to ride for the harbor. But Diego is able to fairly quickly cut the ropes holding him, rush home, change to Zorro, and ride after them. On the ship, Miguel says he must leave to speak to the captain in town, but Constancia overhears him talking to a couple of crew members and learns he plans to leave with Ansar. Miguel isn't leaving without the money, and the crew can't leave her alive, but Zorro's caught up, and takes care of the two sailors and Ansar without difficulty. He leaves Miguel to be sent overboard by Constancia. After that, she prepares to return home, promising to be more careful about who she falls for, though that seems a promise she's unlikely to keep.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'And in the second place, we have no evidence Miguel is a scoundrel.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 0 (3 overall).

Other: When Zorro is on his way to the harbor, I think they took some old footage of him jumping a downed tree and landing at the edge of some cacti, and reversed it.

When Zorro set the lamp on that balcony, I think it's the same balcony they used for Uncle Estevan's room in Season 2. The one he lassoed Zorro from once.

Constancia was played by Annette Funicello, who also played Anita in Season 2, the young girl who came to Los Angeles seeking her father. Which was not one of my favorite story arcs of that season, but that wasn't her fault. Her she at least has a pretty decent punch. Also, the morning after Zorro thwarted her eloping, when she barged into the sala, she didn't even notice Bernardo suddenly dropping a vase next to her (as a signal to the De la Vegas to stop talking about their plans to stop her eloping). Didn't jump away, didn't make an angry comment or anything. She was deadset on getting a horse and going to Los Angeles to chew out Miguel, and that was it.

This story really ramped up Alejandro's irritability. He made a fat joke at Sergeant Garcia's expense, was greatly offended when Diego joked someone might think Alejandro and Garcia were related the way Constancia kept calling them both uncle. He was planning to steal her dowry to try and block the marriage. Did his favorite horse die off-screen or something?

Seeing Zorro fight on a ship made me sad we never got to see him fight pirates. It'd be a good match, plenty of things to swing from or climb, enemies that swordfight and try to play dirty for Zorro to overcome.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I'm In An Alcohol-Fueled Rage. I Don't Even Drink

I really hate those Ciroc vodka commercials. The ones where there are two guys at a bar, ordering some daiquiris or whatever. Then they notice Ray Liotta sitting further down, alone and scowling, drinking his vodka. He gives them and their fruit-based drinks a scornful look, and ashamed and insecure in their masculinity, they order some of the shitty vodka so he'll think better of them.

Set aside the fact that if we're operating under the old "real man" definition, then they should just drink whatever they want and to hell with what anyone else thinks. I mean, presumably no one tells Ray Liotta to drink that vodka, or succeeds in shaming him for not drinking, I don't know, whiskey or whatever. because he's a Real Man. So by that token, these guys should just nod in acknowledgement of his existence (since he made eye contact, let's be minimally polite), take their original drinks, and return to their table. Fuck what Ray Liotta thinks of them. Oh, you were in Goodfellas, whoope-de-doo.

Granted I don't drink much, and my limited experience with vodka has convinced me that, were I to take up drinking regularly, vodka wouldn't be my choice. Still, it just irritates me every time I see it. They came to that bar to have a good time, not sit alone in the dark looking contemplative and unhappy. Let them drink their sugary alcoholic beverages in peace!

Hell, if I'm going to sit alone drinking, I'd do it at home, with Scotch, and listen to some jazz, so I could pretend to be some fictional, tortured homicide detective or private investigator. Stand looking out my window and sipping the Scotch steadily, ruminating over how my (non-existent) wife left me because I wouldn't share with her. That's how you get a proper alcoholic brood on.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

That Was Quicker Than I Expected

So I did get to see Ant-Man. It wasn't easy. You know, because he's small.

First things first. It is strange the movie spends so much time insisting the Hope (Evangeline Lilly) is in practically every way more qualified to steal the Yellowjacket suit than Scott, but then goes ahead and puts Scott Lang in it anyway. They really harp on that with his struggles using the suit, controlling the ants, not being able to fight worth a damn. She has to help her dad, Hank Pym, teach Scott all this stuff, when she's right there, already knowing how to do it. Scott's primary advantages seem to be he's a thief, and he's not Hank's daughter, which makes him expendable. Except Scott has a daughter of his own. Maybe he's been in jail for much of her childhood, but that's better than him being dead.

If I'm willing to take the movie at face value, that it needed to be Scott doing the thieving because he has the experience in that area, and the crew, it was OK. Decent little heist movie, had some humor in it. I didn't really find Scott's partner who can never get to the point funny like I was supposed to, but that's not a big deal. The various gags with tiny things suddenly becoming huge worked pretty well, and the fight between Scott and Cross on the train set was solid.

Pym mentioned concerns that Cross' formula with mess with brain chemistry or something if you used on people, and I wondered if we were meant to take it that Cross selling the suit to HYDRA was a result of that. I also wondered if we were meant to see the direction Cross went as partially a failing on Hank's part. Cross at times really seemed as though he wanted Hank's approval, wanted to work with him and build this together. And Hank, partially out of grief over losing Jan, and partially just out of good common sense about the potential for abuse with his inventions, rejected that.

I doubt that's the case. Cross was probably always going to do something unscrupulous like sell to HYDRA, and if Hank had gone along, it would have simply resulted in selling to HYDRA when they were still hiding within SHIELD. But the film has this strong sense of dads trying to make things right, with Scott trying to go straight, trying to be a positive influence in his daughter's life. And you've got Hank, who lost control of his company, lost control of his protege, and is largely estranged from his daughter (who really ought to have been his protege), and he's also trying to fix things before it's too late. Obviously he needs to repair his relationship with Hope, but if there isn't the idea he could have done so with Cross at some point in the past, I'm not sure what he was supposed to do to avert that problem. Kill Cross? Never invent the suit or the Pym Particles, I guess.

Anyway, I'm not generally a Paul Rudd guy, but Ant-Man was fine. I enjoyed it more than the latter two Iron Man films, or either of the Thors, I think. They probably all fall in that category of movies where there are parts of them I enjoy, and others I wouldn't bother to sit through. Go watch something else, come back for the next part I like.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I'm Game For Another Rocketeer Movie

This news is a couple of weeks old, but there was a story going round that Disney is planning a new Rocketeer movie, and with the lead being an African-American woman. Fortunately, I guess there aren't enough dudes with an unhealthy childhood attachment to The Rocketeer, so it hasn't led to the eruption of stupid bullshit we got when the recent Ghostbusters film was announced and which continued all the way up to. . . what time is it now? Maybe the film is too far away to get that response, or maybe it'll never happen at all. Fingers crossed.

I like the first movie quite a lot, as well as Dave Stevens' comics which were the source material (although I didn't read them until many years after the film came out), and at least some of the mini-series IDW released over the last half-dozen years. I'm curious about how it will play out. Will the new one be set during the late 1930s/early 1940s like the first film and the comics, or will they move it to the modern day? Or somewhere in between? I think it could still work in the present, seeing as we don't have any jet packs on par with what's in the movie. Will the lead, whoever ends up playing her, also be a top-notch pilot, or will they maybe build the rocket pack themselves? There are black women who fly planes and are engineers now, and there were back then as well, so whichever.

I'm wondering how similar or different her personality will be from Cliff's. Part of the reason he keeps the rocket pack is insecurity and jealousy with regards to his relationship with Betty (or Jenny in the movie). He does love using it, but he's also excited at the prospect of making big bucks and being a success because he worries her head's going to get turned by some pretty-boy actor. You could go that route in the new version, although when guys get portrayed as jealous, it usually makes them look like jerks, while ladies seem to get jealousy run through a "crazy" filter. A lot of screaming, throwing stuff, generally presented as being unreasonable, but in a different way from jealous guys. Not always, and the film wouldn't have to do that even if they did want that sort of relationship conflict in there, but it doesn't really seem a great direction to go. I definitely hope the new character has a similar impulsive nature, though.

The film is probably a couple of years away, at least, if it even gets made. So I'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Few Quick Thoughts On Two Movies

I only saw parts of Gravity and the seventh Fast & the Furious, so I'm lumping them together into this post.

Gravity made outer space seem terrifying, so mission accomplished if that's what they were going for. Was surprised Sandra Bullock's character managed to not throw up during that extended sequence where she's tumbling end over end. I guess that wouldn't have fit with the tone of the film, but it really seems like something that would happen. I was getting nauseous just watching it.

I watched the movie up to the point Bullock's character made it to the Russian shuttles and Clooney went drifting off into space. So my lasting image of the film was that shot of her having discarded her spacesuit, and then floating curled into the fetal position in front of the hatch with sunlight streaming through the window. The tube/hose thing that just so happened to float in the proper position to look like an umbilical cord was too much. Fine, yes, she survived this incredibly traumatic experience and has been reborn, and now will try to rescue Clooney. Too on the nose, snapped me out of the story when my eyes reflexively rolled out of my head and down the hallway. What I saw up to then was good, though. Not something I'd actively seek out, but if there was nothing I was more interested in, sure, I'd watch it again.

