Friday, August 30, 2019

What I Bought 8/23/2019

Every time I go on a road trip for work, I tell myself I'm going to use the time in hotels to work on creative projects. Sketch or write, something. Then I almost never do it. By the time I get to the hotel, I just want some food, and then to sit and watch TV or read or something.

In other news, my allergies have kicked in with a vengeance, much to the amusement/concern of my coworkers. They spent most of yesterday saying I looked like I'd been in a fight, or that I needed drugs. Everyone trying to give me pills. I thought peer pressure to do drugs ended with high school!

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #6, by Saladin Ahmed (writer), Minkyu Jung (penciler/inker), Juan Vlasco (inker), Ian Herring (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - When you show the new costume assembling itself like that along all those seams, it really starts to remind me of the New 52 costumes. Boo.

Kamala's dad has a very rare new disease with no current cure. That's a lot to absorb, but he doesn't want everyone to be sad and encourages her to go meet with Nakia and Bruno for study group adventures. They don't get far into that before Deathbringer, the lame villain she beat off-panel in issue 1 calls her out, with a busload of hostages. But it's night now, so he has actual powers of. . . I'm not sure. He makes a big darkness bubble and strange monsters rise from the ground. Kamala's new costume tells her his mask powers all this, and she uses the costume to break the mask. Then Iron Man shows up and tells her he has people working on a cure for her dad's condition, but nobody's got anything yet.
Deathbringer makes a point of telling us he doesn't have powers during the day, but at night it's a different story. Except the sky before and after Kamala fights him is colored orange (see the middle panel above), like it's close to sunset, but the sun clearly hasn't gone down yet. So the question is, screw-up or intentional? Kamala says the mask stores solar energy during the day and creates these things at night, that it isn't magic. That Deathbringer is trying to act like he's some dangerous magical being, at least at night, but it's not true. But again, it wasn't night yet when they're fighting. So it shouldn't be doing anything. And why would the mask store energy during the day, but not be able to use it then?

The rest of the issue feels like the pretty bog-standard thing you get in comics when the main character learns a friend or loved one is sick. But the Deathbringer fight detracted from it. There's supposed to be a point in there about how it isn't a sign someone's out to get you when multiple bad things happen all together, but I don't see that as much comfort or reassurance. Just let Kamala spend some time with her friends, or her brother.

Smooth Criminals #8, by Kurt Lustgarten, Kirsten Smith, Amy Roy (writer), Leisha Riddel (artist), Joanna LaFuente and Goncalo Lopes (colorists), Ed Dukeshire (letterer) -The Shadow Men are back. For the first time, for the last time.

I was pretty sure this was a 12-issue mini-series, but maybe not, because this issue says "The End" on the last page, and it sure as hell has the rushed air of something ending faster than intended. We're straight into Mia and Brenda trying to steal the Net of Indra back from Hatch, with full support of the feds. None of the prep work or information gathering we saw with the first attempted heist. No banter between them and the feds. Just straight to it. They get in, trigger an alarm, and then have to fight Hatch. Who injects himself with something and turns into Red Hulk for a couple pages until changing back and starting to die?

Well, this is set in the 1990s, he probably got into Mark McGwire's locker.

Hatch spills the beans about the whole freezing thing, then tries to take Brenda hostage to win, only to get suckered by Mia whispering sweet nothings. Man, and his fiance was right there, too. She's gonna be pissed, assuming Hatch lives long enough for it to matter. Apparently turning into Hulks is bad for your health in this universe. Brenda and T-Blue join the FBI as computer experts, Mia and her mom sail off to the Caribbean. And that's it.
You know, if you're going to try and cram 5 issues worth of stuff into one 22-page issue, maybe don't waste 2 of those  pages on Brenda's extended Reservoir Dogs dream sequence. Christ. I mean, Riddel had to fit the fight with Hatch Hulk into two 16-panel pages. It actually works pretty well, especially Mia's combo rush at the end, but I wouldn't have minded giving it some more space. Maybe if I cared more (at all) about Tarantino I would have cared more. It was a funny bit on the initial read, because I didn't know then how vital those pages were going to end up being.

At least give us the final fate of Hatch's two henchmen! They seemed like halfway decent guys. Or at least not complete scumbags. They understand their boss is a freaking egotistical dork. Still, at least we got an ending. I've pretty much abandoned hope of ever seeing the end of Copperhead or The Seeds.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

People Will Talk

A young woman (Jeanne Crain) faints in an anatomy lecture and testing at a nearby clinic reveals she's pregnant. After she tries unsuccessfully to kill herself by shooting herself, Dr. Praetorius (Cary Grant) tells her it was a mix-up. Her results were switched with someone else. They weren't, but he tells her that. Then she flees the hospital, he sets out to find her, things progress from there.

There's also a subplot about another doctor at the university Praetorius teaches at trying to investigate his past because he doesn't approve of his methods, and who thinks he's got something via the mysterious Shunderson, an older gentleman who rarely speaks, and is almost always at Praetorius' side.

The movie plays with the idea that Praetorius has a dark side, based on the descriptions of his work Professor Elwell gets from Praetorius' old housekeeper, plus Shunderson's behavior. He moves very stiffly, his arms not involved in the process at all. He can send an angry dog cowering under the icebox just by looking silently at it. It all seems rather troubling.

There was a Dr. Pretorius in the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein, so I don't know if the movie or the play it's based on were trying to play on that bit of knowledge or not. I was remembering the 1990s The Mask cartoon (based on the Jim Carrey movie based on the Dark Horse comics), and how he had an archfoe named Dr. Praetorius. And Cary Grant has that sort of easy charm where he can doubletalk  or reveal nothing, and someone doesn't necessarily care. A guy like that could get away with a lot.

So my interest was mostly around the mystery of what he's hiding. The romance between Grant and Crain was largely irrelevant, in large part because I didn't see a lot of chemistry. Even Deborah admits that it seems ridiculous she fell in love that fast, and yes, I'd be inclined to agree. It's hard to feel as though Praetorius is pursuing her because he's in love, more that he's trying to stop her from doing harm to herself when she learns he lied to her later.

I think my dad enjoys it mostly because Walter Slezak gets to play a nice guy for once (he plays a German physics professor that's good friends with Praetorius) instead of some sleazy goon or seedy character. I've seen descriptions of the movie as a romantic comedy, and while there aren't a lot of comic bits, the ones there are mostly involve Slezak and Grant busting each others' chops.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What I Bought 8/16/2019 - Part 3

I'm in one of those rare times where I actually have an abundance of things to post about, between comics, baseball games, old movies, my story, and whatnot. I'm sure this time will pass all too soon, though. Until then, let's get to the last book from the stuff I bought two weeks ago.

Giant Days #53, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Leave it to Susan to put her fist at the wrong angle for the bump. Back of the hand parallel to the ground, not perpendicular! She's the Dave Batista of Giant Days' Evolution. Which would make Esther HHH and Daisy, Randy Orton? That can't be right. I despise Randy Orton. Hang on, let me spend 27 hours in a dark room working on this.

It's the final week of classes. Esther has entered some fugue state of preparation, while Susan seems mostly calm, probably because she has a lot more schooling to go. Daisy is freaked out over the rash of bizarre pranks that have descended upon her peaceful hall. The pranks are the result of that rude girl Coralie, who simply couldn't tolerate that one time Daisy asked her to be considerate of others. Unfortunately, Daisy attempts to go full police state after ingesting Polish flu medicine to catch Coralie in the act and succeeds only in ruining her final week at school. Which was precisely Coralie's plan, as she's just a troll. Her win is for anyone to waste their time playing her game. I suppose that's a good lesson to learn, although if a person replaces all the kitchen fixtures with cardboard, you really have to do something. That's ruining the living experience for all the other students.

I'm really hoping there's some form of comeuppance for her next issue. Really, I was hoping that as she walked away gloating either Esther or Susan would come running in with a Superman punch to the jaw, Roman Reigns style. Probably Esther. Susan's diminished lung capacity would probably keep her from doing that sort of coordinated running, jumping, and hitting.

I'm really all in on the wrestling references in this post. Just seems appropriate.
I love the complete shift in Daisy's look once she gets on those flu pills. Frazzled Daisy is always impressive, just for how much of a mess she looks like, with her hair and limbs allover, but doped up Daisy is something else. The dark shadows and increased contrast around her face, the scowling in doorways with glasses you can't see her eyes through. The weird hair and '90s hacker look.

Two other bits I enjoyed were the aghast look on Saffy's face when Daisy takes those pills (and the bizarre little green rectangles as Daisy drifts into the Night World), and when Susan and Esther are getting ready for the dance. We see Susan fighting to bring her hair to some order in one panel, then Esther takes over and in three panels, she's got Susan looking like a 40s film actress. Didn't even distract Susan from helping Daisy realize she might be Cora's target. Not that it helped Daisy any.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Return of the Annual Summer Ballpark Trip

Per tradition, my dad and I made the trip to St. Louis for the Cardinals' Hall of Fame celebration. The trip out was straightforward, with no significant traffic snarl-ups. The weather was tremendous - upper 70s in the afternoon is atypical for Missouri in August, but welcome.

