Thursday, August 31, 2017

2010: Odyssey Two - Arthur C. Clarke

First thing to mention about 2010 is that it treats the 2001 movie as its predecessor, not the book. Which is somewhat a cosmetic matter of having the Monolith Dave Bowman entered be floating near Jupiter's moon Io, rather than sitting on the surface of Saturn's moon Iapetus. Also of adding in that in the original events, Bowman left the Discovery initially to try and rescue Frank Poole, only to find HAL wouldn't let him back in.

I do wonder how Clarke might have changed this book if he'd followed up on the book, rather than the film. Would the story taking place much further from the Sun, around a smaller planet, on less geologically active worlds have made a difference? Although he'd have Titan and its dense methane atmosphere to work with, rather than Europa and its water beneath the icy surface.

The Russians and Americans agree to work together to travel to Discovery and see if they can a) figure out what happened with HAL, b) what happened to Dave Bowman, and c) examine that Monolith some more. An attempt by a Chinese vessel to get there first introduces some new variables, one in particular becomes more important when Dave Bowman, in his new form as the Star Child comes zipping out of the Monolith. Bowman's an incredibly powerful being now, but one also being used by the ones who changed him for a purpose of their own, and it's one that puts the crews out near Jupiter in a bind. They need to be on their way soon, but that relies on the reconstructed HAL being cooperative.

When I finished the book, I felt unfulfilled. The book itself zipped along - I read it in parts of two nights - but there's a sense the book was mostly about moving a few pieces around to set things up for the subsequent books. It feels as though not much resolved, just nudged along the next step on the path. Which seems to go along with humanity being constantly tested. Their ancestors were the subjects of experiments, but there were no guarantees those would succeed; other subjects on other worlds died out. Humans had to reach the Moon, find the Monolith, track its signal, reach the outer planets, survive their own creation cracking under the pressure. Now more challenges, more tests, either a possible ally, or a competitor. Existence, progress, is a series of challenges, that ends for humanity only when humanity dies.

Dr. Chandrasegarampillai, or Chandra as he's mostly referred to in the book, might argue there was one resolution, with regards to HAL. Chandra is the one responsible for rebuilding HAL's personality and higher functions after Bowman removed most of them. He's an expert in his field, most comfortable alone or conversing with HAL. Ultimately, he is proven correct that the best approach to dealing with HAL is to be upfront about what's going on and why they need him to do certain things. Proven correct in that one instance, anyway.

Still, he insists on defending HAL as having not murdered Frank Poole, and argues if Bowman had tried reasoning with HAL, he wouldn't have needed to shut down HAL's higher functions. Essentially, that it's Bowman's fault things reached that point. Which may be tiring to the crew, but is extremely irritating to me as someone who read the first book and knows damn well HAL did murder Frank Poole. He may have been breaking down under the strain of being forced to keep the truth of the mission from Frank and Dave, but they weren't responsible for that. And since Dave didn't know that was the problem, because he didn't know he was in the dark about the mission, how was he going to reason convincingly with HAL, who did know exactly how in the dark Bowman was?

Plus, HAL had already tried to kill him by locking him outside the ship, and then by removing all the oxygen from the interior and killing the other crew members as they hibernated. Was Dave supposed to stand there chatting amicably while HAL devised other methods of killing him?

Clarke writes the Americans and Soviets as having reached an amicable truce. They keep secrets from each other, and each tries to ferret out the other's secrets, but it's almost with a wink and a grin. Perhaps that's just among the scientists and astronauts, though. He's very focused on the idea of China as this mysterious super-power, where no one knows what they're up to and they don't work with any other country. It's mentioned China went through a second Great Cultural Revolution in the early 2000s. The book was originally published in 1982, so by then I thought things were a little better between the U.S. and China. I guess Clarke didn't think that would persist. Maybe because the U.S. and Russians were getting along better, and China felt surrounded? The famine issues he mentioned in 2001 hitting the most populous nation on Earth especially hard? He doesn't say. I'm curious to see if that persists through the next two books.

Misgivings and annoyances aside, I am still looking forward to rereading the remaining two books. I don't remember much of anything from them, so I'm excited to see how the things Clarke's set up actually play out.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What I Bought 8/25/2017

A couple of books from the last two weeks. I might not have bought one of them if I had looked at the cover more closely, but I was running out of time on the parking meter.

Ben Reilly, The Scarlet Spider #6, by Peter David (writer), Will Sliney (artist), Jason Keith (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - So the key to being really flexible is for people to punch you through walls. I've been going about things entirely wrong.

Ben tries a possible cure on the little girl, then steps out for some air, where he runs into Marlo from Peter David's Hulk run, who seems able to manipulate people and wants Ben to stop two guys driving around town shooting people. He does, but refrains from killing them, to Marlo's annoyance. Kaine shows up, because the little girl died, and Marlo kills him, and I don't know what's going on with this. I assume something to do with David's Captain Marvel run from like 15 years ago?

Is this meant to make Ben actually consider his actions? He mentioned while fighting Kaine that his advantage was he acted on instinct and relied on his spider-sense. Is that all he's doing, bluffing and jumping into things without considering why or towards what end? That could be interesting, depending on the reasons? Is he trusting the Peter Parkerness to guide him, or just trying to avoid thinking about what matters to him and what his goal is?

So there's something there, but I can't handle the art. It reminds me of a comic trying hard to match actors on a TV show it's based on. Very computer-generated feel to it, but like an attempt an early 2000s attempt. Jason Keith is still the colorist, and the colors seem a lot flatter, less varied. Sliney inks himself much heavier than John Dell did to Bagley's pencils, so the shadows are a lot deeper on faces. Maybe that has something to do with Keith's approach. The expressions of the mother who nearly dies at the hands of the two guys driving around shooting people are. Like Sliney's trying for really realistic, but falling in the uncanny valley. It looks awkward, fake, fails utterly to convey the emotion to me.

My hunch Bagley leaving would be a good time to jump ship was right; I just needed to put more money in the parking meter that day so I could read the cover more closely. To be fair, I was also in a hurry to reach my dad's so we could tow his car to his repair guy. So really, it's his fault this happened. If he'd gotten his car moved months ago like he should have, this wouldn't have happened.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #19, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Unless you are the Punisher, trying to shoot Spider-people with guns doesn't work.

Gwen confronts the time-travelers out to stop her future self, even though by showing up, they've taught her how to move between panels. Whoops. The team considers trying to erase her memory, but Miles' instead swings off with her to tell her the way she ruined everyone's life by revealing all the heroes' secrets so she could be entertained by the fallout. By doing so, Gwen's giant, evil future self knows what they're up to and appears, probably swatting Future Miles to do his death.

I'm suspicious this story is a criticism of fans. Gwen is one of us, supposedly, and we're told she revealed secret identities, aired characters dirty laundry, and did this to kick off the biggest hero vs. hero war yet. To be entertained. Which makes me think of secret identities becoming passe, because it would be unrealistic to maintain one. Or the constant escalation of conflicts, and heroes constantly being at each others' throats. And that's all, if you listen to the people in comics, because it's what sells. Which is a neat way to blame the audience for what they produce. Perhaps I'm being paranoid, but comic writers surely do like to blame the stories they write on the fans. Or Alan Moore, they also like blaming Alan Moore. Or is Hastings jabbing at the other writers who think that's what they have to do? Someone is being jabbed, that's for sure.

Setting aside my paranoia, I still don't know how Hastings plans to resolve this. Teddy being a sort of blind spot in Gwen's perceptions could play in, but now Gwen's in the classic situation of meeting her evil older self. Given what we've learned, she has to reject her older self, and I'm not sure what her older self could do (presumably Evil Gwen is still genre savvy enough to know threats aren't going to work). Is Gwen going to have to learn to think more carefully about her actions? Is she going to try and really be a hero, rather than run around being crazy and say she's a hero?

I like the Gurihiru art team's work, but it doesn't quite feel right for the story. Or certain parts of the story, at least. Miles' depressing flashback of how Gwen ruins his life kind of lacked impact. Although the panel of Miles stating he's going to kill her, said plainly and against the backdrop of a bright blue sky is effective, the more I look at it. They nail the humor parts; Gwen trying to slide through a panel border and whiffing was funny. I'd still much rather have Gurihiru handling the art than most other art teams out there, just not sure they entirely fit the grim direction things have trended. But we'll see, one more issue to go in the story.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Captain of the Clouds

I'm not positive I've seen a Jimmy Cagney movie before, so this is maybe an odd one to start with. It focuses on a group of bush pilots in Canada. Cagney's playing Brian, who keeps stealing all the other pilots gigs by undercutting their prices. But those customers had already made an agreement with the other pilots, who then fly out there to find they've wasted their time. From this I conclude that Britain sent their religious fundamentalists to what became the U.S., the violent criminals to Australia, and all the scam artists and insurance fraud types to Canada. You decide which place got the worst end of the deal.

So there's some initial hostility, but Brian eventually throws in on a deal with Tiny (Alan Hale) and Johnny (Dennis Morgan) on a deal moving supplies between mines over winter. Johnny intends to take his share of the dough and start a small airline, and also marry his gal Emily (Brenda Marshall), who Brian had been trying to make time with, until he decided he respected Johnny and wasn't gonna do it. Now he decides Emily will make Johnny waste all his money buying her stuff in the city, so he gets her to run off with him instead. Brilliant plan, except for the part where a despondent Johnny gives away his money and joins the Royal Canadian Air Force. Brian and the other bush pilots also join eventually (the film was made in '42).

