Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Now Let's Have A Fight With Dracula In The Sequel

Got to see Doctor Strange two weekends ago. It was fine. I see what people meant about it being a typical Marvel movie and knowing what you're going to get going in. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, if you can set aside whitewashing the character, not to mention the fact that each time I saw her I'd think, "Moondragon?!", I thought she did well. I didn't understand why she seemed so nonplussed when Kaecillius escaped at the beginning. She went to the trouble of chasing him and his followers, but once he escapes through the portal, she kind of shrugs and gives up. Although the revelation she'd foreseen her end suggests maybe she was going through the motions? It's always hard to tell with characters with precognition. At any rate, her mixture of amusement, concern, and frustration with Strange was well played.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like Cumberbatch at Strange. It seemed within his range, but I'm not any huge fan of his, so I wasn't sure if I'd dig it. But yes, arrogant and conceited is definitely within his range, and he did fine at conveying someone basically out of his depth and mostly winging it. He's smart enough to read the books and grasp the ideas in theory, but the reality of using or confronting them under stress is something else entirely. And the back-and-forth between him and Wong (played by Benedict Wong) was good for some laughs. Strange tries his charm and it basically bounces off like a tennis ball off a brick wall, so he tries to cover for glib, and Wong no-sells that, too. But the part when Stephen finally makes Wong laugh worked really well for me.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo could end up being a good character. It's nothing against Ejiofor's performance, I'm just not sure how much he had to work with right now. If he is the antagonist in a sequel, we'll see how it works. Because there's a decent potential arc there. He isn't the student seduced by the power I think Mordo was in the comics (Kaecilius got that role). He's the loyal follower crushed to learn his master had feet of clay. He can't see the Ancient One as being another other than perfectly wise and virtuous, and proof this isn't the case, regardless of justification, shakes his belief. That Strange wins through what is a clever plan (I appreciated that the film makes clear Strange can't even begin to match Dormammu's power), but still breaks natural laws, and almost certainly will result in consequences down the line (and I'd be curious to see what those are) is the last straw. Now Mordo is convinced magic users are the problem, too many people with the power but no respect for the consequences or responsibility. How that's played out could be pretty interesting, depending on what his endgame is. He's drawing power for a purpose, what's the purpose going to be ultimately?

The way magic bending reality was presented with the folding buildings was not how I would have pictured it, but I guess it worked. I preferred the representation of the Dark Dimension personally, just for looking like an alien dimension like you'd see in the comics. I wasn't really expecting all the martial arts, either, but Strange does have a history of surprising opponents by opting for a more physical approach. I don't know if it was the TV or the film itself, but the music's volume was way off compared to the dialogue. To hear the latter, we had to crank the volume up to a level that made the former deafening.

I liked it overall. Felt longer than it needed to be, much of which I'd put at the feet of Kaecilius. He failed to make much of an impression, since he's kind of a chump/henchgoon villain. Maybe that fits for a Dr. Strange at the very beginning of his career, but most of the scenes with him dragged.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Quietly Declining May

As far as new things I'm planning to add, May is offering slim pickings. There's quite a bit that's falling off from April into May. Empowered: Soldier of Love wrapped up in April. Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat and Great Lakes Avengers both appear to be gone.

Pause for a moment to pour one out for Hellcat, which is 'surprisingly not canceled' no longer.

. . .

OK, moving on. Cave Carson is still going and his cybernetic eye is on the loose, which sounds strange. Copperhead is there, there's the Real Science Adventures mini-series, Steven Universe if issues 2 or 3 have changed my opinion on it.

And then there's Marvel, which has decided to (hopefully) bring HYDRA Cap to a close with Secret Empire. Where Cap openly admits his connection to HYDRA and tries to take over the world. No doubt a mistake on my part to assume the heroes will defeat Cap. We're probably in for a year of HYDRA ruling the Earth, like Norman Osborn being Boss of All Superheroes, but with comic book Nazis.

Anyway, Deadpool's out of its crossover with other Deadpool-related books, but it's doing another of those $10 issues, and then Secret Empire tie-ins commence, so still not picking it back up. If I'm lucky, the remainder of the books I'm buying will stay well out of the event. I don't think I'm that lucky. Ms. Marvel seems a sure bet to get dragged in (although May's issue is Bruno-centric, so that'll be fun), probably Nova as well (if I'm even still buying Nova). Based on what I've read about where Ben Reilly's at post-Clone Conspiracy, it's hard to see him sufficiently giving a shit to get involved, and Iron Fist is off doing his own thing. Squirrel Girl exists in its own bubble, ignoring this crap. Gwenpool (the character) is presumably smart enough to keep herself and her book out of it. Although, hell, I may not even be buying half those books by then.

The smart play, if I'm smart, will be to drop any book for the duration of the tie-ins. Screw hoping the creative team can spin crap into gold. And Marvel's throwing a lot of crap out there. I can appreciate they're hoping to find that next Daredevil/Hawkeye/ Ms. Marvel, the surprise book that really strikes a chord with an audience. They're getting some new creative talent in the mix, which is good for them, and hopefully good for the writers and artists (in that maybe it makes more people aware of them and seek out their other work). But there's just too many damn books. How do you pick out the stuff that's actually worth your time?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Foyle's War 7.3 - Sunflower

Plot: I'm going to spoil the hell out of some this right off the bat.

Professor Van Haaren, art professor, is actually Karl Strasser, SS officer. MI-5 is hiding him because he's an expert on Soviet espionage. Besides, he was just a desk officer (this is a lie). He thinks someone is following him and means him harm. And indeed, a man named Tommy Nelson is following. Because he encountered Strasser in the north of France shortly after Normandy, when Strasser committed a war crime, and Tommy was fortunate to escape.

I didn't feel like burying the lede. Spoiler warning, the Nazi is a piece of shit. Bet you didn't see that coming. Foyle doesn't know any of this at the start, only that Sir Alec (no doubt on Miss Pierce's insistence) ordered him to investigate Strasser's concerns. Foyle isn't happy about the job, and Strasser can't give him much to go on. Foyle checks with the other people at Strasser's hostel, none of whom like Strasser, all of whom know he's a Nazi, even though they aren't supposed to. The Americans also know about Strasser, and they want him handed over, since his war crime was committed against an American artillery unit (which Tommy was attached to as an observer). And then Tommy, despondent over the fact the trauma he suffered (and is still trying to cope with) has cost him a chance to return to teaching, takes a shot (several actually) at Strasser. So it's time to move Strasser, but oops, right after his the guards at his home turn away, his car blows up. Welp, one less Nazi in the world. That's called a good start.

The other plotline is that Adam, while meeting his constituents, is approached by a Geoffrey Helliwell. Helliwell's land was requisitioned by the RAF during the war with the understanding he could buy it back after. But an independent valuation determined the land had doubled in value in 8 years, putting it beyond Helliwell's price range. Adam is working in a committee/branch under the Minister who seems connected, a Charles Roper. And Helliwell is mugged shortly after Adam brings the matter to Roper's attention. All of which sets Adam to investigating the matter, and which leads Sam to taking advantage of the powers of her position to track down the assessor. Which would be hinky enough, but she claims to be searching for Mr. George Gibson on Foyle's behalf.

Quote of the Episode: Strasser - 'I make no apology. I had to survive.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No, but he should really take some time for it now.

Things Sam can do: Abuse her position to track people down. C'mon Sam, can't be requesting probably illegal wiretaps.

Other: I hadn't noticed it prior to this episode, but Foyle's office seems extremely narrow and tall. At least from the few shots of him sitting behind the desk when Charlotte brought something to him. But there seem to be a lot of shots like that in this episode. The walls closing in, the sky somewhere out of sight up above. Or looking sharply up or down from a steep angle. Everything on a precipice?

Sam is mostly wearing this grey trenchcoat buttoned up throughout, along with one of those small hats where the brim is sharply angled down over one just one eye. That was a very good look for her. My dad doesn't like those hats, but I think they're pretty cool, assuming the person can wear it well. And Honeysuckle Weeks wears it very well. All thumbs up there. Now I want to see her in some noir film set in the '40s.

I wonder how much Miss Pierce regrets convincing Foyle to stay on now. Could have avoided all this, not to mention the embarrassment of demonstrating they abducted the wrong Evelyn Greene, if she had simply not tried implicating Sam as delivering documents to Russian spies as a way to use Foyle. Well, grab a tiger by the tail and it'll rip your face off.

On the other hand, props to Valentine. Not that, "I don't like protecting Nazis," is a particularly bold position, but he stepped up this week. When the Americans got irate about Strasser's apparent death, Valentine took some of the blame for Foyle. He got Foyle authorization to see the corpse and confirm his suspicions. And he's the one who alerted the Americans so they could show up and take custody of Strasser. Which was an incredibly satisfying moment. It was bouncing from one foot to the other, cackling with glee. So perhaps there's hope for Valentine yet, assuming Pierce doesn't have him killed by some more "Russian" agents (I'm still pretty sure it wasn't actually the Soviets who killed Marc Vlessing in his hospital bed in "The Eternity Ring").

