Monday, August 31, 2020

Not a Lot New in November

It's like the title says, the November solicits aren't brimming with much good news. Not a surprise, everyone is probably expecting a resurgence of covid as the weather gets worse, and everything shuts down again. Or the imposition of a police state by the current administration in an attempt to refuse to surrender power after they hopefully lose the election. And with that cheery thought. . .

I didn't see anything of interest from IDW or Image. Or DC once I could actually track down their solicitations. Several series were ending, though they still had plenty of those Tales from the Dark Multiverse comics. If that's something you're interested in, you poor bastard. No listed issue of Wicked Things for Boom, but that series has done pretty well about coming out, so I can't complain. Or I could, but I won't for once.

The first issue of Chelsea Cain and Elise McCall's Spy Island finally comes out this week. So maybe I'll know soon whether I'll want to buy the third issue in November! Reading the solicit, I do have to wonder how they prove the necklaces are made with real mermaid teeth. Maybe those are just pig teeth. I know how these scams work.

Marvel is going to try (and fail) once again to make people care about the Eternals, by handing Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic a new series. I'm sure the dozen variant covers will do the trick. Enjoy the five issues before its inevitable cancelation. Or don't, whichever. I don't care.

In news more pertinent to my interests, that Taskmaster mini-series Jed MacKay and Alessandro Vitti are doing is finally starting up. Hooray! Deadpool is still dealing with the fallout from Elsa briefly teleporting him into a goo dimension several issues ago.

It looks like Marvel is also slowly booting back up that Outlawed event, where all the teen heroes are being chased around by jackbooted facists in tactical gear. I kind of wondered if, given the current climate of protest, Marvel would just shelve that one. Given their tendency to be on the wrong side of things, I would expect the story to conclude, "Yes, these children who are trying to make the world a better place should be locked up extrajudicially. The adults who have fucked things up so impressively know what's best." I guess we'll see. The Power Pack mini-series that was part of it has shown up. I didn't remember that it was written by Ryan North and Drawn by Nico Leon. That's encouraging; I like those dudes' work.

Outside of that, Aftershock had Kaiju Score by James Patrick and Rem Broo, about a crew trying to pull of a heist during a giant monster attack. Which I read somewhere has already been optioned to become a movie. So maybe I should just wait for the film? I wonder which one will more prominently feature the monster? Probably the comic. The movie will take the Cloverfield or recent Godzilla approach and focus on the people and the monster is just kind of in the background, roaring occasionally. Cheaper that way.

Scout Comics has issue 3 of Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists. My initial attempt to get the first issue failed, but hopefully I'll get it in time to decide whether to buy the third issue. Source Point Press has the second issue of that Broken Gargoyles mini-series. The "dieselpunk" thing set after World War 1.

And that's pretty much it for me.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #129

"How Do You Pick Which Building Gets Which?," in Darkwing Duck (vol. 1) #9, by Ian Brill (writer), James Silvani (artist), Lisa Moore (colorist), Deron Bennett (letterer)

This was originally solicited as a mini-series, but apparently had enough positive response it became an ongoing by the time the second issue actually shipped. Which made it the first ongoing series from outside Marvel or DC I bought regularly (meaning not for just one arc, ala Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I don't retain affection for everything I enjoyed in my childhood, but Darkwing Duck? Yeah, apparently.

Ian Brill and James Silvani took the "time jump" approach, in that the series starts with things at an unfamiliar place, and advances from there, revealing what happened as things progress. In this case, that Darkwing's retired from crimefighting and taken a soul-crushing cubicle job for the monopolistic company that's taken over the city. His sidekick is gone, his arch-foes are either missing or also working for the same company as him. It gives the reader a few different mysteries to wonder about, and lets the creative team do the "hero comes out of retirement" story.

(More than a couple of the covers are Dark Knight Returns homages/parodies).

After that, there's a general return to the status quo, but it gets shaken up by bringing a lot of mystical elements into play. Which isn't something entirely foreign to Darkwing stories - his girlfriend was a witch or sorceress, I'm not sure which is the more accurate term - but it's not his typical setting. Darkwing getting tangled up in FOWL's attempts to raise "Duckthulu" didn't work for me as much as Negaduck and Scrooge's old enemy Magica having themselves a temporary team-up, but Lovecraftian horrors are maybe a little too metaphysical for me? I prefer a horror you can punch back at.

Silvani is able to capture the characters and the look of St. Canard perfectly, as well as keeping up with the action sequences and adding all sorts of little Easter eggs. They create a couple of new villains, including One-Off, a former pitcher who can throw any object with unerring accuracy, but he has to throw something different every time. Lots of opportunity for fun there. The second story involves a bunch of mind-controlled Darkwings from different universes running amok, and Silvani nails the various references, from Doctor Who Darkwing, to Optimus Darkwing.

(Although the best Darkwing is Bowling Ball Darkwing, obviously. )

The last few issues are a crossover with a Ducktales series that had just started, but I think there were some disagreements between Brill and Darkwing's creators, maybe. I know when they released  the big collected edition of the whole series, Brill stated some of it had been changed from what he wrote originally. All my copies are in single issues, so I had to infer some of the changes from the next Darkwing series, which didn't show up until 2016.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Random Back Issues #41 - GrimJack #29

Maybe let's just let Mr. Bullet stay in the barrel.

We've got a standalone issue of GrimJack today, which means I don't have to explain a lot of backstory, but there's still a lot going on. Tim Truman left 10 issues ago, and we're still two issues away from Tom Mandrake stepping in as artist. Shawn McManus is the guest artist, but as I recall, some of the readers were not fond of his version of GrimJack. I think someone described him as looking like a troll. Not like Gaunt was winning any beauty contests before.

Anyway, issue starts with Gaunt getting his new, cybernetic hand put attached. He lost his hand during the Trade Wars storyline, after he was in a giant floating pyramid when it fell from the sky. The first replacement (a big clunky thing more like a multitool than a hand) got busted in a fight with the serial killing cyborg Kalibos. So Gaunt took the guy's hand as a replacement for the replacement. Seems fair.

Now with two hands, Gaunt takes the case of Ann Carpentier. She's a widow, with two sons. Mark's successful, Danny's a junkie. Danny was found murdered in Hogan's Alley the day before. Mark feels responsible for not protecting his brother, and is hunting the killer. Ann wants Gaunt to stop him. He takes the case, but points out you go to Hogan's Alley to get leg-dropped, I mean, to escape Stalag-13, I mean, to hire a killer, so why was Danny there?

The last place Danny was seen alive is a diner that promises "home cooking". Gaunt says that might be true. . . if you lived in a toilet. Not all that different from the Perkins near my last apartment, then.

The cook (seen above) isn't helpful at first, but quickly changes his tune. Shotgun is very persuasive. Danny was with a collector/enforcer named Kaliber, who works for Mac Heath. Heath (a talking shark) says Danny owed him money. Kaliber wasn't supposed to kill him, 'cause the dead can't pay debts. Mac tries to hire Gaunt to find Kaliber, Gaunt refuses, Mac has his boys try to muscle him, Gaunt shoots one. Once there's blood in the water, it's a feeding frenzy and GrimJack bails, although he has to shoot one more fish on the way out the door.
Ann meets him, and says Mark talked to an informant named Flea who promised to take him to Kaliber. He did, he just also told Kaliber they were coming. Gaunt gets the location out of Flea, the shotgun being a solid 3-for-3 in problem-solving this issue, but Kaliber's a little big for Gaunt to tangle with. Kaliber explains he felt bad for Danny, who was suffering. So he ended it for him, even though it's got him in dutch with his boss.

Gaunt warns Mark killing someone will change him, speaking from (considerable) experience. Mark lets it go, and Ann gives Kaliber some money to try and pay Mac, case closed. Except Gaunt admits to Ann he'd have killed Kaliber if it was his son that died, and after she and Mark leave, he wonders if she'd be so merciful if the successful brother was the one murdered.

That GrimJack, always looking sunny side up. He just happens to live under a dumpster.