It doesn't exactly work out the way they expected, and Brian struggles with that more than the others, costing him his career, and a couple of people their lives. And eventually he gets a chance to try to redeem himself, if that's what you can call it.

I doubt this is one of Cagney's better films, but I assume Brian's air of sleazy individuality, mixed with a bit of martyr complex, is not too far off the beaten path. Brian can't simply try to talk to Johnny about Emily, no he has to try and be clever about it, play it in some way that makes him the bad guy, and possibly lets everyone else save face. Because Brian can't outright tell Johnny he considers him a friend and doesn't want to see him lose his dream. Except his big sacrifice doesn't work. His and Tiny's bad drunk plan to show everyone what they can do doesn't get nixed once they sober up, and ends in disaster. He always has to do things his way, but in the final scene, that works out. If he had followed the rules, stayed in formation, everyone would have been shot down.

I feel bad for Brenda Marshall, who doesn't get a lot to do as Emily. She's supposedly deeply in love with Johnny, but can't tell the difference between his plane (which is all silver) and Brian's (blue, nearly black, with orange wings and tail), and this happens more than once. Which suggests she was more interested in the way out of town than who was doing the flying. She pretty much drops out of the film after Johnny finds her and Brian in the hotel, except for a brief appearance near the end. Maybe she's supposed to be young and not really sure what she wants, but she mostly comes off as unthinking and self-absorbed.

Dennis Morgan's sort of the co-lead, but gets the thankless task of playing the upright, by-the-book guy for Brian to clash against, even when they're working together. Which can be good roles sometimes, and Morgan carries a sense that he does want Johnny in the Air Force because he knows he's a great pilot, even if he hates the guy's guts. So he tries to protect him, tries to get him to follow the rules, impart his knowledge to the younger fliers, but within the regs. And that doesn't work either. Everyone is too set as who they are to change.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Another Happy Trip To The Ballpark

Saturday was the Cardinals' annual inductions to their Hall of Fame, consisting this year of Pepper Martin, Tim McCarver, and Mark McGwire. Not any particular favorites of my father or I, but what the hell. As it is, we missed most of the pregame ceremony, though it was my fault this year. I should have double-checked how long the drive was instead of guessing at it. Then I made the mistake of thinking the seats were up where we usually sit, but we were much closer to the field. The Cardinals being a middling mess again this year paid off in the form of cheap tickets.

The team itself alternates between being very good and very lousy, opting for one or the other for a few weeks, then switching. It boils down to them running in place at .500. There haven't been many standout performances on the team this year, except for Tommy Pham.

Last year, we were spared having to watch Mike Leake pitch because he came down with shingles. No such luck this year. But Leake worked quickly, not wasting time between pitches, the Rays obliged by swinging early and often, so he didn't throw many pitches (only 65 through 6 innings). Unfortunately, the reason Tampa opted to swing so much was because Leake was leaving a lot of pitches hanging up in the strike zone. He gave up a 2-run homer in the first, and a solo HR in the fourth. By the time the Cardinals collected their first hit, they were down 3-0.

On the other side, Brian Snell was also working quickly, and the Cardinals were completely off-balance. Randal Grichuk did hit one down the line in the 4th, and wound up on third when the leftfielder misplayed the bounce off the wall, though he was stranded at third. I mention it because Corey Dickerson misplaying balls was a recurring theme.

In the 6th, Pham worked a walk, and then Paul DeJong sent one down the line to the same place Grichuk had hit it two innings earlier. Dickerson misplayed the ball again, allowing Pham to score and DeJong to reach third. Curiously, while the scorer gave Dickerson an error on Grichuk's hit, he didn't on DeJong's. Two batters later, Yadier Molina hit the ball a mile in the air to left, and Dickerson stood out there, hands held out to the side helplessly. He had lost the ball entirely. The Rays' centerfielder, Keven Keirmaier, almost came in and made a diving play on the ball, but it hit the ground just before he could get there, and Molina wound up at second, while DeJong scored. Remarkably, that wasn't ruled an error, either. The ball landed at least ten feet in front of Dickerson!

Here I thought that play when Piscotty crashed into the wall at Wrigley, only to have the ball bounce off the wall five feet to his left was the most inept display I'd see this season. You're off the hook, Stephen.

With the score 3-2, the Cardinals were back in it, so Leake promptly surrendered another solo home run to make it 4-2. Remarkably, it wasn't to Corey Dickerson, who had already hit one, was due for a redemptive play, and was leading off the inning. It was Adeiny Hechavarria, who batted right after Dickerson. Up to this point, the best thing you could say about the game was it was fast. They had taken barely two hours for 7 innings.

Watching the previous night's loss on TV, the announce team mentioned the Rays had allowed more runs in the 8th than any other inning this season. Their woes continued here. Brian Snell had been pulled after 7 innings. This weekend MLB is doing something where the players are wearing jerseys with their nicknames on the back. So instead of "Martinez", Carlos Martinez has "Tsunami". The Rays brought in large man reliever Tommy Hunter, whose jersey read "Two Towels". I leave it to you to picture why he has that nickname.

Pham worked another walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch. Grichuk and Dejong failed to do anything, then Molina drove him in with a single. 4 to 3. Jedd Gyorko and Piscotty followed with singles of their own. Unfortunately, Molina is slow enough his charity race from home plate to first base earlier this year against a glacier was ruled undecided because neither contestant reached first before the glacier melted. So two singles only managed to advance him to third. The Rays switched pitchers, but Kolten Wong got a single of his own, scoring Molina. Gyorko injured himself rounding third, so he was out and Tsunami pinch-ran. You might think the Cardinals would use a position player, but they have only four because Mike Matheny insists he needs 8 relief pitchers. Greg Garcia lined out to left to end the inning, but now it was tied.

Tyler Lyons, possibly the only reliable reliever the team has at the moment, breezed through the 9th. In the bottom of the inning, Carpenter managed an infield single, and then Tommy Pham won the game with a homer to centerfield. I botched the celebratory high five with my dad because I was trying to put my pencil down beforehand. Ruined the moment. They had the postgame interview with Pham almost immediately and the interviewer started by saying Tommy must not like free baseball, because he ended it in the 9th. Pham confirmed this saying, 'No free baseball, we don't get paid overtime.' Me neither, Tommie.

But Pham's been a delight in interviews all season, cracking jokes, being cantankerous, speaking frankly when the team is playing like shit (which is often). So that was a real nice ending to the game.

Other notes:

 - Stephen Piscotty's walk-up music is "Danger Zone". Which makes me think of a joke on 4thletter, some edit of Final Crisis, about how Hal Jordan would have his ring play that song, and nothing but that, when he was traveling through space.

 - I don't know what song Matt Carpenter has as his walk-up, or if he specifically picked it or not, but I hate it. And he's their leadoff hitter, so he comes to bat more than anyone on the team.

- Molina is no doubt the most popular player. The crowd breaks out into loud "YADI, YADI" chants every time he comes to bat, not something you can say about any of the other players. But he's almost certainly the best catcher in franchise history (depending on how heavily you weight his handling of pitchers compared to Ted Simmons, who is the only possible competition), and he's the longest tenured player on the current roster, since he's been here since mid-2004. Adam Wainwright, whose arm may be about to fall off, is the only guy on the roster within 5 years of Yadi for time with the team.

- The jerseys the teams are wearing for this event thing are ugly as hell.

- For these Hall of Fame weekends, the Cardinals get as many of the past inductees as they can to be there as well. So Red Schoendienst, even at 94 years old was there, and the man's in pretty good condition for his age. He needed a little help from Adam Wainwright getting up out of the dugout, but he's moving under his own power. I'll be lucky to do that well at 74, if I make it that far.

- I find most of the between inning entertainment/distractions annoying. Except the bit where they show clips from big moments in Cardinals' history. I can watch Ozzie Smith hit that home run off Niedenfuer in the '85 NLCS all day.

- When trying to get out of St. Louis, we were held up when a group of at least 8-10 teens on 4-wheelers tore through the intersection as the light was changing. I'm used to seeing people drive those on the road out in the boonies, not so much in the city.

- The remainder of the drive home was uneventful, and we got back a little before midnight to a bunch of dogs eager to be let outside. Aren't they always?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.10 - For Whom The Jingle Bell Tolls

Plot: Jim and Peter are attacked by Queen Slug-for-a-Butt while Jim puts up overly elaborate Christmas decorations. Jim defeats her with lawn ornaments and exploding gifts, and after a random pee joke about Peter writing his name in the snow, we move on.

To the Queen asking her royal loony about Christmas while she works out. She's intrigued by Santa's ability to infiltrate homes, and resolves to hunt him down and bend him to evil. By the time Jim learns of Santa's abduction - from Walter, who as a mall Santa is attuned to the real deal through a chip in his brain - Santa is already gone. A search only reveals a lot of people hate Santa, but they eventually head to the Queen's lair, where she has successfully altered Santa's mind with brain modification. Off they go to Earth, to put mind control devices on all the children. Except the first house they reach, Jim, Peter, and the Princess are already there. The latter two fight the Queen, leaving Jim to make a heartfelt plea to Santa to remember the good times. This touches Santa's soul, blah blah, he returns to his old self, then transforms into Wotan, Norse God of Vengeance and drags the Queen off somewhere. Christmas is saved, and this series is over.

