Friday, June 29, 2018

What I Bought 6/23/2018 - Part 2

For the other book I was looking for from two weeks ago, I have a special bonus. Because I also found the first issue, which I missed when it was initially released in May. Hooray!

Coda #1 and 2, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist), Michael Doig (color assists), Colin Bell (letterer) - For issue #1, I wound up with the Jae Lee cover, who is not one of my favorite artists. The man simply will not draw backgrounds. The characters exist in some bizarre fog world.

The main character, who merely responds "Hm" when asked his name, is a former bard trying to get enough of a magical substance to barter with a mermaid queen for a weapon that will let him rescue his love from a horde of warrior, orc, troll things. The world they live in is either slowly dying, or slowly changing, after one of those Dark Lord types succeeded in destroying everything. Thus, the magic substance is scarce. Hm thought he'd found a source, but couldn't get to it. Now the town that has it is about to be attacked by an entire city of bandits being towed by the final giant in the world.

I read a comment last month somewhere - probably on Wait, What? - where someone said they weren't digging this, because they felt Spurrier had done a much better job building a world that felt fully realized in Spire. I can't argue with that, Spire was good. I think his goal with the two stories is different. Here, he's playing on our familiarity with the genre conventions of the whole Tolkein style sword and sorcery stuff, and making it post-apocalyptic. He can use some shorthand about the world because we already have a general idea of what these worlds are like normally. Coda is what happens if the Ring doesn't get thrown back into Mount Doom, or insert the fantasy world disaster of your choice. It lets Spurrier and Bergara have some fun showing what's become of the different types of characters one might encounter, of how people get by. It's working for me so far.

Bergara's art keeps reminding me of something, but I can't place it. He has a light pencil line, mostly for Hm (with other characters, the linework seems heavier). Maybe it's just because Hm is so quiet most of the time, disinterested in most of what's happening. He's focused on his one goal, and whatever the rest of the people are scrambling for is of no interest. Bergara uses shadow effectively to suggest detail and mood. He can go simple when he needs to exaggerate for effect, or detailed when he wants to really show off a location. The pacing is good - the appearance of the bard's steed was an attention-getter - and the few fight scenes have a good flow from one panel to the next.

With the colors, the remnants of the old world tend to be much brighter and more vivid. The green of the acker, or the lights in the illusion the senile old wizard is casting without realizing it. When those fade, or the characters step into another room, everything is that much duller. Hm's clothes, the walls and buildings, they all pale in comparison. Because people won't let go of what's lost, and tend to buff out the inconvenient aspects of the past, remembering only what suits their narratives.

Hm may very well be guilty of the same thing. The bandit, Notch, certainly thinks so, but there could be reasons why Hm's hope is justified. I want to see what happens, where this goes. Hm is going to have to get between that giant-propelled bandit fortress and the town with all the magic stuff. How he's going to go about it, and how involved he intends to get, I don't know. He said he thinks underdogs are the ones who need to be thrown a bone, but that doesn't mean he'll be the one to do it. Although the city is going to be better defended than the bandits are expecting thanks to him, so maybe he did them a solid already.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Fighting and Frustration As Usual

I found a copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the XBox somewhere a couple of years ago. I tried it briefly and did horribly, then put it aside until recently. I'm still not any good at it, worse than I was at Marvel vs. Capcom 3, actually. MvC 2 is a 3 vs. 3 fighting game, where you can switch between members of your team at will, or call the ones on the sideline in to perform assist moves, pretty much all the time. I looked for an option to increase the time before you could call in for an assist again, but there was no way to do that. Too bad; sometimes the computer spams the hell out of that. The assist character has barely leapt off-screen before they come barreling back in.

The problem for is, I'd rather it was a 1 vs. 1 fighting game, like Street Fighter. Failing that, more of a free-for-all melee, where all members of both teams are out there at once. Not sure how I would control three characters simultaneously, but maybe that's a multiplayer option, like Super Smash Bros. Then you could try and have one team member hang back, either to recover health or just to keep in reserve, but they might still have to defend themselves. It's really annoying when the computer manages to withdraw a character I've almost knocked out and throw in someone rested.

I'll use that trick when I can, and sometimes I spam assist attacks too, when it feels like my only chance. Although if I've gotten to that point, I'm probably too far gone to pull off a win. I'd like to win. But it isn't really how I like to play.

All that said, when I can actually just fight one character against another, the controls pretty smooth. I put them on the easy setting, so it's not as complicated to do special moves. I'm glad they include that option. As with most fighting game, I try to use all the characters. My Top 20 scores involve 35 of the 56 characters at least once. I tend to do better with characters I'd describe as having good speed, and average ability to deal and take damage. Or maybe those are just the ones I like playing as the most. I can get by with other characters - the description in the previous sentence doesn't match the Hulk, and he's part of 5 of those top 20 scores - but I feel like I'm working against the character's strengths when I do. Getting lucky, or winning in spite of myself.

The character I hate fighting against the most varies. Sakura seems to block everything; I have a lot more trouble beating her than I do Ryu or Ken, who are, in their universe, supposed to be much further along as fighters than she is. Wolverine is set to be so ridiculously fast it's just frustrating. Fortunately, he has a glass jaw, so if I can hit him, he'll drop pretty fast. I know, that doesn't make any sense to me either. Also, they included two Wolverines, one with Adamantium and one without. That seems unnecessary. Iron Man and War Machine both have attacks that frustrate my tendency to jump towards the opponent (I can't seem to get Dashing forward to work well for me). Omega Red's reach get old after a while. Especially when he jumps so you're below him and aren't visible on the screen, then he grabs you and tosses you around. That's not cheap or anything.

The graphics aren't as good as on MvC 3, obviously, but I actually prefer the art style. The later game was more of a CGI style, while this is based off Joe Madureira's art style, I think. It's a little more fluid than the later game's look, which I prefer. I would have been curious to see that game in this one's style. Yeah, I just looked for Joe Mad drawings of Rocket Raccoon and I think that would have looked pretty cool.

The character selection dates the game a bit (I'm sure MvC 3's does as well). Lot fewer X-Men in the later game, while this one is full of them and related characters. You have Wolverine(s), Rogue, Psylocke, Cyclops, Storm. But they also threw in Cable (who is probably disappointed Iron Man brought a bigger gun), Iceman (who I do surprisingly well with), and Marrow. I picked up some post-Onslaught, pre-Grant Morrison X-Men comics last winter, so I remember when they were trying to make Marrow kind of a next wave of X-Men. Still, it's strange to see her in a big licensed fighting game. She wasn't even a character you had to unlock, she was available right from the start. Of course they also threw in Silver Samurai and Spiral, not to mention Blackheart from the Nocenti/Romita Jr. Daredevil run. I know some of these had been in earlier Capcom fighting games, Marvel Super-Heroes, or X-Men vs. Street Fighter, so it isn't a surprise they carried over. Although a lot of them didn't make it to MvC 3.

The game is set up so you get points for playing it. The more rounds and the better your score, the more points you earn. The points are what you use to unlock other characters, artwork, alternate color schemes for the costumes. Trying to get hose last two is what made me hit burn out. Every time you purchase one a gallery, the next one costs a little more. So it takes a little more playing to get enough points to get the next one, a little for the one after that, and so on. Which turned into a grind for no good purpose.

I don't know what the story is exactly. The instruction manual doesn't tell you anything. Some big threat endangering both worlds, I guess. The final boss has three different forms. You beat one, then the next, then the final form. Your characters don't recuperate between those fights, and if one gets knocked out, they're done for the remainder. If I can make it past the second form, I usually do pretty well at winning the whole thing. But the second form takes a toll.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What I Bought 6/23/2018 - Part 1

There wasn't a single comic I wanted that came out last week. I did, however, find all the comics I was still looking for from the week before on a weekend jaunt. So let's look at those instead.

Copperhead #19, by Scott Godlewski (writer/artist), Jay Faerber (writer), Ron Riley (colorist), Thomas Mauer (letterer) - The cover and the final page of the issue mirror each other effectively.

The thing unearthed in the last issue looks like a glowing blue rock. It glows the same color as some antennae on the back of the native species heads. Except the antennae are actually parasites, and the native species are suddenly being very aggressive in approaching the town. Hickory's bosses are excited and pushy, but the artificial humans have a plan of their own, involving some group they belong to, indicated by a tattoo. The sheriff and the Mayor are trying to figure out what Hickory is up to, and Clara is trying to reconnect with Zeke, who is struggling to process that Clara isn't his birth mother, that she killed his mother.

A lot of plates spinning, which, since this is supposedly the last arc, makes a certain amount of sense. If there's going to be any resolution or payoff, it has to happen now. Be interesting to see if Faerber and Godlewski can pull it off, or if they're even planning to do that.

Scott Godlewski, who was artist for the first 10 issues, is back. There's a marked increase in the consistency of characters' sizes and proportions. Budroxificus looks suitably large, even when he isn't drawn to be intimidating. Sheriff Bronson is working with him, and Mister Hickory thinks he's got Boo wrapped around his finger, so neither is intimidated by him, and he isn't drawn in a way that suggests they are. No towering over them imposingly. But he still fills panels, because he's a big Cypabaran (which I just now realize is rearranging "capybara" and that's what he's based on).

Stellar #1, by Joseph Keatinge (writer), Bret Blevins (artist), Rus Wooten (letterer) - That's one way to kill a giant space monster. If only the pilot had buckled his safety belt first. . .

The series, so far, is taking place on a single world devastated in some major war that spread across the galaxy. Civilization hasn't collapsed entirely, but things are in flux, and a lot of people are struggling. The main character, named Stellar, was a super-soldier designed to win the war, and opted to go a different way at some point. Which put her in conflict with others like her. Or she's still in conflict with them. Time may also be unraveling, things are jumping around, so that I'm not always sure how we got from Point A to Point B. Or Stellar is hallucinating on that last page.

