Friday, September 30, 2016

What I Bought - 9/27/2016

Five new comics came out for me this week. I had three the first three weeks combined, two of which we covered on Wednesday. Today is for the other one, plus one comic left over from August. These came in with an order I made from the shop I most frequently buy from now, along with a lot of odds and ends. Which are my favorite kinds of orders to make. Last issue I needed of Weird World of Jack Staff, last issue I needed of Joe Kubert Presents, last few issues of the Len Kaminski Creeper series, majority of a couple of other brief series from late '90s/early 2000s Marvel.

Wynonna Earp #7, by Beau Smith (writer), Chris Evenhuis (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Christa Miesner (letterer) - Nothing against Evenhuis' cover, but I couldn't pass up Wynonna walking away smirking with her prize from the shooting gallery.

Wynonna demands some time off, so Agent Dolls gives her a week's vacation. Valdez asks to come along, and Wynonna lacking any wheels of her own, agrees. They lend a hand to a lady who then offers to let them stay at her ranch. Meanwhile, the Del Rey Cartel is preparing to free its imprisoned members from the Black Badge division's custody.

It's mostly a set-up issue, putting pieces in place, both for the impending assault on the Black Badge compound, and whatever will end up happening at that ranch. It has to rely on the little flourishes to carry it, and there are enough of those. I appreciated the insights into Valdez' character. Not just the stuff about how she got her tattoo and its significance, but the fact she bought herself a jeep at some point in the past and has carefully maintained it ever since. Or the fact she's seen Thelma and Louise. Those sorts of things can say something about a character in a more natural way then long expository paragraphs.

There are times Smith tries too hard to be glib and it just comes off clunky. Valdez commenting about a holiday, then clarifying the vacation, not the cowboy, confused the heck out of me. And there's a point where Wynonna pistol whips a biker and tells him to "Heel!" but in the same breath explains she means the one with two e's, not the one with an "a" (heal). Throws me off because I snap out of the story with how awkward it is. Some of the one-liners land. Valdez has a good one about cholesterol, like bullets, has little effect on her. I laughed at that. So other than those brief hiccups, the dialogue is smooth, he advances the plot some, there's some silly moments since this is supposed to be a fun road trip story, it works.

Evenhuis and Fotos continue to do a solid job on the art. There's a part on the first page where, as Wynonna is reminding Dolls (and us) of everything she's gone through, the panels are set up so that as she mentions Valdez, we see her at the bar in the background, but in the next panel, as she mentions Doc Holliday, Wynonna has begun to pace the room and so she's moved a bit, revealing Holliday was at the bar next to Valdez, but blocked from view in the first panel. Nothing particularly special about it, but I like how it's providing the information needed as needed, and Wynonna's pacing and gesturing felt natural, given how excitable she can get.

There's also the one-page flashback that tells how Valdez earned her tattoos. Fotos shifts from the mostly light, pleasant and bright colors used through the issue, to these deep reds and oranges. Appropriate for a page about a war that took place ages ago. The color scheme put me in mind of how Apokolips was presented in the '90s Superman cartoon, if that helps. And Evenhuis goes much heavier on the inks on that page, making for much starker shadows than normal. The first panel actually made me think of Mike Mignola, in how much shadows are used to suggest facial features. It's very effective for how much it stands out in the issue.

Atomic Robo: The Temple of Od #2, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer/designer) - Robo, straighten out your helmet and goggles! Try to be knocked senseless with a little dignity!

So Robo and Helen are captured and taken to the secret research base. That's one way to get inside. Fortunately, the Ghost Bandits see an opportunity for massive profit and stage a surprise attack. Of course, they're the ones surprised once they encounter the Odic Force-powered Japanese soldiers, but it serves as a chance for Robo and Helen to elude their captors and find Dr. Lu. They find him, they escape, despite the doctor's pleas they destroy the lab first. The lab which contains a "reactor", which Lieutenant Ichiro claims is not a weapon at all. But Lu sure seems certain Japan will use what's in the lab to create hundreds of super-powered soldiers.

"One raid, three fortunes" is how the leader of the Ghost Bandits sells his men on the attack, and that is a pretty great rallying cry. I also liked his assessment during the battle: 'We're losing too many trucks. Also my hat. Retreat!' Hats are important. And Wegener draws them as having this cobbled together trucks with machine guns attached to the top and skulls painted on them, like a slightly more restrained Road Warrior gang or something. It's a good look.

The art is more variable than I can recall. There are some panels in the back half of this issue where Wegener goes very low on details for faces. Just a couple blank circles for eyes and maybe a couple lines to denote the mouth or nose. And then the page before or after, he'll have done some really excellent work. He and Anthony Clark combined for some of the best-looking stuff I've seen on Atomic Robo in this issue. There's one panel of Robo and Helen trapped under some rubble where the panel is very tight in one them and both the lighting effects and shadows (the light come from Robo's eyes), and the detail Wegener works into Helen's face are really outstanding.

There's also one panel that covers the progression of Robo fighting two of those super-soldiers simultaneously. Like there's four different snippets of the fight within a single panel, building up to the action in the next one. The work there is pretty detailed, nice uses of the green energy coming off their fists to guide the eye across the panel. I don't know if I've ever seen Wegener try that before in a fight scene. Maybe the more detailed pages put him behind schedule and he had to skimp a little on other pages.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Project Seven Alpha - Leland Shanle

Project Seven Alpha is story that uses the attempts by the U.S. Army air Force to keep forces in China going by flying in supplies over the Himalayas via converted DC-3 commercial airliners, flown by American Airlines pilots, operating out of Burma. That part really happened, and was critical as the Japanese forces swept down through Southeast Asia and took control of the seas and skies, meaning Burma, and later India, were the only paths in.

Shanle tries to work the story through the two top officers of the group of pilots, J.T. and Charles Henry, both of them World War I fighter pilots, both of whom struggle with the return to combat, and the danger the men under their command are facing. For Charles it's even more acute, since his son also volunteered and is normally his co-pilot. Nothing too ground-breaking there. The story even has the requisite section where the crews get some R&R and crash a stuffy Governor's Ball.

Shanle's a retired Navy aviator, and a current airline pilot, so he knows his stuff about flying, and works in a lot of technical detail about keys to flying in formation, or how to throttle the engines properly. Unfortunately, at times he overdoes it a bit and it kind of sucks the life from the narrative. One of the DC-3s is jumped by a Zero, but due to the cargo pilot's greater experience, he's able to elude the fighter until its pilot overreaches and crashes. But Shanle is busy explaining about the drag on the wing in tight, low-speed turns, and angles of approach, and it saps the scene of any suspense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What I Bought 9/21/16

I managed to pick up a couple of books last week. Not everything I needed, but the rest will be here later in the week. Course, it all adds up to a measly 4 books. Everything waited until this week to come out.

Deadpool #18, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne and Brian Level (pencilers), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire and Rochelle Rosenberg (colorists) - People lining up to injure Wade, something everyone can get behind, event he people who don't like Deadpool. Actually, those folks are probably trying to figure out where that line is.

Wade and Shiklah have a big knockdown, drag out fight over their relationship, all the way from Shiklah's bedchambers to the street. The fight brings out a lot of the problems in their marriage that were readily apparent from the start. Like how marrying the first guy you see after being asleep for thousands of years possibly isn't a good idea. And that Deadpool is not a reliable partner. But it's unclear if things are over or not. Even Wade can't figure it out, so he goes to the remains of his Avengers' teams HQ, which was also his cool building with the speakeasy in it. Runs into Rogue there, and takes her to see Eleanor. Explains his daughter is a mutant, and Rogue promises the kid will have her in her corner. Meanwhile, Madcap is still putting things together for his plan.

The thing I finally realized this issue is that Duggan and Hawthorne are having Wade get into a fight every issue of this tie-in, but they're all pointless, unnecessary fights. He and T'Challa didn't need to fight; Wade hadn't hurt Ulysses and he was leaving. Wade and the Mercs should have focused on getting out of the vault instead of killing each other, and definitely shouldn't have continued the fight while cops showed up. Wade couldn't pay them, so just let them leave. And then after all the fighting, they have to ride the same train home. Now this fight with Shiklah, which I don't know what's going to happen. It's all stupid fighting for no purpose, which is pretty much Civil War II in a nutshell. Bravo, Deadpool creative team.

I didn't enjoy this fight as much as the previous couple. It isn't badly drawn, Hawthorne's still doing good work, but it doesn't have as many clever bits to it as the previous fight. That and I was sad to see a married couple having a falling out. Why won't Marvel let any characters stay married?! Still, there were a couple of parts I enjoyed. The expressions Wade has on the page where the fight ends, first when Shiklah proposes they go back to bed, the one with a wolfman minus a head in it. that's a bit weird even for Deadpool (and it confirms Jack Russell won't stay dead, if you're one of his 4 fans). And the expression in the last panel on the page, as he declines. He just looks so sad and tired, which is never a good sign when it comes to Wade. Then the part in the subway when Wade thinks Shiklah is threatening his loved ones and flips out for a minute. And the fact she immediately recognizes why he flipped out, and even raises the possibility it wasn't simply poor phrasing. That was a little chilling.