As for Fast & Furious 7, I really just wanted to watch Jason Statham fight Vin Diesel and/or Dwayne Johnson, so I mostly kept checking back in for that. It took a grenade blowing him out a 3 (5?)-story window and landing on the roof of a car to incapacitate Hobbes, but looking at Dwyane Johnson, I can buy that.

Some disorganized bad guys, though. During the whole final action sequence, it seemed like Statham's character is the only one who cares about killing Dom (Diesel). The guys in the chopper just want to secure their hold on that "God's Eye" program by killing the hacker lady who made it or whatever. Yet, while they're under attack from a minigun-wielding Hobbes, they decided to divert half their firepower to trying to blow up Dom and his car in a parking garage. Even though, as far as they know, he can't do anything to attack them (he has a satchel of grenades, but those were useless until the damage they cased to the garage created a ramp he could jump towards their chopper). Focus, bad guys! One problem at a time.

I know, logic is not really a thing that exists in that franchise, it just seemed particularly stupid. I enjoyed the sequence at the party in Abu Dhabi. Jumping the car between buildings, Statham appearing and just attacking everyone in sight, the Rousey/Michelle Rodriguez fight, Tyrese trying to keep the partygoers and security distracted. Fun scene.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Kyle Rayner As An Artist

Kyle Rayner was, at one point in his history, a comic book artist. What was his art style like?

I know that in Morrison's first JLA arc, Kyle describes himself as a 'manga nut with a power ring,' although the giant mech construct he builds doesn't look much like one I'd expect to see in a manga. But maybe I was watching different mech animes than he was. Beyond that, I don't have much to go on. I never read Green Lantern during the time it was Kyle's book (or at any other time, for that matter). I'd expect in any given issue where he was shown drawing, it'd resemble the style of whichever artist is drawing that issue (depending on their ability to vary their style).

During Mark Waid's time as writer of JLA, there was an arc where the Leaguers (except Wonder Woman and Aquaman) were split into their superheroic and civilian identities. While GL Kyle ceased to use the ring for anything other than just blasting stuff (as he entirely lacked in creativity), Artist Kyle went slowly mad because the ring had been the first instrument that could actually make the things he pictured in his mind look exactly how he envisioned them. So we could try to use the style of his constructs as some sort of guide, but there's a difference between how he was make a teddy bear look and how he'd lay out a panel or page. Plus, we fall back into the issue of the constructs appearance varying with the artist again.

Granting that Kyle was a comic artist during the '90s, I can't see him aping Liefeld or his imitators with the ridiculous musculature and pouches. Just doesn't seem to fit Kyle (if Guy Gardner tried his hand at art, I could see that style having great appeal to him, though). I tend to picture Kyle having too strong a grasp of the fundamentals to adopt that style of wildly varying proportions and out of whack perspectives. For whatever reason, the late Mike Wieringo's style strikes me as one that would match Kyle. Not exactly that necessarily, but in a similar vein. Clean linework, expressive, can be exaggerated with with anatomy where necessary, but it works in context. Capable of handling quiet scenes, humor, big action, crazy cosmic stuff.

I'm curious what other people, especially those who read more of Kyle's adventures and have more to work from, think.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Zorro 3.2 - Adios, El Cuchillo

Plot: Picking up where the previous episode left off, El Cuchillo and his gang return to town, still short of funds. While the rest of the gang go on a spree of breaking into various businesses to rob them, Cuchillo and Chato break into the tailor's shop - so Chato can repair Cuchillo's vest again. But Zorro is hot on their heels, and he and Bernardo repeatedly stymie the bandits' attempts at robbery. Just as Cuchillo and Chato leave the shop, there is Zorro, who ruins Chato's hard work again. But Sergeant Garcia and the lancers come marching along, and Zorro bails, giving Cuchillo and Chato the chance to flee.

The next morning, Diego and Bernardo ride into town and find Cuchillo and his men, hungry and grumpy in the tavern. Cuchillo is calmly sketching Chulita on the back of a wanted poster for Zorro, but once Diego arrives, he starts questioning Diego about Zorro while sketching Diego. As he does so, he convinces Chulita to bring food and drinks for his men (despite his lack of funds), and Bernardo bumps into a bandit and spills food over the sketch as Cuchillo was starting to add a mask and hat to it. This nearly gets Bernardo in hot water, but Diego is able to fend off the bandit while fighting semi-clumsily. Enough to confuse the bandits, if not Cuchillo.

In Sergeant Garcia's office, Diego plainly states his belief Cuchillo is the man who tried to steal the silver service, but Garcia believes there is some personal feud between Diego and Cuchillo. Meanwhile, Bernardo notices Chato visit Vibora in the jail, and then news comes that Cuchillo robbed the tavern in broad daylight. So Garcia and the bulk of his lancers ride after them. Cuchillo sends a few of his men on down the road, and doubles back with four of them to the cuartel. Chato and another bandit try to use a ladder to go over the wall, but find Zorro at the top to push it over. Two more make it inside and overpower the guard, but Zorro pulls off a very nice rope swing, which he parlays into running momentum to slam the bandit's head into the gate. The other bandit tries to fight Zorro with a dagger. You can guess how well that goes. Cuchillo is waiting outside, and Zorro kindly lets him in, so they can resume their fights from earlier. About then, Garcia and his men return, and their shouts bring out the sleeping lancers, so Zorro and Cuchillo flee again, hiding in a tent in the square together until the soldiers pass. Then they resume their fight until the lancers double back, and which point they scatter. Cuchillo flees into the tavern, and Chulita helps him avoid capture. Tsk, tsk, young lady.

The next morning, Diego and his father discuss the situation at home, but Cuchillo and his entire gang show up. They've decided to spend their time waiting for the ship from Boston to arrive here. Diego and Alejandro are free to leave, one at a time, the other remaining there as a hostage. Bernardo is hiding in the secret passage for the moment, biding his time. Then Sergeant Garcia arrives with word that the ship arrived early, and he's going to get the money now. Which means there's no need for Cuchillo to hang around, but also no reason to keep the de la Vegas alive. He lets Chato do the killing, but only after Cuchillo is sufficiently far away. Fortunately, leaving one guy to handle it gives Bernardo the chance to intervene and save the day. Alejandro is sent to gather the dons, while Zorro rushes to save the sergeant. Sure enough, the sergeant and the lancers are on their way back when the bandits begin giving chase. Garcia leads his men across a small bridge, and declares they'll make a stand there. They do their best, but Cuchillo is able to clear a path through for Vibora, who steals the wagon. Garcia gives chase, as does Zorro, as does Cuchillo. Zorro's able to overcome Vibora and rides the wagon all the way to the cuartel, where he overturns it and awaits Cuchillo so they can resume their fight for like the 6th time at this point. Sergeant Garcia tries to keep the revived Vibora from stealing the money, a somewhat difficult task as he's stuck between the gate and the wagon. The battle is pitched, and Zorro is driven off the railing at one point, narrowly avoiding falling by grabbing a ladder. When Cuchillo tries to rush down to help Vibora, Zorro rides the ladder down on top of him.

The next day, the sergeant and two lancers prepare to deliver Cuchillo to the authorities in Mexico. Cuchillo is pretty calm, considering he expects to be shot. But the quartet is hardly out of sight before the soldiers come riding back in backwards, hands tied behind their back. Then Cuchillo rides in, sweeps up Chulita, and rides off again. But his escape is cut short by Zorro, who ropes the lovebirds and leads them to a shrine where a padre waits to marry them. Apparently Zorro figures married men can't spare the time to be bandits. Sure, Zorro, that'll work.

Quote of the Episode: Garcia - 'Well if you had kept out of his way any harder, you might have killed him!'

Times Zorro Marks A "Z": 0 (3 overall).

Other: Last week I mentioned I thought the front garden area of the de la Vega hacienda looked different, but this week, it seemed the same as always. So I'm prepared to write it off as me being unused to seeing it from that particular angle (and during the daytime). I still think I saw a wall across the road, though. . .

I was prepared to congratulate Sergeant Garcia on a solid episode this week. He and his men stood firm at the bridge against something like 3-to-1 odds. Even after Zorro (on the wagon), and Cuchillo pulled away from him on the mad dash back to the cuartel, he kept in hot pursuit, and was able to keep Vibora from absconding with any money. Then he managed to let Cuchillo escape within roughly two minutes, despite having two armed soldiers with him. It's especially galling because just before they rode out of town, Alejandro had to once again show absolutely no confidence in the sergeant, to his face.

Amazing that of all the foes who have been stymied by Diego and Bernardo using the secret passages without ever figuring out what was going on, Chato is one of the few who figured it out. Not that it did him any good. That poor guy. Maybe he can repair some of the soldiers' uniforms in Mexico and earn a pardon, then open a tailor's shop of his own. He's not much of a bandit.

Nice of Zorro to let Chato get a firm grip on the ladder before knocking it over, I guess. Might have been better to push himself away from it and be able to tuck and roll.