This year's induction class was Mort Cooper, Scott Rolen, and Jason Isringhausen. Rolen is easily the player I have the fondest memories of, between his hitting and superb defense at third. Pity he couldn't avoid injuring his shoulders in collisions with other players (Alex Cintron in the 2002 NLDS, and Hee-Seop Choi in 2005). Cooper played well before my time, and Isringhausen always felt like a highwire act trying to close out games, even though he was a major upgrade over the closers the Cards trotted out in the late '90s (I'm having bad flashbacks of Jeff Brantley and Ricky Bottalico). I imagine most fans feel like that about their team's closer. Maybe not Yankee fans when it came to Mariano Rivera, although you could tell me they jumped all over him each time he gave up a hit and I'd believe it.

My dad noted not as many of the past inductees showed up this year, but given Bob Gibson and Lou Brock are both having health issues, and Whitey Herzog's in his 80s (and doesn't have a connection to any of three inductees), maybe not a surprise.

The Cards were up against the Rockies. St. Louis started Dakota Hudson, while the Rockies sent out Chi Chi Gonzalez, who I knew nothing about, but his numbers weren't good. He proved they were an accurate representation of his skills. In the bottom of the first, he walked Dexter Fowler, then gave up a single to Kolten Wong. Mike Shildt has decided to try the revolutionary tactic of putting the hitters with the best on-base percentages at the top of his lineup, instead of Tommy Edman or the desiccated corpse of Matt Carpenter. Paul Goldschmidt advanced both of them with a sac fly to center, then Marcell Ozuna drove them in with a single to left. 2-0 Cardinals.

Hudson gave up a leadoff double to Daniel Murphy in the second, but Murphy didn't get any further. Murphy is out of the Jeff Bagwell school of batting stances; legs set widely apart and kind of crouching. He's not as extreme as Bagwell, who I saw described once as looking like he was seated on a toilet, but Murphy's at least halfway there.

Edman walked to start the bottom of the second, then Harrison Bader hit a homer to the left field stands, 4-0 Cardinals. After that Gonzalez settled down for a few innings, retiring 9 of the next 10 batters, but the damage was done. Other than Murphy and Ryan McMahon drawing consecutive walks with one out in the 4th, the Rockies never threatened against Hudson again. And after those walks, he got Ian Desmond to ground the ball back to him for a double play. Hudson doesn't strike out many batters, and he walks too many, but he can get ground balls, and the Cards have a good infield defense.

The wheels fell off for Gonzalez in the 5th, as he walked Fowler, then let him advance to second on a wild pitch. Wong popped out, but then Goldschmidt and Ozuna walked, loading the bases. Gonzalez was done, and in came DJ Johnson. Paul DeJong hit a liner to right, which Charlie Blackmon caught but let fall out of his glove. Fowler scored, although Ozuna was forced out at second. Second time in the game DeJong got on-base at Ozuna's expense. Somehow Blackmon dropping the ball was not scored as an error. The fuck?!

I mentioned to my dad earlier I had no idea what constituted a balk (he said he wasn't sure the umps knew either), and I really don't know what counts as an error anymore. Anyway, even after Johnson walked Molina to load the bases again, Edman popped up to end the inning, so the Cards scored only one run. 5-0 StL.

Hudson left after 6 innings, and they brought in Tyler Webb. He struck out the first two, then gave up a ground-rule double and a single. Fowler did a good job cutting off the single to keep Desmond at third. Shildt decided not to mess around and brought in Giovanny Gallegos, the team's best reliever. He struck out Yonathan Daza looking, and when Daza threw his bat down, he was immediately ejected.

In the bottom of the 7th, Goldschmidt his a solo homer to make it 6-0, then Ozuna hit a single and advanced to third on another single by Molina. Edman popped out again to waste the opportunity. But the Rockies went down in order in the 8th and 9th, so it was fine.

In some ways, this might have been the dullest of these summer games I attended. It wasn't against a division rival. It didn't feature any particularly outstanding performances, like Alex Reyes' first major league start in 2016, or Ichiro setting the professional league hits record in 2015. There wasn't any tension about whether the Cards could hold on or come from behind. It was kind of over by the end of the second, which is fine. It was a relaxing viewing experience.

Other notes:

- Right before Goldschmidt's home run, Wong fouled a ball off his foot and had to leave the game. It's not fractured, but had to be helped off the field. Matt Carpenter finished his at-bat, then stayed in to play third, while Edman moved to second. Last year, Wong got hit on the forearm when Wade Miley tried to pick him off first base, except his first baseman wasn't there to catch the ball. He had to leave the game at the end of that inning. Maybe Wong should sit out these games in the future.

- It's "Players' Weekend", and so in addition to the hideous all white uniforms the Cardinals were wearing, their jerseys also had their nicknames on the back. These fall into two categories. One is the shorter version of their name. Dexter Fowler is "Dex", Ian Desmond is "Desi". The others are the more random stuff. Rockies' catcher Tony Wolters had "Paper Emoji" as his nickname. I think he had the actual emoji on his jersey, but that was how it was announced over the PA. Tony "Paper Emoji" Wolters. Charlie Blackmon was "Chuck Nazty", and I couldn't see the "t" originally so I saw "Chuck Naz-" and was like, whoa, really? Maybe avoid nickname words that start with N-A-Z.

- Wong's nickname was "TheWongOne808". He must have thought they wanted his e-mail account password instead.

- My dad stated these are probably these guys' baseball nicknames, but not their actual nicknames. I pointed out you couldn't have 15 guys on a team with the word "Stinky" on the back of their jersey. Then we started rattling off nicknames. Stumpy, Badger, etc.,

- Twice when Fowler came to bat, they played "Hakuna Matata" for his walk-up music. The time in between, they played "Hard Knock Life". I don't know.

- Tommy Edman has some version of "Feeling Good". I'm not sure it's Nina Simone's (probably is), but at least it isn't Michael Buble's. They have a version of this song on The Saboteur, and it was my favorite song to cruise around with on that game.

- The people next me to didn't show up until the top of the 4th. The people on the other side of my dad didn't arrive until the bottom of the 4th. What the hell is even the point at that stage?!

- The lady sitting behind us opined that Paul DeJong would be the most interesting person on the team to have a conversation with, not even about baseball, just anything. Then later she got mad about Ozuna for, I guess, not running hard enough on the Molina single that moved him to third. The throw was fairly close, but I didn't think it was that big a deal. 

- My dad hated the design for the hats they were giving away. When we discussed going to the game a few weeks ago, to make sure we were both still going, he described them as ugly. Then he amended that to, "Ugly to me, you might like them." I'm not sure if I should be insulted by that.

- They aren't very good looking, that's for sure. On the way out of the stadium, I decided they look like snowy reception on a TV screen. St. Louis Cardinals meets The Outer Limits. "We can control the horizontal and the vertical, but not at the same time, which is why Hudson walks so many guys."

- On the drive home, somewhere west of 270, we got into some discussion of hemorrhoids, or rather, my dad started on about this, and how people used to use Preparation H on their faces before there was botox. He said he couldn't understand who thought that was a good idea, but botox is a literally toxic substance they inject into their face to kill cells, so is that really any better? I can not for the life of me remember how we got onto that topic.

Monday, August 26, 2019

A Dark Trail - Chapter 5

One floor up, Calvin and Cassanee continued searching offices. They didn't find anything living, but every office had at least some furniture and supplies. Nothing useful had turned up yet, but Calvin kept stopping to scan any documents left lying around.

Flipping through a spiral notebook, he paused on one page, eyebrows raised. Cass noticed, but waited for him to explain.

"It says, 'let this end' over and over again. The tiny handwriting looks familiar. . ."

Calvin folded and stuffed the papers into his pack and joined her in the hallway. They'd checked everywhere, except for whatever lay behind the double doors that stood at the opposite end of the room from the stairs. They moved towards them, checking the offices they passed again, just in case.

They leaned up against the walls on either side, each taking hold of one doorknob. The knobs turned easily and the doors swung open from a gentle push. Peering in, they saw another office, notable mostly for being larger than the others. Some executive's, probably. A more impressive, sturdier looking desk, with two low chairs on their side, and a taller, much nicer chair on the other side, its back to the window. A walnut bookshelf in one corner, a circular tray with dusty glasses and a bottle of Scotch on a low cabinet along the opposite wall.

Stepping further into the room, Cassanee paused and sniffed the air, picking up the ozone scent you smell after a thunderstorm, but couldn't find a source. Calvin tapped her shoulder and pointed to their right. There was a faint outline, like the one he'd seen reflected in the window earlier. It resolved itself into a person. A thin, almost skeletal gentleman, wispy white hair standing out from the sides of his head. He wore a tuxedo that hung loosely on his frame, a fiddle in his left hand. He tilted his head and regarded them with an unreadable expression.

The lights in the room flickered to life, followed by the ones in the hall, the light rising in intensity until it was almost painful. Calvin felt the hair on his scalp and arms rise, his hands clenching the bat even more tightly, all the while his mind was telling him to go. Cass' eyes were narrowed and he could tell she was tense, ready for any sign of danger, but the man did nothing. Calvin decided to try talking.

