Thursday, April 30, 2020

Train to Busan

Zombie apocalypse on a moving train. The story mostly focuses on a fund manager escorting his daughter to her mother's. But there's also a young couple expecting a baby, a couple of middle-aged sisters, a high school baseball team, and an executive for some major corporation. Everyone keeps hoping the next stop will be a safe place to disembark, but all it brings is more chaos. More people are killed, the survivors get scattered and frightened.

The zombies themselves are your typical fast zombies. The movie does a few things with the danger that comes from so many of them that simply pursue relentlessly. Glass doors eventually cracking and giving way behind the sheer amount of pressure being applied. There's one part near the end where a couple of them dive at a person and grab hold of the locomotive instead. Then more and more of those chasing fall on top and there's a whole tail of bodies being dragged along. Reminiscent of that bit from World War Z (the movie, not the book) where the zombies were piling up until they were almost over some enormous wall.

That part was kind of dumb, but I like the uncoordinated way they move. A few times you'll see a zombie fall over, then they stand up without using the arms in this boneless kind of motion (I'm assuming that was wires or some CGI thing, but maybe those actors are just really athletic). Like they have arms and they have some instinct to clutch and claw with them, but they don't know they can use them any other way.

As usual, the zombies are only half the problem. The cowardice and selfishness of the uninfected is just as big a hazard. The fund manager, Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) has no concern for anyone other than his daughter or himself. Which causes a fair amount of trouble with her, because she believes it's important to help others. Not the best time for a child to realize their parent is not a good person. Not a great time to see your kid make that realization, either. But maybe that's why he tries to better in the second half of the film.

The sequence where the people stranded in a few different train cars have to make their way forward, through multiple cars filled with the rabid infected hordes was well done. It's always the same objective, but things change from car-to-car. Not just in terms of the characters losing their weapons or getting tired. They also figure out things about the infected, weaknesses they can exploit, then use those in different ways.

The wealthy executive is a completely self-interested scumbag, as he literally throws other people between him and the zombies on multiple occasions. Right at the end, the movie tries to point out that he's really just frightened and what's to get home where it's safe like everyone else. That's cute, but I didn't see all those other frightened people throwing others to the wolves. I feel like there's a distinction between being the person who sees someone running with zombies at their heels and doesn't hold the door open to let them in, versus the person who shoves other people in front of the zombies. Maybe not much of a distinction, but it's there.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

It's the Little Things I Want Back

Typically, Saturdays are my long run. Get up at sunrise (I inherited my mother's early rising tendencies), do 8-10 miles if my knees allow it. My reward to myself was to go to one of the local buffet places for lunch and read a book while I gorge, then go home and lounge on the couch. I would like to be able to do that again some day soon. Even going out and getting a pizza isn't the same.

It's a common joke among comic fans about us being addicts, all needing our weekly Wednesday fix. I really do miss new comics being out each Wednesday, though. Even if I didn't typically buy new comics each week, sticking to every other week or every third week depending on how many there were I wanted.

That surge of eager anticipation when you get an issue of the title you love most at the moment in your hands. (At the moment, Black Cat would hold that distinction). I always debate whether I want to read that comic first, or save it for last. I think it usually came down to what order the cashier stacked them when they handed them back. Good old random chance.

Or heck, even just getting to see the list of what titles are going to be out that week. It's a little disappointing when there's nothing I want, especially if the week before was light, too. Still, it's fun to look. Sometimes an issue I've been waiting for that's been delayed shows up. Sometimes a book shows up earlier than I expected.

Occasionally I'd spot something I missed when the monthly solicitations were released, or it just looks more appealing now than it did then, for whatever reason. I might not even get it that week, if it's a series already in progress, but at least make a note to catch it in a collected edition, or as back issues. Not an impulse buy, but a reconsideration.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Screwed (2000)

Norm MacDonald is sick of his wealthy, ungrateful boss, and enlists his buddy (played by Dave Chappelle) to help kidnap and ransom her dog. Because they're morons, the dog escapes immediately, and all the evidence they left behind makes it appear it was MacDonald that was abducted. So they pivot into that, figuring they can still get the ransom money, fake his death with the help or a coroner played by Danny DeVito, and flee to another country.

Except, again, they're morons, so this doesn't work at all. The lead cop is smart enough to know something is off about this whole thing, but dumb enough it takes him most of the movie to figure out what's going on.

It's a hit-or-miss movie. The hook is good. Miss Crock owns her own bakery company, wealthy enough to hand out 50 grand to someone as a Christmas gift, but begrudges Norm's request for a new work suit after 15 years. Treats his request like it's selfish or unreasonable, as though he should be grateful for the opportunity to do everything for her around the house for minimal pay. She even tries to portray herself as just a kindly old lady, ala Mom from Futurama. Crock is a more mundane kind of evil than Mom, though.

But Norm MacDonald's never been a favorite of mine, so having him as the lead isn't great. He can't really convey any emotion without it feeling like he's smirking the whole time. Even when he's supposed to be in a panic, it doesn't quite carry. But Dave Chappelle and Danny DeVito are always fun. Most of the laughs in the movie come from the two of them, since they both just lean into the stupidity and go with it. Sarah Silverman's in there as MacDonald's girlfriend, I guess. She seems to just pop up three or four times when the plot requires someone else to do something.

Monday, April 27, 2020

It's All Relativity

Oh, he calls camp the flaming outskirts of hell now, but by the end of summer, he won't want to leave.

In Milos Slavkovic's Lightstep, everything revolves around relativity. At least the part that says the faster you go, the slower time goes, relative to someone moving at a lower speed. In-story, what that means is people higher up the social ladder live on worlds that move at higher speeds than the dregs. There's a two-page splash where a man born on a slum planet lives his entire life while only a day passes on the Bloodliners' world.
January Lee lives on the Bloodliners' world. She can't go through with some ritualistic reenactment of murders of inferiors, because it would mean really killing her brother, and is banished to a lower world. Not the lowest, because she gets abducted at one point and goes at least one level further down. It does provide an opportunity for January to get a serious skill upgrade in what seems like a single afternoon for the rest of the cast. I assume if the story leads to her trying to overthrow someone, it'll be years for January since her banishment, but only minutes for that person.

She winds up on the ship of a "radio pirate" named Samson, who is trying to find a lost princess. . . by finding the transmissions of an old Earth sci-fi radio program, which somehow unerringly predict all the important moments of his life, despite the programs having been broadcast two eons ago. By the end of the five issues in the trade, he's figured out someone's pulling his strings to get him where they want him to be.
Slavkovic is one of the writers (along with Mirko Topalski and Ivan Brankovic), as well as the artist and one of the two colorists. Slavkovic's art has a Renaissance feel to it in how people look. That fleshy, almost cherubic look, with all smooth edges and lines. Not just the people, most of the spaceships are curved, resembling a yacht of pleasure barge or something. The blade ship is an exception, but it's a ship designed to disable other ships by moving really fast and using that energy to cut things in half.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #111

"Hell, Man, Who Doesn't?" in Chronos #7, by John Francis Moore (writer), Paul Guinan (penciler), Denis Rodler and Steve Leialoha (inkers), Mike Danza (colorist), Ken Bruzenak (letterer)

I bought all of Chronos in a back issue hunt a few years back. It doesn't seem to come up as often as a lot of the other '90s DC stuff that usually gets touted - Starman, the Peyer/Morales Hourman - but I must have seen a few favorable mentions somewhere. Plus, it only lasted 11 issues, so it's not like it was a massive undertaking to hunt down. Although I just realized I forgot to get the DC One Million tie-in. Whoops.

Walker Gabriel starts as someone who befriends the original Chronos, and builds himself a suit that can temporarily freeze time. He gets manipulated by a guy who wants to become the master of all time, and things just spiral from there. He struggles to return to his time, and keeps drawing the attention of other people who move through time. All he wants to do is get home and get back to committing crimes, but he's surrounded by people trying to preserve time in one manner or another, or bend it to their will. Surprisingly only runs into Rip Hunter once. Does encounter Destiny of the Endless, though. Not sure if that's better or worse. Probably worse. Means you're playing in the deep end of the pool.

