Friday, October 30, 2020

What I Bought 10/23/2020

It snowed here on Monday. Was not ready for that. At least it waited until my dad got safely through all his home repair monkeyshines on the roof last weekend. I offer to go up there myself, but he still refuses. Not that I want to be on the roof, but I don't want him up there, either.

Sera and the Royal Stars #8, by Jon Tsuei (writer), Audrey Mok (artist), Raul Angulo (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - Far be it from me to question my elders, but I think the cloak will work better if you wear it over your shoulders.

Starting to wonder if I'd ever see this comic again. Sera and Antares are trying to catch up with the other Royal Stars as they trek across a desert. Antares is trying to help the princess access the power placed inside her, but it doesn't seem to be happening. The majority of the issue is spent with Tara and Roya, Sera's presumed lost mother and her little sister. They're busted out of prison by Tara's presumed-dead aunt, Leilyn.

While Sera's busy trying to get the Royal Stars up and running, Leilyn's been trying to protect the Tree of All Seeds, which was poisoned 30 years ago. By drawing the poison into herself. Her sister tried to summon the Stars to heal the Tree, but failed and died. Then Tara got tapped, and she got captured and imprisoned, after abandoning the quest to return home when she heard it was under attack. 

I would say these dragon siblings aren't very creative, seeing as they pulled the same maneuver on Sera, but it also keeps working. I guess you can get away with being a one-hit wonder with the right audience.

To protect the Tree, Leilyn sealed the way, and to get back in, one of them has to confront the King of Serpents, to use some of his blood as an offering. Not sure at all why it has to be his blood. He's sealed up, so at least they know where he is, and Roya goes in after him. I was expecting someone who looked more snakelike, but he looks like the Mandarin, but controls snakes. As designs go, kind of a letdown. The design for Simurgh is a lot more interesting, with the multicolored wings and a bird of prey's talons on a dog's body. Kind of like if you dressed up a dog for Carnival?

So I'm assuming the dragon siblings poisoned the Tree, which is the source of all the world's plant life. I can't quite see the point. They want to be the big shots, rather than the Royal Stars. OK fine, pecking order squabble. What does poisoning the tree get them, other than maybe giving them a place they know the Stars have to arrive at to attack them? If it dies, and the world's plants follow, they get to rule over a barren wasteland. Great if you want to be Immortan Joe, or a member of the GOP, but kind of pointless for anyone who isn't a fucking dumbass.

Unless someone else did the poisoning. Leilyn just says the Tree was poisoned 30 years ago. She doesn't specifically point the finger. Antares tells Sera the Dracos definitely put a binding spell on the Stars so they couldn't help Sera's grandmother, but that could have been in the works already. Happy coincidence. There could be another threat out there beyond the Dracos and the King of All Serpents. Perhaps the Emperor of All Moose.

It's kind of a exposition heavy, backstory issue. Not really the best one for getting some momentum in the story after a 6 month absence. But presumably all this will be important eventually, so it was going to have to be dealt with at some point.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

On Dangerous Ground

Robert Ryan plays an angry cop. Just a seething ball of spite, sick of seeing nothing but crooks and stoolies day after day. After he gets warned by his Captain for beating a suspect (who made the bad decision to basically dare him to do it, wrong guy to pull that move with), he loses his temper again with another member of the gang he was trying to find after they beat his witness up.

Since this is the 1940s, rather than being put on paid leave while there's a perfunctory "investigation" they send him up north to help with a manhunt. Someone knifed a teen girl, and her father's (Ward Bond) a mass of indignation and rage. The chase leads them to a house out in the boonies with seemingly only one occupant, a blind woman named Mary (Ida Lupino).

Ryan knows something is up, but is forced to wait. And that gives them a chance to talk. He meets someone good, but lonely, caught in an unhappy existence focused on caring for someone she cares about deeply, but may not be able to save. Bit of a contrast to Ryan's character, who seems to want to serve the law and justice, but doesn't actually care about anyone. Ryan's very good at playing someone with barely disguised contempt.

The ending feels kind of abrupt, although the way all the characters are in sort of stupor once the chase ends feel appropriate. They've all been so wound up by the tension and anger that once the cause is gone, they're just left exhausted and confused.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

You Gotta Define Your Terms

In Spy Island, Nora Freud's half-sister Connie works for the Marine Institute of Cryptozoology, and has an associate's degree in cryptozoology. She shows up because there's supposed to be something going on with the mermaids there.

