Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What I Bought 9/28/2020 - Part 1

Fall has come to the area. Which is good. I like fall so much more than summer. I can go for a walk and not sweat like crazy. Better enjoy it while I can. So, hey, comics! Got one book from September, one book from August, Friday's a book from July, I think.

Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists #1, by Eric Palicki (writer), Wendell Cavalcanti (artist), Mark Dale (color artist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - How deceptively placid. I'm sure nothing bad could happen in such a place!

Lucas is walking down the road and is nearly hit by a drunk driver. Then he's a nice enough guy to carry the injured drunk out of their wrecked car to the nearest town. The sheriff is the drunk's uncle, and offers to let Lucas sleep on the couch in the station for the night, since there are no motels. Then a bunch of vampires march in during the night to eat the drunk who broke curfew. Lucas lets them do it, but when one of them tries to attack him, he kills it because he's a lizard-man? A basilisk? A kobold? I don't know what you call him. He asks to partner up with the rest of them, but the next morning, he asks a soda delivery guy if he will call someone once he gets to where he has cell service. Except a cop shoots the guy's truck and blows it up on the way out of town.

Well, this isn't exactly what I was expecting from a book described as "Lovecraft meet Leone". Vampires are kind of mundane for Lovecraft, aren't they? But, OK, my fault for reading solicitations. The book we have though, is interesting. Who was Lucas trying to get ahold of? What is the deal with the vampires? Was the cop who shot the truck's fuel tank acting under or orders, or did they have a personal interest? So there's intrigue, which is usually enough to get me to stick around for a while.

Cavalcanti's work leans towards a realistic side. Doesn't exaggerate much in the expressions, body language, body types. The vampires are basically people with sharp teeth and some of the time, black eyes with red pupils. Which does make Lucas' transformation more notable, although even isn't presented as being too weird. Like, the vampires don't seem to know what he is, but also don't seem confused by him, either. Lot of heavy shading on the faces, especially for the cops, but also on Lucas. A couple of times I think he overdoes it on the extra lines on faces, but maybe that's just because there are so many panels that seem to be close-ups on faces.

Wicked Things #5, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - A guy who uses his knights. A player after my own heart. I hope he's better at it than I am.

Lotte's trying to help the police with a string of casino robberies, by picking the brain of her housemate Bulldog. She seems surprisingly unconcerned about finding out who attacked Miyamoto and framed her for it, but explains a) the cops are keeping her busy, and b) once he wakes up, he'll i.d. the actual attacker and she's off the hook. If he wakes up. In the meantime, her friend Claire is trying to question people on the case, and so far is stuck with either vapid imbeciles, or Miyamoto's assistant Maki who may be nuts. As shown by the visual representation of the scene she says she found.

Like something out a Ren and Stimpy episode.

I love that the casino robbers used a forklift for one of their heists. I don't love that they drove it through a second-story wall and then just left it crashed outside. The driving it through the wall part is cool, especially if they were riding it at the time and jumped off into the back of a flatbed filled with pillows, but who's cleaning up that forklift? I'm not your mother!

The last page says "to be concluded" so I guess it's going to be a mini-series? Unless there's been enough sales they'll go ahead and turn it into an ongoing like Giant Days. Fingers crossed. I expect things will be wrapped up next issue, whenever that comes out. I haven't seen a solicit for issue 6 through December at least.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Manhattan Transfer - John Dos Passos

Dos Passos writes about a bunch of different characters living in New York City during the first couple of decades of the 20th Century. Several of the characters' paths end up interconnecting in one way or the other, but he still jumps between them every few pages or so. Which makes it a little frustrating trying to keep track, especially as he's also sometimes jumping forward months or years in time. So is this "Elaine" who all the guys go ga-ga over, the same little girl "Ellen" who went walking through the Park when she wasn't supposed to?

Everybody seems to be trying to succeed, in some sense or the other. Thinking that's going to make them happy, I guess. It doesn't work. Corporate empires fall, successful legal or political careers are unsatisfying. Marriages and children don't seem to do the trick, either. Jimmy Herf quits the newspaper to try and be a writer, and that only seems to destroy what little he did have. Ellen ditches acting to become an editor of something, doesn't seem to make a difference. The changes are all superficial, the core of the person is the same, and that core is yearning, deluded, unhappy, something.

The closest I think anyone gets to being happy is Congo, and he just seems to take things as they come. Content to work on freighters, then spend all his money in whatever port they land. Moves to bartending, somehow goes to bootlegging, somehow becomes a bigshot. We don't really see it, because Dos Passos skips that. Congo only shows up when his story intersects with one of the other, more prominent characters.

The book doesn't really work for me. Dos Passos adopts this tic of combining two words into one, seemingly at random. "Shinyrumped." "Garbagecan." Why they need to be a compound word escapes me, so it just feels like a pointless affectation. Beyond that, the subject matter just doesn't interest me much. Or maybe I see enough of it in the real world today, I don't need to read a story about people scrabbling futilely in the dust, hoping to find something.

"Why the hell does everybody want to succeed? I'd like to meet somebody who wanted to fail. That's the only sublime thing."

Monday, September 28, 2020

Ending the Year on Mixed Notes

You know how things are going with the solicits by now. There's a few interesting things, one things I'm glad to see back, but not exactly a huge amount of comics out there in December.

I guess I should be spending money on Christmas gifts that month, anyway.

Marvel has their King in Black event going in full swing, with lots of tie-in issues and connected one-shots and stuff. Whee. At least Black Cat's back, although I can't tell if it's as a one-shot tie-in, or this is the re-start of the ongoing series. Take what I can get. Deadpool's solicited for issue 9, meaning Marvel's going to manage to ship the book each of the next three months. Believe that when I see it. On the downside, no sign of the second issues of Taskmaster or that Power Pack mini-series. Which is why I have my doubts about Deadpool.

DC's got some big "Endless Winter" event, except the whole thing is gonna take place in the month of December. Rather the opposite of endless, then. Beyond that, Death Metal stuff, Tom King's writing some stuff, Bendis is writing like 14 books. You know, the usual shit.

Dark Horse has the last issue of Spy Island. I still can't find a copy of the first issue, but maybe I will by then. The fourth issue of Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists is supposed to be out. I should have the first issue this week, so we'll see how that goes. Aftershock has the second issue of Kaiju Score and the third issue of Sympathy for No Devils, so that might be something. 

Vault has a book called Bleed Them Dry by Eliot Rahal and Dike Ruan, sounds like cops trying to stop a ninja vampire. If course, it's already on the sixth issue, so I'm a bit late to the party there. Maybe something to track down in back issues later, or buy the trade when it comes out.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #133

"Captain 'Pool's Fool Cruise," in Deadpool (vol. 2) #13, by Daniel Way (writer), Shawn Crystal (penciler/inker), John Lucas (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)

Cable/Deadpool ended with Wade living in a nice apartment, surrounded by friends. Seven months later, Daniel Way had Deadpool living alone in a warehouse. Instead of friends for a supporting cast, he had a yellow caption box, and a white caption box. Oh, and hallucinations. Can't forget the hallucinations.

And hey, I enjoyed some of the hallucinations. Wade getting bored scaling Norman Osborn's tower and imagining him as the giant from Jack and the Bean Stalk, calling himself a 'stinky dummy-dum'? Yeah, I laughed. But those aren't really a decent substitute for some sort of coherent plan. 

