Thursday, October 31, 2019

Thirteen Ghosts

Watched this last weekend with Alex and his girlfriend, because they wanted a scary movie night. Except we ended up watching this and Clue, which is not particularly scary. It's weird, because on the one hand, I'm positive I've never watched this movie the whole way through, but on the other, I feel certain I wrote a review of it on here before? Strange.

So, grieving widower (Tony Shaloub) inherits bizarre house from dead uncle, takes his two kids and the nanny to check it out. Bizarre house is full of angry ghosts, family is trapped inside with unhappy psychic (Matthew Lillard) that worked for the dead uncle.

Alex was disappointed, because he hadn't watched this in years, and he remembered being really scared when he first saw it. His girlfriend, who had never seen it before, said it wasn't bad, even if she could not believe anyone would willing go inside a house that looked like that. Fair point. I think we all eventually agreed the movie is trash, but fun trash.

I don't entirely understand why the walls of the place need to move, rather than just having them in the configuration they need to be in right from the start, but I assume there's some reasoning behind it. Most of the ghosts designs are cool, even if I chuckle at how Matthew Lillard's character treats them like angry dogs sometimes. They keep meeting them in hallways, and he keeps telling the other characters to slowly back away. Does he think ghosts' vision is based on motion, like the T-rex? Because that does not appear to be the case. I guess he could think it's just a smarter approach than running screaming full-tilt in the other direction, but he doesn't act like the kind of person who would take that sort of measured approach. Too spastic.

Of the two surprises that come at pretty much the same time late in the movie, one actually did surprise me, and the other didn't. The character that wasn't dead after all? I remembered that from some earlier partial viewing. The character that's not what they say? That one surprised me. Probably shouldn't have, but oh well.

Shaloub's character is dealing with a lot of guilt for not going back into their burning home after his wife, and that plays into the whole movie. His not wanting either kid to wander out of sight too much, and once they have, being focused only on getting the two of them safely away. So he's set up to think he's going to have to sacrifice himself to save them. The movie never says it right out, but there's the idea that if he does that, well, what then for his kids? Now they've lost both parents in 6 months. Dying for them is all very well and good, but actually being there for them would be better.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

What I Bought 10/25/2019

I'm pretty sad to see Deadspin is quite possibly in its death throes, because the vulture capitalists shitheads running either don't know what the fuck they're doing, or don't care. Still, I like that, after telling the writers to "stick to sports", the writers turned around and posted about appropriate types of wedding attire and the good dogs they met while in Mexico. Go down swinging if you can.

Unrelated, I just figured out the Properties option for the images is how I can have alt text for the images I post. Damnit, I could have been working more stupid attempts at jokes into these posts for months now! I'm just going to use it for the scanned images I add, though. No sense going overboard.

Sera and the Royal Stars #4, by Jon Tsuei (writer), Audrey Mok (artist), Raul Angulo (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I assume that's supposed to be an eye glowing yellow, but it looks like a mouth.

Sera and the two Stars, plus the guy on the cover, named Formalhaut, continue their journey through the underworld, trying to find a way out. Given they are being pursued by the mysterious people in purple robes, they decide to take the risk of asking the Council of the Dead, who are not ecstatic at all these other gods and a live human hanging around. But they also won't intervene when the purple-robed folks start a fight while Sera tries to dream their way out of here. And while she's trying to manage that, there's something inside her demanding to be let loose. I don't think it's the Spirit of the Dance, but you never know.

I figure these five issues have to just be the start of something larger, because I can't really see how this whole thing is going to be resolved with one issue to go. Especially not when Antares is making reference to 'great battle to come' that all the stars were supposed to take part in. Plus, it seems Sera's mother isn't actually dead, which raises the question of where she is, and why she didn't finish this quest. Is Sera being duped, is awakening the Royal Stars a mistake for humanity? Aldebaran mentions that, from their perspective at least, all life on Earth exists because Ra, the Sun, dreamed them into existence. If you awaken someone and you're a function of their dream, will you vanish?
I think Alex and I have had arguments like this.
I like the variety of underworlds, representing various belief systems. I don't which one involves caves with giant mushrooms, Luigi and Mario's perhaps, but it looks like a cool place to visit. Certainly wouldn't want to spend eternity there, though. The design for the creatures that attack Dream Sera are interesting. Flowers that come to life, but insectlike appendages formed out of the petals as needed. Creepy thing to have chasing you while you look for a bridge, that's for sure.

Steeple #2, by John Allison (writer/artist), Sarah Stern (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I actually got the variant cover, because it was in the front of the stack of copies. Plus it looks like the Reverend is fighting a couple of Swamp Things, which I think means Mike Sterling is legally compelled to buy this.

Billie decides she's not leaving after what she learned last issue, but she's not down with the monster punching. She's going to do community outreach, but hits a snag at convincing dissolute teens to take an interest. Until, after a chat with Maggie, she convinces them cleaning up litter will really stick it to their rival in Boscastle.

These have got to be pretty stupid teenagers to fall for that. Then it starts raining and the two muck creatures emerge from the sea. The Reverend's having a little trouble fighting his, but Billie has somehow had a pleasant conversation with the one that followed her and the trash patrol to the church. The Reverend's not ready to buy into the power of friendship, and Billie's not prepared for what goes on at the Church of Satan. 'Wow. This place is certainly quite. . . orgy forward.' is a heck of an observation. There are a lot of funny lines in this, which is not a shock if you've read Giant Days. Really, as tempting as it for me to just list dialogue that made me laugh, you should just go buy the comic yourself. You'll probably laugh harder that way.
Allison's art style always looks kind of simple to me, but it works. There's enough range each character is easily identifiable. Different body types, clothing styles, helps to make them memorable. Well, I suppose Billie and the Reverend dress the same, but that's unavoidable given their profession, and they don't look or act similar at all, so it's not an issue. Billie has those big round glasses, which somehow make her eyes look even bigger. You'd think since she so often has a wide-eyed, shocked expression, the size of the glasses would make her eyes look smaller in comparison. I guess they're large enough compared to the rest of her face to counteract that. I'm actually very impressed by how Mrs. Clovis can manage to scowl in so many different ways. There's one page she scowls in every panel, but it always looks slightly different. That must take a lot of practice.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Vol. 1 - Sandra Spanier & Robert W. Trogdon

The book is exactly what the title suggests, a collection of letters Hemingway wrote to various people. Letters to his parents, his sisters, his friends, prospective employers, any letters that could be located. In this case, from 1907 up through 1922. There are three more volumes of this, which my dad seems very intent on purchasing for me.

It can be interesting as a way to track Hemingway's mood on things, or the points when he gets fed up with someone. You can track his progress through his relationship with the nurse he met while serving in the Ambulance Corps in Italy. From being head over heels and ready to marry her, to finding out she met someone else while he was back in the States. First he's heartbroken, then he's insisting he really dodged a bullet, and by the final time he refers to her, he's adopted the approach that it was a good learning experience, if nothing else.

There can be a lot of humor in the letters, when he's bullshitting with his friends or his sisters. Or seeing how he chooses to sign his letters. During his stint in Europe during World War I, he seems fond of adding little drawings of different things. Beer steins sometimes, I think there's at least one that's meant to depict the state of his leg after he got a lot of shrapnel in it from a shell. He makes me look like a good artist, which is saying something.

At times only part of the letter was located, or whatever was written or typed is unintelligible. Or Hemingway will use a Latin phrase, but change one of the words, so Spanier and Trogdon are left trying to decipher what he meant by it. That's probably the main point of the book, that at the end of each letter is a series of footnotes explaining things. Sometimes it's simply the context of a person or event that's referred to, or translating something he writes in French. Other times they have to try and guess at what might have been written or said to him in earlier correspondence that he's responding to (since I'm guessing the collection of letters Hemingway received that he kept is fairly spotty).

'To Marcelline Hemingway, [5 May 1915]

You poor bonus caput how in the name of all things just and unjust did you get in the story club. If I couldn't write a better story than you I'd consign myself to purgatory. Congratulations.

Thine eternally,
Ernestum'

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Slow Start to the New Year

The solicitations for January aren't doing a lot for me. I mean, there was almost nothing that really caught my eye. Steeple will be wrapping up. I didn't even see Lion Forge's solicits, or any sign of Infinity 8 at all. I don't know if that has to do with the merger with Oni Press or what, but they were right in the middle of one of the stories.

Outside that, there's a new Arsenic Lullaby release, so I'll have to keep an eye out for that, and the second volume of that manga, Way of the Househusband. I read the first volume, it's actually pretty funny. There was more about his past than I expected, just in terms of suggesting he might not be free of it as much as he wants.

I think DC combined the first two issues of the Brian Azzarello-written Birds of Prey into a single graphic novel instead. Does that mean they decided to cancel the series already? There's a Wrath of the Spectre omnibus, if you feel like throwing down $125 for all the 1960s and 1970s Spectre stuff. Which includes the Aparo-drawn stuff with the strong horror comic vibe that people praise so highly. There's also a Hitman's Greatest Hits trade, consisting of his first appearance, the issue with Superman, "Thousand Bullets", and of course, "Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium". Also, the JLA: Hitman two-parter that came out years after the series ended. I think there were better choices, but maybe not if it had to be two issues.

