Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Daily Coyote - Shreve Stockton

The Daily Coyote is about the author, to her surprise, falling in love with the Wyoming countryside and moving there from New York. Once there, she meets a guy who works on predator control for a state agency, and she ends up with a coyote pup he couldn't bring himself to kill.

And so Stockton details her life with Charlie, the coyote. Feeding him, training him, trying to get her cat acclimated to the new housemate. This plus the ups and downs of her relationship with Mike, the challenges of maintaining the cabin she lives in, paying the bills, and whatnot.

Stockton presents it that Charlie often acts as a mirror to her. That the way he responds to her or others reflects something he's picking up in her. When that results in Charlie occasionally behaving aggressively towards her, she figures out he's trying to become the leader because he's picked up on how stressed she is, and that she's not up to being in charge. So he's got to do it. And Stockton conveys her own fear, dismay, and confusion at what's happening, enough so I was worried the story was going to have a bad ending if Charlie kept getting aggressive. You want things to go back to how they were between them as well.

(She mentions using the book the Dog Whisperer guy wrote for guidance, which was interesting to me, not so much because she's using it on a coyote, but because some of the dog rescue people I know through my dad don't think much of that guy's methods. Maybe it's different for a canine not coming out of a traumatic experience?)

I don't get the sense he picks up on her initial fear of the other people around learning she has a coyote as a pet, even though that makes her wary of contacting veterinarians when Charlie contracts parvo, or heavily influences where she lets him be when she puts him outside (for fear someone will see him from the road and just shoot the coyote). But maybe he was young enough at that stage it didn't register as abnormal.

Stockton had a blog in the early 2000s where she posted photos of Charlie every day (and is where the book title comes from), and a lot of photos are in the book. Which is nice. Watching the change in Charlie's size relative to Eli the cat via the photos is neat. The part I probably enjoyed the most was when Stockton would right about how Charlie interacts with other animals. The shifting relationship between he and Eli, or how he got along with one of Mike's dogs, but the others mostly wanted nothing to do with him. There's a part where he makes friends with some new calves, where both parties seem equally curious about each other that was kind of adorable.

'Charlie and I often wandered around the corrals on our walks, and a few days later, after Charlie sniffed around the corn and deemed it nonthreatening, he sprang into the air and dove headfirst into the pile. With ears laid back and a fanatical grin across his face, Charlie dug to the bottom of the pile, the loose corn filling around his legs as fast as he could dig.'

Monday, June 29, 2020

Thrown Into the Deep End

Yeah, that's a lot of laser fire. Or singularity bombs, or whatever it is they're throwing at her.

Star Power is an online comic, but you know me, I prefer to have physical copies of things, so I picked up the first volume, Star Power and the 9th Wormhole, a few months back. The comics follows Danica Maris, a lab technician in the astronomics section of a deep-space research/defense/cultural hub kind of location. Danica gets tapped to be the last of what are called Star-Powered Sentinels, and is almost immediately under attack from forces bent on making sure her stint is as brief as possible. She's got to figure out what she can do, who's after her, protect herself, protect the station, and try to deal with the threat, and do all of it pretty much at the same time.
Michael Terracciano writes Danica as mostly cheerful and eager to help others, endlessly curious, a bit self-sacrificing, and prone to getting down on herself. She seems quick to blame herself if something doesn't work out. But it's kind of endearing, alongside her excitement over the chance to learn and explore, and her tendency to quickly grow attached to inanimate objects. At one point, she's asked to attack one of the station's security droids to test the limits of her power, and she's reluctant to blow it up because it helped her out during her first fight (it's what she's sitting on in the panel above).

There's a lovely sense of just how much is out there that we haven't seen yet. The Millennium Federation, who Danica works for, has a thousand worlds within its boundaries, and that doesn't even encompass one spiral arm of the galaxy. But there's a variety of alien species, albeit most of the ones seen in this volume are roughly humanoid, bipedal organisms. Maybe that's just how it is in that universe, or maybe that's particular to this station, or region of the Federation. Don't know yet. There are mercenaries and the Void Angels, who are some sort of crazy destructive militaristic group, just to start with, could be a number of other problems. The empire that created the Sentinels covered most of the galaxy at some point, and is, as far as we know so far, basically collapsed. But that doesn't mean there's nothing and nobody out there.
Terracciano goes the route of having Danica's powers be known to the higher-ups at the station, and then makes sure those characters are both supportive (within reason), and competent. She isn't stuck under the thumb of useless bureaucrats who make it harder for her to help people. They know their jobs, they do them well, Danica's powers just give them more help with that. It's interesting that both Dr. Brightman and the Security Chief agree they shouldn't let their bosses know, because Danica will end up dissected. They didn't actually manage tom keep a lid on it very long, but that wasn't an approach I expected, either.

I kept thinking Graham's artwork reminds me of someone else's, and the closest comp I could come up with is Salva Espin. Which is fine, I generally like Espin's work. They aren't identical; Graham's inking is heavier than what's normally on Espin's, and that tends to give characters very solid appearances. Strong jawlines, browlines, and noses. Graham doesn't exaggerate for comedic effect as much, but it isn't really that sort of book. The humor is more understated, the style where one character says something, there's a silent panel where it sinks in, then some sort of reaction in the third panel.

I wish there was a little more variety in Star's color scheme for her costume. There are some concept sketches in the back of the trade, and Graham originally toyed with some that had a large star somewhere on the front. Depending on the color, that might have been a good call to break things up a bit. I do like the design for the power's tutorial/operating system, which is a small, swirly ball with some script revolving around it. A little starlike, a little like a ghost, not too flashy (because you probably don't want to alert everyone to the thing helping you out), but distinctive.

Panel layouts are straightforward, 5-7 panels for most pages, the emphasis is on getting the information across clearly to the reader. Graham knows when to back up for a sense of scale, and Terracciano knows when to stop the dialogue and just let characters fight (although Danica is usually trying to resolve things peacefully, so she tends to talk a lot).

The first volume ends with the possibility that Danica burned the power out stopping the 9th Wormhole, but seeing as I just bought the second volume today, I'm going out on a limb that doesn't last for long.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #120

"The Good Old Days Weren't So Good," in Daredevil #154, by Roger McKenzie (writer), Gene Colan (penciler), Steve Leialoha (inker/colorist), Novak (letterer)

I only own one Daredevil comic from the pre-Miller years, and I don't remember how I ended up with this one. Someone gave it to me, but the identity of the person is lost. But hey, Gene Colan art, I couldn't pass that up, right?

I feel as though the broad strokes history of Daredevil is that he was a cheerful swashbuckler type until Frank Miller threw him into a world of ninjas and dead girlfriends, and that's largely where he's stayed ever since, minus the occasional creative team that goes against the flow in one way or the other.

Don't know if that's true or not. This issue is about Daredevil being forced to fight several of his worst foes or the Purple Man will make his girlfriend, Heather Glenn, kill herself. Daredevil spends the entire issue being desperate and furious. Paladin, of all characters, ends up coming to the rescue. It's the only time I've ever seen that guy wearing a cape. The Purple Man knows Daredevil is Matt Murdock, and deduces that Murdock really is blind after his attempt to use a spotlight on him proves ineffective. Purple Man even falls to his "death" by lunging stupidly at Daredevil, because he can't accept losing to a blind man. The enemies are more brightly colored and grandiose in their speech than Miller's, but the broad strokes are kind of similar. If there's any swashbuckling in here, it's Paladin, whose a cocky merc.

This issue does end with DD and Heather walking off together, so that's a bright spot compared to how things went with the whole Bullseye/Elektra thing.

