Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #59

"It's An Internet Comment Section Come To Life," Avengers vs. Atlas #4, by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer)

In between the end of Agents of Atlas and Atlas, Marvel released two mini-series starring the team to try and drum up a little more interest in them. One two-issue mini with the X-Men (which we won't get to for years at this rate), and the other with the Avengers.

It starts with what were the current day Avengers at the moment, but through time-travel shenanigans, ends up with the earliest Avengers. Kang is involved, but is not the actual architect of the problem. Or not the sole architect at least.

It's not essential by any means, but it is a fun little story. Parker knows how to write fight scenes, to play up characters' personalities. Iron Man and M-11 have a beam struggle going, and when Stark (in his earliest red-and-gold armor) wonders why M-11's power isn't declining, Gorilla Man shouts out that it's because M-11's insides are full of more machinery instead of boozy millionaire.

There's also a bit where Marvel Boy transmitted something important he learned to Hank Pym telepathically, and Tony does this slump-shouldered, sad complaint that Bob could have sent it to him, because he was a scientist, he'd have understood it. Plenty of good dunking on Stark in this.

Hardman's art is expressive and clean, it makes me think a bit of Russ Heath (his work from the Our Army at War comics from my dad's collection). The motion and energy is there, fights flow smoothly. His style works for robots, gorillas, and characters in bright costumes, and what more do you need?

Friday, March 29, 2019

How Much Guilt Is Doom Capable Of Feeling?

Random comic-related hypothetical for the day: Would Dr. Doom be affected by Ghost Rider's Penance Stare?

(Setting aside the obvious answer of, "yes if the plot requires it.")

The Penance Stare inflicts upon the victim's soul all the suffering and anguish they have caused others. Which means it's proven ineffective against people who don't have souls. As far as I know, Doom still has his. I can't picture him being so desperate or foolish as to barter it to Mephisto or whoever. He'd figure he could deal with whatever problem he faced, so no need to resort to such measures.

But the Stare has also proven ineffective if the person you use it on doesn't feel any regret for their past actions. In the one example of that I've seen, it was because the guy believed all the pain he'd inflicted was for a righteous cause - punishing sinners - and so their suffering meant nothing to him. Which suggests Frank Castle would also be immune, but that's for another day.

So given that, it boils down to whether Doom has regrets over his past actions, and whether it's enough to drive him to his knees*. Offhand, I think Doom would certainly fall into the category of someone who believes all his actions are just. But he's also capable of feeling pain and sorrow, in his own melodramatic way. So I think it would hurt him, if it was the suffering of people harmed by his failures.

The times Doom challenged someone by himself because he was certain he could win, but he blew it, and others paid the price. The times his plans backfired and brought more trouble than he expected. Not because I think Doom cares all that much about the ones hurt as people, but it reflects poorly on him. Tarnishes that self-image he tries to project of his infallibility. Doom could deny the pain of people he chose to harm as having brought it on themselves for challenging him, but the pain of those hurt because he wasn't up to the challenge might be a different matter.

* The Doom that played at being Iron Man a couple of years ago definitely does, and barring him using some spell to protect himself, would absolutely be vulnerable.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The China Mission - Daniel Kurtz-Phelan

The China Mission details George Marshall's attempt to help the Nationalists and Communists in China form some kind of unified, stable government. Marshall was ready to retire with the conclusion of World War II, and then Truman asked him to go to China. Marshall didn't feel he could refuse his President's request.

This was a mistake.

To be fair, the first three months go pretty well. All parties are willing to meet, and appear willing to make concessions and compromises. Marshall returns to the U.S. to do some work trying to gain support for aid packages to China, and things disintegrate.

Kurtz-Phelan suggests the problem is more the situation between the U.S. and USSR deteriorated, and this changed the mental calculus of the major players. As the wartime alliance broke down between those two, other things change around it. The Soviets go from encouraging Mao to negotiate to encouraging a more aggressive response (even though it takes a long time before they start to think the Chinese Communists can actually win a civil war). And as the Cold War begins, Chiang Kai-shek becomes less willing to give way on any point. Because he figures that no matter how undemocratic or repressive he becomes, the U.S. will still back him, so long as he is fighting Communists.

Not a bad assumption to make, really.

So by the time Marshall returns, neither side seems all that interested in negotiating in good faith. Each side is willing to do so only when things on the battlefield are going against them, and they still spend their time pointing out the other side's breaches on conduct. Marshall begins to lose his patience, and doubts whether he has any hope of success, but stays for over a year. But as the book is structured, it becomes clear there are only so many arguments he can use, and the two sides grow increasingly immune or disinterested in him.

The phrase that comes to mind to describe Marshall is "company man", which feels disrespectful. But he didn't really want this task, but took it because he felt it his duty. After he returns, he deals with being attacked by his countrymen (ranging from drunk imbecile Joe McCarthy, to a young JFK, to frickin' Eisenhower) as an appeaser. He deals with Chiang repeatedly accusing Marshall of being a dupe of the Communists, and the Communists accusing him of trying to help the Nationalists destroy them.

That last is sort of true. Marshall hoped that a coalition government, where the Communists can have a voice and move the country's politics gradually to the left, will in effect help unmake them. The major points of unrest in the peasants' lives the Communists use to rally them will be dealt with, and the Communists will lose support. I don't know if it would have played out like that. Is Mao the kind of man you can control by bringing him into the apparatus?

'Chiang had a sense of Stalin's approach. He had been playing his own double game, also attempting to use barbarian to check barbarian. He wanted to secure as much U.S. support as possible without spooking Moscow, and to placate Moscow without angering Washington.'

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

With So Few Interesting Comics, I Might Have To Go Outdoors In June

Who wants to be outside during the summer? Marvel's wrapping up War of Realms and Age of X-Man. There are about two dozen comics connected to the former (including Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), and at least a half-dozen to the latter. Of course, Marvel's already announced they're going to do an event comic about Carnage(???) later this year, not to mention they're bringing Jonathan Hickman back to do another event comic.

Because Secret Wars and Infinity were just so gosh-darn awesome. I'm actually surprised I remembered Infinity. The one where Thanos turned out to have a kid on Earth, and, uh, hmm. I don't actually remember anything else. There was some sort of alien collective that was a threat to all other life in the universe? Eh, whatever.

The only two new things I might buy are the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual, and the new Black Cat ongoing by Jed MacKay and Travel Foreman. The Annual might focus on cosmic characters I actually care about, which I don't think the ongoing is doing. You cannot make me care about Gladiator or Starfox, quit trying Marvel.

I'm concerned about Foreman as artist on Black Cat. The last thing I bought he drew was the second half of Immortal Iron Fist (after Aja/Brubaker/Fraction had all left), and I did not enjoy his work. It's done with a very gritty texture, and I would like this to look sleek and cool, what with being about a cat burglar. Maybe it will. Or they'll pull the old bait-n-switch on artists after the first arc.

Two notes on collections being offered. One is a complete tpb of Not Brand Ecch!, which might interest some of you. The other is a $100 omnibus of Marvel Universe by Rob Liefeld, which I'm sure will also interest someone. They could probably every comic in it for significantly less than that hundo out of back issue boxes, easily.

