Friday, November 30, 2018

The Long Weekend in the Woods - Chapter 8

Clever Adolescent Panda

Getting everyone on the same page went better than I expected. We caught up to Claire, Rafe, and Jerry quickly, even if I had to carry Pollock part of the way.

(Turns out she's a good sprinter, but not much of an endurance runner. I never had the chance to chase her for a long time.)

Claire was happy to get to test her engine, but she had to finish it first. Jerry didn't seem happy at all, but he knew Claire would wear him down. Rafe thought that was funny, but he was on board, too.

We had reached what was left of the camper by then, which is where Cassanee's people met us. They took more convincing. They didn't like we were trying to catch the Amilgars. They didn't like relying on Pollock, because they'd picked up on Cassanee's attitude towards her. They didn't like Jerry and Rafe's gang being involved, because there'd been some conflicts in the past. Jerry got defensive about that, people started to shout, and then Pollock cut in.

"We've already agreed you should have guns on hand if things go wrong, so you can end it how you like. And your disagreements with the raccoon are minor-"

"Minor?!" a large man named Thomas shouted, "Ya know how many family outings these thieves have ruined?"

"No, and I don't care, either. They haven't destroyed your homes and driven you into a tent city have they?" There was no response. "Have they?"


"Then they're the lesser of your problems, so stop complaining. You can sort things out with them later, if we survive this."

"And they already agreed to help!" I tried to add something more positive. Pollock was making good points, but no one appreciated how she was making them.

Then Jerry added his two cents. "Yeah, yeah, exactly! So howzabout a little gratitude you big-"

Rafe cut him off by squooshing him with a big paw again. "Not the time for that."

"Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Eyes on the prize."

Thomas wasn't done. "And her?" He jabbed a big finger in Pollock's direction. "Cass mentions her, and none of what she says is good. We're supposed to trust her?" There were a lot of muttered agreements. I didn't know what to say to that. Cassanee trusted Calvin and I enough to give Pollock a chance, but I couldn't use that here.

Pollock answered for herself. "Trust isn't the important part. If you want to kill the creatures, you need something to hold them in place. I'm the only one here who can build it, so you need me. If you think this is a trick, then you'll have guns and you can do something about it."

Everyone seemed surprised into silence for a minute. Finally a lady named Jayla asked what we needed. The answer was, a lot. Clare needed fuel, and a sled to carry the engine where we needed it. Pollock needed welding tools, wiring, cables, the metal from the camper. A man named Bert had a 4-wheeler and a few gallons of fuel. Claire thought her people could do a rush order on some pieces and get tools back, if she could sell John on it. A lady with a big smile named Cynthia said she had some tools in her garage, if it was still standing. We split up. A few people to watch our two prisoners, some went to the remains of the village to look for the tools and any extra fuel they could find. Jerry and Claire headed for the cave to get some guys to help pull the engine, and send some others back for the prisoners. A few people headed for the Hollow to scout it.

So things came together a little at a time. Pollock worked on whatever she could as equipment came in. Wires to run power from the engine to her device. Cables to send the power into the panels. Cassanee called the first time while we were just getting started. We were going to hide the panels flat on the ground under leaves, and then pull them into place at the right moment. Pollock wasn't happy with that, but there wasn't time for a better system.

Night fell, so we lit lanterns or whatever other lights we had. We were trying to save the 4-wheeler's battery as a fallback if Claire's engine failed. Pollock didn't speak much, except to bark an order once in a while. She didn't even do that much. Mostly she'd ask me to look into something, and I'd go ask someone. She said people responded better to me, which is true.

"I didn't think you'd put your life on the line like that," I mentioned in the middle of the night, when we were taking a break to wait for more metal to arrive.

Pollock gave me a surprised look. "What are you talking about?"

"When you told them they could shoot you if they end up thinking you're trying to pull something."

"Oh, that. Well, I'm putting my reputation as an engineer on the line here. It's an interesting enough challenge I want it to make it work just for that reason, to see if I can pull it off." I wondered if this was what she was like at work when the two of us weren't fighting. Her employees seemed to like her (but maybe that was fear).

Then she kept talking. "But I'm not planning to stand here and get executed if this Frankensteined piece of detritus fails. I know I'm innocent, whether those louts believe or not. They can certainly attempt to murder me, but they're going to find it a challenge." Another pause. "Would you let them do it, even seeing how hard I'm working on this? Or was Calvin speaking only for himself when he said you two believed me?"

She had been staring into the darkness up to then, but now she was looking right at me. "I don't know why Calvin is so sure of you, but I don't think you're behind this. So no, I'm not going to let them shoot you. Even if you give me a reason to think you were involved between now and then, I want evidence before you could be killed."

Pollock watched me for a moment longer. I couldn't tell if that answer satisfied her. The next load of metal was hauled up to us, so she hopped to her feet without another word.

Hours later, the horizon was just starting to so signs of light when Cassanee called again. I had to explain we still weren't ready. Pollock wasn't sure the wiring would hold up and was trying to reinforce and insulate it.

"No choice," was Cassanee's reply. "They're starting to stir. Will scatter soon, hunting again. We have to move before then."

Pollock overhead that. "I'm still uncertain this will work, and I can't risk testing it because I'm positive it won't work twice. And if it fails, your friends are going to try killing me."

There was silence from the other radio. I wondered if Calvin was arguing patience, but I doubted it. He'd either be impatient or nervous, and want it over with either way. I doubted Pollock's well-being mattered to Cassanee, and I understood why, but I still hoped she cared, at least a little. She wanted this to work, I was sure of that.

The radio crackled back to life. "Can't wait, but we'll take the long way. You'll have to be ready."

Calvin added, "Have the grenades ready just in case little buddy, or this could get real ugly."

The radio went silent again, and Pollock and I noticed everyone there had heard. Some of them looked excited, but most of them looked scared. Pollock didn't say anything, just went back to work. And I went back to doing what I could to help.


The Amilgars were beginning to move around. Lots of what sounded like grumbles, jostling each other. The few late sleepers would suddenly spasm, and then they were up. I might have wondered about that, but it had been an unpleasant night.

I had considered using bug spray, indifference having proven ineffective, but was worried the smell would carry. I hadn't gone to the bathroom for the same reason. I was glad I hadn't drank more water yesterday, at least, even if that wasn't a smart idea. I hadn't slept well, my jangly nerves waking me up every time I would start to drift off. It got worse the closer to dawn it got. Cass had looked calm the whole night, sitting back against a tree quietly, even sleeping occasionally. The conversation over the radio had made her tense, though. We had to get them chasing us, but delay reaching our destination. Without dying in the process, hopefully.

"You have a circuitous route in mind?" She gave me a look. "I'm not going to be able to keep up if we both run for our lives, so I need to know where I'm going ahead of time."

She shook her head. "We stick together." A pause. "You think I'd abandon you?"

"There's a lot at stake, and I never got the impression I was your favorite person. And if it turns out I'm wrong and Pollock's behind this, she's a problem of mine that became a problem of yours."

She watched me steadily. "You chose to help. That matters." Topic apparently closed, she turned back to the camp and moved forward in a crouch. I got as low as I could and followed. More and more Amilgars were up and about. At least they'd know we took the rocks. It'd be ridiculous to do this and have them fail to notice. A few were sniffing around the edge of the camp, grabbing something then stuffing it in their mouth. And when we were thirty yards out, one of them raised their head and locked eyes with us.

I was about to freeze, hoping they wouldn't see us, but Cass was up and moving, so I followed. She was in the middle of them in a few bounds and went straight for the sacks, grabbing two without breaking stride. That got their attention and there were a lot of alarmed shrieks and I charged through and hoisted the other sack onto my shoulder. One of them tried to bar my way and I semi-nimbly side-stepped him.

OK, really our shoulders clipped each other and I went spinning off to one side. But I maintained my footing and kept going. When another reached for the bag I was carrying, Cass clocked him upside the head with one of the ones she was holding. Not heavy enough to stun him, but he backed off for an instant and we were out the other side of their camp, hauling our bags of goodies away like Bizarro Santa Claus.

We hustled downslope to a ravine, then followed it rather than try to climb the opposite slope. Cass was making easy progress, each step landing surely to propel her forward. Despite the rocks, downed trees, limbs, and spider webs, it seemed as though she never broke stride. I wasn't so nimble, but I was doing OK. The terrain was familiar enough and I'd run through stuff like this before. Just so long as I focused on what was ahead of me, and not what was behind.

You couldn't miss hearing them back there, though. Footsteps rushing through the leaves and brush, a crash and an angry squeal or grunt. Sometimes there was a sound I'd have called a chuckle, like one Amilgar was laughing at another's clumsiness. One of them threw or kicked a log at us. It hit a tree to our right, which caused a rain of limbs. The part of my chainsaw training about widowmakers flashed through my mind. I sped up as much as I was able, Cass staying just slightly ahead of me.