Heather Glenn seems like the forgotten woman in the long string of Murdock's failed relationships. It's always about Karen Page, or Elektra, or maybe the Black Widow (the only one to survive largely unscathed). But I think Heather got engaged to Matt, then forced into breaking it off, and then the late Denny O'Neill had her commit suicide about 65 issues after this one. In that one, she calls Matt up, drunk, and pretends to be in trouble to get him to come visit. He ignores a domestic disturbance as a result, the woman ends up being killed, and then Matt yells at Heather when she calls again. You'd think the time a deeply depressed woman reached out to Daredevil for help, only to get shoved over a cliff instead, would get more play. More guilt for the good Catholic boy.

That comic might actually be the first Daredevil comic I owned. If not, it's the second behind the issue of Born Again where Matt loses it, tries to fight the Kingpin in plainclothes and gets his dick kicked in.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Random Back Issues #35 - Amazing Spider-Man #381

It's Spidey's little "ouch" that sells it.

Somehow we're right back into early '90s Spider-Man, with the first half of a two-part storyline that acted as a breather in the middle of the near-constant BIG CHANGES storyarcs.

The Hulk (in his intelligent "Professor" incarnation) has arrived in New York City on his way back from a thing in Scotland in his own title. After declaring to Customs that the delay is annoying him, he's accosted by Doc Samson, who wants him to attend a demonstration of a new device that will help patients deal with repressed emotions by infecting them with a gamma virus. The Hulk, like probably everyone reading this post, recognizes this is a terrible idea on every level and storms off after telling Samson he's crazy if he goes near that demonstration.
Then Hulk scoffs at the cabbie's notion he requires a ride.

Elsewhere, Spidey saves a teenager from playground bullies, and signs the kid's lunchbox. As he swings off, the kid thinks about how he can get 50 bucks for it. Spidey's just glad to be doing something positive and helpful after the clusterfuck that was Maximum Carnage, and returns home to find Mary Jane in the kitchen cooking up something that includes salmon, asparagus, and oregano. Peter's got his own ideas about what's cookin'. I can't remember if it was a fan theory, or something an actual writer on the Spider-Man books mentioned, but there was this idea this is when Mayday Parker was conceived.
Later, Peter attends the demonstration Doc Samson was talking, about as a photographer. The demonstration immediately goes wrong as the virus, rather than enter the patient, starts trying to escape containment. Samson leaps in to try and hold the cage together, but can't pull it off. By the time Peter's changed into his costume, Samson's gone feral and is yelling about wanting to find Banner. He brings a wall down on the webslinger and leaps off, somehow sensing the Hulk. Who is walking through the park, grumbling about how his shoe size is probably bigger than the SAT scores of all the people running from the sight of him. His musing that simply because he's big and has a rep doesn't mean there's always violence around him is naturally interrupted by Samson landing on him, violently.
By the time Spider-Man catches up, the fight is in full swing, leaving Spidey wondering how the heck one of him will stop two of them. When Hulk gets the upper hand, Spidey jumps in, wrapping himself around one forearm. You can see how well that worked in the first image. It does distract the Hulk long enough for Samson to apply a bear hug. There's a surge of energy, a lot of screaming, and hey! Doc Samson is back to normal! The virus burned itself out. Or no, the virus just latched onto a bigger source of gamma radiation. The Hulk, now stronger and angrier than usual.

Spidey spends most of the next issue playing hit-and-run with the "ultra-Hulk" while Samson goes back to the lab to ask if there's a way to cure the virus. Weird note, in one of Peter David's Hulk issues, Hulk and Samson are having a therapy session, and one of them (Samson I think) refers to having had a strange dream about the two of them and Spider-Man that the other wouldn't believe. I assume that's a reference to this story, but not sure why PAD would be trying to call it a dream.

After this, Amazing goes into three or four part story where Venom's foes the Jury decide, having repeatedly gotten their butts handed to them by Venom, they should go after Spider-Man instead. For bringing the symbiote to Earth in the first place. Then the whole bit where Peter's parents turn out to be artificial beings created by the Chameleon comes to a head. (This issue is the one where Aunt May first starts to suspect Richard and Mary aren't who they appear to be, because of something to do with her anniversary). Then you have "grim n' gritty" Spider-Man for a few issues, and then the Clone Saga kicks off.

So yeah, this is a nice, quiet little two-parter in the midst of all that bullshit.

[1st longbox, 77th comic. Amazing Spider-Man #381, by David Michelinie (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Randy Emberlin and Al Milgrom (inkers), Bob Sharen (colorist), Rick Parker (letterer)]

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Cast a Long Shadow

This Audie Murphy Western starts out from a halfway interesting place. Matt (Murphy) learns he's inherited a massive cattle ranch. This comes as quite a surprise, since Matt despised the deceased, who he believed to be his father, and who treated his mother (who was probably a sex worker) very poorly. So when the man who delivers the news, the top hand at the ranch, says he and the other employees will pay Matt 20 grand to sell it so they can all have a share and be their own bosses, Matt jumps at the chance.

(The movie came out in 1959, and you can tell because it frames the idea of the workers being their own bosses and running things as a bad idea. That they aren't responsible enough to do it properly, and will just use it as an excuse to drink and party, rather than work. Also that the ones who own a 1/40th share are going to lord that over the ones with a 1/50th and so on. Nope, the only way it can succeed is with one strong, capitalist boss to keep all these bums in line. Collective ownership is a pipe dream according to this movie.)

But he's got to return to the ranch to get the money and sign the paperwork, which bring him into contact with his old flame (good), and all the other people there (mostly bad), who also look down on him because of his mother's profession and lack of a last name. (Although he's constantly referred to as "Matt Brown", but I guess a surname you give yourself doesn't count? And his mother's wouldn't either?)

The jeering of a bunch of slack-jawed, drunken hicks convinces Matt that he'll run the ranch after all. Except he's got one week to do a massive, rapid-march cattle drive or the bank will own the ranch. He doesn't do himself any favors by adopting what he thinks are his deceased father's management methods, firing people at the smallest infraction or defiance to make himself appear big. He alienates some of his few supporters, including his lady, and ends up with a quartet of dumbasses determined to ruin the cattle drive and kill him.

There's something there, in the unresolved daddy issues, that for all his anger towards the deceased, he can't envision running things any differently than he thinks the old man did. That he's gone from directing all his anger and bitterness inward, to sending it outward, now that he has a position of authority to act from.

Problem being, the movie just sputters out. The quartet make their attempt, it fails, with one of them finding his conscience at the last second. Matt learns the truth about his father, they reach Santa Fe. But the two survivors of the foursome just ride off, with no follow-up. The cattle made it, so I guess we assume he saved the ranch and patched things up with Janet, but there's no follow-up there either. The one of the quartet that changed sides was angry initially because he felt he got fired unfairly, and he was going to have to move his wife and children. Now he's dead. How's Matt going to explain that to the widow? How's that going to play out?

It just ends incredibly quickly after the murder attempt fails. Matt never confronts them, or is even aware they were after him. I guess because the war inside himself was more important than what these four did, but it's like the people making the movie got bored, or ran out of time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The "Powered Armor" Budget Subcommittee is a Choice Appointment

So when I was looking at that dialogue exchange from last Wednesday's post, I was thinking about how it's kind of pompous for Stark to be bragging about how custom-made his armor is, given the immense amount of money he put into designing it. Of course your stuff is top of the line, Tony, you're freaking rich.

But in Stark's defense, he does design his own suits, it's not like he paid someone else to do it. Unless that's going to be the next big disaster in his life. Tony Stark has been stealing other people's intellectual property for years for his armors, and using his financial clout to keep them from doing anything about it. Until that's actually established though, he's makes his own stuff.