DC, Dial H for HERO is still the only thing I think I'm likely to be buying, and even that's uncertain since I haven't seen the first issue yet. I didn't mention last month that DC is doing their own Marvel Zombies, called DCEASED. I'm actually impressed they waited this long to go to that well. Oh, and Bendis is working with Alex Maleev on an event comic, Leviathan. Because Bendis-written event comics always go so well. Like that instant classic, Secret Invasion.

Kee-rist, let's move on. Dark Horse has a hardcover of Raule and Gabor's Isabellae, about a half-Japanese, half-Irish swordswoman searching for her lost sister with their father's ghost as company. Sounds kind of cool, and it's three volumes collected as one.

Boom is quiet this month, with Coda done, and Smooth Criminals seemingly on a skip month. That just leaves Giant Days and it looks as though it's going to be a sad issue. Damn comics, trying to make me have feelings.

Vault Comics has a new series by Christopher Sebela and Jen Hickman called Test, where the main character is a future junkie, and hears about a town that somehow has things that shouldn't exist for decades.

That was pretty much it. Quiet month, unless some of the stuff that's been badly delayed I've been waiting for decides to appear out of the blue.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

This was a bit of a strange movie. After a man barges into a church where Clint Eastwood is the pastor and tries to shoot him, the film spends the next 30 minutes on Eastwood and Jeff Bridges roaming across the western U.S., running into oddballs. I almost thought it was going to end up being one of those comedies about people having trouble trying to travel long distances, but there are two more guys after Eastwood that keep popping up.

Then it shifts into a heist movie, although it spends more time on the odd jobs they do to make enough money to get what they need for the heist than on the actual planning. That at least makes some sense in-story.

Eastwood (as Thunderbolt, or Johnny) spends most of the movie either faintly amused or mildly annoyed. He's just too tired for anything to get to him any more than that. Bridges (Lightfoot) is usually very glib and unconcerned with dangers. Constantly flirting*, always with some little saying or quip, enthusiastic about whatever he's mixed up in. George Kennedy (Red) is usually pissed off, mostly at Lightfoot once they meet, but in general he's very impatient and irritable. Early in the movie, I was impressed by how much he seemed to be playing a barely suppressed ball of rage, but as the story progresses, he's almost comical. He could kill Eastwood and Bridges, but wants to fistfight Eastwood, and the fight has to end because his asthma acts up. Then all four of them sit by a river and talk for a while. Dudes not knowing how to just talk about what bothers them.

The movie is like that a lot. It feels absurd - the heist centers on a 20mm cannon and Lightfoot dressing as a woman - and sometimes it gets played for laughs, and other times like it's serious. Maybe to emphasize the ridiculous aspect of all this.Thunderbolt, Red, and Goody ultimately can't move on, accept they gave it a shot and it didn't pan out, and just deal with. They just have to keep trying. Lightfoot is so used to just winging everything and getting away with it, he doesn't grasp the seriousness of anything until its too late. By the time he does, he's in for a penny, in for a pound, as he put it.

* I think my favorite scene was when he's driving a delivery van and catcalls a lady on a motorcycle next to him. She pulls a hammer from somewhere and just starts whaling on the side of the van with it while they drive down the highway.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Because Sometimes I'm A Five-Year Old

The thing in the top panel is what fell from space on page 1 of Domino: Hotshots #1. It's something almost certainly related to the Celestials, because the guy that touched it is now half a Jack Kirby character, and has that same weird pattern on his palm Arishem the Judge has.
I mean, that's Celestial poop, right? Probably not much, but I'm not crazy to think this? It doesn't look like any piece of their bodies that we normally see. The stuff fell from the sky, probably been floating through space for who knows how long, and lands in Antarctica. That scientist, Gavrie goes down into the crater to handle it while not wearing ever remotely sufficient PPE, and BAM! Space Hep A.

Now everyone is trying to catch this guy, not to quarantine him before he infects the entire world (and he's already gotten Outlaw), but because they think he has some great power their countries can exploit. He's talking about all these futures he can see, and things he can sense, and they think he has Cosmic Awareness. No, his mind is just being eaten alive by a virus strong enough to exist inside a Celestial.

Although maybe that's all Mar-Vell's Cosmic Awareness was. He came into contact with some stuff on a mission for the Kree and just had a different reaction to it. Both Earthlings and Kree got tampered with by the Celestials, but that doesn't mean they'd react the same way to exposure. Plus, they probably didn't get exposed the same way. You'd hope Mar-Vell would have been smart enough not to just walk up and handle glowy space crap.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #58

"Live From Bagalia, It's The Arcade Prison Special!', in Avengers Undercover #7, by Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Jason Gorder (inker), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The follow-up series to Avengers Arena, where the teen heroes who survived have to deal with what happened during Arcade's little horror show. Made worse by the fact Arcade naturally recorded all of it and posted the footage on the Internet. So the whole world knows all the bad decisions they made.

After making another poor choice to seemingly kill Arcade, and getting "rescued" by Baron Zemo, they decide their only chance to redeem themselves is to pretend to work for him and then bring him down. Because 7 teen heroes were going to pull that off when Zemo had an army of hundreds of super-villains.

The series only lasted 10 issues, and you can tell Hopeless kicks things into overdrive to tie things up the last few. My guess is he was originally hoping for 12-18 issues for this. The general idea is sound, to follow-up with these characters and see how they're dealing with what happened. If you're going to put characters through the wringer like that, you really shouldn't just walk away and leave someone else to deal with your mess (that's called pulling a Millar). Plus the fact they think there's going to be some magic move that can fix all this, but they haven't thought things through remotely well enough for their plan to have any chance of working.

There is, however, the significant issue that these kids are thrown in cells by SHIELD for killing Arcade. Who you will recall was a successful hitman even before he started building homicide-themed amusement parks and torturing kids. Are we really supposed to believe SHIELD thinks these kids are now super-villains because they killed Arcade? 

I pointed this out at the time, but Wolverine kills like 50 dudes every week. Not even people that experimented on him, just random criminals and thugs he runs into while motorcycling through the Canadian wilderness (or Japan.) I don't see SHIELD throwing his butt in jail over the fact his body count is higher than some small wars.

Kev Walker draws most of the issues, and his work is still very good. The expressive faces and body language, and the way Bagalia is this bizarre patchwork of like a shantytown and Las Vegas' seedier twin. Beaulieu's colors pop off the page in the action scenes. I love that shade of purple he uses for Nico's powers. The other artists, mostly Tim Green II, aren't nearly as good, which is a bit of a disappointment. Especially since I liked Green's work quite a bit on Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord and some of the other cosmic stuff he did with Abnett and Lanning.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Only Time I Will Discuss College Basketball Here

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is in full-swing. I'm not normally a college basketball fan. I enjoy watching players who can actually make shots once in a while, which rules out 90% of college players, judging by the last two days.

Sometimes it's not too bad. The talent disparity between teams means you get a much wider array of playing styles than in the NBA. Some teams don't have anyone taller than 6-6, while other teams can start an entire frontcourt of guys at least 6-10. Teams who play full-court press, or zone, run everything through a big man, or through a tiny, lightning quick point guard. The strengths and weaknesses of various teams require different solutions, and how they match up can be interesting. Although the talent disparity also leads to a lot of blowout. Watching Gonzaga stomp Farleigh-Dickinson into the ground isn't very entertaining. It's boot vs. ant).

