Friday, June 30, 2017

The Disenchantment

One of the things frustrating about DC's New 52 was the attempt to have it both ways. DC wanted throw out all the old continuity - unless they wanted to keep parts of it, as with the Green Lantern books - but then they would rely on the readers' affection or connection to the discarded version to sell us on a book. So Metamorpho might appear in a comic, and fans were supposed to go, "Hey, Metamorpho, I love that guy!" Except this may be an entirely different character who just has the same name as that character we loved previously. In which case, why should we care? All too often, the creative teams failed to give us any reasons of their own to care.

I'm finding I have a similar issue with DC Rebirth. They reset things to something kinda sorta pre-Flashpoint, but not really. Which isn't bad of itself, but it still feels like they're banking on the readers having that same, "Oooh, that character!", without it really being that character. Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, two favorite of mine, are both in Detective Comics, but neither is the version I was fond of. They've been started from different points, sent on different paths, wound up at different places. It's putting a fish between bread and telling me its a hamburger. I can eat it, but it isn't what I ordered. So there's a repeated sensation where I see something in the solicitations involving a character I like, have a momentary flash of interest, and then I remember, and it fades.

I've been reading comics, especially Marvel comics, since I was a kid. At some point, I developed the notion, or maybe the expectation, that a given title was one big story of a character or characters, and maybe even that the Marvel Universe was one giant story with hundreds of writers and artists building something together, albeit in a haphazard fashion. That the next creative team would pick up where the last one left off, building on a new framework. Or writers would revisit stories in one book they began in another. There was at least the appearance of coordination between books, or at least an effort to be aware of what other books were doing (as well as an acknowledgment the readers might be aware of those other books instead).

I was certainly missing multiple occasions where this wouldn't have proven to be true, but it seemed as though even when a writer undid something established previously, they at least tried to provide an explanation. John Byrne brought Iron Fist back from the dead and explained it with sentient plant imposters.

Marvel currently is a different story. There are the nearly constant universe-spanning big event that are meant to involve everyone. At the same time, they pretty much let each book do its own thing. During the Big Events, characters will pop in two different books in places that directly contradict each other, with no apparent explanation other than nobody bothered to put any kind of planning into things ahead of time. The end result being I don't look at books as being part of a larger narrative. They're more like separate entries in a short story anthology. They occupy space in the same book, they may have some similar subject matter (superheroes), but there's no connection otherwise.

Which has some positive results for me. I don't get as angry about things happening in the comics, especially ones I'm not even reading. Civil War II did something stupid, or is simply yet another badly paced and plotted event comic written by Brian Michael Bendis? Glad I didn't spend money on it. There'll be another event in five minutes to wipe it off the board. If that one is stupid - hello, Secret Empire! - I'll ignore it, too. I don't stick with books through creative team changes I don't like, figuring it'll get better (which is how I had Chuck Austen's entire Uncanny X-Men run), or the new team will pick up something I liked from the previous one. I'm not buying 5 Spider-Man books each month out of some compulsive need to follow everything going on with Spider-Man. All of that's to the good. Saves me money, saves on irritation.

But I miss when I cared enough to look at continuity errors and try and cobble together some explanation. I'm not keyed in to enough of Marvel's titles to make a go of it any more, and even if I were, it's painfully obvious I'd be exerting far more effort on it than anyone at Marvel is (with the possible exception of Al Ewing). It's a little harder to care about the stakes in a book, because even the illusion of permanence of major changes is pretty worn. The next writer will, after all, probably just ignore the change if they don't like it. Daredevil's in San Francisco and trying to openly be Matt Murdock? Not no more, he ain't! It's still possible to care while I'm reading the comics; I'm not completely deadened. But there is a little something extra missing.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


This is not the Masterminds from the '90s, the one about the kewl kid that protects his fancy school from evil Patrick Stewart. This is the Masterminds from 2016, about an idiot armored truck driver that gets tricked into stealing $17 million.

Zach Galifianakis is playing David Ghaant, the idiot in question. Kristen Wiig is Kelly, who originally came up with the idea, and convinces David to go through with it at the urging of Steve, a schmuck crook played by Owen Wilson. David robs the place, forgets one of the security tapes, abandons his fiance Jandice to hide in Mexico, is betrayed by Steve, who sets a killer on him. The killer becomes friends with David instead, David ends up exposing Steve as the one behind everything, they all go to prison for awhile.

Everyone in the movie is a complete moron. This is based on a true story; I have no idea how much of it actually happened. I'm guessing not much, but people are pretty stupid so, maybe more of this is true than I would think, as Men Who Stare at Goats put it. I can believe David forgetting one of the security cameras. I can believe Steve and his family not maintaining a low profile and instead spending millions of dollars like crazy. The hitman character, that I couldn't buy. The fight in the department store? Couldn't buy that. And so on. I can buy that someone would put their Geo on monster truck tires, although I wonder if that actually happened in the real events.

Some parts of it are funny, some are gross. I have no idea what Kate McKinnon was going for with Jandice. Is she supposed to be on the autism spectrum? All her reactions and facial expressions seemed bizarre, someone trying to mimic humanity. Every scene she's in, I'm sitting there wondering what the fuck is going on with her, which is maybe not ideal.

Leslie Jones is in here as an FBI agent. She didn't really get much to do, which is too bad. I think she was my favorite part of that Ghostbusters movie from last year. But there were a few funny parts, so not a total loss.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This Is Why I Can't Have Nice Things

I think it's been over a year since Steven Universe dispatched Jasper as an enemy, but I end up thinking about that final battle at the Beta Kindergarten a lot. It's one of those frustrating situations where I understand why the creators went the direction they did, and it makes a lot of sense, but I still wish they'd done it differently.

Jasper has, with the exception of that one time when Lapis punched her over the far horizon, lost to group efforts, especially to fusions. Garnet, Stevonnie, Alexandrite, and in the final battle, Smoky Quartz. And it infuriates Jasper, because she thinks of it as a cheap trick, weaker gems combining to make a stronger gem. None of the Crystal Gems could defeat her alone, so they gang up on her.

Jasper misses that the Gems can fuse as effectively as they do because they care about each other and want to help each other out. They do fuse because it helps them in battle, that part is correct, but it works because of their shared connection outside battle. They're trying to protect each other, not smash people.

For Jasper, it's strictly about power. Even when she tried fusion, with Lapis, it was from a desire for revenge, because she felt desperate, and she tried to force Lapis into it, only for Lapis to turn the tables on her and trap them both at the bottom of the ocean. Eventually Jasper took control, but it was never a particularly stable fusion, with both gems working in concert. It was always one personality dominating the other. From Jasper's perspective, it made her stronger, that was the important part. But despite wanting others to fuse with her whenever she starts to lose, she never drops her scornful attitude. She mocks a corrupted gem as deserving its fate, locks it in a cage, but then tries to force a fusion on it when she gets desperate. And is surprised it doesn't want to stay fused with a tormentor who made no attempt to understand it or treat it as an equal. For Jasper, fusion is a way for her to get what she wants, period, and that's why it doesn't work out. For the Gems, fusion is an expression of the feelings they have towards each other, creating a being who is each of them, but also an individual of their own. Jasper still wants to be Jasper, even when fused.

And Jasper buys in fully to the rules of Homeworld. That she exists to serve the Diamonds, that she's how they made her, and you are not to go outside those bounds. To do so, by choice or forces outside your control, is unforgivable. So she's defeated by Amethyst, Steven (who Jasper thinks is just Rose Quartz in a bizarre form), and Peridot. Amethyst was supposed to look like Jasper, but was in the ground 500 years too long, and came out smaller. Rose rebelled against the Diamonds, and has now willingly changed her form to this short, curly-haired pudgy thing. All of that is against the will of the Diamonds, as is the existence of Earth itself. Jasper is ultimately "poofed" by Peridot, who wasn't supposed to have any powers once she lost her limb enhancers, but has turned out to have telekinesis over metal. She figured that out after Steven and Amethyst tried to teach her to shift her form, in either case, moving outside the bounds prescribed by the Diamonds.

So the story of Jasper's defeat played out really well, on a lot of levels. And yet, I was a little disappointed, because I had hoped Amethyst would be able to beat Jasper on her own. She'd been trounced in their previous fight, battered, humiliated, poofed, and ultimately had to be rescued by Stevonnie, when she was supposed to be protecting them. Jasper had poked at all of Amethyst's insecurities about being flawed, or weak, inferior because she didn't come out the way she was "supposed" to. Meaning, like Jasper. Which also serves to remind Amethyst she was originally meant to be a soldier in the war against Rose and the Gems, rather than on their side, and it was mostly dumb luck she emerged after the war was over*.

Still, while Jasper has the raw power advantage, it's expressed in a fairly limited war. Jasper is the Juggernaut, or the Rhino. Straight ahead, smash what's in your way with overwhelming force. Her weapon is a big helmet with a ram on it. She doubtless has the capacity to shape shift, but outside the Sonic the Hedgehog-like buzzsaw move she and Amethyst both employ, it doesn't seem to be a technique she employs. Amethyst has her whips, which have a variety of uses, and shape shift readily, into a variety of forms, up to and including a functional helicopter. She's not supposed to be able to fly - Jasper can't**, it was one of the things she liked about being fused with Lapis - but she certainly does. That seems like a heck of an advantage to have in a fight.

I hoped that Amethyst would leverage her particular strengths, combined with a greater focus (and Jasper's overconfidence), and hand Jasper her butt. Settle some questions she had about herself, deal the bullying villain a good beatdown. No such luck. Amethyst's best hits could barely scratch Jasper, whereas Jasper could send Amethyst flying with an ordinary kick. It was every fight in a shonen anime between the scrappy, try hard supporting character and the extremely gifted asshole villain character I've ever seen. Nice try kid, but effort and being clever will never win over raw physical talent. Hell of a message to send there, but I guess if one was sick of "plucky underdogs triumphant" sports movies - maybe I should have just typed "sports movies" - I could see it striking a chord.