Wade careens from taking merc jobs, to wanting revenge on Osborn and spending three issues fighting his Thunderbolts, to spending three issues in an almost Looney Tunes battle with Bullseye (dressed as Hawkeye, thanks Dark Reign). Then he's a pirate. Then he's trying to join the X-Men. Then he's trying to steal the gig Weasel's set up for himself as a mech-suited defender of Las Vegas. Every story seems to involve Wade swinging wildly from one thing to another. Which, I guess if you weren't enjoying one story, you don't have to wait long for something different. But it's still the same guy writing, so is it gonna be any better?

If you're inclined, you say Way's trying to make a point about Wade, how he's looking for validation from others, and just keeps trying different approaches to the same failed idea. I'm not sure I'm that charitable. I bought the book for 24 issues before I abandoned it in mid-2010. I think it went to 50 issues, but I'm not sure it got any more focused. This was also the stretch when Marvel first really over-exposed Deadpool, as they also started up the Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth ongoing, Deadpool Team-Up, gave Liefeld the Deadpool Corps book, and released numerous one-shots, specials, and whatnot. I bought far too many Deadpool comics during those years.

I still own maybe a half-dozen issues. The three-parter against Bullseye (although that's come close to be excised from the collection and probably will again this winter). The two-parter where he becomes a pirate. The one-off where he ends up against some moonshine makin' hillbilly with electricity powers. As far as silly Deadpool adventures go, they're fine. But there's not anything more to them than that. This was the third and final time I gave a series written by Daniel Way a chance, after his stint on Wolverine and his Ghost Rider run.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Random Back Issues #44 - The Monkees #9

Deadpool never had one of his caption boxes try to shove him out of the panel. Of course, I'm not sure Deadpool ever criticized his caption boxes for their limited vocabulary. For speaking in haiku, yes, but not for limited vocabulary.

Welcome to the most random comic in my collection, or at bare minimum, the strangest one left over from my dad's collection. What we've got are three stories in this issue, if they even count as that. In the first one, the Monkees have gone to sea in a raft to find the sunken treasure of Mauvebeard, which they'll use to record an album. They constructed a deep-sea diving suit for Peter out of what looks like a water cooler, a trash can, and some irons tied to his feet. All of which is unnecessary because the water's only 6 feet deep.

This does lead to the line I laugh at the most, as Peter wonders what kind of idiot pirate buries his treasure in 6 feet of water, and Davy responds, 'a short idiot pirate.' Their raft is wrecked by a passing yacht, captained by a Hjalmer, with his niece along for the ride. He's in a race, but the entire crew is down with gooseberry fever. Cue a series of the Monkees trying to be the crew and taking all orders seriously (Michael Nesmith cutting paper dolls as he trims the sails.) They get their shit together, and win the race.

Second story, the Monkees are well enough known that people recognize them in the park, yet they are trying to figure out how to get on a show called Honesty Pays, a candid camera-style thing. It just so happens, some man leaves a satchel on another park bench nearby, then immediately gets in a taxi. The Monkees take the satchel of vital nuclear secrets, thus prevent the Commies from getting the upper hand in the atomic race, thereby keeping them from bankrupting their country for an additional 20 years, and give chase in another taxi, which they leave without paying. 

OK, I'm lying about the satchel having nuclear secrets.

Cue another sequence of one-panel gags about them using a variety of modes of transportation to chase the airliner the man's in. They end up back at the same bench, and the satchel is just full of birdseed. And the taxi driver is the one on Honesty Pays, for letting them ride without paying their fare.

Yeah, I don't know.

In the third story, the Monkees have decided to abandon music, but have no fallback plan. Instead, they distract themselves by helping a guy running a hot dog cart who hasn't had any business for eight and a half days. What, is he in some weird vegetarian commune? Is he literally grinding the rats into hot dogs right there on the street? The Monkees engage in a massive advertising campaign, for which they hope to be paid in exposure. Come on guys, don't fall for that line.

Their plan involves them yelling to each other about Oscar's Hot Dog Stand in a variety of locales, before they graduate to hijacking printing presses and news broadcasts, and culminates in them defacing space capsules and Egyptian burial tombs. Oscar ends up with so much business he's thinking maybe he should get himself some live music, and do the Monkees know someone?

In other words, this comic feels a lot like an episode of Family Guy. Take that how you will.

[7th longbox, 120th comic. The Monkees #9. Jose Delbo (artist). Writer, inker, letterer unknown.]

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Killing Them Softly

A movie about a couple of dumbasses who rob a local card game, for another dumbass. The guy who would normally sort this kind of thing out (played by Bill Pullman) is dying of a heart attack, or cancer or some shit, so Brad Pitt's character gets called in to sort things out.

I assume the movie takes place during the recession of 2008, because there are these constant sound bites from Dubya and Obama, going on about hope, or opportunity, or holding the ones responsible for the economic troubles accountable. Except, of course, for these guys, the only opportunities are stupid jobs like this, that are gonna end badly, or small time schemes like stealing people's dogs and taking them to Florida to sell. Everyone is scrambling for whatever money they can get, and we never see anyone higher up than a middle manager type. The ones making the actual decisions are somewhere hidden away, ordering people killed or beaten (but not too badly), or stiffing someone on their fee, entirely unaffected.

All of which could have been conveyed by the events of the film and one clip of Bush the Lesser or Obama feeding us a line of shit, rather than doing it over and over again. It definitely didn't need Brad Pitt's little speech about how Thomas Jefferson was a hypocritical piece of shit and the whole country is founded on rich guys fucking every one else. I mean, all that shit is true, but I already know that. I don't know if it means the director thought we were too stupid to get his point, or if he just felt really smart and wanted to do a flex.

The movie definitely didn't need James Gandolfini's hired killer character, who spends all his time drinking and crying bitterly over his ex-wife. The middle of the movie grinds to a screeching halt the moment he comes on screen, because whatever was going on up to that point is sidelined so he can monologue about stuff while Brad Pitt sits there looking vaguely constipated. I don't care about the character's problems. He's just some asshole who wandered into the middle of the story I was somewhat mildly interested.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

You Don't Quit, You're Fired

A couple of weeks back, there was a Teen Titans Annual where Batman confronts Damian Wayne about some crap he's been pulling as Robin. Like keeping supervillains locked up in a secret basement in Titans Tower, and possibly trying to mess with their heads, something like that. Which, as I unfortunately recall because of the existence of Identity Crisis, is not a thing Batman approves of.

They have a fight, Damian accuses Bats of not going far enough, Batman says he won't fight because he loves his son and Damian rips the "R" off his costume, proclaiming he quits.

Yeah, no. If there was ever a time for Batman to actually fire one of his many teen proteges, this would have been the time. Damian shouldn't get to extra-judicially imprison people, then act like he's got the moral high road on someone else.

(And yeah, he's sad 'cause Alfred died. I'm pretty sure the rest of the Bat-family is sad, too, and none of them are going around pulling this shit.)

But this has always been the problem with Damien, the double standard. Benefits of nepotism, I suppose. The first time he suited up as Robin and went out to fight crime in Gotham, he decapitated a guy. Cut his head clean off with a sword. Not even the Joker, or Zzazz, or Kobra. Some Scooby-Doo-looking chump called The Spook.

