Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Silver Riders - Greg Hatcher

A group of people who lived at a site of immense mystical power ten years ago are drawn together to go back and make certain that power is let loose on the earth.

It's a combination of a Western and the supernatural, a disparate group of people teaming up to stop a dangerous threat. It just so happens the threat is something from another dimension set on invading the earth, rather than a large group of bandits terrorizing a small village. Hatcher tells the story by moving back and forth between the past and present. Each flashback is told from a different characters' perspective, mostly detailing how they ended up at Stonegarden Abbey, but also showing how they start to realize something isn't right and that it might be time to get the hell out.

The book has an easy style to it. I wouldn't have minded spending more time on getting the team back together or the trip to Stonegarden, but they're supposed to be in a hurry, so it makes sense the book would linger. Everybody is distinct in personality and speech, without being exaggerated to an obnoxious degree. The places where their personalities conflict are used, but not overused. Even if Fallon and Nels don't like each other, that doesn't mean every word passed between them is harsh. It's there enough to get the point across, but not distracting from everything else.

Hatcher apparently wrote an earlier story that's set in the same universe, dealing with the same threat. It gets referenced briefly once, near the end, but it isn't necessary to have read it to follow this story. Silver Riders works perfectly well as its own story.

'"Ravens?" Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. "That is interesting, indeed. You know it's entirely possible, Jonas. The birds do speak to her."

"I know," Fallon admitted. "Might be so. But they're still just goddamn birds. They don't know about people. But I do," he added. "Destiny or not, I can tell when a man rides with trouble. Brainerd's one of those."'

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Just Keep Telling Myself, Spring Comic-Cons Are Coming

Even though they're calling for snow this weekend, and the temp is supposed to be down to 0 Sunday night, spring must be on the way. Because we're just two months out from the 2019 Cape Girardeau Comic Con!

My coworker's getting married the weekend before, so I lucked out Ken scheduled it a week later than last year. Although I might be attending a week-long training in another state until right the day before the convention. If so, gonna be a lot of driving that week. But that's OK! I always try to make time for Cape-Con. I've only missed it twice, 2011 and 2015, and those were because of work-related things I couldn't avoid. If you can avoid work, I highly recommend it.

The website has only started adding guests and vendors in the last week, and ticket prices aren't up yet, so there'll be more information to come, I'm sure. I need to get some kind of a gameplan together about what I'm looking for in terms of sketches or comics. Especially artwork. I didn't get a single commissioned sketch last year at any convention I went to. I got a lot of pieces I liked, but nothing unique. I was too indecisive and/or cheap. Mostly cheap.

I don't know how well the escape room thing worked last year, it isn't listed as a feature currently, but it may be added later. I like that Ken always seems to try and get a variety of guests and activities given the constraints the size of the venue pose. The Osage Center is a solid location, based on the places I've attended conventions, it just isn't the largest place you'll ever see.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Smoke and Mirrors

Might also be called The Man with Thousand Faces. Just when I thought Netflix wasn't going to have anything I wanted to see, I find this. It's an at least somewhat true story of Francisco Paesa, who strung along a disgraced Spanish Police Commissioner for almost a year, acting as though he was protecting him, while the whole time angling to swipe the guy's money for his own retirement.

The story is narrated by an associate of Paesa's, a pilot named Jesus. If the movie didn't tell you what it was about at the start, you'd still get the sense of how Luis was being fooled. That distance works to convey how Paesa was able to fool Luis (the ex-Commissioner), as we see Paesa tell him something is happening, or that he is going to speak to someone about a plea deal. But we (and Luis, and Jesus) are never in on these conversations, we only have Paesa's word they are what they are claimed to be.
I feel like the movie spoils that a little by having Jesus explain up front what they did, before the story even begins being told.

However, the film does introduce a hint of doubt (at least to me), because the guys Paesa uses frequently seem like such a bunch of fuck-ups it's almost plausible he's simply failing at what he's doing. We see he and Jesus trying to con some men into investing their money, only to find those men did their research on them and know he's not at all what he presents himself as. He relies on an 'almost lawyer' who is an alcoholic, a stockbroker who is in a crappier apartment and clothes every time we see him, and a frickin' cook. Not to mention Jesus, who can't keep his mouth shut or his dick in his pants.

Really, all the three main guys in this movie - Paco, Jesus, and Luis - come off as utter disasters in their personal lives. Each of them is or ends up estranged from their wives. Because they can't stop behaving disgracefully, and they keep promising they're going to change, but it doesn't happen. They can't be bothered to really engage in their families' lives because they're too busy with this phony spy bullcrap that's just an excuse to line their pockets. Push comes to shove, they'll always look out for themselves first and leave everyone else to pick up the pieces.

There's not really anyone you feel good about seeing win.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Spring Brings A Multitude Of Tie-Ins

The May solicitations went up late last week, so let's take a look. Assuming we can find anything underneath the pile of War of the Realms tie-ins. Last month I mentioned I was surprised at Marvel's relative restraint on that count. Well, nevermind. Counting the main mini-series itself, 23 comics are coming out in May connected to War of the Realms. Mini-series, one-shots, ongoing series, the whole magilla. There's going to be an Agents of Atlas mini-series in there, but other than Jimmy Woo, it's an entirely different roster assembled by Amadeus Cho, sooooooo, I don't really care.

Marvel's also starting a Savage Avengers book, with the Punisher and Conan among others. Hard pass. Stop putting the Punisher on team books, Marvel! Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is going to introduce a kid in a Spider-Man costume. I wonder if this is going to be about a kid that imagines being Spider-Man's sidekick. I would prefer that to an actually kid sidekick. The only other thing I noted was Unstoppable Wasp, which was a 6-issue mini-series, is turning into an ongoing. That's surprising, I didn't expect it would sell well. They're swapping out a new art team in place of the Guruhiru duo.

DC's kicking off the "Year of the Villain". I thought that was everyday in the DC Universe these days. Doomsday Clock still isn't over. The version of Thomas Wayne from the Flashpoint universe is teaming up with super-villains against his son. Bruce must have forgotten to send a Christmas card. Batman and the Outsiders' first issue was resolicited. It was supposed to come out in January, but I guess something came up.

OK, enough of those two depressing companies. Two of the three series I mentioned from Dark Horse two months ago, Astro Hustle and Bad Luck Chuck, are both 4-issue mini-series. I don't remember that from the March solicits, but it might make it more likely I'll buy them, since I'd be on the hook for only four issues, tops.

Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph have a new book called Excellence published by Image, about a young man trained to use magic only to help others, who decides "to hell with that." That does seem like a hard sell.

Coda wraps up in May, while Giant Days has Esther, Susan, and Daisy are going to try to help McGraw's cricket team. Perhaps I will finally understand cricket! To be fair, I have never tried to understand cricket, so it may actually be very easy. Smooth Criminals finds out thieving duo stuck trying to get their prize away from that Hatch guy. Stealing from a thief is always super-easy so I'm sure nothing will go wrong!

Outside the larger publishers, there were a few things I might look into. Vertical is releasing the second volume of Kino's Journey. I haven't bought the first volume yet, because I'm waiting for the price to drop some more, but that'll be a definite buy.

It'll be on its fourth issue, but there's a series called The Offbeats by John Ward and Giles Crawford. I'm not sure what it's about exactly, the solicit for issue 4 says someone's getting busted out of jail, and there's a mob and corrupt cops involved. It would come down to the style, so I guess I should keep an eye out for the first issue. There's a graphic novel called Ring of Seven Worlds, by Gionvanni Gualdoni, Gabrielle Clima, and Matteo Piana that just sounds like it has a cool concept. Different worlds linked through gates at one giant ring, and after a long time, the one world that has been sealed off is suddenly open. Sometimes that's all it takes for me to give something a chance.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #54

"Did I Stumble Into A Forever People Comic By Accident?" in Avengers Forever #10, by Kurt Busiek (plotter/scripter), Roger Stern (plotter), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Jesus Merino (inker), Steve Oliff (colorist), Richard Starking and Albert Deschesne (letterers)

I was sure I did a review of this when I bought it 2 or 3 years ago, but no.

