Friday, November 29, 2019

An Unusual Year to Give Thanks


Clever Adolescent Panda: Agh. You almost made me drop the cobbler!

Calvin: What did I tell you last year? This is a pleasant family gathering, take it down several notches.

Narrator: *subdued* Sorry.

CAP: Yeesh.

Calvin: I know, right? *pause* Should I be calling this "Thanksblogging" instead "Blogsgiving"?

CAP: We do give thanks, through the blog. But we are also giving this blog post to people. But on the other hand - *a knock at the door interrupts*

Deadpool: [Oh thank God. That was going to be an incredibly boring conversation.] *Deadpool is standing in the hallway leading back to the bedrooms, wearing his crown.*

Calvin: Gah!

CAP: Wade! *rushes over and commits a full flying tackle, burying Wade under a lot of panda hugs.*

Deadpool: [Good. . .to see. . . you too. My ribs. . . about to. . . collapse. Can barely. . .  keep talking. . . this. . . way.]

CAP: Sorry. *climbs off Deadpool* When did you get here?

Deadpool: [Ten minutes ago.]

Calvin: *suspicious, ignores repeated knocking at the door* And how did you get in?

Deadpool: *unconcerned* [Through the window.]

Calvin: Damnit Deadpool, go fix the window you broke. You were invited, you could just walk up and knock on the door.

Deadpool: [Like whoever has been knocking for the last three minutes?]

Calvin: Crap! *rushes to the door, finds Pollock and Cassanee waiting.* Sorry.

Pollock: *turning to Cassanee* I told you this was the right apartment. He was just being rude. *enters apartment* This is smaller than your old place.

Calvin: *ignoring the jab at his apartment* No, I was distracted. Wade decided to arrive unconventionally.

Cassanee: You're surprised?

Calvin: A little. He usually enters the apartment like a normal person for the holidays. Set the food on the counter there.

Deadpool: *dashing back into the room* [Yes, but in my new ongoing, I'm lonely and depressed! So I have to do things that aren't smart to distract myself from that fact!]

CAP: No, you just need to spend more time with us. Then you won't be lonely. *Hugs Deadpool*

Pollock: Yes, though I doubt it will do much for his depression.

Deadpool: [And we can all do things that aren't smart together!]

Rhodez: Knock-knock. Did someone forget to close the door?

Calvin: I saw you pull up through the sliding glass door, so I figured why bother?

Rhodez: Cool, cool. *looks over the apartment* This is a nice place.

Calvin: The neighbors downstairs are away, so it's not nearly as noisy as it is when their littlest kid is crashing around like a herd of elephants.

Deadpool: [I can stick around until they get back, then fire through the floor a few times.]

Calvin: Uh, pass. That'll just make them make more noise.

Deadpool: [Not if I aim carefully!]

Calvin: Definite pass.

CAP: Um, anyway, Calvin fried some fish and made hushpuppies, and I baked a cobbler.

Deadpool: [Then our favorite panda dropped it when the narrator startled them. But I'll still eat it. Because I know it was made. . .  with love.] *sniffs dramatically*

CAP: I didn't drop it! Wade, stop lying!

Deadpool: *strokes the top of CAP's head gently* [Don't feel so bad, my adorable chum. We all make mistakes.]

Rhodez: You didn't use that machine those elves had in that tree did you? Did you destroy some of Calvin's comics for that?

Calvin: *distressed* Better not have!

Deadpool: [I don't know, it looks like all your GrimJacks are missing.]

CAP: I wouldn't damage Calvin's comics! GRRR, Wade. . . *pounces on Deadpool. The other four stand around awkwardly for a moment as fighting commences and the two roll down the hall into a bedroom.*

Cassanee: I brought chicken & dumplings.

Pollock: *very smug* I brought an excellent stir fry, which yes, I made myself.

Calvin: Well, at least someone brought vegetables.

CAP: *voice partially muffled from biting Deadpool's hand* I brought some too!

Calvin: *snaps* You brought beets! Those barely qualify as a food in my book, and you damn well know it!

Rhodez: Dang man, what did the beets do to you?

Calvin: Nothing. . . yet. And as long as I keep my guard up, they'll never get the chance.

Rhodez: Oooooooo-kay. I brought pancakes again. With the good maple syrup, because I know Calvin buys the cheap kind.

Calvin: Joke's on you, I don't have any maple syrup at all!

Cassanee: Not much of a joke.

Pollock: Agreed.

Calvin: I know, but self-deprecation's my only defense, other than feigned indifference.

Deadpool: *drags himself back into the living room* [Don't we hold off on awkward confessions until people are drunk? That's how my family always did things!]

CAP: *walks out of the bedroom calmly, hoists Wade up by one arm, and dumps his upper body over the table* What'd you bring, Wade?

Deadpool: [Per Calvin's request, taquitos! Wait, spellcheck doesn't recognize "taquito"? Weird. Per my apprentice's request, boxed wine!]

Rhodez: *grumpy* I asked for one six pack of good beer.

Deadpool: [But this way, the box is also your cup. You don't have to remove a bottle, or get a glass! Watch!] *drains half the wine in one go*

CAP: Maybe let's just start eating.


CAP: So, what's everybody thankful for? *sprawls out on the floor*

Pollock: Must we engage in this ridiculous ritual? Almost none of us take it seriously!

Deadpool: [I'll start! I'm thankful there's a big warm pillow shaped like a panda here for me to nap on!] *lays down with his head resting on CAP's stomach*

CAP: Get off! I'm too full to play with you!

Deadpool: [But you're so warm and comfy!] *rolls over and wraps his arms around the panda* [Just like one of those anime girl pillows.]

CAP: I'll punch you.

Deadpool: [Mmm, toasty.]

BONK! *Deadpool flies across the room, crashes against the oven*

Calvin: Don't break the oven, I cook with that occasionally!

*Everyone looks at him skeptically including Deadpool, who is upside down up against the oven in question.*

Calvin: Mostly I use it to bake frozen pizzas, but that's still critical!

Pollock: Moving on.

Rhodez: *sprawled on the couch* I'm thankful I'm getting my powers under control!

Deadpool: *bounds in, wraps arm around her shoulders* [That's right! You're ready to take a real step up in the "committing violence for money" world! You just need a better code name! The Wheel! No, the Grease! The Slippery Slope!]

Rhodez: I'm not doing that! Yet. Definitely not with any of those names! I just couldn't keep risking wrecking my truck!

Pollock: I'm thankful none of you wrecked my company this year. Also, Stefan's become significantly less nihilistic since we introduced him to more positive regions of the Internet. I'd be more thankful if someone would go back to her shanty in the woods. *glares at Cassanee, who is sitting in the corner of the room, looking pretty relaxed*

Cassanee: Haven't proved your innocence yet.

Pollock: Oh come on. That bizarre man in the green clock suit tried to kill me!

Cassanee: You were with Clever Adolescent Panda. Lowest chance of death.

Deadpool: [Ahem. Very well-compensated mercenary who is extremely good at fighting, standing right here.]

Cassanee: Stand by what I said. My friends told me our town is almost rebuilt, and a lot of people decided to stay. I'm happy for that. It's fun to annoy her. *points at Pollock*

Calvin: Wade, were you actually finished before your flight?

Pollock: Oh lord. *buries her face in her hands*

Deadpool: [Moi, Talk about myself? I'm usually such a shy and retiring flower, but since you insist. . .]

Cassanee: Get on with it.

Deadpool: [I'm thankful you guys let me come here and have dinner with you, even if none of you will let me hug you, since my current status quo is that I'm alone and friendless again.]

CAP: I thought you were King of Monster Island?

