Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dream Team - Jack McCallum

The 1992 U.S. Men's Basketball team was the first time the U.S. approved actually letting professional basketball players participate. Before that, all Olympians were supposedly "amateurs", which is a joke since most other countries best players were being paid. It was just those other countries would say the player was officially a fireman or something, wink wink.

McCallum details the whole thing, going back to the U.S. finishing third in the 1988 Olympics with college players, and even further back, to the 1970s, when a man named Boris Stankovic came to the U.S. on behalf of FIBA to study American basketball, and became certain the pros needed to be allowed to play, if you're truly showcasing the best athletes a country has to offer. Also, he thought it would propel the other countries' teams, once they saw how large the gap actually was (and he was certainly right about that).

McCallum's style, as with Seven Seconds or Less, is to break things up in to many short, distinct chapters, usually focused on one particular player or event. So each member of the team gets a chapter, detailing where they were in their careers at that point, and any difficulties that arose in getting them on the team. Larry Bird wasn't sure his back would allow him to play, and he wasn't going to be some token, lifetime achievement member. Magic Johnson had just been diagnosed with HIV, no one was sure if he could play. USA Basketball wasn't sure Charles Barkley wouldn't create an international incident. Michael Jordan was insistent Isiah Thomas not be on the team, which meant Thomas was shit outta luck. Nobody was going to take him over Jordan (except deranged Pistons' fans, maybe).

There's a lot in there that's fascinating to me, like how much everyone seemed to enjoy playing together. Probably because even though your average NBA player is a tremendous athlete, to the true greats, the average dude is slow, or half-blind. He can't see what they can, can't anticipate. But all these guys could, so the stuff they could do together was insane, and they knew it was the only shot they were going to get at that. The intense public interest in the team in Barcelona, or anywhere they went, really (which annoyed the U.S. Olympics officials, who felt the Dream Team were no different from any other Olympians, and tried repeatedly to throw their weight around, to little effect). Some of the scrimmages, both the ones against the college players, and the famous one the Dream Team had against itself, with Magic leading one team, and Jordan the other.

It's well-written, flows easily, doesn't get overly bogged down in unnecessary details. McCallum does feel it necessary at points when he's praising a player for x or y to mention he's not suggesting they deserve a Medal of Honor or whatever, which, you'd hope someone reading this book about a basketball team would understand that implicitly, but maybe he felt he was descending into hagiography. I was more bothered at the end, when he was discussing subsequent U.S. Men's Basketball teams, and he started to fall into "old man griping about disrespectful kids" mode. I'm not going to defend '90s NBA, which was a tedious slog to watch most of the time, but McCallum does come off as one of those sportswriters who loves to tell younger people how the stuff they like ain't shit compared to the stuff he liked. I get enough of that from baseball writers.

The praise of Bird seemed over-the-top, he seems like McCallum's favorite. But all the other players talk about Bird the same way, even Jordan, which I didn't expect. The personality dynamics are intriguing. Jordan telling Chuck Daly that Bird and Magic should be the captains and not him, but Jordan and Magic being the ones who keep everyone on the same page (not that there's much need for that). Magic being the only one who won't acknowledge that Jordan is just flat-out better than the rest of them by that point. Pippen being the guy who was most friendly to the college players brought in to scrimmage with them. Drexler honestly believing he was every bit as good as Jordan at everything.

'Doing a lot of the asking were two members of the United States Olympic Committee, LeRoy Walker and Mary T. Meagher. They gave Jordan the standard lecture, intent on sending the message that the Dream Team was nothing special, that it had its Olympic responsibilities, that revenue produced by the Dream Team was being used to support other athletes who weren't staying in luxury hotels and who weren't highly compensated, and. . . on and on.

"They went at Michael with the attitude of, 'Don't be an asshole," says Barkley. "So you know how well that shit went over with Michael."'

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Do Cats Wanna Mess With Hawks?

One solicitation I didn't mention in Monday's post was another of DC's crossovers with the Looney Toons. Catwoman's going to get dragged into helping Sylvester, which is going to push Tweety to drag a bird-themed hero in as backup. Which is then going to escalate into a full cats vs. birds thing.

Given this is Gotham we're talking about, the bird-themed hero is probably Robin. Which Robin, I don't know. Hard to see Damian coming to the rescue of an annoying baby bird. But my first instinct, when I read 'bird-themed hero' was Hawkman. Or more accurately, it was , "Aw shit, not Hawkman. He's terrible."

Then I started wondering if Catwoman has ever tangled with Hawkman. An (extremely) brief Google search didn't turn up anything. Considering she likes to steal stuff, especially old rare stuff, and Hawkman is sometimes an archaeologist, and therefore works around a lot of old stuff, it seems like they would have crossed paths. Also Catwoman enjoys messing with Batman, because he's sometimes a gruff asshole, and annoying people like that is fun (see also: Deadpool and Cable). Hawkman is an even gruffer asshole, so tweaking him would possibly be pretty fun.

Of course, you catch Hawkman on the wrong day - or wrong incarnation - and instead of tossing a net over you, he's trying to cave your skull in with a mace. That might be a little too much risk for the payoff.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Wolf - L. David Mech

The Wolf is a fairly comprehensive - for its time - look at most aspects of the lives and biology of wolves. I say, 'for its time', because the book was originally published in 1970, and this revised edition was from 1980. So there's no research referenced in here more recent than the late '60s. There's still a lot of information in the book, but it may be a bit dated.

Also, the descriptions of some of the studies are a reminder the rules for treatment of animals in research studies was a lot more lax back in the day. Mech describes on study that tried to determine how much food wolves could consume at one time, since they're often observed gorging when they bring down prey. So the researcher withheld food from his five captive wolves for two days, then gave them all the food they could eat. Then killed, sorry, "sacrificed" them so he could weigh their stomachs.

Most of the biology research I've been a part of over the years, we were trying our best to not get any animals killed. Although those were more general population surveys and nest success studies, so the end goal was somewhat different, and there wasn't the need to be as invasive to gather information*.

The book is broken down into chapter covering general topics, which are broken down into more specific areas. Chapter 3 is about social order and communication, which includes dynamics within a pack and also between other packs. The chapters will overlap, such as how Chapter 7 discusses hunting habits. Since the wolves are pack hunters, research discussed in Chapter 3 is referenced here as well.

The dated aspect of the research does make me question how accurate some of it still is. Some of the work done on pack dynamics was with wolves in captivity, and I've seen papers elsewhere that discuss how those packs were sometimes composed of wolves taken from several different packs and put together, so they aren't representative of true relationships within a pack. But a lot of the information is from studies done in the wild through observation, so presumably that would be more accurate.

Mech does address places where different researchers came to different conclusions, or places where he believes an author is drawing from unconfirmed resources, like old trapper or hunter stories. Mech's own research, on both Isle Royale and the work he'd only recently begun in Minnesota at the time this book was published, factors in quite a bit. As you might guess, he doesn't think he's drawing off questionable sources, but he does acknowledge where the information is too circumstantial to do more than raise possible answers, or where they might need more time to see how a predator-prey dynamic plays out over time.

I was most interested in the chapter on hunting success and tactics, and the point that there's a level of disparity between predator and prey where the predator can't act as the primary limiting factor on the prey species any more. Basically, there are too many of the prey for the predators to kill enough of them to offset all the new ones born every year. I'd read a similar study done in Australia looking at whether the foxes that were introduced by the British could control the population of rabbits (also introduced by the British). The conclusion was yes, up to a point, but once the rabbits hit a certain density, the foxes just can't eat enough of them to do the job. It's the same with wolves (and most other primary predators I'd imagine). The predator becomes just one of several factors - disease, available food, weather, etc. - that limits the population in some extent.

'Burkholder listed the shoulder, neck, sides, and flanks as the points of attack on caribou. It is significant that the Alaskan wolf pack that attacked caribou in this way attacked moose in the rump, just as wolves do in other areas. In other words, at least with caribou and moose, the point of attack seems to depend primarily on the type of prey rather than on the behavior of individual wolf packs.'

* My ornithology professor told us once about a study done - many decades before his time - to determine the strength of the crop and gizzard (the parts of their digestive system they use to rush the food they swallow, since they have no teeth) of turkeys. First they fed the turkeys walnuts, which the turkeys successfully broke down. Then, he said, they tried razor blades, which the turkeys again somehow broke down, although I imagine their internal organs were a disaster afterward, and they almost certainly died.