Paul Guinan draws the whole series, and Steve Leiahola inks most of it. I don't know if the clothing in the past time periods is accurate, but they make it distinctive. Helps that the settings are usually wildly different. Renaissance Italy versus late-1800s Kansas. Also that the Star City of 2113 is having a Neo-Victorian revival. Everything old is new again. Leiahola seems to have a lighter touch with his inking than Rodier in this issue. Shadows aren't as heavy, not as much linework on faces. The art's clean, straightforward, expressive. It works for drawing regular people and it works for drawing weird monsters and beings from outside time.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Random Back Issues #26 - Thunderbolts #38

You just know there was a joint congressional subcommittee that designed the look of that costume. Wow. To be fair, I actually like the helmet with the red eyes and teeth. That part's pretty cool. And the "To the DEATH" blurb is actually, technically, correct. One of these two does get decapitated in the next issue.

This is about one year into Fabian Niceza's run on Thunderbolts, and about one year from the end of Mark Bagley's run as artist on the book. A lot of threads are coming together, so this is the issue to stop and take stock of what's happened, plus do some foreshadowing. Also, a surprise (?) identity reveal.

Hawkeye's trying mountain climbing to clear his head. His time as leader of the Thunderbolts started well, but had hit a rough patch, starting roughly with their ultimately failed attempt to capture the Hulk. Then Jolt was killed by a sniper in her civilian identity, and they don't know who did it. The police report was sealed, which is definitely not suspicious. A reporter named Gayle Rogers had been working on a story on the T'Bolts, and turned up dead. They found Abner Jenkins, who Clint convinced to turn himself in for a murder he'd committed as the Beetle, running around in a new, more tanklike Beetle costume. Abe's back on the team as Mach-2, with an altered appearance, although there was a screw-up in the process and he looks African-American now. Whoo, yeah, don't know about that creative decision.
On top of all that, Clint had just recently returned from trying to rescue Mockingbird's soul from Mephisto, only to end up bringing out Hellcat's soul instead. And he's worried the relationship he's building with Moonstone is betraying Bobbi's memory.

(In the Hellcat mini-series Steve Engelhart and Norm Breyfogle did shortly after this, Patsy ends up back in Hell and encounters Bobbi again, and encourages her to escape to stop Karla from moving in on Clint, but Bobbi just wants him to be happy, which is pretty big of her. Although I guess that was really a Skrull that believed it was Bobbi. Yeesh, friggin' Secret Invasion.)

Moonstone herself is having some weird dreams about a blue warrior sporting a familiar gemstone, and feels she's not acting like herself lately. Meaning she's not being a horrible and entirely self-serving person. Charcoal is struggling to cope with Jolt's death and other underlying anger issues. Atlas is having trouble coping with Jolt's death, plus he knows one of the Masters of Evil is working in the town nearby as a bartender, but hasn't told anyone yet. What he doesn't know is the guy he's talking to, Ogre, who maintained the base before they arrived, and was part of some early '70s bad guy mutant group called Factor Three, is actually the fully mechanical version of Techno in disguise. The real Ogre is having trouble with being stuffed in some stasis tube or something by Techno, along with Jolt's body, and one other body (which doesn't become relevant for about another 20-30 issues).

Ogre doesn't actually say or do anything, because he's unconscious, but I didn't want him to feel left out.
On top of all that, Clint and Karla's discussion/picnic lunch/probable makeout session is interrupted by the arrival of a Citizen V. And right after Karla mentions how attractive the idea of Clint marching into Burton Canyon's police station naked is. Kinda kinky, but ok. Might explain why she's not real happy at the interruption.

This Citizen V is not Zemo in disguise. It's the one Hawkeye ran into several issues earlier, when the team was trying to stop the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil. Now she's on the run from the V battalion itself, over a difference in philosophy I think. The T'Bolts get drawn into the fight unwillingly, with Moonstone going from extremely frustrated to insisting they have to help Citizen V simply because she needs them in the span of a few pages (don't worry, she's confused by that, too).

The last two pages shift to a secret fortress in Central America, where Scourge smashes a bunch of Zemo's shit to draw him out for a fight. Next issue is pretty much one long battle between the two, as Scourge busts out a huge number of super-villain gimmick weapons while Zemo can't quite bring himself to just run for his life. It's actually kind of an interesting shift, taking Scourge from a guy (or guys) who wipe out second and third-tier villains, to being the weapon of a group of shadowy people who utilizes the arsenals of the same sorts of villains. Scourge does end up being a pre-existing character, and at least one of the people manipulating him is a longtime pain in Hawkeye's ass, but those things won't start coming to light until at least issue 47 or so.

[11th longbox, 196th comic, Thunderbolts #38, by Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley (storytellers), Scott Hanna (inker), Joe Rosas (colorist), Troy P. (letterer)]

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Hail, Caesar!

I'm not sure what the Coens were driving at with this movie. Commentary on the studio system, where the movie companies basically own their actors, along with all the work? Maybe something about the United States in general, given the Red Scare aspect with the writers and Channing Tatum's character? That all the power and control is in the hands of a few people, many of whom we never even see (like the Mr. Schenck Brolin speaks to on the phone every morning), and the rest of us are stuck scrambling for crumbs? That the movies can tell whatever uplifting stories they want, but it's kind of all bullshit because if the actor screws up the line, they just reshoot until it comes out right? If they want two of their actors to be dating, then they date. If an actress is pregnant without being married, she can have the baby in secret and adopt it later. It's all lies they tell us or we tell ourselves.

That might all be crap. It might be about finding meaning in whatever you do. The guy from Lockheed might dismiss Brolin's work as just "make believe", but it's important to him, and that's enough. The Hobie Doyle character (who was my favorite character in the movie) might not be much of an actor, but he's willing to try, because he wants to help or be a team player.

I have to fumble for some sort of meaning, because as far as watching the film for enjoyment purposes, it failed miserably. It doesn't help none of the movies we see them shooting over the course of the film are the sort that would interest me at all. Sword-and-sandal Bible epics? Musicals with dancing sailors? Movies with extensive synchronized swimming sequences? Blech. You couldn't pay me to watch any of those types in real life. The singing sailors part was interminable.

I think the problem is the abduction of Clooney's character is the central pillar of the movie, but the movie is about Brolin's character. And Eddie Mannix, because he doesn't really know what's going on with the abduction, isn't that connected to it. It's mostly something he's running damage control on, along with fifteen other things he's also running damage control on at the same time. So when the movie jumps back to the house on the beach with Baird Whitlock and the disgruntled writers, it feels like an entirely different film from what's going on the rest of the time, where we follow Eddie Mannix around.

Also, the whole thing with the twin gossip columnist sisters played by Tilda Swinton was just really annoying. Did not care about that at all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Only Swashbuckling Nightcrawler Can Lift My Spirits Now

It continues to annoy me that Marvel (or Jonathan Hickman, whichever) went to the trouble of making a pirate-themed X-Men book, and didn't include Nightcrawler in the cast. He's the most pirate-enthusiastic X-Man there is!
Hmm, maybe Kitty was enforcing a strict dress code for her crew and Kurt wanted to show too much fur. Could make it difficult for anyone to concentrate on what they're supposed to be doing. Looks like Kurt raided King Conan's wardrobe or something.

As far as I know, the book is all about Kitty and her crew running around rescuing mutants who can't make it Krakoa and similar positive acts. Kurt wouldn't even have to be bummed out about doing some of the more historically accurate pirate stuff that he was reminded of when he was on that pirate crew in his 1980s mini-series.

Plus, Kurt wouldn't want to lend his friend Kitty a helping hand with the swashbuckling? I mean, who's she got on that crew? The new Pyro? Iceman? Boring. I have no idea what he's doing currently on Krakoa. It didn't seem like he had a lot of pressing business based off that one-shot I bought at the end of March. Might as well enjoy the some sea air and do something useful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Lords and Ladies - Terry Pratchett

Amidst all the trash romance novels and paranormal whatever the spinner rack of books the nearby Dollar General has, something to read.

Pratchett says in author's notes that for better of worse, there is some earlier history for the characters in this book to mention, rather than simply letting it stand alone. I don't know if that's true. The only other Discworld book I've read was Eric, a few years back, and other than the Librarian of the Wizard University being an orangutan, there's almost no overlap between the two, and I followed along pretty well as it was.