Quote of the Episode: Queen Slug-for-a-Butt - 'It sounds so absurd, but once you mentioned the magical flying sleigh, it all makes sense.'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 1 (20 overall).

Cow? Yes, inside a giant fruitcake, which might be worse than having a cow fall on you.

Other: The narrator was at least willing to do his job this week.

Jim knitted antennae warmers for the Princess, and bought Peter a Haggis maker. Which says a lot about how important the two are to him, relative to each other.

Only now, at the end, do I realize I should have been keeping count of how many times Jim says "Doomed". It's usually at least three times an episode, right after the point when they were about to go to commercial at a suspenseful part.

The Queen flattens our heroes with an impressive flip, and attributes it to her aerobics workouts, but she's also drawn with some pretty cut shoulders and upper arms. So I'm guessing she doesn't skimp on the weights either.

This week in '90s references, one witness describes Santa's kidnapper as an insect with a butt the size of a Macy's parade balloon. Which causes Jim to guess it was Rush Limbaugh. An insult to the Queen there. The Queen confirms that her brainwashing works by making Santa state that Val Kilmer was OK as Batman, but that no one fills the tights like Adam West. Which is just silly, everyone knows Michael Keaton was the best live-action Batman.

The Queen hates raisins, so maybe Jim should buy her some of those next year, instead of the exploding gift gag.

Peter questions whether Jim's decorations should reveal the location of their secret base, but hell, all of Jim's enemies already know where he lives. Which does make it easy to fight evil, since it pretty much throws itself on his doorstep every week.

Anyway, that's the end of another series. I don't know what's coming next yet. Guess we'll find out next week.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Saving The City, After a Lot of Talking

I finished watching The Defenders on Netflix Wednesday night. Brief, non-spoiler review: There are some cool moments, the heroes and their supporting respective casts play off each other well. The constant disbelief and scoffing of certain characters to certain elements undercut the story at times. The villains talk too goddamn much. I like Scott Glenn, but Stick's "Everyone is a fuck-up but me" shitck wore thin real fast. You will be grateful for when punching starts just because it shuts people up. There are some cool lighting and music choices. The pacing, as with most of these Marvel Netflix shows, is uneven, to be charitable.

OK, that's with no spoilers. From this point on, SPOILERS. If you still need to see it unspoiled, best to head somewhere else now. I will say it one more time, go away if you don't want SPOILERS. After this, it's your own damn fault.

The pacing thing is the biggest nuisance. Elektra's back from the dead, and the show devotes the first 10-15 minutes of episode 3 to that. Her resurrection, the efforts of Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) to rebuild her mind and train her into this fabled weapon, the Black Sky. But I didn't really care*, I know how this stuff works, so it felt like an interminable diversion from the stuff I do care about. Keep in mind at this point, the team had still not come together. Matt Murdock has appeared, presenting himself as Jessica Jones' lawyer, and Luke and Danny fought in an alley, but there has been no teamwork. But let's waste a quarter of this episode on how to brainwash someone or whatever, sure.

The worst is the 7th episode. The Hand need the Iron Fist. Elektra's captured him. The rest of the team know this is bad, and they need to get out of the police station and rescue him. But first, let's have a conversation between Matt and Karen. And one between Luke and Misty. And one between Matt and Foggy, and on, and on. All the while, time is passing. Eventually they make their escape, get to the bad guys' HQ, and there's more debate,can we blow up the building, more talking. Meanwhile the Hand are getting exactly what they want, because the Defenders are showing no goddamn urgency whatsoever, despite the repeated statements about how the fate of the city is at stake.

Maybe this is one of those things where TV suffers compared to comics. With comics, a hero can have a long speech within the confines of one panel, in the time it takes them to throw a single punch. Realistically, this isn't possible, but it works because that's how comics present it. The five-sentence soliloquy takes place in the same panel as the punch, ergo it takes the same amount of time. Somehow. It doesn't work the same with actors speaking dialogue.

Also, a conversation in comics can go as fast or slow as the audience reads it. The writer and artist can try to establish a pace, but the reader can still set their own. With actors, not so much.

The conversations themselves are fun; taken on their own, separate from the larger story, I enjoyed watching all these characters interact. But as part of an actual story, it undercuts the urgency. When there's something that really needs to get done, I don't stop to have conversations with people, even if they might be important. Those get put on the back burner. And I'm not, to my knowledge, holding the fate of millions of people in my hands**.

Of the members of the Hand, I was most intrigued by Sowande, played by Babs Olusanmokun. Admittedly, this was in part because of his stylish outfit as The White Hat***. An eye-catching look will get you part of the way there with me. Unfortunately, he didn't get to hang around as long as the other fingers of the Hand where I could see more of him. They all have that self-assured manner, that this is all going to play out exactly as they want, but there are differences in interests or approaches, and I didn't really get a bead on his. Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) is always working an angle. Always playing the peacemaker, or the supportive one, but always to keep herself in position to get what she wants. She stays close enough to both sides to tip things whichever way she wants, when she wants. She knows how to play the game.

That said, by the last episode I was as sick of her long-windedness as I was of Alexandra's or Bakuto's.

Watching the four main characters bounce off each other was a consistent highlight. The restaurant fight in episode 5, Jessica, of all characters is the one doing the best at following Stick's advice that they need to fight together. Danny's the target, Matt charges off alone to confront Elektra, Luke gets singled out by Sowande. Jessica, who had already said she wanted no part of this and left, only to return when realizing it was too late to get out without innocents being hurt, is the one stepping at key moments to bail out Danny, or enable them to make their escape. There are times Krysten Ritter's constant eye-rolling and commentary on how ridiculous some of this stuff is gets old, where I suspected the writers were using her to work out their embarrassment at doing a superhero show. Horrors, Daredevil wears an actual superhero costume instead of everyday clothes, the shame. But she responds that way to everything from expressions of concern to people holding her friend at gunpoint, so it's consistent characterization at least. She's also the one who tries to stop the fight between Matt and Danny. I'd never pictured her as a peacemaker, but she's clear-headed enough to recognize this isn't helping anything.

Danny's the impulsive idealist who has a lot to learn. He takes Luke's words about how with his resources he could be doing more than punching poor kids (who are, come on Luke, helping to destroy evidence at the scenes of multiple homicides, they're aren't delivering cookie bouquets). But his idea of using it is to get himself a meeting with the Big Bads, then stride in a lone and threaten to destroy them, rather than trying to use Rand-Meachum to buy them out, or bribe city inspectors to show up and get the place shut down for having a giant mine shaft in the middle of their building. So he still doesn't quite get it. He's young and naive, struggling with guilt and uncertainty of how to proceed, how to fix his mistakes, and he tries to cover it by letting everyone know he's the Iron Fist****.

Stick deciding the best way to keep Danny away from the Hand was to kill him was the least surprising thing that happened on this show. I'm sorely disappointed in Matt for not seeing it coming. But Matt's too caught up in his Elektra b.s., and whether he wants to be Daredevil or not. He does, but it wrecks his life, so he doesn't, but then he's jonesing to punch some bad guys and do more than a lawyer can. Push and pull, back and forth.

The leads keep telling their supporting casts they can't tell them more because it'll put them in danger. Nonsense. The Hand are already going to target them, simply for being friends of these heroes. What are the Hand going to do if Matt tells Foggy more about them, kill him twice? I'm not sure if Luke telling Misty everything earlier would have made things go better, but I doubt it would have made them worse.

The boardroom scene fight was pretty cool, from Iron Fist fighting alone, to his team-up with Luke, to Matt and Jessica appearing on the scene. I like the music shift when Luke gets involved.

I like Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Even though he's fresh out of prison, and trying to figure out how best to help Harlem, he has a clearer vision of how he's going forward than the others. They're all at crossroads, but Luke seemed steadier than the others. Maybe because he was committed to his path, just trying to figure out how to make it work. And I did enjoy his and Danny's back-and-forth. 'So punching's OK now? It's complicated.' Despite Danny having traveled much more, Luke understands people better. But Danny's had a host of weird experiences Luke hasn't. Watching Luke run into the stranger side of things could be fun. Although I can't believe Luke doesn't want to hear a story about someone fighting and killing a dragon with their bare hands. Who doesn't want to hear a story about that?

There's a noticeable lighting effect used, where each of the leads gets their own color, and those factor in prominently throughout. I was curious about the peephole lens view they use in transitions between locations. They'll show a bunch of street corners or subways through that view and then it's the next scene. I get we're traveling in a sense to where the story continues, I'm just curious why that particular approach.

When the Hand said they needed the Iron Fist to get at what they needed under the city, I thought for a minute it was going to be one of those gates Fraction and Brubaker introduced in Immortal Iron Fist. The ones developed by Danny's grandfather so you could secretly enter and exit K'un-Lun. I didn't think they'd be built by Danny's grandpa this time, but given the Hand are supposedly so focused on getting back to K'un-Lun, it seemed like a good end goal. A way to get in, without being noticed, and then they could strike by surprise, take over the place. But no, it was more "cheat death for another week" stuff. Maybe that was impossible after Iron Fist season 1. I haven't watched it, so I can't say. At the end I thought they were teasing Danny dressing up as Daredevil to keep his name alive in Matt's absence.

I'm hoping the conclusion of this story draws a line under the ninja stuff. No more frickin' ninjas.