The drainage reached a stream. We turned left sharply to follow it. I noticed a few of our pursuers had opted to climb the slope to try and get ahead of us. I nodded in their direction, but Cass only gave them a brief glance.

Abruptly, two of the Amilgars went right past us with flying leaps. Both of them botched the landings, on slipping on a wet rock, the other caught one leg in an awkward spot and tumbled end over end. The energy from the crystals didn't boost reflexes to go with speed and strength, I guess.

Rocks came whistling in from the ridge to our left. Cass deflected one smoothly, still never breaking strike. I jumped to my right to avoid another. The rock exploded on impact, shards flying everywhere. I felt one embed in my cheek. More followed, small but better aimed. I had taken the time last night to load a canister in the gas gun, so I fired it that direction. Cass threw me a look over her shoulder.

"It's not knockout gas or anything, I was just tired of dodging rocks." She didn't respond, instead leaping into the air, drifting over my head in that odd weightless way she did. She descended on my right side, slightly behind me, and as she did, her foot lashed out and connected with the face of an Amilgar that had been closing in on me. She used the momentum of the kick to turn back in the direction we were running and her foot barely touched the ground before she was moving again, catching up like I was standing still.

"Are they closing in?" I spit out.

"Yes, but you got the ones on the ridge to come down." She tried for an encouraging smile, so I glanced back to my left. There wasn't anyone on the ridge now, but without meaning to, my eyes drifted further behind me.

The whole group of Amilgars were back there, following steadily. I had the distinct feeling of being chased by a pack of wolves, not in any desperate hurry, just keeping pace until we wore down. I can't judge distances for shit, so I don't know how close they were, other than too close. I sped up a little more, about as much as I could and hope to maintain it.

"Are we heading in the right direction, or still stalling?"

"We need to go two ridges east. I'm waiting for an easier spot to climb.

"Just tell me when."

"Now," and she was up the slope. So I followed. It was steep, rocks skittering back downhill under my shoes. At least it had been a dry summer, I didn't have to worry about slipping on leaves. And Cass seemed to find the perfect path to give us a straight shot through the trees. No weaving or twisting required. Our pursuers weren't doing as well. They had to spread out, and they lost ground trying to wind their way through, getting in each other's way. None of them could seem to find or hold a straight path, even just following us.

Cass crested the ridge and checked to make sure I was on her heels (I was), then plunged down the other side. If anything, it might have been steeper, and we went pell-mell down the slope. I felt only barely in control. I didn't want to slow down, so I forced myself not to lean back for balance. Let the sack of rocks do that. Gravity was pulling me the direction I needed to go, why argue? Again, the path was clear. A straight shot to the bottom. This valley was steeper and narrower than the last. No flat stream at the bottom, barely a narrow ditch. Cass hopped it without hesitation.

Up the other side, same as before. The Amilgars tried to close the gap, drawing on the crystals and attempting to jump from one slope to the other. Most of them crashed into limbs or made awkward landings, and a few seemed stuck in the trees. They weren't giving up, though.

Over another ridge and finally the right valley, though I had no idea how far we had to go. We reached the bottom and turned left again when the ground near us erupted. Cass was thrown forward and landed hard, not able to catch herself with both hands occupied. I was thrown to my right and landed on the sack I was carrying. The shards jabbed me through the rough material, but it was better than landing on rocks I suppose. As the dust cleared, I saw what was left of one Amilgar in the crater. It had gotten itself into the air, then used its power to launch at us from above. Pushed off a tree limb, or maybe off the air itself. No one else was trying death from above, but that's because they were charging at us on foot.

Cass was rising slowly. She'd been closer to the impact, a smart play on their part, if intentional. There was a trickle of blood running down her cheek from somewhere on the part of her face hidden by the hood. Gas gun, gas gun, where -? On the ground right in front of me. I reached for a canister in my bag, just to slow them down. I aimed between the horde and us, so they'd rush into it.

The gas erupted, obscuring my view. Then one of them came charging through. They must have decided to just put on a burst of speed and go for it. He was gonna go right through me until a slim hand grabbed my collar and pulled me to one side. The Amilgar shot past and crashed into a rocky outcropping.

We got up and kept going. Whatever luck we had earlier had turned. The going was rougher. Branches swatting us in the face, thorns pulling at out skin. The rocks seemed more slippery, the terrain more uneven. The Amilgars were closing in, making more noise, trying to urge each other on perhaps. I think they smelled blood. Even Cass seemed to be slowing down. I certainly was.

"Are you OK?" I gasped out. Maybe she was concussed.

"The crystals are wearing me down." I thought she meant the weight at first, but realized that if the ones in the bags had absorbed despair, they'd be giving off low levels of that. And we were in very close proximity with no way to turn it to our advantage the way the Amilgars apparently could. At least it gave me something external to push back against. Refuse to be beaten by it.

"Not much further," she said. I'd been afraid to ask, worried I wouldn't like the answer. The way had been sloping upwards for some time. Fewer leaves on the ground, more loose rocks exposed. Cass had enough spring in her step to land lightly when she wanted. But every so often she'd give whichever rock she touched a kick and send it tumbling back downhill. Trying to slow our pursuers. I was doing the same, though not as intentionally.

Abruptly we crested the hill and there was the base of a bluff, maybe 100 yards ahead. Steep slopes covered with loose rock on either side. I didn't see anyone and really hoped we hadn't gotten our wires crossed. Then I noticed two sticks in an "X" sticking out of the ground dead ahead. Oh, very good, guys. Subtle. Cass knocked them over as she passed, dropping her two sacks there. I did the same with mine a moment later. We ran to the base of the bluff and stopped.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Illang: The Wolf Brigade

So this is a live-action film based on the animated film Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Papafred mentioned that movie back when we were roomies too, but I never got around to watching it either.

There's a whole power struggle going on between two different branches of security agencies in a future where the Koreas are trying to reunify to better defend themselves against China, Japan, Russia, and the U.S. There's an anti-reunification terrorist cell, but something about the way it's presented from the beginning suggests it's a front one of the sides is using as a boogeyman to keep their power. Or else I'm just extremely cynical and suspicious of everything.

That whole thing is mostly moving in the background of a relationship between one member of the Wolf Brigade and the sister of a member of the terrorist cell who blew herself up in front of that soldier/cop guy. There's a lot of deceit, questions about which one of them is really playing the other, how much either of them is even aware of what's going on around them.

There's a big fight in the sewers near the end, and I thought the end of that was going to be the end of the movie. As it turns out, the film goes for another 10-15 minutes, and that turns around how you view things, at least as far as one character is concerned. It's effective, because it doesn't instantly make that character entirely sympathetic, but it does make him a little more sympathetic. If the movie ended after the sewer battle, I would have been fairly impressed that the film had spent most of its time suggesting this character felt horrible about the lives that he felt had been needlessly lost, and then had flipped it around at the last minute, having played with our expectations. Because he looked quiet, and everyone else seemed to think he was shook up, we think he is, too. But that doesn't make it so, and a wolf doesn't feel bad for its prey.

But then the actual ending flips that around again, because it's the first time the character actually gives us any sense of how they feel where we don't have to suspect that it's all an act for one person or another. With all the deception up to that point, the audience can't really take any of his actions at face value, and maybe I'm making a mistake not applying that same skepticism to the end of the film, but I don't think so. Keeping a lot of the focus on that character without us being inside his head, and not being able to trust his words or actions was a smart approach.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What I Bought 11/16/2018 - Part 2

Well, let's see if this book can make me stick around for issue 3. Although the fact it's actually managed to stay on schedule puts it a step ahead of like 6 other things I've tried buying this year.

Infinite Dark #2, by Ryan Cady (writer), Andrea Mutti (artist), K. Michael Russell (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer) - The Security Director is really Slender Man. It's always the one you least suspect, assuming you'd even suspect Slender Man somehow made it onto a space station representing the last gasp of humanity.

The Security Director is struggling to process whatever she saw in the void last issue, and is refusing to tell anyone about it. The crew are kind of tense over one of them going nuts and killing someone, but the murderer's assistant offers to try and help decipher the symbols left on the wall. Which gives the Chief of Security time for therapy, which she doesn't want, but does let her in on the fact other people were exposed to the void and it's being kept secret. So that's good, although it doesn't necessarily answer what's happening.

It seems like there's supposed to be something actually out there. We could naturally question what exists in whatever space exists after a universe collapses or falls apart, whatever is happening here. But that also raises the question of what the hell their space station is existing in, since it's in the same boat. It could turn out every one of the people affected are just processing the experience in roughly the same way, and this is all in their mind. Seems odd they would all respond in roughly the same way, and I'm not sure why Deva would be so certain the shadow that appeared in her therapy sim was something more than just the simulation trying to represent what it's picking up from her mind.

