Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hell or High Water

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are brothers, robbing banks across West Texas to raise to keep their dead mama's ranch from falling into the hands of the same bank they're robbing. One would question the wisdom of robbing banks in Texas, where I assume every other person is packing heat, but that's where they live, so that's where they work. Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are two Rangers trying to track down these robbers. Marcus is about to retire, so you'd figure he's toast. Except he doesn't want to retire, so perhaps he'll simply be badly injured and forced into retirement.

I can not understand these people who don't want to retire. You don't want to be able to do whatever interests when you feel like it while you still have some capability to do so? Shee-it, if I could retire now I would. Then I'd sleep for three months straight. Then I'd travel.

Eh, whatever, Bridges' character is out of the Gran Torino mold of guys who express their fondness for people through constant racial stereotype jokes, and his partner Alberto has both Native American and Mexican ancestry. So he gets a lot of mileage out of that.

The two brothers argue a lot, because this may be Toby's plan, but Tanner is the one with all the criminal experience, so he tends to run things, and he's more aggressive about it. Tanner is probably the mirror to Bridges, the one locked into a life and unwilling or unable to get out. Alberto and Toby are both just trying to do this to make a living for their families, dealing with these unstable jackasses their partnered with, and wanting to walk away as soon as they can.

The movie stays focused on the cops and the robbers, switching back and forth between them. Which was good, the brothers have a deadline they have to meet, and any digressions with other characters would stunt the urgency. If it isn't relevant to the hunters or the hunted, the movie doesn't need it. I got sucked into this movie more than any I can think of recently.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What I Bought 1/26/2019 - Part 1

The weather wasn't crappy last weekend, I managed to make it out to visit Alex. As usual, that didn't go as planned. I did find almost every comic I was looking for from the first four weeks of the year (Coda being the exception). So let's start with the oldest stuff first and move forward.

Giant Days #46, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Jeremy Lawson (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I expected to see more evidence of bile in Susan's eye than that.

The comic store Esther works at is being robbed. Susan, in an effort to regain her edge, agrees to hit the mean streets to find the thief. For those sequences, Sarin and Lawson adopt a stark black and white color scheme, while Susan tries to narrate like some hard-boiled shamus. A hard-boiled shamus who has to call her boyfriend to ask which drain pipe is best suited to shimmy up. Fortunately, given Susan's limited lung capacity, it doesn't come to that, and the culprit is caught. Susan doesn't get cash, instead getting stuck with some limited edition Vegeta figure - hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaa!

That's pretty much it. The entire issue is Susan putting her sleuthing skills to use, which is fine. It was funny. I wonder if this is going to satisfy Susan, or if she'll embark on more dangerous schemes to recapture a bit of her old fire. I wouldn't mind it if it means she'll put it to a use other than making snide remarks to Ed about how unmasculine in his (Like the boy doesn't struggle with that enough internally already.) I guess threatening to punch Dean Thompson counts, although if Dean can stick and move for about 35 seconds, Susan will probably have a heart attack. At least she doesn't vape. Christ those commercials with the puppets about how vaping isn't safer than smoking are irritating. I don't smoke, I don't need this information!

I like the black and white look as a selective thing. It conveys the vibe Susan's going for, and it makes a nice contrast from the regularly colored pages and their reality of a gawky, stupid teen boy trying to crawl down a drain pipe. Also, the smug look Esther gives Susan after he's caught was pretty great.

Next issue, we find out what Daisy's like as a driver. Apparently a terror, but what kind specifically I'm curious to see.

Atomic Robo: Dawn of the New Era #1, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Shannon Murphy (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer) - I wound up with the variant cover, but this is a nice one, too.

Robo is continuing to teach baby ALAN down in his private lab. Presumably to keep ALAN from deciding to wipe out humanity with a lot of nukes he uses to power a massive ship for himself like the last version did. Bernard is taking a trip underground through an extinct volcano, while still trying to get over how he didn't want to come back the last time he went underground. Robo told him he's there to keep an eye on their new exoplant explorer prototype, but it's apparently there to keep an eye on Bernard.  Robo, maybe just spring for a damn therapist, 'cause this feels uncomfortably underhanded. I mean, Bernard's either trying to convince everyone else he's fine, or maybe just himself.

Lang and Vik are going on vacation, and apparently Vik is much older than I thought, judging by his entirely grey beard. Which leaves Foley to train the new interns/students, who are already privately discussing snooping around White Sands, which I'm sure will not prove catastrophic. Maybe this time Robo will get his act together and not completely ignore problems occurring in his own backyard.

The last Robo mini-series I was not a fan of the coloring. It too often turned things into a muddy mess of vague shapes and outlines. Shannon Murphy is on as colorist in place of Anthony Clark and early returns are promising. Granting we haven't seen any action sequences yet, which is when I thought things got at their worst in Spectre of Tomorrow, the colors here mesh with Wegener's linework better, instead of overpowering it. Murphy's colors don't necessarily seem brighter, but maybe the contrast between them is greater. It gives things a soft, relaxed feel, except during Bernard's descent, where Murphy draws the darker shadows as if they're closing in, waiting to crash down on him.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Right Side - Spencer Quinn

LeAnne is in the hospital recovering from losing an eye to a grenade while serving overseas. Her roommate Marci dies abruptly, and LeAnne decides it's time to leave. After a brief, difficult return to where she grew up, she heads north, to where Marci lived. A dog finds her there and decides it'll be staying with her, whether she likes it or not. Then it turns out Marci's daughter has gone missing.
This isn't really a mystery novel. LeAnne does spend some time asking questions and searching, but it rarely feels like the fate of the child is the primary issue. It's more this is something LeAnne's doing to either get back a sense of who she is, or that she's using to avoid thinking about her situation.

The book is 60% done before LeAnne learns Marci's daughter is missing. That works, because it gives time to see how LeAnne's dealing with her injury, and with everyone around her. The loss of depth perception gets brought up a couple of times, the way people react when they see the scarring much more frequently, as well as the different approaches LeAnne takes in either concealing it or not. But the main thing I noticed was how disoriented she seems to be. There are conversations she had or people she met before the book begins she doesn't recall. She can't keep track of time. That might be general indifference, but it feels more significant considering another part of her injury that she only occasionally remembers. She's very on edge. Almost any question towards her or response to something she says can set her off. Hardly any conversations in the first 200 pages end pleasantly. It reached the point any time someone would approach her I would internally flinch expecting ugliness. I figured sooner or later it would escalate and she isn't in top form.

There are a lot of flashbacks to her time in Afghanistan, building to how she got injured, and questions about what actually happened. You can figure out pretty easily before the answer arrives, but again, I think it's more about LeAnne's state of mind. Although I wasn't clear if the flashbacks were something LeAnne was experiencing, when she was asleep perhaps, or for us only. I thought it was the former initially, which was interesting given her recall of recent events was so poor, but she remembered all these older things so clearly. Then there was some internal narration on her part that suggested her memory of those older events is pretty shaky too, so I'm not sure. Mostly though, it's that she doesn't want to deal with it, look back at it, which seems understandable. There's nothing she can do about how it turned out now.

'LeAnne hit the road. Her expectation was that after a day of practice, she'd be more like her old motoring self, back in the passing lane. The truth was she'd gotten worse. Everybody - even the old and the timid - was now going too fast. It wasn't just on account of her eye straining to carry the whole load by itself. Her brain, too, was part of the problem, so slow to process all the movement around her. And that stuck metal lid thing going on behind her. . . what would you call it? Crater? Yes, exactly, like a bomb crater. Where had she been headed with this? She'd lost the thread.'

Monday, January 28, 2019

I Was Gonna Be Busy In April, Anyway

The solicits for April were not encouraging. I couldn't a find a single new thing in the smaller, independent publishers that caught my eye. Same thing with Dark Horse and IDW.

Dynamite had a solicit out for a second volume of Tim Truman's Scout, which is something I'd decided to track down a few months ago, but I think that's just a reissuing of an earlier printing (I found a discounted copy of the first volume while I was visiting Alex over the weekend).

DC is issuing a big collection of Judd Winick's run on Outsiders, which I'm not buying, but this reminded me that was a thing that existed, and I chuckled a little. I know Marvel and DC will collect just about anything - Marvel put out a multi-volume Clone Saga collection for pete's sake - but I have to wonder how many of those DC really expects to sell. Maybe they're planning to do an Outsiders TV show? That seems like a team that would better lend itself to the kind of darker style I've heard they went with for that Titans show (which I haven't watched, so maybe it doesn't match the early impressions).

Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are doing a sequel series to Descender called, naturally, Ascender. Now magic dominates everything? Not for me, but I wasn't expecting that. There's also a mini-series called Section Zero, but Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett. The tagline was "X-Files meets Kirby", so if that's sounds like a thing you'd enjoy, there you go.

Coda is up to the penultimate issue. Giant Days finds Esther is trying to finish her thesis. I had a horrifying thought that Giant Days might end at issue 50. If some of the cast is nearing graduation, this might be it. Then I felt sad. Smooth Criminals has its stars trying to pull their heist. In issue 6 of a 12-issue series? I'm sure everything is going to go smoothly.

At Marvel, War of the Realms kicks off. I assume someone cares about that. Only 3 ancillary mini-series and 5 ongoing doing tie-ins so far, though. Including Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Loki fans, start your anticipation!

It seems remarkably restrained for Marvel, until I remember the X-Men are doing their Age of X-Man thing (with 4 or 5 tie-in minis), and Amazing Spider-Man is doing that "Hunted" story which at least seems to be staying out of the other Spider-Man books. Although considering Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is doing an issue about Peter learning about Aunt May's most recent health crisis, maybe I'd be better off with him punching Kraven.

Domino and the Hotshots is getting a Deadpool appearance, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur are having a Spider-Man guest appearance. Noted only because I'm surprised it took him 42 issues to show-up. Marvel Team-Up is starting up again, with Ms. Marvel as the recurring character. That's actually not a terrible idea. Kamala will probably be excited to team-up with other heroes (until the obligatory Deadpool appearance), which would be a change of pace from when it was Spidey's book and he usually regarded the team-ups as an added headache.

Oh, and Marvel is letting Rob Liefeld do a mini-series about someone called Major X. You will be shocked to learn he carries both guns and swords. Who could have expected that?

And I just want to mention that the Avengers War of the Realms tie-in (starring the Squadron Supreme) specifically mentions Agent Coulson as being the only one who knows something. Meaning he is alive. Meaning Deadpool didn't kill him during Secret Empire. Meaning I was right to be annoyed at Duggan for trying so hard to convince me everyone was super-pissed about Wade killing Coulson.

Given the way things look like they're going for Marvel in 2019, I wonder if Boom! is going to catch them this year. Probably not, but something I'll keep an eye on.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #50

"A First Draft for Weird Al ", in Avengers Annual #16, by Tom DeFalco (story), Bob Hall (breakdowns), Tom Palmer (finishes), Max Scheele (colorist), Ken Lopez (letterer)

For the record, the Hall/Palmer art team is only for part of the book. As the story takes places in several locations, there are different art teams for each.

I only own two Avengers Annuals, and the other is the one where Rogue steals Carol Danvers' powers and we find out Carol was manipulated into going into that other dimension with Marcus, so. . . yeah, not using that one. (It's part of my copy of Essential Ms. Marvel).

This is the one where Hawkeye proves he's the guy you want around when Elders of the Universe come calling, just in case you thought his triumph against the Collector was a fluke. Grandmaster interrupts an intramural game of Avengers' baseball to tell them he's stolen Death's powers and he's going to destroy the universe, unless the Avengers can get past his Legion of the Unliving and disarm the bombs he's created.

The Avengers stop 4 of the 5 bombs, the only team failing being the Iron Man/Mockingbird/Black Knight/Dr. Druid quartet (drawn by Jackson Guice/Kevin Nowlan). To be fair, their opposition had Terrax and Dracula, so that was going to be a steep road to climb. I'm not sure if Death reverses that damage once it regains control. I'm also interested that Death can apparently reach into any afterlife realm, considering Skurge the Executioner was probably not in the same afterlife as Captain Mar-vell or Red Guardian.

The joke about this story is that practically everyone in the Legion of the Unliving has since turned out to still be alive, or else come back from the dead. Bucky's in there, Hyperion, Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin (unless that was actually Bart Hamilton, the second Green Goblin), Drax, Terrax, Nighthawk. . .

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Dragon and the Dog In Deep Space

Has Cosmo the Spacedog, head of security at Knowhere, ever met Lockheed, the little purple dragon that ran around with Kitty Pryde for years?

Kitty was on the Guardians of the Galaxy for a hot minute there, or at least hanging out with them when she was dating Star-Lord. But, I don't remember if a) Lockheed went with her, or b) if they ever visited Knowhere during that stretch. The only thing I do remember is Kitty rescuing Star-Lord by dressing up as a giant banana and teleporting onto a ship chanting to terrify his guards. Or something like that. Her in a banana costume definitely happened.

I would think Lockheed would have gone with her, since I recall he kept a pretty close on Pete Wisdom when she was dating him. Tormented him might be more accurate, really. But there was also that whole thing where Lockheed worked for Agent Brand as part of SWORD, so he could have been occupied with that. Though if he's working with Earth's interstellar security division, he could have encountered Cosmo on his own through that.

Or you can always go the retcon route and say the two of them met back in the distant past, before either of them got to where they are now. We still never have found out what Cosmo's life was like before he wound up at Knowhere. . .

It could be an interesting team-up. Rocket and Cosmo always have issues. Partially because Cosmo is fairly straightforward law enforcement, while Rocket is more of a merc. Rules and laws are not something to uphold so much as inconveniences to get around while getting the job done. Plus, there's some natural antipathy because one's a dog and one's a raccoon (no matter what he says).

Dogs and dragons are not typically adversaries, and Lockheed is not as morally grey as Rocket. Although that's dependent on which version of Rocket we're talking about. Lockheed has to have a bit of the freewheeling rulebreaker in him, if only because you can't hang out with the X-Men for too long without developing that willingness to say, "Fuck it, we're doing this thing." Even Cyclops has that impulse sometimes. Overall, Lockheed's a bit more chill than Rocket, easier to get along with, probably more trustworthy.

It wouldn't be a team-up based on friction between the two, just seeing them play off each other and stop some smugglers of a population-eradicating bacterial plague, or a would-be assassin from disrupting a peace summit.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Kung Fu Yoga

You have a Chinese archaeologist trying to find a lost treasure that, a thousand years ago, was being delivered from an empire in India to encourage the Chinese dynasty to help in a war. The current princess of the royal lineage gets involved, as does the current heir to the ruler who had been waging war against them, each of them trying to claim the treasure, while the archaeologist is firmly in the "it belongs in a museum" camp.

Jackie Chan plays the archaeologist - named Jack Chan, so Jackie has hit the Tony Danza stage of only playing characters with his name, for simplicity's sake no doubt - and then the main characters from the two royal heritages are played by Indian actors (Ashmita played by Disha Patani and Randall by Sonu Sood), so it's maybe a mixture of film styles. I know zilch about Indian film, only than people satirize or reference it by having big dance sequences. Which this film does end with a big dance sequence. Like, the plot is finished, let's all just dance for several minutes.

I skipped that part. Non-plot relevant dancing is not my thing. Plot relevant dancing isn't really my thing, either.

There's a lot of, not so great CGI, especially CGI animals. Wolves, snakes - one guy gets bit in the face by two cobras, his face swells, but he does not die. Which seems unlikely. There's a car chase in Dubai where Jackie's in a SUV that had a lion in the back. I know we don't want Jackie Chan getting eaten by a lion, it's just really noticeable CGI.

The fight sequences are solid, especially allowing for Jackie Chan's age, he's still got some moves. Although the one where he's testing Jones' skills as a way to dissuade the pack of wolves from attacking their camp didn't make a hell of a lot of sense. Especially since it didn't work, the wolves did attack, and then they drove them off with snowballs. That whole thing was a little strange.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What I Bought 1/9/2019

There were six comics I wanted that came out the first two weeks of January. Since I haven't left town since New Year's Eve, I only managed to find one. So here we are, the first time I'm trying to buy a Spider-Man title regularly in, 9 years? Those five months in 2010 Amazing Spider-Man strung together a bunch of stories that sounded interesting by creative teams I liked? Geez, no pressure fellas.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1, by Tom Taylor (writer), Juann Cabal (artist), Nolan Woodward (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Spidey looks like he needs to build up his lower legs.

Peter has a neighbor who is in trouble with some strange, very strong people. Strong enough to punch Peter through a wall and knock him cold. You know, I thought his spider-sense buzzed stronger for bigger threats, so you'd think he'd have known to dodge, instead of playing at being hapless Peter. Anyway, strange orange children are involved.

Other than that, the issue is mostly Peter or Spider-Man being a nice person and helping people in various ways. That's nice. There's also a backup story where Aunt May might have cancer now. That's less nice. I assume Stark gave her an artificial heart after the 27th heart attack and the radiation is to blame.