Lt. Colonel Hoyt Jackson and Ambassador Ray Donovan were in the room with Sir Alec and Pierce for less than 5 minutes, and they both immediately grasped she's the one pulling the strings. Not bad. And credit to Jackson for being willing to go toe-to-toe with Pierce. Although perhaps he doesn't grasp just how dire a situation that is.

That quote I used from Strasser, he actually repeats the first line near the end, while instead offering excuses, most of which blame Himmler for wanting even the desk officers to have dirty hands. Which is nonsense. Strasser joined the SS in '33, ostensibly because he saw which way the wind is blowing (the same reason he deserted and defected), but if he wasn't a true believer, why pursue a single badly wounded soldier, hunting him through a field while casually whistling, before gleefully shooting the man? Answer: Because he was a true believer, at the bare minimum in the aspects of the ideology he could use to justify any actions he took. And now he tries to shrug it off like an overcoat and walk freely. Where's Brad Pitt to carve a swastika into a forehead when you need him?

Anyway, an entirely satisfying ending, even if Foyle seems lost and exhausted by the end of it. Which is understandable. Fighting against his superiors of his government when they put up roadblocks to his investigations always seemed the part of the earlier seasons Foyle enjoyed least (even if it did give him chances to make speeches). Probably because it seemed like such a waste of time and energy to fight people that are supposed to be on his side. And now he has to do it all the time. His bosses are deliberately protecting war criminals and ignoring people who served England honorably. Pierce actually calls him a traitor as the Americans roll up, prior to Valentine revealing he called them. Imagine the warped perspective that brings that about. Foyle would have been revealing a Nazi war criminal is alive and preparing to flee the country, and that makes Foyle a traitor, rather than the people protecting said Nazi.

OK, ranting over. Adam's subplot is actually somewhat more interesting than most of the one's involving him have been. Nothing against the actor, but I find the character rather bland, and only care about him due to proximity to Sam. Roper did get the land valuation rigged, because he's in the Ministry of Ag and Fish, and wanted that 1000 acres kept available for food production. Helliwell is a developer, who would have turned it into shops or houses. So, nobler end, questionable means. And Adam is able to probably stop him thanks to Sam getting illegal wiretaps authorized on the assessor. But this leads to Roper resigning, which means a parliamentary member with some real desire to help the overall public is lost, and Adam now has a real stink on him, which is going to make his accomplishing anything difficult. And Helliwell gets to build his buildings, whatever they were. Maybe it was homes for people whose places were destroyed in the bombing, we don't know.

Whether ends justify the means and all that, for the whole episode. Was 1,000 acres enough to justify Roper's actions? Were Roper's actions fraudulent enough to justify Sam's attempts to help Adam? Could Strasser have possibly given enough assistance to make up for what he did? The last one I'm firmly in the "No" camp. No deals for Nazis.

Well, that's an extremely depressing end to a mostly depressing season. Will the 8th and final season improve Foyle's mood? How will Sam and Adam deal with the baby they're going to have soon? Will my opinion of Valentine continue to go up?

Friday, February 24, 2017

What I Bought 2/18/2017 - Part 3

I had intended to save this review for next Monday, and do this week's books today instead. But I couldn't find either of this week's books, so they'll have to keep until next week. The vagaries of existence.

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3, by Sarah Vaughn (writer), Lan Medina (illustrator), Phil Hester (breakdowns), Jose Villarrubia (color artist), Janice Chang (letterer) - I love how Stephanie Hans drew Adelia on that cover, where she's burning up from the inside.

Adelia nearly kills Nathan, but Deadman is able to bring her back to her senses long enough for her to flee. While Nathan passes out, Bernice, Sam, and Boston investigate the room he's been writing in, and learn Nathan is actually Edward Ruskin, Adelia's husband and murder, still alive through dark arts. He's actually returned to keep Adelia's spirit bound to the house and make sure it remains standing, since his life force is tied to it. Which is too bad for him once everyone else realizes the truth, because Bernice starts burning the house down, and Boston keeps Nathan where he is while Adelia finishes the job. Adelia is free, Sam and Bernice are together, and Boston, well Boston is stuck going to help the next person in need. Someone has to draw the short straw.

I didn't expect the reveal about Nathan. I'm not sure what I expected, but not that, so points to Vaughn for surprising me. I feel like there's a significance to Bernice being able to see ghosts, and Sam not only being unaware of them, but seemingly resistant to anything they can do. Almost as though Sam cancels their abilities out.  I don't know what it means, though. I wonder how much I'm missing not being familiar with the conventions of Gothic romance, horror, whichever this is. I get that you have the sweet, somewhat timid young woman and the guy she thinks she loves, so creative but physically frail. And that guy is actually horrible, but there's another person, who the young woman is also attracted to who supports her and helps her make it through. I think that's fairly typical of the genre as I understand it, but that's broad strokes. Actually, Boston's presence as a spirit, so that he understands that side of the world she lives in, is he another version of the "other person"? Different side of the coin from Sam? There's nothing romantic between Boston and Bernice, but there's friendship and understanding.

I did notice Nathan, having been caught not writing, but messing with dark magic, trying to brush off his lies and make everything about Bernice invading his privacy. Typical shitty, controlling partner behavior. And Bernice sees through it, even if she doesn't fully grasp the danger of the situation.

Adelia seems to swallow the light when she appears or is especially stressed. It's in moments where the trauma of what she suffered is especially strong, so it's blocking out everything else. Which makes Boston's ability to be present significant. As someone who can approach her, touch her, understands what it's like to be murdered. Although when she fully unleashes her pain she becomes a dark shadow, but her light is buried underneath it (her face emerges at one point when Boston pleads with her, as the shadow draws back, like how Venom would pull back from Eddie' Brock's face sometimes). The good in her is being overwhelmed, the trauma blocking the person she was and could have been, if not for her husband. The panel of her sweeping Nathan's body (with Boston driving) up into an embrace, but one of hate and revenge, that was good work. Medina, Hester, and Villarrubia convey the mood well, even if I kept getting distracted because Nathan's face at times looked like it was drawn by David Finch (he had those scratchy little lines along the jaw Finch favors). It seemed out of place in the book, but not a deal-breaker, just something strange.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bustin' Ghosts Is. . . Something

I had the opportunity to see the most recent Ghostbusters two weekends ago. It was OK. I only laughed out loud once, and I can't even remember specifically what it was. Something during the scene where Abby (Melissa McCarthy) was possessed and Patty (Leslie Jones) is trying to fight her while keeping Jillian (Kate McKinnon) from falling to the street. To be fair, I was typing last Thursday's post while watching.

Doesn't mean the movie was devoid of humor, just very little hit me as really funny. Some stuff got smiles, but not many guffaws. But I'm not sure how much of the original Ghostbusters got me that way, either. Some of Bill Murray's stuff for sure, but then there's the whole aspect of Venkman being a creep, which kind of takes some of the fun looking back on it now.

I did keep getting distracted by how much McKinnon's character reminded me of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Something about the big grin she had the whole time, or her casual indifference towards risking people's lives, some aspect of her hair, I don't know. Was not expecting that. Bullshit fan theory: the whole plot of the movie was engineered by her character as an excuse to test out the stuff she was building. I'm not being serious.

I did wonder about Leslie Jones' character being the only non-scientist, considering Ernie Hudson got the same deal back in the day. Although I thought I read something online that she had a degree in history, but maybe that was wishful fan theorizing. A knowledge of history or how to find information on old buildings or events would seem to be useful for dealing with dead things.

I wondered at one point if the movie was trying to say the villain, Rowan, wouldn't have felt so alone and angry if he had made a legit effort to reach out to people, rather than being scornful and derisive. When he goes to the concert to free a spirit, and is pretending to be a fan, one of the other attendees randomly high fives him. Doesn't know Rowan, just sees someone else who says they're excited to be there, and sure, high five. And he was friendly, in his own way, towards Patty the first time they crossed paths. But the rest of the time people seem to openly call him weirdo and not be very friendly, so I suppose the contrast was meant to be how he takes that and uses it as an excuse to destroy the world. Meanwhile the Ghostbusters have to deal with dudes constantly doubting them, dismissing them on any pretext, and they still do their science thing and save the world.

The big fight with the ghosts at the end was, I don't know. They were using the proton packs to sort of lasso the ghosts, then swing them into other ghosts? Doesn't seem terribly effective, but OK. The parts of the film where they're hanging out, building stuff, getting excited to investigate ghosts, I liked those parts. The four actresses play off each other well, the cameos didn't add much, some of the action was good, some of it not so good, you get the idea. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. The kind of movie I could see letting play in the background while I did something else (like work on a post for this blog!), and I'd look up when it got to a part I liked.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What I Bought 2/18/2017 - Part 2

I'm excited to see DeMarcus Cousins in New Orleans. It's always been a question of whether he'd be less of a dysfunctional presence if he were in a competently-run franchise, rather than the clown car crashing into the radioactive waste dump that is the Sacramento Kings. The Pelicans aren't a huge step up, still a team that seems to run around like the proverbial headless chicken, but they are a step up. Anyway, you probably aren't here for my lukewarm basketball takes, so comics!