I did enjoy the pixel effect for the surroundings in the simulation. You would think they'd have gotten past that kind of thing by the point in human history when this is taking place, but maybe not. Or it could represent the deteriorating state of the station, or Deva's mind, or the encroaching influence of whatever the thing she saw outside was.

Otherwise, I'm still not sure about Mutti's art. Times where expressions are stiff, or faces look strange, eyes too big for the head. Not in a cartoon effect way, just subtly out of proportion. Faces that are half in shadow, but I'm not sure what the intended effect is meant to be. Everyone is keeping secrets, for one reason or another. Deva in particular is trying to keep her mental turmoil under wraps so her bosses don't decide she's a liability. Even the parts of the ship that are supposed to be in use don't seem busy. You never seem to see more than 3 or 4 people in a place at one time. Could simply be because most of this is taking place in sections that are limited access, but it makes gives an impression the whole station is a ghost town. Doesn't really allow much of a contrast with the Dark Sector, other than we see structures from the outside there, so we see how they've fallen into disuse. But they're empty and silent, too, so not much difference.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Kind of an odd movie about Everly (Salma Hayek) trying to fend off a constant stream of would-be killers long enough to get her mother and daughter enough money to flee from slaver that's kept Everly prisoner for the last four years.

On the one hand, it's a violent siege movie that opens with Everly escaping into a bathroom after having been gang-raped in her apartment, and later includes a character called The Sadist who plans to torture her with various acids (with the help of his quartet of kabuki assistants). On the other hand, there's a brief sequence where she tries to clean up the bloodstains and dead bodies before her mother and daughter arrive while Christmas music plays (the movie does take place around Christmas).

The first several attempted killers are the other (presumably) enslaved sex workers on the floor, who got a text from the boss they'd make 50 grand for killing Everly. So there's like a ten minute stretch of these ladies charging in one at a time trying to kill her with whatever weapon they had a hand. One of them gets a wig ripped off and some random goon laughs, so the lady chucks a sai at him, prompting him to observe, "A fucking sai?", then run away.

It's a dark humor, but it still feels like it cuts against the overall story. I can see it being funny and wanting to laugh, but then it feels like I shouldn't laugh at the shitty situation she finds herself in. I guess it can work if you view this whole thing as kind of absurd, that she's going to try and pretend nothing is going on when the daughter she hasn't seen in four year comes by. Try to hide the full horror of what she's gone through from her mother, who is understandably angry considering she had no clue what happened to Everly. Play the domestic, bring out a gift for her daughter, try to dress nicely while she has a damn bullet hole in her side.

The main villain, Taiko, played is Hiroyuki Watanabe, is outstanding at making you hate his guts. She's been abducted by his men and placed in this situation, and yet, because she was his personal slave, he expects her to recognize that as love, as is deeply offended by her betrayal. And then somehow even more offended when she keeps refusing to simply die like he expects her to, even though he keeps calling and telling her he's going to sell her daughter into slavery as well. It's like, what do you think she's going to do when you tell her that? That kind of arrogance where the character is so used to everyone kissing their ass they can't acknowledge anytime the universe doesn't bend to their will.

Monday, November 26, 2018

What I Bought 11/16/2018 - Part 1

There was a new volume of Yotsuba! that came out a couple of weeks ago that caught me completely by surprise. Must have missed it entirely in the solicits, and Amazon's new set-up for recommendations is crap, so I hardly ever use it now. I'll have to buy it eventually, along with like 10 other things on my list.

Kind of getting to these books late, but oh well. There was other stuff to post about last week.

Domino #8, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Morbius is just pissed Domino is even paler than he is.

They let Morbius out of the box, he tells them what the vampires want him for. To spread the disease he had before he became a vampire, which will let them kill all humans. Which seems not smart for vampires to do, but OK, vampires are dumb as hell, sure. They have to kill the vampire king in that region - not Dracula - and they do that. A vampire hunter guy shows up at the end, Domino clocks him so Morbius can leave, and that's that.

There's a chance there'll be carryover from this into the next story, since the same lady that sent them after Morbius is sending them after Longshot, but right now, this felt rather abrupt. That vampire hunter guy made a big deal at the end of the last issue about calling in all the other vamp hunters, but none of them showed up before this ended. Morbius' characterization seems all over the place, although given Domino keeps having internal monologues about the different ways she keeps thinking of him, I assume that's deliberate. That she keeps trying to pigeonhole him for some reason, and it keeps falling apart as he reveals other facets of his personality. Which could be related to how other people perceive based on one side of her.

Or it's a compare/contrast with how people in the Marvel U. approach mutants. Some mutants are bad, so they're all bad, we need to kill them. Morbius' blood could potentially be weaponized by the other vampires to wipe out the human race, so maybe they should just kill him?

Baldeon and Arbutov seem to be having fun with this issue though. The title page done with the characters in poses from some old horror movie film. Domino doing a dramatic tilt of her head to expose her neck. The page where she's actually bitten, with the entirely black background, and the two panels bordered in red of her falling through a void. It's pretty theatrical. And there's a couple of panels where Arbutov uses the shadows to really make the red of Morbius' collar and wings pop. He's also not outlining them with black, which makes the transition sharper somehow.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #38, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - What's it matter, Tony? You couldn't hit the broad side of barn, let alone a Squirrel Girl.

Having concluded the dead Squirrel Girl was a Skrull, and that none of their supporting cast are Skrulls, Doreen and Nancy visit Stark to enlist his help. Tony agrees to figure out which other Avengers can be trusted, but forgets the code word which puts everyone on edge. Doreen and Nancy confront him, he tries to play it off, but blows his cover again. So in comes the Stark security system.

I question Tony Stark's assertion that Ghost Rider has never ridden a single ghost. I know I've seen a Ghost Rider on the remains of an elephant before. Maybe Tony meant specifically Robbie Reyes, which OK, fair. I feel as though there would be a lot of public outcry if an Avenger was using the souls of people's loved ones as transportation, you know? The Ghost Triceratops is pretty sweet. Shield seems to have too many spines, though.

I also dispute Doreen's assertion that Tony is too incompetent to build an armor that's EM field messes with his memory. He built an armor that went sentient, fell in love with him, and went fucking berserk. Tony Stark is an incompetent dope. And he's definitely the person who would have "World's Handsomest CEO" for a coffee mug. Can't quite picture him with that antiquated desk lamp, unless he thought it added a touch of homey charm to his sterile office space.

Rest assured, this blog will never stop being one where we give Tony Stark shit about whatever random crap we feel like.

I don't like how Charm draws Tippy. He might be trying to make her look less like an actual squirrel, and more expressive, but she just looks weird. Too sleek, too rounded in the skull. Maybe it was just that panel where she was in a snit because she couldn't tag along to confront Skrull Tony. A squirrel with a vaguely offended expression is not something I'm accustomed to.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #42

"Into the Wild Taupe Yonder" in Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer)

Ghost of Station X was the first Atomic Robo mini-series I actually bought as it came out. Probably the first one I bought, period, since I think it convinced me to go and track down the trades of the first five volumes.

This time around Robo is suckered into rushing to the edge of the atmosphere in a hastily cobbled together aircraft, only to nearly be killed by a satellite dropped out of orbit at him like a missile. While he tries to determine who's behind that attack, two of his employees (the same two who built the "evil" quantum computer in The Shadow from Beyond Time are dragged into trying to find a missing house that belonged to British Intelligence. The two threads naturally intertwine.

I didn't have any idea who or what Majestic-12 was, so that turn was entirely lost on me. Actually, I still have a lot of trouble distinguishing them from Delphi and some of the other secret organizations Robo's tangled with. The series did start the stretch where Robo and eventually Tesladyne were in dutch with the U.S. government, which continued up through Ring of Fire, and certain other developments from this play into the most recent two mini-series.

For how serious things get, this is still a pretty funny story. Martin and Lewis (the 'evil' computer makers) come up with a lot of crazy theories to explain the missing building, and there's an extended sequence where Robo gets help from a bunch of truckers and ham radio enthusiasts. Plus, we find out that Robo actually wears hospital gowns when he's getting repaired, and is awkward about people being able to see his butt. 'Less robutt, more ropants,' is a good line.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Long Weekend in the Woods - Chapter 7

Clever Adolescent Panda

Jerry, Rafe, and Claire started on their way back to the cave, the two prisoners in two. They were going to try and get ready if this turns into a big fight, which looked likely. Cassanee stuck with us, or maybe with Pollock. She watched her all the time as we followed Calvin back to the opposite ridge and into the woods. Pollock didn't enjoy that very much.

"Would you stop eyeing me like I'm about to eat a small child?"


I tried to get their minds on something else. "There might be enemies all over the place in here. Can we focus on keeping an eye out for them?"

Pollock got indignant. "Tell her! I am fully aware of my surroundings at all times!"

Cassanee responded without looking at me. "I am keeping an eye on enemies."

