Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

In the 1970s, actor Bing Russell (Kurt Russell's dad), formed an independent minor league baseball team, the Portland Mavericks. It was, at the time, the only minor-league team in the country not affiliated with a MLB franchise. The documentary is about that team, its history, some of the people involved (which includes Kurt Russell, who played for them for at least a season or two), and their ultimate fate when Major League Baseball got in a snit and decided to wipe them out.

Russell basically holds open tryouts for anyone who wants to try and make the team, and ends up with a bunch of guys wanting to take one last shot at pro ball. Wanting to prove some team was wrong to give up on them, or just figuring it's worth a try. So you end up with a cast of characters - at the end of the film, it's mentioned that one of their best players was declared missing in 1984 and no one has any idea where he is - and the team owner is more than willing to just let these guys be themselves as long as they play hard.

There are interviews with several players, coaches, Kurt Russell, the head of the Northwest League (the league the Mavericks were in), local sportswriters, and these are mixed with footage from interviews and actual games the Mavericks played. There's a ton of interesting facts and backstory in there (before he created the Mavericks, Bing made a series of baseball fundamentals films that more than one MLB franchise used with their players). The fondness everyone involved had for the team really shines through, as does the bitterness with how MLB tried to protect its image or hegemony with a constant stream of petty shit.

I don't know if it will interest someone who doesn't care about baseball, but it's only 80 minutes long, so it's probably worth a try if you have Netflix.

Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Cape-Con Recap

It rained off-and-on for about an hour during the drive to Cape Girardeau Saturday. Not terrible, but a little annoying. I wanted to try and be relaxed before going into a place where I'd be surrounded by lots of people.

Last year most of the comic retailers had their own room, but this year, Ken went back to having basically all vendors, artists, and guests in the main room, with a few people in a smaller room across the hall. The overflow space, I assume. I think I like that system a little better, since you don't have to keep going back and forth between rooms depending on which tables you want to check out. You can check some longboxes, then turn around and see what some artist across the aisle has, and then there's a person selling cupcakes the next aisle over.

They had a scavenger hunt going, with a list of things to try and find and different tables. I didn't participate because that would involve actually speaking with people, but there were several times I was standing at a person's table and someone would come up and ask if they were the answer to one clue or another. Although the answer was always "no", so maybe the clues were tricky?

I didn't actually spend much time looking through longboxes, though. I still have a list of stuff I'm looking for going, but very little of it is Marvel or DC, and that's the majority of what most vendors have. But I like to at least glance through the discounted tpbs.

The most popular guest during the time I was there was voice actress Veronica Taylor, which was a little awkward in that her table was the closest to the doorway to the main area. At times, her line stretched all the way back out the door, which led to congestion and confusion for people just trying to get into the room, or trying to get in line to see her. Eventually they stationed one of the people there to direct folks. It's not a complaint - I was in that state of mind where all the people around me turn into vague obstacles to maneuver around - just amusing.

I don't normally go in for woodwork, but I did buy one piece each from two different vendors. I liked the quotes on them. At least one of them is going to be a gift to a friend, the other is either going to a different friend, or I'm keeping it for myself. I haven't decided yet. Fortunately, both parties' birthdays are months away, so no rush. The one with the Harry Potter quote is definitely going to a friend. I've never cared about that fictional universe, and once I realized that's what it was from, I almost didn't buy it, but my friends are into the Potterverse, so it works out to the benefit of one of them.

I got my first commission sketch in a couple of years. Asked Chris Ebert, who previously drew Firestar for me, and that picture of Etrigan and Hitman smoking cigars for a friend of mine, to draw the Ray, in all his '90s white pants and black leather jacket glory. That turned out pretty well. Other than that, I picked up several other pieces from a few different artists. Most of them are regulars at Cape-Con, but there was a new one of those artist collectives, Invasion Media. Those are always interesting, just because the different artists can have a lot of wildly different styles. Really improves the chances of finding something I like.

I've figured out I'm a lot more open to artist interpretations of American comic characters than I am to anime/manga characters. I'm guessing because the latter tend to be done in just one person's style (even with different animators, they usually try to hew close to the creator's look). Whereas, I've read with comics starring Spider-Man drawn by dozens? hundreds? of different artists. So I have a lot more wiggle room in my mind for what's a "proper" Spider-Man than I do for Goku.

I did feel like there were fewer artists overall than in past years. Some of the people I'd grown accustomed to seeing didn't appear to be there. I don't know if they didn't reserve space in time, couldn't afford it, or have perhaps moved elsewhere. I wonder about those things, like when someone's blog goes silent and we have no idea what happened. Are they dead, or did they just lose interest? Reminder of the passage of time. Things change.

Anyway, it was a good time, as usual.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #63

"Social Garrote Rather Than Social Safety Net," in Arsenic Lullaby #1, by Douglas Paszkiewicz

I bought Arsenic Lullaby - The Devil's Decade at Cape-Con back in 2014. A collection of all the issues of the series, under its various titles that came out between 1998 and 2005. The book varies between a few different threads and recurring characters. The baby assassin above is one, although he eventually winds up in a different branch of government service. There's another thread about Baron von Donut, the spokesman for a German pastry company. And there's Voodoo Joe, the guy cursed to wear a voodoo mask, who has to then curse others to keep his curse from getting any worse. I'm not sure how it will get worse, and he doesn't either (too busy screaming while the guy who cursed him explains), but he'd rather not find out. Plus other, sporadic stories or just random one-offs.

The different threads don't ever come together, because that's not what Paszkiewicz is after. It's more humor with a cruel edge. Joe can create zombies to control, but finds full-grown adults take up too much space. So he reanimates aborted babies out of a dumpster. Or the kid who has decided that the kids from damaged homes are considered cool, so he asks Joe to act as his abusive father for a while. Stuff like that. Sometimes I laugh really hard, and other times I question what the hell is wrong with me the times that I laugh. Depends on my mood.

Paszkiewicz draws everyone with a kind of slump-shouldered look. Everyone is a little beaten down, a little worn, and it makes them mean. Even the kids. His style is heavier on inks in the stories about Voodoo Joe than when he writes about Baron von Donut or aliens. Fewer shadows, lighter linework on the figures.

Friday, April 26, 2019

What I Bought 4/20/2019

I was out of town all week, again, for work this time. People in Evansville apparently treat red lights as optional. Tomorrow I'm going to Cape-Con. I really hope May is a quieter month. I was going to wait on reviews until I tried to pick some of this week's books, but the other reason I had to go to town fell through, so screw it.

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #2, by Saladin Ahmed (writer), Minkyu Jung (penciler), Juan Vlasco (inker), Ian Herring (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I gotta say, I think Eduard Petrovich's style as cover artist better fits what I got used to from the previous Ms. Marvel book.

Bruno and Kamala try to find some clue to explain Kamala's parents dissolving into puddles of goo like all those strange monsters. In the middle of all this, their ex-classmate Josh shows up in his Discord outfit talking about wanting payback. But he has nothing to do with all this. It's the result of three aliens who are testing her. They think she's the prophesied one to save their world, and live on that world as their protector. . . forever.

Pretty easy call, you say "No" to the parent-kidnappers, then go find Josh and beat his whiny fascist butt. Oh, Kamala made you a fugitive, ruined your life? She should have kicked your tail and thrown you in jail. Or the cops could have arrested you. You were able to escape by literally walking down the middle of the street in broad daylight in your bad guy costume. Lucky you. But then he's worried about Kamala's parents (or just eager to clear up his innocence because he doesn't want to fight Kamala when she's seriously pissed at him). I'm not sure if we should hate him, or pity him as some dumb kid who doesn't even know what he is angry about, or what he should be angry about.

He should still be in jail, though.
Jung's artwork brings a different feel to the book, in that it seems more suited for a conventional superhero comic. It's not bad, everything is very clear and easy to follow, action and emotion handled well. There aren't those odd quirks and strange background details, some of things that made characters look more unique have fallen by the wayside. Adrian Alphona and Nico Leon tended to give Kamala a more prominent nose, where it looked a bit large for her face, but that's not really the case here. Bruno's bulked out a bit for some reason. Every artist has to find their own approach, but the book certainly feels less distinctive. That panel of Kamala holding the dissolved goo-face of her mother was pretty creepy, though.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Anti-Grav Unlimited - Duncan Long

Phil Hunter's research team gets laid off when the company they work for is bought out by a global energy conglomerate, just as the team had perfected an anti-gravity rod. Phil sees the potential not only for transportation, but also as a means of producing energy. Before he can pursue that, his entire team goes missing and someone blows up his house.

So he's on the run, but he figured out to make his van fly, and he's got the assistance of Nikki, a genetically modified clone created (and later dumped) by an old friend of Phil's. So, you know, no sweat.

One good thing Long does is not assume "scientist" is some generic thing that grants you mastery over all realms of inquiry. No one in this book is a Reed Richards. Nikki had worked as a navigator on rocket transports, so she's better able to program the computer Phil installed to help with the van's flight mode, and she's the one who program's their course to get to the moon and makes certain they get there. But Phil knows more about robots, because they had some as lab assistants. It keeps any of the few main characters from feeling superfluous. Nobody was there strictly to provide the special key to get through the door, everyone has useful skills.

