Friday, June 28, 2019

What I Bought 6/26/2018 - Part 1

Picked up this week's comics while retrieving my vehicle from the repair shop. Which was only two days ago, but feels like a hundred years. I was half-convinced before I started typing this I bought them over a week ago. Everything is out of whack in my head right now. If things will just remain calm and stable for a few weeks. . .

Dial H for Hero #4, by Sam Humphries (writer), Joe Quinones (artist), Tom Fowler (inker), Jordan Gibson (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer) - Miguel has become a hero with the power of having a smartphone screen on his chest! Upgraded Arnim Zola, basically.

Summer and Miguel reach the Detroit Justice League HQ, where they find a bunch of Justice League robots and. . . Snapper Carr. Crap. Snapper insists they hand over the H-Dial to him, but then they're attacked by the robots, which have been modified by Mr. Thunderbolt's spirit, so everyone dials at the same time. Summer ends up as a gorilla filtered through Sin City, Snapper is some Moebius thing, I don't fuckin' know, and Miguel ends up as various newspaper comic strip versions of some kid running around in his underwear pretending to be a hero. Which makes him pretty angry, and leaves him vulnerable to Thunderbolt's suggestions, and everything goes wrong.

Snapper's meant to be a cautionary tale for Miguel, I think. Although Snapper's problem seems to be he doesn't think who he is, is good enough. Miguel seemed to act more like he was owed something. He'd been protecting the H-Dial, why did he get the crappy powers? Although he never tried to do anything, so who knows what his abilities were. Maybe it is a matter of thinking he's not good enough as he is.
Real mix of Justice League-bots there, but other than Vibe-bot, I didn't see many from the Detroit era. I guess Zatanna, although she was Satellite League, too. There's at least 5 of the Giffen/DeMatteis League. Including a Guy Gardner bot, complete with bowl cut! He didn't speak, so I can't determine if he's based off seriously brain-damaged Guy, or regular Guy (who is only a little brain-damaged). For a lot of them, Quinones seems to be using the Timmverse Justice League cartoon look, especially the Flash and Hawkgirl. Which is fine, those are good versions, design-wise. I wonder if Humphries specified any characters, or Quinones just drew whoever he felt like?

Ghost Tree #4, by Bobby Curnow (writer), Simon Gane (artist), Ian Herring and Decka Kinzie (colorists), Chris Mowry (letterer) - I thought initially they were sitting on big balls of yarn, but at least some of them are skulls. Still cute, in an Adams Family way.

Brandt and Arami reminisce, and we learn a little more about the current state of Brandt's marriage. Meanwhile, his grandfather is realizing how badly he handled things in his marriage, and tells Brandt to leave and return to his wife. Brandt's fully aware that he's running from his problems, but doesn't care. Then the demon returns, and tears the guardian spirit in two, before continuing towards the house.

The end of the issue tells us Arami's unfinished business is to be the successor to the guardian spirit. Maybe it burns out a spirit after a time, I don't know, but it seems like she's expected to step up. Was that fate, or just chance? Was she tagged for that purpose from the moment of death (or before it), or she's just the most suitable person who happened to be dead at the time? Can she refuse, and would that leave her trapped as a ghost forever?

And then there's Brandt. His avoiding his problems with his wife. Contrary to what he tells his grandfather, I'm not sure how much he really tried, since it sounds like the two of them never really hashed out their problems. Takes two for that, but typically someone has to make the first step. That said, is what he's doing here that terrible? He has the ability to see these ghosts, maybe it's a fluke, maybe it's for a reason. If he can help them find peace, even while avoiding his own problems, is that a bad thing? You could argue he's choosing to live as a ghost, avoiding his unfinished business, but the assumption seems to be the two of them can and should work things out. His grandfather ignored his wife to interact with ghosts, and that wrong. But if Brandt and his wife don't work together, why try to make it work?
It's a sad issue, but Curnow and Gane still manage to work in a few jokes, plus the gag about the one ghost wanting some noodles. I laughed. Gane draws the little spirits or lights that float around Zero's head as having facial expressions sometimes, which is kind of cute. Zero's little ghost friends. Like the demon's previous appearance, Herring and Kinzie shift the color scheme to more reds and oranges. But the colors don't shift when Zero arrives, because Zero is no longer enough to repel the demon. Zero's color scheme is mostly green and white, so it really stands out against the backgrounds in those panels. Heightens the sense of vulnerability.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Maze of Death - Philip K. Dick

Fourteen people receive orders to transfer to a new world, letting them escape from what all considered humdrum and useless lives. Except, once on the new world, none of them know what they're supposed to be doing. There are electronic bugs that watch them, and a Building that moves and that they all fear to approach too closely.

Then people start getting murdered.

I don't know that I really cared about any of them, exactly. The character the book opens with is the first to go, and as I found him more likeable than the second character they introduced, that wasn't a great start. Then they start dying so quickly, you hardly have time to get enough sense of them to care. Someone dies and you try to remember if they were the linguist or the theologian, the self-medicator or the one who sleeps around.

But there are aspects of all of their behavior that felt very real. The self-absorption, just wanting to talk about the things they're interested in. The way most of them don't really want to be in charge, but aren't sure about letting anyone else be in charge of them, either. The lies they tell to each other and themselves. Most of the book is from Seth Morley's perspective, and he'll frequently pretend he knows things he doesn't. Mostly to not appear ignorant, but sometimes because he thinks the lie will be comforting.

There's a lot about religion, the relationship between Man and God. Or how people perceive that relationship, the different explanations they come up with for why things work out as they do. The particular hoops you have to jump through to get what you want. The people who believe, the ones who don't, the ones who do but want to pretend they don't because, I guess they're afraid of looking foolish. They can claim they were a skeptic or a believer all along, whichever way it plays out.

'Belsnor said, "I have no faith in prayer that's not electronically augmented. Even Spectowsky admitted that; if a prayer is to be effective it must be electronically transmitted through the network of god-worlds so all Manifestations are reached."'

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Fingers Crossed For An Interesting Fall

There were a few more things that caught my eye in the solicits for September than the last few months. Not necessarily good things, but still things.

With Image, there's a graphic novel by Steven Seagle and Moritat called Solstice, about a crazy millionaire dragging his son with him on a search for the Fountain of Youth. There's also a Battle Chasers Anthology. I was still reading Wizard at the time they were either touting that book, or making fun of Joe Madureira for not being able to stop playing video games long enough to get any issues out. I am morbidly curious, though not enough to buy it right off. Definitely the kind of thing you wait until it's available used for cheap.

Dark Horse has Steeple, a new series by Giant Days' creator John Allison, with Sarah Stern as artist or co-artist. I'm not sure on that part. They're both listed as artist. Anyway, I gush ad nauseum over Giant Days, and this sounds odd enough I want to try it. IDW has a Napoleon Dynamite series, only 10 years after that movie ceased being relevant. You know, I never watched that film, never got the appeal.

