Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Not-So Fresh Start

The May solicitations bring yet another ultimately futile rebranding attempt from Marvel, "Fresh Start". Oh goody. And this fresh start is going to involve a bunch of tie-in mini-series about looking for Infinity Gems and/or Wolverine! Hooray! Also, Bendis is wrapping up his time on Iron Man and with Miles Morales, Dan Slott's getting ready to stop writing Spider-Man, and Gerry Duggan's ending his stint on Deadpool.

Maybe the actual fresh start begins in June. In the meanwhile, there isn't a hell of a lot on their plate I'm interested in. Maybe I'll still be giving Domino a go, and maybe I'm going to try the Darkhawk mini-series they're releasing (even though it's an Infinity Countdown tie-in). I'm not familiar with Gang-Hyuk Lim's artwork; a quick Internet search pulled up a few things that don't look bad, but we'll see.

DC is somehow still spinning things out of that Metal event. I feel like that thing has been going for a thousand years now. I had the same reaction a few years back when they had that Trinity War story, which then ran directly into that Forever Evil thing (where Dick Grayson go unmasked, so he became a spy for a while instead). At a certain point it becomes, 'Holy shit, is this thing still going?' DC drags it out, while Marvel runs around like a blinded meth addict, just crashing into trees.

So just Cave Carson from DC, then.

OK, if those two are largely busts, what about the other publishers? High School Hell and Mata Hari are both wrapping up. Still no sign of The Seeds anywhere. Giant Days continues to chug along and the girls continue to get cold feet about going their separate ways as roomies.

Copperhead's back, and so is original artist and co-creator Scott Godlewski! Things are looking up, finally. I'm hoping this next arc ramps the weird stuff up a bit, if only for a change of pace. Throw something outside the character's experience at them.

They finally posted a cover for the Bubba Ho-Tep mini-series, and based on it, I'm really starting to think this whole thing is some drug trip going on inside Elvis' mind. But maybe that's the only way to get at Cosmic Blood Suckers. Hopefully the series makes more sense once I'm actually able to read it.

The only other thing that interested me was Coda, a 12-issue series by Si Spurrier and Matias Bergara. Spurrier wrote Spire, a different mini-series I bought in back issues in 2016 I think, as well as that Marvel Zombies Secret Wars mini-series I enjoyed back in 2015*. Anyway, Spire was very good, and a bit of a fantasy setting, so that bodes well. And it seems to be a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting. I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, or maybe survivalist stories is a better description, even though I often feel let down when they don't go the direction I want them to. But those disappointments were written by other people, no reason to hold it against Spurrier. I don't know Bergara's artwork, but he drew the cover and that looks pretty cool. The color work is nice too, a good contrast. So that's one new entrant at least.

* I think he's also writing a Star Wars book with Kieron Gillen right now, but if John Ostrander couldn't get me to read Star Wars comics, Spurrier is shit outta luck on that score.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Monsters

A space probe took samples from a rock that passed near Earth. Then the probe fell apart on reentry, and whatever was in it has infected live on earth and created all sorts of giant creatures in Central America. The situation is scene from the perspectives of Andrew and Sam. Andrew is a photographer, Sam's dad owns the "publication" Andrew works for. Her pop has tasked Andrew with getting her to safety. Complications arise!

The movie tries to build a romantic relationship between the two main characters. One of them is feeling isolated, the other is in an engagement they don't seem happy about. But it doesn't carry it off. Maybe it needed to put more focus on it, rather than trying to weave it into this perilous journey story. I don't think that would have made it any more enjoyable of a movie to me, but it might have helped that particular thread work a little better.

The parts of it that look at the lives of the people living in or near the "infected zone" work better. The people who exploit the situation and peoples' desperation. The ones who have nowhere to go or no means to move. The futile attempts of the United States to keep all this at a distance (with a big, useless wall, no less). The small bits that combine for a larger picture of a world that's changing in ways humanity is only slowly grasping, that part is sort of interesting. Overall, it's not a good movie, but it isn't awful. It's just kind of there. It couldn't keep my attention.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Can You Outsource Magic?

I started thinking about this during last week's post on Jamie Madrox. Can one of Madrox' duplicates learn magic?

My guess is most living beings in the Marvel Universe have at least some small amount of magical ability inside them. Which would include Jamie Madrox. The question is whether whatever that force is, their soul, bio-aura, whatever, transfers or duplicates itself. Physical objects Jamie is wearing or holding duplicate themselves along with him - or else there'd be a lot of naked Jamie Madroxes running around. The duplicates can think and act for themselves, can learn and grow. And if they die, Jamie can't reabsorb them. Which suggests there's a certain something within the duplicates lost when they die.

It seems like they should be able to learn magic, at least some of the basics. Dr. Strange was split into three separate people once, and each of them was still able to use magic to varying degrees. It's not quite the same thing - Strange knew magic already by then - but it might point to the ability for someone to still use magic even having fragmented or duplicated their soul. It might also prove a cautionary tale, considering Stephen had some difficulty getting himself together again. If one of the duplicates figures out magic, Jamie might have a hell of time getting him back in. He might even struggle to avoid having the tables turned and being absorbed himself.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #9

"Guess the Fire Burned Away the Belly of Her Outfit" in Amazing Fantasy (vol. 2) #9, by Fred van Lente (writer), David Ross (penciler), Kevin Conrad, Jonathon Glapion (inkers), Guru eFX (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer)

This volume of Amazing Fantasy started in 2004, and seems like it was a series designed to pitch new characters, or revamped versions of existing characters, to see if they'd stick. This was the series that introduced Anya Corazon (Arana, later Spider-Girl), and Amadeus Cho.

In between those two stories was this six-parter, which introduced a new version of Scorpion. A teenage girl whose body can absorb toxins and then use them as a weapon, and is being chased by SHIELD and AIM. Thasanee's left unsure of anyone's motives, unsure of her own origins, trying to figure out how to make it through this and which way she wants to go. Leonard Kirk shares art duties with Dave Ross. Kirk's work is more simplified, smoother, Thasanee looks younger in the issues he draws. Ross makes her look older, makes the costume more like a second skin.

The story also introduced SHIELD agent Derek Khanata, who Jeff Parker went on to use in all his Agents of Atlas work, and Monica Rappacini, who is AIM's Scientist Supreme (and maybe was MODOK's ex in his more human days). Scorpion's gone on to some scattered use here and there, mostly in books Fred van Lente was writing or co-writing. Ditto for Rappacini.

The series ends with Khanata selling Fury on the supposed value of a SHIELD agent posing as a superhero to infiltrate the superhero community. But I'm not sure she got used enough in other books for the idea to really take root. The constant upheaval within SHIELD related to all the nonsense about who gets to be Boss of All Superheroes that's been going to for the last 15 years doesn't help.

This is the only story from this title I bought, picked it up in a manga-sized digest version a few years back. Marvel doesn't do those anymore, does it?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Ineffective Are The Peacemakers

{Last time, Deadpool had arrived to help wreck Pollock's old business sufficiently to hurt its value so she could manage a takeover, not realizing Pollock had already regained controlled through threats and extortion. Pollock has tried reasoning with the mercenary while Captain Androzier brings in a secret weapon, but Deadpool is being unpleasantly stubborn. . .}

*As Deadpool hefts an explosive, Pollock leaps out from behind the workbench only to wind up with a bolo around her legs. However, she's still able to throw one of the canisters with the fast-expanding polymer at Deadpool. In an instant, the merc is stuck in place, encased in the large foam-like substance, one hand holding a primed explosive, the other stuck trying to draw a gun from its holster.*

Deadpool: [Paste-Pot Pete's gonna be pissed you stole his thing.]

Pollock: *untangling the bolo* Let him, I have better lawyers. Now will you calm down and listen?

Deadpool: [Let me try shooting first.] *The bullets strike the floor around his feet harmlessly*

Pollock: *rising to her feet* Well?

Deadpool: [Hang on, let me try thinking of my loved ones for a surge of adrenaline so I can break free. Hmm, dead, dead, pissed at me, pissed at me, has other friends, has other parents. . . well, poop.]

Pollock: *starting to question not using lethal force* Now?

*At that moment, the captain returns*

Androzier: Commandant, I've brought it.

Slightly nasal voice from the hall: Hey, I have a name now. It's Stefan.

*The Blender Furby, still perched on the Predator Drone's decapitated body, enters the room dressed in a pair of loose sweatpants and a t-shirt with a unicorn next to a fountain on it*

Deadpool: [What the hell is that?!]

Pollock: Stefan is a quite attentive listener, so I'm sure he can help us resolve all this. Right, Stefan?

