Friday, September 29, 2017

What I Bought 9/29/2017

The last book I needed from September. Other than that new Tick book, which I will hopefully find at some point. I ordered the third trade for Giant Days a few weeks ago, and it's lost somewhere in a Long Island post office processing plant. In other news, I added all the post labels to the sidebar at the bottom. Because I was tired of having to find a specific post with the label I wanted to find all the posts with that label. Now that problem is eliminated, assuming I remember the right label.

Giant Days #30, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (penciler), Liz Fleming (inker), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) -Ah, young love, and the futile attempts by friends to stave off impending disaster.

Daisy's girlfriend Ingrid is proving to be a terrible housemate, and Susan and Esther are at the brink. But neither wants to crush poor Daisy, until they learn Ingrid's staying on at the uni another 3 years. Needing time to decompress and prepare to deliver harsh news, they go their separate ways to relax, only for Esther to find Susan sharing coffee with her on-again, off again, McGraw. Who is definitely supposed to be off-again, since he's seeing Emilia, who is right behind Esther (but is hustled out before she spots them). Esther talks to Daisy about it, and during the process of that, reveals the ridiculous heating bill caused by Ingrid. Which overloads Esther self-control, and she bluntly tells Daisy what she and Susan think of Ingrid. Probably feeling guilty over it, she's in no mood for Susan's sarcasm and lets her know she knows. While things go surprisingly well between Susan and Esther, everything else goes into a death spiral.

Geez, I show up and everything goes to Hell. Did I pick something up from buying Deadpool again and transmit it to this book? I'm not sure how much time there is between issues, but it certainly continues with the rapid plot developments. Esther and Emilia just became friends last issue, they're already on the outs again. I'm a little worried about McGraw, in spite of my general disregard for people who cheat. Although I'm unclear if it's "cheating" to hang out with an old friend who also happens to be the mortal enemy of your current significant other. I guess if it wasn't, they wouldn't have kept it secret? They were holding hands in the coffee shop, so yeah, probably cheating.

Sarin's artwork is fantastic. The second panel on page 14, Esther has this look on her face as she notices how clean everything is, where she's both looking and her fingers that she swiped against the walls and commenting appreciatively to Daisy, and I don't know what you'd call the expression, but it's perfect. She did the finger test to see if there was dirt, but not in a harsh way, just verifying what her eyes were already telling her, and she's not reacting as though it's strange, but more one of Daisy's quirks she's used to, and wants to express her gratitude casually. I don't know, if you can shorten all that mess down into a single word, that'd be swell. Point being, I would never have had any idea how to draw that, and Sarin makes it look simple. I must be shorting Liz Fleming in the credit for that, I just don't understand inking well enough. I can see places where I'm sure she's adding detail, giving an expression more depth with her shading, I'm just not sure about most of it.

Combine that with some of the comedy touches - Esther's mental picture of the relationship pentagon, complete with McGraw's true love, or Esther starting to keep an emergency teaspoon around her neck - and Cogar's color schemes for the characters and it's a great looking book. Esther has her dark colors, Daisy opts for mostly soft, pleasant tones, Susan has what I'd call are dull, blunt colors. Flat orange shirts. Emilia is sort of a combination of Esther's taste in clothes (or maybe it's the other way around), and Susan's color schemes, except brighter. Orange that's a little warmer, less off-putting.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the book greatly, even as I worry the cast is falling apart. Maybe Esther and Susan could hire Deadpool to kill Ingrid discreetly?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

A young woman named Dany works in an advertising agency. Her boss asks her to drop him and his family at the airport, then drive his very nice Thunderbird back to his house. She decides to take it to the sea instead. At each stop along the way, people react as though she was there just the day before. Then a dead body turns up in the trunk.

That's what I knew about The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun prior to watching, because that's what the description on Netflix told me. I wonder how knowing that going in affected viewing it, because I spent the movie torn on what was going on. We see visions of things, but I was unsure, are they her dreams, her fantasies, things that actually happened? If they did happen, has she forgotten them, repressed them? Does she have multiple personalities, and the one is unaware of what the other has been doing?

Dany seems shy, a little awkward. She tries to be more open, take chances, maybe play up her attractiveness a little, but it doesn't work how she planned. Her attempts backfire somehow. For a long time, it felt like the story of a young woman trying to assert herself, do what she wants instead of what she thinks people expect of her, only for the universe to reach out and punish her. Try and step outside these bounds, and we will make your life miserable. Get back in your lane.

But maybe she's imagining it all? Her guilty conscience gnawing at her. But she's definitely being followed. Her boss' wife, Anita, an old coworker of Dany's, is acting strangely. Nice, but in an impatient, forced way. She certainly doesn't seem happy to see Dany, as her husband said she would be. But how do all these people know her? Why are they so oddly specific about the details that make them certain of it?

In the last ten minutes, the movie explains everything. I could see that being annoying for some people, but I appreciated it. I'd spent the entire 80 minutes prior to that with my mind weighing all the different theories against each other, and I was just ready to have some sort of answer.

Freya Mavor is able to shift easily between the different facets of Dany's personality. Show the clumsy shift to a shy, awkward person when life throws her a disappointment, or give her the confident attitude of a woman who knows all the guys are watching her walk. Confusion with yet another person insisting they know her, shifting to exhaustion making her just go with it. You can see she's a little too willing to trust for her own good, but she's not going to go down without a fight.

It's a good movie, I just got worn out by it because I couldn't stop trying to figure out what the trick was. I guess you could argue the story didn't draw me in sufficiently if I was constantly trying to pull back and break it down, but it probably deserves some credit for making me wonder if I could trust what I was seeing on screen, or my perceptions of it, of what was real and what wasn't.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rising Prices Inhibit Buying Stuff. In Other News, Fire Hot.

With December's solicitations out, I have an idea of what's coming out through the end of 2017. If my estimations of what I'm going to buy over the next three months are correct, I'll end up buying 72 new Marvel comics this year. Last year it was 73, the year before 74. This isn't a jokey post about how, by 2087, I'll be down to 2 Marvel comics.  It's more that it's remained so curiously steady.

Looking it over, when 2015 started, Marvel was in the midst of one of those "Marvel NOW!" pushes they did three of or four times. I can't recall if that one was All-New Marvel NOW! or Marvel Now 2.0. Both of those terms are ones I'm reasonably sure actually existed and were pushed by Marvel, and were not made up by me. More's the pity, at least I'm not being paid to come up with that.

But shortly after came Secret Wars, and the cancelation of every ongoing, followed by the subsequent relaunching of the entire line, even before Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic's mini-series had shambled and lurched across the finish line. There was Civil War II, and Inhumans vs. X-Men before CW 2 had even finished. And during all that, Marvel was throwing out a preposterous number of series, acting like the market would support two Dr. Strange books, or any Inhumans titles*. Then we had Secret Empire and now Legacy, which is more another attempt at vague branding, like the "Heroic Age" tag they used after Siege but prior to Fear Itself.

Point being, there's been a lot of flailing and nonsense over the last three years, and yet, I'm sitting at, on average, six books a month. The number fluctuates - I was at 8 books a month the first three months of this year, closer to 4 during the summer - but it evens out to 6. Which seemed strange. The only two books I've bought throughout were Ms. Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (I'm not counting the month or two they were canceled, since it wasn't my choice to not be able to buy them). Somehow though, the flux evens out. Marvel cancels whatever I was enjoying, but eventually stumbles into a bunch of new series I'm willing to try, at least a few of which I end up sticking with until they're canceled, then repeat.

I've been considering that given the price of the books these days, 6 is basically what I feel I can justify buying. In the spring, when I was considering buying Iron Fist and Scarlet Spider, I started thinking more about whether it was time to ditch Nova and Great Lakes Avengers. Swap out two books to make room for two others. As it turned out, I dropped Nova but not GLA, which got canceled anyway. But Iron Fist ended up not working out, and ultimately neither did Scarlet Spider.  Which is the way it goes sometimes, but it's atypical to feel I needed to drop a book before adding another. Mostly because there haven't been so many books out there it seemed necessary.

2014 was the year Marvel started really pushing the $4 books. It was also a real outlier in terms of the number of Marvel comics I bought, 101, which is the most of any year going back to 2010 (by a lot, second place would be 2013's 80). At midyear, I was up to 10 ongoings (to the extent you could still count Hawkeye, which was firmly in its "it'll come out, eventually" death throes). Some books were still launching at $3 - Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk to name two - but others were starting at $4, and still others increased in price from one issue to another. Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11 was $3, #12 was $4.

Which would seem to counter the cost factoring in, but I was only at 10 books for three months. Two titles ended in the fall, two others got dropped in January 2015 because they weren't working, and even though I added Ant-Man and Squirrel Girl, by then we'd reached "everything's getting canceled because of Secret Wars", so it hardly mattered. Once we were past that, I couldn't find more than 5 titles I was interested in for about a year. It was only last winter Marvel threw enough stuff at the wall to the point I started to feel pressed about how many books I was buying.

Brief aside: I bought 79 Marvel comics in 2010, 70 in 2011, and 64 in 2012, when the $4 price point wouldn't have been a factor. The difference being, I remember there was nothing out then I wanted to buy. I was lucky to have 3 ongoings on my pull list each month, and the rest was random mini-series and one-shots. I remember adding Hawkeye in August of 2012, bringing me up to 5 ongoings for the first time since 2009. It was a wasteland of Bendis-written Avengers comics and Brand New Day Spider-Man as far as the eye could see. So, not exactly the same situation as we're discussing in the present.