And the Firepower armor was originally designed with military backing, so it's not like it was done with whatever pocket change Edwin Cord could find in the couch cushions. I don't know if that's still the case, given that Firepower was trying to break into Stark's HQ for upgrades. He might be on his own now.

But that got me thinking. In our world, the U.S. spends a frankly ludicrous amount on the military every year. Like 15% of all federal spending, and over 50% of the discretionary (appropriations determined) spending. And that's in our world. What's it's like in the Marvel Universe?

The U.S. there still seems to have a standard military like our own, judging by the number of tanks and jets the Hulk smashed over the years. But you also have the Hulkbusters, the various attempts at a Super-Soldier project, stuff like Firepower. I don't know if the Sentinels would fall under that, kind of hard to believe they wouldn't be getting at least some dollars from military spending. All that stuff would be astronomically expensive.

Or maybe it's not. I mean, Jonah Jameson funded the creation of the Scorpion, multiple Spider-Slayers, I think another villain called the Fly, and hired Luke Cage at least once. I would expect a newspaper publisher, especially in the '60s and '70s, to be fairly well off, but that's kind of nuts. As Spidey pointed out once, Jameson could have just given all that cash to the webslinger in exchange for him leaving town, and then Spidey could have been Milwaukee's problem. Or the founding member of the Great Lakes Avengers. Whichever.

So maybe things just aren't as expensive in the Marvel Universe. It's the unseen effect of all the super-scientists running around creating Pym Particles, unstable molecules, artificial intelligences, and new, almost indestructible alloys at the drop of a hat. The ideas keep popping up, so they get devalued. Or the heroic scientists give it away cheaply for the betterment of humanity or something, while the villains' stuff just get confiscated.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Car (1977)

Damn, this was terrible. Which is what I expected when I stumbled across it on Netflix, but it's even dumber than I figured it would be.

Mysterious car terrorizes a town somewhere in the desert. Car is impervious to bullets, but can't go on hallowed ground. Does not appreciate being cursed at, or perhaps does not appreciate the implication there's someone at the wheel. There's a point where it looks like a pair of cop cars have it beat because they're blocking the road, so the car goes into a roll (where you can see the car is getting damaged), it rolls over both cars (which explode instantly), and then drives out of the explosion unharmed.

I'm pretty sure there wasn't even an attempt at an explanation of why the car showed up there or what it's after, if anything. Why it doesn't kill James Brolin's character when he's standing right in front of it. It's the first time they've interacted, so it can't be that he somehow impressed it, and the car decided this dumbshit redneck cop, riding his motorcycle without a helmet whether he's taking his daughters to school or is in hot pursuit, is the challenge it craves.

The movie reminds me of Jaws in a way. Just a killing machine that humans are largely powerless to resist until they get desperate and angry enough to get stupid. There's even the poor decision to continue with the usual community activity after four deaths, which almost ends in tragedy. The car is not nearly as good as Jaws was at killing people, given the number of targets available. So many children and overweight moms fleeing on foot, on a dirt racetrack, and the car got none of them. Loser.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Fall is Slow

The solicitations for September are mostly rehashes from earlier in the year, which means there's still not much to comment on.

The first issue of Marvel's latest attempt at a Black Widow ongoing is coming out in that month, instead of May. They also moved the start of that Shang-Chi mini-series that was supposed to begin in June to September. So it's not a uniform thing, which is a little odd to me. Maybe it says something about when the Black Widow movie is going to try and hit theaters (Shang-Chi's getting a movie too, right?)

I didn't see any solicitation for Black Cat, Deadpool, or Runaways. I assume they're still going to be coming out that month, just with issues we've already been told about. I hope that's what it is, and Marvel didn't give a bunch of titles the axe.

Along the same lines as Marvel, Dark Horse has gone ahead and pushed the release of the first issue of Spy Island to September. I'd been wondering if it was going to pop up in June, so that answers that. Another three months to decide if I really want to try it. Can talk myself into or out of most anything by then.

The only thing I noticed of interest was the final issue of the Amethyst mini-series. Everything else was a crapload of Joker War and Death Metal nonsense. Hard pass.

Boom! has the fifth issue of Wicked Things. No sign of Sera and the Royal Stars from Vault, but they might just be on a skip month. Magnetic Press is soliciting the 8th and final volume of Infinity 8, but going straight to the trade. I don't think volume 7 has even popped up yet. The single issue version was originally going to end in June. I wonder if this means they're just skipping that approach entirely now.

Vertical is releasing the 6th volume of Kino's Journey: The Beautiful World, although I haven't gotten to volume 4 yet. Viz solicited the 4th volume of Way of the House Husband. I'm still debating whether to get volume 3. Image resolicited a trade from 2013 called Five Ghosts: Haunting of Fabian Grey, about a guy that ends up sharing his body with the ghosts of five authors, and now he can call on their powers. What powers, alcoholism and crippling depression? Period-typical cultural values? My interest in that really would depend on who the five ghosts were. If it's freaking Dickens, or Melville or something, no chance.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #119

"Under New Ownership" in Damage Control (vol. 2) #1, by Dwayne McDuffie (writer), Ernie Colon (artist), John Wellington (colorist), Rick Parker (letterer)

The second Damage Control mini-series took place entirely during Acts of Vengeance, which, if you know me, is considered a plus. They're called in by accident during the initial mass breakout at the Vault, although the biggest issue there is Captain America gets a little annoyed they were chummy with Thunderball. Mrs. Hoag resigns as head of the company to join the Commission on Superhuman Activities, leaving Robin in charge. The Punisher figures out Wilson Fisk was part owner of Damage Control (along with Tony Stark and Mrs. Hoag), and targets Robin as a possible criminal with connections to the Kingpin. Of course, Frank is in Dr. Doom's crosshairs, so he's got other problems.

The main conflict is that, with Fisk and Stark both selling their shares, the company is bought out by CarltonCo, and is promptly run into the ground. The new owner promptly guts the company, slashing pay, benefits, basically everything so he can use that money to pay off debts he incurred elsewhere. Boy, good thing such unscrupulous business practices don't take place all the time these days!

I don't know enough about the editorial staff at Marvel or DC in the late 1980s-early 1990s to know if McDuffie is making a point about either one with how Michael Souris and his weaselly assistant Roy Lippert behave, but I wouldn't really be surprised. Certainly the short-sighted, self-serving, cruel attitude towards the employees sounds familiar to things I've read about how those companies run. At one point, Souris tells Albert, the company comptroller who got Doom to pay his overdue bills in the last mini-series, that CarltonCo saves its tokens for the front office and the subway. Yikes. I'm guessing McDuffie was writing from his own experiences there.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Random Back Issues #34 - Coda #8

When she's trying very gently to explain to you what a dumbass you are.

This replaces Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #28 as the most recent comic to get the Random Back Issue treatment, as this came out at the beginning of 2019. Feels like a million years ago now. Kelvin, you gotta skip this post until you finish reading Coda. It's gonna spoil stuff

Coda #8 is a transition issue, written from Serka, the Urken warrior's perspective. The issue before, she finally got to confront the Whitlord who runs Thundervale. The Whitlords were the dark sorcerers who created the Urken to help them carry out their plans by convincing them there was some great holy reward if they did. Surprise! It was all bullshit, and Serka has become a wandering hero to atone, and also to see if she can find any of their old masters and, you know, kill them.