One thing I absolutely cannot stand about college hoops, though, is the possession arrow. If players get tied up over a loose ball or rebound, the refs whistle the play dead and the ball is simply awarded to whichever one has the magical possession arrow. The get to inbound the ball and things go from there. Next time there's a dead ball like that, the other team will have the arrow in their favor. That is boring.

The NBA uses the jump ball, which seems better to em. At least the players get to compete for the ball, rather than a "my turn, your turn" thing. Sure, sometimes you get a 6-1 point guard and a 6-10 forward matched up and it seems a foregone conclusion. But sometimes the guard can get in the air faster, or out-jumps the guy (more likely if the big guy is old). Even if the big guy wins, if he tries to tip it to a teammate, there's no guarantee it won't be intercepted. Sometimes it can spark a fast break. Maybe it gets tapped out to an open shooter behind the arc, or someone can cut to the hoop for an alley-oop. Unpredictable outcomes.

It's not always like that, but the possibility exists, which seems more fun to me.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The novella is what the title says, an investigation into a murder everyone knew was going to happen. Santiago Nasar is murdered by the two brothers of Angela Vicario, stabbed repeatedly against the front door of his home. This happens because Angela's husband brought her back five hours after their marriage because she isn't a virgin, and Angela points the finger at Santiago. The author, a family friend of Nasar's investigating what happened 23 years after the fact, seems certain Santiago is innocent of the act.

The story isn't about the murder itself, since it is made immediately clear who did it and why. It's about everyone's role in it. The Vicario brothers loudly announce to everyone they meet that they intend to murder Santiago Nasar that morning. Yet most of the people do nothing. Some out of apathy (some else will stop them), or because they don't believe the brothers are serious. It does seem like the brothers are being so vocal because they hope someone will stop them. They can say they tried. Other people who try to intervene are just unlucky. They get the news too late, or they miss their chance, turn the wrong direction.

(There are also a lot of people, at least after the fact, who say it was a justified killing to defend the honor of their sister and their family. I have to figure the desire to absolve the brothers of guilt is a desire to do the same for themselves not doing anything.)

I wouldn't call the book my favorite of Marquez' work, but his stuff is always at least good. I was trying to think of a good way to describe his style, and the word that came to mind was "languid". Where the story follows a particular current through whatever twists and eddys it encounters. There's a relaxed flow to it, with how Marquez is fine pausing to spend a few pages on the house that was to be Bayardo and Angela's home. Not only how it was acquired, but later on, what happened to it after everything fell to pieces. I know the story will get where it's going eventually, and I'm content to let it get me there when it's ready.

'Before stepping onto land, they took off their shoes and went barefoot through the streets up to the hilltop in the burning dust of noon, pulling out strands of hair by the roots and wailing loudly with such high-pitched shrieks they seemed to be shouts of joy. I watched them pass from Magdalena Oliver's balcony, and I remember thinking that distress like theirs could only be put on to hide other, greater shames.'

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What I Bought 3/16/2019

I played chess with my dad over the weekend. I've actually managed to beat him a few times the last year, which is a nice change from every attempt up to that point. Even though it's never pretty. Usually a matter of which of us makes a mind-boggling screw-up last. This game was an ugly rock fight like that. He screwed up, then I screwed up later and about did myself in, then he made the last mistake and conceded. I'll take it.

Here's two books from last week. One is hitting a milestone (sorta), and the other is the first issue.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #42, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson, Derek Charm, Naomi Franquiz (artists), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - That weird swirl of white near the bottom of the hourglass looks like someone got sloppy with their paintbrush.

Kang tries to kill Old Lady Squirrel Girl, because he learned she was destined to defeat him. His attempt to drop a building on her is unwittingly thwarted by Present Day Squirrel Girl, so he goes back to try and kill her. Except his attempt to blow her up is unwittingly thwarted by Rookie Squirrel Girl (and Monkey Joe!), so Kang tries to go back to kill her, and then ends up fighting all three of them, because Doreen has some eidetic memory shit when it comes to the components of a time travel machine.

I enjoyed this a lot. If you're going to use multiple artists in an issue, this is a good way to do it. Have it make sense why you're switching artists when you do, and have a coherent story. Not one of those jam issues that just barely holds together. I enjoy repeatedly flummoxed Kang, although I find it hard to believe he had never used 'I've got some time to kill' prior to attacking Rookie Squirrel Girl. But I suppose this could have been Kang extremely early in the game for him. He's a time-traveler, it's hard to tell. Even the super-villain trading card was confused, and you'd think Deadpool would have a handle on time travel from hanging out with Cable so much.

Each of the artists has a bit of a different approach to Kang's look. Franquiz has the mask part of his helmet be a lot wider, and gives him a very large grin. I kept thinking Kang's smile reminded of a DBZ villain, but I think it was Cui, which is not a compliment to Kang. Cui was cowardly chump who got killed by Vegeta of all people. Franquiz also drew Kang with an actual neck. Charm and Henderson both draw the helmet as extending all the way to the collarbone.
Henderson gives Kang a lot of hilarious and bizarre scrunchy-face looks. To be fair to Kang, by that point he's getting extremely frustrated by how much effort it's taking to ensure Squirrel Girl doesn't defeat him. Henderson also makes the green portions of his costume a lot baggier than the other two.

Charm makes the face mask part of the helmet smaller than the others, and mostly gives Kang an annoyed scowl. Except for that one panel where's he's smirking and claiming credit for some line J.M. Barrie wrote. I liked the scrambled look he gave Doreen after she got a satellite dropped on her. Franquiz' art is somewhere between Henderson and Charm's. Not nearly as slick and clean looking as Charm's, but not quite as rough and stripped-down as Henderson's. It's easier to feel like her characters and Henderson's are the same, though. Charm's tendency to slim everyone down runs against the other two artists' willingness to draw Doreen as being more round in the face.

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1, by Saladin Ahmed (writer), Mingkyu Jung (penciler), Juan Vlasco (inker), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I kind of like the elongated look there, but you'd think she'd want to go smaller, for less wind resistance.

Kamala's trying to talk more with Nakia about the whole being a superhero thing, but has to get home, where she learns her mother finally told her father about the whole being a superhero thing. I wondered when we'd get to that. Pops tells her no more crimefighting, which Kamala promptly ignores because Bruno's being attacked by a wolfman who turns into goo. Then she fights a birdperson, same result. Then she gets home and both her parents turn into goo. Seems like an extreme approach to try and get your kid to obey you, but what do I know. I'm not a parent.

When Kamala smashes the bird guy, she morphs her fists so they have meat tenderizer like bumps on the end. Which is not a thing I can recall her ever doing. That's more of a Plastic Man thing, or Reed Richards at times. I guess her powers could still be evolving.

I was surprised it was still Ian Herring on the color work. Outside a few close-up panels here and there where he uses that familiar shade of yellow for a solid background, it didn't feel the same. Which is interesting, because Herring always seemed to help keep the previous volumes in a similar tone regardless of which of the many artists he was working with was doing that issue. Things tended to feel bright, but also soft. Gentle colors, which is not the vibe I got her.