Lots of Captain Marvel stuff getting re-released. The Jeff Smith Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil trade, and a collection of the first year of Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam series, which I think was part of the Johnny DC line for younger readers. Meanwhile, Geoff Johns and Marco Santucci have Billy fighting an army of gingerbread men, if that's your thing. I'm sure the gingerbread men eat children and joke about which body part they like to consume first. This is Geoff Johns we're talking about.

The second issue of Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage is out, and I did not notice on the first issue that these things a $7 an issue? Yikes. I hope they're a lot longer than your standard comic, or I'm going to be waiting a while to buy them.

As for Marvel, Namor has Atlants on the attack against the Agents of Atlas, but mostly the new crew, the ones I don't really care about, although Jimmy Woo and his crew are supposed to be showing up. Guardians of the Galaxy is getting restarted again, with Al Ewing as writer this time. There's some Hawkeye mini-series that started in December I either missed or chose to ignore, where Clint gets mixed up in a war between the Hood and someone dressed as Ronin. Oh wait, it's written by Matthew Rosenberg, that's probably why I ignored it. There's also a whole bunch of those "The End" one-shots. Gee, I wonder if they'll be depressing?

Deadpool's going to have Kraven hunting him down in his book. Given Wade's questionable morality, I'm not sure that qualifies as backsliding into villainy. The Black Cat's still dealing with the Thieves Guild in her book, and those two books would be the total of what I'm definitely buying from Marvel. There's an Alan Davis written mini-series that started in December called Tarot, about Diablo somehow causing another Avengers/Defenders War. But Davis isn't drawing it, so I'm not sure I care. Maybe I'll start buying Runaways. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and the picking are looking mighty slim at the moment.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #85

"Where's a Billy Goat When You Need It?" in Bishop: The Last X-Man #9, by Joseph Harris (writer), Georges Jeanty (penciler), Art Thibert and Allen Martinez (inker), Jason Wright (coloring), Jon Babcock (letterer)

So this book is from the last year or two prior to Grant Morrison taking over on X-Men. I guess when the X-Books were drifting a bit after Onslaught and Operation: Zero Tolerance. Assuming we don't consider those things evidence of aimless drifting as well. Anyway, Bishop realizes he came to the '90s looking for Fitzroy, then got caught up in X-Men bullcrap for several years and should probably go back to dealing with Fitzroy. But that lands him in a future where his old enemy has become ruler, really embraced his ability to mess with time. It's a technologically backward place, with most of humanity back to the Middle Ages. Fitzroy has an army, so Bishop has to pull one together as well.

I talked 4 years ago about repeatedly getting sucked into comics that were going to be about a character dumped in an unfamiliar, post-apocalyptic setting, and trying to cope. Usually, those books don't end up working for me overall, and this one isn't any different, but it did come closer than most. Maybe because Harris seemed to really try to make it a different crappy future from what Bishop is used to. The Sentinels are not a factor. The large cities seem to be gone. He does encounter some Morlocks, and the last remnant of the Hellfire Club, but mostly it's new stuff. Or, if it's old X-Men stuff, I don't recognize it. 

Like the giant in the picture above, or a race of sort of gargoyle/dragon looking creatures that were terrorizing a small walled city out in the middle of a desert. Bishop ends up with a few mutants on his side, but none of them are ever said to be descended from anyone he knows. Gambit's there as creaky old man, which I guess is one thing familiar to Bishop. So Bishop really is a bit out of his depth, with few allies, and hell, it's a long haul just to reach Fitzroy to try and fight him. 

Plus, it doesn't seem like Bishop has ever actually stopped Fitzroy. At best, Fitzroy has always turned tail and ran, but that leaves him free out there to start again. And Bishop knows this, and all his allies who understand there's history between the two know it. Which makes them wonder what's going to make this time any different, and whether they should really be throwing in their lot with him. This Fitzroy, at least, doesn't seem like he plans to flee, which should probably be a bad sign, but it doesn't seem like Bishop is too worried. He's pretty sure things will go like they always will, and he just needs to make sure Fitzroy doesn't escape.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Drifting Into An Uncertain Offseason

Sports post. Don't say you weren't warned.

The St. Louis Cardinals' season left me with mixed feelings. Hard to complain they made it to the NLCS, especially given where they were at the All-Star Break. At the same time, I'd have liked for them to win at least one game. Just don't get swept, that's my bare minimum requirement for a team I root for in the playoffs. I don't think it's a high bar, but their offense no-showed the first two games. Not too surprising given the Nationals' pitching and the Cardinals' frequently anemic offense. Then their defense did the same the last two games. A little more surprising, since the Cardinals had a pretty good defense this year, until you notice the manager kept playing guys who were bad at defense. If two-thirds of your outfield is Dexter Fowler and Jose Martinez, your outfield defense sucks.

Since I don't care about the Astros or Nationals, my attention turns to the off-season. I don't know what the Cardinals plan to do. There are rumors, of course. Adam Wainwright is coming back (fine). Marcell Ozuna is getting the qualifying offer and will decline (good for both parties). The Cardinals want Matt Carpenter to take some reps in the outfield (terrible idea). Who knows if any of that turns out to be true.

This is a blitheringly obvious statement, but the Cardinals need more players who are really good. Hey, I said it was obvious. What I mean is, the Cardinals have a lot of guys who are roughly average. Maybe a little better, maybe a little worse. And that, plus a few pretty good players - this year, Jack Flaherty and Kolten Wong, maybe Paul DeJong - is enough to be in contention for a playoff spot most years. The Cards didn't make the postseason an of the previous three years, but they were in the hunt until near the end each year. But it leaves them a clear step below what appear to be the elite teams, like Houston, or the Dodgers, probably the Nationals (who have several excellent players, but are hamstrung by their shit bullpen)*.

Not likely other teams will just trade players like that to the Cardinals, nor do teams normally let such players reach free agency. When they do, the Cards don't typically win the bidding wars. In the cases of Jason Heyward and David Price, maybe that's a good thing. Not a good thing in the case of Max Scherzer, who the Cardinals seemingly had zero interest in, even when he said he wanted to play for them.

So that leaves developing their own, and also getting them time to play. Which is the tricky part in places, because the Cardinals infield, at least, is kind of full. Yadier Molina is the starting catcher for seemingly as long as he says he is. Paul Goldschmidt's 5-year contract doesn't even start until this upcoming season, and he's coming off the worst year of his career. Paul DeJong's under contract for four more years, but he's good so that's fine. Matt Carpenter is under contract a couple more seasons, and coming off the worst year of his career. They couldn't move him, even if they were inclined to, which they don't seem to be.** Kolten Wong is probably tradeable, but he was also their best position player this year. It's an opportunity to sell high, but I'm not sure how much you could get back, and unless it's someone good, like a frontline starting pitcher to pair with Flaherty, I don't see the point.

Besides, the Cards don't really have any infielders near the major league level who look like real difference makers. Utility guys and league average dudes mostly, although one of them could always surprise once they reached the bigs.

The outfield is another matter. It was mostly mediocre this season. Dexter Fowler had a good first month, and that was about it. Jose Martinez' only baseball skill is hitting, and he only did that at an average rate this year. Harrison Bader, conversely, couldn't hit a damn thing this year, but was about the same value as Fowler and Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has never quite been the big bat the Cardinals were hoping for when they traded for him. He'll have stretches where he lights the world on fire, but overall, he's been above-average and that's about it. Seems like a cool guy, though.

The good news is, the team has a bunch of young guys that have either already reached the majors briefly, or are in AAA, that look like they could be really good outfielders. They have the potential at least. Bader was excellent last year, Tyler O'Neill killed AAA a season ago. Lane Thomas hasn't hit much in the minors, but in the (extremely) limited chance he got this year in St. Louis, he crushed the ball. Randy Arozarena killed AAA for half a season this year, and looks like he can do some of everything. The one game he got to start in September, against the Diamondbacks, he stole home, threw out a runner at third from right-centerfield, and hit his first home run, by the end of the sixth inning. Justin Williams finally showed the power he displays in batting practice during games this year for a month or so. Dylan Carlson reached AAA at 20 frickin' years old, and tore it up for the last few weeks of the season.

Point being, there are options. Granted, there are questions about all of them. Bader followed up a 2018 where his OPS was 6% better than average with a 2019 where it was 22% worse than average. O'Neill hasn't demonstrated he understands the strike zone at the MLB level, with 110 strikeouts in less than 300 plate appearances, against only 17 walks. But those PAs are split over two seasons, and he rarely gets consistent playing time (partially his own fault, since he seems to get hurt a lot). Thomas has never hit in the minors to suggest what he did in the majors was anything other than a 44 PA hot streak. Although those were spread out over about two months, so again, not like he was getting regular playing time, sine Mike Shildt insisted on starting Yairo fucking Munoz in centerfield more than Lane Thomas, an actual outfielder.