For me, 6 $4 books is the same amount of money as 8 $3 books, though it means fewer stories, fewer chances to see something cool, or funny, or touching. I don't know if it works in Marvel's favor. I don't know the difference in price point for the retailers. Fewer books would mean fewer writers and artists to pay, but it isn't as though Marvel's pared the line as they've raised prices. The line had bloated considerably, and even after they cut it down somewhat for Legacy, there's still over 50 titles out there. They had to release a lot more shit just to get me buying enough books I started to consider capping the pull list. So I wouldn't call that a net win, especially since enough of the books I was buying were on thin enough ice I wasn't too bothered about dropping them.

* I tend to consider Ms. Marvel about as much an Inhumans book as Deadpool is an X-book. They're adjacent to their respective messes, but largely safe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cave

Cave is a Norwegian film about three friends and former soldiers who try to rebuild a friendship by exploring an underwater cave. Charlie (or Charlotte) and Viktor used to date, but that ended for some reason and now Charlie and Adrian are a couple. Viktor has been off by himself for awhile, not recently out and about (a possible reference to a psychiatric hospital), but is the one who reached out with the suggestion.

But as they canoe down the river that reaches the cave, they notice someone following along the bank. Once in the cave, it becomes clear they aren't the first to venture inside. It also becomes clear that regardless of what Charlie wants to believe, Viktor's feelings for her haven't gone away. Well, I can't think of a better place for people to hash out their relationship differences calmly than a subterranean place full of pointy rocks, darkness, and freezing water!

It's an 80 minute film, very quick and focused. There are four characters total. They're into the cave within the first 20 minutes, and until the last five, that's where the story stays. I expected them to run into a creature initially, especially when Charlie notices the skull of something with pretty decent canines sitting on a rock. It's not that sort of movie.

The first half of the film is interesting for watching these old friends try to reconnect. They haven't seen Viktor for some time, and you can feel some awkwardness. Are certain jokes over the line now, or are they still OK? Charlie and Viktor can still be comfortable around each other, but you can see Charlie's trying to maintain a little distance, while pretending not to be. Or maybe she is oblivious to Viktor's gaze, but I think it's more she choosing to ignore it to risk shattering a friendship once and for all.

The second half of the film is where things start to go wrong within the cave, as things gets increasingly unsettling, and the danger comes into sharper focus. There was still a point in the film I thought things might turn around, and old bonds would win out, but it's not that kind of movie.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Looking To The End Of The Year

So, December's solicitations have been released. It's a quiet month. I'm continuing to buy the things I was buying, and there's not much new out there.

There's going to be another Empowered mini-series or story released, this time with Carla Speed McNeil handling art duties. I owned the first two volumes of the Finder Library by McNeil a few years ago, but ultimately gave them to a library. It wasn't because of the art, though, which was excellent. I just could not stand Jaeger, at all. But he won't be in this comic, so that shouldn't be a problem. Hurrah!

Copperhead continues, Atomic Robo has cyborgs assuming people's identities, Esther is going to try and fix a problem in a manner that will probably backfire spectacularly in Giant Days. I was reading over DC's solicits and noticed that in the Ragman mini-series, the title character is bringing down demons, rather than trapping human criminals? Or perhaps he does both. I'm not sure about that development, I guess it'll depend on the execution.

Marvel, there was nothing new I intend to purchase. They are putting Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm together, sans Reed and Sue, in Marvel Two-In-One. Oh, and Marvel is bringing back Jean Grey, the adult one, since they already have the time-traveling teen one running around. Does this qualify as an event? There's a mini-series attached. Marvel said some point back in the spring they had no Events planned after Secret Empire for 18 months. Which, granted, is not the same sas saying no events are going to happen in the next 18 months. I don't think any of us would be surprised if they trotted one out with no planning. Actually, I think we'd be more surprised there was ever any planning involved in these events.

So once again, Marvel tries to get me to care about Jean Grey, an effort as doomed to failure as all past attempts to make me give a shit about Jean Grey. In the teen Jean's book, she's called in all these past Phoenix hosts to help her contend with the approaching Jean, Phoenix, whatever. Except once again, Rachel Summers/Grey appears to have been skipped over. Sure, she's been about the most successful host, why would you want her there? It's Avengers vs. X-Men all over again.

Squirrel Girl is going into space to find Nancy and Tippy. Beta Ray Bill is on the cover. I am super-excited at the prospect of Squirrel Girl teaming up with Cyborg Horse Thor! What? I'm being completely serious. I'm capable of genuine enthusiasm.

Gwen is wrapping up her fight with a Doombot, Kamala has vanished, prompting the community to form the Ms. Marvel Emergency Squad, and Deadpool is going to actually kill Cable. They promise. For reals, guys, Cable is going to die. Seriously.

I wish Marvel wouldn't toy with me like this.

One last note, just because. I like the covers Khary Randolph's doing for Ben Reilly Scarlet Spider these last few months. Granting that there's a difference between covers and doing panel-to-panel sequential storytelling, but I like the energy and the angles of the covers. I'd have been much more likely to keep buying the book if Randolph was the interior artist. Not to be, though.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.4 - The Devil's Birthday

Plot: God forgets the Devil's birthday. Combined with the lackluster party his employees in Hell throw (and which he has to share with Helen from Accounting), the Devil falls into a depression, and decides to teach God a lesson. By removing all evil from the world.

Sounds pretty great, right? Donna stops objecting to Bob attending a bachelor party, she and Megan stop fighting over whether Megan can attend a slumber party at a boys' house, crime vanishes and world peace kicks in. But it also means all the music is cheerful, everyone has a near rictus grin plastered to their face, and worst of all, no strippers or beer at the bachelor party! God isn't too pleased either, since it's removed any struggle for people to be good, and sends Bob to Hell to get the Devil back on the job. Bob finds that the Devil, who had been planning to remodel Hell but made the mistake of calling in Martha Stewart to assist, has lost control of Hell entirely. Now he whiles away his time painting sad clowns.

Bob is able to get the Devil and God together with the old trick of inviting them to an event without letting them both know the other will be there. Quite how that works on omniscient God I don't know, but he also keeps forgetting the Devil's birthday, so omniscience ain't what it used to be. Bob utilizes some court-ordered therapy to help the two patch things up, and evil returns to the world. Now the Hug Across America will never be finished.

Quote of the Episode: God - 'Without evil in the world, being good is meaningless. It's like when the Houston Rockets won the championship while Jordan was off playing baseball - big whoop.'

Smeck Smacks: 4 (9 overall). I wasn't going to count each self-inflicted golf club to the face as separate smacks, but I counted the snare and the jackals as two, so I guess I need to be consistent.

Other: When Bob expresses reservations about going to Hell, God tells him that he's been to Branson, Missouri, and it isn't that different. If that's true, Hell is worse than I imagined.

The Martha Stewart thing doesn't really go anywhere. I assume the Devil ousted her once he got his mojo back, but I don't know. Maybe he just started a new Hell somewhere else.

Based on his difficulty in expressing how much the Devil's betrayal hurt him, God is apparently not good at communication. Which is not a surprise given the many contradictory statements in the book's purporting to be his word.

The most terrifying part of the world without evil was that inanimate objects came alive. Seriously, Bob got to work and everyone on the assembly line was whistling, all perfectly in sync. Including the whistle that signals the end of the day. And the factory was doing that happy bouncing thing you see in old cartoons where every single thing is happy. I don't quite track how that works, but there you go: Evil protects us from all our stuff whistling and bouncing all the time. Be grateful for evil, children.

A world without evil apparently translates to a world where everyone is nice and happy, which, yeah, no. You can be good without being nice, or happy. I do it all the time. I don't think the chemical imbalances that cause depression are going to magically disappear when evil does. Unless we're arguing that those chemical issues are caused by actual demons, and c'mon, we aren't in the 1100s here. I'm not looking to burn you at the stake for telling me the geocentric universe concept is a load of hooey.

This is the episode I remember the most, probably because of the part where Bob gets them together and tries to get things hashed out over a game of croquet. Only for God and the Devil to lay waste to Bob's back yard over the course of the game. Plus, God sending Bob to Hell, the Devil painting sad clowns, the Hug Across America ("heading towards us at the speed of love!"), the happy building. This one stuck with me, for whatever reason.

Friday, September 22, 2017

What I Bought 9/21/2017

Just the one book this week. And there's nothing coming out next week that I want. At least things will pick up a little in October. It's not my best review, but it's what I have.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #12, by Jonathan Rivera (writer/story), Gerard Way (story), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - It's like one of those restaurant placemat mazes. Help Cave and Chloe find the path that doesn't lead to a horrible other-dimensional beast!

Cave descends to Mazra's aid, but she still can't draw power from the crystal. Because she's still incomplete. They only used Cave's memories, and she needs to remember what everyone else remembers about her. Which is how we learn Wild Dog had a demo tape, and Mazra was the only one who liked it. I actually liked that quite a bit. He wasn't just Cave's friend, he was hers, too. With a more complete sense of who she was, Mazra is able to draw on the power she needs and destroys the Whisperer, saving the multiverse. Mostly. She's going to go off and clean up the mess left behind, while Cave and his friends got an upgraded ride from Other Cave, which they might explore with a bit before they go home.

Is the "Next: Milk Wars" a joke, or will there actually be more of this book? I could understand if Oeming needs a break to get ahead of schedule, or work on other projects, or have a life outside drawing comics. I had been operating on the assumption this was it, though. On that level, it's a little undercooked. There are some ideas that might have needed more time. Cave seeing another version of himself, which helps him recognize some bad habits of his. It pops up a bit right at the end, and you could probably tie it in to his initial unwillingness to even consider the chance of meeting another Mazra during their dimensional jaunts. Not wanting to deal with emotions, not recognizing how important the idea was the Chloe and how his dismissal of it hurts her.

Maybe they're trusting us to connect the dots. But it also felt as though there was more they meant to do with the other members of the cast. They brought in Cave's old professor, Dr. Bartow, but they never did anything with him. He had a couple of comments in one issue, but other wise, he's just a figure in the background. Felt like there was more to delve into with Wild Dog, Johnny, the rest of the survivors. And if the book's returning, we'll probably get that. As it stands right now, it's lacking a bit.

I have been sitting here for like an hour, doing anything other than finishing this review because I can't figure out what to say about the art. The double-page spread of Mazra killing the Whisperer was underwhelming. I find it interesting when Oeming draws character's eyes as just two small dots. Doesn't seem to be a lack of space, or the character being placed really far away, just sometimes that's all he gives them. I did like the page where the blast from the other's weapons at the top of the page divided the rest of it into separate panels. Since that's really on color, it's a joint effort between Oeming and Filardi. They've done something similar a couple of other times, but it's a nice trick. Overall, this issue doesn't have as many of the flashier layouts that get my attention, but it's still good work. Filardi's colors have consistently brought a sense of strangeness to everything, with all these bright variable backgrounds.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Spectral

Watched on the recommendation of a friend, Spectral is about American soldiers running into something very strange while mired in some conflict in Eastern Europe. It's invisible to the naked eye, able to pass through solid matter (most of the time), and bitterly cold. A scientist is pulled away from DARPA to help investigate, but he and the unit he's assigned to quickly find themselves overwhelmed and being slaughtered. The situation continues to get worse, even as they finally understand what they're up against, the question is whether there are enough people left to do anything about it before it moves beyond this single city.

The fact I can't remember the names of any of the characters is not promising. But I was more curious about what was going to be the answer behind the phenomena and how they were going to combat it. I'd originally resisted watching it because I assumed it was a supernatural threat, and that the movie was Ghostbusters, but played seriously. Ain't nobody got time for that.

But there is actually a sort of scientific idea behind what's going on, and the responses. I have no idea how accurate it is. Based on the little bit of reading I did on the subject online after watching the movie, it'd represent a massive jump forward from where we're at now, but the concept behind how the things are showing the properties they do seems right. Creating and sustaining them would seem to require an immense quantity of energy, though.

There was a bit at the beginning where the scientist is working on a device to instantly evaporate an enemy's water supply, in a portable gun (Ra's al Ghul would like to hear more). He's concerned when the bigwigs want it tested on living beings. Sure, why deprive an entire army of water and possibly kill the lot of them within two days when you can kill them one or two at a time by shooting them with it instead? I figured that weapon was going to factor in, Chekov's Evapo-Ray, but it was more how he had found a useful component by scrounging through old printers in a junkyard. His ability to MacGuyver the situation.

So I was interested in the concepts, but the story and the characters, not so much.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Being An Avenger Didn't Work Out For Deadpool

I saw some pages from Deadpool #35 last week. Deadpool had been working against HYDRA in small ways up to then, but is fully onboard with helping bring them down. Unfortunately, Maria Hill is in no mood to work together, and ultimately parks a van full of explosives on him and then blows it up, along with him and the parking garage they were in.

During the fight, Hill comments that Captain America putting Deadpool on the Avengers should have been the first sign something was wrong with Cap. Hill is not the first person to say this. Black Panther said the same thing during the Civil War II tie-in issues (and got smashed in the head with a toilet a page later, which I would pay good money to see happen to Maria Hill). Lots of us have  made similar comments, although mine attributed it to the onset of senile dementia.

Of course, the Steve Rogers who originally recruited Wade wasn't HYDRA Cap; it was Steve Rogers when he'd become an old man. He wasn't changed to a HYDRA mole until after the sentient Cosmic Cube kid made him young again - which, as Deadpool points out, was Maria Hill's fuckup. Try to contain your surprise. But nobody's going to remember that, or if they do, they'll doubtlessly dismiss it for one reason or another.

It's a little sad that's how Wade's tenure on the Avengers is going to be remembered: As the big, blaring warning sign everyone ignored. He wasn't the best Avenger, maybe not even in the top half, but damn it, he tried his best. He bought into the mission, he funded the team, he worked as a team player in the face of the doubts the scorn, Spider-Man quitting the team rather than work with him. By the end, maybe he earned some grudging respect. None of it matters now.

Wade screwed up. He trusted Captain America too much - not a mistake exclusive to him, but certainly one he made. Trusted that if Captain America said shoot somebody, they needed to be shot. By the time Cap's connection to HYDRA was in the open, and Wade began actively questioning that, he had to protect his daughter. He acted against HYDRA, but in small ways, ones that wouldn't point back to him, or put Ellie at risk. He may have killed Phil Coulson, and I don't know where Preston's consciousness is right now (I suspect the Monster Metropolis). He turned openly against HYDRA too late; no one buys it as a genuine recognition he was on the wrong side and trying to fix his mistake.

So kiss being an Avenger good-bye. The endorsements and merchandising deals, too. He's a wanted man. Daughter hates him, her adopted family hates him (with good reason). Money's gone, home is gone. His marriage and his friends were already all mostly gone, in part because of the demands put on him being an Avenger. And now Stryfe's going to make him kill Cable. If Wade succeeds he'll be out a wife and a husband.

Being an Avenger was always going to end tragically for Deadpool. Because it was something he really wanted, it maybe a sign he really was being the good person he believes he is. Things like that always end badly for him. He had more to lose this time than ever before, though, so this may set the record for the most damage he's done to his own life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

3001: The Final Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke

For the last book, Clarke brings back Frank Poole, Dave Bowman's crewmate, supposedly murdered by HAL, but apparently just floating preserved in the void for 1000 years, until the space pod was found by comet wranglers out near Neptune. So Frank Poole awakens in a new age (the nurses sadly do not greet him with, 'Welcome, to the world of tomorrow!', or by pretending the world is run by giant, sentient ants), have sadly missed almost the entirety of the Willenium.

Frank may have been found just in time, because whatever's left of Dave Bowman and HAL within the Monolith on Europa have some bad news, and a familiar face may have the best chance of actually being allowed to land on the surface of the world and get the news. It seems the beings who created the Monoliths may not have been terribly impressed with what they saw of humanity during Bowman's initial return to Earth in 2010: Odyssey Two. The question then becomes, what exactly can humanity do about it?

I was going to say the Clarke apparently thinking that we're just about as awful as we could get as a species right now is rather naive, but maybe he figured if we got any crazier or more reckless we'd wipe ourselves out. I could agree with that.

In the future, there's also a Braincap which people get fitted with that allows telepathic communication among other gifts, but also allows your mental state to be monitored. So if you're determined to have some sort of dangerous urges or mental condition, you can be treated. The book does raise the argument briefly about the potential for abuse, but it comes down on the side that it's worth sacrificing some of the sanctity of your own mind on the off chance you are deemed a threat to society.

It doesn't really address who is making these decisions, what the regulatory authority over them is, the obvious potential for abuse that would exist. "You don't like our current leaders? Sounds like you're dangerously psychopathic!" But I'm sure the physicians are entirely independent of anything like that. Yeah, and those doctors monitoring the players for concussions in the NFL aren't being pressured by the multi-billion franchises employing them. Pull the other one. Heck, they do something to people that committed crimes to turn them into basically docile servants of sorts until their "treatment" is finished and then they're reintroduced into society.

If you refuse to be fitted with a Braincap, besides the difficulties this presents in day-to-day life, that in itself apparently gets you marked as someone to keep an eye on. So the old, 'if you have nothing to hide, then what's the problem?' argument hasn't vanished a thousand years from now. 

It may not be fair of me to fixate on this relatively small part of the book, which is probably just in there as a shorthand for scientific advances over the course of time*, but Clarke put it in there and it stuck in my craw. Especially when the argument the characters seem to be making is that humanity's progressed so far from where it was 1,000 years ago, they shouldn't get wiped out because of what they were back then. Kind of depends on what the aliens judge by, though, doesn't it? They might not be any more impressed with Mankind of 3001 than they were by the 2010 version. We don't know; we aren't privy to what equation they're using.

There's still that lack of suspense I noted with the last book. A problem is raised, but there isn't much tension in the writing about whether humanity is going to manage to survive this. They have enough prep time that by the time the problem actually starts to happen they have their solution ready to go. There aren't any tense pages of waiting, people panicking, things sliding into catastrophe. Which is an optimistic view, that if we recognize or are alerted to a problem with sufficient time, we can figure out a solution, even against powers seemingly far beyond us.

'The Grand Ganymede Hotel - inevitably known throughout the Solar System as "Hotel Grannymede - was certainly not grand, and would be lucky to get a rating of one and a half stars on Earth. As the nearest competition was several hundred million kilometers away, the management felt little need to exert itself unduly.'

* In the book, it's mentioned Communism is considered the optimal form of government in 3001, but was determined to not be applicable to humans. So democracy is the best they can do otherwise. A thousand years later, and it's still the worst option, except for all the others we've tried. Looking online, it appears Churchill was quoting some other, unknown source, when he said that. Learn something everyday.

Monday, September 18, 2017

What I Bought 9/13/2017 - Part 2

Decided to group the two books from last week that were wrapping up storylines, so here they are.

Ms. Marvel #22, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Marco Failla (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Oh that's adorable Marvel's putting ads for their Inhumans TV show that is apparently complete garbage. When will they learn?

Josh lets Kamala escape and may be realizing he's actually a bad guy. Congratulations Josh, you're only about three times slower on the uptake than Deadpool, a man whose brain has had to literally regrow holes punched in it by bullets, multiple times. While Tyesha and Nakia confront Lockdown's goons with the combined force of a court order and the cops, Lockjaw reappears (about damn time) and helps Kamala refuel for the big fight, which ends with Lockdown in cuffs and Josh. . . I'm not sure. Lockdown says he snuck away to avoid arrest, but in the last panel he's standing in the middle of the street, watching Kamala and Lockjaw walk away. Presumably someone will notice and arrest him? Hopefully? Pretty please.

That wasn't a bad ending. I doubt this is the end of HYDRA's efforts in Jersey City. They'll try again; Lockdown's too stupid to quit, and the people who blame Ms. Marvel for the stuff happening in town aren't going to get any less convinced of that. We'll see how that goes. Hopefully Lockjaw is going to stick around. He's wasted on all those Inhumans titles no one reads.

I'm not so sure about Josh's sorta face turn once he learns Kamala is Ms. Marvel. Like he goes from mocking her when he's hurting her to talking about how he's not gonna shoot the hero who never kills in the back? But once I thought about it, it's just the, 'I didn't care until it affected ME' attitude. I encounter it all the time, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Herring continues to use yellow to represent resistance, or things turning in favor of the heroes. There's almost no yellow in the first several pages, right up to the point Tyesha point outs the cops are on her side, not K.I.N.D.'s. But after that, it starts to pop up more and more. The Mayor comes rushing from her office, hustling to get down there, and she's emerging from a room colored bright yellow. When Lockjaw appears, he's backlit by yellow. Most of the moments of Lockdown and her schmoes get punched are set against solid yellow backgrounds. It's a nice visual cue that Herring uses. At the end, it's more of an orange, which is a little gentler, the fight is over for the moment.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #20, by Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - C'mon denizens of the Marvel Universe, a girl with a gun and a sword leaping from a void in the sky is hardly cause for alarm. At least it isn't the Hulk, or Iron Man on a bender.

Evil Future Gwen tries to teach Gwen how to use her powers, while realizing her own past is being retconned by the interference of the other time travelers. The time travelers gradually realize trying to kill Present Gwen is only making her more aligned with Future Gwen but then they get killed, by Future Gwen, as a point she's trying to make. That Gwen is no longer a tourist, she is a character in the Marvel Universe, and she's subject to some of its laws. One of which Future Gwen has interpreted as trying to push Gwen to be evil. So she went with it. Present Gwen decides that is Not Cool, and resolves to not break bad. Which will probably get her killed in the background of a throwaway panel in a Big Event in a year or two, but kudos, anyway.

Well, this explains those solicitations for the next few issues a little better. And it was an interesting story. It addressed the fact Gwen has been gleefully committing a lot of murders since she got here, and hopefully she'll cut back on that going ahead. Which ought to be enough to go hero. Wolverine didn't even cut down on the number of people he killed, and he got to be an Avenger (still one of only two characters I will not accept as an Avenger, and they were both put on there by Bendis). Hastings brought her brother into the picture, as someone for Gwen to try and seek out and it'll be interesting to see what steps he takes going forward. There's the question of whether Gwen could even get back to her universe if she wanted to at this point. The question of if, assuming there is an editorial force that shoves her in the direction of villainy, she can actually resist that? Or at least get it retconned away later as mind control so she can go back to being good?

I love the visual representation of editorial diktat. "Gwenpool Can't Kill Spider-Man," indeed. A cyclone is about right for Marvel Editorial. Some shit gets destroyed, some escapes unscathed. How is it determined which is which? Who the fuck knows. Also, Evil Gwen diving outside the panels to reappear at the bottom of the cliff to save Present Gwen. Gurihiru just did an excellent job with showing Gwen using this power to hop outside the pages. It was very enjoyable and it makes for a memorable visual. Hopefully future artists can do as well with it.

Kind of a strange arc, but not a bad one.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.3 - Date From Hell

Plot: While God tries to lift the spirits of the community with various cheesy acts like double rainbows and unseasonably pleasant weather, the Devil stews over Bob's lack of fear and respect for him. The final straw comes when Bob dismisses him as annoying and kicks him out of the car. The Devil's revenge comes in the form of Jordon, a 13 year old boy at Megan's school she's interested in. As it turns out, Jordon is the Devil in disguise, something only Bob is aware of. Which makes all his attempts to keep Megan from dating him come off as either a) crazy, or b) typical Dad not being able to accept his little girl growing up stuff. As it is, Bob is no match for Megan by herself, let alone with Donna running interference.

Ultimately, the Devil abandons his hopes of getting Megan to surrender her soul to Evil in the face of the reality that 13 year old girls are too depressing for even the Prince of Darkness to deal with. And so Megan deals with her first time being dumped, and with her dad tackling a different boy and stuffing garlic down his throat in front of everyone. Ah well, I'm sure her therapist will be able to help her out in 30 years or so.

Quote of the Episode: God - 'The trick is to inspire without being too heavy-handed. That way the atheists don't feel left out.' Aw gee God, you're the swellest.

Smeck Smacks: 0 (7 overall).

Other: At one point, Bob asks God the question I imagine most people would get around to at some point: Why is there evil in the world? God's response is apparently deeply moving, but we don't hear it because a train goes by at the moment at drowns out everything except '. . . like a cork circling the drain.' Extrapolate from that what you will.

The most disturbing part of the episode is when God, while discussing how he wanted beings in this universe to have free will, casually mentions he originally made a universe of puppets. Then he got bored with it, and it collects dust under his bed. That's kind of terrifying. Imagine being the group of multiversal explorers who stumble into that world. Full of people sitting there, dead to the world, waiting for someone to manipulate them. Well, I know what's going to be in my nightmares for awhile.

One of God's gifts to Detroit was for one day, service at the DMV was both swift and friendly. I don't think I've really had bad experiences at the DMV. The lady who did my driver's test was kind of harsh, deducted points for some real petty bullshit, and as my dad noted, she wore her dark cop sunglasses for the test on a cloudy day, so definitely taking herself too seriously, but I passed, so I guess she can gets her kicks however she wants. But other than that, I haven't experienced worse service there than at most any other understaffed government building.

Anyway, the point was the DMV had a mascot called Mr. Motor, which was David Caruso. Which means this was after he inexplicably left NYPD Blue thinking he'd be a big movie star, but before he bounced back by removing sunglasses as he uttered ridiculous lines on CSI Miami. But I remember a lot of people making jokes about him back in the day. Kyle on South Park shouting to Ike, 'Do your David Caruso impression!' and Ike jumps out of a spaceship and plummets to the Earth.

Last week, I discussed the weird poster Andy had of the car with him standing in front of it. Megan, on the other hand, has herself a Nietzsche poster. That could mean a lot of things I suppose. What did he say about self-justification? Doing terrible things but it's OK because you did them, while it's not OK when someone else does them? I think the breaking point for the Devil was when she was going on about someone talking about her behind her back, but that person was only doing so because Megan had been talking about her, but oh Megan had to say those things.

It's amazing any teenager survives to adulthood without being murdered by their parents.

Friday, September 15, 2017

What I Bought 9/13/2017 - Part 1

My allergies have been unusually bad this fall. I usually don't have much of an issue with watery eyes, but I've had two days in the last week where it's almost been too bad to see, even after taking some medication. The sinus drainage has been a piece of cake in comparison. Anyway, by some miracle, four comics I wanted came out this week, and the store had all four of them.

Deadpool #36, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (penciler), Christian Dalla Vecchia (inker), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Well, with a cover of Deadpool walking away from a burning city, I can only imagine everything is going great for Wade Wilson!

Everything is going horribly for Wade Wilson. He turned against HYDRA Cap too late, he's a wanted man, everyone, up to and including his daughter, hate his guts. Oh, and Stryfe is calling in his favor from Wade, and the first person he wants killed is Cable. Which is pretty unsurprising. I was hoping Stryfe would throw more of a curveball at Wade. Pick someone Stryfe doesn't even need killed, he's just making Wade do it to get some jollies.

So Wade's attempt to try and be a hero has crashed and burned, and he's embracing the freefall. Or so it seems. We'll see how far he's really fallen once it comes to actually killing Cable. So far he beat up a couple of cops and killed a HYDRA guy, and promised to kill both HYDRA Cap and the other, nice Captain America. I mean, he actually initially told Stryfe he wouldn't kill Cable. Not feelin' this heel turn, Wade. Of course, the thing is Wade is doing this because he does care. Because he's accepted that he is a disastrous presence to have around the people he cares about. So he can't be around them.

This advice Sabretooth gave Deadpool is presented in flashback differently from how it actually happened. Victor told him all that stuff at the very end, as he was getting ready to leave, not when they were disemboweling each other in front of a school bus. I don't know if Duggan and Lolli just wanted to emphasize that Wade's idea of a "marvelous team-up" is different from most people, or Wade actually remembers it wrong, so it's tangled up with the violence, rather than the sort-of reconciliation.

There are a lot of silent panels, especially considering this is Deadpool. And a bunch more where the dialogue is limited to Wade's internal monologue. His thoughts are extremely ordered, no tangents. He's focused, which is worrying.

Lolli's not my favorite artist that works on this book, but he's very good with Wade in these darker moments. Vecchia knows when to go heavy on the inks to add to the weight on Wade, or make him look more intimidating. Wade's walking slowly for most of the issue, shoulders slumped. He's beaten and resigned. The panel where he tells Stryfe he'll do that "errand", because Stryfe is calling him from last Christmas while in the kitchen with Eleanor, Deadpool has a vacant stare, and you can hear the controlled monotone he's delivering that line in. Because he realizes he's entirely boxed in, that even when his loved ones hate him and want nothing to do with him, people can still use them against him. He allows himself one panel of anger, and then calmly sets about burning the house down.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #24, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Alan Smithee (trading card artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - When I read that Alan Smithee credit for the trading card I thought, why would they not want credit? Having seen it, I understand now. I could have done a better Ultron than that. If you gave me five months.

Doreen and Antonio the Doombot try to fight DINOSAUR ULTRON, who doesn't remember much about himself until Squirrel Girl reads some facts off his trading card. Then he remembers, and keeps adapting the attacks used against him to his advantage. And wrecking all the machinery that controls the Savage Land. And he ate Kraven! This sure seems like a bad situation for our heroes!

Always takes a little while to adjust to North's approach to characters. His Ultron was a little too glib, but it still boils down to an overall contempt for organic lifeforms, so I can roll with it. His T-Rex roar needs work. Not feelin' it, Ultron. Need to get a little more bass in there, have some reverberation to it. Make people feel it in their bones, man. Someone tell Travis Lanham to add some vibrating effects to his lettering on the "RARRGGGHH!"s next issue!

What the hell am I going about?

Lot of black backgrounds in this issue. Almost nothing but featureless background, actually. Is the schedule starting to tax Henderson? I wouldn't be surprised; she's drawn almost every issue of this series since it started, while keeping in on a monthly schedule. Which by current standards is an impressive level of consistency. Or, they know she's going to have to draw a lot of jungle scenes with dinosaurs next issue and so they're giving her time to get ready. I do enjoy how DINOSAUR ULTRON designed his head so that viewed from directly ahead, it looks like his typical face. All those panels in the darkness, it's like the cover to #19 of the Busiek/Perez Avengers run.

Actually, Henderson's art helps sell me on the personality of this Ultron. He's kind of a kid, or a smartass teenage version. Still learning what he can do, certain of his invincibility. The pause to realize he can electricity from his tiny arms, or the certainty that causing a volcanic eruption won't harm him and is therefore a great idea (that panel of him going 'Nah.').

I'm sure computer science will somehow save the day. Or maybe befriending actual dinosaurs to use against a robot android dinosaur.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Railroad Tigers

Jackie Chan stars in this movie about a small group of train station workers in Japanese-occupied China. The workers have been pulling off small heists of equipment from Japanese Army supply trains for some time, but all the young men in the group keep asking Ma Yuan (Chan) when they're going to do something big. This is a refrain uttered more than once, not just by the others in the group, but by other people around town, since apparently all the locals know what they're up to.

A failed attack on a bridge by the Eighth Route Army brings the group into contact with a wounded soldier. Through him they learn the bridge needs to be destroyed in four days, but their attempt to get him safely back to his unit is cut short. Since they don't know how to contact the Eighth Route Army, they'll have to destroy the bridge themselves.

The film is not played entirely seriously. Most of the Tigers can't remember how to draw the symbol of their group. Their initial attempt to acquire explosives, ends with them only getting one pack, and then having to use that to make good their escape. Sakamoto, a Captain of the Japanese Military police, gets drugged at one point, and spends the next few scenes after that being clumsy and addled as he tries to shake off the effects. A Japanese soldier tries to commit seppuku, but fails because he cuts his hand on the sword he's supposed to use. The film is upfront with this from the start, so it isn't as though it's a big surprise, but I went in unsure whether it would be a serious film or not. And when it does need to get serious to convey how dire a situation has become, it's able to do so.

The amount of CGI increases at the end, when crazy things start happening involving trains and tanks. It gets distracting at times, but overall the final battle is entertaining. There's a back-and-forth to it, as the sides trade the advantage between them on several fronts at once. Plus there's some unconventional uses of military hardware in there.

Chan plays Ma Yuan as mostly quiet, keeping a lot of pain locked inside. He's trying to fight the Japanese, but without getting any of these people helping him killed. He's lost a lot, and doesn't want to lose more people. Whenever the Japanese are around, especially Sakamoto, he adopts this slightly hunched over posture, plasters this big vacant grin on his face, and nods a lot. Playing dumb, basically. Sakamoto already regards all the locals as hicks that he can easily outsmart and anticipate, and so it plays to his expectations and uses it against them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Maybe I Should Just Tear The Cover Off

I haven't done a tpb review in a few months.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Tonci Zonjic's Marvel Divas mini-series was one of those occasional, stuttering steps Marvel makes towards what they think will to get more women to buy their comics. I have no idea if it works or not, they never commit long enough. This particular series was described as like Sex in the City, but with superheroes, which is not typically something I'd be into, but Sacasa and Zonjic have both done work I enjoyed, and it had Felicia Hardy and Patsy Walker in it.

Of course, the trade paperback has that J. Scott Campbell cover that "graced" the first issue. Yeesh. Either the Patch Zircher cover for issue 3 (seen at the left) or the Jelena Djurdjevic cover for issue 2 would have been vast improvements. One step forward, one step back as always, Marvel.

The four of them all happened to try the same speed dating event and decided to start hanging out, and now they do best friends stuff together. Which is nice. In this story, best friend stuff involves a lot of discussing guy problems and dealing with dissatisfaction about how things are going in their lives. Felicia's trying to get an investigative agency up and running, and while she doesn't have the money herself, she's also not going to let her boyfriend pay for it for her. Monica's trying to decide if she wants a relationship with Doctor Voodoo. I feel like Monica got short changed compared to the others in terms of being the focus, but maybe that means she has her act together the most of the four.

Patsy's published a book about her life (it's at least her second, because I know she wrote one when she came back to life), which has brought Daimon Hellstrom back into the picture, because he's miffed he didn't get a mention. Such a dramatic boy. Unfortunately, Firestar's developed cancer, which gives Daimon something to use as leverage against Patsy.

Having never watched Sex in the City, I can't speak to whether this is at all like that, but overall, I enjoyed it. They're an odd quartet, though I was hard pressed to think of another heroine that any of them would consider a friend that was still alive*. But I bought in to the idea they enjoyed just hanging out, shootin' the breeze or watching movies. And this extends to helping each other out with problems, whether it's moral support or charging half-cocked into Hell on a rescue mission. I like friendship stories. There are some decent one-liners, a couple of funny lines I chuckled at. There are a couple of jokes about how Doctor Voodoo tries letting a lady know he's interested, but those work on the basis of Zonjic's art.

Zonjic has a minimalist style, gets a lot done as far as expressions with relatively few lines. Each character has their own distinctive style and body type, which isn't revolutionary, but you and I know a lot of artists who would fail that criteria. I wouldn't say the art is drawn with a female gaze, but Zonjic makes the effort to make the main male characters at least attempt to look attractive. A lot guys walking around with the top button or two of their shirts undone. Except Doctor Voodoo, who rarely bothers wearing a shirt.

The body language Zonjic gives Daimon is outstanding. He keeps popping up around Patsy, obviously obsessing over her, but he's always trying to look casual. Lounging against a bookcase, leaning on a couple of racks of clothes, stretched out across some chairs. But he still looks sleazy, in that way Gambit does, where he's trying for charmingly unkempt, but it doesn't land. Really conveys how for all that he's trying to act cool and in control, he's just barely avoiding a tantrum. Oh Patsy, what the hell were you thinking?

One thing I enjoy with reading these types of mini-series years after they were published is the snapshot they provide of moments in the fictional universe's history. Those glimpses or references to other editorial directions that have since been abandoned or forgotten. Felicia is dating Thomas Fireheart, aka the Puma (which I believe Aguirre-Sacasa started in Sensational Spider-Man), and mentions her stint working for Heroes for Hire. Monica's NextWave stint isn't too far in the rearview mirror, along with the story where she helps the Black Panther fight vampires in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina from Hudlin's Black Panther book. Hank Pym appears briefly, in the costume he wore when he was going with the codename "Wasp" to honor Jan. Doctor Voodoo is Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange is not, and Stephen's hanging out with Night Nurse a lot. Patsy's stint as Alaska's only super-hero gets mentioned. All those little stories or changes to the status quo that don't stick, either getting reversed or simply ignored and fading away.

* She-Hulk would be an exception, but I get the impression most people get along with her, like how most people get along with Ben Grimm or Nightcrawler. She's not really anyone's exclusive best pal, you know? I figure one of Patsy's oldest costumed set friends was Valkyrie, and I can't remember if she was alive when this came out. With Firestar I'd figure Namorita, but I'm almost positive she was still dead (or recently alive and still in deep space in the pages of Nova). And I have no idea who Monica was particularly close with. Would she consider Elsa Bloodstone or Boom-Boom "friends"?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2061: Odyssey Three - Arthur C. Clarke

Rolling onward with the series, we pick up about 50 years since the Monolith cause Jupiter to collapse in upon itself and formed a minisun to warm Europa's oceans, to see if perhaps the life there could advance. But even the minds behind a project of that scope didn't account for every possibility. Like a chunk of Jupiter's core being ejected into space and crashing into Europa's surface. Or that people would want that chunk of rock badly enough to risk trying to land.

The rescue ends up in the hands of a ship that was busy landing on Halley's Comet, and which counts Heywood Floyd (who was in each of the previous two books) as one of its passengers. Their ship makes a clever move to refuel more quickly and cut out a major detour in their voyage, cutting months off the trip. But when Jupiter was transformed, there was a message warning humanity to stay off Europa. Nothing had happened to the first ship, but there's no guarantee a second ship will be allowed to visit.

Something Clarke mentions in the foreword for these editions is that the books don't necessarily take place in the same timeline. They're more closely parallel universes, with certain differences. Which probably explains how either ship was able to reach Europa's surface, considering the end of 2010 stated any probe or ship humans sent towards Europa was destroyed by an unseen force. So the books are a bit like Leone's three films with Clint Eastwood: The characters may look very similar, but they're as different or unfamiliar with each other as the story demands. Not a criticism necessarily, just something I had to remind myself of every so often while reading.

There's one scene in the book that made me laugh hysterically. Fastidiousness taken to an absurd extreme. Clarke had established that particular character trait previously, and later had the character try to justify the action, but none of that mattered. I just found it silly, and maybe because of reasons separate from the book, I cracked up.

Three books in, though, I still feel I'm waiting for something. While Clarke can be quite thoughtful and descriptive in his writing, and apparently, funny, there's a lack of tension. Perhaps because he's taking a reasoned, measured approach to space travel. The shortcut the rescue ship takes isn't done half-cocked; the person who proposed it thought it over thoroughly ahead of time, and the course is mapped out, checked, double-checked, etc. There's a trip through the asteroid belt, but the story dismisses the possibility of a collision, because space is still mostly empty, and the odds are strongly against it.

There are moments when it feels like Clarke could inject some suspense, and he opts not to. If he's trying to convey some sense I should be concerned about the fate of the crew stuck on Europa, it doesn't reach its destination. One book left; we'll see if it happens there.

'"Personally," he had told the scientist, "I would regard it as a slightly unfriendly act to have a ton of armor-piercing hardware dropped on me at a thousand kilometers an hour. I'm quite surprised the World Council have you permission."

Dr. Anderson was also a little surprised, though he might have been had he known that the project was the last item on a long agenda of a Science Subcommittee late on a Friday afternoon. Of such trifles History is made.'

Monday, September 11, 2017

I Try To Understand My Sense of Humor

I wouldn't say "So Many Birthdays" is my favorite Steven Universe episode. It's probably in the top 10, but beyond that, I couldn't say. It is, however, the episode that makes me laugh the most. Maybe it's futile to try and talk about why I find something funny, but what the hell.

It has a lot of great lines in it, but still, this is an episode where Steven's attempt to throw birthday parties for the Gems (who don't really age, and therefore don't understand the point) causes him to become aware that he's growing older. He gets hung up on not acting childish, and his gem reacts, aging him out of control until he nearly dies, while the Gems argue helplessly among themselves. A lot of it seems to come from presenting something familiar to us, to characters who aren't familiar with it. Making the audience step back a little and think about how it looks from a different perspective.

The first half, the unsuccessful parties, shows us Steven doesn't grasp what it means the Gems don't age, or place any particular emphasis on the passage of time with regards to their growth. Gems are supposed to emerge fully-formed and with a specific function they're ready to perform. They are capable of growth and change, but it isn't related to aging. These parties to celebrate that, especially the particular activities Steven chooses, we see how strange it all is to them*. If Steven had candy for Amethyst, why hide if in a paper donkey? Why is Steven wearing a wig and makeup, and why did he hit himself in the face with a pie**? What's the deal with cars that could only be driven by babies ('Which way to the Baby War?') So we watch the Gems go from trying to humor Steven, to trying to hurry things along, to finally just outright telling him they don't get what he's trying to accomplish here, but it isn't working.

The second half, as Steven begins to age out of control, is seeing Steven's perception of what growing up means. The humor is in the hopefully mistaken impressions he has. His responses are those of a kid who has a notion of what getting older entails, but only vaguely. He thinks you get jobs by picking a t-shirt with a title on it ('Love Doctor? I'm too squeamish.') That basically, you can't enjoy anything, certainly can't allow anyone to see you enjoying anything. That growing up is a dull, flavorless existence devoid of joy or friends ('I'll have to eat nothing but oatmeal, and it'll be sugar-free! Sugar-free!'), as you await the cold embrace of Death. Which, I'm not going to say I haven't found my thoughts traveling similar lines at times, but it doesn't have to be the case.

Maybe I laugh at that part as a way of whistling past the graveyard.

The whole sequence with Lars and Sadie plays off what we understand versus what they know. We know this strange old man is Steven, having an existential crisis. They think he's just some random old man ('I'm! Old! Yeah, and nuts!') who seems to know them and asks them to help him into his Birthday Suit. And so they react with caution, concern, and then Sadie chases him out while brandishing a stool.

The episode concludes with a decrepit Steven being brought to the Gems, who have no idea how to help him. They try reminding him of things from the parties, but they still don't get what the parties represented, so it doesn't do anything. Well, Pearl trying to reenact the pie in the face gag, only to burst into tears made me laugh (Amethyst's outraged, 'Are you trying to kill him faster?!' puts it over the top), but it doesn't help Steven.

Even the normally calm and composed Garnet loses it, resorting to shaking Steven frantically ('I thought. . . violence would be the answer.'), as though he's stuck and that'll jar him loose into his normal form. That part plays more upon audience expectations, I think. We haven't seen Garnet really rattled up to this point, so to see her reduced to that makes me laugh, even if she's losing her cool because Steven looks seconds away from reenacting Donovan's death in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Which is a dire situation, the main character's impending death, and yet, I was laughing. It's serious in the context of the plot, but in terms of Garnet's character, it's more silly.

The episode ultimately takes a common fear people have, puts Steven as far through it as he can go and still come back, and uses a lot of misunderstanding and exaggeration to good effect. As an audience we can laugh at the Gems bewilderment at these parties, identify with Steven's fears about aging, while still laughing at his level of overreaction to the whole thing. 

* It's a pretty time-tested approach to comedy. Yotsuba! as one example, does this as well, although it leans more toward "Look how cool and/or beautiful this thing is."

** In the Gems' defense, Steven forgot the rule Krusty the Clown taught long ago. People want to see a person with dignity get a pie in the face, not a schlub begging to be hit.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

God, The Devil, and Bob 1.2 - Andy Runs Away

Plot: There are three storylines. The main one is that Andy has been telling all his friends at school that his dad is God's Prophet, and the kids tell him to prove it. God is busy, and Bob's attempt at smoke and mirrors fails miserably. So Andy runs to Canada, and Bob has to go and retrieve him. Assuming he can get past the aggressively polite border guards, and an angry moose.

The second story is that the Devil takes God's advice, and tries to improve Smeck's job performance with positive reinforcement. Like taking him to the carnival. Which freaks Smeck out, and he asks the Devil to stop.

The third story is that Donna is taking classes at college again, and Megan falls for the college guy Donna brings home to help her study. Which doesn't really go much of anywhere, other than Megan's sad attempts to spend time alone with Steve. And eventually she loses interest.

Quote of the Episode: Bob - 'Now the reason I lied is because I was scared of the moose.'

Smeck Smacks: 5 (7 overall). There are two of them I could count as one. Smeck is ordered to step into a snare trap, which flings him into jackals. That could be one, but I counted it as separate examples.

Other: So in Andy's room is a poster of him standing in front of a roadster. The roadster is an actual picture of a roadster, but then Andy is a drawn figure placed in front of the roadster in the picture. Which is just bizarre. Why not just draw a car for the picture? It's not as though they're going for a particularly complicated or detailed style here. Was relying on the Internet circa 2000 to find a picture of a car to put in, the add an image of Andy over it really that much faster?

The border guard tells Bob 'mindless belligerence' is one of the things they watch for as a sign of someone who they should look at more closely before allowing him in the country. I can't see that working when you share a border with the United States. We're all mindlessly belligerent here, you'd have to stop to search every car.

God shows up in Bob's living room while Bob is in the middle of watching Red Shoe Diaries. Which is both embarrassing for Bob and reminded me that show was a thing that existed, which was a memory I'd mostly buried. David Duchovny playing a guy everyone sends their stories that got rejected by the Playboy letters column.

God also claims he can't appear for Andy's friends because there is a crisis in Africa. The "crisis" seems to involve bird-watching and camping, while the Devil grumbles over paperwork. Turns out Hell stiffed the guy who unleashed the plague back in the Middle Ages.

Considering the Devil so often tries making people fall by tempting them with things, I'd have expected him to be better at positive reinforcement. Being encouraging and friendly, even if he didn't mean it. And I don't see why he's so mad at Smeck for afflicting Bob with bowls rather than boils. What's Bob going to do with all those bowls? They're blocking everything in the bedroom, he's gonna have to find boxes to pack them into to move them, they seem to break easily, so it isn't even as though he got quality dinnerware.

At the very end, Andy's back home and playing kickball at school, which he is terrible at. As Bob looks on, God shows up, and Andy kicks the ball into space. Where it hits the MIR space station, and probably knocked it out of orbit. Everyone made jokes about MIR back then, another of those things I'd forgotten.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Litany Of Poor Choices March On

What the hell, I'm going to continue looking back over series I dropped. I've taken this idea this far, I might as well keep going. Moving into 2009 and beyond.

Booster Gold: Let's see, started buying this with issue #0, which came between issues 6 and 7, because it was a Zero Hour tie-in. So Booster and the Beetles ran into Parallax Hal and Extant (ugh) in the Time Stream. I ultimately gave up on the book at issue #22, partway through a story about a dagger that was connected to the Beetle scarab somehow. I dunno.

Geoff Johns wrote the book up through #1 Million, which came after 10 but before 11. Then Chuck Dixon did a two-parter that seemed set in the '60s Batman era, and involved Booster dressing up as Killer Moth. Than Dan Jurgens started writing the book, as well as drawing it.

I mentioned this in my solicitations post a couple months ago, but Jurgens' work as a writer has never worked for me. Stuff happens, but it fails to connect. The ideas aren't bad in theory, but the execution is off. So the best idea would have been to jump ship after issue 12, when Dixon's story ended.

How many issues too many: 10

Deadpool: The Daniel Way-written series that started during Secret Invasion. Cable/Deadpool had ended about 6 months prior, and at the time this series started, I think it was the only Deadpool series going. That certainly didn't last. The book scrapped all the progress Wade had made by the end of C/D, along with his supporting cast. In return, Wade got to argue with his caption boxes and hallucinate. Some of which were good, but the lack of a consistent group for Wade to play off contributed to the aimlessness of the book, which Way at least tried to run with in the second year, having Wade drift from place to place, looking for somewhere to fit in, but usually ruining everything.

I dropped the book at issue 24, partway through a story where he ruined a gig Weasel had being the mech-suited muscle for a casino in Vegas. The book was on a fast train to nowhere, and the funny parts were getting thinner and thinner on the ground. I did enjoy the one-off #22, but I should have bailed before the Hit-Monkey story. Issue 22 introduced some redneck moonshiner with electricity powers called White Lightnin', but Wade mocked him, as he should. But the series played the kung-fu assassin monkey completely straight, which was a terrible idea.

Before that, he tried joining the X-Men, and they turned him away, which, what the hell? Let Mystique on the team even though she betrays them every time, won't let Deadpool on. Boo, X-Men. Before that, he tried being a pirate for two issues. That was good. So there's at least three places I could have dropped it.

How many issues too many: 6. The X-Men story at least had Wade puking in Colossus' face and Cyclops being forced to admit he was wrong. Just like he was wrong to have Hope use the Phoenix Force to make people into mutants. I will never stop bringing that up, because to hell with all Cyclops' apologists.

Power Girl: Like Deadpool, I started buying this when it first began. I dropped it at #17. Conner, Palmiotti, and Gray had left the book after 12 issues, and the Winick/Sami Basri team wasn't getting it done. Winick was bringing in a bunch of the Max Lord stuff that was running in Justice League Generation Lost, and Basri's art combined with the coloring had made the book look much colder and unfriendly. Tonally, the book was very different, everything was falling apart for Peej, and it wasn't what I was looking for.

Would have been better to bail when the original creative team did. Sometimes it's really easy.

How many issues too many: 5.

That gets us through 2010. Weren't many chances for me to drop books, since Marvel kept canceling everything so quickly. And then in 2011, DC rebooted their entire line, which killed ultimately four books I was buying at the time. Still, 52 new titles provided new opportunities to try books and grow disgusted with them.

Suicide Squad: I'm not sure this should even count. I bought it for 3 issues, when it first started. The first issue spent half its pages on the prospective Squad being tortured by Waller's people to see if they were cut out for the Squad. Then dumped into a mission without any treatment for the injuries sustained from the torture. Which I'm sure was meant to make Waller seem hardass, but really just makes her look stupid. Nothing like damaging the people you're counting on to save the day ahead of time.

A mistake on my part, but at least one I corrected fairly quickly.

How many issues too many: 3.

Grifter: I have no particular attachment to the character, but they were basically taking the idea behind that movie with Roddy Piper (or the concept of ROM SpaceKnight), and using it here. That seemed like it might be an exciting read. Eh, not so much. After four issues, I had no idea why the aliens were there, and hadn't been given any real reason to care about the characters. Grifter had a lady that was his partner in a series of cons, who wound up in trouble, and not only could I not be bothered to care, I couldn't even remember her name. Still can't. Dropped it after 4 issues.

How many issues too many: 4. Hey, maybe I'm really starting to learn! Or these books were so bad they were the equivalent of a brick to the face.

Avengers Academy: Started this around #6, at a time when I had exactly zero Marvel ongoing series on my pull after the cancelation of Hawkeye and Mockingbird the month before (which I would have dropped if it hadn't ended). Dropped it at #21, after Fear Itself had wrapped up, as a whole new crop of students and teachers were coming in.

Christos Gage was trying to use some of the rough treatment the teachers had gotten in recent years, and I suppose I should have appreciated that. But I frankly would have been fine if Tigra being pistol-whipped by the Hood had been allowed to sink quietly into the dustbin of history, or if we forgot about Speedball as Penance entirely. Then he followed that up by bringing in Korvac, who is one big Avengers foe I have never given a crap about. Glowing, whiny, naked neon purple guy is hard to take seriously.

I intended to drop the book before Fear Itself, since that seemed like a good jumping off point, but Jack kind of goofed and kept sending it. And I wound up enjoying the horror vibe of the cadets being trapped in the mansion in the Microverse with a possessed Titania and Absorbing Man. Not enough to stick around after it was over.

How many issues too many: Enjoyment of the Fear Itself tie-ins aside, I wouldn't have been that bad off dropping it after the Korvac story. So, 9 issues. It wasn't my fault, though! There was a mix up at the shop, a mix up at the shop!

Damn, there was not a single ongoing in 2012 that I dropped. I should have dropped Resurrection Man, but stuck it out to the bitter end. Ditto the Matt Fraction-written Defenders. What a couple of disappointments those were. Let's see 2013.

X-Men: This was the book written initially by Brian Wood, that was notable initially for its team roster consisting entirely of female characters. But I liked all the characters, liked Coipel's art, while knowing he'd never be able to maintain a monthly schedule, and didn't have anything against Wood's writing (or know anything about him as a person).

But then I'd finish his stories, and not be able to tell if he was trying to set things up for future stories, or was just leaving big holes in his stories. And the book was on its third artist by issue 8, and the current one was Terry Dodson. I generally like Dodson's work, but he is going to give all the female characters extremely similar body types, which is not great, especially in this scenario. I was having real difficulty distinguishing characters from each other. And the book wasted two or three issues on some crossover event involving multiple groups of time-traveling X-teams, and yeesh.

Anyway, the first 3 or 4 issues should have been sufficient. Once crossovers and artist shifts started, it was definitely time to go. Although skipping the entire thing would have been fine, too. None of it gained purchase in my collection.

How many issues too many? Call it 8. Just ignore it entirely.

Fearless Defenders: So the moral here is, don't be the chump who gets excited about books consisting entirely of fictional female characters, unless you really trust the creative team to do something good with it. In this case, I gave up after 4 issues, because the book felt lifeless. Nothing about Bunn's writing or Sliney's art felt inspired or had any impact. It was the kind of terrible that smacks you across the face, it was just dull. Mark Brooks' covers were the best thing about the series.

How many issues too many? 4. So maybe I'm getting better at bailing on books. Now I just need to get better at avoiding some of them altogether.

Green Arrow: I started buying this because Ann Nocenti was writing it. It was a bit of a mess, but like most of Nocenti's stuff, I found things in there that interested me. It always feels like there's something going on in her writing. How clearly it's conveyed can be another matter. And unfortunately, she didn't exactly get spectacular art teams. Harvey Tolibao seemed to fail repeatedly at panel-to-panel continuity, and presenting things clearly. Freddie Williams was an upgrade, but not by that much. Anyway, Nocenti left the book after issue 16, and so did I. Which I think put me in the distinct minority, since most everyone else I saw online hated her run and bailed sooner. But people on the Internet are notoriously imbeciles, so who cares what they think?

How many issues too soon: 0. I wouldn't list it as a favorite run of Nocenti's but I was at least entertained by it, and I left the book when she did, so I got what I wanted out of it. I can't think of any other way you're going to get me to buy Green Arrow.

Batman Beyond Unlimited: I don't know if this should even count. A collection of digital-first released stories in an anthology comic? What the hell, why not? Let's see, I bought it when it started, and gave up at issue 17. By that point, Norm Breyfogle, who had been drawing the Batman Beyond story, had left a month or two earlier. And so had Dustin Nguyen, who had been drawing the Justice League stuff. Which left a rotating cast of artists on that, Adam Archer on Batman (good but not Breyfogle), and the JT Krul/Howard Porter Superman stuff, which was the millstone around the neck of the book, as far as I was concerned.

If you had told me at the start the Batman story would be collected in a trade all by itself, I'd have bought that and ignored the book entirely.

How many issues too many: But I didn't know that would be the case, so let's say 4. Breyfogle left after #13, that was the point I should have jumped off.

Captain America: OK, last one. This was the Rick Remender-written series. I bought it because he was going to dump Cap in Dimension Z, and I anticipated lots of cool stuff of Cap encountering strange new enemies and allies, trying to hold onto himself in a hostile alien environment, all drawn by John Romita Jr. Captain America Beyond Thunderdome, or something. Instead it was about Cap raising some baby he rescued from Zola, and fighting Zola and his creations mostly. The alien setting was mostly dealt with in an issue or two, then a big time-jump and back into the battle against The Man With a TV in His Chest.

And by the last few issues, Romita was only doing breakdowns, and so the art was pretty reliant on whether it was Scott Hanna or Klaus Janson finishing things up. And then Carlos Pacheco took over starting with issue 10. Cap was back on Earth, and I bailed.

How many issues too many: 10. Probably would have been best to avoid it entirely. It was never going to be what I wanted it to be.

Of the series listed here, 4 would seem to fall into a category of series I enjoyed because of a particular writer, artist, or combination thereof. Conner/Palmiotti/Gray, Nocenti, Geoff Johns (strange to type that now), Norm Breyfogle. And once they left, it was time for me to mosey on as well. A couple of times I did that pretty swiftly. A couple of other times it took a little longer.

The majority of the series, 7 of the 11, were books I simply shouldn't have bothered with at all. They weren't what I was hoping for, even if I did buy some of them because of the presence of creators I enjoyed (Romita Jr.). In those cases, I shouldn't have ever bothered. I probably would have eventually forgotten I ever considered buying them anyway. I know there have been Marvel series among the flood of titles in the last few years I didn't pick up at the time that I never got around to later, and can't remember now. Which is a sign I wasn't that into it in the first place, just hoping it would be worth the time.

Anyway, that's up through 2013. Hey, we covered 5 years, all right!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Lady Bloodfight

Alex and I kept getting confused on whether it was "Bloodfight" or "Bloodfist". Personally, Lady Bloodfist sounds cooler to me, but whatever. The things I watch at 2 in the morning with my buddy. It was my suggestion, though. Sometimes you want to watch people fighting, without paying exorbitant pay-per-view prices for overhyped nonsense.

There are two plotlines running through the movie. One is about Wai and Shu, who are a couple of martial arts masters with a long-running feud not helped by them fighting to a draw in the Kumite. Since Wai wouldn't accept that decision, they were each told to train up and fighter and enter that person in the next Kumite. Wai ultimately finds Ling, who lives on the street alone and tried to steal a priceless sword from Wai. Shu finds Jane Jones, an American who came looking for information about her father, who disappeared 18 years earlier after leaving home to enter the Kumite. Jane's search for answers and struggle to prove herself (since everyone at the tournament is pretty scornful of an American being involved) is the other major plotline.

So does the Kumite alternate, all-men one year, all-women the next? Are there intergender tournaments?

Jane is played by Amy Johnston, who has mostly done stunt work for a variety of films (including Deadpool and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, to name two movies I happened to enjoy). So it reminds me of Man of Tai Chi in that sense, but I'm not sure I think the fights are quite on par. But that could be because there is an actual tournament going, and so the film wants to show at least a little of all the fights, so there isn't necessarily the focus on a handful of longer fights. Also, there's time spent on training montages, since Ling and Jane both have to get trained up for the tournament, and frankly, probably more time spent on story than Man of Tai Chi.

There are good fights in here, a mixture of styles and personalities showing through. that Ling, when she gets a little desperate or bloodied, reverts to how she was when we first see her first, rushing things, reckless, not thinking. There's a character whose signature move is, once she's put someone on there back, just repeatedly punches them in the face until you think she's killed them. Which isn't a bad strategy; killing is allowed, but there's an element of enjoyment in it that doesn't seem to show itself in any of the others. Even Ling doesn't deal out more damage than she necessarily needs to, it's enough to win the match and move on. She wants that prize money, and maybe she's hoping she'll find someplace to be if she wins.

During the final battle, Jane seems a ghostly image of her father supporting her. Which in theory is fine. Jane had admitted she hears his voice (as does Shu with her deceased husband), so seeing him wouldn't be out of line. But in practice, it looks really cheesy for Ghost Dad to show up all of the sudden, and Alex and I both groaned at that. There's also one scene where Jane is debating dropping out that goes on far too long. Like, we know how these things work. Jane has to stay in the tournament and keep fighting. Trying to play up the suspense is pointless, because there is no question she was going to come back. So get on with it.

Those annoyances aside, the film basically delivered on what I hoped it would.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

This King Must Have Been Desperate

The third, and thus far final, D&D campaign I played in started a year after the previous one. I was still in the boonies, as was my friend who played as Taug. She'd been trying to convince me to run a campaign, but I was not interested. Still, she'd drummed up interest between a few other members of the crew (all the other people from the previous year were gone), and eventually convinced one of them to run the campaign. Considering the person had zero D&D experience, possibly a risky choice, but I wasn't getting off my ass to do it, so better than nothing.

So Taug was back in action, along with Will the Ranger, but the DM opted to start us at Level 3, which was even weaker than where we started the previous campaign. So, because I have to overthink these things, and because I wanted to do something with the "all my loved ones were merged into a flesh golem" development from the very first campaign, I decided that Will had, at some point after the campaign concluded, tried to find a way back in time to fix things, and instead wound up in a parallel timeline. Close to his, but not quite. His memories overlaid on whatever Will existed there already. The body isn't trained up to do the stuff he could manage as a Level 15 Ranger, which is why he's fairly limited (I stole that part from GrimJack).

The main goal was for Will to be more cynical and much slower to trust. He had agreed to take part in that campaign, and it got everyone killed. The campaign prior to this, the cleric turned out to be a doppelganger who robbed them and later tried to kill people. So Will's not taking anything at face value. Except maybe Taug. He trusts Taug, who seems pretty much the same as the one he remembers, if a little bigger, as much as he trusts anyone.

Anyway, beyond those two, the team initially consisted of just two other characters: Thandril, an elf wizard, and Roric, a gnome alchemist. We're hired to help a usurped king recover his birth certificate, so he can prove he is supposed to be ruling. We head for an old fortress, the interior of which is a maze. One tunnel leads to a dead. The next leads to a room full of wraiths. They don't like the light of our torches, but it doesn't harm them. Only sunlight will do that, and it's in short supply inside this stone tomb.

What ensues is, calling it a "fight" might be giving it too much credit. All four attack Taug, but all of them miss. Taug, Will, and Rory all score hits, but then the half-orc and the gnome start taking damage. Taug critical misses an attack of opportunity, then does it again. The wizard summons a clone version of the wolf goddess Amaterasu, but everyone is missing with their attacks. Amaterasu manages to do a little damage before the spell ends, and the wizard works off that to finish it with a Magic Missile, but another of them attacks Will. Taug manages a critical hit to kill one, and Will is able to finish the one right in his face. Taug scores another critical hit, and Will ends the fight.

And for all that, we got a map scroll. Credit to our DM, who actually drew a map and rolled it up like a scroll. Props were a nice touch. Still, the party is pretty beat to hell, and once again, we failed to get any sort of healer in the mix. The best we could manage was to sleep for 8 hours in a room full of wraith corpses. And when we awoke, we had a visitor.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Kung Fury

Alex insisted I watch Kung Fury, which is a 30 minute, Kickstarter funded film that takes everything director David Sandberg (who is also the writer and lead character) felt was a part of '80s films, crams them together, and dials it up.

So there's rampant gang violence, Uzis, arcade machines, Hasselhoff and Knight Rider references, barbarians, rookie cop partners, inaccurate depictions of computer hacking, time traveling Hitler, time traveling to stop Hitler, and on and on.

The characters all react as if everything is perfectly normal, none of this is unusual, which is the best approach (it reminds me of the Speed Racer movie like that). Having them smirk or give the audience a knowing wink would kind of ruin the effect. You're meant to let the momentum of it carry you along and laugh when you feel like it. Some parts are so ridiculous I couldn't do anything but laugh and appreciate Sandberg deciding to do that (I don't want to spoil any more of it than I have). There is a post near the end where Sandberg seems to be trying to cram in as many references as possible before the movie ends, and that got to be a little much for me. Maybe 25 minutes of nostalgia at a time is all I can handle.

Monday, September 04, 2017

What I Bought 9/1/2017

September is not going to be a great month for new comics. I'm planning to buy about 6 new comics this entire month. Maybe 7, since one book I was expecting in August hasn't come out yet. At least October will be a little better. Anyway, here's a book from last month.

Wynonna Earp Season Zero #2, by Beau Smith and Tim Rozon (writer), Angel Hernandez (artist), Jay Fotos (colorist), Christa Miesner (letterer) - All of Wynonna's old friends have lost their eyes. Or are going really heavy on the eye black.

After Wynonna's big speech about doing things with her family rather than trying to cut them out, she sneaks off in the middle of the night, with Holliday's assistance. Which leads to fighting between he and Agent Dolls. Everyone decides to chase after her, as Wynonna reaches her friends at an old fort, as the Alpha X forces of augmented soldiers close in. A little more is revealed about them, although not what the thing Wynonna has a key for is, or why it's important.

Smith and Rozon are trying to walk the tightrope, revealing some of the backstory a little at a time, while moving the present-day story forward. I'm not sure it's quite working, but points for effort at least. There is this repeated theme of Holliday understanding Wynonna better than everyone else, or at least Doc insists that's the case. I'd be curious whether the series is going to confirm that, or blow it to Hell. But he makes the same basic statement to or three times, once to Dolls while Wynonna's sister Waverly is present, and then later to Waverly directly. Which felt unnecessary, like the whole conversation was filler. Just passing time while getting from one location to another.

The fight between Dolls and Holliday was OK, had that definite sense of being about more than what had actually triggered the fight. The style of the sound effects seems at odds with Hernandez' art, though. There's a certain cartoonish aspect to a "WHOOOOSH" that follows Holliday as he's thrown across the room, but Hernandez' art isn't really of a similar style. There's a lot of focus on small lines and hatching on faces, scowls and shadows, a stiffness to things. The sound effects don't really match that.

For that matter, there's these added effects to show movement, usually a white arc tracking the movement of the object in question. But it's very obviously added in on top of the art after the fact, so it doesn't feel as though it's part of the art. Like if I bought a book of bunny stickers and put a damn rainbow on top of one of the panels.