Part of that might be deliberate for this particular story. Something is going on in Jersey City, and maybe that's an indication. Or it's just the direction Ahmed and Jung want to go with things. Jung's artwork is closer to what I'd think of a typical superhero comic style than most of the artists Herring and Wilson worked with. Jung doesn't really go the route of simplifying the style for exaggerated effect, doesn't add a bunch of cute or funny background details to give an element of the absurd to the action.
Again, could be a deliberate choice for this particular story. The same way the narration is from someone other than Kamala. Typically we've had her thoughts as she deals with whatever is going on, but since the story is being told by someone else, that isn't the case here. It plays up the difference between how she's perceived and how she is, as opposed to how she perceives things and how they're actually going. The alien telling the story probably wouldn't know about all the stuff that's usually hanging around when she fights villains, or wouldn't consider it relevant, so that's why it isn't in the story.

Which makes me wonder if Deathbringer or the two goo monsters actually looked anything like how we see them. Maybe they were tiny, silly animated stuffed animals, but the alien guy figures they must have been mighty beasts to challenge the great hero.

I guess we'll see what the next issue brings.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Buster's Mal Heart

We see Jonas (Rami Malek) at three different stages in this movie. In one, he's floating in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. He's been there a while. In another, he's a mountain man who survives Montana winters by breaking into rich people's empty vacation homes and staying there for a while. He calls into radio stations ranting about "the inversion" and has been dubbed "Buster". And in the third, Jonas is the night concierge for a hotel in Montana, trying to save up enough money to buy some land where he, his wife Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil), and his daughter can live as they please. He gets tangled up with a drifter (DJ Qualls) who won't give him his name and insists he is the last free man and there is going to be universal inversion soon.

For most of the movie, I was working under the assumption the issue here is the conflict between Jonas' desires. He wishes to live a life on his terms, where he isn't stuck working a job he hates that keeps him from spending time with his daughter. But his wife wants primarily to get out of her parents' house first, even if it means renting an apartment, which frustrates him. If he insists on things his way, he may lose his family, who he loves. Following the plan that best satisfies them may leave him trapped in a cycle he can't bear. I assumed his time as "Buster" was the end result. His tried to walk the tightrope, couldn't manage it, and here he is now, as close to the life he wanted as he can get.

In that scenario, the ocean scenes are I guess a metaphor for how trapped and lost he feels. He can't find land, can't get out of this place he's stuck in, and God gives him just enough to keep him going, but not enough he can actually get any place.

Then the film reveals the inversion thing might actually have happened? No one can find any evidence the mysterious guy ever existed, Buster sees a report on TV of someone finding a message in a bottle from a "Jonas" who has been missing for years. The two meet one night while Buster is hiding in a cave from the authorities. In the end, it seems like he grasps that neither choice was the right one and finds an option that gives him the best of both worlds for a little while. Maybe.

Unusually for me, the sci-fi aspects made the film worse. Otherwise, it's pretty good. The scenes of Jonas working in the mostly empty hotel alone at night reminded me of The Shining a bit, you could see how it would start to wear on him. How he always, day or night, is so worn down. He drifts off or dozes, and sometimes that's when the movie jumps to Buster or the rowboat. Gives it a nice surreal quality.

Monday, March 18, 2019

What I Bought 3/13/2019 - Part 2

In my Giant Days review last week I went on about John Allison always drawing Susan with pointy teeth, then used a scan where he doesn't draw her with pointy teeth. Brilliant work there, Calvin. Then again, my decision process on what to scan and post is about a 50/50 mix between "this illustrates something I discuss in the review" and "I like this panel for reasons".

Here's the other comic from February that showed up last week.

Coda #9, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist/colorist), Michael Doig (color assists), Jim Campbell (letterer) -It took me a bit to realize the cover image extends onto the back cover as well. It's Hum watching an army advance on Ridgetown.

Hum is adrift now, but at least able to get Nag up and moving. He roams aimlessly, writing things in his journal, then crossing them out while trying to be honest with himself. Mostly how much of a miserable dumbass he is. He ends up at the Murkrone's fortress, looking for something to do. He gets to shovel poop out of her nursery. That would send me back into the desert, personally, but he seems OK with it. But once the giant understands Serka won't be back to defend Ridgetown, he makes a beeline for it (and the endlessly regenerating elf the townspeople use as a source of magic). And his up 'til now silent partner (controller) is going to make sure Hum's sudden awakening of a conscience can't do anything either.

I didn't see that end reveal coming. Maybe I should have, but I figured the creepy guys who finish each other's sentences were their own group, pursuing their own ends in an alliance with the giant. Instead, they're someone else's lackeys. It's one of the things that's always fun about the first step into a new fictional universe, you don't know where anybody stands on the food chain. They may always be a follower, or they may be a power-mad leader, but you don't have any past history to theorize from.

I don't know if we'll get it, but I'd like to see what Serka's up to while Hum's busy with this. His quest, even if he tried not to think of it that way, is over. It ended in crushing failure, an he's left with the knowledge of what pursuing it cost. Serka thought she had reached her goal, to finally punish the ones who tricked her and her people into destroying the world, and got nothing. Hum has decided to find some crappy, low responsibility job to hide away and kick himself. How does Serka respond to her situation?
The Murkrone's base is a nifty design. A mass of walls have cut it off from the ocean, and she has people trying to tunnel through. In the meantime, she and her babies live in this graveyard. The corpses of massive beasts and ships alike strewn about. Rock formations or maybe its the remains of coral reefs in this lovely shade of pink sticking up, and then the various signs of settlement. Thrown together shacks and tarps tied down over crates of stuff. It's a lovely mixture of what was and what's come along since.

Beyond that, I like the scene in the pilot room of Thundervale, as Notch speaks to her "mysterious boss". Most of the scene is done in this sickly bright shade of green, which Bergara and Doig use to highlight how uneasy Notch is getting with this situation. Then the next page we get a glimpse of the remains of the elf in Ridgetown, which has sprouted a new, baby head in place of the one Hum foolishly cut off. That's just disturbing, especially when it's screaming about doom while the leader of the town cuts pieces off its leg to turn into magic fuel.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #57

"Shocking! Yeah, I Don't Wanna Hear It", in Solo Avengers #12, by Tom DeFalco and Ralph Macchio (writer), Ron Lim (penciler), Jose Marzan (inker), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Jack Morelli (letterer)

I shouldn't get to this title for a very long time, but they changed the title to Avengers Spotlight somewhere around issue #24, and the earliest issues I bought were the Acts of Vengeance tie-ins that came after that point. So I had it filed accordingly.

Like the title suggests, the book functioned as an opportunity for stories focusing on just one or two Avengers. A lot of those star Hawkeye, which is OK by me. But you get one-shots about the Vision, Wonder Man, Moon Knight. Rick Jones gets a story one month. Hellcat gets one where her crazy ex-husband menaces her about her memoir.

No, not Damian Hellstrom, her other crazy ex-husband. The high school sweetheart, Buzz, or whatever. God, Patsy, you have the worst taste in men. It's like the inverse of Matt Murdock, who is the worst choice for any woman who ends up dating him.

Usually two stories in each issue. Issue 12 features Hawkeye alone against the Abomination. Or Tyrannus' mind inside the Abomination's body. At any rate, Hawkeye punching way out of his weight class, which I always enjoy. less enjoyable is that we're at the point where he and Mockingbird are having problems because Clint still thinks she killed Phantom Rider, and he's all "Avengers don't kill," at his wife, who was, you know, drugged into thinking she loved the Rider for several weeks. Not the time or place for that discussion, Clint.