That's a jaundiced take on the whole thing, I know. I just know that sometimes you have to get things done on your own. The show is right, there's nothing wrong with working together or leaning on a friend. But sometimes that isn't an option, and what we're faced with can't be put off until some help can be rustled up. Not really the story Steven Universe is trying to tell, and normally, that doesn't bother me. In this particular instance, though, I'd have liked to seen it.

* I don't think it's ever been said outright, but I wonder if Amethyst worries about if she can measure up because she didn't fight alongside Pearl, Garnet, and the others in the rebellion. She never had the chance to prove herself in that struggle.

** Actually, I'm not sure about this. She did something close to flying while fighting Garnet on the spaceship. Zooming towards her at a great speed without her feet touching the ground. But she was definitely excited about being able to fly while fused with Lapis, so I don't know what the official ruling would be.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Hunter

Forget the attempts at witty post titles, you might as well get some idea what the movie is.

Willem Dafoe is hired by a 'military biotech' to hunt down, kill, and harvest material from what is suspected to be the last Tasmanian tiger. Why a military biotech would be interested in that was unclear to me until near the end when someone mentions Tasmanian tigers are thought to have a paralytic toxin in their bite.

So Dafoe goes to Tasmania, posing as a university researcher, which makes him unpopular with the loggers, who hate the environmentalists for takin' their jerbs. Said environmentalists are interested in Dafoe, who claims to be doing work involving Tasmanian devils, but failed to do enough research on his field to really be able to pass. He survives by mostly being monosyllabic and vague, which seems to be the character's natural tendency anyway. He's staying at the home of a family previously sent down here on research. The husband and father has been missing since last summer, the wife and mother, Lucy, spends all day in bed doped out on various meds. The two kids, Sass and Bike (the names they gave themselves), are left to irritate the fastidious Dafoe. There's also a guide, played by Sam Neill, who behaves in a proprietary manner towards the family.

You know how it goes. Dafoe tries to focus on his job, but is increasingly drawn into the lives of the family he's staying with. Bike seems to know something about the tiger, but Dafoe's employer is running out of patience, and there's someone, or maybe multiple someones, watching him.

Dafoe can play an oddball without much gift for interacting with people pretty easily, and he does a good job there. The scenery is gorgeous, and now I want to read books about the ecological and geological history of Tasmania. The loggers and environmentalists are vague caricatures, but the things they're fighting over don't interest Dafoe, so there's no reason he'd bother to know them in any greater depth.. The kids seem to take to Dafoe too easily, grow comfortable around him too quickly. The actors themselves aren't doing a bad job, it's what they were given to work with.

The problem is I was entirely uninterested in the stuff going on with the family, because we know it's going to end badly. There are too many people with their eyes on Dafoe, who either don't like him already, or wouldn't like him if they figured out the truth. He's doing such a poor job selling his cover story, it feels inevitable it's going to get blown*. Either way, either the family is going to die so he can feel bad, or he's going to get killed protecting them. He's ventured too far outside his normal procedure for it to end otherwise.

So I was really in to the parts about him in the wilderness. Searching for likely places, killing things to use as bait, mapping everything out, checking the traps, and of course, the fact that part of the time, he's being observed. Waiting for him to find the tiger, or for the someone watching him to confront him. What's he going to do when he finds the tiger? What are other people going to do if they find out he did?

The parts with the family are a way to ease tension, act as a release valve for the audience the way they seem to for Dafoe. I didn't want the release valve, so it felt like padding. It's a gorgeous movie, though, and the parts I liked, I liked a lot.

* Lucy, once she's off the pills, figures him out within a couple of days, and seems ready to confront him, but then opts not to.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fall Isn't Improving The Selection

Not a lot to get excited about in the September solicitations. Secret Empire is mostly over, maybe I'll go back to buying Deadpool. Or maybe not. Scarlet Spider is double-shipping again, but Wil Sliney is the artist, not Mark Bagley. Since I doubt Bagley has suddenly lost the ability to maintain a monthly schedule, I suspect the old bait n' switch Marvel's fond of, where they swap artists after the opening arc. If Bagley's gone, my interest in the book dropped by, hmm, let me see, at least 43%. But there's two more months of solicitations between now and then to see whether he pops up again.

Squirrel Girl is going to fight a dinosaur Ultron. Daredevil's watching intently, because once Squirrel Girl wins, this will become the new go-to for most improbable victory, edging out that time Daredevil beat an Ultron to death with a stick. Which is a gross oversimplification, but that's how it's usually presented. Anyway, that should be good.

DC's expanding that Metal thing they're doing, where Batman's trying to fend off an Evil batman from another universe or something. Hard pass. I see Keith Giffen is going to bring in the Justice League 3000 crew he was writing a couple of years ago for Blue Beetle. If I remember right, Ted Kord and Booster were there somehow, so will Jaime meet a different version of Ted Kord from the one he knows? Will the two Teds get to meet? I am, actually possibly talking myself into that. Go figure. I was still considering Justice League of America, but September is going to bring a two-part story about how Ray Palmer discovered the Microve-zzzzzzzzzz.



Outside those two publishers, no Atomic Robo mini-series yet. Maybe they're waiting for Real Science Adventures to conclude (which will happen in September). There is going to be a Samurai Jack mini-series, but that feels like a series where what makes it special won't translate to comics well. The combination of sound with particular cinematic tricks. Maybe I'm wrong. There's also going to be a John Wick series, which, same thing. I'm not claiming Keanu Reeves is some transcendent actor, but I do think he brings something to that role, and I'm not sure it can be recreated within a comic. Although I heard the current James Bond comic does pretty well. But Bond is such a big franchise, so many different actors, varying takes on the character, there's more wiggle room there.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.1 - The Origin of Peter Puppy

Plot: We open on a montage of times where Peter transforms into a monster and ruins everything. This leads to Jim getting fed up and firing Pet - no, wait, that was the first episode of season 1. This time, Jim resolves they must learn the origin of Peter's curse. Unfortunately, since it seems to have originated at the same time as his intelligence, speech, and fashion sense, he can't recall how it came about. Through a series of attempts to unlock his memories - including hypnosis, phone psychics, and letting Jim perform brain surgery - they learn nothing.

But Jim knows the Earthworm Mind-Meld, and by merging their astral selves, we and they learn the answer. Peter, in an effort to prove himself to the other dogs, ventured too near a running vacuum, and was sucked into Heck, where Evil bonded him with a demon, then sent him back home. We also see Peter and Jim's first meeting, when a devastated and lonely Peter, having wandered the globe, looking for a place he fits, crashes into Jim. They fight a bit, Jim feels bad for Peter, they become a crime-fighting duo. Their first vanquished villain was even Evil the Cat.

Flashback over, Jim and Peter venture to Heck and insist Evil remove the demon. Which he does. Which reverts Peter to an ordinary puppy. Whoops. Which gets Jim in a lot of trouble, which necessitates Peter bonding with the demon again, which saves the day.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'Note to self: Do not throw super-villains at buses full of orphans.'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 8 (8 overall).

Cow? Yes.

Other: There were a lot of possibilities for Quote of the Episode. 'Looks like I pulled a stupid.' Or, 'Jim, only one thing is powerful enough to save us now: Origami!' Strong episode for funny dialogue.

So even after gaining a sidekick, and building a hideout with a grant from the national Endowment for Super-Heroes, Jim wasn't having much luck getting to do actual super-heroing. So he put an ad in the paper that he was seeking a super-villain for a climactic battle. Which is how Evil showed up. No problems there. But Jim specifically said, 'No fatties' in his ad. Not cool, Jim. You could have had your very own evil businessman villain, but you had to go do that. Tsk, tsk.

Peter says it was his size as a puppy that caused the other dogs to not like him and make fun. I think it was more his penchant for gymnastics. he was leaping around, doing flips and cartwheels. These dogs were probably raised to believe puppies are supposed to chase balls, and play football, and stuff. We also see that, after his transformation, he was mocked and ridiculed everywhere he went for being a talking dog. I'm pretty sure Peter could have found himself a place somewhere in the world where Peter would be happy to see a talking dog. Probably a lot of places.

Jim spends a few scenes fleeing Evil and encountering the various dark realms of Heck. My favorite was the Room of Coffee Tables with Sharp Corners. That's such a little thing, but hitting your shin on those does hurt like the dickens. Nice touch by the creative staff.

Terlawk is the haggis capitol of the world, except for Scotland. In other food news, the opening saw the return of Peter's Coquille St. Jacques Nouvelle, this time actually appearing to have scallops in it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

What I Bought 6/16/2017 - Part 2

Alex' roommate wanted us to watch this Netflix show, Haters Back Off. We made it through a little over one episode, and it is the worst goddamn thing I've watched this year, which is saying something. Painfully unfunny. Maybe Clint was getting revenge because we don't clean his grill enough after using it? But we share the barbecue with him! Anyway, comic books.

Ms. Marvel #19, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marco Failla (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Must have been a lot of worked to stitch all those faces on there. Kind of complicates the costume.

Kamala's family attempts to celebrate Eid Al-Adha, but those HYDRA dopes are at it again, having managed to get that Chuck Worthy twerp installed as mayor without the pesky hurdle of winning an election. The wannabe fascist Becky, from the Civil War II tie-ins, is working with them, and has herself a henchman, who is extremely smug and self-righteous. And it looks as though Wilson is going to address the whole thing about Aamir getting super-powers right before Secret Wars maybe rebooted everything. Only took almost two years of completely ignoring it.