The Munden's Bar back-up is written and drawn by Fred Hembeck, and involves a guy trying to sell Gordon on a table that will grab people from other dimensions and bring them here for the amusement of the patrons. The bar's mirror is already a dimensional interface, what more do you need? Anyway, the guy grabs Lou Grant and Ted Baxter from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, of all things. Is Hembeck from Minnesota?
Ted's pretty freaked out, especially when one of the customers wonders if vanilla Earthlings taste as good as chocolate ones. Lou gets in his face and rallies the whole bar behind him, dismissing it as no big deal because, 'I've dealt with the network guys.' More comfortable, Ted brags about being the best darn anchorman on Earth, leading to the lady confusing him for Walter Cronkite. Ted drives everyone out of the bar with his life story, the salesman sends them home. Gordon chucks the salesman out, and GrimJack comes back to an empty bar in which to do his 'existential brooding.'

If I remember right, someone wrote into the letters page complaining angrily about how disrespectful this story was, because Ted Knight had passed away not long before it came out. He died in August of '86, and the inside cover says this came out December of '86.

[5th longbox, 54th comic. GrimJack #29, "Mercy" by John Ostrander (writer), Shawn McManus (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Linda Lessman (colorist), David Cody Weiss (letterer). "The Best Darn Anchorman in Cynosure!" by Fred Hembeck (writer/artist), Linda Lessman (colorist), Steve Haynie (letterer)]

Thursday, August 27, 2020

One Man's Initiation: 1917 - John Dos Passos

After Hemingway talked him up so much, I had to check dos Passos out myself, so my dad got me a collection of his first three books, starting with this one, which is really more a novella. It follows Martin Howe, an ambulance driver in France.

Dos Passos describes the war from a limited view. Brief, personal scenes, mostly before or after battles. Martin and his friend Tom exploring the abbey where they're stationed. Watching a sergeant debate taking the new boots off a dead soldier before he's buried. Trapped in a single dugout, gas mask on during a shelling. Martin's words suggest he sees the wider scope of the war, the stupidity that drives it on, but we only see bits and pieces. His weariness and despair are the evidence left behind.

His closest contact with battle in the story is when the stations he's at are being shelled. Which is, as he notes, is still more than close enough to kill you, but not really in the trenches. He only encounters enemy soldiers when they're prisoners, and they're marched past him as muddy, dead-eyed puppets. The soldiers in charge of them don't know or care how many prisoners they have. It doesn't matter, there'll be more.

Dos Passos is very fond of metaphor and simile. He really enjoys describing the colors of the sky or comparing the clouds to the ruffles of a woman's dress. I don't know that it's necessary; it feels more like someone writing that way because that's how they were taught to write, and this is their first attempt. Describe the sky! Paint a picture with your words! Never really been my thing. Just describe what I need to know is there, and I'll fill in the background myself. But maybe that's just how dos Passos writes.

'How silly that he might be dead any minute! What right had a nasty little piece of tinwire to go tearing through his rich, feeling flesh, extinguishing it?'

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Someone Tell that Man in the Audience to Shut Up

A few months back, I picked up the first 6 issues of Earth X. I remember seeing a collection of character sketches Alex Ross did in some Wizard issue back in the day and thinking it looked kind of cool. And there were all the mysteries about all the telepaths dying simultaneously, or Reed wearing Doom's armor, Mayday Parker having the Venom symbiont. The fact it's a crappy future isn't much; Marvel's futures are always terrible, but the hows and whys of everything were intriguing.

But holy crap did Jim Krueger pick the worst approach for a framing device. At least through issue 5, everything is presented as X-51/Machine Man/Aaron Stack describing what he's seeing to Uatu the Watcher, now blind as a bat. OK, that kind of puts us at an extra remove from the action, but I can work with it.

Except Uatu is constantly chiding Aaron for how he's describing things, perceiving things, for focusing on the wrong things. For being worried about the people, instead of focusing on what Uatu - vaguely - deems to be the important aspect of whatever they're observing.

Uatu, if I remember what I've read online and in issues of Tony Bedard's Exiles run correctly, is focusing on the Earth being an incubation chamber for a Celestial egg, and that all the superhuman nonsense is just a defense system meant to keep Galactus from eating the egg before it hatches. Why Galactus is doing that escapes me, but whatever.

I'm pretty sure the end result of this approach to the story is meant to show how wrong the Watcher is about what's really important.That those people's lives have meaning beyond being unwitting pawns in the games of a bunch of cosmic dipshits with coffee mugs for heads. But until then, it's annoying as hell to try and read this story when one of the characters is essentially calling the reader stand-in an idiot constantly for being dumb enough to worry about the actual characters in the story.

"Captain America seems so defeated? What's happened"

"That doesn't matter, you fool! You aren't looking at the big picture!"

I keep wondering why Aaron doesn't just walk away. (Really, I keep wondering why Aaron doesn't punch Uatu, but the Watcher probably still has enough power to make that a bad idea. Trusting him to stick to his non-involvement when it comes to self-defense isn't a bet I'd take.) Uatu's a projection on TV screen at this point. A blind projection. He needs Aaron to tell him what's happening. Just go take a walk, leave him stewing in the darkness and see how he likes it. Maybe his manners will improve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Pick One to Flush

There was this poll I saw on Twitter last week, about if you had to pick one actor to delete from history out of Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, and Tom Cruise, which would it be.

My gut, immediate reaction was Cruise. Because I'm going to base the decision off the movies for each actor I've actually seen, and that's a pretty small list for him. (If I haven't bothered to watch the movie the whole way through, or can't remember doing so, then it's no skin off my nose if erasing the actor erases the movie, right?) The roles he takes just aren't ones I'm terribly interested in.

But I figured I ought to at least check the math, just to be sure. So, with that said, going off IMdb:

Cruise: 43 actor credits in movies, not counting things he's confirmed for that haven't come out yet. Of those, I've watched (or can remember watching) 6 in their entirety. The Mummy (thanks Alex), Tropic Thunder, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible II (thanks Alex), Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men. I'm sure I've seen pieces of Rain Man and Top Gun, but can't be sure I ever bothered to sit through them the whole way.

Of the 6, Tropic Thunder is the only one I'd say I really love, to the extent where I can watch it most any time. It isn't a "Tom Cruise movie", but he's definitely a piece of it I enjoy.

Crowe: 46 actor credits in movies that actually came out, 10 that I've watched entirely. Crowe has a bit of an unfair advantage, as he tends to star in more movies my dad would enjoy, so I end up seeing them that way. The Mummy (thanks again, Alex), The Nice Guys, The Water Diviner (thanks Dad), The Man with the Iron Fists (took a minute to remember Crowe was in this), Robin Hood (thanks Dad), 3:10 to Yuma, Master and Commander (thanks Dad), L.A. Confidential, Virtuosity, The Quick and the Dead.

Of the 10, I can watch any of the last three whenever (Alex and I watched Virtuosity a lot back in the day, but I was fully on board with that), and maybe The Water Diviner. So 3 or 4. Crowe is probably essential to my enjoyment of all of those except maybe Quick and the Dead. I like him in that, but again, he's not holding the film entirely on his shoulders. Point being, Crowe is the safest of the four, not what I would have expected. But he makes more movies in the general range I like, and I ignore the rest.

Pitt: 58 actor credits in movies (lots of video shorts and TV series credits for Pitt), 8 I've watched entirely. Deadpool 2, Fury, MegaMind, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Snatch, Fight Club, Se7en, 12 Monkeys.

Look, I never claimed I made good decisions about which movies to watch, only that other people I know make worse decisions.

I really like Deadpool 2, but you can't give Pitt credit for that. I remember Pitt's character in Snatch, but the plot tends to blur with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I'm watching Guy Ritchie movies for Jason Statham and the banter, anyway. He definitely gets credit on Se7en, and I remember liking 12 Monkeys, but it's been awhile since I watched it. Not one I normally hunt down to rewatch.

Bale: 48 actor credits in movies, of which I've seen 6, I think? Dark Knight, 3:10 to Yuma, Batman Begins, Equilibrium, Shaft, and either Treasure Island (thanks Rhodez) or Terminator Salvation. I've definitely seen one of those last two all the way through.

I can't remember anything from Sam Jackson's Shaft movie other than that bit where he announces his resignation from the cops by throwing his shield at the judge. I like, but don't love Nolan's Batman movies, have never bothered to do more than catches pieces of the third one, and Bale's "scary Batman voice" is more ridiculous than anything else. Which really just leaves Equilibrium, which I like, but not on par with Tropic Thunder.