DC, the most notable thing to me is that Dial H is now a 12-issue mini-series. Unexpected. The artist, however, is "Others", as opposed to Joe Quinones. The art is doing most of the heavy lifting on that book. There's also an Inferior Five mini-series, but it doesn't appear to have any connection to the goofball superhero team. It's five kids dealing with fallout from the Invasion! event from 30 years ago. Man, I've only seen the parts of that that intersected with Suicide Squad or Manhunter. Mostly with DC, I kept seeing solicits for books that have been going for over a year and having no clue they existed. Like Dreaming, or House of Mystery. I'm sure I've seen their solicits before but they made no impression whatsoever.

Besides, sigh, Absolute Carnage, Marvel is releasing a bunch of odd one-shots. An Alpha Flight thing done entirely by Canadian creators, Erik Larsen doing a Spider-Man book, Roger Stern going back to his Avengers run (which I thought was over by the time of Infinity Wars, but according to the solicit, I'm wrong). They're all $5, naturally. There's another Avengers book, led by Blade, dealing with supernatural stuff. Whoo *twirls finger in the air sarcastically*. They're bringing back Crazy, which I've never read, but might be of interest to someone. I feel like so much of Marvel's output is self-aware and poking fun at its own tropes you don't really need an entire magazine devoted to that, but whatever. Moon Knight is going to fight Kang, which should be the shortest damn fight in history. Ms. Marvel is going on a road trip with Zoe and Nakia, and they're going to encounter zombies. Well, it might still be good.

Esther and Daisy are graduating in Giant Days, but still no sign of Smooth Criminals. Great, it's joined Copperhead and The Seeds on the "books Calvin wants to read that dropped off the face of the earth."

There's a book called Tower in the Sea by B. Mure from Avery Hill Publishing about, I think, a young scholar searching for answers to some visions they're having and seeking out the secret magicians. D.P. Filippi and Terry Dodson are doing a book called Muse, about an (attractive) lady hired a tutor to some odd landlords' kid. Which wouldn't normally be my thing, but there's something odd about the manor and the grounds, which means an mystery and/or strange settings. Which are my jam.

Test will be up to issue 4, except issue 1 still hasn't appeared, so maybe not. Viz is releasing the first volume of Way of the Househusband, which is about your stereotypical Yakuza badass who retires to become a stay-at-home husband. I saw a bit of it going around online a few months ago. Him doing laundry, or trying to buy fruit at the grocery and people being terrified because he looks really intense while he politely asks for assistance. Could get old fast, but I figured I'd mention it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

House of Danger

I hadn't realized there were board games based on Choose Your Adventure books, but here we are. It's not a competitive game, as there's only one character. So whether you play by yourself or with others, you control the same character.

The game is split into Chapters, each of which has a goal you have to achieve before you can move to the next Chapter. The story is written out on numbered cards, with the old, "If you want to do {x}, go to Card 27. If you want to do {y}, go to Card 14." When you reach the Chapter's end, you are given the option to go back and investigate places you didn't in the Chapter. The risk being you might be killed. We tried backtracking once in Chapter 1, and were torn apart by Dobermans controlled by a violin-playing chimp.

We didn't backtrack any more after that.

The game gives you two cards that have items on them that can help you. It's always the same two items, but there are many others you can collect as you move through the game. Some of those are one-offs, others can be used as much as you want. The board has two scales on it, Danger Level and Psychic Level. When faced with a Challenge, you have to roll a die and get equal to or higher than the Danger Level to succeed. Psychic Level will enable you to find extra Clues that could come in handy. If you fail a Challenge, the game will tell you to raise the Danger Level a certain number of spaces, and try again. It isn't a 1:1 that the Danger Level increases by, more like 3 spaces to increase by 1. But that could certainly complicate things in a hurry.

I think, if there's more than one person involved, you're supposed to take turns on who rolls the die and who decides which options to take. I was playing with a friend, it was their game, and they handled all the die rolling, and we largely discussed which options to take. It is possible to get a bad ending, as you might expect. In our case, we needed to do more exploring and risk-taking, because we ended up not having some key items.

But it's a fast, easy to learn choice if you want to play something cooperative, or just kill some time solo.

Monday, June 24, 2019

There's Always A Spider-Man, Even If That's Not What They Call Themselves

Spider-Man is a pretty popular character. Not exactly surprising anyone with that statement. Marvel is as aware of that as anyone, so they periodically try to create a new Spider-Man. That mixture of the superheroics with teenage angst. Money/job issues, school issues, relationship problems, and the way that trying to juggle it all plus be a costumed crimefighter creates even more problems. Too busy fighting Shocker to study for chemistry, so they flunk the test, and get their parents on their backs. Which then feeds into itself and creates more problems.

It's never quite worked as well. Lightning in a bottle being difficult to catch twice. Plus, people can kind of tell you're trying to do the same thing they've seen before. Even if they enjoyed it the first time (and enjoy the subsequent attempts), it still isn't likely to have the same impact.

I think Nova (Richard Rider) was the '70s version, Speedball the '80s version (I don't think it'd be Cloak and Dagger), and maybe Darkhawk was the '90s attempt. I'm not sure who it would be in the 2000s. Arana, maybe. (That was actually the original idea for this post, asking if anyone could think of a better choice for the 2000s representative that I was forgetting).

Kamala Khan's this decade's version - it's odd to think she's only existed for 5 years - and I feel like she has the best chance to be something close to an A-lister over the long haul. Maybe that's recency bias, or the fact she's not just another white guy*. Nova's mostly managed to hang around for over 40 years now. Kamala's got a long way to go to match that. She's only on her second writer now, so we'll see if the aspects that seem to resonate stick around or not. All it takes sometimes is one bad creative team to louse up the works, dig a hole so deep subsequent teams spend years trying to get out of it, But I don't remember the others getting on Avengers' rosters as quickly as she did (although for Darkhawk and Speedball the X-Men would have been the big franchise at the time, and neither of them meet the X-gene qualification to receive a call-up).

I don't know why it didn't work for the other three. Maybe because Spider-Man was still there, and even if he was in college by that time, or married, he was still working within the same formula. So why bother with the imitations? Or maybe they didn't change the window dressing enough. I feel like Darkhawk tried a bit (I've not read Nova's first series, or Ditko's Speedball work, so I can't comment). Chris Powell had a bunch of younger siblings to worry about, plus there was the long-running subplot about whether his missing cop dad was dirty or not. But maybe that wasn't enough, or it just didn't work because Spider-Man had changed the landscape and people needed to find new territory.