Pollock: They made Deadpool a king?! *eyes take on a thousand yard stare*

Deadpool: [I made myself king. By killing the previous king with 40 grenades. Didn't any of you see my crown?] *points at the gold crown that's been sitting on his head the entire time*

Rhodez: I figured you stole that from a costume shop.

Calvin: I saw it, but I already knew you were king, so it didn't seem worth mentioning.

Deadpool: [Anyway, all my subjects are pretty lame, unless you enjoy having Frosty the Snowman barf on you as a present. Which, I know people who'd pay good money for that action, but it's not one of my kinks.]

Calvin: *to CAP* Mark that down, we finally found something Deadpool isn't aroused by.

CAP: Too full, write it yourself. Groan.

Deadpool: [But you guys are fun, and the food's good, and you'll let me crash on your couch tonight?] *looks at Calvin hopefully*

Calvin: *aggrieved sigh* Yeah, OK. I better not find any weird stains tomorrow, though.

Deadpool: [No promises!] *throws himself on the portion of the couch Rhodez isn't using*

CAP: My turn? I'm thankful none of us got hurt during our trip to that weird lab. And I helped 27 restless spirits find peace this year!

Rhodez: Dang, man. Just leaves you, Calvin.

Calvin: Um, I'm not thankful for the tornado that wrecked my apartment, or the little bastards that stole my N64 out of it. I am thankful the tornado didn't destroy all my stuff, and that stupid deer didn't damage my car worse than it did. And I found a new place relatively quickly. And I didn't get killed at that lab by the emaciated guy with the electricity powers.

Rhodez: Man, can't you be more positive with your thanks?

CAP: They're always so backhanded! *imitating Calvin's voice* "At least this terrible thing didn't happen."

Pollock: Ha!

Calvin: So unaccepting. The blog's still going, always a plus. I figured out how to add alt-text to images finally. Pretty happy about that, even if the jokes are a work in progress. Doing some writing I'm liking! Did a road trip to Cali and back, that was cool!

Rhodez: I can't tell if he's being sarcastic or not.

Cassanee: Assume sarcasm.

CAP: Well, the important thing was you tried to participate.

Calvin: Ha-ha.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Magnificent Seven Ride!

This was the last of the four Magnificent Seven movies they made in the late 1960s-early 1970s. By this point, they've gone from Yul Brynner, to George Kennedy, and now Lee van Cleef as Chris Adams.

It's mostly notable for the ways the movie tries to get us back to the same basic concept - seven disparate gunmen protecting a small town from a Mexican bandit - without being a strict rehash of the earlier films. Which is pretty standard in film franchises, see how John McClane keeps having real bad days in increasingly strange ways. This movie takes the approach that Chris is settled in as a federal marshal, comfortable and settled down with a wife. So when an old friend shows up asking him to help him defend this town, Chris declines, even for $500 (a far cry from the $20 or so he was gonna make in the first film).

What gets him on board is, he takes pity on a young man who robbed a general store because the man's mother insists he's just a boy. Once free, the boy and his friends (including Gary Busey) rob the bank, shoot Chris, kidnap his wife, rape and kill her. Valuable lesson about not showing leniency to young white men just because their mamas insist they're good boys. He ends up in Mexico out for revenge, and agrees to help only because he thinks the guy is with the bandit. When that gets resolved without him, he decides to help anyway.

The other change is the movie takes a Dirty Dozen approach to assembling the team, in that Chris recruits a bunch of guys, including a different old friend, that he arrested and got sent to the Tuscon prison. He promises they'll get pardoned if they help (and survive), but if they cross back into the U.S. without him, it'll be assumed they killed him and they go back to jail. Once they get to Mexico, Chris makes certain they can't throw in with the bandit, either. Which was pretty funny, actually, but it's a nice play on the idea the West is changing and the men with those kinds of skills are less and less welcome. They're either dead, in jail, or they went to Mexico like Chris' friend.

Beyond that, though, it's a Magnificent Seven movie. The characters are different in some broad strokes - a dynamite expert, a strong but simple-minded guy, a loverboy bank robber type - they enlist the townsfolk in setting up defenses. I don't think the battle has the ebb and flow of the first movie. it seems like one big fight, rather than one side retreating, then gaining a sneaky advantage. But they'd probably spent too much time on the tortured route they took to get to the point of defending the town.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What I Bought 11/20/2019 - Part 3

It's a day for John Allison books, which is good. But that also means it's time for me to say so long to Giant Days! That's bad. But it comes with a free Frogurt! That's good. I was lying, there is no Frogurt. That's bad. Or maybe it's good? I liked frozen yogurt when I was a kid, but I'm not sure that's the same as Frogurt exactly.

Steeple #3, by John Allison (writer/artist), Sarah Stern (color artist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Did someone play Stairway to Heaven?

All the townspeople are united in their distaste of the incoming wind turbines, which are being installed by a company run by a pair of former Christian musicians. It's bad enough the Satanists and the Church unite. Granted, the Church is because Reverend Penrose fears they're trying to use the latent energy in the area to open a small doorway to Heaven, which will probably not remain small. The Satanists just hated having giant crucifixes outside their windows. As it turns out, the ecological issues related to wind turbines apparently piss the Lord off, so it doesn't work. In the aftermath, Billie is concerned she's not godly enough, while Maggie is worried about the opposite.

I'm surprised Magus Tom wears a collar like a reverend. Or at least that he'd wear it backwards, with the white part in the rear. Or, given this guy, the collar would probably be wrapped around something other than his neck. They guy tries to commit to the evil thing. Loves to tent his fingers like Mr. Burns, leans forward in anticipation a lot. The pink sweater is a nice touch. Again, not what I'd expect, especially given how Brian and Maggie dress like they're attending a metal concert. Just goes to show you can't judge by appearances. Well, you can probably judge a little bit by Tom's upside-down crucifix.
As to Billie's concerns, trying to figure out what God wants of you seems like a sucker bet, but that's probably why I'm not in the religion business. I assume the mistake is that she's worrying about, rather than just doing what she thinks is right. Or maybe she's spending too much time worrying about trying to convert Maggie? I don't know. I'm not really sure how that friendship is going to play out. If Maggie will abandon her faith, or Billie just accepts it as part of who Maggie is, or what. I'm assuming there will not be some dramatic fistfight for all the theological marbles between the two.

Giant Days: As Time Goes By, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (color artist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - There's 10 more empty wine glasses just out of sight.

Esther is on thin ice with Daisy and especially Susan because she keeps missing their monthly get-togethers. Because she can't say no to the two creepy assistants to the boss at the publishing company. She gets away in a last-ditch move, but they pursue her because. . . they're assholes? Succubi? They manage to multiply and hitting them with a bus didn't do much, so perhaps their televangelists. Fortunately, Esther knows about curses, and McGraw had an. . . unusually large key.

It's an interesting mix of circumstances. Esther seems miserable personally and professionally. It's curious that she's doing so badly at making friends, but I guess her time at university started poorly, too. Daisy's on Cloud 9, as things are going well with Saffron, which I didn't expect. Susan wants to do more amputations, but work is otherwise good, and she and McGraw were doing well, until she found out he was forgoing career advancement to stay close to her. Which pissed her off, because she's a cat, apparently. Ed's finding the world of banking about as exciting as I figured he would, but I don't know if he and Nina are still together.
God, the Cressidas' faces just look so bizarre. Like a particularly untalented child trying to approximate a human face using a bedpan as a model. Which is great! Makes them look fake and weird and plastic, which they are. They way they hang over Esther, invade her personal space -and it's always them trapping her between the two of them - try to drag her wherever they want. Susan's boiling fury at them is wonderful. I'm going to miss Max Sarin drawing this book so much.

