Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Call Northside 777

Two men, Frank Wiecek and Sam Faxon, are sentenced to 99 years in jail for killing a cop during Prohibition. 11 years later, a personal ad appears in the paper, offering $5,000 to anyone with information about the killing.

Jimmy Stewart plays a reporter assigned to investigate the personal ad, and finds that the story makes for some good columns. The longer things go, the more he becomes convinced Wiecek is actually innocent, and then he's beyond simply writing stories about people who also believe that, and into pursuing leads to prove it.

One interesting thing to me is that the warden of the prison seems fully on Wiecek's side, at least to the point he agrees to let Stewart interview the man, agrees to let them give Wiecek a lie detector test if Wiecek agrees*.

This puts the warden in sharp contrast to most all other authority figures in the justice business. The police become actively hostile towards the reporter, going so far as to pull relevant records from the files to try and prevent Stewart from seeing them, even though he has every right to see them. The Police Commissioner, Attorney General, and even the Governor's office bring pressure on the newspaper, because they claim this is slandering 'the finest police force in the country', and that even if there was a mistake, that was under a different political regime**. They're more concerned with not looking bad for being wrong, than looking bad for putting an innocent man in prison for a decade and counting.

Not so different from today, then.

So another movie about the value of the press, and how the American justice system isn't so bad, since it will occasionally, under great duress, admit its mistakes. There's a two sentence voiceover narration at the very end which is unnecessary and too preachy for a movie that already treads close to that territory. Should have just left it out and let Wiecek's dialogue be the last word.

One other thing that bothers me is Faxon also protests his innocence the few times we get to see him, but no one goes to bat for him. Not even Wiecek. I don't know if we're meant to assume he is guilty - although the warden says all the other convicts are convinced Wiecek and Faxon are truly innocent - or just ignore the fact his justice gets lost in the shuffle.

* There's a brief scene the night after Wiecek agrees where his cellmate tells him this is a terrible idea because that's what got him in there.

** They actually describe themselves as a regime twice, which I thought was reserved for dictatorships and military juntas.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Things Might Improve As Spring Arrives

The March solicitations look a little more promising than the previous two months, low bar to clear that is. It's most focused on smaller publishers, though, as I didn't see much of anything at Marvel or DC that was new I wanted to try.

There wasn't a new issue of Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage listed, so there goes my theory it was an every other month book. It turns out Amethyst is a 6-issue mini-series, which I'm pretty sure was not indicated in last month's solicits. I don't if they saw the orders and changed plans, or it was always a misleading solicit.

Marvel has a new Spider-Woman series on the way, but the new costume they gave Jessica Drew looks awful. Al Ewing appears to be creating a West Coast Avengers branch for the Guardians of the Galaxy, including Blackjack O'Hare, if that's a thing you're into. Gerardo Sandoval's taking over art chores on Deadpool for at least one issue (but probably longer than that). And Marvel's starting up Outlawed, yet another event mini-series where superheroes bicker over legislation. I know it isn't fair to prejudge Eve Ewing's efforts simply because Millar and Bendis wrote shitty, stupid, boring stories about that kind of stuff, but I'm just sick of this kind of nonsense.

But I think I will actually start buying Runaways with issue 31, and there's still Black Cat, so that's something.

Outside those two publishers, there's the start of the 7th part of Infinity 8, issue 2 of Canopus (if I like the first issue), and issue #7 of Sera and the Royal Stars. The biggest new thing is John Allison and Max Sarin are collaborating on a new series called Wicked Things, about Charlotte Grote (who described herself in Giant Days as 'Esther concentrated') solving mysteries. Look, the book could be about most anything, even Cyclops and Jean Grey, and I'd buy it because Allison and Sarin were the creative team.

There's also a series called Red Range Beneath Falling Sky, by Keith Lansdale and Jok (who I assume is different from Jock, who I remember doing a lot of covers for DC at some point). Looks like gunslingers in a prehistoric world beneath the Earth's surface kind of thing. Which might work, or it might not, but I can spare the money to try the first issue and find out.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #94

"Fleas on a Leviathan's Back" in Bonnie Lass #3, by Michael Mayne (writer/artist), Tyler Fluharty (writer)

A four-issue mini series about a very small crew of pirates getting tangled up in the search for an ancient bio-weapon. Which also puts them afoul of a mysterious organization after the same thing.

It's a cartoonish tone as Bonnie (who is the captain of her crew) is extremely reckless and cocky and prone to rushing headfirst into all kinds of problems without seeming to give it much thought. Her father was after this same thing once, and as she considers him a no-good bum of a pirate father, she's determined to find it and show him up. Spite is an excellent motivator.

Mayne's art fits the story, as it's loose and expressive. He can simplify it for effect when he needs to, draw a fight scene, get more detailed when the situation allows. Sometimes the coloring looks a little flat or muddied, but not to the degree it's distracting, and it might just be a result of the printing.

I get the feeling Mayne and Fluharty set the technological level of the world by what they need to keep the story going. So Bonnie's crew has a sailing craft, but they also have GPS. Which is fine. Everybody in-story treats this as perfectly normal, which is how it should be if you want the reader to go along with it. But I always end up thinking about it later.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Random Back Issues #14 - Uncanny X-Men #228

Tune in next week, when we see a tale from Logan's past involving Sinatra trying to teach him to croon. Or vice versa. Could go either way with Wolverine these days.

This was the first issue after the X-Men's "death" in Dallas fighting that Trickster god. No, not Loki. It's set as a letter mailed sometime earlier from Dazzler to a bounty hunter friend of hers, O.Z. Chase. I only found out today that O.Z. and his dog Cerberus were supporting characters in Dazzler's ongoing because of Googum's post on the last issue of Dazzler's series. I assumed that was the case - Claremont never shies away from using character's preexisting supporting cast - but he's also not immune from just creating characters and saying they're old friends.

For some reason, the letter is all about a time recently when Dazzler and Wolverine helped O.Z. out, as he'd been accused of murder. He was there for almost all of it, so Dazzler describing so much of it doesn't really make sense, but oh well. Dazzler tried to handle it solo, because she was sick of Wolverine telling her nothing she was doing was good enough, only for Logan to beat her to Florida anyway.

O.Z. was hired to bring in a drug lord that skipped bail, but the guy has zappy hand powers and nearly killed the bounty hunter. Logan's pretty sure the guy is an ex-KGB agent named Zaitsev he fought in the past (I was thinking he was from a story arc in Marvel Comics Presents around issue #124, but that was an East German named Hans).

To make a bad situation worse, Henry Peter Gyrich shows up, saying Zaitsev was supposed to give them info about the Soviet mutant program, but double-crossed them. he suggests it might help the X-Men reputation if Logan helps. Since I'm sure the true story would never see the papers, I'm not sure I buy that (plus only an idiot would trust Gyrich).
Dazzler, Wolverine, and O.Z. go hunting through the swamps, and find Zaitsev fending off Russians trying to silence the traitor. Zaitsev's good enough to hold his own against Logan, but leaves himself wide open while trying to kill Dazzler, and Logan cuts him open. The Russian still flees farther into the swamp, while yelling for Gyrich that he wants the two X-Men and the bounty hunter dead in exchange for his cooperation. Dude, he already gave you a bunch of cash, which you wasted trying to be a drug lord.

It doesn't matter, because O.Z.'s large dog, Cerberus ain't having any of this "gettin' away" or "making deals" shit, and kills Zaitsev. Gyrich's pretty pissed about that, which you have to consider a win. It turns out O.Z. has been reading this in a booth in a bar, where one of the other patrons says how glad he is the X-Men are dead. Unfortunately for him, this is a bar which allows to bring shotguns and large, angry dogs inside while they get drunk, so he has to eat his words.
Next issue would be the official start of Australian era, which I'm fond of, at least the first year and a half or so.

[12th longbox, 40th comic. Uncanny X-Men #228, by Chris Claremont (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Bill Wray (colorist), Tom Orzechowski]

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Cash on Demand

Now hold on, this is holiday appropriate! The Noir Alley guy on Turner Classic assured me that this is a modified take on A Christmas Carol. Honestly, it feels a bit more like It's a Wonderful Life to me, in that a single entity tries to show a man what's of value in his life, but whatever.