Empowered and the Soldier of Love #1, by Adam Warren (writer), Karla Diaz (artist), Nate Piekos (letterer) - That is quite the outfit, with the beret, the e-cig, and the floating pangolin. She reminds me a little of the cover to GrimJack #1, except even less happy.

Empowered figures out there's a sudden rash of various superheroes hooking up with each other, which is cutting into their effectiveness at dealing with threats. On the other hand, it also seems to be cutting down on the amount of hero against hero violence, so maybe a net positive. Though Emp hasn't figured out the cause yet, which would be the "Soldato del Amor" on the cover, said character has noticed Emp is investigating, and also has some bigger plans.

The Soldato del Amor is kind of interesting. I don't know if Diaz or Warren are responsible for the design, but I like it. It's the anime magical girl look crossed with a Stallone movie or something. And she's so bitter and disgusted with her work. Of course, being responsible for making everyone else feel lovey-dovey all the time could get nauseating pretty fast. I gotta wonder if there's going to be an explanation for her power like it only convinces the targets to act on feelings they already had, because otherwise there's some consent issues. I feel as though Dan Slott tried treading over this same issue with Starfox in his She-Hulk, with mixed results at best. I could see Warren deciding to broach that topic, and I'd trust him more than Slott, but still not sure how it's going to play out.

Diaz handles penciling, inking, and coloring of the art, and it works pretty well. Although it's always a little strange to me seeing Empowered in color, since Warren works in black and white. Everything is very bright, shiny, and slick, but that seems appropriate, and like I said above, I really like the design for Soldato. Diaz' style has enough manga influence that Magical Girl look doesn't seem out of place, and points for using a pangolin. I wonder how grammatically correct the Spanish is, though. There's not always translations offered, but it's pretty clear what's being driven at.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Chris Schweizer (artist, Vulture and Sandman panels), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I actually really like that costume, and her being a gliding squirrel does make sense.

Doreen attends a non-mandatory guest lecture for some reason, and meets with a highly successful older woman who just so happens to be able to speak with all animals, and also has a designed a flying squirrel suit for Doreen. Who uses it in corralling the Rhino (who must be having an off day if Squirrel Girl can shove him hard enough to break his grip). But Melissa is actually up to no good, hoping to isolate Squirrel Girl and gain an ally, or destroy a threat. Dunh, Dunh, Duuuuun!

I can't believe Doreen ragged on Spider-Man twitter feed on the recap page. That line about blocking wealth and fame was fantastic. And she follows the Hulk! His grammar is appalling! On other notes, Nancy changed her hairstyle again, which is one of her traits I like. I don't know many people who do that, but I know there are people like that, and it's nice to see a character who does. Have to question what they convinced Doreen to wear to "high tea", though. Just awful. Nice to see Mary remaining a member of the supporting cast. Her flexible morality adds a nice friction to the book. In a humorous way, although I guess we can't rule out her becoming a villain some day. maybe Melissa should have targeted her as an ally/protege.

"Everyone is mean to Rhino. Rhino is mean to everyone. Law of the jungle. Rhinos live in grassland, not the jungle. You know my intent.' That was pretty funny. North continues to have a knack for clever exchanges. Also, the idea of siccing a chicken on poor Sandman is both clever, and awful. You'd consign him to being stuck in the crop of a chicken, used to grind up food? That's as awful as that time Absorbing Man snorted coke, turned into coke, then was dispersed with giant fans, gathered up, and sold to people as super-special drugs. And I really wish I didn't remember that story existed. When I'm 80, if I live that long, and don't even remember my name, I'll probably still remember Reggie Hudlin wrote that comic.

As always, there are a lot of bits and pieces here and there that I enjoy. But I'm intrigued as to how this story is going to play out. Can Doreen talk down a dedicated, intelligent career woman Doreen is probably going to look up to? Will she keep the flying squirrel suit? Will Mary have Catthor and DogHulk make up and be friends?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Two Months? But I Want Cape-Con Now!

This is your regular two months' heads up for the 2017 Cape Girardeau Comic Convention! Look, this is basically the only time each year I shill for something, so deal with it. I'm expecting this to be the first convention I go to in 2017, and I'm looking forward to it as usual. I might even get Alex to go along this year, assuming he can wake up early up on Saturday, April 22nd*. And hopefully I won't feel rushed since I won't have to dash back so I can be ready for work Sunday (stupid turkey season).

I believe Ken's still trying to line up more guests, so the list there probably isn't complete. But Brian Koschak has something cool to buy every year, a print, or a teaser for a comic he's hoping to get picked up. Lorenzo Liana did a Darkhawk sketch for me at last year's Cape Con. Brian Rhodes created Mike and the Ninja, which Alex has all three volumes of, plus he's got a new comic out, Six Legs, No Heart.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed the weather's nice and there isn't too much road construction that weekend.

* Although considering they're opening the doors at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and we're at least a three hour drive, the odds are pretty good we're just going to stay up all night and then go in the morning. I'm gonna be caffeinated up the wazoo that day.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What I Bought 2/18/2017 - Part 1

I made a trip to visit Alex over the weekend, and took the opportunity to visit some comic shops up there. And was able to get all 5 of the comics I had missed over the previous two weeks. Hooray!

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #5, by Jonathan Rivera and Gerard Way (writers), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - Is Wild Dog demonstrating feet of clay there? Falling apart under the pressure of the circumstances?

The thing that caused terrifying visions last issue is some sort of demon trapped within a crystal the Muldroog once worshiped, but now try to keep sealed up. The elder Bornstein, the goo monster, is after it, and used initial interactions between his people and the Muldroog to get someone in to try poisoning their water supply, which reduces the resistance he'll face. he was after Chloe because he needs someone with Muldroog blood to open the vault to the Whisperer. Although he captures her grandfather during an assault on the stronghold, so never mind, problem solved. Most of the crew of the Mighty Mole 2 realize this situation is fucked up and defect, but Cave's plan to call Superman flounders on the rocks of Superman not bothering to send Cave a text that he changed his phone number.

Which is hilarious the more I think about it. That Way and Rivera go to the trouble of saying Cave is buddies with Superman, just to have his attempt to call in the Kryptonian cavalry fall flat on its face. On a different note, I appreciated that there isn't some big scene of Cave and his in-laws arguing and being hostile to each other. There's grief, but there's understanding. Mazra was an adult, she made a choice to go with Cave and live on the surface, no point in a lot of anger about it. It's nice to avoid that mess sometimes.

Oeming and Filardi continue to combine for some strong art. The strange masks Bornstein's people are wearing, with the huge ears and the red eyes remind me of something, maybe an old Golden Age hero, but I can't place it. There's a bit at the beginning where Cave, Chloe, and Wild Dog are listening to the story and eating hallucinogenic pudding, and Cave isn't fully affected because the cybernetic eye's perceptions aren't altered. So half of him has this stretched, yellow outline pulling away, and the side with the eye doesn't. I'm a little concerned about Wild Dog. Between the page showing he's reliving the various misfortunes that brought him to this point, and him having cut off the head of one of Bornstein's guys with a large knife, which seems more visceral than simply shooting them. Plus, the background for that panel is an extreme close-up of his face, like his spirit or something is looming out of control. Cave's getting the opportunity to try and deal with his shit, but I'm not sure he isn't messing his friend up worse in the process.

Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat #15, by Kate Leth (writer), Brittney L. Williams (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Fire sneezes or no, I think America is going overboard with an entire sink. Think of the security deposits.

Patsy has convinced all her temps to have a multi-holiday party at the office, which is ruined when Patsy's magic sneezes go out of control. She alters people's clothes, summons America Chavez from bed, apparently, brings forth the physical representation of her childhood imaginary tiger friend, and makes Jubilee tiny. Patsy does calm down Mister Sniffles, but her next sneeze makes him a giant, they say bee, but I thought wasp or hornet. The problem is dealt with, but then she makes the entire building vanish. Whoops.

America's jacket being changed to have the Canadian Maple Leaf on it cracked me up. Canada Chavez was a natural joke just sitting there, and Leth and Williams reached out and took it. Bravo. And this is a great issue for Williams to draw various horrified or stunned faces. Sharon's reaction to a giant bug smashing through the door. Or everyone else's reactions when Mister Sniffles was turned into a giant bug (scowly pink cloud Jubilee is great). Patsy's various looks of illness-induced dementia. I wonder if she's loaded up on various medicines or what. Being sick just makes me grumpy, in addition to being tired.

I have to assume they'll call in Dr. Strange to try and deal with this. I guess they could call someone else, but Stephen and Patsy are old friends, so why not contact him? I'm not sure how he fixes it, but it involves magic, and based on some of what was discussed in the issue about Patsy spending time in Bailey's bag while wounded, it's an illness. So magic illness, who do you call other than Dr. Strange?