Kang, the Supreme Intelligence, and Libra use Rick Jones to draw a team of Avengers from the past, present, and future to fight Immortus. Immortus is trying to wipe out every timeline with Avengers at the behest of the Keepers of Time, who are really just a bunch of prats who think they have to exist because they're so special.

That involves splitting the team up and sending them to different timelines for a while, then eventually assembling for a final assault. It also involves Immortus trying to subdue Kang by merging with him. Eh, the two issues there were about how Immortus had been tampering with the Avengers from the start and also trying to explain Kang's continuity were my least favorite issues of this thing. Far too many pages spent trying to explain the whole Vision/Original Human Torch thing for my tastes.

There are a lot of fight scenes of Avengers against a variety of hordes of generic opponents, since Immortus can pull warriors from most any time period he likes. Plus the big battle at the end when both sides are pulling in every Avenger from every timeline ever, good or evil, and throwing them at each other. Pacheco handles it pretty well. Goes double-page splash when he needs to establish the scene, then focuses in on smaller pieces. That keeps it manageable, while still giving a sense of how the larger battle is going.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ducking Consequences Isn't Very Heroic

I'm a little annoyed that Dr. Octopus is still running around calling himself a hero, whether he's going by Superior Octopus or Superior Spider-Man (I don't know which it is these days).

Normally I'm fond of how several of Spider-Man's former enemies reformed. Prowler, Rocket Racer, Sandman, Black Cat, so on. Granted, none of those other than Sandman have anything close to Ock's track record. With Sandman you could debate whether being on the Most Wanted list even before he got super-powers counterbalances stuff like Ock trying to threaten the entire city of New York with a nuclear weapon. Sandman has the longer criminal career, but Octavius has a higher peak.

But I've been generally OK with Magneto's periodic turns towards heroism, and his list of crimes dwarfs Ock's. The real issue is Doc Ock tried kicking off his whole hero thing by hijacking Spider-Man's body. When Sandman or Magneto tried their face turns, they did so as themselves. When Sandman joins the Avengers as a Reserve, he has to stand up there next to Captain America in front of the press as Sandman. He doesn't get to disguise himself as Hercules and pretend some other guy committed all those crimes. Same for Magneto. They're out there in public as themselves, and they have to deal with people fearing them, or other heroes not trusting their motives.

(Although those things happen to heroes who don't have criminal pasts in the Marvel Universe, so it's just an occupational hazard. The public will throw rotten fruit and call you a freak, and other heroes will want to fight you the first time they meet.)

Ock sidestepped that. Took over the life of someone who was already established and ran with it. For all that Octavius disparaged Peter for not being more organized or accomplishing more, it was still a heck of a lot easier for Ock to manage what he did, starting a company, when he can pose as someone who shouldn't be serving multiple life sentences.

I can't see it as turning over a new leaf where your first act was to dodge all responsibility for your past crimes, and steal someone's life. He did ultimately fail as Spider-Man, Peter took his body back, but Octavius survived. First inside that old robot, and now in a younger, stronger clone body. He even worked with HYDRA for a while during Secret Empire. Even if that wasn't widely known to the public, which I can believe, I don't buy that none of the heroes or former SHIELD types knew about it. But nobody seems to be after him. He's going to team-up with Dr. Strange in a few months. I know Stephen's usually got his eyes on a grander scale than that, but still, it wouldn't be hard to thrash Ock and throw him in prison. Take maybe three minutes.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Hotel Artemis

The hotel is a hideaway/med clinic for criminals, with a staff of two: The Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her assistant Everest (Dave Bautista). On a day when people are rioting in L.A. because the private company that controls the water supply has cut them off, a group of criminals converge on the hotel. A bank robber (Sterling K. Brown) and his screw-up brother. An assassin (Sofia Boutella). A shithead gun-runner (Charlie Day). And the head of the local mob (Jeff Goldbloom) and his daddy issues kid (Zachary Quinto). Things go to hell, as you'd expect.

I really enjoyed this. The cast of character is kept small, so they can bounce off each other in different ways and reveal different facets, but not let the movie get too unwieldy. And they're interesting characters. Everybody has a particular style. You can like or hate them for different reasons. I don't quite get this excitement people have over Jeff Goldbloom, but the man plays an arrogant shit who's not as deep as he thinks very well. Charlie Day's character is an arrogant shit too, but in a different, more shrill and insecure way. Sterling Brown's character has this strong sense of responsibility, which he hates, but can't abandon. Plus he has that calm, collected confidence that I find very cool.  Boutella's has the confidence and calm, the professional attitude, but less attachment, or so we think. 

Jodie Foster is this odd mix of unflappable and yet extremely flappable. As long as she can kept things operating within the rules, she's not fazed by anything. An angry son and his dozen goons can be threatening her and she's gives zero shits. Once she has to step outside those boundaries, she's really nervous, needs reassurance. Maybe that's most people, but she plays it well.

The strong sense of place, of how the Hotel Artemis works, makes it a fun setting. Plus the mixture of the outdated furnishings and the hi-tech medical equipment makes for a nice contrast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What I Bought 2/15/2019 - Part 2

One book is wrapping up, only to reappear next month with a new first issue and creative team. The other has a guest artist for a one-off issue.

Ms. Marvel #38, by G. Willow Wilson, Devin Grayson, Eve L. Ewing, Jim Zub, Saladin Ahmed (writers), Nico Leon, Takeshi Miyazawa, Joey Vazquez, Kevin Librana, Minkyu Jung and Juan Vlasco (artists), Ian Herring (color artist/artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I have no idea why they decided to bring in a bunch of other writers and artists to do a jam issue for Wilson and Leon's last issue on the book.

Kamala's in a bad mood, then she and all her friends in the convenience store get sucked into a weird video game simulation thing, where Kamala has to help them confront their various fears to help them remember who they are. Sort of. That's what she does with Zoe and Bruno, but with Nakia, it's more like Kamala needs to address the problem in their friendship that she kept the fact she was Ms. Marvel a secret from her for so long.

Which is perhaps the problem of having 5 different people write this issue. It's like not everybody was on the same page, or a game of Telephone. The message got turned around at some point.  For example, Bruno's brother is working at the Circle Q and appears to get sucked in along with the others. When Kamala, Nakia, Zoe, and Bruno have escaped at the end, he's nowhere to be seen. He didn't show up as a NPC during any of the video game levels, either, even though Gabe and Mike, who weren't there to be drawn in, did. Is that supposed to be the set-up for the starting point to Saladin Ahmed's run? Bruno's brother is missing, and aliens have something to do with all this? Considering no one notices, I'm doubtful.

It's fine if they felt he wasn't close enough to Kamala to be involved in the series of epiphanies. It's true, since he hasn't been around much since she rescued him in the very first story arc she had. But in that case, don't include him in the story, or make sure Leon doesn't draw him as one of the ones getting sucked in.

Of the three one-offs that have wrapped up this volume of the book, I liked this one better than the one about how Kamala might have gotten Inhuman genetics in her family line. But that's mostly because the video game reference stuff works better for me than stuff involving the Inhumans. Last month's issue was still a lot better. Not so much blunt force trying to drive some sort of message through.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #41, by Ryan North (writer), Naomi Franquiz (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist/trading card artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I would never have guessed that was Peter Parker tied up with Nancy if the cover didn't say so. I feel like I've seen that jacket on someone else, but I can't recall who. Maybe that parody of grown-up Johnny Quest on Venture Brothers? Action Johnny?

Nancy and Peter are trapped in a net in a room filling with water. This is when Peter was split into himself and Spider-Man a few months back in Amazing Spider-Man. I would have just guessed "clone" if Ryan North didn't explain that in the issue. Squirrel Girl, Thor, and (She-)Hulk get stuck trying to outsmart the Ms. Quizzler to free them. Unfortunately, they're bad a trivia quizzes. Fortunately, Tippy had rallied all the squirrels to form a search party and already rescued the hostages. Wait, the squirrels gnawed through a glass skylight. Can they do that? Would there be anything for their teeth to gain purchase against?

I don't know. My class schedules never lined up where I could take Mammalogy. Squirrel Girl advises the Ms. Quizzler to prove she's the smartest person alive by designing things that would help the world, rather than taking hostages to force people to pit their intellect against hers. Which is a solid plan, since Reed Richards clearly isn't going to get off his ass and do anything.