Blevins brings an interesting visual approach. It's the ruins of all those 1950s sci-fi pulp covers. The spaceship spaceships, the remains of giant robots and big statues like I remember from the covers of some version of Asimov's Foundation books. It takes something that the reader has some past visual reference for, and shows it as dead, maybe to give a scope of the destruction, or the level of fall from the heights they once were. Blevins is doing the color work as well, and in the flashback sequences, everything is dominated by yellows and oranges, vivid colors. In almost every one of those panels and pages, people are being vaporized, incinerated, or are being presented with the threat of those fates.

The rest of the book is done in cool, blunted shades. Even when it's showing some alien arthropods devouring the remains of some dead giant, the viscera is dull reddish-purple. Stellar wears a monk's robe and hood, concealing the old outfit she still wears underneath. Her face is more lined around the eyes - almost like Blevins made certain some of his initial sketch lines would show through as strain or sleeplessness - and she's paler. On the last page, when it looks as though the battle is starting up again, the oranges and yellows haven't returned, which is why I suspect it's a hallucination, or echo of the actual battle, long finished.

I don't entirely know what is going on, or where Keatinge and Blevins plan to go with it, but I'm intrigued.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

In Tasmania - Nicholas Shakespeare

The book starts with Nicholas Shakespeare, having moved to Tasmania from England with his wife not too long ago, learning there's another N. Shakespeare in Tasmania. They live near one of the original European settlements, York Town, when leads Nicholas into talking about Anthony Fenn Kemp, sometimes called the Father of Tasmania (white Tasmania, obviously), who he had recently learned he was related to on his father's side. And it turned out he had relatives in Tasmania on his mother's side as well. And through those bloodlines, he discusses the history of Tasmania from the recorded arrival of Europeans, diverging onto chapters about other people as they become relevant.

As with any book about another person's lineage, some parts will be more interesting than others. I got hopelessly lost trying to keep track of who was related to who by the time I was halfway through the book. And some of it simply wasn't of interest to me. The two sisters that represent the connection on his mother's side I found dull.

In contrast, he spends the middle of the book discussing the fate of the Aborigines that were present on the island when Europeans showed up. That the last Aborigine was believed to die decades ago, but people have, since the 1970s, started to recognize and acknowledge that many people on the island have an Aboriginal ancestor. Which has led to a lot of debate about who can and can't claim that heritage.

The parts about the natural features of the island, and some of the wildlife were extremely interesting to me. But I have another book sitting next to the couch to delve into those topics. Right near the end, he mentions there was a surge in Chinese immigration to the island in the mid-to-late 1800s, due to the presence of tin, which could be mined. That there are the remnants of old homes and shacks in the woods, some of which are still being found. That was something I might want to read more about. Or Jorgen Jorgenson, who came to Tasmania after a (very) brief stint as King of Iceland.

'In the north-west I had come across the hamlets of Paradise and Nowhere Else - after the comment of an early settler who, whenever he saw people cross his property, would tell them they had proceeded far enough. "The track," said Charles Ivory gruffly, "leads nowhere else." And yet the landscape had fought back. I found myself making a list of those who had presumed to rename it:

Tasman - d. in disgrace; Baudin - d. in Mauritius of dysentery; Flinders - d. on the day his Terra Australis was printed; Schouten - allegedly stoned to death; Hellyer - committed suicide; Lorymer - drowned while surveying the north-west coast with Jorgenson; Jorgenson - d. in ditch.'

Monday, June 25, 2018

Fall Isn't Off To A Great Start

In terms of new stuff I'm looking forward to, September's solicitations were real slim. There's a collection called Mooncop by Tom Gauld, coming out through Drawn & Quarterly. Sounds quiet and introspective, but could be cool.

Yeah, that was about it for new stuff. In titles I'll still be buying, there's Seeds, Giant Days, Coda, and Stellar from non-Marvel publishers. I found the first two issues of Coda, and the first issue of Stellar this weekend, and I feel pretty sure I'll still be buying both in September.

Having said that, I hope neither book does something so awful I drop them out of disgust in the next three months. That would be awkward. I already feel a little embarrassed I was so excited for Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood Suckers, and the first issue did not impress. That it was two months late, and they've gone and missed this month as well, isn't helping. Actually, I'm expecting two, maybe three other books to ship in September that were supposed to be done by then, but have run into delays. So that'll pick things up a bit.

At Marvel, nothing much changes. Ms. Marvel is fighting Shocker. He's always good as a one-off villain. And I recall that Kamala's vulnerable to shocks. Granted, that's electricity and he works off vibrations, but maybe it'll result in similar problems. Squirrel Girl's trying an all-silent issue. I wonder if the jokey comments at the bottom of the page will be silent as well? It could work - I remember enjoying a couple of the books from the "Nuff Said" month Marvel did in late 2001. Domino is wrapping up its opening arc, and there's also an annual, which I'm most likely skipping. the Multiple Man mini-series is in its penultimate issue.

Oh, they're doing a collection of the complete run of Chuck Dixon and Eduardo Barreto's Marvel Knights! Which. . . I already have in single issues, but might be relevant to some of your interests!

They're also releasing the final one of this series of one-shots that are really a mini-series about a Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel team-up in September. Now each one-shot is selling at 5 bucks a pop. They solicited the collection of all 5 of them this month (to be released in November) for $10 total. Suddenly, all interest in buying the single issues evaporated. Are they really expecting sales figures that high for the single issues? Why am I assuming Marvel has any sort of plan at all?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #23

"Burning Horsefeathers", in Amethyst (vol. 2) #12, by Mindy Newell (writer), Colleen Doran (penciler), Karl Kesel (inker), Carl Gafford (colorist), Agustin Mas (letterer)

After the 12-issue mini-series concluded, there was an Annual that finished the war against Dark Opal. Then the following year, this ongoing started. Having defeated Dark Opal, and with relative peace restored to Gemworld, Amethyst of course encounters new problems. Other old threats reemerge. Her parents' marriage begins to dissolve. Some of the kingdoms experience movements against monarchies. Amy continues struggles with the responsibilities of being the person everyone else looks to and expects things of. She has the notion, as a lot of kids would, that being the boss means getting your way. That's not how it goes, on any level, resulting in her repeatedly fleeing Gemworld to Earth, only to be drawn back for one reason or another.

In the middle of all this, Crisis on the Infinite Earths. In DC's desire to "simplify" their fictional universe, Amethyst learns that Everything She Knew Was Wrong. Gemworld can't simply be its own strange little magic world, it has to be tied into the same Order vs. Chaos stuff as Dr. Fate, and the same goes for Amethyst. 

I don't know if it was done because of an edict from on high that Everything Must Fit Together Now, or the creative team did it themselves to try and keep the book going. I don't think it did the book any favors.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Giant Days Volume 5

I'm surprised that panel of Daisy's reminder to Esther hasn't gone viral. It feels like the kind of thing people would post on tumblr after reading someone posting utterly ignorant nonsense. Trump manages to go five minutes without actively shitting himself, someone posts about how he's "figuring it out", or "pivoting", you post that panel.

Anyway, Volume 5 cover issues 17-20, and as usual, John Allison and Max Sarin, with Liz Fleming (inker), Whitney Cogar (colorist), and Jim Campbell (letterer), keep a lot of threads going. McGraw's dating someone else after breaking up with Susan, and Susan is handling it poorly. Esther and Ed dupe themselves into helping Dean Thompson to sell other peoples' essays to students by modifying select phrases. Daisy has a miserable archaeology field trip due to an overbearing professor. That's all in #17. From there, they have an end-of-first-year dance party, attend a summer music festival, and move into their new, off-campus home. The latter prompts a trip to Ikea for furniture. I have never been to an Ikea, although I'm not sure where the closest one is.

The Internet tells me it's two hours to an Ikea store. That explains that. I'm sure as hell not driving to St. Louis or Kansas City just to buy furniture.

The jokes and good lines are flying in constantly, working beautifully with Sarin, Fleming, and Cogar's art. Every page has some facial expression, posture, visual gag, or detail that I enjoy looking at or get a chuckle from.

My college days were not at all like this, although I'm a largely solitary introvert, which probably explains that. But I kind of wish I had college adventures like these, even though I certainly would have hated them at the time. That's how most of my adventures with Alex go. I'm irritated by the drunks, noise, and crowds, but there always ends up being something memorable.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thor: Ragnarok

I knew I'd get around to seeing it eventually. Just had to wait until it hit Netflix.

It's a very pretty movie, lots of bright colors. It was overbearing during the intro to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), but that was intentional. He's extravagant and really irritating, of course the pathway to him would be full of annoying AV work. Actually, I had a similar reaction to the theatrical "tribute" to Loki's sacrifice. No wonder those two got along so well. What a couple of hams.

It's funny, too, all the way through. Chris Hemsworth really does seem better suited to comedy than action hero stuff, physique to the contrary. I still wish his Thor would talk more smack. Maybe it would seem off, given how frequently he gets humiliated in this movie, and he was supposed to learn the whole "humility" thing in the first movie. But I kinda miss Thor bragging and talking shit, even when he's getting his butt kicked. Hemsworth and Hiddleston have good chemistry, where their characters have a certain likeable rhythm and get along, but can't bring themselves to entirely trust each other. Loki continues to not be half as clever as he thinks he is. Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie character is a lot of fun. It's nice to throw someone new into the mix to interact with these characters that are all familiar with each other.

Kind of bummed they offed the Warriors Three so casually. And no Jamie Alexander as Sif at all, kind of a bummer. Guess it's better than her being killed, since I don't expect these Asgardians to do the rebirth thing the way the ones in the comics do.

My brain continued its bizarre pattern of seeing Karl Urban and initially thinking he's Gerard Butler. I still don't know why I constantly get those two confused.

I think the constant humor works against the film in the same way it does in Deadpool 2. Not as badly as it does in that film, since Ragnarok isn't going for nonstop jokes. Banner realizing he lost two whole years of his life while Hulk had the wheel should probably be a bigger deal for him. But it's mostly jokes about his confusion, and how Bruce is not really suited for this situation. I kind of felt the same way about the surprise move to stop Hela at the end. It was a clever move; I figured when the movie used Surtur as a throwaway threat five minutes in that he was going to make a comeback later, but I didn't expect him to be used that way. But it still sort of felt like it was supposed to be funny? Maybe it was Cate Blanchett's "oh crap" look right before the end. Reminds me of the Coyote watching the boulder roll downhill towards him. Or Korg's big speech about home being rendered completely useless two seconds later, although you knew there was a punchline coming.