Long also likes to set up situations where you suspect a character will turn out to be a traitor, or that our heroes are about to walk into serious trouble, only to then reveal that there is a much more mundane answer behind the problem. Which was an interesting approach. Given what Phil and the others are trying to do, there are plenty of things that could go wrong, but I did keep expecting another shoe to drop.

The story is set in the mid-21st Century, after some "limited" nuclear war, environmental catastrophe (New Miami is built on the flooded remains of Old Miami), and the collapse of most major governments, which were replaced by a World Government run by corporations. The World Government is only concerned with keeping the majority of people in a state of poverty and need, because it makes them less demanding and prone to revolt. At least according to one of the major players they confront. I would question that reading of history, but the guy seemed like kind of a fucked-up doofus, so what does he know?

People at the top always assume they can just do whatever they please to everyone else, right up to the moment their throats are slit.

'I hit the Auto button on the dash and leaned back, hoping that the computer would follow the radar blip of the rocket rather than a flock of gulls. One malfunction was all we needed to have a major catastrophe. After vowing never to ride a machine-controlled rocket, I was now hurtling through the atmosphere chasing a rocket controlled by a machine in a van controlled by a computer.'

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

'Tis The Season For Random Mini-Series

So what's coming out in July? 

Jonathan Hickman's writing at Marvel again, this time with a couple of X-Men mini-series, which will probably lead into him writing an ongoing series for the X-Men, just as soon as Marvel cancels Uncanny X-Men again, which they only restarted late last year.

Mark Waid's writing an Invisible Woman mini-series, which tells us she was involved in an espionage mission before she went into space and got bombarded with cosmic rays. Sure, whatever. There's a Death's Head mini-series, by Trini Howard and Kei Zama. I don't know anything about either of their work, so I can't say whether it'll be any good or not, but if you're a fan of Death's Head, something to keep an eye out for.

There are also several random one-shots. Blade fighting Wolverine (in his black and grey X-Force costume, based on the cover). The Punisher fighting the Brood Queen in outer space (with Jonah Jameson along for the ride?!) Ms. Marvel's getting an Annual (not by her current creative team or the previous one) where she fights Super-Skrull, who is Skrull Emperor now. When did that happen?

Squirrel Girl is still trying to finish its War of Realms tie-in, even though War of Realms will be over by then. Barring delays. So it probably won't be over by then.

DC, the only thing I noted that wasn't me being sarcastic was that Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber and doing a 12-issue Jimmy Olsen mini-series. Oh, and they're releasing the second volume of Orion by Walt Simonson. I don't really care about the Fourth World stuff, outside of preferring to have Scott Free and Barda running around being a cute crime-fighting married couple, but I know a lot of folks swear by Simonson's Orion.

I didn't see anything from Dark Horse or Image that interested me. IDW may have the last (or at least the 4th) issue of something called Ghost Tree. The first issue is supposed to be out this week, and the description sounded interesting enough I may buy it. Whether I'll still be buying it in July is another matter.  In other news involving books that are already out that I'm just becoming aware of, the 4th issue of Bronze Age Boogie, which is about combining a bunch of different popular '70s genres into one story will be out, by Stuart Moore and Tyrone Finch. If barbarians and martial artists against Martians sounds fun, there you go.

The fifth story of Infinity 8 starts in July, as a zombie outbreak on the ship spreads to the mass space graveyard, rather than the other way around. Smooth Criminals was absent from the Boom! solicits again, but Giant Days is there, so that's the important thing.

I'm going to be so depressed when that book ends.

Michael Jan Friedman and Caio Cacau have a graphic novel called Empty Space coming out, about a guy who wakes up on a starship that seems like the one he knows, but not quite. So there's a mystery afoot. Calbier Entertainment has a collection of Live Die Reload, but Andrea Armenta and Stefano Cardoselli. I don't really know how to summarize the description, other than it seems like a bit of a noir book, but with some mysticism or supernatural elements.

At least I found a few promising items for mid-summer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Casa de mi Padre

I remember the reviews for this not being encouraging, but it's barely 80 minutes long, so if it was bad, at least it's short.

Will Ferrell tries to do a spoof of a Spanish or Mexican drama. He plays the son of a rancher. His brother is involved in a drug war with a rival, and Armando doesn't know what to do. The rival has the Mexican police in his pocket, and the DEA just wants the gangs to kill each other. Hey, why should Americans have all the fun killing each other?

The movie does a lot of gags playing up the idea of having a limited budget. Really obvious stuffed animals or mannequins used in place of live ones. Obvious continuity errors from one moment to the next. A moment where the movie pauses to explain that they can't show the scene they were about to because it was illegal and ill-advised in a lot of ways.

Oh, I wasn't supposed to tell you that. Well, they said don't tell my friends, but you guys are my readers. Totally different, right?

I didn't laugh very much. Maybe I don't know enough about what it's spoofing to get some of the jokes, but I think for it to work it still needs to hold together as a story, on a basic level. Airplane and Black Dynamite spoof genres too, but they put a lot more effort into it than this does. Plus, this leans really heavily on Will Ferrell playing his usual clueless manchild. There isn't really a second funny co-star or supporting actor to help carry the load. So if Ferrell's stuff isn't landing, the movie has nothing else to fall back on.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Why Take A Step Down On The Ladder

Why did Wilson Fisk become Mayor of New York? I know he had a groundswell of popular support because he did. . . something when the city was stuck in the Darkforce Dimension during Secret Empire.

That's the "how". I'm not clear what he gains from it. He already had political power, via bribes, threats, extortion, whatever. They guy has had politicians and even generals in his pocket. For the most part, he can get what he wants in those avenues, without exposing himself to the public.

That's what confuses me. Fisk becoming mayor puts him out there on the public stage all the time. When he was just a successful "import-export businessman", he could pick and choose his spots. A charity fundraiser. Some gala for the upper crust of New York society. Places where could spin that philanthropic image of himself, before receding into the shadows where he resumes having people murdered for one reason of another. Even in today's world, there are a lot of successful businessmen who could walk around unrecognized by the general public. Perhaps a bit trickier in Fisk's case, being an enormous fellow who favors canes with giant diamonds on the end, but he also lives in a city with a big orange rock monster. The bar for being notable is a little higher there.

As a politician, he's theoretically beholden to the populace he allegedly serves. In practice, Fisk is beholden to no one but himself, but since there supposedly rules he has to follow to get things done now, he has to be aware of public opinion. More people are going to recognize Mayor Fisk. More people are going to accost him in public to complain about how he isn't doing more to keep rents from being increased unfairly, how lousy the garbage collectors are, or the general disaster that is the subway system (I'm assuming Marvel NYC's subway isn't any better than ours is, based on what I read online).

Fisk can't simply take them into a nearby alley and break their necks. He can have someone do it later, I guess, but even that might be a little dicey, and if he has every New Yorker that yells at him killed, he'll be mayor of a ghost town before long. He's in a position where he has to make public appearances whether he wants to or not, and with the cameras on him, can be put in awkward positions he doesn't want to deal with. Fisk didn't care about those Under Yorkers planning to abduct a mother and her kids, he would have been fine with letting it happen and maintaining the status quo. But he had to make an appearance, and that left him open to manipulation by Spider-Man.

I understood Jonah Jameson becoming mayor, because it was an ego trip for him. Like Doom, Jameson really thinks he's hot stuff and was going to show everybody. I'm not going to argue Fisk doesn't have an ego, he calls himself The Kingpin, but I always figured what the larger populace thought of him was irrelevant. He didn't need their respect or adoration because to him, they don't matter. They're insignificant. That he can order a general to send an attack helicopter and a pill-popping super-soldier to burn Hell's Kitchen to the ground, and it happens, that matters. That other so-called made men and mobsters come at his beck and call, that mattered. But the kind of people who would discuss whether he was a good mayor or not, who cares about them?

All I can figure is, he wants to burnish his legacy. A bit like Odin in Thor: Ragnarok. They both did a lot of ugly crap in the (not-so) distant past, and now they want to rewrite the record. Portray themselves as some benevolent, kindly leaders

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #62

"Never Go Home," in Annihilators #3, by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Timothy Green II (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer)

After the conclusion of Thanos Imperative, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning weren't quite done with Cosmic Marvel yet, and so there were two Annihilators mini-series. The main story (with artist Tan Eng Huat) revolved around Cosmo carrying out Star-Lord's at the time dying wish to form a team with the power to truly guard the galaxy. That was OK, although Huat's art is not suited at all for big cosmic action, but the real show for me was the back-up stories, which revolved around Rocket Raccoon and Groot.

The first story found Rocket living as an office mail delivery boy, having given up on heroing out of guilt over losing his friend Peter Quill. An attack by a homicidal clown made of living wood prompts him to seek out Groot, and the two eventually end up back on Rocket's home of Halfworld, which he's mostly forgotten.

There's a real manic energy to this story as it shifts from Rocket's day job, to Planet X, to Halfworld. The threats keep shifting, from the clowns, to the true rulers of Planet X, back to the clowns, to the staff of Halfworld, and ultimately one of the patients/inmates.