I would be a lot more impressed with Discord's attempt to play on Kamala's compassion if we weren't dealing with a group that's being run and/or supported by Dr. Faustus. Who mind-controls people? Who showed up in this book originally with some mind-control soda pop thing? So I can pretty easily dismiss all those "angry" people who support what HYDRA's up to as being mind-controlled.

Or, they're not being controlled, they're just idiots. Or assholes with abhorrent views. In either event, I don't care what they want, so I hope we're not going to spend a lot of issues of Kamala doubting whether she should get involved because the side rounding people up on no good grounds has supporters, too. But we'll see.

Failla's faces tend to be elongated with chins I find distracting, and there are times I'm not sure what expression he's going for. The panel of Kamala, Aamir, and Tyesha I assume fighting over a chocolate in the car, I assume it's supposed to be kind of funny, them all grabbing for it, but the looks are so intense and weird it doesn't really feel funny. The page of Kamala stretching out of the way of a bunch of attacks was really good, though.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #21, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Brain Brain's logo reminds me of something, but I can't remember what. It may be the current Batgirl's logo, between the large yellow emblem against a purple outfit, but I'm not sure that's it.

Ken, Tomas, and "Brian" are confronted with a series of crimes being pulled off by people dressing up as villains and heroes. The heroes pretend to arrest the villains, but are actually sneaking off with the loot. There are so many heroes in New York, it'll be hard to know if the ones they see are real or not, but Brian has worked out an algorithm so he can better distinguish faces and this lets them tell who's a fake or not, and capture everyone.

Most of the trouble for our heroes comes from Brian's attempts to initiate hanging out protocols which ruin everything. Although that teacher giving Ken math problems to perform in class in front of everyone for 5% of his grade is complete bullshit. I'm sorely disappointed in Tomas for not stepping up on Ken's behalf and giving that tool an earful. I exempt Brain Drain because he would have rolled out some soliloquy about how math, though a vital tool in demonstrating the ultimate descent into nothingness of the universe, can't fill a man's heart. Maybe that would have crushed the professor's spirit, as he realizes he has wasted his life in academia.

I was debating whether the Doctopus was really a good analogue for Steel (since each of the Octopals is representing one of the guys who popped up after the Death of Superman), but Steel took the "Man of Steel" thing and made a man-shaped suit out of a steel-like material. So a Doctor Octopus with a literal octopus on his head is appropriate, although it can't be much fun for man or gastropod. Also, Doctopus was carrying hammers, so totally a proper analogue to Steel.

I appreciate the touch that Brian's eyes simply float wherever they want in that jar. So they can be in the top half, bottom half, swing way over to the side. It's fun watching where Henderson sends them from one panel to the next. As is Brian's questionable fashion sense. That cool dude outfit was awful. He ought to be hanging out with friggin' Brad wearing that.

And at least fake Spider-Man remembers he has a spider-sense, even if Spidey's own clone apparently does not.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Christmas Movie In June

Decided to rewatch The Ref over the weekend. I randomly found out it was on Netflix a month ago, and given how badly all my recent attempts to watch movies I hadn't seen before have gone, going back to something familiar I liked didn't sound too bad.

Denis Leary is a thief, trips an alarm robbing a house, his driver panics and bails, so he takes Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis hostage. This leaves him trapped in their home on Christmas with the squabbling couple, Spacey's idiot brother's family, and their domineering mother. Angry, hilarious yelling ensues. I think "Shut up" constitutes one-third of all words spoken during the movie.

I hadn't watched this in years, so I remembered the part where the in-laws have arrived, and Leary tries passing himself off as Caroline and Lloyd's marriage counselor being a much bigger part of the movie. It's actually only the last half-hour. Prior to that is the burglary, the intro to Caroline and Lloyd's dysfunction, their delinquent son (who is annoying in that way "bad" kids in '90s movies often are, but the film points out the kid really has no idea how good he has it, so I think he's supposed to be annoying).

Every character in the movie is right, but also wrong. (Except Lloyd's mother, who is a complete ass with a martyr complex. My favorite line is Lloyd leaning down to her and telling her that next Christmas, "we're going to get you a big wooden cross, and every time you feel unappreciated you can climb up and nail yourself to it." Spacey has this great look of smug satisfaction come over his face as he says it, too. You can tell he had hit his limit with her, and he's pissed enough to let her have it with both barrels. Best of all, she's never going to see it coming from her dear boy.)

Characters are quick to point out each other's faults, but are oblivious to their own, and often misread the others. Gus, for all that he cuts through Lloyd and Caroline's bullshit, also brings a lot of his own class resentments into how he sees them. He's not happy with his life, and figures Lloyd should be with his, not realizing the truth of it. But Lloyd does have a little of the martyr in him, with his whining about how someone (meaning him) has to be responsible.

You end up a few people with love each other, but have allowed too much crap to build up between them, and a bunch of other interactions where the characters hate each other, but pretend they enjoy spending time together because that's what you're supposed to do. Connie doesn't really want to visit Lloyd and Caroline, hates the food Caroline prepares, but it's what you're supposed to do, so they go and pretend to like it. Gus, the wandering Santa, probably doesn't like delivering a fruitcake to Lloyd and Caroline, but does it out of routine. No one likes Rose, but she's the matriarch, and has a fuckload of money, so they all pretend.

And it's Gus, who as a cat burglar trying to avoid arrest and preferably not be noticed, and therefore the one with the most to gain from everything proceeding as normal, who upends everything. His presence applies enough pressure that all the facades shatter. It happens even before he meets Caroline and Lloyd, because his crime brings all the wealthy asshole bigshots to the sheriff, who can't deal with any more of their self-important crap and tells them so, rather than continue to kiss their asses. The added stress of a gun-toting burglar having their son as a hostage upstairs leaves Caroline unable to keep up a pretense of everything being OK, which gets to Lloyd. And that starts to infect the others, and they start to grate on Gus, and he loses control and the whole thing spirals out of control. It's a lot of fun sometimes to watch fictional people with fucked up families scream at each other (it helps that no one is going to get seriously hurt).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What I Bought 6/16/2017 - Part 1

I did manage to find most of last week's books on Friday, but too late to post anything then. These are the first two books I read, so the ones I was most interested in, then.

Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #3, by Peter David (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), John Dell (inker), Jason Keith and Jay David Ramos (color artists), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Well, he's back in his classic duds. Not a perfect costume, but fairly simple, and when in doubt, simple is probably better.

Kaine is not killed by the people with guns, who were sicced on him by Ben, after Rita warned him. Ben has more immediate problems, as Mr. Slate jams a tracer in his neck, and Cassandra lies and says it's also a bomb. Doesn't Ben have a spider-sense? While Ben mulls that problem over, a trio of guys dressed in various Spider-costumes barge into the casino, and right into Mr. Slate, who promptly kills one. Ben, in costume, saves them, and warns them to stop this nonsense. When the one dressed in Ben's old costume criticizes the current one, Ben takes his costume.

One of the reasons I picked up this book was because I figured, with a veteran writer like Peter David, we'd get more subplots involving supporting characters. I'm still not clear if that's going to happen. Ben ran into Mandy, the redhead he rescued in the first issue, trying to get a job as a dancer at the casino. "Aunt June" is still around, shoveling quarters into the slot machines. We learned Mr. Slate has a son.

I have no idea if any of that is going anywhere. I'm still trying to get a bead on Ben. He didn't hesitate to jump and fight Slate to protect remaining two do-gooders. But he was not-so-subtly reminding Mandy she had better get him his money just prior to that. And he tried to have gunmen kill Kaine, who is, admittedly, a multiple murderer himself, albeit a somewhat reformed one. Is this going to end up being about Ben futilely trying to assemble a family around him, because he's trying to do it through threats and conniving?

I liked the coloring most in the scene in the firefight between Kaine and the hired guns. The lighting from the firearms and the bullets was shown as reflecting off Kaine's outfit, and it just looked nice. Not that the colors are muted in the other scenes. There are a lot of panels with dark or muted backgrounds, mostly in the parts involving Cassandra, since she's opted for an atmospheric darkened office.

There's a couple of quick fights scenes, lets Bagley do a little something besides draw people talking. Nothing spectacular in page layout, but some solid work, things flow well. There's a nice contrast between the panel of Ben getting backhanded, which seems almost casual, and the next panel where's he's sent flying through a row of machines. You only see Slate's hand, which means you can't judge his expression or level or exertion, which makes it seem like a very casual slap. Which makes the effect it has all the more impressive. They've established Slate as a pretty formidable physical threat, I'm curious to see how Ben's going to handle that.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #17, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - The impish Gwen who filled in the artists' names on the cover might be my favorite of the lot.

Gwen has stayed in her world, even gotten a job working the counter at a movie theater. But she can see her internal narration boxes, and the title. Gwen tries to figure out how to confirm her suspicions, and settles on thinking a lot so her caption box grows large enough she can reach it. Unfortunately she overdoes it and the box forces her out the window. So everyone thinks she tried to kill herself. Given a few moments alone, Gwen is able to breach the panels, and steps outside something. She didn't exactly break the fourth wall so much as the third wall, the border to the next panel, so I'm not sure where she is at the moment. Suffice it to say, I'm extremely curious where Hastings is going with this.

Also, her experiences working at the theater make me extremely grateful I have never worked in customer service, but I'm grateful for that every day.

So Gwen lives in New York, correct? When she reaches out to touch the panel border, and briefly succeeds before finding herself touching another person's face, everyone on the subway is gawking at her. Would people on the subway actually do that? I was given to understand from other fiction people on New York subways try to ignore everything going on around them. Don't make eye contact and all that. Perhaps not. Or perhaps it's the narrative twisting things to produce a reaction from Gwen. her father has mysteriously become much "cooler".

