Thursday, March 29, 2018

Justice League

It was better than I thought it would be. Keep in mind that's a low bar to clear. I'm not saying it was good, just not a complete disaster. The movie didn't hold together for me. There were parts that would keep my interest, then long stretches that didn't. The scenes with Clark being reunited with Lois and his mother probably should have been a big deal, but I wasn't watching it for that, and I didn't really care. It makes perfect sense to do; Clark would absolutely want to see both of them after returning from the dead, but it made no impression on me.

Steppenwolf didn't make much of an impression as a villain. I was watching with Alex and he couldn't understand why anyone would want to purposefully make a planet look like that. I don't think my explanation of Darkseid and his goals clarified things any, but the Fourth World has never really been my bag.

The actual Justice Leaguers weren't bad. Watching Batman try to make up for his screw-ups in Batman v. Superman in his typically over-the-top, obsessive manner was OK. He actually sort of seemed to be trying to make friends? I kept calling Jason Momoa "Aquabro", but he did fine with the approach he took with the character. It's a little odd to see a Wonder Woman who needs encouraging from Batman of all people to get out there and be a symbol, but again, that's the hand the movies have dealt, and Gal Gadot makes it work.

Cyborg might have needed more fleshing out; Ray Fisher isn't really making much of an impression in my memory, outside of images of him brooding from under a hoodie (which is an activity I can identify with). The CGI for his mechanical parts was a little awkward, one of those things where it just doesn't look right where it meets his actual face. Although I wasn't terribly impressed with CGI in general.

If Alex hadn't had a copy of it available, I wouldn't have bothered, but it was something to have on at 2 in the morning while we talked. But you could easily have something better for that purpose.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Was He Always The Villain, Or Did He Grow Into It?

I was thinking about Dr. Knox, who is either the Inventor, or the Inventor II, recently defeated once again by Ms. Marvel. He was extremely indignant at the suggestion the clone of Thomas Edison crossed with a cockatiel was actually the Inventor, and he was just a lackey.

Well sure, nobody likes being dismissed as a lackey (unless being a lackey means they don't think you're worth killing). I'm trying to figure out if it was always his plan to "save the world", and he used the Edi-bird as a cover, or if the bird came up with the plan, and the Inventor is taking the ball and running with it. I can't help noticing that he's wearing an exo-skeleton that resembles the bird, though.

Which you could read a couple of ways. Creating a clone of Edison in the form of a bird was a way of creating an alter-ego (like the Ventriloquist and Scarface in the Batman comics). Knox is still leaning on it, but now he's actually front and center. Forms a parallel to Kamala. When she first got her powers, she could alter her appearance. Initially, she kept trying to look like Carol Danvers, like what she thought a hero was supposed to be. Eventually she had a costume that was based on some of Danvers', but with her own approach as she became her own hero.

Is Knox doing the same thing as a villain? To be taken seriously, he thought you needed to be more imposing, so he trotted out a clone of Edison crossed with a bird, and crazy. Knox appeared to be a supporting character, a scientist who had been surpassed and dominated by his assistant. The big final battle of the first year of Kamala's book was against the bird-man. Knox was an afterthought, squashed alongside the leader of the Inventor's goon squad by Lockjaw sitting on them. But he still went to jail, and maybe the bird was too crazy for his plans to work. So he takes charge, but he still likes "bird-person" as a visual. So he makes his own take on it. He's more comfortable being front and center, making the threats, challenging the heroes.

Or he really did just try to clone Thomas Edison, and things went awry. He couldn't get out, was overwhelmed by a more forceful personality, and wound up being imprisoned for a plan that was never his. So he decided to carry on his creation's work, but took his own approach. Rather than targeting teens, he went after the elderly. Rather than building robots, he went with merging the mechanical with the biological. The robots had a bit of that, since they were powered by humans, but the animals are more active participants now. Also, he's not using people, who are more likely to defy him or have opinions of their own, but animals, which can probably be reconfigured more easily.

It's interesting that the first time we saw Knox was when Kamala (and Logan) stumbled across a test area with crocodiles that were having their personalities and instincts forcibly overwritten. The Inventor took credit, and Knox appeared to be a subservient guy being bossed around by his experiment. And maybe he was, or maybe it was a smokescreen. If they were working on making creatures go against their instincts, maybe Knox had already done that with the Inventor, but was letting the bird think it was its idea?

I tend to lean towards Knox having decided on this course after how things went the first go-round. Much of his motivation seems to be resentment, people not recognizing his genius, or being angry he was incarcerated. He created a clone of Edison, crossed with a bird (accidentally, but still). And all he hears is that the bird was the genius, the one behind everything. Dr. Knox is just a footnote. So he's going to prove them wrong, and take a jab at the bird while doing it by not only co-opting its look, but by carrying out its plan and doing it better!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Chronicles of Amber Volume 1 - Roger Zelazny

The Chronicles of Amber Volume 1 contains the first two books in the series, Nine Princes in Amber and The Guns of Avalon. Detailing Lord Corwin regaining his memories after someone tries eliminating him, and setting himself to claim the throne of Amber in his father's absence. Except his brother is already there, and not prepared to give way. Corwin makes two attempts, the first relying on a partnership with another brother and a huge army, which fails. The second, he opts to rely on superior firepower, as well as benefiting from Eric's forces being otherwise engaged. I wouldn't call it luck, since the distraction was caused by him, and especially since it becomes his problem to deal with.

Corwin is not an easy character to root for. He makes a lot of Amber being the only true world, and all other worlds are mere "shadows": infinite, lesser variations of the true world. As a result, he doesn't have any problem finding a world where he and his kin are worshipped as gods, so he can recruit a lot of cannon fodder for his dick-waving contest with his brother. That's really all it is, because Corwin never makes any sort of argument for why he would make a better ruler than Eric. He just wants the job, and thinks his parentage gives him better claim than Eric.

(He starts in with that at one point, and the brother he was conversing with cut him, for which I was grateful.)

Corwin feels some twinge of guilt at getting all these people killed, or that some of the Shadows he ruled fell to ruin, but it feels less like it's because he cares about the people there, and more because it looks bad on him. And for all we know, his siblings feel similarly. We don't get to see inside their minds, so we only have Corwin's word that he's grown soft-hearted over time, in contrast to the rest of his family. He's going to fix the problem he created, because he won't have much of a reign if he doesn't, but it's hardly an altruistic motivation. Which, for the people he may end up saving if he pulls it off, won't matter a heck of a lot.

Zelazny likes to write battle scenes by describing incremental progress by Corwin's forces, contrasted with their losses or dwindling remaining numbers. 'We took five steps, but our vanguard was down to twenty. Ten more steps and it was down to fourteen,' that kind of thing. It certainly conveys the grim attrition of the battle, and also demonstrates how ultimately disposable Corwin's forces are to him. The armies are faceless fodder, outside of one character Corwin had a past with who becomes a sidekick, Zelazny wastes zero time fleshing out anyone, because they don't matter. Means to an end.

The moving through Shadows to seek a particular world is an interesting idea, and the uneasy alliances between the siblings could lead to some neat twists in the remaining three stories (collected in the second volume). There are a few mysteries I'm curious to see how Zelazny resolves them.

'I thought about the girl. The knowledge of her existence changed things somewhat. I was not certain how. Despite our major hatreds and petty animosities, we Amberites are a very family-conscious bunch always eager for news of one another, desirous to know everyone's position in the changing picture. A pause for gossip has doubtless stayed a few death blows among us. I sometimes think of us as a gang of mean little old ladies in a combination rest home and obstacle course.'

Monday, March 26, 2018

Summer Brings Some New Possibilities

June appears to mark the true beginning of Marvel's "fresh start", although it feels more like their typical rearranging of the deck chairs. A lot of familiar names on the main books. Dan Slott's still wrapping up his run on Amazing Spider-Man - although they're replacing him with Secret Empire writer Nick Spencer, so no thanks - and taking over Iron Man. Which has a variant cover that makes Tony Stark look more smug than I've ever seen him. On a positive note, the cover is possibly the first time Adi Granov has drawn a character with an expression described as something other than "stoic" or "bored". Progress!

Al Ewing's writing a Hulk book, Skottie Young and Nick Klein are taking over Deadpool. Even if I hadn't been lukewarm at best on Young's writing on Rocket Raccoon, I need a break from Deadpool. There's also a Deadpool mini-series drawn by Mark Bagley, but written by Cullen Bunn, whose writing has never done anything for me when I've encountered it.