It's not bad as a first issue goes, although I'm not sure how forcefully it makes the case for someone to keep buying it. It feels as though the book is trying to sell itself on the little things, Peter's interactions with his neighborhood, which might be a hard sell. Taylor gets you caught up on as much of Peter's current status as is relevant at the moment. His roommates are Randy Robertson and Boomerang. That whole thing about him being guilty of plagiarism because Octavius stole some of his own work when he was busy stealing Peter's body. Taylor didn't overload it, though, which is smart. Lets the book focus on its own stuff. Bring out whatever is necessary from what Spencer and Zdarsky are doing as you need to.

Cabal has a clean art style, not much in the way of unnecessary lines. There are enough talking scenes he can show off his range of expressions. We'll see how it goes during extended action scenes. Although I doubt the stairwells in Peter's apartment building would be that clean and free of garbage and graffiti. At minimum there must be kids running around tearing shit up, but OK, whatever. I thought Woodward overdid it on the coloring for the spider-sense. He's not just doing the wavy blue lines above Peter's head, he gave him blue glowy eyes like he's astral projecting. It's a little much. Otherwise, the color work is fine. There's not much costumed stuff going on, so most of it is more understated tones. Colors aren't dull, but they don't really pop off the page.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tristram Shandy - Laurence Sterne

I'm stubborn when it comes to abandoning books. I treat it as a challenge, like a game, myself against the book. Except while I may surrender to a game because my luck, reflexes, or spatial reasoning are not up to the task, I can't make that excuse with a book. A book is words, and it would appear that all that is necessary to finish one is to be able to read. I can read, so there is no reason for me not to finish.

Which is a foolish line of reasoning, obviously. By the same train of thought I should cut through my leg with a hacksaw. I know how to use a hacksaw, so there is no excuse for not cutting through my leg as I might any other object.

All of which is to say, I should have given up on this one. I strongly considered it at the halfway point, but that might have been one of the parts I found more readable, and let it goad me into pushing forward. After the first thirty or forty pages I realized the point wasn't really the story Tristram is trying to tell of his life, that helped a little. Up to that point, I'd been getting increasingly annoyed with how he would say he was going to tell us about one thing, then wander off-course from one seemingly irrelevant topic to another.

But all the digressions are just more opportunities to discuss the various aspects of humanity through Tristram's father and his uncle Toby. Problem #1 being you still have to be able to muster some sort of interest in whatever topic they're arguing over to be able to pay enough attention to get anything from it. Tristram's travelogue of his flight from Death through France made me want to kneecap him so the Reaper would catch up and finish him off. The parts where one character would try to tell a story or read something, only to be constantly interrupted and sidetracked could get maddening. Trim tries to cheer Toby with the story of seven castles, and can get scarcely one sentence in before being interrupted. Once, twice, three times, four. And if the interruptions don't tickle your fancy, you want Toby to shut the hell up so Trim will finish his story and they'll move on to something else..

Problem #2 is the overly verbose style Sterne writes in. It's not just the amount of words. It's how every sentence is filled with several clauses of disclaimers, qualifiers, clarifications, requests to his audience, etc,. Sometimes it works, and each one builds upon each other in a gathering momentum towards an actual point. Other times, I get to the end of a paragraph and find I've lost the thread of what he was trying to say in the word monsoon. Either that, or I'd see the word monsoon coming and my mind would drift to other topics while I read. Which leads to the same place: I reach the end of the paragraph and none of it actually registers.

I can appreciate the style of the book, the way one stupid diversion leads into another, or how Tristram will spend a chapter discussing which topics will get their own chapters later, like "buttonholes". Some of which may or may not actually get chapters. But it wasn't enough to make the book more than intermittently enjoyable to read.

'I told the Christian reader--I say Christian--hoping he is one--and if he is not, I am sorry for it--and only beg he will consider the matter with himself, and not lay the blame entirely upon this book,--

I told him, Sir--for in good truth, when a man is telling a story in the strange way I do mine, he is obliged continually to be going backwards and forwards to keep all tight together in the reader's fancy--which, for my own part, if I did not take heed to do more than at first, there is so much unfixed and equivocal matter starting up, with so many breaks and gaps in it,--and so little service do the stars afford, nevertheless, I hang up in some of the darkest passages, knowing that the world is apt to lose its way, with all the lights the sun at noonday can give it--and now you see, I am lost myself!--

--But 'tis my father's fault; and whenever my brains come to be dissected, you will perceive, without spectacles, that he has left a large, uneven thread, as you sometimes see in an unsalable piece of cambric, running along the whole length of the web, and so untowardly, you cannot so much as cut out a * * (here I hang up a couple of lights again), -- or a fillet, or a thumbstall, but it is seen or felt.--

Quanto id diligentius in liberis procreandis cavendum, sayeth Cardan. All which being considered, and that you see 'tis morally impracticable for me to wind this round to where I set out--

I begin the chapter over again.'

Monday, January 21, 2019

What I Bought 1/11/2019

Two weekends ago was our annual Snowpocalypse, 15-20 inches. We were supposed to get a few more inches this weekend, but we got basically nothing. We just get one big snow per winter these days, if that. Back to the regular grind, with two books left over from 2018.

Coda #7, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (illustrator), Michael Doig (color assists), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I wonder what medieval fantasy worlds use for flameproof cloth? I hope it doesn't contain asbestos.

It's go time for Serka's plan. With a little help from the bandit-jester Notch, the opportunity arrives to sneak into the Whitlord's section of town. And while Hum is busy gathering the magic for his really stupid plan to try and remove the curse from his wife, Serka confronts the Whitlord and destroys him. Surprise! It's not actually a Whitlord, but it's also not some poser pretending to be one. The truth of who was behind it is a lot worse for our main characters. In the meantime, Serka's at loose ends, and Hum, like I said, is ready to do something stupid.

I'm very curious to see how this spell Hum's going to try works out. There's always consequences with magic in these stories, I figure it can go any of a number of ways, up to and including unmaking her entirely. Like it turns out an Urken can't be divorced from the curse, it's a core part of their makeup. Take it away and the entire person falls to pieces. Of course, there's always the chance he turns his brain back on and stops, but I doubt it.

In the meantime, there's also Notch (the bandit jester) to consider. She wants to climb the ladder, she may have a chance, since she knows who dispatched the Whitlord. But if she understands how things really work in their little community, I'm not sure how she'll react. I could see her not caring - a boss is a boss - but maybe not. So it's all up in the air.

The whole bit when Serka finally gets to confront the Whitlord looks gorgeous. There's a panel of the Whitlord speaking with these three mysterious guys, and there's a faint red glow around the Whitlord that almost looks like a mist, like an aura he's giving off. The panel of Serka obliterating the three mysterious guys in a frenzy of sword slashes. The best is a sequence where Hum rushes in trying to get her to calm down, and as he's talking, he's right next to her. The next panel, he's alone, because she's already into the next panel winding up for her attack. That implied speed, the "you blinked and missed it".

MegaGhost #1, by Gabe Soria (writer), Gideon Kendall (artist/colorist/letterer), Michael Robinson (color assists) -  This Captain Planet and the Planeteers reboot is weird, man. Seriously though, I can't tell if the title is "MegaGhost" or "Mega Ghost", because I've been seeing it both ways.

Young occultist explores spooky mansion, finds a cursed ring, puts the damn thing on without stopping to wonder if it's cursed or not. The ring lets him summon and control ghosts, or combine them into a giant ghost robot. Which he has to do to stop a giant fish god from rampaging through town. Day is saved, but there's a mad scientist behind the whole thing, so that'll be a problem.

It's an interesting idea, a mix of a lot of different things. There are some mysteries for Soria to tease out, like whether the previous wearer of that ring left their hand behind in that box willingly or not. I'm curious to see if Martin can summon and control any ghost, or just the three that emerged when he put on the ring.

For some reason, Kendall's art, at least for people as opposed to ghosts, reminds me of something out of MAD Magazine. I tried looking through the old collections of my dad's, and the closest I could find was some of Jack Davis' art in A MAD Look at the Movies, but I don't know. It's not a bad thing; the art looks good, it's just something about the main character's face, and some of the more cartoonish aspects of the ghosts and monsters. Martin does look fairly old for what I assume is supposed to be a teenager. Could just be how far back his hair sits on his head. The hair style fits for a book about a hero dealing with the occult, but it looks odd on a kid.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #49

"Their God DOES Dress Like That" in Avengers (vol. 3) #63 (473), by Geoff Johns (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Dave Kemp (colorist), RS and Albert Deschesne (letterers)

I own three issues of Avengers from after Kurt Busiek left the book. One from Geoff Johns' stretch, which is where the issue above is from, and two from Chuck Austen's brief stint. Because I am one of probably three people on the planet that liked Kelsey Leigh as a new Captain Britain. 