Which I guess means we're throwing Christian Bale down the old memory hole. Did not expect that outcome.

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Stars Bring Them Together

Yeah man, what are you doing? "Dark Star Power" was right there.

The Search for Black Hole Bill is the second collection of Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham's Star Power comic. Picking up where the first story ended, it's one of those stories where a bunch of different characters and threads all end up converging in a place none of them would expect.

Danica is back on the space station where she works as an astronomer. The Star Power seems to have burned itself out, so Danica is trying to contact the tutorial/informational system "Mitch", and then to recharge.
Black Hole Bill, who botched his attempt to kill her in the first story, escapes, beating the crap out of Danica's new friend Grex in the process. Bill runs to a group of Mad Max-looking guys called the Supernova Dragon Lords looking to re-arm, right as there's a change in leadership.

In the way those things happen, the Dragon Lords head for a quiet star system where they have a weapons cache hidden, Bill unwillingly in tow. Danica's sitting on a satellite orbiting the star to recharge, and Grex is part of the security team tagging along to watch out for her. On top of all that, the weapons cache was supposed to be hidden in a bar where the three guys who hired Bill in the first place are drinking and trying to decide on their next move.

All the parts colliding is pretty fun, especially as most of the characters are struggling with one bad impulse or the other. Grex is overly protective of Danica, but also really badly wants to kill Bill. Get in line, sister. Bill's getting caught up in the Dragon Lords' plan to wage war against the Galactic Defense, as well as thinking he's a lot smarter and more competent than he really is. Just excellently written as a completely insufferable smug asshole.
Danica is trying to weigh the need to to help people right now against the danger involved in trying to do so. Mitch is struggling against the fear of non-existence and the loss of all the knowledge that would represent. He's significantly less annoying about it than the Xandarian Worldmind was, though, so that's something. One of the three Void Angels that hired Bill is obsessed with trying to finish Star Power. He figures if they'd succeeded in their mission to kill her, the rest of their group would still be alive.

Lotta characters struggling to remember where their loyalties lie, or where they should lie. Bill's, of course, are to himself and no one else. Which ends up being a bad call on his part. But does lead to an extremely satisfying conclusion to the story. And Terracciano and Graham actually made me care about the 3 Void Angels, enough to where I'm curious whether they'll stick together or not. Who are they loyal to now? A group they believe is dead, or to each other?

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #128

"Matt's More In the Dark than Usual", in Daredevil (vol. 4), #15, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (storytellers), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

When Waid and Samnee's previous volume of Daredevil concluded, Matt was disbarred in New York for admitting he really was Daredevil, meaning he committed perjury all those times in the past he insisted he wasn't. But, he used to practice law in California, so they moved the new series out there.

Naturally, because this is Marvel we're talking about, they started the new series the very next month after the old one ended, and bumped up the price a dollar. Definitely a wise and sustainable strategy!

This volume started up during the second wave of Marvel NOW! I think it was "All-New Marvel NOW!", but hell if I'm going back to check. It started the month after G. Willow Wilson/Adrian Alphona's Ms. Marvel and the Charles Soule/Javier Pulido She-Hulk book, to mention two things that came out during that stretch I also bought. It ran until Marvel canceled their entire line as part of Jonathan Hickman's lousy (also horribly-paced and constantly behind schedule) Secret Wars event.

After - or actually before, because again, poorly paced and behind schedule - Secret Wars ended, Waid and Samnee moved on to the Black Widow book we looked at for Sunday Splash Page #90. So Marvel didn't entirely dismiss the notion of giving specific creative teams their own titles and just letting them run with it, but it felt like it lost some momentum with the complete disruption of their entire publishing line for several months because of an event which didn't do anything so extreme it couldn't have been done without the aforementioned complete disruption of the entire publishing line.

The main theme of this 18-issue run seems to be "information". Or maybe "secrets", but that's information. What the value of information is, and to who. The vulnerabilities it creates, the ways it can be twisted, either with intent, or unconsciously. Waid and Samnee bring in the Owl, a man obsessed with knowing as much as possible, as a recurring threat. This is intermixed with the Shroud, who doesn't exactly fare well under Waid's pen as a broken man obsessed with trying to get back some sense of happiness. There's one particular piece of information he thinks will give him that back, and he pursues it relentlessly.

There's also Kirsten's father offering Matt a lot of money for Daredevil's life story, which will be Matt trying to figure out what he's comfortable revealing about himself. He gradually tries to lean into the fact that now everyone knows he's Daredevil, which makes him a celebrity. Starts wearing a flashy red suit (as seen above) both when he fights crime and in the courtroom. (If that page where he presents himself as "Daredevil for the defense, your honor!" with his cane leaned over his shoulder had been a splash page, I absolutely would have used it.)

Even that is just a form of him trying to control how that information is perceived, in the same way he tries to include a highly jaundiced account of his first meeting with Hawkeye in the book, only to have Foggy call him on it hilariously. It's Matt trying to act as if this isn't a huge weak spot for him. But Samnee does draw the hell out of Matt in that suit, along with a lot of good fight scenes. He tones down the Owl's weird, Wolverine-style spiked up hair look, but emphasizes his tendency to lurk above you and stare ominously. Even though I have a hard time taking the character seriously, it's not for lack of effort on the creative team's part.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Random Back Issue #40 - Super-Villain Team-Up: Modok's 11 #1

Wow, that is really insensitive, Spot. Also stupid, considering who you're talking to.

From the first issue of a 2008 mini-series, to the first issue of a 2007 mini-series, we've got MODOK's 11. I thought this came out closer to 2010, but apparently not. Although now that I think of it, van Lente wrote an issue of Amazing Spider-Man in 2008 that played off one of the outcomes of this mini-series. I should remember that, since it was one of the few Brand New Day issues I actually bought.

The issue starts with a brief recap of how MODOK came to be. Basically, a mediocre AIM scientist agreed to volunteer for the project to prove something to another AIM scientist who slept with him, once. That'd be future Scientist Supreme of AIM, Monica Rappacini.
The rest of the issue is basically a "get the team together" thing, as we see what four of MODOK's crew are up to. For Armadillo, it's wrestling for crappy pay in Mexico. Puma's in trouble for corporate fraud, and the tribal elders don't approve of him working as a merc to pay his legal bills. Rocket Racer's given up the crime biz, but the bills for his mom's illnesses are piling up. Mentallo's try to beat the house at a casino with his mental powers. Too bad Purple Man's the one running the casino. Quite possibly the least sketchy thing that asshole's ever done with his powers.

(Also, Mentallo keeps calling people "bubbeleh", which is the sort of thing that should get a guy shot in the head.)
The four of them arrive at the destination provided, but when they go inside, find Living Laser, Nightshade, Chameleon, and the Spot entering from the other side, and a table full of money in the middle. Spot makes a grab for the cash, setting off a brawl. The fight ends when MODOK shows up and the Spot makes his impolite comment about the guy's cranium.

MODOK sells them on the idea that he's come up with the perfect scheme to rob the most tightly guarded fortress ever, and that it requires all of them. Mentallo, meanwhile, is wondering why everyone is listening to this, and why they were all fighting over a table with no money on it all. MODOK telepathically assures him he'll learn the true scope of things soon.

From there, it's another four issues of betrayals, double-crosses, schemes within schemes, setbacks and all the other sorts of things you expect from a good heist story. Just with superpowers involved instead of George Clooney, which is a pretty big upgrade from where I'm sitting.

[11th longbox, 69th comic. Super-Villain Team-Up: M.O.D.O.K.'s 11 #1, by Fred van Lente (writer), Francis Portella (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Guru eFX (colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer)]

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Supercop

They kind of oversell Jackie Chan in this movie. He gets described as a "supercop" a half-dozen times in the first 15 minutes. He seemed a lot cooler and more capable in Armour of God. His sporadic lack of attention to detail is definitely troubling, for example.

Which I imagine is the point, make him appear underwhelming until the critical moments, when he suddenly is completely awesome. The only problem being, since this is Jackie Chan, I already know he's going to doing ridiculous stuff at some point, so I'd rather they just get to it. I demand instant gratification!