I sped up to pull even with Calvin. He was moving at his usual steady pace, checking trees and the ground for familiar signs. The scents I was picking up said we were going the right way, but as long as he seemed sure where he was going, I didn't see the need to tell him. Even with lousy human senses, he had a good sense of direction.

He seemed absorbed in following the trail, so I was surprised when he spoke. "Couldn't handle all the hostility?"

"I don't think Cassanee will actually do anything, so I'm not going to spend time watching them." I did shoot a quick glance over my shoulder. Pollock was striding forward steadily, sulking the whole time. Cassanee was a shadow just behind her shoulder.

"As long as Pollock doesn't give her a reason, you're probably right."

"Do you think she's involved?"

He shrugged. "She says she wasn't running things during the ExpanCo days, but that could be a convenient smokescreen. On the other hand, you saw her during that stretch. She was pretty despondent most of the time. If she was playing the long game, she went all-in."

"Well, you're good at long-range planning, so she wouldn't be, right?"

"I don't know about that. I can be patient, but it's more I take time to commit to a course. Sometimes. Not the same thing. She's able to keep building companies that are moderately successful. I don't think you can do that by the seat of your pants."

"I guess."

I ran the possibilities through my head, while Calvin paused to get his bearings. After he found the path again, he said, "I don't think it's Pollock. Like you said, if it's her, why tag along but not bring more gear? She has to know you and Cass would be a handful, even with weapons. And Cass really doesn't like Pollock. Seems too dicey, even for her."

"What are you two muttering about?" Pollock had closed the gap, Cassanee staying right with her, just out of arm's reach.

Calvin spoke first. "We were debating how likely it is Cass is right about you. We decided you're probably in the clear."


"Calvin!" What was he thinking?

He shrugged, and I was starting to get sick of him doing that in response to everything. "I didn't see a reason to lie. We said we trust her, yeah? That's a good thing to say!"

"Oh yes, a ringing endorsement."

"You want endorsements, try NASCAR." Calvin tossed that over his shoulder and kept walking. The rest of us stopped to try and follow his thinking, then gave up when called back to us. "We're here. They aren't."

We rushed up. A deserted clearing, with wallows all over, like he said. Calvin was already standing in the center. "This is where they were piling the crystals. They don't waste any time."

The rest of us joined them. There were some crystal fragments and some dust that shone faintly. "Do you think they added them all to their armor, or moved them?"

"They went this direction, and there are some small bits of crystal," Cassanee said, pointing to a clear trail heading, northwest, I think.

"Well, there are tire tracks on this side of the clearing. They don't look as recent, though." I sniffed around both trails, and the footpath had definitely been used recently. The tire marks were older. Maybe from the trucks that brought them here.

"So, do we follow, and which one?" Pollock watched me. How did I wind up in charge?

"They marched out recently, so if the crystals are weighing them down, we might be able to catch them."

Calvin raised his hand. "And when we catch them? We're probably massively outnumbered, and if we aren't, it sounds like they'll scatter to the four winds before we can take down more than a couple."

I sat down to think, crossing one arm over my chest, and tapping at my head with the other paw. Think, think, think. The longer this took, the more damage they'd do. And we couldn't stay forever. "We need to trap them."

Pollock scoffed. "Great. How do we lure them, and how do we hold them? I'm not certain those bears and raccoons will help. Not that they may be worth much, considering they could only catch one of us." She jerked her thumb at Calvin.

Cassanee was watching silently. I was a little surprised she was still there. I thought she might go down the trail alone, but she was waiting. I asked if her neighbors would help.

"For a chance to end this? Yes."

Calvin spoke up again. "Setting aside we still don't have bait, what's endgame? We lure them into a hollow at the base of a bluff, then gun them down from higher ground? We going that route?"

Pollock shrugged. "Given our limited time and resources, it might be the safest option."

Cassanee's voice was flat. "They can surrender if they want."

I hate these kinds of conversations, about acceptable losses and everything. "I don't want to kill them if we can do this another way."

"I'm with CAP," Calvin said. "I'm not sure they're anything other than hired muscle. They might even have been created for this job. The person behind it might be somewhere else entirely."

"Easy to say. It's not your home." I'd never heard Cassanee sound so angry at anyone other than Guyamo. I worried I had someone else I'd have to protect from her.

Calvin didn't seem fazed, though. Maybe a little angry himself. "You're right. But we're still here, because you're a friend."

"Then help!" It echoed around the clearing.

We were all silent, staring at the ground. Then Calvin spoke. "Pollock, that repellent field. Could it keep something trapped inside if you turned it around?"

"'Turned it around?'" Pollock sounded amused.

Calvin sighed. "You know what I mean."

"I do. We can't so much turn it around, but if we can project it from multiple places at once towards a single point, it could keep a very large flying insect in place."

We all stared, blinking dumbly. "A large insect."

"Yes, big as a house, probably. I told you the field works by emitting a subharmonic that disrupts their wing beats."

"The Amilgars don't fly," Cassanee said, sounding angry again.

(She'd told us "Amilgar" was a word for "wrecker", or "destroyer" in one of the languages in the area.)

"You and your subharmonics," I grumbled, until it hit me. "The Predator Drone!"

"What about it?"

"It disrupts our motion centers with a subharmonic in its voice, right?"

"Roughly, yes, but the Drone is dead, and Stefan is unavailable."

Calvin leaned against a tree, starting to grin. He saw where I was going. "Yeah, but you know the frequency, right? It was either in your peoples' papers, or you mapped it when you taught the Furby to mimic it."

"You want me to change the frequency the belt emits to match it, then project that."


"Theoretically possible, but one, I need tools. Two, this," she pointed at the belt, "won't do it. I'd need something larger to project the field through, and something to power that."

"Claire's working on an engine to power whatever she can come up with, and the raccoons have lots of wrenches."

"I can't build something like this with wrenches!"

"We might convince them to trade their art for tools instead of peanut butter and oats if you ask nicely."

"Please, which of us negotiates business deals for a living? I can convince them easily."

"That's what Ellis said in Die Hard before Alan Rickman shot him in the head," Calvin observed.

Pollock gave him a withering look (which Calvin ignored) before continuing. "I'd still need something to run the current through to project the field. Something with tensile strength, but flexible."

"Like the sides of a camper?"

"Uh, maybe? It would depen -"

I smiled. We could make this work.

"You trap them. What then?"

I turned my head to look at Cassanee, who was definitely skeptical. "If we can hold them, it might give me time to get some other pandas here, and we can take them back with us. If they're being used or controlled maybe we can help them. I can try to contact them soon if we want to do this."

She didn't seem convinced. "The plan is trap them and wait?"

I looked at Pollock and Calvin. They gave me almost identical shrugs. If they'd noticed, they'd have been horrified. Especially Pollock. "It's worth a try."

Pollock said, "We're going to need help building this. Bring your neighbors. If things go wrong, it doesn't work, you do what you have to."

Cassanee nodded as Calvin spoke up. "Unless someone knows the Amilgars' favorite food, I'm guessing we're using crystals as bait. How do we get enough?"

Cassanee answered with no hesitation. "Take theirs." She started down the trail.

I called after her. "How do we coordinate?" She tossed me a radio.

"Call when you're ready. Tell me where to lead them. I'll tell my people to meet you wherever you need."

"Hang on a sec. I'm coming with you." Calvin trotted up to her as Cassanee turned, surprised. He shrugged. "They'll be busy negotiating and building stuff. I'm crap at both those things. But years of friendship with CAP have made me pretty good at grabbing stuff and running away." He continued on the trail. Cassanee watched him for a moment, then she quickly pulled even with him.

I turned to Pollock. "We better hurry. We have a lot of stops to make."


After Cass spent a couple of minutes on her radio, contacting her people and explaining the situation, there was no talk. We moved swiftly through the woods. Swiftly for me, at least. Cass was clearly holding back. As usual, I began to second-guess myself.

"If you think time's of the essence and want to go ahead, you can. I'll keep as close as I can manage." Frankly, my chances of being useful might be higher if Cass was already causing chaos among their ranks. But she shook her head.

"What we do will depend on what they're doing when we catch up. Harder if we're separated. Easier to watch each other's backs this way."

"OK, I just don't want to be a drag on this. I know it's important." I sped up as much as I could, which Cass matched easily. We kept going. The trail was running downhill on a ridgeline. The Sun was sinking lower, slowly. But on Site 9, it could choose to drop below the horizon in an instant. I really didn't want to try and handle this in the dark.

After a few more minutes' silence, Cass spoke. "Sorry I was angry earlier."

"Don't be. You were right. I liked being down here - well, not here specifically, Site 9 was an unending nightmare for me - but it's your home. It's personal." She nodded. "After this is over, will you rebuild in a new spot, or come back?"

"Most people want to come back. Others, aren't sure. Guyamo, now this. Maybe the place is trouble." After a moment's silence, she shifted topics. "What if she is behind this?"