At a certain point, the way Zorro and Cuchillo kept trying to resume their fight around the interruptions got ridiculous. They fight in the cuartel, the soldiers are alerted and two hide in a tent together. Then they start fighting inside the tent, until the soldiers return and they split up. And once they've briefly eluded the lancers again, the two men start trying to call each other out. It's nuts. I know they're supposed to be enjoying the challenge the other poses, but the unwillingness to call it a night started to be a bit much. You guys are supposed to be clever outlaws. The sword-fighting scenes were very good, though. And I liked that at the beginning of the episode, as Zorro's followed them back into town, he had already ditched his cape. He's all business right from the start.

The bit with Zorro swinging on the rope, hitting the ground running, and driving that bandit's head into the gate was an especially smooth piece of work.

Friday, August 19, 2016

What I Bought 8/16/16

I finally got to see Ant-Man. Some of it, the first 30 minutes. And I was flipping back and forth between it and One-Punch Man at the time. But what I saw seemed OK, I guess. I'm sure I'll catch the rest of it eventually. These are the other two comics I got earlier this week, one of which is closer to two months old. I've only had two books come out in the last two weeks, though. Stupid five Wednesday months.

Wynonna Earp #6, by Beau Smith (writer), Lora Innes (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - And that was how Wynonna learned the hard way not to stand on graves and fire guns into them as a way to celebrate New Year's.

Wynonna is forced to confront Johnny Ringo, who has managed to trap Doc Holliday, and is therefore sure he can handle this girl. He's wrong, and winds up with a bullet in his head and gets dragged back to Hell. Agents Dolls and Valdez took care of the remainder of the gang menacing the tourists, in spite of Valdez being quite unhappy that her gear changed to a period-era dress when they entered city limits. So Wynonna is ready to go forward with the special revolver, and possibly Wyatt's spirit is along for the ride, according to Valdez and probably Holliday, anyway. Which is the sort of development I could find concerning, depending on how active a presence he is. If it's simply a case of additional power to her, fine, but if he starts offering advice, eh, that could get annoying. Have to see how it plays out.

I had kind of expected Wynonna to have to fight her way to the final confrontation with Ringo, but that would have spoiled the surprise for him of her having the Peacemaker. Although I was also surprised all it took for her to get that was for Doc to give it to her last issue. Beau Smith: Subverting my expectations of traditional narrative structure! Which is fine, since I suspect it was a given this is how it would turn out, so why waste a bunch of time on it? Get the stuff you have to and move forward to what comes after.

Smith puts a lot of little humor bits in his writing, and Innes' style seems to work well for them. Valdez' irritation at that dress she got stuck with, and Agent Dolls' amusement with her (also how pleased he is with the clothes he got). Although Dolls (whose first name is Xavier), has a personal license plate of "X8VR", which is just, no. Never have a personal plate of your own name.

Also, the full-page spread of Wynonna preparing to have her showdown with Ringo. The last panel of the previous page was Ringo, feeling cocky and drawn from a relatively low angle looking up at him. Supposed to make him look imposing and dangerous, especially after Holliday's warnings (and the fact the panel next to Ringo is Doc struggling futilely, unable to help). Then you go to the next page, and here's Wynonna, shot from an even more extreme upward angle, calm, ready, the ghost of Wyatt behind her. Big, impressive shot, completely dwarfing Ringo's just before, and showing how out matched he is.

Roche Limit Monadic #4, by Michael Moreci (writer), Kyle Charles (artist), Matt Battaglia (colorist), Ryan Ferrer (letterer) - Fun with the Cosmic Spirograph. And I'm guessing on the credits because I can't read the damn things because of the stupid choice they made for text color against a black backdrop on the inside cover.

OK, human souls are poisonous to the creatures from the other side of the Anomaly, which is why they're ejected from any bodies that try to enter. So you have the one group that eventually manages to kill Moscow and capture his soul, then try to trick the big monster in the tower into taking the deceased Alex' soul instead. Independent of that, you have Sasha and her daughter who are going to pilot a ship full of all those ejected souls into the midst of the alien fleet and detonate it, killing them by human soul exposure. And both these things work, I think. There's a definitely an explosion of the ship that results in a bigger explosion that destroys the planet, which I assume would solve those problems. Although in the second mini-series, everyone pretty much assumed there were already some of these creatures back on Earth (which is why doomed missions kept being sent to the colony secretly), so I don't know what's happening there.

The art really doesn't help. In previous issues, there were stretches where Charles would seemingly stop inking over his pencils, and the work would have a rougher feel to it. I tended not to like those parts, because the visual clarity of things declined sharply. This entire issue is like that. Near the end, when Bekka and Sonya manage to force feed Alex' soul to the Final Boss, he reacts by barfing a stream of purple energy into the sky. On the next page we see Sasha's ship heading towards seemingly empty space, and then an orange beam strikes it from behind and triggers the explosion. I don't know if that's meant to be read as deliberate, a dying effort by the creature to stop her, but it doesn't understand her plan, or just a freak coincidence that doesn't matter because she was going to blow up the ship anyway. Or if that was something entirely different striking the ship, or not even something striking the ship, but something else entirely. Not exactly ideal, as you might imagine. There are points in the book I would almost say Charles is going for a later-period Frank Miller look (the panel of Bekka decaptating Moscow in particular), but I'm not certain that's true, and I don't think he's quite pulling it off.

Ultimately, the aliens are defeated by the human willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others. Which is a trait the aliens had scorned, and were pretty vocal in pointing out how they were going to exclude it from themselves when they took over as humanity. It's strange to me that they seemingly understood it existed in people, understood it was a compulsion that can propel us forward, but either didn't recognize it was at work in all this people confronting it, or didn't recognize the danger it presented. They understand humans will give their lives to save others. These humans in front of them seemed determined to stop them. So perhaps they, too, are willing to die in the process, and them should take this a little more seriously? Is the point that the concept is ultimately so alien to these beings' way of thinking that even if they think they grasp it - and can thus dismiss it - they don't really get it? Or that for all our screw-ups, all the selfish decisions we make that the creatures were able to exploit up too that point in the story, that capacity for self-sacrifice is intrinsic to us, and by excluding it from their attempt to be us, they fail at their goal?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Relationships In Movies Are Too Much Work

OK, one more movie with Jean Harlow. Hey, Myrna Loy's in it, too. And Jimmy Stewart! Oh crap, so's Clark Gable. Will Wife vs. Secretary make him unlikable to me?

Clark gable runs a publishing house for some magazine that tells women they need to buy whatever to be happy/please their man/stave off time/whatever. Harlow is his indispensible secretary, whom everyone assumes he's fooling around with. "Everyone" even includes his own mother, but not his wife, played by Loy. Harlow is engaged to a young Stewart, who works in some job where he just got a raise to $75/week, and expects that because of that, Harlow will quit her job.

Wife vs. Secretary is one of those films where a lot of conflict could be avoided if people were just honest with each other. The funny thing is, the characters do try talking some things out, it just isn't effective enough because there's one big, stupid thing being kept secret. Also, when Stewart's character tries to explain why he wants Harlow to stop working, he frames it less as his being insecure that he'll look shabby compared to gable and his socialite friends, and more that Harlow is getting greedy. You can tell the insecurity is there, but he presents it to her as a failing on her part, not his.

But the big problem is Gable decides to buy this weekly magazine, and worries that if a rival publishing house gets wind of it, they'll make an offer he can't match. So everything must be hush-hush, even from his wife. This despite the fact he came up with the idea in a room with his secretary and his board of directors, and you know those schmoes probably go drinking at the same clubs as the boys from the rival publisher. So not only does he decline to tell Loy what he's doing, he actively lies. He goes to the home of the magazine owner, bringing Harlow along to help practice his spiel, but tells his wife he went to the club for a swim all afternoon. Which she soon learns is a lie, and it spirals down from there. It just seems like such a stupid thing to hide from her. He can't explain he needs it kept secret and trust her to do so?

So it's frustrating. Loy gets fed up enough to leave him, and Harlow actually goes to her and convinces her to come back, even though she points out that if Loy leaves, Gable will turn to Harlow on the rebound, and she's not going to rebuff him. But at the end, all couples end up back together, and I don't know how I feel about that. Gable hadn't been unfaithful, hadn't even considered it apparently, until he became aware of the fact everyone thought he was being unfaithful. Harlow seems more than willing by the end of the film to start up with Gable, but once he and Loy are reunited, she quietly leaves and there's Stewart, dutifully waiting (after having been almost entirely absent the second half of the film).

Just not really my speed, as movies go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What I Bought 8/6/16 - Part 2

One of these books actually showed up yesterday, but whatever. There will be no crossovers in today's books, hooray!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #10, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (penciler), Tom Fowler (inker), Rico Renzi (color artist), Kyle Starks (flashback artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Still makes me kind of sad fedoras now signify douchebags. At least they're always wearing narrow-brimmed fedoras, I liked the wider brimmed ones, like Indiana Jones' hat (although the fact it was Indy's hat was the driving factor in that).

