Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #34

"Telepathic Space Dragon? Telepathic Space Dragon!" in Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar #2, by Christos Gage (writer), Mike Lilly (penciler), Bob Almond and Scott Hanna (inkers), Stephanie Peru (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

As is typical for Marvel the last 15 years, they can't let any status quo sit long enough the creative talent can do anything with it. Annihilation ended in January of 2007, and by June of that year, we were into Annihilation: Conquest, with the Phalanx catching the Kree with their defenses down and then cutting the entire galaxy off from the rest of space. Which left the resistance down to whatever heroes happened to be inside that bubble at the time.

Marvel took the same approach they had with the previous event, with a Prologue one-shot to start, and then three 4-issue mini-series, each focused on a different character. A 4-issue arc of Nova's ongoing functioned as the fourth mini-series.

Quasar focused on Phyla-Vell, not only the daughter of Captain Mar-Vell, but now the holder of the Quantum Bands. Phyla and her girlfriend Moondragon are trying to find a mysterious "Savior" before the Phalanx can. Phyla's trying to master using the Bands to fend off a Phalanx-controlled Super Adaptoid, before the Bands run out of power. Moondragon, well, she has her own problems to contend with.

I was not happy with who the target of their search wound up being, as I can't stand that character, but otherwise enjoyed this mini-series. Phyla's struggling to have confidence in herself in a trying situation, having been raised to believe if she isn't the best immediately, then she's a failure and isn't trying hard enough. her father is held up as some ideal she must surpass (I have never understood the hoopla about Mar-Vell). This makes Moondragon an interesting partner, since she spent a long time being the height of arrogance, refusing to ever admit mistakes or treat others as equals. She's had to confront her failures and weaknesses, and continue forward, that's valuable experience. Plus, they're a cute couple, very supportive of each other.

Lilly draws excellent monsters and dragons, which gives the book a fantasy feel. The questing heroes, seeking the powerful slumbering mage. The story even concludes in a castle. His Super-Adaptoid's the Silver Age version, the green one that's a hodgepodge of different Avengers. (Oddly, Annihilus had the other Super-Adaptoid in his army, the blank-faced white one that showed up later). The generic Phalanx soldiers don't look so great, but that may just be a function of the general design, or they may just not play to his strengths.

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Quiet End To The Year

December doesn't look like a terribly interesting month based on the solicitations. Marvel's wrapping a lot of stuff up. Infinity Wars, Spider-Geddon, X-Termination. I fully expect that another Infinity based mini-series will start in January. They're doing some sort of 5-week event thing with the Big 4 Defenders, but other than Dr. Strange, none of those guys are really my favorite members of that team. Cable's dead now, so Deathlok is taking his place as Dude with Oversized Guns in a new X-Force book. That seems like a random enough choice to be interesting, but on the other hand, I don't care about X-Force.

DC's starting up Batman and the Outsiders again, which is going to include Cassandra Cain, but she's still saddled with that lousy "Orphan" codename, and yeah, no thanks. Plus, I'm not sure if Dexter Soy is a good choice as artist for the book. Guess it depends on what sort of adventures that get mixed up in. Kyle Rayner's been demoted back to the Titans, they're going to do a Martian Manhunter mini-series where he was a corrupt cop back on Mars. Because I'm sure that's going to bring all the J'onn J'onzz fans around to the yard. The Green Lantern solicit says Hal Jordan is going to use pheromones in an interrogation? He's going to apply more Axe Body Spray than normal?

No, I kid. I'm sure Hal uses some old-timey manly cologne his dad introduced him to, which is really hard to find, and probably made out of toxic materials, but Hal swears by it. Guy says it makes him smell like a pier at low tide, and Kyle and John just politely excuse themselves. But the alien ladies (and fellas) love it, so who's laughing now?

Other than that, the final issue of The Seeds is MIA for another month. Atomic Robo and the New Era continues, so do Giant Days and Coda. With all the delays, the final arc of Copperhead might be finishing up in December, although I'll believe it when I see another issue actually hit the shelves. That's pretty much it for guaranteed buys from me.

In the realm of stuff I might look into, Albatross has something called MegaGhost, about a teen occultist who finds he can summon a giant robot ghost thing. Sometimes you just have to give a nod to an interestingly silly concept. Avatar is releasing a collection of the first series of Warren Ellis and Facundo Percio's Anna Mercury. I'm sure I've seen people mention it online, but I can't remember if it's considered Good Ellis or Cashing a Paycheck Ellis. Although I'm not sure I know which category the things of his I've enjoyed fall into. I might have to give a look at Smooth Criminals from Kurt Lustgarden, Kiwi Smith, and Leisha Riddel. That actually starts in November, a hacker somehow awakening a 1960s cat burglar. I do enjoy me some cat burglars, as long as they aren't Gambit.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Words for Pictures - Brian Michael Bendis

A gift from Alex. The book is mostly about trying to write for comic books. Not just how to write a script, or things to keep in mind about the nature of collaboration with an artist. But also how to write a pitch, interviews with editors about the best ways to get your material in front of them and the things you can do to help or hurt yourself once you get a chance (if you get a chance). A big one in the "hurt" department is missing deadlines, allegedly. I think we can all think of writers and artists that doesn't seem to apply to.

There's a whole chapter about the business side of it, the things you need to make sure you get hammered out in contracts, the value of lawyers for things like that, and so on. That chapter is presented as an interview between Brian Bendis and Alisa Bendis, who runs Brian's Jinxworld company because he is apparently terrible at that stuff (as are a lot of comic professionals, apparently).

As I'm not pursuing a career in the comics field, the book isn't of much utility to me in that function. And if I did try my hand at comics, it would be adapting the stories I've written, and I'd draw those myself. Which will never happen, since it would take me 1,000 years to finish even one of those stories. Plus, I'm kind of a dunce about a lot of this stuff. Bendis describes approaching Walt Simonson at a convention as a lad and asking whether he should focus on perspective first, or anatomy. He then describes that as dumb question. I suspect the answer is "perspective", but I don't know. I just try to get a general idea of what I'm doing in my head and then I start doing it. Hopefully figure shit out as I go along. That's my writing style most of the time too. But I'm not doing this for a living, so I can be as haphazard as I wanna be.

But it's still interesting, especially with the interview sections. There's a chapter where he asks over a dozen artists a series of questions and you get to see the range of approaches and preferences. Some of them like the Marvel Style of scripting, some dread it, some have never encountered it. One thing most of them agree on is that they hate it when writers don't think about how much they're asking to have put into one panel. Not in terms of detail, but in terms of too many beats. Character walks down street, character avoids dog peeing on hydrant, character opens door to meat market, character says hello to butcher, all in one panel. Or they want you to do a wide-angle shot establishing scene, but also zoom in on a particular pair of people, again in one panel.

Bendis is open about the odds against having a successful career - in the sense of making big bucks - and the need to keep working, keep learning all the time. I don't know if I believe he's taken every project on because it was something he really wanted to do, but I appreciate that he says that's something he tries to always do, not simply take a project for the paycheck.

'I wasn't doing it to be mean, and I wasn't doing it because I'm a megalomaniac (sort of). The truth is, as a writer/artist, I didn't know where the writing actually ended. It was all storytelling. The writing, the layouts, the finished art, the lettering - each was a piece of the story. So giving up some of that responsibility was difficult.'

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What I Bought 9/21/2018 - Part 2

Norm Breyfogle passed away today. Damn. I don't think DC ever released that second volume of his Batman work. The first one was really good, and interesting to watch his style evolve towards what we think of when we picture his artwork.

Of the three mini-series I did find issues for last week, this is the only one that was wrapping up. So I figured Mata Hari deserved its own review post.

Mata Hari #5, by Emma Beeby (writer), Airela Kristantina (artist), Pat Masioni (color artist), Sal Cipriano (letterer) - I don't know what caliber round they used for that large hole, but it seems excessive.

Margaretha finally explains why she began spying for the French. To get enough money to be set for life with her most recent love, and hopefully her daughter. Of course, Bouchardon argues she was already spying for the Germans, while she insists she merely used them to get herself back into Paris. She contends that Captain Ladoux sent her on a mission, then refused to receive any of the reports she sent. Bouchardon says there's no record of her employment and she was actually sending reports to the Germans. We know which one of those stories suits the French Army better, so she's shot and that's that. Oh, Ladoux was eventually put in jail for a couple of years for being an enemy agent, but was acquitted. Take from that what you will.