I kind of like the Ms. Quizzler's design. It took me a bit to realize the dots on the vest/onesie/thing are meant to be blanks like you fill in on a multiple choice test. Which explains the four balls with letters on her head, too. I feel like 4 is too many. Maybe she could just do 2, one "true" and one "false"? North didn't opt to introduce a villain obsessed with quizzes because his artist has the word "quiz" in her last name did he? Marvel has a dearth of those kinds of villains, don't they? The puzzles and trivia obsessed types. None are leaping to mind at the moment. So there's a niche Ms. Quizzler could fill! If she wasn't going to go straight, I mean.

Franquiz's style reminds me more of Erica Henderson's than Charm's. Her Doreen in particular, since she's back to having more of a round face and messy hair, where Charm smoothed things out a lot. I notice when Tippy is sitting on Doreen's shoulder, she matches Doreen's gestures and reactions. If Doreen makes a smug look and holds up one hand, so does Tippy. If she's startled and indignant, same thing. Which is not any approach I can remember the other artists taking, but isn't bad.

The bit where Nancy becomes convinced Peter is Spider-Man, then Peter becomes convinced Nancy is Squirrel Girl was amusing. I'd say Peter should be smarter than that, but if I remember right, when he got split into two people, the side that got the powers also got all the smarts. The Peter side only got the sense of responsibility. The inclusion of Thor and Hulk - I don't really like making Jen kind of a less articulate Hulk - was basically pointless. Unless this is a stealth warm-up tie-in to War of Realms. Thor does mention that he doesn't hold the fact Loki likes Nancy against her. I should hope not. Even Loki can get something right once in a while.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Ever Delightful Backlash to the Backlash

In this particular case, the question of whether how James Harden plays basketball is "fun" or not. Because we tackle the tough subjects here at Reporting on Marvels and Legends!

The popular consensus for a time was no, it is not fun to watch Harden dribble the ball for 20 seconds, trying to get his defender off-balance so Harden can jump into him, chuck the ball in the general direction of the hoop, and get foul shouts. Because watching people shoot free throws is not fun. Unless they're really terrible at it, and then it's fun in the schadenfreude sense.

There's always been pushback, but it's become more vocal recently. ESPN had an article on their website with a bunch of quotes from people (almost all of them associated with the Houston Rockets, the team Harden plays for) arguing that actually, Harden's style of play is indeed fun and cool. The Ringer had one pointing out Harden would still lead the league in scoring even if there were no foul shots, which was supposed to prove something. Mark Jackson got on his high horse about it during a televised game recently, wondering aloud how anyone could watch James Harden play and not find it entertaining. I wonder how anyone could enjoy Mark Jackson commenting on basketball, but humans are strange. On and on and on.

I fall in the camp of not finding Harden entertaining to watch. Last spring, I understood the exhaustion some fans had with the Warriors making the Finals again, especially playing a Cleveland team that appeared completely overmatched. But I still found it infinitely preferable to having to watch any more of Harden's game. That doesn't mean I think he's unskilled. The guy's control of the ball, his balance, his ability to manipulate his defender into a position he can exploit. Whether it's to draw a foul, go past them, or get them distracted so a teammate gets open, he's not doing that stuff by luck. He's not an elite shooter, but he's pretty good. He's figured out how to play certain parts of defense credibly (he's apparently very good at standing up to larger players who try to back him down in the low post), and the Rockets mostly hide him from the rest.

But that doesn't make it a style I like, because so much of it feels like he's finding loopholes, or messing with the refs' perception to his advantage. There was a game last year, Paul George was guarding him, and as Harden drove to the hoop, he hooked George's arm with his own. Then he took a shot and made a big show of how his arm was tangled with George's, like George had initiated the contact. And it worked, they called George for the foul.

It's like watching Greg Maddux pitch. He throws a pitch 3 inches off the plate, the ump calls it a strike. He throws the next one 3.5 inches, well, it's in basically the same spot as the last one, so the ump has to call it a strike again. Now the hitter has to guard that much larger of an area, becuse he knows the ump is giving Maddux that call. So now Maddux can throw something even farther outside and the batter will get fooled and chase it. That's skill too, getting the hitter off-balance, getting him to do what the pitcher wants. But it feels more like a skill related first and foremost to tricking the umps. and using them to help beat the hitter. Great if you root for the team he's playing for, lousy if you don't, or if you feel like it's trying to win the game via cheat code.

Monday, February 18, 2019

What I Bought 2/15/2019 - Part 1

Last week, I went to meet with a person we regulate to look at something they had a question about. I did this on Lincoln's birthday, because when I made the appointment, I had forgotten our state gives its employees that as a holiday. By the time I remembered, it was too late to reschedule. Not the stupidest thing I've ever done, but not one of the brighter things either. Now, let's celebrate President's Day with comic reviews! About books that have nothing to do with presidents! What do you expect? How often do I do posts on holidays that are at all relevant to the holiday in question? Answer: Twice a year, three times tops.

Atomic Robo: The Dawn of the New Era #2, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Shannon Murphy (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer) - Excellent pose Robo, except this is not the cover of GQ, or Popular Mechanics.

Robo has built ALAN a new body, and is teaching him how to use it. ALAN raised the question of whether he'd died once already, and that's not a conversation Robo's ready to have (since he's the one who killed ALAN). The new students have found a mysterious underground facility in a leftover building, but haven't gone exploring yet.  I couldn't help noticing that one of the students has dyed the top his hair pink, which used to be Foley's thing. But now she's dyed that section of her hair green instead.

Bernard seems caught in some bizarre loop underground which is doing nothing for his confidence in his sanity. Vik and Lang were supposed to get to test an idea of Vik's involving a particle accelerator, but have stumbled into vampire problems instead.

Well, they say they're vampires, but the way Wegener's drawing them, they look more like bipedal rat people. The art does get a little sketchy and ill-defined at that point, although the more simplified approach for their victims in the final panel works well. He uses it a couple of other times, once when the students find the secret place, and it really shows off their fright. So yeah, it works there. It feels like a deliberate stylistic choice, rather than running out of time to ink, or that the colors are overwhelming the linework. When they go for close-ups on characters, there's some good work there. Especially Bernard and his increasing confusion and panic.

Things are kind of slowly. A lot of different threads advancing a little at a time. Which could be frustrating if I was only interested in one of them. As it turns out, I'm actually curious about all of them. How a doorway to the Vampire Dimension was opened. What the hell's happening with Bernard. What trouble the students are about to cause, and how Foley's going to handle it. Whether Robo can actually raise a son, without it deciding to wipe out all humanity. Maybe it's because all of them are still in such early stages that I'm seeing the vast array of possibilities. That always seems to be the part I like best, since the direction an author takes their story is rarely the theory I liked best. But we'll see.

Giant Days #47, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I didn't realize Daisy was a big fan of Bullit. Man, that's a dated reference, and a weak one. But I can more easily picture her watching that than Fast and the Furious.

Daisy is acting oddly certain she's a good driver, despite the stream of traumatized instructors. She does pass her test, although I'm convinced her examiner was legally blind. McGraw's brother has come to visit bearing invites for his wedding. Also he's pulling a lot of pranks. Most of them involving smearing food substances on surfaces people touch with their bare skin. Rest assured, neither Pollock nor I will resort to such stupidity in our annual April Fool's Day struggles. We're too high-class. Bucket full of water over the door for the win!

Oh, and Dean Thompson snuck his adorable little dog Perkin into their home, and finds a surprising ally in Esther, who helps hide and care for the pooch. Until her tendency to forget important details almost gets the dog run over. But she and Dean actually, mostly got along! By their standards.

Perkin really is very cute. Sarin and Cogar did excellent work to make me actually like a scrap of fur like that. Cutsey-poo dogs are not my thing. Dean gets some excellent outraged expressions, all of them related to something Esther is saying or doing at that moment. Even if all she's doing is existing.