The various effects are illustrated well, Gwen seeing through the break in the panel she created, into the next several panels yet to occur for example. Or the page of her being launched out the window by her bloated thought caption. I'm a little surprised that in the third panel of the page prior to that, she didn't notice her head was being forced outside the panel borders by the caption, but her mind was kind of running on its own train. It's a nice visual representation of the way your thoughts can get going and prove hard to stop sometimes. Usually don't see it like that in comics, but people aren't usually trying to do that on purpose.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man - Mark Hodder

Maybe not the best idea to start with the second book in a series, but I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. The book is set in 1862, one that has been altered from what we're familiar with because in the previous book a man traveled back from the far future to the 1840s and killed Queen Victoria, then bounced around the 19th century and was ultimately killed by Sir Richard Burton. The end result is history has changed significantly, though only Burton and a few others know it, and there are a wide array of advances, both technological and biological, popping up. I'm not sure what a time-traveling assassin has to do with being able to grow enormous, carnivorous plants, but OK, sure. Burton recaps enough of the story to other characters at different points where it's possible for a new reader to grasp the general outline of what's happened before.

Here, there's a group after a mysterious black diamond with the ability to increase one's spiritual powers, including mesmerism and astral projection. This has some connection with the sudden appearance of an heir to a landed family, and a marked increase in social unrest among the working classes towards people higher up the economic ladder. And Burton, who serves as an agent of the King (via Palmerston*, who has apparently undergone steampunk botox or some such thing), and his poet acquaintance Algernon Swinburne get tasked with figuring out what the hell is going on.

It reminds me a bit of Harry Turtledove's books, which I loved when in I was in junior high and high school. Now, it's more noticeable that even with this shift in the timeline, most of the major players are still people who were major players in our timeline. Heck, even Burton's local paperboy is an orphaned Oscar Wilde, already showing a knack for pithy observations, because of course he is. I guess the choice is to resent it and fight it, or accept it's that kind of book and go with it.

For the most part, I went with it. It didn't take long to read, the plot proceeds at a solid pace, and Hodder introduced a bit of a Chekov's Gun in the first two chapters that paid off in a way I wasn't expecting at the end. Actually, I initially thought the first two chapters were their own story, and this was going to be a collection of short adventures of Burton and Swinburne. But no, it was part of the larger story.

There'll probably be another book down the line; Hodder telegraphed that. I might pick it up if I see it. This was a decent enough action story to stand on its own, though. one other point. There's that story about John Ostrander having an Australian friend who talked to him about Captain Boomerang's dialogue. Ostrander argued Aussies say all the things he writes for Boomer, and his friend replied, 'Yes, but not in the same sentence.' There are a few instances of that, where Hodder took every English exclamation or slang he could think of and made a sentence of them.

'A bizarre vehicle had snaked into view from around the next corner and was thundering toward them at high speed. It was a millipede - an actual insect - grown to stupendous proportions by the Eugenicists. When it had reached the required size, they'd killed it and handed the carcass over to their Engineering colleagues, who'd sliced off the top half of its long, segmented, tubular body. They'd removed the innards until only the tough outer carapace remained, and into this they'd fitted steam-driven machinery via which the many legs could be operated. platforms had been bolted across the top of each segment and upon them seats affixed, over canopies arched, echoing the shape of the missing top half of the body. A driver sat at the front of the vehicle in a chair carved from the shell of the head.'

* Every time Palmerston appears in the book, I think of the Simpsons, and Barney Gumble punching out Wade Boggs over whether Palmerston was a greater Prime Minister than Pitt the Elder.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Brief But Enjoyable Convention Visit

Saturday, Alex and I went to the St. Louis Comic Convention. It was actually in St. Charles, but whatever. We didn't get to stay long, since Alex had two gigs that afternoon and evening, but it was pretty nice. In terms of number of artists and vendors, I think it was about on par with Cape-Con. I'd imagine it had greater attendance, given the proximity to St. Louis, so more people in easy driving distance. It was starting to really fill up about the time we left (roughly one).

I was pretty excited because Chris Claremont was there, but then I dicked around too long and by the time I was ready to get my copy of Uncanny X-Men #218 signed (the second half of Rogue, Psylocke, Dazzler, and Longshot's fight with Juggernaut in Scotland), there was a long line, and we couldn't spare the time, unfortunately. Too bad, I had wanted to tell him I liked his recent, brief Nightcrawler ongoing with Todd Nauck. I mean, I could have done without the Shadow King, but you just have to accept that guy is going to be a thing when you're reading Claremont's stuff. Could have been worse. Could have been Mr. Sinister.

Alex was more excited about the presence of David Yost, the original Blue Power Ranger, but apparently froze it when the opportunity presented itself to walk up and say hello. So we both whiffed. Maybe next time.

I abandoned any idea of looking for back issues fast. There were a lot of vendors selling comics at 5 bucks a pop, and advertising that like it was some kind of a deal. Maybe if I had remembered to hit the ATM the night before, so I had more than 50 bucks once I got in the door, but as it was, no. There was a moment of massive letdown when I thought I found someone which multiple shelves of superhero trading card collections, only to find out each plastic case had one (1) card, plus a Lego version of the character on the card. A crushing reversal of fortune.

The whole Lego version of characters thing feels like it's exploded recently, which is probably not the case. I just noticed a lot of people selling them here, and the same was true at Cape-Con. Not really my bag.

I did pick up a couple of pieces of artwork. No commissions, I didn't have the cash for that, but a couple of nice prints, including a really nifty Samus. I almost talked Alex into buying a Black Panther print from the same fellow, but Alex said he didn't have any place to put them, so what's the point? I figured the point was you like it, and at some time, he will have a place to put them, so have it for when that day comes. He would not be swayed from his financially practical decision.

There were a lot of interesting vendors and artists, just a lack of time and funds to do more, really. There was a nice lady who paints using coffee, there was a glassblower there, just a lot of cool stuff.

One thing we both thought was weird, and maybe it changed after we had left, but we didn't see anyone dressed up as Wonder Woman. Not even any little kids. I figured with the movie being a big success and all, we'd see tons of them, but not the case. But I wonder if the cosplayers were holding off on getting there until a little closer to the costume contests. It was not a day to be in any kind of heavy apparel, or to be covered head to toe in spandex. June in Missouri is rough that way.

Hopefully the convention comes back around next year and we can spend a little more time there.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Earthworm Jim 1.13 - The Anti-Fish

Plot: We open with Psycrow using a De-Evolution Ray on Jim, turning him into a giant amoeba. So Jim launches himself at Psycrow and prepares to digest him. Yikes.

In the main plot, Bob seeks to awaken the dreaded Anti-Fish to help him conquer the universe. Jim is busy being menaced by Evil Jim on the Planet of Eerily Spooky Landscapes, when he gets a call from the Fur-bearin' Trout, warning of the Anti-Fish's imminent awakening. Of course, he won't put in another quarter to extend the call, so Jim doesn't get to hear how to defeat the menace, but no matter. Off he flies, leaving the Princess to deal with Evil Jim.

As with most of these attempts to avert fate, the effort only causes the prediction to come true. Bob had failed to awaken the Anti-Fish, but Jim's presence, the scent of a worm, works. The bad news for Bob is the Anti-Fish won't listen to him. The bad news for everyone is it seeks to eat the Great Worm Spirit, which resides at the Dawn of Time, which will end everything. So hero and villain must team up. Which goes as well as you expect. The attempt to ambush the Anti-Fish in the Time Sewer results in them being knocked into prehistoric Earth and nearly eaten by dinosaurs. A long stint at the Restaurant of Time is able to send them to their destination, but working separately, they can barely annoy the Anti-Fish. But they do succeed through teamwork, and existence is saved. And Jim eventually remembers to go back for the Princess, who is busy being wooed by Evil Jim's notebook full of love poetry.

In the interlude, Professor Monkey-for-a-Head tries telling the monkey a bedtime story. It doesn't go well.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'By the Great Worm Spirit, whose heartbeat forms the very lifeblood of the universe, this sounds. . .fairly. . . bad!'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 0 (11 overall).

Cow? Yes, appearing in response to Jim's plea for things to be easy for once. I need cows to appear to help make things easy for me sometimes.

Other: Peter didn't use the "better than pro wrestling" line this week, so maybe it isn't going to become his new catch phrase. He did encounter his old enemy, haggis, at the Restaurant of Time, as that was the Dawn of Time Special. That is such an incredibly random idea, you eat a meal and it opens a portal to take you to a specific time.

Jim at one point refers to the Anti-Fish as the "sea horseman of the apocalypse", which is a pretty good line.

I wonder if it bothers bagpipe players that cartoons use bagpipes as shorthand for "awful noise". That has to get a little irritating after a while.

The Great Worm Spirit speaks in a parody of Christopher Walken's voice. Interesting choice.

The classic story of hero and villain, forced to cooperate. Not much new here, other than Jim being the uncouth one who leaves the toilet seat up. And, while Bob does try an immediate attack after the truce ends, and is undone by their cooperation, Jim just leaves him stranded in space. But Jim never does take his villains to Space Jail or whatever. Of course, most of them are monarchs of one world or another. Form a group, R.E.F.E.M. Revolutionary Earthworm Focused on Ending Monarchies. OK, it needs some work. I'm not Vril Dox, people.

This is, according to IMDB, the last episode of Season 1, for what that's worth. I don't think seasons mean particularly much with this show, but maybe my memory is wrong. We'll see starting next week!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

One Of These Days I'll Watch A Good Movie

The Gallowwalkers isn't it. In my defense, it looked like a Western where Wesley Snipes was going to be pursued by members of the Spanish Inquisition, who were also cowboys. That sounds promising, right?