I don't know what Esther's going to end up doing. If she reverts to college Esther, something, rash, impractical, and distinctly unwise. But that would be entertaining, even if it becomes a train wreck. I wonder if we'll see the outcome tangentially in some other book of Allison's down the line?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In the Heat of the Night

Having never seen this before, I didn't realize Detective Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) was originally pulled in as a suspect in the murder of Mr. Colbert. I had assumed, I guess, that he had traveled from whatever Northern city he normally worked in (Philly) following a suspect from a crime there. Kind of like Coogan's Bluff, then.

Probably should have figured that a black man, waiting calmly for a train in a nice suit with some money in his wallet would be the immediate suspect in some jerkwater Southern town.

I spent most of my time watching Poitier's mannerisms and body language. He has this tension in the way he stands a lot of the time, where his body is leaning back, but his head is tipped forward. Like he wants to just attack these idiots. They treat him disrespectfully, like they can't believe it when has the temerity to ask them a question. The frickin' medical examiner won't even tell him where there's a sink he can wash his hands so he can do an autopsy.

But they need him to solve their murder. Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) asked Tibbs' boss to tell Tibbs to help. After they tried to pin a murder on him. Because they don't have the slightest clue what the fuck they're doing. He's frustrated, and angry, and he was just trying to catch his train to go home after visiting family, and now he's caught up in all this bullshit.

So that was interesting. The constant back-and-forth between whether he was going or staying got old. He decides to leave, Gillespie gets him to stay. They go question the wealthiest man in town, Gillespie doesn't like how he handles it, now he wants Tibbs on the train, and Tibbs doesn't want to go. Gillespie is certainly right that staying could be dangerous for Tibbs' health, but I guess I couldn't suspend disbelief that Tibbs would be killed. Or maybe I didn't buy that Gillespie really cared about that, so much as he just didn't like the wealthiest man in town being ticked off.

Monday, November 25, 2019

What I Bought 11/20/2019 - Part 2

It's nice to find out, every once in a while, that other people's opinions on pop culture stuff can still provoke an indignant reaction in me. The kind where I have to restrain that urge to type something aggressively stupid and confrontational. Not because I want to type that stuff, but it's kinda nice to know I still give enough of a shit to get riled about dumb stuff.

Gwenpool Strikes Back #4, by Leah Williams and Chris Hastings (writers), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Arbutov (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Don't worry folks, she's just swinging around some fireworks. Wait, that's kind of dangerous.

Gwen, out of any better ideas to beat the Hulk (who is acting more like a mix of childlike classic Hulk and the creepy one Al Ewing is writing, but whatever), decides to recruit other versions of herself from other books she's shone up in. Like that Civil War II tie-in issue of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. While those Gwens keep Hulk occupied by giving him more things to smash, this book's Gwen goes and steals Thor's severed arm from Malekith(?), then wears it over her arm, so she can swipe Mjolnir when Thor chucks it at Kamala (which, overkill there Thor) and hit Hulk in his gamma-irradiated junk with it.

See, when Jeph Loeb did this kind of shit with Red Hulk, it was annoying. Because he played it straight about how this showed how awesome this new character was. Such a big threat. Since Leah Williams is writing as Gwen herself trying to prove she's an awesome character and big deal so she can continue to exist, I can roll with it. Also, it's just so ridiculous that I can laugh at it. In a good way, rather than, "Holy shit, this is terrible writing. Who would pay this person for this?"
Credit to David Baldeon for doing a good impression of the artists from those other books, which also helps to distinguish the Gwens. At least I assume it was a good impression. Other than Unbelievable Gwenpool, I've never read any of the comics these characters are from. But I can confirm he does a good Gurihiru impression! And since that's the best version, that's really all that matters. They're also all different heights, which plays into one gag about Gwen trying to combine with one of the others. Little disappointed she didn't try the Fusion Dance there. That would only work for two Gwens, but you could have three fused Gwens then!

Kind of surprised when Hulk made his "You courted chaos. I'm consenting." line, none of the Gwens had anything to say to that.

Deadpool #1, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Wayne Faucher, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jamie Mendoza, Livesay, and Victor Olazaba (inkers), David Curiel (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Holy shit, 6 inkers?! I assume Bachalo is already behind schedule then, and will be on the book for 3 issues, tops.

Wade is alone and depressed, again. Monsters have decided to make themselves a kingdom on Staten Island, and a mysterious guy hires Wade to kill their king. Which he does, with some assistance/interference from Elsa Bloodstone. However, this makes Wade the new king. Which is much less fun than he thought it would be. He can't even get free ice cream! Then Gwen shows up to leave her land shark with him, because she's afraid he'll cease to exist if he's in her book and she gets axed. I thought her land shark was just a backpack. It's alive?! Then Kraven shows up and kills Wade's Lord Chamberlain. Didn't take long for Kraven to revert to type. Again.

Well, I don't see how Wade running a monster kingdom is going to go any better than when he was married to a lady running a monster kingdom. Probably go worse, if Wade's making the policy decisions. But the Blaylock fellow seems like a problem, and Elsa's in contact with someone, and Wade is, as mentioned above, lonely and depressed. Which means he'll do stupid things to try and have some companionship.

Bachalo draws some interesting monsters, although he hardly ever draws the former king's entire body. Which mostly works. What we see of him tends to take up most of whatever panel he's in, which helps to play up his size even in smaller panels. And there are some pages where I'm confused about why they went with the layout they did. The first panel of the page where Wade's arguing with the monster that keeps attacking the ferries, is set at a distance, so that the monster is a bunch of barely differentiated tentacles, and Wade's just a red splotch. I guess to focus the eye on the damaged ferry in the foreground, but considering it's a grey and black object, the eye ends up drawn to Wade or his extremely large voice balloon in the white space next to the panel.
I do really like the crown Bachalo gave him, which looks like Wade stole it from King Koopa. Or King Deedee. Or maybe that evil crocodile guy from Donkey Kong Country. Hmm, I'm starting to think Nintendo might be opposed to monarchies. Either way, Wade wears it at a jaunty angle, and I love it.

Also, we're apparently back to Deadpool not wanting to take his mask off around people. He lifts it to nose level a couple of times, but otherwise, it stays all the way on. He'd gotten more comfortable about it during the Duggan run, or even Cable/Deadpool, but I guess he backslid.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #89

"Whose Book Is This Anyway?" in Black Widow #2, by Marjorie Liu (writer), Daniel Acuna (artist), Nate Piekos (letterer)

This was the first official ongoing series they gave the Black Widow, although she'd had around 4 mini-series over the previous decade. I assume because there was positive response to her appearance in Iron Man 2 that year (2010). I only bought this series within the last few years during one of my back issue hunts.

Naturally, it only lasted 8 issues, because that was normal for Marvel at that time. Nowadays they either make it to 6 or 12. Liu and Acuna left after 5 issues, handing it off to Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia for the last three issues, which led into a Hawkeye/Mockingbird/Black Widow mini-series, Widowmaker, I think I picked up used a few years ago, but have no distinct memories from whatsoever.

Liu and Acuna's story was that someone with a grudge against Natasha has figured out her secrets and is trying to get revenge. Also known as, "plot for 70% of all Black Widow stories." Also, it turns out she's been collecting intel on all the other Avengers and her other allies, so now they all have to wonder if she can be trusted. This is known as "plot for the other 30% of all Black Widow stories."
So I can't say the creative team didn't cover their bases.

Friday, November 22, 2019

What I Bought 11/20/2019 - Part 1

It was actually a pretty decent haul for comics this week. 4 books, plus 2 books from last month that finally showed up. The downside is, right now there's only 6 comics coming out the rest of the year I want to get. December is gonna be a long, cold month.

Anyway! Here's one comic about a person who thinks they're nothing, and another about one with no face.