People have opinions, mostly that Squirrel Girl should just go on a date with this guy she is not interested in at all. Because people are awful. At least she has Nancy on her side, which is good, because Doreen can't get near the Mole Man's hideout to talk things out because of all the media, so Nancy goes instead. Which doesn't actually work any better, and he tries to abduct her, so now is the time for punching. In the process of that, we learn the three-headed subterranean creature that's been near Mole Man is practically every panel loves him, and so Doreen throws the fight so Tricephalous and Moley can be together. Although he only seemed to grow interested in her because she won, so what happens the next time the FF - er, the All-New, All-Different Avengers show up and she loses the fight? Does he lose interest? I sure hope not.

I am entirely on board with 'Get fancy and watch Nancy' as a new phrase. I'm also OK with the joke at the bottom of the page about Nancy maybe learning necromancy, since it's about the only other word that rhymes. Could Nancy perhaps use forbidden computer science language to reanimate old, obsolete equipment, and use it against Doreen's foes?

Nice touch, in the silent panel of Mole Man looking at the "defeated" squirrel Girl, that Doreen's eyes are still open. She's not really beat, after all, just playing, and waiting to see if it works or not. As to that panel of Mole Man and Tricephalous swapping spit, I don't need to see that or think of it ever again.

Darkwing Duck #3, by Aaron Sparrow and James Silvani (storytellers), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), D.C. Hopkins (letterer) - That confirms pretty closely to how I imagine rope-climbing in gym class.

Launchpad's failing completely to break into the prison, so DW and Gosalyn are on their own. They're captured eventually, but Negaduck offers Gosalyn a chance to become his protege, which she flatly refuses. She she gets hoisted up in front of the enormous railgun Negaduck is going to use to bust out of the prison. Fortunately, whatever the young cat Mortimer's designs of being a villain, he wasn't willing to see our heroes get killed, and helped them escape, and thwart Negaduck's plan. Or maybe not, since Negaduck is distinctly unconcerned about being imprisoned. Although given the blithering idiocy of the warden, that's understandable.

I was going to say things fell apart rather quickly for the villains, but given that there's clearly more going on that'll play out down the line, it doesn't bother me as much. The story handwaves, or I guess delays, explaining how Negaduck was able to return from being split into a bunch of microscopic particles in the previous volume. I'm guessing they'll address it eventually, and I wonder if the answer will play into his long-term plan, and whether his offer to make Gosalyn his heir is related somehow. I hope Sparrow and Silvani aren't going to overuse Derp Derfson, idiot TV reporter. Impressed as I am with his ability to mangle Launchpad's name in increasingly ludicrous ways, he could get old in a hurry. I did laugh when Darkwing made a final request to Suff-rage for her to give him the sword, and it almost worked. It's a classic, stupid gag, but it still works.

Silvani's art is still excellent. He draws a very good Negaduck, which maybe isn't a surprise since he's mostly a color-swapped Darkwing, plus pointy teeth. But the sort of constant, seething anger he gives him is well done. Even when he's not actively raging about something. He's still usually gritting his teeth, snarling, just generally looking foul, and yes, the pun is intended. I debated it, and left it in there. The panel of him in shadow, eyes red, while he contemplates unleashing all the villains at once, that was pretty good. It was such a different way of presenting him compared to the rest of the time, it made his menace seem like something very different from standard super-villainy. Which plays back into the question of how he came back, and what his long game is.

The book is nothing revolutionary, but it's an enjoyable superhero comic with a fair amount of humor. I'm fine with that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fighting Lawsuits With Love, Accidentally

It was Jean Harlow day on Turner Classic when I was at my dad's last week, thus all the movies with Jean Harlow. She seemed to get stuck in a lot of roles where she's sort of the secondary love interest, or maybe the homewrecker character type, which kind of stinks, but at least her character usually seems to resent the disrespect and vocally object.

It doesn't necessarily look like The Libeled Lady is going to go that way at first. Harlow's character is engaged to a newspaper editor played by Spencer Tracy. After a couple of years of him putting it off, them seem to finally be getting married, but one of his staff ran an article about the daughter (Myrna Loy) of a wealthy foe of the paper's owner that turned out to be false, and now she's suing the paper for $5 million, in 1930s dollars. Since a retraction apparently won't do, Tracy hits upon the idea of rehiring the paper's old libel lawyer (played by William Powell). Between the two of them, they cook up a truly idiotic scheme: Powell will pretend to be a writer (he's trying that in real life and failing), married to Harlow. They'll arrange for him to meet Loy, and he'll come up with some way to get her alone in a room with him. Tracy will burst in with a photographer, and they'll have proof of her fooling around with a married guy, which is I think what the tabloid headline had falsely accused her of.

There are multiple problems with this. One, Loy's clever, and not about to fall for Powell just because he bats his eyelashes at her. But she and Powell do gradually, truly, fall for each other. Two, Harlow is also growing sort of attracted to Powell, because even if it's just for appearances' sake, he's paying more attention to her than Tracy is. Three, Tracy keeps nearly screwing the thing up because he's too impatient, and doesn't entirely trust Powell.

The movie has a fair number of funny bits. If you've watched any of the Thin Man movies, you know Loy and Powell have excellent chemistry, and play off each other well. Harlow's character is rougher around the edges, considerably less composed than those two, but you understand where she's coming from. Even at the end, when she's trying to put the kibosh on the fairytale ending, I didn't begrudge her that. Everyone had been just treating her like a tool to use for their own purposes, and she was just supposed to sit there with a smile and take it? As for Tracy, I really wanted to put a fake mustache on him, give him a cigar, and hear him growl out, 'Bring me pictures, pictures of Spider-Man!' just once. I think he'd have been good at it.

The one problem, besides the idiocy of Tracy/Powell's scheme, is there didn't seem to be much chemistry between Tracy and Harlow. Sure, part of the plot is that he's been neglecting her for work, but they're still supposed to be believable as a couple who like each other enough to be getting married, and it just isn't there.

Monday, August 15, 2016

What I Bought 8/6/16 - Part 1

I did manage to grab a few of my comics in a nearby town while I was visiting my dad, but I already had a bunch of posts scheduled, so we're just getting to them now. Considering today's selection is Civil War II tie-ins, I'm sure you're fine with waiting.

Deadpool #16, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Squirrel Girl's riff on Spidey's theme song is better than Wade's version of Captain America's.

Wade winds up trapped in the bank vault with the Mercs, rather than blowing them up and doing me a favor. So instead we learn what Solo did while disguised as Deadpool that made everyone love Wade: He saved an ambassador from assassination. But it turns out the whole thing was a set-up by Madcap to frame Wade as the assassin, it just didn't work out that way. And Madcap's attached to someone - probably Adsit - while he plots and regenerates.

When I do my Year in Review posts, I also use it as an opportunity to find books from that year's purchases that aren't going to make it into the larger collection. This issue is definitely one of those. For one thing, I think the people of Earth-616 (or whatever it's number is now) would be more impressed by Wade wiping out ULTIMATUM than saving one ambassador. Yes, it helped said ambassador and the U.S. President end a war, but was it a war the U.S. was actively involved in? If not, then I doubt the public would care. Also, do people not remember Wade had a teleportation device he carried around for years? Solo acts like it's some big deal he can teleport.

Let's see, positive things. The art on those last two pages, the ones in the woods with Madcap and his host. Good work all around by Bellaire, Hawthorne, and Pallot. I especially like the effect of headlights against the shadows of the trees. Also, Wade's scowling determined face in the final panel of the page before that. Hawthorne and Pallot do a really good job making Wade expressive through that mask in a way that still makes it seem like he is wearing something over his face. On the writing side, Wade complaining about people thinking he liked Mexican food to the point of Tourette's was funny. You know how these rumors take on a life of their own Wade. You keep insisting you're a mutant, and the next thing you know your movie says you are, too.

Ms. Marvel #9, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (artist, pages 1-3), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist, pages 4-20), Ian Herring (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Come on, Kamala, you just had someone spray paint "traitor" all over posters of you six issues ago. You should know how that can be hurtful.

So Josh really was intending to do something that would knock out the power of the school. I had assumed it would be a science lab accident, but no. He was sad that Zoe broke up with him, but she explains she's actually interested in Nakia, and Josh is understanding. But he's still locked up, with Ms. Marvel's OK, until the time when he was going to cause trouble has past. Which earns her a rebuke from Nakia, and prompts Bruno to decide he's going to spring Josh himself, but he only succeeds in nearly blowing himself up.

It won't surprise you to learn the various tie-ins are not on the same page in this crossover. Deadpool had Ulysses state that he really only sees big tragedies - like Thanos coming to earth for a Cosmic Cube, or an earthquake - but here he's been warning them about convenience store robberies. Some things never change. I'm a little surprised how quickly the teen brigade Carol saddled Kamala with have gone foll police state, even immediately questioning if Ms. Marvel is emotionally compromised for knowing Josh, but I was very "no shades of grey" at that age, with accompanying blind spots, not to mention stupid in general, so maybe it's not surprising. Probably realistic that Kamala hasn't yet given up entirely on the idea. At this point her concern is that her squad is being overzealous, but she doesn't seem to have decided there's anything hinky about this whole thing. So hopefully it'll be a process, although you would think all her friends and family pointing how bad an idea it is would start to sink in. I mean, it didn't for Tony Stark in the first Civil War, but Kamala generally doesn't have her head lodged up her own butt like Tony does.