"You mean if Pollock did engineer all this? Don't know. CAP would be pretty sore, but I'd think you and yours would make the call." That surprised her.

"You'd hand her over to us?"

"I don't think I'd be doing the handing. Pollock would hand me my head. But you're the ones whose homes were destroyed, so I'd think she has to answer to you. She'd get a trial, right?"

"There would be a trial. By fire. We throw her in a fire pit. If she climbs out, she's free."

"Are you joking about that or-" I saw a smile around the corner or her hood, which didn't answer the question, but there was no time for clarifying things. The trail was getting fresher, and we could hear footsteps up ahead. We slowed our pace and drifted off the trail. Another few minutes and we spotted the rear of the line. We moved further away from the line so we could pull up alongside. I was very conscious of my red cap, and Cass' orange cloak. She didn't seem concerned, her eyes scanning the line.

There were between two dozen and thirty, moving steadily but with little urgency. Some were still pausing to check the ground as they passed. I thought they were on the lookout for crystals, but one of them found a mushroom and gobbled it down.

We were still moving downslope and the light was getting dimmer. I wondered if they'd stop for the night. How good is their night vision, or can they move by scent? None of them looked armed, but all of them had those shards stuck in the armor, so they might not need weapons. Smack in the middle of the line were three of the Amilgars carrying sacks. The contents scraped and clattered against each other. Cass pointed to them and I nodded, then whispered, "Do we try to hit them now?"

She shook her head, slowly. "Too bunched up. We need to get in and out quickly. Wait for them to settle, hope they spread out."

So we stayed on our parallel track. I picked off ticks when I noticed them. Cass didn't, although I couldn't tell any were bothering her. Another half-hour passed, and the procession halted. The ones carrying the sacks set them down together, then started looking for their own places. Leaves and sticks were pushed aside, as each one tried to find somewhere without too many rocks. If they liked the spot, they'd work at the soil just enough to loosen it up. Then they rolled on their backs, trying to increase the size of the depression.

Finding spots that aren't rocky around here is a challenge, so they did spread out, a few moving in our direction. Cass led me further away as the Amilgars tore up small trees and brush to clear more space. We stopped maybe two hundred yards away behind a large walnut tree. "Now?" I asked. My nerves were getting worse.

"We'll check with the others." She raised the radio and called CAP. Our furry bundle of fun replied almost immediately.

"We read you!" I winced at the volume and looked back towards the encampment.


"Jerry and Rafe are sending some of their group with Claire to get the engine. We met your neighbors, a couple are going to bring fuel. The rest of us are moving the metal for the trap."

"Where do we need to be?"

There was silence for maybe 10, 15 seconds. "Lyn says you know it as Gordon's Hollow?"

"I know it. How soon?"

The silence stretched longer. When it ended, Pollock's voice was the one we heard. "It won't be soon. Getting all the pieces will take time. Cobbling them together, more time. Then we have to figure out how to disguise it. Everyone has assured the panda and I you won't be able to just run them into a corral."

"How long?"

"If things go well, tomorrow morning."

"Understood. We'll check back then." Cass turned to me, to see if I'd heard everything. I had.

"So, we wait until dawn?"

She nodded. "Or we steal them now, and let them chase us until dawn."

I shook my head. "Even assuming we, OK I, could evade them all night, they'd end up scattered across the countryside. We'd never get them together."

"Agreed. We wait."

Swell, and my nerves grow louder. . .

Thursday, November 22, 2018


A bunch of people who don't like each other, trapped in a horrible situation from which they can't find an escape, and gradually they turn on each other violently. What could be a more perfect Thanksgiving movie?

I'm kidding, my Thanksgivings are mellow, pleasant affairs (Blogsgiving is another matter. . .) Papafred told me about this movie long ago, when we were roomies in college, but I'd never gotten around to watching it.

So yes, six people, in a gigantic cube, made up of smaller cubes, trying to find their way out before dehydration or the personality clashes kill them. Or all the traps, since several of the cubes are booby-trapped.

The CGI for the traps is as bad as you'd expect for a movie from the late '90s. My favorite shots in the film are the ones that just show one side of a cube, with nothing in the frame to establish a point of reference. You can't tell if you're looking at a wall, ceiling, or floor, which really plays up the sense of it being a maze, the disorientation of trying to find their way out.

I also like the uncertainty about who is behind this thing, and what the point of it is. The movie doesn't come to any definitive answer, although I think it leans to the last theory put forward, that the thing is keep operational on sheer inertia, because someone approved wasting all this money, so they have to do something with it. I know there was a sequel, and possibly a prequel that came out later that may have explained things further, but I don't have any burning need to watch those.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What I Bought 11/13/2018 - Part 2

I am enjoying taking a little time off from work for the holidays, even if I've mostly been using that time to run errands I put off for several weeks. Today we have the first issue of a mini-series tying into an event I'm otherwise ignoring, and another mini-series reaches its midpoint.

Spider-Girls #3, by Jody Houser (writer), Andres Genolet (penciler/inker), Triona Farrell (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I wish there was some kind of background, but it's nice drawing anyway.

This ties into Spider-Geddon, which I otherwise don't give a crap about. If it killed off Octavius for a few years, I might care, but we know that isn't happening. Mayday and Anya are looking for something to turn the tide against Morlun and his family (still disappointed he's the JMS villain that hung around, but whatever). This leads them to the Renew Your Vows universe, where Pete and MJ fight crime together with their daughter Annie. Who has been having visions of some threat lately. Pete and Mary Jane opt to go help in the larger fight, while the Spider-Girls stay and try to figure out what Annie's visions are trying to tell her.

I keep wanting to type "April" instead of "Annie", but April was that combo clone/symbiote DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema introduced late in Amazing Spider-Girl.

Apparently Mayday is "Spider-Woman" now, going by what Anya said. She seems much more serious. Understandable under the circumstances (her baby brother has powers and he'll get killed too if they don't stop this), but Grim n' Gritty Spider-Girl isn't my jam. I was curious to see Mayday interact with a version of her parents who are together, since her dad was killed in the last of these big Spider-Event things, but we only get that briefly. It's interesting though, because in this reality, Annie is their second daughter, the first would have been May, but she died during birth, like she did at the end of the Clone Saga back in the '90s. Annie and May get a chance to meet a sister they maybe could have had, if things worked out a little different. Given that, I'm curious to see what role Anya winds up with in this trio.

I like Genolet's artwork. At different times it reminds me of either Stuart Immonen's or a little of Colleen Coover's, neither of those are a bad thing. It's expressive, the brief action scenes are well-drawn, and she lets the mask be expressive. I'm always in favor of letting the eyes squint and change shape, regardless of how improbable it may be. I like that Peter starts walking up a wall and onto the ceiling as he's thinking out loud. No reason his version of pacing would be confined to the floor. Triona Farrell's colors are what I'd describe as soft and light. They aren't extremely bright, and they don't weigh things down with a lot gloom or heavy shadows. But this is a mellow chapter, nothing has started going wrong yet. We'll see if the colors get heavier or more intense as the action ramps up.

Coda #6, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist), Michael Doig (color assists), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Man, I remember playing "Keep the screaming head away from everyone" back in college. Good times.

The angry fellow from the end of last issue tries to kill Hum, but is killed by Notch, the bandit lady who is also the daughter of that crazy wizard. She doesn't know if that's really a Whitlord controlling their city, either. But she won't rat Hum out, yet. Which is good, as Hum's got his hands full trying to keep Serka from charging up to attack right off. That they're sent out to find more sources of magic with a guy who admits to joyfully killing the innocent doesn't help. He ends up dead, but his steed is a pretty great source of magic. And that reveals to Serka a path to the Whitlord, and Hum a path to the akker he needs.

What I'll be curious to see is, when Serka goes to kill the Whitlord, will Hum be willing to abandon the shot at the akker, to watch her back? The spell to lift this blood curse she has won't do much good if she's dead because it really is a Whitlord. Will she even want him along? She's seen through his plans to try and distract her from her goal, will she doubt whether she can trust him? Or will she want him to have their steeds ready so they can get the hell out of Dodge once she's done? Assuming it is a Whitlord, of course.

Really like the effect for the death stare or whatever it is the cockatrice has. The eyes look like a roulette wheel, and then a mixture of purple and white around them, with the white sparking out in jagged lightning bolts. Very cool. The whole nighttime raid is colored very well, but it's mostly this sickly dark green for all the backgrounds, and then everyone is done up in dull colors. Until you get to the death stare, or the living firebombs, or blood as Serka beheads someone. All of that gets to pop that much more in contrast to the surroundings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

It's a Wonderful World

Not to be confused with that damn Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie, although this does star Jimmy Stewart. But here he's a private eye on the run from the cops while he tries to prove the innocence of a client before said client gets the chair. While on the lam, Stewart encounters a poetess played by Claudette Colbert, who decides, after some debate, to help him out. Stewart's not thrilled with that, but he ought to be since she's a lot smarter than he is.