But the movie goes along at a nice clip, there's almost always something happening or being said to keep my interest. I enjoyed some of the musical choices. The big fight between Thor and Hulk was good. Not my favorite fight scene in a Marvel movie, but not bad at all. Taika Waititi seemed to have a clear idea of the kind of movie he wanted to make, and he mostly pulled it off.

The part where Hela represents Asgard's bloody imperialist past, which Odin subsequently tried to whitewash once he figured he'd conquered enough, that was good. Although I'd always thought it was just that there were 9 Realms, and the Asgardians lived in one of them, not that they ruled all 9. But movies and comics, not the same. We know Odin had warred against the Frost Giants before. He'd no doubt frame it as aggression by them, the Frost Giants being ungrateful for the blessings the Asgardians bestowed upon them. But it's not unlikely they were reacting to past aggression by him. Or maybe the Frost Giants were also a group bent on conquest, the Asgardians were just better at it.

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie. Easily my favorite of the Thor films, which is an admittedly low bar to clear. The movie having vibrant colors was going to give it a big advantage over the other two all by itself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Situation Has Not Improved

I was never a fan of the Fraternity of Raptors retcon to Darkhawk's origin. I'm not opposed to the concept of the Raptors themselves. "Secret group working behind the scenes to guide the course of the Shi'ar Empire" is fine. Adding in that they were out of commission for a long time and have reemerged with a kind of "What the fuck happened? We gotta this back on track attitude," attitude isn't a bad touch.

That doesn't mean it was necessary to link Darkhawk's origin to them. I definitely don't think tying him to the same cosmology as the Phoenix is necessary. One thing I enjoy about Marvel's cosmic setting is all the strange and disparate parts moving around out there in the same ballpark. That shared sandbox, all the different creators with different ways of thinking about things put their ideas in the same pot and they more or less coexist.

You got your various star-spanning empires, which are of course all hostile to each other. You have your embodiments of various cosmic concepts. You have your space police force guys. A living planet, complete with facial hair. A group of insane hobbyists who brag about being the last members of their respective species. An entire planet acting as an insane asylum, staffed by talking animals. Inscrutable space gods with heads shaped like coffee mugs. Space truckers, ebings made of pure energy, whatever stuff you want to pull from the '50s sci-fi/horror comics, on and on.

They don't have to be connected to each other. They can be, but it isn't necessary for them to interact. It's a big universe; there's plenty of room for unusual stuff to simply be its own thing. You can get a lot out of taking two characters or settings that occupy different niches and playing them off each other. The dynamics vary depending on what you're combining. Rocket Raccoon is going to interact with that space truck differently than Ronan the Accuser, and they're both going to respond differently to the Phoenix, or Galactus showing up on their doorstep.

Darkhawk's original origin was that the suit was one of five a interstellar gangster press-ganged some scientists into making for him. It's perhaps not the origin you'd expect for a strange amulet that lets you control a powerful suit of armor, but it's not a bad one. There are still criminals in space; they will want ways to deal with enemies or protect themselves from threats. Not all of them are going to go to the trouble of hiring Technet or Death's Head to do it for them. There are countless worlds in the Marvel Universe that have been inhabited, with their own ideas and technologies. Even if they're abandoned now, all their people dead and gone, the things they created might persist. They might be just drifting through space, and every so often, one is going to fall into someone else's hands.

And that's fine. They can just be their own thing, a reminder that there's all sorts of mysteries and secrets out there yet to be discovered. And they aren't always going to be connected to something we already know about.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Conflict

Mr. Mason (Humphrey Bogart) wants to kill his wife, because he's in love with her younger sister. He succeeds, and seems to have covered his bases. Unless, of course, Katherine (Rose Hobart) isn't dead. Maybe their good friend (Sydney Greenstreet) can help. Or maybe he won't.

You've seen this story before, where the murderer is gradually driven nuts by the fear the person they killed isn't actually dead. Watching it, the film gives a clear signal the moment Mason makes a mistake, and who recognizes it. After that, you know what's coming.

Which is fine, if the movie does it in an interesting way. And for the most part it does. It's an early noir film, so lots of long shadows and tight shots. There were a couple in particular that were very nicely done. When Katherine finds a parked car blocking the road and the camera slowly pans right to a figure in the trees, little more than a shadowy outline. There's another when Mason enters a pawn shop to find out what's up with a ticket he received in the mail. And probably several more besides that, but those are the two that stuck out the most.

It's not an essential film as noir or Bogart* movies go, but it's not bad at all.

* Bogart apparently hated filming it because a movie where a husband kills his wife was not the thing for him to be doing at a point when his marriage with his wife was falling apart. The movie was filmed in '43, held up in litigation and not released until '45 - by which time he'd married Lauren Bacall instead - and by then, the studio had him film another movie with basically the same plot but the details changed to try and avoid litigation. He only did that film because he really wanted to work with Barbara Stanwyck. The stuff the TCM people tell you about the movies are sometimes more interesting than the movies they're talking about.

Monday, June 18, 2018

What I Bought 6/13/2018 - Part 2

If I'm going to lose Internet and TV service for an entire weekend, it'd be nice for it to happen when the heat index wasn't going to be over 100. I only want to spend so much time reading or sleeping, you know?

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #33, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I learned last week that apparently alligators can climb trees. I thought rattlesnakes hanging out in trees was terrifying.

The cast make their way through a series of puzzle rooms, dodging death narrowly, including the final room which requires a combination of all their abilities. I did not solve the puzzle in the two minutes. Like I know what a frickin' Enigma machine looks like. They enter the final room and meet the villain who is. . . Mojo II?!

I was actually right? Welp, the world is ending. Spend your kids' college funds on something fun now. Should I be concerned my brain was operating on the same wavelength as Ryan North's?

Mojo II is defeated by a power Tomas had been too embarrassed to admit to having, and a good time is had by all. Until the cops arrest Kraven, and the rest of the group when they protest.

Does the puzzle room thing work in a comic? You can do mysteries, detective stories, where there are clues to decipher. But if you're going to present it as something the audience can try to figure out, I think you have to be a little more clear about what's there. In a Batman comic, for instance, he'd find a clue and explain what he'd found to a convenient exposition sponge. Robin, Gordon, Alfred, etc. North and Charm tried that with the final puzzle, but I couldn't tell what the cords under the countdown clock were supposed to be. I thought they were strings or shoelaces.

It actually was enjoyable to show the cast figuring out the answer, though, so maybe my issue is all the puzzles they breezed through without really showing how they figured out what to do. It makes it feel perfunctory, which it sort of is. Something to fill some pages until the cops can try to arrest Kraven, as part of this story where Doreen and Nancy are trying to keep Kraven from backsliding into villainy. It's getting things in place.

I'm still adjusting to Charm's art. Getting used to his version of Nancy. Something about how he draws Doreen's teeth reminds me of some cartoon about tiny munchkin people from my childhood. Makes her kind of elfin, or pixie like. Otherwise, it's fine. I can follow along with what's happening, what characters are feeling. He's able to sell the humorous moments for the most part. Although I notice Doreen's gone back to her old Squirrel Girl uniform, with the brown jacket. I liked that outfit fine, so no complaints there, just wonder if that's going to be the case going forward, or if she'll use them both interchangeably. Like Spider-Man using the black costume and the red-and-blue.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #22

"Go to School for Five Minutes and the Whole Magic Kingdom Goes to Hell" in Amethyst (vol. 1) #4, by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin (writers), Ernie Colon (artist), Tom Ziuko (colorist), John Costanza (letterer)

The various '80s Amethyst series were a major part of my back issue hunts this spring. They just sounded interesting, and it wasn't too many issues to track down. So I don't know anything about why the series came to be or anything like that. DC trying to appeal to a broader audience with a fantasy-based series starring a young female protagonist? That seems. . . remarkably unlike DC or Marvel to do something like that, but the '80s were a crazy time. We were just starting to realize we might not all die in nuclear fire! Anything was possible!

Amy Winston gets to play the child who finds out she has a special destiny, and is transported to a magical land - and also ages up a bit so she can have potential romances with handsome princes without said prince ending up on any federal databases - which she must save a from a dark and malevolent wizard. All the royal houses are based on birthstones, each tends to have certain areas of magic they're proficient in. There's a lot political maneuvering and backstabbing, Amy having to get some confidence, first in her powers, then in her ability to lead others in an uprising.

Ernie Colon with Tom Ziuko's color work, builds a world with a variety of realms, each with their own architecture and ambience. Topaz Keep is wildly different from Castle Amethyst, is different from Lord Garnet's realm, is different from Dark Opal's fortress, etc. Colon's art reminds me a lot of Joe Kubert's, which is never a bad thing. It works extremely well with the colors, where the colors really seem to make each line stand out. The art has a lush or almost lurid feel at times, depending on what mood it needs to evoke, joy or terror.

Friday, June 15, 2018

What I Bought 6/13/2018 - Part 1

Well, I found three of the seven comics coming out this week I wanted. Which is how I figured it'd go. If I go to Columbia this weekend, I might find some more. Also, my Internet is down until probably Monday afternoon. Hooray.

Domino #3, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon and Anthony Piper (artist), Jesus Aburtov (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Oh no, Greg Land is trying to draw people with happy smiles. It's one of the most horrifying things in the universe.

Domino tries to take revenge for her presumed dead friends, but screws it up because she wants to "make it hurt" and so uses fists rather than guns. So the villains escape again. At least her friends aren't really dead. Amadeus Cho suspects Diamondback is the traitor, but Domino doesn't want to believe it. Rather than confront her friend, or try to gather more evidence, she decides to go learn to control her power, after lying poorly to her friends. And she's going to learn control from Shang-Chi. Sure, why not? That dude needs to loosen up. But where is his monkey pal? C'mon on Gail Simone, respect CM Punk's very enjoyable story.