* The fact they lean into her being a superhero fangirl helps. Superheroes are thing in her world, people would be fans and want to imitate them like we do actors and athletes. She has an enthusiasm for it that encourages the audience to do so as well. It isn't just an escape from the everyday problems like it sometimes is for Spider-Man and the others.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Gets The Rough Part Over With Early, At Least

Something I don't really get in fiction is romantic pairings of two characters that fight and squabble constantly. I don't mean like in romantic comedies where one or both of them make a bad first impression on the other. More like they just bicker all the time. That's "their thing". I feel like I mostly see it with fans proposing it, but I know there have been TV shows and novels like that. All the arguing is just a smokescreen for smouldering sexual tension or whatever.

(Steve Rogers and Tony Stark seem to be a popular one on the fan side. The movie versions I assume, although I can't see that one any more than I can see the comic versions.)

I get the basic theory, I guess. That schoolyard thing where the boy pulls the hair of the girl he likes because he can't just tell her. I just don't get fighting all the time with someone you actually like. And they actually enjoy being challenged by the other person, but it seems like such a hostile starting point.

Granted, my response to being around someone I seem to fight with a lot is. . . to not be around that person any more than necessary. That's how I handle other friends of my friends if I don't like them. I just wander off by myself for awhile when they start getting on my nerves.

(I also do this when the crush of people and noise gets to be too much, whether any specific person is irritating me or not, which makes for a good cover. It's been over a decade since Alex was surprised when I vanish for an hour during a party.)

Obviously avoiding a coworker or teammate can be more difficult, and I guess the idea is work forces the two characters together and they. Actually, I'm not sure. They decide they like each other I guess. I've had coworkers that hooked up before, even a few that got married. I don't recall them bickering a lot before then, though.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Blue Ice Pilot - Lou Fisher

The story alternates chapters between the past and present of one Larry Wickes, pilot of a ship carrying frozen "warmen" to different colony worlds. In the present, Larry does not want to land on the planet Foy-Rigger, because the last time he was there went really badly. In the past, we see all the things Larry went through after surviving near-death in the Solar Wars to reach the point he could be a pilot on one of these GGI ships, which is all he wanted to do.

The problem with the sequences in the past is, I don't particularly care about them. Fisher played coy about what had gone wrong on Foy-Rigger that made Larry want to avoid it so badly, and I wanted to know the answer. So the chapters in the past were an annoyance. Right at the end they become relevant, when Larry realizes all the shit he ate, all the compromises he made playing by other people's rules to get what he wanted. And how has that worked out for him? The people who make the rules change or break them whenever they see fit.

The universe Fisher sets up is not a happy one. Earth doesn't really seem to have governments any longer, just GGI, which makes most of its money either freezing people and shipping them to colonies as "warmen", or by making bodysacks to bury the dead in mass graves. There's a point where the US/Can government says they intend to increase what GGI has to pay to keep the government funded, and the company essentially sends back a letter saying, "Yeah, we won't be doing that."

Larry considers himself lucky to live in the front section of a bus, and pigeon and dog meat are considered high end fare. The warmen are just whatever random schmoes decide to get themselves frozen to try and escape life on earth, with only whatever military training they already had. They're ostensibly going to protect the colonies from the Stys (a race of aliens no one has ever confirmed seeing), but the colonies are really stockpiling them as deterrents against each other. GGI is only too happy to sell to anyone.

There's also a subplot about two spies from another colony trying to force Larry to divert Foy-Rigger's warmen to their world instead. Which felt like a waste of time since Larry would be glad to get off Foy-Rigger, but he can't. The spies are never presented as any threat to him, at least. he has enough other threats to worry about. I think it's meant to be that he was targeted because he's the most vulnerable, the person involved with no support or protection, even though that's because he has no power or authority to actually do anything. His navigator and supervisor is unconcerned about Larry's safety because the GGI regs say he doesn't have to be. So he isn't. It's easier to just follow their rules and let them decide what he's supposed to think and do.

'He is astounded at the ship's position. But he's the navigator, I tell myself; he should keep better track of where we're supposed to be. It's another example of the stuff I have to put up with. He is all in one a mixed-up navigator and an ugly roommate and an unrelenting nag - and he is, unfortunately, along with GGI, all that I have. I do not have Ronna Mae anymore. I do not have my explo'd Mars shuttle. So that leaves Dobbin.'

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Down the Rabbit, er Squirrel Hole I Go

So last month in Squirrel Girl, Ratatoskr had showed up claiming she wanted to team-up with Squirrel Girl to fight the Frost Giants and Malekith. The chaotic squirrel deity also mentioned that it had been working on a team-up with Melissa Morbeck (the wealthy industrialist lady who came up with devices to control animals), but had abandoned that plan.

We saw that Ratatoskr only became aware of what Malekith was up to after Mangog's attack on Asgard inadvertently freed the squirrel from a prison cell. I'm guessing Ratatoskr wasn't able to contact a mortal on Earth in her prison from an Asgardian cell. Maybe that's a mistake, but I'm assuming years of having to deal with Loki and the Enchantress would have convinced the Asgardians to install something to keep people from calling with potential allies.

Which makes me wonder how long this frickin' War of the Realms has been going in their universe. If Ratatoskr couldn't contact Melissa until after escaping Asgard Jail, and that was 26 issues ago, what is that in Marvel time? 13 months? 6 months?

But if Ratatoskr had to escape first, then by the time she made it to Earth, she would have already observed Malekith was going to make everything about him, which she found unacceptable. Why even bother contacting Melissa at that point? But if she made contact while still imprisoned, why Melissa of all people? It's not like she's going to be able to get you out of there. She couldn't even keep herself out of Earth jail, and she's rich.

Of course, we don't have anyone to corroborate Ratatoskr's story. She may have escaped on her own a long time before the War of the Realms started. She's not supposed to be deceiving Squirrel Girl now, but she told her version of events before making any promises to stay on the up and up. Mostly I'm wondering if Doreen can trust that Ratatoskr has actually abandoned the "Team-up with Melissa to get revenge on Squirrel Girl" plan, or if that's still waiting in the wings for after this war is over.

Usually when Doreen's opponents have a change of heart it sticks. In her book, at least (Kraven reverted to type pretty rapidly once Nick Spencer got hold of him). Melissa was one of the few original foes Doreen failed to sway with her speeches, and I could see Ratatoskr being the one that appears to switch sides, but can't or won't maintain it. I think she'd get bored with it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Badlanders

Dad got on some kind of Alan Ladd kick. I don't have any strong feelings about him one way or another, but this has Ernest Borgnine in it, and he's usually entertaining.

Ladd's character, a former geologist and mine engineer everyone calls "The Dutchman" gets out of prison early for stopping Borgnine's character from attacking a prison guard. Borgnine gets out when his sentence is up because he didn't successfully attack the guard. Sure, why not?

The two end up in the same town, where things originally went wrong for both of them. Borgnine feels he was swindled out of his land by a now successful gold mining company, and Ladd was framed for stealing a payroll from the same company. But the Dutchman has a plan to get a little payback, as well as some back pay, and he wants Borgnine's help, since there are so few people in town he can trust.