Stefan: Well, I was in the middle of painting a bowl of fruit, so I'm just going to pull his head off. That'll resolve things.

*Pollock looks at Androzier*

Androzier: Dr. Carlisle mentioned something about monitoring its reaction to spending a lot of time on the Inter - urk! *Stefan grabs the captain by the throat*

Stefan: I have a name, stop referring to me as an "it".

Pollock: *trying to calm things down* Stefan, it was a slip on the captain's part. I'm sure it won't happen again if you just let him down.

Deadpool: [I've got this.]

*Deadpool detonates the explosive he's holding, which does break through the polymer, but also blows off his arm. Fortunately(?), there was enough polymer between it and the rest of his body he's otherwise fine, though woozy. Stefan regards him for a moment, then drops Androzier.*

Stefan: *cracks knuckles, tries cracking neck, but he doesn't really have one, so. . .* Sure, why not?

*Stefan quickly closes the distance as Deadpool draws and swings a sword with his remaining arm. Stefan catches the arm in one hand, and begins punching Deadpool in the face with the other.*

Stefan: Sarcastic Coffeepot says hello.

Deadpool: [I don't know what that is.]

*Deadpool starts to fall backwards, only for Stefan to tighten his grip on Wade's arm, and pull him back. As he does, Deadpool raises both legs into the air and slams them into Stefan's chest, adding the not-inconsiderable force of Stefan's grip to his own. Stefan loses hold and stumbles back as Wade crashes to the ground. Pollock takes this opportunity to move between them.*

Pollock: OK, enough, there's no need for all this.

Deadpool: *lifts his mask to spit out a bloody tooth* [Well sure, there's never a need for violence. A desire for violence is another matter.]

*Deadpool has been moving to a crouch in these few seconds, as well as picking his sword back up. He abruptly lunges, forcing Pollock to leap backwards towards Stefan. Who casually grabs her shoulders, and gently sets her aside.*

Stefan: I agree with this expletive deleted. This is fun.

Deadpool: ['Expletive deleted'? That's the filthiest thing I've ever been called!]

Stefan: *almost gleeful* I'm having at you, Wernstrom!

*Pollock observes all this for a moment, then goes to check on her captain. He's shaken, kind of pissed off, but unharmed. Pollock hefts a radio.*

Pollock: Dr. Lakshmi, is the Wave Beam prototype mobile?

Dr. Lakshmi: If you can keep it connected to its power source in the lab.

Pollock: Captain, you'd better find a lot of extension cords and bring it down here on the double.

Androzier: Doesn't that risk more damage than the two of them are doing?

Pollock: To this room? Probably, but I'd like to stop this before it moves any further.

*Androzier nods and retreats swiftly. Pollock turns and surveys the fight, now in full swing. Deadpool is the more experienced fighter by far, but having only one arm is limiting his stabbing ability. Kicks and elbows aren't doing much against the wall of muscle the former Blender Furby is perched on. Though Wade is having success distracting Stefan by smacking him lightly across the face with the steadily-regenerating stump of his other arm. Annoyed, Stefan engages his cloaking device. An invisible fist sends Deadpool sailing across the room. The sword clatters to the floor again.*

Deadpool: [I know how to deal with invisible people.] *throws a smoke grenade* [Now he'll try to go high before the smoke can fill the room -]

*Stefan strides directly through the smoke, grabs Deadpool by the throat and slams him into the wall.*

Deadpool: *choking* [Why that shirt?]

Stefan: I like unicorns. They're like horses crossed with a rhinoceros, crossed with a bag of glitter.

Deadpool: *draws a lighter* [That answers my question, I can die fulfilled now. Did I mention this smoke is flammable? I like for my grenades to multitask. Conserves pouch space.]

*The flame spits to life and immediately blooms outward, engulfing both of them. Stefan howls and smashes Deadpool's head through the wall before releasing him. Fortunately, Pollock had grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher once Wade brought out the lighter and is able to smother the flames before it spreads. Let's hear it for Pollock's respect for proper safety equipment and procedures. Pollock approaches Stefan, who is coughing and rubbing his eyes.*

Pollock: Stefan, you see why you need to stop this. It's dangerous, not just for you, but to everyone else in this building. Deadpool's a (self)-destructive force you aren't prepared to handle.

Stefan: *raises his head, little face smeared with smoke, most of the fur burned off* Fine, I'll deal with him the way you intended for me to. Then I'll rip his head off. *Stefan's voice takes on an ominous drone* So, funny story, when the panda was looking for this place, he visited Deadpool once. Deadpool called me a living nightmare and asked if he could use me as a port-o-john.

Pollock: *staggers backwards before dropping to one knee* God, Wade, do you have to piss off everyone you meet?

Deadpool: *having freed his head from the masonry* [Sure! It's my superpower, along with farts and bad decision-making!] *stumbles* [What the hell is this, a drunk field? I feel more off-balance than usual, but with none of the usual night terrors! AIM's going, going to be pissed you stole their, their thing.] *reaches for his gun, but fumbles, spilling the contents of a few pouches* [Aw, this guy has barf powers! I have that power, too!]

*Deadpool tries for a nutshot, only for Stefan to calmly block it.*

Stefan: Funny story, you aren't actually funny. Maybe you need a hat you can drop at random moments.

*Stefan grabs Wade's throat in one hand, the top of his head with the other, and begins to twist.*

Deadpool: [Not, not with this writer, certainly.]

*Hmm, things are looking pretty bad for Deadpool. Maybe that was his ghost at Blog Thanksgiving! This is running longer than I intended, so I guess it's going to a Part 3.*

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Beyond the Gates

John and Gordon are boxing up their missing and presumed dead father's video store, when they stumble across a board game. One that uses a VHS tape. The tape gives you instructions or tells you what's happening as you play, I guess. I never played any of those.

The brothers, as well as Gordon's girlfriend Margot, don't think much of it at first. Until the woman on the video mentions winning the game will free their father's soul. Gordon starts having horrible nightmares of desiccated humans attacking him. So it's like Jumanji, but with fewer monkeys stealing cop cars.

A lot of the movie is about the brothers coming to grips with their issues with their father and some of the negative effects he's had on their lives. Their dad wasn't what you'd call reliable, and there's a fair amount of time (for a movie barely over 80 minutes) spent on the various ways in which their lives have been impacted by that.

The game aspect is kind of half-assed, there's not much to it in terms of figuring things out. It's mostly a way to arrange some bloody deaths. The movie likes its violence in the Evil Dead, fountains of blood, style. Which makes a certain amount of sense. The game is supposed to be from the Eighties, and John and Gordon were both fans of those splatterhouse slasher films. It was a surprise initially, for what that's worth.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

That's One Weekend Booked Up

As is the standard here, this is your heads up that the Cape Girardeau Comic-Con is two months away, April 20-22.

At present, there are 73 different vendors listed for the show from costuming to comics to baked goods to video games to artists. I'm hoping there'll be more added before the convention because I haven't seen Matthew Miller's name yet (he drew Amanda Waller for me two years ago, and that nifty Two-Face picture I grabbed last year).

The guests listed include Mike Zeck and Lou Ferrigno, among other. I'm trying to decide whether to take my copy of Kraven's Last Hunt to get signed, or I have that Captain America Annual where he and Wolverine fight, then team-up? Crap, he's probably been asked to sign those a million times. I don't think I have any of Secret Wars in the collection. I used to have part of the Punisher mini-series he drew, but I lost it or gave it away along the line. I'll figure something out.

They're going to try adding some of those escape rooms to the convention this year. I tried one of those with a friend back in 2016*. It looks like you can already reserve a turn with one of the rooms now, which is handy. You can plan the rest of your trip around that chunk of time you have set aside. Maybe get some commissioned sketches arranged with the artists, then go do the escape room while they're drawing. Could be interesting.

* It was good in theory, but the people running that one fumbled the execution. There was one box that was supposed to be locked that wasn't, and there was a clue we needed they forgot to put in the room.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Nightfall - Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

"Nightfall" was originally a short story Asimov wrote about a world with six suns, at least one of which was always in the sky. Until the day that the one was eclipsed by another world and Kalgash fell into darkness, physical and mental.

Nightfall the book takes that framework and runs it out in both directions. It looks at the lead-up to the eclipse, the gradual collection of information from various sources that suggest something is coming, the arguments people go through about it. And then, after the eclipse ends, it extends into the aftermath of a society that has collapsed. On a world completely unaccustomed to Darkness, but more importantly, unaware of the true scale of the universe they inhabit, the eclipse shatters the minds of a good portion of the populace. But soon enough, people are starting to try and group together again, and people are trying to grab power for themselves.