It is interesting to see Domino hanging out with this wider cast of characters. I've always associated her pretty strongly with Cable and X-Force. Deadpool, if he happens to be around. She was part of the X-Men while they lived on that island off San Francisco, but I usually forget that. But now we've got her palling around with Amadeus Cho, looking for Shang-Chi, forming a merc team that includes a former member of the Serpent Society/one of Captain America's ex-girlfriends. She's a little more spastic than I'm used to, but I'm used to her hanging around teenagers Cable's leading by the nose, or else Deadpool. She had to be a serious adult in those situations because there weren't any other good options.

The issue has a few flashbacks, colored various shades of grey, of Domino's time as a child being experimented on by creepy doctors trying to bring out her powers. They're surprised when that gets one of them killed. There isn't much to either of them - and we'll see if Topaz is connected to them in some way - but that might be the point. Who cares what their motivations are? They're experimenting on kids, fuck their rationalizations. Jesus Arbutov draws those pages, and it's a very straightforward style. There's bit of someone's style in there I can't place; Cameron Stewart maybe, or Darwyn Cooke. A lot fewer lines than in Baldeon's work on the remainder of the issue, but it's a much quieter setting. Domino's trying to keep herself emotionless, to give the doctors nothing, and the doctors' cheerful or collegial attitudes are fake. Some the emotions aren't real, or are hidden, and the expressions, and colors, are muted.

Baldeon's work, on the other hand, has a lot of emotion. Topaz has an intense scowl on her face in every panel. Domino looks alternately enraged, or depressed, or whatever to an extreme degree. Outlaw is stunned when Domino lies badly about going on a solo mission. The emotions are all BIG emotions. Baldeon draws dark rings around big eyes, which amplifies the emotion, or else a lot of little lines radiating outward.  And it gets the point across; I buy in totally that this Topaz despises Domino, and that Domino is desperate and furious and spooked by all this.

Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #2, by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims (writers), Gang Hyuk Lim (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - What will Darkhawk do without his nightlight?

Chris Powell is, like Domino, not the best at planning. He lets Death's Head fake-capture him and haul him into space to turn over to the Raptors. The Raptors betray Death's Head and blow up his ship. Powell thinks these guys will be pushovers like in that one-shot last fall, but they aren't, and he gets his ass kicked. The lead Raptor unveils some spiel about how the Raptors were originally an artificial version of some cosmic being meant to prey on the Phoenix Force?! Powell's peculiar situation is the perfect opportunity to create that being for real. They rip the amulet from Darkhawk's chest, and give it to Nova's brother Robbie, who eagerly accepts this gift pulled from the dead chest of his brother's friend and teammate, and they head for Earth. I mean, look at that nonsense.

I'm sure Powell is fine. Death's Head, too. It can't be the first time someone betrayed him, although I imagine no one does so twice. The Raptors are headed to Earth, Powell's pattern should still be inside the amulet, his fiance is on Earth, it'll be fine.

I've never thought the "let the bad guys capture you" plan was particularly bright. I suppose if your enemy can be anywhere in the universe it's the simplest way to get them to you, but just based on sheer numbers it seems stupid.

Lim's art is like it was in the first issue. It's very pretty - the panels where Darkhawk spreads his wing, he looks very shiny and cool - but the fight scenes still lack something. The Raptors are beating Darkhawk soundly, but it doesn't really come off from the art. Maybe because it happens so quickly. Once he realizes what he's up against, he gets brought down within a couple of panels, and one of those is a close-up on his face as the visor is cracking (although the glowing eyes just reminded me of ROM as much as anything). Maybe a few less panels of Miri freaking out over Chris bad plan, or less banter between him and Death's Head would have allowed more panels of him getting thoroughly trounced, and that might have helped. Or maybe not.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Left Hand of God

Humphrey Bogart plays a priest sent to a mission in China in the 1940s. Despite not being a conventional priest, he hits it off with most of the villagers in the region. The doctor assigned to the mission (played by E.G. Marshall), is less pleased, both with Father O'Shea and the locals, but his nurse (Gene Tierney) likes the padre just fine. There's something about O'Shea that isn't on the up and up, and it involves a nearby warlord (played by Lee J. Cobb, who is not Chinese). I don't feel that's too much of a spoiler, since the movie reveals in the first 5 minutes O'Shea is packing heat.

O'Shea is the sort of character Bogart plays very well. A man who has spent a long time focusing on his own interests first and foremost, but who still has the core of a decent guy within him. You see that in some of his interactions with the villagers. He's introduced to the elder of one village, who asks his blessing. O'Shea gives it, then kneels before the man and asks for his blessing.

This is contrasted against Marshall's character. He's been there for some time, and it only seems to have fostered a sense of irritated superiority in him. When a young woman dies in childbirth, he rails against the villagers going to midwives rather than him. He frequently argues the mission should be shut down, because he has only one patient. He doesn't consider that perhaps his attitude makes the villagers feel unwelcome, or that he could try to understand where they're coming from.He just expects them to accept him as an authority and do what he says.

There's a bit of the White Savior aspect in there, where it falls to O'Shea to save the villages from the warlord, but it's mitigated somewhat because a) it really is O'Shea's fault, so it's kind of his mess, and b) we get a few comments that suggest the leaders of the villages are trying to figure out their best option, but don't have the full scoop on what they're up against.

As for the romantic subplot, I feel like I blanked out on most of it. Probably because O'Shea is a priest, neither one of the characters is voicing their interest. They just chat amicably. Which is fine with me, that wasn't what I was watching for anyway. The movie also ends more ambiguously than I expected. There are a few things that I cynically expected the movie would tie up in a neat bow, and it doesn't quite do that. Which was a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

After Time Working in Government, Most People Want to Go Private Sector

I meant to do another of these made-up team posts a couple of weeks ago, but I've been pressed for time the last three weeks (last three months really), so it was easier to do other, quicker posts. Anyway, this idea this time around was to build a team from a bunch of people used to working for various secretive government organizations, but they'll be operating independently this time. Fortunately, "government teams of people with special abilities" is an extremely common thing in fiction, so it wasn't too hard to come up with a group.

The Leader: Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) - The Major's a highly skilled former soldier, now special government investigator type. Her consciousness was transferred over to an advanced cybernetic body sometime earlier in her life (Stand Alone Complex said it was when she was a kid, but I'd imagine the other versions have different takes). So she's much stronger, faster, and more resilient to injury than your average flesh-and-blood person. She can also mentally enter communication networks, or another person's brain, assuming they have any sort of cybernetic hook-up to it (as most people in her world do). The question is whether the team will be operating in a place she can use that. The other team members all hail from fictional universes less technologically advanced than hers. Which could also be a problem if she's injured in the course of their work. There is one person on the team who might be able to handle repairs.

The Major was the field leader for her Section 9 group. On missions, she's serious and focused, not in the mood to hear excuses if someone doesn't carry out their job. She keeps a high standard, and expects the people she leads to do the same. Most of the characters in this team are pretty competent, if erratic in various ways. There may not follow orders, though if they can get the job done without collateral damage, she'll roll with it. She knows when to give someone a confidence boost, and when she can give them some guff for screwing up. She has a dry sense of humor, but she can definitely unwind. She's a private person, which shouldn't be a problem as long as none of the team develop a reason to question her.

If she needs to she can drop out of sight fast. None of the others have any cybernetic parts that could potentially be traced or monitored if they're in her world or a similar one. There's still surveillance all over the place, but she can handle most of that, remotely hacking it. Moving around undetected might be fairly easy in her world, if they're careful. One person on this team might louse that up, though. Assuming she had any say in the roster, she'll have scouted all of them thoroughly, wanting to maintain a high standard. Some of them are questionable in how reliable they are, but she'd be certain she could handle it if she's put them on the team. Of course, if she didn't have any say, that might make it more interesting, figuring out their powers and personalities on the fly, trying not to let the thing rip itself apart in the early stages.

The Rogue: Aoi Miyoshi (Night Raid 1931) - Aoi is the one most likely to irritate the Major. He's not a dishonest, untrustworthy Rogue, he just has his own strong sense of what is right and wrong. Which may not always jibe with the mission. One advantage to them not being connected to a government is they should have more leeway to alter how they handle things if they want. The Major can probably use that judiciously to keep Aoi from getting too out of control. Hey, she likes to freelance, too.

He's impulsive, rushes in without thinking. Relies on charm and wit, and manages it some of the time. He's a bit of a goof, tends to hide his more serious emotions behind that mask. The guy who flirts by playing at being a clumsy oaf trying for charming. He's not as good at it as he thinks, but even if it isn't working to get him in the front door, it might work as a distraction. He can be stubborn and impatient to an irritating degree, which also works for a distraction. Sometimes you need someone to piss off the door guy buy insisting he left his wallet inside and refusing to leave.

He's a telekinetic, limited to manipulating objects he can see. He can only use it for 15 seconds a day, total. It doesn't have to be all at once, he can partition it out over the day, but that's a narrow window to rely on as heavily as he does. It almost got him killed once, when he'd overestimated how much time he had. He's also a decent photographer and a terrible violinist, one of those will probably come in handy at some point.

The Muscle: Seras Victoria (Hellsing) - Seras is a vampire. She wasn't a full-fledged one in the anime, because she hadn't taken any of her sire's blood. In the manga, she did eventually become a full-fledged vampire after feeding on a dying friend so they could win the battle together. Even in the anime, she's strong enough to carry a 30mm cannon around like a toy popgun. In the manga, once she's leveled up, she can destroy dozens of trained Nazi soldier vampires with minimal effort, tearing through them like a scythe. In raw power and speed, she's the top of the mark for this bunch.

Seras works well as part of a team, or individually. She was a police officer before being turned, and afterward, she was part of a military organization dedicated to defending England from supernatural threats. She's used to taking orders, and frankly, the Major is less scary than either Integra or Alucard. She's filled a number of different roles. Long-range support, working as the lead for a unit, or as the one who roams and destroys while everyone else holds the line, or simply as a bodyguard for the boss.