There are questions if Arozarena can hit for enough power, although I think being a line-drive machine with the ability to draw walks is good enough, personally. Williams really only has that brief stretch this year where the power has actually shown through. Carlson is only 20, and has less than 100 PAs at AAA. The league needs a chance to adjust to him, to see if he can adjust to that. there is a decent chance that at least two to three of those six are busts, and that two of the others are only average. Maybe one will be an All-Star, two, tops.

But the Cardinals won't know if they don't play them, and that's my concern. Because Shildt was more than willing to start Fowler, who is not a good centerfielder, ahead of Bader at times this year. He was willing to bench Bader and play Munoz or Tommy Edman, both of whom are infielders. Edman flat out said he hadn't played outfield since he was 12 or some shit. Granted he looks like he's only 13, but Baseball-Reference swears he's 24. Munoz and Edman both played more innings in the outfield than Thomas or Arozarena, who are, again, actual outfielders. Good ones! Like, legit league-average centerfielders defensively, at least, and Shildt has utility infielders running around out there like this is a Little League game.

So I need Ozuna to reject the qualifying offer and sign elsewhere. I need the Cardinals' front office to trade Fowler for something, anything. Do the Mike Leake approach, eat a third of the contract, and trade Fowler for an A-ball pitcher with good velocity but poor results. Because if Ozuna is here, he'll start, everyday. Ditto for Dexter Fowler. Mike Shildt made that abundantly clear, by starting them basically everyday they weren't out with an injury. We've seen what they can do, and it's not enough. I'm pretty confident that Thomas or Arozarena can, on strength of defense and baserunning alone, be more valuable than Fowler. If they can be even league-average hitters or close to it, they'll be way more valuable than him, and probably more valuable than Ozuna.

Shildt has stated the Cardinals recognize the importance of defense, even as many of his roster and playing time decisions say precisely the opposite. Well, put your money where your mouth is and play an outfield full of guys who are going to be really good defensively, and see if they can hit enough. Because most of the guys he played this year in the outfield couldn't do either.

So all of that has me worried, because I don't think the team sees it the way I do, and I'm pretty much waiting for the point when they trade the guys I want to see away, and I'm stuck watching a bunch of old, broke down veterans stumble around in the field next season, repeatedly screwing over the pitching staff with lousy defense. But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised! Nothing's happened yet.

* As a point of comparison, the Nationals had 9 players worth at least 2 wins above replacement, to the Cards' 10. But the Nats had 7 players worth at least 3 WAR, versus the Cards' 4, and 4 players worth at least 5 WAR, versus the Cardinals' 1.

** I don't actually mind the Cardinals' loyalty to the guys who have been there a long time. I know it isn't always optimal in terms of winning, but I appreciate that the team appears to care a little bit about continuity, and the fans developing a connection with particular players. Even if it is just a way to sell more Yadi Molina merchandise.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Los Santos Bound

Rather than actually buy the Playstation 4 I'd been telling myself I'd get this fall, I bought Grand Theft Auto V for my XBox 360 last month. One last game for that system.

So you play as three characters: Michael, a thief who cut a deal with a fed to fake his death and is currently going through a midlife crisis. Franklin, a younger car thief and driver who is getting tired of getting nowhere. Trevor, who was Michael's partner on the heist where he faked his death, but only found out that's what happened 10 years later. He's a violent, lunatic meth dealer and gun runner. The thing I've read online is Michael is what people who play GTA think they are, a classy guy with some style and rules, but Trevor is what they actually are. Someone who runs around shooting random people and blowing shit up for no reason.
Michael pisses off a cartel bigwig by destroying his house (or his mistress' house) and has to pull a jewel heist with Franklin's help to get the money to make things right. Which is what tips Trevor off he's alive, and then it's the three of them working together uneasily. And they all have their own things going as well.

Granting that I haven't really played a GTA game since Vice City, the main new thing in here to me was the whole heist aspect. The game gives you two options, one typically quieter and one louder. Each one will have different equipment required to make it happen. You'll have to hire additional people to round out the crew, and you get a few options of varying skill. The more skilled they are, the more likely things are to go smoothly, but they get a bigger cut of the money. If they survive a heist, you can use them again later, and they'll have improved their skills from the prior experience.

I went with what I thought was the quieter route every time. On the jewel heist I cheaped out on the driver and the gunman, but not the hacker, since the hacker would be able to keep the security system down longer and let us steal more. The gunman wiped out on his dirtbike, although I grabbed his bag of jewels, and the driver got us lost in the tunnels, but it mostly worked out. Still, after that I didn't cheap out again. I figured the amount of heat was going to increase, and I really couldn't afford to have useless helpers getting me killed.

After a certain point, I added one more rule: I would not use an approach if it involved helicopters. I hate trying to control helicopters in this game. I don't know what specifically I'm doing wrong, but it's always a struggle for me to get them to do anything smoothly. Descend, turn, move forward in a straight line. Any chopper I steer wobbles like a drunk hippo. Alex was watching me play his copy once and said I was making him motion sick. So no helicopters. Fortunately, those are usually associated with the "loud" option.
Besides all that, there are solo missions specific to each character, involving people they meet. it can be Trevor helping some weird couple steal random crap from celebrities, or Franklin helping Lester off greedy billionaires. It all boils down to largely the same thing, you drive somewhere and commit some level of criminal activity, but some of them are funnier than others. And then there are the random scenarios you could trigger at any time. People needing a ride, people trying to trick you into walking into a stick-up, or you drive past a liquor store and hey look at that armored car picking up the day's cash. The game gives you the option to ignore those if you want, which is nice.

One thing that frustrates me a little is the game is forces you down a certain pathway it feels like I should be able to avoid. The whole thing with the cartel guy, for example. Michael destroys his house, guy shows up at Michael's house right after, with just two goons. One carrying a gun, one carrying a bat. And Michael just lets the guy push him around. I'm sitting there thinking, "He thinks I'm buying him a new house? How about I kill him and his goons and they can ask the devil to build them a new house?"

You can have there be consequences for that action. That's fine. Just don't act like that situation is beyond my ability to fight my way out of. Same thing with Steve Haines, fed douchebag. Just let me kill him. To be fair, the game does, eventually, at the very end, let me kill him. It's just, I wanted to kill him 5 seconds after he opened his mouth, so waiting that long was very frustrating.

(There was never any possibility I was going to have Franklin kill Michael or Trevor, if only because whichever I chose, it would have made one of either Haines or Devon Westin happy, and I hated those guys. Besides, for all their bitching at each other, they did help Franklin make more money than he would have ever imagined making. Plus, they helped me save Lamar's dumb ass.)

Like Red Dead Redemption, the game will give you the option to skip to the next checkpoint if you keep dying at a certain spot. I used it a few more times here than I did in RDR (where I only used it once). About 5 times, total, maybe less. One of those was an incredibly boring sequence where I followed a janitor home from work, and he actually obeyed traffic signs. After I accidentally bumped his car and spooked him and failed once, after sitting through 5 minutes of that. I just rammed him immediately the next two times so I would fail and could then skip ahead.

The annoying thing is the game would make me sit through that, but the part where Michael hits his wife's yoga instructor in the face with a laptop is relegated to a cut scene?! Come on, I wanted to smash somebody in the face with a laptop, but every time I do it at work they call Human Resources!

There's still a lot of random crap I can do in the game. You know, if I feel like putting one of the characters through a bunch of games of tennis or whatever. Or I could go hunting for scraps of an alien spaceship. Or buy a few more businesses. I haven't tried to hijack a fighter jet from the military base yet. Not looking forward to the hospital bills I'll incur trying to pull that off.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Random Back Issue #6 - Robin #89

Really surprised Alfred would let Tim have such an unhealthy snack on the flight.
This is set during Tim's time attending a private school, where naturally all his classmates ended up in some trouble. Off the top of my head, one guy was there because anger issues jeopardized his sports scholarship, one guy got in trouble for winning too much money off poker websites, and Tim's roomie turned out to be an alcoholic. Plus there was the kid who had a demon trying to kill him. No, not Etrigan.

This go-round, Danny Temple turns out to be potential heir to the throne for Kobra. Danny gets kidnapped by Servitors (which Tim says Bruce has filed under "SSSSSSSSSS"). Plus they lose their deposit on the jet skis. I wonder if the guy they rented from was the same one who made the mistake of renting a jet ski to Frank Castle that one time?

Tim gets Alfred to fly him to the Himalayas to find Danny, while insisting he's just doing recon, he'll totally call for help if he finds anything. Spoiler alert: He does not call for backup. Deadman was probably pretty offended to not get an invite. I mean, he hangs out somewhere in the Himalayas, and he's a ghost. It can't be that long of a trip for him.