I think the bit I laughed at hardest was Esther describing Susan and Daisy as a 'coterie of flibbetigibbts!' I love odd, out-of-style words like that. I watched Hotel Artemis last weekend, Jodie Foster called a guy a "nogoodnik", I made a mental note to use that sometime soon. Yes, I'm strange. Although I thought it was "flibbertigibbits", with an "r" in there. That or the McGraw brothers' peculiar blend of skills as they try to figure out which way Perkin would have gone. Next month is the McGraw wedding! After meeting his brother, I can't wait to see the rest of the family. The facial hair alone should be a delight. I hope Sarin goes nuts with it. Van Dykes, mutton chops, Fu Manchus, all manner of hirsute abominations I can't even conceive of.

Can you tell I'm typing this during yet another day I don't want to go out in the snow?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #53

"Beach Blanket Monster Fightin'" in Avengers: Four #2, by Mark Waid (writer), Barry Kitson (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Jordan Boyd (colorist), Ferran Delgado (letterer)

Something fairly recent this week, as this mini-series only came out two years ago. It wasn't presented exactly as a mini-series at the time, since Marvel did that stupid decimal point numbering system they use periodically to show this was tied in with the Mark Waid/Michael del Mundo Avengers

Which was what, two or three Avengers' books ago? I'm sure there's been an Avengers title in between this one and the current one by Jason Aaron. And I'm just talking about books with the title "Avengers". I know there have been tons of other books with some adjective slapped in front of that word.

The main book was doing something about Kang trying the old bit where you kill your enemies as children so they never present themselves as threats bit. I wasn't reading it, that's just what I vaguely remember. This story, though, was a modified version of the early days of Cap's Kooky Quartet, which is my favorite Avengers roster, so here we are. I'm guessing the character introduced in this mini-series played some major role in whatever the main book story was.

And since that character had the ability to boost the abilities of the Avengers, compensating for the roster's lack of raw power, it kind of took away from one of the major things I always enjoyed about the Quartet, that they did seem to be operating at such a disadvantage compared to most Avengers' lineups. This story focuses more on them trying to get the public to believe in them, and to believe in each other.

Which is fun enough. Hawkeye's pissing Captain America and Quicksilver off constantly, even torments Jarvis for a time (Jarvis gets revenge). Although Clint hits on Wanda less than I expected he would. Pietro acts like an impatient dick a lot, which is normal, but Waid uses it to good effect. A page or two after the image above, as someone in the crowd once again unfavorably compares them to Thor, Pietro dashes by and shouts, 'Will you people shut up about Thor?!' 

Kitson's work is solid, and mostly clean and easy to follow. He and Farmer do a good job of evoking an older feel, mostly. The problem is that the further into this story we get, the more the art team expands. Before it's all said and done, there are three other pencilers besides Kitson (all those on the last issue), five other inkers, and two more colorists. It doesn't help the flow of the story at all to be switching between styles so much. But otherwise, it's pretty fun.

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Lot of People Aren't On Good Terms With Reality

See, I tend to think I look unfriendly, because with my hearing issues I will look at people to make sure I'm not missing anything they might be saying to me, and I figure I look like I'm glaring. In reality, I probably just look like a squinty goober.

Jin, who is the writer/artist for the manga Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General (that's an excessively long title), seems to mean "precarious" in the sense she's unstable or easily prone to collapse, which, yeah. Either that, or he's conflating it with "perverted". She's obsessed with the hero Braveman, and decided the best way to get close to him was join an organization (with a total of 9 members by the end of volume 1) committed to world conquest. She tells him she's a virgin two pages into their first encounter like it's an important piece of information, misinterprets his early attempts to defeat her as foreplay (then passes out), takes a hostage to get a hug from him, you get the idea. She does actually completely demoralize him at one point*, except that wasn't her goal.

That side of things is a mixed bag. The variety of Braveman's reaction to dealing with her hijinks can be funny. He's outraged or disgusted a lot, but gradually moves into mockery or just trying to ignore her. The General claims to be a villain, but admires him so much she gives a pep talk when he appears to have lost heart, or gets outraged when her Boss hears her reports on her first couple of fights and concludes Braveman is really just a pervert. She has the outward trappings and style of a villain, but really she's a stalker doing a poor impression of a villain. The volume is a lot of fairly short chapters, most of them revolving around some half-assed mission of the day. An attempt to use a new weapon, or trying to recruit new members off the street by handing out pamphlets.

There's a lot of fan service, a lot of focus on boobs or characters getting knocked upside-down so we're looking up their skirts. That gets tedious, because it seems to be happening constantly. To the point when they recruit a scientist who created some tentacle plant monster (that phrase will probably do wonders for random people finding my blog through internet searches), the General wonders if the book has become a sex manga in the span of two panels. I was thinking it was a little late to worry about that now.

It isn't like Jin can't do other comedy. I enjoyed the RX Organization, with its total of 3 henchmen, a boss who is kind of a nerd, and his mostly calm, but terrifying Secretary. They do have an HQ, the matching outfits are a nice touch, but that's as far as it goes. That side of things, the way they look impressive at first glance, but are really a complete joke, reminds me of ACROSS from Excel Saga. The General herself reminds me a lot of Excel, actually. Hyperactive idiot obsessed with a guy that wants nothing to with her**.

There's enough variety in their personalities in the broad strokes for them to play off each other well. The General is accompanied by the 3 henchmen on every mission, who offer up a constant stream of commentary about the General's outlook or goals, the difference between reality and her perception of it. Some of the mundane problems, like being short-staffed because one henchman has a cold, or not respecting people's labeled food in the break room fridge. There's a chapter that follows Braveman in his civilian identity, where we learn he has a frightening face that causes him a lot of problems. That made me laugh.

If I thought the fan service would decline in frequency, I'd be more likely to by volume 2, but for right now, not so sure.

* So maybe the Penguin should try this with Batman. It couldn't go worse than his usual schemes. Wait, does the Penguin even scheme to take down Batman any more?

** Although in Excel's case it was her boss. At least she had enough sense to join his organization to try and get close, rather than place herself as his adversary.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Hawaii - James Michener

The last of the five books I grabbed from that sale at work. I've never read Michener's work before, and the length was a potential stumbling block. If the book wound up being lousy, was I really going to drag myself through 1100+ pages? The disaster that was my refusal to just give up on Tristram Shandy lurked.

The good news is, this book is infinitely more readable than that book. Michener's got at knack for descriptive language, so that even though I've never been to Hawaii, I had a clear image of the land, the cities, the plantations. (Whether it's an accurate image, I don't know). His dialogue is good, and considering the book follows certain families for over a century, he makes it fairly easy to keep track of who is related to who and how. I'm not even talking about the family genealogies he included at the end of the book. I didn't even look at those. The relevant stuff is in the text. The characters are interesting in that way where they can make decisions or actions that surprise you, but don't feel out of character.

I did reach a point, about 10 days in, where I was getting fatigued by the fact I still had 350 pages to go. I'm not sure what I'd cut out, maybe some of the scenes of the crackers patting themselves on the back for being so good to all the other people on the island (while doing everything possible to keep those people in the lower social classes, and out of the best schools). On the other hand, those scenes make it funnier when the Kee family or the workers start to run rings around them and they just can't understand how these people can be so ungrateful.

I liked the look at the cultures of the different people living on the islands, what parts of their culture they retained, but how over generations they adapt to improve their standing, and what results from that. There's a point, late in the book where Goro's wife decides she is going back to Tokyo, because she feels there's no culture here, that the Japanese in Hawaii have decided the important thing is a big car, like the white folks do. Goro's brother Shigeo believes the culture will develop in time, which I think is probably right. I'm not sure people can worry as much about art and music when they're working at getting above subsistence level. But also the idea that the people who originally left Japan were so beholden to the idea of their home country that it kind of blocked any development in that sense. They tried to keep things they way they remembered them in Japan, even as Japan was changing over the decades.

I didn't need the last paragraph, where we learn who is writing this book. I didn't care who the narrator was, and the answer left a sour taste, since it feels like more back-patting from a character I'd rather see punched in the face, but oh well.

'"I will not take citizenship," the old man said resolutely. "If this hurts you Shigeo, I am sorry. If my vote and Mother's cause you to lose the election, I am sorry. But there is a right time to eat a pineapple, and if that time passes, the pineapple is bitter in the mouth. For fifty years I have been one of the best citizens of Hawaii. No boys in trouble. No back taxes. So for America to tell me now that I can have citizenship, at the end of my life, is insulting. America can go to hell."'