Green's artwork is much looser here than it was on the Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord mini-series, but tighter and more consistent than it would be on Avengers Undercover. Maybe he's one of those artists that does better when he doesn't draw humans. It's all aliens, talking animals, and assorted other weird shit in this story. The clowns look extremely sinister, you could question if they're too sinister for their alleged purpose of keeping the more violent patients calm, but the clowns weren't exactly cheerful-looking in the Mignola/Mantlo mini-series back in the '80s.

There weren't any splash pages in the story in Annihilators: Earthfall, since the back-up was reduced to 5 pages per issues. It was an OK story about Rocket and Groot being trapped by Mojo and put through a series of constantly shifting perilous situations for his financial benefit.

Friday, April 19, 2019

What I Bought 4/13/2019 - Part 2

It's the end of another week. I got a wedding to attend tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be nice. Anyway, here's the other book I picked up last weekend, a mini-series moving towards some sort of conclusion.

Atomic Robo: Dawn of a New Era #4, by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Shannon Murphy (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer) - I hope Jenkins is remembering to let them take regular breaks for hydration.

Things are not going so well at Tesladyne. Jenkins is nearly hospitalizing the new students in an attempt to prepare them for a war against the Vampire Dimension. Robo thinks he's going too far, and did these kids even sign up for a vampire war? That friction is nothing compared to what happens when Lang goes to borrow a book for her and Vik's vacation (take 2), only to learn Robo has been raising ALAN in secret. Which leads to a meeting with lots of yelling, and Lang essentially turning it into an "organics vs. synthetics" argument. Even Jenkins had the decency to look embarrassed by that one.

Also, Bernard has achieved something deep in the earth, and is going to collect the heartstones of the great beasts which existed before the earth was in its present state. He knows how to "phasewalk" and "psirend" now.

Did I step into a mid-Nineties Image comic?
I laughed at the two panels where Lang discovers ALAN, and is yelling at Robo while ALAN stands behind Robo with a big digital smile and waving hello. The purple coloring on Lang, like she's so shocked she's beyond screaming until blue in the face and gone straight to purple. And you don't see that kind of lettering effect often in Atomic Robo, so it's very effective.

ALAN's such a good boy. Which makes the fact there was no expression visible as he watched the argument about his existence potentially worrying. Even when Foley is arguing that they should go along with Robo's plan, she's doing so from the point of view that it improves humanity's chances. Which is understandable, but you'd hope someone other than Robo would make the, "He's a living being and deserves a chance," argument. I know, easy to say from out here, where a personality that evolved from the same algorithm network as this ALAN didn't plan to wipe out all life on earth in the process of building an interstellar spacecraft for itself.

This does not feel like a mini-series that will have any sort of conclusion, unless it's Bernard's plotline. The whole thing with ALAN feels like it needs to play out over a long time. Unless he decides he can't stay and goes on the run (which Jenkins will no doubt insist proves that ALAN's up to no good, as opposed to being afraid for his continued existence).

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Rover

Eric (Guy Pearce) pursues three robbers across Australia because they stole his car. As they left behind their car and he grabbed it, the question is what's so important about the car. Along the way, he encounters Rey (Robert Pattinson), who was the fourth member of the gang, left behind when he was wounded and presumed dead. He wants to reunite with his brother, Eric wants to kill said brother. What a mismatched pair!

This is set 10 years after "The Collapse", which is some sort of economic disaster. It's not a full-on apocalypse. There are still people running businesses here and there (although they insist on U.S. dollars), but a lot of people have left. Looking for jobs, or something else. Mines have closed, towns are almost fully deserted. There are soldiers rolling around in Humvees, doing something, but it could hardly be considered maintaining law and order. They're more concerned with doing anything that proves they should still draw a paycheck. At one point we see a train hauling freight, with men in body armor and machine guns riding on it. But they're also wearing jorts and t-shirts rather than combat fatigues. Playing soldier-for-hire, I guess. I wondered if they even knew what they were guarding, or who the heck they were guarding it from in the Outback. Emus?

There's a lot of people talking past each other deliberately, mostly Eric. He will demand his car, or to know if it passed by, or why it's going the direction it is, and the other person will ask him something else. Which he will ignore in favor of repeating his question. Sometimes this goes nowhere, like with the middle-aged lady knitting, other times, he gets at least some information. Everyone has their own interests, and nobody really cares what anyone else is interested in. Certainly Eric gives no shits about anyone else, a fact he does his best to make clear by growling threats and various depressing statements to everyone. Pearce feels like he's trying too hard in those scenes, to the point the lines come out as almost laughable. I wait for someone to make a wanking motion and respond, "OK Captain Bringdown."

I'd suspect that was deliberate, that he's trying to convince himself he believes all this, but given his actions through the film, the casual cruelty and violence he inflicts on even people who helped him, Eric really thinks he's on to something. It's also possible he's just trying to get himself killed, for lack of more appealing options.

Rey is so stupid at times that when he manages to do something competent I have a hard time believing it. He's probably most a dumb young man trying to be the tough guy everyone says he has to be, and mostly failing miserably. He's not cut out for that sort of thing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What I Bought 4/13/2019 - Part 1

The comics, they just keep coming. Which is good, gives us something to chat about. Otherwise, we might have to discuss the current state of our respective lives and nobody wants that, right? Right. Here's two Marvel comics from last week.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5, Tom Taylor (writer), Yildiray Cinar (artist), Nolan Woodward (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - This week, Spider-Man tries to pay the rent by taking Pym Particles and selling himself as a drive-in movie screen.

Aunt May is going in for chemo. Peter handles this by going out to swing around the city and not think about it. He finds a young kid stealing a car to escape his mom's abusive boyfriend, and then helps the kid escape the police (after losing control and breaking the kid's wrist). Takes kid to Dr. Strange for some medical help, gets the picture that Strange will not be helping with May's issue, and makes sure to be waiting for her at the hospital.

I actually really liked this issue. The Aunt May health crisis thing is old hat, but hell, she's been through a lot of shit, she should have all kinds of health issues by now. Her blood pressure is probably ridiculous. And the previous arc made a big deal about the underground city, but I didn't feel like it did much with it to justify it. It felt like it threw in a lot of elements that weren't really necessary. This issue is a little more focused, bad news, Peter trying to work through it by ultimately helping someone else. The story feels like it has only as many elements as it needs.
New artist, Yildiray Cinar. His style is closer to a more conventional superhero look. Peter's face is a little more square-jawed than with Juann Cabal, who drew him with a rounder face. More muscular build also, closer to a John Romita Sr. body type, where as Cabal was somewhere between Ditko's stringbean and Bagley's skinny but cut style. Woodward also toned down the brightness on his colors compared to the first four issues. There weren't any giant lava oceans in this issue, or even any parts where the spider-sense went off to see if Woodward was going to keep using that intense blue, but even Strange's ghost dog was a more muted shade of green. I'm curious whether that was a one-time thing, given the somber tone of the issue, or if that's something that will continue as long as Cinar is artist on the book.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Thor carrying two hammers still looks silly to me. I guess he is the God of Hammers.

Doreen's visit to the Negative Zone is interrupted by someone teleporting her back to Earth and Loki. Loki tells her the War of the Realms is on and Earth is going to fall. I assume the rest of the universe will be fine. Until Thanos pops up again, but whatever. If Doreen goes to Canada and destroys the Frost Giants' secret base, then maybe the counterattack can begin. Doreen goes to Canada, has some trouble with some Frost Giants, but after some help from special surprise vegetation and a chat with the parents, evil Norse squirrel Ratatoskr shows up with a bone to pick.

Loki insists the heroes don't realize they've already lost. I would argue that, as a former (current?) villain who has often thought he had triumphed, Loki is not the best judge of when the heroes have actually been defeated. How many times has Loki cackled, "Mine accursed brother will ne'er escape this trap!" only for Thor to, you know, escape the trap and cave Loki's head in? A lot, that's how many times.
The winter weather alternate costume is pretty cool, although that looks like a holster on the hip and I can't see Squirrel Girl carrying a firearm. Unless it's some sort of grappling line gun. Could come in handy for dealing with Frost Giants, if you want to do the old snowspeeders on Planet Hoth maneuver. Otherwise I'd expect a lot of belt pouches, full of acorns for squirrel friends, and maybe a handkerchief, or some lip balm. Practical, everyday stuff, spare cellphone or whatever.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Baby Driver

I originally thought about seeing this the day I went and watched Wonder Woman, but I didn't. It's fine, I guess. The driving sequences are fun. The fact Jon Hamm's character won't just stay dead, or at least stay down, gets a little tiring. It's almost a horror movie thing after awhile. "What, again with this guy?"

It's just, everybody except the main character seems a little too much. Like they're a 9, and they need to be at 7. Jamie Foxx in particular. Although I wasn't clear why, if Kevin Spacey's character always uses different crews for each heist (except his driver), why he brought Jamie Foxx back for two gigs in a row. At that point, you have 50% of your crew from the last heist on the current heist, so it isn't really a different crew, is it? Especially since Foxx' character is so damn trigger-happy. You want things to go smoothly, or you want them to go '80s action movie?

But maybe that's necessary because the lead (Ansel Elgort) is so understated. He looks fairly cool when he has the shades on, but when he isn't wearing them, the fact he's always concentrating trying to read people's lips makes him have this squinty, absurd look on his face.