There turns out to be a whole power struggle, where Danny doesn't know what the hell is going on. There's a mysterious hooded figure eagerly waiting to see if Danny really is who they think he is, who turns out to be someone Robin knows really well. Tim's also not the only person making tracks for the secret base, as it turns out the previous leader of Kobra isn't quite ready to surrender his throne to anyone.
What was of more interest to me at the time was the subplot Tim mentions in the first panel up there. Batman had one of those brief blips of insight where he decides to train Spoiler, rather than just ineffectually tell her to stop. But when he needs Tim checked up on, he sends her to the school (because of some falling out with Alfred I forget the details of), after revealing Tim's secret identity. This after telling Tim he couldn't tell Spoiler who he was under the mask for a long time (and Bats doesn't reveal his identity to her, naturally). Expert Batdickery, right there. Reveal someone's secret without asking, meddle in their relationship, and be too scared of Alfred to just handle things yourself.

I'd been buying this book regularly about 5 months at this point. Dixon has another year to go as writer before Jon Lewis takes over, but Pete Woods will remain as the primary artist until the end of Lewis' stint around issue #120. I actually prefer Woods' version of Tim to Tom Grummett's, despite being a big Grummett fan if only because Woods doesn't draw him quite as ripped. Tim's just looks like a fairly athletic teenager. Maybe he should look more muscular, but considering he was usually portrayed as nowhere near the athlete Dick Grayson is, it didn't seem too off-base.

[Longbox #9, 7th comic. Robin #89, by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty (writers), Pete Woods (penciler), Andrew Depoy (inker), Noelle Giddings (colorist), Willie Schubert (letterer)]

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Red Dwarf - Grant Naylor

The Half-Price Books I bought this in had it filed under the astronomy section. Someone's not actually checking the interiors. Tsk, tsk.

This is actually two stories collected into a single edition, I think. Infinity Makes Better Drives, and Better Than Life. The stories primarily focus on a few people on the spaceship Red Dwarf. Lister, a hapless, lazy drunk who joined the crew hoping it would get him back to Earth after he somehow woke up on Saturn's moon Mimas after a birth day debauch, and Rimmer, who is an even more hapless, unlikable, pitiable schmuck trying to become an officer in the Space Corps, but lacking any aptitude (in anything) whatsoever. Add to that the ship's computer Holly, a talking toaster, a cleaning droid named Kryten, and an intelligent being evolved from cats (named Cat), and that's what you've got.

It's largely a series of farcical disasters, as things just keep going wrong. Of course, for Rimmer, things have been going wrong since roughly the moment he was born, and for Lister, since at least that birthday. But it grows to include mass crew deaths, navigational problems, unexpected planets, virtual reality addiction, and the ship's computer struggling with getting old. There's also an emotion-draining shapeshifter that comes into play in the last 40 pages, which I didn't really enjoy. Granted, watching these idiots try to deal with that problem in their best approximation of competence was in-line with everything else, but it wasn't really a problem created by themselves, which most of the others were, in one way or another.

Also, the other problems feel vaguely ridiculous, whereas "space monster" didn't somehow. Maybe because it's such a personal level problem, while the others are somehow on a grander scale that's hard to grasp. The planetary collision isn't going to affect any more people than the shapeshifter, but it's still different. For the most part, the book's very funny, makes things absurd without going to the point you stop caring what's happening.

Naylor mostly manages to skirt the line with Rimmer between making him someone you can be both annoyed with and feel bad for, without veering too far in either direction. I say mostly because there were a few times I really just wanted him to die (again). You can only watch someone completely screw-up every single thing they attempt, while absolutely refusing to consciously acknowledge that's what they're doing, for so long, you know?

'Luck.

If Napoleon had been born Welsh, would his destiny have been the same? If he'd been raised in Colwyn Bay, would he have been a great general? Of course he wouldn't. He'd have married a sheep and worked in the local fish and chips shop. But no - he'd had the luck to be born in Corsica, just at the right moment in history when the French were looking for a short, brilliant Fascist dictator.'

Monday, October 21, 2019

4 Easy Ways to Avoid Dying Via Quantum Inversion Bomb

So, what do we figure will happen in the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl finale? Issue 49 ended with Doreen appearing to take to the full brunt of Doom's quantum inversion bomb. Considering Doom intended to kill everyone present with it, including Dormamu and Fin Fang Foom, I'm dubious her body could shield everyone, but her tail could be super-tough and good at absorbing radiation. Maybe that's a new squirrel power?

There is the possibility that Ryan North is going for the big twist ending where Squirrel Girl is finally defeated. . . by death. But I can't really see him going that route. So she has to survive, somehow. I have four possible answers.

Solution 1: Loki gets involved. Loki was not one of the reformed villains that showed up to help Doreen, but it's hard for me to believe he's not going to make an appearance. How could he pass up the opportunity to make the big dramatic save? Plus, Melissa blew up Nancy and Doreen's apartment? Who knows how much Cat Thor fanfiction Nancy hadn't gotten around to posting yet? So Loki shows up, does magic to transport the bomb elsewhere, or transport Doreen elsewhere, or shield her, or intercepted her soul on its way to the afterlife. Something.

Solution 2: Melissa steps in. This whole thing is her fault, because she couldn't handle Doreen being around to potentially mess with her ruling the world, so she was dumb enough to team-up with Doom and think she was prepared for his double-crosses. Then when he double-crossed her ahead of schedule, she basically gave up. But Squirrel Girl didn't give up, and that convinced Melissa to command the Iron Man armor she's wearing to encase Squirrel Girl. Which protects her just enough to survive the blast.

Solution 3: Brain Drain. Tomas chucked Brian into the sky to keep him safe and allow Tomas to continue fighting. Brian had not come back down as of the end of the issue. I am not sure what a nihilistic brain in a jar could accomplish, but I feel confident he'll do something. Yeah, that one is really thin, but it feels significant he isn't back yet. Unless North and Charm are going to do a joke about Brain landing in some random spot because the Earth continued to rotate beneath him as he fell.

Solution 4: Something to do with the acorn necklace. The one Nancy gave to Doreen as a gift in the present, but Old Lady Squirrel Girl gave to her 20-something self at the tail end of the battle with Kang. The one where, if Nancy writes a message in hers, will show up in Doreen's somehow because it's from the future. So Nancy, at some point after this battle, after the bomb, writes a note in hers warning Doreen of what's coming and what she'll do. Doreen checks the thing periodically for messages, found that warning, and came up with something. Don't know what. Maybe Tree Ultron helped somehow? Things went as far as they did because the timeline had to reach the point she falls on the bomb, or you get a time paradox. Then Immortus shows up complaining, or the Time Variance Authority, or who the hell knows what, and nobody what's to deal with complainy old men or government bureaucracy.

So that's what I've got. Now watch it be something entirely different from all of those.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #84

"One Punch Isn't Enough," in Birds of Prey #107, by Gail Simone (writer), Nicola Scott (penciler), Doug Hazlewood (inker), Hi-Fi Designs (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer)

This is the last issue of the only story from Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey I own. And I own this one mostly because a) they brought Ice back from the dead, and b) the Secret Six show up. In my defense, I think Ed Benes drew a lot of Simone's run, and there's only so much of his art a person can handle. Nicola Scott is a considerable improvement. Everyone still looks extremely pretty, but there's not anywhere near as much posing characters for maximum boobs and ass exposure.

This is basically the only appearance of the Six' brief roster configuration that included Harley Quinn. Ragdoll hints in this issue that he's going to try chucking her off a cliff like he did the Mad Hatter previously. Instead Harley wound up as a recurring character in Countdown, DC's attempt to replicate the success of 52, but without basically any of the creative talent from that one.

Might have been better off with the cliff. Man, Countdown was fucking terrible. They turned Jimmy Olsen into a giant Turtle Boy, had him fight Darkseid, and somehow made that suck. How do you even manage that?!

Ahem, where was I? Oh yeah, this was right after 52 and One Year Later, and Spy Smasher - seen getting wrecked in the picture above - has figured out Barbara is Oracle and has taken over her operation. She just fired Lady Blackhawk for disobeying orders by coming to pick them up, rather than staying at the plane. You see how that went.

Honestly, as disappointed as Huntress is in Oracle for letting this happen, I'm more disappointed in Huntress for not having Zinda's back and, I don't know, putting a crossbow bolt in Spy Smasher's eye? But Spy Smasher clearly has strong plot armor game, because when they were fighting the Six, she squares off with Deadshot, who passes up more than one opportunity to shoot her. Deadshot. Not shooting someone he's fighting when he has the chance. Right.

It doesn't matter in the long run, since Canary rallies all Oracle's friends to give Smasher the boot next month, and about three years later, during Simone's Secret Six ongoing, Spy Smasher tries to pull a power play on Amanda Waller, and the Wall basically burns her to the ground. Because Amanda Waller's the best! When she's not being the worst.