Mark Waid is apparently writing almost everything else. OK, really just the new Doctor Strange book (in SPACE!) and an Ant-Man and the Wasp mini-series (not to be confused with the Ant-Man and the Wasp Living Legends one-shot also coming out in June). You could certainly do a lot worse, but perhaps a writer new to Marvel would better fit a "fresh start"? They're also giving the Sentry another series, for some reason. Sentry fans will be happy though, assuming they enjoy Jeff Lemire's writing (always found it plodding, myself). And all the Infinity Countdown and Search for Wolverine mini-series continue (he said dismissively, ignoring that he might be buying the Darkhawk one).

So this isn't all negativity, I am interested in the Multiple Man mini-series, and maybe that Squirrel Girl/Ms. Marvel team-up one-shot. It's five bucks, though. It also looks like the Shadowcat/Colossus wedding might be happening. I'm sure it will go off without a hitch, with nary a giant robot or time traveler bringing portents of doom to be seen. It's not something I'm particularly interested in, but I appreciate them getting on with it if they're going to do it.

Unlike DC, which is still dragging this Batman/Catwoman thing out. I don't think Batman needs this much prep time to fight Darkseid. Yep, still doing Batman "prep time" jokes in 2018. You're welcome. This month, there's a bunch of one-shots where Batman's kids fend off various villains looking to ruin things, including Hush. I thought we agreed to leave Hush buried in the same hole we dumped the Sentry in. Who dug them up? Come on, admit it!

DC's also bringing around some more of those crossovers between DC characters and cartoon characters. They're having Brett Booth draw the Flash/Speed Buggy one, which seems like a horrible choice for a book that's going to feature a talking, crime-solving cartoon vehicle. Although I can't think of a character I would describe Booth as being a good choice of artist for. Aquaman's going to be subjected to Jabberjaw, the shark that thinks he's Curly from the Three Stooges. Fingers crossed he's declared an enemy of Atlantis and executed. There's also a Plastic Man mini-series, by Gail Simone and Adriana Melo. I'm not sure about the book based on the description in the solicit, and I only remember Melo's art from a stretch on Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel book. What I remember doesn't encourage me, but it's been almost 10 years since then, styles evolve.

Outside, those, it's mostly business as usual for me. Copperhead and Giant Days continue on, dealing with a town invasion and a job fair. Which one contends with which I'll leave to you to decipher. Or go read the solicits yourself. Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood Suckers is approaching the big final battle, while Coda is still ramping up. I still can't decide if Bubba Ho-Tep is all going to be some fever dream for Elvis or something actually happening. Or maybe it's a fever dream of mine. Turns out Mata Hari is a 5-issue series, not 4, so it actually ends in June.

The one new thing I'm thinking about buying is Joseph Keatinge and Bret Blevins' Stellar. The pitch of a weapon designed to bring about peace, stuck living in the ruins of a civilization she didn't really save sounds intriguing. Worst case scenario, there'll be some cool and weird stuff in the book. Finally, this isn't something I'm considering buying, but I noticed Descender will be on its penultimate issue in June. Remember when that book started and people went ga-ga over the first issue? I bought it for about a year, before deciding it was taking Lemire and Nguyen too long to get anywhere I cared about. But most of the time, I completely forget I ever bought it. It sank beneath the waves of my memory the instant I dropped it.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Alternate Favorite Marvel Characters #7 - Cosmo

No, you didn't miss one. I'm going out of order from this point forward. I need more time for Alternate Favorite Marvel Character #8. And with that out of the way. . .

Character: Cosmo the Spacedog. I did not know "the Spacedog" was part of his official name.

Creators: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning. Wellinton Alves isn't listed on Wikipedia, but he was the artist of Cosmo's first appearance, which was. . .

First Appearance: Nova (vol. 4) #8. Cosmo isn't on the cover - just as well, I'm not eager to see how Adi Granov would have depicted him - so I went with a cover for an issue I had he featured prominently on.

First encounter: Nova (vol. 4) #8. Nova was out of its official Annihilation: Conquest tie-ins, though still on a storyline related to that event. The tie-ins ended on a down note, with a gratuitous character death. This story, where they not only introduced the setting of Knowhere, but had Nova fighting kinda-zombies alongside a telepathic/telekinetic Russian dog, was a welcome change.

Definitive writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Other than his few appearances in Skottie Young's Rocket Raccoon book, and that one issue of the last Nova series (that had Rich and Sam in it), I don't think I've read Cosmo written by anyone else. I sure as hell wasn't going to see what Bendis did to him.

Definitive artist: I don't actually have any of his work in this post, but I'd go with Paul Pelletier, the initial artist on Abnett and Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy. His work is less stiff than some of the other artists I've seen draw Cosmo, but still detailed where it needs to be. Cosmo can look mean or reserved when he needs to, or he can look like a friendly, happy dog when the situation requires.

Favorite moment or story: I'd have to pick his first appearance. It sets a lot of the tone for the character. Gives us enough backstory, gives us the basics of his powers and his personality. He's a calming presence, straightforward, protective, and friendly. He weathers Nova's oblivious questions with patience, and a little humor. He's fierce when he needs to be. Richard being in a weakened state due to the Phalanx means he has no chance of handling everything himself, so Cosmo gets plenty of chances to show what he can do.

What I like about him: Sometimes, it's just a good concept. Putting together a lot of odd pieces to make something interesting. Superpowered dog, Head of Security of a mecca inside the decapitated head of a space god floating at the edge of the universe, one visited by beings from every corner of space and time.

There's a lot of potential there, given just about anyone or anything can show up there for most any purpose. Powerful beings coming to contemplate existence, crooks looking to exploit a Celestial, refugees (given the number of conquering space empires in the Marvel U., there are probably a lot of people running from one or the other at any given time), conquerors. And Cosmo's the one at the front, having to deal with all of it. Meeting, greeting, assessing threats, protecting the vulnerable, being diplomatic with the various political entities that have a say (and their own interests).

Watching Cosmo negotiate that stuff is an interesting show. He's idealistic enough to see the value in a group like Peter Quill's Guardians of the Galaxy, so he'll go to bat for letting them HQ on Knowhere, but realistic enough to know he can't play favorites too much. Recognize there are valid reasons to be concerned about a team with Drax the Destroyer, Gamora (the Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy), Star-Lord (who hadn't been out of the Kyln prison for that long), not to mention Weird Shit Magnet Adam Warlock. These people can be friends and allies, but he still considers the safety of all the other people on the station. He has to, it's his job.

And he has the power to carry it out. When Adam Warlock finds out Cosmo is hiding Skrull refugees on the station, and misreads the situation, Cosmo has to put the mind whammy on him until he can explain the situation. Even with Adam showing up somewhat unexpectedly, Cosmo manages it.

I like looking for parts of his personality I can tie into his being a dog. His desire to help and protect others. When he meets Nova for the first time, Rich is confused, sick, and disoriented. No idea where he is or what's going on. Cosmo knows, and knows the situation is bad and they can't afford to sit around too long. But he still sits patiently and lets Rich collect his thoughts, lets him ask stupid, obvious questions to help find his bearings. My dad had a dog like that, Buddy, who would always hover nearby when a person or another dog was stressed. Not being aggressive, just standing there, watching and wagging his tail, reassuring. Cosmo being a telepath, where he can sense confusion or anxiety in the thoughts of those around him, probably increases that inclination.

You can see some of it in his friendship to Sam Alexander, where Sam is a kid running around on his own in space, doesn't seem to have any clue what he's getting into half the time. Cosmo is the kindly and protective uncle to him, who still busts his chops a little, gently. Not letting him get too swelled of a head, poking him about how much a girl he likes is running through his thoughts. (I think Cosmo also gets to serve as the sort of the angel on Sam's shoulder, in contrast to Rocket, who is the "cool" uncle/bad influence).

There's also the recurring theme of Cosmo enjoying get to fly, his version of your dog enjoying car rides. The idea was introduced the first time he met Nova, when Rich gave him a lift, and brought back, for one example, when he recruited the Silver Surfer into the Annihilators. That ability to enjoy the moment, the gift of a squeaky toy or specially baked dog biscuits.. Seeing a happy dog is nice.

Cosmo has a lot of backstory I'd love to see explored. He's been in space since before the Fantastic Four made their fateful trip. We don't know all the places he's been, things he saw before he came to Knowhere. How long has he been there, how long has he been security chief? What does he do when gets time off from his job? Does he have old friends to visit? Does he ever go back to Earth?

We see glimpses, hints of things he's done. We know he helped a bunch of decommissioned warbots establish a new, peaceful home for themselves on a quiet world (who then send him those special biscuits). We know he knew Sam Alexander's dad, or knew of him at least. There's a lot we don't know, but you can see the effect in how he approaches things. He isn't dismissive of potential danger, or take a fatalistic approach to it, but he isn't awed much either. He'll chat with Gladiator or the Silver Surfer, or even a Celestial is a casual, friendly manner.