Unfortunately, this "Whitlord" was also bullshit. Serka headbutted to death an empty suit controlled by little rat things. It was good headbutt, though. So she's a bit out of sorts, and sneaks off alone to a community of Urken at the edge of a massive storm called the Everstorm. Where she allows her rage to take over and rampages until it burns itself out.
Hum, waking up alone, decides that when his wife leaves him a note promising she'll return and asking him to keep his promise not to seek her out, it is obviously time to do exactly the opposite. He's got himself a potion from the Murkrone to "cure" Serka, and it's time to act. If, he can get out of Thundervale alive. His old acquaintance the jester bandit isn't willing to let him go, and it turns into a hell-for-leather chase across the desert, Hum pumping more and more magical acker into Nag to keep it going.

Eventually the idiot rides directly into the Everstorm, and is nearly killed by another Urken before Serka finds him. He tries to get her to take the potion, and well, yeah, that wasn't a good idea. He winds up entirely alone, which is what sends him stumbling into position for the climax of the story.
The big theme of the issue seems to be that these two are married, but neither of them understand each other. Hum obviously doesn't understand her relationship to the berserker aspect of herself, except that it keeps taking her away from him. Serka thinks he doesn't understand what it's like to pin everything about yourself on one goal. He does, even if his goal is a really stupid and misguided one. But so is Serka's. The Whitlords would be a danger, sure, but she just wants to vent all that anger they cooked into her nature on them. She needs counseling, but the hubbie's out here offering pharmaceutical assistance.

[3rd longbox, 48th comic. Coda #8, by Simon Spurrier (writer), Matias Bergara (artist/color artist), Michael Doig (color artist), Jim Campbell (letterer)]

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Venom

Blame Alex. I should have known when he texted late last week, asking if I'd see Venom. Then when I visited over the weekend, he insisted I give it a try. Well, it went better than that time he insisted I try the first 10 minutes of the Baywatch movie. It gave me the chance to make numerous innuendoes about tongue or swallowing. Take what I can get.

We get close to two hours of Tom Hardy acting nuts, arguing with the symbiote when it calls him a loser, or asks if he can eat someone. Not quite as far out there as Nic Cage's performance in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but getting there. Hardy definitely leaves bite marks on the scenery. But watching him act like a lunatic who eats frozen tater tots and live lobsters while looking increasingly pale and sweaty is kind of funny.

Riz Ahmed as the creepy technocrat, high on how special and unique he thinks he is, makes for a pretty solid villain. The part where they're giving the schoolkids a tour, and he acts like he's going to answer the little girl's question, but then brushes it off after some pithy bullcrap. That show of being interested in other people and their questions, but he's so convinced of his superiority and power he doesn't even have to maintain it.

It's something I think he and Eddie have in common, because I don't feel like Eddie, for all that he exposes corruption, really cares about the people harmed by it. It's an ego thing, the joy of sticking it to people who think that never happens to them. Which yeah, is fun I'm sure. Everybody enjoys seeing entitled jerks get their comeuppance, but it's not necessarily a humanitarian pursuit.

Michelle Williams and Reid Scott as Anne and her new beau Dr. Dan do fine with what they've got. I did like that there isn't hostility between Eddie and Dan, them fighting over Anne. Granted, Eddie's got bigger problems, and the symbiote may have ideas of its own, but leaving that sort of posturing out was a good call. Would have just detracted from the movie, and you don't really need it for any emotional heft between Eddie and Anne. She has to weigh the feelings and concern she still has for him against the fact he did abuse her trust and he may always be the kind of selfish person who does that.

The big final battle between the two symbiotes is kind of a mess, with these two CGI goo monsters crashing into each other and throwing themselves around. The car chase through San Francisco is fine, nothing special as those things go. Tom Hardy's terrified reactions as the symbiote keeps saving him are what make it worthwhile.

I don't think it's a good movie by any stretch, but it exceeded my low expectations. That it's willing to be silly and that Hardy's willing to commit to playing Eddie as a guy who fell to pieces entirely once things went wrong helps.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Mocking Stark and Talking Language

I feel like I've never seen the word "bespoke" before this month. Certainly not in the way Tony's using it, to brag about how his suit is custom-made, unique, high-dollar, whatever. Besides this comic, I think I've seen it on Twitter somewhere recently. I figured it was a new word or meaning, recently created by the Gen Z population. Apparently this meaning of the word dates back to at least the 1700 or 1800s, though it only supposedly picked up in the U.S. in the last few decades. Go figure.

That fit for Tony Stark. Not only because he's absolutely the kind of person who brags about how he has the money to get specially-made outfits, and use it as a diss against someone who doesn't. Stark has more than a little Mean Girl in him, or maybe it's just Wealthy Frat Boy. "I say Hammer Industries, your bid presentation is almost as poorly put-together as your latest line of defense droids."

But also because Stark strikes me as the sort of adult who tries really hard to stay current on new slang and terms. Because it pays to be able to speak with the customer or labor pool on their terms, but also because Stark desperately wants to remain cool. "What's up, fellow teens?" And normally he can probably pull it off with what passes for his charm, and the fancy displays, and the high-quality whatever (cars, clothes, liquor, audio-visual presentations).

But he knows, no matter how many times he dies and then somehow brings himself back in a new or rebuilt organic body, he's getting older, and he's gonna be out of touch one of these days. All the kids will laugh at him. Thus, he tries to remain hip.

I feel like he's the only Marvel super-scientist that does this. Richards probably doesn't even think about it, same for Banner. Pym knows he's a lost cause (Hank Pym will never be cool). McCoy is probably relying on just appearing huggably adorable as he ages. T'Challa is just cool, full stop. Shuri and Amadeus Cho aren't old enough to worry about this yet (and given the rate characters age in the Marvel Universe, they never will be), but Cho probably will end up like Stark, while Shuri won't. Cho has too much invested in making sure people know he's the smartest guy in the room, even when he isn't.

Peter Parker probably depends on how much of a loser he's being written as this week. Brand New Day Parker definitely tries to use trendy lingo and sounds ridiculous. Most other, non-terrible, Peter Parkers don't bother. Like Pym, Peter pretty much accepts that he's not going to be cool. He may not always be correct, but his perception of the situation means he doesn't have to try.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Grandmaster

The movie is about Ip Man, the famous martial artist who trained Bruce Lee, except in some ways it isn't.  It starts in the mid-1930s, and touches briefly on his life under Japanese occupation - his refusal to collaborate, the poverty as a result, the loss of two children to disease - and then his move to Hong Kong after the war, which separates him from his remaining family as he tries to provide for them. But a lot of this is mentioned almost in passing.

It's almost more about the Gong family, because Gong Yutian is considered a Grandmaster among the Northern schools in China, and he's retiring. He travels to Foshan and asks the various Southern schools to select someone as a challenger against him. Despite having few students, Ip Man is the one everyone agrees on, and according to Master Gong, he wins the challenge.

But there's a divide, in that Master Gong's greatest student is his daughter, Gong Er, but she's not really supposed to know martial arts, and can't inherit and carry forward the title of his school, due to being a woman. (When she challenges Master Ip after he passes her father's challenge, so of the other masters advise him not to accept, claiming fighting women is a taboo on par with fighting monks, children, or Taoists). Her father wants her to stay out of martial arts and become a doctor instead. The school's future is in the hands of Gong's top male disciple, even though he's headstrong, cocky and doesn't really get everything his master is about.

It feels like the movie takes its time showing us what she went through in the 13 years between her fighting Master Ip, and them meeting again in Hong Kong. Maybe that's just because it's not as well known, so the filmmakers wanted to flesh it out. But it comes off as kind of a missed opportunity. it sure seems like there's a spark between the two of them, and if Ip Man makes his planned trip north for a rematch as intended, who knows? Instead, the war happens.