I'm not saying the author's note wasn't useful, but I don't think it was absolutely necessary to follow the gist. Pratchett's more than able to give you the gist of the characters enough to figure out their relationships as he goes along.

Anyway, the three witches the live in Lancre, return from an earlier adventure to find some idiots have been dancing merrily around power stones out in the forest which shield their dimension from one full of elves, who are complete and utter dicks. The dancing is weakening the barrier, which is bad. The eldest witch, Esme Weatherwax, has got a bad feeling this is her last stand. Nanny Ogg's busy being courted (or courting) a dwarf bandit who styles himself as the second greatest lover, and an outrageous liar. And Magrat Garlick is about to get married to the King of Lancre, but is finding she's not sure she's really up for being a queen.

It breezes along, as Pratchett switches between characters to keep all the threads moving forwards. Which keeps any of the recurring bits from wearing out their welcome (the bit about the Bursar and his dried frog pills came close). I initially felt a little cheated at how the battle ended. Because I'd gotten geared up for Magrat to prove something to the two older witches (especially Esme) who seem to doubt and dismiss her. But it works the more I think on it, since it's all of the witches having a part in it, but each in their own way. From each according to their ability, or whatever.

I still don't really get all the stuff about the Stick and Bucket Dance. Whether it sort of hypnotizes the elves because it's dancing, because it's obscene dancing, or because it's just fricking ridiculous looking.

'Greebo had spent an irritating two minutes in that box. Technically, a cat locked in a box may be alive or it may be dead. You never know until you look. In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.'

Monday, April 20, 2020

On the Road Again. And Again. And Again.

Dioxin and antifreeze? Is the "source" the leaky radiator of my '79 Bronco?

Koren Shadmi's Highwayman follows a man named Lucas over the course of centuries, maybe millennia, as he just travels. Every chapter is him catching a ride from someplace in whatever direction his ride is going. Lucas is trying to find what has made him the way he is, and hopefully why. It's interesting to me that in the first chapter he tells the person he's bummed a ride he lost his belief in God a long time ago, but he's still confident that there's a reason behind what's happened to him. Not that God would have to be responsible, but given his circumstances, I kind of expected he'd attribute it to a similar sort of power.

The final chapter does reveal the purpose behind what happened to him, but the book is mostly about the continually degraded state of the world, and the repetitive cycle humanity is caught in. Every chapter Lucas encounters people participating in acts of cruelty or greed. Or turning a blind eye because they aren't the ones suffering. There are people who have, and people who don't, but that never seems to be enough for the former. The struggles of the ones who lack is somehow offensive to those with plenty, even they even bother to acknowledge it.
Most of the time, Lucas is indifferent to most of it. None of it can actually harm him, so it doesn't concern him. He has his quest for answers to focus on. He bears up under cruelty and mockery silently and patiently for the most part. That too will pass, I suppose. Shadmi does have him act on a few occasions to help people in trouble. It helps to keep Lucas from being too alienating, too indifferent, a protagonist. I mean, if he not only doesn't give a damn about his own safety, or that of literally anyone else, is there any reason to care what's going on in the story?

Shadmi uses mostly six-panel grids, with most of those panels focused on either Lucas or the person he's interacting with. Just them talking. Lucas very rarely turns his head to look at the person who picked him up, or even watch them from the corner of his eye. Even in the chapter on the train, where he's sitting across from the in a passenger car, it doesn't feel like he's really seeing the man he's talking to. When they're in a panel together, Lucas is usually staring out the window or in another direction. He's always focused on the far horizon, where he hopes he'll find his answers.

Considering the purpose behind all this, it's kind of interesting approach. In some ways, he's doing a good job fulfilling that purpose, but in other ways, I wonder if he's falling short because of the distance he maintains.
Each chapter is also dominated by a different color. The earlier chapters seem to have brighter, more lively colors colors. The first one is done in blues, the second, an orange-peach. The middle image in this post is from the second chapter. I suppose because the world isn't entirely fucked just yet. The fourth is a particularly strong reddish-orange, but by then, everything is baking. The last few chapters are messier. Chapter 5 is either a pale white or a dirty, faded yellowish green thing. Honestly, someone with more precise color vision than me will probably get more out of this aspect of the story. I like it just for how it helps keep chapters distinct, helps create a sense of the passage of time, even with a few different chapters with the ruins of cities in them, and Lucas remaining the same throughout.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #110

"Oh Look, a Fight Between Two Characters Nobody Cares About," in Checkmate (vol. 1) #16, by Paul Kupperberg (writer), Rick Hoberg (penciller), Al Vey (inker), Julianna Ferriter (colorist), Gaspar (letterer)

I own three issues of the 1980s version of Checkmate (and none of Greg Rucka's early mid-2000s version, before you ask). All three are part of the Janus Directive, the crossover that ran between a bunch of the vaguely espionage-themed books DC had going for a few months. Checkmate, Suicide Squad, Manhunter (and did I see Bendis brought back Mark Shaw as some crazy cult leader? Jesus Christ), as well as Firestorm and Captain Atom, for some reason or another.

Well, Captain Atom is generally related to the military, and Ostrander was writing Firestorm at the time, so maybe that's reason enough.

Honestly, Janus Directive is kind of a mess. By design, since the whole thing is Kobra pitting all the various intelligence/national security groups against each other. Everybody keeps running around attacking each other constantly. This issue picked up after Checkmate attacked General Eiling. He sends Major Force after them, at the same time they're attacking Belle Reve to get at Waller. The Squad goes after Checkmate later about that. It's hard to keep track of whose on which side or who they're attacking from one minute to the next.

Checkmate appears to be "espionage" in the '80s superhero comic book sense. Everyone still runs around in brightly colored outfits. At least it's more visually interesting than dark suits or generically "realistic" outfits.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Random Back Issues #25 - Avengers West Coast #55

I just had to go and open my fat yap about Byrne and his weird interest in who can and can't have kids last week. Now look where it's gotten me. Stupid dice.

We are one issue away from the "Darker than Scarlet" storyline, where the Scarlet Witch goes entirely off the rails. She spends most of this issue in a comatose state in their "Whackos" compound/mansion. Which is in low-Earth orbit because Magneto thought that would snap her out of it. Explains a lot about Mags' parenting style, right there.

That gets Immortus' attention, fresh off erasing a timeline where Lincoln gives John Wilkes Booth a taste of the back of his hand. Wonder Man and U.S. Agent (ugh) track the house into space, but something blows up, and then the house is back where it's supposed to be by the time Wasp swings by.

OK, whatever, that's more time than that deserved. Relevant to my interests, this is the end of the line for Acts of Vengeance, minus Loki magically fusing three Sentinels in one and sending them at a nuclear plant. The Avengers caught the Wizard after he and a few others tried to attacking the East Coast Avengers, but he can activate the dimensional door the "lackey" gave all the baddies to reach their secret meeting room. He gets back, learns Doom may have been a Doombot the whole time, and Magneto has bailed (for reasons detailed above). The "lackey" isn't too happy Wizard used the door in the Avengers HQ, since Thor could track it and reveals he's actually Loki, who's been manipulating them this whole time.
Or maybe he just took offense to the Wizard, of all villains, trying to boss him around. I will never get over how out of place that schmuck looks next to Doom, Magneto, and the Red Skull.

Thor does lead a bunch of Avengers there, except "there" is the Isle of Silence, where Thor fought Loki after the crap he pulled that brought the Avengers together in the first place. Every hero other than Thor is basically useless, to the point Byrne doesn't even bother drawing what Hank Pym (cargo suit version), the Vision (albino, emotionless version), or Hawkeye (just Hawkeye) are doing after bothering to have them there.
Thor and Loki fight in their usual way. Thor asks Loki to try, please, to not be such a dick. Loki yells a bunch of crap about Odin and hatred, and tries to use magic attacks against Thor. Thor yells "I say thee nay!" and smashes crap with his hammer. You know how it goes. Skull, the Mandarin, and the Wizard escape during all the fighting. Which is good, because it enables Magneto to find the Skull later and throw him in a pit to die slowly. (He does not die.)

Then Thor explains Loki was mad about inadvertently creating the Avengers, so he tried to create a Bad Guy Avengers of his own. Earth's Vilest Villains, or something. I'm not sure how the part where they farmed out destroying each other's villains to other bad guys who weren't on the team factors in, but it's Loki. He's a few crackers short of full pack.