On another note, I just noticed Ian is entirely absent from the episode. Maybe he wasn't in a party mood, or he and Tom needed some time. But I was a little surprised. You get used to a supporting character just always being there.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foyle's War 7.2 - The Cage

Plot: A woman, who we'll learn is Evelyn Greene, receives a call at home and vanishes out the door within minutes, no word of explanation or good-bye to her soon-to-be-bewildered husband. Elsewhere, a man we'll learn is known as Palenko reaches a hospital, bleeding from severe wounds. He dies before Dr. Ross can help him, uttering only the phrase "ten-eye". Ross, however, suspects he saw someone lurking outside.

Back at MI5, the new boss is settling in. Not Miss Pierce, but Sir Alec, and he's most concerned with the three Russian defectors who have been garroted in British safe houses recently. Foyle was busy interviewing possible recruits, and had found a promising candidate in Daniel Willis, formerly of Special Operations Executive, but Valentine nixes him. Foyle works his way around to the hospital to speak with Dr. Ross, and they discover the remains of a tattoo on Palenko, the NKVD insignia. Sir Alec leaps to the conclusion he was the mystery garroter, Foyle is not so sure. He speaks to Evelyn's husband, who mentions he tried calling her sister (their parents are dead), to no avail, and that Evelyn was a Communist sympathizer in college. Then Dr. Ross calls, asking Foyle to visit his home tomorrow morning. When Foyle arrives, he finds the doctor shot in his study, to the surprise and sorrow of the doctor's wife.

Intertwined with all this is that Sam has begun working at MI5, and is trying to find her footing. She quickly gets in deep by nosing in a file she's delivering to Valentine on Evelyn Green, who Valentine has heard turned up in East Berlin. She also overhears Valentine telling Charlotte, head of the research section, to keep him informed on what Foyle is up to. All of this is very interesting to Sam because, while Adam was going door-to-door, canvasing support for his election bid, he met an elderly woman living in the bombed-out remains of her home. And this poor woman's daughter had gone missing three days hence. The girl's name is Evelyn Greene. And then Sam tells Adam what she learned, which was not very wise. But then they both tell Foyle, which was a bit smarter.

Foyle has meanwhile learned that Dr. Ross was called out to the scene of an auto accident the day before his murder, at an Army installation called Barton Hall. Foyle is initially rebuffed in his efforts to get in, but manages it eventually. Lt. Col. Galt and Major McDonald lead him around, showing him how they're installation is just to listen to and transcribe Soviet radio traffic, then send it on to code-breakers. And that's all. Which doesn't explain the bars on the inside of the basement windows, or how the listening room which is supposedly always staffed, was empty five minutes after Foyle got walked through. Or why Sam found the bow from a woman's shoe in a place noticeably lacking in women.

And that's why Foyle contacts Daniel Willis, and asks him to break into Barton Hall, and rescue Evelyn Greene. The one whose mother is still alive, as opposed to the actual Russian spy, who was magically alerted the authorities were on to her, and was then somehow able to make it to East Berlin. Which still leaves the "who", and the "why" of that, plus the reason for the murder of Dr. Ross.

Quote of the Episode: Sir Alec - 'Unusual background for intelligence - police.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No. I fear he won't be granted much time for it either, with all this espionage.

Things Sam can do: Snoop in files. Tell her husband top secret information. Those are really more things she shouldn't do, though. She can type 20 words per minute. Cripes that's bad. I know she's using a typewriter, but that can't slow things down that much can it?

Other:  Spoilers of some sorts.

Michael Kitchen looks even mour dour in the new opening than he did in the old one.

I suppose I should feel bad for Miss Pierce. I imagine she expected she would succeed Chambers after his ousting, only to be left playing second banana to another puffed-up white man. On the other hand, she's been involved in so much devious, morally questionable shit that keeps harming innocent people, I kind of think she deserves it.

Of course, it could be she doesn't want the big chair. It lets her move about in the shadows, and puts somebody else's neck on the chopping block. If she can manipulate them as she likes, great. If they get in her way, she can deal with them like she did Chambers, and take her chances with the next guy.

We're two episode into this season, and I've yet to see anything out of Valentine that suggests he's of any use whatsoever. The man is a putz, and what's worse, he's a putz who thinks he's hot stuff, the worst kind of putz to have to work with (great to work against, though). Also, whenever I look at Tim McMullan (who's playing Valentine), I think that if he'd been an actor in the '30s or '40s, they'd have pegged him to play Charlie Chan. You know how they would give some white guy that role, Werner Orland or whoever, and add tape at the edge of his eyes to stretch the skin because they thought that made him look Chinese or some shit. McMullan seems to have that naturally, just very squinty, narrow eyes. Although he was in The Fifth Element!

I think the implication is Galt took the pistol and shot McDonald, although I'd have much preferred McDonald's final act to be to at least kill one person worth killing. I doubt Foyle would have walked away if he expected McDonald to kill Galt, and McDonald was boned anyway.

I chuckled at Foyle briefly chiding Sam for sharing top secret information she wasn't supposed to be looking at, anyway, then asking her what else she learned. He doesn't really care. As he observed in last week's episode, MI5 doesn't seem to have any regard for the law. Why should he worry about their rules? Just remind Sam there's a risk, and go from there.

Dr. Ross dies fairly early in the episode, but there's a subplot running forward from that about Katrin, his wife. Or once wife, now fiance. It's pretty depressing. They met and were married in Germany, then forced to divorce, and she lost her license to practice medicine. Because she was Jewish. Ross wrote some pieces against the Nazis that got him booted. She was stuck in Germany, and survived the concentration camps. Now she makes it to England, they're going to be remarried, and he gets murdered. She's going to get kicked out of England, but her family in Germany are all dead, and there are other people living in her home. It looks as though Foyle can pull some strings to help her remain in England, but that's going to be of limited comfort.

There's a lot of people not being able to go back to where they were before the war in this episode. Katrin, Palenko, who most likely just doesn't want to go back to the Soviet Union. Evelyn's mother, living in the remains of her home, waiting for her turn to get a new one, at which she'll probably never be back to this one. Maybe even McDonald, who seems to want to recapture something from earlier days. Adam and his campaign manager, Glenvil, have a disagreement about how to engage voters. Glenvil thinks they should try to invoke wartime spirit, Adam and Sam disagree, arguing they need to be looking toward the future. That they can't go back to how it was before the war, and that people don't want to. Some might quibble with the second part, but the first is correct. Things are different, and going back isn't an option.

The shift towards more espionage has brought an uptick in the action component. Willis' infiltration of Barton Hall was pretty cool. Since Sir Alec suggested to Foyle they should get Willis to apply, perhaps we'll see him next season.

Adam Wainwright may never have been able to win a Cy Young Award, but at least he's won a seat in Parliament. That's something, I guess.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Bought 2/15/2017

The last two weeks I've had 9 comics come out, and only been able to find 4 of them thus far. Very frustrating.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #12, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Boy Gwen, I bet you wish you were a hero now. Give you much better odds against Arcade.

Gwen wakes up in a strange castle, with no memory of how she got there. Fortunately, her old merc crew is there as well, to help battle through this dungeon. Gwen quickly surmises that's it's like a game, with traps and tricks to get around battles, strange old men who sell weapons in the middle of places no one would have a shop, and repeated warnings of an "unkillable, talking beast". While you can no doubt guess who created this deadly environment based on amusements because he's on the cover, can you guess who the unkillable beast is?

C'mon, it's someone who likes Death, can't die, and never shuts up. Yes, next issue Gwen, Batroc, and Co will somehow defeat Thanos! I wish. Thanos would be so humiliated he might actually stay dead. Jim Starlin would cause a time paradox by writing a comic declaring it was not really Thanos so fast, it would have been released last month. No, it's actually another character.

Anyway, Arcade! This blog is staunchly pro-Arcade, and I like the idea here that Arcade has decided to try his hand at killing mercenaries rather than heroes. Gwen would obviously know Arcade's poor track record at killing good guys (though he maintains his impeccable success rate capturing targets). Which would in theory give her a big edge. But she, Batroc, and our special guest star aren't good guys, so the rules quite possibly don't apply to them (although they will almost certainly escape).

Also, I enjoy how weary her friends have gotten of Gwen insisting their world is a comic book. Someone doing crazy stuff that they involve you in because they are sure your world isn't real and operates on a specific set of rules they claim to understand, that could get old fast. Beyond making them question their existence, it's watching a person constantly succeed despite no discernible talent or intelligence, just stupid luck they insist is knowledge. But there's no arguing with results, I guess, so Trust the Process.

I like the little scarf Batroc is sporting. It's stylish, and it's something to flutter when he leaps around kicking things. Also, Arcade's long hair works better with the Gurihiru art team than it has with almost any other artist I've seen. It makes him look like one of those pretty-boy manga characters, and he's being drawn in a style that more closely matches that. And the design for the way Arcade initially tries to present himself, as the burning, enormous shadow, is very cool. It actually disappoints me a bit Gwen no-sells it so completely. Come on, points for effort at least, Gwen! I am curious why Gwen has this constant pink tinge on her mask across the bridge of her nose. It isn't there in the first couple of panels she appears in, but it is after that. I'm used to that being shorthand for being tipsy, but I'm certain that isn't the case here, so who knows.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Always About Appearances

I can't recall discussing The Tin Star previously, although it seems I should have at some point. I haven't watched it in a few months, but I'd seen it several times prior to that.