The cinematography is kind of interesting. A lot of shots of shadows against a wall, with the light source moving, or light and shadow moving across a person's face. I'm not clear on what it's supposed to mean, but it looks cool. Maybe impulses inside the person that are struggling with each other. There's an obligatory big fight in the streets in the rain, although they get that out of the way early. I liked the fight on the railroad platform near the end.

And there's a lot of focus during the fights on the feet or the hands. Either the person skidding backwards after being struck, or shifting their positioning, which I'm assuming means they're switching styles, or moving from more defense to offense. The way the camera lingers on those shots sometimes made me think of Sergio Leone, when he would pause on the eyes, or the hand as it hovers over the pistol. Drawing out the moment before the violence happens. It's not entirely the same, since the fights here go on much longer than Leone's showdowns, but it has a similar effect when the camera watches Ip Man slide his front foot into a different stance. You know something is about to happen.

Monday, June 15, 2020

What I Bought 6/12/2020

Cape-Con got pushed back to the second weekend in July, and I'm debating whether it would be a massively stupid idea to go or not. I want to, but I don't exactly want to get sick in the process, you know? I found two of the three comics I was looking for from last week. None of the stores in the area still had Amethyst #3 by the time I swung by.

Black Cat #11, by Jed MacKay (writer), C.F. Villa (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - That's pretty tame, as J. Scott Campbell covers go.

The Randall Gate is built, they know where the vault is they're going to steal from, they just need a way to pick the lock. Making a key requires breaking into Tony Stark's company to use a nanoforge. Which involves Felicia passing herself off as a researcher into engineering critical of Stark, then Tony getting distracted by an attack from the guy who kicked his ass back during the original Armor Wars. Firepower doesn't last quite long enough, as Felicia had to stop to knock out Bethany Cabe along the way, so Iron Man's waiting for Felicia when she tries to leave. He's not ready for her to be rocking her own suit of armor, though. I have to question the wisdom of trying to beat Iron Man in a "powered armor suit" battle.

My favorite part of this was Felicia and her crew discussing the different strategies they could use to hoodwink Stark. Mostly just for the unexplained items they mentioned needing to make them work. The Wagering Vicar requires a badger. The Seventeen Stepbrothers means you gotta have a triplane. Maybe she could look up Turner D. Century for that? It's hard for me to picture any of them being less work than having Dr. Korpse write up a bunch of phony articles for this scientists calling Stark a coward. But maybe Korpse doesn't consider that work. Might just be a perk to shittalk Stark. Eh, Tony can always stand to have his ego dinged.
C.F. Villa's artwork has a bit of manga influence, and then reminds me of Oliver Coipel's at times. Certain things about the shading, some of the facial expressions. When characters get surprised, or otherwise exaggerated, the art seems to loosen up a bit. Villa's version of Firepower reminds me more than a little of the Asgardian Destroyer armor, but I haven't seen the character since Mark Bright created him for Armor Wars, so maybe that's how he's looked for a while. The art works, there's nothing incredibly flashy about it, but it tells you what you need to know, and it looks pretty.

Deadpool #5, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Gerardo Sandoval (penciler/inker), Victor Nova (inker), Chris Sotomayor (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - All kaiju are secretly weak against rocks to the top of the skull. That's why they're so tall, so nothing can attack them there.

Jeff the Land Shark is playing with Smash Smash, the adolescent monster on the cover. Except Smash Squared decides to cross over to Manhattan and wreak havoc. Wade and Elsa (who won't stop hanging around and annoying Wade) chase after him. Wade keeps trying to reason with the monster, while Elsa keeps advising him how to kill it. They fight it briefly when it temporarily eats Jeff, but Wade makes one last attempt to talk it out. Two civilians die by nuclear/electric fire, and so Wade has to kill him.

It's funny to me Wade is worried his subjects aren't going to trust him as King if he kills one of them that's rampaging through the nearby city, but neither he nor Elsa think there's going to be any pushback against the legendary Monster Hunter hanging out with their king all the time. I'm pretty sure Elsa's killed more monsters than Kraven did. Oh well, not like Wade's judgment is ever worth a damn. From Elsa's perspective, if things do go wrong, she's on the scene to make them kick-splode, or whatever the appropriate Nextwaveism is.
Gerardo Sandoval takes a much more straightforward approach to panel layouts than Chris Bachalo. Mostly 4-7 panels per page, lot of short, wide panels that take up the width of the page. Easier to follow, if less unique. His Deadpool is more conventional also. Bachalo's Wade seemed kind of small in comparison to the people around, and his clothes seemed kind of loose-fitting, a little lumpy. Might have contributed to him seeming small, since it makes him look like he's wearing his dad's clothes. Sandoval's not drawing Wade as a giant, but he's got the conventional skintight spandex look going, and the usual broad-shouldered physique. If we left legibility out of the equation, I'd take Bachalo each time, but being able to tell what the hell is actually happening is kind of crucial to my enjoyment of comics.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #118

"Seems Legit", in Damage Control (vol. 1) #3, by Dwayne McDuffie (writer), Ernie Colon (penciler), Bob Wiacek (inker), George Roussos (colorist), Rick Parker (letterer)

Superhero fights cause property damage, yet most of the times we see New York City in Marvel Comics, it's basically OK. Superhero fights leave lots of dangerous crap just lying around afterward. Where's that stuff go? Who transports and stores it if the Avengers miss it? Damage Control was ostensibly about how those problems get addressed, but in a way that pokes fun at the Marvel Universe.

The teasing is gentle, because Dwayne McDuffie did like superheroes, did like getting to write Marvel characters. There's affection for the whole thing in his writing, rather than the sense the writer thinks you're an idiot for enjoying this kind of stuff and wants to mock you for it (see Ennis, Garth). It's not mean-spirited when we see the Thing overreact and bust out a wall to signal the rest of the FF because he found out Albert from Accounting went to the Latverian Embassy to make Doom settle his account before Damage Control fixed his building that turned to glass. For the characters, that kind of thing is just normal. Of course Albert would bring their intern along, and of course he would demand Doom provide i.d. if he's going to write a check. Why wouldn't those things happen?

So it's funny, and the solutions to the problems that crop up are clever. The day-to-day reconstruction and demolition stuff is far less challenging for the cast that the mayhem going on within the company. People unhappy about lack of promotions, annoying directives from high up the executive ladder, the office politics bullcrap that always makes work harder, even (or maybe especially so) if you like your work a lot, which most of the cast seem to.

Ernie Colon is able to blend the cast of basically regular, everyday people with the more fantastic elements easily, although most of the Damage Control employees look pretty natural in the spandex outfits marketing forces them to wear in this issue, even if they all despise doing so. Most of the time, those characters take their interactions with the costumed set pretty calmly, at least outwardly. Again, it's old hat for them. But when they need to actually be terrified or fuming about something, Colon gets that across no sweat.

There were two more Damage Control mini-series after this one, and we're going to look at the second one next week.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Random Back Issues #33 - Spider-Girl #87

'Doohickey'? Mayday, please, the appropriate technical term is "dingus" What would your father say?

We're looking at the middle chapter of a three-parter today, where Spider-Girl gets mixed up in a fight between the the Fantastic Four's kids and Apox, the Omega Skrull. Think "Super-Skrull, but with the Power Cosmic".

So you've got Franklin Richards (as Psi-Lord), plus Kristoff (wearing a Dr. Doom faceplate), Alyce and Jake (Ben and Alicia's kids), and Torus (Johnny and Lyja's son, but he's got Namor's eyebrows, although I guess they're supposed to take after his mom). Apox lost last time (about 40 issues ago) because there was a device at the base of his skull that fed him energy, but as Mayday finds out, that flaw's been corrected.