On the plus side, the boat they use to try and sneak into Hong Kong, had another, smaller boat hidden inside it, just like Jackie's car in Armour of God. I had jokingly suggested it when the border patrols caught up to them, and then they actually did it. Alex and I couldn't stop laughing about that

I did like how the plot seemed to continue to escalate. Help this drug smuggler escape prison. Start working for his brother, who is a big-time drug lord. Accompany him to a meeting of a bunch of big-time drug lords and their Malaysian general supplier. When Chaibat, the drug lord, says he's going to go discuss his actions with the Triad, I thought the story was just going to keep gong higher up the halls of power. Like Black Dynamite, it would eventually lead all the way to the White House, or an equivalent seat of political power.

Michelle Yeoh plays Inspector Yang, Jackie's partner. She gets stuck as the more serious, stuffy half of the partnership for most of the time. Which can be a thankless role sometimes, being the responsible one, or the straight man. Fortunately, the folks making this are smart enough to make sure Inspector Yang gets to show off her skills, and Jackie's more than able to play the straight man for her. Let her make him look foolish when he gets cocky or lazy.

And Yeoh can keep up with him on the slick fighting moves, or the crazy stunts, which isn't for the female lead in most Jackie Chan movies I've seen. Sure, just fly off the back off a moving van into the windshield of some little roadster.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Death and the Legal System

I'm trying this new layout they're instituting for Blogger for this post. It's going to take some getting used to.

I saw this post on Tumblr a couple weeks ago about Lord Death Man, a villain from the Batman manga, who among other tricks, would enter a trancelike state resembling death whenever he was captured to escape being sent to jail.

This doesn't seem like it would work, since he'd show up again committing crimes later, demonstrating he hadn't, in fact, died. There's the possibility he's going for double jeopardy, but is he allowing them finish trying him for the crime first? Does it count if he never served any of his sentence, since he immediately faked his death? What good would it do if he's going out and committing new crimes? Even if he's captured robbing a bank, the fact he faked his death the last time they captured him robbing a bank shouldn't help. This is a new incidence of the same crime.

Obviously, they just needed to cremate him when he faked his death, thus nipping the whole thing in the bud.

This train of thought led, as most do, to the X-Men, and their current situation. In what is definitely not creepy at all, the X-Men have a bunch of cloning vats set up on their posh new island home. If any of them die, they just cook themselves up a new one. It seems like the new one has all the old one's memories, up to the moment of death. Not sure how that works, but I guess it avoids the issue of not remembering potentially crucial information about a threat because you didn't do a backup on your brain recently.

But the thing that interested me was whether or not a clone could be tried for the crimes of its predecessor. It's kind of a moot point for the X-Men, since they seem determined to handle all matters of criminal justice regarding their citizens themselves, even if the crime didn't take place on Krakoa. Setting that aside, if the version of the person who did whatever illegal act is dead, is the duplicate of them that pops up within a few days legally responsible? Could you try them, even though that particular body had nothing to do with the act in question?

I feel as though the Marvel Universe legal system says "No." Magneto stood trial for his actions once, and I believe the court ruled that, because Magneto had, in a story in Defenders, been aged back to an infant and then grown back up, the man on trial was in essence, a new person, and therefore not responsible for the actions of Magneto prior to the de-aging incident.

(I think that's how it went. I'm going off vague memories of Captain America not being happy with the verdict in X-Men vs. the Avengers. The '80s version, not the early 2010s version.) 

And yet, the Magneto who grew up from being abruptly de-aged sure seemed pissed about a lot of the same things as his predecessor, even though those things technically didn't happen to him. Which makes me think the memories came back as he aged. That being the case, it would seem like a clone of a dead person couldn't be held responsible for the deceased's crimes, because the clone didn't exist until after the crimes took place. They could also be considered a new person, even though they're identical to the accused.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Armour of God

So after Kelvin told me that Operation Condor was actually a sequel of sorts, to this movie, I mentioned that to Alex when he came by last Friday, and he was all in on watching some more Jackie Chan.

First interesting thing you learn in this movie - other than it's apparently a recurring gag for Jackie's character to fall down really tall, ludicrously steep slopes at the beginning of the movie - is that before "Asian Hawk" was a mercenary/fortune hunter, he was part of a Partridge Family/Jackson 5 style pop group called "The Losers". And he left because he lost out on the affections of one of his fellow members to the lead singer, some complete loser named Alan.

Clearly that girl has no taste.

A guy Alex described as a, 'Count Chocula-looking motherfucker' has Laura (or Lorelei) abducted to force Jackie to bring him the remaining three pieces of the Armour of God, which this dude will then destroy, allowing their God to prosper. The other three pieces were bought by a guy rich enough to own 50 dogs and 3 leopards as his security system, which is just nuts, but hell, if you're that rich, you might as well go extravagant. He agrees to loan them out, if Jackie brings him the other two pieces, and lets his daughter go along as a precaution. She's not nearly as competent as she pretends, but she's a lot more useful than Alan, at least.

Alex found some description of the movie online that described it as having the greatest car chase ever, and I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's pretty good. One of those things were you just have to laugh at some of the absurd shit that happens. Especially when the car opens to reveal another, smaller car inside.

The movie falls apart a bit at the end. Laura is supposed to capture Jackie, but captures Alan instead. The bad guy has the pieces of the armor, but doesn't destroy them. May, the rich guy's daughter, just kind of vanishes for most of the final act, and there's no resolution of things between her and Jackie. Or really, between Jackie and Alan, where the friendship is supposed to be strained over Laura, and they don't really seem to bury the hatchet.

I only noticed that stuff in retrospect, because in the moment, I was too busy watching Jackie Chan do crazy shit like hopping from on stalagmite to another while fighting four large ladies in stiletto heels, or rappelling down the side of a hot air balloon. Which is the sort of thing I was watching the movie for, so mission accomplished.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Old "Abrupt and Inconclusive Ending" Bit

Come on, man, you have to make the fanfic writers' search for subtext to mine a little tougher than that.

We looked at Volume 1 of Sekihiko Inui's Murder Princess a month ago, and now we're at the second, and final, volume. The first volume ended with Falis, the bounty hunter whose soul is stuck in the princess' body, suffering a defeat at the hands of a mysterious Black Knight, who Alita is sure is her brother, the long-missing prince.
Volume 2, however, only gets back around to that near the end, when the Knight reappears at the side of a witch, seeking a Destiny Stone (one of four) that will help them unlock some incredibly powerful source of knowledge. Prior to that, Falis is trying to help Alita through her confusion at what has happened to her brother, and we learn about Falis' past. Why she's a bounty hunter, what drives her to be as strong as she is.

The most interesting thread is one that turns on the notion Alita was supposed to die that night Dr. Akamashi attacked the kingdom at the start of Volume 1. That she instead not only survived the fall off the cliff, but switched bodies with Falis, giving her kingdom a ruler strong enough to protect it (if not necessarily rule it), has altered history from the path it was meant to take. This has somehow unleashed chaos, which is manifesting as corruption of the souls of their subjects, turning them into monsters.
Which would have presented a sort of ticking clock for them to find the stones and use the knowledge to find some way to counteract the problem, before they were corrupted. At least, I assume that would have been a looming threat. The series ended with no further development along that line. It also hinted that the witch, Cecilia, was serving someone else, but obviously that never got resolved either. So frustrating when that happens.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #127

"Where Do You Even Begin?" in Daredevil (vol. 3) #20, by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Javier Rodriguez (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

As Martin and Rivera were moving off the book, there's a brief lull punctuated by some random crossovers (with Amazing Spider-Man, and the a 3-part crossover with Greg Rucka's Punisher book and Avenging Spider-Man), plus a couple of issues drawn by Khoi Pham, before the book lands Chris Samnee as the regular artist. Samnee would remain the artist for most of the last 23 issues, minus roughly four covered by Mike Allred, Javier Rodriguez, and Chris Copland.

During Samnee's time as artist, Matt faces the repercussions of stealing an enormously valuable data drive from the five groups seen in last week's selection, and has his perceptions and grasp of the world around him called into doubt. The latter leads to a brief falling out between Matt and Foggy, who has been harboring suspicions Matt is faking being cheerful and well-adjusted a little too much.