Monday, May 28, 2018

It's Almost Too Hot to get Excited For Any of This

It's not even June yet, what is this 90+ degrees bullshit? The solicitations for August are out, so is there anything worth being amped for?

Ann Nocenti and David Aja's Seeds is finally showing up, so that's one for me at least. I may not understand it, but I'm pretty sure I'll find it interesting. I usually do when it comes to Nocenti's work. That's the main thing from Dark Horse to catch my eye, although if Empowered & Sistah Spooky's High School Hell keeps skipping months it might still be going in August.

If I really have said enough is enough with Cave Carson, then there's nothing going for me from DC. But a few things I saw I'll mention anyway. One, it's apparently the 25th Anniversary of Knightfall (aka, Bane snaps Batman's back like a twig), if you wanted to feel old. Two, DC is doing another round of those team-up books between their characters and the Looney Tunes. Daffy Duck's running into the Joker, and they let Brett Booth draw the cover. As with the Flash/Speed Buggy issue that probably came out this month, I wonder why they let Booth draw that. Or anything, really.

Three, the Raven mini-series that's running is going to see the formation of a team of young magic users, which looks like it might include Traci 13, Dr. Thirteen's magic-wielding daughter, the one who dated Jaime Reyes for a while? I think it's her; the staff and the outfit look familiar. Now you know as well as I do the perils of buying a comic because a character you like that doesn't show up much is on the cover. Easy way to get disappointed, but I figured I'd mention it, at least.

Because it was two months late showing up, Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers will still be an issue away from being done in August, if I'm buying it. Brian Clevinger's doing another Real Science Adventures, set in the Byzantine Empire (which actually starts in July, but I missed it last month, I guess). I haven't had great luck with Real Science Adventures, since I seem to require Robo actually be there to interact to care about most of the supporting cast, but if it sounds good to you, go give Brian Clevinger some money.  There's also a book from Steve Niles, Delta 13? It'll be on issue 4 by august, but people in space finding something bad on an asteroid? I haven't read a lot of Niles' work, and what I have didn't do a lot for me, but might be worth a shot.

Boom! still has Coda and Giant Days, they're doing their part to give me something to read. Hopefully I'll have the first issue of Coda here in another week or so. As for Giant Days, Ingrid is back, and that doesn't seem to be good for Daisy's state of mind. As she said, being broken up with Ingrid is just like dating Ingrid. At Image, Copperhead is wrapping up. Booooo, boooooooooooo. I know every other book Image puts out these days is a space Western, but I liked this particular space Western.

Paul Jenkins is writing a new series called Beyonders. I haven't read anything of his since roughly Civil War-era Marvel, about the time he gifted us the delightful double crap platter of Speedball-as-Penance and Sally Floyd berating Captain America for not watching NASCAR. And I had so much goodwill towards him from his time writing Spider-Man up to that point. Anyway, this book has some guy figuring out all the conspiracies he buys into are real and going on some sort of grand trip across the world with a flatulent Corgi(?). I don't know, sounds a bit like those National Treasure movies I despised when I describe it that way, but it caught my eye for some reason.

As for Marvel, there's nothing new that interests me. Infinity Countdown has become Infinity Wars. Silly me, thinking the first mini-series would be the end of it. There's some event involving those time-traveling teen X-Men called Extermination. A new West Coast Avengers book, but outside of Clint Barton, I don't care about anyone in the book (I feel like Gwenpool is character I'm not going to trust in anyone other than Chris Hastings' hands). Fantastic Four is starting up, by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli, if that interests you. Marvel has marked the occasion by having Fantastic Four variants for most of their other books. The covers at least seem to depict different eras of the FF's history. So Liefeld drew the team from when Medusa was in Sue's spot. Art Adams drew the New FF he and Walt Simonson did as a joke. J. Scott Campbell drew the team during the stretch in the '90s when Sue started rocking that ridiculous outfit with the 4 cutout. I'm sure none of us are surprised by this. Although I didn't see anyone do a cover for that stretch where Luke Cage was on the FF. C'mon Marvel, you have a TV show starring him and everything! I thought you were all about trying pointless exercises to capitalize on that?

Here, let's look at this nice Iron Man cover by Alexander Lozano. That's pretty cool, right? Decent palette cleanser. There are some pretty good covers this month. The Michael del Mundo Thor cover was pretty nice, too. Very colorful. I'm idly curious how Dan Slott will write Machine Man. The NextWave version, the more classic version, or the split-the-difference approach Jeff Parker tried in his Red She-Hulk? Note: I'm not curious enough to buy it, just idly speculating.

In books I will probably be buying, Squirrel Girl's trying to keep Kraven and Spider-Man from fighting, Ms. Marvel's still trying to clean up whatever mess she and Bruno made this time, Madrox is still in a race against time, Domino is on the run. Those Squirrel Girl/Ms. Marvel things are still going. I wish they'd just call it a mini-series and be done with it, instead of all this vaguely similar one-shot titling. This month it's Squirrel Girl/Ms. Marvel; last month it was Ms. Marvel/Squirrel Girl. Yes, let's make it harder to keep track of whether the books are a continuation of each other. What a brilliant strategy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #20

"Then Venom Died and We All Cheered," in Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1, by Dan Slott (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), John Dell (inker), Justin Ponsor (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer)

I reviewed the mini-series last year. Looking back, it really hasn't made much of an impression. It was nice to see Peter and Mary Jane together again. The art was OK, Regent had a lousy design, though. The tpb is probably going to the library in the next pruning of the collection.

Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Bought 5/23/2018

Was on the road all week. Just got back a few hours ago. I did, while out and about, manage to find one book from this week at a comic store I found along the way.

Infinity Countdown Darkhawk #1, by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims (writers), Gang Hyuk Lim (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) – Yet another artist fails to make that redesigned look work.

Chris Powell spends some time at Project PEGASUS figuring out the limits of his armor’s new situation. Namely, no more switching back and forth to repair damage to himself or the suit. Now he wants to go into space to fight the Fraternity of Raptors, and all he needs is a ship from his old pal Nova. Who says no, because he’s busy fighting the Raptors, who now include his little brother Robbie. As Chris debates his next move, he’s attacked by Death’s Head, who mostly does not use that particular speech pattern I see most people write him with. That sort-of Yoda thing? Although he does end questions with ”Yes?” a lot. 

The only connection I saw to any Infinity Anything was Nova made a reference to everyone being after the Gems as why he hasn’t already taken care of the Raptors. But then, despite being busy trying to keep the universe from the brink of war, he won’t let Chris handle the Raptors. Well, Richard never was the intelligent Rider brother, although neither is Robbie, if he’s running with the Raptors. And he’s wearing Mar-Vell’s Nega-Bands now?  So the issue is largely focused on establishing the current status quo. The deal with Chris’ armor, as well as what’s going on in space. Which is handy for someone like me, who stopped paying attention to Cosmic Marvel the minute it fell from Abnett and Lanning’s hands into Bendis’.

Lim’s art is generally fine, although the big fight happens in an entirely empty section of New York City. There’s a few cars, but no other people. Also, I would never have recognized Robbie Rider, who is pretty much always shown wearing glasses with floppy hair, if he hadn’t told the Raptors his name, because he’s drawn like some pointy-haired anime protagonist. “Pretty” is probably the best descriptor. Everyone is very attractive, and all the armor looks very shiny. Lim went back to the more classic look, with the long silver wings, which I consider an improvement over the one on the cover. Lot of computerized effects for energy blasts and stuff like that, which isn't bad, but isn't great. On the other hand, Lim draws Death’s Head’s head like it’s an actual organic skull, like Ghost Rider, rather than a robot head, which is what I thought it was. That's how I've seen it draw by everyone else I've ever seen draw Death's Head. Death's Head II is another matter, but that's neither here nor there.

So there are some parts in here I find interesting, or that might lead somewhere good, but the issue is still mostly treading water on my residual fondness for Darkhawk.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


I went to see Deadpool 2 last Friday. Then Alex wanted to see it, so I went again on Saturday. I regret nothing. So it's review time! Super-short review: I liked it a lot. It was still funny on the second viewing! Long review: Forthcoming! And here's the panda to help! Clever Adolescent Panda, have you seen the movie this time?

CAP: Yes I have! Are we going to spoil things?