I don't know how much of this was Asimov and how much was Silverberg. It had an easy, readable flow to it that I associate with Asimov's writing. I've always found that it's easy to keep going with his books. There's always an interesting conversation or some new development, so that "Just one more chapter," is the natural response. Maybe Silverberg has that knack as well. I did notice more of a focus on a relationship between the archaeologist Siferra and the journalist Theremon than I normally associate with Asimov*. Romance rarely gets the spotlight in his writing.

There was one moment in the book, pre-Nightfall, where Siferra mentally dismisses Theremon because he's a reporter, which seemed curious to me. She's an archaeologist, someone trying to piece together the culture and history of past people's through whatever remains or records survive. Theremon is a journalist, someone whose writings would, in theory, be a kind of record of what things were going on in society at the time. I'm not saying hail him as a great mind, but I was surprised at the attitude towards his whole profession. But I don't know a lot of archaeologists personally.

I expected the book would spend more time on the run-up to the actual event. The uneasy cooperation between the scientists and the Apostles of Flame, religious fanatics proclaiming impending punishment from above. Or the difficulties getting the gears of government to grind in a useful manner. The book basically skims over that in a brief recap that focuses more on why the University folk are pissed at Theremon, who had decided to downplay and mock their claims, because he couldn't believe them and felt they were causing a panic. Might also have something to do with Siferra's less-than-glowing opinion of journalists. It probably would have been pretty boring, although I wouldn't bet against Asimov to make the intractability of bureaucracy engaging. Or at least an opportunity to get good and indignant.

I wasn't enamored of the ending. I understand the argument behind the decision the characters make, but I think it's some faulty, dangerous logic that is going to get a lot of people (other people, naturally) killed or harmed in the name of preserving some idea of civilization. Relying on one's ability to skillfully manipulate a theocratic dictatorship to not be entirely repressive from within seems a pretty dodgy strategy. Though I've always figured that were I in a post-apocalyptic scenario, I'd go find someplace to live by myself until I either starved or was killed by some roving band of thugs. Not much of a joiner, so perhaps not the best judge.

'Well,' Harrim said. 'It was -' He paused. 'I was never in Darkness ever, you know. Not even a dark room. Not ever. It wasn't something that interested me. We always had a godlight in my bedroom when I was growing up, and when I got married and had my own house I just naturally had one there too. My wife feels the same way. Darkness, it isn't natural. It isn't anything that was meant to be.'

Monday, February 19, 2018

What I Bought 2/14/2018 - Part 2

When I was reviewing the most recent issue of Copperhead, I mentioned Ishmael, the artificial human being colored deathly white during the scene in the hospital bed. I wasn't sure how that worked at the time, but reading back through earlier issues, it dawned on me that he's designed to unconsciously change color to match his surroundings. When he was fighting Clay, Clay had mentioned something about artificial humans being designed to be good at camouflage, but I thought he meant they had a skill for building clothing or face paint. Not that their bodies can actually change color. Whoops. I figured it out over the weekend and decided I'd use it as the intro before going into talking about the last book from last week.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #29, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Credit to the guy for remembering to paint the soles of his feet. He just didn't give it enough time to dry first.

Squirrel Girl unsuccessfully fights the Silver Surfer for several pages, even with Loki teleporting in a bunch of other heroes (to protect Nancy). Explanations are eventually offered, and the Surfer is about to deal with the dopes pretending to be him, when an armada shows up. It's comprised of people from planets the "hunks" bankrupted, out to destroy the Surfer, and with the weapons to pull it off. The Surfer decides to selflessly sacrifice himself and spare us all any of his soliloquies about how alone he is in the universe. Unfortunately, Doreen, Tippy, and Nancy tag along, which puts them on the bullseye as well. So next issue, everybody dies.

I call bullshit on the Surfer being able to so casually swat Beta Ray Bill aside. He's Cyborg Horse Thor, he's not getting punked that easily by that whiny flying hood ornament. Is Ryan North taking writing lessons from Jim Starlin? That said, North writes a very good Drax (this version of him, anyway). Drax taking everything people say literally fits North's writing style well. People pointing out obvious stuff or plot holes, but not realizing that's what they're doing. That's kind of North's go-to move.

Henderson draws a very, I'd say "stripped-down" version of the Surfer, but he's always naked, isn't he? *ba-dump tisssh* Thank you, thank you! Seriously though, her version of Surfer doesn't have cheekbones, ears, much in the way of defined musculature. Normally he's drawn like a fit guy who got silver sprayed-painted all over, but here it's more as though Galactus redesigned him and a lot of extraneous parts were left out. Makes him sleek, also a little unearthly. I was thinking it was the pupiless eyes doing that, but he usually has those. But Henderson draws him from a bit of distance frequently, and a lot of the time he's looking at something we can't see, even when he's talking to someone in the panel. Like he's only half paying attention because his "cosmic senses" are looking at something else. He rarely shows much emotion in his reactions, a big change from his usual melodramatic shtick. I really like it.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Alternate Favorite Marvel Character #9 - Multiple Man

Character: Multiple Man (Jamie Madrox)

Creators: John Buscema, Chris Claremont, Len Wein. Marvel's wiki thing lists all three, Wikipedia's only lists Len Wein.

First appearance: Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4. Neither this book or the one that was my first encounter have Jamie on the cover, which is why I went with Madrox #1.

First encounter: X-Factor #81. It's not a great issue as an introduction. Jamie and Quicksilver had been off on a separate mission, that wraps up in time for them to show up for the big fight with the group the rest of the team was fighting. Jamie had been twisted around by some blue woman with an entrancing music power, and was pretty sour about having to put her in jail.

Definitive writer: Peter David. I would say almost all the appearances of Madrox I've read were written by Peter David. He spent a lot of time exploring the idea of what those powers would mean for how Madrox would approach things that I found really interesting.

Definitive artist: Pablo Raimondi. He tends to give Madrox this attempt at cocky and laid-back (or maybe slovenly) air that suits the character. Jamie is trying for cool, noir look, and sometimes he even makes it. But he's also frequently a dope, and Raimondi captured that cluelessness well when he needed to.

Favorite moment or story: X-Factor (volume 2) #9. This is a Civil War tie-in, and Jamie is confronted with his greatest foe: making decisions. Whether to go along with Registration Act or not. Whether to let Pietro with his weird Terrigen-infused powers stick around or not. The X-Men show up, swinging their dicks around to add to the problems, and should Jamie let Pietro be their problem?

Jamie doesn't know what to do, because if he makes the wrong choice, it could be a disaster. There are people looking to him for leadership (you think they'd know better), people he cares about. So he can't screw this up, but he also can't afford to do nothing. With a nudge from Layla Miller, commits to a path. It was the right decision, morally, although there was a question of whether it was the smart decision for him and his team.

What I like about him: I often struggle with making decisions, mostly because I worry about wasting time. I only have so much of it, so should I read tonight, play a game, write, draw, waste time on the Internet (that one's easiest, so it wins frequently)? Is the possibility of having fun with friends worth the chance the evening is going to be an irritating mess? The paths not taken tend to cycle in my head.

Jamie Madrox is interesting to me because of the opportunity his power affords. If Jamie can't decide whether he wants to go out and party or not, he can send a duplicate to do it for him. The dupe comes home eventually, Jamie reabsorbs him, and he gets the experience of having gone out on the town (and the altered brain chemistry that comes with it).

He can send a version of himself to study law, another for religion, a third to seek enlightenment, or become the world's greatest detective, without having to fret about missing out on the rest of his life, or the chance to learn those other things. It doesn't extend his life, but it does broaden it. Provided he's willing to wait long enough for the duplicate to return. Assuming the duplicate does return.

Of course, if you subscribe to the theory it's the journey and not the destination, you could question if Madrox isn't missing out on the most important parts by letting his duplicates do all the work gaining these insights, while he goes on with the rest of his life. He gains the knowledge and their experiences along the way when he reabsorbs them, but I wonder if it's the same thing. Considering absorbing a duplicate that's near death can put him into shock, maybe it's close enough. Jamie's admitted once the duplicate's memories are in his head, he can't always discern which memories are things he did versus which are from duplicates.

That's always intrigued me, that he could have two (or more) entirely different sets of memories of the same time period, and know they're both real. He stayed home Friday night to watch a movie, and he went out and got hammered drunk Friday night. Trying to piece together the timeline of his life would be a challenge.

Although I notice when he decided to marry grown-up Layla Miller (I know she aged while trapped in the future, but that still felt dodgy) and become a farmer he didn't leave that to a duplicate. Still, it feels like he's trying to keep life at one step removed. Let other Jamies go out and do interesting things, and he can hear about it later. It isn't unusual for one of his friends to talk to what they think is the original Jamie, only to learn it's actually a duplicate and Jamie is off somewhere else. He'll learn about the conversation one way or the other, eventually.