At around the two-year mark, Daredevil confronts the old foe behind all the challenges he'd faced up to the point, which included an evil version of himself in a knockdown drag-out fight issue Samnee and Rodriguez illustrate beautifully. One that turned on a surprise revelation that worked as an excellent "oh shit!" moment.

After that, the creative team shift gears to a few intertwining narratives. Matt realizes the justice system is rife with members of the racist hate group the Sons of the Serpent at all levels, and tries to root them out through avenues both legal and supernatural. There's also Matt trying to help Foggy cope with his illness, and Matt and former Assistant D.A. Kirsten McDuffie trying to figure out what they want to be to each other.

(While I think McDuffie downplays the danger inherent in dating Matt Murdock, I do appreciate her desire to maintain distance so her life isn't entirely swallowed up by his life.)

I've seen Samnee's work get compared to Alex Toth's frequently, and while I'm not expert of Toth's work, from what I've seen it's not a bad comparison. Samnee has a good handle on all the necessary aspects of being a comic artist. Conveying whatever information is needed, drawing fight scenes, emotional scenes, just cool or weird shit. He incorporates sound effects into his layouts in clever ways. The shadows in his story are much deeper, heavier than either Rivera or Martin's, but he also takes over as artist at the point when Matt's attempts to remain positive run up against a series of difficult challenges. Remaining upbeat is harder when your best friend thinks you've gone nuts and you're starting to wonder yourself.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Random Back Issues #39 - Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1

Patsy Walker: taking no shit from creepy dudes since, um, well at least since she came back from the dead after her second marriage. Spending time in Hell: It's a real eye-opening experience!
It's my favorite mini-series of 2008! The issue opens with patsy modeling her downstairs neighbor, Rueben's final project for his degree in fashion. The fun times are ruined by a phone call from Tony Stark, not yet fired from his Boss of All Heroes job. Stark immediately demonstrates how unfit he is for the position by assigning Patsy to be the only hero in Alaska.

Great idea! Give the largest, most difficult to traverse state in the country to a hero who can't fly, teleport, or run superfast. It's not as though Alaska is home to a wealth of mineral resources, abundant places to hide secret bases, or enormous amounts of mystical energy.

(Alpha Flight was always fighting some supernatural thing related to the Gods of the North. You can't tell me those beings give a shit about international borders. They are definitely present in Alaska, too.)
I could sit here and shit-talk Tony Stark's intelligence all day, but let's talk about Patsy instead. She hitches a ride with a SHIELD jet up to Alaska, and gets a bad vibe from some bears she sees. Because she has an extra sense for mystical trouble. She decides to enlist the aid of some locals in exploring the wildlife, although it takes a lot of money to get some cooperation. Which is also when she runs into the creep in the first pair of panels.

Her guide - the guy looking a gift hellcat in the mouth up there - advises her hitting a lecher with a plastic mug is a bad idea, which means he's not much of an ally. 'He's not a bad guy, really. Just old-fashioned!' They've barely been snowmobiling around any time at all before they're attacked by the two bears. Who now have antlers. That can talk. Well, that's clearly some mad science at work.
Patsy ditches the civilian duds to fight the bears, and toboggans down a slope on one of them, after slinging the other one around by its antlers until it kind of poofs out of existence. Sounds fun! They go over a cliff! Could still be fun. Into the mouth of some kraken-looking thing while a couple of weathered old ladies look on! Not fun.

[8th longbox, 60th comic, Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1, by Kathryn Immonen (writer), Daivd Lafuente (artist), John Rauch (color artist), Dave and Natalie Lanphear (letterers)]

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Ambulance Drivers - James McGrath Morris

Both John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway volunteered to be ambulance drivers during World War I. It was during that time they first met, briefly. If that meeting was unremarkable at the time, the circumstances of course had an outsize impact on both their lives, especially their writing.

Morris tracks both writers' lives, professionally and personally, and their friendship with each other. It isn't a deep dive, having read a lot of books on Hemingway over the last decade, it's obvious Morris is just skimming across the surface in places. But it gives an overall picture of their ups and downs, and how that affects things between them.

Although frankly, most of the effect is on Hemingway, who swings widely between praising Dos Passos and encouraging him to come along to Spain or Key West, and hurling invective at him and running him down anyone and everyone. Which is pretty much how Hemingway did all his friends over the course of his lifetime. Capable of great acts of kindness and cruelty. First envious of Dos Passos' literary success, while Hemingway was still struggling to find his first true success. Then, once he'd far surpassed Dos Passos in popularity and financial success, envious that Dos Passos was the one regarded as the writer of greater literary merit. The critical darling.

Morris spends a lot of time highlighting the two writers' differing philosophies and viewpoints, as expressed through their writing and their actions. That Dos Passos was active politically through the '20s and into the '30s. Joining in protest marches to demand the flimsily accused Sacco and Vanzetti not be executed. Visiting striking coal miners in Kentucky to write about their lives. Then he grew increasingly disenchanted with Communism once he, you know, saw what Stalin was doing with it. Whereas, until the mid-1930s, Hemingway tried to remain out of politics. And frankly, given how To Have and Have Not is one of his weaker efforts, he was better off leaving politics out of his books. Morris notes that Dos Passos wrote about war to try and convince humanity to stop it, while Hemingway wrote about what it was to experience it, to try and process its impact. Differing perspectives.

At times, Morris seems to rush through events, such as the murder of Dos Passos' friend Jose Robles during the Spanish Civil War. Even though that was a major nail in the coffin, one that almost ended contact between the two for over a decade. But, again, there are entire books out there on just that subject, so maybe it's unnecessary. You get a decent feel for the problem, at least, even if Dos Passos almost feels like a bystander in this book at times. Mostly because, as Morris focuses more and more on the disintegration of the friendship, Dos Passos isn't really involved in that. If he's envious of Hemingway's success, he's not letting it drive him to write poison pen articles in magazines, or rail against him in letters. The bitterness is one-sided, but that means the person who isn't retaliating plays a less prominent role.

I can't let the review pass without mentioning a passage late in the book involving William Faulkner, who when asked by a student, describes himself as second only to Thomas Wolfe among contemporary American writers (so humble!). Dos Passos is third, and then Hemingway, who Faulkner says has never used a word that might require a reader to open a dictionary. Because that's the most important thing when you write. But what would I expect from a writer who once had an entire chapter that consisted of the sentence, 'My mother is a fish'?

As I Lay Dying is a shit book, and I'm annoyed I was forced to read it in high school English, is what I'm trying to say here.

'Hemingway, unlike Dos Passos, worried less about war itself than coming to terms with it. War was personal for him, not political.'

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Someone Get Wade "Diplomacy for Idiots"

This is certainly not going to happen now, after Deadpool threw a tremendous fit about perceiving himself as being unwelcome on Krakoa, then doing everything possible to make himself unwelcome, but I want a defensive alliance treaty between Krakoa and Monster Island.

Nothing too complicated, just the standard "I'll help you if someone attacks, you do the same for me." From the little I know about what Hickman's doing, there's been at least one group, if not several, trying to infiltrate Krakoa. An evil Yellowjacket shrank down and hid inside Pyro. Some other guy is sewing mutant skin on himself to read as mutant to the gates, or something. When those things don't work, you know the governments of the world are going to get more scared and overt in their attempts to assert control at some point.

(I almost said more extreme, but when you're stealing skin and hiding tiny people inside other people, you're already getting pretty extreme.)

Wade went to Monster/Staten Island in the first place because he was hired to kill the king of the monsters. So clearly there's hostility there, which isn't going to go away as long as the new residents exist. Especially when one of the inhabitants made their way to the city and killed a couple of people. Deadpool tried to stop him, then killed him when he didn't stop, but you know everyone is going to ignore that. Wade isn't exactly great at not pissing people off, so that's be its own set of problems.

Point being, it's two countries hated and feared by the world at large. Why not be allies? It's like those times when Namor forms alliances with Doom or the Black Panther. It's not as though the other countries of the world are going to be more hostile.