"Um, hi. You wouldn't be able to tell us anything about this place, would you?"

The man said nothing. Merely placed the fiddle beneath his chin, and raised the bow. Calvin wasn't sure what that meant - he bet nothing good - but Cassanee darted forward and ripped the instrument from the bony hands.

That, at least, produced a change in expression. The man's eyes and mouth drooped in dismay. He extended his now empty hand, trying to reclaim the fiddle. Cass easily stepped out of reach, holding it behind her.

"Just tell us what you'r - " Her statement was cut off as lightning arced from long fingers and coursed through her. Her head snapped back with enough force the hood of the her cloak - the one Pollock thought must be glued to her head - actually fell back. Her mouth moved soundlessly, unable to draw a breath to exclaim.

For the first few moments, Calvin stood rooted in place, too surprised to move. By the time he broke out of it, rushing forward in what still felt like slow-motion, the man had ceased his attack. Cass was falling to the ground and he was reaching for his fiddle again, expression almost back to what it was before.

Calvin slammed into his side, bat held in front of him like a bar. He drove the man into the wall with all the force he could muster, hoping to hear some sound of pain. A cry of pain or a grunt, a bone snapping, something showing this wasn't futile. Instead the man looked at him curiously. As though he couldn't understand what was going on. He raised one hand again.

Calvin rolled to his left, towards the windows, electricity just missing as it surged forth, scorching the carpet in its path. Calvin stumbled back, grabbing the cabinet to avoid falling on his ass. The tray with the alcohol and glasses sat next to his left arm. He swept it forward, flinging the items at the man, who raised his arms to shield his face. The bottle shattered, dousing him in what Calvin hoped was high proof booze, while Calvin got to his feet and darted by, grabbing the tray as he went.

He scooped the fiddle from where the man dropped it when he shielded himself, tossed it and the tray in his pack, then gathered Cass' unconscious body. She was still breathing, at least. Calvin scrambled for the doorway, but glancing over his shoulder, saw the man had cleared his vision and was raising his left arm again. Calvin was so focused on that he almost ran into one of the doors before he started looking where he was going, but managed to avoid with a spin and dive sideways out the door. He twisted to land on his back and not let Cass' head hit the floor. The bat slipped from his sweaty fingers and made a muffled clatter as it landed on the carpet.

He heard two sounds as he landed. One, the crunch of the fiddle under him. The other, the "fwoosh" of a flame being ignited. The lights in the hall dimmed, though they didn't go out entirely, and there was a bright orange glow from the office. Calvin rose to a seated position and double-checked Cass' heart and breathing hadn't stopped in the last five seconds (fifteen? thirty? how long since he checked last?). They hadn't. His own breath was coming in short, rapid inhales.

Thump. He raised his head back to the open double doors.

Thump. A footstep. Thump. Another, the interval between them shortening. Thump.

Cass groaned softly as Calvin slid backwards on his butt. He couldn't seem to get his feet under him, but they could at least push him down the hall. He scuttled past an open office and quickly rolled his cargo onto the floor. He closed the door quietly and used his grip on the doorknob to pull himself to his feet. His legs couldn't decide between running in any direction as fast as they could and giving way again. The odd gentleman stepped into view.

His sleeves were burned away, and the hair on the right side of his head was singed to nothing. The stench from that was just delightful. Otherwise, he seemed unharmed. His eyes locked onto Calvin, who made a show of rattling the knob as if trying to open a locked door. He released it and stepped back, hands up in a non-threatening gesture.

"OK, so good news/bad news. Good news, I have your fiddle - "

Then he was diving for another corner as the stranger raised both hands and unleashed a charge that surged down the hall like a wave of writhing snakes. Calvin's left foot spasmed and an unpleasant tingle ran up the entire leg, leaving it numb. He rose and hobbled to the end of the hall, to the window where the raven had been earlier. Turning, he saw the Electric Man at the corner, watching him.

"You know," Calvin gasped out, "I was going to say this next bit was bad news, but to hell with that. I crushed your stupid fiddle the second time you tried to electrocute me. He pulled it from his pack by its broken neck, and held it out as proof.

Then he tossed it out the window.

"Ooops."

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #76

"New Gym Teacher's Weird," in Batman Beyond Unlimited #5, by Adam Beechen (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist), Saida Temofonte (letterer)

In late 2010, Adam Beechen and Ryan Benjamin did a 6-issue Batman Beyond mini-series, focused on a mysterious new version of Hush who was going around killing Terry's enemies. Once it ended, they immediately started an ongoing series with the same creative team, only for that to be canceled after 8 issues because of the New 52 reboot. Then we got Batman Beyond Unlimited, which was really an anthology of stuff that had been released digitally first, then in physical copies later. You had Beechen and Norm Breyfogle on Batman Beyond, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs on the future Justice League, and J.T. Krul and Howard Porter doing Superman Beyond.

Eventually they released a trade of just the Batman Beyond stuff, 10,000 Clowns, which is what I really was interested in. The idea is that one member of a Jokerz gang has figured out how to organize and gather all the different sects from across the country and bring them to Gotham, then drugged them until they're a mass of suicide bombers.

I'm unclear on why there would be people devoted to the Joker in Opal or Star City, but I guess we're rolling with it.

Beechen keeps a lot of other plots and subplots going simultaneously. Some of them are good; the two-parter where we learn Hush didn't kill Mad Stan after all, turns out to be a good reminder other problems aren't sitting still while the Jokerz gather. Some not so much; Beechen introduces a new Vigilante, who turns out to be the guy who killed Terry's father, and his last name is "Chill". Like, Joe Chill, get it? *facepalms*

Norm Breyfogle gives each group of Jokerz their own distinct look, while maintaining the greasepaint clown makeup look. It helps carry the impression of dealing with a bunch of loosely affiliated groups. Bruce Wayne looks like an older man who has tried to stay in shape, but is losing that war. The Joker King has a distinct look. Probably falls into the same trap people say a lot of George Perez' designs do (where he's the only one who can draw it well, which is a dumb complaint, like it's George Perez or Norm Breyfogle's fault other artist aren't as good as they are). There are a lot of fight scenes, and Breyfogle and Elder make those look good. It's easy to follow the progression of the action, how what happens in one panel leads into the next.

Friday, August 23, 2019

What I Bought 8/16/2019 - Part 2

Unless problems arise, my dad and I are out tomorrow attending the Cardinals' annual Hall of Fame game. Will they manage to win over the pretty lousy Colorado Rockies? Will Mike Shildt insist on playing utility infielders in the outfield instead of the actual, goddamn outfielders he has on the fucking roster? Will we be unfortunate enough to have to watch Michael Wacha "pitch"? Check back in for answers to these questions and more some time next week!

In the meantime, here's two other Marvel comics from last week.

Black Cat #3, by Jed MacKay (writer), Travel Foreman (artist), Michael Dowling (flashback artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - I don't think you should attach a creepy other-dimensional eyeball directly to your skin, Felicia.

Xander got his special stone back and is out of control. Felicia's guys are completely outclassed, and so are all of the magical defenses in Dr. Strange's house. However, since we're apparently defining magic as 'mucking with quantum probabilities through force of will to produce unexpected results', and Felicia has a power - or technological implant? I'm unclear on which it is - that also messes with probabilities, all Xander's spells turn harmless as they reach her. So he gets his lights put out, Felicia and the others escape with the deed to Manhattan (still not sure why Strange would have that), and the ghost dog will have some 'splaining to do.

The whole gag with the ghost dog thinking Felicia is Silver Sable seemed kind of pointless, since I'm pretty sure the snakes know who she is, but the dog being so happy about getting deputized into the Wild Pack was endearing. Foreman has Xander swing between sneeringly arrogant and creepily deranged effectively. MacKay seems to be giving him enough space on the page to tell things clearly, and Foreman and Reber are doing a good job. I especially liked the visual of the giant magic hammer turning into cupcakes right before it landed on Felicia's head. Actually, Felicia gets a few panels in there where she looks a little deranged, and I can't decide if she's trying to for intimidating, or she was simply really excited once she figured out she had an edge against this guy.
I don't know what the Fox is intending for them to steal from Yancy Street, and I feel like Felicia should be a little more concerned that he's playing her, but I'm still intrigued. 

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #47, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Madeline McGrane (trading card artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - They even had Doreen pop the knuckle spike to complete the Wolverine homage.

Everyone is concerned they can't find Brain Drain. Doreen's been getting strange photos of a dark room for a few days, and there's a whole spiel about how Brain has been subtly altering the code of the pixels in the photos as a way to send a message that I didn't follow beyond what I just told you. The message is only that Melissa Morbeck is back, and she's followed up kidnapping by exposing Doreen's secret identity to the world. Then she blows up her house. Then a bunch of low-tier villains attack Doreen and her friends while Melissa makes a sales pitch to a bunch of actual, dangerous villains to team-up and kill Squirrel Girl.