That was a lot of complaining, but it's easy to criticize. Fun too. To the extent the show works, it does so on the strength of the four main characters (and Rosario Dawson's Claire character, as sort of a sounding board for practically everyone) and how they work or don't work together. Differences in viewpoints, approaches, personalities. I know, shocking revelation. I wouldn't say you need to drop everything to watch it. You have some free time, sure, give it a whirl, there's some enjoyable stuff in. Maybe you'll enjoy the villains more than I did, that would help a lot, I imagine.

* As far as star-crossed romantic partners for Daredevil go, I'm much more interested in Typhoid Mary than Elektra.

** I read a comment online that said after the Dr. Strange movie, they couldn't take this show seriously because the Hand seemed so second-rate compared to Dormammu. The stakes were too low. Which struck me as a stupid statement. Are as many people's lives at risk? No, considering Dormammu is a universal-level threat. But people are still going to die, and to them, it's probably irrelevant how grand the threat is.

*** When we learn the mysterious bad guy getting young men in Harlem killed was a guy in a white suit, did I get excited at the extremely far-fetched possibility it would be The White Man, for Posehn and Duggan's Deadpool? Yes, even though I knew it absolutely was not.

**** The mark of Shou-Lao doesn't look nearly as cool stenciled on someone's chest as it has in all those comics I've read over the years.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Scribbler

Even setting aside certain more fantastic elements, I don't know how accurate The Scribbler is in its portrayals of people with various mental health issues. Suki has disassociative identity disorder, including one particular personality called The Scribbler. It speaks only by writing, backwards, and when it's in control, lines and designs will appear all over Suki's skin.

She was being treated with something called the Siamese Burn machine, which somehow gets rid of the personalities by, essentially, electrocuting her. And the machine can somehow determine how many identities are left. With 9 left, Suki's deemed well enough to leave the hospital and move into a tower for other outpatients. And as she arrives, literally as she approaches the front door, residents start falling to their deaths. Suki has a portable version of the treatment, but each time she uses it, she loses some track of some time, and each time there's another dead body, and the Scribbler has written more stuff on her walls, and modified the machine even more.

Every so often, I see this post pop up on one of the handful of tumblrs I read, where someone argues that van Gogh would never have created his works of art if he existed today, because he'd have been on medication for his depression, and this would have "blunted" his artistic talent. And every time I see it, it has a response from someone below arguing that's dumb, depression doesn't help you be more creative because you suffer, van Gogh did his best work when he was receiving help, etc. I feel like this film would agree with the first person. It seems to argue that at least some people, maybe all people, have some greater, true self inside, but that society tries to choke it out by encouraging conformity. That society should be formed around people being their truest selves, and building something from that.

Except some of these people's true selves kill people, just like in the conformity world, so that doesn't really seem like an upgrade. Unless the argument is that the ones that kill are that way because they've been bent under the pressure over time, but in that case, it would hardly be the person's true self, at least in the way the movie's arguing, would it?

The constant question running through my mind of how accurate a representation this is of multiple personalities aside, it wasn't a bad way to spend 90 minutes. I wasn't sure how things were going to play out at the end, if the story would be a lie, a metaphor, the truth, if it was going to veer into darker horror style. For a long time, I thought the entire thing was going to end up inside Suki's head, that all the characters were her different personalities, like that Identity movie with John Cusack and Ray Liotta (but thankfully not Ray Liotta's vodka). Some of the lighting work is pretty good. There's a fight at the end that's not so good. The camera can't quite make it look as it good as it's trying to.

The costuming is cool. Everyone has their own style, although the few guy characters are pretty slovenly looking compared to the women. Guys, you could at least shave. I was admittedly mostly watching it because Eliza Dushku was in it, and for something that seems set at least relatively close to the modern day, the way her hair was done suggested an much earlier era. It actually reminded me of some of the actresses in L.A. Confidential, which doesn't seem to match everyone else, but does fit with how everyone is doing their own thing, stylistically. And anyway, she wore the look really well, so I am not complaining.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Brave Isn't Necessarily The Same As Fearless

It's not much of a surprise I wound up a Krillin fan. The extremely powerful characters are rarely my favorites. I tend to favor characters with more limited abilities, who supplement that with fast thinking or sheer willpower. Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Tim Drake as Robin. Krillin, relative to the other characters in his universe, is fairly similar. Never the fastest or strongest, but being clever and picking his spots can buy carry him a little further than you might expect. It's a bit like if all Spider-Man's fights were against Juggernaut or Firelord.

Of course, Peter Parker is the star of his story, so he gets to triumph. Krillin, as a supporting character, has to settle for hopefully surviving, and maybe getting a few good hits in. Possibly the beating he absorbs buys someone else much-needed time.

It could be worse. Even if he does frequently end up as the butt of a joke (or dead), at least he still gets to show up regularly. Sometimes he even gets storylines or entire episodes focused on him. There are some episodes of Dragon Ball Super that focused on the idea Krillin was dealing with emotional trauma from his history of being stuck fighting beings who are vastly more powerful than him. The beatings, the losses, the feeling of all his efforts being useless, the actual dying, the fear, was all wearing him down inside, making him lose heart. It wasn't a happy story, but he did ultimately face it and work to overcome it, which was nice. Compared to a Yamcha fan, I've got it OK.

He gets a lot of hate from certain segments of the fanbase, though. Mostly Vegeta fans it seems like, which, imagine the most dismissive, derisive sound you can, that's what I'm making right now. Vegeta has two settings on the show.

Setting 1: Bragging about his new power and talking shit to his opponent.
Setting 2: That opponent beating his ass.

Vegeta's the character for people who like Wolverine, but think he needs to lose a lot more fights. Like 90% of his fights.

I digress. One of the frequent charges against Krillin is he's a coward. He gets scared during the big fights. Because realizing you're up against an opponent who is not only a sadistic killer (which is most of their Big Bads), but is also several times stronger than you (maybe dozens, or even hundreds of times stronger), shouldn't provoke any kind of fear whatsoever. Why should he be scared about that? Sure, every other character on the show has gotten freaked out when realizing they're thoroughly outclassed at some point. Including Goku - who admitted to Krillin after the first time they faced Vegeta that it had scared him when he realized how much stronger his opponent was than him - and Vegeta, who only wet himself in terror like three times during the fight with Frieza. But Krillin is different because, I guess he gets played as more visibly, comically nervous.

So he gets scared. Being scared, by itself, isn't cowardice. Cowardice would be if the fear prevents him from taking any action. If, confronted with evil, someone out to kill his friends or all life on Earth, he ran away. That isn't the case. He fights for as long as he's able. It isn't always very long, true. Recoome took him out with one kick. Cell, in his perfect form, barely noticed him and nearly killed him with one kick. (He really needs to stop letting people kick him in the head.) But he is trying. Frieza nearly killed him once, and he came back swinging, drew Frieza into chasing him to give Gohan a chance to get healed up. Meanwhile, Krillin's trying his best on his own, buying time.

Now, there is the initial fight with Androids (actually cyborgs) 17 and 18. Vegeta has talked some shit, and has thus progressed to Setting 2, getting his ass beat. His time-traveling son tries to help him, gets his head kicked in, Piccolo and Tien jump in to no avail, and Krillin stands there watching in horror. Even acknowledging that if he had jumped in, it wouldn't have changed the outcome (a point Piccolo makes when Krillin apologizes), that was rough to watch as a Krillin fan for a long time, until I started thinking about it differently recently.

After the fighting is over, Krillin rushes up before they fly off. And he tries to reason with them. They plan to kill Goku, but that was their creator/tormentor's obsession, and they killed that guy. Why do they need to kill Goku, who never did anything to them? Couldn't they live in peace? They tell him no, they need a purpose, this is it and leave*.

Krillin didn't know what would happen when he did that. They hadn't killed any of his friends, but they sure beat the hell out of them. Vegeta has two broken arms by the end of that fight. Krillin knows, for a certainty, they can do the same to him, with ease. And he couldn't do a thing to stop them. If he tried to fight, it would end badly. If he tried to run, same thing. Still he approached them alone, and tried to argue for his friend's life, when fists clearly weren't going to work.

A lot things don't work out for him, and that can be rough to watch. But he keeps trying, and so I keep rooting for him.

* Not before 18 gives him a peck on the cheek, which sets off a whole chain of events that ends with those two happily married as an adorable couple, which I need to discuss in greater detail at a later date.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke

I've stated in the past I'm not a fan of the movie version of 2001. It moves entirely too slowly for me. I hadn't read the book since 2004, but I had fonder memories of it, so I figured it was due for a revisit (along with the subsequent novels, which I'll get to probably in the next month or so).

As it turns out, my belief I could read the book in less time than it takes to watch the movie was not quite correct; it took me 4 hours, although I was also recovering from my morning run, so there were periodic pauses to stretch or grab more drinks. I definitely got through the sequence in the white "hotel room" faster than the movie, though.

Mysterious monolith experiments on primitive man-apes, millions of years later, humanity discovers a similar monolith buried on the Moon. Once unearthed, and exposed to the Sun, it sends of a huge burst of radio waves in the direction of Saturn. A ship is sent out there, with two of the crewman, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole, awake while the other three hibernate. The ship's computer, HAL 9000, goes nuts and tries to kill everyone, forcing Dave to shut it down. Dave travels through the monolith he finds out there and is ultimately transformed into a Star Child.