Snipes killed all the members of a gang that raped his wife while he was away on some errand. He was killed as he left the prison, and his mother, who had to give him up to join a convent for reasons I don't recall, appeared and asked the Devil to return him to life. Which he did, but also he brought back everyone Snipes killed as well. The lead bad guy is perplexed that his son didn't return with the rest of the gang, and is determined to find a doorway to Hell that exists in the desert, which Snipes is sort of defending. Snipes just wants to kill the guy and make it stick this time.

The movie doesn't seem like it knows what it wants to do. They throw in a young thief who is ostensibly there because Aman (Snipes) decided having some help would be a good plan. Really, the guy is there to serve as Exposition Bucket. Snipes us him as a convenient place to dump all that stuff so we can learn it. There's a lady of the evening set to go to jail alongside the thief, who doesn't get rescued, and spends the remainder of the movie dragged from one bad situation to another. When she first appears, one of the deputies tries putting a move on her, and she surreptitiously removes a knife from his boot to use to warn him off. Sadly, she doesn't show that kind of quick thinking at any other point in the movie. It's only in there so she can make a quip about preferring her men heartless (while jabbing his chest with the knife), so the thief boy can make a quip at the end about being heartless himself.

And the movie lifts liberally from other, much better Westerns. They used the "You brought two too many" line from Once Upon a Time in the West. They mostly lifted the end gun fight from For a Few Dollars More, right down to thief boy making the save appearing suddenly with a rifle in hand, walking over to Aman, undoing his own gun belt, and handing to him. Be less obvious in stealing, please.

There are a few memorable settings, and some vivid costuming choices, very colorful. Snipes adopts this peculiar stride at times during the film, really trying for something stylized. But there isn't enough else there to hang that stuff on. I wasn't interested in most of the characters, or a lot of the mysteries. The way in which Aman saves the thief's life partway through the movie was clever, and it was probably intended to introduce a measure of uncertainty into the conclusion, whether he would help Aman or not. But it didn't feel like the kind of movie where there was really much chance he'd go against him.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I Was 50 Percent Recognizing Music For Scenes Among Dead People

Of all the episodes of this recent return of Samurai Jack, the second one, XCIII, is my favorite. I could go on for awhile about it, and I might someday, but I wanted to focus on one particular part, right near the end.

Jack's on the run from the Daughters of Aku. He's outnumbered, weaponless, and seemingly outclassed, fighting with his own inner demons while trying to contend with this threat*. And he ends up in a massive tomb. Here's a video of it, at least until it gets pulled down someday.

So the thing I noticed, the first time I saw that scene, was what I thought were two different pieces of music, or parts of them, that I recognized, both of which seemed appropriate. I'm still positive I'm right about the first one, but I was off on the second.

The first is that it's using the piano portion of Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold", from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, although in a different key, I think. The piece that plays when Tuco reaches Sad Hill cemetery, and begins running among the thousands of graves, trying to find Arch Stanton, and that hundred grand in gold. Not a bad choice for this scene. The Daughters believe serving Aku's will is all that matters, and to do that, they have to kill the Samurai. This quest, the years or tortuous training they've been subjected to, have led them finally, to this place of the dead. He's somewhere out there, find him, and they reach their goal. Nothing else matters.

The other piece, the one I was wrong about, is the theme to 28 Days Later ("In the House, In a Heartbeat", by John Murphy). It'll take about 45 seconds to a minute before you get to what I thought I was hearing. In my defense, it had been a lot of years since I'd heard the song until I went looking for it to see if I was right.

And my primary memory of the song goes with the end of the film, where Cillian Murphy's character has returned and is wreaking havoc, and that one soldier drags Selena into an upstairs room. Then Jim enters the attic above, and the camera's pulling in close on the wild-eyed soldier as he scans above his head, looking for the source of the noise. And you know he's about to end up dead, and he does.

Jack fares better*, but his scene had a similar vibe, him trying to wait it out in the coffin, eyes cast upward fearfully, death steadily closing in on him. It evoked the same sense of dread and anticipation as "In the House, In a Heartbeat".

* Although it's notable that even with a total advantage, the Daughters still couldn't finish him. Even off his game, entirely on the defensive, Jack is just good enough to stay alive. 

* There was a post on a blog called Zombie Mallet that noted that in Namor's '90s series, at least in the early issues, he seemed to be much stronger the fewer clothes he wore. Put him in a suit, or a coat, he'd get KOed pretty easily. If he could ditch the shirt, watch out. Jack seems to operate on similar principles. Once he's down to a loincloth, he could probably beat up anyone. The Guardian of the Time Portal hit on the key: Beat Jack into unconsciousness before his clothes get too destroyed.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

:07 Seconds or Less - Jack McCallum

The Mike D'Antoni/Steve Nash/Shawn Marion Phoenix Suns teams came along at just the right time for me. I had abandoned the notion of having a specific team to live or die with, because I had foolishly chosen the Minnesota Timberwolves as that team many years earlier, and it was becoming increasingly likely they were never going to build a consistent contender around Kevin Garnett, the attempt to partner him with Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell having worked for approximately one season*. So I opted to root for whatever teams caught my fancy, due to style of play or particular players they had. The Suns ran like crazy, shot a bunch of threes, scored a lot. They were pretty much my ideal team, and :07 Seconds of Less is about the 2005-2006 season when they reached the Western Conference finals, minus Amare' Stoudemire and his 26 points per game the previous season.

McCallum, a Sports Illustrated writer, had gotten the Suns to agree to make him a part of the coaching staff, and he could use that access to write a book. I expected it would start in training camp and move chronologically through the season, but McCallum mostly focuses on Phoenix' playoff run, jumping back to key moments during the regular season as they become relevant. As Boris Diaw becomes a key player, jump back to when he was acquired in the off-season, and the debates among the coaching staff about what, exactly, he could do for them. Raja Bell is fighting (sometimes literally) to contain Kobe Bryant, jump back to a regular season game when Bell went off on the team for lackluster effort. It's effective, but I was left wishing for more about the regular season.

I was surprised at how candid the coaches were with McCallum, knowing there was a book coming. The fact the coaching staff and front office question how seriously Stoudemire is taking rehabbing his knee, or how much effort they put in to trying to make certain Shawn Marion doesn't feel slighted. That the coaches make sure to mention Marion's birthday when announcing Nash won MVP again, or pleading with the local beat writers to prominently mention Marion's contributions to a big win. Marion has physical gifts and a range of abilities no one else on the team can match, can fill up the box score in ways the others can't. Because of how much talent he has, when he doesn't do that, the coaches attribute it to lack of effort, and from Marion's perspective, unfairly single him out for mistakes in front of the team (especially compared to Steve Nash, whose defense is, let's be charitable and call it really fucking bad).

It's a funny book, at times. The coaches mess with each other, everyone talks shit about Charles Barkley, who is busy dismissing them from his comfy (and no doubt heavily reinforced) seat on TV. They all give McCallum grief about various things, they bitch about the refs favoring the Lakers, they complain about Kobe Bryant. I appreciate that the players, like the fans, believe the NBA favors certain teams.

'If Barbosa is nervous about doing battle with Bryant, he doesn't show it. "I am thinking about your backyard," Barbosa tells Dan. The older D'Antoni had jokingly told Barbosa that he desperately needs the extra $60,000 that players and coaches earn for reaching the second round so he can make pool and landscaping improvements to his new home in Scottsdale. "That's the way to think, L.B.," says Dan. "Every time Kobe makes a move, just remember he's trying to reduce the size of my pool and take away a shrub."

* At this point, it's been over a decade since the T'wolves managed even one winning season. They don't get the amount of scorn for their incompetence the Sacramento Kings do, not since they fired David Kahn as GM anyway, Maybe because they seem to have a plan now, but they haven't had any more success actually building a winning team than the Kings.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Action-Comedy Caper Flick Here, All the Way

I exhausted my made-up teams comprised of video game characters. On to other forms of media! I originally planned to do an all-Bruce Campbell team, but it wasn't working. Mostly because there wasn't a fifth role of his I was familiar enough with the put on the team. Besides, that much glory cannot be concentrated in one place. The universe would combust. This team is a bit underhanded, maybe a little conniving, but I think it could be interesting.

The Leader: Ling (Anita Mui, The Legend of Drunken Master) - Constantly swindling her friends at mahjong, encouraging her stepson to fight because it'll raise the profile of his dad's school, constantly pulling the wool over her husband's eyes. But sometimes the last part is to protect her stepson, or she'll get into a fight with a stranger she thinks has come to hurt him, or she'll loan out a piece of jewelry with a great significance to her to help cover for a mistake. She can play the dutiful wife when she has to, feign helplessness when it'll help.

So she'll take a lot of different paths, but they will almost never be the straightforward, honest ones. She's always going to be trying to slip one past somebody. If someone messes with her, she's going to fight them, or get someone else to do it. We didn't really see her put together any sort of a crew during the movie, but she had a group of friends willing to gamble with her, and she provided a key bit of encouragement to Fei Hong when he wasn't sure if he should get involved at the end. The ability to push or cajole people into helping her, earn their trust, that could be useful.

I don't know if this group can earn her compassion quickly enough, though. I get the impression there was a limited number of people she cared about, and everyone else was outta luck. I don't know that she would hang this group out to dry, but can't rule it out entirely, either.

The Rogue: Ash (Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness) - I never said there would be no Bruce Campbell on this team. You could go with older Ash from the current TV series if you liked. I only went with younger Ash because I was using movie characters. Old Ash, out of shape, with his dentures and his non-stop bullshit might work even better, but I don't think he could keep up with this bunch.