The kids aren't doing much more than annoying Apox, who is there to kill the originals, but it's enough for Apox to signal his Skrull warship to put a force field around the HQ. He thinks it's just to keep anyone from interfering, but the Skrulls aren't complete dopes. It's actually an extermi-field, which absorbs solar energy and will eventually blow up the entire city.

The team has a plan, but Torus gets cocky and gets taken hostage as Apox goes tearing through the building. Franklin and May give chase and pass by a bunch of inactive robots that Reed projects his consciousness into. That seems like the sort of thing you'd see in Earth X, but I picked up some of that last week and Reed's just moping around in Doom's pants. Lame.
Franklin explains Reed's body was damaged by radiation from a villain's doomsday weapon in the Negative Zone, and that Sue has been keeping the tear in reality the weapon formed closed with a force field ever since. The villain isn't named, only that he's a 'cosmically-powered warlord from another dimension'. I'm assuming some from DeFalco's generally derided FF run, but I don't know who it would be.

Apox gets the information from Torus (from telepathy or hypnosis I'm not sure) and reaches the Negative Zone portal. Jake and Alyce (whose powers remind me of X-Ray from the U-Foes) slow him down enough for Franklin and Mayday to catch up and Franklin has him pinned, but Jake makes the same mistake Torus did and distracts Franklin where he loses focus and Apox flattens the lot of them. Jake gets blasted through at least five floors, and Alyce gets knocked clear out of the building and bounces off the extermi-field. Ouch.
May pulls out the classic Spider-move of leaping around and hitting Apox from every angle really fast and. . . it doesn't work. Apox swats her (although he compliments her as the only one who attacked him like a warrior), and rips open the doorway to the portal while May barely keeps Franklin and Torus from being sucked in. Next issue, she charges in alone after Apox to try and stop him.

For a Tom DeFalco book, there is surprisingly only one subplot mentioned in the issue (if we ignore Mayday's long-established crush on Franklin Richards). Normie Osborn is running Oscorp and telling his designers to work on building some weapons. Glider-like weapons. He's being vaguely threatening about it, too. Normie had bonded with the Venom symbiote recently, and so the implication is the symbiote is influencing him. I think there ended up being a swerve there, that Normie's just trying to be focused and confident, but not evil.

[10th longbox, 90th comic. Spider-Girl #87, by Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (writer/penciler), Sal Buscema (inker/finishes), Gotham (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)]

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Undiscovered Islands - Malachy Tallack

The title is a bit of a play on words, in that it isn't referring to islands that are out there waiting to be discovered, but islands that were claimed to have been discovered and then couldn't be corroborated later. Tallack also refers to them as "ex-isles" a few times, which made me chuckle.

The book is broken up into small sections, focusing on categories like islands that were "discovered" during early European imperialist era, or fabled lands that it was believed sank back into the sea, or places people flat out made up so they could name them after themselves or some wealthy dope they were trying to butter up.

Each island only gets about three pages, but I guess when you're dealing with locations that might have only been described once, there's only so much you can say. Guy claims he finds island, describes its location and bizarre wildlife, no one ever finds said island again. It's kind of cool that it was still happening as recently as 2000. People finding out there's no island where their map claims there is an island.

It's far from in-depth on any of the islands, but it's a decent quick overview. Some of the islands have had entire books devoted to the history and mythology around them, which Tallack lists at the end of the book. So this isn't a bad resource to use to find options for more information on places that interest you.

'The story of Hy Brasil demonstrates a problem common to many of the places in this book: namely, it is hard to establish facts about phantoms. Much has been written about the island over the centuries, and much of what has been written is certainly wrong. The traditional story, repeated in countless books and articles, begins with cartography and then moves backwards into folklore.'

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Indulging My Astronomy Interests

Despite my general disinterest in the first issue of Rogue Planet, there was one thing that caught my attention, keying in on my interest in how strange fictional planets would actually work. Setting aside that in this case, "alien gods" are probably the correct answer.

Above is the planet in question, floating through the interstellar medium, untethered to any other celestial body. It's cloaked in what seems to be a dense, red atmosphere. All three panels which show the planet from space, it looks basically the same.

OK, so first, it's maintained an atmosphere without any consistent source of external warmth. I was going to say without any source, period, but I started looking online and while the vacuum of space might drop to around -450 Fahrenheit, there is actually stuff in interstellar space. And some of those clouds of dust and atoms can be up to 17 million degrees. I don't know that there would be enough of that to have an appreciable effect, and anytime it wasn't in an area like that, heat would diffuse from the planet back into the void.

Basically, it seems like the planet shouldn't have any atmosphere all the time. Like Pluto, which only has one when it's closest to the Sun, but then freezes and falls to the surface as the dwarf planet moves further away.

But the planet does still emanate heat from its core, and it's probably bigger than Pluto by a fair amount. It's probably at least a Titan or Venus-thickness atmosphere given how invisible the surface is, so putting its size somewhere in that range isn't out of the question. Although if it was a Venus density atmosphere, the crew might be in danger of being crushed by the pressure (although the suits probably could be built to withstand that. There wasn't any mention of high gravity, so probably not bigger than Earth.
So if the planet is generating its own heat, it probably still has an actively rotating core. If it's generating enough heat the planet isn't a frozen ball of ice (which is apparently isn't), it's probably rotating really fast. If the outer crust is keeping pace, that might explain the high winds. Jupiter's a gas giant, so on a much different scale, but it kind of operates the same way.

Rapidly rotating core would likely generate a magnetic field around the planet. Which might explain the auroras that are in the sky in every panel once the crew are on the planet's surface. But auroras on Earth are caused by low-energy charged particles (mostly electrons) from the Sun that slip past or through our magnetic field at the poles and interact with oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.

Of course, this planet ain't got no Sun to blast it with electrons. There are charged particles in the interstellar medium, but they're cosmic rays. Which are high-energy charged particles, and don't interact with atmospheric gases in the same manner. They'll give you superpowers (or more likely cancer), but not auroras. Jupiter has auroras that are caused by interactions between its magnetic field and material blasted off from Io by the moon's volcanoes, but this planet ain't got no moon, neither. There's no sign of volcanic activity on the planet, even if it could erupt with enough force to eject material beyond its own upper atmosphere.

It'd be interesting if it was the ship through that was the cause. Particles or material stuck to or carried along with the ship reacting to the atmosphere as they heat up on entry. If there is someone or something waiting for new arrivals, it would even work as a dinner bell or security alarm of sorts. If the sky turns green, that means they've got themselves another pigeon.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Session 9

This is kind of an odd attempt at a horror movie, about a small company that wins the bid to get all the asbestos and whatnot out of this abandoned insane asylum in one week. Because the town intends to turn it into their new town hall.

Honestly, who in the fuck would want their town hall in an insane asylum? I guess that's one way to cut down on people coming by to complain or file permits or petitions.

It's a crew of five guys, and each of them has some problem or the other. Gordon is trying to keep this business together, and things are tense at home. This job should really take two weeks, but he promised they'd do it in one, but had to hire his entirely inexperienced nephew Jeff as an extra hand. Phil (David Caruso) hates Hank because Hank stole his girlfriend. Hank is trying to find an exit plan. Mike is thinking about going back to law school, then gets really interested in the tape-recorded sessions he finds in the basement of interviews with this one patient with multiple personalities.

(I thought the Doctor on the tapes was voiced by Caruso as well, and that was going to mean something, but it's actually an actor named Lonnie Farmer. Wasn't sure how that twist was going to work even if I was right.)