{12th longbox, 126th comic. West Coast Avengers #55, by John Byrne (writer/penciler), Paul Ryan (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer)}

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Death of Stalin

It's probably good none of the actors in this movie try to put on Russian accents, but it's still weird to hear Lavrenti Beria cursing like some British gangster from a Guy Ritchie film.

The movie, as the name suggests, involves the death of Stalin. Mostly the political gamesmanship and maneuvering the various possible successors are doing. Everyone wants to be the new man in charge, if only because it keeps them from being sentenced to death as a traitor by the man in charge. The main struggle seems to be between Beria (Simon Russell Beale) and Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), and for most of it, Beria's seems to have the upper hand. He has the formerly assistant to the general secretary, now the General Secretary Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) in his pocket, and is stymieing or co-opting all of Khrushchev's strategies to gain popularity.

It's ugly, because people's lives are just toys in their struggle. Free a bunch of people arrested on bullshit pretexts three days earlier, just to score some acclaim. If 1500 people die trying to attend Stalin's funeral because the security forces were ordered to keep people out, well, that makes the person who gave the NKVD those orders look pretty bad, doesn't it?

Really, they're all a bunch of pitiful schmucks who spent the past two decades jumping through whatever hoops Stalin put in front of them, or that they thought Stalin put in front of them. They're really no different from all the everyday people who are so terrified of Stalin they've convinced themselves they love him (every person we see or hear executed in this film yells "Glory to Stalin!" or something like that before they're shot). And now these guys think one of them should run things. Jockeying for favor and to keep their necks out of the nooses, squabbling and backbiting like a bunch of stupid gossipy teenagers. For all the talk of reform, they'll still rely on the methods they have for so long whenever it suits them. It's ridiculous watching them contort themselves trying to figure out how to best give the appearance of honoring Stalin, because one time he said this, but another time he said something else, so. . .

I was legitimately surprised Field Marshal Zhukov (played by Jason Isaacs as being loud, angry, and aggressively pissed off) was still alive in 1953. Actually, he lived until 1973, but I had it in my head Stalin had him killed sometime shortly after the war. In my defense, betting on Stalin to have someone killed sooner rather than later is usually where the smart money is. Zhukov did refuse to take back Stalingrad from the Nazis until he felt certain he had enough men in reserve to win, against Stalin's demands. Even if that was the right call, well, when had that ever mattered with Stalin?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Last Thing Through Lex' Mind, Other Than Heat Vision

For some reason, I was thinking about "Divided We Fall", the episode in the second season of Justice League Unlimited when the Flash takes down the weird Luthor/Brainiac fusion. Flash runs really fast, separates the two by vibrating, then temporarily fades out of existence, as Flashes do.

While the rest of League is busy being sad, Luthor has a chuckle about how he did manage to kill the Flash after all. At which point Superman grabs him by the throat and his eyes start glowing red. Supes doesn't end up killing Luthor as Lex expects (and as the Question feared), but I wonder what Luthor was thinking in those few seconds.

Part of me thinks Lex would be pleased in a way. He's always contended Superman's do-gooder routine is an act. Does he think that his being murdered like this will finally prove it to everyone else?

But that really feels like more of a Joker thing, to claim your death as the ultimate win because you got the hero to break his principles. Plus, that version of the DCU already lost faith in Superman once, when he was bent to Darkseid's will and spearheaded an invasion of Earth. I'm not sure how much the average person's perception of him would change at that point.

Actually, it's difficult for me to picture Luthor accepting that he's about to die. Even if he did remark, 'I think this is the part where you kill me.' in a calm and resigned voice right before Supes grabbed him. Even when none of the Justice Leaguers are stepping in to stop this (Wonder Woman starts to, but let's face it, Batman putting an arm in her way doesn't stop her unless she lets it). Even though he not only doesn't have a weapon of any sort, he doesn't even have pants at the moment.

I feel like he's got to be trying to figure something out. He's Lex Luthor, he can't let this alien get the best of him. There's only one of them going to be standing at the very end, and he'd be determined to make sure it was him. I guess there's always the possibility he doesn't think Superman will go through with it, even though he knows it's happened before, in an alternate timeline, or possible future, or whatever the Justice Lords were. But again, I can't see Luthor admitting, even in the privacy of his own mind, that he's reliant on someone else to save him. Especially Superman.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Black Spot

The pandemic is definitely giving me more time to watch TV shows I'd been meaning to get to. Black Spot (or Zone Blanche) is a French mystery/paranormal series I found on Netflix. There's two seasons there so far, 8 episodes each. Set in an isolated part of France, where the murder rate is 6 times the national average.

The ranking gendarme is Major Laurene Weiss, who most of the town believes suffered a hunting accident in the woods 20 years ago. What actually happened is she was abducted and shackled to the wall of a canyon for several days, only escaping when she cut off two of her fingers. Two decades later, she still stalks the woods at night, trying to find the place she was held and the person who did it.

The new prosecutor is trying to redeem himself after a bad foul-up in his previous appointment, and has set his sights on the Steiner family, who are the local bigwigs. The son, Bernard, is the mayor, and had a thing with Laurene back in the day. Still does, actually, despite being married. His father is the real mover and shaker, making all kinds of deals, using goons to get people to sell their land, illegally dumping toxic waste in an old quarry, and the prosecutor is trying to nail him for that, among other crimes.

There's an eco-terrorist group the Major's daughter Cora gets mixed up with while trying to locate the mayor's missing daughter. Nature seems to be going nuts, from random swarms of bees, to crows hanging around all the time. Mysterious wolves, and of course, the nutjob in the forest with the stag horns who makes Predator noises. Everyone in town seems to have some sort of sordid history that comes out eventually. Except maybe the Major's friend and right hand man, Teddy Bear. He seemed like a level-headed fellow.

There's usually a murder of the week, so to speak, some of which play off events set up earlier in the season, and sometimes not. The answer is usually not what it first appears, although solving the crime seems to frequently boil down to Laurene getting some sort of hunch that she's ultimately able to prove is correct. Not always, but more than once.

Meanwhile the other wheels move in the background. Whether that's Prosecutor Siriani against the Steiners, the mayor against his wife, the mayor against his father, Cora and the eco-terrorists, Cora against her mom, the Major against the prosecutor, whatever. There aren't really any relationships in the series where you feel as though you can 100% count on a particular character to have another character's back. Maybe Teddy Bear and Laurene, but even that goes through stretches where he outright tells her she's nuts for focusing on this creepy guy in the woods she's hunting. Which might explain why she doesn't share what happened actually to her for quite some time. The mayor and Laurene might be another, but the mayor's always got something else going in the background, and you can't really trust him to actually put what Laurene thinks is most important ahead of what he thinks is most important. Honestly, both their priorities seem a little cock-eyed, so maybe it's a wash.

One of my issues was that, if the nutjob in the woods either is, or believes he is, a spirit of the forest, meant to protect it, why the hell hadn't he killed the Steiner patriarch yet? He targets some farmer that was using some kind of fertilizer on his fields, even after the guy quits using it, but he's not doing anything to the fucker dumping toxic waste? OK, granted, I just really hated that old man, strutting around like he's hot shit because he's got this one rinky-dink ass economically decaying village in his hands, and would have been satisfied with anyone killing him, but friggin' Cernunnos needs to get his priorities straight.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Underworld Volleyball League is No Joke

I always just got floor burns playing volleyball in gym class, they're out here breaking noses and yelling proudly about it. Hardcore.

The second volume of Kousuke Oono's Way of the House Husband is pretty much like the first. The retired Yakuza legend Tatsu takes care of various duties around the house and neighborhood, but brings his own unique perspective to it.
That's pretty much what all the humor revolves around. That he does this stuff, but he looks and sounds like a gangster, so people misinterpret him. Tatsu's genuinely doing a good job at most of the things he does, guys makes sweaters for cripes' sake. It's just his particular brand of. . . intensity frightens and unnerves people. There are several gags about how his smile is terrifying, even though he's trying to be friendly. Or Tatsu says something that is perfectly innocuous, but because of how he looks, the person he's talking to either say nothing, or answers with this very neutral expression on their face. There's a quality to the smile and the way the eyes are drawn that says the person is considering carefully what they're about to say.