Peter Cushing plays Mr. Fordyce, who is the branch manager of a bank. He's a cold, precise man who is only concerned with the prestige of the bank, and is otherwise rude and harsh towards his employees. Andre Morell plays Colonel Gore Hepburn, who presents himself as a representative of the insurance company that insures the bank, there to check on security. Once alone with Fordyce, he reveals he's actually a bank robber, and his gang has taken Fordyce's wife and child hostage.

Because of the identity the "Colonel" has assumed, he can't simply grab the money and run. He has to give the appearance of doing a real inspection. So he whiles away the time appearing to inspect, talking with some of the employees, but mostly by poking at Fordyce. Implying that his wife and child don't really care for him, that he should take more of an interest in the lives of his employees. Morell plays it well, because he sounds chummy, but there's a mean edge to his grin. You never forget he has Fordyce's family in his hands, and that the bank manager had best behave and follow orders.

Cushing plays Fordyce as this sort of paper tiger. He's very stern when dealing with his employees. No mercy, no understanding or compassion. Placed in this situation though, he struggles not to fall apart. He can't remember the combination to the vault, he nearly panics when they see the man who cleans their windows once a month, he's hunched over his desk like he might pass out at any moment. I felt worse for his family watching the movie, but you do feel for him.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

What I Bought 12/20/2019 - Part 2

It's Christmas here in the U.S. Hopefully you're having a good Christmas, or you had a good one yesterday, or it's at least a not-terrible December 25th if the date holds no significance for you. Not-terrible days are always nice.

Gwenpool Strikes Back #5, by Leah Williams (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov and Guru-eFX (color artists), Joe Carmagna (letterer) - Agh, the real world is so boring and uninteresting! Who wants to hang out with trees, and regular old stone walls. Let her back in!

Gwen's determined to fight Kamala and win this battle royale she made up. Kamala doesn't want to fight, she wants to talk. Boooooo! No talking! Kamala won't accept Gwen's "I'm from a world where you're a comic book character" origin, and instead proposes that instead, Gwen is a mutant with reality manipulation powers. At least she didn't say she's an Inhuman, that would be a real kiss of death. But shouldn't Kamala just go ask Dr. Strange if what Gwen says is true? Gwen pretends to go along with this explanation, but leaves to prepare for her inevitable end.

But wait! Kamala's awful, awful retcon has apparently taken hold, and one of the portal things to Krakoa shows up, so Gwen's a mutant now! And she might get back together with Quentin Quire? Sheeeeeeit, that is a Patsy Walker-level bad relationship decision. Then she says good-bye to the audience because most likely, whatever Gwenpool shows up in her next appearance won't be anything like this.

Also, she acknowledges they never resolved that whole subplot from her ongoing about her brother having gotten lost in the Marvel Universe also. No shit.
I don't see how making Gwenpool a mutant really changes anything. She still has an unusual powerset some writers are probably either going to abuse, or hate because it's too abstract for them. She still believes she's from our world, but is going to pretend she doesn't. Not sure how that's going to work if she's living on an island with a crapload of telepaths. Especially given Hickman's X-Folks don't seem the most ethical to me. Really doubt Pod Person Chuck Xavier is big on respecting the privacy of the people living on the island.

But whatever. The character is still alive (for now), which means someone can come along later and theoretically do something interesting with her. Or they'll let whoever the current version of Mark Millar is (Matthew Rosenberg?) get ahold of her and she'll be given a bad death with no emotional heft that only serves to highlight how hollow and pointless the story it happens in is.

The issue sort of starts out light, Gwen trying to keep all the heroes she put in the VIP booth from getting too angry, and then shifted to sad real fast, since Kamala pretty much treats the whole thing like she's talking to someone with mental illness. Kind of a whiplash, there.

That part where Kamala is rewriting Gwen's origin is kind of wrenching. Great work Kamala, give her an origin where her powers made her so miserable she practically disassociates from reality to deal with them. Super cool. But watching Gwen try to block out the thought balloons it's conjuring up, the nightmares and ugliness, just makes me a little sad. Granting that Gwen didn't really like reality back in our world, it wasn't a nightmare. It just wasn't what she wanted. Putting this over the top of that, I don't know. I guess it fits with most Marvel heroes having tragic origins. Although Kamala and Squirrel Girl don't. Same with a few others. Not sure why Gwen has to go old-school. But the next writer can always ignore it if they want!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Caro - Bernard Packer

What could be a better Christmastime book than the story of a man plotting revenge against his friend who sold him out to the Nazis?

Jack Ritter's serving on a ship as a messboy because he thought he needed to figure out some things about life. Mostly he finds himself intrigued by the ship's carpenter, Henry Carr, who remains aloof from most of the crew. It's a good call, because Carr used to be Wolf Karol, a skilled Austrian surgeon whose best friend and his wife let Karol and his two sisters enter their home during the Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland, so they could call the goose-steppers.

Ritter got Carr to enjoy the night life in Puerto Acero, and while out on the town, sees his old friend, running a nightclub/brothel under an assumed name. So Carr/Karol decides it's time for revenge, and leaves the ship to set himself up as a benevolent local doctor. Because it isn't sufficient for him to merely kill his old friend, he wants to take from him what Karol lost.

Packer waits a long time before actually outlining that, so for most of the book, all we know is that Carr refuses to simply kill Brenner/Arnstedt, but not what he has in mind. Only that he's establishing himself as a pillar of the community, and that he really wants a mobile medical unit.  I have to admit, I thought Carr was an idiot for not just killing Brenner and being done with it, until he actually reveals what he has planned. The idea seemed worth holding off for.

Packer teases the idea of whether the revenge will actually happen through a variety of ways. Will Brenner figure out who Carr really is (he doesn't look like himself, due to an ugly or fortunate twist of fate, depending on your perspective)? Will someone else who hates Brenner act first? Will Carr decide he actually likes the life he's built, and it's better to just let the past go?

'"Cono!" Pino sputtered. "Mexico? A magnificent country. You imperialists are lucky you didn't conquer the entire land. Then you'd have to travel all the way to Guatemala to get your heroin and abortions. I spent two years in jail in Durango."'

Monday, December 23, 2019

What I Bought 12/20/2019 - Part 1

Nothing like 60 degree weather two days before Christmas. Entirely normal! Although my dad's ecstatic. He said over the weekend he'd like a solid six months of this. Sounds a little boring to me. besides, if the ground hadn't been wet from last week's 6+ inches of snow, excavating the pipe that runs to his sewage lagoon would have been a real pain.

Sera and the Royal Stars #5, by Jon Tsuei (writer), Audrey Mok (artist), Raul Angulo (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Nothing much, just a blue skinned lion man with a lightning sword.

Regulus emerges and tries to take control of Sera to fight the dragon person chasing them. It doesn't go very well, as Sera and Regulus seem to be in dispute about who is running the show. The rest of the Stars are trying to reach a bridge in the realm of the dead where Sera can pull them back into the realm of the living. They're having their own problems with the other of the two dragons, plus some giant swamp deity thing, that really wants Sera's soul. Or just hates all the Stars, because they attack both sides.

Our heroes escape, but there's a lot of disagreement. Regulus wants Sera to leave her physical body behind, because it limits his power. Sera wants to return and rescue her family from her uncle, while the Stars insist she help them. Which is really the issue here. At no point did Sera want to be involved in this. Mithra forcibly placed Regulus inside her, basically threatened with visions of doom if Sera didn't help. As a result, Sera wasn't there when her family's kingdom fell, and her brother died. The Stars basically poo-poo that, a necessary sacrifice for a greater cause. Yeah, saving their asses. That's allegedly going to help humanity somehow, but that could be a lie. Deities have been known to lie for their own benefit, just like humans. And what does it even mean that time isn't going to flow properly if the Stars aren't awakened?

No, that's actually something I'm curious about, because I'm not at all clear what will happen in concrete terms if Sera doesn't succeed. It can't be anything too terrible, because her mother was supposed to complete the quest, failed, and yet, life continues.
I don't know what the deal is with that one river deity or whatever it is, but I like Mok's design for it. The stringy seaweed hair, the patches of moss or barnacles growing here and there. Brackish water seems to drip from it constantly, like a waterlogged sponge. The character designs for this series have been great. The fight scenes were brief, but we see a little bit of what each of the Stars can do, how their abilities and skill sets differ.

Now the book is on a break until February, and we'll see where things go from there.