You could argue Deadpool is a terrible person to be publicly allied with, given his tendency to make horrible decisions. This is true! Deadpool frequently either does the wrong thing, or do the right thing in the worst way possible. If Krakoa is allied with Monster Island, and a bunch of demons attack his subjects, so Deadpool kills them, and the demons just happen to take the forms of a bus full of orphans, that's an optics problem.

But 1) Krakoa's only on the hook if someone else starts trouble with Monster Island first, and 2) there are plenty of lunatics on Krakoa who are going to cause some catastrophe eventually. Wolverine, Sabretooth, this new young Cable, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Mystique, X-23. I could keep going for hours. OK, another two minutes, but they're going to do something, if they haven't already. Krakoa insists they will judge and prosecute any of their subjects who break laws, but I can't imagine that's gonna satisfy everyone the next time Logan figures he has to kill fifty guys because of "honor", or whatever his excuse is this time.

Even if nobody on either island does something, the rest of the world will find an excuse. Look at what they did to Cable when he founded Providence. He allowed basically anyone to move there, as long as they agreed to be nonviolent, offered clean renewable energy sources, and encouraged democracy in countries that asked for assistance. The rest of the world tried to burn his island to the ground. Even if Krakoa and Monster Island export free cancer cures and hugs, they're still on a bullseye. Might as well have one friend.

Oh well, this is why you don't let Deadpool visit other countries unattended.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Operation Condor

So after Alex and I finished watching Hobbs and Shaw two weekends ago, he wanted to watch this Jackie Chan movie he remembered loving when he was younger. So we did.

Jackie plays Jackie (or Condor, or Asian Hawk, IMdb has all three names listed), an archaeologist or treasure hunter, called in to help find some gold the Nazis his in the Sahara at some point in the middle of World War 2. He ends up working with a trio of ladies: Ada (Carol Cheng), who is a historian or expert on the desert, Elsa (Eva Cobo) who is the granddaughter of the captain that hid the gold, and Momoko (Shoko Ikeda) who they just kind of meet in the desert. She knows the place in one of the photos Elsa has, so she leads them where they need to be.

There are at least a couple of groups on their tails, although one of those is a pair of guys who are supposed to be Arabic that are played as bungling jokes. There's a very cool chase scene through some city with Jackie on a dirtbike fleeing about 6 shitty black Yugos or something, including him diving repeatedly from one stack of crates to the next as cars plow through the them.

The trek across the desert gets interrupted by Elsa and Ada being captured by bandits who intend to sell them into slavery. Even though Jackie's 4-wheel drive jeep seems to wreck very shortly after the escape, those guys never show up again. They find the remains of the city they're looking for and get attacked by a bunch of spear-wielding locals, who are never seen again once the main bad guys appear.

The movie is actually very similar to Hobbs and Shaw in that the plot is just barely there enough to carry the movie from one excuse for Jackie Chan to do ridiculous shit to the next. It's just this movie plays it more for slapstick comedy than testosterone-fueled machismo, and there's no CGI.

Since I enjoy watching Jackie Chan do crazy stunts like fight two guys in a wind tunnel, or fight a bunch of guys on some teeter-totter platform that looks like something out of a Super Mario 64 level, that works really well. Just watching the speed at which he does things sometimes. Or how he does something like tuck and roll through a door into a room, then pop up and press himself flat against the opposite wall in one smooth motion, is just really cool.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Relationship Therapy Via Violence

He's someone who understands nunchuks are cool, Bobbi.

New Avengers: The Reunion came out post-Secret Invasion. Mockingbird turned out to not have died sometime during the West Coast Avengers days, instead being replaced by a Skrull (who died). Bobbi is not dealing well with being back home after years spent as a fugitive on the Skrull world, and decides, rather than therapy, to throw herself into intelligence work. In this case, a biological weapon designed by AIM and intended to be unleashed at one of those symposiums for smart folks.

Complicating that plan of avoidance is Hawkeye, currently Ronin, who is both worried about Bobbi and trying to reconnect with her. In typical Clint Barton fashion, he is doing that by persistently trying to get in her business, so that she'll talk to him. Mockingbird eventually remembers that Clint doesn't give up, and grudgingly let him accompany her on the mission.

McCann adds a couple of interesting twists into the time Mockingbird spent as a prisoner. That she escaped confinement and was running loose on the Skrull world. That an imposter Hawkeye, meant to get information out her, hunted her relentlessly. You know, until she killed him. Hey, so that means all her hostility towards Clint about how badly he fucked up the - possibly retconned by Chelsea Cain a couple of years ago - Phantom Rider situation is done! There's also the timing of when, exactly, Mockingbird was replaced, and what that means regarding her and Clint's marriage.
Then Clint's left struggling with what he thought he knew, which turns out to be wrong. He's also dealing with the fact he still carried a lot of guilt over his mistakes and Bobbi's "death" And this time, instead of Mockingbird being drawn into his superheroic world, he's fumbling around in her world of spycraft. You know, where subtlety and controlling your emotions are critical. Yeah, not exactly Clint's strengths.

David Lopez gets to draw a lot of fight scenes, in a variety of settings and scenarios. Clint and Bobbi against a bunch of AIM guys in a hospital. Clint and Bobbi against each other in a storage unit. Clint and Bobbi against a bunch of AIM guys in a fancy dress party. Bobbi against AIM's Scientists Supreme and her teleportation belt. They make for a nice break from the two leads arguing and yelling at each other, Clint putting his foot in his mouth, or Bobbi staving off nervous breakdowns.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #126

"Secret Empire to the Left of Me, HYDRA to the Right," in Daredevil (vol. 3) #6, by Mark Waid (writer), Marcos Martin (artist), Muntsa Vicente (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer)

So, after Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis, and Ed Brubaker spent years dragging Matt Murdock through an unending of misery, woe, ninjas, and girlfriends either killed or driven insane, Matt got himself possessed by a demon and used the Hand to take over Hell's Kitchen. And then after that bullshit, Mark Waid took over writer chores, and teamed up with Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin to try and break the character out of his rut.

They had Matt regain a little of his old swashbuckling spirit, making with the banter, flirting, being a bit of a ham, both in the courtroom and in the costume. And, because that might seem an odd turn after everything he'd experienced recently, they made it a conscious decision on the character's part. Matt was going to essentially force himself to be positive, to fight his depression. This becomes more of an issue later, which we'll look at next week, but suffice it to say like isn't going to make it easy for Daredevil.

From the writing standpoint, what I enjoy is the approach to everything. Matt being kind of cocky is funny. There's one moment in issue 5 where a team of guys charge into his client's apartment. Matt thinks to himself, "Oh no, six armed mercs wearing night vision goggles! What will I do?" Then he flips on the lights and blinds them. Matt has to return to coaching clients to represent himself, but not because he's been disbarred. Even though he denies it, everyone thinks/knows he's Daredevil and this gets turned against him in the courtroom. Different problem, but there's still that avenue available.

Beyond that, they bring in some different villains. Just in the 10 issues or so Martin and Rivera draw, Daredevil tangles with the Spot, Klaw, all the assorted organization in the picture above, and the Mole Man. Each of them in ways that fit with Daredevil. Mole Man doesn't try to attack the surface world, he steals all the bodies from the graveyard where Matt's father is buried. The Spot is a hired gun trying to kidnap a mob boss' daughter as part of an internal struggle in the organization.

The art is, fantastic, even if Martin and Rivera aren't on the book very long (Martin draws about 4 issues, Rivera 6). Martin seems like he's having a lot of fun with portraying how Matt perceives things through his senses. The way sound effects are written as part of a wall to show how they rebound off it. Sound effects originating in one panel, traveling into Daredevil's ear in the next panel, then carrying the eye back to the original panel because the source is moving. I just love the creativity of that kind of design.

Rivera doesn't go that route, but he opts for a neat depiction of the radar sense. Historically, it gets represented as a bunch of concentric circles originating at Matt's head, and you see a black outline of something. Rivera and Javier Rodriguez as the color artist go with more of a contour map view, where there's a lot of pink lines against black backgrounds showing you the shape of what he's "seeing". Which can be an especially cool visual with someone like the Spot, where the holes on him don't register as anything to the radar sense (presumably whatever Matt's brain is generating is simply swallowed up by them).