When the Luminals brought one of their arch-foes to Knowhere, supposedly sealed securely in a box, Cosmo had a bad feeling. They stonewalled him, so he kept his eye on it. And when things went wrong, he got all the people on the station in that storage tesseract, while he stayed and tried to deal with the problem. That the problem involved the Luminals turning to zombies and rampaging across the station didn't seem to faze him much. Just one more thing to deal with. Time travel, almost dying and being shunted across alternate universes, almost dying and being tortured by the Magus. He takes it all pretty calmly, deals with the problem at hand the best can.

It's connected to his straightforward nature, his lack of interest in self-deception or denial. I don't know if that's the telepath in him, being able to see into people's minds, and so he can tell when they're lying to him or themselves. Or if it's that he's a Russian dog, and so he's going to be direct, and not waste time with trying to deny what he thinks is self-evident. He isn't blunt in a cruel way, saying it in the most hurtful way possible. It's more he knows there are things to do, and that it'll be easier if people just accept some fact of themselves. On a lighter side, his needling Sam about his crush on Lina, to maybe get Sam's butt in gear to actually talk to her. More seriously, telling Beta Ray Bill to get over it about being called the Annihilators.

You can certainly question whether that's a confidence-inspiring team name for the general populace - "Look, here come the Annihilators to save the day!" - but a) it was Quill's idea, not Cosmo's, and b) I can't imagine seeing the Kree Supreme Accuser, the leader of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, and the most prominent Herald of Galactus all appear on your planet is going to produce warm, fuzzy feelings in anyone. More, "Are we going to be conquered, then devoured, or devoured and they conquer the remains?" And the idea was that they'd show up and blast whatever cosmic threat appeared into atoms - just so long as Starlin doesn't write them fighting Thanos - was the point, so sure, accept you're the Annihilators and let's get to work.

Cosmo hasn't yet really gotten the primary focus. He's been a supporting character, someone to highlight the strangeness of space, how you're never quite sure what you'll find out there. But there is a solid base established for his personality and setting, that provide a lot to work with, should the day come when he gets that focus.

Cosmo doesn't fear no walking dead in Nova (vol. 4) #9, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Wellinton Alves (penciler), Wellington Daz and Nelson Pereira (inker), Guru eFX (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). It always pays to be polite, but casual when asking favors of Celestial in Guardians of the Galaxy (vol. 2) #16, by Abnett and Lanning (writers), Wesley Craig (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer). To be fair, most of us would react like that to an interstellar surfboard ride, Beta Ray Bill better face the facts, and Peter Quill says what we all know in Thanos Imperative: Devastation, by Abnett and Lanning (writers), Miguel Sepulveda (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer).

Friday, March 23, 2018

What I Bought 3/21/2018

Found two of the books from this week, which was one more than I thought I would. In other news, I've felt very scattered lately. Pulling in a dozen directions, and I can't decide which one to commit to. There hasn't been time to stop and figure things out. It's frustrating.

Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye #1, by Jon Rivera (writer), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - I think Cave may have taken the same cavalier attitude towards cosmic rays as Reed Richards did.

Cave pays a visit to a musician friend of his, who is growing at an increasing rate, and ultimately will implode. They try taking him into space to allow him to do so without endangering anyone. But Star Adam passes on faster than they expect, and they don't get far enough away from his implosion, which is going to send Cave, Chloe, and the Dr. Bartow they picked up jaunting through dimensions in the previous series across the universe.

Negative: No Wild Dog. His presence as the guy not used to all this weird crap, but with a ready-made response was one of my favorite parts of the previous series. That and his slowly-developing friendship with Chloe. He made a good sounding board for her. She and Cave seem to be getting along, so maybe she doesn't need someone to listen to her fears and resentments. Rivera did a good job of explaining a few things that carried over from the earlier run quickly, to get it out of the way. Still, once I thought about it, this issue was all just set-up to get to the point where Cave can begin to go interstellar. Which annoys me, a little.

Oeming's panel layouts and Filardi's colors made a great combo in Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, and that continues here. The page where Adam tried the night pudding, and realized he had an unusual origin, Oeming draws the panels as different part of Adam's body, with the central panel focusing on Adam, who is struggling to grasp this greater self he has. Filardi makes the background a neon green web, and the panels are deep shades of blue and lavender, with Mazra's hair as this luminous silver in the panels she appears in. It's really eye-catching. And then the next page, we're back in the present, and the panels are more straightforward, but much smaller and slanted, closing in from one way or the other, Adam barely managing to squeeze in. The reality of what he learned he was, against the limitations of his surroundings and physical body. He can't fit in that reality any longer. If I stick with this book past the initial few issues, it'll probably be due to the art.

Ms. Marvel #28, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I don't think the outfit really works on Carol.

Naftali finds Kamala, hiding out at a private school. I thought she'd gotten herself a job. Also, I'm surprised it was that easy for her to just switch schools like that. Meanwhile, Carol Danvers and the Legion of Substitute Kamalas are trying to stop the Inventor, and doing a pretty poor job of it. Carol did not bring her "A" game today. Kamala, inspired by Naftali to not just bail when she could ask for help, returns and fights the Inventor's Mega-Reptile Zord. The day is saved, he goes to jail, she and Carol have a heartfelt conversation, and none of Kamala's friends think anything of her reappearing at school right after Ms. Marvel made her triumphant return. This is what happens when you keep cutting spending on education.

I still feel bad for the giant screaming turtle. I think it's just in a lot of pain. Turtles are not meant to be that large! I don't feel bad for the guy driving a monster truck on the boardwalk, though. I mean, what the hell are you driving that thing around in public for anyway?  But as always, the little details Leon adds are a treat. The person on the first page vaulting a car while holding their pet under one arm. The teens taking a taxi because they couldn't keep up with Carol. I also enjoy that the Inventor's creatures did the badass pose thing, and the Subs responded with their own cool, if less intimidating poses in the next panel. Just needed some random dude to yell out, "POSE-OFF!" Then get stepped on.

Also, I think Herring softens the tones on the colors for the quiet, civilian talking scenes. Or maybe it's just that people aren't wearing bright primary color superhero costumes during those scenes. But I'd swear the colors are more varied, but also just not quite as bright. More relaxed, soothing, let's you just read the words, maybe. Between this and the story about the runaway train, I've been enjoying these last couple of stories quite a bit. Nice breather from dealing with HYDRA crap.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Get Out

I watched this with a friend who didn't know the reveal, while I had read about it online last year. It worked really well for both of us. I want to try not to spoil too much about this in case you haven't seen it.

If you know what's coming, the way things keep getting progressively stranger and more ominous has you sitting there dreading the moment it stops being odd and starts being deadly. If you don't know, the things are sufficiently weird that you know things are going to go badly (plus the title of the movie is Get Out, so. . .)

Daniel Kaluuya did an excellent job as Chris. He's already uneasy, meeting his white girlfriend's family the first time, and things are awkward. But awkward in a way that Chris is unfortunately used to, so you see him trying to put it aside, while also trying to find anyone that he can feel more comfortable with. Which only proves to create more strangeness, and makes him even more uneasy. Kaluuya conveys that sense of isolation that produces nagging uncertainty, that distinct awareness that he's vulnerable.

And I like how the movie handled LilRel Howery's character, Rod. It would have been easy for him to just be the goofy best friend character, and Rod is the source of a lot of humor. But he isn't only that. I feel like we're supposed to underestimate him, but he tries to be smart about things and help his friend, even though he's operating in the dark about what's really happening.

The film builds the tension well, and just in general, the threats and tools are presented in an intelligent fashion. I never felt like the movie was cheating. It sets up our expectations, then twists them or blasts them to pieces in ways that work. It's a very well-done film.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Planetary Volume 1

Rather than shell out for those big collections of Planetary I saw in the solicits a few months ago, I bought some of the trades they released 15 years ago, since used copies were so much cheaper. I'm not too worried about missing out on the various crossover mini-series that I don't think are included in these. Do I really need to see the main cast interact with the Justice League, when Ellis and Cassaday are using various knockoff versions of them already?

(I was going to call them thinly-veiled, but in some cases the veil is practically diaphanous.)

The first trade, containing the first six issues, pretty much set the tone for the book. Planetary investigates strange things, all of which are variations on stuff from our popular fiction. A team of pulp heroes, kaiju, superheroes, etc. Usually things have gone disastrously badly, machines that create universes to search for answers before destroying them, or an endless cycle of murdered Hong Kong cops who become spirits of vengeance.

The book is entertaining. The stories have all been done-in-ones, with a larger subplot taking form in the background. I like the strange ideas in the same way I enjoy them in Atomic Robo (although with a very different tone), and with each issue being a different adventure, it creates its own momentum as I want to see what the next issue will bring. The writing isn't bad; I knew Ellis could do snappy, sarcastic dialogue already.