The movie can't quite seem to make up its mind what kind of horror movie it is. Sometimes it feels like it's playing with a supernatural presence within the asylum, or that some horror still roams the halls. Other times it's aimed at the danger being the stress one of the guys is under. But it won't commit, so it just wanders back and forth between the two poles. There's a lot of gaps in among all that.

It never really clarifies why Mike is so interested in these tapes. There's mention that his dad was district attorney, but the patient's situation doesn't seem like the sort of thing where the case would ruin someone's career. It may simply be meant to be curiosity, but the way he keeps faking like the breakers are blowing so he has an excuse to sneak back down there makes it seem like more. Hank is attacked, disappears, reappears, disappears again, is found, and I'm not sure he could do all that in the condition he was apparently in. When the crew is looking for Hank, they (and we) hear someone running on the next floor up and the crew splits up to keep us guessing about who has bad intentions. But we never find out who exactly they heard, and it can't be a case of just one of them being crazy because all of them hear the footsteps.

There was the potential to be a decent - not great, but solid - low-budget thriller movie, and they flushed it down the tubes.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Live, Die, Load Your Previous Save

He grew a big beard, as you just noted. That's what happened to his face. Good thing she's not a detective.

Live Die Reload is about an angry cop killing the guy who's putting it to his ex-wife. OK, so the guy is also the mayor. And the mayor is also nearly finished killing 100 people to undo a curse placed upon a katana wielded by Hideyoshi Tokugawa. And once the curse is undone, the Mayor will be immortal and possibly command an army of the dead. I was less clear on whether that was literal or figurative.
The annoying thing is the story has to lampshade how stupid the Mayor is to send people to kill Detective Cronenberg before the ritual is complete, because it is really fucking stupid. Even stupider, Cronenberg's Captain, in an attempt to keep the detective occupied, puts him in charge of investigating the heist of the katana from the museum it was in. Cronenberg straight up tells them that if they'd just left him alone, it would have taken him months to piece anything together. But the Mayor just couldn't wait to see if his honey could get Cronenberg to sign the stupid divorce papers this time.
Stefano Cardoselli's art is all white space and thick black ink. Going for a noir vibe, but a lot more graphic violence in this, not much subtlety. Like a more recent era Frank Miller comic, or if '80s Stallone tried to do a noir movie. Now part of me wants to see that movie, just for the absolute train wreck it would be.

Everybody either has intense (verging on crazed) eyes, or their eyes are hidden in deep shadows. There's a lot of killing in this book, and the dark blood flies everywhere, minus the occasional scenes where two people stop to talk for a few seconds. The ex-wife only appears in person once, and there's never any sense of what she thinks about all this, or if she's even aware of it. It's two idiots murdering dozens of people over her, or more accurately, just venting their rage at the steady decline they think their city is in on each other and everyone around them.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #117

"I Hope You Got Your Mushroom Cloud In The Correct Size," in Cutey Honey a Go Go!, by Go Nagai (creator/original story), Shimpei Itoh (writer/artist), Hideaki Anno (planning cooperation)

This was a comic Shimpei Itoh started back in 2005, based on a live-action film adaptation of Go Nagai's original manga, but got canceled before it finished. Shimpei mentions in an afterword of the collection that he finished 10 chapters and it was meant to be done at 15, but there's no way that would have worked at the pace he was going, even if the book wasn't canceled. He got a little too interested in some of the side characters he came up with and lost the overarching plot. That includes a whole thing about a headmistress at a private school that has some deeply abusive and fucked up thing going with one of her students. That didn't really seem necessary or relevant to the story.

This is my only experience with that fictional universe, but I'm guessing the general outline is fairly accurate. Honey's a super-advanced android who possesses a special "system" that basically allows her to convert energy into anything she can conceive, if she knows what it is and has enough energy. In practice, that's mostly clothes (via one of those magical girl style costume changes), or a sword. But she also creates plate armor - with a boob window, defeating the point - a motorcycle, a fighter jet, and a fireman's outfit and hose.

She's fighting a secretive criminal group called Panther Claw, led by the lady up above, herself an android, with an vast army of devoted faceless goons and several stronger subordinates that are all extremely curvy and more than a little fetishy. The only other full-page splash in this thing was of one of them, called Scissors Panther, and there was no way I was posting that page. I would have skipped this book entirely first.

She's got backup from a gung-ho lady cop carrying more guns than the Punisher named Aki Natsuko, once Aki stops arresting Honey every time they meet (there's one scene where Aki opens fire on Honey and the person she's fighting, then tells them to freeze, and they both yell at her that she's got the order backwards). Plus a cocky goofball of a reporter who knows a lot more than he's letting. He reminds me of Lupin a little bit, in the way his attempts at charm alternate between cheesy and sleazy, and the way he's skilled enough to repeatedly avoid death while looking like a lucky klutz.

There's a pretty large body count, mostly cops and random civilians, but even when it's people getting their heads or limbs torn off, it's mostly bloodless. Guy takes a tomahawk to the head and it just sits there like his skull is made of mashed potatoes or something. Not necessarily a complaint, but my past experience with magna's been when there's a lot of dying, the creator like to throw the blood and gore around (Hellsing for example). This has a lot of humor in it, mostly in the contrast between grumpy, extremely serious Aki and, well, everyone else (Honey's naive, the reporter acts like a goof, none of Aki's subordinates are as gung-ho as her), but then it also has lots of people being slaughtered. Weird contrast.

That is it for the "C"s! Next week, and for roughly the next 14 months, we'll be in the "D"s! And no, it's not all because of Deadpool. He only accounts for one-sixth of the posts.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Random Back Issues #32 - Amazing Spider-Man #400

Let's pause to appreciate the hilarity of the notion of the Spider-Clone managing to straighten anything out.

We get to look at an anniversary issue today, which means extra pages! Lots to discuss. Amazing Spider-Man #400 was notable at the time for finally, after I don't know how many heart complications, killing Aunt May. Of course, they later reversed this by saying it was actually an actress or something hired (brainwashed?) by Norman Osborn, and the real May was alive. Then the MC2 (Spider-Girl) universe went the opposite direction and said the "May" Osborn had abducted was Peter and Mary Jane's daughter. That always made more sense to me, and the fact the main Spider-titles went the other way, when they didn't know what the hell they were doing, would seem to back that up.

The issue Peter rushing to the hospital because Aunt May actually woke up from being in a coma for the last 10 issues or so. Peter's ecstatic, as is Ben Reilly, who only came back to NYC because of what happened to May in the first place, as he couldn't ignore his concern for her, even as he hates having Parker's memories. With the crisis over, Ben's at a loose end on what to do next. Peter hates having him around, and it's a mess for Ben to be in a place he has so many memories of, but can't do anything with, since they belong to someone else. Plus, Kaine's lurking, and Ben figures it's only a matter of time before he comes after Ben again.
Back in Queens, Mary Jane's been trying to get things ready for May's return, and May somehow sees this burst of activity and knows MJ's pregnant. OK, so "fetus radar" is a thing now? Using this power weakens May, and while MJ takes her upstairs to rest, Ben slips in the back door to speak with Peter. Which is how you get the two of them, in costume, talking in May's backyard in broad daylight. Brilliant, guys. Clearly all the clones are sharing brainpower. The more there are, the dumber they each get. Ben says he's leaving and they'll never see him again. Ha.

There's a few pages of random stuff, Peter and MJ watching old family movies, some crap with Judas Traveler I ain't even getting into, Ben having an identity freakout when a cop hassles him for dozing on a bus stop bench. Yeah, because there were so many people needing the bench. The next day, Peter and May visit the Empire State Building, where May reveals she's known Peter was Spider-Man for some time, and that she's proud of him. Then she gets tired and they have to go home, where she says it's her time and she passes away. Peter quotes some of Peter Pan that she read to him when he was a kid, and that her soul(?) repeated to him when he nearly died recently. In a story involving Doc Ock helping cure him of a virus the Vulture infected him with. There's no part of that sentence that makes any sense.