I can't help noticing Boomerang is one of the villains attacking Doreen, despite his sort-of reformed act in Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, North went to the trouble of trying to reform Kraven, and Nick Spencer basically handwaved that as, "Nope, Kraven decided it was too hard and went back to trying to make Spider-Man kill him." I gotta think this is tit-for-tat. I mean, there are hundreds of lame-ass, low-tier villains North could have picked - Stilt-Man's always a good option - but he picked Boomerang. Well, that means a bad day for Fred, since I'm pretty sure Doreen and Co. are not in any mood to put with his crap right now. I mean, the media plastered that picture of Doreen with ice cream on her face all over the airwaves, hasn't she suffered enough?
Apparently not, since I'm posting it here. It does make for a nice contrast. Living the best life, clocking Thanos in his stupid purple face, then scarfing ice cream.

Anyway, there's a lot of talking in this issue, even for this comic. Between the time spent explaining the whole secret code Brain sent them, and then Melissa's big sales pitch. Because super-villain team-ups always work so well. It's laying the ground floor for the big finale, though I don't see how all those villains agree to work together. Also, isn't Taskmaster a little out of his league, hanging out with Dr. Doom and Dormmamu?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Naked Sun - Isaac Asimov

I've been working my way through some of Asimov's stories that I own and haven't read in years. I went through the first three Foundation books the last two weeks for the first time in a decade, and now I'm on to the Robots series. I don't think I've read The Naked Sun in closer to 15 years. It was before I this blog existed, I know that.

Compared to the Foundation books, the Robots series are more whodunits, with the main character is an Earth detective, Elijah Bailey and his partner, R. Daneel Olivaw. "R" standing for "robot. I've never read Caves of Steel, their first adventure together, but I think Bailey is more comfortable with Daneel here. He doesn't like robots in general, and it really caught my attention that he calls every other robot he meets "boy". Considering that robots are not counted as living beings, and treated as tools or servants, that choice of word was interesting. I'm assuming deliberate on Asimov's part. I don't think I noticed it the first time I read this, at least not enough to be a memory that stuck with me over the years.

In this case, Elijah is requested to solve a murder on Solaria, an entire world with only 20,000 people on it, each living in a vast estate almost entirely alone, except for their robots. The Solarians have no experience with murder, so they need help. Bailey had solved a murder involving a Spacer before, so he gets sent, with orders from Earth to observe closely for weaknesses. Since Solaria produces the most advanced robots, the other 49 Spacer worlds are watching them closely, which is how Daneel gets sent in, as he's from Aurora. The mystery revolves around the loopholes in the Three Laws of Robotics, but Elijah struggles more with how different Solarian society is from Earth. It makes some of the conclusions he'd normally draw, the motives people might have, seem much more suspect. The way things might work on Earth, is not how they work on Solaria.

Asimov spends a lot of time on that, the extremes the two worlds have gone to, and how peculiar each of them seems to the other. Elijah can scarcely believe the Solarians just go outside, beneath their sun, like its no big deal, since everyone on Earth lives underground (hence "caves of steel", I assume). The Solarians are varying degrees of repulsed at the idea of actually being in the physical presence of another person. One guy has to leave the room because he's growing ill at the thought he might be breathing air exhaled by another person. Earth has more people than the 50 Spacer worlds put together, so Elijah thinks nothing of it.

Asimov's work always reads easily to me, I can just breeze through it, which is nice. This story is mostly conversations, but he keeps them interesting since there's always something going on. Baley struggling with his own problems, or trying to see what he's missing. The things the people he's talking to don't mention, because it's so unimportant or obvious to them it doesn't bear commenting on.

'He settled back. The incident had not been without its uses. It was an educational example of how remorseless a robotic society could be. Once brought into existence, robots were not so easily removed, and a human who wished to dispense with them even temporarily found he could not.'

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What I Bought 8/16/2019 - Part 1

I didn't mention it last week, but we officially reached 4500 posts with Sunday Splash Page #74. It snuck up on me, since I stopped really paying attention to my total posts some time in the last few years. I figured now would be as good a time as any to mention it.

We're looking at some books from the first two weeks of August today. The first issue of a mini-series, and a one-shot I took a chance on.

Gwenpool Strikes Back #1, by Leah Williams (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - For a second, I thought the expression on Peter's face in the smartphone did not match his actual expression, but I think it's that it's close up, so some more details are visible.

Gwenpool is not actually trying to ruin heroes' lives to keep herself from fading from existence. She is, however, trying to get a superpower that is easier for writers and artists to represent in team books and guest appearances than her current ability to jump into the space between panels. I don't know, I feel like you should be able to work with that. You just play it as confusing the hell out of whoever she teams up with, as she vanishes, then reappears abruptly with something useful.

Setting that aside, Gwen hopes Spider-Man can give powers via radiation, but only succeeds in accidentally unmasking him in front of a bunch of bank customers she took hostage. That puts Spidey in a mood, and he leaves her webbed up, until a cancer ridden version of herself shows up to free her, and sends Gwen on a trip outside the pages to find Radioactive Man and get. . . something from him. Cancer most likely. Not helping disprove all those people who think you're Girl Deadpool, Gwen.
Baldeon's work is loose and expressive enough for Gwen and her hijinks. The weird baggy sweatpants and hoodie look over her regular costume. The 9-panel grid page where Gwen explains her current status feels clunky, but all of Gwen's gestures and twitches make me think of a person giving a presentation who is really uncomfortable with public speaking and can't keep herself still. With Gwen it might just be a matter of struggling to keep still, period. And I like the version of the "gutters" we get as everything is on the verge of ending for her.

Sensational Spider-Man: Self-Improvement, by Peter David (writer), Randy Schueller (plot), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Victor Olazaba (inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), plus Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (writer/penciler), Sal Buscema (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - The costume inside isn't actually black-and-white. It looks more like a precursor to Spider-Man 2099's costume. Which wouldn't be a huge surprise, with David and Leonardi involved.

Peter's costume (and his back) get trashed fighting Firebrand, so Reed Richards whips him up a new, unstable molecule costume, with upgraded webshooters, which Spidey can barely control. Oh, and the web pits act as glider wings. Peter almost causes a helicopter crash, then barely manages to corral Firebrand before he kills his ex-wife for swiping all his ill-gotten loot. Plus, Firebrand's daughter is scared of Spidey in a black costume, so he mails it back to Reed.

Well, I'm not ever a fan of Peter getting new outfits from other people, so that's a strike there. Especially since Reed's apparently Neil Degrasse Tyson now, as he criticizes Spidey for calling the costume awesome, when that should be reserved for something like the Grand Canyon. Christ, Richards, could you try to not be a complete cock for two seconds?
Also, this is not some of Leonardi's better work. He needs a strong inker, and Olazaba's hit or miss here. There are panels in here where Reed's facial features are barely defined shadows. Like Puppet Master was making a clay duplicate but got bored halfway through. They did a lot better on the climax, with Firebrand's ex and Rita, the little girl. So maybe they just figured nobody cares about Mr. Fantastic and focused their efforts accordingly.

There's also a backup story by DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema, where Peter tracks down some guys who killed an old many because his nephew wouldn't help them rob a warehouse. The kid did the responsible thing, but it didn't exactly work out, and Peter wonders if that's because the kid had no power. Kind of a bummer, especially when he doesn't give the kid an answer about whether the guilt of losing someone ever goes away. But I guess he couldn't say it does, since his over Uncle Ben hasn't, even if I subscribe to the idea Peter likes helping people and being Spider-Man, and it isn't only a guilt thing.
Frenz and Buscema on art looks pretty much like it always does, which is either good or bad, depending on your preference. Buscema's inks really make it feel like his art work, but I think Frenz' pencils help a lot. Either that or Buscema's going with softer inks than when he was on Spectacular Spider-Man back in the day. I always found his stuff back then a little too, sharp maybe. All the lines on faces were thin and stark and made everyone look kind of old and a little unpleasant (plus he gave Mary Jane what I assume was a beauty mark on her cheek that I thought was a mole every time I saw it). Which isn't the case here, or on their collaborations on Spider-Girl over the years.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

April and the Extraordinary World

There are a lot of different threads in this movie, that was the first thought that came to mind when I looked back over it. The search for a serum which can make living things (except humans) basically unkillable. All the world's most accomplished scientific minds being abducted for decades, leaving the world stuck in a coal and wood-powered age.

A family of scientists, several of whom are missing, who left their young daughter April and her talking cat behind. There's an angry, incompetent French cop pursuing April, and using a young pickpocket to do it, so then there's a romance subplot. There's a whole thing about how any scientist or engineer not abducted has been press-ganged into making mostly shitty weapons for their respective governments. I don't know if the implication is none of them are smart enough to figure out how to harness electricity, or any other kinds of fuel, or the governments simply don't care because it can't be demonstrated to be helpful for killing other people right now.

It basically comes together, all ties into the very first scene in the movie, so it isn't messy or incoherent. It's like an animated version of one of those 1940s adventure serials. The kinds of things Indiana Jones and the Rocketeer are playing off of. Or maybe Tintin's the better comparison, with the teenage protagonist and her clever pet sidekick. The weird contraptions, the chase scenes, the big villain who either wants to save the world or destroy it.