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Team Fight Etiquette

This is not a special midweek edition of Sunday Splash Page. When I got to this double-page splash in last months Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, the thing my eye was drawn to is in the upper right. Mar-Vell slamming a Skrull into Goliath's chest.

(I assume that's Hawkeye during one of his stints as Goliath. I hate when they have him ditch the arrows for size-changing powers. He has his own style, he doesn't need to be biting someone else's.)

We've all seen scenes in comics where someone is running from one character and crashes headfirst into another, more physically imposing character. Thor, Iron Man, the Thing, you get the idea. But that's with the character serving as the wall being in on the plan. Clint looks pretty busy grabbing Skrulls in the picture above, so I'm guessing Mar-Vell just decided when he got ahold of a Skrull to slam him into the nearest big object, which happened to be Clint.

Do you think that's a thing teammates discuss during meetings? I can't imagine everyone is OK with being used as an anvil. Clint strikes me as someone who would absolutely yell at Mar-Vell about that. Or about a lot of other stuff probably. Clint yells a lot.

You know some teammates would abuse the hell out of it. I could see Johnny Storm using Ben like that constantly, so he could make jokes about how he finally found something Ben's good for. Captain America would probably check ahead of time, because he's polite, and it's good to be clear on tactics. Iron Man wouldn't, because he'd have run scans to determine how their resilience at some point earlier, and would justify it by arguing necessity of the moment. Wolverine would rather just stab them, or be thrown at them. I don't see Spider-Man ramming people into stuff very often, but if he did, I could see him doing that just because he's so used to working alone. Doesn't normally have to worry about a teammate being in the way.

I'm guessing teammates who have size-changing powers get used to this. "Sorry Hank, I mistook you for a piece of modern art!" I'm sure some characters are cool with it. The Vision would be pretty chill, Superman would probably just be worried you injured them if you threw them too hard. Still, it would just be polite to ask, right?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Atomic Blonde

I've actually had this movie on DVD since early last year, got it at the same time as The Foreigner and The Hitman's Bodyguard, and just kept not getting to it. Figured I would get stuff on Netflix out of the way first, since those could drop off any time.

Anyway, set as the Berlin Wall is falling, the story is told through flashback during a debriefing by Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), a British spy sent to Berlin to investigate the death of one of their agents, and the disappearance of a list of all known spies, across all countries.

Lorraine is trying to work with Percival (James McAvoy), who presents himself as an erratic, boozing druggie, but is actually the head of the Berlin section of MI6. There's a Russian by the name of Bremovych after Lorraine and the list, an inexperienced French spy that gets entangled with Lorraine, and a Stasi agent that produced the list and supposedly has it memorized. The plan was to find the list again, get it and Spyglass (the Stasi guy) out of Berlin. The plan fails, possibly because of the mysterious double agent "Satchel".

With a movie like this, you expect the double-crosses and the surprise reveals. There was something early in the movie, what I can't recall, that gave it away who Satchel was. Although to be fair, I was prepared for it to be any one of a number of characters. Percival's putting on an act, but how many layers are there to it? Perhaps the French agent isn't as out of her depth as she appears. And John Goodman's lurking as a CIA guy, can't trust that dude.

The thing I like about the fight scenes is that it takes a lot to put a person down. Short of a head shot, nobody falls easily. One guy gets cracked in the face with a ladder, and is able to get up in a couple of minutes. Dude gets stabbed - repeatedly - with a corkscrew, is able to eventually get back up and keep pursuing Lorraine. The fights aren't always pretty, the people involved are tearing each other up and getting worn down. There's one point where the two people take a solid 5 to 10 seconds just getting to their feet and gathering their energy before the final rush.

The one issue is it's hard to feel bad for anyone when they experience misfortune. I hate getting to the end and feeling like a fool, even if I think that's what the movie wants. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, to find out the character I thought was sympathetic has been playing the audience all along. So even when there is no other shoe, I'm fighting the emotional reaction the movie wants to provoke. Maybe that's a personal problem. McAvoy gives an excellent performance because he plays an obnoxious shit so well that even when things go bad for him, you aren't sorry to see it happen. Theron's very effective at getting you to feel sympathetic for her, while being pretty competent (not invincible, though). The agent left exposed and trying to finish her job anyway, then having to deal with bureaucrats criticizing how she handled it.

I was pretty happy with this overall. I might enjoy it more the second time around, when I know the twists and I can just sit back and not play my game of trying to figure out the mystery.

Monday, February 11, 2019

What I Bought 2/7/2019

I prefer running in cold weather to hot, although running outdoors beats a treadmill any day of the week. Still, might be a bit too cold when I notice there's frost on my eyebrows. The last two books from January. One is an ongoing series nearing its end, and the other is a mini-series going into the final third.

Coda #8, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist), Michael Doig (color assists), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Yeah, this issue will not be as placid as the cover suggests.

This issue is narrated by Serka, who has returned to the wastes where the Urken go when they feel the fury bubbling up from within. She was denied the opportunity to complete the quest she'd devoted her life to, and so she needs to blow off some steam. Hum, meanwhile has to get the hell out of Thundervale fast, because Notch, now ruler of the community, has to make a show of killing the ones responsible for the murder of the previous leader. He runs to Serka, and learns he understood nothing about her, while she understood him pretty well. Now he gets to live with that knowledge.

That did not go at all the way I expected. I knew his big plan to "save" Serka with his potion wasn't going to go as planned, that he was going to have misunderstood her curse. I didn't expect the issue was going to be that she doesn't see it at all the way he does, given how it was something she often tried to hide away from him.

The pages when Hum ventures into the Everstorm are gorgeous. It's mostly this swirling mass of dull browns and reds, which adds to the nightmarish aspect when he sees what's there. These giant bloated masses of shadows with gaping maws and dull red eyes. The first panel is small inset one of him trying to shield his face from the wind-driven grit, and the ring that glows in her presence is this simple red circle. Not flashing brightly like on the page before, but just a little bit of color that guides him to ruin. I'm getting maudlin, that's never good.

I'm a little torn, actually. The end of the issue feels like it should be heartbreaking, but I don't really want to feel bad for Hum, who could have avoided this disaster by trying to talk to her, to understand her point of view. I guess it's sad for Serka, to be so directly confronted with his weakness and lack of, trust maybe, in her. But I feel as though she'll hold up under this break-up better than he will. I really don't know what he's going to do going forward. March back and put his head in the noose, perhaps? Feels like the performance art a bard would favor.

Ms. Marvel #37, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Ian herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I hadn't ever thought of Kamala having painted fingernails. Kind of assumed her mother would have objections to that.

Kamala and Gabe are supposed to be looking after their nephew, but are entirely incapable of it, and go running to the convenience store for help. Then the water mains burst and the town begins to flood, and they lose the baby. Fortunately their various friends are much calmer and more competent and take care of the baby until Kamala can stop the flooding. And her brother finally gets a job, one that will probably suit him well. Might make him insufferable, though.

Kind of a cute issue. I'm not much for babies, and the way Herring colored Malik's eyes in the last panel screams he's possessed by a demon, rather than just has superpowers. Maybe that was what he was going for. Maybe next month, Kamala and her friends must perform an exorcism on her nephew.

But watching all the different parts of the cast interact outside super-villain shenanigans is nice. I was a little surprised Harold - the retired veteran from the Legion of Substitute Ms. Marvels  story - knows the others by name, but isn't used to seeing them when they aren't cosplaying as superheroes. So they told him their names while superheroing?

It's kind of another breather issue, although it does conclude Aamir's long search for a job which doesn't offend his religious sensibilities. So Wilson is moving a few things forward before the end of her run. I wonder if she and the incoming creative team have been discussing things, trying to find a point to end her time as writer that will let things flow smoothly into the new team's run. It's nice to hope.

Leon gets in some funny visual gags of people adapting to the flooded streets. Bruno trying to use the sign for the "Smushee" machine as a sail. Harold giving his scooter amphibious capabilities with rocking chairs and some modified paddles on the rear tire. Random shark fins and pigeons calmly floating. I don't think pigeons do well in water, though. Maybe they're puffins in disguise! Those damn puffins. I kid, puffins are swell. Instead of CGI-ing them into some alien whatever in that last Star Wars movie, they should have just had Luke being a hermit on an island full of puffins. It's a big galaxy, far away. Something extremely similar to puffins could totally evolve there. Better listen to me, I'm a wildlife biologist.