This is just kind of an odd book to look at, given the characters involved and where things go from here. Hawkgirl and the Kate Spencer Manhunter are on the team, but I don't think they stay beyond this story. Knockout and Barda have a good brawl, seem to part on good terms. Until Scandal makes a careless comment to Knockout in bed and sends the redhead off to prove something. Which never happened, because she was sacrificed on the altar of Jim Starlin's Death of the New Gods. Ice was brought back, but other than Guy kind of botching his attempt to ask her to move in, I'm not sure anyone used her until Judd Winick's Generation Lost. You also have Misfit, the teen redhead with teleporting powers who briefly called herself Batgirl. This is story where her "DARRRRK VENGEANCE!" call comes from. I can't remember what happened to her, either, other than she had a brief rivalry with Black Alice, and they got briefly tangled up in some lead-up to Final Crisis.

Anyway, future wasting of various characters' potential aside, this is a pretty good story itself. Very much in the vein of Suicide Squad, where the team goes in on a mission where they aren't being told everything, and it all proceeds to go to hell. There are other players opposing them, in this case the Six, there's a lot of tension within the group (I think Spy Smasher brought Manhunter in, so the old guard aren't sure if they can trust her). Nobody likes the boss, and it just turns into a mess. The Six turn on their employer, because he's a complete sleaze, and they don't get paid. They are really bad at their jobs.

Friday, October 18, 2019

What I Bought 10/12/2019 - Part 2

Another week spent mostly out on inspections. Not as much fun two weeks in a row. And this pretty much does it for me having a bunch of posts saved up and ready to go It was a nice six weeks while it lasted. Today we're looking at the other two comics I'm buying from Marvel this month.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #49, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I really like the colors on that cover. The pink, the green, the purple. It's like a particularly deadly sunset over a septic pond!

The battle between the villains and Doreen's friends goes back and forth, helpfully tracked by the "Chance-Of-Winning-The-Big-Fight-Scene-O-Meter". The squirrels show up to help, Mordo has a spell for that. The Avengers show up, Melissa gives her allies each suits of Tony's armor. Captain Marvel tries an ambush, Doom has nanobots for that. All the villains Doreen's helped over the years show up to lend a hand? Well, Doom has a plan for that, but it's not one anybody else is going to like. Oh Doom, you're such a cad!

That was a lot of fun. I didn't expect the arrival of Kraven and Co. I was pleased to see Melissa have the opportunity to realize how dumb it was to think she actually had a handle on a partnership with Doom. Any partnership with Doom is ultimately reliant on him deciding to honor the terms, because otherwise, he's going to backstab at some point. You can't stop it, you can only hope to survive it.
Charm's nauseous squirrels are adorable, and I laughed at the panel of Fin Fang Foom looking perplexed and angry at all these squirrels crawling all over him. Although they look like brown leeches in that panel. I would be freaked out about that, too. The whole page of Doreen being blasted across the park and almost not being able to get up was really well done. Probably because we haven't seen her fail to get up yet. She's gotten up and realized she needs to try something else plenty of times, but that still involved getting up.

I laughed at the explanation for how the Avengers showed up, even with Melissa blocking Tony's distress call. She-Hulk made a really good point, although I could have seen the argument no media showed up because they've become blase about climactic super-battles. It would have been understandable. Also, Melissa, or whoever it was, trying to blast that poor cameraman.

Black Cat #5, by Jed MacKay (writer), Travel Foreman (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - Not sure what exactly we're seeing there. I guess all the potential ways it could end for Felicia. Hence the "9 Lives" thing.

Blastaar has something that keeps the Negative Zone portal from closing, so the building is on lockdown. So Felicia and her guys can't just run. Not that Johnny could beat Blastaar on his own, anyway. So Felicia's got to stay, and Felicia has to fight. All the more since Blastaar's taken a shine to her. Little surprised she'd be his type, but I don't know what the women of his species look like, and it could just be a conqueror mentality. You're mine, like everything is mine. Anyway, with a little help from Trapster's arsenal, and Doc managing to hotwire the Fantasticar, Felicia dumps Blastaar back into the Negative Zone. Then Sue Richards shows up, but she's mostly interested in yelling at Johnny, so Felicia and the guys get to leave, with the book.

So I guess we can add "Black Cat" to the list of people Blastaar has grudges against. I never did get to see him settle things with Star-Lord or Nova after they pissed him off in the Abnett/Lanning days.

While I like how absolutely furious Foreman draws Sue (I can see why she's the one Felicia did not want to mess with), I'm surprised she's that pissed. Yes, Sue, Blastaar forced open the Negative Zone portal and attacked your house. Don't act like this is the first time this kind of thing has happened. Or else tell Reed to get rid of the damn portal.
For all that Felicia is wondering in this issue if she's a bad person, it seems like she was going to do something crazy and possibly self-sacrificing with that device before Sue showed up. She tells Doc and Sonny to get Johnny, and makes sure Bruno can get himself moving, but what was she going to be doing? She's holding the device. Was she going to keep it, and hope her powers kept it from exploding somehow?

Foreman draws Blastaar a lot uglier and crazier than I'm used to seeing him. He's very lumpy, massive neck, from certain angles, looks like his nose barely projects off his face. Heck, from certain angle it looks like his face just grows out of his neck, no skull involved. They do things differently in the Negative Zone.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Killer

Title is actually "El Matador". So "matador" means "killer". Apt, but somehow I would not have thought it would translate to that.

I had to take a chance on a Brazilian Western, because why not? It's framed as this unassuming looking guy and his two sons telling a story to these two dangerous guys they find in the woods. A story about a gunman named Cabeleira. He was found abandoned as a baby by a hired killer called Seven Ears and raised out. Eventually Seven Ears leaves and doesn't return, so Cabeleira goes searching for him. It turns out all the things he learned about hunting, tracking, and killing, make him a good gun-for-hire, for the local hotshot landowner, a Frenchman named Blanchard.

(I can't help noticing that the bad guy in a Western in a country colonized by the Portuguese is French. It's like making a Western set in Arizona where the greedy landowner is Chinese, or Russian or something.)

It's not a happy movie. Most anyone who shows kindness dies. So it's perhaps fortunate that life is too hard for many people to show kindness. The closest the movie has to a hero is an old man named Sobral, whose wife and son were killed by Blanchard's goons because he wouldn't sell his land. Seeing that the government agents sent to stop this aren't interested, he kills them, takes their uniforms, and basically decides to do it himself.

Too bad he forgot what Tuco the one-armed man in the hotel.

The storyteller makes a big deal about how the precious stones (the tourmaline paraiba) can curse a man who becomes obsessed with them. Blanchard, Seven Ears, Cabeleira. I thought the thing that could have been more relevant was that Seven Ears supposedly taught Cabeleira to only kill what he intended to eat. Cabaleira seemed to have forgotten that entirely, considering how much of his money he spends on fucking women at the brothel.

There's not really a payoff to the idea of the stones being cursed. I guess things end badly for Blanchard, eventually, and Cabeleira must have died at some point. But we don't see either death, don't see how their lives were left in ruin.When Blanchard dies, he's still a rich man, and he presumably died quickly of a gunshot. Yes, his rapist of a son had died earlier, but we don't really see him destroyed by grief over that. I suppose the argument is their greed tainted their souls irreparably, but that doesn't really do anything for the people who are suffering and dying at their hands, right now, you know?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What I Bought 10/12/2019 - Part 1

I am sort of doing Sketchtober this year. No theme, other than trying to draw some stuff I've had in mind for some time. And pretty much just drawing when I feel like it. Which, granted, means I'd only done 5 pieces as of last Saturday. I'll try to pick it up in the second half of the month, I guess.

Magnificent Ms. Marvel #8, by Saladin Ahmed (writer), Joey Vazquez and Alex Arizmendi (artists), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That's not a good place for Kamala to be.

Kamala, Nakia, and Zoe are brought to the Rubicon factories, to meet the boss, who tells people to call him Uncle Brett. Kamala's suit gets her free of some shackles, but they have to run when it turns out "Brett" has some sort of contact-based mind control powers. Actually, he's some sort of monster. Lots of faces and eyes. If he had more teeth I'd say he could have come out of John Carpenter's The Thing. He tries to absorb Kamala, but she's been watching some DragonBall Z and flares her ki aura to blast him apart. Or maybe she grows really fast? Not at all clear on what exactly she did, but neither was Brett, so maybe that's by design. Something is going on with the new suit that Kamala's not clear on, because she almost crushed Josh. Oh no, she almost crushed the whiny baby, how awful, he said in the flattest, least sympathetic tone you can imagine.

Not a lot of fighting zombies in this story I had the impression was going to be about fighting zombies. That said, watching Kamala kick the crap out of Discord and Lockdown with relatively little difficulty was fun. Especially while they're trying to talk trash and/or complain about how their current status is her fault, as opposed to them being fascist losers. Ahmed's really expanding the ways Kamala can use her powers, since she pulls out the old "make your arm into a slingshot" bit Reed Richards uses sometimes. I guess it ties into the idea of her powers evolving, the way she used to be able to change her appearance.