The other story is Rita Demara, the second Yellowjacket, developing a crush on the Black Knight, while trying to fend off the Fixer's advances. Dane crashes and burns spectacularly telling the Wasp his true feelings first, though. Notable mostly for being the earliest example of Amanda Conner's comic artwork I've come across. Which is one of the fun things about these kind of books, the earlier examples of the work of people that become big names later. The second story in the first issue is drawn by Jim Lee, for example.

Plus, it's a good book to go on back issue hunts for because you can pick and choose. There aren't typically a lot of interweaving plotlines. A story might carry over several issues, but it's still it's own thing. Since the book is from the '80s, anything relevant going on in other titles will get referenced as needed.

Friday, March 15, 2019

What I Bought 3/13/2019 - Part 1

I picked up the Ales Kot written volume of Secret Avengers in a back issue hunt, and there was an ad for Captain America from when Sam Wilson had the shield, and I went, "Oh yeah, Sam was Captain America for a hot minute there." I'd completely forgotten that. I don't even know what Marvel has going on with Sam these days.

Anyway, here's a couple of the comics from last month that finally showed up in the mail this week. The third issue of two different mini-series.

Atomic Robo: Dawn of a New Era #3, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Shannon Murphy (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer) - Bernard's just a little freaked because he didn't realize the machine had a vibrate setting.

Bernard has found the princess of the underground kingdom, or she found him, and something is going on. The Earth is going to be unmade? That doesn't sound good, although perhaps not the worst idea looking at what's going on around us. In other developments, Jenkins has returned for the first time since, Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur? Which was 2013. Now he looks like Cable. I'm not joking. Glowy, scarred eye, white hair, lots of belt pouches. Much grumpier and more vocal than he used to be. No metal limbs, unless he's hiding a metal hand under the bandages.

He's been busy tearing apart Majestic, but it turns out they were barely stopping a full-scale invasion from the Vampire Dimension, and with them gone, the vampires are about to conquer everything. that's bad, although I'm curious when the vampires figured out how to cross dimensions. They always appeared nearly mindless. Anyway, Jenkins isn't really impressed by the resources Robo has on hand, so we'll see how that goes.

Things escalated quickly. I thought Vik and Lang encountering vampires was going to be a simple sideplot. An extended gag about their vacation gone awry while Robo is comfortably at home introducing ALAN to the works of P.G. Wodehouse. Never mind that. I'm not sure how this is going to play out. It feels like Bernard's situation is relevant to the vampire issue, but I'm not exactly sure of that. It's nice to see Jenkins again. I would have thought he'd be more aware of what Robo was up to these days, but I guess when you're waging a one-man war from the shadows you don't keep up with your friends' social media.
Joking about Jenkins' look aside, I kind of like it. With as pale as he's colored, the way he grits his teeth, that weird round thing where his left ear used to be, he has a bit of a Frankenstein's monster vibe to him. Man has been through some stuff in the last 5+ years

Mega Ghost #3, by Gabe Soria (writer), Gideon Kendall (artist/colorist/letterer) - I see the Terrible Trio abandoned Gotham City for a more pleasant locale.

The moral of today's story is to not get a swelled head. Martin's feeling pretty cocky about how well he's protecting the city, so when it turns out his sister and her two friends have turned some roadkill into eldritch powered exosuits they can use to fight evil, we end up with a turf war instead of a team-up. Eventually Martin finds himself overwhelmed by an enemy and has to swallow his pride and ask his sister for help.

I like that Morgan assures Martin they used roadkill for the familiars, rather than seeking out and killing animals themselves. It's merely creepy, rather than potentially psychopathic. I feel so much better.

I like some of the monster designs. The Mechtoskeletons make for a good group villain look. Not something too difficult for the artist to draw several of in a bunch of panels, but not too bland. Most of the book is in dark colors since a lot of it takes place at night, plus the whole "monsters of the night" motif, so the panel of the explosion contrasts nicely with its use of a nice bright red and orange. Really makes it pop more than it might in a book with a brighter color scheme.
I don't really have a lot else to say on the issue. It's fine, I just think it's becoming more apparent it's probably aimed at a different audience than me. Younger one, most likely, which is a good idea, and sometimes that stuff still works for me. I don't think this is one of those times.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Magnificent Seven (2016)

Watching this movie, I couldn't help comparing it to the 1960 version, rather than trying to assess it on its own merits. But you decide to do a remake, you invite that, so here we are.

It's not bad. I like Denzel Washington more than Yul Brynner, so consider that an upgrade. I was horrified at the idea they were trying to have Chris Pratt fill the Steve McQueen role, because Pratt is completely incapable of playing anyone cool. On the other hand, he's very good at playing a guy who thinks he's cool, but is actually kind of a dork, and that's what I read him as here, so that's intelligent casting.

Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue is a much more despicable villain than Eli Wallach's Calvera was. I like Calvera more, but if you want to see the bad guy die, Bogue is the villain you want. He's such a delusional, self-aggrandizing dick. Talks about how capitalism is God, and therefore to go against him is to go against God. Who doesn't want an ass like that to die slowly?

Although part of the reason I liked making the villain a ruthless industrialist was I thought there would inevitably be the point where some of the townspeople defected, and it seemed more plausible with a guy who could promise a lot of money. Looking at the 1960s version, you can tell Wallach's gang is on its last legs. They're hitting that rinky-dink little village as hard as they are because they're being driven away from the more lucrative places by the military. The double-cross never comes, but I still enjoyed Bogue's death more.

I couldn't decide if Vincent D'Onofrio was overdoing with his acting on his character. Sometimes it was OK, sometimes it was too much. I liked Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks, because he was my favorite character in The Good, the Bad, the Weird. Love that movie so much. I don't know that this movie does a whole lot with him, although I enjoyed the friendship between he and Ethan Hawke's character.

I did like, during the lengthy final battle, that we get this inspirational music going right as the Seven think they've got it won. The heroes all get an extra burst, rushing out boldly to finish off what they think are the remainders of Bogue's army of goons. It's feels like a moment of triumph, and then the Gatling gun starts up. I kind of wish they hadn't told us that's what Bogue had on the wagon, since it means the audience knows that things are about to go sideways at the moment the film is trying to indicate otherwise.

I think I actually prefer the brief skirmish when the Seven first reach the town, when they wipe out the small force Bogue left behind to keep an eye on the town. It's quick, let's most everybody show off or demonstrate their issues, and was just generally fun. The final battle might reach that length where after awhile it's like, OK let's wrap this up, I got stuff to do.

Too much slow-motion in the action sequences, but griping about that is probably as much a lost cause as complaining about decompression in superhero comics.

Overall, without having watched the 1960 version in over a year, probably call it a wash. New version has some aspects and characters I like better, but so does the older version. I don't consider either appointment viewing, but if there's nothing else on and you want to watch a Western, you can do a lot worse than either of these.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What I Bought 3/9/2019 - Part 2

I thought I'd have a book from February to add to this post, but the order got lost somewhere between UPS and USPS for a solid week. Again. They're here now, but I haven't had time to read them yet so, only one book today.