But if mermaids are a widely acknowledged enough creature that you can send people to investigate their attacks, that their teeth can be identified and sold, that there are fundraisers to protect them, should they still qualify as a cryptid? At that point, aren't they just wildlife? I kind of figured the whole point of studying cryptids was to get them to the point they're recognized as an actual, existing animal.

I did a little looking around online, and there seem to be a lot of definitions for cryptids. One was any creature that left behind circumstantial or testimonial evidence, but nothing physical. Well, there are mermaid teeth, I'm assuming documented sightings and observations if they know what seasons mermaids are most active. The same person, Bernard Heuvelmans, argued it should also be unexpected or different in some way, or 'emotionally upsetting.' That's vague, but could apply. 

Though by that logic, a platypus should be a cryptid.

I don't think the definition about creatures that were assumed extinct works, because I don't think that was ever the case for mermaids. Ditto for finding individuals well outside their normal range. Doubt you had sailors yelling about seeing a mermaid, and one of the old-timers scoffs and tells them there are no mermaids south of the Tropic of Cancer.

A different person, Chad Arment, had different types, one of which was animals that bear no resemblance to any known species past or present. Which could apply, but the mermaids as presented in Spy Island seem to have traits of different animals that exist. Tail similar to dolphins, scales like a fish, upper body similar in shape and symmetry to primates. So if they're a cryptid then, again, so is a a platypus.

And that designation really depends on how complete your fossil record is. You don't have any record of similar species until you do. 

The only conclusion I can draw is we're meant to realize Connie is using this mermaid thing as a smokescreen for something else, because obviously mermaids aren't cryptids.

Now I need to spend some time looking up what we know on the ancestral history of the platypus.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Cheap Detective

Peter Falk does a spoof of Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and probably The Big Sleep and some other stuff. There's the search for a priceless treasure by a fat guy, a woman constantly changing her name (played by Madeline Khan, but I wish they'd given her more to work with), Falk's old flame that ditched him run off with a French Resistance leader, who is in danger from the Nazi's Cincinnati consul (despite being in San Francisco). Falk's suspected of murdering his partner, because he was sleeping with the guy's wife. The whole nine yards.

I was expecting more of a straight murder mystery, albeit with a comedic bent. Something closer to the Thin Man films, where it can be lighthearted, but there's still a real mystery to solve. This is more like Airplane! but not anywhere near as funny.

Which isn't to say there aren't amusing parts, but I think the better moments are when the movie goes further from what it's spoofing. Falk coming up with different excuses to stiff the cabbies. (Would have enjoyed his being framed being the work of irate cab drivers.) The gag about the murderer's victims all staying in the position they were in when they were shot. Falk's bad luck when he goes to meet Mr. Blubber.

Really, if they'd just junked all the Casablanca stuff, it probably would have been fine. It clutters the movie and doesn't do anything but get annoying, since both the DuChards are so irritating I can't understand why Falk wants Marlene back. I want them off the screen every time they appear.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A New Year's Solicits look much like the Old

It's mostly been a bunch of slow months in the solicitations since everything went to hell back in the spring. Did the solicitations for January 2021 break the cycle?

No. Maybe we'll have to wait for solicits to be released in the actual new year.

Which doesn't mean there's nothing to discuss, just that I'm probably not buying much of it. DC announced Future State, which is going to be a two-month thing where they don't publish all their usual titles, but instead do a bunch of stories set in the amorphous future with the next generation of heroes or something. There's gonna be a different Superman and Wonder Woman, but it seems like Original Recipe Batman might still be roaming around.

It just reminds me of Convergence from a few years back. Remember, they came up with some weird excuse for a mini-event to do for two months while DC moved its offices cross-country or something?

Marvel, meanwhile, will be hip-deep in King in Black, as well as a shitload of Alien variant covers, 'cause they got that license away from Dark Horse. Great, I look forward to Carol Danvers adding one of them to her new attempt at an ongoing, like putting Conan in Savage Avengers. Or maybe they'll do a Pet Avengers reboot, and they can add it in there.

Other than that shit, there's Black Cat (doing a King in Black tie-in), Deadpool (doing a King in Black tie-in), and an Iron Fist mini-series by Larry Hama and David Wachter (not a tie-in to anything!) I didn't see Taskmaster or Power Pack, but there's supposed to be an issue of Runaways out this week, and I don't remember seeing it resolicited for release at any point, so who the hell knows.