Did Damien know what he was doing, that he was killing someone? Yes. Did he show contrition? No. Did Batman put his foot down and bar the kid from ever being Robin again? Of course not. Damien got to be Robin, and stay Robin for the next 15 years or however long it's been now since Morrison introduced him.

He took being Robin away from Stephanie because she disobeyed orders once, by trying to help him during a fight he was clearly losing. He tried to take Batgirl away from Cassandra because he thought her commitment was lagging because she showed interest in boys and a life outside crime-fighting in general. Damien can kill a guy, and Batsy just kind of shrugs like Ace piddled on the tires of the Batmobile.

Anyway, I eagerly await Damian challenging Jason Todd for the "lethal Bat-kid" spot. Hopefully each of them kills the other.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Technology. Useless, Useless Technology

I was at Alex' over the weekend for his birthday, we decided to try and play a little Call of Duty on his PS4. I'm not a Call of Duty guy - the more "realistic" first-person shooters aren't really my thing - but it was what he had. But first we had to create an account for me on the Playstation Network. 

OK, fine. I'm really, truly planning to buy a PS4 here in the next few weeks, finally*. Might as well save myself some trouble. We get that done, eventually. But wait, I don't have an Activision account! Now I need to create one of those, even though, again, I don't really give much of a shit about Call of Duty. But sure, whatever, let's get this done. 

Alright, time for fun with my buddy running around throw grenades at people in a safe environment! But wait, Call of Duty doesn't allow for split-screen gaming. 

I think it was about that time I started laughing. 

You can play cooperatively with some random, foul-mouthed 10-year in Belize, but you can't team-up with your best friend in the same room? Or have fun killing the each other? I don't even care about playing against other people on the Internet, especially people I don't even know. But I would like to be able to play with actual friends when we're hanging out together.

And I thought Blogger managed to bork the alt text function with the switch to this new version, but apparently I have to type my attempts at alt text humor into the "title text" line, rather than the "alt text" line. Why they decided to change that, I don't know. 

* Assuming my apartment isn't hit by lightning or I have to loan someone else a bunch of money again.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Hunt Your Sister, Hunt Whoever

That guy bears up under being burned better than I would. Of course, he's already dead. Perks of being a ghost, fire doesn't hurt as much.

The first volume of Isabellae collects the first three books of Raule and Gabor's story about a half-Gaelic (or at least Irish from before the Celts arrived), half-Japanese girl, trying to track down her sister, who she hasn't seen in 7 years. Their mother was a powerful witch/sorceress, who left Ireland and traveled to Japan, where she met a samurai and they had kids. Both the parents died around the same time, Siuko was banished, Isabellae narrowly avoided execution (after killing 13 grown-ass men for beheading her mother).

Isabellae accumulates allies as she goes along. A young bandit she didn't kill while pursuing a bounty, who is maybe just a little too decent for that work. A boy that isn't cut out for the monk lifestyle. A older warrior who lost everything that mattered to him. A suspiciously intelligent monkey.

All of that is part of some larger plan or destiny the two sisters are caught up in. Which is not really a

trope I enjoy in fiction, the fated characters. I prefer for characters to have control of their own choices, and if they get mixed up in something, it's their choice, or bad luck. It is argued that Siuko and Isabellae have a choice, that they could deny what they're supposed to do, so long as they're prepared to deal with consequences. 

However, given the forces at work literally dropped an angel (or some strange creature with wings) in Isabellae's path to present her with a test, it's hard for me to think they aren't pulling more strings beyond that. But I guess I better buy the second volume and see how things play out.

There is an element of the fantastic, intermingled with the more everyday challenges. A sea voyage finds Isabellae trying to protect an advisor of the Emperor in the midst of a power struggle, but also ends up with her and her party on a ship full of reanimated corpses. The angel landed in a village struggling through a poor growing season, so he's either blamed as an omen, or seen as something they can sacrifice to reverse their fortunes. It makes things just a little more interesting, since you aren't sure what they might run into next.

Gabor's art style reminds me a little of David Baldeon, in the smoothness of the faces, shapes of characters' heads and noses. Most of the linework is lighter or thinner than Baldeon's, though. G

abor saves the thicker lines for heavy brows or faces scrunched in anger or pain. Doesn't exaggerate facial expressions quite as much. There's a good flow in the fights, how one move sets up the next. Gory when necessary, but I wouldn't call it excessive for the level of violence. But I may not be a fair judge of that.

As far as I can tell, Gabor handles the color work as well. Fight scenes, at least ones where Isabellae's feeling something strongly, tend to be done in shades of red. Like she's in a blood haze or fury. It contrasts nicely with the softer background colors in most of the other scenes. When they're just traveling, there's a sort of washed out effect to the skies or the surrounding landscape. The flashbacks to things from the girls' childhoods are often much more brightly colored, although red again seems to play a major role.

Grousing about destiny and fated stuff aside, this is easily one of the most enjoyable comics I bought this year.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #132

"Safe Word, Safe Word!", in Deadpool (vol. 1) #66, Gail Simone (writer), Alvin Lee, Rob Ross, Eric Vedder, A-Zero and LTRZ (art team), Dave Sharpe (letterer)

Welcome to the Deadpool neighborhood of the Sunday Splash Page town. We'll be here the next couple of months.

I didn't really become a fan of Deadpool until his "bromance with Cable" years. As far as his first volume, I read the first 8 issues of Joe Kelly's run a decade ago, and I think I bought the two-part Punisher guest appearance Jimmy Palmiotti wrote when it came out, because Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's "Welcome Bank, Frank" story had gotten me hyped for the Punisher? Maybe that's why. As likely a reason as any, considering we're talking about me here.

Anyway, none of that stuff is still in my collection. What is, is the five-issue run by Gail Simone and the Udon art team that concluded the volume. Where Deadpool has his mercenary business, with Sandi handling his administrative duties and a man with cognitive issues named Ratbag as his other employee. Taskmaster is also hanging around. Wade unwittingly takes credit for a career-making kill pulled off by an assassin named Black Swan, who puts a mind-whammy on Deadpool that will gradually erase his brain.

I know, how could Wade tell? That was kind of unimpressive as a revenge scheme, given I read this after years of Nicieza giving him constantly shifting amnesia, and Duggan revealing Wade was pumped full of memory-erasing drugs for years. Fucking with Deadpool's brain is like trying to make a toxic waste dump worse. What's the point?

Wade confronts Black Swan, although his goal is not what you might expect. He ends up dead, which they did like 10 issues earlier in his book, but hell, Wade dies a lot. It just never sticks. Shortly after that, Simone and the Udon team were working on Agent X, starring a mysterious amnesiac with scars and a healing factor.

It's only 5 issues, but Simone's brief stint on Deadpool establishes Sandi and Taskmaster as supporting characters, and at least introduced Outlaw, although she only briefly appears here and doesn't really become a recurring character until Agent X. Ratbag, fortunately for him, did not join the pantheon of Hapless Comedy Sidekicks Wade's had over the years (Weasel, Bob, maybe Michael the Necromancer and Agent Adsit.) It gives us Deadpool on a moped, Deadpool using Pym Particles to defeat the Rhino (Rhino would repay the favor in Cable/Deadpool), and Deadpool acting as a bodyguard for Dazzler.