(The fact I've never had any use or affection for Brian Braddock probably has something to do with it).

Given the choice, I wanted to go with something drawn by Alan Davis, so this is from the conclusion to a three-part story where the first two parts ran in Thor and Iron Man. Thor's taken over for Odin, and is protecting some people in an Eastern European country who are worshiping him and being persecuted for it by the country's dictator. The U.S. and Russians are watching uneasily, while Doom is trying to escalate the whole thing along from the shadows. Then Iron Man showed up in armor powered by a mystic stone Thor offered Earth as a clean fuel source, to challenge Thor. Thor didn't approve of that. Then Cap jumped in trying to calm the whole thing down.

(This is the story with the classic, 'Shut up, Tony. Shut up and turn your brain back on.' panel. Steve might have wanted to save that for a few years until Civil War started.)

I remember more of Johns' run than I thought. He used Scorpio and the In-Betweener, my first encounter with either of them. Red Skull got himself appointed Secretary of Defense and released a biological agent, which he tried to pin on Wakanda to ignite a war between the two countries. 'Cause white supremacist. T'Challa broke his jaw. Thumbs up to that (Oliver Coipel drew that story). I think he tried to make Gyrich more sympathetic, which, no thanks. Put the Falcon back on the team, and had him punch Gyrich after the dipshit called him "boy". Perhaps I should retract my statement about making him more sympathetic. 

Brought Hawkeye back onto the team (good), killed Jack of Hearts (bad), changed She-Hulk so her transformation was being caused by fear (boo). Gary Frank drew the Jack of Hearts issue, but Scott Kolins drew the story where Clint came back and She-Hulk's powers changed. I'm guessing this was before he and Johns worked on The Flash together, but maybe not. 

There was one issue where we learned Hank and Jan use the size-changing stuff in their sex life, which was not a thing I needed to know. If I have to remember it, then so do you! Austen promptly broke those two up and had Jan and Hawkeye start up, which is better than putting Hank and Jan together again. There is too much damn baggage there.

When Austen left, Bendis came on, we got Avengers Dissassembled, and then New Avengers, which was the last time I bought what I would call a proper Avengers book (to the extent that label can be applied to Bendis' run). But we still have a lot of mini-series and books where they slapped "Avengers" on the cover before we get out of the A's.

Friday, January 18, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 5

I said in the opening paragraph of last year's version of this post I needed to find a way to work the creators' names into those posts in a way that was less clunky. I did not manage that, mostly because I did not remember that I had thought that was a thing I should do. Oh well.

Some of the categories this year have almost no candidates. Some of them have several, but not many good ones. As always, it's limited to the things I bought. Seems like that should go without saying, but just in case.

Favorite Ongoing Series (min. 6 issues bought):

1. Giant Days
2. Ms. Marvel
3. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Because I dropped Deadpool after 5 issues, and because both Stellar and Coda seem to be mini-series, there were only 4 books in this category. Yikes. Domino is the odd woman out here. Giant Days was the most consistently enjoyable book, and had 4-5 jokes or lines that would make me stop and laugh every issue. The battle for second was close, but I gave it Ms. Marvel because I enjoyed the stories more this year than in 2017 (when there was the sentient computer virus and the return of Civil War II fallout). Plus, it helped that Nico Leon stuck as the book's artist all year, and I prefer his art to Derek Charm's, who drew Squirrel Girl most of the year.

Favorite Mini-Series:

1. Coda
2. Mata Hari
3. Stellar

There were actually quite a few candidates for this category, about 9 in all. Unfortunately, several of them were not any good, or were a letdown. Demon: Hell is Earth felt pointless, Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk and Multiple Man were both mistakes. Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow took a hit because of its muddy coloring dragging down the art. Empowered and Sistah Spooky felt a bit drawn out, or thin in places. I ultimately took Stellar for third ahead of Spider-Girls, narrowly, but really, there's a huge gap between Coda and everything else.

Favorite One-Shot:

1. Giant Days - Where Women Glow and Men Plunder
2. Street Angel - After School Fight
3. Domino Annual

There were only three options to begin with, might as well include them all. It was pretty close between them, as none of them were what I'd call truly exceptional books I'll cherish for the rest of my days. But the Annual suffers for being a bunch of loosely connected smaller stories of variable quality. The other two are one distinct story, which gives them more time to flesh out, and that works to their advantage. I'm more fond of Giant Days than Street Angel, so there you go.

Favorite Trade Paperback/Graphic Novel (anything purchased this year is eligible):

1. Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba! vol. 14
2. John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell's Giant Days vol. 6
3. Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

I bought 27 trades, graphic novels, or manga volumes this year, and 13 of them where from either Planetary, Starman, or Giant Days. Which probably works against them, because when you have multiple parts of a larger work, picking out just one is a little harder than when there's just one volume of something to consider. If a Starman volume had made the list, it'd probably vol. 7, A Starry Knight, the first half of Jack's space adventure. Planetary, probably volume 4, the last 10 issues or so. But there always seem to be issues where Ellis goes into a tone that hits me the wrong way and puts me off. Which is why I'm pretty cautious picking up his stuff. I don't need his cynicism on top of my own.

Favorite Writer:

1. John Allison
2. Ann Nocenti
3. G. Willow Wilson

Well, Giant Days-related stuff won Ongoing, One-Shot, and placed on TPB/GN, so who do you think is going to win? I enjoy his sense of humor, and I've ended up caring about the fates of three fictional British girls at university more than I would have thought possible. That has to count for something. Ann Nocenti has to be on here most any time I buy something she wrote. I always find her stuff interesting, even if I can't pull apart what she's driving at. I at least feel the need to make the effort, which is more than I can say with some other writers.

Favorite Artist (min. 110 pages):

1. Carla Speed McNeil
2. Max Sarin
3. Matias Bergara
4. Nico Leon

I didn't want to leave Leon off, which is why this list goes four deep. Bergara might be getting extra points for how well the vivid colors on Coda help his art pop, but he does at least part of that color work himself (along with Michael Doig), so he would therefore deserve at least partial credit for that. Even though I love Sarin's work with expressions and body language, I had to give the edge to McNeil because she showed more creativity in panel layouts and got to draw some action sequences, and they all looked good. That might just be a matter of the books I saw their work - Sarin doesn't get to draw extended fight scenes, and Allison's writing style seems to lend itself to straightforward layouts and lots of talking - but I don't know that for sure. I can only go off what I see, and I do remember that my issues with Finder had nothing to with McNeil's art (and almost entirely to do with not being able to stand Jaeger as the main character).

That does it for the Year In Review until 2020. Sunday is a Sunday Splash Page, and then Monday we're back to regular comic reviews and books and such.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 4

I bought a lot more back issues this year than I did new stuff, even without counting trade paperbacks and other collections. Some complete runs of series (all the '80s Amethyst stuff). In other cases, whatever scattered issues of a title I thought sounded good, like how I grabbed about two dozen issues of Power Man and Iron Fist, or Joe Casey's stint as writer on Adventures of Superman (which I need to backtrack to for Sunday Splash Page).  There were some misfires in there - I tried some of the '90s Guardians of the Galaxy series, and that was not my best idea - but most of the stuff was at least interesting.

Spider-Girls #1-3: Having learned nothing from that Darkhawk mini-series, I tried another ancillary tie-in to a Big Event comic, written by Jody Houser, penciled and inked by Andres Goulet, colored by Triona Farrell, and lettered by Joe Caramagna. Anya Corazon Spider-Girl and Mayday Parker Spider-Girl traveled to the Renew Your Vows universe where Pete and MJ's daughter might hold the key to stopping the Spider-Geddon event

High Point: I liked Goulet's art for it's clean look, but also the little details. The way all three characters web-swing a little differently. Peter Parker pacing up the wall and onto the ceiling while he's thinking. Those are nice touches. And it was nice to see Mayday and Annie each get to interact with a sister they could have had, if things had gone a little different.

Low Point: I guess the fact it's tied into an event I didn't care about. There's a vague resolution in that Annie might have seen a way to win, but we don't know if it worked. And Morlun's siblings are just barely there enough to qualify as a threat, and are hardly even in conflict with our heroes, that's a little unsatisfying even if I understand why.

Stellar #1-6: I thought this was an ongoing, but for now at least, it's a mini-series. Joseph Keatinge, Bret Blevins, and Rus Wooton, with a story about a pair of super-soldiers who won't leave their pasts behind.