Outside those two companies, it's mostly the smaller publishers. Aftershock has issue 4 of Sympathy for No Devils, and issue 3 of Kaiju Score. I'm hoping to have the first issue of Sympathy for No Devils by next week, so maybe I'll know if I'm interested.

21 Pulp has a collection of a series called Hero Hourly, by James Patrick, Carlos Trigo, Alex Sollazzo, and Marco del Verde about superheroing as a regular old job. I mean, maybe it would be fun. It's Alive is releasing a series by Sam Glanzman from the early 1960s called Kona: Monarch of Monster Isle. I only know Glanzman's work from the USS Stevens stories that used to run in some of DC's war comics. Again, might be worth a look. 

Scout Comics has Sweet Downfall by Stefano Cardoselli, about an old crash-test dummy that works for the mob as a hitman, until he's ordered to bring in a mermaid. This is the first issue, but it may be meant mostly to get your interest, because it says shortly after this they'll release the whole thing as one volume. So maybe wait for the trade. Of course, Cardoselli was half the creative team on Live Die Reload, which I did not exactly love when I read it earlier this year, so that's a counter-argument.

The only other thing that caught my attention were the two trades for Jay Faerber's Elsewhere, which aren't new, but I guess I missed them the first time around. I wonder if it's a complete story, or if Faerber just dropped it part way through, which seems like what he did with Copperhead (and maybe Dynamo 5).

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #137

"Couldn't You Just Cheat On Him With a Younger Version?", in Despicable Deadpool #287, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) 

I ended up taking a break from Deadpool for most of 2017. The post-Civil War II arc was a waste of time of Deadpool trying to hunt down and kill Madcap, only to fail and let him escape. Then, they'd gotten in the habit of doing extra-sized $10 issues, where the extra content was usually underwhelming. Then there was a crossover between all the Deadpool related titles as Shiklah went to war against the humans. Then there were Secret Empire tie-ins. 

So I skipped about 8 months. By the time I came back, they renamed the book, did the "legacy" numbering, and Deadpool was a wanted criminal for his part in HYDRA Captain America's crimes, hated by all. Although Duggan really tried hard to convince us everyone was pissed Deadpool killed Phil Coulson. Agent Preston, sure? Nice Captain America, yeah possibly. But why would Rogue give a shit about Phil Coulson?

Stryfe had saved Wade's daughter and Preston's family when Madcap exposed them to a bio-weapon, and called in his marker. First Wade was supposed to kill Cable and cut out his heart. Which he did (sorta), but the impact was totally neutered by Duggan having Cable state he never liked or trusted Wade. If Cable's just one more person who thinks Wade's a fuck-up, instead of the last person who believed in him, then who cares? Did Duggan think the audience had some sort of intrinsic interest in Cable himself? Pfft, nobody actually likes Cable.

After that, Deadpool had to kill three more people (including Cable/Deadpool supporting cast member Irene Merryweather for reasons that were never, to my knowledge, revealed), while dodging the X-Men, Captain America, and Rogue. This did lead to one good issue, where Wade repeatedly makes Cap look bad in front of the public, which had been so willing to accept the "evil, Cosmic Cube-created alternate version" excuse. I gave up on the book after that.

There was another arc of, I think, Wade putting a bounty on himself and trying to get the villains to kill him, without success. Then the final, 300th issue, that I bought used a month ago. Which opens with Wade spraying himself with some alien super-weapon and calling out the Avengers, only to learn the weapon is something that makes everyone puke. Yes, it's multiple pages of an extended vomit joke. Be glad I didn't use the full-page splash of Giant Man inundating an entire street. 

Then he meets Gerry Duggan, kills him, steals his car, and tries to wipe all his memories back to at least the Gail Simone era. Unless "Black Box" was a reference to Gareb's presence in Cable/Deadpool. Hard to tell. Basically so Skottie Young could take Deadpool back to being an amoral mercenary. Well, at least there was a reason this time for the character setback. That's more than Daniel Way gave us. And I guess I can't fault Duggan for knowing Marvel would undo everything he did, and at least this way he got to do it his way.

Since it hasn't finished yet, we're skipping over the current Kelly Thompson-written run, and moving to assorted one-shots and mini-series. There's still about a month of Deadpool stuff to go, but we'll get through it.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Random Back Issues #47 - Spectacular Spider-Man #159

Has anyone studied it to see how big a pie you can make with 24 blackbirds?