The art shifts from Vazquez to Arizmendi in the last 5 pages, right as Brett shows his true form. Arizmendi's style is a bit simpler than Vazquez's so all the additional faces on Brett's body look less like anguished souls in torment, and more almost silly. It still works, although I thought being enveloped looked more gross than terrifying. I guess it would be both either way, although the space inside Brett just ends up looking like some purple void with bluish goo floating in it. I do like the increasing size of the panels as you move down the page and everything closes in on Kamala before she's able to break free.
My favorite panel is Kamala punching Lockdown in the face and telling her to shut it. Doesn't seem like it knocked Lockdown very far away, though. She was maybe a step or two in front of Josh before the punch, and she's still about even with him after, and already shooting at Kamala. I guess her suit was built to handle Kamala and her powers.

Anyway, I think I'm done with this book. Even the stuff I like comes with qualifiers.

Gwenpool Strikes Back #3, by Leah Williams (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (color artist), Joe Carmagna (letterer) - I like that Williams at least references in-story that Dodson plays up Gwen's chest more than Baldeon (or any other artist I can remember) does. Might as well use it.

Gwen escapes from Sue and Reed by terrifying David Baldeon while he's drawing the page so his coffee spills into the panel and soaks them. Wade thanks himself for giving her a sales boost, and then leaves. Apparently he's not mad about her unmasking Spider-Man any more. Or he forgot about it already. Gwen reads her sales figures and learns readers prefer her to be evil. Says who? So, she lures a bunch fo heroes to an island under some fake "kid's dying wish is to see heroes play beach volleyball" plan, then reveals they're all going to have to fight for their lives so she can prove she's a real threat. Or something. Then she shoots Bruce Banner in the head. He comes back of course, since that's his shtick, but he winds up as Gwen's opponent. Which she didn't plan for I guess? Whoops.

I laughed a lot. Gwen charging right through her speech balloon to escape Wade. Her use of her retcon power to both capture Banner and make sure there's a cash prize. Tony taking advantage of the rules to punch Steve Rogers in the face, only to have the "I forfeit" bit not save him in time. Although Baldeon kind of fucked it up, since Steve is clearing throwing a left jab in the first panel, but connects with a right cross in the next. Unless Steve was able to hit him twice before it kicked in. That doesn't seem likely. Reed Richards with a stretched out face and wet hair is kinda weird looking. Like a sad, shaggy dog. Sue looks more like cat, extremely pissed off about this indignity. Squirrel Girl asking to leave because Gwen won't look good if she loses to her.
I don't really agree that Gwen's better when she's bad. "Wild card" is much more interesting, and can be used in a lot of different ways. Versatility is key! It's why Ben Grimm and Spider-Man were both able to sustain team-up books for so long. You can plug them into almost any situation, deep space, street crime, weird magic crap, and they can fit. Also because they were already extremely popular characters. Doom's a great character because he has just enough nobility to be unpredictable. And that's kind of what Gwen's doing here, a little. She's doing anything she can to survive, but she isn't thinking ahead about any of it, so the consequences are getting away from her. Granted that most of it is leaning towards bad - unmasking Spidey, pissing off Deadpool, pissing off the Hulk - but it wouldn't always have to go that route.

Who knows, maybe Gwen will do something good to fix all this stuff at the end? Or at least try to fix all this stuff. I wouldn't put good odds on her getting it right, as opposed to fouling things up.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Time Trap

This professor finds a long abandoned van with flowers painted all over it, and then a cave with a gunfighter frozen just a few feet in. Lacking any common sense, he ventures into the cave alone. When he doesn't return, two of his grad students, Taylor and Cara, go looking for him.

Since they lack an appropriate vehicle, they ask another friend to drive them in her dad's jeep. Since they lied about where they were going and what they were doing, the girl's mother insists her younger sister be allowed along, and then this other, pre-adolescent boy the younger sister knows somehow gets to go along, and continuously be a creep towards Cara.

They find a cave, leave the boy outside, and head in. At which point everything goes to hell. The rope they used to descend to a lower cavern breaks. They try to call the boy (called Furby, poor kid), and hear some creepy, anguished voice replying. People venture into other sections of the caverns for long periods of time, but claim they were only gone for seconds.

Then they find one cavern with a hole to the outside at the top, and a curious strobe effect going on in the sky. They also find Furby, dead on the floor of the cavern. Things continue to go downhill, because there are time shenanigans going on in these caverns.

I don't think that qualifies as a spoiler. The title of the movie is "Time Trap", not exactly subtle.

The characters spend what feels like a lot of time watching videos recorded on phones and cameras they're wearing, to establish to themselves that time is moving weirdly in here. It probably isn't that long, but damn it feels like it takes a long time to get beyond everyone being befuddled to everyone being freaked out, which is at least louder and potentially more interesting. I think the fact the audience is so far ahead of the characters in figuring crap out hamstrings things.

The most interesting part to me was the spaceman fighting the cavemen, which reminded me of that episode of Angel where they argue through the entire show about who would win a fight between cavemen and astronauts. The answer, based on this is, the astronaut if it's one on one, the caveman if they have a 3-to-1 advantage. Although this may hinge on the spaceman being from a period of time when humans have evolved to be 8 feet tall, and on cavemen being short and kind of skinny. I'm not sure what happens if you decrease the size disparity.

The ending is. . . something, I'll say that.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Dark Trail - Chapter 12

"Well, we aren't likely to be questioning him," Pollock said as she rose unsteadily. "How is it I get knocked out more when I work with you two than when I fight you?"

"We go easy on you," Clever Adolescent Panda replied instantly.

"Totally," Calvin agreed. "Also, I would like to be somewhere else before local law enforcement is called to investigate the collapsed building and corpses therein."

"Agreed," Pollock said. "Hopefully we can get the gnome in stable condition and get some answers. I suspect the computers we appropriated will take some time."

"No worries, then," Deadpool called cheerfully, ""dead" is a very stable condition."

"Wade!" the panda shouted.

Cassanee surprisingly came to the mercenary's defense. "He was already dying before Deadpool stabbed him." Or perhaps she was just stating facts.

Deadpool didn't seem bothered by the outrage. "Look my fuzzy buckaroo, these guys are playing a different game from what you usually get from your saucy CEO archfoe." Pollock mouthed "saucy?" with a bewildered expression as Deadpool gestured at her.

CAP was not impressed by Deadpool's argument. "I've faced things that tried to kill me before, Wade. Pollock summoned a demon once, remember? It beat the snot out of you."

"I certainly don't remember that," Deadpool replied defensively. "And that's not my point. She's not so gung-ho about killing you she'll kill herself or her goons in the process."

"They're valued employees, not goons, thank you," Pollock stated huffily.

"Right, breathing punching bags." The mercenary kept his gaze locked on the panda. "Point being, it doesn't look like these guys quit as long as they can keep going. You gotta stay on your toes."

"I get it, Wade. I can handle it."

"Sure ya can, kid!" Wade said brightly, "just like the rest of the merry band. Except maybe Calvin. Right, guys?" He turned to see only Pollock standing there. "Where'd everyone else go?"

"I believe they all wandered off a few minutes ago," Pollock explained. "Calvin said something about checking on his ride."

"During my important, mentor-like speech?!" Deadpool was aghast.

Rhodez was crouched at the edge of the brand-new hole in the ground, searching for any signs of movement through the still-settling dust and rubble.

Cassanee stood calmly next to her, arms folded across her chest while the wind rustled her cloak around her legs. "Anything?" Her voice carried more tension than usual, as she wondered if the man with electricity powers was down there somewhere, waiting for an opening.

Rhodez shook her head. "Remember how the basement was underwater? Looks like whatever they did dropped the whole building deeper than that. I haven't seen anyone yet."

Cassanee pointed at something to the left, bobbing gently. "Looks like an arm."

Rhodez squinted slightly for a moment, then suppressed a gag. "Yeah, that's all it is, though." She paused, and focused on it again. "But it's drifting away."

"So the water is flowing to somewhere?"

"Yup. Don't know where, though. Maybe the hallways run a little farther out under the property, and that's all."

"Can we find out?"

Rhodez thought about. "If we had some dye, we could add it and see if it surfaces somewhere else."

"I have plenty of red dye! Just let me open an artery!" Deadpool called out as he walked up with CAP and Pollock.

"Deadpool, introducing your blood into an aqueduct would probably be considered biological warfare," Pollock stated calmly.

"Hey! The only side effects of my blood is awesomeness! And possibly an elevated blood alcohol level!"

"You've been drunk this whole time?!" Rhodez was incredulous.

"It's not enough to get me drunk, but normal people, yeah, they might get buzzed. And buzzed driving is fun driving!"

Ignoring all this, Clever Adolescent Panda reached into their satchel and produced a small device with a single, steadily flashing light. "This is a tracking device. If we can put it in something that'll float, it'll work."

"What did you bring a tracking device for?" Pollock asked as she shuffled through her collection of oversized cartridges.

The panda looked surprised at the question. "Um, to attach to a suspicious person if they got away, of course!"

"It was to use if Calvin got separated from you again, wasn't it?" Cassanee countered.