Test #5, by Christopher Sebela (writer), Jen Hickman (artist), Harry Saxon (colorist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer) - Got the whole, wide something in their hands.

Aleph is alive again, making their way to Laurelwood, again, talking to Mary (who is actually Laurelwood) as he goes. Aleph had found the town once before by chance, all their modifications somehow honing in on it. But Aleph wasn't ever ready, or was close to dying, or the city was being torn apart, so Laurel kept resetting things to get how they want it. But now that they're together, there's still the matter of what comes next, and that's a bit of a stumbling block. Aleph isn't entirely sure what they want, and even when things seem to be going well, Laurel is more like us than they might admit.

It's a bit of an ominous ending, or maybe just realistic. Hoping that you can find some perfect point, then just hold there, isn't going to happen. Laurel mentions it midway through, that humans always want some big ending where everything is resolved, but it doesn't work like that. Things keep happening, good and bad, only the details change. The future is going to have a lot of the same bullshit mistakes the present does, and the past did. Just different people making the mistakes, even if they don't think they're people.

I like the last few pages, where Aleph initially wakes up alone in an empty apartment, then goes out to meet Aleph in an empty town, devoid of any details. Then you turn the page and Aleph's waking up again, but it's their apartment with Laurel, and there are paintings on the wall. Clothing is a little more elaborate - Aleph's at least wearing a collared shirt now - and the town has other people, the buildings have marquees on them now. Laurel is still learning from Aleph, but not everything is something Aleph would want them to learn. Although there's the suspicious part of me that wonders if Laurel killed Aleph again before that reboot or retooling.

This was interesting. I don't know that I love it, but it was neat. Be good to read it all over again at some point soon. 

Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #1, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Denys Cowan (penciler), Bill Sienkiewicz (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Willie Schubert (letterer) - I love that swirly smoke and the implied red building in the background.

The Question exposes a councilman molesting underage kids, but finds a curious ring on the councilman. While he's chasing that rabbit hole, Myra is accepting her brother the mayor is a scumbag, and the entire city begins to go up in flames over a cop shooting a black man for running a red light. But Vic is trying to figure out why he found a skeleton in a long-abandoned building with a bullet hole in its head, and a mask just like his over its face. So naturally he goes to Richard Dragon, who roofies his tea, and now Vic's wandering around in the past. As you do.

I'm curious what direction this will go with the stuff in the past versus the stuff in the present. Vic is chasing down this secret order while the city quite possibly burns. It's clear the Mayor won't take any action that will help, but is that a conspiracy? Or is he just an incompetent, hamhanded doofus? Is Tot right that Vic Sage would be more use than the Question right now? Maybe none of this is going to factor into the story, but it feels like the moment Vic decides to just leave to go talk to Richard Dragon about his visions is a big deal.
There are several moments in this where his eyes aren't visible, even as a Vic Sage. They're these black pits, even if the rest of his face is perfectly visible. The moment after Myra walks away with the mayor's attorney. Again when he sees the video of the shooting and stumbles into the riot. I like how placid all the panels are on that page - dull colors, empty alleys - and then the final panel, a brick comes in from the right side of the page and smashes a window with a big red sound effect. And then the majority of the next page is Vic standing there alone on one side of the street, while the other side is total chaos. Then, in the panel below that, he pulls his hat down low and walks away. Caught in the Question, rather than the problem at hand.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Scarecrow - Michael Connelly

Reporter who just received two weeks' notice stumbles onto a serial killer. Except the serial killer has enough resources to be aware of the reporter before the reporter even knows what he's up against. Fortunately, he has an old friend in the FBI from the last time he got tangled up with a serial killer, so maybe he has a chance.

I haven't read a Connelly book since The Lincoln Lawyer, probably. That was like 10 years ago. This is pretty much what I remember stylistically, although Connelly doesn't make it a mystery who is committing these awful murders. We're privy to the information early on in the book, and just waiting to see if McEvoy and Agent Walling can figure it out in time. I can't remember if that's the approach he took with The Poet (the previous book that starred these two character, which I read sometime years ago.) It wasn't typical with his Harry Bosch books, back when I was reading those.

Connelly did surprise me, because I expected The Scarecrow to put McEvoy in more danger by tampering with his life electronically. Early in the book someone tries to steal information under the Scarecrow's protection, and he goes out of his way to plant child pornography on that guy's computer and completely destroy his life. I expected him to try that with McEvoy, to entirely discredit and isolate him, rather than kill him. Put him in so much trouble he doesn't have time to pursue leads about a killer. The killer had a different plan, though, and I guess once that falls apart, the feds are involved and it's too late to worry about a single reporter.

'The media and the police have never been on comfortable terms. The media views itself as the public watchdog. And nobody, the police included, likes having someone looking over their shoulder.'

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Random Back Issue #10 - Chronos #4

Sir, I can assure you, wrapping a towel around your head the same color as your bathrobe does not work as a "look".

Hey, a comic from 1998! Chronos was not about the Chronos who used to fight the Atom a lot, flying around on a hoverboard shaped liked a sundial. Although that Chronos does appear at the beginning and end of this issue, discussing the negative side effects of jumping around through time.

This series was about Walker Gabriel, who built a suit that lets him freeze time to steal stuff. But things have gone wrong, and now he's being tossed through time. We start in a city called Chronopolis, where we find out that Walker helping a guy named Vyronis to build a machine called a Timesmasher last issue, he's helped that guy become Lord of All Time, or something. Demonstrated when the guy shows up and kills Rip Hunter (who I would swear is wearing a suit and tie under that spacesuit. Clearly not a trait he picked up from Booster Gold.)
So Walker's back to the 15th Century to fix his mistake, with a improved, untested version of his suit. Through the magic of Comic Book Science, the machine being hit by "particle bursts" somehow soups up his suit to where it can jump through time and space at will. Which gets him and Vyronis temporarily dumped in Kamandi's time before they return to Italy, and then Walker returns to the present, rather than let himself be arrested by the "Linear Authority", represented by one guy wearing a dumb suit of armor and a monocle.

I never thought you could look bad with a monocle, but this Traven guy managed it. Great hustle.
I don't think Walker ever makes a return trip to the confines of the 23rd Century. If I remember right, he may have stopped the wrong threat back in the 15th Century. Either that, or he's trusting the wrong person. I can't remember which. Time travel story, could be both at the same time.

[Longbox #3, 66th comic. Chronos #4, by John Francis Moore (writer), Paul Guinan (penciler), Steve Leialoha (inker), Mike Danza (colorist), Ken Bruzenak (letterer]

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Free Fire

This movie is hilarious. I'm not sure I'm supposed to laugh as much as I did, but oh well. Basically, a bunch of Irish, um, I don't know if they're IRA or some Irish mob (led by Cillian Murphy), came to Boston to buy guns from this English South African moron. Plus there are two people (one played by Armie Hammer, the other by Brie Larsen) where I'm not sure why they're there. As middlemen maybe? Did this deal require two middlemen?

During the gun buy, which covers the first 20 minutes, things fall apart completely because everyone involved is the dumbest bunch of jackasses I've ever seen. The remaining 70 minutes of the movie is a shoot out between everyone involved in the remains of this old factory.

I'm not sure how long it's supposed to be for them. Long enough people start to get woozy from blood loss, long enough for one character (played by Armie Hammer) to smoke at least one joint, and for another character, the one that causes the problems in the first place to smoke some crack he takes from his dead friend's body.

It's just really funny watching these people try to outflank or out maneuver each other. Almost everyone is stuck using handguns to try and hit people on the opposite side of this huge room with all these concrete pillars and rubble all over the place. Every so often someone will try to get a truce going, only for another character to say or do something stupid and start the whole thing up again. There are two guys with rifles that show up and try to kill everyone, and the mystery behind that kind of hangs in the background.