(Come to think of it, that's probably the face I have when I try to make sure someone I'm walking towards isn't saying something to me that I'm not hearing. I don't know how often it happens, but I know the combination of being half-deaf and all lost in my thoughts means people will say something to me and I don't even realize it until after I've walked past.)

I think he's supposed to be slightly awkward, and he is, while being a wonder as a driver. He just didn't make much of an impression with all these other people chewing scenery around him.

Monday, April 15, 2019

What I Bought 4/8/2019

I ordered the last two books I wanted from last month before I went on the road trip. Because I was confident that UPS and USPS would flub the handoff long enough I'd return before the books got here. And I was right. They showed up last Monday, so here we are.

Also, the NBA playoffs have started! I'm so happy! The Nets beating Philly in Game 1 was highly enjoyable, and I don't dislike Philly. It was just funny watching the Sixers' fans turn on their team halfway through the second quarter.

Coda #10, by Si Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist/colorist), Michael Doig (color assists), Jim Campbell (letterer) - If she tells you she has balloons down there, Hum, don't believe her.

Hum narrates from a cell. The giant is tearing apart Ridgetown to retrieve the ylf. The Murkrone has promised to make it an eternal power source for the giant if he breaks the wall separating her babies from the ocean. The giant is honorable, up to a point. The Murkrone is not. Hum still seems at loose ends, but Serka has decided on her next course of action, so we'll see how that goes.

Not sure why the Murkrone thinks gloating to Serka long distance is a good plan. You gloat if she actually drinks the poisoned thing you cooked up, as she's dying. Not when you just missed your shot. I guess she figures she's got the power from the ylf backing her up so she can be as cocky as she wants, but I'm pretty sure that's a bet that'll end badly for her. Well, she said she was going to restore things to the way they were, when people had specific roles to fill. I'm sure she expects hers to be "God", but it's looking like she's "Monologuing Dumbass Villain".
The images of the giant without his armor are pretty impressive. Convey the size and power he still has, while making it clear he's not too far off from ending up like that poor dragon out in the desert, begging passerbys to scratch his non-existent bum for him. More non-existent than ever after that explosion. Excellent work on the sound effect on the explosion, too. The center of it is where the explosion is, and part of it travels along the ground while the rest arches up and to the left corner, tearing through the mountain as it goes. Really well done. Bergara and Doig have made this book really enjoyable to just look at some times.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4, by Tom Taylor (writer), Juann Cabal (artist), Douglas Franchin (finishes, pgs. 18-20), Nolan Woodward (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Well, I would certainly retreat from a horde of New Yorkers whether they were angry or not.

The Under Yorkers (ugh) come to the surface for the children and their mother. Spidey faces off against them, but when things look bad, everyone else in the neighborhood shows up as well. Then Mayor Fisk (jesus, really?) shows up, and basically gets public pressured into telling the guys to go back to their underground city. The day is saved, and now Peter gets to have an awkward conversation with Aunt May about whatever is wrong with her. I'm sure that'll be fun.

This is me repeating myself, but I continue to enjoy the small touches Taylor brings to his writing, while giving basically zero fucks about the larger plot. The bit where he coerces Fisk into doing what he wants by announcing to everyone that he knows the MAYOR OF NEW YORK will be there for his people. Or the bit where he says he got one of his many superhero friends to send the children far away, to another world or dimension perhaps, because some of them will do him favors just to make him go away.

But, I don't really care about this whole thing about kids trying to escape an underground empire. Or the old lady hero or any of that. It's not badly written, it just doesn't do anything for me. And yet another story about Aunt May being sick isn't likely to improve matters. So it's a matter of whether Taylor can create enough landmarks and distractions to keep me going on a trip I'm not really into. Jury's out on that one for the moment.
The double-page spread of Spidey dodging the gunfire, disarming the goons and saving a cat was a little confusing to me the first time I tried to follow what was happening. All the little panels with "Dodge the bullet." were making it hard to decipher what route I'm supposed to travel. The placement of the sound effects is clever, the BLAMs eventually stopping and the THWIPs starting. Although I notice when Spidey hits the one guy with the megaphone, there's a small "TNK" in the panel itself, but directly up and to the right there's a CLUNK! as well. Maybe the CLUNK is the guy hitting the ground?

I'm starting to think Cabal draws people with small feet, though. Spidey's in particular look off-proportion to the rest of him to me. They're at least consistent, Cabal doesn't have that issue, and maybe they aren't out of proportion. But they sure look like they are.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #61

"A Lonelier Spire Than Ever," in Alone, by Christophe Chaboute

I bought this very late last year. The story focuses on a man who has grown up in a lighthouse his entire life. His parents are long dead, and he was left there by them because he has a physical disfigurement. His dad arranged for a ship captain to deliver supplies every week, which he does. By leaving them out on the dock without ever speaking to the young man.

The story moves at a leisurely pace because it's focused so heavily on this one character. There are pages devoted to showing the lighthouse slowly growing closer. Emphasizing the isolation. Which is strange, because if it's that far out there, what the hell is there out there that ships need to be warned about by a lighthouse? A coral reef, perhaps?

There's little else to do but explore the various things that make up the man's life. He collects anything the currents bring to his shore. He has a small fish as a pet. He entertains himself by opening the dictionary to random words and trying to visualize them, based on his limited knowledge. Chaboute spends a lot of pages on that, usually starting close in and gradually pulling back as the man's imagination expands what he's seeing.

Friday, April 12, 2019

What I Bought 4/3/2019 - Part 2

I love these commercials encouraging people to play the lottery by talking up how it funds education. Because that's why people are buying lottery tickets. I know that's what I think about the once or twice a year I shatter internally in the face of crushing despair and bet on ludicrous odds to provide me wealth as a dream escape, the children I'm helping. Hopefully it helps them learn not to do dumb shit like by lotto tickets.

Ahem. How's your Friday going? Here's a comic.

Giant Days #49, by John Allison (writer/penciler), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - When I was looking at that cover online, it took me forever to figure out what Esther had in her right hand. At first I figured it was a hood for the eagle, except that's for falcons, but I wouldn't be surprised she didn't know that. Then I thought it was something else, a mitten maybe, before realizing it was a cup of tea.

Esther has returned home to work on her dissertation. It's going poorly. Not just the writing, but everything. Graudation fast approaches, and she has no idea what comes next. Her parents are concerned in that way that feels very much like judgment. Her friends are all either moving on with their lives, or falling apart and moving back. Things are changing, and she feels entirely adrift. Yeah, I know that feeling. For 8 years after graduation. So hopefully she can do better.

I'm not sure if Esther resolves any of her problems, other than the dissertation. She got that written eventually. But it was never going to be that easy. Things change, friends drift, attempts to reconnect with what felt comfortable in the past fail miserably. I'm not sure if it was a sign of growth or not that Esther stood up the old boyfriend. One the one hand, that seems a lot like ducking the potential problem she'd gotten herself into. On the other hand, charging forward with the ill-advised idea out of some misguided belief it will all magically work out somehow is what she typically does. So the fact she caught herself before really digging a hole is progress, of a sorts.

John Allison did the pencils for some of the pages, although I feel like it isn't the pages the credits says it is. The two pages of Esther and the old boyfriend walking and talking had some faces that did not look at all like Sarin's style. Allison seems to make her jawline rounder, and make her nose stick out more. Maybe that's just his preference for profile shots. It works fine, though. The pages that are credited to Allison seem like ones where Esther's most open about how off-kilter she feels. The other pages, she's either focusing on anger with herself or her parents, or trying to whistle past the graveyard.

But I really enjoy the Max Sarin pages, just because the range of expressions is so wide. The panels below, that frazzled, exasperated look and posture for Esther's mom, and that scowling fury on Esther. It's just consistently enjoyable for me to look at.
There's also a subplot with Esther reluctantly helping Lottie track down a vampire and try to destroy it, most of which happens off-panel. I would pay money to see a one-shot of those two trying to fight evil. Bring Daisy along to point out how unwise this is or try to make friends with supernatural horrors!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Red Violin

A famous violin is up for auction, the last one made by its creator, and the film traces the history of the violin. It drifts to a monastery, to the Roma people for several generations, to some Victorian badboy musician, to a young woman who has to hide it because she's in Communist China and Mao's not having any of that decadent Western music.

All this is tied together by two threads. One, a woman telling divining the future of the violin's creator's pregnant wife. The other is that someone connected to each stop the violin made along the way is there trying to acquire it. Each time a vignette ends, we return to the beginning of the bid with someone else present.

There's also a whole thing with Samuel L. Jackson showing up at the auction. In theory, I don't think you're supposed to know what role he's going to play. In reality, it was obvious immediately what he was there to do. That doesn't make it a bad direction to go, but if they were counting on that to be a big deal or surprise, it doesn't work. Although I wish they'd have gotten on with it a little faster once the movie shifted to focus solely on that. When you know what's coming, all the preamble and build can get tedious, especially when there doesn't appear to be some clever trick to how it'll happen.