Still, knowing you can always find another pair of hands when you need it is a useful power. Someone to help you run errands, have your back in a fight, rush you to the hospital after unfortunate accidents with fireworks. There's a quote of his, from X-Factor #75: 'I can be pretty self-reliant, especially when I have other selves to rely on!' I always liked that idea. You can't always be sure anyone else is going to be around when you need them, but you know you will be, for better or worse.

Jamie's tendency to be his own worst enemy, in a literal sense, is a side effect of his powers that plays out well. Jamie has, for most of his existence, regarded his duplicates as nothing more than pawns to be used. Extensions of him. It isn't him splitting into multiple bodies, each an equal part of the original. He's the original, they're knock-offs, that's how he sees it. He wants to learn Russian, guess what, some poor sucker of a dupe is going to Moscow for the winter! Even when he learns that he can't reabsorb a duplicate that has died, which certainly questions the accuracy of his perspective. If he weren't a comic book character, I'd expect he might stop using duplicates, because he'd think it was wrong for them to function as potential cannon fodder. Calling them "dupes" takes on a new light.

They see it differently. So you have a duplicate Jamie that tries to kill the original so he can take over, or duplicates that actively help people trying to kill him because they think he was being the bad guy and needs to go. Beyond that, the duplicates have tended, over time, to more accurately represent Jamie's state of mind at a given moment. Which makes for an easy window for us into his psyche, but doesn't always work out well for him. If Jamie is caught up in a lot of existential navel-gazing about his existence, that may be all the duplicate is able to focus on. Which means he isn't going to be very helpful when Madrox is locked in a room.

Because Jamie knows this about his duplicates, which means they know he knows, they'll even fool him sometimes. There was one duplicate that popped up twice in the first year of X-Factor Volume 2 that called itself the part that makes Jamie sometimes do the unexpected, or the "x-factor". On both occasions, he fooled Jamie into believing he was something else entirely. The first time, that he was a positive, life-affirming duplicate to keep Rictor from killing himself. The second, that he was the terrified part of Madrox, too scared to help fight Tryp and Singularity. So he's not simply that part of us that lets (makes?) us do things we normally wouldn't, but also represents our capacity for self-deception. Sometimes we don't understand what motivates us or drives us, and other times we know, but don't want to think about it.

Going back to the idea Jamie's dupes know what he knows, when Jamie originally joined X-Factor, he was the team prankster. Dumb gags and jokes all the time. Jamie lived alone on a farm for a long time growing up. That plays into his need during that government team stint to get attention, have people around and reacting to him. The pranks were one way to do that, one he could manage without opening up to anyone, but I also imagine it would have been difficult to pull a prank on a duplicate. They'd know he was thinking about it when he made them. Getting to spend time with people who don't immediately know everything in his mind (and who don't look just like him) is probably a godsend, at least for the first few years. Then they start expecting things, wanting you to make decisions, and that's rough.

It is odd that Jamie wound up as the leader of a team, given how much trouble he has choosing a course. Jamie was on a team led by Alex Summers, who seems able to make decisions, but second-guesses himself about them constantly. Jamie second-guesses himself before he ever makes the decision, which is one way of cutting to the chase, I suppose. He just wanted to play detective with a couple of his friends, and it turned into a whole thing. It helps that most of his friends are individuals with a strong sense of their own convictions. Jamie doesn't have to give orders often, which is good, since most of the team aren't likely to listen if they disagree with him.

Madrox is used to being able to do all the things he feels like doing, because of his powers. He's no good at weighing options, so when he has to do that, he gets lost in his own mind, unable to commit. His friends have never had that option, so they actually can make decisions, and state their case for them with conviction. Which helps him gain perspective, and then he can make a choice. Because it is possible for Jamie to get duplicates that are fully on board with helping him accomplish something, as long as he's fully committed to that goal. And having people around to remind him that no, this is not one of those times he can just sit back and wait for things to resolve themselves, helps with that.

Jamie Madrox interests me because his powers are an example of the way people want to have it all, and can struggle to make a move because they worry too much about what they'll miss out on. About how a personality or psyche can be a lot of shifting pieces that don't always work in concert, and how we don't always understand what's driving us. Basically, I recognize a lot of the things I struggle with myself in Jamie's difficulties, but for him the internal conflicts can easily and frequently become external conflicts.

On a final, less serious note, given Madrox' desire to learn all sorts of things, you can use that as a way into all kinds of stories. Maybe a duplicate went into space, and is using his knowledge of alien languages to negotiate a treaty between two worlds. Maybe one is a rodeo clown, and there are murders on the circuit. Maybe one of them is studying magic. The real world is a strange place, full of things to learn, and the Marvel Universe is stranger than that.

Credits! Jamie Madrox is the Running Man, er Men, on the cover of Madrox #1, by David Lloyd (artist), and Brian Reber (colorist). Jamie shows good sense and tries to dip the fuck out of Civil War, but comes back to flip Scott Summers the bird in X-Factor (vol. 2) #9, by Peter David (writer), Dennis Calero (artist), Jose Villarrubia (color artist(, Cory Petit (letterer). Jamie gets all the pain of drinking without the fun, calls in the cavalry, and engages in locked room navel-gazing in Madrox - Multiple Choice, by David (writer), Pablo Raimondi (penciler), Drew Hennessy (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). And finally, Jesus, Jamie's '90s hair is even worse when there's two of them in X-Factor (vol. 1) #87, by Peter and Shana David (writer), Joe Quesada (artist), Al Milgrom (inker), Marie Javins (colorist), Richard Starkings and Steve Dutro (letterers).

Friday, February 16, 2018

What I Bought 2/14/2018 - Part 1

It was 70 yesterday, and it's right around freezing today. I thought spring didn't start for another month? I actually found all the books I was looking for this week, so let's get to it.

Deadpool #294, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - The pin with the wicked grin on Madcap's cloak is a nice touch.

Madcap has pulled himself together and come looking for revenge. But Wade's life is already burned to the ground, so by the time Wade finds him and they start to fight, Madcap's already a little bored. When Wade's master plan for taking Madcap off the board reveals itself, Madcap's actually grateful for the change in scenery. Which leaves Wade, once again, alone in the wreckage of his life, as Stryfe hounds him to hurry up and kill Evan.

Wade's solution was pretty clever, and even plays off his recent appearance in Rocket Raccoon's book, I assume. Maybe Deadpool made some other trip to outer space I don't know about. Koblish drew Madcap more simplified than Hawthorne had been. Big open blank eyes and a big empty mouth. It reminds me more of how Madcap typically looks, in the few older appearances of his I've seen. He's getting off his pointless obsession with destroying Deadpool, and back to. . . whatever the hell it was he did prior to that. Annoying everyone, I think.

There's not anything else I have to say. I appreciate Duggan providing some sort of resolution to the Madcap subplot, considering how pissed I was when he kicked the can down the road prior to Secret Empire. But, as he touches on here, everything has moved on. Wade has bigger problems, and there's not much weight to dealing with Madcap now. Nothing's at risk if he fails. Wade was desperate for the win, really needed to see someone he didn't like miserable for a change, and he can't even manage that. Next issue we get to see if Wade really does have a plan to trick Stryfe and save Evan. The way things are going, I wouldn't bet on it.

Ms. Marvel #27, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - A strange lightning bolt appears, and Kamala now has to contend with a bunch of miniature, alternate versions of herself. Just another Wednesday in the Marvel Universe.

Red Dagger and the Legion of Substitute Marvels track Zoe's phone to the Inventor's lair, where he's busy monologing about how he's going to use the elderly for an energy source because they contribute nothing. Zoe's not OK with that, and neither are her friends, but their opponent has created a giant turtle who nearly stomps on Nakia, only for Zoe to push her to safety (and nearly be squashed herself). The bad guy escapes, but our heroes realize they're out of their league. But there just so happens to be one other Ms. Marvel they could call.

So, Carol Danvers for the first time since Civil War II ended. Damn, now I remember that Civil War II is something that existed. Boooooo. It makes sense, at least. I know Danvers was portrayed in at least a couple of other titles after that event as not wanting to lose her friends over philosophical differences (Spider-Woman was one, probably whatever Danvers' book was called at the time, too). So she wouldn't take the approach of Kamala being dead to her, but she's been smart enough to let Kamala decide when she wants to see Carol again. It just so happens someone else is contacting her.