But everything does drag just a little bit too long. There are a few too many scenes reminding you the two masterminds aren't entirely on the same page, telegraphing the inevitable falling out, instead of just getting to it. The whole bit with the prison/military research lab and the mobile house is kind of interesting, but feels like a needless digression. The movie needed something to delay the final scenes a few more minutes, and that's what they came up with. Fun movie, just a bit of padding in there it doesn't need.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Dark Trail - Chapter 4

Deadpool and Rhodez wound their way through the rows of cubicles. Wade hummed to himself as he picked through the abandoned work spaces. Rhodez hefted her rifle nervously, attention divided between the unpredictable mercenary and their surroundings. Even with sunlight filtering through the dirty and broken windows, the whole floor had a gloomy feel. The cubicle partitions almost reached the ceiling, so in places where they still stood, the ambient light was low, conditions similar to dusk. Just enough light their lights weren't helping much.

Eyeing her flashlight, Rhodez turned to Deadpool. "Wade, you have any nightvision goggles?"

"Nah. You wouldn't want those, anyway. You turn a corner into a bright light and you''d end up blind. Or maybe that was just Weasel after I pointed that floodlight at him. You'd think his eyes would be more resistant, staring at computer screens all day, with their comforting, irradiating glow."

Deadpool chattered on, unconcerned. Rhodez went ahead and tuned him out, other than wondering how he'd talked for three minutes without pausing to breathe.

"Hey, check this out!" She snapped out of her thoughts at Deadpool's excited call. He'd move several cubes down without her noticing. She rushed up to find him hunched over a desk.

"Look, this person made a whole petting zoo out of paper clips! This one's gotta be an elephant!" Wade tried imitating an elephant's call, to little success. It sounded more like he was making a fart noise. Actually, since this is Deadpool, he might have been.

"Oh yeah," Rhodez replied uncertainly, "that's kinda cool. They must have been bored as hell."

Deadpool turned to face her as he walked out of the cubicle, the paper clips animals having lost his interest. "Tell me about it! Normally when I come on these adventures with you guys there's a lot more explosions and a lot less mood-setting."

"Really? I only got to go on that one where we tried to shoot a pie at Pollock out of a bazooka. That was pretty exciting, but I didn't know if that was normal."

The mercenary put his finger to his chin in an imitation of a person capable of thought. "Hmmmm, I'd say that was on the low end, really. No robots or chainsaws, no extended kung-fu battles. Don't they tell you about their adventures?"

Rhodez thought about it as they turned a corner to find another row of cubicles. "Calvin does sometimes, but he always underplays things. It's like pullin' teeth. Everything is "OK", or "a little rough."

"Huh," Deadpool grunted, "he sure bitches a lot more when we're in the middle of them."

"Ha, I can believe it." Rhodez snapped her head around as she caught a glimpse of something moving behind her. It scurried out of a cubicle and around the corner to another row. "Did you see that?"

Deadpool walked past, drawing a katana with one hand and a pistol with another. "No. You're imagining things." As he said this, he spun around the corner, gun leveled at. . . nothing. The merc motioned for Rhodez to follow him as he moved slowly down the row.

"7th Rule: If you think you saw something, you probably did. A little yellow bird taught me that. Unless you're drunk. or fighting a telepath. Or have an unstable brain prone to hallucinations." He stopped and looked at her intently. "You aren't experiencing any of those, right?"

"I don't think so, but how would I know if there's a telepath messing with me?"

"It tingles like a bad rash or the clap, but inside your brain."

Rhodez made a disgusted face. "I'm not feeling that."

"That's what my doctor at the massage parlor said!"

"Let's just keep looking."

They reached a four-way intersection of rows and scanned in all directions. There were no signs of anyone or anything moving. The only sound was cars passing by on the road off in the distance.

A hollow metallic thud at the end of one row caught their attention. An empty coffee can rolled slowly into view and then stopped. Deadpool turned to Rhodez and made a series of hand gestures. By the time he was mimicking a bird flapping its wings while he twirled in place, she was completely lost.

Recognizing this, he put a finger to his lips in a "shh" motion, then began to move silently down the hall, holstering his gun as he did. Once within 10 feet of the place the can came from, he crouched, then sprang into the air, doing a neat flip and drawing his other katana. He landed on the desk, blades ready, Rhodez moving up behind him.

There was nothing. Office supplies and a few random tchotchkes left behind. A magnet proclaiming "Stick to it!" on a file cabinet, holding up nothing. But there was a gap in the base of the rear partition, allowing access to the next row. They both heard movement, a scrabbling sound, like a large rodent. Rhodez turned and went the way she came, hoping to loop around and cut it off. Deadpool simply vaulted the partition, but miscalculated the location of the desk and landed awkwardly. Fortunately it was more embarrassing than painful.

He stepped in the walkway and spied a small person moving swiftly away. The most notable feature, other than their small stature, was a tall, pointed red cap on their head.

"What's your hurry, Pippin? If you're hunting for second breakfast, I got a nice pineapple for you. And that's not a reference to my junk, it's a euphemism for a grenade."

The figure stopped as Rhodez rounded the corner ahead of it and sighed. "I'm not a hobbit, you jibbering idiot."

"I think he's a gnome, Wade."

The gnome grinned at her, with unpleasantly sharp teeth. "I am indeed."

"So are you Gerber's Elf with a Gun? Do elves Pokevole into gnomes? Doesn't matter, my sword has +3 poison because I haven't cleaned it in weeks!" Deadpool lunged, bringing the blade in an overhand swing towards the gnome. The gnome reached up casually with one hand, caught Deadpool's wrist, and flung him over his head.

The Merc with a Mouth smashed into the ceiling before falling facefirst to the floor. The gnome calmly pulled a syringe from its pocket and jabbed it into Deadpool's spine.

"I hope that was a clean needle," he said as he started to climb to his feet.

The gnome gave a toothy grin again. "Sure, except for the acid in it." Deadpool crashed back to the floor, legs refusing to respond. The gnome tossed the syringe aside and drew another, leering at Rhodez. "Guess what time it is?"

"10:17?"

"Huh?"

"It's 10:17 in the morning. I'm right, right?"

The gnome checked his wristwatch. "Yeah, yeah it is." When he looked up, she was sighting down the barrel of her rifle.

"Knew it."

The gnome kicked Deadpool's limp body into the air as she fired, the bullet joining several others inside the mercenary's body. Rhodez winced, but Deadpool barely grunted. The gnome grinned, until he noticed something spinning on the ground. A grenade with Deadpool's emblem on it. He turned to escape as it exploded.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #75

"That Suit is. . . Really Something", in Batman Annual #11, by Max Allan Collins (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist), Adrienne Roy (colorist), Albert DeGuzman (letterer)

I own a grand total of two stories, from two different issues, of Batman Annuals. And that's because - say it with me now - they were drawn by Norm Breyfogle. It's this one or the one where Jason Todd has to get involved in an extracurricular activity at school, so let's stick with "Love Bird".

Pengy is paroled, over Batman's strenuous objections, and visits Dovina Partridge (whoo, wow), who he met through each of them sending letters to the Orinthological News. She'd be delighted to marry him. . . as long as he stays on the straight and narrow. So he opens an umbrella factory, staffed with lots of crooks Batman's put away. As it turns out, that is the only crime  he's guilty of this time around, consorting with ex-convicts is a violation of his parole. Batman goes 0-for-2 against the parole board, this time asking for leniency, but does vouch for Pengy with his fiance. Although my guess is the marriage never took place.

Breyfogle gets to draw Batman being put on his heels by Dovina when he tries to warn her about Penguin, and there's one panel of him and Robin watching the factory where Batman looks distinctly like he's sulking. He's in a crouch and has his cape wrapped around him so you can only see the part of his face that's beneath the cowl. Robin's leaning against a chimney like he's vaguely disgusted, or just giving boss some space for his pouting.

I'm pretty sure Batman: The Animated Series did a version of this, except the woman Penguin had fallen for was only leading him on because she and her society chums enjoyed laughing at him. I think the episode ends with Penguin muttering, 'I blame society. High society.'

Friday, August 16, 2019

Random back Issue #5 - Exiles #3

No matter the universe, everyone can unite via their enjoyment of Havok getting beaten up. Especially because Panther doesn't even look like he hit him particularly hard.
This isn't from the Judd Winick-written Exiles that ran for 100 issues, but the 2009 attempted reboot with Jeff Parker as the writer. Morph has stepped into the role of the Timebroker (or the little bugs that used the Crystal Palace) and Blink is wearing the Tallus again, but pretending she's as new to all this as the rest of the team.

For their first mission, the team was sent to an Earth where Magneto runs Genosha, with the former X-Men and the various villainous mutants united under his banner. The Exiles are supposed to help Wolverine overthrow Magneto, except by the time they arrive, Sabretooth and a bunch of X-Men are parading Logan's corpse through the main plaza.