I'm starting to suspect this is an extortion racket. "If you don't want your package to get lost, maybe pay more to have us deliver it the whole way, rather than handing it off to the dumb ol' Postal Service."

Giant Days #48, by John Allison (writer/artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - If Susan wanted to experiment with a mustache, I'm surprised she didn't just shave of McGraw's to use.

It's McGraw's brother's wedding, and Susan is only now finding out that he's marrying a Shaw, a member of a family that hates Susan's guts. One of them nearly threw Susan off a rooftop in the early stages of this series. That combined with Susan feeling extremely uneasy talking to all McGraw's relatives, means lots of alcohol will be necessary to survive this. Meanwhile Esther and Daisy end up sharing a hotel room with only a single bed, because the manager, in an attempt to be progressive, misread their relationship. Right as Daisy is starting to wonder if maybe she would like to date Esther. Fortunately, one night sleeping next to Esther is enough to put any thoughts of it out of Daisy's mind.

Now that I think of it, I'd be really interested to have seen McGraw's reaction is Daisy told him she was growing interested in Esther. Considering how often he tried to advise Ed to give up that fixation, I can't imagine he'd be any more encouraging for Daisy. Mostly, I picture her telling him this, and McGraw saying only, "poor idea," then leaving immediately. Possibly just leaving without saying anything.

Poor Daisy, and she's such a good friend. I need to adopt her approach for talking Susan out of fights in the restroom to dealing with Alex when he starts getting belligerent with drunks (or getting belligerently drunk). Although if I tell him it's beneath his noble lineage, he'll just look at me like I'm nuts and keep going. Depending on how confused he is, it might be worth it.

I notice Allison always draws Susan as having a mouth of sharp teeth. I thought it was something he saved for when she was being mean-spirited, but he maintains the look even when she's uncertain of herself around McGraw's parents. I thought that was interesting. Might explain why said parents are so terrified of her all the time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Godzilla (2014)

I'm admittedly no expert on Godzilla movies - giant monster movies have never really been my thing - but I did find the way they handled the battles between monsters kind of interesting.  I like the shots that establish the scale of the creatures compared to everything around them. Godzilla asleep in the middle of the city with seagulls circling his big noggin, or the MUTO scarfing nuclear torpedoes.

The movie mostly sticks with one character who is trying to get back home to his family, and is basically stuck on the same course as the MUTO. So he keeps briefly getting caught up in its path of destruction, and we catch glimpses of it stomping past them, oblivious to the ants scurrying around. The monsters casually destroy bridges and buildings the way you or I might walk through a spider web.

Maybe even more casually. When Godzilla breaks part of the Golden Gate Bridge by simply placing one paw on it, the big guy doesn't thrash around trying to shake loose the wires the way I've seen coworkers freak out when they walk into a web.

Humanity is so badly outmatched, the best they can do is run for their lives, or try to come up with cockamamie plans to maybe defeat the monsters with only some casualties. Then when those plans get casually upended by the monsters, people have to scramble around some more to try to fix the situation.

So that was alright. I didn't really care about the main character, Bryan Cranston's character's son, trying to make his way back home to his family. I could not tell you any human character's name from this movie for $10,000. If I did, it was because I guessed something like "John", and it turns out yes, there was a character named John in the movie.

(I checked IMdB. There is no character with the name John in the movie. No 10 grand for me!)

So the parts of the movie that are just focusing on these specific characters when they are dodging falling debris or giant monster feet are the parts I tune out real fast.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What I Bought 3/9/2019 - Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, Previews' website said The Seeds #3 would come out last week. I was very excited, but by last week, they changed their tune and it did not appear. There were 3 books last week that came out I did want, so here's two of them. The first issues of two different mini-series.

Astro Hustle #1, by Jai Nitz (writer), Tom Reilly (artist), Ursula Decay (colorist), Crank! (letterer) - The two guards flanking the noblewoman look pretty stupid in those helmets, but the British colonial looking dumbass with the big feather in his helmet might be stupider.

Chen Andalou was in stasis for 60 years en route to a new colony after being convicted of various crimes. But someone wanted him to die in space. That fails, so he gets put on trial again for a bunch of crimes, and sentenced to death. Then is able to escape along with a space pirate during a jailbreak. The good fortune doesn't seem like it's going to last long, though.

There's a definite sense of being thrown in the deep end, not really understanding what's happening, why everyone is so eager to execute Chen. I have a general idea of what's going on based on what I recall of the original solicitation text. It makes sense, because Chen doesn't know what's going on either. He's been in stasis for 60 years, he doesn't understand anything more about the current political landscape of the world he inhabits than we do. That said, I felt very lost on the first readthrough.

The art style reminds me of Chris Samnee, but not so heavy on the shadows. So closer to Alex Toth then? I've seen Samnee's work described as being in the same vein as Toth's, although Reilly's isn't as fluid in action scenes. That might be a function of page layout. Ursula Decay's color scheme is mostly very bright, especially one Chen reaches civilization. All the laser gun blasts are bright reds and blues, Carbon John's pirate ship white with big pink sails. There's a gravity beam that's a light blue, almost white in the middle, that plays against the pile of corpses in twilight. And Reilly and Decay do a good job using the shadows so that you usually only see parts of the bodies. An arm, or part of a face. Enough you understand what you're looking without it feeling gratuitous.

Domino: Hotshots #1, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - OK, the issue tells us the lady with silver hair is a South Korean agent, not the Black Cat. Thank goodness, because I thought that was a really lousy costume for Felicia.

A piece of Celestial fell in Antarctica, a guy picked it up and is merging with it, and everybody wants it. Domino and her crew get approached by the Black Widow and the White Fox separately to track it down. Plus, the young Wakandan woman with the future vision is there and interested. All three of them are ultimately serving their own interests (or their countries'), which leaves Domino, Outlaw and Diamondback stuck with a bunch of untrustworthy partners. The target is gradually turning into a Kirby drawing and escapes. Then, a wild Deadpool appears!

Well, I appreciate the oddness of the problem. A guy changing into something different because he got too close to something alien. Granted that happens a lot in the Marvel Universe, but this guy doesn't seem like he's necessarily out to rule the world or rob banks. He's just freaking out from early stage omniscience, I think. Understandable.

Gavrie (the infected scientist) seems to have a more blocky body structure as parts of him change. If you're going to go with the Kirby-style Celestials look, the energy crackle, the weird squiggle designs on the armor, might as well go towards a more Kirby-like body type, too. It's still Baldeon's style, the close-up on Gavrie's damaged face is not how I imagine Kirby would draw it, but the character still looks different from everyone around him in a way beyond just being partially covered by weird green stuff.
I'm still a little surprised when Simone writes Domino as the type to fangirl. She geeked out over meeting Shang-Chi, and has roughly the same reaction to Black Widow. Not that both those characters aren't cool, I just wouldn't expect Domino to be the type to be impressed. Always figured her for being more jaded, the type who figures she's seen it all before. Maybe not the best approach for a character if you want to impress your audience that someone is cool or something is weird, though.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #56

"Someone Missed The Pre-Invasion Coordination Meeting," in Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet #4, by Brian Clevinger and Lee Black (writers), Brian Churilla (penciler/inker), Terry Pallot, Sanov Florea (inkers), Michelle Madsen (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer)

Maybe this should have come before Avengers: Infinity in the alphabet, but oh well. Brian Clevinger (he of Atomic Robo fame) did a few mini-series for Marvel back around 2010, and this was one of them. A much more stripped down, streamlined, comedy version of "Thanos gets the Infinity Gauntlet." 

