Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes

I bought this last fall (same time as Red Dwarf), but decided to save it until I'd read everything else I had, because it was clearly going to take a while.

So, this edition is based on the Smollet translation, from some point in the 1700s. There are numerous footnotes, either explaining names and places Cervantes uses, Biblical references, or spots where Smollet paraphrased what a character said. Some times he does it to maintain a rhyme scheme Cervantes had, other times he seems more interested in preserving the meaning of the statement, if not the precise wording. Certain proverbs don't span national borders, apparently.

It is, as I expected, a wordy book. Don't say it in 10 words, if you can say it in 70. Because it's a story about a man taken up with stories of knights-errant, it contains all the exaggeration you'd expect from those books (I assume). When Sancho gets roughed up, he's bruised and bludgeoned from head to toe. Every young woman or man is the most beautiful any of those present have ever beheld (which becomes complicated when there's three young maidens around at the moment.) People can't simply enjoy a story, they have to take infinite satisfaction from the tale. Even if it's a tale about a young woman fleeing her home in disgrace because she let some guy sweet talk his way into her bed with promises of marriage. Really doesn't seem like something you should enjoy hearing, but maybe people in 1600s Spain were just huge assholes.

I did not realize Cervantes wrote two books of Don Quixote's adventures, both of which are collected here, or that the characters are aware of the first book during the second book. As in, the second book begins with a young scholar returning to town and telling Quixote and Sancho all about this book.

This factors into the difference in how the books proceed. Much of the first book, which contains two separate times Don Quixote sets out in search of adventures, is focused on him misinterpreting everything he sees in terms of the stories of knights-errant he loves. The time he sees windmills and decides they are a horde of giants being the most well-known example. Every inn is a castle, a herd of sheep is really a huge battle. That they don't appear so to Sancho is the work of those dastardly enchanters.

In the second book, because Cervantes has established that Don Quixote's adventures are well-known and loved even outside Spain, trades on this (in-story, the story has been written by one Cidi Hamete, not Cervantes). The knight loves to boldly announce himself, and so the people he meets are quite excited to encounter a celebrity, and frequently willing to play along with his delusions. A large chunk of the second book is taken up with a duke and duchess who entertain themselves for a solid two weeks setting things up to get Don Quixote wound up so they can have a good laugh.

I'm not sure if Cervantes intended to demonstrate the utter uselessness of the aristocracy, but showing that these people have got nothing better to do than pull elaborate pranks on an old man with dementia is pretty strong evidence. I'm not clear why every man of the cloth in both stories is so opposed to both Don Quixote's actions, and books on chivalry in general. I'm assuming Cervantes is toeing a line established by the Inquisition, I just don't know what the Church had against such books. I guess they don't want people to get any ideas about going and doing things to address injustices. Leave that to the Church. It'll get to it, you know, eventually.

He does the same when it comes to the King having decreed that all the Moors had to leave Spain, even if they'd converted to Christianity. An acquaintance of Sancho's they cross paths with, who had converted, and loves Spain, agrees the King was right to do so, because so many of his brethren could not be trusted. OK, sure.

Either way, it's interesting how easily most people Quixote and Sancho meet along the way fall into their madness. Some people are playing along to amuse themselves, but in the first book, it's more common that they're simply being polite, or that they don't see the point in disputing it. If this old man wants to claim the inn is a tavern, the innkeeper doesn't care (until Quixote chops up a bunch of wine skins, claiming they were the heads of giants besieging him.)

One other thing that plays into the second book is that, between Cervantes publishing his two books, someone else wrote a book about Don Quixote, without Cervantes' permission. So several references are made to it during Cervantes' second book, all disparaging. Both Quixote and Sancho are dismayed by how they're presented in, and the fact that it misrepresents their adventures. Everyone they meet that has read this libelous manuscript agrees that it has not captured their true personalities.

The next time I get annoyed at Jim Starlin for writing yet another Thanos story that goes out of its way to dismiss every story anyone else wrote with Thanos since the last time Starlin did it, I'll just have to remind myself that Miguel de Cervantes did it first.

'"That discourse, replied the peasant, puts me in the mind of those books which treat of knights-errant, who were commonly distinguished by such titles as you bestow on that man: but, I suppose you are pleased to be merry, or else, the bed chambers of this poor gentleman's skull are but scantily furnished."

"You are a most impudent rascal! (cried the knight, overhearing what he said) it is your skull that is unfurnished and shrunken; but mine is more pregnant than the abominable whore that brought you forth." So saying, he snatched up a loaf, and flung it at the goatherd with such fury, that he levelled his nose with his face.'

Monday, March 30, 2020

What I Bought 3/28/2020 - Part 1

Welcome to what may very well be the last set of new comic reviews for some time here on the blog. You know, depending on how completely everything collapses.

Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler, by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alan Davis (artist/writer), Carlos Lopez (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - That's pretty smart of them to leave bats running loose in the arboretum. Keeps the bug population under control, without harmful pesticides.

So the old X-Mansion has one of the gates that lets mutants reach Krakoa. A mutant came there, but never made it to the island. A small team goes to investigate, but keep encountering mutants who should either still be dead, or are dressed archaically and speaking in an alien language. Doug Ramsey, who has Warlock hiding on his arm for some mysterious reason finds out a race of alien bugs has infested the mansion and captured Lady Mastermind when she came to use the gate and they perceived her as a threat. That's pretty much it.

I thought I knew most of the weird space stuff the X-Men get tangled up in periodically - and unlike what seems to be a lot of X-fans, I don't mind the space opera stuff - but I have no idea what the Sidri are. The story tells me they're normally bounty hunters, the X-Men encountered them at some point after they first met the Starjammers, that's about all I can tell from this story. I like the way they're able to sort of pile together to form a roughly human form, make their body shape resemble a human face.

The thing is, this really isn't much of a Nightcrawler story. He's ostensibly in charge of the mission, and he seems to be the only one who recognizes the Sidri, but beyond that, he's not doing much. It's really more of a Doug Ramsey and Warlock story. I don't know why Warlock is pretending to be some techno-organic infection Doug has - Warlock's a mutant, shouldn't he be welcome on their special mutant island? - and I presume it's something Hickman will address eventually. Just, you know, not in anything I'm going to end up reading.

I also don't really get why, if Lady Mastermind was unconsciously controlling the Sidri so they'd take human forms, why they'd imitate Rachel in her hound outfit, or Thunderbird. She wouldn't have even met either of them in those states, would she? Maybe Alan Davis just liked those looks, so that's what he went with. Anyway, it's nice to see Alan Davis draw Nightcrawler, but even if you're someone following Hickman's X-stuff heavily, I don't think you need this book.

Amethyst #2, by Amy Reeder (writer/artist), Gabriella Downie (letterer) - Hey, you break it, you buy it. Which will at least be one more issue sold.

The trip to House Sapphire ends with Amy and Phoss getting the old trap door treatment. So that's 0-for-2 recruiting help. They end up on a ship Phoss used to work on, where Phoss' friend asks Amy about Earth. Amy makes Earth sound pretty lame which, you know, that's fair. But Elba's intrigued by the book on crystals Amy's parents gave her, and Amy finds she actually can travel mentally through amethysts. Which is how she finds all her subjects imprisoned in that same material. Including her magic parents, who are supposed to be dead. Amy freaks out a little about that.

The issue started with a flashback to Amy first learning her heritage, with Citrine and Granch assuring her everyone loved her parents, who were so great and brave and true, then returning to the present where everyone in Sapphire's court laughs at the notion. The thing about this mini-series so far is that I wonder if Amy has even interacted with anyone outside her kingdom prior to this. It has that strong feel of a person growing up strictly within the borders of their own nation, never questioning the propaganda it puts forth about itself.

But I was under the impression Amethyst had worked with these other kingdoms against Dark Opal already (the flashback was three years ago). Like back in the original '80s mini-series. She must have met people from other lands at some point? Even if she was traveling everywhere on her flying horse.