Then again, he admits early in the film that the year before he had this private eye gig, he was going door-to-door selling electric belts, so it isn't as though he was an ace gumshoe.

So it's a romantic comedy, and while I can take or leave the romance aspect, it is pretty funny. Stewart tries to pretend to be a near-sighted Boy Scout Troop leader at one point, later he has to pretend to be an actor from Alabama. So if you ever wanted to hear Jimmy Stewart put on a fake Deep South drawl, here's your chance. The two cops in charge of pursuing him are a couple of chowder-heads, and get some pretty good lines to emphasize it.

I would say the search for the identity of the true murderer almost gets lost in the shuffle. Most of the movie is spent on Stewart and Colbert trying to get to where they need to be, while alternating between arguing, flirting, and trying to ditch each other, so the actual purpose of the journey is an afterthought. The fact that a man's life relies on them solving this absolutely gets lost. Although the movie uses that to good dramatic effect when Stewart reveals why he's trying so hard to solve this.

It kind of wastes the impact because it doesn't leave you hanging on whether the reason has caused Colbert to give up on him for more than a minute, but in that minute, it works very well.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What I Bought 11/13/2018 - Part 1

Something I learned last Friday is, if you go out running when it's still dark, it's very difficult to see ice. It was actually funny, because I had hit some snow and was just thinking, "Boy, I hope there's no ice," and my foot landed and immediately started sliding. At which point it's like, "Well, shit." I'm fine, minus some cuts and bruises. Was even able to keep running for another hour. It was about 30 degrees so my legs were too cold to feel pain until I got home and warmed up.

Let's get to these books from last month! We're going to start with two mini-series that are wrapping up. One has been a confusing disappointment, the other is 5 months late.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #6, by Adam Warren (writer), Carla Speed McNeil (artist and letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist) - The combination of murder weapons taken from Clue with all the mundane items makes for one heck of a party.

It's Spooky and Emp against Queen Bee Ashley and her henchlady Ashlee, both ramped up on most of the magic Spooky also draws from. Except it's quickly just Ashlee after she stabs the Queen Bee in the back, taking the power for herself. Emp is left trying to protect Spooky until Spooky can get herself together, at which point she figures out a truth about Ashlee. Confronting Ashlee with that causes her self-destruction, the ladies leave Hell, Spooky now more powerful than ever since there's no one left to split the power with.

That was an interesting reveal about Ashlee. Makes sense, considering Spooky was offered the same deal. Wonder how many of the other girls were in the same boat. The series probably could have stood to be an issue shorter and gotten to the same point. You can definitely do something with the gauntlet concept, but it's neutralized, by the fact the Infernal Service Provider was healing them up after each fight. At that point, it's more a matter of whether Spooky can handle revisiting the site of so much old emotional trauma. Except the story established fairly quickly that what she went through in school wasn't her weak point, it was her feelings of failure and loss over the death of her girlfriend. All her old tormentors were still stuck on the same old bullshit, while Spooky had moved on to newer and more awful traumas! Which she has apparently learned to manage. Whether she's been doing so in a safe manner is another matter I'm not qualified to assess.

Carla Speed McNeil and Jenn Manley Lee's artwork is and has been the selling point for the series. How Ashlee, once she's the last one standing, is drawn with increasingly heavy linework, making her look more jagged, meaner, uglier, as she just unleashes everything she kept under wraps for years playing second fiddle to Ashley on Spooky and Emp. Spooky for the choice she made when she took the deal, and Emp for the fact she won't lash out against Spooky for all the abuse that was dumped on her, the way Spooky took out her high school grudges on Emp. Or the bit at the end when Spooky's hand is reaching up from one panel towards the Infernal Service Provider in the panel above. Then in the next panel, she's crushing him and I think the panel he was in. Or maybe it's the weird "fake school" space that he'd dumped them in.

Multiple Man #5, by Matthew Rosenberg (writer), Andy MacDonald (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - If you can tell us how many multiple men make up Jamie Madrox, you can win an all-expenses paid trip to Albuquerque, where anyone on the street will shave your back for a nickel, and the Shriners play their kazoos all day! Note: there is no prize. Don't do the math then contact me looking for your trip.

OK, I dunno what's happening. The thing Bishop gave Jamie a few issues ago is actually a bomb, which Bishop uses to blow up as many of the time-traveling Jamies as he can. Somehow one version of the bomb looks like it blew up a city block, and yet another version of it failed to blow up General Madrox who was standing three fucking feet away from it. One version of Jamie and his mutated dupes return to the present, where Hank has finished the serum so a duplicate can be Jamie Prime, which general Madrox takes. Fighting and merging ensues, things get worse, Hulk Madrox kills the combined Jamies Prime, all Madroxes die. Except the one who wound up on Swimsuit Issue Earth, who returns from years of being a bartender, borrows what's left of the serum, and goes to find Layla and her son.

So, all that confusing mess to get us basically the Jamie we had before Inhumans vs. X-Men killed him. This Jamie is a little goofy, kind of mellow, has the "M" tattoo over his eye, the serum will let him create duplicates, and he's going to live with Layla and their kid. He's Jamie Madrox, full-stop. What I don't understand is, if all the duplicates died when Hulk Madrox killed the Jamie Prime, how did the duplicate in the bunker survive for as long as he did after the Terrigen Mists killed his Jamie Prime? How did the Madrox at the end of this series survive with his Jamie Prime (whichever one it was) dying somewhere in the midst of all this nonsense? Shouldn't he have just keeled over during his shift at the bar?

I find it strange a bunch of X-Men couldn't beat an army of Madrox armed only with swords. Or big knives. What MacDonald drew varied from one panel to the next. Not sure if that was intentional or not. It didn't seem like the duplicates were particularly skilled fighters, and considering this mini-series takes the approach that seemingly none of the X-Men like Jamie, you'd think they'd just stomp hell out of him.

I'm fine having Jamie back, let he and Layla go off into the sunset. Inhumans vs. X-Men was dumb as all hell, undo anything you want from it (yes, you can even bring Cyclops back). This is too convoluted of a way to do it, not nearly as clever or funny as it thinks it is. I do chuckle at Hulk Madrox simply saying "roar" when he is supposed to be getting angry, but most of the story misses the mark with me. I probably would have smiled at 'So I've become the proverbial Grinch. I've come to take your present,' if I hadn't been so bored by General Madrox' bullshit speech by the time her got to that.

It didn't dawn on me until the weekend that the last panel, which I have included above, is a Fall of the Mutants homage/riff with all the corpses on the ground. On the plus side, if the mutants have already fallen, then there's no harm Madrox can do. Everything is gonna be OK?

It has not been a good year for me and mini-series from Marvel. Come back Wednesday when one of the books I review will be the first issue of another mini-series from Marvel! Sooner or later I've got to land on one I enjoy, right?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Splash Page #41

"She's got that METAL FEVER, baby" in Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #3, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer)

Skipping over volume 4, which didn't have any full-page splashes I particularly like, to Volume 5. Where Robo teams up with a mysterious masked vigilante in the 1930s to investigate a series of bizarre thefts. There's a theme running across multiple characters of fathers and their children and how they interact, how the kids struggle to get the parents to trust them, understand them, take them seriously, and how the parents struggle to express their feelings.

Look, we're talking about men in the 1930s here. It's a miracle they didn't spontaneously combust at the mere thought of feelings. In fact, enough talk about feelings, let's talk about the fact this story involves a Tesla versus Edison bizarre energies battle for the fate of New York, and possibly the world.

It is also, as the picture above suggests, Robo's first romance, although it kind of falls apart when Helen realizes Robo's actual, physical age.

It's a funny story, watching Robo be a total nerd who thinks the masked man Jack Tarot should behave like the pulp heroes Robo enjoys reading about, and watching Jack be utterly frustrated from having to deal with all this bizarre crap when he just wants to shoot some gangsters and crooked politicians, dang it. Watching Robo and Tesla sass each other is funny, and Edison has a robot goon, basically, who steals Tarot's hat at one point, then wears it at a jaunty angle the rest of the way. Which is a visual I really enjoy, just for the silliness of it.

Still waiting for Ghost Edison to do something, though.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Long Weekend in the Woods - Chapter 6


The trip to what used to be the sullen girl's village wasn't a fun one. She walked just a pace or two behind me, out of reach if I tried taking a swing at her, but close enough it would be hard to escape. Even more so since she had all the gear I'd brought. She stayed silent, ignoring my attempts to get any information about what was going on here. She'd hum occasionally, to get my attention when I was started to go the wrong way. I'd mention that it didn't make sense for me to lead since I didn't know where we were going, but she wasn't impressed.

What was most irritating, though, was her cloak. Somehow she drifted through without getting it caught on anything. She had my cape stuffed in that satchel along with the rest of my possessions, but I recalled how I could not walk ten feet without getting hung up on something. She didn't even seem to be making any effort to avoid limbs and thorns. Curious.