A lot of memorable stuff for so few issues.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Random Back Issues #43 - Star Spangled War Stories #155

Yeah, Unknown Soldier, I can't imagine why a black man in the 1940s might sound bitter.

OK, so the writing is not the appeal for this week's entry. No, it's that sweet Joe Kubert art that's the draw. First up, we have "Invasion Game!", where Unknown Soldier is parachuting into Occupied France under the cover of being a traveling salesman. He's seeking the leader of the Nightengale resistance cell Chat Noir, who is a former US Army sergeant, court-martialed. He never does say what the actual charge they made against him was, which I feel like is Haney trying to hedge and not actually suggest the Army might have engaged in racism.

Anyway, they've been talking for about five minutes when the Nazis find their hideout. In the escape, one man is wounded, and Chat Noir says they have to leave. 'We can't afford to sacrifice two. . .for one!' The resistance meets up again, and the Soldier explains Nightengale is needed to take the Nazi stronghold at Fleur-Le-Duc, to support the Allied landing at that beach. On June 5th.

You can see where this is going.

Chat Noir is suspicious, considering they got attacked right after they welcomed the "Salesman". The Soldier goads him by saying he ran out on his buddies because of a 'bum rap.' I'm pretty sure the Nazis aren't going any easier on Resistance fighters than official soldiers. Nightengale takes the stronghold, but surprise! There's no Allied landing. What's more, now they're under attack from a bunch of tanks and Stukas. The Soldier catches some shrapnel in the leg, and explains to an angry Chat Noir they used Nightengale to draw troops here, so they won't be able to make it back to Normandy by tomorrow. Considering how slow the Allies initial progress was through France, I'm not sure one day is gonna help that much, but fine.

Chat Noir, curiously, decides to help the Solider reach the shore and a French fishing boat, stating that since they're fighting the same enemy, 'maybe we're still part of the same country!' The Soldier must have gotten Chat Noir reinstated, as his batman, or second, or assistant, something like that.

Then we've got an untitled Enemy Ace story, where von Hammer is formally challenged by the Canadian ace, The Hunter. The Hunter showed up a couple of issues earlier to challenge two German pilots who ran for their lives from him. Von Hammer made them accept, and the Hunter shot them both down.

But this time, with challenging the Hammer of Hell, the Canuck bit off more than he can chew. Or maybe not. Their battles a back-and-forth thing with von Hammer in pursuit for most of it, but the Hunter always staying just out of reach. Finally, the Hunter turns so they're on a collison course. von Hammer can't pull away because it'll leave him exposed, so they just keep flying right at each other and shooting, until they both fall from the sky.

Von Hammer survives almost unharmed, despite his plane landing nose first into what looks like solid rock. That's what being drawn by Joe Kubert will do for ya. Your entire body transmutes to steel. He's determined to take his opponent in as a war prisoner. The Hunter's got other plans, and first tries to shoot von Hammer. He misses, but it doesn't matter, because he dies of his wounds anyway. Oh well, no prisoner for von Hammer, but he'll get another victory cup. Of course, as always, the sky is the true victor.
[10th longbox, 169th comic, Star Spangled War Stories #155. "Invasion Game!" by Bob Haney (writer), Joe Kubert (artist). Enemy Ace story by Robert Kanigher (writer), Joe Kubert (artist)]

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Safety Not Guaranteed

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an intern at a magazine and gets sent along with a writer, Jeff, and another intern, Arnau (played by Jake Johnson and Karan Soni, respectively) to investigate a classified ad requesting a partner to travel through time.

This leads them to Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who works at a grocer, but spends a lot of time chatting with quantum physicists online and scouting out medical research laboratories. Johnson's attempt to talk with Kenneth by approaching him as a potential applicant falls through, but Plaza succeeds. Getting Kenneth to actually spill the beans about his plans means spending a lot of time with him, so things go from there.

It's basically about not getting hung up on the past. Kenneth isn't over some coworker that was nice to him a decade ago. Darius lost her mother when she was a kid and has a lot of unresolved guilt over that. Jeff takes the opportunity to try and reconnect with his high school sweetheart. Everyone other than Arnau is trying to get back to some better point in the past, to correct their fuck-ups and do things "right". (Arnau, near as I can tell, is both focused on his future, while being scared of making his own fuck-up in the present.)

Duplass plays Kenneth in this way where some times he just seems like a hopeless goober lost in a fantasy, but shows these flashes of frustration that are just enough you wonder if he might be dangerous. Plaza has a lot of that exasperated/disgusted air she used on Parks & Recreation, but she manages to shift it just enough it makes Darius come off as socially awkward, rather than her being deliberately an asshole.

I don't know how I feel about the ending, and without spoiling it, that's about all I can say.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ships Them to the Manor in Cases Marked "Champagne"

How many tires does the Batmobile go through in a year?

My mom watches NASCAR, and so I've ended up watching a few races with her. Those guys go through multiple sets of tires in one race, and they aren't pulling hairpin turns, or jumps, or driving up the sides of buildings. They also don't have to dodge penguins with rockets on their backs or oil slicks from cars with clown faces on them, either. To say nothing of how much garbage is probably on Gotham's roads, or the harsh winters.

I'm sure Batsy gets extra-durable tires made of some polymer that's partially Kryptonian in design, but still. He's driving really fast, in close confines, on roads of questionable quality, every night. You know Alfred isn't letting him leave the cave with a set of bald tires on there.

Granted, he's not involved in high-speed chases every night. At least, not in the car. Sometimes he's on foot, or in a boat, or something. And some nights he's busy with Justice League crap on the moon. But you know one of the Robins is borrowing the car on that night, which means even more wear and tear. It all has to add up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Three Soldiers - John dos Passos

The title is Three Soldiers, but dos Passos is focused mainly on just the one, John Andrews. The story follows Private Fuselli early on, as he tries his best to make good impressions, thinking he'll be able to climb his way from lowly private up the ranks. Then he tries jumping to what he thinks is a cushy position made for him and falls out of the narrative almost entirely. Chrisfield hangs around more, since he and Andrews are in the same unit, but eventually he vanishes for long stretches as well.

Andrews is the main star, and Andrews. . . doesn't really know what he's doing there. he doesn't have Fuselli's drive for advancement, doesn't seem to have an anger and resentment bubbling in him that needs an outlet like Chrisfield. He seems to be in the army because he got drafted, and decided not having to make any more decisions sounded pretty good. And maybe it does, until he realizes it isn't about not having to make choices; rather he isn't allowed to. If someone gives him an order, he better hop to it, no matter how inane or degrading. If an officer passes by, he better salute, if he knows what's good for him.

Dos Passos returns repeatedly to the idea of how degrading and dehumanizing the army is. That everything about how it works is meant to break someone down into an obedient, faceless drone. The routine, the monotony, the ranks. It's compared to being caught on a treadmill multiple times, by several characters. And it's difficult to get out, or perceived as being that way.

(I assume with that, dos Passos is drawing on the time where he was accused of desertion because he didn't answer his draft notice. Because he was already in Europe, serving in a volunteer ambulance corps.)