But it feels light. Like I'm just skimming the surface, playing "spot the reference" and seeing how John Cassaday draws weird stuff. The answer to that second part is, "better than I expected". I thought his style would be a little too stiff or realistic to draw things other than extremely good-looking people, but that actually seems to work in his favor. When he draws the corpse of a giant monster, it stands in stark contrast to the people around it. He can draw gleaming alien structures, and decaying ruins that suggest a long (and probably dark history). Laura DePuy's colors suggest things so bright they're blinding at times, but goes dingy or faded when needed.

The are and the general concept of the book are carrying most of the water. I wouldn't say I particularly care about Elijah Snow, Jakita, or the Drummer. I don't dislike them - well, the Drummer annoys me a little, but he also seems to have gotten the least focus so far - but they mostly serve as a way to get the story to the weird stuff. Maybe provide exposition for what take Ellis is going with as necessary.

It's working for me as an adventure story, which is fine. A good one of those is a pleasure to read.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Man Vs.

A horror movie about a guy on one of those survival TV shows. He's left in northern Canada, and starts to feel as though something in the woods is messing with him. Robbing his traps, stealing his satellite phone. His crew had been giving him a hard time, because he's kind of a prick, and the crew is hoping their show gets picked up by a major network. And he was kind of a prick to their guide when they first met, so he can't rule out that one of them is playing a joke.

We can, because something fell out of the sky nearby his first night there, and we know how these things go, but Doug doesn't make the connection for a long time.

Like a lot of horror movies, this one works best when it only shows hints of what's after him, or shows its handiwork. The way it's copying his survival techniques. Near the end, they start showing a lot more of it, which is not to the movie's benefit.

It wasn't clear what its motivations were, even once the film unveiled its surprise twist at the end. I wasn't sure why it didn't just kill him, or why, if it wasn't going to kill him, it kept after him, even once he decided it was time to get the hell out of there. The surprise did solve my concern about how Doug, if he survived, was going to explain his dead crew. You can never rule out the cops (or Mounties, I guess) showing up and gunning down the "dangerous maniac" in these things.

The first hour plus wasn't bad on the suspense, the last 10-15 minutes kind of flubbed it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Catch a Demon By His Heartstrings

In the last issue of Demon: Hell is Earth, Jason Blood and Madame Xanadu had a conversation in the lull in the middle. Jason admits to fearing that Etrigan is going to overwhelm him, which isn't a new for him. He mentions that the two of them - Blood and Xanadu - seemed to drift apart after he stopped letting Etrigan out, and her response is essentially that yes, that's true. Because she saw it as Jason not trusting that the two of them could control the Demon. Jason was treating it as his burden to bear when, if they were a couple, it was a responsibility they'd share.

Although I figure there's a decent chance Jason was worried she'd decide she liked Etrigan better and Blood would become the third wheel. You know Etrigan would try his damndest to make that happen, just because. Which makes me envision Jason and Etrigan as Betty and Veronica, which leaves Madame Xanadu as Archie, my apologies to her. Which makes Merlin Reggie Mantle, or Jughead?

That wasn't really where I was going with this. A less charitable interpretation of Xanadu's comments would be she liked having both boys interested, and resented Jason for cutting Etrigan out. Seems unlikely, but as Drax might say, it might sound like the Madame Xanadu I know. I haven't read that many comics with her in them, and DC characters are an unfathomable mystery!

Shortly after the conversation, as Etrigan tears apart mutated horned lizards, Jason and Xanadu observe and discuss how a sword is never safe, but it can be managed, controlled. Tying in to Jason's concerns of losing control, and Xanadu's remarks that the two of them together could handle the situation. That's a dangerous assumption to make.

Setting aside that Jason can't count on Madame Xanadu always being there to help him, Etrigan is not a sword. Swords can't think for themselves, don't have their own motivations. Etrigan is no genius, but he's old, and cunning, and spiteful. You can't rely on the situations where they need Etrigan being ones where he'd always want to help, or have no choice but to do so. And as long as he has to option to refuse to help simply for the sake of being difficult, or out of spite, "controlling" him is going to be hard to do. A sword, when you go to draw it from its scabbard, doesn't typically refuse to be drawn. But Etrigan might. He might simply repeat the phrase and revert to Jason Blood, or turn around and go do something else.

Granted, if Blood dies, Etrigan dies, but underestimating the demon's potential for spite seems dangerous. The two of them have both certainly contemplated doing that often enough. Madame Xanadu could try using approval/disapproval as a carrot/stick situation, but that's only going to sour things over time. Unless demons enjoy being played with like that, and assuming she's actually willing to do so (doesn't really seem like her style, but like I said, it might be).

There are going to be times they need Etrigan, and it would certainly help to be able to convince him to help. But thinking they can control him just seems like the first step in setting themselves up for an unpleasant surprise down the line. Still, seeing if the can pull it off for the duration of this adventure is the main thing keeping me invested in the mini-series.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #12


"A typical Tuesday for Spider-Man" in Amazing Spider-Man #231, by Roger Stern (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Jim Mooney (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Joe Rosen (letterer)

The Roger Stern/John Romita Jr. run on Amazing Spider-Man is a little before my time, so I've doubled back around to it after the fact. I generally like Stern's writing, and Romita Jr. is drawing in a style more similar to Romita Sr. still at this stage, which is fine. 

(How much I like Romita Jr.'s later work seems to depend heavily on the inker, colorist, and just the project in general. Some books it works better to my eye than others.) 

I own bits of this run. This two-parter against Mr. Hyde, and the two issues before that, the iconic fight with the Juggernaut. Two issues when Stern brought back the Black Cat (although it seems like they mostly left that relationship to be handled in Spectacular Spider-Man). One issue where the Mad Thinker takes an interest in Spider-Man. Stern's last few, when the Hobgoblin tries a major extortion scheme and neutralizes Webs' spider-sense. Stern didn't get a chance to finish revealing the mystery of who the Hobgoblin was before he was off the book, though. 

Stern and Romita Jr. work the Spider-Man formula pretty well, mixing and matching the romance/job/school troubles with the superhero fisticuffs. I'm a fan of stories where Spidey has to punch out of his weight class, and they added a couple of solid entries to the list, the Juggernaut story being the more well-known. Romita Jr. knows how to draw a fight scene cleanly and with impact, and show off Spider-Man's combination of speed and agility.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What I Bought 3/14/2018

Two books this week, both from Marvel, both wrapping up storylines. And for one of them, it's the end of the line for me. At least for a couple of months. Gee whiz, I wonder which one that is?

Deadpool #296, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Matteo Lolli (artist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I would say Wade should be careful what he asks for, making the "bring it" gesture, but even if Cap pummels him into the ground, Wade would be OK with the pain.

Wade fights with Captain America, yelling at him and blaming him a lot. Cap grows increasingly frustrated, playing into Deadpool's hands. Most of this is Wade coming up with ways to make Cap look bad in front of the public, which I love. I laughed at least three times during this issue. They end up in Deadpool's subway hangout, where Wade makes a request/demand of Steve, escapes by threatening civilians, and vows to continue pissing off the entire world.

I know Deadpool needed Cap alive to make that request, but I also like to think he knew killing Captain America wasn't happening, so he might as well crap on his rehabilitation tour. Steve Rogers gets to play the "it was an evil doppelganger" card, and it's three cheers and second chances all around. Wade can't play that card, and combined with the crapstorm his life has become, that has to be maddening. I wonder if he also left Rogers alive to annoy Stevil Rogers, since the reverse is true.

It's an interesting fight, with Cap holding back (except maybe when Deadpool suggests the evil Cap is the one who really represents the U.S.), while Wade is using it as another chance to air grievances. Lolli tells it in a straightforward manner, the flow from one move to the next is easy to follow. Plus, he made sure people were looking in the right direction for Wade's first trick to work. Wade looks left while Steve looks down, and it's only when Cap finally looks to his left he realizes he's been played. That's basic stuff, but we've all seen miscommunication between the creative team ruin things like that. It was a good gag, so getting the set-up right was important.

I do wish Lolli wouldn't draw Cap's eyebrows as being visible in the eye holes of the mask. I suppose they would be, and he's hardly the only artist who does, but it's always bothered me. Ruins something about the mask somehow.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #30, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - What is everyone looking at? It must be something sorta cool, but not that cool, since Drax is ignoring it.

Our heroes avoid death from the missiles and then Doreen is able to figure out how to fix all the old beefs the various ripped off alien species had with each other. While all that is happening, Nancy and Tippy get the bit of Power Cosmic the aliens were using for their weapons to try and deal with the grifters. Tippy's attempt to make it so no one believes anything they say has too many loopholes, and the grifters' utter lack of remorse nearly gets them killed by a cosmic-powered Nancy, only for Doreen to give her a big speech about not being a bully by beating up these guys just because she can and wants to (and they deserve it).