Which, I'm with Amy, there is nothing wrong with traveling on a flying horse. Especially compared to traveling on a ship full of people or a giant caterpillar. Arguments about not having experienced anything if you travel in the sky are not persuasive to me.
We got a glimpse at Reeder's versions of a few different kingdoms in this issue. Sapphire's court has a very, it reminded me of Tron. Lot of darkness, broken up by narrow bands of light. This city itself is more cyberpunk, New York in the Marvel 2099 universe. City stretching into the sky, lots of levels, lots of lights and walkways, that kind of thing. The bit of Opal's realm we saw looked like a metal silo, but that might be because it's where he's holding all of Amy's people. Aquamarine, unsurprisingly, has a realm water motif. Shades of blue, falling water, smoothed edges and curves on the furniture and archways.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #107

"This "Who's the Boss" Reboot is Gettin' Weird," in Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel

It turns out, if you give people cardboard that brings to life whatever you make from it, some people will abuse that power. Shocking, I know. 

Like most of TenNapel's work, it's a mixture of the fantastic and mundane. Mostly people trying to use the fantastic to avoid dealing with their mundane problems. That never seems to actually work. That's what recreational drug use is for, after all.

So the full-size version of the guy with cardboard spit is Mike, an out-of-work carpenter still emotionally shut down after the death of his wife. The magic cardboard was the birthday gift he bought for his son Cam, from a crazy old man's roadside stand, because it was all he could afford. Things go awry when the rich, sadistic goth kid in the neighborhood gets wind of it and steals the magic cardboard to unleash his own imagination on the world (which Mike dismisses as 'derivative or darkness for darkness' sake.' Like making a boxer is so original). At which points things go to hell. 

Lots of dealing with what it means to be human, or a man, in among fighting giant cardboard hermit crabs with cardboard particle cannons. Mike being so locked up by what he sees as his inability to be a good father, that he struggles to really do anything. Plus, he feels like he's being unfaithful to his wife by being interested in the lady next door, who is clearly interested in him. It's easier to have fun making things out of magic cardboard with Cam, until that becomes its own problem. Then it's one more thing he tries to run from.

Friday, March 27, 2020

This May All Be Moot Now

Who knows if any of the comics in June's solicitations will actually come out that month, given that Diamond's shutting down distribution for the next who knows how long, but let's take a look. There wasn't much new that caught my eye, but I couldn't expect for there to keep being multiple new series like that each month indefinitely.

In terms of things I'll already be buying (probably), there's the 3rd issue of Spy Island, the 4th issue of Amethyst, and the 4th and final issue of Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage. DC is also gifting us with the Doom Patrol by John Byrne Omnibus. I have never heard anyone say anything good about that series.

There's also the 4th issue of Wicked Things, and 3rd issue of Rogue Planet. I didn't see an issue of Sera and the Royal Stars, though. Vertical is releasing the 6th volume of Kino's Journey. Maybe I'll have caught up by then!

Let's see, Black Cat is going to send Lily Hollister, who I vaguely remember as someone from the early stretch of Brand New Day, after Felicia. I think Felicia can do better for an arch-foe, but Lily probably can't. Deadpool is dealing with the fallout from wherever that teleportation bullet Elsa shot him with sent him. I don't know if that means we find out what happened while he was in that other place, or that something from it has followed him. In Runaways, the X-Men are going to try and kidnap Molly. Probably. I mean, they've spent months trying to take Franklin Richards away from his parents.

I give Reed Richards a lot of shit - which he deserves - but he and Sue have a hell of a lot better track record of keeping their kids alive than Xavier or Magneto do. Chuck's mortality rate among his students is like something out of a World War I battlefield.

Taskmaster's running afoul of the White Fox. Sure, why not. It's finally dawned on me the New Warriors are going to be on the side of the authority figures in this Outlawed thing, which seems to run counter to everything the New Warriors should be. Plus, having seen the designs and codenames for the new characters, yikes. It's like when Nick Spencer tried to catch current culture in his Sam Wilson Captain America run and had that one character called "Trigger Warning."

Among Marvel stuff I probably won't buy, but noticed. Shang-Chi's gonna fight his kid in a mini-series. Spidey's about to have another mental breakdown. The Juggernaut is going to fight the Hulk. They're touting the return of Vengeance, the Ghost Rider with a horse skull or something, in a Ghost Rider Annual, and I'm trying to figure out who was clamoring for that.

Outside that, there's just not a heck of a lot besides a few collections. Humanoids is releasing a softcover volume of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius' The Incal, which they say is the best selling sci-fi graphic novel of all time. Magnetic Press had a couple of things. One called Zaya, by Jean-David Morvan and Huang-Jia Wei, about a secret agent in the far future coming out of retirement and finding stuff about their past. Pretty standard as far as the plot goes, but Wei's art kind of interests me, based on the cover at least.

I know, I'm literally judging a book by its cover. But only insofar as whether I'll like the art, which seems fair.

Then the other was Gunland, which is your mash-up of magic, and westerns, and dinosaurs. Which again, not that unusual, but I like at least a couple of those elements, so it's got a chance. It would come down to execution.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Ballad of Lefty Brown

This is basically what happens when the old comic relief sidekick from Westerns - think Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo - gets to be the star.

Bill Pullman plays Lefty, who intends to track down the man who killed his longtime boss/friend, and soon-to-be Senator, Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda). No one really gives him much of a chance, as two of his and Ed's other partners get involved. Tom, now as US Marshal, starts tracking down Lefty, but reluctantly agrees to help. Jimmy Bierce (Jim Caviezel), the kid of the quartet, is the first Governor of Montana, and has promised to send out the army to find the killers. But his actions don't really add up, surprise surprise.

Pullman plays Lefty as kind of sad and comical. A well-meaning guy, but not exceptionally skilled in any way, other than persistence. Not a great shot, not incredibly brave. He's the guy who, while the sheriff marches right in through the front door, goes around back to cut off anybody who tries to flee that way. He and Tom meet a young wannabe gunslinger who loves those dime novels. Tom's in them, so is Edward. Lefty isn't.

But Lefty's the only one who sticks with it all the way to the end. Even when everyone turns against him. He's the one who saves the kid while Tom is ineffectually interrogating the killer, then falling to pieces. Throughout the film, people keep questioning why Edward kept Lefty around, why he would consider turning over the managing of his ranch to him, of all people. I don't know how he'd do running a ranch, but you can tell that if he failed, it wouldn't be for lack of effort.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Science Against Magic, Villain Style

So I was re-watching Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and thinking about how Kang is treated as the mid-season threat, but Loki is the end boss of Season 1. Setting aside that I don't know if I buy Loki as a bigger threat than Kang, it got me thinking about science villains versus magic villains.

What I was trying to think of was times where the heroes are caught between a science-based villain and a magic-based one. Fights between villains aren't that unusual, especially the gang boss types, but those are like against like. Guys with guys and knives against other guys with guns and knives.

But it doesn't seem like you see it as much with the bigger, top-tier threat villains, where there might be more variety in their approaches. Lex Luthor doesn't throw down against Mordru. Thanos doesn't decide to make Shuma-Gorath look like a total chump.

Maybe that's because the respective goals of villains like that are dissimilar enough they don't end up at cross-purposes. Or their goals are the same, but the routes they take leave them unaware of each other. Or that magic villains, while less numerous, tend to be treated as bigger threats, partially because their powers are treated as strange and mysterious, even to other villains.

The closest I could come to of a big fight between magic and science villains was really only referred to in passing during Abnett and Lanning' Guardians of the Galaxy run. When it turns out the Kang (and a bunch of Starhawks from across universes) are in a war against the Magus and the Universal Church of Truth. Even then, I'm not sure the UCT qualified as magic-users. All their powers and weapons seemed powered by "faith", but is that just an alternative energy source?