All right, Acts of Vengeance tie-in! It's gonna be a good Friday! (Note that I'm typing this on Monday evening, so the week between now and then may have put that to lie entirely.)

We're in Month 2 of the Spider-books tying into Acts of Vengeance, and Spider-Man is still trying to get a handle on his strange new powers. Which is how he finds himself floating in mid-air without realizing it. Worse, his spider-sense is reacted with almost blinding sensitivity to everything, and he can't keep himself from reacting on instinct. Like when it warns him of a flying camera drone, and he immediately tries webbing it, only for the drone to explode.

Doom's spying on him, trying to understand the source of the new powers, so he can claim it for himself. When the Wizard calls and says he's busted the Brothers Grimm out to send after Spidey, Doom politely suggests they start in the Lower Midtown area and sits back to watch.

The old spider sense kicks in, saving Peter from an awkward conversation/job offer from Jonah (having lost the Daily Bugle to Thomas Fireheart, who made it pro-Spidey as a way to pay off his 'debt of honor' to the webslinger), and directs him to Madison Square Garden. Which promptly lifts into the sky.

When people say no team on earth should be as incompetently run as the Knicks, this is not the solution they were hoping for.

The brothers are using some the Wizard's anti-gravity discs, and now that Spidey's there, start in with the exploding pies and tear gas Easter eggs. None of which does more than annoy Spidey, so they make the anti-grav discs detonate and try dropping the Garden on him.

Spidey does three panels of exposition about how sick he is of random nuts trying to kill him recently, while using his webbing to keep the arena suspended in mid-air. Which is enough to convince the villains it's time to run, not that it does them any good. Spider-Man catches up easily, and is able to make himself stop reacting instinctively to all the different warnings his spider-sense is putting out, and finishes the fight by swinging one Brother Grimm into the other.

Peter's feeling pretty good about himself until his spider-sense goes off again, and he instinctively shoots a webline at the threat, blowing up another camera drone. So much for having things under control.

Before it was all said and done, Doom would throw Goliath (Erik Josten, the future Thunderbolt Atlas), and the TESS-ONE robot at Spidey, both of whom would push him further, but eventually get trounced (and in TESS' case, completely obliterated). Doom doesn't get his hands on the Captain Universe power, either, unless there's a What If? out there I missed.

[10th longbox, 8th comic. Spectacular Spider-Man #159, by Gerry Conway (writer), Sal Buscema (penciler), Mike Esposito (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Rick Parker (letterer)]

Thursday, October 22, 2020

High & Low: The Worst

I think this is about the fourth movie in this series, unless the High & Low from 1963 with Toshiro Mifune is supposed to be part of it as well. It's definitely clear a bunch of these characters know each other and have backstory, but the movie only vaguely alludes to it. I guess because they assume you've watched the earlier films.

All you really need to know is it's one of those set-ups with the massive high school gangs where everyone looks like they belong in a boy band, that occasionally get together and beat the crap out of each other. If there's a main character, it may be Fujio, who has returned to his old neighborhood to attend Oya High. There's some set-up about full-time and part-time students that I don't get (one character refers to the part-timers as 'reserve yakuzas', and I don't know if that means they're literal mobsters or what), and Fujio wants to be top dog among the full-timers.

Fujio's kind of a Goku type, in that he's extremely good about getting people to like and respect him, and he's always easily excited about stuff. After he loses a fight to the leader of a different gang, he's told the guy who beat him lost to the leader of another gang, and he's determined to go find that guy and fight him.

Then his school gets roped into a war against some other, more powerful gang from another school. Because both the gangs are trying to keep a drug called redrum out, and the dealers obviously don't like that. Then both schools' gangs team up to assault the housing complex where the dealers are set up, and there's a huge brawl against a bunch of drugged out lunatics.

On top of that, there's a subplot about Masayuma, the leader of Oya High's part-time students (who are apparently higher in the pecking order than the full-timers) trying to decide what he's going to do with his life and move on. One of the funnier bits is when he seems really angry about something, then announces he lost his job. Everyone exclaims "Again?", and he falls to his knees bemoaning how he's going to starve. 