Ehh, I don't know if I agree with that, but I'm a grudge-holder.

Until the book screeched to a halt for that discussion, I was enjoying it. Henderson and Renzi make a cosmic-powered squirrel look cool, and the panel of Tippy's impressive landing on the planet Chitt-crrt. I imagine it might have looked less impressive if we had seen the feet of the various characters standing there, but they were smart enough not to include that detail. And the blur lines on the "KRA-KOOM" sound effect were a nice touch.

Doreen and Nancy not letting the Surfer off the hook with his "it would be impossible to describe the Power Cosmic to those without it" was amusing, and Doreen trying to figure out how to solve all the aliens' conflicts with white boards and markers as well. Although my favorite moment was the excuse Nancy was forced to us as a distraction for Tippy. And that North had it work, but in a way that mortified Nancy even more. I hope she didn't touch anything in that restroom, though. Both for her benefit and the other species. You can't tell which way the War of the Worlds effect is going to run.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Churchill

Of course my dad wanted to watch the other Winston Churchill movie that came out last year. Unlike Darkest Hour, this one is set in the days leading up to D-Day, when Churchill (Brian Cox) is trying his best to scuttle the Normandy invasion. He sees it as helping to prevent a massacre, as Gallipoli looms large in his memory. Failing at that, he tries to get himself on one of the landing ships, partially because he doesn't like sending men to their deaths while he sits at a desk in London. And partially because he thinks of this as his war to run.

So it's a lot of him acting a bit like a petulant child. Storms off when Eisenhower and Brooke tell him they are not wasting forces on diversions in the Aegean Sea or Norway. Yells at his wife, berates his secretary for not double-spacing a draft of a speech. To the extent this is him dreading what he fears is going to be massive casualties, it's understandable. He's under a lot of strain, it's taking its toll. To the extent he's just mad because he's WINSTON CHURCHILL, damnit, and that means he should be able to have his way, it's not a good look.

The movie doesn't take the creative liberty Darkest Hour did with that scene where Churchill decides to use the subway to poll the regular Joes on their thoughts, but it does have a scene where he prays at his bedside for a massive storm that will cancel D-Day. I'm guessing that didn't really happen. There's a few things like that, probably not accurate, but they make for entertaining dramatics.

The two movies make for an interesting contrast. Darkest Hour has an uncertain Churchill being undermined by Chamberlain and Halifax, whereas Churchill has Winston certain that Operation Overlord in a mistake, and he's trying to interfere with them. The former movie references Gallipoli, but Churchill is more defiant about it, still just angry at the Navy for half-assing their side of things. This movie paints it less as something that makes others doubt him, and more something that haunts him and influences his judgment. Churchill spends a lot more time on the interaction between him and his wife, Clementine, the sometimes strained nature of their relationship, whereas Darkest Hour spent a lot of energy on him and his secretary. Darkest was trying to play with the idea Churchill isn't sure how much he can ask of the populace (the whole uncertainty of his position), which she represents. While Churchill is him having to accept that his place in things is changing and he has to move forward, and the person who's been with him that whole way has to help him, if he'll stop being such a mule about it.

Darkest Hour had a few more bits that made me laugh, but I don't know which I'd say was better. Should have asked my dad, as the resident Anglophile.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What I Bought 3/9/2018

Someone at work is stealing my writing utensils. A pencil Monday, a pen yesterday. It's very annoying. Yes, I considered the possibility I left them somewhere, but I checked everywhere I had been, and they weren't there.

Giant Days #36, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Just sittin' and thinkin' on a box, nothin' unusual at all. No sirree, she and her friends didn't strangle a classmate and toss her in a trunk as some sort of test, ala Hitchcock's Rope, nope.

Daisy breaks up with Ingrid, during an art exhibition Ingrid was having in the dilapidated warehouse she lives in. The bus drivers that were admiring her work get some performance art to go with it. Daisy then sinks into a depression for two weeks, emerging just in time for the girls to move out for the summer. Unfortunately, Daisy's return home is going to be a little awkward since her grandma found out about Daisy dating Ingrid from a heartbroken Ingrid (and it had to be an extra, final gutpunch for Ingrid to realize Daisy never did tell her grandmother about the two of them). Well, I was wondering how Daisy was going to end up talking about her sexual orientation with her grandma if she and Ingrid were breaking up, since I didn't see Daisy broaching the topic otherwise.

Kudos to Allison and Sarin here, for actually making me feel bad for Ingrid. I haven't really liked her, because she seems exactly the sort of person I would hate and avoid in real life, but that may just be her loud personality. And because Daisy's kept her doubts from Ingrid, preferring to pretend everything is fine, it came as a blindside. The range of emotions Ingrid goes through in a few pages, even just in one page, from stunned, to quietly asking Daisy to leave, to going nuclear at Daisy's platitudes. Still the right move for Daisy; being with Ingrid was making her miserable, but I had been anticipating the break-up almost as gleefully as Susan and Esther, so I didn't expect to feel sympathetic.

Sarin actually inks himself this issue, rather than Liz Fleming acting as inker. I think people looked a little rounder, possibly. Mostly I thought that with Esther, she normally has a bit of a rough edge, especially around her eyes, and it wasn't present. That might have been because it's going into summertime, people are feeling cheerful and upbeat, relaxed. Look, I'm the wrong guy to describe to you the value of inkers. I know it's definitely a thing, I just stink at perceiving it.

Also, I wonder if, having seen her dad and McGraw together, Susan notices disturbing similarities in them. I'm not sure what I expected her father to be like, but that wasn't it.

Atomic Robo: The Spectre of Tomorrow #5, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer/designer) - That's the most peculiar Atomic Robo cover I've ever seen.

Robo tries to elude Helsingard's creatures to destroy the giant computer brain Helsingard has taken control of. Robo is actually the decoy to let his little pink robots reprogramming the computer to eat itself, essentially. Another Helsingard bites the dust. Wonder how many that leaves. Bernard snaps out of his funk long enough to save Foley, steal Helsingard's jump jet, and get the three of them back home. Where Lang and Vik's extortion of Elon Musk has gotten their building permits reinstated! They have a functioning toilet now! Which Robo has probably never seen, because he went back into his basement lab again (also, he doesn't need a bathroom). That is not at all concerning (the returning to the basement part, not the lack of need for a bathroom)!

Not a bad conclusion. Clevinger and Wegener set up a couple of things for future stories, although I have a hard time getting interested in yet another mysterious, quasi-government organization. I can't keep track of all the ones they've introduced in the past. As for the unexpected side effect of Robo's little bots interacting with ALAN, maybe Robo can teach them? Though I recall he said the more of them there were, the more they link up and increase their intelligence. Which seems ominous, given what ALAN was up to when he and Robo first crossed paths.

The art is variable from one panel to the next. I still think the coloring is overwhelming Wegener's linework, and the colors being duller and muddy - at least on paper, maybe it looks better online - doesn't help. It makes things seem murky, or at times like they were hastily drawn. The panels above aren't the worst by any stretch, but the idea of the creature being unable to see Bernard because of how muddy he was amused me. The page of Robo dropping in among the Praetorians and throwing haymakers looks pretty good, but then the next page, the first panel looks like Robo was only partially sketched in and the colors are trying to suggest the rest of him. It's frustrating, because it could, and has, looked better in the past.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Invitation to a Gunfighter

This is a bit of an odd Western. Set after the Civil War, a Confederate soldier named Matt Weaver (George Segal) comes home to the New Mexico territory and finds his farm was bought and sold by the local big shot, Mr. Brewster (Pat Hingle). Matt's told to leave town, but the man who bought his home turns up dead the next morning.

Brewster hires a gunfighter, Jules Gaspard d'Estaing (Yul Brynner), to kill Matt Weaver, but Jules seems more interested in making said Brewster humiliate himself. He's also interested in Ruth Adams (Janice Rule), who runs a general store with her drunken, one-armed, bitter husband, and who was engaged to Matt before the war. When Jules shows no interest in killing Weaver, the Brewster hires Weaver to kill Jules, in a plan that has no chance of backfiring whatsoever.

Surprising amount happening in this one. Ruth claims she married Crane because Matt needed to understand how irrevocable his decision to fight with the Rebs was for her. She is strongly anti-slavery, as was the entire town apparently, except Matt and his father. They joined the Confederates, the entire rest of the town went on the Union side. At least on the white side of town. The large Mexican population seems to have been segregated. Of course, Matt and his father were the only white folk to treat the Mexicans as equals, so who are the real racists here? Also, it's claimed Matt only joined the South to be contrary, I assume out of disgust at the hypocrisy of all the other white folk. Which doesn't really change the fact that he did fight for the Confederate Army, regardless of what his reasons were.