The film always seems to be memorable for the beginning, with the apes figuring out tools in the shadow of the monolith, and for the struggle against HAL out in space. The part on the Moon was actually fairly interesting to me, though I'd forgotten most of it. The idea of international cooperation in building Moon bases, and yet the world is stated to be on the brink of famine in 15 years. That 38 nations have nuclear weapons, and China is selling off some of theirs for the low price of $2 million bucks. The things Clarke predicted would be the problems in the future.

There's also a random comment that the spaceship's extravehicular pods were named after women, because their personalities were unpredictable. Ha ha, dames, so flighty and temperamental, amirite, fellas? Of course, it's the computer, with a guy's name, that actually goes out of control. 

I also didn't remember that the reason HAL goes on a murder spree is because firstly, he's cracking under the strain of programming that tells him to be truthful with the crew, while other programming tells him to conceal the true reason for the mission from Dave and Frank (who know nothing of the monoliths). And that, when he begins to malfunction, Dave says he may have to turn HAL off, which HAL equates with Death, rather than sleep. An absolute end, rather than an interlude. Unintended consequences of humans' attempts to create artificial intelligence, not really putting the appropriate forethought into things.

I wonder if it's meant as a contrast to the beings behind the monoliths. They conducted these experiments, then left Earth and continued on to the next world. And even as they evolved far beyond what they were at the time, they still waited to see how the experiments turned out. When the monolith on the Moon is unearthed, the protocols are still in place. And when Dave reaches Iapetus* , and passes through the Gate, they're ready for him. They haven't forgotten or become bored. The question is whether the metamorphosis they put Dave through is going to have consequences they can't perceive, and I don't remember how the next three books turn out well enough to know.

I haven't always liked the payoff in Clarke's books, but I enjoy his writing. He's matter-of-fact when need be, but can be poignant or poetic as necessary. I don't know about funny, it doesn't really come up here, but there's some excellent descriptive work on the different settings, or the physics behind some of what's going on.

'Yet there was no violation of the laws of mechanics; Nature always balances her books, and Jupiter had lost exactly as much momentum as Discovery had gained. The planet had been slowed down - but as its mass was a sextillion times greater than the ship's the change in its orbit was far too small to be detectable. The time had not yet come when Man could leave his mark upon the Solar System.'

* I like that Clarke incorporated the mystery of Iapetus' starkly different sides, like it's another test the creatures set up.

Monday, August 21, 2017

More Titles I Should Have Dropped Sooner

As we await today's scheduled extinguishing of the Sun, and presumably all life on Earth (about time!), I'm going to resume looking back at ongoing series I dropped, and how much money I wasted by not dropping them sooner. Which makes it sound much more like an exercise in self-flagellation than I intended. We're up to 2007 now, so we haven't yet reached that point where it was more common for the titles to get canceled than dropped.

Ultimate X-Men: I started buying this around issue 5, I think. It was when I got back into comics, and I grabbed most of the issues the store had on the shelf, so it's hard to say which was the most recent. I bought it through the Millar/Kubert initial run, Bendis' time writing the book, the Brian K. Vaughn run, which I remember enjoying although I didn't keep any of it, and finally dropped the book at #79 during the Robert Kirkman/Ben Oliver run. I had been a little disenchanted with the story Kirkman did where Nightcrawler abducted Dazzler from the hospital and kept her hidden in a spot underground to try and make her his girlfriend. Then he brought in Ultimate Cable, who was Wolverine, but older and missing an arm. Which is simpler than actual Cable's origin, I guess.

I could have done without Millar and Bendis' runs on the title. I can't even remember most of it. Magneto trying to cripple Quicksilver, Sexual Predator Wolverine, Cyclops being dropped off a cliff (that was funny). Vaughn's is the only one I have many fond memories of, aside from a two-parter Chuck Austen wrote about Gambit, of all things. Like mixing vomit and goose shit and somehow getting a delicious frosty chocolate milkshake. Anyway, even with Vaughn, I could have dropped off before the last story, Magnetic North, which seemed mostly about how the Ultimates are reactionary assholes and the X-Men are hotheaded kids. Which was already the point of every interaction those groups had. Well, every Ultimates story was about them being assholes, but that's beside the point.

If we assume I would not have started buying the book at Vaughn's run if I wasn't already buying it - a sound assumption - #60 would have been the last issue.

How many issues too many? 19

Exiles: Exiles was one of the first books I started buying after this blog began (I had started picking up X-Factor just prior to starting it). I started getting it because, it had Longshot and Spider-Man 2099 in it? Or I was disillusioned by Bendis' work on New Avengers and wanted a more interesting team book. Something like that. It was in the middle of an exceedingly long and ultimately overly drawn out story about chasing Proteus through realities. Though that may have been due to Chris Claremont's scheduled taking over of writing duties from Tony Bedard being delayed by health issues.

Once Claremont did take over, at #90, he immediately moved Psylocke onto the team, and then brought Slaymaster into the mix, and it was time to go. #94 marked the endpoint. All that said, I don't regret giving Claremont a shot. The man has written team books I liked, and there was something to be said for pairing Psylocke with a version of Sabretooth and seeing it play out, since one had killed her previously. Plus, I like Paul Pelletier's artwork.

How many issues too many? If we're being extremely uncharitable, 5. But I'm going with 0. Giving him one story to show me something wasn't unreasonable.

Shadowpact: By the time I picked this up, I'd dropped every other DC title I had going. But the concept had sounded intriguing, and issue 8 was focused on Ragman and seemed interesting. That didn't last long. I couldn't really get into Willingham's writing style, and Tom Derenick's art always feels a little off. Everyone's anatomy is a little too exaggerated to the point they start to look misshapen. I dropped it by issue 16, probably could have done so after 11 or 12, the fight with Etrigan was somewhat cool.

How many issues too many? 4.

Amazing Spider-Man: I resumed buying Amazing Spider-Man in the last few months of Howard Mackie's run on the book. They had started the numbering over a couple of years previous, trying to shake off the stink of the Clone Saga still, I guess, so it was around #25. A while later, they kept that numbering, but would show the combined number in a lighter color ink next to it. So by that system, it was #467. Right around the conclusion of a plot by Norman Osborn to make Peter his heir involving drugged toothpaste.

Straczynski took over as writer within the next six months, and he and Romita Jr. made a pretty good team for a couple of years. Eventually Romita left and Mike Deodato took over as artist, and things which had already started downhill slightly earlier, picked up speed. There were a couple of stories in there I enjoyed - a decent one featuring the New Avengers that was better than anything Bendis managed with the roster he put together - but there was a knock-off Molten Man character, then The Other, and then we were into Civil War tie-ins and the Back in Black story. By the time it was wrapping up, we knew enough about One More Day that I knew it was going to piss me off, and why pay for the privilege? So I bailed after #542, the issue where Peter whups the Kingpin.

Best case, I should have bailed after that New Avengers story, so around #520, 522. Worst case, I should have left after the two-issue Loki team-up, which ended in 504. Either way, outside of a four month stretch in early 2010, I haven't bought Amazing Spider-Man regularly since.

How many issues too many? 22 minimum, 38 maximum. Ouch, so much for progress.

Batman and the Outsiders: For some reason, this book went through three creative teams in the first three issues, and the cast shifted at least 50% until Chuck Dixon came on the book. Me, I was just there in the hopes of getting a well-written Cassandra Cain for the first time in two years. And we did, and it was good, and I also enjoyed Julian Lopez' art.

Then Chuck Dixon left the book because he was having to make changes to his scripts at the last minute because editorial was making all the Bat-books do Batman R.I.P. tie-ins, and Morrison was holding his scripts back until the very last second so editorial couldn't mess with them (or so the legend goes). I recall a lot of yelling on the Internet between the forces that were for and against Morrison at the time. Maybe that's always going on. I was just annoyed Dixon was off the book, and replaced by Frank Tieri, and that it was Batman R.I.P. tie-ins, and that once those were done, Cass was being shuffled off the team by whoever was taking over the book next (Keith Champagne?). I left the book at #14, holding out for good Cass moments to the bitter end. I should have jumped ship when Dixon did.

How many issues too many? 4. Sometimes circumstances make it very easy.

Ms. Marvel: The Carol Danvers version, not Kamala Khan. Marvel tried to give Carol a push coming out of House of M, since she was the world's best super-hero in that universe, and she wanted to live up to that. Then they put Carol on Tony's side during Civil War, which sure as hell wasn't going to win her many points. She was written woefully inconsistently, being the hardass one minute, but then refusing to own up to her actions the next. Impending Secret Invasion tie-ins were the straw that broke the camel's back, and I jumped off at #24.

When should I have bailed? Probably post-Civil War, her choices in that storyarc poisoned the well for me. But then I'd miss out on the addition of Nextwave-flavor Machine Man to the cast. The only issue I still have is #20, when he dons a big fake mustache as part of an undercover recon mission.

How many issues too many? At minimum, 4. At maximum, 16.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Like Ultimate X-Men, I started buying this when I got back into comics, and grabbed all available issues. But I'm sure they were still somewhere in the origin story, so maybe #5 here as well? I bought the book up through #122, when a combination of factors made me drop it. Impending Ultimatum tie-ins. Tie-ins to the Ultimate Spider-Man video game, which had annoyed me and never been finished. The return of Ultimate Venom. Growing dissatisfaction with Bendis' multi-issue stories. And I hadn't entirely adjusted to Stuart Immonen's artwork, though that by itself wouldn't have driven me off the book.