Borgnine's not really up for it, but after he saves a Mexican woman, Anita (played by Katy Jurado) from being assaulted by three guys in broad daylight, they find they have some chemistry, and he decides he can use the money to start fresh somewhere else with her.

The attempt to steal gold from the mine right under everyone's noses doesn't really work out, in a variety of ways, but things mostly pan out. There are some things that are mentioned or hinted at that seem unresolved. The guy who runs the mine is married to the woman who actually owns it (who is described as unattractive, but I don't think we ever see her). He has a mistress, who is interested in the Dutchman, and the feeling is mutual. But nothing ever comes of the whole bit with the unseen wife.

Likewise, the Dutchman is adamant that the town marshal framed him by planting a gold bar in his room. The marshal doesn't really seem to deny it, and gives the Dutchman the old, "be out of town on the next stage" bit. I expected a bit more of a showdown between them, but I guess since the deputy marshal ends up working for the mine guy, the implication is he's the one who framed Dutchman. Although he seems like such a dim bulb it's difficult for me to buy him managing that without screwing it up. Good as a blunt instrument, but not much else.

I enjoy Borgnine's work here. He's a man full of anger at how he was wronged, but he tries to put it aside and pick up by a cowman the way he was before. Only to find no one will let him. And his frustration at being powerless seems to give him some perspective, the opportunity to let his better qualities show through.

Monday, June 17, 2019

What I Bought 6/12/2019

I successfully moved into my new place Friday. Mostly. When we went to get the last of my stuff from what's left of the old place, we found someone had broken in through the kitchen ceiling. Near as I can tell, all they took was the Nintendo 64, since I didn't have room to take it along two weeks ago. I did pack the controllers, cables, and memory cards, but they got the console and the games. Ah well, I got 22 years out of it.

About half of my books, 95% of my comics, and all my games and movies are still at my dad's, along with my bicycle. May be a few weeks before I can get those, so Sunday Splash Page is still on hiatus, contrary to yesterday's entry (one Batgirl trade happened to be in the 5% that randomly got loaded).

But I went back and added scans to all the reviews from the last couple weeks!

Anyway, here's the only book I was after that came out last week, and the last time I checked, there isn't anything I'm interested in coming out this week. Bummer.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Just tell them you're full of worms and diseases. Sort of worked for Bilbo, right?

Doreen is unhappy with how Ratatoskr handled things in that town, and when she learns the squirrel is really only interested in causing chaos, because she believes the Earth is already doomed, Doreen calls off the team-up. Doreen tromps off into the snow (and we get two pages of her leaning against a tree reading a Robert Frost poem, which felt random). Rachel mind controls some frost giants until she has a personal epiphany that Squirrel Girl was right about her. Then she mind controls one of the frost giants into taking her to find Doreen, so they can team up again. Which they do. They reach the Frost Giant stronghold, do not succeed in finding any useful intel, but Doreen thinks she has a plan, except they get attacked by Frost Giants. Because they're in a Frost Giant stronghold.

My best guess is Doreen wants Rachel to imitate a Frost Giant to sow discord among them and get them fighting, the way her attempt to be "Rachel" didn't exactly go over well with the locals in the last town. Could be, probably am, entirely wrong about that.

I like that the meanest thing Doreen can think of to say to someone is that her life would be better off if she'd never met them. There are a lot of people I would say that to, but for her, that is a damning statement. So that was funny, and so was the Frost Giants not wanting to talk about anything but frost. It's an easy gag, but it's still funny. Especially when they argue over what type of frost is the best and man, rime frost doesn't even count, Daisy what the hell are you thinking, bringing that mess in here?
The visual of Rachel turning her eyes into binoculars was a little disturbing at first. But then I figured it was the kind of thing Plastic Man would do, and it was helping her to see at long distances, so it's fine. The thing she did with her ears a couple pages later was just bizarre, though. Like I said, the bit with Doreen reading/listening to a Robert Frost poem seemed like an unnecessarily roundabout way to get to her saying, 'And miles to go before I sleep,' but Charm and Renzi draw a pleasant couple of pages of Doreen using her tail as a cushion as she leans against a tree and feeds acorns to a doe.

As far as unnecessary tie-ins to an event I'm not reading go, this one isn't bad. It still works perfectly well as a Squirrel Girl story, which is the most important thing.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #68

"Cass' Hatred of Circuses Was a Source of Strife Between her and Nightwing," in Batgirl #28, by Kelley Puckett (writer), Daimon Scott (penciler), Robert Campanella (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), John Costanza (letterer)

I didn't start buying the Cass Cain Batgirl series until after the abysmal War Games storyline. It was several years after that before I backtracked to the earlier issues, by the original creative team of Kelley Puckett and Daimon Scott.

Puckett and Scott handled most of the first three years of the series (excluding issues done by various fill-in artists, including Phil Noto, who isn't a bad artist, but it's whiplash inducing going from Scott's style to his.)

The first two years deal with Cass gaining the ability to speak, but losing the ability that lets her fight so effectively in the process. Regaining it puts her on a collision course with Lady Shiva, a battle Cass knows she can't win. In among all that is Cass trying to sort out her feelings about her father, the assassin David Cain, Oracle trying to protect Cass and get her to experience the world, and Batman being sort of distant. Trusting Cassandra to figure things out for herself, perhaps. 

(The writers who followed Puckett veered heavily into making Batsy an overbearing dickhead who tries to control Cass and keeps threatening to take the costume away for arbitrary reasons. He does that once during Puckett's run, but it's because Cass has no ability to defend herself, only attack, which is fairly reasonable.)

This is also the start of Cass and Stephanie Brown's friendship, so it has that going for it. There are a few pieces, mostly in the last year of the Puckett/Scott run, that don't really pay off. The three beings in the image above, being one of them. It never does seem to get established who they're controlled by. There are also a lot of issues tying into whatever Bat-event was happening that I didn't care about. Joker: Last Laugh, Bruce Wayne: Murderer, that one where Commissioner Gordon got shot. Puckett and Scott usually do their best to work with those, but the stories aren't about Cass, so it's hard to give a shit.

This stretch of his career is far and away my favorite for Daimon Scott. I actually first encountered his work during Bill Willingham's Robin run, which came several years after this. I wasn't a fan then, because Scott seemed to have gone so far into his own style he couldn't tell a story clearly. You can see some of the same tendencies in this run, but they're more reined in. Full-page splashes don't really do justice to his work on Batgirl, because I think his real skill was in laying out sequences of action. Cass isn't much for talking, she does stuff, fights, moves, and Scott really captures that. Whether it's a fight between her and Shiva, or her barely stifling a yawn sparring with Spoiler, or moving from rooftop to rooftop, Scott captures the sense of how smoothly and easily she can do those things.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Broken Lance

90% of the movie takes place in a flashback, telling us why Joe (Robert Wagner) in the present is asking a picture of Spencer Tracy on a horse what he should do.