In general terms, Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins a few years away from playing Norman Bates) is the new sheriff of a small town, still struggling to figure out how to do it, but driven by a belief in serving the community to try. Morg Hickman (Henry Fonda) is a bounty hunter who brings his most recent bounty to their town, dead. He receives a chilly reception, which doesn't bother him much. See, he was a sheriff once, until he lost his family and decided the life wasn't worth it.

Still, he needs Perkins to stay alive until he can get authorization to pay the bounty, so he steps in at one point when perkins has to confront the the local drunk bully Bogardus for murdering another man. At which point Perkins begins trying to learn about being a sheriff, and Fonda reluctantly teaches him. Things kind of spiral from there, as a couple of brothers (one played by Lee van Cleef) kill the beloved town doctor, and Ben quickly loses control of the posse to Bogardus. There's a whole big confrontation to be had there, and Morg has to decide what he wants to do.

That's not really what I'm interested in. What's curious to me is the attitude of the townsfolk. They picked Ben for sheriff, or he volunteered, because there was no one else. Well, Bogardus wanted it, but as Morg notes, Bogardus just wanted a license to kill. And the townsfolk want prisoners brought in alive (so they can kill them after a trial and the joys of jail chow).

So they've got Ben. Upright, pliable Ben. Ben has no actual idea what he's doing. He doesn't know how to handle drunks, or when to use his guns or not, or that he can't get bogged down with macho posturing. Here's Morg, who was a sheriff for years, who survived the profession, and is willing to educate him. Probably because it's just too painful to watch the hapless dope flail about in the dark. And none of the townspeople are helping. He has no deputies, and all the support he gets is a bunch of platitudes from Doc McCord about how some people walk through the briars picking flowers for others. So helpful.

Of course, even the platitudes run out once he starts spending time with Morg. Quickly he's told that the "leading" townsfolk aren't encouraged by him hanging out with this killer. When he tries explaining to McCord that Morgan was a former sheriff, McCord laughs at him like he's a silly child. He tells Ben his one failing is being too trusting, a little naive. But that's why they wanted him, because he'd do what they wanted. They told him he could do this, and it needed doing, and he went along with it like a schmuck. And if he kept going the way he was, they'd have needed another sheriff shortly. So he tries to get some training, to do the job they picked him for properly, and now they've got concerns.

It's just kind of interesting, that the doctor, the mayor/banker, whatever, are more concerned with having a manipulable incompetent than someone who can do the job, but might not always do exactly what they want. They figured he was a decent person, are they really afraid picking up a few tips from the bounty hunter will turn him into Dirty Harry? That he's somehow going to become worse than Bogardus? It's more about maintaining the appearance everything is nice and normal, rather than actually having someone who can protect the populace

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bandette Volume 3 - The House of the Green Mask

This collection came out last fall, and normally I immediately jump on Bandette collections, but I was preoccupied. Job, moving, the complete collapse of all hope in decency, the usual shit. But now I have it, hooray! (Before we start, I want to say the colors in the book look much better than they will here. I took the pictures without using the flash, so as to avoid the glare that so often mars the pictures I use here, but the counter to that is how dark the pictures are)

In Volume 3, a mysterious criminal known only as The Voice is abducting people to interrogate them about a House of the Green Mask. One of the people abducted is Daniel, the delivery boy who is one of Bandette's associates (and completely smitten with her). So Bandette sets out to find and rescue Daniel, by drawing in basically everyone she can. Her friends, the police, various politicians and socialites, dogs. She does find him, they rescue the others, we are given a tantalizing hint towards Bandette's backstory, and the Voice is now a potential threat (and source of creative henchmen) going forward, with Absinthe being taken off the board in Volume 2.

But with Bandette, it's less about the plot, and more about how Bandette moves through it, her reactions, the jokes. So there's an extended sequence where she's trailing The Voice across town through a parade, with the aid of her various Urchins. This is played out over several nine-panel grid pages of Bandette in pursuit of his black car, checking in with her friends via walkie-talkie, while sporting a different disguise in each panel. In one, it's Lincoln's hat and beard. In the next, she's dressed like the Man with No Name. And she's wearing this over her usual outfit, while claiming to be in perfect disguise.

Or Le Monsieur, the only possible challenger to Bandette's title as World's Greatest Thief, thinks he's on the trail of the Green Mask, after watching a film about Madame Presto (which Bandette stole and screened for her friends). And that doesn't go how anyone might expect, either.

Paul Tobin's writing is light, and funny, both in terms of sight gags which Colleen Coover ably draws, and some well-delivered lines (which are also aided by Coover's illustrations). Bandette re-positioning a pigeon while telling it that it is interfering with the drama. Tobin's able to write so that, even when Bandette is being serious - for example, when she's advancing on Dart Petite and mentioning how they're going to discuss how Dart harmed 'her Daniel' - the voice is still recognizably her. It felt silly, but also perfectly in character for Bandette to call up her friend in the police, Heloise, simply to tell her she was stomping, then hang up. That should seem stupid or pointless, but the creative team sells it, so it's cute? Charming?

As mentioned above, Coover uses a lot of nine-panel grids, which allows for a deliberate pacing. Jokes can be drawn out over 3 or 6 panels. We can see a sequence, be it a chase, a fight, or simply a conversation with a flow to it. Things don't seem rushed or crammed together. Coover knows what information needs to be in each panel, and doesn't waste space on stuff that doesn't need to be there. Which is kind of key when working with nine panels, since they isn't going to be much room in each one.

Also, Bandette almost seems to use the pacing of the grids as a chance to disappear at the top of the page, then reappear at the bottom. What I mean is, Bandette likes to surprise people, appearing suddenly behind or above them, seemingly from nowhere. But between where she was and where she ends up, we were following someone else across and down the page at the steady pace of the grid. Like in the page above, where we see her in the upper right corner, then we follow Daniel methodically to the right and down, only to be met by Bandette, who has taken some more direct route. But of course a thief would have no time for for the normal narrative flow of the page, and cut simply to the part she enjoys.

As with the previous two volumes, I highly recommend The House of the Green Mask.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Ultimate Cardinals' Record Book - Dan Moore

I asked for this for Christmas because I enjoyed Moore's work when he wrote for the Viva El Birdos website, so I figured I'd enjoy this. A choice based on writing style, more than any specific need for the book.

My dad opined it's fairly small for an "ultimate" record book, which is fair, but Moore's approach is to look at a general area of statistics, say single-season hitting records, and then pick a particular record and player, and discuss those in depth. So he spends a chapter discussing Mark McGwire hitting 70 home runs, or talking about the double-header where Stan Musial hit 5 home runs. Or Bob Forsch somehow managing to throw two no-hitters, despite generally striking out no one.

Interspersed in each chapter are small sections about other Cardinals' notable for one reason or another. Like Vince Coleman, who had one tool as a ballplayer - he was really fast - and used that to steal over 100 bases each of his first three years in the league, playing under Whitey Herzog. Or a section on Jim Bottomley, who was a great hitting first baseman on the Cardinals' teams of the 1920s (when the franchise first managed to actually be good after 25 years of flailing about).

Moore's style is easy to read, and he reined in the literary metaphors and references I was used to from his online writing*. Which was disappointing for me, personally, but understandable, and probably a smart choice in the larger picture. People are going to have certain expectations for a book about baseball team records. And Moore still seems to be having fun with it.

He worked in a sub-section about Ray Lankford, who I think is Moore's favorite player, and is underappreciated by Cardinals' fans, since his best years were wasted on mostly mediocre teams. I keep expecting him to get elected to the Cardinals' Hall of Fame in these games my dad and I attend, but I don't think he's even been listed as an option to vote for yet. I mean, Lankford is Top 5 in home runs for the franchise, ahead of even McGwire, he at least needs to be getting listed as a candidate.

'The no-hitter was impressive enough, but the story got more improbable still 10 days later when Jimenez beat the eventual Cy Young winner 1-0 again, blanking the Diamondbacks with a two-hitter. That year saw Jimenez post a 0.00 ERA against Randy Johnson and a 6.58 ERA against everyone else.'

* Moore wrote a post once about Skip Schumaker moving to second base, as some kind of Shakespearean play. Which didn't serve to make me any more enthusiastic about the Cards trying that, but was still a solid piece of writing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What I Bought 2/8/2017 - Part 2

Might as well cover the other comic I have at the moment. On another note, John Wick was on Syfy for some reason, and I notice they got their commercial break out of the way before the big nightclub fight scene that I love so very, very much. Thumbs up.

Ms. Marvel #15, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Oh no fair, she can block the axes? Dang it Mario, why couldn't you be more like Kamala Khan?

Kamala is doing her best to try and track down this mysterious hacker who has figured out her identity. She thought she'd managed, even defeated the surprisingly powerful foe at a construction site, but immediately after losing, the apparent villain became very confused. Because Kamala is actually up against a self-aware program, one that can control people as well as machines. It's goals are unclear at the moment, maybe even to itself, except that it enjoys attention. The only way something with no corporeal form can feel like it has a real presence?