Fuselli stamps down any resentment he has over being ordered to do things he doesn't think he can be ordered to do, because he hopes it'll pay off. Andrews finds himself being run through hoops trying to get into a program that would let him study music in France. He keeps being told there's no room, but if he behaves desperately enough, grovels enough, there always seems to be a spot available. The whole thing seems designed to make a person throw away any sense of pride or worth that isn't bestowed upon them oh-so-benevolently by an officer.

The part after Andrews reaches Paris drags a bit. He seems to just drift from one place to another, encountering people. He's meant to be studying music, but it's unclear if he ever actually attends his classes. It's probably meant to be his being in a haze, struggling to reconnect with the world outside the military, especially since he still is in the military. He angers quickly, and often has a different conversation from whoever he's talking to. The whole experience has left him bitter, and he can't quite shake free of it.

'The thought came to him of all those who, down the long tragedy of history, had given themselves smilingly for the integrity of their thoughts. He had not had the courage to move a muscle for his freedom, but he had been fairly cheerful about risking his life as a soldier, in a cause he believed useless.'

Monday, September 14, 2020

Another One for the Scrap Pile

Yeah, but at least it's his hatred, right? It'd be worse if it was someone else's.

Volume 7 is the penultimate chapter of Pluto. By this stage, Epsilon, the solar-powered, peace-loving robot, is the last of the great robots left standing, and he knows his clock is ticking. Inspector Gesicht is dead, and Atom is comatose, unless Professor Tenma can introduce something to help his mind break its stalemate. He knows what to do, because he's done it once before, he just knows there's a risk involved.

But most of this volume is focused on Epsilon, who did get involved in the military action against Persia, but didn't fight. That's not an option he's going to get this time, Professor Abullah makes certain of that. Abullah's well round the bend by this point, to the point threatening orphaned children is no big deal to him. He's locked in on destruction, and determined to get it, no matter who has to suffer. He jammed his robot son's brain in a giant battle robot and sends it off to kill.
Naoki Urasawa's very good at suggesting different emotion in Pluto with just minute shifts. Just that little upward slant on the mouth in the left panel to give Pluto a very unfriendly smile. Also, with Epsilon, most of his responses and reactions are muted, so when he arrives for his "surprise" birthday party and pretends to be surprised, you can tell by how expressive he is, the way his hands are positioned to suggest shock.

(One thing I'm curious about is that in a flashback, Tenma comments Abullah had also adopted robots as children, but alter in the book, Abullah calls himself Pluto's creator. So did he build himself some children, and officially adopt them, or is that meant to be a sign of his degrading mental state? Sahad was his son once, and now he's just something Abullah made to carry out his will?)

The pieces of the mystery start coming together a little more, or maybe I was just slow in not realizing Bora and Pluto were two entirely different things. The question is whether there's anyone left who can figure out what endgame is, and whether there's anyone who can do anything to stop it.
One of these days, I'll get around to scanning actual fight scenes from these, because there's some pretty cool stuff in there. But I'm kind of trying not to spoil it if you decide to go hunt these volumes down yourself.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #131

"Ring Around a Dead Man", in Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2, by Sarah Vaughn (writer), Lan Medina (illustrator), Phil Hester (breakdowns, ch. 4), Jose Villarubia (color artist), Janice Chiang (letterer)

An odd little prestige mini-series DC published in late 2016-early 2017, during the early stages of DC Rebirth (not to be confused with DC You, which was their first attempt to course correct after people soured on the New 52). I think I bought this because a) there wasn't a hell of a lot I was getting otherwise at the time, and b) it sounded unusual enough to be interesting. Deadman's always seemed like a cool concept to me, even if I've never bothered to buy any of his stories.

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love was a Gothic horror/romance, a genre I admittedly know basically nothing about, beyond the basics. There's usually an old house, it's got some history. A young bride, older husband, a room the bride is never to enter, mysterious presence, yada yada. In that sense, this story seems to check most of the boxes.

This house ends up with two ghostly presences, since in addition to the one already lurking, Boston Brand feels drawn to the house as well. Once he's there, he can't get out. The other ghost is alternately lost and confused, and furious, as seen above.

Medina draws all the living characters as very realistic, ordinary-looking people, and Villarubia sticks to soft tones and understated colors for them most of the time. It's Boston and Adelia that gets the brighter colors, and Adelia where Medina gets to loosen things up a bit. At times a furious, but still recognizably human woman of ink and shadows. Other times, a big, boiling cloud of anger and red eyes. It works.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Random Back Issues #42 - Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet #4

Has Dracula never heard of online dating?

We're looking at the midway point of a mini-series today, but it has enough random shit happening it avoids most mid-story lag. As Wade explained, he found Shiklah inside a coffin he was sent after by Dracula, so the shitty JRPG Antagonist version of Dracula can marry her. Shiklah doesn't seem terribly interested, so she and Wade are taking their time returning to NYC. They got captured by a HYDRA sub, but by the time Bob frees them, AIM had captured the sub.
While Wade and Bob go retrieve Deadpool's weapons (and Wade realized he might be catching feelings for Shiklah), She's busy kicking the shit out of the beekepeers, who counter with their L.A.L.F.: Libido-less Artificial Life Form. Created by abducting a transient from Times Square in the Guiliani Administration. That tracks. Succubus wiles won't work, so Shiklah transforms into her giant horned monster form, and tears the poor thing to shreds before draining the life force from a lot of AIM guys.
MODOK shows up to catch her and ruin the fun, eager to dissect her and understand her powers. His attempt to return to his ship is thwarted by Deadpool chucking a grenade into the tractor beam as well, which damages the beam projector and sends everyone plummeting towards the Earth. Except MODOK, who has a flying chair. Or he did, because Wade somehow levered him out of it to commandeer it. Not sure how that worked, but OK.

Wade catches Shiklah and Bob - wouldn't have expected him to decipher the controls that quickly, but OK - but Bob loses his grip and breaks both his legs when he hits the ground. Shiklah offers to ease his suffering and Bob pleads to not let her eat his soul. Look at it this way, if she does, you don't end up with Madcap growing out of your stomach like a Kuato cosplay in a few years.

They get Bob medical help, at a veterinary clinic while the news reports of MODOK as being a 'profoundly disabled man who had his wheelchair stolen.' The vet inquires if Deadpool's a terrorist, and is assured that Wade is in fact the Captain Britain of 2099. They must have changed the flag quite a bit, then. It's unclear if the doc fixed Bob the way 'Pool asked, but since Wade paid cash, he's fine putting one of those dog cone collars around the Bob's neck.
Back on their own, our lovebirds are attacked by an enthralled Werewolf by Night. Wade takes that to mean he's in heat, while Shiklah says he better hope not. Wade finds a suit of armor to fight in, though it doesn't help much. Shiklah just blasts the collar off and Jack's back to his old self. Just in time to be punched in the face. Jack explains Drac isn't happy with how long Wade's taking, and that Shiklah's brothers are alive, and being annoying twits.

Dracula, out of patience entirely due to dealing with Shiklah's idiot brothers, prepares a new team to find Shiklah. Frankstein's Monster, a Living Mummy, a Brood mercenary, and Marcus, the centaur bit by a werewolf and bonded to a symbiote. He has no weaknesses, except that he's diabetic. I would think fire and sound would also still be a problem, but maybe centaurs are immune to those? And can't the symbiote do something about his pancreas?