I'm expecting Gabe is going to get a chance to shine next issue. It feels like the others have all had the chance to do something at least a little cool. Mike with the inflatable fist, Zoe working with Harold to find his friends, Nakia being the one smart enough to track Zoe by her phone. Gabe was sort of cool jumping on the giant turtle - although that poor turtle looked like it was in agony when it first popped up, it doesn't know what the hell is going on - so maybe that qualifies. We'll see. Leon did give Gabe a funny reaction shot when Carol made her big entrance. And he gets to bag on Red Dagger's hero dialogue. Perhaps Gabe is the "Meat and Sarcasm" guy. Being a superteam's Sokka isn't the worst thing in the world.

My favorite panel in this issue is after Red Dagger and the Marvels make their big entrance, they all strike poses. I don't think they're deliberately mimicking the Ginyu Force, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was Leon's inspiration. Then the Inventor counters with the classic, "arms folded across chest while minions swarm the heroes" stance. He's kind of a goof, but he has at least some of the villain style down pat. Although it's hard for me to believe he was able to escape Red Dagger, a guy used to running across rooftops with ease.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Ritual

Four British guys take a trip to walk a trail in Sweden. One injures himself and pitches a big baby fit about it, so they try a shortcut through the woods. Where they first find an elk impaled in a tree, and then a creepy cabin. In the cabin, they all experience awful nightmares and are badly shaken by the morning. They realize they're being followed and grow increasingly paranoid and concerned, and are eventually captured by a Swedish variety of crazy, devil-worshipping hillbillies. Well, close enough.

The main hook is that they went on the trip because it was the idea of a fifth friend of theirs, who was killed by some junkies robbing a liquor stores. One of them, Luke (Rafe Spall), was in the store, and did nothing to help his friend. Not even cradle his dead body mournfully. So there's a lot of guilt running through this. The haphazard nature of the thinking behind the trip, might also explain why some of them aren't really in condition for this, and they clearly have no idea what the hell they're doing once they get in the woods. It also plays into how quickly they start fighting among each other. The going gets tough, the tough start shit-talking each other.

It's a credit to the film I couldn't tell which way Luke was going to go right up to the end. It's one thing to say you're going to go down fighting, and then you're about to be impaled slowly on a tree branch. And you never know with horror flicks, whether it's going to be mildly upbeat, or if everyone is doomed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What I Bought 2/9/2018

I only planned on buying one book from last week, but, in a moment of weakness, I bought another one as well. Like most decisions made in a moment of weakness, it was a mistake.

Rogue and Gambit #2, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Pere Perez (artist), Frank D'Armata (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Leave it to Gambit to strategically tear his clothes to create a boob window.

Say hello to the moment of weakness! Our couple hash out some differences, starting with a disagreement over their first meeting. The Shadow King is involved in the confusion, because of course he is. Later, they try sneaking back into the doctor's office to snoop, and are attacked by several mutants. Things explode, but the doctor and her mysterious villain cohort don't seem terribly concerned.

You might be able to tell I'm not super interested in the actual plot. Watching Rogue and Gambit legislate their messy relationship history is kind of hilarious. Seems to be what I'm tuning in for. Not sure why, exactly. Thompson writes good banter, and makes their relationship discussions feel emotional without being too overwrought. Although seeing Rogue use the word "particular" without any sort of accent to it was odd. Most of this is from an era of X-Men comics I have no fondness for, but the melodrama's entertaining. Not entertaining enough for me to try a third issue, mind you.

D'Armata (or maybe it was Perez) cut back on the shadows during the flashbacks, and lightened the colors as well. It gives things a bit of faded look. It's less noticeable in the second flashback, which is relating the time Gambit counts as their first meeting, a day or so earlier than what Rogue counts. Even though it takes place at night, the shadows are still less noticeable than in the present-day break-in scene that's happening concurrently. With the color issue, I think the villain's stealing their memories somehow, so the faded nature is it being drawn out of them? It doesn't happen on the second memory because they aren't in a therapy session. The lack of shadows because time smooths out the contrasts, so we just remember the broad strokes?

Giant Days #35, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (penciler), Liz Fleming and Jenna Ayoub (inkers), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell - Who is the mysterious mastermind spying on our heroes?

Ed did not die. He did concuss himself and break both ankles. That's good injury hustle right there, Gemmell. Esther returns home feeling hungover and sad to find her old friend Sarah and her little sister Charlotte there for a visit. Esther passes out, and Sarah takes off to meet a boy, leaving first Daisy and then Susan to try and handle Charlotte. Who is very inquisitive and very opinionated (I love her "J'ACCUSE" sound effect when she points at Esther), and forces Daisy to confront unpleasant truths about her and Ingrid's relationship.

So, there is no big conversation between Ed and Esther about last issue's reveal. Ed didn't remember telling her, Esther didn't mention it, and when Ed saw her pub run checklist made a reference to it, he shredded it. So it's going to fester between both of them now. Fun! On the other hand, Charlotte may have pushed Daisy to lay down the law on Ingrid, and let Susan and McGraw experience being adults. They were not prepared, but why should they be any different from the rest of us?

As usual, there's a lot of small gags and jokes in here that make it a fun read. It's really impressive to me how much I enjoy a comic that's nothing but people talking and having emotions. And being funny. The two-page conversation between Sarah and Esther was a particular favorite. It's funny, and a little touching, and the banter between them feels very real for a pair of friends. And it gives Sarin a chance to show off some facial expressions. In the span of three panels, Esther goes from a sad look cast towards the heavens, a strain face as she pulls on jeans, and then a sly grin as she brushes her hair. It's amazing how quickly Esther shifts between them, but it fits her personality.

There's a bit in here where McGraw brings in groceries and Susan crams them all into a cupboard. Then later in the issue, we see McGraw has returned to the kitchen and is organizing the foodstuffs. A little window into their personalities. There's also a page where Charlotte, revved up on a massive frappucino Daisy bought her in a depressive funk, is asking questions Susan is unprepared to answer. In each panel, Charlotte's spiraling yellow pupils get larger and larger, until Susan hurls the drink into the distance.

I don't know what's going to happen next, but I remain excited to find out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

26 Years

In May 1980, there was a clash between protestors in the South Korean city of Gwangju, and the nation's military, under orders from Chun Doo-hwan, who had been steadily consolidating power for the previous six months after leading a coup. Anywhere from 200 to 2,000 civilians where killed, depending on which sources you read. Chun Doo-hwan claimed the protestors were alternately Communists insurrectionists or just criminals, depending on the time, and was eventually elected President for 8 years, during which time he may have embezzled 200 billion won from the country. He was sentenced to death in the '90s, pardoned, but ordered to pay back the money he stole, of which he paid only a fraction, pleading (relative) poverty.

All that actually happened, which I didn't know going into 26 Years. I knew the film was about a group of people trying to take revenge on a powerful man who ruined their lives, but not the motive for the revenge was something that actually happened. The movie uses clips from television reports and interviews of Chun Doo-hwan at times, as the movie starts at the time of the Massacre and then skips forward, checking in on the progress of the lives of the people who will eventually be drawn into this attempt.

That approach works to show the long-reaching effects of what happened. It doesn't go away for the people who survived, the effect ripples outward, altering the course of their lives. Seeing people celebrate Doo-hwan, for him to be held up as a hero by some, considered vindicated when he's released, it keeps bringing the trauma back. There's no sense of closure, no sense of justice. Doo-hwan, whether in the actual footage used, or when he appears in the movie, refuses any acknowledgement of wrongdoing. He doesn't understand why people won't just let it go. He had to do those things, why can't people just understand that? In the face of anguish and fury, he remains unmoved.

Watching the movie, it's infuriating, I can't imagine what it would be like for a person who lived through it. The movie draws on that anger and frustration. A lot of the characters have tried swallowing the pain, because they were never going to get to do anything about it. Or they turn it on others, whether they try to help people, maybe to prove something to themselves, or hurt people. Ready to fight anyone who challenges them, tries to push them around.

The plot follows fairly conventional beats. Team is assembled, initial plan is outlined, prep work, dissension in the ranks, betrayals, surprise reveals, tentative friendship/romance between two characters, last-ditch attempt to make the plan work. Jin-bae was working as a cook/legbreaker for a crime boss in Gwanju, Mi-jin is on the Korean national shooting team, Jeong-hyuk is a police officer who works on the detail when Doo-hwan goes anywhere by car. As it turns out, they don't all have the same idea of what would constitute a successful mission here, which nearly wrecks the whole thing, although the first attempt is suspenseful. The climax drags a bit, drawn out almost to an absurd degree. The movie is trying to play off the audiences' desire to see Doo-hwan get his, just dragging it out with close calls and near misses, but overdoes it a bit. A few too many "it's over, wait, no it's not".

But overall, it was very good. There are a few moments of humor, and several supporting characters get moments here and there to explore how events impact them, or what they've done to cope. The emotional beats mostly work, it's just a little long near the end.