I'm not sure about the virus' assessment of the situation. He says she froze because he knows her secret, but she was at that construction site because she thought she'd tracked him down. She was in the "fight" half of "fight or flight" But was that because she thought she'd figured out his secret and restored equilibrium? I'm wondering if this is going to be the point when she reveals her identity to everybody, as a way to unmake the sword dangling over her head. She's seemingly lost Bruno because of Ms. Marvel - she was the one Danvers entrusted with this predictive justice thing, which is why they put a detention center there, which is how Bruno got hurt - and it's hard telling how the rest of her friends and family are going to react if the secret is blown. Nakia being extremely pissed would seem a certainty, probably Mike as well. She's possibly as scared of that as the whole "villains know where my loved ones are" (which, considering HYDRA Cap probably knows her secret i.d., is too little too late. Man I'm sick of HYDRA Cap being a thing that exists).

Miyazawa draws a pretty good "kicked in the stomach" face. I'm surprised Kamala is still carrying a bag with Carol Danvers' old logo on it. I know Kamala has kind of appropriated the logo, but I expected her fandom to have cooled. I like the shade of red Herring's using in this arc. He probably uses it a lot and I don't notice, but it's working real well here. He shades it towards purple in the lower half of a couple of panels during the big fight, down towards where the violence is taking place. In the panels where the virus is talking that he uses it, it's either all red, or it goes to black at the top of the panel. For the latter one, it's when it begins to dawn on Kamala she's got no clue how to deal with this threat. Either way, the red's a real attention-getter, although I feel almost feel like it's cribbing of the whole "red skies" thing DC uses for various Crises. But it could just as easily be the skies afire, or the onrushing twilight, or just red as in an alarm going off.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Foyle's War 7.1 - The Eternity Ring

Plot: In the summer of 1945, scientists Max Hoffman, Helen and  Fraser meet in New Mexico to observe an A-bomb test. A year later, a man named Gorin successfully steals files from the Soviet Embassy in London. Files which detail a group of Soviet spies called the Eternity Ring. One British Intelligence knows nothing about.

Foyle returns to England in the summer of 1946. He gets to converse briefly with an old constable of his, Frank Shaw, finally back in England after spending years in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, before being pulled aside by Adam Valentine of the Security Service. Seems the FBI wants Foyle back for questioning about the suicide of Howard Paige, and the British will send him back unless he helps Valentine's boss William Chambers root out this Eternity Ring. And Foyle has another reason to get involved. While he may not know Professor Fraser, who is suspected of giving secrets to a Marc Vlessing, Foyle does know the woman who serves as Fraser's secretary and is photographed delivering the envelope: Samantha Wainwright.

So Foyle, over Miss Pierce's (Chambers' second-in-command) objections, and Valentine's condescension, sets to work. He quickly determines Sam is troubled by something, and that Professor Fraser hates Communists. He also sees that Helen Fraser is not in good health (which is why Sam was hired, as Helen Fraser was a nuclear scientist of some regard before her health failed), and Max Hoffman was meeting a mysterious person in the street. With the help of some police, Foyle locates Vlessing, but when they try to apprehend him, he's been forewarned by a voice over the phone, and while fleeing, he's hit by a car. He survives, but is shortly thereafter dispatched with a hypodermic after his guards mysteriously depart at a seemingly prearranged time.

By this time Hoffman has somehow learned Foyle is working for MI5 and warned Fraser, who then fires Sam. So Sam confronts Foyle, who explains himself, and the two set about trying to piece this together. And promptly get themselves irradiated snooping in Vlessing's apartment. Which makes Sam late for Adam's meeting to see if he'll represent the Labour Party in the West Peckham election, but she arrives in time to make a passionate speech and give him the win. By this point, Foyle has basically pieced together the truth of the Eternity Ring, and what it's purpose is, and also whether Professor Fraser is innocent or not.

In the other subplot, Frank struggles to adjust to life at home not being at all like it was when he left. Wife working, son working, can't get a job with the London police. He doesn't drunkenly beat the shit out of Valentine, though, which I appreciated, even if it was for the wrong reasons.

Quote of the Episode: Valentine - 'This isn't about bodies in the library or stolen petrol coupons or whatever you got up to in Hastings. It's called tradecraft. It's a different world.'

Does Foyle go fishing? I imagine he would have if he hadn't been intercepted.

Things Sam can do: Improve her typing. Make a speech when it really counts. Lie off the cuff (unrelated to the previous note). Still has trouble hanging onto a job.

Other: Spoilers for various revelations in the episode below.

So Frank's son John was working in a bar for gay men, or at least one where they're welcome, which Valentine frequents. He also, unfortunately, happened to be the first guy to leave after Frank came stumbling up there, all distraught about what he thinks his son is up to. Which is not really why I wanted to see Valentine get his ass beat.

His constant sneering condescension towards Foyle, that's why I wanted to see him get curbstomped. He keeps making those remarks to Foyle about him being out of his depth, and never seems to remember that Foyle doesn't want to be there, is only there because Valentine's superiors are forcing him to, between the dual threat of handing him over to that piece of shit J. Edgar Hoover and Sam being declared a traitor. They explicitly remind Foyle that he knows what happens to traitors, and so do we after last week's episode. So quite why Valentine feels the need to antagonize Foyle, I don't know, but it doesn't make me sorry to see him in the hospital.

The look Foyle gives Valentine when Vlessing gets hit by the car did a lot to tide me over until the actual beating. The side-eye is a great combination of exasperation and disgust for the incompetence on display. Plus, I'd imagine a little suspicion that it might not have been an accident.

I had made a note early that Sam's typing skills had improved if she'd finished typing several letters for Professor Fraser. Then he found her while she and Foyle were having lunch to mention she'd need to retype some of them and I had to amend that perhaps the skills hadn't improved that much. Oh well, progress.

I also have another note that is simply "Significant Thermos". I'll leave you to wonder.

So Howard Paige is dead after six months of Foyle hounding him. While I regret not getting to see it, I'm at least pleased to hear about it.

At one point, Fraser and Hoffman are arguing about Stalin and Communism. Hoffman reminds that the Soviets were helping fight the Nazis before the Americans (true). Fraser points out that now Stalin is a monster slaughtering his own people. And I'm left thinking how Stalin never really stopped doing that, before, during, or after the war. He might have slowed his pace, but only when the Nazis were picking up the slack.

It feels as though there's at least somewhat of a shift in Foyle and Sam's relationship. He's still looking out for her, but that's probably never going away. But I appreciate that when she loses her job because of Foyle, she goes to confront him immediately. And that even after he tries to explain, she is still understandably angry at him for not simply being honest with her from the start. And that she basically insists on accompanying him on the next leg of the investigation. She isn't going to sit in the car, she's going where he goes and looking around, and that's that. I think she's had to look after Adam quite a bit over the past year and the realities of that have matured her. Adam's an idealist, and he wants to help people, but he isn't very good at looking after himself.

OK, so the big reveal is that Miss Pierce slipped in a bunch of vague references to a non-existent Eternity Ring as a way to prove Chambers had contact with a Soviet agent. Because who else would Chambers turn to for information on this group when all other avenues failed him? Which gets him ousted as boss. Which does lead to a scene of him ever so carefully wrapping up his pipes as he cleans out his desk, while Pierce shows not the slightest interest in hearing why he did it. Also that she'd hoped he'd be executed, rather than exiled. Jesus, Pierce. But it's that ruthless streak that I assume is how she survived the war and maintained a position of authority, despite being in proximity to more than a couple of screw-ups (see "The French Drop"). She knows how to deflect blame, that's for sure.

Anyway, now she's roped Foyle into sticking around for awhile, despite the fact he knows he can't trust her, and she knows that he's going to bug the crap out of her every time he twigs to her doing something crooked. I can't really tell if she's amused or irritated when he goes on one of his, "I've figured it all out," spiels. I think she kind of enjoys them, from appreciating someone clever, and because Foyle is a little theatrical about it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I Bought 2/8/2017 - Part 1

It was going to be a big week in theory, six comics, but I was only able to find three of them. Might as well start with the two first issues of the bunch, although spoiler, neither one knocked my socks off.

Justice League of America #1, by Steve Orlando (writer), Ivan Reis (penciler), Joe Prado and Oclair Albert (inkers), Marcelo Maiolo (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - If Batman has figured out how to transport people around inside his cape, that would be really handy. Although I weep for the rest of the team being trapped in there with Lobo. The smell cannot be pleasant.

It's a getting the team together issue. One at a time, we see Batman recruit the people he wants, often bringing along the last person he signed up to help convince the next person. Except he sends Black Canary alone (to get Lobo), and Ryan Choi alone (to get the Ray). Curious if that means something. I could see him not going to get Lobo because he figures their personalities will clash, although why recruit someone you know is going to be a problem? But sending someone Ray has never heard of to tell him Batman wants him on a team seems like a bad idea. A suspicious person would suspect a trap. Fortunately, Ray isn't any brighter (heh) in this universe than he was pre-Flashpoint.