You bet we are! Probably. I mean, let's try not to. I avoided doing that to Alex, but you know, just in case, SPOILER WARNING.

Wade suffers a loss early in the film, gets in a bad headspace, and then has to get his act together to save a young pyrokinetic (Julian Dennison) from time traveling jackwagon Cable (Josh Brolin), who is out to prevent the boy's future crimes. Along the way there are many gruesome and hilarious deaths, a super-team with a higher casualty rate than the Suicide Squad and Great Lakes Avengers put together, and a near-constant stream of jokes. I actually think they toned down the profanity a little.

CAP: I'm not sure about that. Everyone cusses in this film.

Not Yukio! And not necessarily in the number of curse words, but the creativity of their use. Nothing on par with 'shit-spackled muppet fart'. But that's OK! It started to get a little tiring by the end of the first movie. And they make up for it with lots of dick jokes and (accidental) double entendres.

CAP: Farts are funny.

Deadpool: [Indeed they are! Glad to see your years of tutelage under me in that creepy, bat guano-infested cave have paid off. Literally paid off. That guano was a gold mine. If gold were shit.]

Despite all the teasers and trailers showing a lot of the movie, there are quite a few funny moments we hadn't seen yet. It helps that the film is throwing gags out there almost constantly. Real Mel Brooks approach. If you haven't made some attempt at a funny in the last three seconds, do so immediately. If you have, make another. Some of them are bound to land.

That did create a problem when the movie tries for some emotional resonance. Because Deadpool so often takes moments - say, any time Colossus tries to boost his spirits - of sincere feeling and basically makes a fart noise

CAP: Ha, fart.

Enough with that! As I was saying, it creates a disconnect when the movie is actually sort of trying for a genuine moment. I'm sitting there, waiting for the joke. The thing Wade is going to do to ruin the moment. I mean, I do want to care about Deadpool.

Deadpool: [Ruining moments is my superpower! Along with my extremely seductive hips. Also, if people don't care, they're less likely to die from being near me.]

CAP: They'd stop dying if you'd cut back on the Mexican food.

You are really locked into a "fart" subroutine right now.

Deadpool: [Maybe there's trouble at school. Come sit on Uncle Deadpool's kn - on second thought, I'll sit on your knee while you tell me about it.]

CAP: Nothing's wrong at school! I liked Yukio and Negasonic Teenage Warhead! They were adorable. They play off each other so well.

Agreed. I do hope we'll see more of them in future Deadpool movies, or perhaps an X-Force film, if they actually do that. You know, I'm not sure I'm ready for a world with an X-Force movie.

Deadpool: [Damn it, Calvin! Jack Kirby told you to prepare for the World That's Coming!]

CAP: But how do you prepare for that?!

This movie, more than the first one, felt like the Deadpool I'm familiar with, and fond of. Things are going well for him at the start, so everything then naturally goes to hell. He spends time wallowing in pity (or legitimately depressed and in pain, but it sure looks like self-pity). In the course of that, he makes poor choices that come back to bite him later. He tries to protect a kid, and to keep that kid from making a lot of the same mistakes he did. There's just enough of a good person in there he gets people to believe in him.

The interactions between Deadpool and Cable, especially the fights, felt right. Wade's throwing everything he can at Cable. His arm gets broken at one point, so he uses it as a rope to strangle Cable, basically. He's talking constantly, and even though Cable is supposed to be this grim, focused guy, he gradually gets irritated enough that he starts shit-talking right back at Wade. He doesn't have to, but he can't help it. Like Wade's chattiness infected him.

Deadpool: [Not the social disease I normally give other people, but I like to keep things fresh.]

CAP: So you're going to start making references that are only five years old instead of fifteen?

Deadpool: [Never!]

It was odd seeing a Cable that's shorter than Deadpool - he's 5'11'', tops - but otherwise Brolin plays him as a gruff, irritable, determined old guy. Who also has enough wit to be cutting when he feels like it. Seems about right? I thought he was going to be after Russell because the kid destroyed the future, that Cable is trying to save a world, while Wade is just trying to save this one kid. Highlight their differences. Wade's usually not too focused on the big picture, so much as dealing with this specific problem in front of him. There's an element of that in here - Cable mentions this would save lots of lives - but that's not what prompted him to travel back in time. But they did release Days of Future Past only a few years ago, so maybe it would have felt too similar.

CAP: There were too many quick cuts during the action sequences. It was hard to have any flow during the fights.

Yeah, and the X-Men's "No killing" rule rings a little hollow when presumably Wolverine and his fist knives were around murdering people at some point. I'm not buying that Logan held off entirely on decapitating people until he was old, broke down shell of himself. Also, shouldn't the X-Men be more concerned about a prison specifically for mutants where they throw 14 year olds in with adults?

Deadpool: [The X-Men are historically inconsistent on when they decide something inconveniences them enough to get involved.]

So are you, if it involves getting off the couch.

Deadpool: *Gasp*

CAP: I thought the real villain was too cartoonishly over-the-top. There's not much to him. And doesn't it confirm that stereotype that people who aren't "pretty" are usually bad?

I could see that. I was thinking it with the guy Wade shot, because he reminded me a little of Steve Buscemi, who often plays creepy characters, but is supposedly a really nice, chill guy. But people think he's like the characters he plays. But is Deadpool a rebuttal to that, sort of. Although I thought they skimped on the makeup a bit this go-round. His face looked less like an avocado that, you know.

Deadpool: [I've been moisturizing!]

CAP: Unless it's water poured from the Holy Grail, I don't think it would do much good.

As for the villain, I thought he was OK, until that last monologue. Before then, he was off-putting, we can tell something isn't right. But he had this calm (eerily so) almost pleasant demeanor. Quiet, outwardly grateful, just trying to help these poor troubled kids. Looks good to adults who don't really want a problem to deal with anyway. Classic abuser, "I'm doing this for your own good," shtick.

CAP: Yeah, but really he's afraid the whole time. He feels small, so he wants to make them ashamed of themselves so he can push them around to feel in charge.

Probably yeah. With the name of the school, I thought he was going to be some sort of independent mutant eugenics thing, but that's not how that turned out. He might have needed a little more fleshing out, but he was mostly there as a motivating factor for Russell. Whether there was anything more to him than what we saw there was irrelevant, because what we saw was what Russell saw, and what drove his actions.

Deadpool: [Bo-ring! Quit talking about the Great Value brand Shawshank Prison Warden, and talk more about me!]

CAP: Um, I hope the post-credit sequences are in continuity for you? Domino was awesome!

She was, MVP right there. Zazie Beetz plays with a cool, breezy air. Things usually work out for her, so she doesn't get worried. Self-assured, so Wade being a jerk doesn't phase her. Rather than getting annoyed, like Negasonic or Cable, she just plays along with him and banters. And she's charming enough that Wade enjoys it.

Actually, I thought it was sweet how happy Deadpool was to have a team. It ended badly, as all the times he finds a place do. But for a minute, there were a bunch of people happy to work with Deadpool to save this kid and kick Cable's butt, and it was wonderful.

Deadpool: [I'll always remember them fondly. Except for that one guy. And Shatterstar.]

CAP: Aww, Wade, you have us! We just aren't jumping out of any helicopters with you!

I'm also not fighting Iron Man if he shows up pissed you ripped off his music playlist.

CAP: Ooh yeah, good point.

Deadpool: [What?! What happened to the eager young panda that would hit Tony Stark over the head every week?]

CAP: He's digitized now! I can't hit him!

I think he's back, actually.

CAP: Really?

Deadpool: [Yep. The bell chimed Roll It Back O'Clock at Marvel again, so Tony's flesh-and-blood again, dumb mustache and all.]

CAP: OK, I'm in. He shouldn't be hogging the AC DC anyway.

Yeah, what will the classic rock stations play? Other than the other five songs they play all the damn time. If I never hear "Brick in the Wall" or "Welcome to the Jungle" again, it'll be too soon. Deadpool 2's song selection was once again excellent. The variety of songs and styles are a real strong point, and endlessly surprising, in a good way. That opening credits sequence, it was like a James Bond movie, but with 900% fewer sexy ladies. But that was always kind of creepy, all those shadow ladies dancing on top of guns or whatever.

CAP: So, thumbs up?

Heck yeah.

Deadpool: [Thank you, that means so much. Almost as much as this obscenely huge pile of money I made over the weekend.]