Monday, February 12, 2018

What I Bought 2/7/2018 - Part 2

I bag on commercials a lot, because most of them are garbage. But I did like those insurance commercials about "Mayhem" when he resolved to be useful and helpful right after New Year's. And then he dropped his resolution after a couple of weeks, just like the rest of us.

Copperhead #18, by Jay Faerber (writer), Drew Moss (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), Thomas Mauer (letterer) - Godlewski remembered Clara's armor still has the bullet impact from the previous sheriff's tenure on it.

Clara has a standoff with Clay, which ends with Clay shot in the leg and Clara reunited with Zeke. Zeke has another panel where his lower body seems much too small for his upper body. Maybe his shirt is just covering a lot of his pants and that's what's throwing me off. Clay mentions that Clara killed Zeke's mother (her sister). That's a conversation she'll have to deal with it at some point. Ford's going back home, but Luken, the schoolteacher, has apparently decided he likes law enforcement and wants to stay on as Clara' deputy. I don't think that's going to end well for him. Miss Sewell survived Clay shooting her multiple times, but Ishmael isn't doing so well. Given that's he's normally purple or a deep blue, I'm assuming Riley colored him off-white in the hospital scene deliberately. Like most of the life has drained out of him.

This Miss Sewell thing annoys me. Not that I'm unhappy she's alive. She's not a bad character, and I wouldn't mind seeing her attitudes towards Zeke explored (if it's connected to the loss of her children). The reason she survived is not a bad dodge. Still, I kept thinking of the end of the Robert Downey Jr. movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. 'Yeah, I know, boo hiss. Why not just bring everyone back?' Faerber uses her apparent death for emotional punch, then pulls the rug out later. Feels cheap, something I'd expect from a Marvel or DC big event comic.

There's also some development in the thread of what Mr. Hickory is up to. It involves something deep in his mine, something they want to make contact with. Something that a few of his workers may have encountered at the end of the issue, and it probably didn't go well for them. Although maybe those dual 'AAAIIIEEEE!'s were happy screams. That could be interesting. I've been curious to see the Sheriff have to deal with something truly bizarre, just beyond the normal stuff a cop in her world would encounter. Even the assassin using worms that tunnel into the victim to kill them didn't seem to faze her much. Maybe that's just Clara, though. Having experienced what she has, maybe most things just bounce off her psyche.

I'm curious about Moss' decision, during the conversation between Boo and Clara, to have Boo backlit in the penultimate panel, when he asks if she wants to help him investigate Hickory. It makes him seem vaguely sinister, or like he's trying for mysterious. The conversation runs over two pages, and other than that one panel, whoever is in each panel is perfectly visible and well-lit. So making that choice right there, feels like s deliberate warning of some sort. And Boo did have to hustle away after Hickory realized someone was eavesdropping. Did they capture and replace Boo? Or is he running a plan on his own track, separate from Clara's or Hickory's?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #8

"That's Death in the Big City" in Alpha Flight #31, by Bill Mantlo (writer), Mike Mignola (penciler),Gerry Talaoc (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Jim Novak (letterer)

I have one issue of Alpha Flight, and this is it. It's probably still here because it's part of the first batch of comics I ever received. And I figured I'd talk about it one of these days. The large fellow needing clothes is Deadly Ernest, and he can kill people with a touch. More accurately, he steals their souls. If you get the soul back to the person in time, they might live. Which is good, because otherwise about half the team would be dead after this issue. Puck chops up Ernest with a soul-drinking sword to recover their souls, all while engage in long internal monologues about killing, as well as his feelings for Heather Hudson. The kind of standard melodrama you find in a lot of '80s Marvel comics.

As I understand it, Mantlo's time as writer on the book is not well-regarded, generally. The next issue tells us Puck is short because he's keeping a demon with a different soul-drinking sword imprisoned inside, and it stole much of his soul before he managed that, so I can see why. That's not going down as one of his better creative choices.

Mignola's style hasn't developed into his trademark look yet; there's a big difference even from where it's at here in 1986, and where it'll be by the time Triumph and Torment comes out in 1989. He is starting to use heavy shadows selectively, over eyes, things like that. I can't really pin down who his style here reminds me of. My brain keeps saying "Michael Golden", but hell if I know his work well enough to figure out why. The way he draws musculature reminds me of John Buscema, a bit. In places, there's a very light touch, fine, thin lines, but clearly defined. Much more detailed, but not busy style here. With all the dialogue balloons, he's too constrained to get too detailed.

Friday, February 09, 2018

What I Bought 2/7/2018 - Part 1

These aren't from this week, they're actually from last month. I'm saving the third book for Monday, because it's the end of a story arc. In the meantime, one of these two is still ramping up, and the other is preparing for the conclusion. In other news, Bruce Willis is doing a remake of Death Wish, the Charles Bronson 1970s, "what is society coming to?", or maybe, "minorities are scary" movie. Kee-rist, that is not a thing anyone needed, ever.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #2, by Adam Warren (writer), Carla Speed McNeil (artist and letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist) - Being attacked by emojis? Yeah, that sounds like Hell.

Spooky is able to get her and Emp out of the biology lab of horror by playing on Bethany's fear of the preserved specimens. If I though the dissected frog assistants last issue were creepy, the formaldehyde, whatever those were, hog fetuses? Yeah, those are more disturbing. Then they're forced to fight a pair of students using their phones to physically harm people, rather than emotionally. Although if Emp or Spooky had time to read the texts, it would probably hurt emotionally as well. They get out of that situation, so only three dozen more crazy, entitled high school girls to go. So I have to assume they're going to pick up the pace big time on defeating these girls, if there's only four issues left.

Although it's curious to me that there's still a "Queen Bee" girl, given the stakes. The Infernal Service Provider has said the fewer of them there are, the more of Spooky's magic each will get. Rushing out to fight them on the orders of some other girl seems a poor choice. Given there are supposed to be the stereotypical entitled mean girls, I would expect someone to try and backstab or coup against Ashley.

McNeil is giving Spooky a tired air throughout this whole thing. Not that she isn't in danger, or the attacks aren't hurting, but she's already been through a wringer, and beaten herself up about it. And she already survived these girls once. Their attacks may have a little more power behind them, but it's the same stuff they used to do. They haven't grown or evolved, and she has. She can think circles around them. I'm more worried about Emp, who has always struggled a bit in the face of scorn from others, including Spooky. It looks like the fight in the library took more of a toll on her. So that'll be something to monitor.

Atomic Robo: The Spectre of Tomorrow #4, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer, designer) - I went with the variant cover because that thing is freaking boss. Just now I've had a vision: Atomic Robo/Haunted Tank team-up! It's glorious, I tell you.

Back in the actual story, Helsingard wants to team up with Robo. The robots that attacked were some of his, that were overtaken by ALAN's programming when he came looking to loot all those nukes. As it turns out, all the people falling apart because they're cyborgs are also his soldiers, an even more advanced design, that are also being controlled by the rogue programming. Sooooo, awkward, uneasy team-up! Yeah! And before the end of the issue, Helsingard has allowed himself to be pulled into the network, and overtaken it by force of will. That's either a very bad thing, or a good thing. Good because it means Robo can try killing two of his enemies at once. Saves time.

In other developments, Vik and Lang have found a way to get construction going again, by extorting Elon Musk to call an emergency meeting of the community members, and vote in Telsadyne's favor. I enjoyed that quite a bit. Was part of that because I'm side-eyeing Elon shooting a goddamn car into outer space this week, and I enjoyed a fictional version of him having to eat shit? Maybe!

Man, I don't know if Wegener's rushed, or just disinterested, or Clark's colors are overwhelming the linework, or what, but damn the art has looked sloppy in this story. There are some panels where Robo is a vaguely defined grey blob. I went back and looked at the third volume, Shadow from Beyond Time, and the difference in how crisp the art looks is night and day. And some of it is definitely the colors (that series was colored by Ronda Pattison), because the colors were a lot brighter in that mini-series than they are here. It drove home how muddy things look now. But there are times where it looks as though Wegener didn't even bother to draw some lines, and is letting the coloring suggest their existence. It's too bad, because this is a pretty cool story, but the art's not carrying its share of the load.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Influence of Air Power Upon History - Walter J. Boyne

I reread Boyne's Clash of Wings last fall. That was focused on World War 2. This book, with a title based off Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, covers the entirety of the use of air power in military or, in the case of the Berlin Airlift, diplomatic situations in human history*, up to the early 21st Century.

Although he notes it's too early to really assess whether air power is going to have any influence on history in the struggles with terrorist groups, given that they aren't confined to one border. Also, it's more difficult to try and cut off communication between leaders and soldiers, so to speak, and it may not do any good anyway. A suicide bomber can still just go out in the street and blow himself up, whether he gets word from his leader of not.