The thing that was odd to me is that the violin keeps finding its way to children. At the monastery, the Romany pass it down to many children, again when it ends up in China, again at the very end. This does make perfect sense in the context of the movie, so that's not what's odd. The part I can't figure is the bit with the English musician, Pope, whose actor looks like he wouldn't have been out of place in A Clockwork Orange. He's an allegedly grown-ass man, not a kid. I'd say that was why things end badly for him, it isn't meant for one like him, but things end badly for a lot of the children that get it, too. So that doesn't seem like the problem.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What I Bought 4/3/2019 - Part 1

I've slept really well for two nights in a row. I need to go 24+ hours without sleep more often! There's no way that plan can backfire. Think how much more I'll accomplish!

Like I said, I managed to find most of last week's comics when Alex and I hit a store in Vegas, so let's get to them. For today, two mini-series, both still in early stages.

Domino: Hotshots #2, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I don't think I've ever seen the Black Widow with a fishnet section on her costume before. Kind of an odd choice by R.B. Silva there.

First half of the issue is everybody fighting Deadpool, until Domino talks him down. Second half of the issue is them going to see Tony Stark because 'Pool says that's who hired him, and Stark sending automated drone armors to attack them. Throw in that Domino really doesn't have any control over this group she's working with, and doesn't seem comfortable in a leadership position besides that, and that's pretty much it.

The fight scenes aren't great, because the focus is really more on what Domino's thinking during the fight. So she's narrating about how everyone else is making a mistake underestimating Wade (which I can't picture Black Widow being stupid enough to do), but it isn't really clear what he's suddenly doing that's so much more effective than what he did the first few pages. Plus, Wade's face gets damaged by one of Shoon'kwa's weapons and his eye on that side gets colored pink. Like, entirely pink. I thought it was supposed to mean he's a fake, maybe Stark built himself a Deadpool LMD, but I don't think so.
That said, when you can see the action, the sense of force and effort is there, and Baldeon's still good at body language and expression work. The bit when Domino asks Natasha, Silver Fox, and Shoon'kwa whether they're on board with destroying this "artifact" or about to get chucked overboard. The reluctance on each one's part to actually do so, how Natasha doesn't change expression at all, and Shoon'kwa won't even look at Domino, and Fox makes this scowly unhappy look as she debates it. When Deadpool is supposed to be getting serious, the shading on him gets heavier, puts the damaged side of his face in shadow, makes him look more ominous.

Overall, the issue has some individual parts I like, but isn't great as a whole.

Section Zero #1, by Karl Kesel (writer), Tom Grummett (artist), Ben Dimagmaliw (colorist), Richard Starkings (letterer) - The store only had the variant cover available. Which is Walt Simonson drawing a bug-boy, so that's not bad.

Section Zero is a weird science group that works for "all governments" under the UN, investigating weird shit. They were looking for an insect-person, and found a young boy named Thom who got a tattoo at a vanishing tattoo place (meaning the place later vanished, not that the tattoos do) and turns into a bug for a day at a time. He goes with them as they head to the Outback to investigate a large feral creature killing livestock. But their contact in the UN is also informing some ruthless group of soldiers about the same stuff. I know, duplicity in the government, shocking.

It's. . . fine, I guess. Kesel and Grummett are trying to do a fair amount of world-building right off the bat, establish the setting, some of the characters' major characteristics, a few mysteries quickly, but it just didn't really take for me. I was sort of interested in how Thom's origin story reminds me of old horror comics, the person who goes seeking something, gets more than they bargained for, and can't ever find the person who gave it to them again.
I'm normally a fan of Tom Grummett's art, and it isn't that it's bad here. He has a solid, clean style that's easy to read. You can always follow what's going on, understand character's emotions from their faces and body language. I'm just not sure if he's the best choice for this book. Maybe I'm expecting it to tilt more towards horror than he and Kesel intend, but I feel like maybe you need an artist whose style would play up Thom's bug form as more horrific, make the other oddities look truly odd.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Mummy (2017)

Alex described this movie as 'not that terrible' when he switched to it in the hotel Thursday night. I'm not sure I'd agree, but I was barely paying attention for the first hour. I'm generally indifferent to Tom Cruise films at best. Mission Impossible 2 is still the only film starring him I've sat and watched the whole way through (assuming Tropic Thunder doesn't count), and that was also because of Alex.

Anyway, Tom Cruise plays a merc who finds an ancient tomb, and then blithely shoots the chains keeping an ancient sarcophagus sealed because he's an idiot. Mummy escapes, Cruise is cursed because she's going to use him as a host for Set, but he's decided to maybe not be an entirely selfish piece of crap and manages to control Set's power. I think.

Also, there's an entire agency or group dedicated to dealing with supernatural stuff, headed by Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jekyll? I didn't know that watching the movie, I couldn't hear the dialogue over the AC. I read it off the IMDB page instead. When he attacked Cruise, I assumed he'd had some bad prior experience with the mummy that meant she could control him from a distance. Put on a cursed ring, bitten by a radioactive scarab, had a college friend put forbidden sand down his shorts on an archaeological dig. As Kelvin noted a few weeks ago when we discussed Godzilla, this was when everyone wanted their own expansive, connected film universe to copy Marvel, and this was going to start another one. Hahahahahhaahaha.

The movie has this thing where it feels a bit campy at times, but also like we're supposed to treat it seriously with all the dim lighting and shuffling corpses. I laughed pretty hard when Cruise charges Ahmanet in a fury and calmly slaps him to the ground, then does it again when he tries again a minute later. But I'm not sure I'm supposed to be laughing. Am I supposed to wince, like oh no, how will Tom Cruise recover from such a brutal hit? I guess it's good for demonstrating how hilariously outclassed he is, that the power of love or revenge or whatever isn't going to magically make him be able to kick an immensely powerful undead being's ass.

I didn't see enough of it to decide whether Alex was right about it being not that terrible, but it certainly wasn't good enough to command anything close to my full attention.

Monday, April 08, 2019

My Brain Has Not Finished Processing Last Week, So Here You Go

Alex asked me to road trip with him to Malibu, where he was playing a wedding for a couple of friends. I've never been to California, so what the hell. A more leisurely pace might have been good, there's a lot of things we could have stopped to see, but it also would have been a much more expensive trip. And we each have shit to do back here.

The drive out wasn't bad. I drove to start, because we left at 7:30, and I'm the morning person. I was surprised Alex was actually awake until he explained he'd been too excited to sleep. Then I was definitely driving. Plus, he hates driving through Kansas, while I apparently don't mind it. I like open, empty places. The last couple hours of Kansas, plus the bits of Oklahoma and Texas we drove through didn't disappoint. I enjoy being able to see for miles, even if it doesn't look like there's anything to see. In New Mexico, I spotted a mesa off in the distance and tried to see how long it took us to reach it. Answer was 33 miles, and it was visible from before I started keeping track.

Alex really wanted a picture of the sign for Hooker, Oklahoma. Infer what you will. I got really excited about approaching Tucumcari, since I know of the town from For a Few Dollars More, so I can't talk. Sure, the movie was set 150 years ago, and shot in Spain, but whatever. Part of me still got a little geeked about it, even if we were just going to drive through (and it was dark by the time we got there).

New Mexico needs to spend less money of road signs, and more money on the actual roads. Every single bridge has a sign reminding you it could be icy, and on 54, every passing opportunity has a 'Pass with Care' sign, while every part with double lines has 'Do Not Pass'. Is that really necessary?

We didn't make it as far as we planned because Alex thought his transmission was acting up shortly after he took over driving, after we switched in Santa Rosa. First he had something in his eye, so I'm steering while he's applying saline solution. Then he needs to clean his glasses. Then we ran over the remains of a tire in the middle of the line and it knocked his car out of cruise. All that happened within 15 minutes of his getting behind the wheel. Then the vehicle wouldn't stay in cruise on the hills, so he stopped because he was worried. Turns out his transmission reduces power if it thinks i'ts getting too hot, and I guess some of the hills were a bit much for it.

Trying to sleep in the passenger seat of his car on a 40 degree night in the parking lot of a casino was a great way to save money, but not a great way to sleep. My neck was most displeased. But the scenery at sunrise with the various mesas was a decent tradoff.. I was in New Mexico for part of a family vacation when I was a kid, but I don't remember much beyond the specific places we visited. I was probably focused on my Game Gear whenever we were driving from one place to another. It was nice to spend a little more time observing the surroundings, even if I wound up driving most of day 2 because Alex also didn't sleep well. Well, I'd rather drive than crash because he feel asleep and we had places to be. Flagstaff is pretty country.

Alex needed to visit another friend in Vegas to check on something, so we took the opportunity to stop at Hoover Dam briefly. Or at an overlook of a nearby lake, because I wasn't driving through a damn security checkpoint to look at dam. The view was nice, and we watched two guys in minivans almost have a fistfight. One of them pulled into a spot and kept going until he was halfway into the next spot, then seemed annoyed the other guy was unhappy about not being able to park behind him. Shitty Parking Guy even took his overshirt off like he was going to fight him, while saying things like, 'Don't yell at me'.

I've always figured Vegas would not be my kind of town, and I was right. Too many people, too many lights, too much noise. I felt bad for Alex' friend, because he wanted me to be more excited. But I hardly ever get visibly excited, certainly not for anything we were likely to do that night. I did win $6 playing video poker. Alex lost $50, mostly on roulette. Which was strange, because he said he wanted to play blackjack, then played roulette instead. The dealer was very attractive, but not that attractive.