The team tries to infiltrate a celebration party, taking advantage of the fact two of their team members are Magneto's kids in their respective universes, but all the telepaths around made that a non-starter. Most of this issue is the team escaping confinement and trying to get Magneto's helmet off so the telepaths can see what dark secret he's hiding. No, not that he's a Kid Rock fan.
If this had been written on the Internet, I'm pretty sure Mags would be arranging Moira's death so he could have Charles all to himself. Or they'd just be polyamorous, which might have solved all the problems. I kind of love the idea of Magneto being petty enough to let Charles die at the hands of giant murderbots because he wants Moira.

It's enough to get the X-Men cheesed at Magneto, but the Tallus says calamity hasn't been averted, even as it opens a door to another reality and the Exiles bolt, over Blink's protests. There's a nice double-page splash I will absolutely use for Sunday Splash Page whenever I make it this far - rough guess, fall of 2021 - where Salva Espin draws the half of them leaving, and Casey Jones, who draws the next story, draws the half of them arriving in the next universe. Where they'll have to face a artificial intelligence trio of Ultron, Vision, and Machine Man, plus the incomparable might of Security Camera Lizard!
I picked that image because of the lizard, but now I'm fixated on why Forge thinks Magneto doesn't like the desert. Because there's nothing made out of metal? I'd imagine there are plenty of rocks with metallic elements in them all over the place. I guess wearing a bucket on your head might be unpleasant under the noon sun. . .

[Longbox #5, 14th comic. Exiles (vol. 2) #3, by Jeff Parker (writer), Salva Espin and Casey Jones (artists), Anthony Washington (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer)]

Thursday, August 15, 2019

White Chamber

The movie's first half-hour is a woman who insists she's a delivery person named Ruth being tortured within a white box by a person that turns out to be the leader of a revolutionary army that is attempting to overthrow a military dictatorship in England.

Right about the point I wondered how the movie could have another hour to go - after Ruth kills a crazed woman with a partially melted face by stabbing her in the eye with a finger that was on the floor - it cuts back to five days earlier, and we learn how things reached this point, and that Ruth isn't who she claims to be. Although the flashback creates more questions which have to be answered in the final 10 minutes when we get more or less back to where the movie began.

The chamber isn't only a torture chamber, and the movie spends some time on the justifications people will make for their actions, the lies they'll tell others or themselves about what they're doing. What does a person who leads a revolution tell himself about the people who die on both sides? Or the person who tests drugs on a prisoner without knowing what it will do to them (or knowing what it will do)?

There are four people outside the chamber in the flashbacks, and at least two seem motivated by grief or revenge, and this is just a convenient opportunity they can pretend is something else. It's for science, or the greater good. One of the others simply hadn't felt affected by the issues that stirred unrest, and didn't know what they were getting into. It was easy enough to believe what they'd been told and to see this as a big chance.

Also kind of hard not to notice the three most staunch in their support of the work they're doing are all white, while the person they have trapped and are torturing/experimenting on is Kurdish, and that the one member of the four who ultimately has doubts is also not white. White Chamber, indeed.

I did laugh when the head honcho shows the newbie all these examples of drugs different groups of soldiers have used over the ages, to demonstrate how it's not a new idea. Except the examples she cites are all from sides that lost the wars she mentions. Oh, the Nazis used this methamphetamine, U.S. soldiers used weed in 'Nam, the Zulus used this to feel invincible when they fought the English in the 1870s. What I'm taking away from this is, winners don't use drugs!

I wouldn't say I liked the movie exactly, but when it started I was worried I'd chosen some kind of torture porn horror flick, like that Saw bullcrap. Simply not being that, or not only that, was a good start. And I knew one of the four was going to help the prisoner escape, and it seemed pretty obvious who, but I was curious if the film was going to pull a fast one late. It didn't.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Random Back Issues #4 - Supergirl #78

I have a feeling Deadman uses that one on the Phantom Stranger a lot. Or maybe Guy uses it on Hal a lot. . .
This is within the last few months of Peter David's run on Supergirl (the book ends at #80), the one focused on the combination of Linda Danvers and that post-Crisis, weird goo, "Matrix" Supergirl, which turned into an Earth Angel. Yeah, I'd need to reread a lot more issues to explain it better than that. Leonard Kirk moved on as artist after issue #74, and Ed Benes replaced him, which, yeah. Supergirl started getting drawn as a lot older, with more sex appeal emphasis. The skirt got a bit shorter, and half the time is drawn as so form fitting it might as well be bike shorts. I know, shocking to hear.

By this point, I think the "angel" aspect has been resolved, but now we have two Supergirls running around. One, the Linda version, in the outfit Supergirl had gotten when she showed up in the Timmverse Superman cartoon. The other, Silver Age Kara Zor-El Supergirl, rocket to Earth has been shunted into the wrong universe and time by some guy called the Fatalist.

(That's not the guy mouthing off to Hal up above, by the way. Skyrim Cosplayer up there is called Xenon, and has been trapped in some place by a Supergirl, and has been busy trying to lure Supergirls there to kill them until he gets the right one and can escape. Hal is doing a good job as Spectre by impotently telling him to stop, or else.)
The first part of the issue is Kara letting the half-metal bad guy pummel her, because she thinks her X-ray vision made an elderly woman's pacemaker fail, so she deserves to get beat up. By the time Linda is able to rush to help, Kara's started fighting again because Rebel has explained it was probably the self-diagnostic he ran that caused the pacemaker to fail. I assume he's being serious, but it's possible he's lying just to get her to stop being a sad sack and fight back. Which, considering this is a Silver Age Kryptonian, is a spectacularly stupid idea, but there's no reason he'd know that.

Once Spectre and the Fatalist show up, we learn Kara has to go to her proper universe to die fighting the Anti-Monitor, which she understandably doesn't take well. Also that the Fatalist arranged for Rebel to show up test their might, I mean test their spirit. That old lady with the bum pacemaker will no doubt be ecstatic to know that, you tattooed, three-eyed dumbshit.

Linda promises to talk the Spectre out of making Kara, then goes in her place. That doesn't end up working, either. Still, Linda ends up in Silver Age DC, and eventually marries Superman. She's not his cousin and he knows it, it's OK!
Kara's written as kind and innocent, suggesting to Linda they can restore her secret identity through some sort of scheme, probably involving Batman. I feel like Silver Age Supergirl wasn't quite this naive, but I'm no expert. It helps emphasize the differences between her and Linda, who has been through some shit by this point, and is probably somewhere in her 20s, while I'm pretty sure Kara's supposed to be a teenager.

[Longbox #11, 60th comic. Supergirl #78, by Peter David (writer), Ed Benes (penciler), Alex Lei (inker), Digital Chameleon (colorist), Comicraft (letterer)]

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Layer Cake

Daniel Craig in his pre-James Bond days playing this mostly calm and orderly middleman in the cocaine trade. He figures to make his money, then get out, but finds that more difficult than he expected.

This is very much one of those crime movies with a lot of layers that are supposed to interlock and overlap. Craig's character (who is never named) and his small crew end up in trouble because this other idiot threw their names around when he went to Amsterdam and stole a lot of Ecstasy pills from some very angry Serbians. One of the guys Craig works for, Jimmy Price, has tasked him to locate an old friend's (played by Michael Gambon) missing, heroin-addicted daughter. There's an entire subplot involving the death of a major drug dealer from the 1970s named Crazy Larry, which involves at least three other characters running around in the present. There's even a bit where Craig meets a woman named Tammy inadverdently through the inept nephew of the jackass that stole all the pills that factors in.

The movie tries too hard on that account, though, because some of the threads feel superfluous. The one about Crazy Larry in particular is meant to illustrate a point, but I think the rest of the movie was handling it just fine.

I like the obvious lesson that to a certain extent making plans can be futile. Because people with power over you will change the rules whenever they feel like it, if it suits their purpose. Craig has no skills whatsoever towards finding a missing person, but Jimmy Price has power, so if he says do it, Craig has to try. Craig can have an agreement with Michael Gambon, but Gambon has more power so he can alter the deal as he sees fit, or so he thinks.

(Gambon gives this lovely spiel about how life is about starting at the bottom and eating a lot of shit, then gradually climbing higher and eating less shit, until you reach the point you don't even recall what it smells like. He's doing it to lord his position over Craig, but there's an obvious part of it he forgets that comes back to bite him I rather enjoyed.)

Most of the big surprises or reveals you can see coming pretty easily, but they mostly work with the story, so they're still effective. It has a few parts I laughed at, and some good performances. A solid crime movie, basically.

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Dark Trail - Chapter 3

Clever Adolescent Panda and Pollock closed the lab door firmly behind them as they entered. They two scanned with their flashlights for a light switch. Finding one, Pollock flipped it experimentally. Nothing.

They stood silently, scanning the scene in front of them. There were two rows of work stations. Some of the stations housed computers, others various tools and other equipment. At station was a person, either slumped over the desk or collapsed on the floor.

CAP covered their nose with one paw, the smell almost overpowering. "I'm glad we didn't let the others see this."

Pollock stepped forward carefully, avoiding the pools of dried blood. "I'm fairly certain the fool noticed your reaction, and I wouldn't doubt Deadpool knows something as well."