Margaretha's story certainly paints herself as a scapegoat, for pretty much the entirety of her life. Men wanted her, or wanted to use her, then blamed her for it, or punished her for "allowing" them to do so, or for trying to get some measure of restitution from it. All of which is extremely easy to believe, but which doesn't mean she wasn't spying for the Germans. But we don't see much evidence presented. Is that because there wasn't any, or because the story is primarily from Margaretha's perspective, and is therefore slanted?

There are times what she tells Bouchardon doesn't match what she writes in the memoir she was preparing in her cell. She tells him it was easy to get information from the Germans, but writes in her book that it was not easy. Maybe that's a matter of knowing her audience. The Captain will not feel sympathy for her, because he doesn't believe her, so why bother playing for it? So she adopts the approach of confidence, of talking about how easily she managed it. For the audience she hoped would one day read her side of things, she takes a different approach. Which one is true, if it's an either/or situation? I suspect it would be difficult, but that's my personality. For her, perhaps it was easy. Men were always so willing to brag to her when it meant nothing to her, what's the difference if she uses the information? Although maybe the difference is that it matters more now, because it's her last chance to get the family she hopes for.

Kristantina gets to run the full range of emotions for Margaretha in this issue, from happiness with her Russian soldier, to fear, resignation, anger, confusion. The whole series has one of her performances running through it. Her offering all she has to Shiva to destroy her betrayers. She ended up losing everything, I wonder if she got what she requested.

The panels where she's putting on that performance are frequently set against a lavender background, a sharp contrast to the muted browns and dull peach colors that mark so many of the building interiors in other panels. But one notable exception is the panel where she travels to the front to visit her Russian. When she arrives at the station, the panel's background is that same lavender color. So what's that mean? She was putting on another performance, that the French are correct and she's traveling to the front for information for the Germans? Or that this is a moment where she loses something once again? She decides to try working for the French to get the money to care for Vadime and Nonnie, (she says), and this puts her in the position to be used as a decoy by Ladoux to protect himself. To be betrayed, and to ultimately lose her last chance with the two people she wanted most in her life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

As Above, So Below

An archaeologist searching for the tomb of a famous alchemist thinks she knows where it is in the catacombs beneath Paris. She enlists the help of a local expert on exploring the catacombs, who calls himself Papillion, along with his two friends/partners, and brings along a cameraman and an unwilling linguist expert. Things rapidly get strange, as they are forced to travel through a tunnel Papillion declares as "evil", and people begin seeing things. They eventually find the tomb and the Philosopher's Stone, but they still have to find a way out, and that's when things start really going downhill.

You know how these found footage horror movies tend to go. The things that you and the characters catch a glimpse of simultaneously, so you can both freak out at once, or the things you see they don't, because they aren't looking in the direction the camera is pointing. The survival rate is higher than I expected. The first couple of deaths are brutal, but of a fairly straightforward variety. After that is when things start to get really bizarre, the next death in particular. It fits with the idea of where they are, but it also felt very much at odds with the movie up to then. Things had been obviously creepy, and not following typical laws of the universe as we understand them, but not in quite as obvious of ways. Then that goes out the window and it felt a bit odd, like we'd stumbled into a different kind of horror movie. I'm not sure I dislike the shift, but I'm sure I wasn't a fan. Your mileage will vary.

One thing I appreciated is I spent much of the early part of the film criticizing Scarlett for being a terrible archaeologist, and putting everyone in danger with a seemingly mad obsession with finding this tomb. George, her Aramaic expert in particular, who keeps telling her he will not go underground, and she keeps making him get closer to the entrance, insisting to Papillion that yes he will, don't worry, we're going to talk about it. It's like, maybe you don't want someone who hates underground spaces because of childhood trauma with you in a massive and extremely dangerous complex of underground tombs, but her pursuit trumped any concerns about the damage she left in her wake.

But the movie presents her with a chance to redeem herself, and it actually works. She gets some closure, confronts what's really driving her, and is able to make some amends. I've said before I don't like horror movies where I like some of the characters, but they all die horribly, so I enjoyed how this one turned out.

Monday, September 24, 2018

What I Bought 9/21/2018 - Part 1

I only found three of the four books I was looking for from last week, and the one I missed is the one I wanted the most. Typical. In other news, it was a pretty exhausting weekend. Enjoyable at times, frustrating at others. The pitfalls of having an extremely social friend whose works requires him to be around lots of people.

Multiple Man #4, by Matt Rosenberg (writer), Andy MacDonald (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - And that was the last time Jamie asked Layla to do his laundry.

Emperor Madrox, unsatisfied with decapitating the duplicate last issue, travels back in time to stop him there. Which leads to the fight between two Madroxes we saw in Hank's lab in issue 1. The issue keeps jumping to all the dupes sent into other timelines to find help, and how they became the mishmash heroes that show up at the end of issue 1. Which we see here, from their perspective. The issue ends with the Emperor's top general (also a Madrox, natch) arriving just after the mishmash Madroxes left to return to the future. So the whole thing loops back around on itself and the Emperor has by that time already been absorbed (in issue 1) by the duplicate he will decapitate in the future (in issue 3).

I have no idea what the ultimate point of this is going to be. Half the Jamies just stumbled into their powers by accident. The one that didn't get picked back up is on the Marvel Swimsuit Illustrated universe, and probably drank himself to death. I heard the New Mutants mini-series Rosenberg wrote ended like it was just a midpoint on a larger story he's telling, possibly to pop up in Uncanny X-Men. No true conclusion. Is this going to tie-in as well? Is all this time travel nonsense going to cause X-Men Disassembled? At least Wanda won't have to take the blame for this one.

MacDonald's art continues to be fine. I enjoyed the touch of showing the former Emperor's fingers still partially sticking out of the Jamie that absorbed him, since the process isn't entirely complete yet. It's kind of creepy, especially when you figure the dupe didn't go willingly, so it's a bit like being dragged underwater to drown. The other timelines are sort of interesting, but not there long enough to really care much.

Stellar #4, by Joseph Keatinge (writer), Bret Blevins (artist), Rus Wooton (letterer) - That little air car thing looks like it'd be fun to drive.

The doorway to another universe led to a world just like theirs, only not destroyed by war. Stellar's been there for some time, long enough the people who met her when she ran through the portal are old men now. And there's a kid that looks a lot like her. Unfortunately, if she tried to keep Zenith from making it through, she failed, and he's found her. Both hers.

What odds do you give the portal isn't to an alternate world, but actually to the past of their own, and the fight between Stellar and Zenith is going to trigger the cataclysmic war that resulted in them being used as guinea pigs for a super-soldier project? Has to be even money at this point.

Lot of close-ups on Stellar's eyes in this issue, various emotions, none of them happy. Haunted looks, frightened, angry, lost, but the one scene where she actually appears happy, meeting what appears to be a younger version of her, the view maintains a little more space. The panels may focus on her face, but it's the entire face, just a bit more distance. It's interesting that scene is followed by showing us how the adult version of her is living: In a crappy, barely furnished apartment. It seems like she could have a better place if she wanted, but she opts not to. Because she's trying to maintain a minimal presence in a world that isn't hers? She tells the bartender that other than him and the professor, she can't think of anyone else who would call themselves her friend. She's been there 30 years, and she has two friends?

Zenith presents a bit of a contrast. I doubt he has any friends, but he's shown as smiling in almost every panel he appears in, or at least looks relaxed. Granted he has a big surprise he's planning to spring, but he also really likes the the world they're in. I'd be curious if he's made more effort to make friends than Stellar has. Figures he's on this world now, why not?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #33

"Lotta Cracks in the Finish There" in Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #2 by Keith Giffen (writer), Andrea DiVito (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)

So after Nova made Annihilus' insides his outsides, they followed that up with a two-part mini-series that looked in on the status of all the currently living Heralds of Galactus, seeing as their numbers had taken a hit during Annihilation (Morg, Red Shift, and the Fallen One all bit the dust at various points). One story each for Terrax, Firelord, Stardust, and the Surfer, by various creative teams, although Keith Giffen wrote both stories in this issue.

My favorite story of the four was the one about Stardust (by Stuart Moore and Mike McKone), because of the idea Stardust originally came from a civilization composed of very short-lived and constantly changing exotic particles. That just seemed extremely cool, and the idea of how you'd have a civilization if you can exist for long periods of time, but nothing you create lasts more than moments. Those unusual settings and concepts are always a good hook for me, but there was no splash page.

For this particular image, we have the Surfer getting a little payback on the two "proemial" gods that beat down Surfer and Big G and handed them over to Thanos during Annihilation. OK, he's not doing it for revenge but because they plan to defy "cosmic consonance", which I believe is the nonsense term Galactus uses to justify his existence. Course, the Surfer alone against two beings on Galactus' level is a bit of mismatch. . .