We did visit a comic store while in town, because I always try to hit that or a bookstore when I'm in a new city, just to see what's there. I found three of last week's comics I wanted and the first volume of Kino's Journey. Alex grabbed a collection of Bob's Burgers for his girlfriend, who loves that show. And it was next door to a legal weed dispensary, so Alex had to check that out. I felt extremely awkward standing there with zero interest in this place. Mostly just because I felt I was in the way, which is a feeling I hate. I don't like it when people are in my way, so I try to avoid being in their way. Fair is fair.

Would it have been better to see some sights? Maybe, but we were killing a little bit of time until his friend could meet us, and neither of us wanted to drive, so we were reliant on Uber. At least the Vegas Uber drivers are better than the ones in Chicago. I didn't get badly carsick this time.

Alex brought along whiskey to celebrate being on this road trip, or in Vegas, but was going to leave the remainder in the hotel the next morning. Because he claimed to be done drinking (eye roll). I grabbed it and carried it, so he'd have it for when he decided later he wasn't done drinking. He acted like I sprouted a second head. I just hate wasting food.

The drive to Malibu was fine. We discussed the brief stop at Nipton on Friday. At 5 p.m., everyone is trying to leave L.A., not enter, so traffic wasn't bad. Little bit of rain, but not enough to make conditions treacherous. The amount of rain that's pleasant to walk in. I didn't realize just how steep and hilly it is out there. All these narrow points and valleys. Makes for an interesting view, though. I kept hoping to see a full-on castle up on the top of some of those hills, but no such luck. Lots of really nice houses, and a variety of designs, which was cool.

Alex wanted to try In-n-Out Burger because someone told him he should. Not that great. It's not bad, but I don't see all the fuss. Who the fuck puts spread, or dressing or whatever on a burger? At least I asked if they used mayo (because I thought I saw something in the picture on the menu, and wanted to tell them to leave it off), and found out about the spread ahead of time, so I could tell them to leave that off.

Random bizarre moment: Alex went to the hotel breakfast Friday morning and found an lold lady just clearing house. She had two reusuable shopping bags and was filling them with plates of eggs, all the muffins, and was in the process of taking all the plastic utensils when Alex came in. He's not sure she was even a guest. I missed it because I woke up earlier and had gone to eat then.

We had enough time Friday before the wedding to hit up another comic store, and it turns out Mike Sterling's Sterling Silver Comics was only 10 miles away from the hotel. I always thought his store was in the northern part of California. I grabbed an issue of Tim Truman's Scout I was looking for, and Scud the Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang. Alex found and commented on an issue of DC's recent Wacky Raceland comic, which led to me mentioning the post-apocalyptic Scooby-Doo book (because at least I could figure out how to describe that one, I don't know what to say about that Flintstones book they had). Mike said it was actually pretty good, and that's why Alex owns the first trade paperback of Scooby Apocalypse now.

The wedding was being held right on the ocean, and Alex said he was having an anxiety attack the first time he saw the Pacific. He was just really excited. Which is one of the things that's fun about being his friend, how amped he gets for things he's interested in. I'm not typically wired that way. But I made sure to point out he could pull over and take pictures, rather than trying to do it while driving. I wanted to take pictures, too. I'd never been to the Pacific, either.

The wedding was nice, the reception was a lot of fun. The father of the bride made a hilarious speech, mostly revealing how completely his daughter has him wrapped around her finger. They had a "cocktail hour" after the wedding before getting to the actual reception. The sliders the caterers made were much better than In-n-Out Burger. It took until almost 10, but people started coming up making requests. They just have to get drunk enough to either not care or to want to show off. A couple of old guys wanted to have a dance-off using Bruno Mars and "Shut Up and Dance". It wasn't cool so much as ridiculous, but they were having fun, so that's the main thing. They had planned to have enormous pizzas delivered at 10, which was another pleasant surprise on top of the dessert bar and everything else.

We left the hotel at 7 the next morning, and drove straight through back to Missouri. Just over 27 hours, subtracting the two we lost crossing time zones. I like when routes let me switch roads a lot, because it's an easy way to mark progress. We were on Interstate 40 from Barstow to Tucumcari, so that wasn't happening. We got gas once in Kingman, Arizona, bought some tacos from a restaurant next door (Alex insisted we needed to try Mexican food closer to actual Mexico at least once during the trip). The potato tacos were excellent, so good call on his part.

Alex got us from Gallup, New Mexico to Wichita, so the driving was split more equitably this time. I planned to spend that time sleeping, so I'd be ready to take over again, but that didn't happen. Alex spent 80% of the time I drove over the course of the trip sleeping. I slept less than 5% of the time he drove. Which I'm sure says something nothing good about me and my level of trust in him, but I did want to make sure he didn't fall asleep while driving in the middle of the night. Especially since he'd already had to abruptly stop driving twice on this trip from being tired.

We hit fog a little ways into Kansas and had to deal with that for five hours. But that was the worst weather we encountered the entire trip, so can't complain. Just bad timing that close to the end, when we were both worn down. The first hour after I took over behind the wheel again was bad, really exhausted, but I found an inexplicable second wind around Emporia that carried me the rest of the way home. I really have no idea why. Apparently talking with the lady at the toll booth or trying to get my wallet to retrieve a quarter energized me. Then I fell asleep without even realizing it at 7 p.m. and didn't wake up again until 5:30 this morning.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #60

"For Any Other Hero, That Might Seem Strange," in Adventures of Superman #617, by Joe Casey (writer), Charlie Adlard (artist), Tanya and Rich Horie (colorists), Comic Craft (lettering)

One of the things I went back-issue hunting for last year was Joe Casey's run on Adventures of Superman. The one where Superman is supposedly a pacifist because Casey went roughly a year without having Supes throw a punch. That's not necessarily a big deal to me, but I usually find Casey's work at least interesting, so it seemed like it was worth a shot.

The run spans about 35 issues, roughly 590-622. Casey doesn't write every issue in there, and some of the others are a collaborative effort. Plus, this is when storylines would run between all the Superman books, each chapter in a different title. Only buying one title means getting the beginning or middle of a bunch of stories and being confused. 

That stops the last year of the run, which is unsurprisingly when it becomes a lot easier to follow what the hell is going on. Up to that point there are stories where some devil knockoff imprisons part of Superman's soul and Lois has to help rescue it, or President Luthor tries to trick him into creating an international incident. Or something about Brainiac being reborn in a baby in the Anti-Matter Universe, then retreating to Metropolis, the Crime Syndicate hot on his tail. Yeah, I didn't know what the hell to make of that one.

Overall, Casey focuses a lot on how Superman is perceived. Usually as an inspirational figure, but sometimes as one who protects a status quo that doesn't serve everyone. Sometimes as a distant figure whose nothing but a problem for the common man.

The artists are all over the place. Derec Aucoin's the closest thing to a regular artist, in a style that reminds me a bit of Scott McDaniel's in the use of shadows, but isn't nearly as angular or jagged. Charlie Adlard's here for two issues with Mxy (now a couple of twins trying to sell encyclopedias?). Mike Wieringo's on the book some in the early issues, Duncan Rouleau pops up for a story where Clark and Lois are able to visit Krypton somehow (I assume the explanation came in one of the other titles). Maybe that's the right approach for stories that vary as widely in setting and tone.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Our Sneak Rating Was High Enough to Avoid The Giant Scorpions

I'm pretty sure I knew the places in Fallout: New Vegas were based on real locations. Obviously there's a Las Vegas (even if it's become New Vegas), and the Hoover Dam is a thing that exists. So even without looking to confirm, I wasn't surprised to drive past Primm, Nevada yesterday.
I was surprised there actually is a casino with a roller coaster built into it. It's Bison Steve's in the game, and Buffalo Bill's in the real world, but at least from the highway it looks basically the same. Once you adjust for the game being 200 years on from a nuclear war, anyway.

I think the Fallout games may be the first time I've played video games using a real world setting where it actually felt significant. Where driving through the actual Primm brought the fictional one into focusSports games portray various arenas and stadiums that do exist, but that's not the focal point. Grand Theft Auto Vice City is basically set in Miami, but it's more like Miami Vice Miami than actual Miami. I can't imagine driving through Miami and recognizing something from the game. If I did drive through Miami and recognize something, it'd be more because I saw it on Burn Notice. I don't know Moscow well enough to know if the Metro games are at all representative of that city, during the brief periods you're on the surface.

Plus, in Metro, when you're on the surface, the clock is constantly ticking for you to get someplace safe before the radiation in the air kills you, so I rarely found the time to stop and consider the scenery. One nice thing about the Fallout games is sometimes you can pause and enjoy the scenery before being attacked by cannibals or mutated monsters. It helps to ground them as actual locations, rather than just some place you stop to shoot people or try to trigger quests.