Besides, Younger Ash is enough of a bullshit artist himself. He's a bit of a cad, certainly too impressed with himself, and is always going to be looking out for what he can get out of a situation. He doesn't want much to do with saving anyone, but if pressed into it, he will do it. He'll at least try and fix his mistakes, albeit by whatever route seems quickest and easiest. He gives the team a bit of engineering knowhow, assuming we can trust his version of what went down in the film. He's not a bad fighter in his dogged, somewhat clumsy way. He's the only one in this group that has any experience with the supernatural, although they're most likely to encounter that stuff because he's around.

And, with the Necronomicon in play, we can't rule out some sort of meeting with his older self. I'm not sure which version of him would be hurt worse by what they saw.

The Muscle: Hanna (Saoirse Ronan, Hanna) - A genetically engineered super-kid the government wanted to use for their typical nefarious purposes, taken and raised in the middle of nowhere, by Eric Bana, now on her own. She's an expert fighter and marksman, with a lot of knowledge of all kinds of things, but not much practical experience for a lot of them. So she knows several languages, but probably a formal, textbook version. Her ability to interact with other people in a way that doesn't raise eyebrows or draw attention is limited.

In other words, this bunch is going to represent a wonderful broadening of her horizons, and probably also be a terrible influence on her. There are times she isn't going to understand what's going on at all, and other times she'll be the one who has the little factoid that makes the difference. Combining what she learned about the sciences with Ash's creative bent could lead to some very unusual creations. She's probably also the one with the most knowledge of field medicine, which could come in handy, given the tendencies of a couple members of this team to get beat up.

Hanna mostly killed the people who were trying to catch her, but as Jason Bourne could no doubt attest to, there's always another bureaucrat who thinks they're going to be the one to score huge points by recapturing the super-awesome living weapon.

The Lady with a Past: Feathers (Angie Dickinson, Rio Bravo) - I'm assuming here that Feathers did not opt to stick around in Rio Bravo after Sheriff Chance so generously chose not to arrest her for a crime she had not, in fact, committed. The handbill about her deceased husband no longer an issue, she's able to travel where she likes, swindling fools at poker and having a high time of it, if she wants. She's not really the hero type, but she's not a bad person. Not violent, a little more quiet than the others. Not a shrinking violet, but charming. She can mostly rob you blind at cards, and you don't mind that it's happening.

When I first had the idea of this team, it revolved around Feathers and Ling taking Hanna under their wings. I did a post a long time back about wanting to see Cassandra Cain team-up with Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, and that was the basic idea here. Take Hanna on a trip outside her typical life, with a couple of adults with a very different way of doing things. I was thinking some kind of casino heist being planned with those three involved, and Ling and Feathers decide to just break the place by winning a bunch of money at the tables. They're at the tables, maybe having a few drinks, shooting the breeze, the casino's cycling in new dealers trying to break their streaks. Hanna's watching and learning, possibly breaking the fingers of anybody who tries getting too handsy or accuses them of cheating. Feathers might publicly tell Hanna that's not appropriate, but she and Ling will both certainly give Hanna a surreptitious thumbs up over it. Like I said, terrible influences.

The Guy with a Boat: Snowman (Jerry Reed, Smokey and the Bandit) - I considered going with Burt Reynolds, but again, the team might have had too much sex appeal in that scenario. Also, I think Snowman is a better person than his good buddy, at least slightly. Maybe he's just not as much of a gambler. That said, if he commits to something, he will see it through. He's sensible, in the sense he keeps his eyes on the prize, and he's a team player. He can let his alligator mouth outrun his jaybird head, as Bandit put it, and get himself in real trouble, but as long as nobody threatens his dog Fred, he can probably avoid that. His quieter personality should contrast nicely with Ash's bombast.

He's got the rig, you can stash all sorts of other vehicles in the back, even Ash's hunk of junk Delta 88. It provides decent cover for going all sorts of places. Just delivering a shipment of dice. That's it, lots and lots of dice. People just luv shootin' craps here. Smash through a barricade with it if you need to. Has the CB, gives you a whole network of people for information (and that's another thing, Snowman would have a whole circle of contacts none of the others would.)

If you really need to infiltrate the casino, have Snowman pass himself off as a lounge singer act. Admittedly might only work in certain casinos, or maybe Branson, but it's a possibility. Or get Hanna to do a knife-throwing act or something. Ash can be the target). I think Hanna will take to Fred, though none of the others strike me as dog people.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Earthworm Jim 1.12 - Queen What's-Her-Name

Plot: In the opening, Jim is threatened by Evil the Cat and his earthworm Jim voodoo doll, only to figure out the magic runs both ways, and the doll responds to his movements as well.

In the main story, Princess What's-Her-Name gets her morning paper and finds the Queen has banned chocolate, which means that tyrant has to go. She turns to Jim and Peter for help and relates her childhood locked in a dungeon at her sister's orders. This deeply moves Jim, but is only entertaining to Peter. The attempted coup is to take place during the Queen's monthly, secretive horn bleaching. Despite Peter turning into a monster and blowing their cover, the Queen is captured and the Princess assumes the throne. Peter's concerns things were too easy are brushed aside.

But the whole thing is actually a ruse by the (former) Queen, who has Professor Monkey-for-a-Head install control circuitry in the dress the Princess is required to wear, then plans to make her beat Jim to death before ripping herself limb from limb. Jim, too in love to fight back, instead makes a desperate dive for the Queen's remote control and is able to turn the Princess against her sister with the power of ballroom dancing. The day saved, the Princess abolishes the monarchy and holds democratic elections. Then she forgets to run and the Queen re-takes control. *sad trombone*

In the interlude, Psycrow struggles with the fact space villainy has become unsatisfying, and considers a career change.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'Aw man, you and your Puritan work ethic. Get off my back, man!'

Times Peter Turns Into a Monster: 1 (11 overall).

Cow? Yes, and it proves instrumental in saving our heroes and preventing a cliffhanger ending.

Other: Three times in this episode, Peter compares events to pro wrestling and determines them to be better, at least in terms of entertainment value. I wonder if the writers were also getting tired of the "Fear is the mind-killer" bit. If so, they should probably have refrained from overusing this catch phrase right off the bat.

They also did this bit with Jim commenting about how all this cooperation is surely going to help his and the Princess' relationship, and her being baffled as to what he's talking about, and used that at least three or four times. Somehow it didn't feel overused, maybe because it's previously established the Princess does not generally share in Jim's deep emotions.

They also brought back the recurring gag of Peter eating haggis before he realizes what it is. Interesting a planet of intelligent insect species would make meals with sheep internal organs. Mostly because I wonder how they're getting sheep. Alien abductions, I suppose. Would explain the cow's sudden appearance and attack on the Queen. That'll teach you damn aliens to steal our livestock!

I considered using 'Eat dirt, ponderous rumped blaggard!' for quote of the episode, but Jim' irritation at Peter raining on the triumphant parade was too good to pass up.

The Queen was going to make her sister rip herself limb from limb, that is pretty dark right there. Psycrow could take a few lessons from the Queen. Maybe hire her as a guest lecturer for the Super-villain training program. It is interesting to me how largely chummy most of Jim's villains are. The Queen hires the Professor and Psycrow, so does Bob on occasion. Psycrow and the Prof will work together. Evil is kind of the exception, but then he wants to destroy all existence rather than conquer it. Bob says he wants to destroy, destroy, de-strooo-yah, but that's as a means to conquering also. Too incompetent at it to bother the Queen, though.

Insecticans are about as interested in politics as people in the United States. No one showed up for the Princess' announcement that she'd dethroned her sister. And no one else tried running against the Queen for office. Although the newspaper didn't announce voter turnout, only that Queen Slug-for-a-Butt won in a landslide. Does she have a fiercely dedicated minority of the population in her corner, or did she scare everyone into voting for her?

Friday, June 09, 2017

How Much Wiggle Room Does A Character Have?

I had a whole other post going, but I didn't like how it was coming together (or wasn't, more accurately). But this came up as I was working through it, so let's go with it instead.

It's in regards to what we'll accept as the range for a given character. It's not about their core characterization, more what you think is essential to their setting. Who is around them, where are they active, what are they doing, stuff like that. It's not what you'd want to see in a perfect world either, but more sketching out the boundaries of what feels right for the character, however you define that. Think about it in terms of directions they took the character you thought worked or didn't.

For example, with Spider-Man, I don't need Peter Parker and Mary Jane to be married, or even dating. They can be, but not required. Aunt May doesn't have to know Peter is Spider-Man, but she can. He can be high schooler, college student, full-time working adult. Peter doesn't have to work at the Daily Bugle, but him as a knockoff Tony Stark is a no-go. I can sort of roll with Ben Reilly as Spider-Man, but not Otto Octavius hijacking Peter's body and calling himself Spider-Man. He can be an Avenger, I guess, although keep their involvement in his solo title to a minimum.

I don't want to specify characters, because I'm curious which characters people would have strong feelings about. But along these lines, do minor characters have a wider range than the more popular, first-tier characters, a smaller range, or does it depend on who we're talking about (and who's doing the talking)? The Shroud has had relatively few appearances compared to Iron Man. Would that restrict what feels like an appropriate setting for him, compared to Iron Man, because we've seen him in a more limited range? Or does it open things up more, because there are fewer pieces that might be considered "essential"? He's fought Dr. Doom, pretended to be a crime lord, made a team out of old Spider-Woman villains, dated the second Spider-Woman, been crazy and fighting Daredevil, been a Hero for Hire. Is there a cast member you think would have to be there, a locale, an enemy, a goal, or is it all open for him?