It's a lot of characters who have much higher opinions of their skill and intelligence than is accurate. Which is probably true of most of us, but it makes for some entertaining viewing.

Monday, November 18, 2019

What I Bought 11/16/2019

For today, we have yet another one-shot from Marvel (sure hope it's better than all the others I've tried this year), and the final issue of a particular ongoing series. So a little bit of good, and a little bit of sad.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #50, by Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Erica Henderson (song sequence artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - I have no idea what expression that's supposed to be on Kraven's face. I'm guessing something noble, but it comes off more, vaguely constipated.

After all my guesses as to how Doreen was going to survive the quantum inversion bomb, the answer was, "she's tough enough to not be killed by it". That was a letdown there, really. If it can't kill one person laying directly on top of it, how the hell did Doom expect it to do any good against a whole mess of heroes? It seems like there were so many clever things to do, that was kind of a dud.

Then Galactus shows up, does Power Cosmic stuff to throw the villains in special jail, and has a long conversation with Doreen on the moon about how people change but the things they did don't, so they'll always have this time as friends even if they end up as enemies under another writer later. Which is probably the best way to think about it, since I have no idea how long this version of Squirrel Girl will stick now that this series is over, and who the heck knows with Galactus. I'm pretty sure he went from World Devourer to whatever the hell he was in those Ultimates series post-Secret Wars, and maybe back to Devourer by now.
Then Tony Stark broadcasts a theme song video about Doreen to "properly introduce" her to everyone now that her secret identity is kaput. The main takeaway from it is that at some point, Squirrel Girl punched Mr. Sinister in the face with a coffee mug, which is something the X-Men should have thought to try at some point.

As far as ending go, it's a pretty good one. In keeping with the tone of the series, in that Doreen doesn't let bad circumstances drag her down. Instead she tries to make the best of them. Her secret identity is blown? At least she doesn't have to keep that secret from her friends any longer? Although I'm not sure which friends she had that didn't know her secret identity already.

Black Cat Annual #1, by Jed MacKay (writer), Joey Vazquez, Natacha Bustos, Juan Gedeon (artists), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - Oh great, Octavius probably rigged that tie with a gizmo that'll let him steal Peter's body again. Creepy bastard.

The story takes place prior to the first issue of the ongoing. Felicia convinces Spidey to help her use the cover of some weird Maggia wedding/combat thing to steal three million dollars from the Maggia. Except she tells Peter it's only two million dollars. One mil to charity, one mil to the two kids who were supposed to fight to the death. One mil for her and her two henchmen.

Each artist handles a different section. Gedeon handles the Dr. Korpse parts, as he infiltrates the a bank to retrieve a particular phone needed to make a call. Although the part I focused on there was his monologue about observing and studying Felicia because she seems the opposite of a criminal mastermind. Which makes me think eventual double-cross.

Bustos handles the sections where Bruno swipes an impounded SHIELD vehicle and picks up the cash, then has to escape when the guys in their weird gold masks realize something is up and try to kill him. Bustos' work reminds me a bit of Steve Lieber's, or maybe Chris Samnee's (with a lot fewer shadows). Reber's coloring on that section might be part of it. I was thinking he was colorist for Lieber on Superior Foes of Spider-Man, but looks like that was Rachelle Rosenberg. Both Gedeon and Bustos mix in a lot of small panels focused on a specific act. Dr. Korpse snipping the wire on a bomb protecting the phone, Bruno wiping the transponder from the car he's stealing. Helps a little to break up what are some not terribly exciting parts of the book.
Vazquez draws everything involving Felicia and Spidey, which means he gets to draw a lot of action sequences and banter between the two, and I think does a pretty good job. There's a difference in the way they move, where Spidey's limbs are kind of all over the place, while Felicia seems like she's closer to following specific forms a gymnast might. You look after he after-images in the panel, her limbs are tucked in tightly during the flip. She's making sure of her balance and posture, while Spidey's arms are just wherever. Which makes sense, considering she undoubtedly has training, and doesn't have spider-powers to let her just fling herself around haphazardly. Plus, I like the Dreadnaught being represented at times as this massive shadowy figure with glowing eyes standing behind whatever attack it's using at that moment.

One other thing I notice is Vazquez makes the material of Felicia's outfit look like leather or something else slick and reflective. Which, to be fair, is what a lot of artist have opted for since, probably when Terry Dodson drew her for either Millar's Marvel Knights Spider-Man run or that Kevin Smith mini-series we're better off just forgetting. Travel Foreman tends to not make it reflective or slick, gives it more of a cloth appearance, which is what I think it was meant to be originally.

Costume discussions aside, I enjoyed this a lot. Just really entertaining little caper, and I always like seeing Black Cat and Spider-Man working together on good terms.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #88

"What's Behind Door Number 1?" in Blackout #0, by Frank J. Barbiere (writer/letterer), Micah Kaneshiro (artist)

Picked this trade up last year. About a guy who finds a suit that can open portals into some side space that lets him pass through walls and people without being detected. The company he works for built it, and he's using it to try and locate his vanished uncle, who was his boss. The company they work for is also being kept afloat by some questionable, violent people who pay them to create mech suits like the one stepping out of the garage there.

It's only five issues, and everything is left hanging. Dude doesn't find his uncle, or even a definite clue of where he is. We don't learn exactly who the mysterious benefactors are, or what their goals are. I assume the hope was it would generate enough interest to get a second mini-series, or maybe an ongoing. This came out in 2014, so I'm going to say that didn't happen.

The next four issues are drawn and mostly colored by Colin Lorimer, whose work is a little closer to photo-realistic than Kaneshiro's. You can see the Bryan Hitch influence in Lorimer's stuff. Kaneshiro's coloring has at times an almost cel-shaded look, and other times, it's more painted. Lorimer's seems to work better for the action sequences, although Kaneshiro doesn't get much opportunity on that front.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Hey, It Keeps Me Off The Streets

I'm trying NaNoWriMo for the first time. Sort of. In the same way I use Inktober as a general framework to get myself to draw, but don't actually use pens, I'm just using this to make myself write. I have three different things I'm working on, and my goal is to write 50,000 words total by the end of the month. This year's Blogsgiving will probably end up counting towards, since it's also me writing a story.

None of the stories will be done by November 30, not even close. But considering I only wrote 12,000 words between the three of them in the entire month of September, and I didn't write any during October (because I was supposed to be sketching, with limited success), that'll still represent serious progress.

I've been rotating between them, working on a different one each night, using 1700 words as my minimum. Tonight I wrapped up a chapter, but I had the next one planned out in my head, so I went ahead and typed it. So around ~2900 words tonight, which I think gets me on pace to reach 50K by the end of the month. I was behind from the start because I didn't write any on the 1st or 2nd.

Hey, you try to concentrate on doing any serious writing at my father's. Between planning the home repair projects, trying to complete the home repairs, his dogs, whatever movie we're trying to watch, and him trying to carry on a conversation with me while we watch the movie, there's no chance.

I actually like the rotating approach, because it gives me a couple of days to think about what comes next before I have to actually type it. Beyond that, it's just what I usually find when I write, that I can piece things together as I go. I'll still have to go back and revise the hell out of all of these later, but the groundwork is being laid to where hopefully those will be minor revisions.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Art of the Steal

Heist movies are almost always good, and this one is no exception. Plus, Kurt Russell's a naturally likable dude, who starts the movie spending 5.5 years in a Polish prison because his brother (Matt Dillon) sold him out after getting pinched due to his own massive stupidity and greed.