We didn't stop in Primm. Neither of us was up for gambling, and we had 300 miles to go yet. We did make a brief detour into Nipton, because we wanted to see at least a little of the Mojave National Preserve. It was a nice small town. We had a pleasant lunch under a tree, although the wind was a bit much at times. The view was excellent, and the Legion hadn't burned most of the town down and killed all the inhabitants. So that was a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Middle Man (2016)

Lenny (Jim O'Heir), after the death of his mother, decides to go to Vegas to become a stand-up comedian. Except he's terribly unfunny. He meets a hitchhiker, who calls himself Hitch (Andrew West), who claims to have served as manager to stand-ups in the past. Being around Hitch results in lots of dead bodies. Lenny grows increasingly traumatized, but, as these things go in movies, this makes him a funnier comedian. The question is whether he can reclaim his old life, but keep the success he's found in this disaster.

I couldn't actually watch Lenny's unsuccessful stand-up routines. Watching (fictional) people literally die? No problem. Watching them metaphorically die? Apparently that's a bridge too far. The successful routines were easier to watch. I did laugh. He has this raspy whisper to his voice, this shell-shocked quality which is entirely understandable. But if you think he's making up this bit about how hard it is to get rid of a body, it would seem funny.

The whole scene where Lenny and Hitch try to dump the first corpse and keep running into complications was pretty funny, too. I especially liked the attempt to throw him in a dumpster.

That said, Hitch's backstory is all over the place. He was a manager, enough to have connections with the guy who runs the competition Lenny wants to enter, but he's a drifter? He owes money, and he's a psychopath? It's like his characteristics would work better split between two characters, but the plot wouldn't work that way, so they just crammed everything into one guy.

If you can roll with that, it's a funny dark comedy.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The Mini-Series Everyone (Meaning Me) Wants

If Marvel is going to insist on there 12-issue mini-series set in that "Old Man (insert name)" universe, they could at least give us "Unbeatable Old Lady Squirrel Girl". I'd buy that, depending on the creative team. Meaning Ryan North as writer, at minimum. Maybe the Guruhiru team on art. It'll be the brightest, most adorable post-apocalyptic landscape ever! Or, since the end of the most recent issue says they averted that fate, it's just set in a generally pleasant, non-apocalyptic future landscape. Whichever.

It would be odd for an allegedly "unbeatable" hero to be in a post-apocalyptic landscape. If they let the apocalypse happen, not so unbeatable, right (Not counting them landing there from the distant past or an alternate dimension)? Unless it's because of something like climate change instead of super-villains. That's a bit out of Doreen's wheelhouse. It could depend on time scale. If Doreen, Nancy, and the others turn things around in the end, it becomes a matter of losing the battle but winning the war.

As far as the arch-foe, it has to be Doom, doesn't it? Squirrel Girl's first super-villain (excluding Kang's time travel hijinks), trying to settle things with her again at the end. You can throw other problems in there, of course:

 - Loki making his inevitable reversion to villainy (or is he?), probably because he disagreed with a decision Nancy made in her Cat Thor fanfic. Will Nancy consider revising her story in the face of Loki spamming the comment section?

- The Ultron plant they brought back from the Savage Land and placed in Doreen's parents' yard is going through a rough adolescence/evolution. Can Doreen connect with a hip young artificial intelligence teen (that is probably evolved into a squirrel by this point?)

- Kraven's taking the "hunter of hunter" things a bit far, and is stalking bargain-hunters. Spider-Man's on his case again, and everybody is just really grumpy about having to deal with this again. As it turns out, Kraven's not happy about being alive again (I'm assuming he's gonna figure out some way to get killed in that "Hunted" story that's running in Amazing Spider-Man), and trying to get out any which way he can.

- Maybe Mary makes her eventual break towards super-villainy, weaponized Brain Drain's nihilism, and it's infecting the others. Koi Boi can't even bother to make fish puns any more!

And so on, and so forth.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Get Ready For Surprise Guest Stars!

A man in a plain uniform pushes a massive, multi-layer cake on a hand cart towards a building. Mr. Peterson, the lobby manager, steps in his way as he enters.

"May I help you?"

"Yeah, got a delivery for a party at Creative Industrial Approaches," the deliveryman replies, while thinking this guy has the most dull voice he's ever heard.

Mr. Peterson sighs and consults a clipboard. To his complete lack of surprise, there is no note about a cake delivery. When he points this out, the deliveryman gives him an exasperated look before replying, "The boss lady that made the order said she needed a rush job because it was a last minute thing. Said she almost forgot."

Mr. Peterson doesn't look entirely convinced, but recalling what happened the last time he tried to deny entry to a suspicious deliveryman, he realizes he doesn't get paid enough to get punched in the face, either. So he waves the man on. Into the elevator the deliveryman and the cake go (after some careful maneuvering, because it is a large cake.)

Meanwhile, on the 63rd floor, a dark furry shape wiggles back and forth as it tries to extract itself from an air vent. It succeeds and abruptly falls into a room of security monitors. The one guard is dozing at his chair.

"That used to be an easier fit," the shape mumbles to itself

Checking a watch, the intruder takes hold of a microphone on the control panel and soon a nasally voice is heard over the PA system. "Attention, this is your boss speaking. Please report to Conference Room A for cake, and sparkling fruit juice. We have a very special birthday to celebrate!"

The guard awakens from the sound of someone talking right in front of him, and is sent promptly sent back to sleep by a furry paw swatting him across the face. The intruder, with some difficulty, squirms back into the vent and closes it before anyone can arrive.

Meanwhile, the employees have all arrived in the conference room, eager for free food and to take a break from working. The pleasant chatter is interrupted as the double doors fly open.

"Who the hell is messing with the intercom?" Pollock looks extremely cross, and all the employees flinch. The boss has been on edge for months now, what with that strange lady following her constantly. On cue, said strange lady appears right on Pollock's heels, that orange cloak she always wears flowing behind her. Captain Androzier is bringing up the rear of the tense procession.

Pollock's irritation is a mixture of factors, including the dour shadow she's tailing her since fall. But in this case, it's at least partially because she can't figure out whose birthday she forgot. She prides herself on at least knowing that much about her staff. There's also the fact the timing of all this is very suspicious. Nothing happened on April Fool's Day, so she ought to be safe, but still. . .

A shout of "Happy Birthday!" goes up from the assembled crowd, led by the Clever Adolescent Panda as they pop up from behind the large cake. Calvin hops directly in front of his evil opposite, tossing confetti in the air, with what passes for a genuine smile on his face. Pollock immediately punches him and sends him sprawling.

All cheering immediately ceases. "What was that for?!" Calvin snaps.

"You startled me." Pollock doesn't sound the least apologetic.

"Just know that counts as your birthday gift," Calvin grumbles as he rose.

Pollock is genuinely confused by that statement. "You're celebrating my birthday?"

The cheerful panda ambles next to Calvin, who is still grumbling. "Yep! Your first appearance was April 2nd, so here we are!"

A moment passes, then Pollock narrows her eyes is suspicion. "This is a set-up for a prank."

Her two old adversaries exchanged looks before the panda replies. "No, noooo. Why would you think that?"

"Seriously," Calvin scoffs, "like I would spend money on pranking you. You're too good at pranking yourself."

Pollock thought this over. "You are extremely cheap."

A muffled "Yeah he is," emerges from the large cake. Pollock and Cass both raise eyebrows, but are unable to ask anything as the other two press on.

"Now," Calvin said, "without further ado. Pollock. . ."

"This is your life!" CAP finishes triumphantly.

Pollock's eyes widen. "So you've finally decided to murder me. In front of my wonderful employees no less!"

Cass immediately draws a large hunting knife from somewhere in her cloak. "Finally."

"I won't go without a fight!"

Calvin steps back in alarm, not wanting to get punched again, but CAP rushes closer. "No, no, no! No stabbing or murdering! We just want to remind you of some of the important moments in your life so far!"

"Like when I formed my own tech company?"

"Pfft," Calvin snorts derisively, "more like that year you were running a travel agency in Nebraska."

"That's right!" the panda said, "and it was in Nebraska that you heard a voice say. . ."

From the back of the room a voice answers, "The bake sale is to raise money for the band to get the new feather things on their tall hats."

Pollock sighs. "The hat is called a shako, Ally."

A short middle-aged woman with a round face steps through the crowd. She's smiling, if a little uncertain about all this. Pollock continues, "I'm surprised you would come all this way. I didn't leave on the best of terms with most of the town."

Ally gives Pollock an awkward hug, patting her on the back before stepping back. "Yes, well, it was a bit rude to use us all as unwitting dupes in your plan to spread a, was it a mind control virus? But I suppose you were going through some things at the time." She pauses and looks her former boss at the travel agency over from head to toe. "Are you happier now?"

"Yes. Look, I'm sorry about all that. This one," she gestures at Calvin, "brings the worst out in me."

Ally casts a disapproving glance. "He does look like a dissolute young man. Probably encouraging you to take drugs and engage in unprotected sex."

"Hey!" Calvin protested, "And wait, is she suggesting Pollock and I - ?" He and Pollock each rush for a different trash can.

"Oh dear, was there something wrong with the cake? I bet he baked it with the hemp." She said the last two words in a breathy whisper, shaking her head as she did. The panda can't help but crack up at the whole exchange. Calvin raised his face from the trash can to regard Pollock as she did the same.

"You want to have a team-up and fight our panda friend?"

Pollock was giving it serious consideration, so CAP tries to redirect the conversation, "Or what about that time I convinced you to blow up your flying castle?"