I think this is the book that convinced (reminded?) Marvel they could have successful titles if they paired talented writers and artists and just let them do their thing for the most part. Books that might not top the single issue sales charts like the big events, but would sell consistently well, and probably have a decent lifespan in the trade paperback market. Even if Martin and Rivera didn't stay past the first year. Fortunately, Marvel pretty quickly landed on another good artist for the book, who stuck around the rest of the way, and that's next week.

Friday, August 07, 2020

What I Bought 8/5/2020

There's this lady that lives in the next apartment building over from me, over half the time I walk past her building, she's done this terrible parking job where she's parked diagonally across two spots. Then, every once in awhile, I walk past and she's perfectly within the lines of one spot. I don't know if she's lazy, or just a dick. Maybe the good parking jobs are by someone else who drives her vehicle.

Anyway, there were actually two comics out this week I wanted, and I got both of them hooray!

Black Cat #12, by Jed MacKay (writer), C.F. Villa (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - I feel like Campbell tried to channel Bruce Campbell for Stark there, and it's kind of weirding me out.

Iron Man chases Felicia across town in their respective suits of powered armor. Felicia flummoxes Stark, because he can't figuring out how she's stop and starting on a dime without blacking out from the g-forces. Honestly, I would have assumed Stark built some counter to that into his suits, but OK. She also frustrates him when she admits she made and stole the suit just to take it for a test drive. For fun. And also to use to try and send Odessa Drake a message. It doesn't quite work, since the sheer audacity of the entire plan just turns on, I mean, impresses, Odessa even more. Oh well, worth a shot. Felicia escapes, and help Firepower escape. I appreciated that touch.

There's not much progress made on the larger plotline, since the issue is mostly Felicia baiting Iron Man into chasing her so she can make a clean escape. I wasn't sure about Stark not realizing she was controlling the armor remotely, since that's something he has experience with. But MacKay makes a point of mentioning Felicia had the armor designed to focus on jamming all kinds of sensors or tracking. And Stark probably wouldn't give her credit for being smart enough to think of controlling it remotely. Especially when she's talking about how she just had to take one of his suits for a spin.
Villa handles all the air combat scenes pretty well. The main trick is trying to show how the Cat's armor's maneuverability is constantly throwing Iron Man off, and it manages that. A few panels with Stark coming to an awkward, almost stumbling mid-air halt. Or taking a swing at her and coming up with air because she changed course 180 degrees instantly. Little disappointed the neon pink pontytail thing wasn't some sort of energy weapon. I know whips are that other cat-themed amoral thief's shtick, but I kept expecting her to land a hit with that thing.

Anyway, now it's a waiting game for whenever the book comes back.

Deadpool #6, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Kevin Libranda (artist), Chris Sotomayor (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - None of the X-Men have pupils! They're all being possessed! In other words, it's Thursday.

Wade is convinced the X-Men have the cure for cancer on their little sex cult island. He finds out one of his subjects is a mutant who can carry anything inside. So Wade (and Jeff) wear the fellow like a suit and march through the gate into Krakoa. Of course, once Wade (and Jeff) climb out of Jelby, the X-Men know they're there, which leads to a fight. Then Wade actually talks with Emma Frost, who says there's no cancer cure, and no, he can't have all his other demands, either. So Wade tries to steal one of the flowers that turn into gates, which leads to another fight. One that involves Wade throwing Jeff at Storm, and then Jeff biting Polaris on the leg. Which is bad, because we don't want Polaris' lameness infecting the land shark.

It's no wonder Lorna was always in relationships with Havok, it was the only way to make her seem interesting. Rogue gets Wade to stop fighting, and offers him a flower as a sign of friendship, which Wade naturally rejects, seeing it as pity. He returns home, and bans mutants from his kingdom. Wow, Wade, have you really considered the kind of supporters you're going to get with that move? What am I saying, of course he hasn't considered that. He's Deadpool.

This was my favorite issue so far. It's funnier than any of the issues so far. Wade plays off the X-Men well. Even though he is invading their country, in the dumbest manner possible, I still figure he has some legit gripes, and I prefer watching Deadpool be angry at people who deserve some of it. Their hypocrisy about how much of a danger he poses is freaking laughable compared to some of the fucking lunatics they have there. Mr. Sinister is in charge of a goddamn cloning lab! They're sending Magneto out on diplomatic missions. Sure, Deadpool isn't any less violent, but he'll only kill a few people. Magneto will probably shut down fifteen hospitals with an EMP just to prove a point.

Ahem. Where was I? I am disappointed there were not more grievous injuries to Wolverine, though. It's not like he won't get better.
Kevin Libranda takes over as penciler from Gerardo Sandoval this month. Libranda's work is bent more towards comedy than violence, which works for this issue. The characters - Deadpool especially - aren't as large as when Sandoval drew them, and the linework is a lot softer. Less harsh, jagged lines. Shadows aren't as stark, everything is just softer looking. Even though there is a lot of fighting, it's not necessarily serious fighting. If you can call Polaris stabbing Wade with his own swords "not serious". I mean, Wade throws Jeff at Storm, the shark bites at her face, but she's OK. She should probably be more hilariously terrified in that panel up there, though. Maybe the enormity of her situation hasn't sunk. Jeff, for that matter, seems to have shrunk and become much more rounded and cuter than he was under Bachalo or Sandoval's pencils.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Fast & the Furious: Hobbs and Shaw

God, this movie is so dumb. Which, to be fair, it never pretends or presents itself as anything different. There's a plot, vaguely, about a super virus and some company wanting to use it to remove the "weak" of humanity, but the movie's not really about that. Just a big, dumb spectacle.

And much of the time, that works. Dwayne Johnson's a charismatic dude, and I generally like Jason Statham in everything I see him in. I feel like Idris Elba could have gone more over-the-top, chewed more scenery to keep up with them, but he did alright. The "black Superman" line was pretty good. Alex and I got a lot of mileage out of that. Vanessa Kirby gets to be a smartass at the two stars enough to not get entirely lost in the shuffle.

The set piece chase sequences and some of the fights are ridiculous enough to be fun. Kirby trying to hit the Rock with anything she can find (although I was surprised he didn't no-sell the bike helmet upside the head.) The chase in the Ukraine was probably my favorite, once they actually started trying to escape, instead of having Idris Elba be the pitchman for some shitty techbro group of enhanced humanity losers.

Some of the casual banter and insults are funny. The ones where it's less a macho pissing contest about how badly one of them is going to kick the crap out of the other. Admittedly, most of the insults are a macho pissing contest. I laughed at the one where Statham describes Johnson's favorite shirt size as "spray-on", and Johnson tells him to put on another jacket, it's 110 degrees outside. I don't know if I'd buy it as a gradual friendship, but I'm not sure the movie is trying to convince us that's happening. At best, maybe the two of them enjoy making each other miserable too much to kill each other.

At the same time, there are several parts that feel self-indulgent. Not surprising, if the rumors this movie exists because Johnson and Statham didn't like playing second fiddle to Vin Diesel are accurate. There are just parts that drag on too long. The sequences where Hobbs and Shaw insult each other, but the camera is aimed so we're seeing things from one of their perspectives as it happens. Like I'm the one insulting or being insulted. I didn't really see the point of that.

The Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds appearances, which are really just excuses for those two to be themselves for too many consecutive minutes. Hart annoyed me more than Reynolds, because I generally enjoy Ryan Reynolds more, but they're playing essentially the same character.

The big confrontation, where they have maybe six minutes before the bad guys' guns start working again, and they waste time with the traditional Samoan dance/chant thing. Show a little urgency, people, unless you enjoy being shot by asshole in tactical gear.

Movie could have been 15-20 minutes shorter and worked just as well. I don't really buy that everything in the movie happened in 3 days. Especially not that they went from London (with the Rock being detained by security) to the Ukraine (where they had a big fight/chase) to the Samoa (where they had lots of family issues and prepared a battlefield) in 42 hours. But I'm sure I wasn't supposed to be keeping track of that.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

What Reheated Hell Is This?

So I picked up Black Cat #12 today - now you know part of what Friday's post will be - and I get to the last page, where there's a "To Be Continued. . ." No big, to be expected. Flip the page for a glimpse at next issue's cover, it's a black page saying "Black Cat will return in King in Black."