Friday, September 21, 2018

What I Bought 9/18/2018

I found a new comic store while on the road this week. They didn't have any of the old back issues I was looking for, but they had one book from earlier this month I wanted, which is even better.

In other news, Happy Birthday to my friend Alex, who will hopefully not run me ragged with his birthday weekend these next few days. Or maybe he will! It's his birthday!

Giant Days #42, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Christmas depression starts earlier every year. It's not even fall yet.

Esther has decided to confess feelings for Ed Gemmell, despite Susan's concerns that it will upset the character dynamics. And Esther's going with the tried-and-true route of a 20-year old Babylon 5 Advent calendar. Interesting strategy there, Bob. You know it Jim.

But Gemmell and his physical therapy buddy Nina have already got something going, and Ed's debating whether to try and keep it going by visiting her in Australia between semesters. He asks Esther for advice.

In other plot developments, McGraw is abruptly freed of helping this bizarre man, Cliff, that he was suddenly friends with last month. But Daisy has unknowingly put herself in the same guy's employ at his Christmas tree ranch/farm/village. You know, one of those places in urban areas that are fenced off vacant lots and for three weeks you can go buy Christmas trees. Whatever you call those.

One thing that comes up with this book from time to time is this feeling that there are other books I need to be reading, but no one is telling me which ones. This thing with Cliff and McGraw felt like it parachuted in behind the lines at night and then morning comes and hey, where did this development come from? I think I know everything I really need to, but, you know how in Claremont's X-Men there would be certainly subplots that would get teased along in the background for years, and sometimes completely abandoned? This feels like the opposite, where the subplot has been progressing completely off-page and only now, at a climax point, has it actually made it into the book. It's an odd experience.

Sarin's art is at its usual high level. Esther looks a little more round in the face than I think she normally is. Which makes her look a bit more vulnerable. Appropriate considering she's decided to take a risk, only to have it fall apart before she got off the starting line. The body language Nina demonstrates during her post-sex chat with Ed was pretty impressive. She has a big personality, and so in a lot of panels its big smiles or laughs. But she's also bracing for rejection, so she shifts quickly to fiddling with her hair and avoiding eye contact. And even when she's being nervous, it's a big, obvious nervous. Wears her feelings on her sleeve (if she were wearing a shirt with sleeves during the conversation).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Fear Artist - Timothy Halliman

There is a series of books about this character, Poke Rafferty, who is nominally a travel writer living in Bangkok, but somehow keeps falling into trouble. In this case, a man crashes into Poke as he leaves the paint store and is then shot. Then man whispers a few words before dying, and suddenly the cops are hassling Poke about a killing that is being kept out of the news. So he has to figure out what's going on and try to deal with the guy behind it.

Frankly, it's a little hard to believe Poke pulls this off given the forces that are supposedly against him, but the main person he's up against has enough dirty laundry he can be hung out to dry if that laundry can be aired to the public. But the book jacket really plays that guy - the "fear artist" in question - as being a little more fearsome than he comes off in the story. The guy rarely has any clue where Poke is or what he's doing, and we see enough of his life to see that yes, he is a piece of crap, but he's also a past-his-prime schmuck who has gotten himself stuck in a life he doesn't really want, and can't figure out how to escape from.

Halliman adds in a whole theme about fathers and daughters, or maybe its dads and their kids in general. The dads not knowing what to do with their daughters, or worrying about maintaining a connection with them as they get older. That you can shape who they become in ways you don't recognize. It works to add some context to Poke's worries, his concerns about the distance between him and his adopted daughter feeding into his general worries he might never see her again if he doesn't get this handled.

Halliman keeps the action moving. There's always another development. Even when Poke is just living out of roving freelance ambulances for a few days, he's trying to figure out his next move, and there are other plot threads advancing at the same time. The old Russian spy Poke is able to buy the assistance of was a little too cliched, but he's entertaining, like most of the characters. There are a few other subplots that will probably play out in future books in the series, or were following up from developments in earlier ones. I didn't really care about whatever was going on between Poke and his dad. Didn't add much other than something for Poke to complain about. Seems like he had plenty of options there already.

'After a stop to put three stitches in a patient, they drop him two corners from Mrs. Shin's apartment and circle the block while he cuts across a couple of sois to get to the building, where he reaches into the bushes and comes out with a brown paper bag, Then they return him to the place where they picked him up. He hikes back to the hotel, calls Dr. Ratt, and arranges to be picked up by another team at 7:00 A.M.

The safest place to be, he figures, is nowhere, and what could be more nowhere than the backseat of a car rolling through Bangkok at random?

Just another dark-skinned guy idling along in the back of a car. While he figures out how to live through all this. Whatever this is.'

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Speak of the Undersea Princess

This was the last page of the second issue of the Dan Slott/Sara Pichelli Fantastic Four.

The idea apparently is Reed tricked some powerful villain into letting him bring the "full" Fantastic Four to challenge her. She assumed he meant Ben and Johnny, but no. Relevant to my interests, who's that I see in the upper right corner, above Spidey and to the right of T'Challa and Iceman? With the blonde hair and the ankle wings?

(Nita was a member of a team Johnny pulled together during I think the Jeph Loeb/Carlos Pacheco run. The two of them, She-Hulk, and Scott Lang. Johnny and Nita were dating at the time.)

As far as I know, this is the first time Nita's actually appeared in a Marvel comic since the end of Abnett and Lanning's Thanos Imperative. She survived that, because we see her back on Earth at Project PEGASUS with Nova's kid brother and Quasar when Cosmo came to recruit Quasar for the Annihilators. That was late 2009/early 2010. It didn't seem to get any wider acknowledgement, though.

(And this was right after Marvel had finally given up trying to make the Agents of Atlas a thing, so we've still never gotten any sort of mother/daughter reunion there. Which would have been a nice moment.)

Granted, that Nita was from some point in the past due to weird circumstances involving a massive tear in the fabric of the universe, but come on. That time travel shit works for the X-Men all the time. Cable's dead! Oh wait, no, here's Cable, possibly the same one, but maybe not. Time Travel!

I think Christopher Yost's New Warriors book had an Atlantean on the team looking for Namorita, but I don't think it ever paid off. I'll probably try to grab that series at some point, I like Marcus To's art.

I don't know if she'll get to do anything of significance in this FF story, but hey, at least someone remembered she's around to be used as a character. Either that or Dan Slott decided Secret Wars erased Civil War from continuity, which would be fine with me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Serious Man

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) watches his life fall apart around him. His wife wants a ritual divorce so she can be together with Sy Abelman. His son sees him as only useful for fixing the TV aerial so the kid can watch F Troop (I've seen F Troop on Nick at Nite, the kid ain't missing much). He's got a student trying to bribe him for a better grade on the midterm, then threatening to sue him for defamation of character for accusing him of offering a bribe, and a lot of other crap.

And Gopnik can't figure out why all of this is happening to him, or what he's supposed to do about it. He tries talking to not one but three rabbis, which doesn't seem to help. He has no control over his life, things are being done to it completely beyond his grasp or without his input. People guide him to and fro, manipulate his emotions while trying to claim they aren't doing that, and he just sort of drifts with it. His resistance is token. I spent most of the movie waiting to see if he'd snap and just let everything loose at once.

The movie opens over a century earlier, and introduces the idea of a dybbuk, a spirit possessing a corpse and potentially cursing people. I don't know if we're meant to think that's what's happening here, or just people will use anything as an excuse for why things are going wrong. Maybe that family was cursed because they invited a dybbuk in for soup. Or maybe they're cursed because they stabbed an old man because they thought he was a dybbuk. Or maybe he was a dybbuk, and they'd have been fine if they just gave him some soup and hospitality. You can never tell with the mythological creatures, whether you can kill them with kindness. Or there is no curse, but it makes a convenient excuse for why their lives sucked going forward.

If there's a higher power doing all this, they're never going to give Larry or us the answers as to why. Even if they do, there's not shit you can do about it if they have that kind of power. I mean, he may very well be hopelessly doomed because of vast forces beyond his ken, but since he can't know, he might as well proceed as though he can do something. I'm not sure that's where the movie is going with it, though to be honest I was starting to check out in the last 20 minutes because I was getting frustrated with it.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What I Bought 9/13/2018

Took two different comic stores in different towns on different days, but I did find all four books I was looking for from last week. Small victories. There's supposed to be another four comics out this week I want, but finding all of them might be harder to manage. in other news, I learned yesterday they are doing a new version of Magnum P.I., with some guy who looks like he stepped out of an Ax Body Spray commercial playing Magnum. Ugh.