I guess that's how the series works. Certain characters eventually age out, but you have other characters get older and rise in the ranks. I couldn't tell you whether I actually like the movie or not. Maybe if I'd seen the others, and the shared history meant more. Also, it felt like the movie kept adding more stuff to it, like mentioning other schools or people I'd not seen or heard of yet. At a certain point, enough, just go with what you've got.

The fights aren't bad, there are some decent moves and choreography in there with characters vaulting off each other, or using ladders as barricades or slingshots. But these kids really like doing the Superman punch move. Freaking everyone does it at some point or another. But all the fights start with two group facing off at the end of an open area, then sprinting towards each other screaming, so I guess you might as well go big.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

This is Why They Say Never to Read Your Old Work

I was thinking about Green Lantern: Rebirth recently, the mini-series Geoff Johns and Ethan van Sciver did bringing back Hal Jordan back in 2005. I don't know why, so don't ask. More specifically, I was thinking about my reception to it, which was mostly positive.

OK, fine, I ranked it my second favorite mini-series of 2005. Man that list has not aged well, other than GrimJack: Killer Instinct in the #1 spot. In retrospect, it should have just been a Top 1 and left at that. Good thing I've developed impeccable taste in the last 15 years! Hahahahaha. Not buyin it? Fine.

Admittedly, my standards going in were really low. I figured Johns was going to kill off Kyle Rayner in some extremely violent and humiliating way, to clear the deck for his beloved Hal Jordan. Instead, Kyle not only survived, but was the only Lantern who wasn't controlled by Parallax for at least a while. Of course, Johns corrected that misstep a few years later during one of those interminable Lantern war stories, when Kyle briefly served as host for Parallax. But at the time, he survived, so the story exceeded my expectations.

Still I said Johns' greatest strength was to reach into his butt and pull out the finest silks and polished gems and Jesus Christ, that's embarrassing to read. And Kelvin rightly pointed out that's not what he'd call what Johns produces. Even if you could count what I wrote as a backhanded compliment, which it sort of is, still embarrassing. This is why I try not gush about things. It's awkward for everyone when I do.

I mean, Johns definitely pulled stuff out of his butt, but on a certain level I have to respect the amount of. . . I don't know, Chutzpah? Cheek? Lack of self-awareness? It takes to look at Hal Jordan wiping out the entire Green Lantern Corps and trying to erase the universe and say, "A giant yellow bug made of fear made him do that."

That's dumb, but it feels like the right kind of dumb for comics*. A completely bizarre answer to a particular problem, that tries to point to other stuff from the character's history - the yellow weakness in the rings, the stuff about being without fear - as evidence to support it. That's something that at least a certain subset of comic fans - myself included - love to do. My "theory" tag is full of me proposing ideas of various levels of plausibility to explain this thing or that. Johns just manages to get paid to do it. The thing about the yellow fear bug explanation I had the most trouble with was the Parallax would somehow think going from possessing the Spectre to possessing one of those little blue Guardians was an upgrade, as opposed to the existence of a giant bug made entirely of fear.

Looking back at it through what I can remember, I think Johns managed to string together enough big or "cool" moments between all the backstory and frantic handwaving explanatory dialogue to keep it going. I don't even remember how they got Parallax out of Ganthet, other than something where they all restrained him in ways that were meant to demonstrate how each of them approaches using their rings. But I remember Green Arrow trying to use Hal's ring. Kyle putting a bunch of arrows in Sinestro's back. Johns undoing the whole "Warrior" phase of Guy's backstory in one fell swoop, and Guy wearing his ring on his middle finger. 

It's the kind of thing Mark Millar tries to do, coast on momentum with memorable stuff to get past all the all important connective tissue that holds a story together, but Johns probably does it a little better. Low bar to clear there, I know, but I think Johns has enough interest in making things fit or connect to actually try and do some of the work on that end. Whereas Millar can't be bothered with such tedious shit. Does it make sense Iron Man would send Bullseye and Venom after Spider-Man? Are we going to try and make it make sense. Who cares? It made for a cool last page.

I didn't really have any larger point with this post. Just got to thinking about that mini-series and figured the best way to stop was to get it out of my head by writing.

*As opposed to Johns' "Alan Moore is responsible for all those incredibly violent and dark stories I wrote from 2005 to 2015." That's just shoddy, spineless, buck-passing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Eloise

If I keep watching movies set in abandoned, haunted insane asylums, with a history of horrific abuse by the medical staff, I'm never going to get the help I dearly need.