Miyazawa's art is excellent, as usual. I need to see the remainder of that newspaper headline in the paper Kamala's dad is reading. The raccoon escaped the zoo, but what did it eat all of? Doughnuts? Pizza? Strawberries? Why does Josh have rubber chickens in his cell? And I notice that when Kamala embiggens herself, she's making her fists even larger, out of proportion to the rest of her. Does it mean she's thinking with those and not her head, or that she's trying to maintain control and authority through force, rather than reason. I notice that when Becky and the cadets are arguing with Bruno, Nakia, and Zoe, Kamala doesn't try to enter into the conversation and discuss it. She gets big, then starts telling people what to do. And the cadets are under her command, and Nakia and Zoe don't know she's their friend (although I suspect Nakia actually does know, she's not an idiot), but Kamala's generally not resorted to that sort of thing unless provoked, rather than as a first response.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Zorro 3.1 - El Bandido

Plot: El Cuchillo and his gang sit on their horses and watch a group of soldiers ride towards them for far too long before deciding Mexico is a little too hot for them, and fleeing. During their escape, one bandit, Chato, has his horse shot out from under him, and another, Vibora, refuses to help him escape. So Cuchillo goes back for Chato himself, and when they catch up to the rest of the gang, Cuchillo belts Vibora one, before giving him a cigar as a peace offering. Then he announces they're going to visit Los Angeles and see what there is to steal. Chato notes that's where Zorro hangs out, but Cuchillo is not impressed.

In Los Angeles, Diego and Bernardo practice fencing in the front garden of their house. Diego fails to notice Sergeant Garcia come in, and has to do some fast explaining to the sergeant about how he looked so skilled with a blade. Offering the sergeant wine helps distract him. As it turns out, Garcia is there to tell Alejandro the warehouse in town is ready to hold all the hides the dons are selling to an incoming ship. Garcia is confident the warehouse is secure, Alejandro is not so sure, because of Garcia. Diego explains to his father he isn't too worried, because he figures there's no group of criminals around large enough to pull it off. Right on cue, we shift to Cuchillo and his gang entering town and beginning to loiter. Garcia is marching his men through the town, and notices the arrivals, but Cuchillo is not forthcoming with answers to Garcia's questions about his identity and purpose. Diego is able to prevent things going poorly, by offering to buy the sergeant drinks, and then Cuchillo decides to get chummy.

In the tavern, one goon makes the mistake of referring to Cuchillo by that name, when he points out the wanted poster for Zorro. Cuchillo isn't too impressed, but when the waitress Chulita reminds Garcia he's supposed to escort a 5000 peso silver service set for Don Francisco, well Cuchillo is very interested in that. Fortunately, both Diego and Bernardo are convinced the guy is no good, and so even as Cuchillo and a few of his men are robbing the wagon (and leaving the soldiers tied up), Zorro arrives to give chase. He systematically thwarts their attempts to ambush him, and eventually faces Cuchillo one-on-one. The two seem evenly matched, but the fight is interrupted by the lancers, who have followed on foot. Both parties take to the hills, though Cuchillo's men are arrested, and put to work stacking the dons' hides in the warehouse. Diego advises the sergeant to perhaps be careful around Cuchillo (who wore a mask during the robbery), but won't exactly say why. Which means the sergeant fails to keep it to himself that those hides are going to be sold for 20,000 pesos when the ship from Boston arrives.

However, the ship hasn't arrived yet, so instead Cuchillo, Chulita, and his men pay a visit to the de la Vegas, under the pretext Diego had mentioned wanting to play host at some point. Chato drops a vase, which Cuchillo uses as pretext to make his goons wait outside. Bernardo was in the secret passage (as Diego was preparing to change to Zorro to deal with Cuchillo), and emerges from upstairs, where he hears Chato send a couple of the bandits to rob the tavern. But there's nothing Diego can do at the moment. When his men return, Cuchillo bids a good night, and then it's time for Zorro. Cuchillo makes the mistake of trying to be a good boss, and offers to race his men for the biggest share of the night's haul. He gives them a head start, which he quickly erases. But he let Chato hold the money, and Zorro gets ahead of them, and drops a rope around Chato, pulling him off his horse. Cuchillo rushes back, and it's Round 2. He makes another good go of it, but loses decisively this time, but with all the other men also coming back to see what's wrong, Zorro can't finish the fight, and has to content himself with taking the money back. Which is where things stand, for now.

Quote of the Episode: Vibora - 'If we play it smart, we could return to Mexico rich men.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 3 (3 overall). He put one in Cuchillo's vest before their first fight, then Chato used his buttons to make matching designs on both sides to cover it up. So when they met again, Zorro left his mark on both sides.

Other: So "El Cuchillo" means "the knife". Which explains the name of that one character in For a Few Dollars More. The one with the knife, who was framed for killing another member of the gang by Indio, then shot by Indio. Learn something everyday. Look, I took German in school, not Spanish, alright? I speak about as much Spanish as Michael Westin prior to Season 7 of Burn Notice.

They're really trying to play Cuchillo as an honorable bandit. Doesn't abandon his men. Won't kill the soldiers when they're helpless, wouldn't let Chato shoot Zorro in the back, even after Zorro took the money and ruined Cuchillo's jacket. Almost a dark reflection of Zorro. Instead of having a couple of followers who work in secret, a whole gang that follows him. And of course he serves himself rather than the public.

Cuchillo is pretty contemptuous of Zorro, though. He dismissed Chato's concerns, and when he saw the wanted poster, he had two reactions: One was to remark that the reward for him in Mexico is 1000 pesos more, and the other was that it would be easy money to capture Zorro, but he didn't think they'd see much of him. I presume because he figured he was so smart Zorro would never be able to catch him. It wouldn't be because Zorro would be afraid, because he's not supposed to know Cuchillo, the dangerous bandit, is even in town.

Zorro, on the other hand, seems to really enjoy Cuchillo. Maybe because he sees Cuchillo's arrogance and enjoys puncturing it. When they first start to fight, after the silver service heist, Cuchillo snarls out, 'Now Zorro!' And Zorro calmly replies, 'Alright. Now.' With a smile on his face. He was having great fun, even when Cuchillo's skill with a blade put him on his heels for a moment.

A little strange to see Garcia making even a perfunctory attempt to capture Zorro. I know he was doing that even late into Season 2, but by this point, you'd think he'd give it up. Focus on protecting the warehouse so Alejandro doesn't outright insult your competence to your face, sergeant. That was a dick move, even for Alejandro. At least say it under your breath, old man. And where the heck are the rest of the sergeant's lancers? Diego says that if Cuchillo can free his three men from jail, the sergeant's forces won't stand a chance. I was sure the cuartel had more than a dozen soldiers in it previously.

The front patio of Diego's home looked different from past seasons. Perhaps it was the angle he and Bernardo were being shot from. But when Garcia came in through the front gate, I was pretty sure I saw a wall on the opposite side of the road behind the lancers, and I know there hasn't been a house across from the hacienda previously. Maybe they moved in town for quicker access to trouble. Like when Batman and Alfred moved into a skyscraper in Gotham during the '70s. Also, there still appears to be a level in the secret passages between the sala and Diego's room, even though there isn't one apparent in the two-story house from the outside. Bernardo back away from the peephole in the sala, turns to the stairs, then the camera cuts to another shot of him rounding from one flight of stairs to the next, and then he reaches the room that accesses Diego's room. They're doing some strange, space-warping stuff in that house. Some poor bandit should find his way in there and spend years lost.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Depends What You Want In A Nickname

I was at my dad's for about four hours before we started arguing. Not about anything serious, but about whether "Stone Buddha" or "Final Boss" is a better nickname for the Cardinals' current closer Seung-hwan Oh. At least it didn't turn as ugly as our argument about Leone films.

My dad and most of the Cardinals' announce team prefer the former, which is a strong point in my favor, since most of the Cardinals' announcers are morons. But it's supposed to be because he appears unflappable. "Final Boss" is because he's the guy brought in to close out the win, so if the other team is going to win, they have to beat him. I think that's pretty swell, and apt. Of course, dad didn't even understand what "final boss" was referring to, and when I explained it was a video game reference, he adopted an extremely disdainful air. Because he's a cranky old man. "It's a non sequitur," he said, "When have you ever heard someone called that in real life?"

Well, it's true I've yet to encounter a person in everyday life I'd consider a "final boss", but I've also never heard anyone described as a "stone buddha", either. The argument was left stalemated, though I think the fact "Final Boss" was Oh's nickname in the Korean leagues should be a point in its favor. It has seniority.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Not Sure About All These Movies Making Me Dislike Clark Gable

Red Dust was remade about 20 years later as Mogambo, still starring Clark Gable (playing Dennis Carson) in the lead role. Which has to be kind of unique, playing the exact same character in the exact same story (as opposed to sequel or whatever) decades apart. The problem for me, of course, is I didn't really like Gable's character when I watched Mogambo, and nothing's changed here. This time around, Jean Harlow is the lady who comes upriver first (instead of Ava Gardner), running from a bit of a trouble, and since this was before the morals codes or movie authorities or whatever, the film is pretty blunt about Vantine being a lady of the evening. She and Gable had a nice couple of weeks, but when she prepares to return downriver, he literally stuff money down the front of her shirt, over her protests that it wasn't like that for them. A real classy guy.