When should I have dropped it? I don't know. I actually liked the two done-in-one stories that I bought right before dropping it. I liked the Ultimate Knights arc that concluded Bagley's run on the title, so I'd need to go to 111. The Green Goblin story that kicked off Immonen's run was horribly paced, even by Bendis' standards. At times I think dropping it when he introduced Ultimate Carnage would have been the smart play. I kept a lot fewer issues after than story than before (about 16 out of 60).

How many issues too many? At least 11.

X-Factor: Started buying it when it came out, dropped it after #32. More accurately, I picked up #33, thumbed through it, had an eyeball explode at seeing Larry Stroman's art, and dropped the book. To be fair, I'd been considering it for awhile. #33 was simultaneously a crossover with She-Hulk (which Peter David was writing), and a Secret Invasion tie-in. The book had lost both Rahne and Layla Miller to Messiah CompleX-related nonsense, and even before that, had seemed to lose momentum after a strong first year.

Still, I enjoyed the issues about Jamie trying to track down his various duplicates so he'd feel more whole, so I'd want to go to at least #16. There was an appearance by Arcade right before I dropped the book, but I felt pretty blah about it, which is a bad sign, when Arcade can't get me excited.

How many issues too many? 16.

The Punisher: OK, last one for today. This was the MAX version of the title. I had started reading Ennis' Punisher work sometime during the initial "Welcome Back, Frank" mini-series, and stayed with the title when it became a Marvel Knights ongoing (which was a mistake overall), and on into the MAX run of the book.When Ennis wrapped up in #60, I considered dropping the book, but figured I would give Gregg Hurwitz a shot. Three issues later I reconsidered and dropped the book.

I'm sure Hurwitz is a fine writer, but I didn't know him from a hole in the ground. So that bit I wrote in the Exiles' section, about Claremont having earned a test story? Doesn't apply here. Should have dropped the book at #60. I've read all the Punisher comics I ever need to.

How many issues too many? 3.

Well that's a lot better than the last time. There are actually multiple titles I stayed with for less than a year longer than I should have. Amazing Spider-Man is the most egregious, and hey, it's Spider-Man, that connection was hard to break. But credit to Marvel, they persevered in their attempt to break it, and eventually succeeded. Good work guys! Sure saved me a lot of money over the last decade, and not just because it meant I wasn't buying the Amazing when it was triple-shipping every month. If I could just walk away from Spider-Man, then there was no character I couldn't draw a line under and say, "Enough".

There are still other titles that got dropped after the end of 2008, but like I said, most of them get canceled instead. The beginning of the New 52 being an example as well. That took at least three books I was buying out in one swoop. So I may return to this again, or maybe not.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.9 - The Wizard of Ooze

Plot: Jim and Peter (and their house) are flung into another dimension by Queen Slug-for-a-Butt, utilizing the Professor's latest invention. Yes, it's a Wizard of Oz parody, if the title didn't tip you off. The house crushes the Evil Bleveridge of the Southeast, marking Jim and Peter as foes of the Evil Queen Slug-for-a-Butt of the Southwest, and gifting (I use that term loosely) Jim with the Sapphire Toesocks.

Jim and Peter travel the Flat Critter Road to see the Wizard about getting home, meeting various characters from their show repurposed for this parody. The Wizard fails to help any of them get what they want, and then the Queen of the Southwest returns, only to be defeated with her own flying vacuum. A trip to the local supermarket fulfills all the ancillary characters' desires, and Jim trades the toe socks to the guy from the Transdimensional towing company to get home. The Queen of their universe is still there, so Jim turns the weapon on her, and sends her to the awful place.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'I'm guessing you a) are depressed, and b) want something.'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 1 (19 overall).

Cow? The Good Cow of the Northeast, in fact.

Other: Peter's transformation in this issue was brought on by the sight of the Queen's vacuum, bringing back all his traumatic memories of the vacuum that sent him to Heck (see, "The Origin of Peter Puppy").

Jim getting the toesocks makes me wonder if he even has toes. The suit has fingers, but Jim's actual worm body, large though it may be, doesn't have any limbs. Does the suit has toes inside its feet? Could a villain defeat Jim by mocking him for not being able to wiggle his toes in the grass, reducing Jim to tears? Or maybe it would trick Jim into demonstrating how, as a worm, he can wriggle his entire body in the grass, which would get him out of the suit.

The set backdrops are the most effective villain Jim has ever gone up against.

So, for the record, Walter as a Fiberglass Chain Restaurant Mascot was the Scarecrow stand-in. He wanted dental floss to improve his teeth so he'd be better at his job. The Manifestation of Death was the Tin Reaper, who wished to have some of the frozen yogurt the souls he escorted to the afterlife got in the Mall of the Afterlife. And the Hamstinator was the Brave Hamster, who wanted a reasonable amount of fear to keep him from endangering his life doing foolish things.

The narrator has completely lost interest, refusing to even do his work for most of the episode, and instead spending time calling his agent. Even so, his indifference can't match my active dislike. This is the first episode I really just wanted to be over and done with. There are a couple of funny gags - Professor Monkey-for-a-Head as the Queen's flying monkey, and then his challenging the Tin Reaper to a game of chess was one. But I was rooting for the Queen in this one.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What I Bought 8/17/2017

I figured I would only be able to find one of the two comics I had that came out this week. I didn't expect Cave Carson to be the one, though. I'll find this week's issue of Gwenpool eventually.

Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #11, by Jon Rivera (writer/story), Gerard Way (story), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (color artist), Clem Robins (letterer) - That Javier Pulido cover, I don't know what to make of it. It reminds me of those page of cutout paper dolls. Here's the happy nuclear family, with his daughter from another reality losing her mind in the background!

Much exposition about how this other Cave Carson and Doc Magnus sent the eyes back through the crystals to find the universe the Whisperer came from before it was released, then have it bond with that universe's Cave so they could learn about Mazra, as some legend says she's the only one who can stop it. Blah, blah, fate of the universe, blah, blah, not really sorry about treating your life as an experiment, blah, blah, Chloe needs to break Magnus' nose. The Whisperer finds them, it attacks, Robo-Mazra protects them, briefly, before she's swatted into a deep abyss, but now Cave is convinced it's really her and he's going after her.

There are a few bits in here I enjoy. Wild Dog interrupting the Whisperer's speech by blowing up one of its lackeys, and Chloe's smirk as she remarks that she's sure he's smiling. Also an interesting layout on that page, with the bottom three panels laid out like in a triangle, with one big panel for the top two-thirds of the page. And the exploding head acts like one of those images with the sun shining at the peak of a pyramid. Don't know what the significance of that would be, but it was neat.

The Whisperer slows Mazra down by firing the EDX patriarch at her like a snot rocket. And it isn't one of those moments where the bad guy who thought he was a big deal realizes he's unimportant to the real big deal; the guy is totally on board with the idea. He's bought in to the point that acting as a booger bullet is fine, because he still thinks he's going to win at the end of this.

And there's a nice three-part set with Mazra within the issue. Initially Chloe is examining her and wondering if it's really her  mother, come back to her, and just barely touches her cheek before Magnus rushes in to warn about uncertain absorbent aspects. There are yellow bubbles that no one notices that drift in from the previous page, through the panel of Chloe touching Mazra, and into the one where Magnus appears. And in that one, Mazra's drawn strictly as a shadow outline, her face and eyes obscured.

Later, Mazra tries comforting Chloe, and Cave advises her to just ignore Mazra. Mazra's design includes bright yellow lines that run down her face from her eyes, so in the final panel, with those highlighted, she appears to be crying.

Finally, the Whisperer tries to smash the ship they're on, and Mazra blocks the attack, and there's one a panel of her looking at Cave and silently smiling, followed by Cave gawking at muttering to himself, 'It can't be. . .' I am entirely a sucker for those sequences where one character smiles at the other, and the character being smiled at just knows this is really them by the smile.

Overall, it's an interesting sequence, watching Chloe want to hope this could really be her mother returned to her, but the others unintentionally encouraging her doubts. And Cave still doesn't want to even consider the possibility it could really be her. And really, it can't be if it's based strictly off his perceptions and observations, how much would this version of Mazra know of what the original thought and felt? Still, Cave wasn't even willing to risk hoping, or perhaps didn't want to. Was content to wallow in his grief. And this Mazra believes she is the real deal, whether it's true or not. To see have to come to grips with all this, her family hurting and have them reject her, and still be willing and able to step up and defend them, was a well-executed.

Yeah, there were some parts of this I liked a lot, and some other bits I didn't care about as much.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Sparrow and the Hawk - Kyle Longley

Almost two years ago I read one paragraph in Small Wars, Faraway Places that mentioned Jose Figueres of Costa Rica and made him sound like a fascinating guy. I finally got around to getting a book that discussed a bit more.

The Sparrow and the Hawk is more broadly about the relationship between Costa Rica and the United States in the years leading up to and including Figueres' first stint as elected president (as opposed to his time as leader of the junta that was in charge for a couple of years after the Revolt of 1948, and using junta makes it sound worse than it was).

The United States, to put it lightly, has a long history of exerting its influence in Latin America. Economic power, political power, military power. Costa Rica has, for the most part, managed to maintain good relations with the U.S., while still having a fair amount of regional autonomy. Longley is interested in how the country managed that, and the tightrope several leaders, including Figueres, walked in implementing their ideals and programs, while not making the U.S. feel its interests were being threatened to the extent it might interfere more.