Enjoy it while you can, with that Han Solo movie hot on your heels.

CAP: Oooh yeah, the Han Solo movie!

Eh. I don't need his origin story. He was played Harrison Ford, that was enough for me to give a shit about the character, back then. I don't know this new kid from a hole in the wall.

{Edit: I typed the above on Sunday. Then I was out of town all week, so there was one final bit of the film I didn't get around to discussing. So let's do that now. SPOILER WARNING still in effect. Seriously, the next sentence will have a spoiler in it.}

So, in the first fifteen minutes, the movie kills off Vanessa. So Wade can have nowhere else to go, so he ends up with the X-Men, and so he'll be depressed and self-pitying, and rebuff Russell's attempts at friendship and have to fix that mess later. Vanessa does appear off and on through the rest of the movie, each time Wade dies. She offers some vague piece of advice that Wade then tries to puzzle out so he can decide what he's supposed to do next. One of the post-credits scenes (hopefully) erased this event, but it did still happen. And if it was erased, I doubt we'll get to see Vanessa' reaction to learning she was killed by an vengeful target of Wade's - after she nearly died at the hands of a vengeful target of his in the first movie - only to be saved by time travel shenanigans. That seems like it would mess with a person's head, even one that's been living with Wade Wilson for an indeterminate amount of time.

It's too bad, because like the first movie, Morena Baccarin and Ryan Reynolds have pretty good chemistry in their limited screen time. It's just Baccarin doesn't get to do much. I'd have settled for her giving Wade a verbal kick in the pants at some point, but that seems to be Blind Al's role (while Weasel's is to give terrible advice, and be the world's worst friend.) Given that Vanessa's relationship with Wade is very different from the one he has with Blind Al, he might be more inclined to take it seriously (by his standards).

So all that is something to factor in. Overall though, I still enjoy the movie, it'd just be nice to find a little more for Vanessa to do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What I Bought 5/19/2018

They had a Minicon in Columbia over the weekend, so Alex and I swung by on Sunday. I think I did better on finding back issues than I had at a convention in years. Alex went after a bunch of the first Punisher ongoing, some of Engelhart's Silver Surfer, and a Gambit mini-series. Whatever floats your boat.

Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers #1, by Joshua Jabcuga (writer), Tadd Galusha (artist), Ryan Hill (colorist), Tom B. Long (letterer) - I went with the Tim Truman cover, because that man can draw.

Nixon calls in Colonel Parker and tells him the government has a lead on some weird creatures that feast on the blood and innards of people, and the clue was in one of Elvis' shitty movies. Elvis and his bodyguard, Johnny Smack, fight monsters anyway, so they and the rest of the crew assembled will be doing that. We don't actually get to any of it yet. We see the monsters abduct a guy, and bring him to some green creature that begins feeding on him, but that's about it. Most of is spent on Elvis wanting out of this life, all parts of it, because he hates Colonel Parker. But Parker has the soul of Elvis' mama hidden somewhere, so the King is stuck.

The parts I enjoyed best hinted at other adventures or mysteries. The steamboat, the Nocturne, they're using to get around. That bit of blood under Nixon's nose, not to mention the strange room he and Parker initially met in. But the issue itself is all set-up, and I'm left wondering why the hell is Elvis here? Yes, I know he claimed to be a karate master or whatever; and Jenny suggests that he has a charisma that can be almost weaponized, but we don't see anything that shows why he's needed. I'm also not sure it wasn't too early to bring up Sebastian Haff as Elvis' out from this life. But I guess if you want to establish he's fed up even before this mission goes pear-shaped, that's a way to do it. Jabcuga's dialogue for Elvis does match his monologues from Bubba Ho-Tep, at least the movie (I don't know how much they changed from Joe Lansdale's story).

I like Long's lettering, especially for the sound effects. The wavery "Glug Glug" for the homeless man on the first two pages. The font used for the creepy guy that brings Colonel Parker to the White House. All caps, big letters, thicker and darker than everyone else's dialogue. Also Hill's coloring. The meeting on the riverboat, the background is this deep orange because of the setting sun, but the light doesn't seem to penetrate on the decks much. Plus, it's such an unusual color choice it's hard not to read as ominous.

Galusha's good at making Parker look like a disgusting, self-satisfied pig. And he gives Elvis a lot of mannerisms and movements that match how I think people picture him moving. The hand gestures, the hip sways, stuff like that. I don't know if he would do that even when he wasn't performing on stage, but maybe the point is he's always performing.

There are some interesting pieces in issue 1, but it's going to need to come together into something more. next month.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Foreigner

I really wanted to see Jackie Chan going the Liam Neeson route, playing an old guy out to fuck up the people who hurt his family, so here we are.

The people in question are members of the IRA, but possibly as a result of this, the movie spends a lot more time on all the politicking, backstabbing, and maneuvering going on among the guys in Ireland's government who used to be IRA. Including Pierce Brosnan, as a Deputy Minister. He actually ends up as the focus of the film. The British government wants answers, and he needs answers to maintain his cushy job. But he can't be seen as a traitor to the cause. He's cheating on his wife, his wife is cheating on him, Jackie expects the names of the people responsible for the attack, and keeps blowing Brosnan's shit up.

There are long stretches of the movie, where Jackie Chan is barely in the movie at all. He's lurking somewhere in the woods near Brosnan's home, watching and waiting. It's an interesting approach, putting him in the role of this a lurking threat, while we watch Brosnan flail about trying to keep all his plates spinning. A bit like doing a Batman movie primarily from the perspective of some mob boss that knows Batman is going to come crashing down on his head sooner or later.

I'd still have preferred more scenes of Jackie Chan somberly grieving, or beating the crap out of people. Not that there aren't several of those scenes, I just wanted more. They made a big deal about Brosnan's nephew Sean being a former Ranger and tracker, who goes into the woods alone, and that didn't last very long. It makes sense; neither Chan or his character are spring chickens, and even with him keeping the jumping around to a relative minimum, he can't keep that stuff up for too long. And it is very different to watch him fighting and actually trying to end fights fast. Slamming dudes headfirst into trees, flipping people through tables. For a while there, he seemed to be using a surprise knee to the face a lot, to great effect. I really enjoyed those parts of the movie. The rest of it was fine, but not what I was there for.

Monday, May 21, 2018

They Are Reviving All Sorts of Properties These Days

Feels like it's been awhile since I did a prediction post, so let's discuss the mystery villain of the current Squirrel Girl story. The one who decided to crank up the difficulty on the escape room.

Yeah, that guy. So he's tall, skinny, wants to keep his eyes covered, and has a big, droopy, Fu Manchu mustache. He also seems interested in making sure his customers are not just entertained, but entertaining. And he doesn't go lethal unless the participants are suitably powerful. Which rules out Arcade, who was my original pick when this story was solicited*.

So, callin' my shot, here's my pick for our Mystery Foe:

Mojo 2: The Sequel!

Look, I'm not any happier I remembered this guy existed than you are. But I did, for some reason, so here we are. An updated, more telegenic version of Mojo - for the '90s! - who is tall, skinny, has big shoulder pads and a stupid mustache. He wanted Dazzler to help him overthrow Mojo, but he's using so many show biz metaphors that he's probably just as hooked on getting ratings as the original version.

So he uses the people in the escape rooms as a low-budget TV show. Not public access exactly, but maybe like a do-it-yourself show? How to construct mysteries and puzzles. How to conceal evidence, but still leave thematic clues so people will know you committed crimes (very popular in Gotham City). All the drama and bickering is just to add a little spice to it. Like those motorcycle garage shows where they spend 60% of each episode arguing about dumb shit.

I know, it would be a hell of a deep cut on Ryan North's part, and they made a brief mention of Ratatoskr and Melissa, so it certainly seems like it must those two, but I'm betting on the curveball.

* Arcade's Escape Room would probably get lousy reviews. They'd all be from Spider-Man, telling you how awful it was, since everyone else would be too dead to leave a review. "Terrible experience! He brought us there in a garbage truck filled with sleeping gas!" and so on.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #19

"Downright Inhospitable", in Spider-Man: Hooky, by Susan K. Putney (writer), Berni Wrightson (artist/color artist), Michelle Wrightson (color artist), and Jim Novak (letterer)

This was originally released in 1986, as one of the original graphic novels Marvel released back then (like The Aladdin Effect). Then they re-released it in 2012. I only picked it up a year or two ago, because Spider-Man against seeming eldritch horrors sounded kind of interesting. And Berni Wrightson is really good at drawing creepy, terrifying monsters. Or dragons.