Steeple #4, by John Allison (writer/artist), Sarah Stern (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I ended up with the variant cover, which makes Witchfest look like either a street carnival, or a cosplay convention.

Billie foolishly agrees to volunteer for Witchfest. She even signed in blood, which is just damn foolish. Billie ends up enjoying herself, as this apparently lets her reconnect with her ill-spent youth. I'm assuming she and Maggie may have gotten freaky during some big midnight thing that was going on. Although "Walk of Shame" could have a different connotation for a curate in the Anglican Church. Reverend Penrose has a bad night, as he's captured by a witch who. . . steals his pants. This leaves him feeling rather embarrassed, so he takes a sabbatical, confident Billie can handle things with her community involvement. And Mrs. Clovis may have enlisted a witch to resurrect her nice vacuum cleaner. Well, Billie knows how to break vacuums, so there's nothing to worry about.

The part where all the witches are swapping legends about Penrose is pretty funny. Especially the panel where it looks like he strolled in direct from a cover shoot for some bodice ripper romance novel. Still wearing his white collar, natch. Billie's repeated frustration as people accuse of her off being a temptress or whatever. Well Billie, you don't act much like people expect a woman of the cloth to behave.
There's one issue left, and I have no idea what's going to happen. Part of me thinks there'll be a need for punching, and Penrose will have to step in, but I could see him not bothering to come back. Or he comes back because Billie switched teams to Satanism and he has to train Maggie as a new curate. Everyone keeps suggesting she's just trying to convince herself and everyone else she's wicked, which leaves me wondering why. Maybe we'll find out something about that. Or maybe not.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #93

"Long Way From the Cow Races", in Bone (vol. 7) Ghost Circles, by Jeff Smith

I bought Bone in the immense, one volume collection, which is why the right side of the scan in blurry. Trying to get a 1300+ page book to lie flat in a scanner is not easy. I have no excuse for forgetting to undo the dog ear I marked the page with, though.

The story progresses from the three Bone cousins meandering their way into a valley and trying to decide what to do next, to the three of them being caught in a massive war between some ethereal nightmare creature with its armies, and the few remaining humans and dragons. Once the dragons actually get off their asses to get involved, that is. 

The dragons are kind of like elves in Lord of the Rings, in that they keep saying they're done with this shit, and it is the World of Man's problem now, but they will help, sometimes.

I've read some people prefer the earlier stories, focused on Gran'ma Ben and the cow races, Phoney Bone's dumb scams, the two stupid, stupid rat creatures. Forced to choose, I would probably pick that part as well, because I enjoy the small-time, more madcap adventures. But I don't mind the escalation of threats. The encroaching horror as the Bones and Thorn are thrown into a much larger, more violent war none of them had any inkling of has its strong points.

I'm not sure he really had a plan for Roque Ja, after his initial appearance as a threat. He hangs around, but Smith doesn't seem to know what to do with him. Maybe that's supposed to be Roque's character, that he only cares about himself, but can't figure out which path best serves his interests, so he drifts. Attack the Bones, leave them alone. Parley with Kingdok, fight the rat creatures.

Smith's able to do comedy in his dialogue and his art, and he's very good at drawing chase sequences in a way that shows the progression of things. Which is good, since the Bones spend a lot of time running for their lives. There's one I especially like early on, where Fone Bone draws the rat creatures away from the opossum kids and one page is him being chased and angling his course so the rat creatures slam headfirst into a tree. Although what I like best is how he draws storms at night. Heavy black dominating the panel, with streaks of white for rain, and the characters are almost overexposed, glowing in contrast to what's around them.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Random Back Issues #13 - Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #18

What exactly does Tony Stark have against the New Warriors? Now he's even traveling to England to attack them.

The issue actually starts with Nova, his brother Robbie and Fran, who is Robbie's girlfriend(?) roaming an English village to investigate reports of weird stuff. Robbie oddly seems to be the older brother here. They get attacked by a weird creature in the woods, then find a home that's been trashed. Thor, the Vision, and Iron Man show up, in a group that is definitely not the Avengers. . . yet. They're here because they just finished dealing with some weird creature that made a town in Iowa go crazy last issue, and when they heard reports of weird stuff, came here to make sure it wasn't the same weird creature. It's not

Captain America and the Invisible Woman are back in town, asking questions and flirt sparring. Well, Steve Rogers would definitely be a step up from Reed or Namor. Also, Sue Richards' weakness is apparently pigeons. Dr. Doom is sitting on a throne somewhere with a big goblet of wine, taking notes.

On their way to the mysterious house, they figure out they're being followed by the Black Widow, who is there because. . . she's bored. Allegedly.

With everyone at the house, they encounter the spriggan, who mostly makes them look like chumps by disrupting their powers and having their luck go against them. But it's love of stealing things leads it to try and swipe Mjolnir, and, yeah. That wasn't a good idea. Especially since spriggan are the ghosts of giants, apparently? Did not know that. I do know how Thor feels about giants, though, and this spirit gets banished/exorcised/destroyed.

After all that, Captain America says he liked something Thor said about "avenging", and well, you know how that goes. The title actually ends in three issues, then Marvel restarted the book almost immediately (because Marvel), and let it run for another couple years.

[Longbox #7, 36th comic. Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #18, by Paul Tobin (writer), Ig Guara (penciler), Sotocolor (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)]

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The January Man

Given the actors involved in this movie - Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, Alan Rickman, Harvey Keitel, Rod Steiger, Danny Aiello - I'd expected it to be a little better than it was. Like, that should be a pretty solid cast for a movie about catching a serial killer. It's really not.

Kline plays a detective who had been fired and is now a fireman, brought back onto the force by the Mayor (Steiger), because the serial killer's most recent victim was a close friend of his daughter's. Keitel is Kline's brother and the Police Commissioner, and both he and Aiello don't want Kline back, for reasons I can't remember them actually explaining. Or I wasn't paying attention. Sarandon is Keitel's wife, but she used to date Kline, and maybe she's still interested? Rickman is Kline's weird neighbor, who is a painter, but acts as his assistant on the case.

The movie tries to play up what an odd duck Kline's character is, in a way that makes this feel like it would have been better served as the pilot episode for a TV show on USA back when Monk and Psych were both on-air. Aiello is frustrated by Kline, because he doesn't behave like other cops, but not because he's some reckless violent guy. He's just strange and doesn't like office furniture.

Somehow it doesn't mesh. Kline is kind of goofy, but the movie isn't trying to be funny. There's a serial killer running around, the police can't find him, people are scared. This is bad. But here's this detective that brought all his pets with him to work, and Alan Rickman's standing on a chair painting designs on the walls for some reason.

The one part of it I actually enjoyed was this brief bit where Aiello is complaining that he does not want to have to deal with Kline, and Steiger gets up from behind his desk and goes on a tirade that basically says, you will deal with him, and give him whatever he wants. And when he's done, there's long silent pause of Aiello standing there, then it cuts to Keitel (sitting silently in a chair nearby). It's meant to be the two of them recognizing they're stuck with this situation, but it feels like them being stunned at how much scenery Steiger chewed right there.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Is a Wily Fox a Killer Too?

I'm not sure whether to believe the Black Fox when he says he had nothing to do with Castillo Drake's death.

Odessa's evidence is highly circumstantial. She saw Fox arguing with Castillo the week before his death, and she thinks she knows that her father stole something the Fox wanted badly. But she doesn't seem to know exactly what they argued about, only what she assumes. She knows the Fox is getting older, and figures like most of the other thieves, he wants to keep living so he can keep stealing.

Again, circumstantial. The Fox, of course, claims he's innocent, and that his argument with Castillo was because he was worried about his protege. Also, and this is something he doesn't mention, but seems worth noting, if Castillo had a tome the Fox wanted, one the Fox was willing to kill for, why didn't he take the book after killing Castillo? Odessa has it, that's how she made the bargain to give immortality back to the New York Guild.

Plus, it doesn't really seem like Fox' style to kill someone as part of a heist. Seems too messy. It doesn't seem like Felicia's style, either, and if we're going with the idea she was trained by the Fox, then it doesn't seem unreasonable she'd take after him in that regard. Maybe that's a mistake on my part. The Fox got a lot of mileage out of pretending to just be a sweet old man - who happened to be a master thief - when dealing with Spider-Man. Got Spidey to protect him from Silver Sable, and even Dr. Doom.