Ms. Marvel #34, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I'm impressed Shocker can bend that far backwards and maintain his balance. You'd think he'd need to put one leg further back to brace himself.

Shocker has no idea what his machine does, other than it creates portals, which he boots Kamala into. She's lost outside time until Singularity shows up to eventually get her back home. Everything I know about Singularity I've learned from Googum using her in his Deadpool and Nightcrawler strips the last few weeks. Back in Jersey, Kamala has to resume fighting Shocker, except Bruno intervenes, having figured out how her powers work.

There are some interesting implications for Kamala's powers based on what Bruno found, depending on what Wilson decides to do with it. In other news, I'm so happy for The Shocker. He got to do an old-fashioned showdown in the middle of the street against a super-hero! So cool! You go Hermann! Actually, it just occurred to me that Shocker's costume is padded to protect him from the vibrations from his gauntlets, so punching him really shouldn't even work, should it? I feel as though Spidey's run into that problem before.

I notice Bruno is the only one whose name is listed on the Emergency Power Shutdown Log in the lab, which doesn't surprise me. We never see anyone else in there. You think there'd be at least one other science nerd in the school. I have no idea what that place was Kamala and Singularity wound up in initially. Is that something left over from that A-Force book that existed for five seconds a couple of years ago? Or is it something that's going to be relevant to this book going forward?

There's not a lot else I want to say. It's a middle chapter of a story, it's setting a few things up for next month, getting pieces in place.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #36, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Madeline McGrane (minicomic artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Yes, that is certainly a picture of a squirrel covering its mouth.

New York is menaced by a giant ghost lady that cancels out all sound. Or steals it all. Everything is silent now. All the various heroes fail to defeat the ghost which, come on. I know Dr. Strange isn't at the top of his game now, but it's a frickin' ghost. Peter Venkman was a damn charlatan and carrying on inappropriate liaisons with his students and he could handle ghosts! Iron Man can't build a dang nuclear accelerator? Certainly T'Challa has protocols for dealing with ghosts. Anyway, Doreen and Nancy figure out what the ghost's problem is, find common ground, and noise returns to New York City. Hooray?

As far as silent issues go, it's not bad. I was afraid North and Charm were going to resort to a lot of gags about people writing stuff out so it could be read, but they mostly restrained themselves. They even refrained from any of the text jokes at the bottom of the page. When this got solicited I wondered if they'd hold off on those for this issue. There are a few jokes about t-shirts, or books that thankfully use pictures, but not too many. And I liked the shirt gag. I would buy a "I was afraid this might happen so come on guys what the heck" shirt. I have that reaction to people all the time.

I'm disappointed Yankees Stadium didn't sustain more damage from having heroes repeatedly swatted into it. Although the Yankees would no doubt demand the city pay for repairs, so probably for the best. Plus, there's not anyone on the Yankees I would particularly want to see get squashed under Ant-Man's butt, now that Jeter's retired. That would have been a hilarious way for Jeter to end.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Alternate Favorite Marvel Characters #4 - Namorita

Character: Namorita (Nita Prentiss)

Creator: Bill Everett

First appearance: Sub-Mariner #50.

First encounter: New Warriors #2. This issue is mostly about an once friend, now enemy, from Night Thrasher's past showing up to throw down (the fight ultimately leaving the Warriors to wonder how far they can trust the Thrash-man, not for the first or last time). Nita gets a couple of cool moments in there, and Niceiza starts teasing the attraction between her and Nova (in that she thinks he's a meathead, but he's a hot meathead).

Definitive writer: Fabian Nicieza. He and John Byrne have written the most comics featuring her that I've read, and I prefer Nicieza's take more than Byrne's where Nita was a more deferential to her cousin (who, to be fair, was the main character of that book and is an overbearing butthead to boot).

Definitive artist: Mark Bagley. Most artists give Nita more rounded facial features, which is how Bill Everett tended to draw her (I saw someone describe his version as "elfin"). Tends to make her look younger. Bagley typically draws people more slim and angular, and that fit the Namorita in New Warriors, where she seemed older and more mature than in other books, even if only in comparison to her teammates.

Favorite moment or scene: Nita trying to fight Terrax (even a less-powerful-than-normal Terrax) solo in the first issue was pretty cool, but I'm going with something from New Warriors #7. The Warriors are faced with a couple of problems. Night Thrasher's old girlfriend Silhouette is being pursued (or so she thinks) by a strange man in a tiger/ninja outfit. Speedball's mother has gone to South America as part of a protest about cutting down the rainforest, and may be a hostage. Thrasher stays behind to help Sil, while the rest of the team travels with Robbie in their civilian identities. Which is the first time the team finds out Speedball is actually a fairly small 15-year old.

Robbie is defensive about it, for good reason. He wasn't part of Thrasher's original plan for the team (neither was Nita). Chord thinks he's basically useless, Nova would agree. The rest think he's unreliable, and now they know he's a kid, more so than the rest of them. Even if they aren't outright voicing their doubts (except Rich, who is kind of a dick), he can guess what they're thinking. Except Nita, who walks up and makes it clear she's got no concerns about him not being the biggest 15-year old around, and that his team has his back. She's frequently the tough one on the team, but that role alternates between almost everyone at some point. But that consistent compassionate attitude was kind of a pleasant surprise (wouldn't really expect it from a relative of Namor's) and a key part of her.

What I like about her: One problem a lot of teen heroes run into in these shared universes is that, no matter how many times they may save the world in their books, they get treated as second-rate when they run up against the old guard. A lot of the Teen Titans struggle with that, and the New Mutants, and the New Warriors. That's an issue I always have to reconcile, how Namorita gets portrayed in New Warriors, which is the version I'm most familiar with and like best, versus most everywhere else.

On the Warriors, Nita gets to be the team powerhouse, at least as far as muscle. Kind of the Rogue of the team in that sense. Firestar is the most powerful overall, but rarely cuts loose, for various understandable reasons like not wanting reduce people to a pile of ashes. When Nita's possessed by a guy wielding the Darkforce, Nova admits he's not strong enough to knock her out. Rage turns out to be stronger than her, but only in terms of punching (something about how his powers work). Namorita has the edge everywhere else. When Emma Frost invades their HQ with her Hellions, Nita's the one who ends up fighting that team's muscle (the terribly named "Beef"), and she pounds him into the ground, to Emma's complete lack of surprise. The guy's no Hulk, but he's strong enough to feel like trying to throw down with Colossus, so he can't be a complete waste. She'll take a swing at Terrax, or throw a railroad car at the Juggernaut. There's one issue, #28, where either she threw a submarine to the surface, or it did an emergency surface to try and get away before she ripped it apart underwater. All of which is pretty cool and impressive.

In Namor, she's more like his plucky teen sidekick. Eager to help her cousin, but with Namor always trying to keep her out of the line of fire. They split up to search for the Griffin, Namor actually already knows which direction it went and he made sure to send her the other way, because he doesn't want her trying to tangle with it. Or it's OK for him to fight Super-Skrull by himself, but he doesn't want her trying it when Kl'rt decides to turn tail. In Agents of Atlas we're told her power was 'a pale shadow' of her mother's or Namor's (which ignores the fact writers had been dialing Namor and Namora's strength levels up the previous few years, after Nita was dead and unable to benefit from that same power creep).

That's frustrating to deal with, finding a character you like and then when you try to track down their backstory or other adventures, they don't get much respect anywhere else. But you find what positives you can. Nita is determined to help her cousin whenever he's in trouble, whether he wants it or not. She may do what he says initially, but she's more than willing to go behind his back. Which is probably easier than trying to argue with Namor. Wastes less time, certainly

She's adaptable and moves around in the surface world smoothly. She's always shown as having non-superhero friends, her own place, school, interests, a full life. Namor doesn't do subtle or fitting in. When they attend a gala thing where he doesn't want people to know he's alive, Nita's the one who figures out a fake beard and how to style his hair to disguise him. Some of that ability to fit in, at least outwardly, is probably Betty Prentiss, who knew Namor back when and kind of had Nita foisted on her, although they formed a strong bond eventually (Nita took Betty's last name as hers for her surface identity, after all). And maybe some of that ability to blend in came from growing up in a kingdom where her mother was poisoned by a romantic rival and believed dead. Nita probably wasn't sure how safe her own life was, or who might have back. She would have learned to step lightly in precarious situations from that. Namor doesn't really have the patience to tread lightly. Too used to making other people jump when he enters a room.