The story is a young girl who used to deliver Aunt May and Uncle Ben's newspaper is actually the daughter of a powerful wizard of another realm. Back home, there's an unkillable horror after her. If defeated it changes so that attack won't work again. Spider-Man, being Spider-Man, agrees to tag along and try protect Marandi from the creature. Easier said than done.

Friday, May 18, 2018

What I Bought 5/16/2018

I thought I had a decent number of comics I wanted coming out this month, but they must all be waiting until the final week to come out.

Cave Carson has an Interstellar Eye #3, by Jonathan Rivera (writer), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer) - I wanted to make a joke about not crossing the streams, but they aren't. More just aiming at the same point. So I got nothin'.

Cave and Professor Bartow enter the Lazer Monk's mind and learn about this Progenitor, and why the Monks and the Nejire are fighting. Because they're being manipulated by the little grey goo things. Zot somehow ate the particles from Star's implosion which are counteracting it somehow. The two factions team up and drive the goo things off-world, and Cave and the others head off into space, possibly in pursuit? Also, someone is vacuuming up the pieces of Star floating in space.

I don't know what's going on with all this. The two stories about the Progenitor, one where he gets people excited about telling stories, and another where he was only after power and ultimately was driven mad by the goo and attacked his followers, for some reason make me think of Stan Lee. Could be about most any leader or "great" man that was kind of terrible.

Maybe they're going to loop back around to this world at some point, but they weren't there long enough for me to care about anyone on either side of the conflict. And why does the grey goo, which feeds off dopamine, need them to fight and kill each other? I'm sure the Monks and Nejire could experience happy feelings in other ways. In fact, by the end of the issue, they seem to have found other ways to be happy. Too bad the goo things are mostly gone.

I enjoyed Chloe nicknaming her gun "Uncle Jack" after Wild Dog, and having his logo painted on the side. Although Oeming forgot to draw the gun in the panel where everyone attacks the goo monster. Maybe he thought the sound effects were going to cover it. The pipe still looks really dumb, although I accept I may not be open-minded enough to accept people looking bad ass with a pipe clenched between their teeth.

Filardi's color work is still lovely. The grey tones for the darker story of the Progenitor, compared to the light greens and yellows of the more pleasant version. A lot of the panels, especially those in the mind, the background's are a variety of strange designs. Reminds me of the Trapper Keepers other kids had back when I was in elementary school.

It's a pretty book, but I feel like I'm buying it just to look at the colors. Not really worth that.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Similars

Set in the 1960s, a group of people are stuck in a bus station during a massive downpour, one that seems to cover the Earth. The people start having seizures, and then undergoing a transformation. Someone within the station is responsible.

It's basically a Twilight Zone episode, or maybe the Outer Limits. Which, by around the hour mark, left me wondering how the hell the movie still had another half-hour to go. Answer(s): padding, and people being stupid. The person responsible sits there at one point and spends a few minutes reading a story to another character that explains what's happening. A few minutes later, a different character explains how what they're experiencing is just like the story. We are forced to sit through both scenes, which is pointless.

The transformation is bizarre enough, and there are enough characters behaving strangely, that there's an effective air of mystery about what's happening. The whole thing is happening against the backdrop of student protests, plus this worldwide storm. One of the people in the station is a med student heading for to join the protests. There's a woman with a sick child, another woman 8 months pregnant, a guy trying desperately to reach the hospital where his wife is giving birth. There's a Native American woman in the station, who speaks in a language none of the other characters understand. Or maybe it has nothing to do with any of them, and we're just seeing a small slice of the larger picture. That part works really well, there just isn't enough here to need as long they gave it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bullet Head

Three criminals - Walker, Stacy, Gage (John Malkovich, Adrien Brody, and Rory Culkin respectively) - hole up in an old storage facility after a heist of a pharmacy goes wrong. While they wait for sundown, when their ride will possibly show up, if the cops aren't around, they find out someone had been using the place for dogfights. And the meanest, toughest dog, objected to being put down and is still roaming the place.

So there's a bit of a horror movie aspect to it. A little bit of the latter half of Jaws, only instead of three guys trapped on a crappy boat, it's three guys trapped in crumbling warehouse. There are plenty of big metal doors to keep between them and the dog, but that's going to make it hard to escape. And once they have to venture into those narrow, mazelike halls, they're in trouble.

The movie also spends a lot of time on flashbacks. The crooks exchange stories from their past; heists gone wrong, heists gone right, bad childhood experiences. Some of them are fairly comical, others are pretty sad. There are also several flashbacks of the dog's life, which show it isn't the villain here. It was a perfectly good, friendly dog some asshole decided to turn into a killing machine to make them money.

So it's an interesting contrast between the two halves, but it works. The flashbacks help build the characters, human and canine, and then you have the occasional tense chase sequence to break things up. So it takes the time to try and get you to care about the characters, so that when they're running for their lives we actually want them to make it.

The dog's owner seems to think what a person (or dog) does is what they are. That's all, no changing it, just a problem to be dealt with. He says a dog that fights is a fighting dog. Which ignores the fact it wasn't a fighting dog until he decided to make it one. All the other characters acknowledge the impact of life experiences on their outlooks. Gage had a shitty childhood, which he tries to escape through self-destructive behavior, which probably only reinforces the grip of his past. Walker believes there's only three ways one gets out of being a thief, and he has a pretty good idea which one is his fate. Stacy's can't seem to decide whether a thief really is all he is or not.

It's mostly not a happy movie. The victories are Pyrrhic, until the last few seconds. The very last scene feels like it was tacked on because some executive decided the movie was too depressing. Maybe that's not how it happened, but it's what it feels like. Still a well-done movie, though.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fingers Crossed It's Not A Trainwreck

As I've mentioned frequently in my reviews, the plot thread in Giant Days I find most interesting is how things are going to play out between Esther and Ed. Ed's been pining over her since the start of the series, while Esther had been totally oblivious to it. This despite all their friends being aware of it and exerting a lot of energy trying to get Ed to give up the ghost. Even that scumbag Dean Thompson knows. Actually, I'd be curious to see Esther's reaction when she figures out she was the last to know.

The new wrinkle is the two of them being housemates, and that Dean seems certain he's tricked Esther into getting all the other guys in the house interested in her, to where they'll squabble and fight and destroy each other. Because Dean's a shithead. Daisy's suggested Esther get a fake boyfriend as a beard, someone with similar interests to the guys, so they'll see him as nonthreatening to their value system or something. And considering Ed is friends with all these guys, and already going to be living there, it seems likely he's going to end up the pigeon. Although I can't discount Esther throwing me a curveball and pulling some random guy out of the aether.

If I'm right, that could go a lot of different ways. Esther could find she enjoys having Ed as a boyfriend. Or not. Ed could find "dating" Esther is a nightmare, or it might be everything he's hoping for. Dean will undoubtedly make snide comments, which will hopefully get one of them to beat his ass (probably Esther). Susan will make several dry proclamations of doom, which will hopefully not turn out to be correct.

I don't know how I want it to play out, meaning the whole thing between them in general. There's that whole trope in fiction where if the guy just keeps trying, at some point he finds the secret combination of deeds and words that unlock the girl's heart and blah blah blah. That's not great, it treats an interaction between people like a boss fight in a video game. If at first you don't succeed, just keep at it and you'll get what you want eventually.

It may not totally apply here. Ed has helped Esther out on several occasions, most recently by helping her find a place to stay, and ending up with the shittiest room in their house as a result. It would be hard to argue his feelings for Esther aren't factoring in there at all, but he's never requested or expected anything in return. Hoped, absolutely. If they live in the same house, more time to interact, who knows how it goes? But Ed's generally a helpful, conscientious guy. He helped Daisy and Susan make their film (and was basically bullied into writing the script). When McGraw was about to be pummeled by Emilia's rubgy-playing brothers, Ed refused to abandon him, even though it was going to catch him a beating for something he had no part in.

Still, Ed has yet to actually ask Esther out, hoping she'd make the first move. Fear of rejection is not unheard of, but as McGraw once noted, if Esther hadn't taken the initiative yet, she wasn't likely to. When Esther decides she likes a guy, she goes for him. The teaching assistant, the wannabe director. She's stated she has a weakness for 'milquetoast handsome' guys*.  Ed doesn't seem to have much in common with them, other than bilateral symmetry.