The Fox told Felicia that sometimes, you can't avoid a violent confrontation by running away or paying someone off. In those circumstances, you have to settle things decisively. Then he ran a man who was threatening them off the road and ran him over. Decisive. So if he really wanted the book, and couldn't steal or buy it away from Castillo, he would have to remove him.

But it still leaves the question of why he wouldn't have taken the book. He wouldn't have gone in ready to kill for the book without knowing where the book was. If he walks away empty-handed, he killed someone for nothing.

My gut feeling is, the Fox is innocent. There were probably plenty of other people who wanted that book, who would be willing to kill, but not smart enough to actually find it. But I feel like the Fox is after more than just all the wealth the Guild collects as a tithe from their members, something he hasn't told Felicia about, which is going to put her and her boys in danger. If that's the case, then maybe the reveal he did kill Odessa's father, Felicia's father's friend, wouldn't be such a surprise.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Breaking In

Burt Reynolds plays this old, sarcastic safecracker who meets this young, stupid, lazy guy (Casey Siemaszko) who decided to casually break into the same house and was making a sandwich at the time. For whatever reason - boredom, loneliness - Ernie decides to take Mike under his wing and teach him the ropes.

The early part of the film is them pulling off various low-level safe heists. Robbing a grocery store, a faith-based outreach to the homeless (Ernie figures the head of it is keeping the majority of the cash aside for himself), the proceeds from a big Fourth of July celebration. That's the part I like best, the actual heists, the planning, the mentor stuff. Seeing how Ernie lives his life to enjoy what he steals, without getting caught.

The second half of the movie focuses on how Mike doesn't want to follow Ernie's rules. He's caught up in the romanticism of being a thief, and wants to enjoy the proceeds how he likes. He doesn't want to keep working his dead-end job, even though it's the thing that would provide cover for him having the money to move into a better apartment, buy a car, have a girlfriend with expensive, bizarre tastes. That ends about as well as you'd expect.

My biggest issue with the movie is that Mike isn't very interesting. Not compared to Ernie, anyway, who has the obvious advantage of being played by Burt Reynolds. He's just kind of an idiot. He sort of feels bad about stealing from some people, but not enough to stop. Interested in stealing enough to keep doing it, but not enough to do it well. I think he just really likes the idea of being a safecracker, and despite the fact that Ernie's approach has managed to keep him out of jail recently, Mike would rather ignore the aspects of it that conflict with what he thinks being a thief should be about.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Anniversary You've All Been Waiting For

It's the start of Year 15 at Reporting on Marvel and Legends!

Year 14 was fairly quiet. The biggest disruption was the loss of my apartment in late May, which threw a wrench into a lot of things for a few weeks, posting here being one of the less significant. Took a few trips, both for work and for fun. Seeing California was nice. Could have done without Las Vegas, but the near fistfight we saw at the Hoover Dam was amusing.

Otherwise, the blog continued mostly as it has for years. Reviewed comics, movies, and books. Occasionally posted stupid comic theories. Wrote a couple of stories. Sketchtober was, kind of a bust. Didn't draw nearly enough, and most of what I did I'm not happy with. Oh well. Kept Sunday Splash Page going. We should reach the end of the Bs before February!

Two new developments were that it finally occurred to me I could take advantage of my scanner and review old comics. Really shouldn't have taken almost two years to realize that, but I'm a little slow sometimes. And I finally figured out how to add alt-text to the images I post, so I can make more bad jokes and puns now!

As for Year 15, I don't have anything new in mind at the moment. Year In Review will probably be the second week of January, if things go according to plan. Maybe I'll be able to come up with more random comic stuff to talk about. I'm thinking about changing the look of the blog to something with a greater column width. Mostly so I could post the double-page splashes at a larger size. But I've been thinking about that for over a year, and haven't done it yet, so it probably won't happen.

Thanks to everyone who comments, or just drops by to read the posts. It's much appreciated.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #92

'Rock You Like A Werewolf?' in Bloodrayne: Lycan Rex, by Troy Wall (writer), Mark A. Robinson (penciler), Stacie Ponder (inker), Raph Hedon/Makma (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)

The first few years on this blog, the majority of comics I bought that weren't from Marvel or DC were ones based on the Bloodrayne video games. I liked the games, and the advantage of her having been alive since World War I meant there's a wide variety of times and locales you can use for stories with her (one of the same things Atomic Robo uses to good effect).

The comics varied between one-shots, 3-issue mini-series, and a couple of 2-issue anthologies. For example, Lycan Rex was a one-shot about Rayne traveling to Russia to save a village from a king werewolf, and figuring out things weren't as they appeared, and that the Brimstone Society, the secretive organization she worked with, was partially to blame. 

A lot of the stories ran in that vein, and there was ultimately an overarching plotline where corrupt elements within the Society released their ancient foes and endangered the entire world. Unfortunately, the comics stopped coming out before that story was concluded.

Quality on the stories was variable, as the creative teams were different in almost each issue (it was a short story in one of the anthologies where I first encountered future Harley Quinn artist Chad Hardin's). Some times they seemed to be setting up elements that didn't get paid off in their story or subsequent ones (I never did figure out what was the deal behind Rayne's "Dark Rayne" transformation). 

But overall, there was that sense that a particular story could go in any direction. Time traveler tries to kill her in San Francisco, stealing nunchuks that open a portal to release a demon, taking a blimp ride. . . on the Hindenburg.


Friday, December 13, 2019

Random Back Issues #12 - Batgirl #18

Don't ya hate it when you show up to crash a payoff to an assassin and another hero shows up following the money? I'm not sure whether to be surprised it doesn't happen more often in Gotham (given the 500 vigilantes in town), or that it happens at all (given the amount of crime at any given time).

Batgirl spotted a guy in a convertible with a shoulder holster, who turns out to be the hitman Deadeye. The guy who hired Deadeye, a Mr. Vink, decides to stiff him on the fee and have him killed, but Batgirl and Robin show up independently to ruin the whole thing. Deadeye gets away, but Tim put a tracer on his car and gives the tracker to Cass, then splits abruptly, following Vink's men.
But Deadeye's out for revenge, so both trails converge at Vink's mansion, where the killer kidnaps Vink's daughter and is able to shoot Batgirl (who impressed Tim by dodging bullets earlier in the issue). Batgirl's only mildy surprised and pulls the bullet out shortly after. Turns out Deadeye has a cybernetic implant, so he only has to think of what he wants to shoot and he hits it, rendering Cass' ability to read body language irrelevant.

Deadeye wants his money, but Batgirl's certain he'll kill the girl anyway, as punishment for Vink breaking the rules. So she busts into his place, and right after the exchange below, charges at him and knocks him out. He got a shot off, but I'm assuming Cass was hit and just kept going. She's done it before when she lost her ability to read body language. I assume because there's no sign of a wound in any of the panels. Cass smashes the guy's gun hand, but if the implant does all the work, can't he just shoot left-handed?
In the aftermath, Tim admits he's been awkward around Batgirl because he's not sure how to handle her background as an assassin, especially in contrast to his 'normal' childhood. Sure, his mother died as part of a ransom scheme on the part of some voodoo drug lord guy (I think?) that also put his father in a wheelchair for a while, but sure, normal. If only he knew what was coming down the pike.

[2nd longbox, 80th issue. Batgirl (vol. 1) #18, by Kelley Puckett (writer), Daimon Scott (penciler), Robert Campanella (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), Digital Chameleon (separator), John Costanza (letterer)]

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Shimmer Lake

Three local idiots rob a bank, with the bank owner's assistance, and then everyone starts dying. The movie takes the approach of starting with the last day (Friday), then working backwards through each previous day. It wants you to make an assumption about who are the masterminds, and then gradually peel things back to reveal what's actually happening and why.

I'm not sure it works.There were a couple of times in the middle of the movie where I tuned out because it was setting up something where we already know how it ends. We know that guy is gonna die in that motel room, because we already saw his dead body in the motel room earlier in the movie. Sometimes the actors and the dialogue are interesting enough to keep me paying attention, and sometimes they aren't. Rob Corddry and Ron Livingston's FBI agents are funny sometimes, and just too stupid other times.