(Note: You should not listen to me about this. I am probably talking out of my ass.)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #52

"Pym Needs A Fly-Swatter", in Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes II #4, by Joe Casey (writer), Will Rosado (penciler), Tom Palmer (inker), Wil Quintana (colorist), Comicraft (letterer)

This was the second of two mini-series Joe Casey did expanding on a particular part of early Avengers' history. The first focused on the very beginning of the team, and involved Scott Kolins on art. This one starts up almost immediately after the Vision initially tries to kill the team, then turns on Ultron and is allowed to join. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor aren't on the roster, so the leader role falls to Hank Pym, with Vision, Wasp, Hawkeye, and Black Panther rounding out the roster. I figure nowadays it'd be T'Challa, or maybe the Wasp. Hawkeye as third choice. Not that he would be my third choice, but I figure if we're talking someone writing the book for Marvel. There's no reason to put any more responsibility on Pym's shoulders than you absolutely have to.

Not having read the issues these events took place in originally, I'm guessing Casey wanted to expand on various security agencies' reactions to the Avengers allowing an artificial being that just tried to kill them on the team. Plus, there's the Vision's early attempts to try and fit in to humanity, T'Challa assuming his identity as Luke Charles, schoolteacher, and Hank's first total nervous breakdown and the emergence of the Yellowjacket persona. Hawkeye and Black Widow are nearing the end of the road as a couple, but I mostly just enjoy Hawkeye being cocky and abrasive. He notices a SHIELD van running surveillance on him and the Vision (mostly Viz) and he walks over and knocks on the side of it to ask for a copy of the tape.

Casey takes that opportunity to present Jan trying to marry a Hank Pym who doesn't even realize he's Pym as her hoping it'll snap him out of this, rather than her figuring however she can get Hank to the altar is OK. I don't know how sound of an idea it is even with that motivation behind it, but it's a little better than what I've heard we got originally. 

Rosado's artwork feels a bit like John Buscema's in the musculature of the characters, that might be Tom Palmer's inking. There are times it doesn't feel as fluid as I'd prefer in the fight scenes, but in this issue, Hank has a nightmare that's a combination of his war against those Adaptoids and his own fears of inadequacy. The Adaptoids are swarming over him, and there's one being crunched between his teeth as he tries to fight them off with a wild eye. That's suitably creepy.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The Old "Fake Faking Your Death" Trick

At some point last month, I got a look at the first issue of the new Guardians of the Galaxy series. I was curious as to what the solicits had meant by 'who is the new Thanos'.

I'd forgotten Thanos died in that Infinity Whatever that came out last year, and stayed that way through the end of that event. In Guardians of the Galaxy, a bunch of people gather to see his video will, and it's in that recording Thanos reveals his mind has already been reborn, or transferred, something, to another body. He's out there, somewhere in the universe.

Which doesn't really seem like a "new" Thanos. He's still the same mind, and still going to behave the same way. All that's different is the external appearance. That's assuming he's telling the truth. My first thought (besides "Goddamnit, just leave him in the ground.") was, "This is a fakeout."

Thanos has pulled this move before. Back before Infinity Gauntlet, he let the Surfer believe he'd killed him (I think to throw everyone off his trail while he hunted down the Gems). Not content with that, he had gained citizenship in Dynamo City, and suckered the Surfer in with a messenger stating the Surfer was mentioned specifically in. . . the video recording of Thanos' will and testament. As it turned out, he'd set all that up just so the Surfer would be trapped powerless in that craphole city, looking for work to earn enough money to pay the exit fees.

I can see Thanos recording this just to throw the entire universe into a panic. A last joke played on everyone so happy he's dead. You thought you were free of me? I'm still out there, somewhere. Booga-booga! I could be anyone, and I'm plotting. . . things. Nefarious things. Better turn over every rock in the cosmos looking for me!

Then he can sit back in the afterlife and chuckle as everyone gets more and more desperate to find him, until they inevitably grow suspicious of each other. I mean, sooner or later, someone is going to decide they aren't finding Thanos because he's hiding inside one of them. Imagine Gladiator with a more powerful will and intellect, or Beta Ray Bill. Although I guess Thanos wouldn't be able to lift Stormbreaker*. But at that point, everything probably goes to hell.

This probably isn't what's happening, but it'd be fun. Or Thanos could be truly dead, and he's just doing this to keep everyone disorganized while he waits for Death to inevitably get tired of him hanging around and boots his purple butt back into the land of the living. So when he reappears, everyone's worn to a frazzle and pissed at each other, and he rolls over them.

* Unless Jim Starlin is writing the story. Then all bets are off.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

A Failure To Communicate Is A Big Problem For Ant-Man

Looking back over the two Ant-Man movies, it seems like there are a lot of problems that emerge because Hank Pym is bad at emotions. Not saying it's his fault, that he did it deliberately. Most of it seems to have happened after he believed he'd lost Janet, in which case Hank had a lot of grief and regret and closed himself off. Still, it's notable that he seems to have left a trail of angry, hurt people in his wake, and it keeps causing problems.

In Ant-Man, Hope is reluctant to turn to her dad for help stopping Cross because there are a lot of unresolved issues between them. She felt abandoned by him after her mother's seeming death, because Hank was struggling to process his own grief and survivor's guilt, and couldn't help her. His tendency to keep things to himself, and their lack of communication, means when Hope sees him bringing Scott Lang in for the heist. She sees it as a sign he doesn't trust her, or won't acknowledge her skills in using the suit and directing the ants. Really, it's that he can't stand the thought of losing her too, but since he won't just, you know, say that, she doesn't realize it until Scott points out that Hank sees him as expendable.

Which is kind of shitty, since Cassie would certainly miss her dad if he got killed trying to break into a super-science facility in a suit he can barely control*, but I can't fault Hank for prioritizing his own daughter's safety over someone else's daughter's happiness. Actually, should we count Hank baiting Scott into breaking into his house as a test, so he can show up later to "rescue" him from the cops, and then basically extort Scott into doing this job for him? I doubt Scott would have agreed if Hank simply contacted him and asked, but maybe try that first.

Cross has been trying to unlock the Pym Particle formula for years in some measure because he resents Hank for what he sees as a lack of trust. Hank's always denying the existence of Ant-Man, never letting Cross in on the secrets. As it turns out, Cross is going to sell the stuff to friggin' HYDRA, so Hank was right to keep it hidden. But maybe there was a way to help Cross feel appreciated and trusted without unlocking that particular door.

Eh, probably not, he was a pretty entitled guy. But I get the impression Hank didn't really try, and that's how you end up with a guy trying to sell an incredibly dangerous weapon to a bunch of would-be world conquerors at least in part to thumb his nose at Hank. All that gloating. "Oh you didn't think I could be trusted Hank, well look at me now!" Yes, you're selling your suit to HYDRA, I don't know how I could have misjudged you.

At this point, I'm moving on to Ant-Man and the Wasp, so there are probably SPOILERS.

The example that got me thinking about this was the hostility between Hank and Bill Foster, who apparently worked together for SHIELD back in the day, Bill acting as Goliath. Neither of them has any use or patience for the other. Hank is insulted Bill would even suggest they were partners, and contends Bill never had an original idea in his life and was just riding his coattails.

You can imagine if Hank hadn't been quite that big ass that Bill might have contacted him to consult on Ghost's condition. If Hank's willing to help, maybe he and Bill can keep her out of SHIELD's grasp, and she doesn't spend her formative years being turned into a thief, spy, and assassin. Then she's not trying to steal Hank's lab constantly at the worst possible time for him.

As for Ava's father, I don't know. She believes he was a scientist that Pym got booted, but Han contends her dad was a traitor. He has the same name as Pym's old comic arch-foe Egghead, so I'm guessing we're supposed to believe Hank about this one. In which case, I'm not going to fault Hank for not managing to make an inspirational speech that makes Starr's heart grow three sizes that day.