On certain occasions, she performed surveillance. When she wears regular clothes, rather than the Hellsing outfit (in-story there's no reason given why they don't just give her some pants, she wore them as a cop), she can look like a fairly normal person. The red eyes might be unusual, depending on where they are, but that could be special contact lenses. Depending on setting, her British accent might be the biggest issue for blending in.

She's a bit silly at times, although you could chalk some of that up to trying to adjust to a strange circumstance. She's the person who takes things very seriously, and in an effort to not screw up, goes overboard in her response. She can think quickly when she needs to, she'll do her best even if she's scared. She was still young when she was turned, and there's still a certain amount of immaturity to her, although reaching her full potential seemed to take care of some of that. She was hesitant initially about killing what seem to be people (and I imagine she still thinks of herself as a person, so these other vampires must still be people, too), but that's worn off after all the carnage she fought through. She's not kill-happy; she'd just incapacitate a person if that was enough; she has cop training for that. But if she needs to put a 30mm shell through someone, she'll do it. Sometimes an encouraging word is going to work best with her, other times it's gonna be the blunt approach when she gets depressed and starts navel-gazing.

The Lady of Mystery: Miss Deep/Nancy Makuhari (Read or Die) - Nancy's ability is to go intangible, like Shadowcat (the white line in the image on the left is the path of a weapon passing through her). She can at least make objects she's carrying or her clothes phase with her or not as she chooses, but I don't remember seeing her make another person intangible. Maybe it just didn't come up. She's also a kind of clone based on Mata Hari, as part of a group of "geniuses" reborn as clones by another genius seeking to take over the world. Nancy would have easily fit into the Rogue role, but it's going to be hard to figure why she's working with this bunch. What's she getting out of it?

She wasn't much of a team player, considering she betrayed both sides at one point or the other. Even before that, she didn't enjoy being on a team. She hates her codename, she's frustrated by her partner Yomiko's easily distracted air and unprofessional approach. But she's willing to trust the rest of the team is there for a reason, to trust Yomiko does actually have some idea what she's doing. They developed solid teamwork, considering how often they were making up plans on the fly, taking turns being the distraction in their battles. She'll be distant at first, seem like she doesn't even want to be there, then come through in a key moment to save someone's life, confusing everyone for a bit.

The Major's going to know some of Nancy's checkered history. This might be one of those things she keeps from everyone else, figuring it's not going to help if the rest of the team is looking at Nancy with suspicion, trusting she can keep Nancy in line if she needs to. I'm not sure how she'll manage that with a person who turns intangible, but I could see her having some ace up her sleeve. Either that, or she only needs Nancy's help for a certain amount of time, and after that, it doesn't matter so much if she sticks with them or not. At any rate, that could end up being the thing that makes the rest of the team suspicious the Major's hiding things (Aoi and Seras both have experience with people who turned out to not be what they presented themselves), unless Nancy can defuse it. If she cares to.

The Guy with a Motorcycle/Car/Giant Robot? - Norman Burg (The Big O) - The protagonist of the show, Roger Smith, is a Batman-meets-James Bond (with a giant robot). Norman is Alfred-meets-Q. He looks after Roger's house, runs errands, makes sure everything operates exactly as Roger wants it to (until R. Dorothy takes it upon herself to not let Roger sleep in past 11). He's also the one who maintains Roger's car, and his mech. On occasions when Dorothy's android mind was tampered with, Norman knew enough to run a diagnostic on Dorothy to determine what had happened, what could be done to deal with it, and whether she'd be OK. His role was to know whatever skills are necessary to help Roger fulfill his role. Like Alfred.

Let's leave it at what we have there. Norman has some sort of past (which he doesn't recall the details of) as a soldier, is a mechanic and engineer, understands computers to an extent. He's a good motorcyclist. Knows when he can afford to attack, and when to hold back because the risk is too high. He follows orders, and if he disagrees with them, he won't argue openly. He'll opt for the gentle side comment to illustrate where he thinks the person is making a mistake. He might be able to get Aoi to curb some of his more impulsive actions, act as an occasional buffer between him and the Major. He probably won't convince Aoi to tie his tie properly, look a little less slovenly. He's probably going to remind Seras of Walter, who in the manga turned out to be a traitor. That could cause some problems. Walter seemed kindly and helpful, easy to trust. Which is going to make her worried about whether she can trust Norman when he offers to maintain her cannon, or patch her clothes or something. Norman isn't going to press things. He'll do his job quietly, and let the others decide what they think of him.

Best guess on the threat is something combining aspects of all their worlds. Read or Die had self-proclaimed geniuses out to "improve" the world by killing most of the people (the old Ra's al Ghul bit). Big O had giant robots, but also a collective amnesia about all events further back than 40 years ago. Night Raid 1931 had a guy clued in to a vision of the war ahead who could convince others to help him terrify world leaders into bowing to his will, because he hoped to avert that. Ghost in the Shell operates in a world where basically everyone in the world can connect their minds to the Internet. Hellsing had Nazi vampires, and lunatic Catholic soldiers out for another Crusade. Well, they need something to punch on their way to the ultimate problem. Take Night Raid's idea of a terrifying future, but instead of averting it, try to make it reality by accessing people's minds world wide and tampering with how they remember things. Or have one person try to use their vision of the world, and make reality somehow bend to that. That's basically what the Read or Die TV series did though, so maybe not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Hitman's Bodyguard

Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) is a genocidal dictator on trial at the Hague. Witnesses with evidence of his crimes are sadly lacking, except for hitman Darius Kincaid (Sam Jackson), who is willing to turn evidence in exchange for getting his wife (Salma Hayek) released from prison. He will still be going to jail, though. The Interpol agent (played by Elodie Yung) charged with getting him to the Hague is finding that difficult due to a mole in the agency. So she calls her ex, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who plays bodyguard to wealthy people but has fallen on hard times, and basically orders him to get Sam Jackson to the Hague. Death and hilarity ensue.

Sorry, that paragraph just seemed like an easy way to introduce all the relevant players and get the plot, such as it is, out of the way.

The movie isn't going to go on any of the actors' highlight reels. Ryan Reynolds plays his stock kind loud, easily startled character. Sam Jackson is angry, sarcastic, and uses the word "motherfucker" a lot. But, each one's stock character is the sort that would easily irritate and be irritated by the other. So the movie gets mileage out of them getting on each other's nerves. Bryce trying to protect a guy he doesn't like, who doesn't want protecting. Bryce being a meticulous and careful guy, while Kincaid just wants to break stuff and get on with it. Although Bryce proves to be surprisingly good at improvising for someone that hates it so much.

There's nothing really surprising about the plot. There's a big reveal near the end that you can pretty much see coming from a mile off. But the details of the movie are enjoyable. There's a fun chase sequence in Amsterdam involving cars, boats, and a motorcycle. They should have figured out some way to get a helicopter in there, or maybe a hang glider. But they did incorporate shootouts and a fight in a hardware store, so that's pretty good, I guess.

Really though, this is a love story. Sure, there are a lot deaths, but like Deadpool taught us, all good love stories start with a murder. The relationship between Jackson and Hayek is sweet, the one between Bryce and Agent Roussel is a little more iffy, just because there's a lot of bad blood there. But the film shows a genuine recognition by Bryce of his screw-ups, so that works. Yung and Reynolds have decent chemistry, albeit mostly being hostile towards each other.

It's a decent popcorn movie. Nothing deep or special, but a fun way to kill a couple of hours.

Monday, June 11, 2018

What I Bought 6/8/2018


This week coming up there may be as many as 8 comics coming out I want. Whether I can find all of them is another matter. Unfortunately, last week there was only one book that came out I wanted. Why can't all these companies work together to space out the books I want to buy more equitably?

Giant Days #39, by John Allison (writer), Julia Madrigal (artist), Whitney Cogar (color artist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Here we see Daisy dealing with the crushing horror of having lots of people who want to offer her high-paying jobs. Wait, what?

The entire issue is devoted to a job fair. Daisy is immaculately prepared, and finds herself with job offers pouring in from every direction. Esther is entirely unprepared, and for a time only succeeds in sowing chaos. She may have gotten an offer from MI-6, but she's uncertain whether she's thinking too much about her future or not enough. McGraw's only there because Susan insisted he go, and Susan, who has two more years of schooling to go, is only there to grab all the freebies. I have a coworker like that whenever we attend conferences. Who needs that many pens, key chains, calendars, and assorted crap? And in news most interesting to me, Ed is preparing to return, and Esther has been texting him repeatedly. But Ed isn't replying! I really want the next month's issue right now.

This issue is more focused than most, since it revolves entirely around the recruitment fair, but Allison and Madrigal still use it to advance the characters. Esther is resistant to the realities of what work may be like, and wants something exciting. Except she also thinks she already knows what she'll end up doing, and worries about being locked onto a particular path. Or that her own ability to coast along obliviously will cost her any chance to get off that path once she's on it. Daisy is more realistic about the likelihood she'll be working behind a desk or serving coffee. Then she finds herself besieged by offers, at which point her kind, can-do attitude works against her. She's not much for negotiating, and hates turning people down or disappointing them

I think about which character in this book I'm most like, and it's usually close between Ed and Susan, but I may be more Daisy than I thought. Minus the cheerful attitude. I can't even fake a cheerful attitude convincingly.

When Daisy's portfolio can't hold any more business cards, the sound effect for it bursting open is "BUSINESS!", which I didn't notice until the second read, but amused me. So did Esther's mistaken, but very cool vision, or archaeology. I still see something in Madrigal's artwork that reminds me of Phil Foglio, mostly when one character is looking at another off to one side and smiling. The combination seems familiar. I think Madrigal could afford to get a little more cartoonish at times, go nuts with the characters, exaggerate things, but it's not harming the book any. Her work is very expressive, and sells the humor parts and more serious parts very well. The vacant-eyed zombies in the background as Esther rants, the sparkles around Daisy's resume (and her sniffing it as she worries about Esther).