I'd given up trying to get answers and was starting to wonder if all this was a trick to get me to walk quietly to a place she would execute me, when we reached the clearing. Really, it was less a clearing and more a moonscape. We stopped and looked out over it. Other than the insects buzzing around us (at least she wasn't immune to that nuisance), and a few birds soaring above, things seemed quiet.

"No clever panda, and no Calvin."

I considered suggesting we could try waiting more than 10 seconds before making that determination, but I wasn't going to grovel. As she made eye contact, I remembered that groveling could also be called negotiating, and unless I came up with a better plan, pride might be a luxury I couldn't afford. Unfortunately, I seemed short on better plans, other than simply fighting her. And the bruises on my face made me question if that was any sort of idea at all.

"Cassanee! Pollock!" Oh thank goodness. I've never been so happy to hear that musical, cheery voice. We turned to see the panda emerge from the woods to our left, one raccoon on their back, another one on the back of another bear that followed a moment later. As they drew closer, I could tell the panda got a look at my face because there was a note of concern in the next question.

"What's going on? We've been looking for you, Cassanee."

"Did you bring her with you?"

"She kind of showed up as we were leaving." Those dark eyes fell on me again. "What did you do to make her angry Pollock?"

"Why assume I did anything? Maybe she's a violent sociopath?"

"I didn't have any reason to trust you. Still don't."

"Because you won't tell me what's going on so I can explain I'm not responsible!" Why are people so dense sometimes?

"Cassanee, what is happening? I know there are some. . things running around causing trouble. They run in packs, tear things up, wear armor, but that's about it." The panda had better luck than I did, because she actually answered.

"They showed up in late winter. We'd hear things deeper in the forest, but could never find the source. Then they charged out of the woods, tore through our homes, the fields, uprooted trees. They were looking for the crystals, the ones Guyamo used. It was so fast we had to run at first. Once we regrouped, we could never catch them, except for one here or there." She reached into the satchel and pulled out an oblong object, which she tossed to the furball. I leaned over to get a look.

It was a helmet, definitely made of the ceramic armor. Inside it was a head, severed clean at the neck. It had some big incisors and an upturned nose, fine dark hairs all over its face. The panda looked at it, sniffed it, and turned it over in their hands, only to stop and stare at the back of the helmet.

"Pollock." The back of the helmet said "ExpanCo" on the back. Curses. "Care to explain?"

I could sense the sullen girl tensing behind me, and I could almost picture her getting ready to pull out my spine or turn me into food for the winter. I tried for a bored air, like it was all so obvious. "You'll recall I mentioned earlier my company was working on a ceramic armor."

"You said you never perfected it."

"Not to my tastes, but that doesn't mean someone else couldn't have sold it, either on the sly or more openly. I wasn't running things when it was called ExpanCo, remember?"

"Oh right, when you were hanging around Calvin a lot being mopey and whiny."

"That is, one way to describe it, yes," I said through gritted teeth. "I have no idea what contracts they may have signed to produce anything, or what else they got up to. They isolated me on meaningless projects involving adding clocks to existing items that did not need clocks. The records were shredded by someone as they went out the door as I retook control." 

Just then, I recalled something Captain Androzier had said in passing when Deadpool showed up. I hadn't thought much of it then, but wished now I had thought to press the issue. It might have saved me from walking my head into a potential noose.

The other bear and the raccoons looked skeptical, and I knew the sullen girl was ready to pounce any second, but I kept my gaze on my old foe, the only one who might believe me. And, remarkably, after a minute of searching my face, they sighed and nodded.

"I shouldn't buy this, but you're a terrible liar."

The girl was outraged. "How many times has she tried to kill you already?"

"I know, but I can't see how she would have found out about this place or the crystals. Calvin and I never mentioned them, and you haven't said anything about them to her, either. If she was responsible, why risk coming here with people that wouldn't trust her and no backup? If the creatures are hers, why aren't they here, or some of her useless security guys?"

"I don't mind taking responsibility for the things I did, but I won't accept blame for things I wasn't responsible for. Don't believe me if you want, but I intend to find these things, stop them, and then perhaps I'll accept your apology."

That might have been pushing it, because she looked ready to strike, but the peacemaker stepped in again. "I want to find Calvin first. If he got here before all of us, he might have found something."

The other bear spoke up, ear cocked towards the opposite ridge. "Something's coming this way. A lot of somethings."


I followed at a safe distance from just inside the treeline. My (hopefully) unknowing guide would turn back occasionally, but didn't show any sign of noticing me. It kept up a steady pace, except it would stop occasionally to sniff at the ground. It might scrape a bit of earth aside with one hand, then rise and keep moving in the same direction. South, I think.

Finally, though, it found something on one of these stops and began to dig in earnest. When it stopped, it came up with a piece of that crystal the size of a football. To my surprise, it immediately threw it to the ground, shattering it. Even at a distance, I felt a little of that familiar wave of dread and worry I remembered from Guyamo. But then it fell to the ground and rolled in the pieces. When it came back up, several shards were embedded in its armor, both the chest piece and the bits covering the upper legs.

It would be really nice if they just wanted the crystals for decoration, but it picked up the remaining shards and threw them in a pack it was carrying. It sniffed the ground some more, then they looked around expectantly, which made me glance over my shoulder. I was sure I'd see an army of them behind him, but my luck hadn't turned. Yet. The fellow gave a disappointed grunt and after making a slash in the nearest tree, started deeper into the woods. They'd stop from time to time and leave another gouge in a tree, made with one massive incisor and a casual flick of the head. Lot of power in the neck and shoulders on this one.

As we continued on, me maintaining as safe a distance as I could manage, I started to hear noises ahead. There was a small natural clearing, not one caused by them, although they'd made themselves at home. No buildings, but a lot of small foxholes lines with leaves and grass. Several of them held one, sometimes two, of the creatures snoozing peacefully. There were maybe 20 there at the moment. All between 5 to 6 feet tall, broad in the shoulders, narrowing sharply as you looked south. All of them wore the same armor, and all of them had pieces of the crystals embedded in it.

In the center of the clearing was a pile of crystals maybe three feet high. It was large, but not as big as I'd expect for how much ground they'd trashed. There's not telling how much what was in their armor would add up to, though. Or maybe the crystal was rarer than I thought. Fingers crossed. My guide approached the pile and added what was in the pack. They conversed with a couple of others nearby. It sounded like grunts and snorts to me, but went on for a minute or two. The one I followed gestured in the direction we'd come from, so I guess he or she was announcing their find.

I heard a shuffling sound behind me and turned to see another one. Just one thankfully. They looked surprised, and I remembered what Rafe and Jerry said about how they scatter if you catch them off-guard. As long as the alarm wasn't raised in the process I might be OK.

Then one stepped out to the right from behind it. Another stepped out to the left. Another, then another. It didn't seem like they planned to retreat, so I decided I would. That line about not knowing how many people it would take to whup my ass, but knowing how many they would use flickered across my mind. It really is a handy piece of information.

Another handy thing to have? A gas gun. I fired a canister as they started to advance. They were enveloped in seconds, as I sprinted around and past them, back the way I came. I hoped to make a clean getaway, but someone must have taken a breath before I fired because a loud squeal from the cloud behind me. Several more in response from further behind me, the clearing. I sped up, loading another canister, really wishing for knockout gas about now. The branches whipped my face as I jumped onto and then over downed trees in my path. The last thing I needed was to step on a rattlesnake.

One of my landings was less than perfect, and as I stumbled I glanced back. There were several in pursuit. Not all the ones from the clearing, but enough I wasn't stopping. One in particular was more sure-footed than the others, in the lead and closing fast. As they gained ground, I noticed the crystals in the thigh guards starting to glow. There was a sudden, massive increase in speed as they barreled towards me. I was able to turn my stumble into a forward roll to my left. Hit my shoulder on a rock, but I didn't get run over.

The oak he slammed into wasn't so lucky. The trunk basically exploded and the tree fell, not on me fortunately. Not on them either, unfortunately. I did see the impact shattered the helmet and he slumped to the ground. Dead? Unconscious? No time. I fired the next canister at the rest that were closing in rapidly and got moving. I spotted one of the gouges my guide had made, then another. Keep moving. My foot was killing me. Stupid Deadpool. Keep moving.

The trees ended up ahead. There's the dig spot to my left. I reached the clearing and. . . now what? I'm in the open. I kept moving, crashing through or around brush, jumping over trenches and holes. There's what's left of the village. Hide? I heard my pursuers come bursting out of the woods behind me. Too late to hide. Run or fight? Barricade in the rec center? Down one slope, up the other towards Guyamo's old home. I spared another look back. They were nimble, clearing obstacles with easy bounds, but the uneven ground seemed to cause more problems. Weak ankles, maybe.Well, they had no one to blame but themselves.