Tracy was a big cattleman, but his three sons from his first marriage feel unappreciated and treated less like sons than hired hands. So when dad gets a little out of control with a copper miner polluting the stream that runs through his land, it's only the youngest son, Joe, that offers to take the blame for the fight to save dad. Then the other sons won't agree to paying what's requested in damages so that Joe can appeal the verdict without the mine company contesting it, so the "6-7 months" in jail becomes 3 years.

So Joe is trying to decide whether to pursue vengeance, blaming them for his father's decline and eventual death. If Joe knew the eldest brother (played by Richard Widmark with his usual sneering disdain) disparaged his mother (the princess of a nearby Comanche tribe), the decision might be easier. I'm not sure if Widmark really cares that she's Comanche, so much as just that his dad remarried anyone, and he thinks Joe was the favorite.

However, Widmark knows Tracy doesn't take anyone speaking ill of her, even after he's hobbled by a stroke. And Widmark figures he has the upper hand, so he can afford to thumb his nose at the old man. His father makes his typical proclamation about what will or will not happen, tries to rise from the chair he's in and Widmark just smirks it off. It has all the impact of a gentle breeze or a child's tantrum.

It's a stark contrast to a conversation Spencer Tracy has with the Governor (E.G. Marshall) shortly before the trial over his actions at the mining camp. The Governor tells Tracy to keep Joe away from his daughter. Because Joe is half-Native American. Tracy doesn't say anything for a few moments, just lowers his head and projects this fury, silently, before he erupts. It's a good bit of acting. I know, big surprise, Spencer Tracy can act. The Governor is apologetic for his weakness, though unwilling to back away from it, which was surprising. He basically argues he is too old to change his views, despite the efforts he assures his old friend he's made.

Anyway, Tracy's good, Widmark pitifully conniving, Wagner seethes a lot.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What I Bought 6/6/2019 - Part 2

For all my griping, it could be worse. There are places in the floodplains around town that have been underwater since before the tornado came through. The water was actually receding a bit yesterday, but we're supposed to get rain today. At least the weather this week has been moderate by June in Missouri standards.

So today, we have one first issue, and one book being sad.

Black Cat #1, by Jed Mackay (writer), Travel Foreman (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - I ended up grabbing the Travel Foreman cover since there wasn't any difference in price. Definitely wasn't wasting my time with the J. Scott Campbell one.

Felicia attends some big art gala, and uses herself as a distraction so her team can steal a different painting. But Felicia pissed off the Thieves Guild (not clear if it's the same one Gambit is affiliated with, these folks dress like ninjas) so they try to kill her during the getaway, and one of the gala security team may or may not become a recurring antagonist. And the old guy thief the Black Fox shows up, as he hired her to steal the painting, and has some BIG PLAN.

There are also two short back-ups stories. One two-pager by Nao Fuji about Felicia robbing a jewelry exhibit with the help of three cats. One of which initially brings her a dead mouse instead. It's adorable.

The other story (by Mike Dowling as artist, with Mackay, Reber, and Delgado rounding out the creative team) is about the Black Fox cheating at cards against Dracula, in Miami decades ago. Then we find out he tipped off Ulysses Bloodstone as a way to keep Drac occupied and make a quick escape with money. This is also when both of the Fox' students, Felicia's dad and a a guy named Castillo, who I'm assuming will pop up in the present day somehow.

I don't really care about the Thieves' Guild, whether Gambit's involved or not, but I guess as a convenient source of people for Felicia to deal with in fight scenes, they'll suffice. Black Fox as the teacher of Felicia and her father is probably a retcon. But most of the appearances of his I've seen were the Micheline/Larsen ASM era, where he looked about 200 years old, and was surviving by the skin of his teeth.
I don't know if it's Reber's color work or just Foreman and Dowling's styles, but the art on their two sections really reminded me of present-day Howard Chaykin. Not entirely; neither of them is nearly as heavy with their linework as Chaykin. Maybe it's how much time everyone spends dressed in fancy gowns and suits. Chaykin loves drawing that kind of stuff. But there are times where I'm not sure if Foreman went really light on his lines, or Reber's colors just overwhelmed them, and it varies from panel to panel. When she first meets the Thieves' Guild lady, the linework out lining her nose and jawline is so light, it's like someone shot the panel with one of those soft focus lens (or the old put Vaseline on the lens trick). Then next panel, the jawline and nose are both more prominently defined. It's not bad, just kind of distracting.

The fight scene, though brief, was well-laid out and clear enough to follow easily, which was my biggest concern with Foreman as artist, since I wasn't terribly impressed with him on Immortal Iron Fist. Which, granted, was 10 years ago, but some artists progress, and some don't.

Giant Days #51, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - That's appropriately somber.

McGraw returns from his father's funeral, and Susan has no idea what to do to help. McGraw isn't much of a talker about his feelings, and so it's mostly awkward. Daisy's attempt at consolation ended up with McGraw consoling her, so whoops. However, Esther actually did win the essay contest with the submission she typed entirely on her phone, which means she has enough money to rent a cottage in the countryside for them all. And it's there, abruptly, that McGraw has his emotional breakthrough.

It's a sad issue at times, watching McGraw move in this very reserved manner. Sarin uses a scratchier line for McGraw, makes him look like he's just slightly vibrating with things he's keeping bottled up, and he seems to hold himself more upright, stiff all the time. Allison handles the issue well, people handling loss in different ways, or grief breaking through at times you least expect. You can't force it.
There's a subplot, leading to next issue, about Esther applying for a job with a bank and getting an interview. So now she's off to London for that. I feel like that fact she did write a prize winning essay on the 'Social History of Pubic Hair' should be significant. She clearly has the ability to write, and she's looking at banking? More stable, I guess, but yeesh. She also confused several of her friends by wearing a bright floral print dress while they were at the cottage. She said she wanted to not evoke 'The Infinite' this weekend (read: not be depressing), but I wonder if it's meant to be the start of a shift in Esther. Or a continuation of her trying to get ready to leave school.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Halloween (2018)

The thing I did not know about this movie going in, requiring Alex explain it to me, was that this movie proceeds from the premise there has only been one other Halloween movie. The first one. All the other Halloween movies, Halloween: H20 or whatever, either never occurred, or were in some alternate universe.

The reason this came up was I could not understand why everyone was treating Jamie Lee Curtis like she was nuts for training extensively with firearms, building a home with a high fence, floodlights, and security cameras everywhere, and a freaking hideyhole safe room under the kitchen island. She is convinced Michael Myers will escape and try to kill her again, and I'm sitting there going, "No shit. He's escaped like 7 times, and tried to kill her at least 4 of those times."

But no, according to this movie, Michael never escaped the psychiatric hospital after the first time he was apprehended. She's just been preparing like crazy for the last 40 years out of the belief an almost entirely unresponsive man will escape confinement and try to kill her again. Seems a little stranger that way, although I would not be surprised an experience like that in your teenage years would mess you up.