Half the people in the universe vanish, and with the Earth in chaos, only a small team of the remaining heroes can be spared to go find the source of the problem. Carol Danvers (when she was still Ms. Marvel), Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine. And Dr. Doom. This story gets bonus points right off the bat for the complete absence of Adam Warlock! 

The space trucker character U.S. Ace also gets thrown in, mostly to be one more person to annoy Doom. Doom and Spidey get most of the focus. Spidey as an irritating, smart-aleck kid who is alternately excited and terrified. Doom as the one who either makes insulting commentary, or ends up as the butt of the joke.

Churilla's art is geared more towards the comedy aspects than action. Fight scenes are perfunctory, mostly just going on in the background while people make plans or crack jokes. But given what the heroes are up against when they confront Thanos, the battle really shouldn't be any kind of a fight anyway, so why bother? When Churilla inks himself, he goes heavier on the shadows and the linework, which gives his characters more a rounded look. Whoever inked the last few pages of this issue had a much lighter touch, which makes everyone's heads look more angular and pointy.

Again, a fairly inessential mini-series, but it has some funny bits in there. Doom being repeatedly aghast at Ace and the whole trucker culture, for one.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Why Should Humans Have All The Fun?

This guy, he could give Vision and Red Tornado a run for his money in the "emo robot" category.
Naoki Urasawa's Pluto is an homage, reimagining, something like that of a particular story arc from Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy. I bought the first volume last spring, and I should have volume 4 in a week or so. The first two volumes established some of the characters, and the central mystery. Namely, who or what is going around killing some of the most advanced, powerful artificial intelligences in the world?

This is volume 3, which is largely moving pieces around, revealing a few more of the players. Most of the focus is on Uran, the younger sister of Atom (who is the Astro stand-in), who is able to sense emotions and finds a robot who is very distressed living in a tunnel. She tries to help him, encourage his apparent gift for painting, but there's more to him than that.

There's also a subplot about a group who hate that robots are being granted rights, and how one member of their group had a brother who seems to have been killed by Interpol's lone robot inspector (who is currently working on the case of all these other famous robots being murdered).

There are a lot of panels of people looking down at the ground glumly, or just looking troubled. Which at least fits with where things stands. Almost everyone is confused, either by people or robots they're talking to, or by whatever mystery they're investigating, or the way the world is changing around them. A few people are lashing out, but most of them seem stuck in a kind of stasis. They can't decide how to go forward, so they're just frustrated.

I can't help feeling the book would work better for me if I had greater familiarity with the source material. I feel there are things I'm missing because I know only the barest outline about Astro Boy. Young boy robot, extremely powerful, protects humanity from other powerful robots, that's the extent of it. Or maybe it's the pacing. Have this vague feeling of "get on with it!" Being diverted from the threads that were interesting to me in the first two volumes to focus on things that, so far, don't interest me.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Swiss Army Man

Hank (Paul Dato) is initially stranded on an island, and later lost in the woods somewhere on the mainland, his only companion a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that had washed up onshore while he was stranded. Hank brings the corpse along with him, and eventually it starts to speak to him. Hank, willingly or unwillingly lays open how empty and useless he felt his life was in the course of explaining to "Manny" all the various aspects of life. The things you could do, or experience, if you were willing to take the chance. Which Hank had not.

I didn't actually finish the movie. There were about 7 minutes to go until the credits, and things looked like they were going to get incredibly awkward and pitiful, and I just wasn't up for that. Up to that point, it was darkly comic, this guy lugging a corpse through the woods, the corpse asking for clarification about all buses, or who you don't want to be thinking of when you masturbate.

Radcliffe manages this effective slurring to his voice to convey someone who can't fully use their mouth or keep their head from lolling over to one side. Initially, I thought he was going to be literally a lifeless corpse Hank would drag around and gradually dismember for various useful parts, so it was a bit of a surprise that wasn't the case. I imagine how pitiable you find Hank is going to vary. I don't know if it helps or hurts his case that he knows how much his insecurities hold him back, but can't manage to get past them.

(I know there's a chance that's what happens in the final 7 minutes, but it didn't feel like the kind of movie that would have that sort of triumphant ending.)

The movie manages to shift between the absurd comic elements and the sadder things pretty well, so it's worth a watch if you have the time.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Bet Big, Lose It All

Hum's narration through issue 7 of Coda is this whole thing about how people will cling to what's familiar, even when everything else has fallen apart. And how often the things they cling to have no meaning, or don't even really exist, just ideas that can't be realized or goals that can't be achieved. It's something they know, that they recognize, and that's better than dealing with the unknown.

Hum, of course, doesn't see himself that way. He figures he sees that the world is a mess, and the whole cockamamie scheme of his to "fix" Serka is a way to actually help the world. Which means it's worth the risk.

It's self-delusion, obviously. He wants her to not go off into the wilderness when she feels the rage building inside her, because it means she goes away from him. If he was really concerned with saving the world, it seems like he would do more towards that goal when he's at a dead end with his plan.

Beyond that, his idea of "saving" her is one of those goals whose end result he never bothered to consider. I've mentioned it a few times in the reviews of various issues that I figured there were any number of ways it could go if he was able to use the potion on her to remove the curse that sends her raging in the wilderness. Hum figured she'd simply be the person she is whenever she isn't overcome by it. The hero, questing about and saving the innocent and downtrodden, but all the time.

That it might be tied into her feelings about how she and the other Urken were used by the Whitlords to destroy the world, and that drives her desire to help. Or that angrier side is connected to the skills she draws on to fight evil. Or that the curse might be tied into her very existence. Or, of course, that she doesn't consider it a curse at all. Just another part of who she is, albeit a part she generally doesn't want her husband seeing. Considering how he perceives it, she had a point.

It's funny, because the idea the hero will find some magic potion or spell to save their true love from the horrible curse is the sort of fairy tale thing Hum would no doubt insist is a remnant of the Old World that no longer applies. But here he was, expecting things to turn out Happily Ever After.

He said he wouldn't settle, wouldn't pretend everything was fine if there was a chance to make it better. But I don't think he considered how much worse it could get for him. (I'm really curious to see what the fallout from issue 8 does to Serka. How much does it hurt to learn your husband fails that badly to understand you?)

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Get Low

Robert Duvall plays an old man that's lived alone in the woods for 40 years. Growing aware that he's reaching the end of the line, he begins to make arrangements for a funeral party. To be held before he dies. Because what's the point of a party if you don't get to attend?

Bill Murray plays the owner of the funeral parlor, who is all too happy to help since the money may save his business. Lucas Black is his assistant, who gradually becomes invested in trying to help the hermit get what he wants out of this whole party.

The way the idea begins, Mr. Bush wants everyone to come and share all the stories they've heard about him. But as it becomes clear that's not going to achieve his goals, it turns towards him telling all of them something he's kept inside for 40 years. Which leads to the end of the movie, where he stands up there and tells everyone. It grinds everything to a halt. The dialogue in the movie is pretty good, so it feels as though it would have gone better as a conversation, or if the crowd had responded in some way. Support, derision, something.