I feel like Captain Marvel (the Shazam! one) would have the rouge's gallery for that kind of battle. You have the science types like Sivana or Mister Mind, and the magic types like Black Adam or the Seven Deadly Sins. Sure, they could just team-up and fight the Big Red Cheese, but these guys all have egos. It doesn't seem that out of the question one of them would decide the others are in the way and try to crush them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Locke & Key

I watched the first half of this last month, when I went up to Alex' one Sunday and we ate a ridiculous amount of chicken wings. I finally watched the second half last week.

It's pretty good. Watching the Locke kids flail and try to make plans while "Well Lady" is running around making plans and putting things in motion is kind of fun. The fact the kids actually try to get help, from their parents, their friends, any other adults they think might be able to help. The ending of the final episode caught me off guard. I knew there were going to be shenanigans involving the key that changes your appearance, but there ended up being an additional layer to it I didn't expect.

Although I thought the reveal was going to be Dodge had switched places with Kinsey after the shadows ambushed her in the basement, but it was someone else that got swapped. I'm still unclear on how you can change how someone else looks using the key on them, but I guess if they aren't thinking of an appearance, someone else's intent can drive it.

I really like the way they represent how the Head Key works, with each person having some sort of door that leads into their mind. The difference in how things play out with Kinsey's fear as a result of the difference is a nice touch. It added a different element to things. I'm not sure about the episode where the kids realize that relapsing into alcoholism is causing their mother to actually remember the weird magic shit. Granting that the kids make some dumb decisions, I didn't think there was much suspense about whether they'd encourage her drinking for the sake of having an (inebriated) ally. This isn't Family Guy.

I guess there wouldn't be much suspense about it on Family Guy either. The answer would definitely be "yes".

I think Laysla De Oliveira gives a good performance as Dodge/Well Lady, especially in how good she is at being cruel or threatening. Her final words to Sam Lesser, the way she toys with Bodie when he sets the trap. She's playful, but the way she advances on him and looms over him, it was worrying. I was pretty sure they wouldn't kill Bodie that soon, but on the other hand, couldn't rule it out.


Monday, March 23, 2020

What I Bought 3/19/2020

Both of the comic stores in town were open last week. One wasn't letting people inside, but you could call ahead. The other one was still letting people walk in. Anyway, I rolled the dice and entered a building with other human beings in it, and here's a comic.

Deadpool #4, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Wayne Faucher, Al Vey, Livesay, Jamie Mendoze, Tim Townsend, Derek Fridolfs (inkers), David Curiel (color artist), Irene Strychalski (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - I think the Homeowner's Association will have some problems with that lawn display.

Wade fights Kraven. Wade loses an arm. Fight continues. Wade's knights show up to get involved - again. Fight continues. Wade maneuvers Kraven near the water. Kraven gets eaten by the giant tentacle monster. Wade has funeral for murdered bird chancellor guy, considers abdicating throne. Elsa talks him out of it. Kraven turns up not dead, somehow.

There's also a two-page story, drawn by Strychalski, where Wade tries to cheer up Jeff the Land Shark by dressing as Gwenpool. Yikes.

Not the most thrilling start to this run. I guess it's important that Deadpool make the decision to be king, since he basically fell ass-end into the job by killing the previous king via 40 grenades. But the fight against Kraven, which spanned 2.5 issues, was not terribly interesting. Maybe more time spent on Kraven killing Wade's citizens and Wade trying to catch the killer would have worked better. I don't buy Kraven, especially not a Kraven that's actually just his dumb kid, as being this big a threat to Deadpool.
Situation is not helped by the fact I still can't really figure out what Bachalo's shooting for with his layouts and whatnot, although it's not as noticeable in this issue as the previous two. The part where he captures all the parts of Kohlaab in a net, and then someone starts shooting arrows. The net panel is big, then the two where one arrow flies past and the next hits him in the chest are off to the side, maybe a quarter as large. It seems like conveying information is not a major concern for him. I don't know what it is he likes about those small panels almost entirely filled by a character.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #106

"Marvel's Straining for Big Event Premises," in Captain Marvel (vol. 8) #11, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), David Lopez (artist), Lee Loughridge (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The previous volume of Captain Marvel (which as Kelvin noted in the comments last week, Marvel does count as volume 7) ended in late 2013, after 17 issues. Marvel, showing remarkable restraint by their standards, waited a whole five months before starting a new volume with the same writer. On the plus side, they actually gave DeConnick a consistent artist to pair with, in David Lopez. Having a consistent look helped immensely, as does the fact I like Lopez' work more than I did any of the artists on the previous volumes. He has the type of clean linework I like, and he can draw a good fight scene. There's a fun one in this issue with Carol fending off two crazy people who hate her while her powers are nullified and her hands are shackled.

Carol's still dealing with a loss of memories, although it doesn't get played up too much because this series sends her into space, as the Avengers representative in matters of galactic importance. Carol's mostly dealing with people and places she's never been before, so memory doesn't factor as much.

The first arc dealt with Carol helping a planet of refugees, who were being hassled by Star-Lord's imperialistic ass of a father. I don't think Carol getting crosswise of J'son ever came to anything, since someone else killed the guy shortly afterward. I still felt like 6 issues was more than the story needed, but after that DeConnick shifts back to shorter stories. Two issues about how Carol's cat is not a cat (so this is where that bit in the movie came from). An issue of Carol helping Lila Cheney (seen above panicking about Christmas) get out of an arranged marriage. Then returning to Earth to check in on a sick friend. And team-up with Santa Claus!

I bought the book for 11 issues. Don't know why the splash pages I like best are always in the last issue I bought. The next issue was going to start a tie-in to Black Vortex, some mini-event thing with the Guardians of the Galaxy and those time-lost teen versions of the original 5 X-Men. There's no device known to man that could detect the microscopic amount of fucks I gave about that.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Random Back Issues #23 - Beware the Creeper #5

I feel like this is what most mysteries I read are thinking of me. The part about being a poor detective, I mean. Hopefully not about being a lousy excuse for a man. That's going a little too far.

The final issue of the Vertigo mini-series finds the citizens of Paris turning against the Creeper, as she's accused of the death of both a small child and a lady of the evening. I would think being excommunicated by the Surrealists would make you their King. Or maybe that's the Dadaists. Madeline is cracking under the pressure as everyone believes her sister Judith is responsible, including Inspector Allain. She's drinking a lot, fending off the lecherous advances of Ernest Hemingway, although he thought she was Judith. Story of Madeline's life, everyone wishing she was her wacky sister.
Allain isn't sure what to do, trying to find the killer who might be a woman he loves, while trying to deal with whatever he feels for her much quieter, more sensible twin sister. Emotions are difficult, so he focuses on work.

The Creeper appears in the home of the crazy rich boy and frustrated painter Mathieu Abrogast, who is the actual killer but protected by his mother's wealth and influence. Not protected from an angry lady in a costume with a sword, though. The Creeper forces a confession from him and hauls him away.
While all that's happening, the cops are nosing through the sisters' home, only to learn one of them is dead, and has been for some time. The Creeper tosses Allain a note, telling him to come to the Eiffel Tower alone. Once there, he gets ambushed and loses his gun to one of two people dressed as the Creeper. One's tied up, the other's extremely pissed.

Allain only finally figures out which sister he's actually dealing with at the end. Too late to keep Madeline from leaping off the Tower with Mathieu in tow. Allain finds Mathieu's body on the ground, the note pinned to it, right before the lights on the Tower overload and go dark. Allain goes ahead and fudges his report to pin all the Creeper's actions on Mathieu, and leaves out the part where there was a harness hanging from the Tower, suggesting Madeline is still alive somewhere. Assuming she didn't burn up when the wooden scaffolding did.

Allain's left to mourn how much of a dumbass he was, and undoubtedly become one of those detectives who drinks too much while listening to jazz to cope with how emotionally closed off he is.