And it is interesting - and a little painful - to see Curtis play her as unable to put that fear aside for more than a few minutes at a time. Even when she knows her daughter doesn't want her around her granddaughter, and that her granddaughter invited her to a dinner in the hopes it would go well. She can't help excitedly talking about how she saw "the shadow" or the "specter" or something, or trying to give her daughter a gun while complaining about how bad the security of their home is.

I admit I don't get Michael's fixation on her, considering he seems willing to kill nearly any other person he comes across. Old man, podcasters, mechanics, sleazy "Nice Guy" teenager. It seems to me that he should either be killing just anyone, in which case Laurie and her descendants shouldn't matter more than anyone else. Or he should be locked on her and just ignore anyone who doesn't actively try to impede him. But this may be the only Halloween movie I've watched the whole way through, so there may be explanations I don't know.

Monday, June 10, 2019

What I Bought 6/6/2019 - Part 1

The week after the tornado, I hit a deer trying to get to work. The vehicle is still driveable, but that's one more thing I get to worry about once I actually get into the new apartment at the end of this week. I hate deer. Nothing that big should be that fucking stupid. You want to commit suicide, run into a tree, not in front of my car.

In other news, I found a few of the comics I was looking for while I was out of town last week. So let's hit the two most recent issues of this mini-series.

Domino: Hotshots #3 and 4, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon and Michael Shelfer (artists), Baldeon, Shelfer, and Craig Yeung (inkers, #4), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Oh great, who gave the Black Widow the Ultimate Nullifier?

The Hotshots jet avoids crashing because Outlaw uses a bit of that Space Hepatitis she got from the Celestial junk to boost the power on Stark's robots. So Buenos Aires doesn't get partially destroyed. There's some talking (and Diamonback makes out with Deadpool, which seems random) and then they continue on trying to track down Dr. Gavrie, only to run into a bunch of Sentinels modified by AIM. Meaning they look like giant AIM guys. Outlaw taps into more of the power and takes them apart, at which point the rest of the crew realizes they've been spreading around Space Hep A like crazy.
So, with Domino and her friends manifesting the power too, the tagalongs (Widow, Atlas Bear, the White Fox) decide maybe they should take the others into custody. To "help" them. Well, White Fox actually attacks Domino so try to contract Space Hep, which doesn't work. She gets booted off the team (to get mixed up in that War of Realms Agents of Atlas mini-series, I assume), and the rest resume chasing Gavrie, who is now calling himself Gavrie the Penitent. Domino channels a bit of what she's got and space kills him. And then everyone rejects the power, so that takes care of that, right? Except there was one other scientist chasing after Gavrie, and she's out to kill them.

You can always tell the point when Shelfer takes over art chores from Baldeon, because Outlaw's short pants get noticeably shorter. Although she used to rock a short skirt. Probably best she ditched that look before she started growing. I'm sure Deadpool would have approved, though. Shelfer's linework on faces seems more unsteady than Baldeon, especially characters further in the background. Seems to struggle to keep a given character's features looking the same as when they're the focus of the panel.

That said, he and Baldeon both have some fun with designs for showing the effect of the Celestial thing on the characters (I'm guessing Charalampidis has something to do with is as well. Maybe most of it). Domino gets the weird Celestial pattern imprinted on the spot over her eye. Outlaw looks pretty cool with glowy eyes shadowed by her hat.
That said, the pattern of this story seems off. I feel like every single issue so far has had Domino asking if Black Widow, White Fox, and Atlas Bear are willing to follow her orders and set aside nationalist concerns. Or her trying to assert her position as leader. I don't know if Simone's taking a more old-school approach - not quite the old exposition dump/recap, but trying to reinforce certain things - but it kind of makes Domino seem ineffectual, since she keeps saying it, and then five minutes later, White Fox is disobeying orders again. Of course, Domino sent her on her way, but we'll see if that sticks. I feel like we're supposed to see the other going along with it as them respecting Domino, but the way Natasha's written, it's almost more likely she's just amusing herself.

Also, where the hell is this thing about Diamondback coming off as a snob coming from? Is it the face she used to date Captain America? Are some of the old Serpent Society talking shit after they fell out with her over that?

And why did White Fox only try to pick up Space hep A from Domino? Diamondback and Deadpool are both also infected, but she ignores going after them? It's not like Domino's less likely to kill her than those two. Neither of them really does anything with their power either, so I don't know if they got rid of theirs or if it's still there or what.

I have to hope this thing will read better once it's complete, because it's paced oddly as it stands right now.

Friday, June 07, 2019

What I Bought 5/29/2019 - Part 3

I'm spending most of today on the road. South-central Illinois is not a visually interesting place to drive through. For today, we're looking at just one book, the final issue of a mini-series.

Coda #12, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist/color artist), Michael Doig (color artist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Pictured, that book my dad's dog tore up two weeks ago.

So the next big clash between good and evil, or world conqueror evil and everyday petty evil, is on. Hum had a failsafe in case the Murkrone hexed him, and it works. His plan to finally kill the ylf, and rob her of her magic fuel supply, does not. The ylf is harder to kill than Deadpool, and even more suicidal.

This works out, though, as the ylf provides the fuel for the one hope the other side has of defeating the Murkrone. And one of Hum's (rare) random acts of kindness actually comes back to help him out at the end. Or at least doesn't harm him, which is the best you can hope for sometimes. The day is saved, and now the survivors have to decide what to do. Hum is optimistic. I would be too, if I was walking around with a horseshoe the size of the one he apparently has stashed somewhere.

I'm actually surprised how much of a hopeful note the story ended on. If it isn't "happily ever after", it's only because the characters acknowledge happily ever after takes work to achieve. The wicked are destroyed, those who seek peace are granted it, and Serka can't quit her stupid bard. That last bit feels a little questionable, but I guess she figures he's learned his lesson and understands her a little better.
And she can always kick his ass if he tries anything like that again.

I like Bergara's design for Nag's final transformation. Wings are the obvious direction to go for a flying horse, and he went a different way, but one that still makes for an interesting image. The purple vomit from the mutant scorpion was just lovely. The two pages of narrow triangle panels as the Murkrone reaches her end, and Serka tries to rescue Hum. They make for panels that read very quickly, give that impression that they're happening almost concurrently. Bergara and Doig color Hum's panels in reds initially, shifting more towards yellow as he begins to fall. Serka's panels start in purple (or lavender maybe), and then shift to green. And eventually the two threads meet, and the green wins out, Serka's attempt succeeds.

Overall, I really liked this series. It had a lot of wit, and strange things in it. I love the expressiveness of the art and the colors. You could argue whether things tie up too neatly at the end, but Serka makes the point that the last page is taking place about 20 minutes after the battle ended. It's hard to say how things will turn out in the long run.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Man Without a Star

Kirk Douglas plays Dempsey, a cowhand who drifts from place to place, working with cattle on the open range. As soon as someone starts putting up barbed wire, though, he's off again. Bad experiences from Texas.