The chapters I enjoy most are the ones that involve his wife, Miku (who works as a designer, though I'm unclear if that means buildings or fashion or computer systems or what). Because she looks kind of cute, especially next to this intimidating guy in the dark suit and glasses and the slicked back hair. But then he'll say something cheezy about her smile being the real prize, while she's trying desperately to make him hush. And then other times, he wants them to buy what he considers a sensible family vehicle, while she's eagerly shouting about a vehicle being cool or stylish. They get to switch back and forth between who's silly and who's serious.

It works a better than Tatsu's interactions with Masa, one of the members of his old family, who is basically just a lazy, immature punk who has no attention span or common sense. Those are always the same.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #109

"Hills Made of Skulls are Great Vantage Points", in Charl13 #1, by Fines Massey and Chris Burgess (writers), Kristofor Harris (artist), Micah Myers (letterer), Jul Mae Kristoffer (flats)

I bought the first two issue of Charl13 at a comic convention in Springfield in fall 2018. The title character was one of a series of warbots humanity built to even their chances against an invading alien army that look basically like bipedal cattle. They were able to reach an uneasy truce, and now Charl13 patrols a kind of border zone, trying to help any humans he finds make it to their side of the zone.

Char13 is on his own, keeping his battery charged off whatever random power sources he can find. He hasn't seen any of the repair stations that are supposed to be available in a long time, or any other functioning versions of his type. It's kind of interesting, because it raises the question of what may have happened outside the wasteland. Did more aliens show up and finish off most of humanity? Did the government decide it wasn't worth continuing to fund the program? Just decided to cut their losses, too bad for anyone left on the wrong side?

By the end of the second issue, Charl13 had been badly damaged saving a group of refugees, but one of them is one of those mechanical engineering prodigy kids, so she was probably going to fix him up and they'd travel together.

I like Charl13's design, the cape breaks up the blue and greys. The aliens are giant bulls, so you basically know what you're getting there. Harris is pretty good at fight scenes and motion. The next page after this one, Charl13 slides down the hill, shows a little flair as he does, it's pretty nice. The backgrounds and settings aren't great, a lot of wreckage that kind of blurs together. Even the settlements the aliens have look like crap. You'd think they'd do a little better, but maybe they're only soldiers, not architects of city planners. Lot of sickly greens and purples to give it a disgusting, diseased look. Effective if you want to convey that the details don't really matter much to Charl13.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Random Back Issues #24 - Avengers #19

With all these panels of reporters, I thought for a second I wandered into an early issue of Spawn. Captain America and Iron Man being bad at handling the press played up a lot in this run in the early going. I'd think Stark would be better at it, but this was after he wiped the fact he was Iron Man from most people's minds. Without, you know, asking anyone if it was OK for him to fuck with their brains, demonstrating Tony Stark's usual level of consideration for anyone other than himself. Also, got to love the reporters complaining about not enough minority representation, but also, that there are too many stinkin' muties. The Marvel Universe press is just as stupid and useless as our own!

Anyway, we're looking at post-Heroes Return Avengers, by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, and this is the start of what I think is most people's favorite story from that run, Ultron Unlimited.

Ultron himself doesn't appear until the final page, as his forces are busy killing every person in the fictional country of Slorenia, but the wheels are turning. The Big Three Avengers are saved from the very awkward press conference seen above by the Wasp smashing through the window. She brings word that a bunch of robots with a familiar face busted into Hank Pym's lab and abducted him.

Jarvis brings more bad news to the party - although he does it as politely as possible, bless him. Something composed of adamantium is attacking the Wakanda Design Group research lab in Long Island. The Avengers haul butts over there, ready to throw down with Ultron, and find. . . Alkhema?
Sorry, Alkhema-2, the second version of Ultron's second attempt to create a wife, this one with a mind based off Mockingbird's brain patterns. She doesn't like him any better than any of his other attempts to create a family do, but she does like the idea of killing all humans. She just wants to do it one at a time and savor the experience. Which makes me a little uneasy about Mockingbird.

She and the Avengers throw down, which mostly doesn't go well for the heroes. Vision tries his old "increase density to maximum and fall on her" trick, but she just grabs his ankle and throws him into Thor. Firestar tries to heat her up enough to melt something inside, but has to be pushed out of the way of an energy blast by T'Challa at the last second. Scarlet Witch ends up saving the day by using her powers to mess with the "molecular rearranger" that keeps Alkhema and Ultron's adamantium insides from locking up. I thought they were only adamantium on the outside, but OK, sure.
In other developments, Justice and Firestar moved their stuff into the mansion, although Vance's leg is in a cast from him dumbly rushing into battle with a concussion a few issues earlier to help Carol Danvers fend off the Doomsday Man. Kind of sad that Vance wanted to be an Avenger for years, and his stint with the team never really went anywhere, while Firestar really stepped up during the same stretch.

Also, Wanda and Wonder Man visit a restaurant from the area she grew up, and Wanda finds out Vision has been coming there a lot in his civilian identity. I wasn't aware he even had one of those. Wanda thinks this is a little fishy, since Vision had told her he didn't retain any of his memories from when they were married, before he got dismantled and turned emotionless or whatever by John Byrne.

Man, between insisting Wanda and Vision couldn't really have kids, and that Namorita was really a clone of Namora, late-80s Byrne had a real thing about who could and couldn't procreate.

{2nd longbox, 27th comic. Avengers (vol. 3) #19, by Kurt Busiek (writer), George Perez (artist), Al Vey (finisher), Tom Smith (colorist), Wes Abbott (letterer)}

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Black Sea

Jude Law gets fired from his marine salvage job, but an old friend of his was approached about recovering $80 million dollars worth of gold from sunken Soviet sub, funded by a mysterious benefactor, and well, why not? They get an old sub of their own from some where (I wasn't paying attention to that part) and recruit a crew. Half British guys Jude Law knows, and half Russian guys, because it's a Russian sub.

The crew begins to fracture almost immediately. Law has promised everyone equal shares, but the Brits are unhappy because they figure $2 million goes a lot farther in Russia than England. The Russians are unhappy because the guy who told Law about the job overdosed and was replaced by some 18 year old he knows. Which means he's a virgin (I assume in nautical terms), and that means he's bad luck. Also, you know, he doesn't know a fucking thing about submarines or Russian.

Jude Law is pretty intense for most of the movie, but he makes a sharp turn into madness in the last third. He goes from coming up with a daring plan to get them off the sea floor, and telling the guys they can't mess it up, because they only have one chance, to insisting they risk everything once they seem to still have a chance at the gold.

He does find out something about the job that plays into it, that mixes with a lot of bitterness he has about the how the world works. But he was already getting dangerously obsessed even before then. Even so, it's strange how quickly he goes from trying to maintain peace and harmony, eyes on the prize, to simply saying fuck all you guys, we'll do this or die trying.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Addition by Saiyan Subtraction

As someone who doesn't care for Vegeta (or his fanbase) at all, I spend more time than I should thinking about how things could have gone in DragonBall Z if Krillin had ignored Goku's request at the end of the big fight on Earth, and run Vegeta through with Yajirobe's sword, as opposed to letting the guy leave the planet. Obviously it's an irrelevant thought exercise, unless I decide to write a fanfic about it some day, but it seemed worth exploring.

I mean, Vegeta seems to exist mostly to do stupid shit out of ego that makes all situations worse. Basically Batman during that stretch where, every time you turned around, someone stole his secret "kill the Justice League" plans or his secret "spy on all the other heroes" satellite. Like that time Vegeta decided to actively help Cell absorb Android 18 to achieve his "perfect" form, because Cell's current form just wasn't strong enough to be interesting. Then Perfect Cell beat Vegeta into the ground with contemptuous ease. Which, while satisfying to watch, doesn't change the fact he made things worse for everyone else by being a moron.

OK, so one of the arguments against him being killed I've seen before is the Earthlings - Bulma, Krillin, Gohan - wouldn't have survived on Namek if they didn't have Vegeta to eventually team up with. Yeah, I don't think that holds up.