There are things here I could see being interesting. The last page preview of what's to come - and what are the odds we ever see that stuff? Those preview pages rarely pay off - suggests Ray and Lobo are continuing their conflict from the earlier universe. But it seems like same old Batman. I feel there's a disconnect between telling Canary he wants someone who speaks her mind to keep them honest, and two panels previous where he dismisses her concerns about Killer Frost with, 'I trust her. That's all you need to know.' What if that isn't all Canary feels she needs to know? Is Batsy going to offer more, or be his usual closed off asshole self? Although he let Lobo put Choi on the team, so I don't know. Mixed signals.

Batman does seem to spend most of the issue scowling and looking unfriendly (except with Vixen), which isn't much of a recruiting pitch. I was hoping, given he's picking his roster, he'd be a little happier about it. Don't love the redesign on Ray's costume. The helmet not going below the tops of the ears around the back, so the white collar of the shirt/tights goes up the back of his head to meet it. Awful. Maybe that call was made independent of Reis, don't know. I tend to like Reis' work fine, and Ray's costume aside, there's nothing wrong with it here, other than his Batman is reminding me of David Finch's artwork, which is not a good thing. I feel like Maiolo could brighten the colors a bit, perhaps, but that's a nitpick. It's pretty easy to follow what's going on in the book, so no complaints there.

But I still don't think I want to read them fighting the Extremists.

Steven Universe #1, by Melanie Gillman (writer), Katy Farina (illustrator), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer) - Oh Steven, are you floating in the depths of space inside a bubble again? Did last time's near-death experience teach you nothing?

Steven's at the barn, showing off some new game on his phone, when they find a baby bird that has fallen from its nest. A nest they can't find. Steven tries following the advice of a doctor at a wildlife rehab center, but despairs of leaving the bird outside in bad weather. So he, Lapis, and Peridot take care of the bird themselves. Eventually it grows big enough, and they release it to find others of its species.

First obvious point: The book is aimed at a much younger audience than my old butt. That's fine, just should have considered that possibility from the start, rather than being all, "Whee, more Steven Universe!". I didn't say "whee", but you get the idea. There's a fair amount of things in here I enjoyed. Lapis being willing to help Steven, both because she considers him a friend, and because he helped her when she was lost and alone. Peridot only really getting into the idea once she realized some baby birds grow up to be big, powerful birds, like eagles. But not realizing that not all baby birds do that. Because gems do work that way. In theory, if you are a Peridot, you look basically like this one. Rubies look mostly alike, Amethysts, and so on. So she figures Birds also work like that.

And there was Steven's moment of terror when he worried they broke the law by deciding to care for the baby themselves. I might honestly expect that more from Connie, but she'd be more worried about germs.

I will say, if you didn't know anything about Steven Universe prior to reading this, I'm not sure you would have any more idea of what it is after. I mean, you can get a fair idea of the three characters' personalities from this, Lapis being a mixture of easygoing and straightforward, Peridot being more manic, but I don't think you'd have any idea what they are, or why they're hanging around this seemingly ordinary young boy. I don't know if that would be a problem if you were considering buying this for yourself or someone else, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

Cogar's colors are very bright, which matches the show, and creates a mostly warm, pleasant feel. Even the scene at night, when Steven is worried about the bird out in the storm, the colors aren't that dark. But they aren't going to leave it out there to fend for itself, so that makes sense. Farina keeps the characters on model, and getting to look at the barn in still images, I got to notice some of the modifications Peridot and Lapis made I never had before. Which isn't a huge deal, but was still nice. The montage of them caring for the bird, showcasing their different methods was a cute sequence.

I think the book did what it set out to do, but it may simply be a case of I'm not the target audience. But I'm game to give it a little longer before I decide. I've given much worse books a much longer leash.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

This Group Will Be In Constant Flux

It's time once again for me to amuse probably only myself with some made up team of fictional characters. This time I went to my list of Playstation 2 games, which was harder than I expected. A lot of licensed games (DBZ, sports games), or games with nameless protagonists (Sky Odyssey), or games with characters that didn't seem suited for this kind of thing.

The Leader: Mitsuru Kirijo (Persona 3) - Let's see, she's smart, is able to call forth a powerful representation of her inner self to unleash various ice attacks, is a skilled swordfighter, and has had to run a company since roughly when she got out of high school after he father was murdered. She spent years fighting an unknown war against monsters that menaced humanity, at times with no more than one or two other people.

She's mostly cool under pressure, but if she gets tripped up, she tends to take it hard and beat herself up over it. And she internalizes all of it, won't let other people help her work through things. She feels a lot of weight as a result of her family name, people watching her, judging her, and that can result in her trying to do too much on her own. Her father would remind her the family motto was something roughly like "strength through unity", basically to remember it was better to work with others, but her default response is to do the opposite. I tend to suspect her father was, intentionally or not, putting a lot of the pressure to be exceptional on her, and so he's kind of sending mixed signals, but that's just one of those things the rest of the team is going to have to cope with. Can they get her to actually let them help?

That said, she's pretty good about looking out for teammates once she has them. And she was willing to step back and let others lead in the field if she thought they were capable. But if she's in charge, she will probably operate as more like a dictator until she trusts this bunch enough to have more respect for their opinions. She can have an air of superiority that's going to irritate someone, at least at first. It's like she's worried about them, because she thinks they don't know what the hell they're doing and need to be looked after, until proven otherwise. It is possible that her experiences over the course of the game have worn that away, and she'll be more open and trusting with people, but I suspect she's still going to try to naturally take the lead.

The Rogue: Gene (God Hand) - Gene's a fairly powerful fighter, especially when he unleashes the God Hand (or Hands if this is after the conclusion of the game). He's not a bully, he believed in standing up for the oppressed even before he got a super-powerful arm, but he can be lazy about it. He'll fight evil when it presents itself, but he's not the type to go looking for trouble, generally. Olivia was usually around to kick him in the butt (or threaten to take back the arm, with an axe), but by the end of the game, she wanted the God Hands back anyway, and Gene refused. So he's going to be spending a lot of time looking over his shoulder as to whether she's catching up. Which means he could leave at pretty much any point.

He's going to frustrate his teammates with his laconic attitude, and he's going to amaze them with the damage he can do once he gets going. He's going to irritate half the team and amuse the other half with various smart ass remarks he'll be making. Actually, looking at this roster, half the team will probably have no idea what he's talking about. But he's going to make fun of the Muscle for being a bit uncouth, he's going to try poking holes in Mitsuru's take-charge personality. It's going to be meant to be taken lightly, so he probably won't spark too much infighting. But Gene is someone used to fighting alone. Whether it was one enemy, or seven, or just wave after wave, he faced them by himself. Operating in a team setting is going to take getting used to, if he sticks around long enough.

The Muscle: Yangus (DragonQuest 8) - Yangus was a bandit king, but left his group and set out on his own, eventually encountering the main character of the game and throwing in with him after being saved from a plunge into a ravine.He's blunt, straightforward, loud, and not terribly book smart. I don't think he's an idiot necessarily; he can be canny in his element, but he wasn't a sneaky bandit, or one who relied much on planning. He jumped out in front of you with an axe, and demanded valuables or else. But maybe that gives him a reputation, or at least an edge, the others don't have. They're either kind of goofy, or not very intimidating at first glance. Yangus has a swagger and approach that might scare people right off, which can be useful.

But if he's thrown in his lot with you, then he's with you all the way, and characters like that are good to have. They can be the butt of the joke that loosens everyone up, or the one who keeps pressing forward and keeps everybody else from surrendering or splitting up. But he's tough, and likes a good brawl, which will come in handy, especially if Gene's unavailable. His style's maybe not as stylish as Mitsuru's, but he's effective, and he knows a little bit of healing magic, which is always a good thing (Mitsuru does as well, for that matter, so it offers the option of either one falling back from the fray to help the others).

The Woman of Mystery: Yorda (Ico) - I had another character in mind here, but I was leaning really heavily on JRPGs, so I wanted to try and go outside that. And Yorda didn't get much focus in Ico, mostly serving as a key to get them to the next area, or someone for Ico to protect/lead around by the wrist. But you could argue that was because she understood what they were up against, the power her mother had at her disposal, and had resigned herself to her fate. But Ico defeated the Queen, and Yorda was able to save him, so fate averted.

Yorda seemed soft-spoken and kind of passive in the game, letting Ico make decisions, give orders, pull her to and fro. Again, maybe because she figured none of it mattered, so why argue about it? This is what her mother made her, so there wouldn't be any resistance when the Queen tried to use Yorda's life to extend her own. So with that fear gone, she could become more demonstrative, more emphatic. But maybe she's comfortable as the quiet type, who watches and learns. If there's really something that needs saying, she'll say it, but she's can enjoy silence, not that there will be much of that. Yangus and Gene alone with fill the air. But Yangus and Mitsuru both worked with people who didn't offer much unless asked (the main characters of their respective games), so I think both of them will encourage her to share her thoughts if she wants.