One of the keys seems to have been supporting the U.S. in most things on the broader international stage, especially anti-Communism after World War II. Costa Rica having a long tradition of democracy, and sticking to it helped. The revolution of 1948 was relatively constrained, the military didn't assume control, democratic processes were ultimately maintained. Figueres was head of a so-called junta that ran the country for a couple of years immediately after, but this persisted only up to the point of a scheduled election. Then the junta stepped down for the elected candidate, Otilio Ulate.

Longley also stresses that prominent Costa Rican political figures spent time in the U.S. and understood the mood of things there. They recognized how heavily anti-Communist the country was getting, and that the U.S. was often associating nationalist movements with Communism. So it was important to work to protect Costa Rican interests, which might include taking control of a few banks, or making the United Fruit Company renegotiate its contracts and pay more taxes, but in a way that did not imply Communist influence. It's largely a combination of picking one's battles and knowing your leverage. Even Figueres, who was vocal about working to remove dictators from other Latin American nations and reinstalling democracy, whether those dictators were U.S. allies or not, would tone it down on occasion.

I did find it curious that at one point Longley says the U.S. intimidated Teodora Picado into stepping down as President during the revolution, then says in the next paragraph the U.S. did not orchestrate the overthrow of a government it thought was collaborating with Communists. His general point is the movement to oust Picado was started by Costa Ricans who had used the legislature to annul election results that went against his party, which is accurate. But at the same time, the U.S. did intervene, both as described above, and by refusing to sell Picado's forces arms, while allowing Figueres and the other rebels to purchase weapons. I guess by the typical standards of the United States, that qualifies as not overthrowing someone.

It isn't a book specifically focused on Jose Figueres, rather it looks at a particular stretch of history during which he was one of several critical figures. But I think it works better for my purposes. I really didn't know anything about Costa Rica going in, and something more concentrated on Figueres might have gone right past me, since I'd lack background.

'When questioned on the issue, Don Pepe responded that he understood that no Soviet-backed government could be tolerated in Central America, and he recounted his role in expelling the Communists from Costa Rica. At the same time, he advised Washington to refrain from military actions through surrogates such as Somoza. Instead, he advocated pressuring Arbenz to remove the Communists from the government. If that failed, he backed sponsoring democratic groups in Guatemala against the Communists, creating a repeat of the victory in his country in 1948. He wanted changes and understood the importance of the Communist question, but he continued to oppose heavy-handed interventions by reactionaries.'

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

There's Always One More Job

For this five-person group, there's a rough theme of "one last job". They're all characters I think ended their movies willing to try and get away from what they'd been doing, but we're going to bring them in for another round. I wanted to avoid characters from films with sequels, since those characters are always being dragged in for one last job. In this case, go with the general idea of a scientist with a big important, potentially scary idea being abducted, and needing to be rescued. Maybe his project can be salvaged, or maybe it's better off destroyed.

The Leader: Mallory Kane (Gina Carano, Haywire) - Mallory might not actually have been through with doing dirty work for governments by the end of this film. But considering she was set up to look like a double agent, and used to hand an innocent journalist over to his death, you would understand if she'd said, "To hell with this!"

But let's say she's open to the idea of rescuing a person in trouble. Even if she suspects the people she's working for aren't entirely on the up-and-up, she figures the victim still deserves a little help. But recovering him is going to send her far and wide, and it may only be the first step, depending on how much he's shared with his captors before she finds him. This team isn't one she assembles by sitting down with a bunch of dossiers and deciding these are the people she needs. It's more that as she moves forward, she crosses paths with them and they tag in. The Baron Munchausen approach.

Problem with that being you can't be sure how long they'll stay tagged in. If they settle whatever issues got them involved in the first place, they may peel off. Mallory isn't likely to have the resources to try bribing them to stay. She could always try threatening to break their arms, but that isn't really conducive to a good team atmosphere.

The Rogue: L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones, The Hunted) - At the end of the movie, L.T. went back to his cabin in the middle of nowhere. I don't know what you can confront him with to bring him back out. I don't think you can bribe him; he's not a guy who is going to want anything other people can offer. But if the Important Project requires a mineral resource found in the mountains nearby, and people in the area start turning up dead? That might get him interested, maybe even interested enough to follow the trail down out of the wilderness.

If the team needs someone to cobble together a tool out of available junk, he's probably the guy for that job. If they need someone tracked down, he's definitely that guy. Or for a silent approach, or to set up a trap for someone to be lured into. I'd also suspect, whether he likes it or not, he has some contacts in the military he could get in touch with if the need arose. Even if Mallory cleared her name officially, there might still be people wary of helping her. But L.T. should still have a solid reputation in certain circles, which could come in handy. And there could be some comedy factor in watching him awkwardly ask for help, or try to explain the peculiar bunch he's working with.

The Muscle: Danny (Jet Li, Unleashed) - You can't expect Mallory to do all the fighting herself while also running the show. Danny was free of having to fight for the benefit of a small-time thug, and glad of it by the end of the movie. But if the trouble comes to his door, endangers Sam or Victoria, Danny already proved he'd fight about 49 guys to protect them.

The interactions between him and L.T. could be interesting. L.T. trained young men to become weapons, and had to ultimately confront the result of that. Danny was trained by someone more ruthless, but maybe not as cold as L.T., who tried to maintain distance from his students, stay uninvolved in their lives. What does he make of Danny, and what does Danny make of him? L.T. can be a quiet, patient man, which is also true of Sam, and a good approach for being around someone nervous and unsure of himself like Danny. But L.T. doesn't let whatever charm or warmth he has show as readily as Sam, so I feel like Danny's going to be a little intimidated by him.

I also don't know how he's going to work as part of a team, since he was typically left to fight everyone himself. Frankly, it might be best to just stay out of his way, and handle any threats hanging around the periphery.

The Guy of Mystery: Carter Blake (Thomas Jane, Deep Blue Sea) - It's possible you could switch Carter and the next character, but I figured Carter might want to stay well away from boats and water after messing with super-intelligent sharks. Prior to that, he spent two years in Leavenworth for smuggling and illegal salvage on undersea wrecks, which is more what I'm interested in here. The underwater expertise. There's going to be something crucial to the MacGuffin that requires going underwater. My guess is Danny doesn't know how to swim, and this is hardly the time to teach him. Mallory does, but again, best not to ask one person to do everything.

We at least know Carter can keep his cool under intense situations. Stay clear-headed, consider his options, find a solution. Has a decent pain tolerance, given he took that spear bolt through the leg. Knows a little about firearms. Probably still has contacts in low places. He mentioned during the film that he followed the terms of his parole, whatever those were. Is he going to risk violating them for this, or is he hoping to get clear of all of that with this? The old Dirty Dozen deal.

If we want, we could throw in him having somewhat of a phobia, or a bit of PTSD about the water after what he's gone through. You couldn't really blame him, although I suspect he'd rationalize the experience as not being about sharks being more dangerous than he'd told himself. Rather, the problem is people, which is something he knew already.

The Guy with a Boat: Red (Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption) - OK, technically the boat is Andy's (or maybe they're full partners on it), but I'm sure he won't object to Red using it. Maybe Mallory charters the boat. I considered using Andy here, because I thought throwing in someone whose expertise is the world of finance would be very different from anyone I normally include in these things, but I figured a man who knows how to get things might be more useful. If they really need to know something about moving money around, they can always ask Andy. Like how Burn Notice had Barry for whenever they needed money laundered or conjured from thin air. He wasn't around all the time, but appeared when the plot required it.

Tempting as it is to let Shawshank Morgan Freeman turn out to also be badass secret agent Morgan Freeman from the movie Red, we're going to keep him as a non-violent member of the team. If they need to acquire some weapons locally, Red probably knows a few guys that know some guys. If L.T. needs some other random junk for whatever twigs and bailing wire dune buggy he's cobbling together, Red's the guy to get it. I expect Red and Carter might know some of the same questionable individuals. Carter from the supply and shipping side, Red from the distribution end of things. At least one of the individuals they turn to will like Red, but Carter will owe him some money. I figure Red's smart enough to know who he can and cannot be in debt to for any extended period of time.

Plus, I don't really want to see an elderly gent getting beat up by goons. Although that might be what brings Danny in, seeing as how Red bears a remarkable resemblance to Sam. Forget the all-Bruce Campbell team, maybe I should be doing an all-Morgan Freeman team. Although if you pick his character in Bruce Almighty you've got God Himself and that would kind of defeat the purpose.

I was going to describe L.T. as the quiet one of the group, but there's no chatterbox in this bunch. They aren't scowly or unfriendly exactly, just tend to keep their own counsel. L.T.'s comfortable alone, Carter figures nobody cares what he has to say, so until shit goes sideways, he'll keep his mouth shut. Danny, despite Sam and Victoria's encouragement still defaults to trying to not be a distraction, as he sees it. Red is a gregarious guy, but you know there were times in prison it was made very clear he was supposed to be quiet, and I wonder how easy those patterns are to break. And Mallory's pretty no-nonsense, but she might try to talk a little more just to put the team at ease, try to get them to loosen up a little. Whether that works or not is another matter.

The particular mission is trending in the vague direction of Clive Cussler's Raise the Titanic!, minus raising an enormous ship. Which is strange; I haven't read that book in years (I went through a long Cussler stretch starting in 7th grade up to my early undergrad years), but I suspect the need for something to happen in the middle of nowhere to involve L.T. made me think of how that book revolved around a rare element found on a remote island off the coast of Russia. And the sunken ship brings in both the need for a boat and someone who knows their way around underwater. Handwave, handwave, something something, brilliant scientist abducted, and there ya go.