Into this, you throw Jules, who we're told is one-quarter black (he uses the term "quadroon", which I've never seen outside a history book). I think they darkened Brynner's skin, or maybe they used lighting to achieve the effect. Seems in poor taste either way. Watching him lead the big shot around like a docile puppy is one of the high points of the film (there are three wounded Union soldiers in town tickled by it each time, including one who can't see and has to listen to his friends' description).

In some ways, it reminds me of High Plains Drifter, although this film predates that one by almost a decade. Mostly in the way the town (part of it anyway) is so terrified of this one tired, unhappy Reb soldier, that they bow to this call for a gunfighter, and then let the gunfighter walk all over them. He cheats at cards in the most obvious, lazy way possible, and no one even thinks to try and call him on it. Brewster wants Jules here to kill the gunfighter, Brewster owns most of the town, so they all go along with it. He's the bank. So Jules punishes them for their weakness, and out of his own, understandable anger and bitterness. He shows kindness at times, mostly restricts himself to punching up, rather than down, but the longer he stays, the more frustrated and torn he gets.

Jules becomes interested in Ruth, initially as a way to bring Weaver to him, but later out of some possible romantic interest. Ruth is polite, somewhat friendly, but mostly is trying to get him to not kill Weaver. Their mutual curiosity leads to a scene or two where everything stops so they can lay out their backstories and motivations to each other. Which is awkward, but it doesn't seem like the movie was going to explain certain things any other way. I'm not sure there needed to be any hint of attraction from Jules towards Ruth; the movie already has Ruth married to Crane but still caring about Matt. Is it necessary to complicate things further? There are a few scenes where Jules interacts with some of the local Mexicans, including a good friend of Matt's. I wouldn't have minded more of that.

As it is, the mere suggestion something might be happening between Jules and Ruth is what Brewster uses to get Weaver to face Jules. Weaver is smart enough to realize it would be dumb to fight someone on Brewster's behalf, especially someone Brewster hired to kill him. But Brewster mentions Ruth went into her home willingly with Jules, and maybe there's a reason Jules hasn't tried killing Matt, wink, wink, all sense flies out of Matt's head.

I read once that you can make white working class folks eat any amount of shit from the wealthy if you convince them minorities are going to take their stuff (and thus ignoring the wealthy have already taken a lot more). Matt proved it, Brewster wanted him eliminated as a threat, and then tried using him to eliminate someone else who was a threat. The threats are all things Brewster's either created or made up, they're his own doing for being a terrible person, but suggest this gunfighter "took" Matt's woman, and off he goes.

It was a more interesting movie than I expected. It needed either more time, or a few less threads so it could have let some things play out more naturally.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What I Bought 3/7/2018 - Part 2

I've seen these posters online for Ready Player One, and then I've seen a bunch of mock-posters people made for it, and I can't tell the difference. I had never heard of this book before all this stuff about the movie, and now it sounds like it was another of those big nerd things I missed out on, thankfully.

Demon: Hell is Earth #4, by Andrew Constant (writer), Brad Walker (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer) - I like the touch of having Jason's immaterial leg partially phased through Etrigan's.

The entire issue is spent trooping to the gateway to Hell, with brief stops for Etrigan to kill mutated giant snakes and lizards. Xanadu and Blood talk a little, mostly Jason bemoaning still being chained to Etrigan. And the Demon talks with Merlin a bit, mostly about why he's been off sulking in a corner of Hell like a guy from Chile, er, I mean, Achilles. They reach the gateway, there are many enemies visible, and the issue ends.

The characters keep wondering how long it will take to reach the gateway, and Merlin keeps saying that the land is part of Hell, and so they'll get there when it allows it. I know the feeling. Constant is meandering his way through. Maybe because there isn't enough story for 6 issues. At this stage, maybe one issue spent getting past the horde/being captured by Belial, and another to defeat him/deal with the fallout? It's been a small cast, but it doesn't feel like much is being done with it.

On the plus side, Brad Walker draws a cool giant, demonic rattlesnake. Etrigan tends to dominate the panels he's in. He either looms over the other characters, or he's the only one in the panel and he fills it. When he interacts with Merlin, the wizard usually has his back to us, and he's in shadow a lot. Not sure of the significance there, unless it's that he has motives we haven't seen yet. Maybe he's planning to become ruler of Hell himself. He's standing between Etrigan and what he wants, but so is Blood, in a sense. Blood tried running from Etrigan, while Etrigan rages at the one who shackled him to Blood. Constant is probably heading towards them realizing they need to come to some sort of agreement, but I don't know if it's going to happen.

Mata Hari #1, by Emma Bebby (writer), Ariela Kristantina (artist), Pat Masioni (colorist), Sal Cipriano (letterer) - It says something she doesn't think she has to bother to conceal the knife or the possibly bloodstained silk curtain any better than that to lure whoever it is to her. Or it's all an act, and there's no danger at all.

The story opens on the day of her execution, then backtracks, moving from her various travels through Europe, her farce of a trial (the French judicial system works as fairly for her as it did for Alfred Dreyfuss), her childhood, the time of her arrest (which is conducted by Monsieur Bouchardon, who is also the prosecuting attorney, one of those quirks of the French legal system I forget sometimes).

In this chapter at least, there are two narrations almost competing. One is Margaretha's story, the one she wrote and hoped would be published (Bouchardon scattered it to the wind, so no luck there). The other is Bouchardon's testimony at the trial, which contrasts with what we see in the panels. He's made his mind up on her, and every word or action simply confirms it. If she says she's innocent, it proves what a liar she is. If she asks for help getting dressed, it's her immodesty, using her body. Maybe he's right, but most of his assumptions are based on limited information from what we know, as well as judgment of her character based on her careers.

It's hard for me to see this trial as much other than the French military trying to cover their guilt in getting a lot of their soldiers killed by being incompetent fuck-ups. Sure, let's ride our horses directly into the machine gun fire, what could go wrong? But perhaps they have some evidence that will be shown in the next few issues.

Kristantina has a light line most of the time, but covers a wide range of expressions and looks for Margaretha, depending on the circumstance. The one that's most striking to me is how much she appears to have aged by the day of her execution, even compared to how she looks during the trial. Whether it represents the harshness of her conditions, and the strain wearing on her, or simply her not having any access to cosmetics or decent shower facilities (they put her in a prison/convent thing for prostitutes), it makes for a severe contrast, even as she gathers herself.

During the early stages of the trial, there are panels showing her from some performance, where her character is beseeching Shiva for a boon, namely revenge on her enemies. Which raises the question of who her enemies are. Is she thinking of this as the crowd bray at her and call for her death, or are we supposed to keep it in mind as we learn about her alleged activities in later issues? The panels get larger over the course of the scene, and Masioni gives them a much brighter color scheme than the panels of the trial. The trial is mostly dull greys and browns, the judges and spectators are varying degrees of faded colors as well. While the panels showing the performance have a gold ring around them and a light lavender background, and Margaretha's wearing a bright red dress, maybe a kind of sari.

Beeby mentions in the afterword that she has taken some creative liberties, although I'm not likely to recognize them, but her mentioning that Mata Hari apparently lied constantly was good to know. I was letting my own irritation with the French legal system influence my perspective more than I should. But Beeby, with Kristantina and Masioni's work, is really effective at evoking sympathy for the subject. So now I'm curious to see if she turns that on its head, makes the reader feel the fool for buying in.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #11

"Doc Ock Teams Up With The Overwhelming Title Banner", in Amazing Spider-Man #90, by Stan Lee (writer), Gil Kane (penciler), John Romita Sr. (inker), Sam Rosen (letterer), colorist unknown

I hope you're ready for several weeks of Amazing Spider-Man, but we're going to be hitting several different eras and creative teams.

This is the only Spider-Man comic that was in my father's collection by the time I found it in my grandmother's basement. It's most known as the issue that kills off Captain Stacy, Gwen's father. In my younger, stupider days, I would look at the price guide in the back of Wizard Magazine and get excited when it listed this comic as being worth $90. Of course, I was entirely ignoring that being the mind condition, best-case scenario price, while the copy I have doesn't even have covers.

The issue itself has Spidey narrowly escape Ock in the first half of the issue, then come up with some way his webbing can jam the signals from Ock's brain to the tentacles, which causes them to go berserk, leading to Stacy's death (which explains why he doesn't just try that every time, having multiple super-strong metal tentacles flailing around wildly is dangerous!). There's also a brief section where Peter declines to attend a protest rally on campus about pollution, to the disgust of Randy Robertson and his friends, who decide Parker is just a self-interested tool.

The issue is no great shakes; I keep for the sentimental value as much as anything.

Friday, March 09, 2018

What I Bought 3/7/2018 - Part 1

They build vending machines now to recognize if your selection didn't actually drop. When it senses that, it makes the little coil spin again, and then you can get two bags of Skittles for the price of one. It's a nice bonus that happens every once in a while. Some days at work, I take what I can get.