These movies all revolve around the double-cross, who's trying it, and how, and whether their potential victim has in fact double-crossed them, and which double-cross was more effective, and so on. The catch to that is, at the end of the movie, it has to explain the successful double-cross, and that risks bringing the movie to a screeching halt. It's a little like the end of a detective story, when the gumshoe has to stand around and explain the whole thing to the room full of suspects. Done wrong, it can be really boring.

Art of the Steal mostly avoids this by doing using the approach of having the reveal take place as the character that's been duped slowly pieces it together. Flashbacks to conversations from earlier in the movie, only this time the camera pulls back to show the person on the other line wasn't where they were believed to be. That slowly growing horror as the character realizes everything they thought they had lined up falls apart.

The strength of the film is the dialogue. A lot of good one-liners, or lines that work because of the context. A guy with a patch over one eye and a flintlock pistol threatening Kurt Russell in the bathroom while yelling about Georges Seurat, 'the seminal French Post-Impressionalist.' There's a hapless Interpol desk jockey trying to catch them with the help of another art thief (Terence Stamp) on work release. The desk jockey ends up as the target of a lot of insults. I should probably feel bad for him, but he's such a feckless goober it's hard for me to care.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Random Back Issue #9 - Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28

Damn, you'd think I'd randomly land on a comic from before 2000 at some point, but instead they keep getting more recent. But that's OK, and you know why?
Because there's always time on this blog to show the Silver Surfer get punched in his stupid, shiny, mopey, space face. Granting we haven't spent much time on that yet, so maybe I better get started on that. New series of posts for next year: Norrin Radd gets socked in the kisser!

This was the second part of a story where alien squirrels kidnap Nancy and Tippy to try and discover how Earth was saved from Galactus (the answer was that Doreen found Galactus a planet full of nutritious acorns to snack on instead). It turned out the Silver Surfer showed up with an entourage and a bomb, announcing Galactus would eat the squirrel planet if they didn't hand over all their wealth.
Doreen had figured out they're missing, and is trying to figure out where they went and how to find them. Loki is supposed to be "helping", but this is during that five minute stretch where he was Sorcerer Supreme, so he's only succeeded in dragging Doreen into fighting Dormammu. Once they're out of that, he announces he's going across the galaxy with Doreen to find them and creates a spaceship.

Well, less "creates" and more "steals". And Drax is inside the ship, and he doesn't particularly like Loki, but he does get along with Doreen and agrees to help. The trip is brief, and notable mostly for a discussion of whether beanbags qualify as chairs. I keep expecting this to replace the "is a hot dog a sandwich?" discussions online, but it hasn't happened so far.

Once on the planet it turns out the bomb is a fake, as is the "Surfer". Then the real Silver Surfer shows up, having somehow got wind of all this, but Doreen thinks he's the phony, and that causes some problems.
I can't recall how the next issue begins exactly, but I'm betting the talking hood ornament starts in about how humans are always so prone to violence and blah blah blah. At least we don't help a giant purple guy eat inhabited planets! Except for Nova (the Frankie Raye version). But she was an exception!

The rest of the story is a whole bunch of other alien worlds that were duped by these guys showing up to take revenge, with weapons that can actually kill the Surfer, and that causes a lot of problems. I think this was the last multi-issue story arc Erica Henderson drew, as Derek Charm would take over

[Longbox #11, 316th comic. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (vol. 2) #28, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer)]

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sweet Smell of Success

This is an ugly movie. It's shot beautifully, black-and-white, lovely use of shadows and ambient light from cars and flashing advertisements, but the story is not a kind one. Tony Curtis plays Sidney Falco, a press agent with big dreams, who runs around doing dirty work for one J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) in the hopes it'll pay off for him. At the moment in time when the film takes place, Curtis is busy trying to break up Hunsecker's younger sister Susan and a guitarist named Steve Dallas. Because until he does, Hunsecker won't mention one of Curtis' clients in his column, which means no press for that guy, which means Curtis isn't doing his job.

Curtis plays Falco as this conniving little shit. Always scheming, always making a smart remark, but only once he's out of arm's reach. He tries blackmail, and when that fails and he gets verbally dressed down by his potential victim, turns to another person with the same information and uses the exact insults the other guy used on him to describe Hunsecker. He's always walking a step behind Hunsecker when they're together, either waiting patiently for permission to do something (like sit down, or speak), or else he's leaning forward eagerly. The little dog that can hardly wait to do his master's bidding so he gets a treat.

There is one moment where Curtis almost displays integrity, where he draws a line as Hunsecker reveals he has more than a little demagogue in him (and they use that lighting technique where Hunsecker's eyes are framed in a band of light, while the rest of his face is in shadow). But it passes, because Hunsecker does know him, just like he says he does. Knows exactly what to dangle.

Lancaster plays Hunsecker as this controlled presence, staring steadily at people through these glasses. He knows how much power he has, and you can see it in how he talks to them, how they sit patiently waiting for his questions, and how bored he seems by it all. They need him, not the other way around. He never has to raise his voice with his sister, just brings her to heel with simple, calm statements. Hunsecker would definitely be one of those guys on the Internet who would insist he's won the argument if you got angry at any point during it.

It does end better than most noir do, as at least one person gets their comeuppance, and one of the few decent main characters gets free. But watching Falco debase himself for 90+ minutes, constantly sinking lower, and doing so almost gleefully, can be rough.

Monday, November 11, 2019

What I Bought 11/8/2019

I was out of town for work almost all of last week. The first couple days were nice, but it rained all day the third day, and on the fourth, the temperature dropped mid-morning. At least the rain had stopped by then. I was really hoping for pleasant fall weather when I planned that one, too.

Black Cat #6, by Jed MacKay (writer), Mike Dowling (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - I didn't know J. Scott Campbell was capable of drawing a woman without drawing her chest and hips. Learn something every day.

It's supposed to be a night for relaxing, so Felicia is out on a date with. . . Batroc?! OK, sure, he seems like he'd be a fun guy. And he's just honorable enough that it's not terrible for Felicia to be spending time with him. It's not like she's on a date with Sabretooth. Eventually dinner gets dull, so they go break into a place and steal some stuff. Batroc grabs a blender because he says Felicia should try smoothies. Just as long as he doesn't start preaching the benefit of kale or Crossfit.

While all that is going on, the Black Fox is fighting for his life against members of the Thieves Guild. He gives it a good go, but he gets caught. So I sure how he shared with Felicia how they were going to use all the stuff she swiped to break into the Guild's vault. Because it's probably going to be repurposed to save his butt. And empty out the vault. Multi-tasking.

The dinner date stuff was fun, although MacKay probably got a lot of fans' hopes up when he had it look like Batroc was saying he has a thing for Captain America. (Gwenpool would no doubt have given her whole-hearted approval). But no, he just likes fighting the good Captain. Good thing he didn't tangle with HYDRA Cap, probably wouldn't have survived that.
The Black Fox stuff is an attempt to keep the plot going, and keep it from being strictly an issue of talking, but I don't know. I don't really care that much about the Guild, and it plays out as an elderly man in a suit fighting some rejects from the Hand, visually. Dowling and Reber go a lot heavier on the shadows and murk in that part of the book than the date half. Even when Felicia and Batroc are in a dim apartment, the shadows don't loom as much. It's just some pleasant atmosphere for their fun. Felicia's face is still visible, just a bit darker. Whereas for the Fox, the shadows swallow up parts of his face, obscure them entirely.

Locke and Key: Dog Days, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (storytellers), Jay Fotos (colorist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - Good luck waiting for the dog to pass that.

There's two stories in this. The second one is mostly silent, and involves the Locke family that the original set of mini-series focused on returning to the site of their home and essentially magicking up a new house. Wow, spellcheck recognizes magicking (but not "whole-hearted"). There's nothing else much to it, other than gauging the reactions of the family. Can't help noticing how Tyler's mother is hugging herself with a frightened look on her face. Honestly, given the amount of shit that went down there, why would you voluntarily restore that house? It's like unlocking Michael Myers cell and just walking away. What could possibly go wrong?