But she isn't timid. When she's been abducted by Tiger Shark and wakes up to find Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers variety) trying to rescue her, Nita jumps right in to help. It doesn't go well (even though fighting underwater should be as much a boon to her as her cousin or Tiger Shark, but there's that second-rate treatment again), but she's able to keep thinking and figure out a way to escape. Which is how she saves Carol's life when the serum Carol took to breathe underwater ran out near the end of the fight. When she's pulled from some earlier time and thrown into a war between Sphinxes against a much different Richard Rider than the one she knows, she rolls with it easily enough. There's an immediate problem to deal with, she can figure out the rest when there's time. She's reluctant to join Dr. Strange's Secret Defenders when he contacts her. She's already on a team, she's actually just finished stopping a yacht transporting drugs into the country. She ends up guilted into it with some bull about how "Namor always answered the call."

(Far be it from me to try arguing continuity with a Roy Thomas-written comic, but that is a total load. There is no way grumpy-ass Namor agreed to help every single time Strange makes his ghost body, singing telegram requests.)

Still, she gets between the Punisher and the extremely powerful monster loosed from some TV writer's subconscious. The punch puts her in the hospital for a day, but even Frank acknowledges it would have turned him into a bloody smear. That willingness to be all-in, even when you really don't even want to be there, is a quality I always like. You see it occasionally with the New Warriors as well, where the team may not all agree on what should be the priority, but even if she's disagreeing with them, she still has their back.

At least in the Nicieza/Bagley run, Namorita was the team member who most had her shit together, which I appreciated. I liked most everyone on the team for one reason or another, but they all had their hang-ups. Speedball was a goof with a unhappy home situation. Firestar wasn't sure she really wanted to the hero thing. Marvel Boy definitely did want to be a hero, but his home situation was worse than Speedball's. Night Thrasher was skilled and determined, but his people skills were a work in progress. Nova was the most experienced hero of them, but kind of a temperamental meathead. He might have been a little too jazzed about having his powers back, too eager to throw his weight around. Nita was on a super-team, going to college, helping her cousin run his company, getting involved in environmental causes, and she seemed in control of her life. I'm not against characters who have stuff going wrong in their lives that messes them up (see: Spider-Man, or Deadpool), but sometimes it's nice to see a character that appears to have their act together, their keeping themselves balanced.

The second issue of the series has couple of interesting points. The team's doing training exercises and while almost everyone else is pushing themselves, Nita is casually holding a weight machine over her head with one arm. Not straining at all, and she knows she's not pushing herself, but she knows what her limits are. Eventually things go haywire (Speedball and Nova are involved). The machine's about to fall on her, and Marvel Boy's attempt to hold it up fails. The smoke clears, and Nita's sitting there, completely unharmed, swapping semi-flirty banter with Nova while asking Vance if he's OK. At no point is she worried about the thing falling on her, because she knows what she can take. Later on, the team ends up fighting a street gang packing AIM weaponry. The team, Nita included, isn't sweating it, but she is the one who tries to get Nova to recognize they need to work together. Instead he tries flying in alone and gets blasted like a dope.

Confidence is a trait Atlanteans have plenty of. But Nita isn't so set on making a big show of telling everyone how great she is, unlike some Atlanteans *cough* Namor *cough*, which makes it cooler. It's not bragging, because it plays that she doesn't feel the need to brag. An easy confidence in herself and her ability to handle things.

(I'm bagging on Namor a lot when really, his ego is a lot of the fun of his character. But you have to admit that guy would be a pain in the ass to deal with regularly.)

It's the same way she doesn't have a secret identity. People know that Namorita Prentiss is Namor's cousin. The guy from Gentech in the first issue knows it as soon as she introduces herself. The Mad Thinker comments on the fact she doesn't keep her life compartmentalized (and notes it as a potential vulnerability, and he ends up being right), she's not hiding. But she also isn't making a big show of it, expecting special treatment because she's Atlantean royalty, barging in, ordering people around. It's part of who she is, but not all of her. Others can recognize it or not, respect it or not, she's not going to put herself out trying to impress them. She won't treat people like dirt just because she can, but she isn't going to let anyone else do that to her, either.

Even if she's comfortable fighting alone - when Terrax emerged in the first issue of New Warriors, she was the only one there to fight him initially and she went right to it - she recognizes she's on a team, and that's something to utilize. There's no reason to do everything yourself when you have people who will help you if you let them.

Of course, who she was exactly started to be called into question not long after that. Byrne decided to make her a modified clone of her mother, for reasons I am unclear on considering he had Namor make a big deal about how it didn't change anything about her as far as he was concerned. Then Nicieza had the rest of Atlantis find out and give her the boot because they're bigots when it comes to clones. Then her body continued to change. She turned blue, got webbed hands. Then her skin went white again at some point before New Warriors vol. 2, but she kept developing other powers, secreting toxins through her skin. Then she'd gone blue again by the time Zeb Wells and Skottie Young did the "reality TV show" version of the New Warriors (which is actually kind of fun, but did, of course, set the stage for them to be used as the "irresponsible heroes" Millar sacrifices at the beginning of Civil War, sooooooo, thanks a lot guys!).

As it turned out, despite how well she seemed to be doing on the outside, Nita has a lot of concerns about where she fits even before her genetics went completely wonky. She likes being on the surface, but she's not entirely a part of it. She's different, in a world that is not known for being kind to people who are different. She's an Atlantean, but not a full Atlantean, and with them all having blue skin and her not, she's distinctly aware of it. We don't know if she heard whispers and murmurs in the royal halls, but it wouldn't surprise me. Then she's told she has no place in it whatsoever, because she's a clone. (That changed at some point, I'm assuming Namor threatened to dismember some people. He does really care for her, which is sweet.) Like I said, she didn't make a big show of being Atlantean, but it mattered to her, and she tried to do right by that aspect of her life. She defended its culture and heritage from people who would exploit for themselves, tried to act in an honorable manner, worked towards ecological causes on the surface that would also benefit those underneath the waves, and they slammed the door in her face.

Despite all the upheaval, she always seems to find a way back to who she is. After Sea Urchin ambushed her, beat her, and humiliated her, she was ready to take his head, but ultimately she pulled back. That wasn't who she wanted to be, so even though it did go against Atlantean tradition, she turned him into the authorities, unharmed. When she turned blue she was ready to give everything up because she didn't think she belonged anywhere. With a little encouragement from Namor, she went back to her friends, who were there for her. And seemed to find her the person she was again fairly soon. I like that ability to roll with some pretty severe changes in her life, and still be herself as much as possible.

I think that's why she was a helpful influence for a lot of members of the team. She had enough confidence to disagree with Night Thrasher, but do so without getting loud and violent about it like Nova (which was rarely productive, since then the discussion turned into keeping those two apart). She could give Speedball a comforting word when he was uncertain because she'd been in the same boat. She knows what losing a mother is like, and how hard you'd try to avert it if you could. She gave Firestar and Turbo someone with a little more life experience to use as a sounding board. Not so much in terms of being older, where there wasn't a huge gap, but even compared to Firestar (who was originally under Emma Frost's control), Nita has been through some stuff. It doesn't make her Team Mom, which is often a thankless task. She's more Team Cool Older Sister, which lets her be a voice of reason or support, but still gives her more leeway to screw up.

She made some judgment calls during her stint as leader, about working with the Project: Earth people they'd already fought once. Those didn't turn out so well. They got involved in a civil war overseas, where they couldn't discern which side was the "bad" one, and may not have accomplished anything more than losing track of what they hoped to accomplish. They ran into Sea Urchin again, the criminal justice system having predictably failed miserably, and she though she almost let her anger get control of her, she held back. She trusted the wrong person, who found the Warriors' secret identities as a result, and their loved ones paid the price (that risk of not compartmentalizing her life). She decided she was doing more harm than good, and stepped down as leader, then stepped away from the team. Again, I can appreciate knowing when you need to get your head straight before you can be any use to anyone else. But once she did, and after she'd started coming to grips with all that other stuff, she came back to the team. She didn't re-assume command, but she did remain someone willing to share her views in a calm, but firm manner. A nice counterpoint to some of the hotter tempers on the team, and a nice bit of stability in a roster undergoing a lot of changes at the time.

She's strong, she's confident without being overbearing about it, she's willing to be passionate about things that are important to her, but can recognize when it's getting out of control and hurting those around her, and she's willing and able to be there for her teammates when they need a hand. Namorita always seemed like someone who would be a good friend to have.

Credits! Robbie's so worried about his mom he's not making inappropriate comments about Nita touching him in New Warriors #7, by Fabian Nicieza (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Larry Mahlstedt (inker), Andy Yanchus (colorist), and Rick Parker (letterer). Emma Frost learns not to waste Namorita's time with brainless meatheads in New Warriors #9, by Nicieza (writer), Bagley (penciler), Sam De LaRosa (inker), Yanchus (colorist), and Joe Rosen (letterer). I bet Nita's been waiting years to do this to Namor in Namor the Sub-Mariner #4, by John Byrne (writer/artist), Glynis Oliver (colorist), and Ken Lopez (letterer). Namorita will fight a magic werewolf barbarian king on his terms in Nova (vol. 4) #34, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Mahmud A. Asrar (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Guru eFX (colorists), and Cory Petit (letterer). Nova will screw things up with her eventually, but not today in New Warriors #44, by Nicieza (writer), Darick Robertson (penciler), Larry Mahlstedt (inker), Joe Rosas (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). Unfortunately, helping teammates with losing loved one is a fulltime job in New Warriors (vol. 2) #7, by Jay Faerber (writer), Jamal Igle (penciler), Walden Wong (inker), Kevin Somers (colorist), and Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letterers). You'd never know a ton of weights fell on her in New Warriors #2, by Nicieza (writer), Bagley (penciler), Al Williamson (inker), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Michael Heigler (letterer).

Friday, September 14, 2018

What I Bought 9/12/2018

I had plans to come up with something for Wednesday, but consecutive 11+ hours days on the road took most of the initiative out of me. For today, we have a couple of books from this week, one that is wrapping up its opening arc, and the other is just halfway through.

Domino #6, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - When you put them altogether there on the cover, it sure looks like Domino has never had a decent costume in her life. I'd almost vote for the one with the shoulder pads and the helmet/faceguard, just because it looks like its designed to handle being shot at.

Domino has a final showdown with Topaz. Desmond/Prototype didn't survive that punch in the head from Outlaw, so now hurting Domino is all the crazy redhead has left. But Domino is able to control her powers enough Topaz can't use them against her, and then Outlaw and Diamondback hit the angry lady with a Quinjet, and Domino pumps 12 bullets into, to Shang-Chi's disappointment. We can't all spend our time moping about being forced on the path of violence, Shang.

I don't know if I'm used to villains getting away to be constant pains in the rear or what, but this felt vaguely anticlimactic. Maybe the point was for Domino to have gained enough control that Topaz couldn't mess with her powers, which required getting over being afraid of the fact the lady could mess with her powers. Once that happened, where she would have luck back on her side, Topaz really has no chance. The part where she describes herself as a Disney princess was an odd choice of metaphor. It's tossed into the aftermath that Prototype had planted a tracker on Domino at some point. When, I have no idea. I don't recall him getting close enough to do that at any point before he was already showing wherever she was.

 The fight scene is drawn well, lot of energy to it, impressive blur lines for punches, people making exertion faces rather than looking totally calm when they're trying to punch someone's head off. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it works. There is a scene early in the book I'm not quite sure of. We see Outlaw wheeling Diamondback into a hospital, telling her she was lucky to be alive. After a confrontation with a bigoted doctor, the two ladies call Adelbert for news of Domino, but now they're outside the hospital and getting into a car. I'm not sure if I'm meant to assume there was a gap in there where Diamondback got treated for her stab wound, or if Outlaw was supposed to be wheeling her out of the hospital at the beginning of the whole thing and Baldeon got it backwards.

Other than that, the artwork was good, and I like how Arubtov incorporates the colors of the lights of Hong Kong into the backdrop of Domino and Topaz' fight. Using the reds and blues, mostly reds, for anger or focus of the two characters. Topaz trying to pick herself up with dull yellows behind her, she's not up to a full head of steam yet, while Domino's in front of bright reds, because she's pretty much resigned to ending Topaz, because that's what it will take.

I guess we'll see if Simone does something with this in subsequent issues, brings back some remnant of the program that experimented on her. It seems odd to bring all this in just to put it in the trash six issues later.

The Seeds #2, by Ann Nocenti (writer), David Aja (artist) - Nooo, not the turtles!

Rosa travels into the Zone to be with her alien boyfriend, Race, and his expedition. The reporter, Astra, also travels into the Zone to find proof of these aliens, but is suspicious about how easily she got though the checkpoints. She has a run-in with the more crazy member of Race's expedition, but escapes for the time being. Someone is planning to drop something in the Zone, but whether they're trying to kill bees, people, or maybe the aliens I'm not clear on. Probably people. And there's the subplot about the farmer being sad he had to kill one of his hogs for food.

There's a page about some rich guy who tries to travel to another planet and it's gone catastrophically wrong, but the video feed from his spaceship is still active, so everyone can see him freaking out. I chuckled at that. And the part where the one alien learns the others all call him "Nutwad", when they aren't calling him "Gasbag". Sometimes you just don't like your coworkers.

Through most of the issue, there's a turtle making its way across the landscape, with those plastic soda can holders around one leg. It makes its way past Lola at one point and she pauses from turning a rotten apple into a bong long enough to remove the plastic ring. Which feels significant someone, bothering to stop to help this turtle which, if the planet is well and truly fucked, then so is the turtle. Maybe I'm just grasping.

The concept of making up a story and then making it come true pops up again, but I'm not sure how that ties in. Unless the point is you can make up most any story about people and it could eventually be true. It's possible for you to imagine it, so it's possible people would do it, even if they aren't at that moment. The story gives them the idea? Again, I don't know. If the GreenTech folks are trying to kill people, why? What's there to gain? Same delusions of grandeur as the rich idiot floating in space?

Aja continues to work mostly in 9 or 7-panel grids. Mostly focuses panels on small areas. A single character, or the turtle, or the rusted remains of an old car. Gives a feel for the place where things are happening. He does that bit where Astra is taking pictures and one row of panels are three consecutive pictures she's taking as she pans across someone's trailer and front yard. There are a couple of pages of switching back and for between the farmer preparing to kill the hog, and Nutwad sneaking up on Astra. The potential victims both oblivious, and their would-be killers telling themselves different lies for it to work in their minds.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Kill or Be Killed

A Western about a gang slowly making their way across Texas to reach some gold one of the gang hid after a robbery went sideways. They rob and kill as they travel, to have enough money to keep themselves supplied (although I doubt they were being frugal with their loot). Soon, they're waking up in the morning to find another member of their gang dead. All the gang's attempts to stay awake and catch the killer fail.

The movie tries to play so coy with who is doing it, it makes it surprisingly difficult to have any suspense. They don't make any attempts at traps or setting up some kind of a alarm. They find no clues, none they recognize anyway. Since you have no sense of what's going on, or what they could possibly do to avoid death, it becomes this sort of dull inevitability. They will make camp, one of them will be told to be on watch, that person will wake up the next morning and another member of the gang is dead. There's no stakes, or suspense, and since the gang is a bunch of cutthroats and murderers themselves, it's not like you feel bad for them.

The dialogue is stilted, where you can tell they're trying to make it sound different from how people would talk now, but what they end up with is things phrased so oddly no person would actually say them. Granted, True Grit got away with that, but this movie isn't remotely in the ballpark of True Grit (either of them). The main character, the leader of the gang, keeps having dreams of a man with the remains of a toga wrapped around his waist and flames coming from his eyes (done with absolutely horrible CGI), crawling into their camp at night and getting ready to kill someone with a machete. I assumed this meant there was a supernatural aspect to what was happening, which thankfully there isn't.

The gang members are at least somewhat differentiated from each other, to the extent there's a chatty, unlucky one, a big religious fella who looks like he ought to be in one of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films instead. An old, cranky one who is kind of cautious, a goofy kid. Which isn't to say you end up caring about any of them, but at least they try a little on that score.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Len and Company

Rhys Ifans (who I always think of as the Welsh kicker from The Replacements) plays an aging former rock star turned music producer who has tried to hide himself away in his upstate New York home. First his son shows up, then one of the musicians he was working with, a troubled lady named Zoe (played by Juno Temple) shows up. There's also a local teenager who comes over to do odd jobs around the house for Len named William. William's the only one Len seems to have much patience for, maybe because Will seems content to do whatever work Len needs done without complaint, while Len is sure Max and Zoe just want stuff from him. No one's problems get solved, but everyone ends up in a slightly better place than when the film started. Well, that's debatable with Zoe.