I'm not sure what her capabilities are. She was able to undo the seals her mother placed on doors. Her mother was able to turn people to stone, summon shadow creatures, and project waves of force, so Yorda could probably manage all that, to certain degrees. It wouldn't surprise if she'd observed her mother very closely all those years, for lack of anything else to do while locked up in a castle. Or we could make unlocking things her specialty. Unlocking doors, unlocking secrets, passwords, whatever. The team doesn't really have a stealth ace, so that would be a workaround. She can't take many hits, but the rest of this team can take a fair amount of punishment.

The Guy with a Boat: Ratchet/Clank (Ratchet and Clank) - We're not gonna take the boat? No Sean Connery as Indy's dad, we can do better than boats. We can get a spaceship. So it's a duo, maybe a cheat, but I wasn't entirely sure either one could handle the spaceship without the other. It's been several years since I played the game, but I feel like Clank served as the onboard computer, but couldn't have actually flown it. So both it is. Consider this my one "exception to the rules" for this team.

That means we've got Science Bros! on the team. Everybody likes Science Bros, right? Ratchet's more of an engineer-type, build you something if you give him time, or take something apart more likely. Clank probably knows more about various scientific disciples. And he's handy for interacting with any computerized security or information systems they might encounter. He's also the best bet they have for stealth, assuming we don't go with my idea about Yorda's power being to unlock things. And that's mostly because he's small, rather than particularly sneaky. Clank may have the same difficulty as Yorda in terms of getting a chance to speak, but assuming Mitsuru or Yangus don't notice, he does have Ratchet to advocate for him. And Ratchet's got a wrench to get people's attention with.

By the end of the first game these two had built a decent level of trust, and stopped an industrialist who was destroying entire planets to build himself a prime piece of real estate. They got to be big public heroes, which isn't something any of the others have much experience with. But they also saw what happened to Captain Quark when he let that go to his head and compromise him as hero. So hopefully they avoid that pitfall. I haven't played any of the other games in the series, so I don't know, I assume they did. If this team ends up in places where no one has ever heard of them, which is likely, that'll help. But the fact these two are already used to working together is going to pay off. Early on, all these teams are going to struggle to know each others abilities, how to play off each other. It's like having Luke Cage and Danny Rand on your team. At least those two will have each other's back and be able to communicate, which may keep the team alive long enough to get on the same page.

Wild Card: Richard Osmond, sorta (Echo Night: Beyond) - I say "sorta", because the Richard you play as is actually an android, created by his fiance after he died in a shuttle crash, then given life when she used a strange rock to wish for it, in exchange for her own life. In most of the game's endings, Richard-bot is left alone on the station after helping all the spirits find peace. I don't know what that leaves him to do there, so let's throw him in. He might end up as a replacement for Gene, if Olivia catches up still after those God Hands.

Not that Richard's a fighter; he's more an engineer, since he was the one who designed the station on the moon. But when his staff discovered that strange mineral, he didn't have enough sense or caution to slow down and figure out what he was really dealing with. Maybe this version, having seen the results, is a little more cautious. Or maybe he's gone nuts in isolation on a space station, especially after realizing all those tormented spirits were his fault. Spending some time around the living could be good for him. Having him as another source of technical know-how to go with Ratchet and Clank could be interesting. I haven't had a lot of teams with multiple super-intelligent people on them thus far (except maybe Trip and Cortana).

I feel like this group is going to struggle to keep a fifth member. Gene may have to bail. Richard may prove to be unsuited or uninterested in a life of adventure. The same could be true for Yorda, that the team helped her to save someone, or protect her home, but she's not up for fighting evil all the time. Virginia Maxwell from Wild Arms 3 would probably be the next one up after Richard, because this team is leaning heavily towards hitting things and/or cutting them. We need more characters who shoot things. Ratchet can't do it all himself. Plus, I'd be curious to see Virginia and Mitsuru interact. Virginia took some lumps in that game, had to decide what she really wanted and believed in, but still maintained her beliefs in spite of it and a fairly cheerful attitude. They could play off each other well.

Oddly, despite the instability, this team feels like it might be the most emotionally supportive, if that makes sense. There aren't any violently anti-social types. No Max Payne with a death wish and pill addiction, or Ada Wong being a constant threat to betray you. Mitsuru is reserved, but more than capable of being compassionate. Yangus is your typical Ben Grimm, "gruff but kind-hearted" type. Ratchet and Clank are good dudes. Gene is a smart ass, but he's not the sort to punch down with it. Yorda seems to care about others, if not herself. I'm not sure how Richard would act, but I doubt he'd be too vicious. He helped spirits even when he didn't necessarily have to, which is a good sign. It may take time to gel, or it may never stabilize enough for that, but I don't see internal forces being what wrecks it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Does The Reference Fit?

I keep seeing this scene from Christopher Priest's Deathstroke series online. A group of grieving mothers, their children killed by gun violence, have hired Deathstroke to kill the people responsible, which he is doing. The cop is frustrated by the fact nothing seems to get done to curb gun violence, and the reporter questions the wisdom of hiring a killer to kill killers. Both of which are fair points, but being me, the thing that grabbed my attention was neither of those things.

The reporter, and that's Jack Ryder, aka the Creeper, is getting his movie reference wrong. A Fistful of Dollars isn't about a town hiring a gunfighter. It's about a gunfighter entering a town of his own accord, and trying to play the gangs vying for control against each other for his financial benefit. The townspeople, such as they are, don't hire Joe. Silvanito, the innkeeper, tries to get him the hell out of town, figuring nothing good will come of his presence for anyone.

But ultimately Joe's actions weaken the Baxters and provoke the Rojos into destroying them. And then Joe kills the Rojos (for revenge for the ass-whupping they gave him or to protect Silvanito, take your pick). Granting a decent portion of the town burns down or is blown up, the few townsfolk we'd seen up to then are alive and free. Marisol is reunited with her family. I confess I don't know what those people will do for a living, but the Rojos' gun-running and the Baxters' liquor didn't seem to be creating many jobs, despite what I'm sure were very friendly tax rates (as in non-existent). Maybe more people needed to get in on the lucrative coffin-building industry. Still, I wouldn't say things worked out badly for the townspeople (excluding the crooks selling guns and booze), especially since they didn't waste any of their non-existent money hiring Joe to do this. Unless Ryder is counting the Rojos and Baxters as the townsfolk. I guess technically they would count, but the analogy definitely wouldn't fit in that scenario.

My best guess is Ryder is thinking of High Plains Drifter, where the cowardly, backstabbing townspeople hire the guy who killed three people and raped a woman his first half-hour in town to protect them. And he proceeds to take all their shit, let them humiliate and degrade themselves bending over backwards for him, and gets them to essentially help destroy their town. Although equating a bunch of moms who are angry and griefstricken over the loss of their children with a bunch of people who hired gunmen to kill a marshal to hide one crime, then framed the gunmen for theft to have them locked away, then hired more gunmen to protect them for when the first group of gunmen were released from prison, then hired the guy who killed the second group of gunmen for the same job, is a bit of a stretch.

The thing is, Christopher Priest seems like a pretty thoughtful guy, so I'm wondering if he got the reference wrong deliberately as some kind of point about Ryder, or he's just approaching it from a different perspective. Obviously the idea that hiring someone to kill people who killed others isn't going to solve the underlying problem of why those people took a life in the first place, or how they were able to have guns to do so. That there could be retaliation, escalation if the friends of the people Deathstroke kills figure out who pointed him in their direction and decide for some payback. Relying on killing to solve the problem of people killing people is not a sound strategy.

But going off either of those two films, what were the options? In High Plains Drifter, the townspeople could have opted not to mine on land they weren't supposed to, or accepted the punishment for doing so, or not framed Stacey Bridges for robbery. But having done those things, what were the options left if not to hire gunfighters? They did, at the drifter's urging, trying fighting for themselves, and failed miserably. They could have abandoned the town, scattered to the winds. Or they could have stayed and accepted whatever vengeance Bridges brought upon them. Fight, flee, suffer through it. None of those seem like viable options for the grieving mothers in the comic.

With A Fistful of Dollars, again, what's the option? None of the townsfolk have a prayer of confronting either of the gangs directly. The militaries of both the U.S. and Mexico use the town as a convenient meeting point for clandestine sales of weapons and booze. Neither of them is likely to step in and help. The sheriff is the head of the Baxter clan (and an incompetent boob to boot), so law enforcement is useless. I have no idea what political body they could appeal to, if any. It almost seems as though their best hope was to keep their heads down and hope that once one side won the struggle, things would get easier. But assuming that happens, and assuming it doesn't get them killed or their homes destroyed in the process, they're still living in fear of the remaining gang, which can now act with impunity because there's no risk of being attacked on an exposed flank if they overreach.

Maybe it shows that Ryder is well-aware of the limitations of the approach of using violence to eliminate violence, but has no viable solutions. Like me, he's good at picking out the flaws, but struggles to correct them. And hey, it's easy to criticize (fun, too). Or that he ignores the emotional element in this, the pain and frustration that would drive these mothers to this decision.All he sees is some vague way it could go wrong, not recognizing that from their perspective, it's already gone as wrong as it can.