I don't know what lesson to take from this. Don't wall yourself off emotionally from others? Don't be an arrogant dick who treats coworkers and proteges poorly? Scott seems much more willing to ask for help, or admit his shortcomings. He hasn't always been there for Cassie, because of his own choices, but is trying hard to make up for it. For as much as he's treated as an idiot by Hank and Hope, he seems more mature emotionally than either of them, at least in some ways. I feel like the people close to Scott know how he feels about them.

* And if Scott did get killed during the heist, it would probably happen while he's tiny, so his body might never be found. Cassie and her mom might never know what happened to him. Just figure he decided to vanish somewhere.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

What I Bought 1/26/2019 - Part 4

I hate when they say a game is going to start at a given time, and then it takes another 15-20 minutes before the game actually begins. I don't want to listen to the TV people yammer on or interview someone. Just play the game! OK, last book from two weekends ago. Although by the time this posts, hopefully the two books I hadn't found from January have arrived in the mail.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2, by Tom Taylor (writer), Juann Cabal (artist), Nolan Woodward (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I don't know if it's going to be a trend of my reviewing this book all by its lonesome, but it sure seems like I'm going to struggle to find things to say about the covers for it.

Spidey calls the Torch to stay with the orange. The orange kids know the Human Torch, but not Spider-Man. Yeah, I'm calling bullshit on that. Moving on, one of the odd strong guys from last issue was watching the apartment building, and Spidey tries to question him, but the guys escape by bringing a building down. But he gets help finding the license plate from a cop who is married to the guy who drove off the bridge last issue. Spider-Man visits a deserted consulate, starts to fight the same guy from earlier, only to have his old lady neighbor Marnie (the way Cabal draws her face reminds me of Frank Quietly's work) step in and reveal a) she's a costumed person, and b) she knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man.

I continue to enjoy the small parts. Spidey feeding the pigeons on the roof of the police station while he waits for Detective Sebbens. Spidey casually pulling on his webline to bring that bumper over so he can show her the plate he'd like run. And the just lightly surprised look the detective has. She's not goggle-eyed or anything, because it isn't that strange, but it does come out of nowhere for her. The little bit of dust or smoke in the panel where he backflips over the consulate gate to set up an attack, because it's just a little visual cue of his movement. Helping to track his course over the panels. I should probably enjoy the discussion of the lack of pockets on Spidey's costume, but he had this discussion with himself before, in the JMS run. Zippers and velcro were concluded to be impractical.

As for the larger story, I mean it could be interesting. Taylor hasn't really gotten far enough into it, other than telling us there's a bunch of "secret" history that Spider-Man doesn't know anything about.  The Next Issue box is literally, "You don't know anything". Yeah, no shit, because someone hasn't told us anything yet. So when it actually starts to come together, maybe it'll be cool. Or, Spider-Man can point out he doesn't care why Leilani was kidnapped, only where he needs to go to rescue her. That would be appropriate for him.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Ant-Man and the Wasp

I found this by accident on Netflix last week. I figured it would make it there eventually, but I didn't know when. Scott (Paul Rudd) is nearing the end of his house arrest for helping Captain America in violation of the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War. He and his friends from the last movie are trying to keep their security business afloat. Then Scott has a dream that involves Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and reaches out to Hank and Hope (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly), who are on the run as accomplices to Scott's crime (since they gave him the suit).

Let's call it what it is. Whoever is trying to enforce the Sokovia Accord stuff just wants Pym's stuff. They're probably a remnant of HYDRA, or AIM. Have we seen AIM in the Marvel movies? We need science guys with weird weapons and beekeeper suits.

Anyway, those two are trying to put together a machine to go search the quantum realms for Janet, but get double-crossed by the black marketeer (Walton Goggins) they've been buying stuff from, and then a mysterious ghost lady (Hannah John-Kamen) shows up. Scott gets roped in, while trying to avoid the feds learning he broke house arrest.

The film makes a mention of storing quantum energy early, which once you've heard that, and you see the problems Ghost is having, the solution is readily apparent. It's just a matter of waiting until the film gets around to that point.

It's still weird for me to see Walton Goggins with a fairly large role in these big budget movies, or Tarantino's stuff, because I still think of him as that dipshit Shane Vendrell he played on The Shield. I would never have expected that guy to have this big of a career. Go figure. I did feel like, somewhere during the chase sequence near the end, he should have accepted he was simply out of his league and called it a day. I guess he figured he could just keep close and then swoop in once everyone else took each other out.

It depresses me the agent responsible for keeping tabs on Scott is a pitiful schlub, and is supposed to be Jimmy Woo. Man, Agents of Atlas was so cool, and Jimmy Woo was very cool in it, and this version of him is very much not. It's not Randall Park's fault; they clearly decided Woo needs to be a probably very lonely dumbass, and Park did his best. Still, when that dawned on me, it bummed me out.

Then again, Comic Hank Pym is a neurotic mess, while Movie Hank Pym is trying to give Odin and Tony Stark a run for his money in being a dick, so some things are off-model. I like that Pym was entirely OK with risking Scott being sent back to prison or killed for his own ends in the first movie, but now he's pissed that Scott made a decision which has (greatly) inconvenienced him. Oh, boohoo, shoe's not so comfy on the other foot, is it Hank? You had Hope right there, ready and willing to take care of Cross, and decided to extort Scott into helping you, regardless of the fact it would have made is little girl sad if he gets killed cleaning up your mess.

Granted, "conceited dick" is much more in Michael Douglas' wheelhouse than "guy constantly on the verge of a breakdown", but it makes it hard to want him to succeed in whatever is otherwise a perfectly good mission to rescue his wife. Because Pym has clearly been and continues to be an arrogant ass towards everyone.

The shtick with Luis (Michael Pena) did not irritate me as much as it did in the first movie. Maybe because they didn't lean as heavily on him telling long-winded and meandering stories this time. So he was a lot funnier to me this time. I don't know if the movie overall was funnier; I didn't really laugh out loud at this one or the first one. The gags where Scott's stuck with a suit that only partially works weren't great. I guess they needed something to compensate for him knowing what he was doing compared to the first movie, so he'd still look like kind of a putz.

I did enjoy some of the fight scenes, the back and forth of Wasp shrinking to avoid attacks, only to have Ghost phase through her counterattack. Although you would think shrinking and growing repeatedly in such a short time like that would be a real strain on your system. Oh well, Hope's young, I'm sure she can handle it. The car chase through San Francisco wasn't too shabby. The parts with Scott and Cassie were cute, especially the one where she wants to be his crime-fighting partner, and he says she'd be great at it, but he'd be a terrible dad to let her do it.

Monday, February 04, 2019

What I Bought 1/26/2019 - Part 3

Like I said on Friday, it was about 6 degrees for a high on Wednesday. Yesterday it was in the 60s. Chaotic! Temperature started dropping again midday today, though. Which won't be too bad if it'll at least stay in the 20s.

Mega Ghost #2, by Gabe Soria (writer), Gideon Kendall (artist/colorist/letterer), Julie Peppito (color assist) - Usually it's the other way around isn't it, the secret identities fighting in the foreground, and their superheroic alter egos looming in the background.

The blond kid on the cover, Fausto, is a spoiled rich brat who demands a toy that doesn't exist for his birthday. His dad finds a different battery-powered robot toy that Fausto loves, even as he begins to act very strange and buildings in the city are being randomly flattened. Martin figures out the toy's possessed, and anything it does to the replica of their town happens to the real thing. So he gets Mega Ghost to be toy-sized and away we go. The day is ultimately saved, but the mad scientist from last issue looks like has a lot of possessed toy to go around, and Martin's sister kept one of the weird batteries that powered the toy, which could be good, could be bad. I didn't really get enough of a sense of her character in this issue to decide what she might want it for.

I guess the real question is what's Ultraghoul's endgame. Working from the shadows, providing occult weapons to idiots who will unleash them with no chance of controlling them. What's he want to accomplish? Is it just a trial run for his stuff? Does he want to destroy the city? I'm sure he wants to get rid of Mega Ghost now, but he didn't know that was going to be an issue when he started. It's hard to say because the occult doesn't seem too unusual, in that Martin isn't some weirdo because he's interested in it. Plenty of other people seem to be as well. So you'd think the authorities would be getting suspicious about all this recent activity, but apparently not.