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #21



"Asking the Wrong Question", in Amazing Spider-Man Family #6, by Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (plotter, penciler), Sal Buscema (inks/finishes), Bruno Hang, Andrew Crossley, John Kalisz, Antonio Fabela (colorists), Dave Sharpe (letterer)

Last entry for stuff titled "Amazing Spider-(blank)". Unless I buy something else later.

After Amazing Spider-Girl was canceled, Marvel in its usual clear-headed and calm manner, let the character and setting go fallow for several years so that Mayday's eventual return was a big deal.

Just kidding. They almost immediately continued her adventures in this anthology series. When it ended at issue #8, they started up another anthology book using the Web of Spider-Man title, which ran for about a year. The Spider-Girl stories only went for a few of those issues, though. Marvel did helpfully collect all the Spider-Girl stuff in a trade, which is what I'm working from here.

It's DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema on Spider-Girl, so it's basically what we got with Amazing Spider-Girl. A few different plots running simultaneously, taking turns in the spotlight. A lot of expository dialogue. Solid, straightforward art that gives you all the information you need and is easy to follow, if not particularly flashy. Callbacks and references to earlier stories, most of which at least one of those three creators were involved with. Not as much focus on supporting character subplots as you typically see, but they were more constrained on pages and issues than before, so that's not too surprising. Also, a complete lack of Norman Osborn, which was a big plus in my book.

But there's a momentum to it that's still appealing. Stuff happens at a decent clip. Even if some threads aren't resolved, they're still being added to and built up towards some conclusion. You may not end up impressed by how it ends, but you know they're at least going to try and give you some payoff. That's kind of meat-and-potatoes, but there's value to that.

Friday, June 08, 2018

When There's Only One Team That Makes It Work

Question for the day: What is a character or team where you own only one particular run of their comics? There have been lots of creative teams for this particular character, but there's just the one that brought you in, or that you cared enough about to hold onto for your collection (if you have one).

This would have to be a character or team who have enough series or a long enough running series to have multiple writer/artist teams. Anarky had a mini-series and an ongoing, but Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle did both of them. There isn't an Option B for him. That ruled out North and Henderson on Squirrel Girl as well, unless she's had a lot more books than I know about. Also Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary, and Garth Ennis/John McCrea's Hitman. And Paul Grist's Jack Staff work.

I thought this would be fairly easy, but then I realized I was thinking in terms of writers. Even on books where I own one writer's work, there's usually more than one artist. I'm not counting the occasional fill-in issue, but something like GrimJack, where John Ostrander wrote it, but there's a run with Tim Truman as artist, another long stretch with Tom Mandrake, and the last third with Flint Henry. I own all three, so that book couldn't count. That cropped up a lot. Put the kibosh on Steve Engelhart's Silver Surfer, the Kim Yale Manhunter series, the '80s Suicide Squad, Garth Ennis' Punisher work. I have Joe Casey's WildCATS 2.0 and 3.0 work. One's mostly drawn by Sean Phillips, the other by Dustin Nguyen. I'm lumping them together as "WildCATS", which would disqualify them, but I don't know if that's the way to go. I'm doing the same thing with all the Spider-Man and X-Men stuff, not that it matters. It seemed dumb to pretend Amazing Spider-Man was entirely separate from Spectacular Spider-Man, or Web of Spider-Man.

Then I started wondering what percentage of what I owned of series about a character or team needed to be by a particular creative team. If you add in Landridge and Samnee's Thor: The Mighty Avenger, I have about 50 issues of Thor comics. 20 of those are from something other than Walt Simonson's run, which of course, Simonson didn't draw all of. Sal Buscema did quite a bit of the back half of the series. So I didn't think I could count that.

So this is what I came up with, in no particular order:

1. John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake's Martian Manhunter
2. Ostrander and Mandrake's Martian Manhunter
3. Dennis O'Neill and Denys Cowan's The Question.
4. Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona's Runaways
5. Alan Davis' Excalibur (there are some fill-in artists, but it's still mostly Davis)
6. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley's Ultimate Spider-Man
7. John Byrne's Namor the Sub-Mariner (I don't have any issues after Pat Lee took over art duties).

Maybes:
A) Amanda Conner, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti's Power Girl. Not sure Power Girl's had enough issues of her own series to count, unless you throw in that New 52 World's Finest, which was a Power Girl/Huntress team-up book.
B) Garth Ennis and John McCrea's The Demon. But I bought the issues I have because they involved Tommy Monaghan. With what I'm looking for, it's less about the Demon, more Hitman: Year Zero. Well, that might make Ennis throw up. Let's call it Hitman: Gratuitous Batman Reference.
C) Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti's Journey into Mystery. The Sif-centric run. But it's the only time Sif's had her own book, and should Journey Into Mystery be lumped in with Thor, since I think they're sharing numbering?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Small Town Crime

Mike's an alcoholic ex-cop (John Hawkes) who can't get back on the force and doesn't want to do anything else finds a girl dying by the side of the road. Her phone gets left behind in his car, and after answering it and talking with an angry pimp, decides to try and investigate on his own, pretending to be an p.i. The cops aren't happy about this, the angry pimp is still out there, and worse threats than either of them are moving in as well. Plus, Mike isn't the most competent guy even when he's sober. He's just stubborn and willing to be enough of a jerk to get answers.

There's nobody particularly competent in this movie. They aren't screw-ups, but everyone seems to make things harder than it needs to be. Two hired killers are running around trying to eliminate some witnesses, but are making a mess of it. Killing way more people than necessary to get this job done. Mike's not a very good liar, but he gets by half the time because people want to believe whatever particular line he's feeding them. It's the best they can get at the moment. The cops say they want Mike to keep his nose out of the case, but aren't doing a very good job enforcing that. They aren't doing a very good job solving the case, either.

There are a couple of brief chase sequences that aren't bad, the final shootout is OK, as far as messy shootouts go. There are a couple of funny lines in there, some decent quiet moments in the scenes between Mike and his sister and her husband (played by Octavia Spencer and Anthony Anderson, respectively). The end of the movie is saying something. Mike hasn't addressed his underlying problems, but he got what he wanted more or less, and didn't have to change much. Hooray?

That sounds harsh, and I actually liked the movie. It mostly zips along, doesn't waste more time than it has to on side characters. Gives you enough so you recognize them if they become important later, sticks to the main characters otherwise.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Sensational Character Find of 2018

As far as villains in Ms. Marvel #30 go, Doc.X is all right, I guess. A sentient program that's learned from all the worst behavior on the Internet, intent on sowing discord and cruelty. Not a bad idea. But I'm all about this guy:

I don't know a thing about him, other than he's got rent to pay, and he thinks Red Dagger seems like a swell guy. Oh, and he not only knows where to find a satellite, but was able to steal it, and probably has someone in mind to sell it to. And he's strong enough to carry it. Even without fuel, that thing has to weigh at least a few hundred pounds.

That's a villain I want to see more of. How he'd get so strong? Radiation, mutation, works out a lot? Maybe if he spent less time at the gym he could pay his rent. Where'd he steal that from, and where was he gonna take it? The Jersey branch of AIM? Some eccentric space enthusiast? Does he steal TVs and purses, too, or does he specialize in weird crap? You hire the Black Cat or Gambit if you want some jewel or painting, but if you want a pair of Enos Slaughter's cleats from the 1946 World Series, you call this guy.

I know he's a throwaway villain, just something to show the everyday weirdness of the Marvel Universe, and give Kamala an excuse to run into Red Dagger and have FEELINGS, but I dig characters like this, or that group of Canadian ninjas she had to deal with during Civil War II. He doesn't seem like world-conqueror or sadist, which is always a plus in my book. Just a dude trying to pay the bills, stealing stuff that might be worth something to someone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Lupin is a thief, from a family of thieves. He and his partner Jingen robbed a casino, only to find the money is all counterfeit. Excellently done, but counterfeit. They resolve to find the counterfeiters, and take over the operation, which brings them to the tiny country of Cagliostro, where they'll have to break into a heavily guarded castle. The job quickly turns into a rescue mission, as there's a young princess Lupin knows from his past in danger as well, and Lupin, being the charming rogue type, can't leave her to her fate.

It's a caper flick, but also an action-adventure story with a fair amount of comedy. Maybe that is a caper flick, but I tend to think of those as having fewer explosions and mysterious goons in hoods with metal gauntlets. I remember reading somewhere years ago, that Steven Spielberg took inspiration from this movie for Indiana Jones. Which I can see, given Lupin and Indy's less-than-squeaky clean natures. Plus all the death traps, ancient riddles, and narrow escapes. Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky, among others - directed this and has a writer credit, so it's pretty high quality. There are some gorgeous shots in this film. One of Lupin scrambling up a steep roof with the moon reflecting off a lake in the distance really caught my eye. The animation is detailed when it needs to be, loose and expressive when that's what it needs.

Adult Swim used to show one of the Lupin III series, and I always felt bad for Inspector Zenigata. He was a cop tasked with arresting Lupin. He's honorable, decent, hard-working, and has no idea that's he's essentially Wil E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner. Or Sisyphus, if you want a more classical reference. He'll chase him and chase him, and never catch him. Or, on the occasions he might get the cuffs on Lupin, he'll turn around a moment later and find himself cuffed to an empty chair. The two of them usually end up teamed up, because Lupin's trying to rob someone worse, or Lupin maneuvers "Pops" into taking care of the guy for him. Still, there's a nice moment near the end of this where the Inspector, having been taken off the case because the Count has friends in Interpol, is able to use Lupin a pretext to get back in and expose the Count's criminal activities over international TV. He feigns innocence to an absurd degree, and I thought it was great.

A lot of the characters have backstory with each other, but the movie fills you in enough that you can follow along, rather than assuming you know all the history. Which was nice since some of it was different from what I remembered from the series.

I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy this or not, but I really did. A lot of twists, turns, and sudden reversals, plus some funny gags.

Monday, June 04, 2018

At Least It Was An Unusual Epic Fail

Every time I look at this picture of a flummoxed, distraught LeBron James from Game 1 of the NBA Finals, trying and failing to understand the riddle of J.R. Smith's mind, I laugh. It's an evil laugh.