High Point: I enjoyed Blevins' take on 1950s style sci-fi stuff, like giant robots and space ships, and so on. The basic initial concept of these soldiers trying to decide what to do after the war is over and nobody won was why I tried it in the first place. The repeated sense of time, years or decades, passing where Stellar or Zenith might go about their lives peacefully, only to fall back into old habits eventually was kind of sad, but handled well. One of those vicious cycles where neither one (but mostly Zenith) will just leave it be. They always have to hunt each other down and start again.

Low Point: There's a bit in the first issue where it's mentioned time and space seem to be damaged, or else whoever is in charge of keeping track of time is falling down on the job. I would have liked to see more with that. Spend more time in the ruined universe than the one that isn't devastated.

Street Angel - After School Kung-Fu Special: I think this was part of a larger story that had been released previously. It was $1, so I imagine the idea is to encourage you to get the whole thing. Although Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca at least had it end on a point that could sort of qualify as a conclusion. You can tell more could happen, but it's at moderately funny ending as it stands.

The Seeds #1, 2: Ann Nocenti and David Aja with a story of an Earth that's dying, and people are either unaware or unconcerned, but aliens are taking steps to preserve whatever they think is worthwhile. Aja works mostly in 9-panel grids, but shakes things up enough to keep it from getting too static, and I'm always curious about what Nocenti has going. Unfortunately, it's been three months and counting since I've seen an issue. Which is frustrating for what's supposed to be a 4-issue mini-series. But I'll wait. I expect it'll be worth it.

Tick 2017 #3: It seems like Cullen Bunn, JimmyZ, and Duane Redhead were doing a riff on Wolverine's time in Weapon X with the Tick. With a school in the middle of nowhere in Canada, and weird memory blocks, and a girlfriend he remembers sometimes, but not always. But it wasn't very funny, and there seemed to be big enough delays between issues I stopped looking for it.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28-39: Ryan North, Rico Renzi, and Travis Lanham were on the book all year as writer, colorist, and letterer, respectively. Derek Charm took over for Erica Henderson as pencil artist in May. Doreen went to space to deal with some scammers, got stuck in a lethal escape room with Kraven the Hunter and her other friends, fought a librarian ghost, and then attended her own funeral.

High Point: I was fond of Drax promising intensive testing to find where Loki would be hurt most by stabbing. The Avengers getting trounced by a librarian ghost was funny, and should certainly humiliate them. The Silver Surfer was almost tolerable when he appeared. Brain Drain is a constant delight with his commentary and how excited he got about swimming pools. But the absolute high pont is that I accurately predicted that it was Mojo II: The Sequel behind the dangerous escape room. Look, just let me have this victory.

Low Point: In general, I feel like Charm's faces and body types are more generalized than Henderson's. Most notable to me for Nancy's design, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Unbelievable Gwenpool #24, 25: The last two issues of this series, by Chris Hastings and the Guruhiru art team, and Joe Caramagna. Gwen, having seen that refusing to be a world-destroying villain is going to cancel her book, or possibly end her existence, tries to pivot to a less destructive form of villainy. But that doesn't work, due to Batroc's good intentions, so a different future version of herself shows up to convince things aren't as doomed as she thinks. You just have to look at it another way. I miss this series.

Unstoppable Wasp #1: By Jeremy Whitley, the Guruhiru art team, and Joe Caramagna. There were definitely parts of this mini-series I think I would have enjoyed, but the first issue gave me the impression there was going to be a lot of focus on things I didn't care about, like Nadia's stress over coming up with some sort of invention to show the viability of her lab to investors.

And that's all the titles! Tomorrow comes the customary listing and comparing, where we try to make books and creative talent feel bad about themselves by one random schmuck on the Internet saying he doesn't like their work as much as someone else's.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 3

In my annual artist tracking page count, 8 artists drew at least 110 pages of the stuff I bought this year. I'm surprised there were that many artists, considering how few series I bought for any extended period of time. But some of the publishers are still doing 22 pages an issue instead of 20, which helped Carla Speed McNeil and Ariela Kristantina hit 110 pages on the nose on their respective mini-series. Bret Blevins ended up at 120. David Baldeon is at roughly 141, I say roughly because there was one issue of Domino where he and Michael Shelfer were both credited as artists. I didn't see any pages that looked his style, so I don't know how many to count for him and presently I'm not counting any.

Four of the eight made it past the 154 page mark, all of them making the list for the first time. Matias Bergara (160) from his work on Coda. Derek Charm (160) taking over for Erica Henderson on Squirrel Girl. Ms. Marvel finally landed on a regular artist for the first time in three years, with Nico Leon at 214 pages. And this year's leader, at 220 pages, the regular artist for Giant Days, Max Sarin!

Infinity Countdown - Darkhawk #1-4: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims as writers, Gang Hyuk Lim handing all the art chores, with Travis Lanham as letterer. Man, this was a bad whiff. Lim's art was pretty, but lifeless, especially whenever there was fighting going on. And Sims and Bowers decided that what Darkhawk needed was a connection to the Phoenix Force. And that we need to have Darkhawk and Nova at each other's throats. Let's leave that I disagree with pretty much all of that. Not even bothering with "High Point, Low Point", because I don't know what I'd put down for a High Point. My fault for buying a Big Event tie-in mini-series.

Mata Hari #1-5: Emma Beeby, Ariela Kristantina, Pat Masioni, and Sal Cipriano with at least one possible version of Mata Hari's life, motivations, and true goals. It's one where she spends her whole life being punished for the feelings men have when they see her. Ostracized for making a living taking advantage of their feelings, and ultimately is used as a convenient scapegoat to disguise the incompetence of the French Army command in World War I. Is that accurate to history? We don't know.

High Point: I think Beeby weaves that notion about Margaretha suffering for the thoughts and impressions everyone else has of her in very well through the story. When she decides to make a living with a circus, she thinks she could use her horse-riding skills, but it's the ringmaster and the other performers who suggest she should be a dancer. And so she goes with it, to make a living, but it's one more thing people can use against her, that informs their opinions. (Although I wonder if we are supposed to trust her version of things.)

Low Point: I mean, it doesn't have a happy end, but I knew that was the case going in. There were some delays, so the last issue was three months late, but that's about it.

Mega Ghost #1: We'll get to a review of the book next week alongside Coda #7, but for now, it's about a young man interested in the occult who ends up with a cursed ring that lets him combine ghosts into a ghost mecha. Gabe Soria writes it, and Gideon Kendall handles the art, colors, and letters, with assists on the colors from Michael Robinson.

Ms. Marvel #26-36: G. Willow Wilson wrapping up her time writing the book, at least for now. Nico Leon drew almost all of this, except for a few pages in issue #31, that were drawn by one of Gustavo Duarte, Bob Quinn, or Elmo Bondoc. Ian Herring handled the color work, and Joe Caramagna was the letterer. The year started with Kamala missing, and a bunch of her friends forming the Legion of Substitute Ms. Marvels to fight off the creator of the Inventor, and his mech-assist reptile army. Bruno returned from Wakanda, leaving Kamala torn between him and Red Dagger. Then Shocker showed up trying to be the biggest villain in Jersey.

High Point: I love Shocker trying to be a big villain, complete with a not-at-all secret lair, filled with makeshift booby-traps. He seemed like he was having so much fun too. I love Nico Leon's designs for the chameleon or the giant cyborg snake thing. And that he has maintained the tradition started by Adrian Alphona of adding fun little details in the background (in issue #31, Abu's newspaper has a headline about a man winning the lottery and investing in cats, with a picture of a smiling guy surrounded by cats). Plus, the Substitute Ms. Marvels doing Power Ranger style poses before they leap into battle. And Kamala and Carol had a pleasant conversation to reaffirm their friendship after that Civil War II nonsense.

Low Point: I wasn't very fond of #36, the issue spent on why the guy she'd encountered while briefly lost in time thought he recognized her. Not sure how I felt about the low-key scene where Kamala finds out all her friends knew she was Ms. Marvel. Felt like that should have been a bigger deal, considering Nakia was annoyed at one point feeling she was left out of Kamala's life. Was that because she knew, or because she didn't, and the frustration faded once she understood?

Multiple Man #1-5: An extremely lengthy and convoluted mini-series involving time travel and alternate dimensions, written by Matt Rosenberg, drawn by Andy MacDonald, Tamra Bonvillain on colors, and Travis Lanham as letterer.

High Point: We have a Jamie Madrox back, and it sounds like Layla Miller and the son she had with Jamie are still alive (I thought they bought it when Jamie did in Inhumans vs. X-Men). The Marcos Martin covers were pretty cool. That's about it.