The other, "Dog Days", is about three kids living in the '30s or '40s as they go through a day of fishing, exploring, and talking about stuff. Except one of the kids, Lloyd, is kind of odd in the things that he says, or the perspective he brings. The other two boys are alternately horrified or impressed by him, but they have to put things back how they were eventually.
Whereas "Nailed It" is mostly full-page splashes, "Dog Days" sticks to a set of four panels running down the middle of the page, set against a larger, full-page panel in behind them. That one mostly establishes the setting for the four smaller panels. So a panel of an old radio set, while the boys lay in front of it and discuss what they intend to do when they grow up. Rodriguez' art is a little looser, closer to what you might see in a comic strip than his normal style. Faces are rounder, lines lighter and less defined than in "Nailed It". But it's meant to be a funny story (and it is amusing, if not the kind of thing that makes you laugh out loud), so it fits with the tone.

I wouldn't call it an essential comic if you're into Locke & Key, since I would bet anything that comes out of "Nailed It" will give enough references you'd understand how the house was back, but it's not bad as it's own one-off.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #87

"You're Both Right", in Black Cherry, by Doug TenNapel (writer/artist), Jennifer Barker (letterer)

One thing you can say about Doug TenNapel is he always comes up with some interesting premises. In this case, you have a lazy, cheating, broke mob guy named Eddie, who ends up helping his old priest and a stripper Eddie intended to marry before she vanished protect a space alien from a demon to save the Earth from an invasion.

There's a lot more profanity, graphic violence and nudity than is typical for TenNapel's work, but he explained in an introduction he thought it fit with the characters. Which seems fair. It's hard to picture Eddie as a guy who would refrain from cursing. Although if TenNapel had written him as someone who didn't swear, I would have rolled with it, but then there's all the other mob guys, not to mention the demons. The latter really like to talk about putting dicks in asses, and given the TenNapel seems pretty Christian I can't tell if that's some "homosexuality is a sin" thing, or just a "demons are cruel and would speak in terms of raping people" thing.

There are some funny bits with Eddie's smart mouth. Some of the violence is in the funny vein TenNapel normally works in (one guy gets kicked in the groin hard enough his nuts are shown popping out of his mouth). I feel like the 11th hour introduction of Cherry's complete lush of mom is maybe one moving piece too many, but otherwise, the story is written in such a way that a lot of the parts all come together quickly and keep things focused. The very end of the story requires you to believe the aliens haven't paid any attention to all the heinous shit humans have done in the name of God.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Random Back Issue #8 - Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #11

Agreed. Let's all ring in the end of everything by sitting on the couch and eating chips.

This was the penultimate issue of this series, by which point it had moved way beyond where it started. From Cave and his daughter Chloe returning to the subterranean kingdom Cave's deceased wife Mazra hails from, it had turned into a chase across dimensions and alternate realities after some bizarre creature called The Whisperer, which is your standard "destroy or incorporate everything into myself" life-threatening thing.

We find out Cave's cybernetic eye was created in a partnership by another reality's Cave and Doc Magnus, and sent out to find a younger version of Cave who could meet Mazra. All so the eye can observe her and bring its recordings back to be installed in a blank Metal Man body. Sure, makes sense. Magnus insists that they didn't intend for the two to fall in love or conceive a child, but it's 'appreciated'. Very classy, Doc.

On the next page, "our" Cave tells Magnus that if he refers to his marriage or his daughter as an anomaly again, Cave will crush his throat with his bare hands. OK then.

My favorite part of this book was the odd friendship between Chloe and Wild Dog (who is apparently an associate of Cave's and got dragged into all this). The two of them are both a little out of their depth, him more than her, and I think both of them would rather than just blow things up.
 There's a race to reach some crystal that's the key to Metal Mazra beating the Whisperer, there's robot punches, and yes, there's monster snot rockets. Delightful imagery, but Oeming and Filardi's art was what kept me on this book. Stuff could look so weird and vivid, but Oeming could sell the quiet moments when they were called for. There's a nice one in here where Mazra shields them and then smiles at Cave, and he just knows that it's her inside.

[Longbox #3, 16th comic. Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #11, by Gerard Way and Jonathan Rivera (writers), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer)

Thursday, November 07, 2019


Rock Hudson plays a psychiatrist recruited by a member of the American military to treat a brilliant scientist that he saw at one point a few years earlier. The scientist is convinced he's been abducted, and when he's able to briefly escape and contact his sister (Claudia Cardinale), she tracks down Hudson. The doc has his own doubts, especially once he's approached by a man claiming to work for the CIA, who says the general is in fact a Russian.

Problem being, there's so much security involved he can't get in touch with anyone who either can or will corroborate either person's story. And since he's flown to where the scientist is located and blindfolded for the remainder of the drive, he doesn't have a clue where to look for anyone. In the meantime, he has a burgeoning romance going with Cardinale.

Well, he does and then he doesn't, mostly pending whatever whim the general (or "George" as he tells Hudson to call him) decides. Break it off, keep it going, break it off. The guy is so focused on security even he doesn't know what's going on in his head. Hudson doesn't help matters by being a serial engager, to the point he's known in the society columns as "Bluebeard"? I'm surprised people would care about what a psychiatrist gets up to, but maybe the women he keeps getting involved with are big deals.

It's a little slapstick at times, like the fight scene with the CIA guy's goons in the park. I think those goons' previous employer was a one-off 1960s Batman villain. There's also a mule involved in the big finale, that poor creature. Stuck lugging a bunch of ungrateful morons around through a swamp.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Wall in the Big House

Back during the original John Ostrander Suicide Squad run, there's a point three years in where everything collapses. Waller's pissed off a lot of people, by only pretending to surrender control of the Squad. She underestimated Lashina and as a result, her niece died on Apokoplis.

The Squad was being shut down, and their was a plot involving cocaine that turns people into zombies that needed stopping, so Waller grabbed the last three Squad members left - Deadshot, Poison Ivy, and Ravan - and went and dealt with. By killing people. Then she let those three escape, and surrendered herself to the authorities. She spends a year in prison until Batman and that doofus Sarge Steel show up needing her help.

Here's what I'm wondering: What did Amanda Waller get up during that year?

I can't picture Waller just sitting around waiting. I'm pretty sure she accepted going to jail because she thought she deserved it for what happened to Flo, and probably also Rick Flag, and the other decent people that had gotten chewed up and spit out by the Squad.

But clearly she's reached some kind of peace with that by the time Steel came around, because she's ready to get out. She has this whole idea of the Squad being autonomous and for hire already mapped out and ready to go. That wouldn't have taken all her time, and I can't picture Amanda Waller being one to just sit around and do nothing.

Did she spend a lot of time reading? Write angry poetry about government bureaucrats and Captain Boomerang? Did she make any friends? I could see Amanda Waller taking an interest in some younger inmate and trying to help them get a degree or something. I think she pushed her kids to try and succeed, she might want to help guide someone younger away from a bad end. Did she make the warden's life hell until he got them better food? (Now I'm picturing Waller as some combination of Andy Dufrense and Hogan from Hogan's Heroes.)

She had to have gotten into at least one fight. Someone would have been dumb enough to look at Waller and think she was easy pickings. Even if the knew who she was, they probably figure she's nothing without a bunch of super-criminals to boss around.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Mouse That Roared - Leonard Wibberly

A tiny duchy on the French border decides to lose a war to the United States as a way to receive enough money to keep their country going. The only problem being, because all their declarations of war are either ignored or misplaced, the United States has no idea they're at war (other than with the Soviets of course). And because the invasion force of 25 people lands during a simulation of an enemy attack, everyone in New York is huddled indoors somewhere. Which makes losing a war a little tricky, but does provide an opportunity to actually win the war. All it takes is finding the right man with the right bomb.