CAP glanced at the ground, embarrassed. "He's always vanishing!"

"Yes, like right now, for instance," Pollock observed as she handed a now empty cartridge to the panda, a mess of confetti on the ground next to her.

CAP's head shot up and their head swiveled from one direction to another. "What?! Where is he?"

"You know, for the tracker to be of any use, you need to put it on him before he disappears."

"Shu-shut up! Why did you have a cartridge filled with confetti, anyway?"

Now Pollock got defensive. "It's not confetti, it's chaff! To confuse any radar-guided weapons!"

"Oh, yeah, sure it is!" CAP said sarcastically. "You can't confuse a missile with that small amount of chaff! And why would it be all different colors, and made of paper?!"

"Let's all calm down," Deadpool said as he stepped between them. "Calvin will show up when he gets hungry."

"We don't have any food with us," Cassanee stated flatly.

"We don't? No one brought celebratory tacos and wieners? What the fuck, you guys?! Where was I? Second, there's nothing wrong with having confetti handy, since it livens up any situation. Watch!"

Deadpool bent down, grabbed the confetti in one hand, and hurled it into the air. In the still summer air, it fell back down to them quickly. Everyone watched it flutter to the ground, then turned to the mercenary, who seemed to be waiting for something.

After a moment, he scratched his scalp. "Well, it would have worked if we had tacos, I'll bet."

"Are we gonna throw that tracking device in?" Rhodez asked. "I don't do well in the heat."

"Sure," CAP chirped, before realizing it was missing. "Where did it go?"

"How in the hell did you lose something you were holding in your hand?! Do pandas develop senile dementia in adolescence?" Pollock asked sardonically.

"I threw it in already," Cassanee explained, gesturing towards the hole. "You were all wasting time."

"Oh. Well, good. Now we just need to find Calvin."

"What are you dinguses doing over here?" Calvin leaned out the window of his SUV as he rolled to a stop a short distance away.

"Where were you?" Clever Adolescent Panda asked.

"Checking to make sure no one was coming to see what happened. Also loading those computers you grabbed in the back." He jerked his thumb towards the rear of the vehicle. "What did you think I was doing?"

"I assumed you fell into the hole," Pollock responded.

"I was worried you were captured or hurt," CAP explained.

"I figured you were going to the bathroom," Rhodez chipped in.

"That you saw something important and went to investigate alone," Cassanee said from the back seats. She'd wasted no time getting in the car.

"You guys are doing this wrong!" Deadpool huffed. "You're supposed to say something outlandish! I thought you were having a pleasant conversation with a total stranger!"

"Now that's going too far," Calvin said flatly. "Will you guys get in already?"

"Yeah Deadpool, Calvin would never do that," Rhodez laughed as she headed for the van.

"Don't backsass me, Padawan! Don't think I've forgotten you not sticking around for my important words of wisdom to the source of cuteness on this blog!" He produced a swagger stick from somewhere and swatted her on the head.

"What the hell, Wade?!"

"Physical abuse is an X-Men approved teaching method! I got certified in it and everything! Or was that some weird anime girl dating game I played on my phone?"

"Maybe we should let Rhodez ride with us," CAP said as they hesitated to climb into the shotgun seat.

"You are more than willing to give her your seat, but we are not putting three people back here," Pollock stated firmly.

"Yeah, that's not happening," Calvin added. "No way can Rhodez keep Pollock and Cass from destroying my ride if they start fighting. She's on her own." Calvin accelerated out of the empty parking lot back onto the two-lane highway. Deadpool and Rhodez followed in the van moments later

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #83

"Dinah Can Use a Sidekick, Right?" in Birds of Prey #40, by Chuck Dixon (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Jesse Delperdang (inker), Wildstorm FX (colorist), Albert T. de Guzman (letterer)

I only own about a dozen issues of Birds of Prey. Nothing against the book, it's just that none of Oracle, Black Canary, or Huntress are characters that really move the needle for me. They're in that large subset of "don't got nothing against them, don't got nothin' for 'em, either" characters. Basically all the issues I do own involve other characters making guest appearances. During the Dixon run, that boils down to Power Girl, Ted Kord, or in the case of this issue, Spoiler.

This is from a stretch where one of those three seems to show up fairly regularly, but there's also a lot of event tie-ins. This issue, for example, is part of Bruce Wayne: Murderer, where, if I remember right, Cass Cain's dad killed Vesper Fairchild and made it look like Wayne did it, because. . . reasons. He was trying to get Cass back? Someone paid him to do it? I can't remember.

Oracle has Canary helping her with the investigation, without explaining why exactly she's so interested in proving Bruce Wayne's innocence (although I think it's implied Dinah figures it out). Which is one of the things that bugs me about Oracle, Dixon's version of her at least. She plays a lot of double standards. She gets to know everything about you, but you're lucky if you know anything about her. She sends you on a job, she only tells you what she thinks you need to know, regardless of how little of the full picture that is. It's amazing to me anyone puts up with that, but they do.

Beyond that, the other two threads are that Ted Kord finds out he's had a bunch of heart attacks, and then get attacked by a little robot sent by some dude who wants to take over his company, and Canary helping Spoiler by kicking Steph's dad and the Riddler out of her house. Which is admittedly pretty cool, when Canary Crys the Riddler's gun to pieces. I think this starts a brief stretch where Steph tries to get Canary to teach her the ropes, since Batman's off on his bullshit again, but it never really goes anywhere.

Rick Leonardi had taken over as penciler the issue prior to this, and I think Jesse Delperdang is a really good inker for him. The two seem to have worked together on several Batbooks around this time (Nightwing and Batgirl being two where I've seen them), and it's what I'd call Leonardi's strongest work. It avoids that common trait of his work where the lines are so faint figures and faces are almost impressionistic at times. Just a hint of facial features and your mind fills in the rest. There's none of that here, but maybe having Dixon or Kelly Puckett as the writer leaves an artist more room to work than Chris Claremont (although that wouldn't explain some of the stuff I've seen the last few years).

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Intuitive Atomic Robot

When I was reading Robots and Empire last month, it raised a question in my mind. Daneel repeatedly refers to the fact that as a robot, he lacks the intuition that Elijah Baley has, and therefore can't make the leap to a conclusion without more evidence.

So then I wondered: Does Atomic Robo have intuition?

I suppose you could raise the question about any fictional artificial lifeform character, but Robo was the one that raised the question with me.

I was going to say Deadly Art of Science is a strong point against him, since he couldn't piece together how all the various thefts by gangsters and one large robot (with a fondness for derby hats) fit. On the other hand, he was able to figure out the thieves were escaping using an abandoned pneumatic tube system because the locations they robbed matched a map he remembered from Mr. Tesla's office. And he did grasp that the various robberies, including the crystal skull, were connected.

He pulled together a theory on how Dr. Dinosaur is not actually a time-traveling dinosaur, and actually the result of an illegal genetic experiment, just based on talking with him and his opinion that time travel is either impossible or at least extremely unlikely. Of course, that's hampered somewhat by the fact Dr. Dinosaur did successfully, if unintentionally, throw Robo backwards in time, so he might be wrong.

But that's good! Part of intuition is making leaps that aren't always correct, right?

But when Edison came back as a ghost, Robo couldn't figure out who it was until the ghost mentioned Theodore (his son), the day of the big battle, and the Odic Force. At that point, you can't really call it intuition. I'm not even sure how to rate his battle with the Shadow from Beyond Time, considering he was able to collaborate with three of himself from different points in his life, who could tell his youngest self what he needed to learn how to do. That said, his future selves didn't have time to tell him much other than to study transdimensional math and that he would need to invent some fields of science himself. The rest was up to him to piece together, and he got better at it, up to a point.

One issue is, Robo seems extremely firm about what is and isn't scientifically possible for a guy who has seen the amount of weird crap he has. You'd think he'd be more open to exotic answers, but I guess if he doesn't see a way to test or confirm them, they aren't much good.

Maybe that highlights the difficulty here. Robo isn't your typical private detective, he's a scientist who also sometimes solves problems with punching (and shooting, and jumping). He's not solving murders where he has to figure out where the murder weapon went, he's dealing with threats that sometimes involve aspects of science he either isn't aware of or doesn't understand. If you don't know what the rules are, it can be difficult to make that leap, because you don't know what can be ruled out, or what is reasonable.

Even Elijah Baley, for all Daneel praises his intellect, struggles during the cases in The Naked Sun and Robots of Dawn because there are things about Solaria and Aurora, about Spacers and their culture in general, that he doesn't understand. And those gaps, the things that are so accepted on those worlds no one even thinks to mention them to Baley, help trip him up. Once he learns about them, it helps him to understand the psychology of the people he's dealing with, and the intuition can kick in.

For Robo, when people were either mysteriously turning into machines, or turned out to be machines all along, he recognized a sound they emitted before falling apart as something connected to ALAN, and went to Hashima. Of course, it turned out the robots were Helsingard's creations, because ALAN had unknowingly hacked into them, but the initial leap was good.