I feel as though it would depend on the character for me. I think I'm finding I might have a somewhat limited range for Cassandra Cain (or maybe it's the Rebirth version feels like an entirely different character DC is trying to sell to me as being the old one that I liked), whereas I don't have many notions about what I wouldn't accept for Cave Carson. I would expect subterranean adventures, but I'm not going to demand he be friends with Wild Dog and Will Magnus in the future simply because his current series set things up that way. Those don't seem like essential features to his story. But I probably have fewer restrictions on Wolverine than I do on The Ray, so it varies.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

No Ghosts, But There Is One Spook

I'm sure I will stop be intrigued by sorta interesting descriptions of sci-fi/horror movies on Netflix soon. Yep, any day now. But not by Memorial Day weekend, when I watched Pod!

Three siblings. Ed's the oldest, a doctor of some sort, clearly used to being the responsible one, but in that way where he makes a big production of how responsible he's having to be. Lyla's the youngest, seems to have a drinking problem. Martin was in the military and sent to the Middle East for awhile, and doesn't seem to be doing well. He left Ed a message about figuring out something big, and so Ed drags Lyla along to check on him. Martin lives in an isolated family lake house in Maine, and he's not doing so well. He's lined the doors and windows with foil, the house is a mess, he pulled out a tooth he says had a tracking device in it. Oh, and he claims a creature made by the military killed his dog, and was after him. But he caught it and has it locked in the basement.

We're meant to wonder if Martin's telling the truth or not, although we saw the dog dead in the snow. But making him Movie Crazy, with the wild gestures and sudden laughter, like Robin Williams playing crazy, or maybe present day Nicolas Cage. It's hard to take it seriously. Depending on their age, if you walked into your siblings home and saw them acting like this, you might suspect it was an elaborate joke. Although we learn Martin's had violent episodes in a hospital previously to try to justify his behavior being this extreme. But we learn that from Ed, presented with the same martyr complex attitude of "Why am I stuck being the adult?". Which is the kind of thing that screams that he doesn't understand what he's dealing with. You can just tell he's so sure of himself he's going to get a rude awakening. So everything is kind of undercutting each other.

Except maybe Lyla's concern for Martin. She listens, encourages him to explain what he's talking about, believes him about being experimented on. Maybe you are supposed to encourage those beliefs, but it lends a little credence to his claims, reinforces the idea this is his family and they do care, and plays off Ed's attempt to be the Boss, because he takes it as her not 'being on his side.' Even though you could argue she's doing more to win Martin over than Ed is.

The first 45 minutes revolve around this. Ed and Lyla trying to figure out what's happened to Martin and what they're going to do. But you know at some point they're going to enter the room with two padlocks on it, and that's the last half-hour (it's only about 80 minutes long). An abrupt shift into a struggle to survive, with the addition of some guy who is a Tool of Some Shadowy Power to deliver some vague exposition and ensure an unhappy ending. The movie feels caught between two different objectives. Either it needed to play up the mystery of whether Martin was nuts or not more, or focus on the struggle to survive more. As it is, neither one felt filled out sufficiently.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Different Game, But I'm Still Not A High Chaos Guy

There was only one comic out this week I wanted, and I know neither of the stores in town is likely to stock it, so next week for comic reviews, hopefully.

I replayed Catherine over the last week (reviewed here). I hadn't played it since that fall of 2013, when I was still trying to unlock all the other endings. Which involved looking online to figure out what direction I needed to be pushing the meter. I could have just watched videos of the endings, but I wanted to get there myself.

One thing I learned from all that is the same story beats are going to come up every time, and all that changes is what particular thread of guilt or rationalization Vincent experiences. I could never force him to come clean any sooner than the game intended.

So this time, there was no set goal in mind. I opted to answer the questions posed how I felt. When Vincent received texts from one of the girls, I responded if I felt like it, with a response that matched how I felt at that moment. Which meant I was usually apologetic to Katherine (who Vincent was cheating on), if I responded. Sometimes, the options presented didn't add up to anything I liked.

As it turned out, I wound up with the ending where Vincent tries to get back together with Katherine, and she rejects him (as she should). Which was not exactly my favorite ending, though I didn't particularly want for him to wind up back with either girl. Too much lying going on from all parties there, and Vincent is still a mess.

I probably approached some of the questions in a backwards manner. The further into the game you get, the more questions become about whether Vincent wants excitement or a peaceful life. Orderly or chaotic. Chaotic excitement read to me like a bunch of noise and distractions around all the time, wild parties and bar fights, which are definitely not something I'm interested in, but I'm not sure I'm on board for orderly either.

If I wanted to go on a trip, I'd like to be able to just go, and not worry about checking with someone first. Or if I don't feel like going anywhere, then I won't. I don't think of it as being a desire for chaos. Sometimes I just want to go and not feel held back by all the things that normally do. Worrying about putting more miles on my car. Worrying about being tired when I have to go back to work, or if someone is going to need my help while I'm off somewhere. Sounds like wanting to abdicate responsibilities, at least for a little while. Which is more chaos than order, if a subdued version of chaos.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

More Idiots Pissing Off Ghosts

The Presence is German found-footage poltergeist film that suffers for a particularly egregious form of something that comes up a lot in these movies. The character, usually a guy, who  insists on continuing with what they're doing in the face because he's got things under control, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Markus makes a couple of errors right off, as he's told his girlfriend Rebecca this is some special trip, and then it turns out they're spending 10 days in an abandoned castle where lots of murders took place, and he brought along his irritating friend Lukas. This in spite of Rebecca not liking scary stuff at all, which Markus at least plays surprised at*.

As things do, they start off slow. Shadows moving, the camera glitching (which becomes shorthand for the presence). Then there's loud pounding coming from the attic with no visible source. Doors opening and closing. Rebecca is growing increasingly unnerved, especially when it appears the presence is targeting her. At one point, she's brushing her teeth after a rough night, and as Markus jokes about whether he can record her in the shower, the spirit starts opening and slamming the bathroom door in his face and briefly trapping her inside. Which scares the crap out of her.

This is the point where a reasonable, compassionate human being, recognizing, if not the fact they are out of their depth, at least that their girlfriend, who they allegedly care about, is seriously frightened and uncomfortable. And would therefore take that person home. Markus is not a reasonable, compassionate human being. It doesn't help that even as Lukas suspects Rebecca is, I don't know, faking being possessed. Like she's taking their camera out into the woods at night, in her bare feet, in winter, and just leaving it at the grave marker of the former lord of the castle, as a joke or something. And Markus, when he finds her in the woods and brings her back to a room with all the pictures turned around, their stuff scattered, accuses Lukas.

The thing about Zombieland was it was a movie about a zombie apocalypse in a world where movies about that existed, so people knew what were stupid things to do. They might still do those stupid things, but there was usually an in-story reason, like they were distraught or trying to rescue a friend. These kinds of movies always seem to be in universes where no one has seen Paranormal Activity, or Poltergeist, or whatever. I guess because, if they had, they would just get out of the house immediately, and that would be that (with a worldwide zombie apocalypse, you're somewhat limited in where you can run). But it doesn't make massively stupid behavior any less irritating.

There's also a sequence where Markus and Lukas are watching the footage on their laptop, and then start arguing, missing the moment where the image on-screen changes to show them arguing, and that the Markus on-screen turns to look out at us. I will give credit, that kind of stuff always works on me as unnerving. Or when they do stuff with people's reflections, which this movie also uses a few times. It's just one of those things you know is wrong. The fact that the camera's will always start glitching when the spirit is near reduces the effectiveness, though. It acts like a warning to be ready for some surprise, which makes a less effective surprise.

* I was reminded of that scene in Iron Man 2, when Tony brings Pepper the strawberries, and she points out that is the one thing she's allergic to. Tony tries to play it off that at least he knew strawberries were important.

Monday, June 05, 2017

What I Bought 5/31/2017 - Part 2

I don't think Warriors/Cavaliers III can be good enough to make up for how dismal of an NBA playoffs this was. Some suspense in both conferences would have been nice. Although the East hasn't challenged Lebron in the last 4 seasons, so it was longshot hoping that would change now.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #16, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Are we far enough removed from roller skates for them to have become retro cool? or did we skip directly to roller blades being the thing out of style that's now popular again? I don't see many people using either, but I'm hardly in a cultural hub, even by Missouri's standards.

Gwen's brother pulls her through a portal seemingly back to her world, before she came to the Marvel Universe. When she was lazing about the house, trying to avoid looking for work, talking about stories she had ideas for that just "weren't right yet", to her parents' increasing frustration. This leads to a big fight, which sends Gwen into the night to the once-per-week sleep study/information transference thing she does. Which seems to be how she got to the MU in the first place, and which her brother is keen to prevent. He succeeded, but it looks as though Gwen isn't really back in her world.

The things Hastings is working with here are the kind I'm interested in, so I'm pretty excited for this story. Putting yourself in a story, but finding the rules of stories can now govern your life? Gwen got nostalgic for home, and it turned into a whole thing where The Hero May Be Going Crazy, or has to question their sense of reality. You know, the kind of thing Moon Knight writers do every couple of years. I'm wondering if this was what I expected to happen a few months ago, that Gwen may recognize the tropes and patterns of superhero comics, but the longer she's in a superhero universe, the more she can be controlled by them. We'll see, now that she has a sense something is wrong, how she finds her way out.

There's a quartet of Fantastic Four statues in the background of Gwen's conversation with her comic guy, and I'd swear the Mr. Fantastic one is about to give his own butt a smack. That's Reed Richards for ya Not really, since Reed would only do that if it turned out to produce a subharmonic to would disrupt so other-dimensional incursion blah, blah, blah, whatever Stretcho, just lemme hit tha things!