Low Point: For what the series was trying to accomplish, it was far more confusing than it needed to be. I'm not sure all the time travel and sequencing of when Madrox dupes came into being or were absorbed really works if you tried to sit down and map it out. Why does one of Bishop's allegedly timeline preserving bombs destroy an entire block, but another can't destroy one Madrox duplicate standing three feet away? It's all just a mess.

Rogue and Gambit #1, 2: Kelly Thompson, Pere Perez, Frank D'Armata, and Joe Carmagna send Rogue and Gambit to couples therapy! I gave up after two issues because while I was sorted interested in them rehashing some of their past history, I wasn't interested at all in the villain who was trying to swipe their memories or something. Still, the bit where Rogue points out Gambit has no business criticizing her for making out with Deadpool, and implies Wade is a better kisser than Remy, that was enjoyable. Gambit deserves every ounce of shit he gets, always.

Smooth Criminals #1, 2: A hacker of the '90s teaming up with an Unfrozen '60s Cat Burglar to steal an impressive diamond thing. They haven't gotten to that part yet, but we're only two issues in, I can wait. Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten Smith writing, Leisha Riddel as artist, Brittany Peer as color artist, and Ed Dukeshire as letterer. My only concern is that the second half of issue #2 was starting to look fairly rushed in the art. A little troubling with 10 more issues to go, but we'll see how it goes.

Hey, we managed to get through the three disappointing Marvel mini-series I bought last year! Thumbs up! Tomorrow, a few more mini-series, the last two issues of one series, and the only other ongoing I bought the entire year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 2

I bought 114 new comics this year, down three from last year, which was down three from the year before, which was down four from 2015, and so on. Although, if all the books that were solicited to ship in 2018 had actually done so, I'd have ended up around 121. The pitfall of switching to buying more stuff from more creator-owned companies. They aren't going to do a fill-in issue when someone falls behind.

Marvel accounted for 55 (48.25%) of the 114. That's the lowest number of comics for them since I started this blog, well below 2012's 64, but still a slightly higher percentage than 2012's 47.41%. DC had its worst year yet: 8 books total, for 7.02% of the total. 2016 was the previous low in total comics (11), and 2007 was the previous low in percentage (7.5). DC actually finished 5th among publishers this year for me. It hadn't done worse than 3rd previously.

All other publishers totaled 51 (44.73%) books. Boom! is in the lead, at 22 books. That's a new high for a single-year total for any non-Marvel/DC publisher, beating Image's 16 in 2015. After that, it's Dark Horse (12), Image (11), IDW (4), Albatross and NEC (1 each).

Domino #1-9: Gail Simone wrote it, David Baldeon drew most of the pages, with Jesus Arbutov on the color work. Arbutov also drew a few pages, and so did Michael Shelfer. Clayton Cowles handled the lettering. Domino forms a merc team with Outlaw and Diamondback (random, but OK), then has to survive a couple of people with a grudge and a traitor from within. Then they get roped into stopping vampires from destroying humanity by either rescuing or killing Morbius, and Domino's in the middle of trying to kill Longshot as the year wraps up.

High Point: Domino's speech about being a Disney Princess while pummeling the angry redhead with a rock was odd enough to be funny. Simone gets a lot of mileage out of playing up a contrast between Domino, the super-cool mercenary with luck powers, and Domino, who is kind of a dork and looks like a complete mess when she wakes up. It's not how I would have pictured her, but it's an interesting approach. Baldeon's expressive art can really play it up, either by showing how terrified she is when Outlaw uses the fastball special, or how she looks when she first wakes up.

Low Point: The identity of the traitor seemed like a big deal in the first few issues, then it was casually explained and dismissed in the last few pages of issue 6. I was disappointed we weren't seeing more crazy stuff happening as a result of Domino and Longshot's powers clashing in issue 9. Maybe we get that in issue 10.

Domino Annual: You'd think a comic would have to last more than a year to get an annual, but you would be wrong. There were four short stories, two of them about Domino and her old boyfriends, one about how Outlaw joined her and Diamondback, and one about a support group for mutants with a physical appearance altered due to their mutation, that Domino and Nightcrawler started up. Again, not something I would expect from Domino, but OK. The Cable story is the weak point, since it's written from Cable's POV, not Domino's, and is mostly about him trying to come to grips with the Domino he was in a relationship with having actually been a shapeshifter or something. Even Early 90s Calvin wasn't dumb enough to read X-Force on the reg.

Empowered and Sistah Spooky's High School Hell #2-6: A book that ran into delays, but at least it finished before year's end. Adam Warren as writer, Carla Speed McNeil on art and lettering duties, and Jenn Manley Lee on color work. Emp and Spooky get trapped in a hellish re-creation of Spooky's high school, where all the girls who tormented her are waiting for a chance to kill her and steal her magic powers. Emp is just collateral damage as far as the girls are concerned.

High Point: Carla Speed McNeil's artwork is excellent, and the ways that the tactics the girls would use back in school are translated to actual powers are usually pretty clever. Or gross. Being strangled by the guts of giant, dissected frogs? The fact that while the attacks are deadly, the taunts and insults aren't really doing much because while all these girls are still the same brats they were in high school, Spooky isn't. She has other traumas, but the old weak spots aren't really there any more to exploit.

Low Point: I dunno, the delays were irritating. After the first few battles, things move into a Lightning Round, which makes it seem as though it's getting easier. Except each girl should be getting more powerful as their classmates are defeated, so it should be getting harder.

Giant Days #34-45: A lot happened. Ed drunkenly confessed his feelings to Esther, which has been causing fallout all year. Daisy broke up with Ingrid - hallelujah! - and is mentoring new students. Susan had a mostly quiet year, but is growing increasingly bothered by the life of domestic bliss she's settling into, the loss of her edge. Esther is trying to mature in her own bizarre, zigzag path. So, not much different from the rest of us. John Allison wrote all issues, Max Sarin drew most of them (with inks by Liz Fleming for two of those issues), minus two Julia Madrigal handled. Whitney Cogar is on the color work, with Jim Campbell as letterer.

High Point: I love most everything about this book. The breakneck pace, the number of plots and subplots running through it. Allison has a great ability for writing clever dialogue, or just stuff that makes me laugh. Max Sarin's art, with the range of expressions and body language, and knowing when to really exaggerate for effect. For a single moment, the panel in #34 when Ed realizes he just confessed to Esther, and that Esther is still sober enough to have heard and understood him was my favorite. I've been waiting for that basically since I realized Ed being interested in her was a thing, and his "Oh God, what have I done?" look was just perfect.

Low Point: I wasn't into that arc with Cliff, the old man McGraw briefly helped, who also ran a very shady Christmas Village. One of those times where the book's tendency to move quickly through plots and onto the next one really worked out because it was over and done.

Giant Days -Where Women Glow and Men Plunder: Ed travels to Australia to spend the holidays with his girlfriend Nina and her family. Hilarity, kidnapping, and giant sausages ensue as Ed tries to live up to the idea of masculinity he thinks Nina's family expects from her boyfriend. He fails, but he tries, and he impresses in other ways. Nana Joan thinks he's extremely well-mannered. John Allison wrote and drew the story, with Whitney Cogar and Jim Campbell on color and letter work, respectively.

Harley Quinn #53: Sam Humphries, Lucas Werneck, Alex Sinclair, and Dave Sharpe. I bought this first issues of a two-parter because I liked what I thought I was gonna get. Harley confronting Minor Disaster, who makes people have small personal disasters, rather than creating earthquakes and such, sounded like it would be fun. The potential for silliness seemed high. Then it turned into this whole thing where Minor Disaster is disappointed in her dial because she's trying to impress her dad, and Harley's breaking down under the strain of trying to film clickbait videos to make money to pay for damage she's caused to the city. Ugh, I wanted a silly story, not all these emotional issues!

Infinite Dark #1-2: A story about what's left of humanity trapped in a space station floating in whatever exists after the universe ends. Except there's something out there, and people are either going crazy, or willingly working with it. Ryan Cady, Andrea Mutti, K. Michael Russell, and Troy Peteri were the creative team. It just didn't really click for me.

That's Day 2. Tomorrow, 3 mini-series from Marvel (none of them particularly good), one ongoing series, another mini-series, and a first issue.

Monday, January 14, 2019

2018 Year In Review - Part 1

The last two comics arrived Friday, let's get to this! As always, the first 4 parts are looking at all the different titles I bought this year, mention who worked on them, little bit about what the major story arcs were. If there were enough issues, we'll touch on the high and low points. Those can be anything. A particular issue, a joke, a fight scene, one of the artists if there was more than one. Part 5 is the point where I try and pick my favorite ongoing, trade, writers, from all the new stuff I bought.