[4th longbox, 8th comic. Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet #4, by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn (writer), Reilly Brown (penciler), Nelson DiCastro and Terry Pallot (inkers), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer)]

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Hurricane Heist

I wasn't expecting much, but damn this is bad.

In the opening scene, the father of the two brothers who'll be two-thirds of the protagonists, gets killed by a water tower rolling over him after a hurricane topples it. Less than a minute later, as the house they're hiding in gets torn apart, one of the kids looks up and sees a skull in the swirling clouds. Like we're in the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies or something.

There's the constant string of surprise reveals, as yet another character turns out to be part of the crew pulling the heist. Not to mention the surprise alliance shifts even within that crew. There's how the two brothers can apparently use some football play call - Red Delta 22 - to communicate as widely disparate plans as, "We're going to use a flare gun to shoot out the mall skylight and suck the evil cops into the sky," and "you and me use these two semis to ram the guy driving the other semi."

The part where meteorologist brother climbs the cell tower in, and I quote '143 mph' winds, to attach a winch cable. Then, rather than just use the winch, the ATF agent tries to pull the tower down by going in reverse really fast. Then, she actually tries retracting the cable. Meanwhile, meteorologist boy is chucking hubcaps into the wind, trying to use it to Captain America a couple of the heist crew.

Admittedly, the last bit is the only part where Alex and I went, "oh shit," rather than groaning, or putting our faces in our hands.

Or the part where they're trying to drive the semis in the eye of the storm, but it's caught up enough that it rips the trailer away from one (then naturally drops it on top of the cab), and pulls the another up whole hog. Then like a minute later, the storm has dissipated entirely.

We picked this instead of Avengers: Endgame because it was already 1 am and I didn't feel like being up 3+ hours (also, I'm strangely unmotivated to actually watch Endgame), but I'm not sure it was a good tradeoff. The movie is 100 minutes long, and feels like twice that.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

What I Bought 9/4/2020

I tried to pick up some of the books I missed from last month, plus a few books that came out last week. Didn't have a high success rate - apparently a lot of people were highly anticipating Spy Island - but here's a couple of books. Both first issues.

Broken Gargoyles #1, by Bob Salley (writer), Stan Yak (artist), Marco Pagnotta and Robert Nugent (colorists), Justin Birch (letterer) - There's gotta be a better place to try and get a ride than in the middle of burning wreckage.

Two main characters. Doug Prescott, presumed dead in France, now roaming the U.S., gathering friends and weapons, unhappy with what happened to the 117th Regiment during World War 1. That's him in the big trenchcoat. William Manco, who served with Prescott, and has half a metal face. He's still struggling with his experiences, and is trying to deal with them by drinking a lot. Which is not doing much for his wife or son.

I'm not sure what angle Manco's planning to take. Probably whatever gets him money or a job he can hold. He's lost, and Prescott is presumably someone connected to something he understands. Prescott, I think he's really just looking out for the people he knew in the war. Whatever compassion he had for anyone else seems sorely burned out. A convict helps him when a guard's got a bead on him, and Prescott does agree to give the guy a ride to the next town. But expects the man to cut through his dead friend's limbs to get the shackles off. He doesn't outright say it, but there's an air of "I had to do worse, what are you complaining about?"

Although the next time we see Ben, the shackle is still around his wrist, but the chain is broken partway down, so maybe he found another way.
Yak seems to be taking advantage of the story being in the 1920s to go nuts with the facial hair. The sideburns and mustaches on some of these dudes. The coloring is seems to vary between muddy and kind of washed out. When there's a bright light in the panel, it tends overwhelm everything else. Both options seem appropriate for the setting, not really moving in high-society circles here. Nobody really looks dirty or scruffy exactly. Manco's the closest, he's got some stubble and his hair's a little messy, but you'd think the prisoners, or guys trying to hijack an army shipment in the middle of the desert would show a little more of life's effects.

We Only Find Them When They're Dead #1, by Al Ewing (writer), Simone Di Meo (artist), Mariasara Miotti (color assists), AndWorld Design (letterer) - I'd always suspected gods were just excessively large billboard ads, but it's great to get confirmation.

The main source of resources in the future is the bodies of giant dead beings. All the salvage crews stake claims to one part or the other, and the crews with big financial backing get the choicest spots. Government taxes the shit out of what you harvest, supplies are limited. It's a rough way to make a living. One crew, captained by a guy named Malik, has decided they need to do things differently. They're going to go find themselves a live god and. . . I'm not sure. Kill and harvest all of it for themselves? Ask the god to give them super awesome stuff? Just be able to say the saw one alive? I don't know.

There's some backstory between Malik and one of the "enforcers" (read: cops) named Richter. Richter is, frankly, a dick. Malik's crew stick strictly to what they claimed, follows the rules, and Richter marks them down to be triple-checked simply because she decides it's suspicious they followed the rules. Because Malik's parents might have been rulebreakers. So, you know, typical shithead cop behavior.
Everything's in, what I'd call "TRON" colors, or neon or whatever you want to call it. Lit with these shades of purples, golds, blues, whatever. I guess it makes it look futuristic, although I wonder if it gets hard on these eyes after awhile (for the characters, I mean). The actual harvesting from the god is very dispassionately depicted. A double-page of small panels showing the very methodical process. Whatever awe a person might experience seeing a being like that is entirely lost in the assembly line deconstruction of the body. So that works pretty well. Di Meo rarely draws two members of the crew in the same panel. It's a lot of narrow close-ups on one person's face. Maybe that's meant to show they aren't really a "crew", not in the Fast & the Furious "we're family" sense. Just four people, working a job together.

It's not a bad first issue as far as laying some of the groundwork for how the fictional society works. I'm less sure of it as something that's gonna get you to buy the next issue. Does it really get the reader to find out what Malik's after, or how he's gonna find a live god? I'm mildly curious, but I can't say Ewing and Di Meo reached and grabbed my attention.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Jakob the Liar

Robin Williams plays Jakob, a Jew living in one of the ghettos in Poland, under Nazi occupation. He gets caught out after curfew, and while waiting in the local Gestapo asshole's office, overhears a radio broadcast that says the Soviets aren't that far off. He relays this message to one person, trying to get something from them, and everyone concludes he must have a radio somewhere, against the Nazis rules. Because no one will believe he was caught out after curfew and wasn't killed.

A lot of the movie is about the value of hope weighed against the risks. Many of Jakob's neighbors want the latest news, which Jakob eventually starts making up for them. But other people want to destroy his radio and get him to be quiet. If word gets to the Nazis, they'll turn the place upside-down, execute people, or ship them off to death camps. Existence in the ghettos is pretty terrible, but it's still existence. That's better than death, goes the thinking. Which I can see the argument for, especially if you have loved ones you're concerned about. Alan Arkin plays a former actor who seems to be the real driver of trying to get Jakob to keep quiet, and he's got a daughter he's worried about, among others.

Williams tones himself most of the way down, other than one scene where he pretends to have a radio for the young girl he's reluctantly taken it. Jakob still makes his share of biting, sarcastic remarks and comebacks, but most of them are whispered, muttered, or hissed. He didn't ask for any of this, he's already trying to hide Lina (played by Hannah Tyler Gordon) who escaped from one of the trains to the concentration camps and ran into him as he tried to get home after the whole curfew thing. He really doesn't need rumors of him having a contraband radio giving the Nazis another reason to come knocking.