Yes, the situation escalates the longer everyone is running around Namek trying to get Dragon Balls, but no small amount of that escalation is due to Vegeta. Vegeta shows up on Namek and starts laying waste to Frieza' strongest guys. His (for that point in the series) dramatic increases in power worry Frieza enough he calls in the Ginyu Force. Once they get there, even Vegeta is completely overwhelmed by just one of them. He saves Gohan and Krillin from Guldo, true, but again, he's the reason Guldo's there in the first place. Most of their battle with Frieza is Vegeta bragging about how this time for sure he's become a Super Saiyan, then Frieza upping his power yet again and Vegeta basically crapping himself at how outmatched he is.

(There's at least three occasions in that fight Vegeta gets cocky and each time, Frieza makes him eat his words almost immediately. Again, satisfying to watch, but it's dampened slightly because characters who aren't complete assholes are also going to suffer for it.)

Once they arrived, Gohan and Krillin tried to maintain low profiles. Keep their power levels as low as possible, stay off everyone's radar. That doesn't last terribly long. Frieza is vaguely aware of them - in the sense he knows someone else landed on the planet - even before Gohan jumps in and saves the last Namekian kid in a village Frieza and his guys were slaughtering.

But their powers are so relatively low they're barely a nuisance. Frieza could have killed both of them with zero effort when Krillin blindsided Dodoria. Just eye-beamed both of them through their backs, but he couldn't be bothered. Just threatened Dodoria for being made to look like a chump. Zarbon could have done it, too, and didn't. Nobody in Frieza's army really looks out for each other. Which comes from Frieza himself, since he never takes any steps to help his subordinates, so they don't help each other, either.

I had thought that one point in Vegeta's favor was him finding Dodoria unwittingly saves them, but no. Dodoria couldn't sense them (because one of the Namekians destroyed his scouter), fired one attack at the ocean after Krillin temporarily blinded him, and assumed he got them. Then he flew off, met Vegeta, and died. Worst case with no Vegeta, Dodoria flies back and reports he killed them, eventually is proven wrong. And then is probably killed by Frieza. But since all Frieza's scouters were destroyed, the only way they're going to know that's the case is by physically seeing Krillin or Gohan. Those two can sense power levels without technological help, so they can avoid Frieza' schmucks all day long.

Frieza was finding Dragon Balls by using scouters to find Namekians. Now that's out of the question, while the good guys have a handy dandy device that senses Dragon Balls they can use. Plus, they saved the kid, Dende, which earns them some good credit with the Elder of Namek. Gets him on their side. They get one ball from him, which as long as they have it, Frieza can't make any wishes.

(In reality, he can't make a wish anyway because he doesn't know he has to make the wish in Namekian. The last "fuck you" from Namek to him, since he doesn't have to be killing them to get these balls. He's strong enough to immobilize them, but chooses to let his men kill them, just because.)

The Elder also boosts Krillin's power, and later Gohan's (and eventually Dende's, and he's a healer). Not enough to fight Frieza, or even to challenge the Ginyu Force if they showed up. But working together, Krillin and Gohan could definitely take Dodoria, who's a complete moron, and probably Zarbon (especially if they could get him before he transformed). The odds of either of those two finding them is slim, because again, Krillin and Gohan can sense their location, but Zarbon and Dodoria can't do the same. When Zarbon did catch up to Krillin, he was really following Vegeta, who he spotted after Vegeta sensed Krillin and started following him. Again, Frieza won't have any way of knowing they got that strong, short of seeing them fight. Because that's not their plan.

Their plan is to get at least one ball, then wait for Goku to show up and they'll make their play to swipe the others, wish their friends back to life. Goku's not near strong enough to fight Frieza, which is admittedly bad since he'll certainly want to fight Frieza. But there's the possibility that, if they head for Frieza's ship where has his all the ones he collected, the three of them can keep Frieza distracted long enough for Dende to make the wishes.

There's always the possibility that even if Dodoria and Zarbon don't get killed, Frieza gets impatient and calls the Ginyu Force anyway. But they didn't seem to arrive that long before Goku as it was, and if things aren't going bad as quickly, because Vegeta's not causing problems, they might be called late enough to not get there until after Goku. Granted, then you have to hope Goku doesn't fuck around and just plants Ginyu so he can't body swap, but if Goku knows they have to go through these guys to even have a shot at getting the chance to swipe Frieza's Dragon Balls, he might just do that. Just lay waste to those five dumbasses and get on with his day.

Because that's really the main positive thing Vegeta accomplishes on Namek. When Ginyu swipes Goku's body, he can't use it properly, and Vegeta beats the hell out of it. Which pushes Ginyu to try and steal Vegeta's body, giving Goku the chance to jump in the way and get his body back. Then Goku gets to heal up from that, and gets the resulting power boost from that weird Saiyan "whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" thing. But if you have Dende around during the Frieza fight, there's a chance he can heal Goku up from an ass-kicking there to give you basically the same result. Dende did that for Krillin, Gohan, Piccolo, and Vegeta during the actual, in-canon fight, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Harlem Nights

Man, they use the word "motherfucker" in this movie a lot. If Samuel L. Jackson had been in it, it might have achieved some critical mass and who knows what would have happened. Either the word would have exploded, never to exist again, or it might have collapsed in on itself and formed some entirely new word.

Anyway, Richard Pryor runs a night club, and Eddie Murphy plays his protege. The big wheel in New York who runs most of the night clubs decides he wants theirs, either under his thumb or out of business. And he has the guns, the clout, and the corrupt cops (including Danny Aiello) to make it happen.

Murphy wants to fight, Pryor wants to rob big wheel blind and use it to start up somewhere else. There's a brief, but good, discussion between the two of them where Pryor points out it's stupid to die young to prove you're a man, or whatever. That the real win is living well and dying peacefully at an old age surrounded by loved ones.

The tail end of the movie turns into one of those caper flicks with a lot of misdirections. Where you think the plan has gone wrong, but no, everything is working just fine. Prior to that, it's more focused on the generational gap in how they want to handle things, plus just the reality they face being black in this situation. Yeah, they are technically criminals, but so is the guy pressuring them. Except, he's a white criminal, with white cops on his payroll. White cops who very obviously resent the fact that these black people make a lot more money than him, live in much better homes than him, wear tailored suits while he buys off the rack. And there's not a lot of direct action they can take.

The heist revolves around the betting on the big heavyweight fight between Jack Jenkins (who I'm guessing is supposed to be a stand-in for Joe Louis), and the latest great white hope, some dumpy Irishman. Aiello brings in a raid on Pryor's club while Jenkins is there, and kind of extorts an autograph out of him. I'd think, being heavyweight champion, Jenkins would have a little more sway, but he stands just as stiff and still as Pryor does, no sudden movements, no big outbursts of emotion, while Aiello sits confidently on the edge of Pryor's desk and generally struts around the office like he owns it. Even being a world famous celebrity gets him only so far.

The middle of the movie is a little weak. The subplot with the Dominique la Rue character resolves kind of abruptly and without any real emotional heft to it. There's a whole bit where Arsenio Hall thinks Eddie Murphy killed his brother and they have a car chase through the city with Arsenio sobbing and screaming, and generally being completely over-the-top the entire time. That bit was too dumb for me. But Redd Foxx and Della Reese are both pretty great, especially Reese's constant insults about Foxx' terrible eyesight. The fight between her and Murphy cracked me up.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Two Weeks In

I have figured out I don't like working from home. It's nice to be able to lay down on my couch and take a nap when I like, but I'd prefer to keep work at work, let home be free of it. Sadly, this is the way things are for at least another two weeks, and since the governor finally issued a stay-at-home order last Friday until the end of April, probably longer than that. I wasn't even aware of that order until late Saturday afternoon. The increased number of people I'd seen in the store wearing masks that morning suddenly made more sense.

It doesn't help we're not allowed to do inspections for the foreseeable future. That's the best part of the job. Not that I enjoy getting to a place and telling them they done fucked up and gotta fix something. Just being out on the road, having the opportunity to see places I wouldn't have otherwise. I can end up in some isolated places with excellent views, or just drive past strange, random stuff. The office stuff isn't terribly interesting most of the time, plus there's a distinct limit on how much of it there is. They reduced mail delivery to the building our group was in to twice a week, so there aren't many applications to deal with most of the time.