I considered doing two days of just Marvel books, and everything else the other two days, but ultimately decided to stick with alphabetical order. I think it makes for a more interesting mix that way. Here we go.

Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow #3-5: Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Anthony Clark, and Lee Powell as the creative team. Robo avoids taking any responsibility for getting his company up and running, instead choosing to hunt down the source of the weird artificial humans that are collapsing around the world. Which leads back to ALAN, but also to Helsingard.

High Point: The ongoing struggle with Richard Branson, who is abusing the hell out of the Homeowner's Association, and how Lang and Vik got Elon Musk to help them cancel the injunctions. The Battle To Be Able To Build Bathrooms was the defining conflict of 2018. Plus Robo stole one of Branson's private jets, then got it trashed. I'm here for prats who refer to themselves in third person getting comeuppance.

Low Point: The coloring was not doing Wegener's art any favors. Especially in the fight scenes, everything was so muddled. There were times Robo was just sort of a grey blob. Maybe it was Wegener and not Clark, I don't know. Maybe he's not inking the same way, but it's been more of an issue the last two mini-series. Otherwise I feel like I'd have been more into the battle on Hashima Island, but it was so visually unappealing.

Bubba Ho-Tep and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers #1: Joshua Jabcuga, Tadd Glausha, Ryan Hill, and Tom Long as the creative team. It seemed like an exciting idea when it was first solicited. Then the first issue was at least a month late, and the second issue was two months after that (I think the fifth issue just shipped last week). But the gap was long enough for me to realize I don't really care about Elvis, unless Bruce Campbell is actually playing him. So there was no reason to be buying the book.

Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye #1-3: Jon Rivera, Michael Avon Oeming, Nick Filardi, and Clem Robins following up Cave's adventures underground and across dimensions by sending him into deep space. They got briefly tangled up in a civil war on an alien world, then kept moving, but I didn't go with them.

High Point: Filardi's coloring, with these vivid neon shades all over the place was pretty great. I was really impressed with some of Oeming's panel layouts, building structures out of the panels and things like that.

Low Point: I missed Wild Dog. He and Chloe had a cute friendship in the previous series. The doctor, Marcus Bastrow, I didn't was adding much. He was supposed to be kind of weird, but Cave was already doing stuff like using his eye to enter one psyche through another being's psyche, so how much weirder do you need?

Coda #1-7: Simon Spurrier and Matias Bergara, with Michael Doig assisting with the color work, and Colin Bell on lettering. Basically set in a post-apocalyptic medieval fantasy world. Following a bard who is trying to cure his mostly-heroic wife of her berserker tendencies, without bothering to consult her on that matter.

High Point: Bergara's art is fantastic, both the linework and the colors (although that's him and Doig, but I don't know who is doing what). I like the designs for the characters and the creatures, like the bard's increasingly mutated unicorn. At times he switches to a style that's supposed to look like charcoal or just ink drawings on parchment, and the variety of colors is impressive. It's a fun book to look at.

Low Point: Nothing really. I want to see how the second half of the story goes.

Copperhead #19, 20: Jay Faerber, Drew Moss, Ron Riley, and Thomas Mauer handled the first issue, then Scott Godlewski came back to draw the final story arc. Which, unfortunately has only managed to ship one issue in 8 months. The book is on hiatus now, so that's just swell. This is not the last time delays are going to be a problem with a book this year.

Deadpool #292-296: The penultimate story of Gerry Duggan' run on Deadpool, as Wade gets a series of good guys after him, while trying to fulfill the terms of his agreement with Stryfe. Basically five issues of Deadpool blaming everyone else for his problems, while everyone else calls him names and punches him. Matteo Lolli and Ruth Redmond handled art and color chores on 4 of the issues. Scott Koblish and Redmond handled the other, with Joe Sabino as letterer throughout.

High Point: The bit in 296 when Wade goads Captain America into stabbing him with his own sword, and immediately afterward, Cap realizes there were a bunch of schoolkids watching who think he's back being evil. Then he tricks him into punching some poor sewer maintenance guy, again in front of a bunch of other people. That whole issue of Wade pissing in Cap's cheerios was pretty great.

Low Point: Deadpool not killing HYDRA Captain America when he had the chance. I understand Wade's reason (to torment the other Captain America), but come on Wade, throw us a bone. Also, the constant attempts to get me to care about Agent Coulson by acting like everyone is pissed at Wade for killing him. Agent Preston I get, but Rogue gave a crap about this guy? Really? It doesn't help I remain unconvinced Coulson is actually dead. Also, Kitty Pryde being so disgusted Rogue would have briefly been with Deadpool got old in a hurry. Kitty dated Pete Wisdom and the idiot man-child version of Peter Quill, she doesn't have room to talk.

Demon: Hell is Earth #3-6: Andrew Constant, Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, Chris Sotomayor, and Tom Napolitano with this story about Etrigan's father trying to expand Hell onto Earth. Which splits Etrigan and Blood into separate entities, except Blood's immaterial. Madame Xandau is there, and Merlin, and they stop Hell from expanding its reach, and everything goes back to how it was before, more or less.

High Point: The fact that Blood keeps using himself as a duck blind. Get an enemy's attention focused on him, then let Etrigan attack right through him. Walker, Hennessy, and Sotomayor draw some excellent fire. Which is good considering how much of it there is in this story.

Low Point: I don't know what the point is supposed to be. Etrigan's rhymes are very basic, clunky, and just not clever or funny or anything. It's like they let me try to come up with his rhymes.

That's it for the first day. Tomorrow we have a couple of the very few ongoing series that I bought for the majority of the year, and a few other things.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #48

"Virtual Reality Has Come a Long Way", in Avengers #468, by Kurt Busiek (writer), Kieron Dwyer with Rick Remender (artists), Tom Smith (colorist), RS & Comicraft (letterers)

The second half of Kurt Busiek's stint on Avengers, after George Perez left, was dominated by an all-out war to defend Earth against Kang. Kang brought along a big old spaceship base in the form of a sword, which he called "Damocles", because of course he did. Have to appreciate his flair. He blows up Washington D.C., which was promptly ignored by every other book. Which doesn't actually bother me much. What's actually smarter is he convinces a bunch of greedy, opportunistic warlords types already on Earth to throw in with him and take their shots.

So the Avengers are scattered across the planet trying to deal with fights on every front at once, plus other threats that crop up that are independent of Kang. The Presence comes out of the radioactive depths of Siberia. The old Alpha Flight enemy the Master shows up as a potential challenger, unwilling to let Kang claim a world that should be his. Which makes me wonder what Dr. Doom was up to during all this. And the arc with the Triune Understanding wraps up with the arrival of a giant alien space pyramid full of souls (which you can just barely see in the upper left corner, behind Kang's head, in the picture above).

The scope of things allows for a ton of Avengers to get pulled out and have nice moments. Stingray gets a few pages for a brief recon mission he runs solo. Quasar and Living Lightning pop up for the deep space segment of things. Black Knight's part of the science team trying to decipher the Master's base. Even though there were times it felt like the story was running long, I kind of wish we'd had more time to see some of the squads interacting more. Carol Danvers, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Vision, Silverclaw, for example. Interesting mix of personalities. Or Triathlon, Yellowjacket, Wasp, Jack of Hearts and Stingray.

There's also a whole subplot about two Hank Pyms running around (just what the world needs), Thor worrying he's too attached to these mortals with their brief lifespans. Kang's son is the spitting image of that Marcus guy who tricked Carol Danvers into joining him in some pocket dimension so she could give birth to him. Or something. I don't remember the details, only that I think Claremont went back and said Marcus controlled her into going along with it, and so she was fairly pissed at the Avengers for just grinning like idiots and waving "so long" when they went off together. 

Anyway, this Marcus is also very into Carol, which rightly sets off all sorts of alarm bells for her. Frankly, I'm really hoping all the recent work that's been done with Carol has involved just quietly dumping that bit of her backstory into the garbage, then lighting said garbage on fire.

Art chores were handled by a shifting cast. The first few issues post-Perez were mostly the Alan Davis/Mark Farmer team. In the later stages it's mostly Kieron Dwyer, but Ivan Reis is in there (we're a couple of years away from him being one of the regular artists for Geoff Johns' Green Lantern run), Patrick Zircher near the end, Manuel Garcia for a couple of issues in the middle. Tom Smith is the colorist throughout, which helps keep the book having a similar feel across artists and plot lines.