I reached the doors and turned. Might make a decent choke point, if they didn't just plow through the walls. Or through me. I grabbed the wrench from the bag, not eager for this. They slowed and fanned out. Whether they planned a cautious advance or a full charge, I don't know, because what they got was a black-and-white missile barreling into the whole line of them. An orange swirl of wind moved through them from the other end, shattering armor with one strike, then moving to the next.

A few turned to retreat, only to meet a dark, looming shadow with a bandana. The shadow swung a club into the head of one of them, as a smaller figure leapt from its back, hissing curses and fired a metal stake at another. That one blocked the stakes with its arm guards, but that left the torso exposed to the shadow's mace.

I'd always heard bear mace was no joke.

Meanwhile, Jerry's leap had landed it on the third creature's head, where he was either shooting it or clawing the hell out of it. Either way, it ran about in a panic until Rafe's club silenced it. The four of them surrounded the last two, and those shards began to glow. Knowing what that could mean, I shouted, "Use the grenades!"

We've been at this long enough the fur boulder (furball no longer seeming size appropriate), trusts my judgment, even when they shouldn't. The grenade flew in between them, and when it went off, they both spasmed violently and the glow vanished. It wasn't difficult to subdue them after that.

Things having calmed down, I tried to catch my breath, putting my hands on my knees and hoping I didn't hurl. Pollock sidled over, a different raccoon perched on her shoulder. "Are you well?"

"Ran too far, too fast, I guess. Thanks for all the help," I added sarcastically. I will be sarcastic right up to my death, and that'll probably having something to do with it.

"Oh, but I thought you enjoyed hiking in the woods? And I was not trusted to help." At my raised eyebrow, Pollock elaborated on what I had missed. She spent a lot of time on how badly Cass had treated her, and how she feared she would be killed and eaten.

I let her get it out of her system, since it gave me more time to catch my breath. "Well, there's a bunch more still over there, so I'm not sure we can be picky about who helps."

"That's what I told her!"

"Are you still complaining?" CAP and the others walked over, dragging their two prisoners with them. Well, the others walked. My panda friend rushed up and gave me a Hug, which raised my spirits a bit. "How did you know the grenade would work?"

I described nearly being run over. "They draw power from the crystals. The grenade disrupted those Darkles that were made of the same energy, I figured it might work here, too." I saw Pollock's confusion. "Darkles were the faceless chainsaw guys."

"That's an awful name."

I pointed to Cass. "She told us, direct your complaints there." Pollock eyed Cass, but said nothing. I told them about the rest of what I'd seen, the pile of crystals in the clearing.

"They only saw you, so they don't know there's a group of us. We should go find them. Strike before they know what hits them."

"How many of those grenades you got?"

"Five." I inhaled sharply. Get them all in one place, it might work, but if they were scattered. . .

"Perhaps you shouldn't have suggested using one to deal with just two of the creatures."

"Oh, excuse me. I wasn't sure how strong they'd get, and I wanted us to avoid injuries."

Cass spoke up. "We should see what's there, then we can decide."

Jerry cut in. "Yeah, count us out. Claire, you want to come back with us?"

"Jerry, be serious!"

"I am!"

As usual, CAP tried to keep things calm. "We do need someone to watch these two."

I sighed. "I'll mention they're still looking for crystals. Any place they get a whiff of them, they tear apart. They might stop before they reach your turf, but you've already fought them, I wouldn't bet on it. My pal," I patted CAP's shoulder, "is a hell of a problem-solver. Your odds are better if we work together. Your call, though." I turned to the panda. "You want to roll?"

"Yeah!" Thumbs up.

"You in Pollock?"

She's surprised, didn't even bother to hide it. "You're extending the offer?"

I shrugged. "You tagged yourself in. You can tag out if you want."

"But you might notice something we don't, so you'd be a help." Being the diplomat is boring, so CAP and I take turns.

Pollock was silent for a moment. "I want my possessions back." She didn't even look at Cass, just held her hand out expectantly. Given the look Cass gave it, I expected her to pull the arm off at the elbow. Instead the reached into a bag, and removed a few items. She held them towards Pollock, then dropped them on the ground.

"Very mature."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Threat

A late 1940s movie about a hardened criminal (Charles McGraw) who escapes from prison, and before he flees the country, wants to take revenge on the District Attorney and the cop who caught him, as well as figure out who set him up.

McGraw isn't just the main piece here, he's almost the only piece. Everyone else is cowed or intimidated by him, pushed around with little resistance. He doesn't play Red Kluger as being crazy or anything, just coldly determined and indifferent enough to everyone else's fate you can believe he would kill any of them, including the men in his own gang, with no hesitation.

There's a bit where one of his goons complains his watch has stopped, and asks what time it is so he can re-set it. Red asks to see it, then smashes it, telling him, 'Now you don't need know what time it is.' There's nothing that says he got any enjoyment out of it. He's sending the guy a message to stop griping about how long they've been there.

The film plays with the tension of Red not knowing who set him up. He suspects a singer and brings her along, while she protests innocence and tries to pin the blame on Red's partner, who got away clean to Mexico with the money. That partner is supposed to be flying in to pick them up, but the wait drags on, and tempers fray, and you start to wonder if he's going to show up or not. And what Red will do if he doesn't, since there's nothing he can do to the guy if he stays south of the border.

It's barely over an hour long, and that's with some padding about the cop's wife realizing he's been abducted because of a conversation they had about baby names. It doesn't result in anything, since the situation is settled before the cops get their act together, but it doesn't detract from the main story too much.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What I Bought 11/9/2018

Those comics I ordered finally showed up yesterday. They were supposedly in town Monday of last week, then somehow appeared in St. Louis on Sunday, and gradually made their way back here. We'll get to them eventually, next week, but here's two books from last week.

Harley Quinn #53, by Sam Humphries (writer), Lucas Werneck (artist), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer) - Harley's not lined up with the arrow on the dial, so does she get whichever disaster the arrow points at, or the one she lands on herself? Either way, please no ear spider.

Harley is now filming dumb videos of herself to post online to make money to pay for all the damage she caused the city. This is taking a toll, since she has to be "wacky" Harley all the time to get the views that bring in the bucks. Minor Disaster is the daughter of Major Disaster, and frustrated she hasn't been able to make a cool disaster dial like her dad, opts to use what she's got to make all of Harley's videos go awry. You know, rather than deal with her overwhelming desire for her father's approval.

This is not how I envisioned this playing out. I expected it to be more comic, but it plays tragic, since Harley is trying to make this cash to repair damage she created (and presumably to avoid legal action and jail time). I guess I expected Minor Disaster to enjoy wreaking minor havoc, instead of being a frustrated, wannabe major super-criminal. More like the Prankster, or Mxy on his more playful days. It might play out in an interesting way (I figure Harley is going to try helping her tormentor through her issues at some point), but I'm not sure I care enough to stick around for that.

It's the same thing with the art, where I was expecting something more manic, maybe closer to Skottie Young, which is not Werneck's style at all. I think his works well for the quieter moments, where Harley is trying to do a video on her makeup, but keeps slipping into talking about the strain and exhaustion she's feeling, or when Minor Disaster is doubting herself. But during the scenes when Harley's trying to do her weirder videos, it could stand to be a little looser. Let the characters' expressions go more over the top. If you figure Harley is trying to play to the camera, give the people what they clamor for, she'd have to go that route. As it is, the Harley we see during the library stunt, or the aborted motorcycle jump doesn't seem all that different from how Harley typically is.

Giant Days #44, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Dang it Esther, the landlord said no nailing stuff on the walls! You're gonna lose the security deposit!

It is Valentine's time. Daisy is angry about, Esther is determined to somehow get a real relationship, and Susan is set on proving she can be romantic. Esther meets some dashing, wealthy inventor guy at an engineering talk she attends with McGraw, but breaks up with him for a bizarre reason, even by Esther's standards. Daisy has problems with an inconsiderate student on her floor, and Susan's attempts to be romantic don't exactly pan out (although charcoal is a good gift for McGraw), but that's OK.

I expected Esther's romance to last longer than half an issue. Granted, that was because I expected it to cause a lot of trouble for her and her friends, but it's interesting to watch her odd progression towards, whatever it is she's becoming. The interest in the sciences was a surprise. Susan not catching flack from McGraw for remaining mostly herself was nice. I'm still worried Esther is going to end up dating that Saffy girl, who appeared again this issue as one of the unhappy students on their floor. I keep expecting Emelia to show up again. She and Esther should still be in classes together.

Sarin has to draw a lot of characters with hearts in their eyes this month, and one girl on the first page who is sighing hearts. Seems like that might be a medical condition worth getting checked out. The panel where a heart smacks McGraw in the face made me laugh. I also love the variety of hairstyles people get, speaking as someone who still hasn't figured out drawing hair consistently. Although that one kid on Esther's floor has hair shaped like an onion.