{2nd longbox, 182nd comic. Beware the Creeper #5, Jason Hall (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), John Workman (letterer)}

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Aggretsuko

I haven't had much luck finding movies I particularly want to watch on Netflix recently, and going to the theater is, for obvious reasons, not an option at the moment (even if there was something I really wanted to see). I have three or four TV series saved to watch, but instead skipped past all of them to watch an animated show about an accountant who deals with stress by doing death metal karaoke.

That's pretty much what the show is. Retsuko works in the Accounting Division of some company. Her boss is a sexist (literal) pig, her mom is trying to make her get married, she's not sure if she even likes her job or what she wants to do with her life. She struggles with asserting herself, so she stops at a karaoke place after work and screams out her frustration and all the things she wants to say to people there.

Definitely not an impulse I'm familiar with or anything. I don't even like death metal.

Both seasons involve Retsuko falling head over heels for a guy (different guy, not the same guy twice), before coming to the conclusion they don't mesh well with her. One doesn't put anywhere near as much into the relationship as she does, and the other is doing too much, or devalues the things that are important to her. There's a best friend character at her job that's clearly got a crush, and is I think supposed to have a little Punk in him, judging by glimpses we see of him outside work, but nothing's happened on that front so far.

That's the common theme, is how many of the characters are hiding something behind their professional facade. Retsuko ultimately befriends two women who are pretty far up there in the company hierarchy. Almost every time we see Retsuko see them at work, they're striding down the hall together confidently, entirely composed. Then they go around the corner and Director Gori admits walking like that is really painful, or she breaks down sobbing because Retsuko turned them down when they invited her for a post-yoga meal. Retsuko might be hiding a whirlwind of fury, but everyone's got something hidden for one reason or another.

(Now that I've typed that out, I'm really curious what Retsuko's friend Fennuko is hiding. We haven't seen much of her outside work.)

I spent a lot of time eagerly anticipating when Retsuko would actually cut loose on her boss or his ass-kissing lackey, or whoever it was that gave her grief. Which is why my favorite episode was the 7th episode of season 1, when she gets into a face off karaoke battle against her boss after he figures out she filed a power harassment complaint against him. Who hasn't had a boss they wanted to tell off brutally at least once? I've been pretty fortunate in regards to bosses, but even so, there are times I would like to scream at them until they were blown through a wall.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Strange Days, With More Still to Come

I should have known, when I decided I actually wanted to do some traveling this year, see some places I'd never been, that things were going to end badly. Jokes aside, I'm still very much at the point where I'm more concerned for people I know than I am for myself.

My parents are both above the age when the mortality rate goes up significantly. Fortunately, they're both pretty good at entertaining themselves, and neither is the sort to go rushing into town for minor things. My mom lives in an urban area, while my dad is out in the boonies, but my dad has three dogs of advanced age, so he's actually more likely to be around lots of people, if only because of vet visits.

I think all the bars and nightclubs in the state have been ordered shuttered for the next 6-10 weeks, which is not good for Alex, seeing as he's a DJ. His livelihood is kind of dependent on playing music for large gatherings of people. He seems both more worried than me and not as worried. More worried in that he's glad he's bought a lot of freeze-dried food over the last few years. Less worried in that he's looking ahead to all the gigs at the Lake of the Ozarks he's scheduled for this summer as his chance to recover financially.

I have pointedly not raised the question of what happens if this thing persists and people aren't allowed to congregate at the lake this summer. I'm pretty sure he's already aware of the possibility, and he'll figure it out if he has to. I'll help if he needs it. While a couple of $1,000 checks from the government won't hurt him, that's not going to cut it if this things drags on through the summer. One of the guys he works for a lot already announced he would have to permanently close one of his clubs, because he can't afford to pay the bills for two months if it's shut down. Not sure those checks will change that, either. And that's if that alleged solution comes to pass. I will believe it when I see it. Even then, it would be smart to make certain signing the check doesn't give Mitch McConnell the right to harvest your organs and either sell them or use them to prolong his own hideous existence.

(And get the fuck out of here with Schumer and his nonsense about "giving" small business owners low-interest loans. A loan is not giving someone anything except a future debt.)

As for me, I work for the state government, which has not, as yet, shut down entirely. Although they found one state worker in one of the other buildings who tested positive yesterday, so who knows at this stage. I kind of assume it's already around, and maybe I've come into contact and maybe I haven't. I haven't noticed anything definitive yet.

They've only in the last week started taking any steps, which has been the most frustrating part for me, because they can't seem to make up their minds. They issue one set of instructions Friday, a different or revised set Monday morning. They ask for each group to come up with some sort of plan to minimize how many people are in the office, then change what they want in the afternoon, and again on Tuesday, adding conditions and stipulations all the while. Nothing like giving the impression of scrambling around with their heads either cut off or up their asses.

My boss has accumulated a ridiculous amount of sick leave over his 20+ years, and asked if he could simply use some of it - maybe 3% - to self-quarantine for two weeks, without having a note from his physician stating he was ill. He was told no, which seems idiotic to me. They want us to work from home at least a couple of days a week in a rotation, so there aren't as many people in the building. OK, just let people take their damn sick leave and they won't be in the building.

(I'm not clear on why we can't do that anyway. It's my goddamn sick leave. You can either pay for me to take a day off with it now, or you can pay when I leave the job or retire. Take your pick.)

We were also told yesterday that on the days we're working from home, we better be there, because the Division Director (my boss' boss' boss) may call to check in that we're at our computer and not say, mowing the lawn.

I really hope that isn't the case, because just knowing they made a dumb threat like that, makes me want to sarcastically ask him if he doesn't have more important shit to do than play truant officer if he calls me.

Beyond that, I don't know. My coworkers keep telling me about how barren everything is at Wal-Mart. That people are practically ambushing the workers as they push out pallets with paper towels on them. Alex told me people are buying up ammunition like crazy (including him, no doubt). Swell, they'll execute the virus by firing squad. My dad went to buy bird seed somewhere, and they were out because some crazy bastard bought an entire pallet of bird seed. I assume he plans to trap songbirds as an emergency food supply. Either that, or he wants to make certain he has enough sunflower seeds. One coworker keeps going on about her doomsday shelter when she isn't spraying everything in sight with Lysol. She did that for a solid week before she read the can and found out you have to not touch what you spray for 10 minutes afterwards, or it doesn't do any good.

I haven't been in a grocery store since Sunday, so maybe things have changed. That one seemed to have plenty of stuff on the shelves, at least of things I buy. The meat section took a hit, but it wasn't entirely barren at 4 in the afternoon. I had to buy some toilet paper and a couple of other things last Friday, because I was down to one spare roll. The Dollar General (where most things are not $1) was down to two packages left, a 12-roll and a 72-roll. I grabbed the 12, then felt really bad as I walked away and someone shouted, "You're out of toilet paper!". They actually weren't, because someone had brought more out from the back as I walked up, the shouter just wasn't paying attention. When the guy at the register commented everyone was buying toilet paper, I wanted to explain I wasn't hoarding, I really was almost out.

A different coworker insists I should have grabbed the 72-pack. I'm not even sure where I could store 72 rolls in my apartment, and if I'm in a situation where I need that much because I can't get more, I probably have bigger problems. Civilization has likely collapsed, indoor plumbing's gone.

But I don't go out socializing much, anyway, so everything being closed down is not a massive hit to my social life. Most of the times I go places with lots of people, it's because I'm tagging along with Alex to one of his gigs. I learned a lot about keeping myself entertained from my parents. I can still get out and run, bike, or walk as I see fit, since I do those things solo. If I end up well and truly stuck inside my apartment 24/7, that might drive me nuts.