Then Barbara (Mary Astor in the role Grace Kelly would occupy in the remake) shows up with her husband Gary, but Harlow winds up back there because the boat got swamped. Except Gable's already set his eyes on Astor, and treats Harlow like something he can barely bother to scrape off his shoe. She's more than a little resentful, and doesn't mind making life difficult for him. Things proceed pretty much as they did the last time I watched the story. It's nice I suppose, that Gable's character's conscience prevents him from running off with Astor, although it's because he decides he can't hurt that sap Gary more than any concern that he and Astor might not work longterm or anything. But hey, it's at least showing consideration for someone other than himself. But I'm still left with the conclusion Dennis turns to Vantine strictly because he's decided to give up on Barbara. He's treated her consistently shabbily for two-thirds of the movie, but oh well, she'll do I guess. And she rolls with this, which is a little strange to me, given how willing she was to give him crap up to then. I guess that could have been her flirting, trying to get him to open up a little, but it felt like a valid resentment of how he treated her.

The cast do well with the roles they're given, though I'm curious at the insistence on putting Clark Gable is roles where he's kind of ass. I would have expected the filmmakers to figure women would want to like Gable, and so they should make his character likeable. Or maybe this was considered likeable. Or they figured it wouldn't matter. Or they wanted people to question it. Or they figured it was somehow "proper" for such a crude fellow to end up with a sex worker. My problems with the film are the same ones I had with the remake, and if I'd known what it was going in, I probably wouldn't have watched it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Lonely Sentinel Of Liberty

One last Age of Ultron post. I think Chris Evans does a very good job as Captain America/Steve Rogers. His insistence on protecting civilians lives, and his general level of compassion and understanding. Two little scenes I enjoyed were him entirely understanding why Wanda and Pietro would submit to experimentation by Strucker, seeing the parallels with himself, and his encouraging Banner to pursue his relationship with Natasha. Again, parallels, the somewhat nerdy shy guy and the older, more experienced woman from the intelligence field*. I'm not pleased with Steve barely budging Mjolnir but they'll let the flippin' Vision pick it up, but that's due entirely to my indifference to the Vision.

The thing I'm not sure about was Steve's comment at the end of the film that the guy who dreamed about a wife and kids went into the ice and didn't come back out. The idea that Steve would be having trouble adjusting, that I can understand. Combine his experiences in World War II with being frozen in ice for 70 years, that's a lot to deal with. And since then, he's been pretty busy running missions for SHIELD, or working with the Avengers, so I don't know how much free time he's had. How much progress has he made on his list of things to learn about from The Winter Soldier?

My general impression is that he would certainly try to experience new things and meet people, but wouldn't feel comfortable most of the time. He wasn't a real smooth conversationalist before the serum, and that was dealing with people with at least some shared experiences. So I could see it being a challenge, and unless he people he's hanging out with are also in the superhero business, there's a limit on what he can tell them. I guess I see Steve as still trying to have the trapping of a normal life, but it would be difficult for him.

* I don't know how old Banner and Natasha are supposed to be in the films, but I could easily see her being older.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Miracles Of Pharmacology

I got to see Lucy last week. Where Scarlett Johansson is press-ganged into being a drug mule and the drug gets into her bloodstream, unlocking the full potential of her brain, meaning superpowers, then basically godhood. The film rests on that old thing about humans only using 10% of their brain, which is bunk. Although I thought the point of that was you can only use about 10% at any given time. That there are all sorts of things a human brain can do, but it can't do them all at once. This is also probably bunk.

So I think you'd have to be willing to roll with the idea that you can unlock the brain and eventually be able to alter your body structure, see telephone and radio communications, gain telekinesis, and eventually travel through time and space at will. Good thing I read comics, or that might be more of a challenge. My tolerance for nonsense in service of cool stuff is fairly high, and that's most of what this seems to be. Scarlett Johansson with superpowers, doing stuff. Fleeing from the French police, thwarting drug lords who want the rest of that drug, traveling back in time to serve as basically the Monolith in 2001.

She's also increasingly indifferent towards the lives of other people, which was troubling. Guy on an airplane observes her body beginning to dissolve, she, I dunno, shuts his brain down. She's tearing through Paris with the cops on her heels, just flinging other vehicles on the road out of her way. The movie toys with the idea Lucy is losing empathy as her brain grows more preoccupied, but it does make it harder to root for her to save her life. I guess the argument would be that the things she's figured out can aid humanity greatly, if she has enough time to transfer all of that knowledge to some format Morgan Freeman and the rest of the scientific community can do something with. And so all the French police who get killed protecting her from 30 Chinese gangsters whose boss is only really concerned with killing Lucy are acceptable losses. Ditto those people in those cars she was tossing around like she's Magneto. I suppose they could be fine, but given the indifference she shows, it's hard to give benefit of the doubt.

I thought Amr Waked's did well as the police officer Del Rio. He recognizes how thoroughly outclassed he is trying to deal with Lucy, and at one point, suggests he might as well stay behind, because she doesn't need his help. She encouraged him to stay, as a "reminder", and he does manage to rally the police to buy her time (although no credit to the cops for pulling up at the university and entirely missing the gangsters pulling machine guns out of the trunks of their cars right across the street. Awful situational awareness there). Also, there was one of Mr. Jang's lieutenants I really liked. I didn't catch his character's name, but he was the guy with the briefcase of the remaining drugs that Lucy took away at the hospital after. He was kind of a little shit, but he had some style. During the big shootout, he pulls out a rocket launcher and tries rushing out there and sliding across the floor to fire it. I had to respect that move.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The "Murder" Option Is The Better One

Not about Age of Ultron, but still about Black Widow and Iron Man. Comic book versions, not film.

Probably not any big surprise, but I'm expecting that the big secret Natasha didn't want revealed by Weeping Lion is that she killed Tony's parents. I don't know if that means Howard and Maria, or his biological parents - who Tony may not have discovered the identity of yet, I don't know, I'm not reading International Iron Man - but one set of them. Which would explain Black Widow #5 ending with pissed off Iron Man hunting for Natasha.

Although, there is another possibility. Highly unlikely, and probably very ill-advised, but what the hell: Natasha is one of Tony's biological parents. She's much older than she appears - Waid and Samnee have already referenced this in issue 4 - and as far as I know, the comics have not incorporated Whedon's decision to have her surgically made incapable of conceiving a child. It's feasible, though I wouldn't advocate for it, since I don't think it's really a development either character needs. But I didn't see the point in revealing Howard and Maria aren't Tony's biological parents, either.

It was just a notion that came to mind a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Zorro 2.39 - Finders Keepers

Plot: Senorita Villagrana and her servant Montez are traveling when a man with a black bag over his face steps out, orders them to halt, and opens fire. Soon Bernardo comes riding along the road, and spies a brooch on the ground. He picks it up, wraps it in his handkerchief, and starts to mount his horse, when he spies first the overturned carriage, then the senorita, who has a wound on her head. He starts to carry her towards his horse, when she wakes up, freaks out, attacks him until he drops her, then tries to steal his horse. At this moment Sergeant Garcia and Corporal Reyes ride up, and she insists Bernardo be arrested.

In the sergeant's office, Diego pleads Bernardo's case, that he could not have been the thief, for there is no sign of the 1,000 pesos she had on him. She seems convinced, but when Bernardo is brought in and told this, he removes the handkerchief to wipe his forehead in relief, and the brooch falls out. Back to jail with you, little one. Bernardo takes Diego and the sergeant to the scene of the crime, to detail his movements, but there isn't anything to directly exonerate him. Then Alejandro arrives, having spoken to the doctor. He has say Villagrana's wound was from being hit, not from being grazed by a bullet. Alejandro argues this implicates the driver, because it would be easy for the person next to her in the carriage to strike her. Unfortunately, Corporal Reyes rode up with Alejandro, and says Montez has arrived in town.

Arm in a cast and sling, Montez says he was shot in the arm, the carriage overturned, and he tried to tend to the senorita, only to flee for help when the robber came after them. Fortunately, he met a Senor Lopez (from the town of San Rafael, as are Montez and the senorita), but when they returned, the senorita was gone, having already been found by Bernardo. At first Montez says he didn't see the thief's face, but soon contradicts this, and is aided by Garcia actually telling him what Bernardo looks like, rather than getting Montez to provide the description. Diego suggests they make Montez pick Bernardo out of a lineup, but this is foiled when it's done in the tavern, and Lopez is present, and able to signal to Montez who to pick out. Alejandro and Diego see this, but are the only ones and can't prove it.