The book spends ~280 of the 400 pages just getting past World War 2, and much of that is on World War 2, or the run-up to it. Which makes sense, given the scale of the conflict, the effect air power was able to have (which was not always in line with what it had been predicted to have), and how its effects carried forward over the remainder of the century. Still, for me, it was treading a lot of familiar ground, even just from Clash of Wings. That most of the participating countries failed to understand the size of air force necessary to really achieve air superiority, the misconceived notion a country could be bombed into submission quickly and with minimal casualties on the attacking country's part, things like that.

Although Boyne mentioned that the heads of the Royal Air Force encouraged Chamberlain not to go to war over the Sudentland because they were worried about the Nazis bombing England before the RAF was able to defend it. Chamberlain was already disinclined to go to war to defend the Czechs, but that gave him another excuse. I hadn't read that anywhere I could recall.

I'm a little surprised that he didn't devote any time to the Soviets fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as a comparison with the United States' efforts in more recent years, if nothing else. Differences in approach, different limitations placed upon them by either technology or politics. Political directives come up a lot near the end of the book as Boyne discusses the Vietnam War. He strongly dislikes Robert McNamara.

The book has a certain implicit pro-military tint to it. Not a surprise, but I figured it was worth mentioning. There were sections evaluating whether they U.S. used its air power to proper effect, while I'm wondering whether the U.S. should even be involved at all. He does discuss times where one country didn't use their air power, either because the threat of it was enough, or the threat of their opposition's air power was enough to deter them. Especially if the U.S. is getting involved because they're confident their air force can do the job, whereas they might be more reluctant if they had less faith in it. In the chapter on World War 1, he talks about how, since air power's inception, people in charge have always overestimated the impact it can have for the amount of funding and support they provide. And the advocates encourage those delusions, because some support (which provides the chance to show what is possible and get more support) is better than none.

'It can be said of fighters that they are at once the least useful and most important of aircraft types. They are least useful in the sense that they (as a pure fighter) do not drop bombs nor gather information, and their dogfights, while colorful, do not gain anything for either side except the possibility of air superiority. And that one fact is the reason they are the most important type, for the obtaining of air superiority dictates the operation of other types of aircraft, including the bombers and reconnaissance types.'

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Here I Was Wondering What To Post About. . .

. . . and the Internet gifts me with another trailer for Deadpool 2! Right here! This time with more Cable! Ehhhhhhhhh. That's not super-fantastic, but they make fun of him, in between shots of him kicking ass, so that helps. And I think he had a gun with a dial on it. Does the dial go to 11? It has to, right? They couldn't pass up the opportunity, could they?

This is going to seem really stupid, but I hadn't considered that Cable is probably the antagonist*. I assumed he was coming back from the future to grudgingly team up with Deadpool and smash authoritarians, but it looks more like he wants to kill Deadpool. Because Deadpool's responsible for the future being terrible! Cable liked his green compression sleeve, and is angry Wade made them add the CGI metal arm. Or something more serious, maybe.

I wonder if they're going to touch on the absurd nature of Cable's family tree and upbringing. 'Well, my mother was a clone of my dad's dead ex, except she was really hibernating in an energy cocoon. My mom tried sacrificing me to a demon. Now, let me tell you about techno-organic viruses. . .' Then the audience suffers mass seizures. Probably best to skip it, then. 

Granted, I'm going off Deadpool's description during the reenactment. Maybe Cable isn't the villain. Playing the odds, Deadpool is more likely to commit criminal acts. Deadpool is not the most objective reporter, but his method of presentation cracks me up.

I'm worried the film is going to throw too much in and end up a mess. There'll be a bunch of potentially fun, but only half-formed, ideas and concepts. That's a common concern with sequels. I'm still excited for this movie. Waiting another four months is gonna be a pain.

* Suddenly, Gerry Duggan nuking Wade and Nate's friendship from orbit in that last story makes a little more sense.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Central Station - Lavie Tidhar

The chapters in Central Station were originally published as short stories, but Tidhar has reworked them into a connected narrative of sorts. Taking place some time in the future, around an elevator that is the departure point to space in what was Tel Aviv, Central Station, well, I'm not exactly sure what it's supposed to be about. There are a lot of threads, and sometimes they intertwine, and sometimes they don't. And because of that, there isn't a climax to the story. Different characters get moments where they make some decision about their lives, but then the story continues beyond that.

Which is part of the point, that lives don't fit the neat, narrative arcs we'd like to assign them, the ones they often get in fiction. One of the characters is a dealer of actual, print books, and he reflects on that more than once, that he keeps trying to fit his relationship with a cyber-vampire, for lack of a better description, into some simple path, and that isn't how things work.

There's also a sense, that even though this is in the future, even though the world looks very different from ours in some respects, that people are still pretty much the same. They still seek some higher force at work (possibly related to the desire for a simple narrative arc; once your perspective is far enough out, all the twists and turns are indistinguishable). The things we create have consequences we couldn't imagine at the time, and we often don't want to deal with what's left over. People still fear death, still fear being forgotten, still want to get away from where they started. The options available may be different; you can run to Mars, or Titan, or even further, or create a digital consciousness that operates at a level most humans can't perceive, but would like to. But it's all the same old desires driving it.

I don't know if that sounds like an endorsement of the book or not, because I'm not sure whether I'd encourage someone to read it or not. It's probably too down-to-Earth for me; I like science fiction for the strange places authors create, and Tidhar has some of that. But the ones that sounded most interesting to me - the Jettisoned, the Dragon and its nest of "spiders" tunneling around in one of Pluto's moons - are barely mentioned. The story is very much grounded in the everyday lives of these people on Earth, going about their jobs and relationships, dealing with not understanding their kids, stuff like that.

"Surely there are more directions than up or down," Achimwene said without thinking. He immediately regretted it. They passed Level Three without stopping. Come on, he thought. Get this over with!

"Not for an elevator," the elevator said complacently. "But I do not intend to always be an elevator, you know."

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Mercenary Always Shoots Twice

{Previously, Pollock's plan to regain her company through industrial sabotage was itself sabotaged by Deadpool vanishing when Calvin stopped buying his book. Pollock was able to retake control through other means, but a month later, Deadpool guest-starred in another book Calvin was buying and reappeared where he had vanished. And Deadpool doesn't know Pollock has things under control. . .}

*Deadpool approaches the lobby, bag of explosives slung over his shoulder. He's met by the lobby manager, Mr. Peterson.*

Peterson: *bored monotone* May I help you, sir?

Deadpool: [Unless you can get me a drink, probably not. I'm late for an appointment at ExpanCo.]

Peterson: *looks over Deadpool, in his costume, with bike tracks on his back and someone's blood on his knuckles* You have business at ExpanCo?

Deadpool: [It's someone's birthday. I'm jumping out of a cake.]

Peterson: Be that as it may, no weapons allowed in the building.

*Deadpool debates going outside to assault another cyclist, steal their clothes, and try passing himself off as a bike messenger, then dismisses it as tedious*

Deadpool: [OK, you've gotten your obligatory cameo. *Deadpool punches Peterson out, and approaches the elevators* I hope the music selection is good.]

*Deadpool notices all the people in the lobby are staring at him*

Deadpool: [I'm Deadpool, and it's time for my daily massacre! I prefer moving targets, so run for your lives! *No one moves, so he fires his gun into the air* Now! *people run* There, now that's fewer potential innocents to worry about.]

*As Deadpool ascends in the elevator, we zoom ahead of him to ExpanCo, re-christened Creative Industrial Approaches. Pollock is striding confidently through the halls, checking in on employees and observing the progress of renovations with the head of the firm contracted for it, a Ms. Jones.*

Ms. Jones: Are you sure you want us to remove all the lighting? It will be quite pricey.

Pollock: You're right, but fluorescent light can be so depressing. I'd swear it runs off the employee's will to live.

Ms. Jones: *chuckles* That sounds like a handy renewable energy source though.

Dr. Lakshmi, who is there offering advice on improving the research sections: You'd think so, but our research actually shows that's only the case with significant turnover. Which is not too difficult with the glut of desperate recent college graduates, but all the time wasted interviewing and training new employees really cuts into time spent on job duties.

*As the doctor continues speaking to an increasingly uncomfortable Dr. Jones, Captain Androzier, who was there to make sure the bathrooms are going to be top-notch, receives a call over his earpiece and takes on a distressed look. He whispers into Pollock's ear.*

Pollock: *disgusted, exasperated sigh* Of course. Perfect. Hopefully we can reason with him, but just in case, have your security teams begin escorting people to panic rooms. Doctor, if you would accompany Ms. Jones to a panic room. Take a radio, I may need some ideas from you and the staff. Captain, let's go greet our visitor.