Brian Level takes over art chores halfway through. There's just a bit of a shift in how Wade's drawn that I mostly notice around his mask, the lines on it not being as defined as usual, or the shape being slightly different, that makes me think that. Otherwise it's a pretty smooth transition, and I don't know if that's due to Level shaping his style to mimic Hawthorne's, or if Terry Pallot's inks are doing it. The colors shift somewhat, Wade's costume seems brighter than in the earlier pages, but otherwise, it's a smooth transition. There are times Level really nails some of the body language Hawthorne typically gives Wade. The pose Deadpool makes when he tries to lean against Rogue's closet door, for example.

I gotta say, I still hate Civil War II, but this has been a solid tie-in. Definitely the best one I've seen by Gerry Duggan over his time writing Deadpool.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #10, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Megan Wilson (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Why the heck are Boomerang and Shocker there? Nothing better to do than watch exes arm wrestle in a bar?

Daimon dumped Patsy into the hands of Belial, a lord of lies. And this wasn't Daimon actually trying to help Patsy, he really did get duped by Hedy. Maybe that hellfire on his head is cooking his brain. Belial tries to get Patsy to buy into embracing her rage and taking control of her full power and cutting loose, which does sound fun, but Patsy is uninterested. She gets Belial to bring her back to earth by daring him to prove he has powers somewhere outside Hell, at which point Jubilee breaks his face, and Daimon banishes him. Then the boys apologize and the day is saved, while the Black Cat prepares to get Hellcat out of her way.

But Felicia, I'm pretty sure Patsy was Hellcat before you showed up in comics, and I know Greer Grant was wearing that costume as the Cat before you came along. So they can't really be biting your style, can they? That's not even getting into the fact her costume is yellow and blue, and yours is black with a little white fringe. That's like saying iron First is biting the Hulk's style because they both have green in their color palettes. So becoming a crime boss hasn't made Felicia smarter, clearly.

I've been trying to figure out what seems so different about Williams' art in the scene in Belial's realm. Some of it is Wilson's colors, I'm sure. Things seem more washed out. The colors are lighter, but not as rich. But it seems like Williams isn't doing any shading around the characters. What I mean is, in places where Patsy's hair should be casting a shadow across her face, it doesn't. It's as though everything lacks a certain level of detail, because it's just a surface illusion. Belial is going with easy, obvious stuff, the simple conclusions someone could draw if they wanted to to make a person feel bad, without looking at the deeper levels of who people are and why they do stuff.

Or it could be Williams is trying to use a style more similar to what would have been in those books starring Patsy and her friends from back in the day. Some of the peculiar background effects, like how the shadows in her mom's hospital room are a lot of narrow black lines, close together. Or the static on TV backdrops that appear a couple of times. Those seem like techniques more common to much older comics, and so maybe Williams and Wilson are trying to put things in that style.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Man Who Didn't Shoot Hitler - David Johnson

The story is that Hitler claimed to Neville Chamberlain when they met in Munich, that during World War I he had been part of a German unit under fire from British soldiers, and while the Germans, including Hitler fell back, a British soldier could have shot him, but did not. And Hitler had a copy of a painting by Matania hanging in a room where they met depiciting the Green Howards (a British unit) in combat, and pointed to a soldier in the front, claiming that was the man who spared his life. That man just so happened to be Henry Tandey VC, the most decorated British private soldier of the war.

As it turns out, the story is probably completely bunk. Hitler generally seems to be referring to the battle during which Tandey received the Victoria Cross, among other honors (in fact, he got a certificate explaining he wouldn't receive any further medals for bravery because there weren't any left to give him), but a) that battle was in 1918, and the painting is of a battle from 1914, b) as far as Johnson can discern Hitler probably wasn't even with his unit at the time of that battle, and if he was, they were 50 miles away, and c) Hitler was a regimental dispatch runner and wouldn't have been close to the front lines anyway. Oh, and the version of Tandey in the painting apparently bears no resemblance to the actual person.

Johnson saves the discussion of this legend, the theories on how and why it came about, and how Tandey responded to it (mostly dismissing it by remarking he didn't remember seeing anyone like Hitler, though his response varied some over the decades) for the end of the book. The first three-quarters are devoted to the rest of Tandey's life, as best as Johnson can reconstruct it. He doesn't have much to go on, as Tandey was fairly private, and only sporadically close to his family. It's especially notable in the chapter on World War I, as Johnson has no diary or letters home to work from, only a couple of times where Tandey has written something or been interviewed that was featured in a newspaper. Beyond that, he discusses the general life of frontline infantry during the war, and draws inferences from there. Which seems a little dodgy, when he's quoting from other soldiers letters home as to how soldiers felt about the possibility of death, and then musing on Tandey's based on this.

He does discuss Hitler's upbringing a bit, as a compare/contrast to Tandey's, which he continues through the Great War. What's interesting in that part, though, is where he points out the revisions Hitler made to his wartime experiences, versus what the surviving records suggest is more accurate. this also helps establish a basic timeline where he can look for other points in the war when the two could have possibly crossed paths so Tandey could unwittingly spare him.

Ultimately, I think the fact Tandey is such a private person works heavily against the book. There isn't much to work with, because he isn't the kind of person to write volumes of correspondence (or the people he sent it to didn't care enough to keep it), so a lot of the book is guesswork and supposition. Which makes it harder to be drawn into the sections about Tandey's life, which made it harder to stick around until Johnson got to the hook of the book. Fortunately it's only about 170 pages, so you can still reach that section quickly enough.

'Henry may also have resorted to another much-used method of lice control, involving running his fingernail through the seams of his clothing. The lice were referred to as 'chats' and their removal became known as 'chatting' - the men would sit together 'chatting'.'

Monday, September 26, 2016

Marvel's Trying To Keep Me Warm With Anger Through WInter

Let's look at the solicitations for December. Over at DC, the Deadman mini-series is back, and they say it's bimonthly, so that explains the absence of it in November. Blue Beetle's solicit says Ted Kord's getting an unexpected visitor, so cross your fingers for Booster Gold, although since this Ted doesn't seem to have any history of costumed derring-do, they may not know each other.

There's also going to be a Justice League versus Suicide Squad story in one of those two books, which doesn't seem like it should be much of a contest. If they're fighting each other, the Squad should get trounced. If Waller is using political maneuvering to protect the Squad, then what is the League going to do? Tell the government to go piss up a rope and attack their facilities? But perhaps it'll play out better than I expect, someone can tell me how it goes.

Atomic Robo Temple of Od is wrapping up in December, and Darkwing Duck #8 is scheduled to come out. That latter is a little odd, since I was sure I didn't see #7 in last month's solicits. There's also a new Locke & Key book coming out that month, I'll probably check that out.

And then there's Marvel. You may have heard Civil War II has been delayed, and so it won't be finishing up December, by which point Inhumans vs. X-Men will be into its second month. Brilliant work. This is the second event in a row Marvel can't pace properly to finish in the originally allotted number of issues, and which was delayed. I'd start to question whether they're doing this on purpose, as some bait-n-switch to get more sales, but I don't want to credit them as having that much foresight.

She-Hulk is getting a new series, where she now can transform into an unstoppable rage machine, jsut like her cousin did. Oh joy. Not sure why taking the character that had transformed, but was largely in control and enjoyed it, and going this direction was a great idea. Kate Bishop is getting her own series, and of course the solicit bags on Clint Barton, so I'm definitely not buying that comic. Slapstick is getting his own series, which I can't imagine is going to last more than 5 minutes, but the same is true of Solo and Foolkiller, so whatever.

They're also giving Rocket Raccoon a new ongoing, as well as Star-Lord, and Gamora, but the whole team is stuck on Earth because of Civil War II and general writer stupidity. Like, Rocket complains there are no spacecraft on earth capable of interstellar travel and that is total crap. The Fantastic Four had them for years, and Ben Grimm was literally just on a team with Rocket. You telling me Ben can't drop by Parker Industries and grab a ship for his friends? Hell just steal one. Deadpool had the old Fantasticar, security can't be anything special. Shit, go talk to Dr. Doom. He's a good guy now, he can probably build an intergalactic travel capable ship in an afternoon. Out of a box of scraps.

Marvel's teasing the return of a Nova, and the obvious conclusion would be that it's Richard Rider. This is a return I would be in favor of. But I'm not sure it is Rich, because they're trying to be so coy about it. Something about the way they question how it will impact Sam Alexander makes me wonder if he's finally going to find his father.

As far as the books I'm buying, Great Lakes Avengers promises an actual fight, Deadpool is continuing to battle with Madcap, and Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat is still not canceled. Hooray! Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is going to do an issue devoted to Nancy's cat, Mew. They said Marvel should have known this would happen after they let Fraction/Aja do the Pizza Dog issue, which was the thought I had as I was reading the solicit. I didn't see Ms. Marvel listed anywhere, so I don't know if that was an error, or if they're going to reboot the book again for some new, disaffected youth status quo.

X-Men '92 is ending, and I'm going to wait and see if the restart it as X-Men '93 next year.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Foyle's War 1.3 - A Lesson in Murder

Plot: We open with a Mr. Beale in a hearing to be listed as a conscientious objector. He's application is denied, because he said he would help a child injured in a bombing raid. He protests this and gets hauled off to the Hastings jail, where several of the officers torment him, and then he hangs himself in the cell. Which becomes something for Foyle to deal with.