This time around, there are two complications. One is the Jeff, a youngster Dempsey met riding the rails. The kid wants to be a cowhand, but knows nothing, so Dempsey's been showing him the ropes. Jeff gets caught up in the need to prove himself, meaning he isn't inclined to leave. The other problem is their boss on the spread, Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain). She and Dempsey are attracted to each other. Not enough for Dempsey to stay and fight a range war for her, though. So Reed turns her attention to Jeff, and him being a dumb kid, she's got him on a string in no time.

Dempsey is stuck between paths. Run like he usually does when this trouble starts. Stay and try to save the kid. Fight the armed goons from Texas Bowman hired. Help the guys putting up wire, even though he hates the fence builders. Or just keep drinking. Well, the last one isn't liable to work, since the other lady in his life is just gonna keep squawking at him until he does something.

The other, smaller ranches in the area are the ones who start putting up wire first. But they do it because Bowman decides to get aggressive. Her previous foreman tried to keep her cattle to certain sections of the range, leaving the rest for those other ranchers. Didn't have to, but it was neighborly, kept the peace. The way Bowman figures it, there's nothing that says she can't bring in 15,000 cattle and run them over the entire range, so that's what she should do. To hell with neighborly.

Problem being, the movie won't quite commit to Bowman as a villain. She decides she should bring in hands who are less about working with cattle, and more about shooting people. Then she seems horrified when those guys start running around doing whatever they feel like, shooting and killing people. She can't control them, but doesn't really even try. Makes her look ineffectual, a foolish girl playing at range boss. Barbara Stanwyck's character in The Violent Men would have eaten Reed alive.

The best part of the movie was near the end, when the out-of-control killers declare that they will take care of those wire fences with a herd of cattle, Texas style. As opposed to stampeding cattle through a fence Omaha style, I suppose. Or Blazing Saddles style (meaning through the Vatican).

Leave it to Texans to think anything they do must have never been thought of by any other person anywhere else before.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

What I Bought 5/29/2019 - Part 2

I don't tend to think of myself as having a lot of stuff. Probably because I manage to keep most of it organized in bookshelves, unlike my dad. It hasn't reached the point where my stuff was just piled up wherever there was room, so it seems managable. Still, once I started actually moving all the longboxes, and finding enough boxes for all the books, things look a bit different. I need to learn to teleport.

For today's selections, we have one book reaching the midway point, and another on issue #2.

Ghost Tree #2, by Bobby Curnow (writer), Simon Gane (artist), Ian Herring and Becka Kinzie (colorists), Chris Mowry (letterer) - That's what happens when you stand in one place staring at your phone for too long.

Brandt is enjoying talking to the ghosts about their problems, and possibly helping a few of them.  His grandfather tries to give him some pointers, and to warn him about some of the risks. Which include demons, of a sort. The ghost with no face, called Zero, is supposed to be the one who drives the demons off, but it may have problems of its own. And Brandt receives a nighttime visit from the ghost of a girl he met the summer he spent here ten years ago. Arami doesn't know why she's still here, but maybe it has something to do with her suspicion that something's happening around here.

We're still in the early going, and things are so open at this point, I'm very interested in most everything that's happening. Not just how things work with the ghosts, and whether or not what Brandt is doing will help them move on. And not just what's going on with Zero, or how it might be resolved. Curnow brings back Brandt's cousin from issue 1, and brings her husband along for good measure. It's only two pages, but most of it is Mariko saying her husband can clean the gutters for grandma, and him absently saying, "I don't mind," while continuing to eat. Considering the decaying state of Brandt's marriage, and the fact his grandfather is most likely hanging around because he feels guilty for being so caught up in the tree he neglected his wife. It feels like a significant choice to portray it that way, but I'm not sure what it means yet.
The design for the demon is like a centipede crossed with a Xenomorph (the latter only because of the face within the mouth of the bigger face). Cool, though. For the most part, Gane is drawing regular people taking, but he does enough with the expressions, combined with Curnow's dialogue to make it work. Brandt's understated reaction to the samurai's tale, the poor guy with the melted face. Herring and Kinzie's colors help, as scenes all have their own background color. The parts with the demon are reddish hues, the conversation between the Brandt and Arami has that eerie green against a night backdrop. The conversations with the ghosts are in a placid, slightly washed out green, with a yellowish tint. It's not a warm color, but it's calm. Things are going OK when the colors are like that.

Smooth Criminals #6, by Kurt Lustgarten, Kirsten Smith, and Amy Roy (writers), Leisha Riddel (artist), Brittany Peer (color artist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer) - Brenda, pull your knee back, if your torn jeans lose any fabric, it could trigger an alarm!

The Net of Indra is being sent to new York abruptly, so the heist will have to happen sooner. Problems: Mia can't get through the motion sensors in the time allotted. The feds know she's after the Net and are trying to trick her mother into helping them. And Hatch knows she's after it, too. Basically, waaaaaay too many people know about this heist ahead of time. They actually get through the security system, despite Brenda's crush runs IT at the museum, but Hatch trips the alarms to flush Mia to the roof. His goons beat her up, he takes the prize, she and Brenda get arrested.

That went about as badly as possible, short of Mia or Brenda getting shot or blown up. I guess contact with Hatch could have given Mia an incurable disease. He strikes me as the kind of guy to contract incurable bone-itis and not warn people. Jerk. I can't imagine Mia's mother is actually stupid enough to believe the feds will honor their deal, so I'm guessing she just wanted to be reunited with her daughter so they can escape together. I hope she isn't that stupid. I mean, I know better than to trust the feds on something like that, just by virtue of having watched The Rock.

The interlude on the roof, where they stumble on the marriage proposal, was odd. I know they decide at the end of it the roof was a bad idea, and at the end of the issue it turns out, yes, running to the roof was a bad idea. I'm just not sure why they stumble on a marriage proposal. And yes, the guy's spiel was pretty awful. Do they want it to come from the heart, or have something ghostwritten? I hope that wasn't ghostwritten. If it was, he should demand his money back.
For two pages, as Mia's descending into the display while Brenda tries to keep T-Blue from figuring out what she's doing, Riddel lays out the pages to take advantage of the two being in radio contact to show things are happening simultaneously. The first page has two panels of Mia descending slowly, one above the other. They're sandwiched between panels of Brenda trying to distract T-Blue and then alert Mia. On the next page, as Mia gets spooked, one panel of Brenda is set so it overlaps the first and second panels of Mia on the page. She's in another location, but in touch with Mia, and her response carries between the span of moments in those two panels. It's something a bit out of the ordinary for Riddel, who usually does more conventional layouts. So it works well here as a brief change of pace.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester

Ben Reich is the head of Monarch, a corporation being steadily beaten down by D'Courtney, a rival group. Reich offered a merger, but believing his offer was rejected, decides to murder the Crai D'Courtney, and deal with his problem that way. Problem: Telepaths are a thing that exist in this future, and given that, it's going to be nearly impossible to pull off.