I'm kind of waiting and watching right now. The "work at home sometimes" thing is only until April 5th at the moment. Maybe (probably) it'll be extended. I'm hoping people will calm down on all the panic hoarding, but I'm not confident of it. Probably depends on if the government ever gets enough test kits out to get a proper sense of how many people are sick or infected, and what that tells us about the situation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Weather Forecast (1983)

This is a Polish film focused on a group of elderly people in a retirement home. The oncoming winter projects to be a harsh one, and while the home can't get any coal shipments, it does get a shipment of coffins. They're brought in during the middle of the night, but it doesn't go unnoticed. Figuring the government intends to simply kill them, most of the residents grab what they have and take off across the countryside.

I didn't intend to watch a movie about a bunch of people who have been failed by their government during a crisis and have no choice but to fend for themselves. The brief clip Netflix ran didn't tell me anything about the movie. Still, it's funny how that works sometimes. Their algorithm must have a twisted sense of humor.

Everything up to the point they escape is shot in black and white. After that, it shifts to color. Most of the film is the escapees traversing the countryside, finding places to sleep for the night, scrounging up food. They make campfires, they share their stories. A few of them fool around or flirt like teenagers. They have an awkward encounter with a bunch of young folk in a mill, where the old folks lose their shit when they see them taking drugs.

Interspersed through this are cutaways to the official in charge of the home and the government trying to track them down. The effort expands in scope to helicopters, dogs, vans. The head official keeps insisting there's no way these old people could possibly have made it this far.

The thing I was struck by is the isolation, how easily they're able to move largely unnoticed or unremarked upon. They make their way through a massive rail depot/shipping yard, and there's no one around. The miller who lets them stay the night, if he thinks anything of 20 senior citizens all bundled up with their assorted suitcases and bags tromping through a marsh, he doesn't show it.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Nothing Like a Fight to the Death to Get the Blood Pumping

Some people test their limits by entering a race or taking a cooking class. Kino here decides entering a tournament of death is a good test.  Like Juan de Dios said in A Fistful of Dollars, you will get rich, or you'll be dead.

Volume 3 of Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World basically focuses on Kino's visit to a single country. Where she's informed that she's now entered into a tournament. If she refuses, she's enslaved. If she loses, she might be allowed to live, if her opponent feels gracious. If she wins, she becomes a citizen and gets to add a new law.

Kino doesn't give much of a damn about any of that, but the tournament only takes three days, and that's how long she planned to stay, so she's in it to win it. Each opponent has a different fighting style, a distinct look, and different styles. The second and fourth fight go on longer than the other two, and there's a bit more strategy involved on Kino's part, which keeps things interesting. But all of these contestants are there to become citizens, and none of them seem the types to accept surrender. So Kino mows through them, but without killing anyone (including laughing boy down there, who was the second opponent), to the dismay of the crowd. If the king who instituted the tournament after killing his father is disappointed, he doesn't show it.
The final battle comes down to Kino against a young swordsman who is very good at blocking bullets with his sword. Kino's a shootist, so that seems like a sub-optimal match-up for her. But he hasn't killed any of his opponents yet, either, so it seems like both of them are focused on something else.

The swordsman has a whole backstory that's set up in the early going, and we get the rest after the fact. Although none of it explains his talking dog. There are also several flashbacks during the tournament to this young couple in a wagon. Kino met them some time ago when they were on the way to this country, having heard wonderful things. When she crossed paths with them again, only the woman was around, and she confirmed all the things they'd told Kino previously. Told Kino she just had to visit this place. Which is the part that disturbs me the most in this chapter. Not the lunatic king. Not all the killers who show up looking for an easy life where slaves take care of everything. Not the crowds baying for blood. That the person who escaped willingly and knowingly sent someone else into that.
Hermes, Kino's talking motorcycle, observes he's not sure this is a beautiful world, and I'd say he's right. Kino seems to find messy situations and misery wherever she goes. But why should she be any different than the rest of us, right? Really, Kino herself can be terrifying at times. Very cold, very certain. A young kid smiling and calling 'you liaaar' while she points a gun at you is a little unnerving.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #105

"Child Endangerment, Marvel Style," Captain Marvel (vol. 4) #17, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Filipe Andrade (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

I'm guessing on that volume number. It includes Mar-Vell's series from back in the day, plus Genis-Vell's two series (it is crazy to me that guy got two ongoings that ran a combined 60 issues). It doesn't include a trio of mini-series that starred Monica Rambeau, Genis, and Mar-Vell (or a Skrull imposter), respectively.

Anyway, this was Kelly Sue DeConnick's first turn as writer of a Carol Danvers' ongoing. It's when Carol took the name Captain Marvel - I wanna say as a result of something that happened during Avengers vs. X-Men? - got the new costume, although almost none of the artists on the book actually drew her with that sort of faux hawk Ed McGuinness gave her for the cover.

This run deals a lot with Carol's past. The first story throws her back through time, ultimately gives her a choice of whether to let her past self get these powers or not. That segues into an old Kree enemy coming back with reality manipulating powers, plus Carol losing all her memories. That woman's brain is the equivalent of the surface of Io. Just a huge, constantly reshaped disaster area. I enjoyed the build up to that, Carol trying to refuse to acknowledge any weakness that might inhibit her, and it backfiring. There was also a two-part team-up with Monica Rambeau that was fun, which also brought in Frank Gianello from Carol's first ongoing series as another way to present problems for her to solve.

It was a mixed bag of a book, although I liked the attempt to build Carol a supporting cast of superheroes and civilians, new characters and old. There were tie-ins to things I wasn't interested in, and I felt like the first arc could have been shorter than six issues. Keep things moving, build some momentum. 

The book was not helped by the constant shuffle of artists, none of whom had styles similar to each other. The initial time travel story had at least 3 or 4 pencilers for 6 issues, including Dexter Soy, Karl Kesel and Emma Rios, and it was not a case of each artist drawing a specific time period. Then you get Andrade for several issues, a crossover with Avengers Assemble (which DeConnick was also writing) drawn by Scott Hepburn and Gerardo Sandoval, an Infinity tie-in by Pat Olliffee, and then back to Andrade.

It's too bad, because this book came out less than a year after Daredevil, which would have Chris Samnee as the regular artist to pair with Mark Waid by then. The Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye book started about 3 months after Captain Marvel. That whole Marvel NOW approach of actually trying to giving a regular creative team a book, and just letting them do it. Captain Marvel could have been in a similar vein, but it never developed a style that was distinctly it. Unless mass confusion counts.

They'd try again in early 2014, and we'll take a look at that next week.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Random Back Issues #22 - Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12

MJ, you're supposed to try being less plastic. Go green! Not gamma green. Eco-friendly green. Gamma doesn't end well. I guess female characters have better track records as Hulks than guys, depending on the writer, plus your criteria.

After various disastrous relationship fallout, Mary Jane has decided to forgo all that, and just play things light and superficial. Which results in her being named the biggest flirt in school, girls division. The winner among the guys is none other than Harry Osborn, which school paper reporter Joy Mercado wanting to interview both of them about it.

Man, I don't remember our school paper running anything like that. But the main thing I remember from the paper was repeated editorials over the years complaining that our grading scale was screwing over the kids taking AP classes. As someone who a) took some AP classes, and b) was OK with the best grade I could get with the least effort (my dad's description of me, and he was my teacher for two classes, so he'd know), anything that would raise my grades without any work on my part, I was on board with it.
Anyway, MJ tries to give very safe answers to Joy's questions, while Harry plays it off as it just being too easy for someone as cool as him to flirt. Joy presses, they both break off the interviews. Joy threatens to just run what she has so far, which will make them look bad. Really? Again, I question how many of the students are reading this paper. I guess it only takes one with a big mouth, to spread it around.

Harry confronts MJ at a party, mostly because he's trying to figure out why she's acting like this. No one seems to know, including Liz. Instead, Harry finds out MY agreed to finish the interview, and told Joy whatever she wanted to hear. Unable to get satisfactory answers from Mary Jane, Harry decides to confront Joy. He offers to answer all her questions, if he gets edit of MJ's half of the article. Joy is apparently a bad enough reporter, or maybe just dishonest enough, to go along with it. Harry flirts with her, fooling her entirely. Which pisses her off/embarrasses her enough she scraps the entire article?
Granting that I didn't have the most active social life in high school, I'm not sorry I missed out on stuff like this. What a headache and a half. Peter Parker's only in three panels, mostly trying to rehearse what to say when he tells MJ he's worried about her.