Of course, those guys also end up disappointing or boring her. I guess she's always hoping they'll have more substance than their bland exteriors suggest. Or, like the Tick, she's easily distracted by shiny or pretty things. She's mostly sworn off romance in recent months, opting to focus on her studies instead. But, as Ed once observed, she's mercurial, so that could change at any moment. It makes it hard to predict her. It could be she simply hadn't ever considered Ed as a romantic partner because, well, she just hadn't. And she still might not! But now that she knows how he feels, maybe she's thinking about it. For whatever reason, she wasn't picking up the signals*. Or the milquetoast boys are boring her and she's up for trying someone different. At least she already knows she can hang out with Ed and the two can have fun. They did hug once, in a moment of shared celebration, and then both got awkward about it momentarily.

With Ed it's apparent that, contrary to what he thinks, women do find him desirable. He's had two one-night encounters, although the first ended very badly because it was very brief. A couple of other women have seemed interested. The problem being, he's still hung up on the possibility that Esther might turn out to be interested. Susan, Daisy, and McGraw have all taken different approaches to try and get him off that tack. Susan opts for mockery, McGraw for straightforward comments. Daisy usually tries to get him going in some other direction. Pushed him onto the student paper, got him a date with another student who shared his interests in science fiction. None of it has ultimately worked, and that's because Ed's not been convinced there's no chance with Esther. As long as he thinks that might be a viable path, he doesn't want to commit to another.

Two paths in the woods, and the one will probably be perfectly pleasant, but this other one over here, it might be awesome. Look at that scenery in the distance! Just gotta wait for a road crew to clear this here rockslide. . . OK, Robert Frost I ain't. I get the instinct Ed has, though. I was hesitant to take the career path I'm currently on, because I was worried I'd never get back to the thing I really think I want to do. But there was a point where I needed to get an actual, paying job, and I just have remain steadfast that I can make my way back over to that other path at some point down the line if I really want it. I don't think Ed's got that same belief. Maybe he's right, maybe he's not

They'll have to hash it out at some point. Could be tricky getting to that stage, since both of them think the other doesn't remember. Hard telling how the conversation will go, too. They're friends' relationship issues are a mixed bag. When McGraw and Susan are on the outs, they don't talk much. Susan treated him like a mortal enemy when she learned he was going to the same university as her. When she was wrapped up in the student president campaign, McGraw spent a lot of time moping and passive-agressively commenting on not seeing during the times they were together. Then he broke up with her (on her birthday). Otherwise, they both internalize whatever turmoil they're feeling. They've patched it up a couple of times so far. McGraw and Emilia's break-up was less than pleasant, and nearly ended with McGraw and Ed getting beaten. That situation is still awkward.

Daisy and Ingrid's break-up was a spectacular explosion of fury from Ingrid, and a two plus week stint laying in bed for Daisy. I'm not convinced we've seen the last of Ingrid. Esther's break-up with the T.A. was quite a show; the one with the director happened off-screen. When she returned home and found her ex-boyfriend was dating her friend Sarah, that got ugly in a hurry. Even though Esther broke up with him after cheating on him, so my sympathies were not with Esther in that scenario. But all parties were ultimately able to talk things out, and Esther and Sarah are still friends.

If they talk it out before any dating - or fake dating - they'll probably be OK. If not, especially if Ed gets asked to play "pretend boyfriend", it's probably going to end horribly. Which will be sad to read, but hopefully entertaining.

* Esther's description of Ed to her friend Sarah was that he's 'not hideous'. Although she said it with a sly grin and reference to their mutual friend Big Lindsay having slept with him, so interpret that how you will.

** It occurs to me that Esther may be so accustomed to making the first move she's not used to noticing someone else being into her first. Or, she's not used to it being someone she doesn't mind having around. I imagine she's had a lot of come-ons from guys she wouldn't give the time of day.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #18

"Snapperhead?!" in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #26, by David Michelinie (writer), Scott McDaniel (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Steve Dutro (letterer)

I mostly keep the Amazing Spider-Man Annuals I have as a look at earlier work for artists I know better from later in their careers. The main story in this issue has work from Scott McDaniel, who went on to draw various Batman books for several years, including Nightwing with Chuck Dixon and Robin with Bill Willingham (though the latter isn't a career high point for either person involved).

There's also a back-up story on Eddie Brock's early days as Venom drawn by Aaron Lopresti, who's mostly been working for DC the last 10 years, but was drawing Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel series right up until the Secret Invasion tie-ins started. And a Solo story drawn by Scott Kolins, who drew a lot of Geoff Johns' Flash run, among other things.

Of the three, McDaniel is probably the closest to the style he'd have later, but the linework is a lot thinner and busier than it is once he starts inking himself.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What I Bought 5/9/2018

Two books this week, and here they both are. We take our small victories where we can.

Domino #2, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Unless Domino's powers are going to conjure up a pack mule, not sure how she's going to carry all those guns. Maybe that's why she kept Cable around. Certainly wasn't for his sparkling personality.

We learn why the creepy old man hates Domino: her powers helping her hurts him. Less sure what the angry red-haired lady's problem is. Maybe she's just angry all the time. Lots of people scowling in this issue. To be fair, David Baldeon draws a very good intense scowl. Domino is worried one of her two friends is selling her out, but no leads as of yet, so they try to do a job protecting some guy's riverboat casino. It doesn't go well, but he wasn't gonna pay them, so they keep the casino. Then it looks like her friends got blown up by Creepy Old Guy.

I wasn't aware that Domino knew Amadeus Cho well enough for him to come along on a mission, but I also didn't think Storm knew Domino well enough to attend her birthday part, so *shrug*. Whatevs. Everyone in the Marvel Universe knows everyone else these days. Didn't know she could tell a guy had a bad rotator cuff just by looking at him, but that seems to be a skill she has. Learning all kinds of things here. Baldeon draws those pretty well, too. Opts for the approach of usually four panels in a row, each showing a particular move in progression. Not slo-mo, just snapshotting particular split-seconds. It works.

I'm mostly just rolling with it right now. Things are moving along, there's action, there's humor, it's entertaining so far.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #32, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - The ol' "walls closing in" death trap. Gotta respect the classics.

Doreen decides to include Kraven in a fun social activity as a way to keep him from backsliding into villainy. So they decide to do one of those escape rooms. I think they should have chosen the one where the guy chases you with a broom for a half-hour, but I suppose the solution to that wouldn't be very challenging (I liked that gag, though). The escape room they did pick gets a lot more challenging once the owner realizes they have actual powers and ramps up the difficulty.

The big news in this issue - besides yet another appearance from Kraven the Hunter's Kra-Van - is new artist Derek Charm. Like I mentioned Wednesday, I had gotten so accustomed to Erica Henderson being the artist it took me until the solicit for July's issue to notice she wasn't drawing the book, and I thought that was just a fill-in issue while she took a month to catch up, catch her breath. But anyway, here's the new artist, having apparently drawn some Archie books previously, which I had no trouble believing.

Charm's style is a little simpler than Henderson's but it's still expressive and able to sell the humor when it needs to. Although it's really too bad North made him draw that panel referencing Peter Parker unmasking in Civil War. No one needed to be reminded of that, North. Most of the characters are recognizable, although I wasn't sure about Nancy at first. Henderson gave her a long face and prominent nose, and Charm didn't. I do think some of the characters lost some of the distinctness in their body and facial types, but it's not a deal-breaker. You can still see the same pacing and set-up in some of the layouts. The panels of the cast introducing their made-up heroic identities for the game felt like familiar in how they were laid out.

Overall, it'll probably work out alright. Although the letters page mentions Charm is the artist for this Kraven story. Does that mean the book is going to start in with rotating art teams? 'Cause that gets kind of old with Ms. Marvel.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


A squad of Turkish cops answer a call from another unit about a disturbance, that leads them to an abandoned building that was a police station back in the Ottoman Empire days. Now there's some wackaloon religious cult in there and things go downhill very quickly for the cops.

I didn't finish this one. I was intrigued at the idea of this small group of guys finding themselves in way over their heads and then having to fight like hell to get out. Sort of a Resident Evil (the games more than the films) vibe to it. Maybe it would have ended up like that, but people were being slowly disemboweled and having their eyes put out, and that stuff isn't my bag.