James scored 51 points, basically canceled out Steph Curry and Kevin Durant's combined contributions all by himself. And he still lost (in part) because J.R. Smith grabbed a rebound, then either forgot the score, or tried put some plan into motion there wasn't time for.

I appreciate how well LeBron played, it's really impressive. But it's still funny to see it all go for nothing. LeBron's attempt to impose his order thwarted by the universe's constant march towards total entropy, acting through its servant, J.R. Smith. That's a bit much.

Basketball, more than other team sports, is one where a single great player can have a huge impact. Mike Trout's an insanely good baseball player, but he's only made the playoffs once in his career, because so many of his teammates have been awful. LeBron is so good he's made the Finals 8 years in a row.

I know LeBron didn't do that alone, and isn't winning single-handedly now, either. His teammates must be doing something useful. Grabbing rebounds, making shots, playing defense. OK, not that last one. No one on Cleveland plays any defense (must be taking pointers from the Browns), but it isn't only LeBron. It just feels that way, and I don't enjoy watching it, so I can't root for it to work.

I didn't like it last year when it felt like Russell Westbrook was doing the same for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Taking every shot, grabbing every rebound, doing everything. His teammates might as well have been cardboard cutouts. It's still a team game, right?  Even Michael Jordan, that guy LeBron is so often compared to, didn't win championships until he had teammates that could actually do things, and who he trusted to do those things. He may not have needed Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, etc., in the sense of needing those specific guys, but he needed someone who could do what they did.

(I feel like Scottie Pippen was such a great and unique player it'd be hard to just replace him with somebody else, so Jordan probably did need him specifically).

That's what I enjoy about the Warriors. When they're on, when they actually play like they give a shit (which is about one quarter a game most of the time these days), it's great to watch. Everyone moving, sharing the ball, feeding off each other's energy, it's very entertaining. They can hit a level where everyone is moving so in sync with each other they just steamroll the opponent. It's not the best if you're wanting a competitive game, but like LeBron, it's impressive for the sheer level of skill involved.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Alternate Favorite Marvel Character #8 - Rogue

Character: Rogue (Anna-Marie)

Creators: Chris Claremont and Michael Golden

First Appearance: Avengers Annual #10 (1981). It's unlikely Marvel will ever let the numbers for Annuals get that high again, but just in case, might as well specify the year.

First encounter: Uncanny X-Men #202. Secret Wars II tie-in. Rachel Summers tries to kill the Beyonder, he gives her enough power to do it, but drags her teammates into the mix and throws Sentinels at them, so she has to decide whether to use the power on him, or the genocidal tin cans.

It's a good intro to Rogue's overall deal. She tries using her speed to sneak up on a Sentinel, it blasts her into a crowd and damages her clothes enough she starts getting overwhelmed by all the different memories she's absorbing. With a little help from Rachel she gets it together enough to shatter a Sentinel Magneto has managed to freeze by using his powers to draw super-cold air from the upper atmosphere(?).

Definitive writer: Chris Claremont. Yeah, accent and all. Most of the stories I associate with Rogue were written by Claremont. Mike Carey's version was mostly good, but lacking a few parts. It's Claremont.

Definitive artist: I'm partial to Paul Smith or John Romita Jr.'s '80s work (and Alan Davis can draw just about anyone and I'd be fine with it), but due to the X-Men cartoon, I usually think of Rogue in that green and yellow costume with the short leather jacket, which means it's probably Jim Lee. Or one of the Kubert brothers, but hell if I could tell you which one.

Favorite moment or story: There's a few moments for Rogue I thought were pretty cool, trying to pick one is a bit tricky. Let's go with Uncanny X-Men #194, when the X-Men get caught in the middle of a fight between the Juggernaut and the futuristic adapting Sentinel, Nimrod. The robot takes care of the Juggernaut and most of the X-Men in a couple of pages. Rogue's one of the last ones still on her feet, and so Kitty, mostly paralyzed but still thinking, hits on the idea of letting Rogue absorb her powers and mind, and then getting Rogue to do the same with Nightcrawler and Colossus.

That's more commonplace these days, as shorthand for "things are desperate", but this was the first occurrence I know of. It was still new to her, and she was uneasy about adding so many personalities to the mix. Two issues earlier, she'd made contact with a Dire Wraith and been overwhelmed. Prior to that, she'd run into an old friend of Carol Danvers, and had acted like he was her old friend, before realizing he had no idea who she was.

Kitty initiating the contact voluntarily helped, but it was still disconcerting, especially throwing two more minds into the mix. Plus, she was still up against an enemy dangerous enough to hand the Juggernaut his butt. But she kept it together and got to work. She didn't end up destroying Nimrod, but she did damage him badly enough to make him retreat.

What I like about her: Rogue's Marvel Universe Series 3 trading card described her as 'the original Steel Magnolia: Stronger than iron and the prettiest southern flower you ever did see!' I didn't know a thing about Steel Magnolias, still don't, but they made it sound cool. For my initial impressions, that was enough. She could fly (always cool), she was super-strong and tough, and she was very pretty. I've been playing a lot of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 lately, and Rogue's combination of speed and power has made her one of the most effective characters for me to use. The fact she had a power which meant touching anyone was a risk gave her a bit of tragedy - can't be an X-Man without that - but made her sympathetic. The "cool" powers were a result of a bad decision she made with that power, and it was continuing to be a problem for her.

The key is, like Nightcrawler, Rogue doesn't spend all her time bemoaning her fate. Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes it's harder to deal with than others. Like when she's unable to distinguish Carol Danvers' memories from her own, or when Carol Danvers hijacks her body. Or when things in general are just going badly, it's one more thing. Maybe she wants to give someone a hug to comfort them, or be comforted, but oops, gotta be careful not to make any skin contact. She can't entirely relax, or focus on the problems at hand, because a part of her had to stay aware of the risk her own powers represented to her and others.

But other times, it's fine. She can play baseball with her friends, rob Colossus of a home run, and blow a kiss at Air Force One. Or cook a romantic dinner for Gambit. Or offer guidance to a teammate or student who is questioning their control over their powers, or whether they belong at Xavier's at all. She generally seems like someone it would be easy to be friends with. Once they get past the initial stage of not being sure of her, most of the X-Men get along fine with her. She can do those things and her power doesn't interfere. For me, there are times where I enjoy hanging out with other people, or will help a coworker or friend out gladly. And there are times where I'm stressed, or want to be left alone, and interaction with people is just one more thing I don't want to be dealing with. It's not a constant thing, but when it is a problem, it's something I'm actively having to fight against at the same time I'm doing whatever it is I'm trying to do. Don't get irritated, don't snap at anyone, it's not them. Not the same thing, but that barrier in herself Rogue has to be aware of is familiar to me.

Like I said, though, she has a lot of fun. She's powerful and knows it, so she's confident, teetering into cockiness, a bit of a showboat. She'll stop in the middle of a fight with the Juggernaut to comment on how impressed she is with her own punch. The team-up between her and Logan in Japan, Rogue barely appears to be taking seriously. Logan is waving his claws in peoples' faces, Rogue is leaned against the bar, offering commentary. Wolverine is skulking through the shadows, alert to threats, Rogue is strutting down the hallway, oblivious to any traps. She shoves Logan and Mariko to safety, but overdoes it and sends them flying down the hall. Some of that is inexperience, but some of it is her figuring nothing can hurt her, so it's no big deal. I could see it being irritating to deal with when you're trying to get things done, but it's fun to watch someone having a great time. Although the part where she acts like she's going to give Logan a kiss for saving her, that was in very poor taste.

As it is, Rogue was serious about saving Mariko, who had welcomed her, even when Logan was ready to kill Rogue on sight (though Mariko must be used to Logan having that reaction to people. Probably 25% of the people who come to visit her have some past beef with Logan). Rogue might have been outwardly flippant, but she takes saving people seriously. Not a trait exclusive to her, but still one I appreciate.

I was buying some of Mike Carey's X-Men Legacy earlier this year, when he turned it into a Rogue book for about 50 issues. She's missing most of the attitude in his stories, acts more weary than anything else. I don't love that, even if her being tired of the relentless crap storm that follows the X-Men is understandable. You still see a lot of Rogue trying to protect the students, even though she isn't the "flying brick" any longer. They have powers, they're more familiar with them than she is, but if she can borrow them and go into danger herself, she'll do that. She at least has more experience with dangerous situations than they do. She borrows a sort of ghost ability from a girl named Trance to run into another dimension to rescue Bling! from Monet's crazy brother. Even though she needs a while to figure out how the powers work, and even though there are a lot of things that can still hurt her (including Monet's crazy brother), she pulls it off. If the other X-Men can't get to her, she'll get the weird mansion to the X-Men.

When she still had Carol in her mind, along with all those other personalities, it was hard for telepaths to read her mind, or even communicate with her. In a world littered with telepaths and mind-controllers, having any sort of defense would be attractive. The tradeoff being those personalities aren't always happy to be there, and sometimes they seize control, like Danvers did repeatedly during the Australia years. The security system turns against her sometimes.

But it taught her some things. Near the end of X-Men Legacy, when Christos Gage is writing the book, Rogue winds up in another dimension and helps end a war between two species. In part because, even after one side tries bringing her into their hive mind and wiping her individuality, it won't take because Rogue's used to having lots of voices in her mind, but has figured out how to maintain a sense of who she is.

She also has a lot of experience with people manipulating her, or trying to control and use her. I'm undecided about her years being raised by Mystique and Destiny. I fall pretty squarely into the camp of Mystique being an awful person, which doesn't mean she wasn't trying to be a good mom, theoretically. I'm sure she believed she was doing right by Rogue, and it was just coincidence those things benefited Mystique as well. There are stories where they look like a happy family, Rogue and her two moms having birthday parties and good times. Rogue has warm feelings for both of them, although her relationship with Mystique is a lot messier. In at least some versions of Rogue's past, she's alone and on the run when Mystique finds her, an outcast after that incident with Cody, so having a relatively stable home had to be a plus. (Mike Carey had it Rogue was already living with Mystique when she kissed Cody and her powers manifested, so I'm not sure what the official line is these days.)