I love the contrast between Peter, who is grieving but at least has people to lean on, and Ben, who has absolutely no one and didn't even get to say goodbye. That continues to the funeral, where Ben has to visit alone, after the service, since it'd be kind of a problem for Peter to have a surprise twin present. Although Flash attended with a notorious cat burglar, so "surprise twin" might not be that strange.

After the wake, two cops show up at Peter's house to arrest him for a murder in Salt Lake City. Because they're dicks. Which doesn't do MJ's mental state any good, and then Ben shows up in her home saying they need to talk. Not that being confronted by an exact double of her husband minutes after he was arrested helps, either.

If I remember right, Kaine actually killed the person, the Salt Lake cop's crooked partner. Being a clone, he has Parker's fingerprints. By remarkable coincidence, the murder took place during the two weeks Peter was in a grave courtesy of Kraven. So he has no alibi that doesn't involve blowing his secret identity. I'm pretty sure Ben switches places with Peter in prison, or Peter breaks out for a time and then Ben turns himself in instead. Peter charges off to hunt down Kaine and bring him in. Which turns into a whole thing with more clones, that Traveler guy, and Doc Ock's girlfriend trying to kill Kaine for killing Otto (who would later be resurrected by the Hand, of all people).

Peter only gets Kaine to confess (Kaine ultimately explains it by claiming he had a grudge against Parker for. . . reasons, and altered his face and fingerprints to resemble him) by threatening to march into the courtroom and spill his secret identity, which would ruin his life. This was back when just Harry Osborn, Venom, and the Puma knowing Peter Parker was Spider-Man was a huge pain in the butt, unlike recent years when everyone knows who everyone is. Kaine thinks Peter's actually the clone and wants him to be happy (while hating Reilly who he thinks is the original Peter Parker), which is why he fesses up.

And now I have a massive headache. Goddamn it, Nineties.
There are two backup stories, both written by DeMatteis. The first (by the Romita Jr. and Sr. art team) focuses on Ben Reilly in the day or so after the first Spider-Clone story, as Ben comes to grips with the fact he's just a copy. He struggles to find some reason to continue, and fights against a morality he feels is imposed on him by Parker's memories. I think this backup story in particular forms the thing about Ben Reilly that makes him so interesting to me. That's there's so much that's a part of him he feels burdened by, because he can't reap any of the benefits that come with it. Remembering all of Parker's friends and loved ones, but not being able to have them as part of his life, because someone's already occupying that role.
The other story is by DeMatteis and scripted by Stan Lee, with art by the Grummett/Milgrom duo, and looks at the morning after Peter captured Uncle Ben's killer. When Peter has to come to grips not only with his guilt, but his aunt's sorrow and grief at being alone. He tries to boost her spirits by pointing out the killer was captured, getting ready to tell her he's Spider-Man. But May reacts angrily, declaring that Spider-Man just used Ben's death for his own publicity, and Peter should never mention him again. Yeah, Pete's not gonna pull that off.

He resolves he can't tell her, but he will someday. Even if you allow that the May that dies in this issue isn't her, Peter still never actually told her. She figured it out in the JMS/Romita Jr. run by letting herself into his apartment when he was too beat to shit to sense it, then confronting him a few issues later.

[1st longbox, 81st comic, Amazing Spider-Man #400, by J.M. DeMatteis and Stan Lee (writers), Mark Bagley, John Romita Jr., and Tom Grummett (pencilers), Larry Mahlstedt, John Romita Sr., and Al Milgrom (inkers), Bob Sharen, Paul Becton, and Chia-Chi Wang (colorists), Bill Oakley, Ken Lopez, and Starkings/Comicraft (letterers)]

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

What I Bought 6/1/2020

All the world's a trash fire, but at least I have comics to help me ignore that fact. Less corrosive to the liver than alcohol. Now here's two comics about dying worlds!

Rogue Planet #1, by Cullen Bunn (writer), Andy MacDonald (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Crank! (letterer) - I don't think that suit is still sealed against the outside.

There's a planet that drifts, not tethered to any star or other celestial body. And a salvage crew picks up a distress beacon, so they go to investigate. They find a whole bunch of downed ships, then some weird fleshy structure. They get attacked by a giant snake thing made of teeth and mystery meat and one of them dies. Most of the crew is, understandably, ready to leave, but the boss guy insists they are going to make money on this stop. Then some bodies appear.

This didn't land with me. It should. Strange setting, weird monsters, vague mysteries to theorize about. Ought to be right up my alley, but no luck. I don't know why, other than something about Bunn's writing doesn't connect with me. The dialogue doesn't get any reaction from me, doesn't have any punch to it. The closest attempt to something snappy is one of the characters agreeing they should wear their environmental suits, because he needs extra protection for his junk. But it falls flat.

Maybe that's the point. These folks have been a crew for a long time, it's not working from a profit standpoint. They're tired, they're a little lackadaisical. They all know each other well enough they know each other's tics and dumb jokes. Them being tired and on the brink is in the text, them being too well-acquainted with each other is me extrapolating.

MacDonald is definitely going for an Alien vibe with things. The design and shape of the ship is boxy rather than anything sleek. The weird creatures that seem to get inside and attack from within. Granted that instead of structure that look like ribs or skeletal structures, you get weird fleshy obelisks and whatnot, but that same sort of thing. Except nothing has quite the same dingy, battered look as the Nostromo. The mechanic, Franco, mentions the environmental systems have always been a bit tweaked (in response to the Captain's question of why it is snowing inside his ship), but the ship looks perfectly fine. There aren't a bunch of panels pulled open to expose wiring, nothing dented or with peeling paint. Maybe that just means these people take better care of their stuff, but for a crew that sounds like it's about to go under if this mission doesn't produce a big score, that doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

Sera and the Royal Stars #7, by Jon Tsuei (writer), Audrey Mok (artist), Raul Angulo (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - I see the flaming serpent lady has made herself a nice anime sword. But is it a gunsword? I've heard those are kinda essential.

Sera wants to chase after her captured sister, but is talked out of it by Antares. It's one of those "everybody will suffer if you don't get your shit together" speeches. Aldebaran and Fomalhaut almost get killed by a couple of the Draco siblings, but reach the Demon Star, Algol. Algol tells them why and how she succeeded in killing another star once before, and what the price was.

The question becomes, how much are the Royal Stars prepared to sacrifice to restore themselves, which will allegedly aid this world? From what Algol describes, the star she killed became a black hole, which then destroyed many worlds, stars, and lives. More than what that star had already destroyed? Don't know. More than it would have destroyed if left unchecked? Probably not based on her description. We don't know how many other worlds might benefit if the Royal Stars regain their old power, and we don't know how many stars they'll have to kill to achieve that. The two siblings are planning to call in the rest of their family, so the numbers are gonna go up. It's a murky ground.
I like Algol's design. I always have to remind myself blue is hotter than red when it comes to flames and stars, which would mean she's burning hotter now than she was before. Not sure what I should make of that, though. She's also the first star we've seen that wasn't strictly a biped. All the others conform to "two legs, two arms". She has the arms, but no legs obviously. It's not related to her actions killing the first light, because even in her original form, she was like this. I was going to wonder if it had something to do with her perhaps being a much older star, if she was possibly the second star, after the one she killed. That may not be how it works, as the Seven Sisters were around for her to consult before she acted, and the First Light was bipedal as well.