CAP climbed two stairs to a raised section of the floor to the left. It had several long tables, most of them toppled or pushed up against the walls, more equipment and people strewn everywhere. On the floor, among the victims, were some familiar looking transmitters. The panda picked one up gingerly and tossed it to their companion, who caught it easily.

"I think the ones at the computers were probably the ones who programmed commands into these things. Do you have anything that will work as a power source?"

"A few small batteries. They might work for a little while. Do you think there's anything left on the drives?"

Pollock didn't look optimistic. "I doubt it, but it would be best to confirm it. The transmitters we collected in the woods weren't in any state I could determine what else might have been built into them."

The two found an undamaged terminal, and fed it some power. After a gentle hum, the screen lit up, showing a login page.

The panda glanced over. "You think we found someone who uses "password" for their password?"

"Unlikely." It wasn't the password, nor was it any of the other common choices.

CAP patted Pollock on the shoulder. "We can take one with us if we want. Let's keep looking." They approached a set of double doors on the wall opposite the entrance. Pushing the doors open revealed a narrow corridor that immediately turned left. It was pitch black, their lights revealing featureless stone walls, which led to a single steel door.

The door was ajar, blood stains visible on the inside. Two more people lay on the floor. As the two approached, they could tell both of the deceased had been hit repeatedly with great strength or at high speed. Or both. The door showed several dents from the impacts, to the extent it was concave, bulging towards them.

Clever Adolescent Panda moved carefully, avoiding the two people. Pollock, on the other hand, hefted the larger one until it was half-in, half-out of the doorway. At the panda's questioning gaze, she replied flatly, "I'm not getting trapped in here because the door rolls shut. It has an autolock system on it. You want to chance it still functions?"

CAP narrowed their eyes, but didn't argue. The room they entered was also in total darkness, no sound other than the crunch of glass beneath their boots and paws. Panning their lights across the room, the found a row of large tubes along the walls on either side. Each tube had a glass cover in the front. Or they used to, as each cover appeared to have been broken from the inside.

Pollock crouched a picked up a piece of glass with some familiar-looking hair on it. Thin, stiff, a metallic sheen to it. She passed it to CAP, who took a deep inhale.

"Amilgar?" Pollock still thought it was a dumb name, but her suggestions had been roundly ignored.

"Uh-huh. So they escaped, then rampaged through the lab?"

"It looks that way, although that doesn't match their being transported halfway across the country."

"Or being able to kill them with a command," CAP settled on their haunches, passing their light over the room. "How would they attach the control unit once they were loose?"

"Perhaps they pumped a sedative into this section of the building."

The panda shook their head firmly. "But the first door we went through wouldn't have held long enough."

"What do you think then?"

CAP turned to face Pollock, an unsettled look in their eye. "It would be easier to attach the control unit while they were still under control in the tubes. Calvin told me when he and Cassanee were watching them, a few of them that didn't wake up when the others did suddenly startled awake, like they were shocked, without any of the others touching them. Maybe the control unit could be used for that, and maybe someone used it to send them into a frenzy and kill anyone here who could talk."

"That's certainly. . . grisly. I've found a strongly worded non-disclosure agreement usually does the trick."

Before the panda could respond to what they assumed was an attempt at a joke, the lights above them abruptly flickered to life. Not all of them leaving the room starkly divided between pools of light and shadow. CAP cocked their ears and angled their head towards the ceiling.

"What do you hear?"

"Gunfire, maybe."

"Deadpool may simply be messing with one of the others, or bor - "

Before Pollock finished the sentence, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. A flash of green at the edge of the shadows in the corner. CAP noticed how she trailed off and followed her gaze. There was the muted tremor of an explosion from somewhere above, causing the light fixtures to shake slightly. Just enough to push the shadows in that corner back a bit. Enough to show the green was part of a suit, worn by an otherwise nondescript man.

The suit was a deep emerald green, and covered in clock face designs. Each face appeared set to a different time. His hands were clasped behind his back, head cocked to one side. His closed-lip smile made the fur on the panda's neck and scalp rise. Pollock tensed as well, and the man spoke.

"Time's up."

His hands swung into view and each held a grenade. The one in his right hand, he immediately hurled at the two of them.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #74

"Giving Batgirl a Sword is Just Unfair", in Batman and the Outsiders (vol. 2) #8, by Chuck Dixon (writer), Julian Lopez (penciler), Bit (inker), Marta Martinez (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer)

I thought there would be more than 2 volumes of Batman and the Outsiders (3 counting the one DC's publishing at the time this post goes up), but I guess those titles were just called The Outsiders. One of them, written by Judd Winick, wrapped up in mid-2007, when Batman came strutting in and took over from Nightwing. Typical Batman shit. Leaves a thing along for years, then shows up one day and says, "this is mine," and just takes it.

Then again, I wouldn't have wanted to be part of Brad Meltzer's Justice League book either, so maybe this seemed like a good alternative.

This volume, though, went through all sorts of mess in a short time. Each of the first three issues was solicited with a different creative team (Tony Bedard and Koi Trumbull were listed for issue #1, I know that much), and the roster got mostly overhauled. Catwoman and Martian Manhunter were originally, plus that Aquaman who wasn't Arthur Curry that Kurt Busiek came up with a wrote for a while post-52.

By the time the first issue actually shipped, Chuck Dixon was on as writer, with Julian Lopez as the artist most of the time. Catwoman, J'onn, and Aquaguy vanished (although Geo-Force was still around), and here's Green Arrow and Batgirl. I have absolutely no idea what happened there, but if Cassandra hadn't been added to the book I wouldn't have bought it, so things work out sometimes.

Cass was back to something close to her character from the Puckett/Scott run on her title. Not talking much, not understanding jokes or references, not showing much concern for her well-being. But she was still recognizably Cass, which was a big improvement over the clusterfuck Johns and Beechen had pulled on her the previous two years. Take what I can get. 

Green Arrow seems to be on there to be the one who questions Batman's judgment the most (and the act like a dick towards Cass because she'd been in the League of Assassins). Bats just ignores it, Cass lets Ollie try to kill her if it'll make him feel better, so it's actually Metamorpho who butts heads with Ollie the most. Which is kind of fun. I like Metamorpho anyway. And Dixon brought in the idea from 52 of Ralph and Sue Dibny running around as ghosts. Although they didn't seem to be acting as detectives so much as playing Deadman and possessing people. Still, I think that was more than anyone else ever did with that idea.

Some of the faces Lopez draws look a little strange, and sometimes the proportions seem off (Grace has oddly small fists for how big she is at times), but the work is very expressive. Maybe the faces look odd because a person making that expression should look weird. And it works for the funnier moments. Batman recruited a scientist onto the team who remote controls an OMAC from the Batcave, and some of his actions while he's doing that, and when he meets Alfred are pretty funny. When Lopez needs to string together a sequence of panels for a fight scene, he can do that. You can tell how the action progresses from one to the next easily. There's nothing special about the page layouts or anything, it's just solid artwork for a superhero comic. It makes sure all the information you need is there, it sells the emotions and the action.

The overarching plot involved an alien parasite from beneath the Moon's surface, controlling people and trying to do. . . something. We never found out, because Dixon left the book (or was fired, I forget which) around issue 10. Supposedly because he was angry with how Batman R.I.P. was fucking with his book. Grant Morrison was waiting until the last second to send his stuff in for that story, so DC couldn't change any of it. That left everyone doing tie-ins scrambling to get their shit done on tighter deadlines. I get Morrison not wanting his work fucked with, and I doubt he told DC to make other books tie in, but come on, have some sense of the fact you're making other people's lives harder.

With Dixon off the book, and tie-ins commencing, I jumped ship. Just as well, because once the tie-ins were over, Keith Champagne took over writing and retooled the roster, dumping Cass and Green Arrow among other, and I want to say adding Killer Croc? I don't know. At some point I think Dan Didio started writing it, which is when you know the book is going to be total shit, but I was long gone by then.

Friday, August 09, 2019

What I Bought 8/3/2019 - Part 2

For today, a couple of first issues. Well, one of them is sort of a first issue, sort of a continuation. And I thought I'd have the first two issues of the other book, but it didn't work out that way.

Test #1, by Christopher Sebela (writer), Jen Hickman (artist), Harry Saxon (colorist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (writer) - Updated form of Operation! they've got going there.

Aleph is trying to find the town of Laurelwood, which is supposedly incredibly futuristic and has been erased from all maps. Aleph's had a lot of upgrades or random tests done on their body, because they're trying to find a particular feeling, I think. But they also signed a lot of contracts that give the companies that performed those procedures control of their body, so they're being hunted. And they may have killed some people, and may not be taking all the proper meds. But they found Laurelwood, although things don't seem great there, and the repo guys are still coming.