It's all very tongue-in-cheek, while making fun of the completely absurd notion of maintaining world peace by building bombs that can end all life on earth. Hey, a peaceful world doesn't necessarily mean a live one. The small nations deciding they'll be the one to enforce the peace, because they're tired of all these big nations just deciding to do things that can affect everyone without consulting anyone else first.

I've read too many history books because when I got to that part, I thought, "Man there's no way Mao agrees to that. He'd dare them to use the bomb, because he'd be in his underground bunker."

Wibberly uses the notion that Grand Fenwick has mostly remained in the 1400s technologically to good effect. When the Soviets threaten to broadcast fiery speeches to the duchy's proletariat over the radio, they're bluntly told the duchy has no proletariat, and no radios. The fact that people have no idea what to do when confronted by men in suits of armor with arrows, and either think they're hallucinating, or just chalk it up as a curiosity.

'Few in the history of human warfare have been so difficult to convince that they had been taken prisoner by an enemy as was Dr. Kokintz when captured by Tully Bascomb in the name of Grand Fenwick. He had, it is true, good reason for his disbelief. For one, he had been expecting sandwiches, and had got instead, broadswords.'

Monday, November 04, 2019

Probably Falls Under the Category "Unacceptable Risk"

Something that used to come up for Nightcrawler was the danger of his teleporting blindly. The fear being that, if he did, he could materialize within a wall, rock, tree, something. And that the physical disruption of that would most likely kill him. Which makes sense. You reappear and there's part of a boulder sharing space with your lungs, that's probably not good.

Of course, it raises the question of how Kurt knows that's an issue. Short of trying it and finding out, I don't know how he could. He could certainly suspect it's a risk, but unless he's encountered someone with teleportation powers, and seen or heard that it happened to them, there's no reason to think it would. I know on occasions, when fighting machines, he'll try teleporting something like an engine block into their bodies.

But, again, what gave him the idea that would work?

After all, when Kurt teleports into open space, it isn't as though there are no atoms or molecules already there. It's air, so it isn't solid, but it's still matter. So wouldn't Kurt's body merge with whatever air molecules are in that space when he appears? It could appear in his bloodstream, and last I checked, getting air directly into your bloodstream is kind of dangerous.

So maybe when he appears, the doorway, gateway, whatever you want to call the process he uses for teleportation, has enough force behind it to shove the air aside. But OK, that's air, and Kurt's worried about solid matter, not gases. It does make me wonder what would happen if he teleported into a body of water. The pool at the Mansion, or the ocean because he had to get off a submarine fast. Would he materialize and merge with the water, or would it be shoved aside by his arrival?

The answer might be to see if there's an X-Man sitting around that can keep coming back from the dead, and ask if they'll be willing to act as guinea pig. One of Madrox' clones, perhaps. Otherwise, it may just be one of those things you take on faith, because testing it is too risky. Like not flying a plane directly into the side of a mountain to see if it can punch through to the other side.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Sunday Splash Page #86

"The Rare Appearance of the Spider-Corset" in Black Cat #2, by Jen van Meter (writer), Javier Pulido and Javier Rodriguez (artists), Matt Hollingsworth (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

This was the second mini-series Felicia Hardy had gotten (the first coming back in the mid-90s). This one was tangentially tied in to the Spider-Man storyline "The Grim Hunt", which involved Kraven's family resurrecting him via some process that involved targeting people with spider-related powers. Or something. I bought some of the issues of Amazing Spider-Man that led up to it (as part of "The Gauntlet"), but I didn't pay attention to the main show.

Here, all the Spider-Man stuff is running in the background. Spidey and Felicia interact for most of the first issue, and a few pages each issue after that, but they don't have much time for each other. Spidey doubted her, which wasn't smart, and later, he's worn down and just trying to survive. So neither one is in a position to help the other.

A guy whose family has served the Kravinoffs (but I'm assuming not related to The Chameleon) for generations is infatuated with Ana Kravinoff, and decides to reacquire every piece of art of treasure the family lost when the tsar fell. He's not a good enough thief to manage it, so he frames Felicia for a botched heist and murders a security guard to try and draw her in. At which point it turns into a cat-and-mouse between him and Felicia and her crew. You know how that goes. The bait-and-switch, the times where one side appears to have outsmarted the other, but it was really all part of the plan. 

It's enjoyable because Felicia's able to read her opponent and figure out what he's really after, and how to turn that to her advantage. Pulido draws the guy as very wide-eyed and eager anytime he's around Ana. There's one panel where he's showing her pictures of the items he's planning to recover from a book, and she's moved close enough to put a finger on the page, and the dude is actually sweating he's so excited. Visions of how his dream might come true if he can just get all these things.

Pulido draws most of the mini-series, but Javier Rodriguez steps in for a few pages in this issue and one other. Pulido's figures are a bit exaggerated - I think that panel up there is one of the few times I've seen Spider-Man with a narrower waist than Felicia - but he and Rodriguez both have a knack for the scenes where Felicia is stealing things. Hollingsworth tends to use a lot of blues and blacks in those scenes, so the red for any laser defenses really pops. Felicia's face is usually entirely shadowed, with just her hair and the white parts of her costume for contrast. It all looks very cool, and I'm always here for stories where Felicia is shown as taking her craft seriously. I'm not sure van Meter ever references the bad luck powers, and there's no point where we're told she's making conscious use of them. Definitely not during heists.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Random Back Issue #7 - Batgirl #17

Maybe ask the Green Lanterns for tips? There's Grumpy (Guy), Sleepy (Kyle), Dopey (Hal), and Doc (John). That tracks, right? I bet there's a lot of disagreement about which of them is Dopey, but we know it's Hal. Maybe Kyle is Bashful?

Just one issue shy from the Valentine's Day team-up with Klarion the Witch Boy! Damn. Instead, Steph is stuck teaming up with the little psychopath, Damian. The issue starts with the brat being rude to Alfred and dissing his cooking. Miller's really trying to get us on the kid's side here, clearly. I gotta wonder what Alfred did to piss off Bruce where he gets stuck taking orders from this little shit.

OK, I promise to stop referring calling the twerp mean things.

Well, shit. Whatever.
Some goons have decided to kidnap a bus full of schoolkids while they're on a field trip. Steph was assigned the case, while Damian stumbled across while watching other kids. The only way to keep close tabs on the kids is for Damian to pretend to be a regular kid. His greatest challenge yet, to Steph's. . . distress? Amusement? Little of both, maybe.
The kidnapping is stopped with the biggest problem being that neither of our heroes seem to have put any thought into how to deal with stopping a bus full of hostages. Or else Talia left bus driving off Damian's curriculum. It really feels like each of them is trying to show up the other by constantly criticizing whatever approach they take. Still, the day is eventually saved, which leaves time for Steph to take Damian to actually have fun. Fun that doesn't involve stabbing people, I mean. I am sometimes sad I'm too old for moon bounces. On the other hand, as a functioning adult, I could just rent one all for myself.
This is the best way to deal with Damian as a supporting character. Have someone who simply refuses to take his arrogance and bullshit seriously, who is there to agree with the audience that the kid takes himself far too seriously. That's how I took it. Unless you want to pair him with someone who simply knocks him down a peg, which is how I figure Cass would have handled it. Just whoop his butt in 3.2 seconds, see if that shuts him up.

[Longbox #2, 112th comic. Batgirl (vol. 2) #17, by Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Pere Perez (artist), Guy Major (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer)]