Mystique also turned Rogue into a weapon and used her on a variety of criminal missions. But she actively tried to keep her away from Carol Danvers because Destiny said something bad was gonna happen. It did end badly for Rogue (and worse for Carol), at which point Mystique can't do anything for Rogue. But then she's angry when Rogue decides to see if Xavier can help. It's something Mystique seems to constantly bring up and complain about, although she usually blames Xavier. Anything to deflect blame from herself. Mystique likes to try and control Rogue's life, but rarely will just come out and talk to her directly. She's got to interfere in decisions Rogue tries to make about her own life, or try to frame those decisions as somehow being about her. She'll throw in with Mr. Sinister to abduct a baby that might save Rogue's life, or assume another identity to try and expose Gambit as a sleazy womanizer. Even when Mystique will approach her directly, it's hard to know how much to trust her.

Irene seems the better parent. More reasonable, patient, trying to temper Mystique's harsher attitude. She doesn't have much success - Mystique didn't stop sending Rogue into danger, and didn't stop bearing a grudge towards Xavier for Rogue going to him - but she tried. She's also precognitive, seeing things far down the line, so how long of a game she is playing? Did she warn Mystique about Danvers as a threat to Rogue, knowing how it would all end? That Rogue needed to be driven to the X-Men, because the X-Men would need her to help save the world every other month for the next however many years? It's hard to know whether Destiny is back there, trying to pull strings, and if she is, how much. Was she acting in Rogue's best interests, or the world's, and even if it was for Rogue, was what Rogue wanted? How does one define what's "best" for another person?

I don't know how aware of all this Rogue is. Mystique's attempts at manipulation, trying to make Rogue feel guilty for doing what she thinks is in her best interest, I'm sure Rogue's become more adept at spotting and fending off as she gets older. With Destiny, I'm not sure she could ever know for certain, and since Destiny has mostly been dead for a while now, Rogue's mostly made her peace with it. I do think it's given Rogue a decent sense of when someone's feeding her a line. She hadn't necessarily spent as much time in espionage or crime as Logan or Gambit, but she knows when someone's trying to play her. Even when it's Cyclops, who she describes at one point as being very good at giving someone a choice in such a way it's no choice at all.

You see it in her romantic relationships as well. The two characters she's mostly frequently been involved with were Gambit and Magneto. They're different kinds of people; Magneto is overwhelming, projecting power and confidence, while Gambit has that schmoozy charm (and sometimes an actual power to influence people? I think I remember that. Maybe from when he was blind for some reason). Rogue's attracted to them, but ends up keeping them at arm's length. Most of that is her power. What happened with Cody is a lesson she doesn't want to repeat.

But even when her powers are under control, she still keeps a distance. She's trained herself to be careful, and I doubt that goes away just because she can in theory control the power. During Carey's run, when the powers are under control, both of guys are around, and it doesn't go anywhere with either of them. She interested in them, but also wants to maintain distance. Maybe she sees something that says that it would on their terms, and that concerns her. Magneto in particular strikes me as someone who would want to "wear the pants in the relationship." Gambit less so, but even when he tries to be better for Rogue, there are aspects of his personality that would be frustrating to deal with. Also, Magneto regularly lapses back into villainy, and Gambit isn't well acquainted with concepts like "monogamy" or "honesty". That factors in, I imagine.

She did having something forming with Joseph, the Magneto clone, at least far enough for an actual kiss. Joseph was a less forceful personality than Magneto from what I remember, due to the uncertainty he had about himself. Maybe he didn't set off the same warning bells in her head. Of course, he also died before it could go much further.

Given how traumatic the experience with Cody was, it's odd she 'll kiss someone to absorb their powers. I know removing a glove isn't always possible, a kiss might surprise them so they won't realize they need to break contact until it's too late. But it seems like there'd be too much bad history there. Necessities of battle, I guess, albeit one that may leave a lasting impact she'll have to cope with. Claremont described her using that move against Ben Grimm in Fantastic Four vs. X-Men as a 'desperate yearning for true affection,' so she takes it as the closest she can get? That seems. . . not entirely healthy.

(I can't forget it exists apparently, but I am going to ignore - as Marvel thankfully seems to be doing - Paul Jenkins retconning in that Rogue and the Sentry were intimate at some point in her past as part of his, "Everyone is sad the Sentry is dead! Really they are!" story back in 2010. Talk about someone Rogue should have been keeping at arm's length. Hi, I might get depressed and think you out of existence at any moment! Let's make out! Moving on.)

I don't have many comics from Rogue's early days as villain. Her run-in with ROM, the battle with Carol Danvers that changed both their lives, a story from her ongoing series where she forgot all her years with the X-Men and briefly went bad again. By the time I encountered Rogue, she'd been an X-Man long enough they'd accepted her. Magneto was the new teammate everyone was wary of. So it was vague backstory I might not even have been aware of, the same deal I had with Hawkeye. It adds a certain element of redemption to her backstory, but it's not typically something I associate with the character. It's almost more like "wild teenage years". Got some questionable guidance, fell in with a bad element, made some mistakes, and now she's trying to do better. Maybe because the X-Men welcome in so many of their past foes, most of whom have much longer track records of bad behavior than her, that it doesn't feel like something unique to her. Which is fine. Even though I do enjoy a redemptive arc, I don't need one as the focal point for every character I like.

Visually, I like the white stripe in the hair. I don't know why it would exist, but it's an interesting identifier, and kind of unique. I feel like artists are beginning to minimize it, but that might simply be because Rogue is past the "big hair" phase she was during the Jim Lee/X-Men cartoon days. She has less hair overall, which includes the white part. But it does seem to be getting relegated to just a patch in the bangs. Costume-wise, she typically has green involved, and then one of white, black, or yellow. Which are not your typical hero colors, but work for her. Makes her distinct. And she's had a variety of looks, most of which seemed to fit, depending on the artist. She rocks jackets a lot, going back to her earliest appearances. Green a lot of the time, brown leather in the '90s and early 2000s. Sometimes with a hood, sometimes not (the jackets Silvestri drew had no hood, for example). She doesn't use the hood much anyway.

For a little while, after she'd absorbed Sunfire's powers, she had a long cape. That didn't quite seem right for Rogue, but it worked with that particular outfit (at least it did the one story I saw it in, which Mike Wieringo drew). When she had control over her powers, she went with a variant of her green-and-white look. Short sleeves and long gloves, no jacket, a little more skin showing than her other looks. Not much - really just the bit on the arms between the sleeves and gloves, plus however much a given artist had the neckline plunge - but a little more. The gloves didn't make much sense, they'd be more of a pain to remove in a tense spot, but logistics aside, the look wasn't bad. There was usually a scarf involved, which was a nice accessory.

Even when she goes with the spandex look - the Silvestri years, or most of the '90s - there's usually something additional to the look. The jackets, frequently, and probably knee-high boots. The Jim Lee look had a belt, which hung loose so that it didn't have an apparent function, but it adds another layer. Around the Mutant Massacre, she'd sometimes have black spandex from the neck down, but add a loose green tank top or sometimes a much baggier green t-shirt, a belt, some variety of boots. It breaks things up a bit, makes it seem more like an actual outfit, less a superhero costume. Probably a strange outfit - I'm not a good judge of that stuff, as the guy who rarely sweats complaints about artists putting everyone in t-shirts and jeans since that's 96% of what I wear - but an outfit.

When she finds herself in the middle of a fight with a Master Mold/Nimrod fusion that started when Carol Danvers was running things, she's stuck in Carol's old costume, because that was what Carol had to throw on for it. The one-piece black swimsuit with the red sash, and Rogue hates it. Calls it a "rag". Maybe because it's Carol's, or Rogue hates the colors, or something else. But it's definitely not the style she favors.

I like Rogue because despite a rough childhood and adolescence, under at least one questionable parent (more if you count her birth family), and a condition that makes interacting with people actively dangerous for everyone involved, she mostly doesn't let it get her down. She learned some good things from Raven and Irene, and also some stuff she had to unlearn. The difficulty in having physical contact with others hasn't stopped her from forming strong emotional attachments. She still lives her life on her terms as best she's able, given the demands of being on the X-Men, and she doesn't seem willing to compromise who she is.

Credits! It's Sentinel-fightin' time on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #202, by John Romita Jr. (pencilers), Al Williamson (inker), and probably Glynis Oliver (colorist for the interior). The skunk stripe remains even as the rest of her hair changes color, in Uncanny X-Men #194, by Chris Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Dan Green and Steve Leialoha (finishers), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer). Longshot should remember that, but he does get amnesia a lot, in Uncanny X-Men #218, by Claremont (writer), Mark Silvestri & Dan Green (artists), Glynis Oliver (colorist), and Orzechowski (letterer). Rogue's not takin' guff from any punk. in Uncanny X-Men #173, by Claremont (writer), Paul Smith (penciler), Bob Wiacek (inker), Glynis Wein (colorist), and Orzechowski (letterer). Rogue learns self-driving houses aren't all they're cracked up to be, in X-Men Legacy #229, by Mike Carey (writer), Daniel Acuna (artist), and Cory Petit (letterer). Having her mother's voice in her head is a more literal problem for Rogue than most, in X-Men Legacy #220, by Carey (writer), Scot Eaton (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), lettered by Cory Petit (maybe?), and I can't find the colorist. There are worse things than a second chance to say good-bye, in X-Men Legacy #233, by Carey (writer), Clay Mann (penciler), Danny Miki, Jay Leisten, Allen Martinez (inkers), Brian Reber (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). This is not the Jim Lee costume I was referring to, in Uncanny X-Men #269, by Claremont (writer), Jim Lee (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Steve Buccellato (colorist), and Task Force "X" (letterers). Rogue's not into cats, I guess, in X-Men Legacy #271, by Christos Gage (writer), Rafa Sandoval (penciler), Jordi Tarragona (inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer).