Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Opening the Year With Some New Stuff

Let's see what interested me in the solicitations for January.

At Boom, the two things that caught my eye are that 1) the Buffy comics appear to be starting back up there now, rather than at Dark Horse. I'm not planning to buy it, just surprised me. More critically, there's no sign of a new issue of Coda, though there is a trade of the first 4 issues.

Atomic Robo & the New Era rolls on. There's also a Rocketeer Reborn mini-series that starts in December I didn't mention last month. It's set in the present day, but is about someone finding the original jetpack that Cliff used in the '40s. Javier Pulido's drawing that, so it should look nice.

I don't know if Copperhead is ever going to finish at this point. Every time I check Image's website, the release date for the next issue (which was due out in June) has been shoved back another 3-4 weeks. So it may be there in January, or it may just be Infinite Dark from Image, assuming I'm even buying that by then. Seeds is absent again, and issue 3 was supposed to ship in October and didn't, so who knows what's going on. Dark Horse currently has no projected release date for it. Swell.

The most notable thing to me in DC's solicits was that they're starting up Young Justice again, and they've handed the writing reigns to Bendis. I don't guess I should be surprised, but good luck with that.

Red 5 released the first Bonnie Lass mini-series by Michael Mayne and Tyler Fluharty back in 2011. I picked it up some time after it had already finished, and though I haven't read it in a few years, remember it being pretty good. The second mini-series, also by Mayne and Fluharty, starts in January.

There's two or three manga series that sounded kind of interesting, although they're all on at least volume 3 by now. Dr. Stone, even though it sounds like it might be a story partially about rebuilding civilization, which is not usually my bag. There's another one, with the overly long title of Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General, about a lady who runs a criminal organization bent on world domination as a way to romance a particular superhero. Which could be annoying, but could be funny. Depends how they play it.

I saved Marvel for last because, while there wasn't much new for December, there are a lot of things on their first issues in January. Some of those are Annuals, or one-shots, and most of it is stuff I'm not interested in, but I guess they were waiting for Infinity Wars to finish. Guardians of the Galaxy is starting again, with the Thanos series creative team, but it sounds like they're going with the Jonathan Hickman approach of a roster of dozens. Which means even if your favorite character makes it into the book, there probably isn't enough page space for them to get much screen time. But maybe they'll focus on different groups in different arcs. Abnett and Lanning juggled a cast of roughly a dozen, mostly by splitting the team, or having half of them dead or pissed off at Star-Lord at any given moment.

Tom Taylor and Juan Cabal are doing a Spider-Man book about how he's a great person to have as a neighbor. Well sure, as long as he keeps his secret identity. Marvel's publishing Conan books again, which was a real surprise. Is Dark Horse getting out of the licensed properties game? Maybe it doesn't mean anything. IDW is publishing kid-friendly Marvel comics. You'd think Marvel could handle that themselves, but apparently not.

Mojo's showing up in that Rogue and Gambit series (I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. X is a really dumb name for a book), and in Domino. He's getting around, which could be good. I'm not sure anyone will doing anything good with him. The Superior Spider-Man is gonna fight Terrax, so hopefully that'll be the end of him. Octavius running around, calling himself a hero really annoys me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Night Comes For Us

Plotwise, your fairly typical story about a guy working for the Triads who decides not to kill a kid and then must fight for his life and hers against wave after wave of goons and assassins. It's one of those movies where the main character gets progressively messed up, because he's just fighting constantly and you can see it wearing him down. The last big fistfight he has started to remind me of a wrestling match after awhile. Somebody hits a move, but it hurts them too, so both guys lay there for a few moments groaning and rolling on the ground. Then they pick themselves up and go at it again.

A lot of the people who made The Raid are in this, or involved in making it. I don't think it's as good as The Raid, and it tries to make up for that with a lot more blood. People getting disemboweled, losing fingers, a lot of throats being slit. One lady gets stabbed near the elbow, and then the knife is pushed up her arm to at least her wrist, which, ouch. I don't really need a lot of blood in my movie fight scenes, so I could take or leave that, but there are some creative moves in there, clever uses of what's available. And there's usually two fights going on simultaneously in different locations. Ito's fighting in the back of a police van, trying to get away, while the remains of his old crew try to protect the girl in a fight that goes from one guy's apartment, to the hallway, down the stairs, and into the parking garage.

I didn't follow some of the finer details of the story - I thought the Motorcycle Girl (called "The Operator" in the credits) was going to get to kill Ito at the end as a feather in the cap for her boss - but the larger story is reasonably clear.

I do wonder, watching these organized crime movies, when the mob or whatever decides to kill an entire family, or village because of one person, do they really expect that to work as a deterrent? Would it work on them, if someone killed their families?

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Long Weekend in the Woods - Chapter 2

Pollock

The panda and I argued for a good five minutes before noticing the idiot had wandered off somewhere. It was a good thing we hadn't reached the point of throwing punches or it might have been longer. Only the two minutes I'd have needed to win, but still. It wasn't difficult for us to follow his trail and we met him coming back up the side of a hill. The panda yelled at him for leaving and wanted to know what he thought he was doing.

Calvin shrugged. "I went the direction you said to go." He was twirling some piece of metal around his finger. "Where did you think I went?"

A heavy paw reached out and stilled Calvin's wrist. "Where'd you find that?"

He jabbed his thumb back over his shoulder. "Down the hill. Looks like there was a skirmish."

"It has the scent of blood on it."

That got Calvin to slide the stake off his finger into the panda's paw. "Oh lovely. Anyone have a wet nap?"

I had some, but I wasn't sharing them with him. I was busy scanning the surrounding area. "Is the blood from anyone either of you know?"

The panda shook their head and started down the hillside. We didn't get far before I noticed something and called to them. "It's several pieces of a lightweight ceramic."

"Like a plate?"

"Somewhat, but designed to be strong for its weight and thickness. Not so good against sharp, precise impacts, but decent for something that's force is spread out. We were looking into it as a cheap defense alternative, but we couldn't figure out how to remove that vulnerability."

The fool gestured at the stake in the panda's paw. "So something like that could get through."

"With enough force behind it, yes."

"Well, I found it embedded in that tree over there."

I did the math in my head for a moment. "At close enough range, not more than 20 yards, that could do it."

"You been selling that stuff to any weekend warriors or meth dealers?"

"I told you, it wasn't perfected to our satisfaction yet. Actually, we abandoned the project a few years ago because we weren't getting anywhere. The kind of people who would buy armor aren't looking for budget stuff. They'll make that themselves."

Through all this, the panda had been roaming and sniffing. They sat up and gestured to the left. "The raccoons and their partners went that way. The others went the opposite direction."

"So who do we follow?" The panda didn't respond immediately, and then Calvin turned to me. "What are your thoughts?"

I didn't expect the question, and wasn't certain he was serious. He might just ask, then vote for the opposite of whatever I said. "You actually care about my opinion?"

He shrugged. "You're here, you get a vote. I'm indifferent, because I figure whichever direction we go, it'll get ugly."

I could have been annoyed, because it could be that he's saying my opinion doesn't really matter. But it could mean he wasn't uncertain, and open to being convinced if I could give a good reason for my preference. I turned to the Clever Adolescent Panda. "You know the raccoons, correct? And they dealt with you fairly?"

"I know some raccoons. These might not be the same ones."

"Still, they're at least possibly a known quantity, so there's a better chance of learning something without fighting."

The two exchanged a glance, and then Calvin spoke up. "You make a persuasive argument. Let's go!"

Just as he stepped forward, a piece of metal went whistling past his head. I turned back up the hill, but there was no one visible. They were staying on the backside of the ridge, firing in an arc, and more shots were incoming. Their aim wasn't very good, but there were enough shots one could get lucky at any time. I saw one of the projectiles strike the ground. it was a metal stake. I shouted at the panda, "Are you sure they went that way? Are you sure they aren't behind us?!"

"Shut up! You were the one who was sure we could talk with them!"

"Because you insisted that raccoons wouldn't do anything too terrible!"

"Just head downhill! We'll hide in that brush at the bottom!" Typical panda, defaults to going with gravity.

Calvin pointed overhead, "Anyone know why the raccoon up in that tree isn't shooting?"

"He's a spotter, they're trying to herd us!" I took off along the side of the hill. Up and over a ridge running downhill, into another hollow. But ahead on the next ridge were more raccoons, weapons at the ready, sitting on the backs of several bears. I wasn't getting caught. I made some quick gestures, raised one hand and shouted, "Flashbulb!"

It's a simple, but effective blinding spell. I saw them grimace and cover their eyes, and cut uphill, back towards the ridge we'd originally come from. Behind me I heard a familiar cry of alarm. Calvin had actually followed me, rather than the panda and my little blinding trick had made him trip and faceplant. There was no time to retrieve him, I told myself, and kept going.

Clever Adolescent Panda

I used gravity for all it was worth, so I was going at a pretty good clip. Twisting as I tumbled, pushing off nearby rocks or trees with one leg or arm to try and go in more unpredictable directions. It was a long hill, so I had a lot of speed by the time I crashed into the stand of shrubs and vines at the bottom of the hill. I ended up stopping halfway in, tangled in the vines, feeling bruised, but with no stakes sticking out of me.

That was when I noticed Calvin and Pollock weren't with me. I looked back up the hill to see if they were still coming, but all I saw were the raccoons scrambling my way. I pulled myself free of the vines as quietly as I could and tried to move further back and away from the very clear trail I'd left. I forget I'm not as small as I used to be. I was sure they could see the limbs shaking and rustling as I moved. So I sank to the ground, as flat as I could get, waiting for them to get close enough I could neutralize the advantage of their weapons.

But they wouldn't move any closer. One of them drew a stone from a pouch on their belt, and scraped a stake against it above the ground. It's been a dry year according to Calvin. It didn't take long for a fire to start at the edge of the brush.

"Nuts to this," I muttered, as I rose and charged out at full speed towards the one closest to me. I swatted at it with one paw, but grabbed its belt so it couldn't tumble away. I turned and hurled it at two of the others, and they went flying through the air like dandelion seeds. The others were falling back, but I lunged forward, covering ground in huge strides. I caught the one that started the fire, easily palming its head as I bellowed, 'Where did my friends go? TELL ME!"

The raccoon was squeaking incoherently, and I noticed how much bigger I was than it. Like I said, I forget I'm not as small as I used to be. So I also forget I can look more intimidating when I snarl now. As I saw the others rushing back towards me, I reflected the downside is that I'm too big to use the raccoon in my paw as any sort of shield if they started shooting.

That didn't seem necessary, though. One of the raccoons held it's paws up and stuttered, "Whoa, whoa, let's not dismember anybody here!"

"I don't want to dismember anyone. I just want to know where my friends are now."

"Sure, sure, no problemo. We'll tell ya, we'll tell ya. Ha!"

One of them had moved to the side and opened fire, and the others started in as well. I was flat-footed, so another quick rush was not happening. I ducked and rolled to get to a better position, tossing the one I held aside as I did. When I got all four paws under me I launched into the air, and then came back to earth with a crash. The shockwaves catapulted all of my opponents into the air and they crashed into the trees or hard ground on the way down.

"That's my Wondrous Thunder Smash. Jerks." Then I noticed they were all unconscious. No one to question, then. I could go back up the hill, try to find Calvin's scent, but I didn't know what I might run into. I still didn't know what was going on. OK, the raccoons are fighting someone, but who and why? And who are they working with? I needed answers, from someone that wouldn't shoot me. I didn't think I'd find that up the hill, so I turned back towards the bottom of the hill and started following the drainage. I could smell water ahead, maybe I'd find someone there.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #38

"Then What Should You Stop Doing, Ray?" in The Atom #35, by Garnder Fox (writer), Gil Kane (penciler), Sid Greene (inker), Gaspar Saladino (letterer), and ??? (colorist)

One of the holdovers from my father's collection. I was positive I had issue #29, where the Atoms of Earths 1 and 2 team up to fight The Thinker, but it's gone missing somewhere along the way.

The time travel adventure is the second of two stories in this issue, the other involving the Atom trying to stop some crooks who are stealing random collectible crap for an obsessive compulsive genius so he'll plan out their heists for them. Ray gets temporarily defeated in that story by a vacuum cleaner, but it did teach me that his primary size control device is in his belt, not his gloves. Even though he uses the controls in his gloves all the time. OK Ray, whatever.

The time travel story is mostly a history lesson about what its title suggests, although there's also a bit in there where Ray defends the colonel from some hoodlums calling themselves "Mohawks", and Ray musing that since fisticuffs haven't been invented yet, he should have an easy fight against these guys. Sure, that's what'll make it a breeze, not the fact these guys have no idea what to do against a tiny opponent they can't even see. Feels like Gardner Fox read that somewhere and was like, "That's goin' in a story!' At least I learned something, and it gave Gil Kane more opportunities to show people getting socked in the face, which he is very good at drawing, as I'm sure most of you know.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Long Weekend in the Woods - Chapter 1

{This story is going to switch between the perspectives of three different characters. Whichever character's perspective it's written from, their name will be at the top, so hopefully it'll remain clear whose eyes we're seeing things through. I'm going to try and get this whole thing posted before the end of November. We'll see.}

The Clever Adolescent Panda (CAP)

We rolled to a stop in the middle of the woods, just before reaching a creek. Calvin said it could flood sometimes, but right now it was almost dry. 50 yards beyond the creek was a metal gate with a big padlock. I opened the passenger door and rolled out, while Calvin stepped out of the driver's side and stretched. I heard his back pop in a couple of places.

"Where are we right now?" I asked.

"This is the old entrance to Site 9, from before they redid all the roads in. This is as close as we can get, 'cause there is no way I'm taking my ride in there." Calvin replied with a grimace.

"That's OK, I'd like to hike after all the time in the car." I tried to be upbeat.

"See if you still feel that way when you're covered in ticks." Calvin clearly wasn't in the mood for upbeat, but maybe that was the presence of our other passenger, who decided to join in just then.

"We're supposed to march all over this muggy wilderness because you're afraid your truck will get a boo-boo?" Pollock put a lot of sarcastic emphasis on the end of the question as she stepped out of the driver's side rear door.

Calvin didn't even turn. "No, I'm afraid flaming rocks will fall from the sky on it, or a unicorn will puncture the radiator with its dying breath. Also, I don't have 4-wheel drive."

"You don't want to have to walk back to civilization, Pollock. Believe us, this is safer." Calvin and I went to the back of his SUV to grab our gear while Pollock muttered about how neither of us would know civilization if it punched us. We each grabbed a backpack and started adding water and sandwiches. Calvin opened one of his tool kits and pulled out the largest wrench, hefted it, then added it to his bag. I had brought a half-dozen of those Aura Lock grenades that came in handy last time we were here, plus some binoculars Calvin loaned me and a few other things that might help.

Pollock eyed the two of us, obviously curious, but not wanting to look ignorant. Finally she asked Calvin, "Why didn't you bring a gun, or are you expecting to tighten some lug nuts before we go?"

Calvin jerked his thumb at me. "CAP didn't approve of me bringing a gun. I'm not sure whether I'd do any good with it anyway, so I didn't have to be convinced very hard. If you're planning to bring one, better not wave it around until you need it."

I gave Pollock a close glance. "Are you armed?"

Pollock held up both arms. "No, I wasn't expecting to be in combat today. Not with anything worth killing, anyway." She gave the two of us a condescending smirk.

Calvin closed the hatch and walked past her without a word. I didn't understand why she was even here. I mean, I knew why she said she showed up at Calvin's apartment as we were getting ready to leave. Something about us paying for the repair bill on her rental car after some mayo got in the ventilation system. Which really meant she was bored. But I didn't understand why Calvin, after flatly stating he wasn't paying squat, told her she could come along on our possibly dangerous mission. He'd ignored her since then, though, which was weird since he's usually the one keeping Pollock and I from fighting. Unless she's fighting both of us. Maybe 3 hours of her criticizing his taste in music and refusal to use the AC had him questioning his thinking.

I reached into my bag and asked Calvin. "Would you like the gas gun?"

He took it with a nod and asked, "Any of the canisters have knockout gas, sleeping gas? Or just stink gas, smoke, and the like?"

Pollock cut in again, "Don't give this idiot knockout gas! He'll put us all to sleep."

"We didn't face much that seemed like it could be knocked out last time, so I didn't bring any like that."

Calvin shrugged, again ignoring Pollock's jab. "Better than nothing, or this wrench." He didn't take the wrench out of his bag, though." He started across the creek towards the gate.

Pollock was here now, like it or not. I didn't think we could trust her, but at least this was a place she didn't know. It might put her at a disadvantage to be on totally unfamiliar ground if she did try anything. I'd still have to watch her. Once we'd climbed the gate and were inside Site 9, Calvin paused and reached into his pack, pulling out a tall green can.

"Anybody want bug spray?"

I shook my head. "I can alter my aura so I don't register as a food source."

Pollock reached down a flipped a switch on her belt buckle. There was a noticeable hum in the air a moment later. "Personal repellent field."

I looked over at her, trying to appear innocent. "How can you tell it's working? You repel people all the time." Calvin let out a short bark of a laugh, which was more than I'd gotten out of him all morning.

Pollock rolled her eyes. "Very clever, twit. That's not how it works. It actually -"

Calvin threw the can back in his bag and started further in. "Talk as ya walk."

I trotted up next to him and sniffed. He hadn't applied any bug spray. "What are you using?"

He flicked his eyes in my direction for a moment, and replied, "Indifference." Then went back to watching the road ahead. I sighed at his stubbornness and followed, Pollock bringing up the rear.

Calvin

The trail we were hiking down was pretty grown over, even a few small trees starting to sprout up. Nobody had driven it in over 6 years, except spirits. But they don't leave much of an environmental impact. The trees overhead were a dense canopy, and combined with being in a valley, it was surprisingly dark for late morning. Pollock chattered on about her repellent field, how it produced a subharmonic at a frequency that disrupted the wingbeats of nearby insects.

CAP whispered to me, "Why did you bring her along?"

"I wasn't leaving her at my apartment with neither of us there to defend it."

My friend gave me a piercing look. "That's not the real reason."

This is true. I was uneasy about this whole thing, and CAP knew it. We were down here because Cassanee hadn't replied to the panda's mailed invitation to Blogsgiving, and that was worrying the increasingly big bear. And I'd heard a few things from Makes-Brakes-Fail-Lass while she was working in the area over the winter that made me worry. Things she'd seen moving about. So here we were, back on Site 9, after I considered us lucky to make it out alive the last go-round. With Cass and Deadpool both MIA, we were short on available help.

I didn't mention any of this specifically when I replied, "The last couple of scrapes we got into down here, we could have used someone who knew magic. Since I doubt we'll stumble across another robot-wizard, Pollock was the only person I knew, and she just happened to be there." That was true, as far as it went, which was apparently far enough for the fuzz buddy, as they abruptly changed the subject.

"Don't ticks crawl rather than fly, Calvin?" the panda asked in a too-loud voice.

Sure, let's have some fun on the way. Why not? "I believe they do, my good chap. Although I have heard that they like to fall out of trees on people. But mostly they crawl, yes."

Pollock stopped dead and stared at both of us. "Are you serious?"

I failed to conceal my surprise. "Are you serious? You didn't know ticks don't fly?"

"I've never encountered a tick in my life," Pollock reached into my backpack, came out with the bug spray, and began spraying herself frantically. She must have inhaled some of it, because she started coughing and spitting, but didn't stop spraying.

I took a step back and glanced at my amused companion. "Cripes, this neophyte is gonna get us killed, CAP." It did explain wearing a cape into potentially dense woods, and I wasn't sure those pirate boots had enough ankle support, either. "I burned a vacation day for this," I whined.

CAP ignored this, trying to boost Pollock's spirits instead. "At least your belt keeps away horseflies and gnats."

"Don't patronize me," she snarled.

"We just don't want you to freak out and go crazy on us. You lose it out here, you're in a world of hurt."

CAP looked at me. "Predator, right?" I nodded.

"Your concern is touching, if insincere. Let's go find the strange girl and get out of here." Pollock gestured towards the trail ahead of us impatiently.

The trail wound up a hill to a ridgeline. Checking one of the old maps Makes-Brakes-Fail Lass had sent along as a memento, we figured out where we could cut across to a newer road. So far things were quiet. No ghosts, the Sun was proceeding in its normal arc across the sky. We reached a trail junction near a place where they'd harvested some trees 7 years ago and stopped for a water break. I took a minute to pick ticks off my pants while we kicked around ideas.

"You picking anything up with those heightened senses?"

CAP paused and tested the air. "There's a scent I don't recognize from our last visit. It's old here, but there's still a strong earthy odor to it, kind of dank."

"I'm guessing that's not Guyamo's scent."

Shake of the head. "No, and Cassanee could handle him, as long as he didn't get his hands on more of those crystals."

"Makes-Brakes-Fail Lass didn't mention seeing any faceless guys with chainsaws."

Pollock had seemingly been absorbed checking for ticks, but interjected at that point. "Faceless men with chainsaws? What the hell did you two get up to out here?"

I shrugged. "Little of this, little of that. Nothing too strange."

"Faceless men with chainsaws don't qualify as strange?"

"I don't look closely at the faces of people attacking me with chainsaws. Maybe they never have faces."

CAP had settled into a comfortable seat and clapped excitedly. "Oooh, like the chainsaw is the real being and the person is the tool?"

"When are you being attacked by people with chainsaws?" Pollock wasn't letting this go, which was fine. I felt like winding her up a little.

"Plenty of times. I just don't make a federal case out of it."

"You're lying, I'm sure you're lying."

I shrugged, the indifferent air coming easily and annoying Pollock.

"ANYWAY," CAP cut in, "I don't think it's Guyamo. It could be those roving bandits Cassanee mentioned."

"Just as long as it isn't that visage of death that we had to give my blue hoodie."

Pollock's mouth hung slightly open at that last line, but she shook it off and threw in, "Maybe the raccoons put all those wrenches the furball here gave them to nefarious use."

CAP seemed dubious. "I don't think they'd do that."

"They used to take the stakes we used to keep traps in place and steal our bait balls. With wrenches they could have escalated to home invasion and carjacking." I was mostly joking. "You picking up any raccoon scents?"

Again the snout was raised, a few more deep inhales. "A few, mixed with something bigger. They're headed east, the same way the other scent gets stronger."

"Everybody's headed the same way. Sounds like a place to start," I pushed off from the tree I was leaning on and started forward.

"I don't suppose it occurred to you to try tracking the sour girl's scent instead?" Pollock sounded bored, like she couldn't believe she had to point this out.

I saw the fur raise on the back of CAP's neck a bit. "Yes, it did, and I've been looking for it. But there aren't any recent signs around. We've been headed towards her home this whole time."

"It was just a suggestion."

And at that, CAP spun on their rear legs and stared down Pollock. "You know, for someone who didn't even know ticks can't fly, and didn't bring any gear, you sure think you have all the answers. Calvin and I know what we're doing. We've had plenty of these adventures, and they went fine, all without your help. Which you should know, considering how many of those adventures involved beating you."

Pollock started a retort, no doubt planning to evoke all the times she got the upper hand in our April Fool's Day confrontations, but I didn't hear it. I opted to keep walking in the direction CAP had indicated. They'd catch up eventually.

Site 9 absorbs strong emotions and memories, good and bad. The results manifest in different ways. There are spirits, or memories that take an almost material form. CAP thought the strange movements of the Sun, the abrupt changes in wind and magnetic fields were connected as well. Either the energy affecting our perceptions, or our perceptions altering reality. Guyamo weaponized all that, took despair and hopelessness and crushed people with it. But there's a low level of it all the time in the background, wearing on your patience and energy. I don't think CAP would have snapped that quick otherwise, even thought I knew they weren't happy I'd invited Pollock along. Hell, I wouldn't have gone wandering by myself while they were at each other's throats normally, either. They could be in a full-on brawl and I'm strolling away. I didn't turn around, though.

I reached the edge of the ridge and peered down the north side (I thought it was north, compasses and the Sun's position were frequently useless for navigation). Something had happened on that slope. There were furrows torn in the earth, dirt and rocks overturned and tossed aside. Trees were on the ground, but knocked over, not cut. The trunks showed signs that something hit them at high velocity and sent them down. Other trees had gouges. One had a basketball-sized rock embedded in the truck at shoulder height. And in one tree, there was a piece of metal sticking out, curved on the exposed end. I grabbed hold of it and managed to pull it out. It was one of our old stakes, or metal cut and bent in the same design. I glanced around the hollow. It seemed deserted. There were trails in the leaf litter, but this time common sense overruled impatience. I turned back the way I came.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Stephanie

The first half of the movie is about a young girl, alone in her house, except for her brother's corpse. There's a monster, which we only see as shadowy outlines, or hear as roars, that seems able to enter and leave the house as it pleases.

So you wonder how long the kid can survive. We see her living off whatever preserves and jams her parents had canned, but that's running low. The power is going out (I was amazed when she set up all those candles that it didn't burn the house down), she's had near misses with the blender, and it seems like just a matter of time.

Then her parents return, and things actually get worse. The monster doesn't stay away. Her brother won't stay buried, and her parents are having discussions Stephanie only catches pieces of, and doesn't fully understand. Although she might understand enough to realize they don't have any sure answers to the problem.

I should have seen the big reveal coming, looking back. My mistake was assuming there were two different forces at work, and then trying to figure out how things worked from there. I'm impressed that it puts the threat in a different light, but doesn't really change the stakes, that Stephanie's parents are still trying to do their best by their daughter against something they don't understand.

Frank Grillo and Anna Torv give solid performances as the parents. There's an awkwardness to their interactions with Stephanie that seemed odd at first, but makes a lot more sense as you learn a few things. I thought Shree Cooks was excellent as the title character, especially in the first half of the film when it's just her talking to herself and her stuffed turtle. There are some interesting lighting and staging shots that make the house seem very different when it's just Stephanie there compared to once her parents show up. The rooms seem smaller, more constricting later in the film, than early on, when it's just a kid living there and we're seeing things more from her perspective.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What I Bought 10/21/2018

Alex asked me to tag along to a gig on Sunday, and so I took some time to grab a couple of last week's books while I was in town. It probably says something about me that Alex thought I'd be there by noon, and was calling me at 12:10 when I hadn't arrived yet, even though he wasn't planning to leave until 1:30. I don't bat an eye when my dad is 10 minutes late for something, or Alex for that matter.

Unstoppable Wasp #1, by Jeremy Whitley (writer), Gurihiru (artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - It's a cute cover, I really don't have anything more substantive to say.

Well, I didn't read the brief ongoing the new Wasp had a year or two ago, but it's reasonably easy to follow along. Nadia has her own group of young lady scientists, and they invent cool stuff part of the time, and help her fight crime part of the time. Crime, in this case being AIM, back to being evil after that stint where Sunspot was their boss, and doing something to prepare for Hank Pym. Pym being Nadia's father, who she thinks is dead. And who I thought was dead. Isn't Ultron still just Ultron, but he thinks he's part Pym? Or maybe he is part Pym. It was Hank's brain patterns he was based on, so I guess he's technically always been part Hank, the poor genocidal robot bastard.

The book feels pretty cheerful, despite all that looming stuff about Nadia's dad that I guess the Avengers haven't told her. She and her friends seem to be having fun, cracking wise and whatnot. The Guruhiru team's artwork is very bright and expressive. They draw Nadia as having freckles, which, I'm trying to think of superhero characters with freckles. Jimmy Olsen, I guess, if you count "Mr. Action". I feel like Siryn does, depending on the artist. The little drone hovercraft her friends remotely pilot look cool, and fit the wasp motif.

All that said, something didn't click. There's a whole thread where there are going to be a bunch of investors coming by to see if their lab is worth buying into, and Nadia's been slacking on the super-science. I can see how it's important for her character (and a connection to her dad, who probably should have stuck to super-science and stayed away from superheroics). Plus it connects to the friendship between her and Janet (who is helping her with the business side of things), but I feel like it's going to distract from the subplots among her friends, or trying to stop AIM, or Nadia dealing with whatever she's going to learn about her father. The things I'm more interested in seeing play out. So I'm on the fence about buying issue 2 now.

Stellar #5, by Joseph Keatinge (writer), Bret Blevins (artist), Rus Wooton (letterer) - What you see on the cover is pretty much what you get for the first half of the issue. Which is nice. Truth in advertising, and sometimes you just want robot smashing.

So the older and younger versions of Stellar are gone, taken somewhere by Zenith. She's left wandering for some time, asking people if they've seen them, getting no response until someone recognizes the photo and gives her a lead. And it leads back to. . . Zenith, who has made himself a seemingly happy family with them, if the photos on the wall are anything to go by.

That was a little strange. I still haven't figured out the mother and daughter both looking like Stellar. One of them, sure, but both? Zenith sparing her starts to make a little more sense. Why hadn't he killed her like he did all the other members of their team? Well, he had some sort of interest in her. And he feels he's moved on, made a family, has grandkids now (although he's also taken the time to get himself some death bots at some point). Whereas Stellar, hasn't. Even before she was spending all her time trying to track them down, it seems like she wasn't doing much. Almost no friends, crappy little apartment. Is she afraid of wrecking this world, that she'll taint it if she tries to immerse herself in it? So she stays on the fringes, watches, but doesn't really live in it much.

It's neat two watch how Blevins draws Zenith differently over the course of time. We first see him, he's this techno-organic monstrosity. Like he says, reborn for war. When he found her last issue, he's wearing a stylish hat and coat. The power is still there if he wants it, but he's not trying to impress or terrify anyone. By the time Stellar finds him at the end of this issue, he's dressed like a grandpa. Spectacles and sweater vests. Probably about to settle down and watch his programs with a cup of tea (coffee keeps him up nights). He's been the one we keep hearing was so scary, so terrifying, reveled in being this super-power, killing who he wished. But maybe that was who he had to be and he's not that any more. Or maybe he is, he just hides it better. Stellar is still wearing the same kind of raggedy trenchcoats she was wearing when this series began. She's stuck in place.

One thing I'm waiting for is whether we'll see Stellar really cut loose before the end here. The first issue, we kept seeing her as a glowing yellow human silhouette. She hasn't done that since, even when she's ostensibly fighting for her life against Zenith, or lashing out in a fury. I'm curious to see if it comes out here at the end, and what the end result would be. Probably a lot of death and destruction.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Endless

Two brothers, Justin and Aaron, escaped from a UFO cult 10 years ago. Life outside the cult isn't great, and so when they get a tape in the mail, suggesting the cult hadn't killed itself yet, Aaron wants to go back for a visit. Justin is reluctant, but agrees in such a way that it makes it seem to be some magnanimous gesture on his part.

Once there, it becomes clear there's something screwy going on. Two moons visible, even in the day (yes, the movie takes place on Earth, not some alien world with two moons). Photographs dropping from the sky. People who look the same after 10 years. Aaron finds he likes being there, and that he's sick of Justin making all the decisions, especially since he doesn't seem to be doing a great job of it. And here's Justin, deciding on his own they're going to leave.

The movie leads with two quotes, one from Lovecraft about how it's the Unknown that terrifies people the most, and that's true on a couple of levels. The Unknown force at work there, whose goals they can't guess at, but also the Unknown of the future. Justin doesn't seem like he could buy into the cult because he didn't know what they were working toward. He wanted something concrete, but there wasn't anything (from his perspective). Some day there would be an "ascension" whatever that meant. Until then? Just keep occupied within a limited sphere. He prefers the possibilities of the world outside, even if it hasn't been great. Or maybe he just likes being in charge. One easy way to know who's the boss is to be the boss yourself.

Aaron finds the limited range of options, the security of the cult appealing now. Even when he knows what the end is going to be, he prefers the known of everything up to that point. Because from his perspective, their life the last 10 years hasn't been one of unlimited possibilities. It's just been a dull, shitty trudge day after day. The Unknown there scares him, because all he can see is ways it'll be exhausting and bad.

There are some terrifying parts, not in the sense of gore or violence, just the implications for the lives of the characters. What they're going through is pretty bad. The movie plays with the ambiguous nature of the presence. Sometimes it seems hostile, especially towards Justin. But other times it seems helpful. Sometimes it seems to simply be messing around. And the film using the awkwardness of the two brothers returning to a place they abandoned well. It's awkward, and so you can't quite tell if that's what causes the uneasy feelings, or if it's more than that. The people all seem very friendly, but is that true or not?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Eventually, You Get A 12-Person Villain Team

While "Octobliterator" is a good name for an angry octopus out to destroy the surface world, I think it also has potential for someone out to destroy everything associated with the month of October. It's also possible they could be using the power of October to attack others, but I'm sticking with the first interpretation.

So, Octobliterator. Probably loves hot weather and dreads the emergence of crisp falls days. Hates the changing of the leaves' colors. Hates Halloween. Hates the presence of pumpkin spice all over the damn place. Doesn't like corn mazes. Umm, what else is Octoberish? I tried looking up October holidays but there were like 500 of them and hell if I'm going to read through all those in an attempt to make up bad jokes.

You can go bizarrely comical with the idea. Have the Octobliterator trying to paint all the leaves green, or drive a giant combine through the corn maze from the entrance directly to the center. Dig up fields of pumpkins and plant summer squash. Or inundate the fields so they just aren't suitable for pumpkins. Maybe the Octobliterator is the one getting Christmas stuff into the stores earlier and earlier, in an attempt to squeeze out Halloween entirely. He or she (or they? perhaps it's an entire squad of Octobliterators) certainly give out travel-sized toothpaste things at Halloween. You wouldn't think they'd even celebrate it, but if they can't destroy it entirely, they'll take the opportunity to ruin the night for as many children as possible.

Or, go more serious. Octobliterator tries to delay the leaves changing by making the planet warmer (not that he or she would need to do much there), or by tilting the Earth's axis so the seasons vanish and plants don't have to respond to diminishing sunlight. Breed an insect that eats pumpkins, or introduce something into the air which makes the entire population allergic to pumpkin spice*. Open an impossible corn maze, wait until a bunch of people are in it, then light it on fire. Make people think they're super unsafe. Or get people in there and turn it into Murderworld.

* One of the Sinister Six stories back in the '90s involved Doc Ock releasing some compound into the atmosphere that would make it deadly for anyone to use cocaine, unless they got the antidote. Which only he had. So he could basically extort all the wealthy, coke-addicted '80s businessmen. Except the compound also would eat a hole in the ozone layer.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #37

"Dare to Dream, Scott", in Ant-Man #3, by Nick Spencer (writer), Ramon Rosanas (artist), Jordan Boyd (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer)

I know, it's not a splash page, but this is the only issue of the series I'd kept, and it only had one splash page, and I found that one pretty lame, so I went with this page instead.

Spencer and Rosanas moved Scott Lang to Miami to establish his own security firm, which he then staffed with super-villains. Unfortunately, Spencer decided to take his cues from the recent movie and play up Scott as a complete loser that none of the other heroes respect or believe they can count on at all.  He even went so far as to reveal Hank Pym let Scott keep the costume because he felt sure there was no way he would be overshadowed by a successor if that successor was Scott. Because, ha ha, Scott is such a loser!

Keep in mind that Matt Fraction had just finished a stint on Fantastic Four where Scott played the team brain in Reed's absence and defeated a cosmically-powered Dr. Doom by unlocking the full capabilities of Pym Particles. Yep, sure sounds like an unreliable loser to me.

There's also the part where Spencer opted to depower Cassie Lang, Scott's daughter and one-time Avenger because. . . reasons. I dunno. He didn't try and de-age her to match movie Cassie, so I'm not sure why it was necessary to take her powers away. 

Being Marvel, the book was canceled after 5 issues because of Secret Wars, then restarted 5 months later with the same creative team and a slightly different title. I tried the first issue of that, decided I couldn't deal with the portrayal of Scott, and dropped it. I thought the fact Scott had assembled an odd crew of villains as his team had potential, but I had no confidence in Spencer to do anything interesting with it. Plus, I found Rosanas' art kind of dull and not terribly expressive, and the coloring didn't help. Everything felt too understated and low-energy.

Friday, October 19, 2018

What I Bought 10/12/2018 - Part 3

One more book left to review, from two week ago. Who's in the mood for a little Christmas cheer?

Yeah, me neither.

Giant Days #43, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I wonder what the little sweat drops are made of. Walnuts? Raisins? Little chocolate chips? More frosting?

Daisy keeps roping the students who come to her with problems into working at the Christmas village. Which is a horribly shoddy place that pays nothing. One of the students is doing a piece for the school paper, and when it comes out, Cliff and his operation disappear. Even his apartment disappears, somehow. Thankfully. I wasn't really interested in his plotline, so the less I see of him the better. Unless he returns at a later date to be promptly hit by a truck, but that's not very in the nature of this book. Anyway, Ed is still no closer to the funds he needs to travel to Australia over the break, but Nina's father agrees to pay his way. While also describing Ed as the 'boy laying drains in his daughter's fields,' which sounds unbelievably filthy. Or I've been reading too much fanfiction lately and my brain has snapped.

The two threads I'm most interested in here are, firstly, the possible rehabilitation of Dean Thompson. Dean actually warns Ed that his employer has made it into the papers, and that Ed is named in the article. And not in a smug, mocking way, but in a way that suggests he's actually concerned for Ed. Which makes me think that conversation he tried having with Ed a few issues back was actually legit, and not just him stalling. Which is. . . surprising. The question is if the others will notice and encourage it, or mistrust it, or just wreck everything.

The other thread is whether this Saffy girl who wrote the article is going to be some potential future love interest for Daisy. I'm not sure there's much likelihood of it, but it seems possible. Although considering she described Daisy as an "idiot", to her face, I think Daisy can do better. But she dated Ingrid for several months, even when it made her miserable, so I'm not sure Daisy's standards are high enough. Or perhaps it's her self-esteem that's the issue.

The melting robo-Santa would haunt my dreams if I were still a child. As it is, I now find the idea of children being traumatized by it amusing. For my next trick, I will build a machine to block out the Sun, so they all have to rely on my nuclear power plant. I am confused about why Esther, as she gets excited about winning an essay contest while only using her phone, has little crosses in her eyes. Unless it's supposed to be a pound sign, which would make sense as she's after the money. But I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Scarecrows

When we came across this on the movie list, I asked Alex if he thought it would be too bad, or just bad enough. He said just bad enough at least, so we took a shot at it.

This crew of mercs or something stole a payroll from a military base, then hijacked a plane (with just the pilot and his daughter) to get them to Mexico. One guy bails out with the money, the others following in hot pursuit. Although their pursuit ain't so hot, considering he's long dead before they find him. They end up around some cabin surrounded by scarecrows, three of which come to life and begin killing them, for reasons that eventually sort of become clear. They're also able to imitate the voices of all the characters to lead them in circles, again for some reason.

Yeah, this fell firmly in the "too bad" category. I actually got my hopes up a little right at the start, when they did an establishing shot of the cast through the night vision goggles the traitor was wearing. My initial thought was this was going to be one of those found footage movies, which are very commonplace now, but as this film is from 1988, it would have been a little more unique. (I feel like Blair Witch Project usually gets credit for popularizing that style, although I highly doubt it's the originator). But no, it was just a temporary bit, showing us the surroundings from that character's view. They use it a few other times when characters wear night vision goggles, but otherwise that's it.

Beyond that, the bit I found most interesting is that the pilot's daughter is convinced at one point that she's safe, because she's not like the mercs. Which is how it turns out sometimes, the innocent are spared. This is one of those cases where it isn't the case, she's not off-limits, but that feels more unusual in a movie where someone actually expresses the opinion that they will be safe for that reason. Usually characters only figure that out at the moment the monster could kill them, but opts to ignore them, which didn't happened here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What I Bought 10/12/2018 - Part 2

I'm on the road most of this week, so I'm trying to get all this stuff ready over the weekend. If I had stayed up those 42 consecutive hours, I might be doing better than I am. But here's two comics from last week!

Ms. Marvel #35, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I'm not sure the Shocker can look menacing, even when you're the size of a mouse.

Kamala turns the Shocker's experiment against him by taking him into the temporal vortex with her, while Bruno tries to figure out how to shut the whole thing down back in Jersey. Shocker is reluctant to go back, because that means go back to the same old, same old. It turns out worse than he expected, because he ends up back in Brooklyn in front Spider-Miles. Although as long as he doesn't attack Miles, the kid shouldn't attack him, right? Can't just assume Hermann is up to no good because he's in the old union suit. Back in Jersey, Kamala and Bruno get to have gyros! And possibly talk about feelings! But definitely sandwiches!

I feel a little bad for Shocker, but he just didn't know when to quit. Or I guess he made the mistake of assuming the grass on the other side had to be greener than where he came from. Otherwise he could have just gone back to Jersey with Kamala, and as soon as blue girl goes away, start the fight again. I'm not at all clear on why he assumes they'll get powers from this stunt, though. Especially when last issue he said he didn't know what his experiment was doing. Then again, in the Marvel Universe any experiment will give you super-powers.

The whole bit with Kamala, Shocker, and Singularity arguing in the void was funny, between the girls being intensely frustrated and Shocker alternating between being stubborn and completely freaking out. I still like how expressive Nico Leon makes Shocker even through the mask. And as always, it's some of the small details that make things fun. The goat being tossed through the air by the vortex when Bruno reaches Shocker's lair, as well as the old couple sitting there watching the show. Who are then up in a tree on the last page, still in their lawn chairs, just enjoying the show.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #37, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist and trading card artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Man, stuck with loki as a pallbearear? There's no way he doesn't get bored and drop the coffin halfway through.

Squirrel Girl is dead! Well, her book lasted 45 issues in total, that's not a bad run these days. But also, she's attending her own funeral in disguise as Bass Lass, so she can figure how exactly there is a dead Squirrel Girl. Which is how she gets to watch footage of the death, and eventually comes to a conclusion. But most of the issue is spent on the funeral, including two pages of various characters delivering eulogies. Some of which are good, some not so good. I am not as enamored with the idea of PG-13 Jean-Paul Sartre as the text at the bottom of the page was, but I don't need no French philosopher to tell me about how hard it is being around people, whether he uses swears or not.

The Octobliterator reminds me of how Beta Ray Bill's people perceive Galactus in the Stormbreaker mini-series. They saw him as the manifestation of their destroyer god Astra, which was apparently a big, multi-limbed thing. Funniest joke for me in this issue was Captain America thinking Iron Man is trying to start trouble up with Captain Marvel again when Tony tells everyone to attack her. It's a fair assumption to make, because Tony's kind of an ass like that. Derek Charm gets to draw Carol in her Binary form, and makes that look pretty cool. Rico Renzi's colors help a lot. That big red heat blast was pretty cool looking. I also appreciate that when the Black Panther's trying to slow himself down after being blown back by a big explosion, Charm and Renzi drew the marks from his claws doing that. Probably not strictly necessary, but it was a nice detail.

Skrulls are not really my favorite villains, but hopefully North and Charm get some decent jokes out of the cast trying to figure out who is the real (Insert Character Name) and who is a Skrull.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Pet Semetary

Alex wanted to watch horror movies last weekend, I had never seen this, and it seemed like a better option than The Strangers. Those movies about weird people who are sadists for no apparent reason aren't my jam. I should mention here I've not read the book, so if there are things stated there, I don't know about them.

It's interesting, because I keep watching Lou make bad decisions, which would normally annoy me because they are so obviously bad decisions. But they're understandable bad decisions. He's clearly in the grieving process, or trying to avoid the grieving process.

It's one of those stories where there's a character who is trying to prevent Bad Things from happening, but seems to keep making things worse, in this case the ghost Pascow. Granted, I'm assuming that Pascow was actually trying to prevent these things from happening, because the film does show him trying to dissuade Lou from repeating his mistake again at the end. But it's unclear enough to me why he's hanging around that you could argue he's being used by something to move people around the board. Jud suggests the burial ground might have wanted him to tell Louis about it, which implies there's something trying to get something, access to their reality, probably.

I thought the subplot about Rachel's guilt over her sister was going to play out differently. That she would find some catharsis by confronting it, or she'd have a chance to speak with her sister's spirit via the gap between worlds, but no. Not that kind of story.

I wouldn't describe it as scary. I was uncomfortable when people's Achillies' tendons were getting cut. That kind of injury freaks me out. But you can sort of tell everyone is doomed at the start, from the moment they moved into the new house. It's just a question of whether they'll be killed, or survive to be massively psychologically traumatized.

Monday, October 15, 2018

What I Bought 10/12/2018 - Part 1

I thought there was going to be a stretch over the weekend where I'd be awake 42 straight hours, and 62 of 66 hours going back to Thursday morning. Circumstances changed so that didn't happen, which is for the best. On the other hand, I was curious to see how I'd be doing by the end of it, so I'm a little disappointed.

Last week was a pretty good week, comicswise, as I found all four books from that week, plus the one book from the week before that. So let's start with a book entering a new arc, and a book on its first issue.

Domino #7, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Yeah, I don't like that cover any better than I did when I saw the solicitation for it three months ago.

The Posse takes a job recovering some very important box for a wealthy Wakandan lady. The box has wound up in a forest in Norway, where it's being guarded by vampires, who believe it holds the person who will lead them to conquer the world. Joke's on them, though, it's just Morbius. Ha, even crappy, present-day, Final Fantasy villain lookin-ass Dracula would be a better bet. Our heroes are trying to decide what to do about Morbius, while some grim looking guy says to call in all vampire hunter types to end this thing once and for all.

I'm not exactly sure how this story is going to play out, although I assume the ladies will be playing keepaway with Morbius from multiple parties. Could be interesting. I'm also curious what the Wakandans were doing with Morbius. Coming up with a cure for another disease they weren't going to share with the rest of the world? I can't remember which writer put that into their backstory, but man that was a dumb thing to add. "We have a cancer cure, but we don't share it because screw you." Brilliant.

Baldeon's work continues to impress. He handles to fight parts and the funny parts equally well. The sequence where the fight against the vampires is ended was handled well. Nice panel-by-panel progression. And I chuckled at Outlaw crashing headfirst into the snow, the sticking one arm out to point in the direction they needed to go. Also at the contrast between the Domino on the advertising board and the one in real life. Although Domino commenting the dress she's wearing in the picture looks tight is a little odd. Whatever you'd call the stuff she wears during missions is pretty form-fitting. Asking about the dress being revealing would have made more sense, considering Domino's merc outfit covers her all the way to the neck, and that dress decidedly does not.

Love that t-shirt. The funny part is, the boyfriend could be any 4 different guys she's had a thing with during various stints on X-Force.

It's the first issue of a new arc, so there are endless possibilities to be hopeful for.

Infinite Dark #1, by Ryan Cady (writer), Andrea Mutti (artist), K. Michael Russell (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer) - That's not a bad cover, although given the setting the story takes place in, I'm not sure there should be anything visible in the background.

The Orpheus is a space station designed to survive the end of the universe, to preserve humanity until hopefully a new universe emerges. Except no one other than the people who built it made it to the station in time. Womp-womp. And now one of the highest ranking people on the station appears to have gone nuts and killed someone else. The Security Director and some of her people track him down, in an unused section of the station, but the guy launches himself out an airlock, babbling about things he's seen, and possibly something is coming in.

Well, it feels like the book got most of the set-up out of the way in the first issue. What the station is, where it's at, some of the tensions in a few of the characters, and a possible mystery. Is that enough to keep me around? I don't know. Part of me expects this is going to play out a bit like Jaws, with the Security Director Deva trying to raise the alarm, and the other two surviving members of the Council overruling her, nothing to see here folks. Or Deva may not have any trouble with them, but simply isn't prepared to accept the possibility there was any sort of outside influence on the dead man's actions. Or maybe there wasn't. Being in a space station, waiting for the birth of a new universe that may never come, staring out in an empty void for two years could do things to a person.

The art is a bit of a mixed bag. Heavy on shadows in places, kind of flat at times. Other parts are a bit more detailed, and more effective. The designs for clothing and equipment aren't terribly interesting or visually stimulating, but the place was built in a hurry, so it'd be form over function. The characters we meet are mostly visually distinct, even if I only know a few of their names. I don't think the art is bad, it's just not a style that particularly appeals to me.

The coloring is mostly muted, but it varies in tones depending on setting. A lot of pale blues, mostly in the sections people are living and working in. The unused sector has a reddish, Mars-like color to it. Plays off against the abandoned buildings to give a really "sundown in a ghost town" feel to things. And then the last page switches to a vibrant green because there's something new entering the picture. I thought it was a little strange that the panel where they find the victim, it's mostly the same blue (maybe less green in it) than what we saw earlier in the book, during all the talking. Not sure what that would mean. The first time (see image) we see the murderer, I have no idea what's going on with his mouth. It's like he has a piece of skin hanging from it or something. It isn't present in any of the other panels he's in, so I wonder if it's mis-colored blood?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #36

"You Know It's a War Crime When Super-Skrull's Impressed," in Annihilation: Conquest - Wraith #4, by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (writer), Kyle Hotz (artist), Gina Going (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)

Wraith is a combination of a Western revenge story, and a bit of horror, the horror aspect being something Kyle Hotz' art is well-suited for. Deep shadows for looming threats to emerge from. Lots of characters with wide-eyed surprise or terror. People being killed or maimed in brutal fashions. The Phalanx plot here, rather than some sort of microscopic control bots, or finding and assimilating a "Savior", is to strike at the very souls of the Kree, and bring them under control that way.

Where Quasar and Star-Lord had most of their cast on the run but still free, the heroes (such as they are) spend a lot of time captured by the Phalanx. Ronan is already one of the Phalanx Select, working as an interrogator, justifying it as a way to save his people. Wraith, Super-Skrull, and Praxagora (who first appeared in the Super-Skrull mini-series Grillo-Marxuach wrote as part of Annihilation) spend an issue as prisoners.

Wraith was created for this mini-series, and has not shown up anywhere since Annihilation: Conquest ended, as far as I know. He's not concerned with the Phalanx invasion at all, strictly interested in finding the people who killed his father, and killing them. He allies with other characters, but only because he thinks they give him a better chance of achieving his goal. They're repeatedly stunned by how brutal he can be.

Of the three mini-series, it's probably my least favorite. Artistically, I prefer Lilly or Green's styles, and Wraith is a bit too much of a cipher. You can get away with that in movies if there's enough style, but what's here just doesn't connect enough with me.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

At a friend's repeated insistence, I saw this last week. SPOILERS if you were waiting to watch it once it was on Netflix, like I was.

You know the deal. Thanos wants the Infinity Stones, the various heroes are too disorganized and stupid to stop him, Thanos appears to complete his mission, remaining heroes will need to get their shit together and do something. Thanos' goal is completely pointless, since all the remaining people will just repopulate the universe again in a relatively short period of time. Not to mention a whole lot of other people died as a result of all those people he erased being gone. Like the pilotless helicopter crashing into an office building in the end credits scene. Really doubt he accounted for those in his calculations.

Thanos is not very smart, is what I'm saying. Seriously, you have the Reality Gem, just alter reality so there's enough to go around, or so people don't fucking hoard all kinds of stuff they don't need. It's no wonder Death is constantly sending him back to the living world. That and all his mooning after her gets old fast.

There are some funny parts, and some touching parts. A lot of members of the teams are going to need counseling after all this. I'm sure it didn't do Steve any good to see Bucky die a second time. Thor clearly needs to take a break to work through some stuff. It's a little hard to care, knowing what we know about how things usually end up when the Gauntlet is involved. Also, I'm not buying any scenes where Thanos is supposedly sad about what he's doing, or what he's giving up. That shit's not working on me, sorry.

Having the teams split up and scattered over the universe kept most of the scenes from feeling too cluttered. But on the other side of that, it also meant there were long stretches where you don't know what's going on with one group or the other. Dr. Strange has been captured, Iron Man and Spider-Man need to rescue him to keep the Time Gem away from Thanos' extremely talkative and irritating minion and. . . we'll come back to that in 45 minutes or so. Set it up as this big deal, then wander off and forget about it for awhile. Probably a necessity, trying to keep this many balls in the air, trying to get them all in roughly the same places at the same time. But the pacing felt off. That misunderstanding fight between Stark/Strange/Spidey and the Guardians of the Galaxy felt like it was really late in the film for that sort of thing.

Of course, the movie is really long, maybe that's why. I lost all track of time, other than we'd been watching it for awhile, and the big final battles still hadn't started yet. And maybe I should be thinking of this as just the first half of a six-hour movie, instead of its own three hour thing. That would alter the math a little. Like those Hobbit movies. They've played Desolation of Smaug on TV a lot this year, to the point I've probably seen the whole thing from the various bits and pieces I catch as I go past it. It always annoys me it ends just before Smaug actually attacks Laketown, but it's more one piece of a larger story than its own entity.

There are a lot of individual scenes, or character bits that I enjoyed in this one. The fight against Thanos on Titan was fun, if ultimately doomed. Rocket and Thor was an interesting pairing. The Guardians maintained their particular tone and style, but were still able to interact with the rest of the cast without it feeling too off. Stark and Strange having an arrogance contest was interesting for the first couple of minutes. After that it's like, "OK boys, you both have immaculate facial hair, can we focus?" Still not a fan of Spider-Man as this rookie kid being taken under Stark's wing, but the ship has sailed on that. Overall though, I might have hit burnout on movies based on comics trying to do Big Events, the same way I have with comic books trying to do Big Events.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Even With A Program I Can't Keep These Madroxes Straight

So I'm trying to figure out how this Multiple Man mini-series is going to end, assuming it has a proper ending.

It feels like one of those time travel stories that is going to loop around to the beginning at the end. Which means the Madrox they found inside a vault in the first issue. He asked Hank to find a cure for him, then stole Bishop's time travel device and off he went. We haven't seen him since.

Simplest explanation: He was Emperor Jamie, who decapitated the Jamie trying to overthrow him, then went back in time as was absorbed by that same do-gooder Jamie when they fought in Hank's lab, right after the Jamie from the vault vanished. Which seems like an odd, unceremonious sendoff if he really was the start of all the trouble.

Almost as simple explanation: Do-gooder Jamie is Vault Jamie, having realized his plan was a really bad idea once one of his duplicates went crazy and killed a bunch of people while taking over the world. Might explain his being able to absorb Emperor Madrox, if he was the one who spawned said Emperor. But Do-Gooder Jamie is/was kind of a moron, he didn't give the impression of being smart enough to hole up in a hidden lab and work on science. Of course, I don't think Vault Madrox got very far with his work, or he might have been able to offer Hank more assistance.

But now there's General Madrox, leading an army of Jamies into the past to attack the X-Men, proclaiming how much he hates everyone but himself. I'm wondering if he could be the original. Maybe it was easier to create a duplicate to be the leader, but not remember he was an offshoot. How much control Jamie typically has over the personalities of the duplicates he creates is variable depending on the situation. They typically know whatever he knew when he formed them, and vice versa. But we're talking about a duplicate who has taken some sort of serum or drug that enables him to be the original Jamie. Possible side effects may include being able to withhold knowledge from the duplicates you create, and being a genocidal maniac.

More complicated explanation: It's the duplicate Do-Gooder Jamie sent to find Iron Man, who wound on Marvel Swimsuit Issue Earth. He's the only one that didn't pop up in the X-Mansion to bring Do-Gooder Jamie to the dystopian future, where they all died. Meaning he's still out there somewhere, trying to find Iron Man. Who has at the minimum helped Dr. Doom repair time machines before, so he can probably build one if needed. Of course, the question then is why that Jamie would end up in the vault, kicking off this whole mess.

Which brings up the idea that Vault Madrox died sometime after farting off into the timestream, and none of these duplicates either remember that, or care. They exist, and can do so independent of the Jamie Prime that created them, so who cares what happened to him? The whole point of the thing Vault Jamie was working on was to get dupes to the point their fates weren't tied to Jamie Prime's. In which case, this would be considered a success.

So yeah, I have no idea what the answer is going to be. I should probably start making a chart now to help keep it straight when the explanation presents itself.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Calibre

Two guys go hunting in the English woods. There's an accident, people end up dead, and one of the two convinces the other to cover it up, rather than just confess. So they try to maintain their cool until they can get out of the area, as circumstances keep delaying their departure and some of the locals get increasingly hostile for other reasons.

You know while watching it there's no chance they'll keep up the facade long enough to get clear. There are just too many things cropping up to keep them around, or increase the tension. What isn't clear is exactly how it'll happen. Will the one with a guilty conscience break down and confess? Will one of them make a slip of the tongue, or just fail to hide evidence? There's some effective tension there.

Once things are out in the open, it's uncertain how things will end. It isn't just a matter of who is going to die or how, you know someone's getting it in the neck. Even among the locals, there are competing interests at work, passions are running high, the moderate influences are struggling to keep the extremists under wraps.

So there's enough mystery about the specifics to maintain the tension you need to carry the film through to the end, even if I didn't care a whole lot about most of the characters, and can't remember hardly any of their names.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Some Things Can Be Kept Private, And Some Things Shouldn't

One of those peculiar traits of media, at least in the United States, is how it seems to be more acceptable to show violence than sex or physical displays of affection. You can show someone being tortured or decapitated, but no naughty bits.

I think of it in regards to comics most often, probably because I read more people writing about comics than I do movies or TV, so I've seen more discussions of it in relation to superhero comics than anything else. Wolverine can kill fifty men on panel, just hacking his way through them, but intimate moments are off-panel, or obscured by shadows or convenient hair or whatever. And this isn't a post about wanting more fucking in comics or whatever. If it's appropriate to the story you're telling, then sure, go for it. Don't pull a Mark Millar and throw it in there just to be "mature". I was just thinking about the whys of it, in my typical lazy way (meaning I don't want to do any actual research). I know there's a Comics Code - although I'm not sure what companies are still paying it any mind - and movie ratings system and so on. But something informs the decisions on what's labeled as OK or not in those systems. Not to mention the ratings have grown more lax over time.

Meaning they might stipulate characters can't be seen to ultimately profit from criminal or immoral acts, meaning they have to get some sort of comeuppance by the end, and that's because they don't want people getting notions they might get away with criminal acts. Obviously people have been thinking they'd get away with criminal acts for as long as the idea of "criminal" acts have existed, because people having been trying to pull shit forever, so it's kind of a case of locking the barn after the horse ran off with your wallet, blew it all on drugs in the Big City, and ultimately died of an overdose in a slimy alley somewhere, but I can see the line of thought.

It seems like, with a show of affection - doesn't have to be sex, can be kissing, hugs, whatever - that's a personal thing between those people. Even if they're in public, it's still between them. You or I watching, we're being the voyeur. Maybe it's just me, but I'd feel awkward stopping and staring at two people kissing in a park or at a restaurant. It feels rude. Even with a story, where we're dealing with fictional characters and we're the audience, meaning the whole thing is being put on for us, it still feels intrusive. Maybe because you want the audience to care about the characters one way or the other, so that they at least seem like real people.

With violence, I think there needs to be a witness. Someone other than the people directly involved to know the whys of it. Whether someone is abusing power, or acting in defense of others. Because people, fictional or real, will justify their actions to themselves and others if there isn't anyone around to call them on it. Sometimes it's deliberate lying, other times they convince themselves what they're saying is really how it is. Granting that witnesses bring their own biases, that even with witnesses it may not change the final outcome, and that as an audience to a story we are completely powerless witnesses (we can call bullshit did it doesn't impact what happens within the story). Still, it's something that shouldn't be left in the shadows, where anything could happen and be buried or dismissed later.

I doubt anything like this went in to the thought processes of the people who control this stuff. It might only fit with my brain, though.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #35

"After the Raccoon You Think He'd Be Less Surprised," in Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord #1, by Keith Giffen (writer), Timothy Green II (penciler), Victor Olazaba (inker), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer)

Whereas Quasar was the epic mystical Heroes' Quest story, Star-Lord is the Dirty Dozen. The Kree press-gang a bunch of what they consider criminals and lower life forms into running a dangerous mission of the Kree Homeworld, to stop some new weapon the Phalanx are developing. Peter Quill is forced to assume his abandoned Star-Lord identity, because it's an effective symbol. He remains a cycnical, sarcastic grump, though.

Giffen pulled in a bunch of characters I'm guessing hadn't been seen in at least 10 years (ignoring Peter David turning Rocket into a rug in his Captain Marvel series. Not cool, PAD.) So potentially any of them could die, and two of them did, although one of those wasn't until the main Annihilation: Conquest mini-series. This is where Rocket and Groot form their friendship, of course, and the core of the Abnett/Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy series takes shape.

Tim Green's art is a bit stiffer than it would be in later works, bit more delicate on the linework. Maybe that's Olazaba's inks. I'm not sure but I think Green inked himself more often later. This isn't the best for extended action sequences, but it works in brief stints, and things look fairly pretty. I prefer the designs for the Phalanx technicians with their elongated limbs and floating bodies, to the soldiers in Quasar.

Friday, October 05, 2018

What I Bought 10/3/2018

The two books from last month I still needed. In other news, I'm taking another shot at Sketchtober. But I'm only going for one every other day. Mostly trying to redo the ones I did last year I wasn't satisfied with, but had other ideas to try. If I don't get one done tonight, I'm going to fall behind, so I better get this damn post done.

Coda #5, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist), Michael Doig (color artist), Jim Campbell - The cover is actually a wraparound that shows the giant striking a tower of the city with his fist. It's pretty cool.

Hum and Serka infiltrate Thundervale by posing as aspiring criminals themselves. It takes some doing on his part to get Serka to go along with that, not to mention bringing the confused wizard some akker, but it works. Hmm is relating the story to the still-living head of the elf he took, who was not a useful source of magic, but is useful as a Jiminy Cricket for Hum. At the end, someone arrives who may try to kill Hmm, or may surprise us by being friendly. I really shouldn't judge based on appearances, right?

There's a bit of humor, mostly in Serka and Hum trying to maintain their covers. It's harder for Serka, since she's rather impatient to get that Whitlord, and Hum's the liar of the pair. The wizard is mostly out of his gourd, but really enthusiastic, which plays off Hum's no-nonsense approach. And it makes the sequence where the wizard gains control of himself and issues a warning more effective.

So Hum's initial plan to get that potion he needs ran into trouble, but Thundervale has a lot of akker, so the question hangs whether he'll go through with it or not, if he can make the potion he requires. I'm curious if this will be the point where he gets the substance, then the second half becomes a question of whether he'll use it or not. All the people he meets keep pointing out that he's simply avoiding discussing unpleasant topics with Serka, rather than just dealing with them, that trying to change people is dangerous. He never has a good rebuttal. I'm curious if he's doing it simply to help her (as he considers it) by keeping her together, or if he's doing it so she's still there to keep him together.

The illusions that either the wizard of Hum create are these bright things, vivid colors. But it's all fake, echoes of something long dead. Meanwhile, Hum is telling this story to the elf head in a dark room in a moving city of cutthroats and bandits. The only light is a blue flame Hum plans to use to erase the evidence of him crime, since the evidence could choose to speak at an inopportune moment. The fire is real, but it doesn't illuminate much but depressing surroundings and the two people conversing. But it does illuminate, rather than disguise.

Bergara draws, a double-page spread of sorts, to show the city on the back of the giant, centered around the device, the Destructor, that turns magic items into akker to keep the giant alive. The angle he chooses is slightly vertiginous, making it appear the buildings are bending over at top towards the Destructor, like they might topple in. It's an unsteady, haphazard look, a bunch of ants scrambling around, trying desperately to keep the giant alive with whatever scraps they can find.

Domino Annual #1, by Gail Simone, Fabian Nicieza, Dennis Hopeless, Leah Williams (writers), Victor Ibanez, Juan Gedeon, Leonard Kirk, Natacha Bustos, Michael, Shelfer (artists), Jay David Ramos, Jesus Arbutov (colorists), and Clayton Cowles (letterer) - When I first glanced at this cover, I thought it was by Amanda Conner, but no, Frank Cho. The fact the picture didn't feature her butt more prominently is what threw me. I bought it because this copy was in less-than-perfect condition, and therefore no more expensive than a standard issue these days, which wasn't the case for any of the copies with the standard cover.

Several stories about Domino's relationships, or off-time. The Simone/Ibanez story is how Outlaw got recruited, which involves a bar fight and a guy who combined an SUV with a Sentinel. Which sounds like a Reaver, honestly, but is not. Nicieza/Gedeon is Cable thinking about the fact he was close with Domino once, but it was actually Deadpool's old girlfriend, Vanessa/Coypcat. But he surely hopes it'll be a reality one of these days. Ohhhh-kay then. Dennis Hopeless and Leonard Kirk have Domino trying to cheer up Colossus after his wedding failed to launch. Leah Williams and Natacha Bustos give us Domino and Nightcrawler coming up with a support group for mutants with visible mutations, and the difficulties they experience in everyday life. Hey, Stacy X showed up as someone struggling with not being a mutant any longer! At least someone remembered she existed, and not just so they could brutally kill her for cheap shock value!

The Cable story is a weak spot, since it's barely about Domino. The story about Outlaw and the one about Colossus are light but entertaining. They play up the idea that Domino appears to take things lightly a lot, and some of that is her powers. But some of it seems to be just trusting others. She's fighting Outlaw, she trusts Diamondback to have her back, even if they were arguing about music five minutes ago, and even though Diamondback thinks Domino escalated this unnecessarily. She brings Crimson Dynamo down on Colossus, but trusts Piotr isn't going to throw up his hands and walk away from a friend in danger. Which is interesting, because Domino does not strike me as someone who would trust readily. Too long spent as a merc, too used to people betraying her or selling her out, too cynical. Maybe that manifests that she doesn't trust easily, or you can break it easily, I don't know.

Also, I wonder if Outlaw making two different comments about Domino's appearance within 10 seconds of their meeting is meant to be a nod towards the last story, about the mutant support group. I'm sure Domino's been called worse than "Ghost Lady" or "Spot", but it can't be fun.

Among the artists, Gedeon is the one I'd consider the weak spot, but apparently he's trying to ape some of Liefeld's perspectives and staging in the panels set in the bathtub, which is putting him under a severe handicap. Leonard Kirk's always good, and he draws a nice quick fight scene (Colossus should certainly use headbutts more often). I don't recall liking Ibanez' art when I've come across it in the past (although I can't remember where that was at the moment), but here it works well. The action is fluid, you can see how the fight is moving from one scene to another. The Design of professor Salvage's weapon is clever. It looks cobbled together, but you can the potential for it to be dangerous anyway. Natacha Bustos' art is expressive, but with some nice sense of fashion for the characters and a good grasp of body language. Which is important for a bunch of characters sitting in a circle, talking about stuff that makes them uncomfortable. Her work reminds me a little of Mike Allred, but not so Pop Art, which I consider a plus, Allred having never been a favorite of mine.

I don't know that any of the stories are essential, depending on how vital you feel it is to learn how Outlaw joined the group, but three of the four are at least fun, and maybe give a little insight into Domino's personality. And the artists seem up to the challenges of their stories, whether that needs fights, or dealing with emotions. The stories mostly get in, do what they planned to, and wrap up without overstaying their welcome.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Desolation

A recently widowed mother, her teenage son, and her old friend are followed through the woods by some creepy guy with eerily reflective sunglasses. They grow more panicked, and the mother's general fear over what to do for her son builds in the face of a situation she has no idea how to handle. So that aspect of it works reasonably well.

My friend was disappointed because the description said the trio's survival skills would be pushed to their limits, and that really isn't what happens. Or if it is, their survival skills were essentially nil to begin with. The movie isn't long enough for that, so there's a lot of them running through the forest, or hiding behind stuff while they hope the guy walks past without seeing them.

The movie doesn't reveal anything about the killer, his motives, nothing like that. It made him kind of dull, a cardboard cutout, second-rate Jason Voorhees, but if you figure the focus was supposed to be on his victims, and he's simply an external force to force them to deal with their shit, then maybe that works.