That said, I only had things half figured out within the first 20 minutes, and I didn't piece together the other half until probably the last 20 minutes. The nice thing was, that final piece helped to explain an issue I was having with how Benjamin Walker was playing the sheriff, Zeke Sikes. It was an "Oh, that's why he acts that way," moment. So that was a nice touch.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What I Bought 12/7/2019

I'm surprised Sonic is still using those two dumb guys for their commercials. Would have figured they'd pivot to something else by now. Feels like it's been those two for a decade now.

Black Cat #7, by Jed MacKay (writer), Travel Foreman (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - I'm not sure why the background of the cover looks like a faded and bent paperback novel cover, but Felicia doesn't. Not sure what Campbell's going for there. Also really wish the store had a copy with the variant cover available.

Black Fox is in Odessa Drake's clutches, and the issue is mostly a conversation between them. About the history of the Thieves' Guild and the power behind it, how the New York Guild fell into disfavor, and how her father - Fox' other apprentice when Felicia's dad was learning from him - restored them.

That's all pretty blah-blah-blah to me, but Odessa believes the Fox murdered her father, because he wouldn't share, or relinquish, something he found. Fox insists he's innocent, and that Odessa is really doing all this because she's after Felicia. Because she wants to be Felicia, who does what she pleases when she pleases with whomever she pleases. Or maybe just because she wants Felicia. Well shit, who doesn't? Get in line. Felicia misses out on that particular conversation, but arrives right after to rescue the Fox and leave, after Odessa declares there will be war between them. Aww, that's when you're supposed to make your heartfelt declaration of undying love.

I'm very curious which entity Odessa made her bargain with. It's not a deity or devil I recognized, but that doesn't mean much. I am pretty sure, going by what's shown, where all the wealth the Guild collects is being stored, though. The Fox might want to reconsider that heist, but he won't.

I don't know what to make of the reveal Odessa's attracted to Felicia, if that is what MacKay's going for. I suppose Fox saying Felicia stole Odessa's heart could simply mean she's taken by how Felicia lives her life, but I that's a pretty wide reading of that phrase. I only know about Odessa what I've read in this series, so maybe it fits earlier appearances, or maybe it doesn't. Does it make a difference to Odessa's character? Has it informed her decision-making? Is that why she hired Sonny Ocampo to hound Felicia (which was abandoned surprisingly quickly), rather than dropping her entire Guild on Felicia's head like an anvil? Because she can't bring herself to try and kill Felicia, and would rather just drive her into Odessa' control?

Foreman's art is pretty variable here, as his linework and inking are inconsistent. Some panels have the blurred look where it appears his didn't ink his pencils and the colors overwhelming them. Others, the inks look heavy and thick, resulting in something a little more blurred and messy. I was thinking perhaps that effect was limited to the parts where it's Odessa's memories of her father, a child's fractured and unreliable recollections, but I don't think that's quite it.

I do like the choices on page layouts. A stained glass window showing thieves bowing before their benefactress, and the next panel is Felicia smashing though a window to attack current Thieves' Guild members. Or the panels of Fox and Odessa are neat rectangles running straight left-to-right, but the panels showing the past are tilted so they look as though they're falling across the page, moving on a different course from the present.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Lincoln and the Russians - Albert A. Woldman

The idea behind the book seems to be that it was a strange situation where the United States' closest ally in the middle of the 1800s was the thoroughly autocratic Russia. All the more strange when Abraham Lincoln was elected President, after having spoken out against Russia's interference in Hungary's attempt to break free from the Austro-Hungarian Empire while still a congressman. But, they both didn't like Great Britain at that point time, so necessity makes strange bedfellows.

However, the focus is primarily on Russia's perspectives and attitudes towards the United States during the Civil War. Most of which, Woldman provides through the papers of Edouard de Stoeckl, the Russian Charge de'Affairs to Washington DC for 25 years. Unfortunately, Woldman does this by at times simply pasting 3 or 4 pages worth of Stoeckl's correspondence into the book. He does that often enough I started to wonder why he even bothered to write a book, rather than just publishing Stoeckl's papers on their own.

Stoeckl's papers are themselves, slanted, since he's pretty much of the opinion democracy is a big mistake, anyway. He's certain the United States can't be put back together, and that's just fine, as that will teach all those anarchists and liberals in Europe that they should abandon ideas of democracy, and you know, just be happy being crushed under some the capricious decisions of some dipshit product of generations of inbreeding. Then again, that's pretty much what democracy has gifted us with at the moment, sooooooo, wherever you go, it's shit.

Beyond that, I'm not sure how much use Stoeckl's observations of Lincoln are, because he seems much closer to William Seward than to Lincoln. Is he right in his opinions that Lincoln is entirely controlled by the "radical Republicans", or is that just his limited view of things? It could be his perspective is skewed by his acceptance of autocracy as hunky-dory (although he was extremely impressed the U.S. held an election during a civil war.)

The parts about the opinions and actions of the various European powers was the most interesting part to me. I don't remember us going into that much in American history.

'Stoeckl was appalled by "the demagoguery, confusion, and corruption" which he believed were undermining the very foundations of the government. He placed much of the blame for the deplorable state of affairs on the Constitution itself, and he predicted that the United States could not long continue unless the American people made some drastic changes in their Constitution.'

Monday, December 09, 2019

Strange Thoughts Come In a Turkey Coma

When Monica Rambeau (aka Captain Marvel, aka Photo, aka Pulsar, aka Spectrum) was in NextWave, she had a tendency to refer to herself as "Auntie Monica", usually when she was pissed off and about to hurt something.

So obviously, she needs to fight an enemy called "Anti-Monica". Her power would probably be an ability to shift between different forms of matter, since Monica's able to do the same with forms of energy. Maybe something like Metamorpho, or Chemical Lad from the Legion.

A cheerful, endlessly upbeat person who is perfectly happy with the team she's part of (unless she's a solo act, which sure, why not) and has no interest in being a leader. if she was ever part of whatever her equivalent of the Avengers would be - and she probably wasn't - she didn't think it was for her, and doesn't miss it..

All of which would probably amuse her NextWave teammates. Probably prompt at least a few of them to offer Anti-Monica the other Monica's spot on the team. Which Monica would no doubt get them back for later.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #91

"Good Crop of Moloids This Year," in Black Widow and the Marvel Girl #4, by Paul Tobin (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Veronica Gandini (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)

A 4-issue mini-series that came out in 2009-2010, so roughly the same timeframe as the Marjorie Liu/Daniel Acuna ongoing series. You know how Marvel is about saturating the market with stuff. This was more continuity free, standalone issues of the Black Widow teaming with up various other characters.

We get the Enchantress in issue 1, and Carol Danvers (when she was still Ms. Marvel) in issue 3, both drawn by Salva Espin. The Wasp in issue 2 (drawn by Jacopo Camagni), and Storm in issue 4. Most of the issues showcase the Black Widow being calm and resourceful under fire, always prepared ahead of time, almost always having the leg up on the guest star of the issue. (The Enchantress would be an exception, but she showed up when Natasha was still training in the Red Room, and not actually the Black Widow yet). It's a pretty entertaining series, as Tobin makes good use of a variety of parts of the Marvel Universe, and the art teams are solid at the worst, with bright, easy to follow and expressive styles

The Black Widow comes off as very cool, but I think the series kind of highlights the reason I can't quite warm up to the character, and since it's the last Black Widow series I have, we might as well deal with that here. 

Basically, Black Widow's Late 90s-Early 2000s Batman. She always has plans. She knows all your weaknesses. Any time you think you have the upper hand, you're wrong (Carol thinks she was watching Natasha from above, but actually Natasha was letting her do that while using drones to spy on Carol from above). 

The second issue makes this big deal that the Wasp doesn't trust the Black Widow, but by the end of the issue, she totally does and tells Iron Man this. The last panel is Natasha, seemingly sitting by herself far away from the conversation (but not far enough she can't hear it), smiling when she hears that. But we only see her smile, we don't see her eyes to know if she's actually happy like, "Yay, I have a friend," or "Good, I've gained her trust, that will make whatever complicated plans I have easier."

And that just feels like the Batman of that time running up to Infinite Crisis. He spies on his allies, manipulates them, makes plans to kill them, refuses to apologize when those plans get stolen and used, gets allies killed (let Ted Kord go off to his death alone, when he knew something was wrong), and yet the story somehow always validates the actions. Natasha is, at least, far more competent in how she handles things than the Bat (it's very rare that other heroes or innocent people are hurt by Natasha's information-gathering and manipulation), but that doesn't make it behavior I find any less off-putting.