OK, first off, did we need to the end credits bit to the comics? I know, lost cause. Movies are the dog, comics the tail, for all that the comics are the source.

More importantly, does this mean Black Cat is canceled? I mean, the issue itself teases a second Annual that hasn't come out yet, so surely the book isn't done, right? With Giant Days and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl ending last year, there's not really any competition to it being my favorite title at the moment. But this is Marvel, so expecting them to actually keep track of things like having an editor's note touting a book that might not being released would not be beyond them. The comic shop owner didn't know, figured it could be, or it might just be on a break for a bit.

I was actually desperate enough to turn to Twitter* to see if series writer Jed MacKay had anything to say. He says the book will be back, at some point. I was unclear on how far off that is, since it sounded like a couple months in one tweet, and longer than that in another.

But OK, the book is not gone for good. At least one thing went right today**. But what is with this King in Black stuff? I know it's connected to all this weird symbiote god stuff that's been swirling around in Venom-related stuff the last few years, which is more than I'd like to be aware of. Who at Marvel decided we needed events focused around the symbiotes now?

As someone who a) is far from immune to the allure of nostalgia, but also b) lived through the symbiote madness of the '90s, I am a bit lost at this development. Why do the symbiotes need a god, or a king, or whatever it is? I was perfectly fine with symbiotes each just wanting to find a nice host to bond with. They'd make the host stronger, the host would sustain them. They don't particularly care about their offspring (Brock's symbiote didn't even mention it left behind what became Carnage). Makes them sort an element of random chaos in the universe. Like that bit during War of Kings where the Shi'ar slapped a symbiote on Raza of the Starjammers. You don't know where one might appear, or what purpose it might be used towards.

Maybe that's the Brood's purpose in the Marvel cosmology. Or maybe it's Adam Warlock's. Shows up, starts some shit, make headaches for everyone.

Now they sound like just another threat led by some powerful Mista Big out to subjugate everyone else. Whee.

* Just one more piece of evidence this is the darkest timeline.

** Despite not drinking, I think a lot about that Patton Oswalt routine about depressing alcohol ads. The one for Dewar's, Dewar's: At least one thing will go right today. Granted, I have that feeling about things sometimes. Soda, a run I go on, occasionally doughnuts.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

Buck (Josh Brolin) is one of those dudes who sells videos of him hunting deer, with his cameraman, Don (Danny McBride). This time, though, it's a very special hunt because Buck is taking his son Jaden to get his first whitetail deer. Which means there's going to be all kinds of father-son bonding!

If Jaden wasn't more worried about being away from his girlfriend. And if Buck wasn't too emotionally constipated to actually talk with his son about any of the kid's problems. So it's one of those deals where the dad has to get over his own shit enough to be able to actually help his son.

Danny McBride provides most of the comedy, since Don is trying to play peacemaker/cool uncle for Jaden. Brolin gives Buck the right amount of well-meaning haplessness, mixed with control issues. You can see the whole thing means a lot to him, and that he really wants to connect with his son, but he can't bend enough to let it happen any way other than how he planned it.

Which feels like an accurate portrayal. The parent wants to share something special, but they want it to be exactly how it was for them when they were that age, whether that matches the child's interests. And the kid can't pull themselves out of their own world enough to really bridge the gap. There's a solid core of something in the movie. Buck doesn't fix all his problems or Jaden's, but the two of them are on steadier ground.

And if you're wondering, I think all the deer we see shot are CGI.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Falling on the Same Grenade, Over and Over

Darryl Knickrehm's The Immortal is, at least in the first volume, about a bounty hunter named Z. He's supposedly the last human left, and even he is just a copy. He has a ship, and on the ship is a machine. One that can recreate him from as little as one finger. Useful, since that was all that was left of him after his most recent death.
Unfortunately, he only has memories up to the last set he saved, and those don't include any of the details on the bounty he was working, or what happened up to the point he died. So he has to go back to planet's surface and start all over again. Not only piece together the trail to his target, but try and figure out what happened to him the first time. All while there's someone trailing him and reporting back to someone else.

It's an interesting mystery, because it's pretty clear this particular job is a set-up, considering the pay is exactly the amount Z claims to need to retire. But the reasons why anyone would bother aren't clear. The regrowth process costs Z some memories each time, but the end cost of that isn't clear yet, either.

I'm curious why Z's so eager to retire, beyond the obvious that it'll probably reduce the frequency at which he's killed. But what's he looking forward to? Where's he wanting to go? Does he even remember at this stage? Does his goal still exist any longer, if he's been alive long enough there are no other humans left? Assuming that's true, of course. Maybe there are lots of humans, and he's forgotten all of them.
Knickrehm uses a lot of close-ups on faces, often at extreme angles. Looking up Z's nostrils, for example. A focus on people that are as unfamiliar to Z as they are to us, but they all remember him. Which would probably be disorienting. The surroundings are all finely detailed, but oddly neat. There's never any random items just laying out of place or order. Even in the bar Z goes to, there are marks that represent stains on the walls, but no other messes. It makes things feel strange and kind of empty.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #125

"There's a New Man Without Fear in Town," in Daredevil #360, by Karl Kesel (writer), Cary Nord (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Christie Scheele (colorist), Jim Novak (letterer)

After somehow sorting the whole mess with being presumed dead, and running around in a gritty, armored costume for awhile, Karl Kesel's brief run on the book attempted to move Hornhead back more towards what he was originally. More swashbuckling, smart-mouthed, bantering with his enemies. After so much personal disaster, it feels like it should come off as forced, Matt's own more upbeat version of the "inhuman creature" bit Jack Ryder used to pull as the Creeper. But, maybe because Kesel commits to it, has Matt keep cracking jokes and quips, and doesn't provide a lot of internal monologue about how it's an act, it doesn't feel out of place.

The costume is a lighter, if not more brilliant, shade of red. Less of a grimy feel to things. He's out in the daylight a lot more during this stretch, and the days seem brighter than they were during Nocenti's run. New York doesn't seem quite as grimy or run down as it did in Nocenti's run, although maybe that's just because Murdock has moved back up in the world, economically.

Matt's back to being a lawyer with Foggy, although they get hired onto the firm of a notorious lawyer named Rosalind Sharpe, who has a connection with Foggy. Foggy is finally in on Matt's secret, and more than a little pissed about being in the dark all those years, so Matt keeps trying to make it up to him. By working for Sharpe for one thing, since she makes Foggy's employment reliant on Matt also working there. He's managed to mostly patch things up with Karen Page (they were just starting to try during Last Rites).

This is post-Onslaught, so it's perhaps understandable Daredevil moves more outside his wheelhouse, what with most of the other heroes "dead". He's facing down the Absorbing Man, Grey Gargoyle, Mr. Hyde shows up again, Pyro appears for I think, either his last appearance, or close to it. I think he crops up one more time in X-Men post-Zero Tolerance before the Legacy Virus kills him.

Actually, this run in general provides kind of an interesting snapshot of Marvel at the moment. Daredevil teams up with Spider-Man, except it's Ben Reilly in his version of the Spider-Man costume (the one Spider-Girl would appropriate). Reilly's strangely willing to discuss the fact he thought he was a clone with Daredevil, but I guess he has memories of their earliest team-ups. Foggy starts a tentative romance with Liz Osborn/Allan, who is running Oscorp with Harry dead and Norman not yet revealed to be alive. Black Widow pops up, closer to her more professional and ruthless characterization of the last couple decades, but she's acting out of grief and guilt, thinking she's going down as the last leader of the Avengers, who let her entire team get killed.

Gene Colan comes on as artist for the last few issues, which involve Dr. Fear trying to do. . . something involving the radio station Karen is working at as a late night host. I don't remember what the plot was, probably something about driving people nuts with sub-harmonics in the broadcast frequency. Colan makes New York a murky, shadowy place, but still cleaner than it had been for the past 100+ issues. Just atmospheric.

Kesel's run ends at #364, with Joe Kelly and later Scot Lobdell stepping in as writer for the last 15 over so issues before the title was canceled, then started over for the Kevin Smith/Joe Quesada run. Which led to Bendis, then to Brubaker, and a whole lot of miserable crap. All of which I ignored, so next Sunday we'll skip over all that to the next restart.