Things aren't entirely linear so far. The story goes back and forth between present and Aleph's past that led to this point. The escape from the hospital is shown in reverse, the end first, going back to what set it off. Part of the road trip is shown in reverse too, I think, because I feel like the RV crashed before the nervous young couple picked Aleph up. The windshield of their vehicle didn't match the RV's, so I don't think that was their vehicle. I don't know what that means yet. If that's how Aleph's mind works, focus on what's now and work back to where it started. If they're this focused on what they're pursuing that might make sense.
Hickman draws Laurelwood as basically a normal town with some unusual features bolted on. A strange car, Roombas keeping the streets clean, weird liquid metal things cross roads or dropping off rooftops. So a gradual infiltration of this futuristic stuff, to ease the shock of it. The inhabitants look mostly what we might think of as normal, although I haven't seen any kids yet. No usual appendages or outlandish fashion choices. A few new products at a time, see how people respond, then maybe a few more. But it isn't clear if the locals are really taking to the stuff or not.

Lot of questions, which is usually good. Questions mean they captured my interest. Whether I'll enjoy the answers, assuming there are any, is another matter, but cross that bridge when we get there.

Infinity 8 #13, by Lewis Trondheim and Davy Mourier (writers), Lorenzo de Felici (artist/color artist) - She should probably focus more on the undead grasping at her legs and less on whatever is in the distance. Unless she's saluting, in which case she should definitely focus more on the undead.

Fifth try at figuring out what's going on, and this time it's a Major Ann Ninurta on deck. Before she could even get to that, she had to drop her kid off at school, and arrest a person for shooting someone. While she's off exploring the vast graveyard in space, it turns out the murderer and his assistant were trying to test a resurrection gun of sorts, but obviously the assistant had to die first. Well, the gun works, but he comes back as a shambling, mindless creature that craves flesh and spreads his condition by biting people. Then the gun falls into some power conduit that carries its energy through the entire ship and the space graveyard, meaning everyone's in trouble now. Although i enjoy how she was mostly just annoyed when one of the zombies tried biting through her space helmet.
de Felici draws a decent variety of aliens, although he seems to lean towards them being small and kind of lumpy. But they mostly look suitably alien, so that's the important thing. He varies the size of Ann's eyes relative to the rest of her face by a lot. In some panels, they look about normal. In other panels they take up half her face. I can't tell that there's a pattern, so it's just a thing he has issues with. It isn't a huge issue except for being very distracting when I come across one of the panels where the eyes are enormous. I stop and just gawk, like what the hell happened there?

There's also a subplot about Ann's deadbeat ex, and also possibly her trying to hook up with some guy that caught her eye while she was on patrol? These stories usually have some sort of element beyond whatever trouble the agent runs into out in the graveyard, and I guess that's going to be this one's.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

4L

Jean-Pierre (Jean Reno) and Tocho (Hovik Keuchkerian) get word that their old friend Joseba is dying in Timbuktu and decide to see him. Joseba's daughter Ely reluctantly comes along, but insists they take the little French rally car her father rebuilt before he abandoned her. So instead of just flying there, they drive from Morocco across the desert, running into several problems.

It was an interesting movie, just for the variety of situations they run into in their travels. Drug runners, border crossings, Tuaregs (lugging along a satellite he found in the desert), a guy with one of those land sailboat things. Those things look so damn cool, but I would be absolutely terrified to use one, since you really need a big open place like the desert to use them, and that seems like a bad place to be when things go wrong. An impression this movie confirms in fact, as Jean-Pierre falls ill partway through. Plus, the car keeps breaking down in various ways. The constant arrival of a new setting or problem keeps the film interesting, especially as they start to compound. You can't ever get entirely comfortable because it's unclear what's coming next.

Watching Tocho gradually prove to be the reliable of the two adults is interesting. Initially it seems as though he's made the trip only because he's thoroughly sick of his current life and it's an excuse to abandon it. Actually, I thought he was going to commit suicide in the first five minutes when he threw his uniform in the trash outside his apart, then washed down some pills with booze. I guess they weren't that kind of pills. Jean-Pierre's got a winery, seems like he has his stuff reasonably together, but the farther they go, the more he proves to be a problem, or just plain useless, and the more Tocho has to figure out how to pull everyone through.

They pick up a hitchhiker partway through, a young man named Mamadou trying to make it back home Mali and his family. His fate didn't seem necessary, but I guess the film didn't want to end entirely happily. Sucks he drew the short straw though. My money had been on Jean-Pierre dying of dysentery or whatever he came down with.

I kept expecting to find out Mamadou's story wasn't what he said it was, especially after one conversation where he's conversing with a Tuareg on one side and Ely on the other, and telling them the other is saying something entirely different from the truth. Although Jean-Pierre did the same thing at the checkpoint into the desert. But with Jean-Pierre I couldn't decide if he thought it was better to lie to Tocho and Ely (he's French, they're Spanish), or if he was just an idiot and couldn't entirely understand what the commander of the checkpoint was telling him.


Wednesday, August 07, 2019

What I Bought 8/3/2019 - Part 1

It's weird seeing people on Twitter going on about feral hogs all of the sudden. They were becoming unpleasantly common down in the boonies where I worked a few years back, and killing them all is no easy task since they breed a lot and they're fairly smart.

Last month's books, last month's books! For today, we're looking at a couple of books on their 5th issue, both of them might be in danger of falling off my buy list.

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #5, by Saladin Ahmed (writer), Minkyu Jung (penciler/inker), Juan Vlasco (inker), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I initially thought that symbol on her knee was a gear of some kind, and I couldn't figure why they'd go steampunk with her costume design.

Kamala and both sides of the civil war have united to fight the Beast Legions, but they're going to lose unless Kamala can get inside the Great Machine (which none of the locals can manage) and use it to turn the tide. The Machine is left over from the original savior of the world, who was some roaming Kree soldier. She decided the planet wasn't fit for colonizing, but didn't slaughter the natives anyway, which is unusually generous for the Kree. Since Kamala's sort of Kree, she can use it to destroy the uninhabited spaceship that creates the Beast Legions. And she gets a new nanotech costume that responds to her thoughts. Yes, like a symbiote. No way that goes badly.

She and her parents are returned home, and the guy who does it goes ahead and pulls the old mindwipe on her parents, so they don't remember the trip or that Kamala is a superhero. Well, hell, Wilson never did anything with that reveal anyway, and I guess Ahmed doesn't want to, either. But since it seemed like a big part of this story was both Kamala's parents knowing, and getting to see their daughter in action first hand, wiping the information from their minds makes the whole thing seem like a waste of time. Which is not really the impression you want me to have coming off your opening story arc?
The new costume is. . . OK, I guess. I wouldn't call it good, or an improvement by any stretch, but it's not eye-searingly bad. There are unnecessary lines on it, in the red V-neck part, and on the blue where extends down her upper leg. Reminds me unpleasantly of all those redesigns Jim Lee did for the Justice League back when the New 52 started. Superman with the high collar and the Flash with visible seams all over his outfit. I don't think her costume needed more pointless detail. And the scarf now appears to have daggers on the ends? I hope we're not going to see her start stabbing people with them. I don't need Kamala putting in her resume for the Savage Avengers.

Dial H for Hero #5, by Sam Humphries (writer), Joe Quinones (artist), Scott Hanna (inker), Jordan Gibson (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer) - That is the weirdest eye booger I've ever seen. He might want some eyedrops.

Miguel chases after Mr. Thunderbolt through the origin stories of several heroes, until they encounter The Operator. Thunderbolt gives them both the slip, and Operator (who is Robby Reed) explains how he got here, trying to find the source of the H-Dial's powers. Which exists beyond the Speed Force Wall, which is a thing, apparently? While the Operator wastes time trying to explain to Miguel what a hero's origin really is, Mr. Thunderbolt is busy using the dial to give every person in Metropolis the chance to have powers, which he believes is only proper and right. This happens just as Summer arrives - in the Supermobile - hoping to get Superman's help.

Summer getting lost and ending up in Gotham while trying to reach Metropolis was the funniest part of the issue. I'm not even sure where Metropolis is in relation to Gotham these days. Across the bay from each other, or is Metropolis back out in the Midwest while Gotham's on the coast? No wonder she got lost.
Miguel's second meeting with Superman is touching, and I liked the detail that the wheel on Miguel's bike bent when he threw it at Superman, and that Superman asks him to be careful or he'll hurt himself.

I think Miguel's right about the Dial drawing from a "Powerverse" more than a Heroverse, if a person's origin is what they choose to do with the powers, then unless the dial actually gives someone heroic impulses, which this story doesn't suggest it does, then yeah, it's just handing out powers. You can use them for evil if you want. The cop lady that turned into a Vertigo character might have thought she was doing good, but I kind of doubt it. The guy that turned into an Akira Toriyama character lost himself in the joy of fighting. They just wanted power, being a hero didn't seem to factor in.

But maybe the point is the person already has made a decision before they dial and that informs what they get. I don't know.

Mr. Thunderbolt still looks ridiculous to me with that massive chin, but most characters that come out of the H-Dial look ridiculous, so that tracks. The two-page spread of Miguel and Robby walking the dividing line between the two sides of the Powerverse was lovely. The way the sides mirror each other in some ways, but not all, and I really like the colors. They're bright and noticeable, but not overwhelming. You can still follow Miguel and Robby without getting lost. They're still the focus, but you can pause to enjoy the scenery if you want.