It doesn't necessarily bother me in video games, but the fact that I can usually control things to avoid that (and hit restart and try again when I screw up) mitigates it. Also the difference between a fictional character being represented by a real human in a film, versus a bunch of pixels in a game probably factors.

There are some interesting parts in there. The rookie of the group, Arda, is the nephew of the leader of the group, Remzi. The two have a conversation, possibly in a dream, about being able to see ghosts and spirits, and what that can tell them.

There's also a part where one of the other cops beats up the waiter at a restaurant because he thinks the guy was laughing at him, and does this with Remzi's go-ahead. So I wasn't entirely sure I cared if any of these guys made it out alive, anyway.

For someone more into this style of horror film, it might work pretty well. Just not for me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

What I Bought 5/5/2018

How did everyone's Free Comic Book Day go? I tried a couple of different stores, but they only had a half-dozen or so of the different options, and none of them were the ones I was interested in. Kind of a bummer.

Giant Days #38, by John Allison (writer), Julia Madrigal (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Relax girls, if it's one of those Escher houses, you'll double back to each other in no time.

Daisy settles into her job as mentor for the arriving students, including cracking down on one poor guy who was just trying to get a little high. Boo, don't be a narc, Daisy. Susan, who took no part in apartment hunting, has still decided she hates the place McGraw chose, and is carping endlessly. Hey, I like to do the same thing, but that doesn't make it less shitty. Esther tries to head off the unpleasant things Dean Thompson told their housemates about her, but has possibly succeeded in playing into his hands. Daisy's proposed solution is the worst possible idea, given that we all have a pretty good idea which poor bastard will end being Esther's "fake" boyfriend.

It's a nice mix of quick conflicts and longer term ones. Things get started on Daisy's work as a mentor, with the potential for future issues if she can't accept there are situation beyond repair. Esther gets what is likely going to be a subplot that won't resurface for a couple of months. And we have what appears to be a brief conflict for Susan that gets resolved within the issue. Throw in some jokes and it's good times all around.

Something I'm noticing is that with books I've come to expect creative team stability from, I start glossing over the credits, which can lead to surprises (it happened with this week's Squirrel Girl as well). So I wasn't expecting a different artist, but Julia Madrigal handles things well. Although I can't tell if Dean Thompson looking thinner and missing his topknot hairdo is meant to signify a change for him, or just Madrigal straying from the established look. On one of the first couple pages, I thought Madrigal had a bit of Phil Foglio's style in hers, but it never cropped up after that. She does a good job with the sequences where a character goes through a wide range of expressions and postures in rapid succession. She doesn't seem to exaggerate as much as Max Sarin did, though that might be that the issue didn't call for it. But when she does need to, she pulls it off. Although she gives most of the characters a pair of lines running diagonally across their nose (except the ones with upturned or button noses, like Daisy and Esther). Not sure what that is, but once I saw it, I couldn't stop seeing it.

Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special, by Brian Maruca (writer), Jim Rugg (writer/artist) - I'd say you should see the other guy, but that might be too graphic for sensitive readers.

I think this is part of a hardcover book Rugg and Maruca released last year. That was listed as 40 pages, this is just 25, so I'm guessing they cut off the school dance portion, which did make a good stopping point. The last page here, works well as the final beat of the story up to that point, but you can see how the story could go forward from there.

Anyway, Jesse actually comes to school and finds she's been challenged by some loser ninja-in-training named Jacob. Jacob then spends the rest of the day antagonizing her, which seems like a stupid idea when you plan to fight her later. Jesse's also dealing with her best friend Bell, who is trying to get Jesse to go to the school dance, because otherwise Bell's parents won't let her go. The two situations resolve in a way none of them expected.

I feel like the book's playing with that whole idea of young boys pulling girls hair or calling them names because they can't just say "I like you." Only here, no these two really don't like each other. Jacob smashing Jesse's face into her lunch is just him being a jerk. And Jesse really has no time for any of it.

Maybe it's the book being in color, but it looks like Rugg simplified his style some. Especially on the characters who aren't Jesse, he seems to have adopted a more bare-bones, broadly expressive approach, not going too heavy on the details. It works; there's no difficulty following what's happening, faces convey what they need to. There's a good sense of pacing in the set-up for some of the bits. Jesse plunks Jacob in the face with a dodgeball at one point, and the sequence builds over a page-and-a-half. Rugg and Maruca even distract from it a little by having Bell talking about Juan, some boy with a crush on Jesse. You see Jesse picking up the ball and wonder if she's thinking along the same lines as Bell, just trying to be cool about it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Kill the Irishman

Ray Stevenson plays Danny Greene, who ran the longshoreman union in Cleveland for a time in the '70s, but eventually got crosswise of the mob. You can guess how that ends for Danny. Like The Way Back, this is based on actual events, and like The Way Back, I don't know how much it fudges things.

Greene's an interesting character. He reads a lot, is always thinking about news avenues to explore, is bluntly honest, and isn't going to kiss anyone's butt.  Sometimes he's a pretty decent guy, and he's willing to call an unjust situation what it is when he sees it. That's what gets him in trouble with the mob; they say he's owes them some money they were giving him as a business loan. The money never made it to him, but they still expect him to repay them the money he never received. He calls bullshit on that, which the mob took about as well as you'd expect. He originally gets hooked up with them trying to get a friend with gambling debts out of trouble. He really did seem to have a principled opposition to the previous head of the union (played by Bob Gunton, the evil warden from Shawshank Redemption).

At the same time, no one made him go to his loan sharking acquaintance (played by Christopher Walken) to ask for money to start a restaurant. He knows this is a guy who loans people money, then has them beaten if they don't pay it back. Is he really surprised things might not be handled fairly? Maybe Greene tried banks first and they turned him down. Maybe he expected a friend to give him a better deal (why I don't know, he'd already experienced how unsentimental these guys are). Whatever his opposition to the previous union boss, Danny was quite content to reap the benefits of letting the local mob loot the containers as they sat in the dockyard.

Stevenson has this particular tone to his voice that reminds me a lot of Robert Mitchum, and I could see Mitchum playing this character. Tough guy, kind of ass, not always on the right side of the law, but tries to do right by people, and seems to inspire loyalty.

Val Kilmer's in there as a detective who narrates the story and was acquainted with Greene through their wives, but doesn't have much purpose otherwise. Vincent D'Onofrio plays the guy Danny's friend got in debt to, who later becomes his partner. There's a lot of solid actors in here, doing pretty well with the roles that are typical in movies about the mob. Lot of cursing, lot of talk about respect, lots of casual racist jokes flying every direction. It's the kind of stuff that I normally find dull or irritating about mob movies, but it doesn't bother me as much here. Probably because the film focuses primarily on Danny, and he cuts through a lot of that. He just gets to the point, doesn't stand on ceremony.

Monday, May 07, 2018

What I Bought 5/1/2018 - Part 2

I was really hoping the Toronto Raptors were at least going to make Lebron James have to work to advance in the playoffs, but no. Can we call the Pacers back and let them have another crack at it.

Mata Hari #3, by Emma Beeby (writer), Ariela Kristantina (artist), Pat Masioni (colorist), Sal Cipriano (letterer) - Ah, to be anywhere other than Paris when the French Army is looking to blame their massive casulaty numbers on you.

The story continues moving between Magreet's past and present. In the present, she's undergoing a suspicious doctor's inspection, who doubts her complaints of illness. Meanwhile, Captain Bouchardon is trying to find more evidence, and he found some mercury. Which could be to treat the syphilis she has, but which he believes must be for sinister purposes. In the past, her marriage isn't going so well, as one child falls ill, and her husband grows distant and unfaithful. When she divorces him, he complains he can't pay alimony. Then complains when she starts working in a brothel to support her daughter. Then mistreats her for it when she tries to reconcile for the child's sake. So she goes to Paris.

All this is very effective at producing sympathy in the reader. I can understand why she might well have taken her anger out by acting as a spy. All these people who want to use her, and then blame her for their desires, that would have to get old. It's difficult trying to line up what she's writing in her memoir, with what we see in the past and present. She mentioned that by getting married, making vows to a man, she had forsaken vows to her gods (which I assume are represented by the entreaties to Shiva that appear throughout). I'm not sure when she made those vows, and I'm curious how some of her actions would fit with that idea. If she's simply trying to give dumb men the opportunity to destroy their lives worshiping her, or if that's the other side of her, that is trying to find a person to be with. Was she trying to manipulate her lawyer by kissing him, or was she simply frightened and lonely?