But the lies he makes up seem to help people, so he keeps at it. Maybe as much from guilt as anything else. Once he started lying, he was too far in to get out. He can't tell them everything except the first story was made-up, even if for no other reason than he can't really afford to have everyone else hating his guts.

Monday, September 07, 2020

What I Bought 8/30/2020 - Part 3

Ah Labor Day, a Monday where I don't have to work. The best of all Mondays. Granting that I will probably not be able to retire before civilization collapses and "retirement" becomes a euphemism for "throat slit over cucumbers by person wearing too much leather", but I will never understand the people who want to work an actual job after they retire. I barely want to work an actual job now, fuck that nonsense when I'm in my 60s and my knees are made of paper mache.

Locke and Key: In Pale Battalions Go #1, by Gabriel Rodriguez and Joe Hill (storytellers), Jay Fotos (colorist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - Don't worry, that guy just really wants to get away from that explosion. Entirely understandable, really.

John Locke is 14, and he wants to go Europe to fight in the Great War. Thinks it goes against everything their family says they stand for to not use the keys to fight against evil. Wrong war for that, kid. World War 1 only demonstrated the ludicrous stupidity of having a crap load of alliances between every damn country.

His father catches him when he tries sneaking to Canada to enlist, but this was all part of some larger scheme where John used the music box to put his mother under his control, to get him into the vault where all the keys are. He gets the keys, ages himself up a bit, and steps through a door into Belgium. Shut the door before you get gassed and let it in the house!
The pacing is not great. Hill and Rodriguez spend like 5 pages on John's parents walking down to the Vault, with his mother making all these comments which are clearly meant to be entirely out of character for her. Just to show how John's using her to get into the Vault of Shadows. I'd rather have spent the pages watching Fiona make the raccoons do housework. Although there's got to be better things to do with the ability to command animal life than that.

Rodriguez' art reminds me a little of John Severin, or maybe Russ Heath's. Shape of the faces, the way the hair's drawn, maybe. The linework is a little lighter, thinner than for those two, but Rodriguez is also drawing mostly children and domestic scenes, not soldiers (so far). But there's an economy to the characters. I don't feel like he's wasting lines.

Wicked Things #4, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Lotte's wandered into a bizarre Tetris world. And now I'll have that music stuck in my head all day.

Turns out Charlotte was right, a heist of all the hot new smartphones was in the works. And through the magic of hiring people for temp work through apps and forging security passes, they pulled it off. Then they sell them, while the police are grudgingly accepting Charlotte's help in figuring out how and where they're at. Unfortunately (fortunately?) they're a step behind, and while Charlotte figures out it was an inside job of sorts, the mastermind accounted for that. Perks of having a twin, I suppose. There'd have to be some benefit to having a clone of yourself, short of the opportunity to commit suicide without actually dying.

Anyway, Charlotte's depressed that they didn't catch the perp, and the lady detective suggests she trying be a team player instead of showing off how smart she is, and yeah, no. Allison did not sell that POV. The cops are consistently flummoxed through this entire case, and entirely reliant on Lotte to figure out each step. At the point she's briefly lost, Detective Bohle immediately opines that the criminal's genius must be smarter than their genius, meaning Lotte. Or maybe the cops could fucking do something other than sit on their asses and glare at the girl doing all the actual detective work.
It's like one of those episodes of House where everyone's yelling at him for being so self-centered and unconventional, but he's the only one actually saving a person's life. Except I don't have a strong urge to punch Lotte in the face.

I get we are not supposed to sympathize with the cops who don't like her because they think she's a murderess, what with us knowing she isn't. But I feel like we're supposed to take the criticism of her being a showoff as a legit and the evidence just isn't there. She had this figured out last issue, told all the cops about it, which is the definition of being a team player, and they blew her off.

I'm glad Lotte's parents were able to send her some clothes, if only so Sarin can draw her in something other than the grey sweatsuit she's been in the last 2+ issues. The tealady apron is an almost passable accessory, but I'm looking forward to what Sarin comes up with as we go forward.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #130

"People Who Want to Beat You," in Darkwing Duck (vol. 2) #1, by Aaron Sparrow and James Silvani (storytellers), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), Andworld Design (letterers)

Five years after the previous volume ended, Darkwing got another series, this time written by the character's creator, Aaron Sparrow, with James Silvani still handling the artist duties.

The previous volume ended, in Brill's version, with Darkwing rescuing his girlfriend Morgana from some other dimension she wound up in while banishing Duckthulu, but also bringing Negaduck back in the process. Well, Negaduck's here, but Morgana's MIA, so I guess that was at least one of the differences in opinion Brill and Sparrow had.

This one starts off with the classic "face a gantlet of all your foes" story when Darkwing ends up trapped in the new high-security prison. Which is all part of some larger plan Negaduck has. A larger plan we never learned anything more about. After the first four issues, there was a one-off about fighting an immensely powerful gnat, what was basically a remastered version of a story from the old Disney Adventures magazine, and a two-parter about zombie vegetables. Then the series ended, and that was that. So it goes.

Friday, September 04, 2020

What I Bought 8/30/2020 - Part 2

My phone has suddenly decided it can barely pick up a signal inside my apartment. That's not great, since the battery drains like crazy if I leave it on. Hopefully it's some issue with a tower that will get resolved eventually, but this happened my last year working in the boonies, too, with my previous phone. It's just obnoxious, especially since I'm spending more time at home these days.

Amethyst #4 and 5, by Amy Reeder (writer/artist), Marissa Louise (colorist), Gabriela Downie (letterer) - Good thing she landed on that bed of flowers, instead of all those big, unpleasant-looking crystals.

The confrontation with Dark Opal does not go well. He's not responsible for what's happened to Amethyst's kingdom. He does, however, have an opal he split into a bunch of little spider-things he can control and combine to do useful things like let him control the security in his room. Amethyst manages to overwhelm it and he's stuck at the bottom of a bunch of rubble (until he makes a big mech-thing out of the opal pieces to free himself), but the kids are no closer to solving their problems. And Amy's not listening, and she's lashing out, and things are going poorly.

Then things go worse when they confront House Diamond, the judiciary branch of Gemworld. Apparently, Amy's parents had themselves frozen in amethyst to make the rest of the houses realize how much they needed them to act as shield against Dark Opal. And since Amy wasn't around when Diamond figured this out, they concluded she fled because she was guilty and trapped the rest of her people like her parents. With a weapon whose effects they don't know how to undo.
So everyone on Gemworld is just a complete fucking dumbass apparently. Amy's parents' plan is just stupid. "You'll all miss us when we're gone!" House Diamond's over here punishing an entire country for said stupid plan. Meanwhile, Dark Opal was, in fact trying to take over everything and would have succeeded if Amethyst didn't rally the other houses, while Diamond was, presumably, sitting around with their thumbs up their butts.

Reeder makes Dark Opal look a lot less menacing, and a lot more comically deranged. Which, maybe he is nuts by this point. He's not really the threat this time around, for all that he still holds a grudge. So Amethyst clocks him over the head with some piece of machinery, and his head almost does the cartoon accordion smush thing. Of course, then Amy gets whacked in the noggin by a moving piece of floor two pages later and makes a hilarious face.