The most consistent time cost these days has been all the conference calls. In the hopes of keeping in contact, we keep having those. 2-3 per week with the people in my unit. 2 other with the entire program. 1 on Fridays with the entire division. For those latter two categories, 95% of what's discussed is irrelevant to me, or generally above my pay grade, so it's kind of a waste. The stuff that is relevant has already mostly been brought to our attention via e-mails.

Doesn't help I'm not much of a phone conversationalist, as my friends and family can attest. Really, one of the things I liked about this job was our unit was pretty small, and everybody was in the same aisle. If you need to ask someone something, you just call out to them from your desk. I'd much rather do things that way, if I have to have contact with people.

Work from home is doing wonders for my exercise regimen, though. It might look odd if I got up every hour to do some push-ups in the office, but in the apartment, there's no one to object. I do a little yoga mid-morning, spend lunch hitting the heavy bag to various uptempo music, and then run as soon as work is over.

It speaks to my contrary nature that, were there no pandemic, I'd probably spend most weekends at home anyway, but once you tell me I can't go out, I really want to. Same way when my bosses said not to use any annual leave the past two weeks, because of concerns about budget or position cuts, I kind of wanted to do so immediately. Even though, realistically, I don't want to waste my leave to just sit around my apartment. I just resent them telling me I can't.

The stores around here seem to be staying on top of things as far as supplies go (except toilet paper and paper towels still, natch). Although sometimes milk seems scarce. Alex is trying to keep me stocked up with stuff, as a thank you for giving him some cash two weeks back. He says he'll pay me back. I'll believe it when I see it. I hope he's in a position to, but things have to get under control so he can get back to performing first. I'm feeling less and less confident about those lake gigs he was so excited for materializing.

On top of this, I have to get my windshield replaced thanks to a hailstorm two weekends ago. It could be worse. Most of my neighbors' cars have windows smashed entirely. I just have a big ol' bullseye crater in mine. Plus a few dents in the body, but I'm not sure if I'll even get those fixed. Guess it's a good thing there's no place to drive. I gotta say, though, this is two years in a row nature has decided to fuck with my stuff. This stuff didn't happen when I was a broke-ass temp wildlife biologist.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #108

"Best Idea Cave's Had All Day," in Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #3, by Gerard Way and Jon Rivera (writers), Michael Avon Oeming (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Clem Robins (letterer)

Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye was one of the initial entries in DC's Young Animal line, which may or may not still exist at the time this was posted. I don't know exactly what the goal was behind the line - a new Vertigo, maybe - but it didn't exactly seem to pan out.

At some point, Cave Carson, explorer of the subterranean world, got himself a cybernetic eye. I don't know when, exactly - he had it when he showed up in the first volume of Resurrection Man back in the '90s - and apparently it had never been explained. So Way and Rivera spent a little time on that, while also having Cave reconnect with his daughter Chloe, and having the two of them try to cope with their grief over the death of Cave's wife Mazra, who is actually the princess of an underground kingdom.

The story initially seemed like it was simply a strange cult trying to unleash something held trapped by the people of Muldroog. It seemed likely Cave, Chloe, and Cave's pal Wild Dog (who gets to fulfill the typically fun role of Character Entirely Out of Their Depth) would have to face all sorts of dangers below the Earth's surface. Then the thing that was unleashed started hopping dimensions, they chased after it, they met a living version of one of Cave's old professors, a different universe's version of Cave and Doc Magnus. It does end up giving Cave and Chloe a chance for some closure, but the second half of the book still felt like it went off the rails. A little too big or scattered.

On the other hand, it gave Oeming the chance to draw a lot of bizarre stuff, including monsters, fungus creatures, inter-dimensional travel. Filardi brings out some interesting color patterns as backgrounds for some of those pages, and in general some really vivid colors that make things pop. Things have an otherwordly or almost hallucinatory feel to them.

After this ran for 12 issues, there was a second series, Cave Carson has an Interstellar Eye, where he and Chloe travel into space, which I bought for three issues before dropping it.

Friday, April 03, 2020

What I Bought 3/28/2020 - Part 3

Often, when I look back on a disagreement I had with someone where I tried to be polite and reasonable, I deeply regret it. Except sometimes I regret that I bothered debating with the person at all, and other times I regret that I didn't simply let them have my true thoughts and feelings full blast. I don't mean I feel one way about one example, and the other way about another example. I mean I go back and forth between both paths on any given example. It's very annoying.

Wicked Things #1, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I actually wound up the Guruhiru variant cover with Charlotte dressed as Sherlock Holmes. It was too cute to pass up.

Charlotte's friend Claire nominated her for the Teen Detective of the Year award, which gets them a free trip to a fancy hotel in London. Charlotte's excitement at meeting other renowned teen detectives is dashed on the rocks of all of them being snotty little dicks. She hopes to turn things around when she meets the great detective Kendo Miyamoto, but for some reason his friend/translator mistranslates everything Charlotte says and he storms off in a huff. that evening, Charlotte receives an invitation to Kendo's room, during the award ceremony, and finds him stabbed in the gut. Then the translator (who sent her up there) finds Charlotte over the body. Now Charlotte's under arrest, and on the same night she won Teen Detective of the Year in her age category!

I like parts of this. I'd rather have a sense of who Charlotte's supporting cast is going to be, besides Claire. I really hope it isn't the other teen detectives because, holy shit, they were obnoxious. Deliberately so, but still. Like a herd of Dean Thompsons, which is not something any book needs. Unless Garth Ennis is writing something where they're all going to die horribly.
Sarin doesn't get to draw some of the more exaggerated things she did in Giant Days, at least in this issue, but Charlotte is a very expressive character to work with. Definitely 'Esther concentrated', as she described herself. Wide swings between overwhelming confidence and complete despair. The dark lipstick and thick eyebrows amplify the expressions, I guess because they help draw the eye. Sarin finds a variety of ways to draw snooty, irritating people. Norris Overton is a different obnoxious from Paola Tosto. I wish they'd spent a little more time in the trade show section. I wanted to see more stores with detective-appropriate gear and cute names.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Pranks In the Time of Plague

Clever Adolescent Panda (CAP): *Standing in front of the oven in Calvin's apartment* I'm still not sure we should be doing this now. Maybe we should postpone.

Calvin: *leaning against the breakfast bar, staring at his front door* What are you worried about? Can pandas even get coronaviruses?

CAP: We are vulnerable to some varieties that affect canines, yes.

Calvin: Oh.

CAP: Yeah.

Calvin: But there's no definitive proof this one is even dangerous to dogs, right? And, I haven't shown any signs, or been around hardly any people. And, you pandas have a healthcare system that isn't completely fucked, right?

CAP: . . .

Calvin: Right?

CAP: . . .

Calvin: Look, I need this levity now. Did you see what that hailstorm did to my windshield. It looks like Valhalla out there.

CAP: *confused look*

Calvin: That really big, bulls-eye crater on Jupiter's moon, Callisto?

CAP: Oh, right. I get it. Why didn't you just say impact crater?

Calvin: It sounds cooler the way I said it. Now, are you in?

CAP: *sighs* OK, fine. How am I the more mature one?

Calvin: Because it's your turn. I was the mature one last time.

CAP: That doesn't sound right. Are you sure Pollock will even show?

Calvin: How could she not? We threw her a birthday party last year and everything! She has to reciprocate!

CAP: I feel like she'll take the opposite approach from you, and self-quarantine religiously.

Calvin: Leaving her company rudderless? Ha! There's no way she'll slack off and risk it falling apart again. She might have sent all her employees home with full pay for the duration, but she's almost certainly still there, trying to keep it afloat.

CAP: That sounds about right. But that means there's no way she's gonna come all the way here.

Calvin: *wags his finger* You forget, my lovably huggable friend, she's a far more social person than I. Distancing is undoubtedly taking its toll. She'll jump at the chance to interact with other people.

CAP: *skeptical* Even us?

Calvin: Especially us! We're people she can punch! Those are her favorite kind of people, after people she can bilk money out of!

CAP: I think they're called investors.

Calvin: Pfft. That's just what you tell them so they don't know they're rubes.

*There's a knock at the door.*

CAP: They aren't ready yet, you have to stall!

Calvin: You want me to play host?

CAP: Or let her punch you for a while.

*Calvin opens the door.*

Calvin: Dustin Hoffman from Outbreak! What a honor!