At times I forget the memoir is being written as she's in prison, and may reflect her looking back, rather than her state of mind at the time the events we see are taking place. So I read a caption with part of what she's writing, and then judge her next actions as if she was already thinking that at the time, which I'm pretty sure is not what I'm supposed to being doing.

I'm curious about the choices in coloring for the mood of scenes. Most of the scenes in her present are given an orange hue, probably from a candle in her cell. Sometimes it carries over into the flashback scenes as well, as unhappy memories mingle with current unpleasantness. The circular panel that rings her in all the "Shiva" panels is always colored a light blue. Placid, calm, kind of at odds with her making an entreaty of a god to empower her to destroy, at the cost of everything she is. But maybe it's a decision she'd made long ago, and so actually doing it is very straightforward. What I was most curious about was on the final two pages, we see her ask to join the circus she saw in Paris, and convince her present-day attorney not to hire another counsel for her. And the circus memory is set in a dull grey background, all the colors, even the performers' costumes are muted. The colors are much brighter in the scene on the next page of her and the lawyer. It isn't a straightforward past vs. present approach, because many of the other flashbacks have bright colors. Maybe it's the point when she renewed her vows to the gods, and as she gained power, they took something from her, the joy in the life she's living going away?

Giant Days #37, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Well that isn't an ominous and sad-looking cover.

So Daisy's granny knows Daisy was dating Ingrid, and didn't tell her. This leads to an angry conversation, and Daisy returning to Sheffield to look for housing. Leading to a brief, but hilarious montage of the horrors of looking for a decent, affordable apartment. I feel as though that's an experience I've largely missed. Granted, I stayed in the dorms throughout my undergrad years, then spent most of my post-college years alternating between housing provided by temp wildlife biology jobs, and staying with one of my parents. But I've had a couple of apartments, and didn't have much trouble finding something I could tolerate.

Maybe I just have low standards.

Anyway, Daisy tries to get advice from Susan and Esther, but Esther is distracted trying to avoid her harridan of a boss, and Susan is only helpful when she talks in her sleep. Maybe the Spoonsan Daisy made was telling her useful things. Although that would raise its own concerns. Daisy does find a solution, and her grandmother comes to sort things out, so hooray! No family awkwardness!

Food question. Esther is working at some sort of cafe, and mentions she may have to harm someone for putting cream on their scone before jam. Does cream mean butter, or something else? Whipped cream? The only cream I really know is the one people who drink coffee use. I'm not sure if this is an English thing, or a general food thing I am ignorant of.

I am going to guess that the guy using the fake noses and glasses, with a pillow shoved under his shirt, is a character from one of Allison's other stories set in the area. Because that seems too random to not be someone with a pre-existing backstory. If I'm wrong, it's an interesting touch, and I'd be curious whether Allison or Sarin came up with the idea for that gag. Although I struggle to grasp why he needs the disguise. Is the apartment that terrible, he can't risk the tenant knowing what he looks like?

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #17

"Seems Like The Same Old Day For Spidey" in Amazing Spider-Man #556, by Zeb Wells (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler/colorist), Tim Townsend (inker), Antonio Fabela (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)

Oh boy, Brand New Day. An alien bursting out of the chest of the rotting corpse that was One More Day. With his marriage safely erased from existence, Peter Parker was free to unsuccessfully date several new characters, shuffle through various jobs, and frequently be treated as pretty much a complete loser. As opposed to someone who mostly has his life together, but has just a little too much on his plate, which is how I would have generally described him prior to this.

The first 2.5 years, the book had a core group of creators who took turns on arcs, while it shipped three times a month. Some decent names in there, between Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, Emma Rios, Roger Stern, Joe Kelly, among others. As far as I was concerned, it made it much easier to just pick and choose arcs. I stopped approaching it as "I'm going to buy Spider-Man comics," and turned towards, "I'm going to buy comics about Spider-Man by these specific people."

(My growing awareness about specific creators as a result of being on the Internet reading and writing about comics factored in as well. I was at least developing a group of writers and artist to avoid like the plague, and a smaller subset of people to keep an eye out for).

Dan Slott took over writing duties full-time in the fall of 2010, and is just now relinquishing them. It's been a decade, give or take a month, since the story above came out. In all that time, I bought 22 issues of Amazing Spider-Man, almost all of those prior to July of 2010. Almost all of those were by either Dan Slott & Marcos Martin, Zeb Wells & Chris Bachalo, or Roger Stern & Lee Weeks stories. I still have about a dozen of them. None of the ones I kept really required Peter Parker to be single to function as a story.

Friday, May 04, 2018

What I Bought 5/1/2018 - Part 1

That Dr. Strange Favorite Characters post is getting a lot of views, by my standards. At least I haven't been attacked by rabid Strange fans in the comments. Must not have done too badly on it.

The Demon: Hell is Earth #6, by Andrew Constant (writer), Brad Walker (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Tom Napolitano (letterer) - Would have been a bit more Biblical for Belial to use the jawbone of an ass, rather than the rib of a giant wolf. Also, he would have had no shortage of options between Etrigan, Merlin, and Blood, if he could get Jason to be corporeal for long enough to remove it.

Yes, I ended up buying it. I was curious to see how Blood being a spectral being would contribute to Belial's downfall. The answer is, "very little". Etrigan does most of the fighting, with a magic buff from Merlin, and Blood's role is to taunt Etrigan into getting angry enough to overcome his father's magic. The spell is undone, cosmic reset button, bingo bango, everything is back as it was. Except Etrigan is now ruler of Hell.

I suppose if someone did something with that, it might be interesting. What's Etrigan going to do as King of Hell? How is that going to impact life for people on Earth or other worlds? Seriously, send Etrigan to Mogo and let him cause trouble there. Merlin was hiding Excalibur and gave that to Etrigan? Can he claim rule over England now (I'm not clear on Arthurian legends, obviously). I guess there are possibilities, but I don't know that any of them are going to take place. Otherwise, it's an, "OK, so?" A status quo change to no effect. The part that caught my attention the most is Belial paraphrased Kung Fu Panda at one point on page 2 and 3. Which feels like something Etrigan would mock him for if, you know, he hadn't decapitated Belial.

Brad Walker's art is still good, although the fight suffers for Belial being so large. He'd been something similar with Etrigan throughout the series, but more in quieter moments, conversations or the preludes to violence. Belial takes up so much space in the panels things feel cluttered. I wanted Walker to back the view up so we could have a better sense of what's happening. But he was keeping it focused on the two demons, who were the important ones in all this, so it makes sense.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #4, by Adam Warren (writer), Carla Speed McNeil (artist/letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist) - Glad I ate dinner before I started this review, or I'd have lost my appetite.

The heroes survive a tussle with the food elemental on the cover in the cafeteria, and then are attacked by the 3 J's and their deadly hair in the gymnasium. Bit of a close call both times, but they survive.

I like the flashback to lunchtime at Spooky's school, drawn within a lunch tray. That's just a clever layout. Also, in the flashback to a conversation between Hannah and Theresa, we're seeing part of the conversation as a reflection from a mirror. And when Theresa and Emp were under attack in the girl's room, Spooky saw Hannah in the mirror's reflection as well. I don't know a lot of the backstory of the relationship, but I'm guessing that, while all the popular girls are trying to make Theresa relive the humiliation they put her through in high school, she's really looking back over the ways she feels she screwed up what she had with Hannah. And how the torment these girls put her through contributed to that, the same way it contributed to her hating Emp when they first met (because she assumed Emp was just like all those girls from high school).

And I wonder if any of the evil girls are paying attention to how things are going. They know their classmates are dying obviously, but bringing up Hannah is consistently taking the fight out of Theresa. She was still struggling against Julia - even without being able to muster a spell - until Julia mentioned that Hannah also had blonde hair, which dredged up painful memories. I've mentioned that all these girls are stuck on their high school years, and are making the mistake of thinking Spooky is still that same girl, too. So the taunts and attacks that were so effective then, aren't cutting it now. But there's another, more recent wound that's still open, and they mostly ignore it.

I have to figure that one of the Ashlee's is going to deliberately exploit it sooner or later, and I guess we'll see how that plays out.