{Longbox #10, 144th comic. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12, by Sean McKeever (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Christina Strain (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)}

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Everyone Can Use Friendly Ear Sometimes

In the same vein as last Wednesday's post, I had an idea about two characters I would have liked to see interact at some point. In this case, it's Peter David's "earth angel" version of Supergirl, and Reverend Craemer.

Craemer served as chaplain at Belle Reve, and later wound up as a sounding board for spiritual matters to Jim Corrigan, aka the Spectre. So he has experience with both erratic, violent personalities, and aspects of a supreme being combined with a human soul that are struggling to figure out what they're supposed to do. In The Spectre, he was eventually given the boot from the Catholic Church because he wouldn't toe the party line when it came to his sermons. He seemed open to varied conceptions of God and other faiths, so I doubt Linda being an earth angel is gonna faze him.

Plus, once you've been crucified by an out of control Spirit of Vengeance, an angry lady with telekinesis and fire wings maybe doesn't seem so terrifying. To say nothing of having to deal with Amanda Waller.

From Linda's perspective, she could have used the support of someone with a little more background in religious matters she could trust. Buzz is giving her some information, but he's a chaos demon or whatever. Not trustworthy. You've got Wally, the little kid who claims to be God, but he's being mysterious and vague a bunch of the time. Nobody has time for that bullshit. Most of her superhero acquaintances aren't much help, and if she's around them, then there's probably a crisis to deal with. Linda's friends don't know anything about what's going on.

Her mother's faith waxed and waned, to the point it seemed Linda was usually trying to prop it up, rather than being able to get support from it herself. Which has a big part of Supergirl's issues, everyone pinning their hopes and faith on her, leaving her to try and live up to it, without anyone she could lean on. Craemer seems like someone that would have at least tried to keep her from being too hard on herself, keep her from beating up on herself for not being able to help everyone, which might have kept her from losing hope. If nothing else, he can point out she never wiped out an entire country like the Spectre did. So how bad can she be doing, really?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Desolate

The movie starts about by explaining it takes place in an area where it simply stopped raining sometime ago, long enough the narrator can't recall the last time it did rain. Yet there are still live trees and grass, though we are assured the farmers and cattle ranchers all pretty much went belly up and either moved away or died.

It focuses on one family that stayed, because they couldn't afford to move. I'm unclear how they're still alive, but whatever. They ultimately get crosswise of a human trafficking/drug operation, and everyone starts dying.

I didn't really grasp where things were happening in relation to one another. How far they were traveling. The story shifts to a town eventually, but we're told there's no escaping the gang because there's only one road out, and they control it. I mean, the terrain doesn't look that bad, and they're using dirtbikes, I think they could go cross-country if they wanted. I guess we're meant to take the character's word for it that they're trapped and can't simply flee, but I couldn't buy in.

There's the core of potential with the family, at this point down to the father and his four sons. The father thinks his youngest, Billy, isn't sufficiently dedicated, and figures branding him will inspire proper loyalty. Seems as though it would promote the exact opposite, but OK. One of the brothers seems to be ready to seize the opportunity to do whatever he wants, the other two want to hold the family together, but aren't smart enough to see they're going about it the wrong way. Billy just wants to hang out with his girlfriend. I don't know if he realizes he'd be better off away from these idiots.

There's a whole other part though, about a guy working to find the brothers after their robbery, where it isn't entirely clear what his motives are. That didn't interest me much. He's really just a way for Billy to not die after he gets shot, and to move some of the pieces where they need to be.

Monday, March 09, 2020

What I Bought 3/6/2020

8 comics I want this month, and only 1 comes out the first two weeks. At least the 1 is something I really enjoy, rather than something I took a chance on and got disappointed by. Also, never discuss politics with people you like. Only discuss them with people you want to yell at anyway.

Black Cat #10, by Jed MacKay (writer), Kris Anka (artist), Brian Reber (color aritst), Ferran Delgado (writer) - I would laugh pretty hard if Logan's claws did make a different sound when he extended them for other, non-Canadian characters. It would make no sense, but what the hell. Gives Deadpool one more thing to make fun of him about.

So the brat they swiped the cool glasses from last issue puts a large bounty out on them, although we only seem them get attacked by a bunch of Frankensteins, the Brothers Grimm, and then Deadpool. Who, when you think about it, is kind of a Frankenstein monster himself. I mean, he's a creation of twisted science that was considered an abject failure by his creator, and has since gone on to wreak revenge against said creator.

Of course, by that logic, Logan is also a Frankenstein. Perhaps, we are all Frankensteins. No, that's stupid. I don't have any neck bolts, and I think fire is cool.

Anyway, while all this chasing is going on, Bruno and Doc are swiping all of Logan's stuff back from Kade under the guise of a moving company. So I pegged that right, I just didn't expect it to start so soon. Figured it would take longer for Kade to start moving his stuff. Logan gets most of his stuff back, and Felicia gets the painting she wants, and everyone goes home happy. Except Kade and Wade. And I guess if Kade figures out his drone didn't blow up Felicia and Logan the bounty will be back on. They probably won't be very happy then.

OK, Logan might. He'd probably enjoy the fight. Also, apparently Frankensteins are not covered by the "no killing" prohibition Krakoa has. Seems a little close minded. I guess we see who the real bigots are here. *instantly pummeled to death*
Anka and Reber make Felicia look like she's having so much fun it's infectious. Her making fun of Logan for not being willing to bring her back to Krakoa, and being excited to fight Frankensteins. Trying to get a "Black Cat" chant going at the Bloodsport arena. The dress variant of her costume she's wearing for the first few pages is really cool.

The only quibble I had with the art was in the flashback scene with the Fox, Felicia, and her girlfriend, I guess. The Fox steals Felicia's bracelet and Tamara's watch off their wrists with the aid of his misdirection, but the watch isn't on the hand that was holding Felicia's below the table. It's on the one that's Tamara's resting her cheek on. I guess the Fox could be that damn good, but it doesn't seem like that's how it's supposed to read. Although now I'm curious if Tamara is going to show up in an upcoming issue.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #104

"Captain America is Going to Save the Country's Crumbling Infrastructure", in Captain America Annual #8, by Mark Gruenwald (writer), Mike Zeck (penciler), John Beatty and Josef Rubinstein (inkers), Glynis Oliver (colorist), and Jim Novak (letterer)

I own one Captain America Annual, and this is it. The one with the cover that's been homaged 10,000 times. The reluctant team-up with Wolverine. Cap telling Logan the Avengers would never have him, little knowing what was going to happen once Brian Michael Bendis got to write the Avengers. 

(To be fair, it was Stark that pushed for Logan being added, not Steve Rogers, so Cap was true to his stance. Stark just overruled him, and exercised his usual poor judgment. And I can't remember anything significant Logan actually did while part of the Avengers. Get shot in the face by the Hood?)

I was gonna describe this as having the typical Marvel misunderstanding fight, but I'm not even sure Cap vs. Wolverine qualifies. I guess it does, in that Cap suspects Wolverine might be here for nefarious purposes under the orders of Magneto, who the X-Men had recently accepted into their ranks. Although before the issue is over, I think Cap realizes how silly the idea of Logan readily following orders is. But Cap doesn't leap in , hurling his shield around. He just starts speechifying at Logan until the Canadian loses patience and tries to carve him into pieces. There's no misunderstanding on Wolverine's part. He's got shit to do, this old man won't quit talking at him, so he decides to kill him. 