Watching Len and Max interact is interesting, in that Max can barely make eye contact with him, and can't ever just say what he really wants to. Which informs Len's opinion of him, and probably how he responds to him. Each time Max tries to form a bridge with conversation, Len takes a contrary position. Want to watch the Liverpool match? No, fuck Liverpool. Your pool is dirty. No it isn't, it's natural. Part of that is Len trying to be contrary to drive Max away, but some of it feels like Len trying to provoke a specific reaction in Max. We learn a bit about Len's developmental years, and you wonder how much of what's happened between him and Max or Zoe is a re-creation of that, except maybe he didn't do as bad a job as his father. He's better than Ed Harris' character in Kodachrome, faint praise that is.

Maybe I just identify with Len's desire to sometimes cut yourself off from everything, to stop having to worry about maintaining appearances, and try to figure some shit out.

Most of the film takes place in Len's house, and in the early going, it's mostly shot in lighting that makes it feel cold or dim, that makes the ceiling feel low. Everyone slouches in chairs or couches like they can't sit any higher. Right at the end, it shifts and things are much brighter, and suddenly the rooms look much larger. Although when Max first goes up to his room, I expected it to be as cluttered and dingy and the downstairs had been, but it's very bright and clean. Looks untouched, which could be read a couple ways.

The cast of characters is small, so it stays focused, but it keeps things moving enough to introduce new angles on things by letting different characters play off each other. So things never get too slow.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Reciting the Litany of Failure Is Fun, But Lengthy

I feel increasingly disconnected from football, as a fan. The idea of giving Roger Goodell or any of those shitbag owners my money or attention while watching dudes give themselves brain damage doesn't seem so swell. "Problematic", as they say.

The season opener for the NFL was Thursday. I had completely forgotten until someone mentioned it to me that evening. Long way from the days when I bought 4 or 5 different NFL preview magazines each summer. It's funny, because I'd been reading and loving Deadspin's "Why Your Team Sucks" posts all month, so I knew the season was starting, because they do those the month before the season begins, ergo. . . It just didn't register somehow.

I love those posts. Every team gets a turn getting savaged, first by the writer (Drew Magary), and at the end, we get the thoughts from the fans who e-mail their own feelings to Magary. Regardless of team, the fans' follow certain common themes. Their owner is an ass, the coach a moron. The fanbase is full of fat, racist, stupid, Trump-lovers (that came up a lot this year). Occasionally people complain about the stadium, or parking, or difficulty in getting to the stadium (that's a common one from Jets and Giants' fans). The sad sack franchises have more fans that list their tales of woe and heartbreak. There was one Giants fan living in Norway last season who woke their roommates screaming at Eli Manning for another dumb pick, and one of the roommates described Eli's "whoops" face as being that of a necrophiliac who just learned their favorite cemetery had added new security.

I considered submitting one for the Arizona Cardinals, but why should Magary get paid for my writing? Not that I'm getting paid, but at least I get a blog post out of it this way. Without further ado, Why My Team Sucks 2018: The Arizona Cardinals.

I can't speak to the fanbase. I've never met another, actual Arizona Cardinals' fan face-to-face. They seem to exist on the Internet, but maybe all of them other than me are just one cat pretending to be different people. I haven't been to the new stadium, or the old Sun Devil Stadium, which was apparently a hellhole. Bill Bidwell was a notorious cheapskate as an owner, in that regard the Donald Sterling of the NFL (I don't if he was as much of a racist as the former Clippers' owner). His son is the current owner, and endorses this lying ass Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, using the official team website. I'd prefer just complaining about the team owner being a tightwad.

The winningest coach in the franchise's history retired before being the Cardinals' coach killed him, and they replaced him with a defensive coach from the Panthers, who only win games when Cam Newton can overcome the league's willingness to see him killed on the field. Carson Palmer retired, but the Cards did draft a QB in the first round, Josh Rosen. Of course, the last time they took a QB from a southern California university with the 10th overall pick, it was Matt Leinart. The most memorable moment of his time was 2007, when Ken Whisenhunt announced Leinart was the starter, but Kurt Warner would come off the bench every time the team needed to run a two-minute or hurry-up offense. Then someone on the Rams separated Leinart's shoulder in the 6th game of the season piledriving him into the turf, and we were spared any further charade.

Not that the Cardinals have much recent history of success drafting at any positions, but their QBs have been especially weak. They drafted Neil Lomax in 1981. Since then, the best QB they picked was Jake Plummer, who I remember fondly, but was not a guy who could carry a shitty franchise, ala Aaron Rodgers. The second-best is Josh McCown, the least-awful of all QBs named McCown, but a backup at best. Third-best is, I dunno. Leinart? John Skelton (all the accuracy of Tim Tebow but without the insane Jesus freak fanbase)? Tom Tupa? Yes, I mean the punter. He was their main starting QB in 1991. He started 11 games, threw 6 TDs, and 13 INTs.

The two best QBs they've had in that time were Warner and Palmer, a couple of veterans who had struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, but who found a couple more good years in the desert. Of course, with Warner you had to brace yourself for that one game a year he had 5 turnovers. Palmer's knee was made of paper mache.

Current draftee Josh Rosen will be backing up Sam Bradford, until Bradford - Mr. Glass himself - shatters into a million piece in Week 3. Potentially awesome running back David Johnson missed all but one half of one game last season, and is back. For the 26th consecutive season since I started rooting for them, Arizona will try to run the football. This will mostly likely be the 23rd of those seasons (at minimum) they will fail to do so. They've had a grand total of 7 seasons where a running back reached 1,000 yards over that time. Edgerrin James is their leading rusher over that span, and he didn't reach 3,000 yards total over his 3 seasons with the team. Their struggles assembling a decent offensive line might have something to do with it. They went five seasons once without drafting an offensive lineman in the first three rounds of the draft. Kurt Warner and Kevin Kolb's careers both ended during that time, and they had more than one season where the leading rusher could barely crack 500 yards. In 2012 their top rusher was LaRod Stephens-Howling, with 356 yards.

Larry Fitzgerald returned, which was nice. Although I wouldn't have blamed him for either retiring or deciding to go play for a different team. The only other notable wideout they brought back was J.J. Nelson, who was letting a pass sail right through his hands every time I turned on a game last season. I have heard at least five different head coaches state they're going to get the tight ends involved in the offense. They haven't had one catch 50 passes in a seasons since Jackie Smith was on the team in '80s. They draft and sign them all the time, but they never pan out.

I think they switched their defensive approach. I have no idea if that's going to help or not. The defense wasn't bad last year, considering how anemic the offense was. Chandler Jones has 17 of the team's 37 sacks. It's nice to have a good pass-rusher, but I wish it didn't feel as though it was all on him. I can't tell if Patrick Peterson is actually a good cover corner or not. They let the Honey Badger leave in free agency. I can't decide if that was smart or not, considering I wasn't sure how he had any ligaments left to tear any more.

My dad was a fan of the Cardinals when they were still in St. Louis, during the Jim Hart/Don Coryell years, on into the Neil Lomax/Jim Hanifan seasons of the early '80s. That's probably one of the high points of the franchise, when they could string together as man as three consecutive winning seasons. They made the playoffs three times, lost the first playoff game each time. When the team moved to the desert after the 1987 season, he swore them off. I didn't adopt them as a team until 1993. I may have remembered going to preseason games with him as a small child, but more likely my elementary school brain figured that I rooted for the Cardinals in baseball, I should root for them in football to. *sing-song voice* Bad Life Decisions!

I've yet to see them be truly horrible. Their worst season was 2000, when they went 3-13. They've had three other 4-12 seasons, though each had it's own points of hope. 1995 rid us of Buddy Ryan (we wound up with Vince Tobin, though). 1997 made us think Jake Plummer might just be The Guy (He was not, but the Cards finished one game too good to get Peyton, and Jake was significantly better than Ryan Leaf). 2003, um, Anquan Boldin might be good (he was)? They hired Denny Green that offseason (I had so much hope that was going to work. NOPE). 11 of the 26 years they've won from 5 to 7 games. Which is just good enough a gullible person (read: me) can talk himself into them being close, that if just a few things had gone differently, they'd have made the playoffs. Ignoring, of course, that they probably won some of those games thanks to good fortune, lucky bounces on fumbles, or the other team's good players having a bad game.

I've seen them be the only team to lose the 1-15 Jets in 1996, and the only team to lose to the 2-14 49ers in 2004, which has to be even more humiliating. Any team can lose to any other team once, on the road, after traveling cross-country. To lose to a team twice, including at home, when no other team lost to them? They even lost in different ways. One game, they jumped out to the lead, then let the Niners charge back. The other, they fell way behind and couldn't complete a frantic comeback. All roads lead to the same outcome.

My dad has apologized on several occasions for passing that fandom on to me somehow.