Elsewhere, the city is in full swing preparing for a possible invasion, pulling down street signs and having committee meeting about the fact Hastings is expected to hold out for 7 days without support. Which seems unlikely, considering how few weapons the Home Front unit has, according to one Raymond Brooks, the head of the local unit. The meeting involves Foyle and keeps him late, which means it keeps Sam late, so she finagles dinner out of him at Carlo's an Italian restaurant run by an old friend of Foyle's. An old friend whose son, Tony, is quite taken with Sam, and asks her to a dance. Carlo has his own worries, that he and Tony aren't communicating well, and that Mussolini may declare war on England, and what that might mean for him and his son.

Judge Gascoigne, who rejected Beale's application has a young boy staying at his home, Joe, who was sent there as part of the program to protect children from bombings, which have not materialized. So Joe's father is coming to get him, to the judge's relief. It was his daughter's idea anyway. As it turns out, Gascoigne has other problems. Beale had some pacifist friends, including one named Theo, who is perhaps not as pacifistic as he thought. Also, a young friend of Tony's, Jack Winters, is out of prison, a prison he was in because of Gascoigne, and none too happy with the judge. His daughter, Susan, is trying to secretly continue a relationship with a local tradesman, Peter Buckingham, over the judge's objections. And his wife's station is pushing him beyond his financial means. With all that, it perhaps isn't too surprising some rigged the door to his summer cottage with a grenade. Unfortunately, it isn't the judge who opens the door, but Joe. And Joe was only one day away from retirement, I mean, going home with his dad.

Quote of the Episode: Susan - 'Joe had never slept in a bed before he came here. He thought sheets were for dead people.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No, this week he and his police friend go golfing. Foyle is much worse at golf than he is at catching fish.

Things Sam is good at: Not taking any guff from jerks. Jack Winters tries to chat her up at the dance and she shuts him down straightaway. 

Other: At the preparedness meeting, Raymond Brooks chafes at not being able to tell the men serving under him exactly what they may face and are preparing for. Foyle argues that would be a mistake, I presume to avoid panic. And this is a theme that runs through the episode. People opting to withhold things for one reason or the other. Tony has decided to enlist, but had not told his father. He lies about Jack Winters being around, because he knows how his dad feels about Winters. Foyle is nervous because he hasn't heard anything from Andrew for awhile. He plays it off as a joke, that at least Andrew obviously hasn't run out of money, since he hasn't written asking for any. But that's his way, to conceal concern.

There's also a reveal about what Peter Buckingham is up to, and why it's such a big secret, that plays into this as well.

Sam and Tony had no chemistry, unless you really enjoy people being awkward around each other. Which it seems like Sam knows, but is too nice to tell him so.

Theo is played by David Tennant, who was the Tenth Doctor, and Killgrave the Purple Man on Jessica Jones. Here he's the pacifist who rages against the injustice in the system. Gascoigne is unsympathetic to people applying to be conscientious objectors, unless he knows their father.

In the continually worsening life of Paul Milner, he came home from work to find Jane with a suitcase packed. She's going to Wales to see her sister for a few weeks, and simply chose not to let Paul know. He would not have found out if he hadn't happened to come home early, although I guess she'd have left a note. She's still studiously avoiding making eye contact unless she absolutely has to. Paul says he'll miss her, she responds that she'll write, which isn't really the same thing. I guess she's wanting to break it off, but hasn't quite worked up the nerve to do so entirely. Maybe she's trying to push it to a point where Paul will do it, so she doesn't feel like the bad guy? I don't know. I really would like to get her perspective, her reasons at some point.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Any Excuse To Talk About The Ray

So CW is going to do a series of animated shorts, or animated somethings, with The Ray, similar to what they did with Vixen previously, probably with an eye to incorporating him into the various live-action DC shows they have down the line. Assuming that's how it goes, I don't expect he'll look as cool as powered-up Ray did in the comics, but that's not new. I don't think live-action can match artists for making superhero stuff look cool. There's just a limit to what actors and costumes can achieve versus art, where you can do anything you can draw, regardless of whether it'd be at all feasible in the real world. Not a big issue, though.

And it turns out he's going to be gay, possibly a nod to an issue of Grant Morrison's Multiversity, where he did an updated version of the Freedom Fighters. Or they just recognized there's nothing about Raymond's character that requires him to be heterosexual, so why not broaden the range of people represented. I hadn't ever seen that comic, so I didn't know that had happened. My thought when I read the announcement was someone had been reading some of Ray's ongoing from the '90s.

There was an issue, #19 I think, that was part of Underworld Unleashed, where Ray is making out with this woman, who then reveals herself to be Neron, basically DC's Devil. And Neron makes Ray the old, "I'll give you X in exchange for your soul." Except Ray is more focused on having kissed a guy than about the fact the "guy" was the Devil*.

It's generally played as a joke; Neron even grows frustrated that Ray won't focus. I've always read it as Ray still being naive, not recognizing that as a superhero, these are the kind of things that will happen to him. Having seen the announcement about his character coming to TV, I thought, "Well, you could read that as his having been confused about his feelings after finding out it was a guy**." Then I started thinking about his other romantic relationships. The aborted one with Jenny Jurden, the only friend he had as a kid living inside in the dark all the time. There was Galeon, a young woman he meets when he and Black Canary are lost in time, who he finds out future him is having a relationship with. She also gives him a note with instructions on how many times to circle the sun to get home, which he gives to her as a kid when he meets her basically the moment he and Dinah reach home, and Child Galeon instantly develops a crush on him, which apparently persists to adulthood. Or there's whole puppy-dog thing with Dinah.

Jenny was the one person his age he had any connection with growing up, so he cares deeply for her. If his childhood friend had been John Jurden, would that have changed things for him? Dinah's the experienced older woman that mostly doesn't even seem to want him around, except when she can use him for something. She also seems like what popular culture tells young guys they should find attractive (especially as drawn in the '90s) Long blonde hair, big chest, fishnets, impractical heels for all that jumping and flipping, but what the hell. Maybe Ray's going with what everything around him says he should (or he's bisexual). As for the relationship with Galeon, I don't know. She saves him in the future, then he saves her as a kid, and she develops a crush on him, which apparently develops into something more, to the extent her future, cop, self travels back in time to try and straighten him out by stabbing Vandal Savage. I'm not sure what to make of all that. Future Ray doesn't seem to treat her that great, but Future Ray is a dick to everyone, a pitiless corporate ass, Justin Hammer with superpowers, so who knows.

It doesn't have to be read that he was a closeted (unknowing?) gay/bisexual who's trying heterosexual relationships because he thinks he's supposed to, but I could see that interpretation. Or he could be a young heterosexual guy with limited life experience making poor relationship decisions without a good support network. Relationships are tough, and Ray didn't have a lot of experience with people in general growing up. But it could also be that he was a young guy with limited life experience and no good support network, who is also gay.

We don't know much about his childhood, except that he was raised by his uncle (pretending to be his father), in a house kept perpetually dark***, and taught by nuns, I think. I have no idea what he learned about love, or sexuality, at all, but I can't imagine they spent much time explaining to him that sometimes boys are attracted to boys. They probably didn't mention the possibility at all. Now he's out in the world, but the man who raised him is dead. His birth father is a dick who has done nothing but lie to Raymond. His mother doesn't even know he's alive, because his father told her he died while being born (Happy Terrill may be the worst comic book dad ever). His boss is Vandal freaking Savage. His only other surviving relative is Hank, who looks and acts like the Fonz. I get the impression most of his Justice League teammates treated him like a dumb kid (J'onn seems like someone who'd be a good sounding board, but I don't think they were close). He's got effectively nobody to work through this stuff with.

I doubt much of that is playing into the character as he'll appear on TV, though I could be surprised.

*I think he actually makes the deal because he doesn't take it seriously, and that gets undone somehow. That's around the point in the series things started to get confused for me, because I think Priest was addressing things that were happening to Ray in Justice League Task Force, or Extreme Justice or something, and I don't really understand what those things were.

** Assuming a devil really has a gender. I guess they do if they want to.

*** Because his birth father's first son had the same powers, but stopped aging at 10, with the mind of a 4-year old, and was extremely dangerous. So Happy Terrill locked him in a missile silo for decades, alone.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's Finished When He Decides It Is

I probably saw An Unfinished Life for the first time last spring, or maybe over the winter. It's one of those films my dad will autotune his TV for if there's nothing else on at that time he likes better. I will pretty much always stop to watch Hot Fuzz or The Rocketeer, he's lining up to see movies about Robert Redford being an angry drunk who can't cope with losing his son.

And also movies where Burt Lancaster kills a bunch of fucking Nazis (The Train), but that's not what we're here to talk about.

Jennifer Lopez is a single mom who flees her abusive boyfriend with her daughter in tow to Redford's ranch. He's her father-in-law, but as he blames her for his son's death, he is not happy to see her. Or to find out, like 12 years after the fact, that he has a granddaughter, named after his son*. He lives on his ranch with his old friend Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who is partially crippled up from being mauled by a bear the year before, and it's at least partially Einar's fault. the bear has reappeared and gotten itself captured and put in a nearby shitty zoo, which ends up being a pain in Einar's butt.

So it's one of those movies where people try to come to grips with emotional trauma they've previously tried ignoring, or locking away. There are several scenes of people yelling at each other, or people backsliding and acting stupidly, or lashing out. But gradually everyone sort of hashes things out, at least to the level of coming to some sort of peace with each other (I think they all sort of unite over the abusive boyfriend appearing like a moron to get his ass beat). At least a couple of scenes with no dialogue and sad piano music in the background.

There's some decent one-liners in there. Redford has a good deadpan delivery, and Morgan Freeman can play well off most anyone. Lopez carries a pretty good sense of desperation and frustration, and I especially like the scene at night when she and Einar finally have it out. Where she's so pissed at him, but she's trying to keep her voice down because her daughter is supposed to be sleeping downstairs. The anger, but with her still trying hard to control it. She ends that argument by pointing out he wants to be dead, and should just lie down so they can bury. But maybe he's afraid no one would come. Einar didn't have any sort of a comeback for that.

Becca Gardner does well as Griff, the kid stuck in the middle of all this. In the early stages of the film, she's very quiet. Keeps her eyes on the ground, avoiding eye contact. Doesn't approach people readily, always staying out of arm's reach. You can tell she's used to being in situations where adults will scream or grab or hit her, just because, and she's trained herself to be ready for it at all times. Even when she brings Mitch some lunch, or helps Einar work on his truck. She'll step forward to hand something to them, then immediately move back a safe distance. She can't be sure what might happen, and if something goes wrong, she might get blamed. Which feels like it contradicts Einar's assessment of her as being at the age where she still thinks things will work out, but she does open up with a little encouragement, so maybe he's right.

I gotta agree with my dad, they flub the very end. There's a nice bit with Einar and Mitch sitting next to each other, disagreeing about the weather, and the Mitch asks to be buried there on the property, where Einar's son is. And Einar plays it off as obvious, you're family and all that. But then Einar asks if Mitch thinks the dead care what they do, and Mitch goes on this long soliloquy about it, and it's just bleh. Completely unnecessary.

* He mentions, when they're introduced, that Griff is an odd name for a boy, but his name in Einar, which is an odd name for anyone, so glass houses.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

They'll Save The Day, But They Won't Like It

I'm not sure how this particular thought came to me. I was rewatching parts of Fast and Furious 7 recently, and came to the conclusion Tyrese's character, Roman Pierce, is my favorite character in the series. He ends up as the butt of a lot of jokes, so maybe I feel kind of bad for him, but I realized it during the scene where he objects to the mission to rescue the hacker from the fortified Death Bus convoy. He rattles off all these extremely dangerous things he's been expected to do over the last three movies, without ever having a say in it, and demands to be the one in charge of planning it, even though he has no actual plan. He really just wanted to gripe about it.

But there's also this post I see periodically on Tumblr about Max in the Mad Max movies. How guys like to hold him up as some awesome protagonist, when Max really has no interest in being the protagonist. That basically every time the central conflict of a story comes knocking, he tries to go the other direction, but can't. So maybe that was what got this going, or some combination of the two.

I strongly identify with the character who will do the stupid thing their friends need them to do, just as long as they get to complain about it. You're helping them, the least they can do is listen to you bitch about it. I think it's why I like so many of Humphrey Bogart's characters*, even though he can frequently be cruel. At the end of the day, he still does the right thing, stops the crook, helps the resistance leader escape, even if he resents the crimp it puts in his desire to make a living and drink.

I can still appreciate the characters that see an injustice and immediately step in to help, the Captain Americas and such. But I don't see much of myself in them. The characters who don't particularly want any part of the trouble, but ultimately choose to help, grudgingly, that feels familiar. It happens to me, people needing help with something, and my getting roped into it. I'm usually busy with something else, or busy relaxing, and don't want to help, but it's "the right thing to do," so off I go. Which leads to the moment in performance evaluations where my bosses praise my willingness to help when things are in a crunch, and I try not to laugh at how silly that sounds.

* It was Lauren Bacall day on Turner Classic and they were showing To Have and Have Not. Much more enjoyable than the book, even if it's a second-string Casablanca. Bacall, Bogart, and Walter Brennan carry it a long way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Another Turn On A Ride That Never Ends

I got to see most of Terminator: Genisys last week. I came in around the time Kyle, Sarah, and Pops managed to kill the two Terminators they were fighting in the sewers. Which I means I missed the part of the movie Byung-hun Lee was in. He was Park Chang-yi in The Good The Bad The Weird, which I'm assuming means he was the best part of this movie.

Which isn't me saying I hated the movie. I missed all the exposition about how this might be an alternate universe/ time travel mechanics stuff people hated, which was probably to my benefit. Why complicate things? Just leave it at "Stop Skynet". There were parts of it that I thought were good. Emilia Clarke seemed like a solid Sarah Conner. She was somewhere between Linda Hamilton's Sarah from the first Terminator, and Hamilton as Sarah in T2*. She's got the combat training, but she's better interacting with people, probably because she wasn't institutionalized. Also, she had Pops. The idea of the Terminator being the surrogate father to Sarah for years, and during all that time he's learning about humans, becoming more human, that was interesting.

I would have been very curious to see what he did during those 30 years he was on his own after sending Sarah and Kyle from 1984 to 2016. He had to travel through time normally, by living it, and we know he worked construction for awhile, and he gathered a lot of weapons and ammo, but did he willingly interact with people in his free time? Keep learning about people? He clearly never figured out big smiles, but he was polite with that cop whose car he stole. Did he run into any other aborted attempts by Skynet to change things and deal with them?

Jai Courtney didn't make much of an impression as Kyle Reese. Just kind of a big, clueless meathead. The bit where he learns he's John Conner's dad, and he originally dies protecting Sarah, that had potential. That moment of feeling completely trapped by strings he didn't know about, that could have been something, especially given Sarah feeling the same way, but it's sort of mentioned and then they move on.

Matt Smith is in there briefly as some host for Skynet's latest attempt to Get Conner, before it jumps to John himself. Which makes two movies I've seen in the last month where he plays a sort of bad guy (I'd like to see Lost River again before discussing it here). Which is weird to me, because I know him as what I perceive as a bow tie wearing dweeb on Doctor Who, so him being this crazy weirdo we're meant to be scared of doesn't quite track. Though I guess to some of the aliens in that show, the Doctor is a terrifying crazy weirdo.

* My dad and I were watching Terminator 2 a few weeks ago, and he said he though Sarah must have always been a little crazy to reach the point she's at by that film. I argued she seems perfectly normal in the first movie until a cyborg from the future starts trying to murder her, and that sort of thing, combined with all the revelations about the importance of a son she hadn't had, and that his father is this guy who came back through time to protect her, would be sufficiently traumatizing to push her in this direction. And the rest is things she did to keep herself and John alive and prepared. My dad was not convinced.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Impromptu Convention Report

I had a chance to go to a comic convention over the weekend, Dodeca-Con. Smaller than I expected, smaller than any convention I've been to since the first Cape-Con back in '06.

Not many people selling comics. One guy had several longboxes, but most of them were full of duplicates of the same issues over and over. Quite why he thought he needed nearly two longboxes worth of Punisher 2099 I have no idea. I did find one guy who had most of the Len Kaminski written Creeper series, figured that was worth a whirl at 2 for a dollar.

Picked up a few prints, although the Ninja Turtle one I got from Breaker Joe is probably going to Alex. I got a Sgt. Rock sketch from Rob Harris, since Harris' style seemed like a good match for the character. So the DC Favorites collection continues slowly. I should have bought a few of the comics people were making, but I just didn't quite get to it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Foyle's War 1.2 - The White Feather

Plot: We're still in May of 1940, the Allied forces are backed up against the Channel with the Germans closing in, and the story opens on young Edith Johnstone climbing a telephone pole somewhere in the English countryside to cut the wires. As it turns out, this is considered an act of treason, especially since there's a military base a half mile down the road. Foyle's asked to talk with her, and Edith expresses no contrition, because she's certain the Germans will be there any day now, and she'll be rewarded for helping, while Foyle will be in prison. Well then.

Elsewhere, Milner's gotten his prosthetic leg attached (six weeks early, and he's still using crutches), but is stuck walking home in the rain when a Guy Spencer offers him a ride, if Milner will just wait until Guy finishes his speech for the Friday Club about whose war this is. Spoiler: He says it isn't England's war, but the Bolshevik's and the Jews'. Always the mark of a person whose opinion you can trust.

The two threads intertwine because as Foyle investigates Edith, he finds she worked at a hotel called The White Feather, run by a Margaret Ellis, and to a lesser extent her husband Arthur and son Stanley (they work there, but she's the big dog). And Margaret is a staunch supporter of Mr. Spencer. So much so, he's having a get-together of like-minded upper-class types at the hotel, including a member of Parliament and a Ms. Harwood, who works at Whitehall, and has something of great importance to Spencer. Foyle by this time has (with some help from Sam) traced Edith's employment far enough to find someone who knew her boyfriend, and he's talked with the young fisherman David Lane about her. David's convinced that it's Margaret and Spencer who have done this to Edith. And so it's with little surprise that someone is murdered at the White Feather that evening. Not Guy Spencer, unfortunately, leaving Foyle to suss out who was the intended target and why. While also dealing with a lot of people who think they're hot stuff giving him a lot of guff about being kept at the hotel, some issues within his own department, and what to do about David Lane. There's also a thread about Milner's difficulties readjusting to his being a civilian again, and minus a leg, although the biggest issue seems to be with Jane Milner.

Quote of the Episode: Larson - 'To be honest the shooting of that woman is both annoying and irrelevant.' Foyle - 'To you, perhaps.'

Things Sam does well: Stand up to pushy members of Parliament. Ernest Bannerman tries to bully her into driving him, his wife, and Harwood to the train station, after Foyle gave orders they were to stay put, and Sam stood her ground. Big thumbs up for Sam.

Does Foyle go fishing this week? He certainly does! With one of his coworkers, the one who brought Edith to his attention.

Other: I think this section is going to be the more spoilery part, since there are things I'll want to discuss in each episode that might give away more important aspects of the story. Not necessarily every week, but it's worth mentioning as a strong possibility.

Something I can't recall is if the series ever really explains what the hell is going on with Jane Milner. She is just brutal to Paul throughout this episode. She tells him outright she doesn't want to her about his prosthetic limb, and what's more she doesn't want him to leave it in the bedroom when he isn't wearing it. She hopes that in a few months they can just pretend it isn't there. When they're on their way to church, she says they need to leave early because, 'It's not like you can drive.' It's as though she's deliberately trying to undercut Paul's sense of self-worth at every turn, and I don't get it. It seems like even just basic empathy would keep someone from doing that, but I guess somehow she just thinks she's being realistic so it's OK. But I don't know, they don't really go into it.

Which is a shame, because the episode does spend time exploring Milner's attempt trying to settle back in. He ends up susceptible to Guy Spencer, not because Paul agrees with Guy's anti-Semitism, but because Paul is understandably confused about what happened to him. He got sent on the invasion of Norway, it failed horribly and he lost a leg, because the British had no conception of the importance of air superiority, and what was the point? Considering there wasn't a second attempt to take Norway utilizing what was learned from the first try, it couldn't have been that critical, so what were he and all the other soldiers doing there? And while he's trying to convince himself he's the same as he was before (which is probably why he got the prosthetic fitted 6 weeks early), Jane is working against that at every turn. Even as I recognize that Guy Spencer is an odious, horrible human being, I can see why he's able to get Milner on his side and use him to his ends.

There's a point where Foyle and Milner are questioning David and he bolts, and Foyle tries to give chase but can't keep up, and Sam wasn't ready with a garbage can lid this time. Milner couldn't even attempt it. I don't think the camera lingers on it, but I need to go back and see what expression he makes at that moment.

Guy Spencer is played by Charles Dance, who has been in a lot of stuff. This is embarrassing, but the thing I always remember him from is The Last Action Hero, when he played the villain with the assortment of glass eyes. Look, I don't watch Game of Thrones, alright?

The idea of prosecuting someone who tries to commit suicide is still one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Oh, you tried to kill yourself? Well I'm sure some time in the pokey will improve your outlook.

While Milner is listening to Spencer's speech, a man walks by outside and makes unfavorable comments about the Friday Club. So two of Guy's bodyguards follow him and beat him nearly to death in an alley. Of course, Spencer didn't know anything about it and doesn't condone it, but well, things happen. That seemed relevant given events within our current election, although Donald Trump doesn't even have enough sense, or simply doesn't give a shit, to pretend he doesn't want to incite violence among his supporters.

That Friday Club get together at the White Feather was difficult to watch. Difficult in the sense I wanted someone to burn the hotel down with them all in it. Everyone complaining about refuges in London while standing around in various finery. The way the camera often zooms in our their mouths as the talk and laugh, it reminded me of the opening of Duck, You Sucker, where Leone focuses the camera intensely on the mouths of the upper class people in the carriage as they gorge themselves while calling the lower class a bunch of filthy animals.

I'm not sure about the resolution of Edith's plot. It feels almost tacked on, like they remembered, "Oh yeah, we had a character that might get hanged for treason in the first five minutes of this episode, might want to touch base with that." And given that Foyle reveals Edith acted because she was frightened and intimidated into it by Margaret Ellis, not sure how I feel about Foyle using David to guilt her. Maybe not what was intended, but his, "You aren't going to forget David, are you?" felt a lot like guilt-tripping a scared, confused kid.

Friday, September 16, 2016

No Three-Hour Pleasure Cruise Here

My favorite part of Fallout 3 was the exploring. Roaming the Capitol Wasteland, finding the oddball remnants of humanity or Super Mutant camps or labs full of psychotic clones, whatever. The fact the finding those places almost inevitably led to bloody conflict I frequently didn't survive was less enjoyable, but oh well.

Last week, it occurred to me I'd be really interested in a Fallout that was set in an archipelago. The Azores, the Aleutians, the Philippines, whatever. I think because not only could a lot of the islands serve as distinct settlements, but you could have fun with different creatures having evolved on each island in response to different outcomes from the nuclear war. Like Darwin's finches in the Galapagos, but run through 1950s sci-fi horror.

Here's an island with creatures made of sand. Here's a boiling island, because there's been some sort of seismic reaction that's got an undersea volcano going constantly. Here's a suspiciously pleasant looking island, that's actually alive. Here's an island dominated by cassowaries. Not mutated or super-intelligent or anything, just big angry murder birds.

Plus you have to factor in moving between islands, so that means pirates and merpeople (possibly friendly, if a bit strange to our eyes, or hostile) and giant sharks. Or penguins. Imagine trying to traverse the seas on a cargo run in whatever boat your character either found or built (if that's an option), and you've got that stuff to contend with, among other things. Maybe there's even an option for flying or gliding, if you can find a takeoff point high enough. But then you'd have to contend with whatever else can fly in the area.

There's probably already a game in that vein out there, but I don't know about it yet.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bylines: Ernest Hemingway

This is a collection of some of Hemingway's many published articles, dating back to his days working for the Toronto Star Weekly in the early 1920s. It isn't all his articles, just some of the ones the editor (William White) thought were the best, I guess. There are quite from his time in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, as well as a section for articles written about World War II. Most of the earlier of those are written about a trip he and Martha Gellhorn took to China in 1938 to scope things out (I should try to find any articles Gellhorn wrote about it, since I suspect her perspective would be rather different than his), and the last few are from his time in France traveling with Allied forces during the invasion. And of course, there are a lot of articles about fishing in the Gulf Stream, though fewer than I expected about hunting in Africa.

So it's a mixed bag. Some articles are better written than others, some are just more interesting to me. One of the earliest articles is, "A Free Shave," where he investigates the options available for someone looking for free services, and winds up at the barber college. Turns out the shaves are only free if you let the less-experienced, not ready for prime time students do it. He wound up with a guy who had cut open his finger that morning, but escaped unscathed. Anyway, I enjoyed that one partly because its subject matter was so different from most of the others. I did like some of his reports from Spain, or his writing about the Genoa Conference, but they can feel repetitive if he's hammering the same points.

One other thing I enjoyed is how he works around not being able to include profanity in the articles. One that he wrote for Esquire in the '30s, "On Being Shot Again: A Gulf Stream Letter", he uses phrases like, 'Fornicate the illegitimate,' and 'I'll be of unsavory parentage.' I thought those were clever workarounds, but for some reason I've been delighted by the phrase "expletive deleted" ever since I first saw it (probably in an article in the sports page), so maybe I'm just strange.

'Now when you become known as a Friend of France it usually means that you are dead, the French would not commit themselves that far if you were alive, and that you have either spent much money for France, obtained much money for France, or simply sucked after certain people long enough to get the Legion of Honor. In the last case they call you a Friend of France in much smaller type.'

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What I Bought 9/6/2016 - Part 2

Speaking of comic-related websites, what the hell is going on with the Savage Critics site? At the time I'm writing this, it's been like three weeks since I could get it to load. It just keeps saying there's some database connection issue.

Atomic Robo: The Temple of Od #1, by Brian Clevinger (words), Scott Wegener (art), Anthony Clark (colors), Jeff Powell (letters) - Rushing towards a tank in a motorcycle while your passenger dual-wields handguns at whatever is chasing you? That's a pretty solid image to use to sell the book.

It's the late 1930s, and Robo is sucked into investigating a Chinese scientist believed to be in the hands of the Japanese Army, developing some of sort super-weapon, possibly working off the Odic energies Edison was trying to harness in the Atomic Robo: The Deadly Art of Science mini-series. And Claire Chennault decides it would be a good idea to send the most recognizable face in the world, as one of the Japanese lieutenants puts it, on a spy mission. He does have the aid of the Chinese resistance, and also the help of Helen, who along with her father, had been working with Robo in that Deadly Art of Science story.

Helen and the leader of the resistance in Shanghai, Chen Zhen, seem to be in a relationship, and I get the impression Helen doesn't want him to know she and Robo were almost, sort of, in a relationship. She was definitely the first woman he shared a kiss with. Not sure how that'll play out.

I'm not sure if this is true, but I feel like Robo is more glib when he's younger. His present day self (in Ring of Fire for example) seems a little more weary, whereas his past self is more like Spider-Man in that he can't help himself. I could be wrong, but continuing to make wisecracks when captured by Lieutenant Ichiro, including one about how they have the same barber, felt like something his older self wouldn't do. Ichiro's extremely scowling face in that panel, followed by his very cheerful one in the next as he announces he's planning to dissect Robo were both some good work by Wegener. I like Ichiro's design in general. He's kind of wearing a proto, radiation/space suit, but the wraps around his hands have that badass fighter feel to it. Which is a good combination for a guy utilizing strange energies to punch the crap out of Robo.

Henchgirl #10, by Kristen Gudsnuk - It's Coco's bored expression as she and Mari get ready to pounce I enjoy most there.

Mary is on the run, the cops are questioning her roommates and going through her stuff, so she's forced to turn to Coco. Which means listening to Coco's "tragic" origin story, and finding out she's been booted out of the Butterfly Gang. Fred won't take her calls, so there's only one last, desperate plan to fix things. She's been posing as Celestial Angel Amelia's biggest fan on Twitter, and lures her and Fred into a trap, depowering Amelia with anti-magic serum, stealing that healing cape away from Fred, and then the timewatch. Which she uses to go back to when she was 7, but with her adult mind and knowledge. So now she's smart, and confident, and can pass herself off as being psychic. Which is enough to convince her parents to let her join an afterschool program for superkids. Apparently the super-strength wasn't enough. Anyway, things seem to be going well, but there are two problems: One, she feels guilty about Fred, and about only using this future knowledge to help herself, and two, Fred breaks the watch, which brings her back to the present, leaving her 7-year old self very confused and with no clue what's happening. So everything is even worse now.

Some of the looks 7-year old Mary makes in this issue are pretty creepy. The one as Amanda tries teasing her, just before Mary starts giving her hell for having pigtails, that was a little demented. I really believed she'd been waiting years for the chance to get Amanda back for teasing her, and she was a little too excited about it. But it's interesting that Mary had gone into the past ostensibly to do things right this time. She tells herself to be a good person, and unmake her bad decisions. But everything she does still seems to be in service of herself, up to the point where she cracks under some guilt and tries to warn people about the recession and the alien invasion. I don't know if that's meant to be the lingering effect of the evil serum (I assume that's still in effect on her brain), or simply that she couldn't see the difference in what she was doing and what would actually constitute being good.

At any rate, she just keeps digging a deeper hole for herself, and I'm curious how Gudsnuk intends to dig her out of it, if she actually plans on doing so. I'm not sure how much further down she can take it though, before it's going to strain against the overall tone of the book. Because she's still working some jokes in there, about young Mary commenting how big her mom looks to her, and her mother taking that to be some reference to post-pregnancy pounds, or the cops not having money for evidence bags and being reduced to sandwich bags.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bunch Of Idiots, Driving Around In Circles

I expected Cop Car to be more of a horror/suspense film. Like one of those movies where the teens are pursued down empty highways by maniacal truckers. You got two kids stealing a crooked, murdering sheriff's car, and him trying to get it back (because there's a live drug dealer in the back he needed to kill a dispose of).

But really, it's more absurd than anything else. Kevin Bacon's the sheriff, and he spends the first third of the film running across empty pastures in Colorado, trying to find another car, so he can start tracking his cruiser down. And the guy was stupid enough to go off and leave his keys in the car. I never get out of my vehicle without making sure I've got my keys, and I don't have a ton of firepower in the back seat, or somebody tied up in the trunk.

Meanwhile, the kids are trying to figure out if they can smash through gates, daring each other to get the car up to 100, and screwing around with the guns they find in the back seat. When they eventually release the drug dealer tied up in the trunk, he uses them to lure the sheriff in, then does this absurd dance of running around, trying to find some place to ambush from. He tries using the bathrobe he's wearing like one of those suits snipers make, then tries hiding behind a power pole, before deciding "behind the windmill" is the optimal spot. I will leave how the climactic chase ends for you to find out on your own.

I spent a lot of time during the film trying to decide if the two kids are realistically stupid for their age. There are a lot of scenes of a character or characters moving through a vast, empty space, you have to do something to keep the mind occupied (which explains why the kids would steal the car, nothing better to do). I guess they are. I'm not sure I would have understood driving all that well at their age, though I did know about guns having a safety you have to turn off to fire. I'm guessing they didn't have a parental figure who liked to hunt.

Cop Car does what I think it set out to do pretty well, it just wasn't what I thought it'd be.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What I Bought 9/6/2016 - Part 1

No new comics came out for me last week. I did get 4 of the books that had come out last month in the mail that I wasn't able to find over my weekend trip, so let's get to those.

Ms. Marvel #10, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Adrian Alphona (artist), Ian herring (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I got the variant cover, even though I have no idea what a Tsum Tsum is, and frankly it looks terrifying. But it was cheaper, and at least not as depressing as the sad regular cover.

Everything is falling apart. Bruno is severely injured, and may die. Kamala has lost all control of her little jackboot squad, especially Becky. And Danvers is so committed to proving this future crime stuff isn't a horrible idea, she won't shut the team down. Which is how we get Ms. Marvel making an agreement with the Canadian ninjas to pull off some sort of crime which is going to somehow prove the predictive justice approach is nonsense. Which can't possibly go wrong.

Between Stark trying to sucker Miles in, and Danvers using Kamala as some p.r. gambit, it's no wonder all the kid heroes are gonna form their own team. The adults are treating them like props in their pissing contests. Fantastic. Carol doesn't listen to Kamala's concerns, certainly not in terms of responding to any of them, and just lists why it's important to her this work. I would question why Marvel seems hellbent on ruining her character, but they seemingly didn't think they were messing up Stark during the first Civil War, so perhaps they're still just dense.

I need to go back and check, but I feel like the longer this story goes, the more Becky's freckles are forming a domino mask around her face. Because she's actually. . . a Skrull! Wait, wrong event for this to be a sequel to. Unless Marvel is just mashing together their prior events now, which I wouldn't put past them. The sequence at the start of the issue, Bruno and Kamala's first meeting, was pretty cute. Kamala trying to leave and her mother calmly blocking her path with the palm of her hand on the forehead was a good touch.

The issue packs some emotional weight, but I was still aware that it's set-up chapter. It mostly just moves a few things in place for whatever the climax is going to be, but otherwise, not much happenin'.

Suicide Squad: War Crimes, by John Ostrander (writer), Gus Vazquez and Carlos Rodriguez (artists), Gabe Eltaeb (colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer) - More terrifying, a giant Amanda Waller, or a tiny Suicide Squad? Before you default to Waller, consider a miniature Captain Boomerang, able to sneak around in your underwear drawer. Now you can make your choice.

A metahuman European strike force abducts a former U.S. Secretary of Defense and drags him to the Netherlands to stand trial for war crimes. Waller is tasked with using the Squad to retrieve the guy (who is, in fact, guilty), and they do so. Not without complications, of course. The company the former Secretary works for sent Shado to retrieve him as well, and she gets him away from Deadshot and Rick Flag, meaning the rest of the team has to break off fighting one group of enemies to go catch up to another foe, with the first group still chasing them. But they manage it, and then Waller takes care of the Secretary.

For a done-in-one Suicide Squad story, I think this works well. Ostrander presents a clear mission, but also makes it one that the reader probably shouldn't entirely want to succeed, and which is largely pointless. You get at least a general idea of the interplay between some of the characters on the Squad, although El Diablo probably got shorted a bit (at least we know he's willing to needle Boomerbutt). The opponents (it feels off to call Strikeforce Europa antagonists) didn't get the fleshing out I'm sure they would if Ostrander had an ongoing series to work with, where he could bring them in periodically and build them up, but the potential was there. And Captain Boomerang acted like a total dick, which is always fun.

The art is, less great. There are just several curious choices made in panels throughout the book. In the last panel of page 3, the last of the Secretary's guards is shot in the head, with him in the foreground facing us. The guy I assume did it is in the background, but his gun is at his side, aimed away from the guy. And the way the wound is drawn almost suggests the bullet just grazed his forehead, and it's only on the next page you see him lying on the ground with a growing pool of blood. Later in the book, Lawton and Flag arrive to help the escape with an ambulance. They drive through the leader of Strikeforce Europa (who can turn intangible) and stop in front of the rest of the Squad. Next panel, Angel (the leader) is catching up to the rear of the ambulance and shooting, and from the perspective given, appears only a few feet behind it. Next page, the rest of the Squad and the Secretary pile into the back of the ambulance, undisturbed. No bullets start striking the read of the ambulance until after they're inside and closing the doors. Did she stop, retreat, was she knocked backwards by an explosion we didn't see? They are a lot of things that don't flow during the action sequences, and since that's what roughly 75% of the issue is, that's kind of a problem.

And yet, I enjoyed it in spite of that, because I'm always game to read John Ostrander writing the Suicide Squad. Which I guess makes me part of the problem for devaluing artists' contributions, or whatever I'm guilty of.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Foyle's War 1.1 - The German Woman

Plot: A middle-aged couple are enjoying a picnic on the coast. The husband, Thomas Kramer, takes a picture of his wife, Elsie, with a camera. Innocuous enough, but not to the British authorities, because Thomas is German, living in England in May of 1940, and there was a ship in the background of his photo, and he wasn't supposed to have a camera anyway. So Thomas and Elsie are locked up with a bunch of other "enemy aliens", and Elsie dies of a heart attack from the stress. Their nephew Mark, a British soldier (and the actual owner of the camera), tries speaking to his former employer, a retired magistrate, but the man says he can do nothing, even though he clearly did something, because his current wife, Greta, is not being locked up in an interment facility. She was supposedly deemed to sick to be moved, but she's well enough to ride horses every day. He can't do anything about the fact Greta and his daughter from his first marriage, don't like each other, because Greta opposes Susan marrying a former lawyer named Michael, though Greta won't explain why.

Into this goes Detective Foyle, stuck with the police force in Hastings, and trying desperately to get transferred to somewhere he feels he could be useful. He can't get transferred, so he's stuck investigating someone who is arranging for the papers calling people up to service to be "mislaid". Which leads him to the ex-magistrate's community and a particular pub, right when a single German plane flies over and drops a bomb on it. Which increases ill will in the community towards Greta, and she soon winds up dead. Wire strung between two trees.

So now Foyle perhaps has a crime he feels more worthwhile to investigate, with the assistance of his new driver, Samantha Stewart (on loan from Motorized Transport Corps), and he's sounding out a Paul Milner as his possible sergeant. Milner lost part of a leg in the failed invasion of Norway, but his mind is still sound.

Quote of the Episode: Foyle (to Sam) - 'You don't ask me what I'm doing. You don't ask me what I'm investigating. You just take me where I need to go. Is that understood?'

Things Sam struggles with: One thing that will become clear is that Sam has plenty of enthusiasm, but doesn't excel at much. Following orders, first aid, remembering to give people things.

Other: A British detective series set in World War 2. About the only way this could be more up my dad's wheelhouse was if Churchill were involved in some manner that involved farming and having lots of dogs. But I enjoyed it when he loaned it to me 4 years ago, so it seemed a decent option to fill the next 8 months or so.

This one is going to be a process. It's a detective series, so I don't want to spoil who done it, or how and why. So figuring out how much to include, and how to do it is going to be tricky. The plot summaries won't be nearly as detailed as the last couple of series. Besides, these episodes are 90+ minutes.

James McAvoy, who sometimes plays Charles Xavier these days, is in this episode as a young man preparing to enlist, who is also hoping to marry Tracey, a young girl working at that pub that got the bomb dropped on it. Yes, Tracey died in the bombing. Rosamund Pike, who I feel I should know from something other than Doom, but whose IMDb page isn't ringing many bells, plays Sarah.

When Foyle was tracking down the first link in the chain of the scheme to help people avoid being called up, it was Sam who caught the guy when he ran, with the aid of a rubbish bin lid. That was after Foyle's speech to her about what her job was. He's going to loosen his restrictions on that considerably, almost immediately.

One other thing, because it'll come up periodically in the series: Foyle has a son named Andrew, who is called up to join the RAF in this episode. Figured that was worth mentioning, so it doesn't come as a big surprise later. Also, he's not very bright, as he says in this episode the war will be over by Christmas, though I guess he doesn't specify what year.

Something I noticed this viewing. When Andrew alludes to the general area he'll be stationed, he calls it "Russia", and his father immediately knows that means Scotland. Is that a common thing in the UK, to refer to Scotland that way, or was it common back then? Maybe it's just a south England thing, since Hastings is on the southern coast, though I had kind of figured it was some sort of derogatory comparing the Scots to the Russians/Soviets.

Something this show allows frequently is for Michael Kitchen (who's playing Foyle), to say a lot with expressions, or how he says something. There's one scene I always enjoy a few seasons away, but there are quite a few good ones in this episode. At one point, he remarks on how another character knew the kind of man the person he's talking to is, and he pauses mid-sentence. And when he does, his eyes flick over the person from top to bottom, real quick, and he makes this face, like he just tasted something real bad. Where you stick your tongue out a little, like you're trying to scrape the taste off? Then resumes the sentence. Takes a second, maybe two, but it says a lot. It's one of the little traits Foyle has. Like wearing the same clothes whether on the job or fly-fishing. He ditches the long coat for fishing, adds some waders, but otherwise keeps the same look.

Also in this episode, Foyle risks pissing off some people with influence by pressing ahead with the case. Actually, it had opened the possibility of him getting that transfer, but he was dedicated to finding the murderer, even if prosecuting isn't going to help anyone. Which is a quirk of Foyle's I enjoy. He believes in justice, but recognizes that sometimes it doesn't really help anyone, even as he still carries it out.

Friday, September 09, 2016

What I Bought 8/28/2016 - Part 3

There was a report a month or two back where the Department of Health admitted there wasn't any proven benefit to flossing, or something to that effect. I'll probably continue to floss, though. I prefer not to see a bunch of crud jammed between my teeth, and it doesn't seem to hurt anything, so why not? It's a minor expense compared to some nonsense I waste money on. Speaking of nonsense. . .

Deadpool #17, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I doubt that Wade and Madcap's upcoming rumble will resemble a Spy vs. Spy comic, but I wouldn't be opposed to it.

Wade and the Mercs are done. The bank employees let them out of the vault, but they cause so much property damage trying to kill each other SHIELD is called in. Which means Wade has to hear about it from Preston, and pay for damages. He tries to come over for Sunday dinner, and gets punched in the face. And Eleanor won't call him "Dad" any longer, which made me sadder than I expected. Then he returns to Shiklah and finds her in bed with Jack Russell. Who Wade shoots in the face with a shotgun, right after Shiklah promised Jack he was under her protection. So either that's going to be a big fakeout, or there's going to be some real problems for the married couple.

So maybe now we've seen the last of the Mercs. They're like an annoying visitor that keeps hanging around in front of your door, but keeps talking rather than just leaving. Go! Enjoy your ongoing series that will all be canceled in five minutes! Anyway, things are rapidly falling apart for Wade, which is not surprising in the least. You can't even tell whether he was actually cursed or not, because this has been building for awhile, and it was probably always going to end this way. And it can't be a good sign Wade at the very least tried to straight up murder Jack Russell (since I don't know if he succeeded or not). Contrast that with the last multi-part story of the previous volume, where Wade turned against his Roxxon employers, and even spared the life of Omega Red because he wanted to try a different approach to just killing. Now he's back to solving things with killing. Backsliding.

That said, the ridiculous fight between Wade, the Mercs, and eventually the police cracked me up. Wade being blinded by a flashbang, then yelling out, 'Here comes Sweardevil!', only to be hit at the belt line by Slapstick with a sledgehammer, causing Wade to ralph in his mask (great "WRETCH" sound effect, whoever did that, either Hawthorne or Bellaire I'm guessing), and the throw the puke-filled mask at Foolkiller, who freaks out. That's good stuff. Plus, Solo and Stingray ignoring all of it to finish burning their contracts. Or Wade claiming they were there to stop Kang, who made them think they were HYDRA before he escaped, and that's why they fought the police.

I don't think Wade in a banana hammock can not look horrifying, but as depicted, it was pretty much something I don't need to see or think of ever again, so good work Mike Hawthorne. And on Wade's face as Eleanor walked away from him and he was confronted with Preston. It's a vague, sketchy outline at the back of the panel, but he made sure to get Wade's big frown in there. I tend to think it was what Eleanor said about her therapist telling her not to consider Wade a father figure sinking in. The fact she's going with it has to hurt Wade, on top of everything else.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #9, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), megan Wilson (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Can no one in New York wear a proper shirt? Buzz is wearing that v-necked whatever, Daimon's in a coat with no shirt, that one lady has a pink sports bra, the dude in the back is in a tank top, the guy in the grey, tight-fitting t-shirt. I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be fashionable, bunch a damn slobs, look worse than I do.

Hedy, in her eternal assholishness, has convinced both of Patsy's exes she's plotting against them. Because that certainly sounds like something Patsy would do. But I guess the Civil War II idiot ball hasn't left the area yet, because they both buy it. As a result, they ruin Jubilee's attempt to get everyone at the office to relax with a night of karaoke. Daimon ends up sending Patsy to some realm to "reflect". And Ian may be developing an even bigger crush on Tom after seeing the guy sing. Oh, and Jubilee is still a vampire, and a mom. Wasn't sure if they were keeping both those things in continuity after Secret Wars. Kind of seemed like a good time to sweep the vamp thing under the rug to me, but I guess the character has enough fans who think the idea has potential that they're gonna run with it.

Williams and Wilson do draw Jubilee using her powers to turn to mist as a pink, fluffy cloud with sunglasses, which is one of the better depictions of that vampiric power I've seen. I might have used Alucard's mist transformation even more in Castlevania: Symphony of Night if he'd looked like that when he used it. Although I used it a lot anyway. I did notice during the fights at the end, Williams' lines were thicker and less crisp than usual. Things were rougher looking, almost a little rushed. Might have been intentional, because it seemed to vanish in the calmer panels in between. Deliberate choice for Patsy's frazzled mindset? She's dealing with a ton of other crap, and now here come two old idiots from her past causing trouble because they believed the lies of some petty jerk. She was pretty off her game, considering how easily Daimon got ahold of her. You'd think she'd be on her guard the moment he appeared, and I know she knew how to slip loose of magic attacks once upon a time (meaning, after Hawkeye got her out of Hell). And it isn't as though the creative is ignoring Patsy having been dead and in Hell, so yeah, I'm going to chalk it up to her not being at peak form.

I'm really looking forward to Daimon getting kicked in the chops by someone next month, though the more I think about it, the more I wonder if he's going along with Hedy's plan as some stupid way to help Patsy actually deal with her emotional problems. Not Buzz though, he's just a gullible moron.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Never Push A Man To Pick Up Guns He Threw Down

The gist of Forsaken is that a gunman returns to the town he grew up in after 10 years away, and gets a less-than-warm welcome. John Henry had initially left to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, but got swept up in being the sort of guy with a bad rep that attracts people who want to prove themselves against him. But he's thrown down his guns for Reasons and come home. To find his mother had passed sometime, and his preacher father is not at all pleased with how he's lived his life. Also, the lady he'd been courting had understandably not sat around waiting for the last decade, but has married and has a young son. And there's your typical local big-shot who is trying to force all the other farmers to sell their land with a gang of gunmen. One of the hired guns is the classy type who has rules, tries to be polite, handle things reasonably. He fought in the Civil War too, for the South, and has no desire to stir John up. The rest are led by some stupid grinning sadist, who wants to test himself against John, and does what he can to provoke him. If John takes the bait, he gets the fight he wants. If not, the goons get to kick around a supposed tough guy who doesn't fight back. Win-win. Things do not end well for them, as you'd expect.