Although most of the artists are close enough you aren't getting whiplash from issue to issue. Dwyer's style is certainly blockier, with heavier inks than Davis', but you don't feel as though you're looking at something wildly different from what you saw a couple of issues previously. Garcia and Reis are somewhere between those other two. It all feels like big, bright superhero action.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Supporting Cast Trembles Before the New Creative Team

We're a couple of months out from Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jing taking over as the creative team for Ms. Marvel, with a new #1 issue, naturally. This week I started wondering what'll happen with Kamala's supporting cast.

I think she has a pretty good supporting cast, between her parents, her brothers, her sister-in-law's family, her various friends at school (Nakia, Mike, Zoe), and Bruno, of course. Granted I got annoyed with G. Willow Wilson for not making more use of them. Sometimes because she set up something as a possible plot thread, then never explored it. She never did much with the revelation Kamala's mother knows she's Ms. Marvel, and I still don't know if Kamala's dad knows or not. Mostly it's just a matter of pacing. With almost every story taking 4 months minimum, if you go a couple of stories without seeing Zoe or Aamir at all, it just seems abrupt when they suddenly pop up in the next arc and are relevant. Have something going with them in the background that helps them feel like characters that have their own lives going on independent of whatever Ms. Marvel is mixed up in that week.

(I could be convinced that, because we're mostly tagging along with Kamala, us not being aware of what's happening with Nakia or whoever while she's not around is part of a larger theme of Kamala being disconnected from the important people in her lives. But you could still show us what's going on so we see Kamala actually is missing out)

All griping aside, it's a good supporting cast. Mix of personalities, views, approaches. The frustration was because I liked them and wanted to see more going on with them. New creative teams often want to put their own stamp on things. Create their own supporting casts or favorite characters. Fabian Nicieza incorporated some of Gail Simone's supporting cast in Cable/Deadpool, but not everyone. Plus he brought Weasel back into play, and threw in Bob and Irene Merryweather. And then Daniel Way pitched them all down the garbage chute, and had largely no supporting cast (at least for the two years I bought the book). Then Gerry Duggan just made a whole new supporting cast (and killed most of them himself). Or how every writer who uses SHIELD usually comes up with at least one new SHIELD agent, who will then pop up in almost anything they write that involves SHIELD going forward. But it's entirely possible no one else will ever use them. Stuff like that.

So I wonder if we'll see a difference. I'm sure Ahmed will add new characters, and hopefully they're interesting. I wonder who might get the short end of the stick as a result, though. Wilson had brought Bruno back into play the last six months or so. Maybe Ahmed will move him more into the background, for more time for Nakia or Kamala's dad, or someone new entirely.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship isn't a good movie by any stretch, but it was a better way to spend Tuesday evening than watching President Dipshit make his televised nonsense. Low bar to clear, I know.

A guy approaches a salvage crew saying he found some ocean liner adrift in the Bering Sea, and let's all go out there and see what we can get. Once they get there, things start going wrong. The engine on their ship breaks down, then blows up, there are an awful lot of recent corpses around for a ship that's been lost since the 1960s. One member of the crew (played by Julianna Margulies) keeps seeing a young girl, who will vanish the next moment. That's never a good sign.

The one part that was somewhat notable was when the girl shows Margulies what happened to all the people on the ship, via this extended flashback of lots of people being killed, and then the killers betraying each other. It's this string of one person after another thinking they've pulled a double-cross, only to be immediately double-crossed themselves. It's probably supposed to be a horrifying depiction of greed run wild, but it comes off kind of silly.

Margulies' character and the little girl are standing there watching all this, and most of the time the girl sees herself, she doesn't seem too bothered. Kind of bored, or maybe annoyed when her flashback self screams as everyone else on the dance floor is cut in half. She wrinkles her nose and shuts her eyes like it's fingernails on the chalkboard. The exception is when we see her past self dragged into room we know she died in. She flinches visibly at that part, and it's disturbing even beyond us knowing she died. Because the two guys dragging her in seemed awful excited, and it really shouldn't take two grown men to haul a kid into a room. I don't know if I'm supposed to be drawing the conclusion I am, but there it is.

Other than that one part, which was disturbing but effective, there's not much of anything to recommend the movie. I'm still wondering how long someone could actually survive floating in the Bering Sea, but I'm guessing it isn't for several hours the lone survivor manages.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

A Quick Update

I finally hit my limit on patience yesterday and went to the post office to find out what's up with the comics, and what the heck "acceptance pending" means.

It means they've been told expect a package from UPS, but it hasn't arrived. I was apparently the 20th person that day asking about an order stuck in that particular limbo since last Thursday. Which makes me feel a little better, since I've always suspected I'm pretty far up there on the impatience scale. But for that many other people to already come looking, maybe I'm more patient than I think.

So I tried UPS, and they don't know where it is. The person at the counter did search in the back room just in case, but came up empty. But I was assured it will show up sooner or later.

That's where we are at the moment, with everything up in air and my patience at the end. So Year in Review starts next Monday, whether the other books arrive or not.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Gone Are The Days

Lance Henriksen plays a dying outlaw who decides if he's gonna go, he's gonna go on his terms. Which means trying to rob a bank he tried robbing 20 years ago, to disastrous results. And also trying to make things right with his daughter, who doesn't even know he's her dad.

Considering Taylon spends most of the movie drinking heavily from a bottle of cough syrup labeled as being 'pure heroin', I was inclined to think the whole thing is him hallucinating while he dies slowly in his crappy bed on his rapidly decaying ranch. That doesn't seem to be the case, but there is a mysterious ferry man, played by Danny Trejo, who pops up a couple of times in the movie to be what can pass for cryptic when you're speaking to a dying old man on heroin. Also, Taylon's partner Virgil seems surprisingly young to have been involved in the previous bank robbery, and he pops into and out of the story abruptly.

The film runs about 100 minutes, but it dragged in the middle, when Taylon is trying to build some sort of connection with Heidi, or else get his shit together to go rob the stupid bank. It seemed like a lot of time spent on him in a daze, reliving bad memories or trying to cough up a lung. When Virgil pops up, complaining that Taylon's wasted two days, I was inclined to agree with him. If all this is so important, if it's so vital you die how you want, then get the lead out of your pants, old man!

Monday, January 07, 2019

An Ecstatic Silver Surfer is Kind of Disturbing

Geez, Surfer, excuse yourself to the bathroom if you're going to do that. This is looking like one of those movies where the old college buddy comes to visit and annoys his friend's wife because he's still a slob or a bum or whatever. Which makes the Surfer Owen Wilson in this scenario? I'm not sure which of them should be more offended.

The comics have not arrived, so in the meantime I'm going through the back issues I bought in 2018, trying to figure out what's worth keeping. Which brings us to this story, from Marvel Fanfare #51, looking at how Steve Englehart's run on Silver Surfer could have begun, paired with John Buscema rather than Marshall Rogers.

In the run we actually got, the Surfer slips past the barrier Galactus had trapped him behind by. . . hitching a ride with the Fantastic Four, rather than trying to fly through himself. Either Galactus is an idiot for leaving that kind of a loophole, or he thinks the Surfer is. Given how long it took the Surfer to escape, probably the latter.

In this story, Surfer doesn't make it off-planet. Yes, I know it looks like he's in deep space in the panel above, but the story says he can't get more than 600 miles off the Earth's surface. I wonder if there was a space shuttle with Bruce Willis out there somewhere during this fight. If so, it probably got blown up, as the Surfer gets attacked by the Kree, because the Supreme Intelligence is sure he'll stop them from killing the "Great Terror". Which happens to be a cheerful young boy who wants to be Joe Montana. I guess the Kree were Bengals' fans. Sounds about right. Oh yeah, and he's half-sentient tree because his mother's is former Avenger (and future Guardians of the Galaxy) Mantis.

After the Kree attempts to kill the Surfer through a combination of sapping his energy, antimatter blasters, and mediocre smack talk come up craps, the Supreme Intelligence ups the ante by siccing Thor foe Mangog on him. Even if the Surfer was at full power, he'd be in trouble, unless he was willing to lay waste to the Earth to win. So he pulls the old "let my enemy absorb my power" trick, and the purity of his soul drives out Mangog's thirst for vengeance. Since vengeance is literally all Mangog is supposed to be - he's the desire for revenge of a billion billion beings, if I remember right from my dad's Thor comics - he basically falls apart. And then it looks like the Surfer was going to settle into domestic bliss with Mantis and her son, which I'm sure will just thrill the homeowner's association.

I'm not sure whether it's the coloring or if Buscema needs a heavier line, but his Mangog spends a lot of time in this issue looking like a barely defined yellow mass with pincers.