Reich has the resources and the will to try anyway, and he actually gets his man, though D'Courtney dies very confused and apologetic. At which point, the book turns into a cat-and-mouse game between Reich and the Police Prefect Lincoln Powell, one of the more powerful telepaths around. Powell's knows Reich is guilty, Reich knows he knows, but there still has to be proof. All that is fairly interesting, the tricks both sides try to use to uncover or obscure the truth, the desperate search by both sides for D'Courtney's daughter, the only witness.

Then the end turns into a mess. Powell is certain Reich is the kind of man who can shape history, for good or ill, and wants to make sure it's the former. Which leads to a whole thing where Reich becomes convinced he's the only thing real in the universe, and a bunch of jumble about how Reich somehow knew D'Courtney was his father and had abandonment issues.

The thing that particularly bothers me is at the very end. Throughout the whole book, Reich has been thinking of "Demolition", which will be his fate if he's caught. As it turns out, Demolition is telepaths entirely breaking down a person's psyche, then rebuilding over the course of a year or so. Which leads to Powell talking about what a waste the death penalty was, and if only all the non-telepaths could just understand each other like the telepaths do.

I wonder how much Reich is going to be the same man after it's all said and done. Or is he going to be something that's a mockery of a person? The whole reason Powell has for wanting the Demolition to be carried out is he thinks Reich can be of use to humanity. Which makes Powell's speech about how the "normals" just need to learn to see things like the telepaths ring a little hollow. Reich is a resource to Powell, and the fact Powell picks up some blast from Reich's rapidly crumbling psyche that he thinks of Powell as a friend doesn't convince me otherwise. I'm supposed to be convinced Reich is in anything resembling a typical frame of mind while telepaths tear his mind down?

'"No," Reich growled. "Look it over with me first. Why have murders failed? Because mind-readers patrol the world. What can stop a mind-reader? Another one. But no killer ever had the sense to hire a good peeper to run interference for him; or if he had the sense, he couldn't make the deal. I've made the deal."'

Monday, June 03, 2019

What I Bought 5/29/2019 - Part 1

Regular life update: A new apartment has been located, but I can't move in until the end of next week. Which would mean more commuting, but I'm out of town on a training this whole week. So that helps.

In the meantime, let's look at some comics from last month. Both on their third issue. Unfortunately, we're going old school with these reviews. No, I'm not going back to handing out a score on a 5-point scale. That was pointless and by the time I'm handing out 3.78/5, entirely meaningless. What I mean is, we're going without any scanned panels. Sorry! Maybe I'll come back and add some in later.

Dial H for Hero #3, by Sam Humphries (writer), Joe Quinones and Arist Deyn (artists), Jordan Gibson and Arist Deyn (colorists), Dave Sharpe (letterer) - It looks like the bottom of Mr. Thunderbolt's hood projects out from his jaw like a couple of horns. Or a goatee, maybe.

Miguel and Summer have reached Central City, hoping to find the cop who took the H-Dial. Or, enlist the aid of the Flash to help them. The second one proves more difficult than you'd expect. That's Barry Allen for ya, never around when needed. The cop, despite (because of?) some encouraging from the The Operator, uses the dial to become some Vertigo imprint-style character. Miguel falls prey to her power of nostalgia, but Summer hates her past, and uses the dial to turn into an angry punk teen character and they fight it out.

So Robby Reed's the Operator, but he considers Mr. Thunderbolt his responsibility. So I'm still not sure if he's good, per se, because I feel like he's still kind of manipulating Summer and Miguel to deal with this for him. He encouraged the officer to not feel bad about wanting to use the Dial again. Which could just be him being an understanding fellow, because he's been there. Or it could be him wanting her to use it so the teens could track her down and retrieve the dial.
I'm guessing the "Bluebird" portions were drawn by Quinones, imitating artwork from, I don't know, Morrison's Doom Patrol, maybe? Vertigo stuff is outside my wheelhouse. Deyn drew and colored the flashbacks to Summer's past as a child dragged into the pageant scene by her domineering mother. The art feels more manga inspired in the faces at least, and the coloring is lower contrast than in the sections Gibson colors. The memory flattening out over time, losing the smaller details maybe.

I don't know which of them drew the parts where she transforms into a hero, Lo Lo Kick You (the first K is backwards). The style reminds me of Jamie Hewlett, in that Lo Lo looks a bit like a character from Gorillaz. The sections where Bluebird has the upper hand, the panel borders are wavier, and the layouts are more all over the place. Lo Lo's pages have more straightforward layouts, and sharp, thin lines for borders.

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #3, by Saladin Ahmed (writer), Minkyu Jung (artist), Juan Vlasco (inker), Ian Herring (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - The tubes are an odd touch. Like pieces of some machine, but also the border of a classical painting.

Kamala and her parents are transported to the alien world, into the castle of the "Rightly Ruling King". As you might expect, anyone who has to proclaim they are the rightful ruler, really isn't. Kamala goes exploring, and finds a prisoner being tortured in the dungeon. She rescues him, and they and her parents attempt to flee in some aircraft, which then gets blown up.

It looks like, if the legend is accurate, the one who originally saved the planet was Carol Danvers at some point. Unless there are time travel hijinks involved. Especially considering the pictures show the hero flying off, which isn't in Kamala's repertoire. Question is, did these guys make a legitimate mistake, going strictly by the symbol on Kamala's uniform and not noticing she and Carol don't look much alike? Or is this a deliberate thing? The King not wanting the people looking to anyone other than him for salvation or leadership. So he gets the "wrong" hero, she fails, the populace dismisses the legend. Cast off your old gods for the new.

Other than that, I'm curious to see what happens when Kamala's parents are actually mixed up in all this. So far, they've warned her she was getting to enjoy the hero treatment too much (accurate), and became extremely worried about her rushing back into their quarters with a shirtless alien boy. I did laugh when Kamala's mom insists they'll ride next to each other, and Abu can ride next to the alien boy.
But, we're three issues in, and it feels like this particular story has barely gotten off the ground. They finally made it to the oh-so-important alien world, and immediately figured out something isn't right, but I have no idea where anything is going from there. Which could be bad, could be good. I just can't say I'm terribly impressed at this point.

Jung seems to be taking a different approach with Kamala's shapeshifting than past artists. Usually when she gets bigger, her overall proportions remain the same (except if she makes one fist or foot really big). Jung seems to have Kamala trying to bulk up more. There's two different times in this this issue where she gets a bit taller, but a lot broader in the shoulders and the torso. I don't know if there's meant to be a reason for that. Does it make Kamala stronger to do that? Is she actually increasing her available muscle mass?