So is that intuition, or just experience? Is there a difference? You gain experience by doing things, and if you gain intuition through experience, then. . . 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

50 Short Science Fiction Tales - Isaac Asimov and Groff Conklin

It's what the title says, although Asimov and Conklin are the editors, rather than the sole authors (although Asimov does contribute one story to the mix). Most of the stories were originally published in other places, probably science fiction magazines of the 1950s, and are being reprinted here.

All the stories are short, ranging from two to maybe 8 pages at the max. So if one of them does tickle your fancy, you're on to the next in no time. A lot of them fall into the twist ending category. You know, "the invading aliens are actually Earthlings" kind of thing. But if you only have a few pages to tell the whole thing, I guess messing with the audience expectations is one way to handle it. Some of the others are in the ironic punishment vein, like H.B. Hickey's "Hilda". Some of them are going for laughs, although I'd say Fritz Leiber's "A Bad Day for Sales" is fairly dark humor.

So there's a variety, some stories more optimistic about humanity, several more pessimistic about our greed and stupidity. You get the stories where we see humanity in the future, and it's turned out OK (or humans in the future are looking back at their ancestors' actions with bewilderment). And you get the ones where humanity is gone in the future, or it sure looks like that's the way it's going.

I enjoyed Heinlen's "Columbus Was a Dope" story, because it feels pretty accurate about people in general (if not so much about Columbus himself). There are people who push forward, want to see new frontiers, and there are people who don't, comfortable where they are. And among the ones who don't, there will be those who understand and appreciate the people who take the risks and go forward, and those who think it's just stupid. And that won't change.

'One minor misfortune of the winnowing process may be mentioned: A beautiful Australian actress, whose clarity of diction (in either form) and linguistic talent strongly recommended her, proved to metamorphose not into the European wolf (Canis lupus), but into the Tasmanian (Thylacynus cynocephalus); and Professor Garou, no doubt rightly, questioned the effect upon the Martians of her marsupial pouch, highly esteemed though it was by connoisseurs of such matters.' from Anthony Boucher's "The Ambassadors"

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

What I Bought 9/27/2019 - Part 2

I'm writing this up last week, since I'm out in the field all this week. Hopefully the river levels aren't up too much, or that's going to make getting to some of the places I need to get rather difficult. Plus, the folks around here really don't need more flooding to contend with.

I left this book for last since it had a three stories, so I figured it could carry its own post.

Amazing Spider-Man: Going Big, by Gerry Conway and Ralph Macchio (writers), Erik Larsen (writer/artist), Mark Bagley (penciler), Todd Nauck (artist), Victor Olazaba, Andy Owens, Dexter Vines (inkers), Carlos Lopez, Laura Martin, and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorists), Joe Sabino and Ferran Delgado (letterers) - I'm not sure I have the energy to write about the actual comic after listing all those people out. Also,I have no idea what's "going big" about this issue. It's not like it's a 100-page special or anything.

So, three stories. Starting from the back of the book, we've got Larsen writing and drawing a story that starts with Spidey fighting Nightshade and a bunch of people she turned into werewolves in a subway. Which makes him late to meet Mary Jane for a movie, and he forgot the tickets, so he has to rush back home to get them. He says he'll be back in four minutes, but the story ends as he's taking off, so who knows if he made it.

Larsen's artwork is about how I remember, except the faces are a bit rounder than I remember. Might be a shading thing, but I definitely think Peter's jaw is less pronounced than it was in the '90s. Also, Larsen always liked to treat white ovals on Spider-Man's mask as being able to can shape to help convey emotion, but I feel like he used it in almost every panel in this story. Webs is squinting more than Clint Eastwood in a Dirty Harry movie.
The middle story is a quick 3-page bit by Macchio/Nauck/Rosenberg about Spidey fighting some disgruntled Oscorp employee in a stolen mech. Spidey took some hits protecting bystanders but can't escape. So he recalls some conversation Uncle Ben had with him about how to handle bullies, complete with little kid Peter throwing an ice cream cone in a kid's face, and then defeats the guy by blinding him with webbing and hitting the mech really hard once. Don't think he should have needed a wise lesson from Uncle Ben to handle that, but whatever gets you through the fight, I guess.

The first story is a 20-pager by Gerry Conway/Mark Bagley, and Victor Olazaba, plus all three of the inkers listed above. MJ's cousin Kristy has gone missing after investigating sex trafficking of undocumented immigrants, and MJ asks Peter to investigate. Spidey finds the right group, but they have super-powered back, in the form of a character I figured we wouldn't see again after his original appearance. Fine with me that he's back, although I hope he's wrong about another villain being dead. Spidey is having a little trouble, because the guy's power is weird, but there's a mysterious someone on a rooftop nearby shooting people when it's helpful. A someone who narrates the parts of the story taking place at the fight, who doesn't like costumed vigilantes (or 'super-suits' as he calls them here), but really hates criminals. Hmm, I wonder who that could be?

With three inkers, the art is a little variable, although I'd say still recognizably Bagley's. The expression work is clear and easy to read. The action is easy to follow and presented cleanly. Nothing special about page design, just making sure to help tell the story. I think he's drawing his spider-sense squiggles differently, though. They used to be a lot more jagged, closer to lightning bolts, and these are either like snakes or like "w"'s. Not a criticism, because I think he might have gone to a more snakelike look back when he was doing Ultimate Spider-Man with Bendis, but something I noticed.
I can only distinguish two different inkers, mostly based on how they shade the eyes on Spidey's mask. One does it in such a way they have a convex appearance, like they bulge out from the mask, and the other they seem to be flat against the mask. It's possible the third inker is doing the flashback sequences of how Peter tracked these guys down (in just 4 hours, no less, beat that Batman). In parts of that, the faces of some of the characters have a much scratchier, busier look than I'm used to seeing on Bagley's stuff, and Peter's head seems more square than normal. But that doesn't hold in all of them, so I don't know.

I was able to find a copy that I guess wasn't in the best condition, so it was a dollar cheaper. I can't tell what the problem was, but I'm fine with it. I wasn't going to buy it for $5, and having read it, that would have been a good call.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Outsider (2019)

Netflix has at least two movies on there right now with this title. This one is trash, but the other one has Jared Leto in it, who I think is also trash, so probably a wash there.

This one is a very muddled, poorly paced Western about how a deputy sets his sights on the wife of one of the Chinese laborers in town. He and one of the other deputies try to get Jing to pick up a gun so they can kill him in "self-defense", and when he refuses, they just pistol whip him and say he did it anyway. Then, while he's locked up, the deputy rapes Li, and is such a dumbass, he chokes her to death in the process. Of course, because she's Chinese, and he's the federal marshal's son, nothing is going to happen unless Jing does it himself. And Jing is an accomplished martial artist, naturally. Or else all these cowboys are just completely incompetent fighters, getting their asses beat in a 4-on-1 fight by a guy who looks like he weighs 130 soaking wet.

With their regular tracker dead, the marshal enlists and drunk, suicidal tracker named Chris to help, but Chris quickly enough decides to throw in with Jing. Not that he's much help as the man carries around a revolver with one bullet in it, and can't hit the broad side of a barn. Seriously, he misses the twerpy sadist deputy with three rifle shots from maybe 10 feet away, with the guy is perfectly framed in a doorway. Misses him badly. I'd have to try to miss a shot that badly. You could argue he's doing it purposefully, because he figures it's Jing's right of vengeance, but he doesn't do any better in the climactic (I use the term loosely) gunfight at the end.

The movie spends far too much time on the marshal and his crappy kid. There are at least 4 confrontations in this movie between the two of them where the marshal repeats that he knows his son has no good in him, and he should have put him down years ago, but 'I made yore muther a deathbed promise ta protect yu.' Great, telling us that once was sufficient. Either the marshal continues to do nothing, and you've explained why, or he finally does do something and we're pleasantly surprised. There's also one scene of the marshal talking with some guy in a beat up hat about needing the Chinese to finish the railway sooner for reasons I thought was going to lead to something bigger. It does not.

The movie is fond of shots where the camera is either looking directly into the barrel of a gun, or a character is looking directly at us while speaking to someone else. Such as when Chris, during an awkward dinner with the marshal, is asked if he thinks Jing will stop killing. After replying sure, just as soon as said dipshit is in the ground, he leans toward the dipshit and asks him, and now us, if we would stop if our wife was raped and killed, would we, huh?

I'm sorry, were the filmmakers under the mistaken impression I was not on Jing's side in this? I was on his side before I even realized what the dipshit intended, when I thought he and the other deputy were just a couple of power-drunk redneck assholes hassling Jing because they don't like the Chinese. Believe me, makers of The Outsider, I am fully on board with Jing killing the deputy, and his buddy, and the marshal, and all the people in town who stood by and did nothing (which would include Chris initially), and then burning the fucking town down. Then salting the earth so nothing will ever grow there again and people will just avoid until the end of all time. You do not need your cheap camera technique to try and get me on Jing's side.