I get it for her character, it's just not a trait I really like, when you get down to it.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Random back Issue #11 - Uncanny X-Men #140


Yeah, you might want a different plan than "agility and martial arts" against Furry Hulk, Kurt.

This is the second half of "Kurt and Logan's Excellent Canadian Adventure". Logan went north to try and bury the hatchet with Guardian (still James Hudson and not Heather), and got roped into bringing down the Wendigo. Naturally Kurt found him first. Lucky guy.

Logan ends up tracking the Wendigo, and temporarily stops him, but gets caught off-guard while escorting a woman and her baby, and soundly beaten. Shaman can't get the job done, and neither can Guardian, so it falls to Snowbird to take care of business. By transforming into an actual wolverine and ripping the Wendigo up. She almost loses herself to the creature's nature, but Logan manages to talk her down.

(Many years later, during Frank Tieri's run on Wolverine, she'd just go ahead and transform into an actual Wendigo, since it also qualifies as a Beast of the North.)
After all that, the Wendigo is turned back to human, and promptly arrested, since he became the Wendigo willingly, he's responsible for its crimes. Alpha Flight gets disbanded, and Kurt questions Logan on whether he should be held responsible for all the people he killed. Logan's response is essentially those were sanctioned kills, and that he never killed anyone who didn't attack him with a deadly weapon first, so it's OK. Of course, once he gets his own book, he'd start killing more people than some small wars, but que sera, sera, right?

In other developments, Angel doesn't think Wolverine should be on the X-Men because he's too much of a loose cannon. Just wait until someone mutilates you by giving you blade wings, and see how pleasant you are to be around, Warren.
There's also a subplot about Storm not liking Kitty's dance instructor, Stevie Hunter. I have no recollection of how that plays out, so I'm guessing Stevie's a Hellfire Club plant. We do get to see Storm dismiss this poor sap, so her day wasn't all bad.

The first letter is from the President of the New York City Council, reminding people that they should get vaccinated, because the Marvel heroes' powers are no match for polio or the measles. I feel like the angry Canadian with the healing factor would disagree. The issue after this is the start of the barely-remembered "Days of Future Past" storyline, which would have no lasting repercussions on the X-Men lore, and definitely would not spawn decades of homage comic covers and storylines.

[12th longbox, 14th issue. Uncanny X-Men #140, by Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (plotter/penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Glynis Wein (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer)]

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Son of a Gun

JR's a young man sent prison for something. While there, he's protected by Brendan Lynch, an older criminal (Ewan McGregor). Once JR's out, he's stuck helping Brendan, first by getting him out of prison, then by helping him rob a literal gold mine.

JR's perhaps not really cut out for a criminal life, as he seems largely incapable of following basic orders like "don't fight with the mob boss' incompetent son," and "don't fool around with one of said mob boss' ladies." So JR finds himself torn between trying to follow Brendan's orders and his attraction to Tasha (Alicia Vikander), who is encouraging him to be his own man. By doing what she says. Which mostly serves to make JR look like a dumb kid, which is mostly what he is.

It's not exactly a heist movie, although they do spend a little time on setting things up for the gold robbery. Scouting the target, assigning tasks, hiring a driver, stuff like that. But for at least part of that planning, JR is off fooling around with Tasha. There are the requisite double-crosses, and a few of the kind of oddball minor characters you expect to see in these kinds of movies. A weirdo guy who sells Ecstasy and firearms. The driver is a race car driver who must have worked with Brendan before. But we don't spend enough time with them to learn much of anything about them.  Might be nice to know why a guy who is probably a fairly successful race car driver risks imprisonment being the getaway driver for a major criminal. The thrill, I presume, but a little fleshing out wouldn't hurt.

But the movie mostly about JR deciding who he's going to be, a chimp or a bonobo, as Brendan puts it. I'm not sure it quite pulls it off, because JR mostly seems sulky and cowed, pushed around by everyone, throughout the entire movie. It's kind of hard to buy him making any decisions on his own.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

What I Bought 11/27/2019

The final tally for fiction writing in November was 53,429 words, not counting Blogsgiving last week. Because that wasn't fiction, obviously. Like I figured, none of the stories are anywhere near completion - they're mostly just getting to the part where things really kick off - but it was real progress, so I'm pretty happy with that. Now it's just a matter of keeping going.

Infinity 8 #16, by Emmanuel Gilbert and Lewis Trondheim (writers), Franck Biancarelli (artist) -  That creature in the background looks like something from a more recent Scooby-Doo series.

OK, sixth try at a timeline. This time, it's Leila Sherad, from the Antiquities section of the Customs department. Sherad is a real "shoot first, ask no questions" type. Seems a little careless for someone dealing with antiquities. At least they know to investigate closer to the center, and that the people they want to talk to will emerge in four hours. Of course, that leaves four hours for Sherad to fuck things up somehow. She requests to bring along a historian she hassled at the beginning of the issue, and while he gets a chance to investigate the hyper-sarcophagus of an alleged living god, they find a floating orb that might contain a message, or it might be something else. At the least, there's something else interested in that sarcophagus in the area.

I'm curious how Sherad and this historian are going to mess this up, seeing as there are still two more turns available to use. I guess these two could always get it right and solve the mystery, but I feel like they wouldn't tell you they could use the timeline trick up to 8 times, and call the series Infinity 8, then only use 6. The most likely is Sherad shooting someone or something she shouldn't and prompting a hostile response from the ones responsible for this place. Or a hostile response from just about anyone, really. You would think someone with expertise in other cultures to be a little more diplomatic.
Biancarelli's style makes the space necropolis look more like the deep sea at times, opting for a lot of blues in the sky, and weird bits floating through that could look like air bubbles or something. Little different than most of the other artists. Biancarelli also doesn't play up the T&A factor with Sherad as much as most of the artists have with their officer. That might just be because he doesn't put her in the standard uniform, that skintight blue number with the exposed midriff. She's in what looks like a pair of jeans a white tank top. Which I'm guessing represents her general disdain for regulations or protocols. It's certainly not any sort of normal uniform, since she has to keep telling people she's a cop.

I like the choice of visual for the blaster she carries. The whole panel is colored golden yellow, except for the white lines expanding outward from the barrel of the weapon. It's such a change in color scheme from the rest of the panels it really stands out.

Power Pack: Grow Up! by Louise Simonson (writer), June Brigman (artist), Gurihiru (artist), Roy Richardson (inker), Tamra Bonvillain (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Kitty shouldn't need to phase through that, should she? It's just light.

Power Pack feels like something I should have been into back in the day, but kind of missed for one reason or another (except the issue of Uncanny X-Men where that one Morlock abducts the kids and makes their parents forget about them). I don't even know how old most of them are now in continuity. In this case, though, the story revolves around Alex' 13th birthday, with the main part drawn by June Brigman. Alex is really excited to spend time with a girl he likes, but worried his siblings will embarrass him at the Lila Cheney concert. But the kids are too busy trying to protect their talking horse alien friend from the Brood to do that.
There's a recurring thread of Katie being angry that everyone keeps calling her a baby and treating her like one. Being an only child, I don't know if that's accurate, other than it certainly seems like siblings would pick at each other that way. I did like how there's almost a sense of constantly shifting alliances between the kids. Jack, Julie, and Katie might all be angry at Alex for how he's acting towards them, and therefore defend Katie against Alex. But when he's not around, they (especially Jack) will give Katie grief instead.

I did get a good laugh out of Katie insisting that next time they try to use the "bathroom" excuse to slip away from their parents, it has to be someone other than her that has to go. That seems fair, although I imagine it'll be harder to explain Katie accompanying her older sister to the bathroom than vice versa. But I see her point.