But once that's out of the way, this is a team-up, against a prototype robot that was supposed to be America's defense against their own army of super-soldiers, if necessary. With only one super-soldier, and him missing, the project got mothballed. That's not a bad hook for a threat. A mutant calling himself Overrider, with the power to control machines, finds TESS and brings her online to help carry out his plan: prevent nuclear holocaust by getting rid of the U.S.'s nuclear arsenal, for the sake of his son. Not atypical for an '80s comic.

Both of the heroes are drawn in different ways, and each of them go about gathering useful information different ways. And it isn't simply Cap asking questions politely and Logan busting heads. Cap has his computer hotline thing people can contact him through, and Logan takes advantage of Cerebro's files to get a bead on who Overrider might be and his motives.

The two don't get along at all, but for all Logan's grousing about, well, everything Cap says or does to him, he mostly follows the shield-slinger's suggestions, if they're phrased nicely. Like me, Wolverine is willing to help, he just wants to be able to bitch about it while he does. I think TESS would be repaired and sent at the Avengers later as part of some group of machine foes, but my next encounter was when Doom repaired it to throw at Spider-Man during Acts of Vengeance.

Next week, well, I wanted to highlight a one-shot about Batroc Kieron Gillen and Renato Arlem did a few years ago, but there was no splash page. So we'll turn our attention to a different Captain.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Random Back Issues #21 - Mekanix #4

'Curious like a kat.' I guess the Xavier Institute took a more liberal approach to spelling. Either that or she's taking Conveying "Clever" Spelling Via Inflection 101.

Don't know why this mini-series is titled what it is, but Kitty's studying physics at Chicago University, where she's run afoul of a anti-mutant hate group. They don't even know she's a mutant, they just know she beat the shit out of 7 of their guys after one of them got in her face with his nonsense. I can picture Logan nodding approvingly until he sees Storm glaring at him, then he frowns and shakes his head.

The downside is, to avoid expulsion for beating up bigots, she has to see a shrink. That's not going terribly well, since Kitty's also dealing with her father dying along with all the mutants on Genosha when Grant Morrison unleashed that little surprise.
I think this doctor is about as bad at her job as Leonard Samson. I know when a person tells me something about themselves one time, then throws a pity party for themselves because I didn't immediately divulge all my deepest secrets, it makes me want to trust them.

An explosion at the lab she works in was caused by the hate group, but the FBI, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to treat Kitty as a suspect and ransack her apartment rather than investigate the predominantly white terrorist group. Was this written in 2002 or 2019?

That's another problem, and on top of that, a ship full of Sentinels sailed into the harbor, leaving Kitty and Karma to try and fight one of them off. With a bat and a handgun. Karma admitted she brought her old X-Men uniform when she left the school, just in case. Seems she should have poked around for any guns Bishop or Cable left behind while she was at it.
Kitty goes with the exposed midriff look a lot in this series, which is not a look I'd typically associate with her. I'd say that Rachel Summers' fashion sense had rubbed off on her, but it's probably meant to be Kitty struggling with her sense of self in the wake of so many changes. I think within a few months of this ending, Claremont dragged Kitty into X-Treme X-Men, because of course he did.

[7th longbox, 128th comic. Mekanix #4, by Chris Claremont (writer), Juan Bobillo and Marcelo Sosa (artists), Edgar Tadeo (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer)]

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Legend

Tom Hardy presumably going the old "play twins" Oscar nominee route here, as he plays both Reggie and Ron Kray, a pair of 1960s British gangsters.

You kind of know how these things go. They climb the ladder breaking skulls and crushing their opposition. One brother falls in love, and starts to think about maybe going more legitimate. Less skull busting, more running successful clubs. He may have acquired those clubs by putting the squeeze on the owner, but that's just savvy business, isn't it?

Even so, he's not willing to abandon his old ways entirely, leaving his lady feeling isolated. She isn't happy, he resents her, it falls apart, he feels sad after. His brother still likes doing things the old way, and finally goes one step too far, and the whole thing collapses.

Nothing you haven't seen before, so it's a matter of how entertaining you find watching Tom Hardy chew scenery as two different guys. They do manage to make Ron look bigger than Reggie. I'm not sure if Hardy's standing on a box as Ron to look taller, or if they made his suits smaller so he looks like he's so big he's about to burst out of them or what. He's also talking through cotton balls or something as Ron, it's honestly difficult to understand what he's saying at times.

I did enjoy the fight between them in the club, which starts with pushing and slapping, and before you know it we're up to eye gouging, testicle crushing, and smashing bottles over people's heads. If this is what sibling fights are like (and I have friends I've seen stab their sibling in the arm with a fork before, so I'm guessing it isn't far off), I'm OK being an only child.

I felt like the police presence could have been served by a generally faceless brigade of cops, rather than the one Scotland Yard guy that is supposedly hounding them. Because he appears to be a) pretty bad at his job, and b) vanishes from the film for long periods of time. Then he reappears and he's still not getting anywhere. There's never any feeling in the movie that he accomplishes anything to do with the Krays' downfall - Ron can't let go of his mistrust of their financial guy, and Reggie takes all his frustration with Ron out on this other dumbass - so do you need the cop at all?

I did enjoy the part where Reggie loses his shit on the guy at the end. You'd think you'd be grateful when the gun pointed in your face misfires, but no, I think that guy would have preferred the bullet to how things went after that.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Catching Up with Your Ex at Their New Job

I had this thought for no apparent reason on Sunday, so here it is.

The Black Cat used to date Flash Thompson back in the '90s. Initially as a way to annoy Spidey, because she was pissed he married Mary Jane. Even though Felicia and Spidey were on the outs with each other over something to do with the Foreigner (never really been clear what that guy's deal is.)

The parts of the Felicia/Flash relationship I remembered were mostly in Amazing Spider-Man. Felicia gradually developing real feelings for Flash. Helping Spidey out on more than one occasion and rebuilding her friendship. Actually finding some sort of neutral ground with Mary Jane (although the one time I saw Felicia and Aunt May interact May was not friendly. Got the speech balloon with the icicles and everything.)

What I couldn't remember was how it ended. I just knew that at some point their relationship stopped being a subplot. The magic of the Internet reveals Felicia actually proposed to Flash, and he turned her down, and revealed her knew she was the Black Cat all along. Which doesn't really surprise me. She was arrested at least once, even if she was able to fake her way into a psychiatric hospital instead of prison.

Still, I was thinking it would have been interesting if Felicia had crossed paths with Flash again during that stretch where he was Venom. I don't know a whole lot about Flash's stint with the symbiote, other than he was working for the government, and joined the Secret Avengers, then later the Guardians of the Galaxy. For part of that stretch, Felicia was in her ill-conceived "crimelord" phase, but that could work. I'm not sure how likely the federal government would be to care about organized crime wars in Marvel's New York, but they're probably more likely to send Flash after that than a thief, since Felicia doesn't spend a lot of time stealing government secrets.

I'm not sure what I'd expect from it. Surprise on Felicia's part, and more than a little wariness considering the poor experiences she had with symbiotes back in the '90s. Little hard for me to picture Flash letting her off the hook like Spider-Man so often did. At the same time, though, Felicia would know the symbiote's weaknesses.

Flash had always admired Spider-Man, and when they had him lose his legs in the army after Brand New Day, he mentioned Spidey was his inspiration for joining the military. Now he's the costumed hero, fighting super-villains. If Felicia's being her usual thief self, then she's continuing to follow the example of the person she admired most, her father. If she's a crime boss, then you can play up how she's gone off in an entirely different direction, gotten away from who she was for a long time.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Mr. Right

IMdB says there were two movies with this title in 2015? Huh. In this one, Sam Rockwell plays a former CIA operative and independent hitman, who now kills anyone who tries to hire him to kill someone. Also, he wears a red clown nose and dances around a bit when he does it? I guess he found Patch Adams deeply significant at some point. Or was touched by a McDonald's commercial.