At times, Gwen's brother has this upwards swoop to his hair in the back, that reminds me of Quicksilver. Which makes him seem kind of sinister. That's probably projecting based on the beginning and end of the book, where he's clearly working to keep Gwen in their world. Gotta say, the streets of New York look pretty empty. I was given to understand they were filled to the brim with loud, rude creatures called Mets' fans. Also, I notice even back in her world, Gwen has this band between her eyes which is colored darker than the rest of her face. The same place the slight pink tint is on her mask. I thought in this case it might be meant as a shadow caused by her hair, but maybe Gwen's unconscious through all this, and her mask is still on. Like the lack of people, it's a deliberate choice to signal Things Aren't Right?

I going to assume it was Clayton Cowles that did the voice balloon for Gwen's dad that is just some dark scribble thing, as shorthand for a grumble. I like it as a visual shorthand, more creative than just writing *grumble* in there, even if I can't stop trying to decide what it looks like. Some sort of airship? No, no, it's a cherry sundae in a glass with a very narrow stem! No. . .

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Earthworm Jim 1.11 - Bring Me The Head of Earthworm Jim

Plot: Peter and Jim open the episode narrowly escaping from a trap laid by the Queen. Turns out if you encase a dog and a worm in cocoons, they will sprout butterfly wings.

In the main story, Psycrow and Professor Monkey-for-a-Head are fondly remembering when they defeated Earthworm Jim and had his head mounted on the wall of their club. Which happened the day before. Psycrow had asked if the professor could construct another super-suit. Well sure, but without a Battery of the Gods, it would be pretty lame. But Psycrow has himself a plan, which involves making Jim's suit smell real bad and then disguising his spaceship as a dry cleaners so they can swap Jim's suit for the weak one. Because Jim is freaking out over this date/getting pizza with Princess What's-Her-Name in three days, this works. Our heroes escape because when Peter transforms, he apparently attacks based on some cue from the suit, and goes after Psycrow for once.

While Jim embarks on a series of comic book type attempts to gain super-powers, Psycrow and the Professor conquer the universe. Which is easier than you (or they) might expect, because the Rulers of the Universe are gullible, cowardly fools. I wonder if they hail from the Planet of Easily Frightened Beings? Jim, having found that even asking the audience for help can't get him powers, decides to face the villains anyway, and offer his life in exchange for the universe.

Jim had clearly been watching JJ Abrams' Star Trek movies recently. Anyway, Jim is captured, and there is an audience member skilled in taxidermy to help mount and stuff him on the wall. Oh sure, the audience will help the bad guy, but when Jim asks them to clap and believe for him to get powers, nuthin'. As it turns out, the taxidermist was Peter, and Jim had retaken the suit while the villains reminisced and/or argued about who got it on Sundays.

In the interlude, Evil the Cat tries becoming a famous actor so he can use an award show speech to spread his political agenda of letting chaos reign.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'I have a cunning plan, fuzz buddy. I'm going to let them win!'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 1 (10 overall).

Cow? Yes, but once again it crash-landed in a restaurant, which still seems like it's asking for trouble.

Other: Peter knows Spanish, Jim sort of knows Spanish. Enough to say he's the King of Sponge when trying to say King of Spain.

The thing that has always stuck with me from this episode is the Professor admitting he tried once to get another battery from the Gods, and they turned him into a breadmaker. Specifically, that if he twists the monkey's tail he can make pumpernickel. Random and capricious are the gods, that's for sure. The delivery on the line is right there with Jim, "Whew, something smells like prehistoric cheese!" as my favorite lines from this episode.

I appreciate the effort the Prof put into the fake suit. He gave it a blaster (that extends a flag with a little note on it when you pull the trigger), and even a fake, inflatable rocket. Jim thought it a cheap shot, and maybe so, but it's some good villainy. Although he still hasn't created a suit the Queen can actually wear, a design flaw demonstrated in the opening.

The Professor is also a little sensitive about his monkey, and Psycrow can't help going there when they get mad at each other and start hurling insults. I guess because it's easy, but you know the professor's got a hair trigger about that sort of stuff.

At the start, Psycrow and the Professor are trading pet peeves about villainy. Psycrow hates people coming up asking for advice. Well, then you shouldn't have founded a school to help teach people villainy. The Professor despises the henchmen, which seems pretty standard for these super-scientist types. They get idiot henchmen, those guys break stuff, but they don't want smart ones that might outshine them. Either way is no good.

You know, Jim's various super-science attempts did give him powers, just not ones that were any good. Or perhaps he simply lacked the patience to learn to master them fully. The radioactive fleas did give him incredible leaping ability (and legs growing out of his face, which he took a lot better than I would). The skin rash from the radiation glowed in the dark, that's a power of sorts.

Friday, June 02, 2017

What I Bought 5/31/2017 - Part 1

I was remiss in my duties on Wednesday, as I didn't point out it was the most important holiday here at the blog, Clint Eastwood's Birthday Day. Which is celebrated by the ceremonial consuming of greasy foods and watching the Dollars Trilogy (plus maybe Unforgiven and High Plains Drifter if I'm up for it).

Real Science Adventures #2, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Lo Baker (art and letters, Flying She-Devils), Wook Jin Clark (artist, The Sparrow), Anthony Clark (colorist), Tessa Stone (letterer, Flying She-Devils), Jeff Powell (letterer, The Sparrow) - I took the subscription cover because it seemed a little more interesting to me. It's hard to imagine someone being that happy about bailing out of a plane, but if the alternative was not getting out of the plane, being happy about being in a functioning parachute makes sense.

The squad of She-Devils reach Marauder Island, and while they prepare some explosive distractions to cover their escape with the seaplane, discover the Marauders have enslaved several women from Tonga to make some vaguely fuel-like substance. So the theft of the plane is now also a liberation, neither of which Mad Jack can tolerate, so they're about to have his entire squadron of planes coming down on their heads. In the back-up story, Sparrow is undaunted by the lack of a farmhouse with supplies and infiltrates the weapon and begins killin' Nazis.

Now that things are happening, I'm much more interested in the main story. I'm especially curious about two things. One is if there will be a big surprise late with the concoction the prisoners were being used to make (Chekov's Moonshine). the other is what the air battle is going to look like. Mad Jack is determined to retake the Sutherland, so they can't simply shoot it down. Which means trying to board and retake the thing in mid-air. Which has the potential to be very cool, though I haven't seen Baker draw a battle scene yet, so it's unclear how that will go.

As with the previous issue, there are times Baker seems to need more room than the panels allow, and so faces are extremely simplified or overwhelmed by thick lines and shadows. But when there's enough room, the expressions and body language are still good. Mad Jack is all wild looks and teeth-gritted frustration. Val is slightly irritated as things start to go off-plan, but otherwise very under control. She doesn't get wide-eyed much, isn't gesturing or demonstrative, just focused on the task at hand.

Clark's work on the back-up seems like it shouldn't fit in this story about an agent trying to kill a bunch of Nazis and their super-weapon. A little too cute, but the tone of the story is light enough it mostly works. Sparrow is barely annoyed by the various complications, the Nazis aren't incompetent, but are just a little slow in grasping what's going on. There's no sense things are at all out of Sparrow's control, so there isn't a sense of danger to work against the art. Although everyone's hands still look too small for the rest of their bodies.

Empowered: Soldier of Love #3, by Adam Warren (writer), Karla Diaz (artist, color artist), Ryan Kinnaird (color artist), Nate Piekos (letterer) - I would criticize Emp for hair-pulling, but the lady is sporting a .50 cal or something so sure, pull all the hair you want.

With everyone else incapacitated with the love claymores the Soldato set, it's down to Emp to try and stop her from destroying love in the city. Which doesn't go very well, so it's fortunate Ninjette sees through the illusion and gets involved. It's sad because seeing through it involves realizing her father doesn't love her and never did. What's that line from "The Man Who Has Everything"? 'I made a trap you could only escape by giving up your heart's desire' or something like that? 'It must have been like cutting off your own arm'? The Soldato is very nearly sliced in two, but Emp steps in, there's tearful hugging, the villain escapes during all thise, but the machine was wrecked so love is saved.

The whole bit about Ninjette was effective, especially to have the Soldato mocking her for "daddy issues" the whole time Ninjette is having this wonderful experience of life with a father who isn't an abusive drunk. It's pretty disturbing that the Soldato did this to someone, and then thinks it's funny. Because she originally used her powers to her benefit, only to find it's no good making people love you, and deciding the whole idea of love was bogus. It's the same when she shoots Emp with "broken-heart hollow-points", the laughs about how Emp is probably reliving losing her father, that she can always smell dead daddy on a girl. That's the kind of shit I'd expect from the Joker, which is why I didn't feel particularly bad when she watched her magic pangolin get decapitated right in front of her. Found something she still cared about after all.

Actually, I'm still trying to figure out why the pangolin would go along with her plans to eradicate love in this city. It would seem contrary to being a soldier of love. Perhaps there was an explanation in the copious amounts of Spanish I couldn't decipher in this issue.

I'm not sure what would have happened inside the illusion if Soldato's plan had been completed, since Ninjette wouldn't have been able to feel love any longer. Would the illusion have faded, would she have been stuck in it, but bored or disinterested by it? Her father's affection wouldn't mean anything to her at that point.

There an angle that's reused in a couple of panels with Ninjette on the ground in the foreground, and Emp in the middle ground, looking upwards towards the Soldato in the distance. The first has Emp trying to reason but ready to fight, in the latter she's lost the fight but can still try to argue. But in the first, 'Jette out like a light, and in the latter, her eyes are open and she's crying as she' working out of the illusion/fugue state. And Diaz uses that ground level perspective on 'Jette a few times in between, charting her progress as she figures out what's happening. Point being, Karla Diaz did a good job drawing this. The sneering disdain she gives the Soldato in particular, puffing away on the stupid e-cig.