It's a fairly bog-standard Western in the Unforgiven mold. Probably the most notable thing is John Henry is played by Kiefer Sutherland, and his father is played by, well, his father Donald Sutherland. Which made me wonder if those guys had some unresolved issues between them, or if Kiefer's mother had died sometime before the film was made. I can't remember ever reading much of anything about what their relationship was like. None of my business, frankly. Maybe they just wanted to do a movie together. For the first half of the film, their characters mostly talk past each other. John Henry won't explain why he didn't come home after the war, or why he's thrown down his guns, or why he's hostile towards his father. And his father is too busy harping on about John needing to get back on the godly path and chiding John for not being their for his mother to deal with what he's feeling.

Demi Moore plays Mary-Alice, which made me think about the last time I saw her in a movie. She's only been in about a dozen films since that Charlie's Angels movie back in '03. Maybe she's been focusing on other things, or maybe it's Hollywood not casting older women. I wouldn't say she gets a great role here, but you can at least see Mary-Alice made some decisions and is trying to stick with him. She's happy to see John Henry, if a little confused by his sudden reappearance, but she's not planning to ditch her husband and son and swan off with this guy. She's built a life in that town, and doesn't seem interested in throwing it away for John Henry, or because of some rich guy with pretensions of being a big wheel.

Brian Cox would have worked better as the main bad guy if I hadn't watched Super Troopers earlier that day. I kept picturing him yelling at Farva and getting in drunk fights.

There is one point where the slackjawed idiot gunmen ride out to a farm for some intimidation, and a bunch of the farmers are lying in ambush. The only manage to kill one of the guys and wound another, but it was nice to see the people working together to try and protect themselves, and not have them turn out to be completely useless. The sheriff had fled in the night sometime earlier, and while Donald Sutherland has contacted the marshal and seems sure that'll fix things, one of the farmers noted they're poor, and the law has never done anything for them. Cox' character will force them to sell, or have them killed and make up his own story about what happened whenever the law does arrive. But his goons had to keep poking the bear.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

What I Bought 8/28/2016 - Part 2

Not a fan of Comic Book Resources' recent redesign of their website. I was only interested in the Comics Should Be Good blog, and it went poof! I'm not even sure what's the effective way to find anything there now.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #11, by Ryan North (writer), Jacob Chabot (guest artist), Erica Henderson (drew one panel), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - No Squirrel Girl, don't venture onto the Internet, it's a horrible place!

Squirrel Girl is attacked in her dreams by Nightmare, who keeps throwing versions of super-villains at her, which Doreen keeps defeating with computer science knowledge. She's helped by the fact she has no idea who Count Nefaria is, and therefore doesn't have any idea that his powers don't involve counting. I mean, he tries to pass himself off as some landed aristocrat, right? He probably didn't even get schooled in mathematics, just horse-riding and beating peasants.

That's pretty much it. The computer science stuff is largely lost on me, but that's OK. Kraven's one-panel appearance in Doreen's entirely reasonable approach to taking finals in a class she hasn't attended was good for a chuckle. Chabot's a good choice for a guest artist. His art definitely falls in that range I'm very fond of. Clean, expressive, a bit exaggerated but not overly so. Conveys all the important information even in the small panels, and includes some nice additional touches. Example: As Doreen works out how to escape the "finals she didn't study for" problem with Tippy, Chabot keeps Dream-Nancy visible in the panels, looking on somewhat flummoxed by Doreen's attitude. She doesn't really need to be there, but she had been previously established there and it's nice as a reminder the nightmares aren't going to fade away simply because Doreen knows that's what they are. She still has to deal with getting out of this final, and she still has to deal with Nightmare wearing the Venom symbiote.

Also, Doreen rocking the Dr. Strange fingers as she commands the squirrels to defeat Nightmare was a good visual.

Darkwing Duck #4, by Aaron Sparrow (writer), James Silvani (writer/artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colors), D.C. Hopkins (letters) - I originally figured the villian was Lilliput, the short guy Gosalyn defeated in one page in issue 2, because he wears a hat with the dangly things on it, but no.

In fact, the villain is a tiny, super-powerful bug calling itself Gnatmare, who repeatedly thrashes Darkwing until he borrows Megavolt from prison to make a giant bug zapper. In plot terms, it's very much how I remember someone describing (probably Scipio at the Absorbascon) Silver Age comics. First meeting between hero and villain, villain wins handily. Second meeting, hero does better, but still fails to catch bad guy. Third meeting, hero is prepared for villain, wins the day. Darkwing doesn't really get any closer to catching Gnatmare the second time than he did the first, but its otherwise accurate. Which is fine, as an occasional thing. It seems clear Sparrow and Silvani have longer term plots in mind (the weird ink the Phantom Blot was using in the Brill/Silvani volume comes back into play at the end of the issue), but a one-shot a nice change of pace.

I think my favorite page is the one of Darkwing, in his civilian identity trying to find Gosalyn and blowing off the Muddlefoots' offer to watch the "Pelican's Island" series finale. I don't know who does the dialogue, since Sparrow and Silvani are sharing writing credits, but the 'Er, you know, I would, Herb, but wouldn't you know it. . . That's on the night that I don't want to.' cracks me up. I think how Silvani draws Drake in the scene helps, where Drake is already trying to get the hell out of there, but still has a relatively friendly look on his face. That plus his look of complete disgust once he's got his back to them in the next panel, combined with the muttered, 'I hate the Muddlefoots.' Probably a nostalgia aspect to that, since he said it all the time on the cartoon, but it works.

Silvani doesn't do a lot with page layouts, which is something that was true in the previous volume, but he's still pretty good at telling the story and conveying emotion. He's good at knowing when to go really cartoony with their expressions or the figurework, and when to reign it in and keep things relatively realistic. In one panel, Gnatmare hits DW in the stomach hard enough to basically fold him over, and also the force makes his limbs appear longer, like he's stretching. It works because it's only used sparsely, when appropriate. That's an obvious thing, but it seems like an important one.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Emergence of Meiji Japan - Marius B. Jansen

The other book my dad sent along, this is actually a compilation of some chapters from Volume 5 of the Cambridge History of Japan, and Jansen is the editor, as each chapter was written by a different author (although Jansen did write the third chapter, concerning the actual Restoration).

So the book is a bit more focused than the last one I tried, sticking pretty much to the mid-1830s up to the death of the Emperor in 1912, which helps. I didn't feel nearly as overwhelmed with information as I did in The Making of Modern Japan. Also, that book was trying to draw a throughline for the development of Japan as a nation up to the present, while this is more concerned with what drove the movement to remove the shogunate, as well as the subsequent actions and reactions within the country in the immediately following decades.

One thing that had been tripping me up was that I had a misconception of the conflict as being more like the American Civil war, this big continuous violent conflict that tore the country in half, except that in Japan's case, the rebellious side triumphed. But I don't think that's the case. There was sporadic fighting, and there was certainly some communication between major figures of influence in the domains who were tired of the Tokugawa shogunate, but I'm not sure it was ever a nationwide battle. For one thing, the shogunate wasn't really strong enough of a central authority to do that. It had seemingly focused more on trying to keep the domains as individuals, limiting communication and cooperation between them, so it could maintain a weak upper hand. But that left it not only poorly equipped to gather loyal forces readily, but ill-equipped to meet the challenge of pushy Western nations wanting to exploit, er I mean, trade with Japan.

I also had a misconception that the people pushing to remove the shogunate were hoping for some greater liberty for the people, and that may have been true for some of the people fighting, but it seems to have really boiled down to one group of people with land, wealth and influence thinking they should be running things instead of the current group of people with land, wealth and influence. Certainly the Meiji government had no qualms about taxing the crap out of poor farmers, or using the police to effectively silence dissent whenever it started to get too loud. I guess they learned those lessons about modern states from the Western powers quickly.

The last chapter, which dealt with the Meiji government's foreign policy for 30 years or so, did a good job demonstrating how much interwoven Japan's foreign and domestic situations were. When some Okinawan fisherman were stranded on Taiwan and killed by native people there, the government eventually took punitive action (at the cost of like 4500 soldiers' lives, most from tropical illnesses), but did so after two years, at least in part in response to domestic pressures. Forming alliances with Britain, or making boundary agreements with Russia showed the government was a respected part of the international community, which lent legitimacy to it back at home.

'Although most modern states at that time were monarchies, the Japanese case was unique in that the imperial institution was consciously used to create a centralized bureaucratic system. By identifying the new arrangements as rule by the sacred emperor, an aura of sanctity was accorded to them. Japan's armed forces and bureaucrats would be "the emperor's soldiers and officials," making them perhaps less vulnerable to partisan attacks than might have been the case in other societies with shorter periods of dynastic history. By combining a newly created bureaucracy, civilian and military, with the prestige of a fifteen-hundred year-old institution, the Meiji leaders succeeded in giving modernization almost instant legitimacy.'