The other story, the one drawn by the Gurihiru team, takes place later that night, and focuses on Katie, who feels bad because she spent all the money that was supposed to be for Alex' present from her on the Lila Cheney action figure she got. Which she did because he was being a jerk, but now that he's acting nicer, she feels bad. Which feels accurate from what I remember being that age. Doing something that seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, then figuring out I was being a selfish jerk later on. Ugh, I hated that feeling. Stupid guilt. The resolution is set up by something from the tail end of the first story, and not hard to see coming, but it's nice.
Both Brigman and Gurihiru do a good job being expressive with the kids' faces. Especially Alex, who has some expressions where you'd understand his siblings wanting to pop him in the jaw. Brigman gets to draw some fight scenes, which work pretty well. Nothing majorly creative, just a good ebb-and-flow where the kids have the element of surprise, and then things start to turn against them, as they're pretty disorganized. I feel like Gurihiru draws the kids as taller, but still kids. It might just be because they're really only around each other in that story, rather than giant aliens and adults. There aren't a bunch of bigger characters to make them look smaller by comparison.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Young Adult

Charlize Theron plays a woman who was the queen of her high school, and has never really moved past that point. She ghostwrites a series of books about some oh-so-wonderful and popular girl at a prep school (the series is being concluded), she passes out drunk most nights, with or without a guy.

She gets an e-mail that her high school boyfriend (played by Patrick Wilson) and his wife are celebrating the birth of their first child, and decides the correct course is to return to her hometown, and get back together with him. She ends up, for lack of better options hanging out a lot with the guy (Patton Oswalt) who had the locker right next to her, who she does not remember. (She doesn't really remember anyone from high school other than her ex).

I can't decide if I should feel bad for her or not. Watching her desperate attempts to recapture the point in time when I guess she felt like she had everything the way she wanted it is sad and painful. It might be meant to be funny, but I mostly feel embarrassed for her. But she's also a self-absorbed asshole. Oswalt's character was severely beaten in high school because a bunch of jocks thought he was gay (he wasn't, but they were also assholes). She kind of dismisses that experience, reducing either to Oswalt to being 'the hate crime guy', or that it's just something he uses as a crutch to excuse his life.

Which, I don't doubt that the experience had affected how the character interacts with people, but even if she's right, it's affected him in a way that's not so great for his personal happiness, but not harmful to anyone else's. She can't say that, since she's still caught in that adolescent sneering and insulting of everyone she thinks is so much less than her. Again, the desperation of it would be funny, if she wasn't trying to ruin other people's lives in the process.

The movie does avoid the trite, Hallmark movie-style ending where the career woman realizes she needs to abandon her big city life and return to her hometown to find happiness. But I'm not sure sat the very end whether she's decided she does need to change or not. She's concluded there's no going back to how it was in high school, but she's either decided there's nothing wrong with her as she is, or she's going to actually move forward with her life, rather than trying to recapture past glory. I mean, it ends with her staring at the smashed up front end of her car, which is like that because she kept slamming into a light pole while driving drunk, so I don't know what to take from that. Moment of clarity, or realizing she's fucked things up too much?

Monday, December 02, 2019

Second Month, Much Like The First

February is not looking much more promising than January.

At Marvel, I'll pretty much be down to Deadpool (fighting Kraven), and Black Cat (trying to steal from Logan), plus Gerry Duggan and Ron Garney are doing a noir one-shot with the Thing called Grimm Noir. Yeah, I'll try that.

Other than that, Wolverine is getting another ongoing, but it's going to be playing off whatever Hickman is doing with the X-Books, so hard pass. Someone at Marvel decided letting Matthew Rosenberg write Force Works 2020 was a good idea. Well, if it keeps him from writing anything I might have interest in, good. There's a bunch of character-focused mini-series starting up, from Ant-Man, Conan, Nebula, and *yawn* Gwen Stacy. Marvel, you haven't managed to make me give a shit about Gwen Stacy in over all your years of trying (outside of Ultimate Spider-Man, where Gwen was much closer to Mary Jane than Marvel Universe Gwen Stacy). Stop trying.

DC had a Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey mini-series. This is distinct from the Birds of Prey thing Azzarello's writing. The Flash's numbering is going to go from 750 one issue, then back to 88 the next. It would be nice if DC wouldn't copy the stupidest ideas Marvel has.

I am actually considering the Amy Reeder written and drawn Amethyst series. I generally enjoyed my back issue dive into the '80s Amethyst stuff, and with any luck, this will kind of be its own thing, where I won't have to care about the larger DC Universe.

Outside that, there isn't much. Sera and the Royal Stars will be back, so it's not done yet. Kino's Journey volume 5 is coming out from Vertical Press. I've only bought up through volume 2, so I'm still behind, but I'll get to it eventually. It looks like Infinity 8 is now being published through Magnetic Press, so I'll hopefully still be able to get the third part of volume 6 when it comes out in January. February will see the release of the trade if the first option falls through.

Michael Avon Oeming is doing a quarterly fantasy series called After Realm, published by Image. It's $6 an issue, but again, only quarterly. There's the question of how into swords and sorcery stuff I am, and I don't know Taki Soma's artwork, but it's at least on my radar. There were also the tpbs of Analog, which I think I was curious about when it first came out. The main character seems to be mainly a courier, once you set aside the conceit that the Internet is gone and everything has to be sent physically, but I'm guessing there's something more to it than that.

Scout Comics has the first issue of a series called Canopus, by Dave Chisholm, about a woman who wakes on a planet far from Earth, unsure how she got there, but feeling she has to get back, now. That seems like it's worth a shot.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #90

"Fire and Mud", in Black Widow (vol. 3) #1, by Chris Samnee (writer/artist), Mark Waid (writer), Matthew Wilson (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

After the conclusion of last week's series, Natasha got a second ongoing in 2014 that ran for 20 issues, mostly by Nathan Edmundson and Phil Noto. I skipped that one, because Edmundson's writing hadn't impressed me in the past, and I'm not a huge fan of Noto as a sequential artist. Great individual images, but for telling a story, conveying action, not so much.

That series got wiped out in the mass cancelations brought on by Secret Wars. You'd think Marvel would have learned something from DC and the New 52 about ending all of your series, but apparently not. After that whole mess was over, we got another Black Widow ongoing, this time by the Daredevil creative team of Chris Samnee, Mark Waid, and Matthew Wilson. I figured if anyone could make a Black Widow series I'd enjoy, it was only the second creative team to really make me enjoy Daredevil.

I dropped the book after six issues. I only kept two, this issue and #6, although reading through it, I can't figure out why I kept the latter. Maybe I meant to keep one of the earlier issues with more fighting.

It was a very stylishly done book, the first issue is just one big chase scene of Natasha fleeing the Helicarrier and then a bunch of SHIELD agents who chase her through the city and into the hinterlands. Samnee and Wilson do some great work, especially Wilson. He did some stuff with red and black that worked so well for me. There was one issue, #4, where they did some great stuff with her infiltrating the new Red Room. That was probably the issue I intended to keep. 

But at the end of the day, it's a story where all the good guys wonder if they can trust Natasha while she encounters problems from her past (in this case the Red Room) in the form of characters I'm not certain we'd ever heard of before. Gee, why does that sound extraordinarily familiar?

Friday, November 29, 2019

An Unusual Year to Give Thanks

Narrator: AT CALVIN"S APARTMENT, MEAL PREPARATIONS ARE UNDERWAY!

Clever Adolescent Panda: Agh. You almost made me drop the cobbler!

Calvin: What did I tell you last year? This is a pleasant family gathering, take it down several notches.

Narrator: *subdued* Sorry.

CAP: Yeesh.

Calvin: I know, right? *pause* Should I be calling this "Thanksblogging" instead "Blogsgiving"?

CAP: We do give thanks, through the blog. But we are also giving this blog post to people. But on the other hand - *a knock at the door interrupts*

Deadpool: [Oh thank God. That was going to be an incredibly boring conversation.] *Deadpool is standing in the hallway leading back to the bedrooms, wearing his crown.*

Calvin: Gah!

CAP: Wade! *rushes over and commits a full flying tackle, burying Wade under a lot of panda hugs.*

Deadpool: [Good. . .to see. . . you too. My ribs. . . about to. . . collapse. Can barely. . .  keep talking. . . this. . . way.]

CAP: Sorry. *climbs off Deadpool* When did you get here?

Deadpool: [Ten minutes ago.]

Calvin: *suspicious, ignores repeated knocking at the door* And how did you get in?

Deadpool: *unconcerned* [Through the window.]

Calvin: Damnit Deadpool, go fix the window you broke. You were invited, you could just walk up and knock on the door.

Deadpool: [Like whoever has been knocking for the last three minutes?]

Calvin: Crap! *rushes to the door, finds Pollock and Cassanee waiting.* Sorry.