Monday, March 04, 2019

What I Bought 3/2/2019

We had snow again over the weekend. Not as much as they predicted, a couple of inches, but this feels like the snowiest winter we've had in a while. Every weekend it's at least a little something.

I went to town for comics from the last two weeks, but only managed to find two of the five I was looking for. Bit of a disappointment, but work with what we've got.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3, by Tom Taylor (writer), Juann Cabal (artist), Nolan Woodward (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Welp, he missed the title logo with his webline, he's doomed. Sorry everyone, no more Peter Parker Spider-Man comics, he's dead.

OK, there's a city beneath New York called Under York, which looks like New York and had some sort of contact with the surface until the '40s, when they went isolationist. Leilani was either from there and escaped to the surface, or someone came to the surface from there and met her, and they had kids. I think it's the former. Pete and Marnie find her, take out two guards, but Pete takes a bullet for Marnie. Then, when the elevator is shut down, he climbs three miles straight up with the two of them on his back. So they reach the surface, but there will likely be people after them soon.

I liked this issue more than the previous one, since they got into the story a little more. Plot advancement actually helps, what a bizarre concept. Cabal and Woodward do some lovely work in this issue. The full-page splash of Under York, even though it's really just New York with magma around it instead of water. The page of Peter and Marnie descending a spiral staircase where Cabal lays the page out so the panels descend in a spiral, the support pillar in the center also forming a line through the center of the page. Woodward still does that thing for Spider-Sense with the very bright blue outline against a magenta background from the first issue, but it's less weird when Peter has his mask on, since we can't see his eyes glowing.

I enjoy some of the quips and comments Peter makes, the one in response to Marnie's rhetorical question about who among us hasn't dated an underground despot in particular. Although I feel like some of the comments would serve better as internal monologue. The one where he apologizes to Marnie for yelling 'Get Down!' instead of 'Noooooooo!' when he took a bullet for her. That feels more like a thought that would run through his head than one he'd actually say out loud.

Smooth Criminals #4, by Kurt Lustgarten and Kirsten Smith (writers), Leisha Riddel (artist), Brittany Peer (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer) - I suspect Mia's not going to have much luck getting Brenda to wear a skintight leather outfit during the actual heist.

There are three scenes running through the issue. One is the FBI questioning Mia's mother about why Mia suddenly appeared again, and what she's after. The elder Ms. Corsair was quite the thief herself back in the day, and I don't know yet if she told the feds anything they'll be able to figure out how to use. Mia and Brenda are using the storage space where Brenda found her to practice getting through the security systems. Mia's struggling a bit with adapting to motion sensors, especially under a time limit. And Hatch is still fuming about how Mia could be back after all this time. The answer to how he hasn't aged seems to be a sort of blue drug he gets injected periodically. Tsk, tsk, performance enhancing drugs. The Thief Hall of Fame will not be happy when they hear of this.

The theme of the day seems to be time. How it continues to pass and how characters lose track of it. Which means, when they have things that need doing, there's less time to get done than they think. Hatch thought he had a free and clear shot at the Net of Indra with no Mia around, enough so he could wait 30 years to get around to stealing it. But here Mia is, so perhaps not. But his attempt to examine her cryogenic tube leads him to her and Brenda's training ground, which means he's more onto them than they know. Their window is closing faster than they think. And Ms. Corsair is 30 years older, left wondering what's going on with her daughter, but not in any position to do anything about it.

Now watch, she'll break out of prison next issue.

Riddel's artwork maintains its level from last issue, so I'm really lost as to what happened in issue 2. I like the variety of clothing styles. Brenda tends to stick to t-shirts and a sweater wrapped around the waist, but Mia's going with the t-shirt and overalls look, which is a big change from what's she been in so far. Ms. Corsair has this absolutely perfect expression in one panel after one of the feds loses his temper and starts yelling about how Mia could appear looking no different than she used to. One of those 'picture of innocence' looks where the smile is a little too big to actually be innocent. What I'd describe as almost feline.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #55

"The Hand That Stole The Galaxy!", in Avengers Infinity #4, by Roger Stern (writer), Sean Chen (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Steve Oliff (colorist), Richard Starkings and Troy Peteri (letterers)

I picked this four-issue mini-series up out of a dollar bin early last year. It revolves around a threat that gets mentioned at some point in Avengers Forever, the Infinites, and involves a real makeshift roster of Avengers.

They're drawn in because Quasar finds a planet devastated by a bunch of self-replicating robots and calls for help from whoever he can get. Thor, Monica Rambeau (going as Photon at the moment), Moondragon, all happen to be available on Earth, and then Tigra and Starfox are jaunting around the cosmos. Why the hell anyone would willingly hang around Starfox with his creepy powers I don't know.

The team struggles to get on the same page, even as their problem escalates rapidly. Thor seems more headstrong than normal, possibly because he feels guilty about another Rigellian world being destroyed so soon after Thanos had done so. Moondragon doesn't work well with others, especially Thor, who has ample reason to distrust her. Photon's trying to take a leadership role, but getting Thor to listen would be a problem even if she was fully confident she should take command.

It's one of those stories that involves calling on a Cosmic Abstract to help, and then convincing the threat that mortals are special and shouldn't be treated like scraps to be discarded whenever. My mileage tends to vary with stories like that, but for the threat as presented here, there isn't another option.

Sean Chen's faces tend to be very similar, but he's a solid comic book artist. He handles the action sequences in the earlier issues well, and he's pretty good at drawing angry faces. Which is good considering so many of the characters are angry at each other throughout the story. He's good at giving the sense of the immense scale of the Infinites compared to everything else, really makes the challenge seem daunting.

It's an inessential mini-series, but entertaining.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Who Else Would You Expect To Meet On The Moon?

Mooncop, by Tom Gauld, is about a cop. On the moon. Hence the name of the book. He's the last cop on the moon, actually, because the colony is slowly drying up. Everyone is moving back to Earth, either because they're being replaced by machines that do their jobs, or they just don't feel like staying in an increasingly empty and isolated place.

Gauld draws everything from a profile perspective, and reuses particular locations to show how things are winding down on the Moon. The few buildings have even fewer lights. The cop's apartment building keeps getting smaller as people move away and their units are simply removed from the structure. The color scheme is a deep blue, trending to black sky, with everything else in various mixtures of white and grey. The view might be tremendous, but the day-to-day living situation is lacking in color variety.

It's presented in a way that both the reader and the cop are aware of the general trend, but because he's living it, and we don't really know how much time is passing between scenes, he doesn't entirely grasp how far it's gone until the very end. Time slips away when you aren't looking, and then you turn around and shit, what happened? Why am I still in this job, where'd everybody go? That kind of thing.

It's a book where you could easily read things as being funny or depressing. He requests a transfer, which is denied, but they send him a robot to act as therapist. Except the robot can't move over the Moon's surface, and almost none of the outlets are suitable for it to recharge. Could be funny, or could be sad that they half-assed this attempt to improve what they think is his mental state, without even considering his situation.

Which fits with the officer's reactions through the story. Some of the time the changes leave him feeling lost or useless. Unable to really understand why no one else wants to stay. Other times he's still able to appreciate what brought him to the Moon in the first place, even if he serves almost no purpose.