That evening, Zorro sneaks into the rear of the tavern, and allows Garcia and Reyes to see him. They venture in, and are locked in, so Zorro can confront Montez and Lopez - collaborating at another table - without interference, but with witnesses. Sure enough, the money is in Lopez' jacket, but he and Montez decide to fight it out. Zorro is able to pin Montez' good arm to the mantle with a cleaver, but Lopez puts up a surprisingly good fight, putting Zorro on the defensive repeatedly. But he's eventually subdued (with a hand, or arm, from Sergeant Garcia), and the two confess. After, the senorita tries to give Bernardo the brooch as a way of apologizing, but Bernardo pretends not to understand and flees the room.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'Well, you know, Sergeant, tomorrow is a long way off.'

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

Other: Sergeant Garcia's got a lot to learn about questioning witnesses/suspects. If you're going to feed them information, make it false, to see if they trip themselves up. Hopefully he learned from the experience.

Zorro seemed to both remove and put back on his cape remarkably quickly. I felt like I glanced away for a second, and the cape's gone. Look away again at the end, the cape's back.

I thought for awhile during the fight, that Lopez was trying to back Zorro towards Montez, so he could club Zorro with that cast. But if he was, Montez didn't twig to it, he just kept trying to pull his sleeve loose from the mantle.

Zorro really did seem to have more trouble than I'd expect with Lopez. I wonder if he's gotten slack in his training since he defeated Senor Avila in episode 2.31. Once you beat a guy who was apparently phenomenal, common thieves with daggers, or some first mate with a stick, are probably difficult to take seriously as threats. Although you'd expect the fact Bernardo's life was in danger would be sufficient motivation.

Garcia mentions Judge Vasca would preside over Bernardo's trial. This is the same judge who was supposed to preside over the trial of Alejandro and Don Nacho Torres in episode 1.9. And he did make it, barely, with help from Zorro, despite Garcia's best efforts (under order from Monastario) to delay him with food and drink.

So that's the end of the second season. A mixed bag, owing in part to the nature of how it was structured. Instead of the more longterm plots of the first season (first Monastario, then the Eagle), a series of small, generally disconnected stories. Some were stronger than others. The adventures in Monterrey were pretty good, with Anna Maria as a recurring cast member throughout, but switching in different threats, from Serrano, Adjutant Rico, Ricardo and his stupid pranks, and so on. The reveal Alejandro had known Diego was Zorro seemed like a big deal, but I'm not sure it was in practice. At least it meant Alejandro wasn't running his son down all the time.

There are a few more Zorro episodes that aired after Season 2 concluded, as part of Walt Disney Presents, and we'll get to those over the next few weeks. So there's about a month of Zorro still to cover.

Friday, August 05, 2016

It Was All Right There, They Just Didn't Use It

So when Age of Ultron came out, there was the whole thing about Bruce and Natasha being a couple, or more specifically, the idea that Natasha felt they were both monsters, and that she was a monster because the Red Room had made her incapable of having children. I doubt Whedon specifically meant a woman is a monster if she cannot conceive, but that's how it came off, and this was understandably not received well by some people. And it's such a dumb way of going about it. Especially because there was a so much better way to make that comparison already waiting.

In the first Avengers movie, they establish this idea the Hulk is sort of a survival mechanism for Banner. Stark raises the point that the amount of radiation banner was hit with should have killed him, but instead he became the Hulk. Banner asks if Stark is suggesting the "other guy" saved him, and seems both skeptical and scornful (mostly of the idea he should be grateful). Later Banner admits he tried killing himself, and the "other guy" spit the bullet back out. Some part of Banner wants to live, and finds expression in this monster.

Now you've got Natasha. We know, again from the first Avengers movie, she feels there are things she's done she has to atone for, or at least balance some scales (the whole "red in her ledger" bit). We know from The Winter Soldier that she had hoped, even though she was doing the same sorts of things she used to, that doing them for SHIELD meant she was doing something better, and she was distressed to see that it really wasn't working out that way. You could even interpret her willingly releasing all those SHIELD files, including the ones about her and her activities, as part of her trying to deal with her past.

Then, in Age of Ultron, we get a glimpse of her training in the Red Room. Of her being caught in that headlock and not being able to get loose, tapping out, and being reproached by her teacher. And yet, she became the best student the Red Room ever produced, right? At some point, Natasha decided that to survive, she'd do what was necessary to that end. It could be argued they had successfully indoctrinated her to the idea she was simply an unimportant tool of theirs, but I still think on some level she would have to want to survive to not merely pass, but become as great as she is. Once she was out on missions, that continued. She had to do awful things to complete her missions, but she has to complete them to survive.

Which leaves her with the realization of all that she did, she feels guilt over, because she also wanted to survive. Whether it's her being too rough on herself or not, her perception would be that, like Banner, her survival instinct took the form of a monster. They've both tried to turn that to something good, while fearing that it's never going to be enough.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

So I found a copy and bought it. This review isn't going to do it justice, but what the hell. Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha are the brothers Karamazov in question. Their father, Fyodor, is a selfish ass who has been largely absent for their entire lives, and is really only concerned with hoarding wealth for his own pleasure. At the time the book starts, Dmitri insists his father is withholding some of his inheritance, although most likely Dmitri has pissed it all away, and will do so with any other funds he can cajole out of his dad. And the two of them are both pursuing the same woman, Grushenka, who is amusing herself leading them both around by the nose. Ivan has his own interests in the situation, related to Dmitri's fiance (who is not Grushenka), and Alyosha is trying to build bridges as fast as the others burn them. Then Fyodor is killed, and things go from there. There's a lot more going on, conflicts between tradition and encroaching Western European liberalism, good vs. evil, kids struggling to understand the world they're entering, but those are some of the major stuff that runs through the whole book.

One critical factor I'd forgotten in my desire to read The Brothers Karamazov was how damn long-winded 19th Century writers are. Never say in 10 words what they can say in 150. Much of the time, Dostoyevsky is a good enough, engaging enough writer I didn't notice. But there were times when it was a slog. Most of them involved either Dmitri or Madame Hohlakov, the characters with more disorderly minds. They say they need to tell Alyosha something, and 5, 10 pages later, they still haven't gotten to it, because they've wandered off on every single tangent they can conceive of. Maybe this is a normal thing for people to do, if they're trying to tap dance around something unpleasant, but it's not been my experience, if only because most people won't sit there and listen to someone blather after they said they had important things to discuss. Maybe it was different in 19th Century Russia.

Because I was generally very impressed with the characters Dostoyevsky writes. The range of actions both good and ill characters were capable of felt true. Ivan's ability to put a plan in motion to save his worthless brother, adhering to a sense of morality he claimed not to believe in, and thus loathing himself for doing it, or the awful glee the other members of the monastery took in Father Zossima's corpse beginning to smell shortly after his passing, or Fyodor Karamazov being deliberately offensive as some way of perversely maintaining his pride. Ivan's actions in particular struck home, since there are times I feel like that when I'm doing something good I'd rather not be. Rakitin with his sneering cynicism that makes him want to show everyone else is like him, and Lise struggling to figure out things about the world and its rules, were both intriguing in their own ways. I'd have liked to see more of them. There's a lot that felt genuine, and that helped drive me forward through some of the more exhausting parts.

In the foreword, Manuel Komroff talks about how the story is about which is stronger, the God or the Devil, based on what's in humanity's souls. I feel Dostoyevsky favors God, but that it requires effort by people. They can easily be evil, and its afterward they see what they've done and feel regret, and then takes steps to make amends. I'd agree with that, but I think I'm less optimistic about people making that effort. In the case of this story, I'd need to see Dmitri actually change, or for Kolya to not try to hide his true feelings behind his affected air of indifference. What we get is a lot of promises to be different, be better and more loving, but there's no telling if those will be carried out, or thrown aside like your typical New Year's Resolution. I might believe it in Kolya; the loss of Ilusha seemed deeply affecting. I don't buy it in Dmitri. I expect him to revert to old patterns just as soon as he manages to settle somewhere. He could end up like Father Zossima, who changed his outlook on things entirely after foolishly challenging someone to a duel over a woman who didn't love him, and didn't even know he loved her, but again, I don't think it's likely.

I had a very different reaction to Katerina's character than I think I was supposed to. The story, often through Alyosha, but not always, reproaches Katerina for some of her actions towards Dmitri. Certainly about her producing that letter Dmitri wrote about how he'd kill his father to get her the money he owed at Dmitri's trial where he stood accused of murdering his father. But also, that it was wrong of her to give him the three thousand as a test, to see if he truly cared for her or was just using her as a sugar mama. The argument seems to be Katerina was only engaged to Dmitri as a way of punishing herself/fulfilling a martyr complex, and giving him this money to send to her relative for her was just one more act in that whole thing. That she knew he'd spend it on Grushenka, and then she could feel superior for sticking with him. Which yes, is not a great thing to do, but Dmitri still had the option to surprise her. Actually send the money off, rather than spending it. He chose not to, whatever his protestations that's he a scoundrel but not a thief because he only blew half of it. But I've said before I don't side with people who are unfaithful, and that's Dmitri. I have little to no sympathy for him on that score, and a fair amount for Katerina. Dmitri's a bum, who's had opportunities, and consistently pisses them away by emulating his father and only being concerned with his own pleasures. Which is why it's difficult for me to believe he'll actually change as he claims.