Pollock: *turning to Cassanee* I told you this was the right apartment. He was just being rude. *enters apartment* This is smaller than your old place.

Calvin: *ignoring the jab at his apartment* No, I was distracted. Wade decided to arrive unconventionally.

Cassanee: You're surprised?

Calvin: A little. He usually enters the apartment like a normal person for the holidays. Set the food on the counter there.

Deadpool: *dashing back into the room* [Yes, but in my new ongoing, I'm lonely and depressed! So I have to do things that aren't smart to distract myself from that fact!]

CAP: No, you just need to spend more time with us. Then you won't be lonely. *Hugs Deadpool*

Pollock: Yes, though I doubt it will do much for his depression.

Deadpool: [And we can all do things that aren't smart together!]

Rhodez: Knock-knock. Did someone forget to close the door?

Calvin: I saw you pull up through the sliding glass door, so I figured why bother?

Rhodez: Cool, cool. *looks over the apartment* This is a nice place.

Calvin: The neighbors downstairs are away, so it's not nearly as noisy as it is when their littlest kid is crashing around like a herd of elephants.

Deadpool: [I can stick around until they get back, then fire through the floor a few times.]

Calvin: Uh, pass. That'll just make them make more noise.

Deadpool: [Not if I aim carefully!]

Calvin: Definite pass.

CAP: Um, anyway, Calvin fried some fish and made hushpuppies, and I baked a cobbler.

Deadpool: [Then our favorite panda dropped it when the narrator startled them. But I'll still eat it. Because I know it was made. . .  with love.] *sniffs dramatically*

CAP: I didn't drop it! Wade, stop lying!

Deadpool: *strokes the top of CAP's head gently* [Don't feel so bad, my adorable chum. We all make mistakes.]

Rhodez: You didn't use that machine those elves had in that tree did you? Did you destroy some of Calvin's comics for that?

Calvin: *distressed* Better not have!

Deadpool: [I don't know, it looks like all your GrimJacks are missing.]


CAP: I wouldn't damage Calvin's comics! GRRR, Wade. . . *pounces on Deadpool. The other four stand around awkwardly for a moment as fighting commences and the two roll down the hall into a bedroom.*

Cassanee: I brought chicken & dumplings.

Pollock: *very smug* I brought an excellent stir fry, which yes, I made myself.

Calvin: Well, at least someone brought vegetables.

CAP: *voice partially muffled from biting Deadpool's hand* I brought some too!

Calvin: *snaps* You brought beets! Those barely qualify as a food in my book, and you damn well know it!

Rhodez: Dang man, what did the beets do to you?

Calvin: Nothing. . . yet. And as long as I keep my guard up, they'll never get the chance.

Rhodez: Oooooooo-kay. I brought pancakes again. With the good maple syrup, because I know Calvin buys the cheap kind.

Calvin: Joke's on you, I don't have any maple syrup at all!

Cassanee: Not much of a joke.

Pollock: Agreed.

Calvin: I know, but self-deprecation's my only defense, other than feigned indifference.

Deadpool: *drags himself back into the living room* [Don't we hold off on awkward confessions until people are drunk? That's how my family always did things!]

CAP: *walks out of the bedroom calmly, hoists Wade up by one arm, and dumps his upper body over the table* What'd you bring, Wade?

Deadpool: [Per Calvin's request, taquitos! Wait, spellcheck doesn't recognize "taquito"? Weird. Per my apprentice's request, boxed wine!]

Rhodez: *grumpy* I asked for one six pack of good beer.

Deadpool: [But this way, the box is also your cup. You don't have to remove a bottle, or get a glass! Watch!] *drains half the wine in one go*

CAP: Maybe let's just start eating.

*Later*

CAP: So, what's everybody thankful for? *sprawls out on the floor*

Pollock: Must we engage in this ridiculous ritual? Almost none of us take it seriously!

Deadpool: [I'll start! I'm thankful there's a big warm pillow shaped like a panda here for me to nap on!] *lays down with his head resting on CAP's stomach*

CAP: Get off! I'm too full to play with you!

Deadpool: [But you're so warm and comfy!] *rolls over and wraps his arms around the panda* [Just like one of those anime girl pillows.]

CAP: I'll punch you.

Deadpool: [Mmm, toasty.]

BONK! *Deadpool flies across the room, crashes against the oven*

Calvin: Don't break the oven, I cook with that occasionally!

*Everyone looks at him skeptically including Deadpool, who is upside down up against the oven in question.*

Calvin: Mostly I use it to bake frozen pizzas, but that's still critical!

Pollock: Moving on.

Rhodez: *sprawled on the couch* I'm thankful I'm getting my powers under control!

Deadpool: *bounds in, wraps arm around her shoulders* [That's right! You're ready to take a real step up in the "committing violence for money" world! You just need a better code name! The Wheel! No, the Grease! The Slippery Slope!]

Rhodez: I'm not doing that! Yet. Definitely not with any of those names! I just couldn't keep risking wrecking my truck!

Pollock: I'm thankful none of you wrecked my company this year. Also, Stefan's become significantly less nihilistic since we introduced him to more positive regions of the Internet. I'd be more thankful if someone would go back to her shanty in the woods. *glares at Cassanee, who is sitting in the corner of the room, looking pretty relaxed*

Cassanee: Haven't proved your innocence yet.

Pollock: Oh come on. That bizarre man in the green clock suit tried to kill me!

Cassanee: You were with Clever Adolescent Panda. Lowest chance of death.

Deadpool: [Ahem. Very well-compensated mercenary who is extremely good at fighting, standing right here.]

Cassanee: Stand by what I said. My friends told me our town is almost rebuilt, and a lot of people decided to stay. I'm happy for that. It's fun to annoy her. *points at Pollock*

Calvin: Wade, were you actually finished before your flight?

Pollock: Oh lord. *buries her face in her hands*

Deadpool: [Moi, Talk about myself? I'm usually such a shy and retiring flower, but since you insist. . .]

Cassanee: Get on with it.

Deadpool: [I'm thankful you guys let me come here and have dinner with you, even if none of you will let me hug you, since my current status quo is that I'm alone and friendless again.]

CAP: I thought you were King of Monster Island?

Pollock: They made Deadpool a king?! *eyes take on a thousand yard stare*

Deadpool: [I made myself king. By killing the previous king with 40 grenades. Didn't any of you see my crown?] *points at the gold crown that's been sitting on his head the entire time*

Rhodez: I figured you stole that from a costume shop.

Calvin: I saw it, but I already knew you were king, so it didn't seem worth mentioning.

Deadpool: [Anyway, all my subjects are pretty lame, unless you enjoy having Frosty the Snowman barf on you as a present. Which, I know people who'd pay good money for that action, but it's not one of my kinks.]

Calvin: *to CAP* Mark that down, we finally found something Deadpool isn't aroused by.

CAP: Too full, write it yourself. Groan.

Deadpool: [But you guys are fun, and the food's good, and you'll let me crash on your couch tonight?] *looks at Calvin hopefully*

Calvin: *aggrieved sigh* Yeah, OK. I better not find any weird stains tomorrow, though.

Deadpool: [No promises!] *throws himself on the portion of the couch Rhodez isn't using*

CAP: My turn? I'm thankful none of us got hurt during our trip to that weird lab. And I helped 27 restless spirits find peace this year!

Rhodez: Dang, man. Just leaves you, Calvin.

Calvin: Um, I'm not thankful for the tornado that wrecked my apartment, or the little bastards that stole my N64 out of it. I am thankful the tornado didn't destroy all my stuff, and that stupid deer didn't damage my car worse than it did. And I found a new place relatively quickly. And I didn't get killed at that lab by the emaciated guy with the electricity powers.

Rhodez: Man, can't you be more positive with your thanks?

CAP: They're always so backhanded! *imitating Calvin's voice* "At least this terrible thing didn't happen."

Pollock: Ha!

Calvin: So unaccepting. The blog's still going, always a plus. I figured out how to add alt-text to images finally. Pretty happy about that, even if the jokes are a work in progress. Doing some writing I'm liking! Did a road trip to Cali and back, that was cool!

Rhodez: I can't tell if he's being sarcastic or not.

Cassanee: Assume sarcasm.

CAP: Well, the important thing was you tried to participate.

Calvin: Ha-ha.