I dunno, I'm mostly trying to think of things to say about this issue. There's not a mystery to what's happening to Fausto, for us or Martin, so there's not much suspense there, and the fight is fairly brief. The idea of getting the ghosts to be action-figure sized is clever, although it seems like Martin could have just let them smash the toy while they were at full-size. I guess this preserves a secret identity. I like Fausto's "flunky", as Martin calls him. He dresses like a butler, but he's this broad-shouldered, crooked nose, scowling looming presence standing just behind Fausto most of them time. For some reason I like the design for him. It fits his role and the general supernatural air of the story. Could see him working for a vampire or some mad scientist in their castle.

Smooth Criminals #3, by Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten Smith (writers), Leisha Riddel (artist), Brittany Peer (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer) - Not everyone can make the big sunglasses work without looking like a grandma at the beach, but Mia Corsair is one of the few who can.

Two main scenes to this issue. The first is Mia and Brenda tracking down Mia's old fence to learn who told him the "Ice Man" had such a huge stash of diamonds. Turns out it was Mia's rival Hatch, the one engaged to the Ice Man's daughter in the present day. Second scene is Mia and Brenda making it to the unveiling of the Net of Indra so they can scope out the security measures, and running into Hatch. So he knows Mia's out and about, seemingly un-aged after 30 years.

So the gears turn a little more. The feds are also asking Mia's mother some questions from her prison cell. Seems like she should be older, since I'm figuring Mia had to at least be in her early 20s in the 1960s. The elder Corsair should be pushing 70 at least, and I would figure prison helps one age gracefully. But I guess some people are lucky that way.

Was "baller" a common phrase in the late '90s? No wonder Alex laughed so hard when I randomly decided to use a few years ago. I didn't think it was that passe. Even for me, that's a bit behind the curve.

After last month's rather abrupt downturn in the art quality halfway through, this issue marks a nice rebound. There's the occasional oddly shaped face, but that seems to be down to a few angles causing problems. Riddel does use a lot of small lines for shading on things, but it doesn't make things too fussy, and usually helps convey an elevated emotional state. Not necessarily panicked or furious, just not calm. The backgrounds are much more detailed than last issue. I wonder if Riddel prefers drawing one of Brenda and Mia more than the other. Brenda's the one who gets to be more animated and expressive, since Mia's almost certainly older and used to planning heists. The differences in their formal wear is interesting.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #51

"That Was the General Critical Response, Yes", in Avengers Arena #14, by Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (penciler/inker), Jason Gorder (inker), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

There wasn't a full-page splash, at least not one in a Kev Walker-drawn issue I liked. But I didn't want to pass over this series entirely, so here we are.

I don't actually know what the overall critical response to the series was, either. Only that the few people whose stuff I read at the time weren't fans of it. I get the complaints. If you were a big fan of Avengers Academy or Runaways, you weren't going to be stoked about characters you liked being potentially tossed in a meat grinder. As a New Warriors fan, I've been there. Although the group that sustained the most damage was the Braddock Academy kids Hopeless created specifically for this series.

(I read once his original plan had been to have a book focused on those kids. Introduce them, flesh them out, then they get abducted into this mess. I don't know if it would have involved all the pre-existing characters once the abduction happened or not, though.)

But I generally enjoyed it. I wasn't a fan of Arcade being more invested in winning than just having a good challenge, but I could rationalize it that nobody enjoys losing all the time. And especially nobody enjoys hearing themselves shit-talked at their own birthday by friggin' Constrictor. I thought we got a lot of time seeing the different approaches all the characters were taking. The ones who were holding out hope they'd escape versus the ones gearing up to kill. The ones scheming versus the ones being manipulated. The alliances and the petty rivalries. The poor decision making under stress, with Arcade trying to ratchet things up from time to time to make it worse.

I was only really worried about Cammi and Darkhawk surviving, and they both made it. Cammi even got to be frequently badass. I was on-board with that. I really enjoyed when she knocked Chase the hell out. Never was much of a fan of Chase.

Kev Walker managed to hold up fairly well under a 3 issues every two months pace. At least once or twice, Hopeless seemed to work in issues away from the main action for the fill-ins. Like an issue where Molly Hayes goes to Hank Pym because she's worried about her friends being missing. Walker's work is less busy here than it was in Annihilation: Nova. He inks himself at least some of the time, so maybe that's part of it. He drew some pretty good fight scenes, and Beaulieu's color work was really excellent at times. There's a fight where Nico comes back from near-death and just wrecks Katy/Apex, where I thought the purple shade for her magic was really great to contrast a fight in a snowy forest.

Friday, February 01, 2019

What I Bought 1/26/2019 - Part 2

Did you see that thing about the lady in Alberta trying to sell her home essentially by lottery. You send in a letter explaining why you should get it, plus $19, and if enough people write in (68,000, I believe), one of them gets the house, and the money everybody sent in pays for the rest. It sounds tempting, except for the part where I'd be in Alberta. It didn't reach 10 degrees here on Wednesday, and I hated it. I can't imagine living in conditions worse than this all the time. Plus, I assume the taxes on a place that size are a nightmare.

Domino #10, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon, Michael Shelfer, Alberto Alburquerque, Anthony Piper (artists), Victor Olazaba, Ed Tadeo, Michael Shelfer (inkers), Carlos Lopez (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Oh boy, artist casserole.

Domino saves Longshot from falling to his death. Then defends him from the determined young woman who hired her. Then decides they're all going to the Mojoverse to try and save Longshot and avert his being used to destroy the world. Which they do, with some punching and shooting of goon squads until they can get him to a doctor, as apparently doctors are reserved for the wealthy in the Mojoverse. I'm surprised anyone even bothers with doctors. I thought the idea was to keep everyone glued to their TVs, so just let 'em die and plop someone else on the couch. Apparently not.

This all happens really fast, which makes it hard to have much impact. I'd rather had a couple of issues of Domino and Longshot fighting it out, probably because he's protecting someone she's been hired to abduct or kill. Longshot can even be a naive dupe hired by someone evil and disingenuous if you want. He gets mind-wiped enough that's a plausible state for him.

The artist hodgepodge goes about as well as those things usually do. I think maybe they try to break it up into distinct chunks for each artist, but I'm not sure. Since the characters go pretty much from one fight to another once they hit Mojoworld, it's hard to really mark where one scene is ending and another is starting. I may simply be acting more generous than I should be. none of the other artists' styles really appeal to me as much as Baldeon's does. And Baldeon makes Longshot look particularly sick and lost when he draws him in the first few pages. Most of the other artists seem to land on "sweaty" or "tired", at best. Fortunately the cast each look distinct enough there isn't any trouble with telling people apart.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #40, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Doreen, sweetie, you're in Murderworld, obviously. The damaged Statue of Liberty with the Skrull chin is going to come to life and try stomping you any second now.

G'illian is a mutant Skrull who decided to stay on Earth after Secret Invasion. She was a squirrel for a while, then a human girl, wasn't going great. The Skrulls noticed she's MIA and are on their way back. To get their asses whipped. You'd think they would have learned by now to avoid Earth. When has messing with Earth ever ended well for the Skrulls?

G'illian pretended to be Squirrel Girl and die expecting that Squirrel Girl would announce she was actually alive, the Skrulls would assume G'illian was the dead imposter and go home. That didn't happen, so now she needs help. Tony Stark is, understandably, not on board with this, but is swayed by a heart-warming speech about judging people as individuals, rather than by bad experiences with other individuals who share a common origin.

Which is great in theory, and generally in practice as well. Except for the part where G'illian did abduct and imprison Tony. That's a thing that happened, in this comic, that she admits to. He's got a perfectly valid reason, unrelated to all his other bad past experiences with Skrulls who aren't G'illian, to not trust this particular young Skrull. The metaphor falls apart there, but it's still a good idea in general.

I really enjoyed the astounded squirrel during G'illian's flashback, so maybe I'm getting more accustomed to how Charm draws squirrels. The scowling floral arrangement during the funeral was a nice touch. Otherwise, there's not a lot I can say about Charm's work. It's pleasant and expressive, and it tells the story, but nothing really jumps out or makes a strong impression on me.