Pollock's eyes narrow again, but it gets Calvin laughing. He adds, "Or when I tricked you into blowing up your secret undersea base before you even had a chance to use it? Which at least kept the casualties down."

Reaching the limit of her patience, Pollock snaps back. "Or the time I made the panda take your wallet."

Calvin rolled his eyes. "You're bragging about stealing $17?"

"Yeah! At least brag about acting so pathetic I hit Calvin with a pie to cheer you up!"

"Don't mention that!"

The birthday girl laughs. "That was amusing. You were knocked out on the floor."

"Yeah, concussions are hilarious. You should work for the NFL."

The assembled employees are starting to get either confused or nervous. The ones who had been through all this mess before, like Dr. Lakshmi and most of Androzier's security forces, are bracing for a fight to erupt. Picking up on their unease, the clever panda tries to redirect things again.

"And during a board meeting, you heard this tune?" Pressing a button, the theme from The A-Team plays over the intercom.

Pollock's eyes grew huge again. "No! This is best conference room we have! Don't let that woman with the destructive powers loose in here!

"Shouldn't you be more concerned about all your wonderful employees?"

Pollock takes on a haughty expression as she shot back, "Everyone here is well-trained in emergency situations. In the event of vehicles or Deadpool entering the offices, everyone heads for the nearest reinforced panic room." Every employee nods at this, and one speaks up.

"The nearest one on this floor is two doors down the hall to the right."

"Correct, Jen."

"Oh. Wow."

CAP is legitimately impressed by Pollock's ongoing commitment to workplace safety, but also curious. "What happens when I show up?"

"Complete evacuation of the building." Pollock's voice and expression are flat.

Calvin is barely paying attention, busy scanning the room. "Where the hell is that Rhodez?"

"There's a lady sleeping here in the back. Is this who you're looking for?"

"She got tanked on sparkling fruit juice? Damn, her tolerance is probably lower than mine by now."

Makes-Brakes-Fail-Lass awakens at that moment. "I'm not drunk! I was just catching some Zs. This is prime time for a refreshing nap."

Several employees make comments of agreement among themselves. Early afternoon is a good time for naps. In fact, a gentle snoring is heard coming from the large cake. When we say gentle, we mean it sounds like someone is being ineffectually strangled.

One of the employees calls out, "Ms. Pollock, can we start having an afternoon nap time?"

A huge smile appears on the boss' face and in an exceedingly cheerful voice she replies, "As long as you don't expect to be paid for it!"

A collective "Awwwww" rises from the crowd.

Calvin whispers to CAP, "Maybe we should move this along."

The panda nods. "But speaking of things flying through the air before they crash and cause a lot of destruction, there was the time in the castle you tried to sic pirate penguins on me. I was in real trouble, and then we heard. . ."

CAP glances at the large cake, but nothing happens. "And then we heard. . ." Still nothing. The panda hops on to the handle of the cart and opens the top of the cake. Leaning in, a scowl appears on that round, furry face as it shouts, "Wake up!"

[Huh? What? Are we done with all seven hours of pre-game nonsense? Musical tributes to puppies with colic over? Time for kickoff?]

CAP hopped back to the ground, and Deadpool burst into view through the open top of the cake. [I said, hey sexy lady, don't hold it against me for being late. Or you can hold it against me if you want!]

The reaction was instantaneous as one employee shrieks, "Deadpool! Code Periwinkle!" The room clears instantly as all the employees, including the security staff flee for the nearest panic room. Much shouting and cursing is heard from down the hall as everyone tries to cram themselves into the same room. Pollock leans her head out of the room.

"Some of you go to one of the other panic rooms while you still have time! It isn't going to be very safe if you all suffocate in there."

The panda is scowling at the mercenary again, seated on the ground with front paws crossed over their chest. "Wade, that's not what you said the first time you met!"

[That was four creative teams, and 7 linewide reboot stunts, ago! I can barely remember if I had tacos yesterday and the day before, or the last three days in a row!]

Calvin is busy flipping through old blog transcripts, "Eh, he made that crack about not minding if she held something against pretty soon after they met. I'm more concerned that he's in his underwear. This is moving from a bad prank towards a war crime."

[Look, it was hot inside that cake. I've been in there for six hours! Calvin insisted I stay in there in case we had to spring the surprise early!]

Everyone looks back at Calvin, who shrugs. "I just didn't want to have to deal with him on the ride over."

Pollock was more distressed at the news Deadpool had been inside the cake than what he was or wasn't wearing. "Do you have any idea how many diseases my employees are going to have to be tested for?"

Calvin and CAP stare at her blankly for a moment. "That cake is just for show. So we could surprise you that we brought Wade along to visit. The one everybody was eating is over there on the table." The panda gestures at a large slab of cake with orange frosting and "Happy Birthday, Sport" on it.

"Oh thank goodness." Pollock turned to regard Deadpool, who was still standing in the opening of the cake, trying to croon "Happy Birthday" in his best impression of Marilyn Monroe's voice. It sounds about like jamming a horse nose first into a blender. "Wade, it's good to see you."

The merc stops singing immediately. [Really?]

"Yes, your presence was missed at this year's holiday blog get-together. It was much too subdued and none of Calvin's furniture was broken. How are you?"

[Ah, you know. The usual shit. Trying to find fulfillment through killing people and crazy hijinks. I think there's a guy stealing my bones in my book right now?]

"Shouldn't you just regenerate them?"

He shrugs. [Probably. My healing factor might be on the blink.]

Cass stepped forward, "I'm tired of looking at him."

Pollock raises an arm to bar her path. "I'd tell you to get lost then, but we both know that's a waste of time, so just wait." Pollock approaches the cake. "Wade, lean down."

"Oh great, here we go. You're gonna punch me in the jaw, or drag me out of the cake and curbs-"

He's cut short as Pollock gives him a gentle hug. A look of uncertainty crosses the mercenary's face, while CAP's jaw drops. Calvin raises one eye and mutters, "Did we actually get Pollock a nice birthday gift?"

Then she breaks the hug and steps back, turning to the Lady in Orange. "OK, now."

Cass steps forward again and raises one leg before her, preparing to boot the cake out the window. But when her foot connects, it simply sinks in halfway up her calf. She tries to remove her leg, but can't.

Pollock turns to CAP and Calvin. "The cake is actually made of glue?"

"Just the two lowest layers."

[Yeah, this part up here is gingerbread!] Deadpool has put his costume back on by this point, except the mask, and is still standing in the opening at the peak, now leaning against the rim. He casually breaks a piece off and bites into it.

"Uh, Wade?" CAP began, "That's plasterboard, not gingerbread."

[Ah, the gritty texture confused me. Or maybe my taste buds were stolen.]

"Here, have some of the actual cake." Calvin hands a large piece up. "Sorry about leaving you in there so long."

[It's still better than sleeping in a dumpster or the charred remains of a crack house. And it's nice to be back on the block!] He casts an eye towards Pollock. [Especially now that I know the depth of your feelings for me.]

"It was a hug, Deadpool. Don't start getting the wrong ideas, or I'll send you and that cake out the window myself."

[Since when have I been able to distinguish a wrong idea?]

Clever Adolescent Panda's eyes widened in alarm. "Wait! Cassanee's still attached to it!"

"Yes, I know. Was that supposed to discourage me?"

Calvin had moved back to the edible cake, and leaned on the table as he chimed in. "If she and Wade and the cake land on anyone, it could get you in trouble."

"You'd think people around here would be used to it by now," remarked Makes-Brakes-Fail-Lass.

Pollock considered this silently for a moment, then said, "Fine, nobody goes out the window for now. Unless you try something Deadpool. We've upgraded the Wave Motion Beam, you know."

Deadpool nods, and nimbly hops out of the cake into the panda's arms. Then farts. [Sneak attack!] He's thrown across the room headfirst into the wall by the disgusted panda. [Hashtag, scorpion on the frog's back.] emerges weakly from the wall.

"My goodness, do all your business ventures involve so much destruction?" Ally seemed quite appalled by all this. Very unprofessional. "People are just supposed to have funny posters on their cubicle walls, and wear jeans on Fridays! Not have wild animals and hooligans running about!"

Pollock regarded the scene wearily, before responding. "The world of mad science is a bit different from travel agencies." She turned to Calvin. "It was a reasonably restrained visit, so thank you for that." Calvin inclined his head in silent acknowledgement, as she turned to the panda. "Wretched furball, I have some new data related to the information you sent me on the chemicals in those Amilgars' fur. I'll send it to you in a few days." She turned to leave the room. "And it was nice to see you again, Wade. Try to convince Calvin to buy something you're appearing in later this year. We could probably use your help."

Deadpool gave an awkward thumbs up with most of his body still stuck in the wall. Clever Adolescent Panda called after her. "You're just leaving?"

Pollock responded without looking back. "Of course. The sullen girl is stuck in the cake. I can have some peace for the first time in months. I'm not sticking around here the rest of the day!"

Calvin turned to the panda. "Did Pollock win that one?"

They both turned to look at Cass, who was glaring at them pointedly while continuing to balance on one foot.

"Yeah, probably," Clever Adolescent Panda admitted.