Tick 2017 #3, by Cullen Bunn and JimmyZ (writers), Duane Redhead (artist) - Welcome to the X-Men, Tick and Arthur, hope you brought enough pie for everyone.

Spotted Fever saves Arthur from the clowns and ninjas, and smacks some sense back into the Tick. She takes them to La Chambre Rouge where they find the newest batch of prospective heroes being twisted by Dr. Daedalus. Their attempt to escape runs them smack into an army of ninjas and clowns.

I feel this was a play on Larry Hama's Wolverine run, when Logan finds the Weapon X facility they staged a lot of his and the other victims' memories at. Mostly it was the scene when Tick wanders into a room he swears is Arthur's living room (although Arthur doesn't see it). I don't know if that's what Bunn and JimmyZ are going for, but given the Tick originally played a lot with spoofing Miller's Daredevil, it wouldn't surprise me. They've given the Tick a backstory of a nefarious doctor trying to turn him into a weapon, plus a lost love he didn't remember, plus speaking French all of the sudden. OK, that last one isn't a perfect comp to Logan's connections to Japan, but you get my point.

Redhead's artwork fits the story. It's still, at this point, a fairly straightforward superhero story, and Redhead has a clean, straightforward style. He can make the evil Doctor look sinister when he needs to, and the Tick is very expressive, and it seems like all the information that is supposed to be on the page is there, presented clearly. I would like a better look at the designs on those other heroes that showed up, especially The Gesture. I feel like his costume ought to evoke the era his moves supposedly come from, but the little bit we see of it doesn't suggest that.

I'm not sure if I'm planning to stick with the book going forward, though. Still not convinced we really needed the Tick's origin, assuming this doesn't wind up being some sort of fakeout or a false memory. Also, they write the Tick as very stream of consciousness. Was he always like that? Maybe it's all the buried memories. I guess we'll see.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #3, by Adam Warren (writer), Carla Speed McNeil (artist/letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist) - I'm glad my high school bathroom experiences were not like that.

After surviving a sing-off against in the music room, Spooky and Emp wind up in the ladies' room, where Emp finds herself stuck in a stall that is filled rapidly by her own tears, and Spooky's being torn apart by cutting words from another girl as it cracks her reflection. But Emp has dealt with enough cruel taunts that she's able to bust out and kill both their tormentors. That's six more down, total.

Last issue, I wondered why no one was trying to backstab the Queen Bee, Ashley. I guess it's because she's more powerful than the others, with her Absolute Solipsism Field, and they're just terrified of her. It's seeming more and more likely she expects our heroes to kill all the others so she gets all of Spooky's power, and it might be interesting if that didn't go as planned. I can't shake that feeling Spooky's going to be offered a chance to rescue Hannah if she'll just betray Emp, and I'm not sure how that's going to play out.

The other part that's come up again is how for the most part, these girls are stuck in the same patterns they had in high school. They haven't changed their tactics, and think their targets haven't either. Spooky was nervous about singing, but the shit the girls hurled her way only irritated her. The insults Olivia whispered to Emp might have worked when the series started, but she's come far enough to know it's not true and not surrender. Brooke's insults didn't start to have the maximum impact until she attacked who Spooky is now, as opposed to how she looked back then. Attacking her survivor's guilt, her regrets, that seemed to take Spooky's will to fight.

McNeil and Lee did a heck of a job on that bit with Spooky trapped in front of the mirror. The way the cracks show in her reflection as these red voids, and then appear as cuts on the real her. The way the red that saturates those panels contrasts the blue that's threatening to drown Emp. Hannah's image appearing in the mirror, but mostly not showing the red hue, even though it's supposed to be part of Spooky's torment. The panels that have Spooky in them keep moving in closer as her situation goes downhill, even as Emp's move back as she takes control of hers. And the number of panels per page goes up a little near the end of it. Not a lot, from five to seven over the course five pages, but it works. Time is running out, the tension goes up. Surprise, Carla Speed McNeil is good at this drawing thing.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

I saw this in the theater with my dad when it came out, and hadn't thought about it since then. As far as movies meant to evoke old adventure serials from the '40s go, I'd stick with Indiana Jones or the Rocketeer.

The heavy reliance on CGI runs up against the limits of that technology in 2004, so sometimes it looks pretty good, and other times there's just too many robots, or the interactions between actors and CGI looks off. The designs on the robots seem appropriate for the era; the giant robots in the initial attack on New York wouldn't have been out of place in one of those Fleischer Superman cartoons. And there was one shot of the flying machines before they swoop down on the Sky Captain's base that I would have sworn was drawn. It looked like something out of an old Disney film. Might have been my favorite looking scene in the movie. The soft focus gets old after a while. Maybe they were doing that to help cover some of the CGI's weakness?

As action heroes go, Jude Law is. . . OK. He has a good enough smug grin you don't mind when he gets shown up. He's very much in that Han Solo school of guys who think they're a lot more slick and competent than they are. Not that Gwenyth Paltrow's reporter, Polly Perkins, is an ace. She opens the film meeting a scientist who explains he was part of a team hired by a mad genius, and all the members of the team are being abducted. He says there is only one left, and Polly asks who it is. After he just told her he was one of the scientists and he is standing there, not abducted, but terrified. Like perhaps he expects to be abducted himself, maybe.

Paltrow and Law do alright as an uneasy duo forced to work together. They squabble and snipe at each other well, frustrate each other. The movie got a couple of laughs out of me there. I didn't buy simmering romantic tension that was supposed to be there, but you can't win 'em all.

I appreciate the attempt at what the film was going for, I'm not sure it was able to pull it off, though.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Justice League 3000 Volume 1 - Yesterday Lives

Justice League 3000 started near the end of the New 52 era, and the follow-up series, Justice League 3001 actually carried over into that DCYou thing they did in 2015. It seems like DC was thinking two things: One, that they wanted to do a book in the future, but they couldn't get the Legion of Superheroes to sell, so slap "Justice League" on there instead. And two, that they'd try to serve that
portion of the fanbase that loved the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI.

So you get this, a "resurrected" Justice League trying to free the galaxy from the control of a group called "The Five", who have one member called "Persuader", but otherwise no real resemblance to the Fatal Five I can see. The process was imperfect, and so are the heroes, so they bicker and squabble, and behave stupidly, and die, and get brought back again. One of them does, at least.

There are a few jokes or gags that get run into the ground. Superman forgetting he can't fly, characters acting incredulously when someone refers to Ariel Masters as the team's "mother". That second one is made especially annoying because whenever it happens, no ever bothers to just explain it then, because that would possibly stop them from using it again 10 pages later.

There was potential to the idea. An inexperienced, wobbly Justice League trying to overthrow a powerful, entrenched dictatorship in a time they don't really understand. By the end of issue 7, which is the last one in this trade, you can see the team making halting steps in the direction of their old selves. They aren't their original selves - they still lack pieces, notably when it comes to strategy - but there's a hint they could form into an effective group.

But they still aren't a group you care much about. Beyond the fact it's established they can just be brought back if they die, and the question of whether they should even exist at all, they're an annoying group. A Superman who won't stop announcing it, no matter how many times nobody is impressed, his skull apparently only invulnerable to insight. Flash keeps dying, but pointlessly - such a poor copy he can't even get the only thing Barry Allen does well right. On and on. It might be funny if they didn't belabor the point.

One thing that's influencing my outlook is I found two-thirds of JL 3001 in some dollar bins right before this tpb showed up in the mail. I know the rushed, inconclusive ending this book ultimately gets. I was looking forward to seeing Blue & Gold running amok in this dystopia, but, knowing they're going to vanish early in the next series, without enough time for them to make a dramatic last-minute (possibly accidental) rescue takes a lot of wind from those sails. 

Howard Porter's art doesn't help. It has more energy to it than his work on those Superman Beyond stories that ran in Batman Beyond Unlimited did - or maybe just more effects to show movement or action. And the Batman costume isn't bad, and I quite like the Green Lantern one (pity he mostly stops wearing the cloak three issues in). But his work is still overly busy, lots of lines trying to create depth or detail, but often just muddling or confusing things. That guy in the panels above, possessed by one of the Five, in a couple of the panels you might think he had some sort of rectangular facial markings, but no, they aren't there in other panels. Porter just felt he needed those lines there for some reason.

Keith Giffen handles the breakdowns and manages to avoid reverting to 9-panel grids all the time. Porter's work needs more space than that. A lot of 5-panel pages, usually with one panel stretching across the page at the top or bottom, and then two pairs. That part works fairly well.

That's the book overall. Some good pieces, but it doesn't come together into much of anything.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Slack Bay

It took me three tries to finish this movie, because I couldn't watch more than 45 minutes at a time. The aggressive stupidity of the main characters would get to be too much to bear.