Dostoyevsky has Ivan assert there is no God, and thus all things are lawful. It's later revealed that Ivan doesn't want to believe this, but has seen too much of the world to buy into the idea of God. Which might be why I identify with Ivan so much, but I guess I reject the notion morality is derived from God. As though a person can't decide to help people, or not hurt others, without buying into God. Maybe the argument is meant to be that, if you perform good acts, you are doing God's will, whether you recognize it or not. But in that case, Ivan could surely justify his actions to himself on some other grounds, and avert the conflict that is raging inside him.

There's a lot I'm not getting into sufficiently here. I haven't spoken much of Grushenka. I understand why she acts as she does - in a certain way, she's like Dmitri's father, behaving in certain ways to shock and offend people who look down on her anyway, so at least she can feel she's in control of the situation - and I can respect her intelligence, but I don't know if I'm on her side, as the writer of the afterword asserts. I don't know if the book lived up to my expectations, because I'm not sure what I expected of it. I mostly enjoyed it, though I could have done with certain sections being trimmed or removed entirely. I'd still recommend it, assuming it sounded at all interesting to you based on this.

'"Ivan will either rise up in the light of truth, or. . . he'll perish in hate, revenging on himself and on everyone his having served a cause he does not believe in," Alyosha added bitterly.'

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Which Gem Is Which

This is more of a general Marvel Cinematic Universe post than anything strictly related to Age of Ultron, but I'll start with an easy one. We've seen four of the Infinity Stones in the movie, we know the one inside Loki's scepter (and now sitting on the Vision's forehead) is the Mind Stone.

So which ones do the other three correspond to? I figured the one inside the Cosmic Cube is the Space Gem, since it opens doorways to other places. The purple one from Guardians of the Galaxy converts the energy in any living thing it touches into destructive force, so, Power Gem? Which leaves whatever the red gem in Thor: The Dark World was. Doesn't seem like it would be Soul, and certainly not time, which leaves Reality? It's hard to say, rewatching the movie recently, it seemed as though Malekith mostly just used its power to throw swarms of rocks at Thor, which is kind of vague.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Long Train Runnin' Off The Rails

Snowpiercer is set on an enormous train that circles the Earth constantly. The Earth is a giant, inhospitable ice cube now, and has been for decades. All that's left of humanity is on that train. The people at the front have it pretty good. Steak, hair salons, pleasant music, all that jazz. The people at the back are crammed in like livestock, subsisting on some weird gelatin thing which I'd rather not contemplate on the ingredients of.

Chris Evans is Curtis, and he's fed up. He's been planning a long time to get past the soldiers and storm his way to the front, and he's got a lot of other disgruntled people with him. I missed some of the preparations, but they work their way forward with the knowledge from people who were briefly brought forward, and a man named Namgoong Minsoo (played by Kang-ho Song, who was also in The Good, the Bad, the Weird, he was "The weird") who knows how to open the various gates that bar the way. Gradually their numbers are whittled down to just a couple by the time they reach the final door. Which doesn't bother Curtis much, since he isn't acting out of any desire to redistribute the wealth or anything like that. He despises the man who built the train, despises the way things are run, and desires only to confront him. I legitimately didn't know whether he'd get there or not. I didn't think he'd die early in the film, but near the end, unfulfilled? Sure, it was in play. Reach a door he couldn't bypass, be pulled down by someone on his side, furious that this is all Curtis was after. Or find out Wilford was dead, had been for years, the system was running as it did on inertia.

The ending was odd to me. I'm not sure I'm meant to take it as I did, but it certainly felt like it was arguing for burning everything down and hoping a few good people survive to try again. Except it seems more likely humanity's last act was going to be feeding a bear.

Let's see, what else. Ed Harris is in this. It's impressive to me that I almost always like Ed Harris, but he's very good at playing characters I root against in spite of this. Like I enjoyed Alan Rickman's work, but he was best suited to playing people you wanted to hate. But Harris has this extremely reasonable, friendly deliver that makes him likeable. I usually want to like his characters, but he's very good at not letting me. I wasn't expecting to see Kang-ho Song, that was a pleasant surprise. If I'd known he was in this, I'd have watched it from the beginning. I only got to see a few things with his character, enough to intrigue me.

Monday, August 01, 2016

What I Bought 7/26/2016 - Part 3

I've been able to rewatch Age of Ultron more completely recently, which has stirred up some thoughts, so be prepared for that later this week. In the meantime, one of today's books is explaining some mysteries about its cast, the other took a much darker turn than I was expecting.

Henchgirl #9, by Kristen Gudsnuk - That memoir she's reading causes so many problems. People should never publish stories of their lives while they're still living.

The Butterfly Gang seems a little out of sorts. One guy is leaving to become a private investigator, they don't seem to have many good schemes lined up, and Coco's back to being rude to Mari because Mari wouldn't listen to her backstory. Of course, now that's she's been evilfied, Mari tries burning the hideout down, with no success. She has a confusing and unproductive conversation with Fred, then is turned away from the gala dinner celebrating her superhero parents, since they basically pretend she doesn't exist. Then they're taken hostage, and Mari saves the day. By blowing up the crazy villain by dousing him in his own gunpowder and lighting it. Then she fights a bunch of cops who try to arrest her, then Consuelo gets revenge by capturing her, but Mari escapes from the police van (with some help from a mysterious stranger) and returns to town.

That was an somewhat unexpected turn. Mari not only killed a guy, but was completely indifferent to him killing his hostage. It isn't the first time there's been gruesome death - see Mr. Great Guy accidentally decapitating his reporter girlfriend with a street sign he was swinging at alien invaders - but it doesn't feel like it fits as well. Probably because Mr. Great Guy did what he did accidentally, where as Mari deliberately took the actions she did. Even if her brain has been altered, it's hard to see how this isn't going to cause huge problems for her later. Even just from an emotional state, if her friends can ever manage to figure out what was done to her and fix it. She was reduced to tears over her gang shattering Fred's body while he was in astral form, and that wasn't even her fault. Gudsnuk seems to be steadily burning all of Mari's bridges, except maybe for Fred. She's hasn't ruined things with her roomies yet, but it feels like it's coming.

The horrified look on Mari's mother's face as she's covered in the bits of Gunpowder after his explosive demise was classic. A great bit of stupefied horror, she can't even process what just happened. Plus, all the parts of him flying everywhere during the explosion. That was good. And that Mari went to the trouble of getting a fancy dress from somewhere to wear over her typical outfit before she burst in to save the day. It plays up the fact she wasn't really taking the threat seriously, but she did simultaneously want to make a big scene to get revenge on her parents for basically writing her out of existence in their memoir, but also look good at the same time, so maybe she'd get a little of that positive press her sister gets.

Wynonna Earp #5, by Beau Smith (writer), Lora Innes and Chris Evenhuis (artists), Jay Fotos (colors), Robbie Robbins (letterer) - Nothing like an old-fashioned showdown at high noon. Wait, noon? Make it 7 o'clock, I do my killing before breakfast. Actually, I usually don't eat breakfast, so let's go ahead and make it 6 o'clock. Get the day started off right.

Wynonna travels to Tombstone to have it out with the people sending her notes. Which appear to be demons in human form that were actually the Clantons, and who seem to have created some kind of time bubble with their presence, making everything like it's the 19th century, including Wynonna's motorcycle, which becomes a horse. John Henry explains his backstory, and provides Wynonna with a special demon-killing revolver that belonged to Wyatt and now we're ready for a big showdown. An issue of build-up, essentially, which is fine. It answers some questions about John Henry, explains some things to me about Wynonna, why precisely she's important. I'd have been fine with her simply having the name and making her own choice to do this, rather than it being any sort of destined thing, but it at least seems to be a destiny she embraces.

Evenhuis draws John Henry's reminiscing in the issue, which works pretty well. It's a style very distinct from Innes', linework is much lighter, more delicate. Seems appropriate, combined with the sepia-toned coloring Fotos uses for the sequence. It creates a definite distance between it and the reader, since the colors (other than the blood) aren't very bright or lifelike. The thin lines Evenhuis prefers also gives the whole thing a delicate feel somehow. I may simply be projecting that because John/Doc is sick through much of the flashback, and so he isn't in strong health, however he may appear in-panel.

As for Innes, I continue to enjoy the body language and expression work - Wynonna's surprise at her bike becoming a horse was a nice one, even the horse looks surprised - but the motorcycle doesn't look right. Wynonna seems as though she's too big for the bike. It's a little thing, but it bugs me every time I turn the page and his the double-page splash of her tearing down the highway on the bike. Maybe it's the perspective on that particular image, it doesn't bother me as much in other panels.

Also, it's an interesting tidbit Smith threw in for Wynonna that horses generally don't like her. But what the heck kind of name for a horse is 'Dick Taylor'? Although I know people who think it's weird my dad gives his dogs people names, too, so maybe it's just a matter of what you're accustomed to.