Stepping away from the elements cribbed from that book, let's say the element and the MacGuffin require music, specific frequencies, to work in tandem, and they abducted Victoria as an accomplished pianist, and that's how Danny got dragged into it. I mean, what the hell, go nuts with it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ricky's been getting bounced from foster home to foster home, and now he's landed with Bella and Hec in the New Zealand wilderness. He's not enthused at first, but Bella's genuine kindness wins him over. Then she dies suddenly. The state and Hec agree he can't look after Ricky, so Ricky runs into the bush. When Hec tracks him down, he fractures his foot, forcing them to camp in the wilderness for weeks.

By the time they emerge from the woods, Hec is suspected of kidnapping, a situation made worse when three redneck imbeciles find them and Ricky gives them the impression Hec molested him. Which starts a months long run across New Zealand to nowhere in particular.

It's a funnier movie than the description would suggest. Hec's gruff attitude is punctured by Ricky finding a few weak points (mostly related to Hec's speaking and illiteracy) and hammering away at them like a kid will. There's Paula, the Child Welfare lady, who is insane in her determination to hunt down this child, or maybe just insane, period. She compares herself to the Terminator, I'd have said Buford T. Justice. Not that she's racist or reactionary, she might be I dunno, just the lack of regard for the limits of her authority, her lack of compassion or understanding. Ricky encounters a few interesting people along the way, although the trio of rednecks annoyingly keep popping up. Sometimes you just can't get away from the worst people.

I wasn't sure I was going to like it, not usually in the mood for heartwarming stuff. But there's enough humor and absurdity in it that it worked out just fine. Really enjoyed it. Ricky keeping the hot water bottle when he runs away was sweet. The way it was a reminder of maybe the first time an adult, really legitimately cared about him, did those little things that shows they care.

Although, I was planning to loan it to my dad as I watched it, but then they ran into a giant wild boar, and one of the dogs doesn't make it, so never mind that. It'll just depress him. Although I found out he has watched John Wick at some point, but left the room during the part where the dog dies. Did the same thing during In a Valley of Violence.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What I Bought 8/9/2017 - Part 2

My downstairs neighbor left a note on my door last week, a full page front and back, complaining how I kept her up all night with loud music and banging noises. Except I went to be bed at 10:30 on the night in question. I think she means the people in the apartment behind mine, but I can't be bothered to find out. But it did put me in a sour mood that day, especially since the note informed me she had told management about my (nonexistent) transgression. I haven't heard anything from them,
so I presume they're taking it even less seriously than I did. I have the impression she complains to them about everyone around her a lot.

Ms. Marvel #21, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marco Failla (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Nice use of the lightning bolt symbol there, especially in contrast to the electricity crackling off the bad guy's gauntlet.

Kamala, her brother, and the other people set to be booted out of town fight back and try to find safety in the local mosque. HYDRA Lite barges in, the fight continues, Kamala ends up in the bathroom with the masked bad guy who turns out to be that blond jock, Josh. Who has turned his feelings of inadequacy into violence against others. Brilliant.

Kamala and Josh stopping to have a heart-to-heart in a bathroom while there's a huge fight between hate mongers and a bunch of innocent people going on outside seems like a curious decision. Yes, Kamala wants to understand why he's doing this, and she's worn out, but maybe deal with understanding after the innocent people are out of danger? It's a little hard for me to see Josh recognizing the error of his ways and switching sides in the twelfth hour. I did like how, in the flashback, Lockdown tells Josh she knows he isn't bad, he just had a bad idea, and he's really a leader, when she had been the one insisting he had to be locked up because he might cause an explosion at the school. Josh, you gullible asshole.

Failla draws Kamala a little taller in this issue, even on the page where she briefly surrenders. Possibly because she was in fight mode most of the issue, so she was always making herself a little larger. Or maybe he's drawing her a little skinnier than usual, which makes her look more stretched out. It's less noticeable as the issue progresses, because she's getting worn down, and can't keep up the pace, and a lot less noticeable once she and Josh are sitting and talking, what with her being out of fight mode entirely.

Yellow is the color Herring seems to use for when Kamala's going to fight. The panels get a prominent yellow tint when she takes heart from her brother and decides to keep resisting. It's not the first time, it's been pretty consistent across both volumes, yellow is the color for moments when she puts her doubts aside and stands up. Which feels a little strange to me, since yellow gets associated with cowardice, having a yellow streak and all that. But yellow's also a bright color, associated with light and life, which are things she'd be protecting. And her lightning bolt's yellow as well, of course.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #23, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I feel like Henderson's emulating something with these covers, but I don't know what. Covers of old pulp adventure novels. The coloring is just making it look odd to me.

The equipment that sustains the Savage Land is failing, and the problem is believed to be some programming issue with the alien robots that maintain it. Thus bringing in clever programming students to try and figure out the problem. But, as watching character do programming stuff is really boring, the issue instead focuses on Nancy and Stefan's tentative relationship. Their differing opinions on Doom are causing some issues, but may not be insurmountable. Romance subplot done for now, the story returns to hot programming action, now with Dinosaur Ultron. Which is an outstanding addition, and something I didn't know I wanted to see until now. I hadn't even thought of him taking a form like that, but it's outstanding. Much better than that time Frank Cho drew Ultron as looking like the Wasp because . . . well, because it was Frank Cho drawing it I assume.

So that was a pretty good reveal for the final two pages (not counting the actual final page, Kraven's continuing struggle with the Poachmaster General). The two-page spread of Doreen helping Nancy through her doubts about the possible relationship covered some important character work, but didn't take up so much space we were denied Dinosaur Ultron. Also, I like the touch of having Doreen write her name as "DOREEN!" on her name tag, while Nancy opted for "Nancy Whitehead".

However, I must take issue with something. The Squirrel Girl Bathroom Update about Doreen trying to return the baby pterosaur to its parents clearly states Doreen's shirt got torn at the shoulder, and yet there was no battle damage when she returned to the dinner table, having unfortunately missed out on exciting relationship developments. Not Doomesque, dude. I demand continuity be maintained between the main story and the jokes at the bottom of the page!

Lotta good jokes in this issue, too. Latverian slang, the bit about programming montages being boring, the menu jokes, Squire Pete as the (nonexistent) character find of 2017. Unless Squire Pete is going to show up to help in this story arc. Still funny, though. Although knightly armor would have to be unpleasant in a tropical jungle. Chafing issues galore. Nothing funny about that.

As usual, Squirrel Girl's a highly enjoyable book.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Earthworm Jim 2.8 - Lounge Day Journey Into Night

Plot: We open with the narrator having forgotten he's still employed on this show, and have to rush into Bob feeding our heroes to the Giant Sturgeon. Jim, possibly traumatized by ingrained worm genetic memory, is useless, leaving Peter to get them out of the fish's stomach and defeat Bob. The end result of the sidekick saving the day is Jim is stripped of his heroship, and Peter gets the supersuit.

Meanwhile, Evil the Cat has gotten his last selection from the Tome of the Month club, the Hunchback of Nostradamus, which has a prophecy of a cat working with a pair of lounge singers and destroying the universe. The singers in question are Morty and Eileen, who Evil approaches right as Jim and Peter leave one of their gigs (on their way to learn Jim doesn't get to be the hero) any longer.

While Evil gets Morty and Eileen to practice his song, "Don't Buy a Calendar, Tomorrow's Already Gone," Peter gloats over his reversal in status while Jim works multiple menial jobs to pay the bills. And to top it off, he gets this month's selection of the Tome of the Month Club, The Hunchback of Nostradamus! Apparently Evil splurged on the deluxe membership with expedited shipping. The heroes rush to the lounge, but are waylaid by an industrial floor buffer and the awful singing.

The universe does not end, because Evil didn't read the whole prophecy, and so missed the part about the minstrels needing to sign a record contract first. Which gives Peter and Jim time to regroup and try again. And again, they botch it. Right as the universe is about to end, the show's animation budget runs out, for the second time in the episode. Evil wants to believe he's won, while Jim takes the opportunity to seize the animator's pencil and erase Evil. Then he sends another check to the animators.

Quote of the Episode: Jim - 'All this time I was fighting villains, I could have been enjoying musical jello!'

Times Peter turns into a monster: 0 (18 overall).

Cow? Yes, but not quickly enough for me to keep from thinking this show might deserve imminent cancelation.

Other: Morty and Eileen were willing to help Evil destroy the universe, playing someone else's song, for basically the promise he would provide lunch. Which made me think of people working for Marvel or DC, for some reason. Evil's probably a more compassionate boss, though.

Jim's lack of ears come into play again, like they did in Battery of the Gods where he was not only immune to the nose flute, but enjoyed the heck out of it. Morty and Eileen aren't quite as bad as the nose flute, simply because their voices aren't as shrill, but they're still unpleasant.

Henchrat is absent from the episode, because he's taking elocution lessons from Walter. Which at least means he avoids getting his whiskers pulled or ears tied together.

I was trying to think if the claim the heroes league made, that Peter is responsible for 90% of Jim's victories. Jim stopped the apes last week, he sort of stopped Hyper Psy-Crow, he utilized bureaucracy to stop The Fiend Which Dares Not Speak Its Name. Peter did save the day in "The origin of Peter Puppy", but that's the most recent one I can remember. You'd think with all the bake sales those heroes host, they'd be better at math, simply by virtue of having to make change.