Pollock: Oh very good. That reference is only what, 25 years out of date?

*Pollock awkwardly makes her way into the room in a full biohazard suit. Calvin cranes his neck into the hallway, searching. Stepping back inside, he grabs Pollock on either side of her head and starts trying to peer inside the suit. Pollock punches him in the face.*

Pollock: What the hell were you doing?

CAP: Hi Pollock!

Pollock: Greetings, accursed furball.

Calvin: *rubbing his nose* Geez, I was just trying to see if Cassanee had wedged herself in there with you.

Pollock: Of course not! That would defeat the purpose of the suit!

CAP: I kinda don't think Cassanee would care about that.

Calvin: Exactly.

Pollock: No, the sullen girl went home several weeks ago. She was homesick, or there was some kind of emergency or something.

CAP: The Amilgars? Or did Guyamo come back?

Calvin: Please no faceless guys with chainsaws.

Pollock: She didn't say, and I didn't ask. Because I don't care.

CAP: You jerk! Calvin! *tosses him a pie fresh from the oven*

Calvin: Wait a minute, I'm not wearing glov-ahaaaah!

*Calvin awkwardly hurls the pie at Pollock. It splatters harmlessly against the facemask of her suit, slowly sliding down it, until it lands on the carpet.*

Pollock: *unperturbed* That was your brilliant plan for this year?

CAP: We had to make the pie gag work one of these years.

Calvin: But now that we have, it was distinctly unsatisfying.

CAP: Pollock could take the suit off and we could try again.

Pollock: Why would I do that?

Calvin: Because don't those kinds of suits only have a limited air supply? Like, 30 minutes?

Pollock: *extremely smug* Nice try. I designed this suit with an extensive filtration system, so I can breathe external air in perfect safety.

Calvin: *tilts head skeptically* Really? It can filter out viruses, but you can still get air?

Pollock: *starting to sweat, tries to pull at her collar, but can't reach it through the suit* Yes. It's not - wheeze - about the size of the holes in the filters. There's a minor UV projector - gasp - inside that eradicates - why is it so stuffy in this thing?

CAP: Looks like the blueberry filling is clogging the filter.

*Pollock tries to clear the delicious pie out of the filter, but only succeeds in clogging it further, since she has no dexterity inside the suit.* 

Calvin: You need us to get you out of that thing? I'm seen some videos on that in trainings.

Pollock: *shakes head vigorously, continues fumbling to remove the gloves.*

CAP: I think Calvin's right. *Hands Calvin another pie. One that had time to cool first.*

Pollock: *glares daggers at the both of them, until her eyes roll back in her head and she falls over.*

Calvin: Sigh. *sets pie aside* Come on, let's help.

CAP: Calvin, how could you? We have to help - oh wait, you said that.

Calvin: Yeah. Here let's see if we can just pull the helmet off. Hand me my knife.

CAP: I thought I'd have to convince you.

Calvin: I don't want Pollock dead. I just don't want her to kill me, either. *pause* Besides, hitting an unconscious person with a pie is pretty lame.

CAP: What are the odds of her really trying to kill you?

*Together they manage to pull the helmet free of the rest of the suit.*

Calvin: Eh, it took her like 7 years of setbacks until she got fed up and tried to decapitate me that one time. But we haven't destroyed her headquarters since even before that, so I'm probably OK.

*Pollock's fist hits Calvin squarely in the face again.*

Calvin: It's a good thing those gloves are insulated, or that would start to hurt.

Pollock: *wheezing* Clod.

Calvin: All right, she's conscious again. Time to set aside compassion and humanity.

CAP: *hands the pie back to Calvin with a flourish* Your weapon, sir.

Calvin: Ah, thank you, my good panda.

*Calvin throws the pie, Pollock snatches the helmet off the ground and blocks it, although she might have gotten a little splash damage from it.*

Pollock: *laughs triumphantly* What now, you jabbering nitwits?

Calvin: It's cute how she thinks we only had the two pies.

CAP: I know, right? May I do the honors?

Calvin: Oh, I insist. I've had my turns.

CAP: Thank you.

*The panda dashes back into the kitchen. A moment later, they leap on top of the breakfast bar, wielding a bazooka with a pie jammed in the front of it.*

CAP: Get ready for the awesome return of the least expected recurring gag ever, PIE CANNON! And good luck nimbly deflecting this with a kick while you're in that bulky hazmat suit!

Pollock: Oh dear. Let's not be hasty.

Calvin: Hold it! Pollock's right.

Pollock: I am?

CAP: She is?

Calvin: Absolutely. *Slides open the screen door leading onto the balcony.* Now she won't damage it on her way out.

Pollock: You swine.

CAP: Good call. Fire in the hole!

*The pie erupts from the bazooka, hitting Pollock squarely in the chest, sending her flying out the open door and over the railing into the parking lot. Before she can slam painfully into her rental car, her hazmat suit inflates. So instead, she bounces off the rear bumper and soars into the sky.*

Pollock: *voice getting fainter* I'll get you morons for thissssssss. *disappears into the distance, while CAP and Calvin watch*

CAP: Huh. I should have expected her to have additional security features.

Calvin: *confused* Why would she have expected to get into high speed collisions in that getup?

CAP: *Shrugs* I dunno. Maybe she thought someone would try running her over?

Calvin: Seems a little brutal for either of us, and too impersonal for Cass.

CAP: Rhodez?

Calvin: Can't see there being a grudge there, but maybe. Anyway, I think that went pretty well. At least we won't have to hear her moan about her rental car this time.

CAP: Yeah, but she's probably gonna be mad at you when she lands.

Calvin: Me? You shot her with a bazooka pie.

CAP: Because you said to!

Calvin: *gasps in mock-shock* What?! You asked if you could! And I wanted to share the fun, so I said yes.

CAP: But, um, aw fooey.

Calvin: Relax. She'll probably self-quarantine for a solid two weeks since we had to remove part of her fancy suit. As long as you're back home by then, she'll leave you be.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

What I Bought 3/28/2020 - Part 2

I've been waiting all morning for someone to pop out and say the current state of things is a big April Fools joke. Although, I've been waiting for that for the last three years at least.

Canopus #1, 2, by Dave Chisholm (writer/artist/color artist/letterer), Dustin Payette (color artist) - Must be nice to have an entire planet to yourself to sprawl out on.

Helen wakes up, alone, on the surface of a world orbiting the star Canopus. She doesn't remember why or how she got there. She can't get in touch with Earth. The ship can't leave unless she goes and retrieves some material it can use to make replacement parts. She's accompanied on her trip by an odd little creature called "Arther", who insists she's his mother.

The planet appears deserted, and Chisholm uses a pretty muted color scheme for the landscape. Kind of bland, grayish-purple. Except that as they follow the route prescribed by her in-suit computer, Helen keeps finding things that shouldn't be there, all of which are in more vivid and varied colors. All of which, however comforting they might be initially, turn awful (some of them are awful from the jump). Things that remind her of Earth, of all the people that have left her over the years, as seemingly everyone has. Except her mother. Seems like Helen might have closed the door on that relationship when she was young. Not sure if that'll be expanded later on.
Chisholm shows us the backstory in pages done all in a particular shade, with lots of small panels overlaid on each other. They progress in a winding pattern up and down, then across the page. There are additional panels around the edges of the primary ones that act like echoes. The image, but with some of the color lost, and any sound or dialogue missing. I guess it works as a stylistic choice. The way the panels are set on the page kept tripping me up when I'd reach those pages, so I'd have to start over and slow down to make sure I was following the order correctly.

She finds her father, an astronaut who left when she was a child as part of a mission to colonize Mars, and vanished. But he's just a pale imitation, even if she's convinced he's somehow the one real thing on the planet. Only capable of saying a few things. Indifferent when Helen is in danger.
I'm guessing Helen's in a coma, or some sort of therapy that's trying to make her deal with her feelings of abandonment. It seems like, for what we've seen so far, Helen either never had the opportunity to confront the people she that abandoned her, or she did take the chance. We don't, for example, see her hunt down her scummy ex-boyfriend who took all the credit for her ideas when he created his artificial intelligence, and let him have it with both barrels (figuratively or literally). As it stands, though, I can't see that she's making much progress. But there's two issues left, if they're ever able to come out.