The film is set on the coast of France in the early 20th Century. A wealthy family of high-society idiots come to this bay every summer. They're a bunch of inbred morons. There has been a rash of disappearances of tourists in the area, being investigated by a pair of cops who seem like a take on Laurel & Hardy, except not funny at all. And there's a local fishing family who live and work in the area and keep interacting with the other two parties. The patriarch is called The Eternal, because he's saved so many endangered sailors off the coast of the years, and his tall, awkward, sullen oldest son is Ma Loute. They make some income ferrying people across the tidal pool, either by rowboat, or by carrying them when the water is low.

Their family are responsible for the disappearances, because they're also cannibals. The movie reveals this twenty minutes in, very casually and plainly, so I don't feel bad spoiling it. Also, this movie is terrible and you shouldn't waste time watching it.

There's a burgeoning romance between Ma Loute and Billie, the son of some combination of the wealthy idiots, who sometimes dresses as a woman. Ma Loute thinks Billie is a girl who sometimes dresses as a boy, which causes problems when he learns the truth. She drives him crazy, like the fine young cannibal he is. God, that's a terrible line, but this movie deserves it.

The problem is Bruno Dumont (who is director and wrote the screenplay and dialogue) has certain bits or tics for the characters he thinks are funny, so he keeps using them. But they fail to land. The fat inspector keeps laying down on the sand to inspect bodies, but can't get up without assistance. I think it's supposed to be funny, but there's nothing to it, and it just keeps happening. The behavior of the wealthy family is bizarre, but so exaggerated that it's just irritating. I don't really want to root for the cannibals, but I wouldn't have been sorry if they killed and murdered the family.

The romance between Billie and Ma Loute was not badly done. There's an awkwardness to it that felt genuine and touching. They don't necessarily understand each other, and Billie's family doesn't help with their patronizing attitude towards him (and the fact they're afraid to even shake hands with Ma Loute's parents), but they seemed comfortable with each other. Until things went south, naturally.

I've been considering whether Dumont was doing a satire of an American slasher film. We have movies where stupid horny teens go to the dark, scary woods to smoke pot and have sex, only to be murdered by feral, cannibals hillbillies. Dumont sets it on a bright, sunny summer beach, the family is mostly old people who are detached from any sense of reality outside the strange world they occupy, and the cannibals are a hardworking, tightly-knit working class family (we first see the entire family harvesting mussels off the rocks during low tide). Instead of some hick cops, you get a couple of inspectors in nice black suits, who are dedicated but nonetheless useless.

I don't think that's the case; it's just the most charitable interpretation I can muster.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Deadpool's Not Leaving Without Killing Or Exploding Something

{When we left off, the Blender Furby arrived to try and calm things down. Or that was Pollock's plan. Instead, it began fighting with Deadpool and trying to kill him for some unkind words during a previous meeting I made up on the fly while writing this. Finding Deadpool difficult to kill conventionally, the Blender Furby (now called Stefan) has opted to use its disorienting voice to incapacitate Deadpool until Stefan can twist his head off.}

*Pollock's fist lashes out against the side of Stefan's head, cracking it. He staggers from the impact and releases Deadpool. We see that Pollock is wearing a set of brass knuckles spelling the word "POOL". Obviously they fell out when Deadpool fumbled reaching for his gun moments earlier.*

Stefan: So, funny story, the people who created me weren't as sadistic as you, so I don't feel pain and, wait, you aren't falling over.

Pollock: The crack has ruined that wonderful resonating effect your head normally has.

Stefan: *bats eyelashes in a remarkably adorable fashion* The panda isn't going to approve of you punching me.

Pollock: You cutting Deadpool's head off won't win you any rounds of Applause, either.

Deadpool: *hops up abruptly* [Because I'm America's sweetheart, no matter what Catherine Zeta-Jones claimed!] *Wade cuts the Blender Furby off what was once the Predator Drone's body. Pollock catches the Furby*

Stefan: *looking up at Pollock* You're never going to get anywhere this way.

Pollock: Enough of you for now.

*Pollock removes the batteries from the back of Stefan's head. Stefan sticks out his tongue before his eyes shut.*

Pollock: He's probably right, though.

Deadpool: [Maybe stop giving inanimate objects souls. Haven't you seen the Child's Play movies?]

Pollock: I have actually, but I just want toys that love their kids as much as the kids love them.

Deadpool: [Have you seen how kids treat their toys? Were you ever a kid?]

Pollock: I don't sit in on the focus group testing so no, and no.

Deadpool: [Well just sit here on Santa Deadpool's lap and he'll see if he can get you a copy of Toy Story for Christmas.]

Pollock: No.

Deadpool: [I'm just trying to offer you a seat since all the chairs are blown up.]

Pollock: *responds with a silent, stony glare*

Deadpool: [Fine, can I go back to blowing stuff up? I need explosions to drown out the unpleasant sounds in my head.]

Pollock: Well, I'd offer you a mixed drink and hope it calmed you down, but, *hefts Stefan's head* my drink mixer has a crack in it.

*At that moment, Androzier arrives, pushing some large weapon on a cart with cords trailing behind it*

Androzier: It took time to find enough extension cords. We need to talk to the lab staff about putting equipment back in the proper cabinets and - step away from the Commandant!

Deadpool: *rolls eyes* [Sure thing Sergeant Schultz. Damn, I'm really not funny today. Can I cut this one's head off, too?]

Pollock: No!

Deadpool: [But he's brandishing - sort of - a clunky and ridiculous weapon! A small child or elderly person with a weak heart my be frightened!]

*The captain grits his teeth*

Androzier: If you're too stupid to know when to quit, I'll show you what it can do!

Pollock: Captain, that's enough! Deadpool, don't piss off yet another of my employees after the last one nearly killed you! I'm trying to make it through this without any explosions and we're almost there!

Deadpool: *rubs the back of his head* [Uh, about that. . .]

*A large explosion rips through a lab two stories down. The three of them all feel the vibration.*

Deadpool: [I mean, didn't you notice I wasn't carrying my bag full of explosives in here?]

*Pollock turns her back and begins walking towards Androzier and the Wave Beam*

Deadpool: *holding his hands up, palms out* [In my defense, you hadn't told me I didn't need to blow things up!]

*Pollock subtly shape-shifts to add some more muscle and hefts the Wave Beam*

Deadpool: [Say, which way is the staircase?! You really need to mark your emergency exits better, that's a safety hazard!]

Pollock: *quietly* I won't tell the panda you tried killing the Blender Furby, and you won't tell the panda I did this. Agreed?

*Pollock flips a switch and a wide beam of energy is emitted. It's purple. It drops towards the floor, then rises sharply, brushing the ceiling. Then it crashes down on Deadpool, slamming him into the floor before pushing him into and through the wall, raising him up through the ceiling as it does. Then it drops again before smashing through an outer wall and launching the mercenary into the open air as it rises a third time. Pollock toggles the switch back and the energy disperses, leaving Deadpool to arc across the skyline.*

Deadpool: *distantly* [Agreeeeeeeed.]

Androzier: Wow, that was pretty impressive. I wasn't expecting that.

Pollock: Well what did you think the Wave Beam did?

Androzier: *pushes up cap, scratches head* I don't know. I was hoping it would disintegrate him.

Pollock: Pfft. Disintegrate him? That would be a little crass. Also, it would bring that panda down on us like an annoying, furry sledgehammer. *sighs* You better issue an all-clear to the panic rooms while we figure out which lab was destroyed.

Androzier: At least it's just the one lab. *looks around* Well, two labs.

*Pollock winces, as if expecting a punch, but nothing happens*

Pollock: Perhaps he used all the explosives on that one room. Yes, I suppose this was not a massively debilitating setback.

*Androzier raises his eyebrows quizzically*

Pollock: I'm not going to make the mistake of asking for another punch in the face from the universe.

*a voice crackles over the radio*

Voice: Captain, we investigated the site of the explosion. The crazy man blew up a bathroom!

Pollock: A bathroom?

Androzier: *stricken look* A bathroom?

Voice: Oh, sorry, ma'am, I didn't realize you were there! Uh, yes. I think there was a gas line nearby he might have been trying to damage, but this was the bathroom for the people who agree to test new food and cosmetics, so it was reinforced. Because of the, uh, problems. So the blast didn't make it through the walls.

Pollock: Oh, well that's a lucky break.

Androzier: But that was the nicest bathroom we had! The water pressure was good, and the lighting was pleasant, and there was always a variety of air fresheners!

Pollock: Captain, how much vacation time do you have saved up?

Androzier: *oblivious* I swear I'll get you for this, Deadpool. I'll get you!

{Uh, wow, OK. That's not how I thought I'd end that story, but there you go. A new arch-rivalry!}