He meets Anna Kendrick while in New Orleans. She's coming off an ugly break-up, they hit it off, she thinks he's joking about killing people until she watches him kill a guy who tries to hire him. Then there's tension between whether the killing people thing is enough to outweigh him being an apparently attractive mix of creepy, awkward, and silly. So kind of like Grosse Pointe Blank, if Martin and Debbie hadn't met until after Martin grew tired of being a killer. And if Debbie decided killing people was super-fun and kind of awesome. Kendrick's behavior in the movie kind of makes me wonder if she is a psychopath, 'cause I'm not sure she's capable of considering anyone else's feelings. Just kind of does stuff that ends badly for her friends or other people, and shrugs and giggles apologetically. Like, "Sorry, out of my hands that this killer guy is stuffing you in the closet of your own home because you're pointing out salient points about him being deranged. Nothing I can do."

Mixed in through all this is Tim Roth playing Rockwell's former partner, hunting him down because. . . he didn't take the break-up well near as I can tell. He keeps alternating between acting like he's gonna shoot him or arrest him, but he has a $5 million bounty himself, so turning him in doesn't seem like the best plan. There's also James Ransone as this putz in some crime family that tries to maneuver Rockwell into killing his brother, who is acting boss. That guy is, either fortunately or unfortunately, really damn annoying. You don't mind seeing him die, but it takes the entire movie.

It's a little bizarre. Ransone's brother has severe anger issues, and at one points beats one of his men with an old rotary phone, then confirms it still functions. His threapist(?) tries to karate fight Rockwell at one point, then grabs a grenade for some reason. Rockwell and Kendrick engage in a type of foreplay that involves throwing kitchen knives back and forth. I thought you were supposed to save that stuff for the later years, once things were getting stale.

It's funny in spots. The RZA plays Steve, the one competent henchman, who can't quite decide if he should work for these morons or not, but is at least smart enough to ask the question. As far as movies where Rockwell plays an unhinged killer go, I'll stick with Seven Psychopaths, but this one has its charms. That one was more about friendship and dangers of obsession, and this is a rom-com.

Monday, March 02, 2020

What I Bought 2/29/2020

Well, I got a little more rest this weekend than I did last weekend. Not on Friday night, woke up coughing at 4 and couldn't get back to sleep. But Saturday night went better. Take what I can get. Still couldn't find a copy of the first issue of Canopus, so we'll look at the other two remaining books from last month.

Amethyst #1, by Amy Reeder (writer/artist/color artist), and Gabriela Downie (letterer) - I don't know which gemstone is represented by "line of sheet music that barfs up narhwals", but they should ask for a refund on that symbology.

It seems like the events of the original, 12-issue Amethyst series, are in play here. Amy learned she's the princess of an other-dimensional kingdom, fought Dark Opal, still has parents who love and remember her on Earth, etc. She's been on Earth for an unspecified amount of time, but returns to Gemworld for her birthday. She finds her kingdom shattered, her subjects missing. People she believed were friends behave coldly towards her, and she can only find one person willing to help.

I have a few theories, most revolving around this being some sort of trial for Amy. Prove she can get things done without guidance, without everyone else. She admits when she tries to rally Turquoise's people that she's never really had to try and do diplomacy before. Citrine handled that. Amy could just focus on flying her winged horse and magical zappy blasts. Unfortunately, that's probably not all that's involved in running a kingdom. The presence of Dark Opal kind of argues against it just being a test, though, but maybe he's not such a completely irredeemable person in this timeline.
I really want to see how Reeder portrays the various kingdoms, visually. We only saw the remains of Amethyst's castle in hers, although all the little floating pieces were eye-catching. All we needed was some flying turtles and it'd be a great Mario level. The houses in Turquoise's land are kind of barn shaped, with mushroom chimneys. I don't know if there's a significance to that, but it makes what otherwise seems like your standard medieval town a little more distinct. Also, people in Turquoise's kingdom have four arms now, although they only separate at the elbows, and their clothes are a little pirate-like. The kind of thing I associate more with port towns. Sleeveless vests and pants tucked into knee boots. Stuff like that. Don't know if that means anything, just an observation, but I enjoy studying it.

Fantastic Four: Grimm Noir, by Ron Garney and Gerry Duggan (storytellers), Matt Milla (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Hey, Namor's found gainful employment as somebody's butler! Good for him.

Ben's having a lot of nightmares about falling to pieces and failing to protect Alicia. There's a singer named Rosemary who lived across the street that's gone missing. Then he has a nightmare where a shadowy figure abducts Rosemary. he describes what he sees to Alicia, she sculpts, Reed doesn't recognize him, but Wong does. Except "Wong" is really D'Spayre, and the sculpture is him, and now Ben's in a nightmare realm. He digs his way out, puts the boots to D'Spayre, rescues Rosemary, things are good, for now.

It's kind of a fun story, although I don't get why D'Spayre wanted Rosemary around to sing for him so much. In understand her singing was improving Ben's mood and lessening the effect of D'Spayre's attacks on Ben, but it seems like he really enjoyed her singing as well. I'm also not clear why D'Spayre's own demons would attack him after Ben beat him up for a bit, but I'm pretty vague on the guy's powers, other than being a low-rent, second-rate Nightmare.

I'm also not sure it's much of a noir, at least in tone, but that's another matter. Ben has the stubborn, scrapper mentality of a noir detective, but not really the cynicism.
Garney and Milla's artwork are really the sell here, and they do a lot of good stuff. Milla sometimes colors the whites of Ben's eyes black in his nightmares, which both highlights the blue of his eyes, and makes him look more monstrous. D'Spayre's this shifting form of black-and-white. Sometimes he seems to be wearing gloves and a cape, other times it's just his body that's a mix of light and dark. Some high-contrast stuff with Ben when he's in his hat and trenchcoat, almost Frank Miller style to just hint at his rocky texture under the brim's shadow.

So the story isn't great, but it's nice to look at.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #103

"Cap Thought It Was Pretty Self-Explanatory", in Captain America #371, by Mark Gruenwald (writer), Ron Lim (penciler), Dan Bulanadi (inker), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Jack Morelli (letterer)

The majority of the Captain America comics I own are from the middle-third of Mark Gruenwald's lengthy tenure as writer. More specifically, a 25-issue stretch starting with The Bloodstone Hunt up through the point where Diamondback gets booted from the Serpent Society because she's been canoodling with Captain America. Kieron Dwyer as artist in the early going, then Ron Lim later on. Neither of them is exactly a flashy artist, but I'm not sure you necessarily need one for Captain America. 

Certainly not Gruenwald's Cap, who is played as pretty square mostly of the time. In this issue above, he explains to Diamondback that he's not the sort of guy who would look right going out with a girl with magenta hair. I don't see what that has to do with anything, but sure, Steve.

There's nothing revolutionary about this stretch, but The Bloodstone Hunt's an enjoyable globe-trotting MacGuffin hunt story. The Acts of Vengeance tie-ins give us Magneto putting the boots to the Red Skull before leaving him to slowly die in an old bomb shelter. The Streets of Poison's a goofy story where Cap gets dosed up on cocaine, and Gruenwald tries to draw some pretty iffy analogy between recreational drug abuse and Super-Soldier Serum. But wacked-out Cap throwing down with Bullseye is novel, if nothing else. Plus, you get the Red Skull (in a clone body of Cap's) fighting Wilson Fisk to determine whether the Skull gets to sell drugs in NYC. I really like the notion that basically all other villains hate the Red Skull.

Gruenwald introduces Crossbones during this stretch, who's kind of become a mainstay hench-villain even outside Captain America comics. The whole romance angle with Diamondback, which does provide some focus to the strain it puts on her professionally and personally. I don't know if the Serpent Society was always depicted as this sort of cliquish group of low-level villains, but this is where I encountered it, and that's kind of nice. The shifting alliances and in-fighting, jockeying for position. And Cap getting caught in the middle of it, not really sure what he's even doing there, other than trying to help a friend.