And yet, I've been party to one of the best stretches of football in the franchise's history. Certainly the last 10 years are the high point since 1950. In the last decade, the Cardinals have managed 5, count 'em, 5, winning seasons, plus three more seasons at 8-8. They made the playoffs four times, even won at least one playoff game three times, after going 50 years without a playoff victory. The Lions aren't even up to 30 years without a playoff win yet and people talk about it all the time. I've seen 5 playoff years, each with its own good and bad.

1998: They go 9-7 and make the playoffs as the 6 seed, despite being outscored by 53 points while playing the easiest schedule in the league. They had to win their last 3 games on field goals as regulation ended or in overtime to even manage that. Middle of the road offense, bottom 10 defense. Then they went into Dallas and beat the Cowboys 20-7. Yeah, it was the Chan Gailey coached Cowboys, but they still had Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin, and Deion Sanders. I like to think that was the final dagger for that era. You let a team that hadn't won in the playoffs in 50 years come in your home and walk over you, you're done.

Then the Cards went to Minnesota and got trucked by the Vikings. Jake threw 2 INTs, Randy Moss caught big passes downfield by pushing off on Aeneas Williams, 41-21 Vikings. Then the Vikings shit the bed the next week against the Falcons of all teams, because that's what the Vikings do. Ownership gave Jake a new contract, which I was fine with, but let a bunch of other key guys leave, draft picks didn't pan out, and the team wouldn't finish above .500 for a decade.

2008: Arizona goes 9-7, outscoring their opponents by 1 point, winning the weakest division in the league. They had the worst running game in the league, and the defense was mediocre. They lost games by 3 or more TDs to the Jets, Eagles, Vikings, and Patriots. Anquan Boldin's face got broken in the Jets game, spooking Kurt Warner to the point he nearly retired that week. Boldin missed two games. Anquan Boldin was freaking awesome. Being division winner has its perks, like hosting teams with better records. So they played the 10-6  Falcons in Arizona, and won. They went to Carolina, John Fox put the game in Jake Delhomme's hands, and Jake had 5 turnovers, while Carolina's defense decided not to cover Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona came home, beat the 11-5 Eagles.

Then they lost in the Super Bowl. To the fucking Steelers. Talk about a team of title-hogging assholes that don't deserve any more success, with their brain-damaged, probable sexual predator QB. Because Warner threw an INT to James Harrison, at the goal line, going into halftime, that Harrison somehow returned the length of the field. They wouldn't have been there if not for Warner, but it's hard not to be pissed that he chose that precise moment to make that dumbass decision. I watched this game with my coworkers, all of whom knew my rooting interest, and as one they all turned and looked at me as it happened. If any of them were Steelers' fans, they wisely kept their mouth shut or I'd have buried them out there in the boonies. I walked outside and screamed curses for 10 minutes.

Arizona traded Anquan Boldin that offseason, either because they thought they didn't need him (wrong), or because he got into a shouting match with offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the game against the Eagles. This was apparently before everyone realized Todd Haley was a humongous dipshit that annoys everyone, so Boldin was really just guilty of being ahead of the curve.

2009: Team goes 10-6, outscores opponents by 50 points, win the division again, although the 49ers whine about how they're really the best team in the division, even at 8-8, because they beat Arizona twice. Shouldn't have started 0-6 then, boys. Offense isn't nearly as prolific, but more balanced. Defense is a little better, not that you could tell from the first round playoff match-up with Green Bay. Rodgers and Warner take turns shredding the other team's defense. Arizona's D finally makes a play when Rodgers is strip sacked in OT and the fumble returned for a TD.

Second round, they encounter the Saints and their Gregg Williams coached defense. This was the "Bountygate" group, and they take Warner out of the game - and end his career - with various hits and head shots. Once he's out, the Cards are reduced to trying to win a shootout against Drew Brees with Matt Leinart. That goes as well as you'd expect, and they lose 45-14. Warner retires, Whisenhunt can't find a new QB, and the team goes back to being the Arizona Cardinals, Sad Sacks.

2014: After going 10-6 and missing the playoffs the year before, they go 11-5 and get a wild card. They have to go on the road, but it's against division "winner" Carolina, who went 7-8-1 that year. Even so, there is almost no hope. Palmer had a season ending knee injury halfway through the season. The team was keeping its head above water with Drew Stanton, although it was unlikely they could beat a good defense with him. Then he injured his knee, and the Cardinals turned to Ryan Lindley.

Lindley possessed no redeemable qualities as a QB. He was not accurate, he was not safe with the ball, he did not even have a big arm, so you couldn't tell guys to just go deep and let him throw it up there and hope. In 2012, he played in 6 games, starting 4. He threw 171 passes, with 7 INTs and no, repeat, ZERO TDs. This is a team that had Larry Fitzgerald, how do you not manage at least one TD where you just throw it high to him in the back of the end zone?! The only game they' won with Lindley as starter, the Lions had 6 turnovers, the Cards' defense scored 14 points, and the offense's three TD drives covered less than 40 yards, combined. Unless the Panthers were feeling very giving, there was no chance.

For one half, there was a chance. Carolina turned it over twice on their side of the field, Arizona scored TDs, and led 14-13. At halftime, the Panthers made the brilliant decision to stop doing that, and won 27-16. Arizona managed 8 first downs, had 3 turnovers, and 78 yards of total offense. Not for the half, for the entire game. How the defense didn't kill Lindley at some point, I don't know. It would have been justifiable. The Cards had drafted Logan Thomas at QB in the 3rd round before that season, and you had to wonder how useless he was that he couldn't even start over Lindley. Considering Thomas was trying to stay in the league as a tight end within two years, pretty useless.

2015: 13-3, outscored opponents by 176 points, this is the best Cardinals team I've ever seen. Palmer is healthy, they have a Top 2 offense and a Top 10 defense. Little concerning how Seattle came into their house and trucked them late in the year, but they had beaten the Seahawks in Seattle earlier in the year, so not too worried. Arizona even got a first round bye! I had never seen them manage that!

They play Green Bay first. Palmer is shaky, makes some bad passes. The defense lets Rodgers complete a Hail Mary to complete a big comeback and the game goes into OT. Then Larry Fitzgerald does what he does, makes some big plays and sends the Cheeseheads home sad. On to Carolina! Where Palmer apparently felt Lindley hadn't repaid the Panthers for Jake Delhomme's generosity in 2008 sufficiently. He threw 4 INTs and lost two fumbles. The Panthers' offense rolled through Arizona's defense, but it couldn't have helped that Palmer turned the ball over every five seconds.  After that, the team started getting old and broken down, and sank back to .500. And here we are now.

Whoo, that felt great. That shit has been burned into my brain and replayed for years. The team occasionally falling into something that works, only to trip over themselves before they can accomplish anything. I have no idea what the team will do this year. Betting on "mediocre" is the smart play, but who knows. I'm not sure how much I even care, as hard as that is to believe after that filibuster up there. If they start to win, am I going to get excited? Hell if I know. If it happens, with any luck I'll be distracted by baseball playoffs, the NBA season, or something else. Work, possibly.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #32

"FATALITY", in Annihilation #6, by Keith Giffen (writer), Andrea DiVito (artist), Laura Villari (color artist), Cory Petit (letterer)

My scanner is just a little too small for double-page splashes, so I didn't quite get all of "This is for the Nova Corps!". There's a couple of single-page splashes in this issue alone I like better. Like the one where we see the Kree can actually shoot their buildings like surface-to-air missiles. But after the page I used for last week's entry, I figured I needed to show the rematch between Nova and Annihilus, and this was the only option.

Anyway, after the mixed bag of the four lead-in mini-series, we got to the main show of what is still my favorite Event Comic. Giffen is good here at ramping up the stakes. Each time the resistance seems like they might be be turning a corner, disaster strikes. When Firelord captures one of Annihilus' admirals (also one of his queens), they learn Annihilus and Thanos have teamed up, and made a deal with two Elder Beings to take down Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Things are bad enough Nova has to not only rely on Ronan as an ally, but Ronan's an essential leader as someone who actually knows something about warfare for the Kree units. And Ronan willingly (if not happily) works with Super-Skrull later on.

DiVito and Villari's artwork is bright and clean. It's not a gritty, bloody war book. There are a few pages that sell the injuries as more severe, but a lot of times injured translates to, "outfit torn, maybe some scratches". Even in scenes like above, I'd describe my reaction more as, "Oh, wow" than "Ouch", if that makes sense. It's a very pretty book, with a lot of very cool, big scenes in it. Most of the characters involved get moments to be awesome or make a key contribution. It made for a nice escape from the dreary mess that was Millar's Civil War.