*As the two approach the company lobby, the elevator doors are abruptly sliced in half and Deadpool leaps out before the elevator comes to a full stop. He draws a machine pistol and fires at the elevator*

Deadpool: [Monsters! A muzak version of "Miss Independent"? You'll pay for your crimes against humanity!]

Pollock: *pinches the bridge of her nose* Fantastic.

Androzier: *drags Pollock into a nearby office* What's he after?

Deadpool: [Bring me your boss or you're all going to die! Or, at least be badly injured! Enough that your insurance will be insufficient to cover the costs!]

Pollock, internally: *You idiot, please don't blurt out anything that suggests we're working together*

Deadpool: *starting to move down the hall* [Your company destroyed a small village, and I'm here for payback!]

Pollock: We did not!

Androzier: Well, maybe. Some stuff went on while you were on sabbatical. . .

Pollock: Not now!

Androzier: We need to deal with this. I'll recall security.

Pollock: No, if you shoot him, you'll only make him mad. Have security continue escorting people to panic rooms. I need you to go wake "it" up. *picks up radio* Doctors, I need anything you have that might slow him down.

Dr. Charles: I've taught our orange trees to produce an phage that inhibits healing when you play "I Feel Fine". That would stop his healing factor.

Pollock: No, he has cancer. Take away the healing factor and he'll probably die.

Ms. Jones, understandably tense: You don't want that why?

Pollock: His friends are destructive enough when they aren't bent on revenge.

Androzier: *grim* The panda.

Pollock: And the idiot. Or the sullen one. Or the girl with the crappy powers. Or the ghost. Point being, let's come up with something that will stop him long enough we can make him leave.

Lakshmi: There's the fast-acting polymer.

Dr. Charles: We could stimulate the kudzu in the greenhouse to faster growth, try tangling him up.

Androzier: He has swords. I don't think vines are going to cut it.

Pollock, glowers: "Cut it"? That's horrible.

Androzier: It was unintentional, I swear.

Pollock: I'm still slashing your bonus this Christmas. The Pun Penalty is in effect.

Androzier: Awwww.

Pollock: I need more ideas, and, wait, there's no shooting. *looks into hall* Where the hell is he?

Pollock, internally: *Crap he's going to plant the explosives.*

Pollock: Where can he do the most damage?

Dr. Lakshmi: The Wave Beam Lab?

Pollock: The most damage with explosions. He'd enjoy that more, and find it more straightforward.

Dr. Charles: Chemical Processing would be the easiest to access from there.

*Deadpool cuts through the hinges of the door leading to the Chemical Processing section*

Deadpool: [Too bad there are no pipes running along the ceiling creating shadows to hide in. Still, this is the most cooperative office building or lab I've ever shot up. Everyone runs away like I want them to. *Looks at various canisters and tanks* Flammable. Corrosive. Volatile. "What is Deadpool's digestive tract like after one of Hawkeye's barbecues?" Ooh, organophosphates. That'll clear a room.]

Pollock: Stop right there, Deadpool. I don't know what village you're referring to, but I'm sure we can talk this out. *winks twice*

Deadpool: [Huh? Oh, right. Say what you like, the souls of your victims cry out, like a legion of nerds angry a white guy superhero got replaced by a woman!]

*Deadpool makes an exaggerated leap at Pollock, swinging his sword in an easily blocked arc.*

Pollock: You don't have to halfass it that badly. I'm a better fighter than that.

Deadpool: [Sorry, I figured you were being mind-controlled. If you're not, then you should leave. It's time for business crippling explosions. You being blown up would interfere with you regaining your company.]

Pollock: But there's no need for that now. It's taken care of.

Deadpool: [Are you sure you aren't being mind-controlled? If I'd known that was a risk, I'd have passed on some of the techniques Professor Xavier gave to me and my fellow X-Men.]

Pollock: *still mock fighting* I took control a week ago. You were gone for a while.

Deadpool: [How'd you do that, he said, hoping to distract her and plant explosives.]

Pollock: You said the last part out loud.

Deadpool: [I did?] *bangs his fist on something invisible above his left shoulder* [Internal narration must be on the fritz because the writer hates trying to make that read different from spoken dialogue. I was hired to blow stuff up, and that's what I'm gonna do. *mutters* See one thing through to the end.]

*Deadpool goes to attach explosives, only for Pollock to kick them out of his hand. Annoyed, Deadpool punches her in the head. On instinct, Pollock rolls with it and kicks Deadpool in the gut.*

Pollock: What the hell was that for?

Deadpool: [It was reflex! Your foot came near my face! I had flashbacks to fighting Batroc!] *starts shooting, casuing Pollock to dive behind a workbench*

Pollock: Was that reflex?

Deadpool: *picks up the explosives, turns to a canister* [No, it's distraction.]

To be continued. . . hopefully soon.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #7


"Another Stapler Bites The Dust", in All-New Tenchi Muyo! Volume 1, Chapter 2, "Idle Hands", Hitoshi Okuda (writer/artist)

It's not quite a double-page splash; more a 1.5 page splash, but it was about the closest I could get that I was interested in.

The series continued the earlier manga of various adventures for Tenchi and the house full of alien girls he finds himself living in. There's usually a strong comic element to the whole thing, usually focusing on the impressive (if accidental) destructive power of most of the houseguests. As with most ensemble cast books, if you have a particular favorite you might end up frustrated they aren't getting enough page time (mine is Ryoko, seen above, so I lucked out).

I only bought the first volume. Flipping through the later ones in Barnes & Noble, I got the impression the stories weren't going in a direction I was interested in. Oh well.

Friday, February 02, 2018

What I Bought 1/31/2018

I saw a car last week with the license plate "OH JOY", which I assume was either a Ren and Stimpy reference, or being used sarcastically to express the driver's general attitude about life. That's how I would use it.

Deadpool #293, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lollia (artist), Christian Dalla Vecchia (inker), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I'm guessing that flower is a brand-new mutant, and Rogue thinks Wade is torturing it.

Wade flies a Helicarrier he bought somehow to New York, and runs into Rogue. . . 's fist. With his face. Rogue tries to get him to turn himself in, Wade tries to get her to hate him. Neither succeeds. They argue, Wade blinds her with thermite and escapes. How does spell check not recognize "thermite"? Rogue still promises to look out for Eleanor, although it's still framed as mostly being about Elle being a mutant. Just being a kid whose father is Deadpool isn't reason enough for her to need a guardian angel? Now Captain America is going to get involved. That'll be a calm discussion I'm sure.

You know, I'm a little sick of being asked to care about Deadpool killing Phil Coulson. Even if I actually believed Wade killed him - which I still don't - I don't fucking care. And the harder Duggan and every other writer that brings it up tries to insist Coulson was every superhero's friend, the more it reminds me of what Paul Jenkins did with The Sentry. Oh, everyone likes the Sentry! He was the Hulk's best friend! He was the first man Rogue was ever intimate with, which would probably have been a big deal for her as a character but was only mentioned in passing after the Sentry died! And on, and on. Bleagh. This has probably been going on with Coulson for awhile, but I'd managed to avoid it.

Plus, it just seems like a questionable approach to be trying to reason with Wade, be understanding, and then punch him 40 feet into the air (unless she was trying to get him off the street and away from potential bystanders/hostages). But Rogue's whole approach here is very hot and cold. I think she learned her negotiating tactics from Wolverine, when she should have talked to Nightcrawler. Better than learning from Mystique, I guess.

The most interesting bit is probably Wade mentioning that things are going to change for him, that he'll be a different person by the time they meet then. Seems like Wade being aware of his impending reboot to be pulled more in line with the movie version, although I'm still curious how that's going to play out. Killing him won't accomplish anything. He won't stay dead, and he knows it, and once an annoying crazy guy with a messed up face who smells bad shows up and starts shooting and stabbing people, everyone is going to know it's Deadpool. So what good will that do him? I guess the new version could be more innocent somehow, but I kind of doubt it.

Lolli still mostly uses three to four horizontal panels per page as his layout of choice, but I feel like he mixed things up a little more this month. The small panel of Wade's hand on page 3, the overlaps him skidding towards the edge of his Helicarrier, and him dangling off it. Or the vertical panel of Rogue standing alone after Wade's left, before she goes to try and clear her vision. It's not a lot of pages, but just enough to keep the story from falling into a repetitive rhythm. Some of Rogue's amused expressions are good, although they contribute to the strange feel this whole conversation has. It's a little like all the characters know it's pointless, so they're just screwing around to keep interested.