Because nothing's really going right for her. This isn't like her past adventures. She's not in control, she doesn't know the lay of the land, literally and figuratively, nothing she tries works. Her call to House Sapphire failed. House Aquamarine gave her a fake prince for help. Most of the other houses have been turning their noses up at her. Confronting Dark Opal did nothing. Appealing to House Diamond for mercy for her people did nothing. All the assumptions she held about herself and her parents are falling apart.
Because she's always treated Gemworld as just some fun adventure. Show up, wear purple clothes, fight evil guys with swords and magic, go home. I feel like Amy was more openly thankful for her allies in the original mini-series, but maybe not. Then again, they all kept telling her she had to be the leader, the one who rallied support, so that's on them. Don't make someone else do the work if you want the credit.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Jackie Chan's First Strike

I am going to keep talking about Jackie Chan movies, and you're just gonna to have to live with it!

Jackie gets asked to watch a lady on a flight from Hong Kong to the Ukraine, and then take some time off. Instead, he ends up caught up in the theft and possible sale of a nuclear warhead to the Russian Mafia. Naturally, the leads to Jackie running around Australia again.

It's about as coherent as most of these movies have been, where things keep happening at a rapid enough pace the plot is holding together on centrifugal force as much as anything. Although the disappearance of Jackie's CIA contact just kind of happens. He gets knocked off a snowmobile and goes sliding down a slope, and he's just gone, poof! Jackie's briefly framed for murder, that gets cleared up by a five second cut to the police during the big final chase/fight sequence. I'm not at all clear on whether the guy who was selling the warhead got killed or not.

But, you know, you get a sequence where Jackie tries to explain he didn't kill someone to the man's bereaved family, and it turns into a fight where he's using a metal ladder to defend himself against four guys. Or he's scrambling around his hotel room dodging two Russian guys who are big enough it looks like they shaved a couple of bears. Or he falls off a helicopter landing strut into a freezing river. Which was actually shot in a freezing river. I think the ends of my fingers got sympathetic frostbite.

Or the underwater fight in the shark tank at the aquarium. That one was more funny than anything else, but it was funny.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

What I Bought 8/30/2020 - Part 1

Hey, it's September! Which means summer is almost over. Child and Teenage Me would never have believed that some day, they'd be excited about summer ending.

I didn't track down all the comics from last month I wanted, but I managed to find five so far, which isn't bad, these days. Let's start it off with the last issue of a mini-series.

Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #4, by Jeff Lemire (writer), Denys Cowan (penciler), Bill Sienkiewicz (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Willie Schubert (letterer) - Can Vic bleed through that mask, or does it just get trapped against his face underneath it? That would be unpleasant.

Vic's back in the present, and it's still chaos in Hub City. He's convinced he has to face this devil, Tot says he's being an idiot and that Vic Sage needs to get on the air and try to get people to calm down. Vic goes on the air and encourages people to fight back against injustice, without burning everything down. He also reveals himself as the Question on live TV. Good thing nobody watches network news, anymore.

He blows up the abandoned building that started all this, but his target isn't there, so he heads for the Mayor's office. At which point the Question kicks the shit out of a bunch of cops in riot gear. That was fun. He tries to convince the mayor to do the right thing, guy shoots himself instead. The "devil" shows up talking shit, Myra blows his head off. Which doesn't do a thing for all the rioting and everything else going on in the streets, to Vic's despair. But he puts the Question mask back on and goes to do. . . something.

I get that Lemire probably doesn't want to do a story where all the problems are solved by the costumed vigilante beating up one guy. But then what is the point? That Vic is screwing up by deciding he's just going to be the Question? That he can do more to address the actual systemic is as Vic Sage, investigative reporter, and that by trying to rely on punching dudes he's just playing into the "devil's" hands? The devil's got him so fixated on how they keep doing this dance life after life that Vic ignores the big picture?
I don't know, it's just kind of weird ending. Vic wins, but he loses, and maybe he didn't actually win because he was always fighting the wrong battle. And he doesn't get that, so he's just going to keep losing, isn't he? I think that was kind of how the O'Neill/Cowan series went. The longer it went on, the more Vic turned to the Question, the more destroyed he got. Because he couldn't make things better putting on a mask and punching people. Not for the problems that really plagued the city.

I feel like the panels on the second and third pages from the end are out of sequence. Or the lettering is in the wrong boxes. Vic falls to his knees in front of a puddle and triggers the gas to attach the mask and stands up as Tot asks him if he thinks he's special. But on the next page, he's back on his knees staring into the puddle and responding to Tot's question. So I don't know if he lost hope briefly again in one panel, or if the question about him being special was supposed to be in the panel where he was still on his knees, and he gets up afterward. Were the panels supposed to run across the two pages, or read one, then the other? I don't know.

Other than that, a lot of tall, narrow panels. Especially during the scenes in the Mayor's office. They aren't necessarily zoomed in on a character's face, so I think, since those scenes heavily involve Marlick, the devil, it's supposed to make you feel trapped with him. There's no getting out and away from him, from what he's saying, from what he's planning. Most of the panels in Vic's scenes aren't that way. Some of them are very compressed, spread out the width of the page, but short, and others are somewhere in between. Things are shifting for him. He has new information, about himself and his enemy, and he's making decisions about his life that could be a major shift.

When the two of them are together, the panel shapes move back-and-forth depending on who has the upper hand. Tall and narrow when Marlick's got the edge, shorter and wider when Vic's fighting back. That's pretty much all I have on this.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Mr. Nice Guy

I spent part of last weekend with Alex, and in response to last week's hypothetical, he picked Russell Crowe to flush down the memory hole, same as Kelvin. Although he started to have second thoughts after I reminded him of Virtuosity.

More importantly, we watched more Jackie Chan movies! Amazon Prime doesn't have either of the first two Police Storys, so we went a different route. Jackie playing Jackie, a popular TV chef in Australia. He happens to help protect a reporter who has a videotape of a big crime boss trying to buy back his cocaine from the gang that stole it. Naturally, the buy back devolved into violence, especially since the Demons really like hand grenades. I mean, a lot. Everyone in the gang seems to be carrying at least one grenade at all times.

So Jackie's hunted by both groups, since neither of them want that tape getting out. His girlfriend just flew in to visit, and she in unprepared for all this. "This" meaning both the constant attacks by gangs of men in either suits or torn leather outfits, and the other women hanging around Jackie.

As usual, the movie is less about the story, and the various sequences and set pieces where Jackie Chan shows off. The early extended chase where he's squeezing between fence posts and trying to escape via oversized gorilla balloon in the middle of a mass biker wedding. The "fight" against Giancarlo, where Jackie's arms and legs are restrained. The fight inside the Demons' van, where he at one point pulls the emergency break while jumping in the air to mule kick the leader through the back doors and over another car behind them.

Honestly, when a guy does that, you should just give up. Like those scenes where Batman trashes an entire gang and the last guy just puts his gun down and surrenders. Nothing good is going to happen if you keep trying to fight that guy.

Although the funniest scene was Sammo Hung (who's also the director) as a poor bike courier who gets caught up in the middle of the whole thing with the van. Alex and I were dying laughing.