At least the four idiots in this movie don't go snooping on a dare or to shoot a documentary. Instead, Jacob learns his father committed suicide and left Jacob a large inheritance. If Jacob can find his aunt's death certificate, and she died in the aforementioned asylum. Or he can wait seven years to have her declared legally dead. Her death certificate is for some reason locked up in the annex in what's left of the place, and requires a court order to be unsealed, which will take at least six months.

(Admittedly, I'm not up on estate law, or whatever this would fall under, but can't Jacob have half the inheritance, since it's only him and his aunt as heirs, and the lawyer holds the other half while they wait the seven years? Then once she's legally declared dead, he gets the other half?)

Jacob's friend Dell (played by Brandon T. Jackson, aka Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder) has his own money problems, and little aversion to crime, and suggests they just break into the annex and take what they need. They find a guy named Scott (played by P.J. Byrne, who I know as the IRS agent who gave Bruce Campbell a hard time on Burn Notice that one time), who is an aficionado on the asylum, and convince him to guide them. Except Scott's maybe a little autistic, or just exceptionally childlike for some reason, and his older sister Pia (played by Eliza Dushku, the actual reason I watched this movie) insists on going along.

Naturally things go disastrously wrong, as they do. I'm not clear what exactly is happening. Sometimes they see ghosts in the burned out remains of the annex as they search through it at night. Other times, they appear to have been somehow transported back to the past, where they run afoul of the head doctor (played by Robert Patrick as a creepy, sadistic guy who makes jokes about gagging patients so their screams don't disturb everyone). He's big on Confrontation Therapy. You're afraid of snakes? It's Fear Factor, we're dumping you in a container of snakes. Don't like small spaces? We locked you gagged in a morgue drawer. Shit like that. 

(It's especially funny that at the end, the film says it is dedicated to all the people who worked at the Eloise Mental Hospital where it supposedly takes place. OK, you made them look like a bunch of monsters, heck of a dedication.)

The timeloop gives Jacob the opportunity to learn the horrifying truth of his own lineage, and possibly alters the timeline in someway involving a crazy bum with a grocery cart. (I'm less clear on that part.) The pacing is kind of a mess - it never gets going at a fever pitch, but it feels like it grinds to a halt for Jacob's big reveal - and if it hadn't been free to watch through Alex' Amazon Prime account, I wouldn't have bothered.

Monday, October 19, 2020

On a Quest to Find Some Family

Ah, another success story of the Buscema School of Martial Arts.

Martial arts prodigy learns the secret of their parentage at the same time their home is destroyed and goes on a quest. That's the basic gist for Shaolin Sisters, the first volume of which I picked up about three months ago. Julin lives at the Fighting Fang Hall, trying to master the Shaolin Stone First, which would make her fist like unto a thing of, er, stone. Has she considered fighting a dragon? On her birthday, the hall is attacked by the apparently evil Bai Wang, who's after the 'secret power of shaolin.' 

Who isn't right? At troubled times such as these, I believe we all could use a little secret power. Mine's called caffeine. I would have said sarcasm, but that's not much of a secret.

When Julin returns and finds what's happened, she learns she has two sisters. Kalin lives with another master, and Seilin is a pirate queen. They all got the same dad, but different moms. And they each have a little bell, which make an odd ringing noise when you get them all together, which certain people are pretty sure has something to do with that secret power.

Julin's bubbly and impulsive, and excited to have sisters. Kalin's more quiet and reserved, but is happy with this as well. Seilin. . . does not give a crap about sisters. She's only excited to learn their dad is still out there somewhere. So she can kill him. She and the other two haven't come to an understanding by the end of the volume.

On the other hand, she made her entrance by riding across the sea on top of a giant marlin, then leaping onto the deck of her own ship, so I think we just have to acknowledge artists can have a delicate temperament.

The series is from around 2000 from what I can tell, but Narumi Kakinouchi's art style feels a lot older than that. I'm not sure who the target audience was, possibly young girls into martial arts, but it reminds me of some panels of the original Sailor Moon manga I must have seen somewhere over the years. Kind of alternates between "soft focus" look, and an extremely minimalist approach in the action scenes. At times, characters are barely more than a sketched out shape, and you just kind of have to infer what's happening. Or a lot of panels that zoom way in on an eye, or what someone is holding in their hand while the fight is still going.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #136

"Mass Dumbassery is More Like It", in Deadpool (vol. 4) #17, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer)

The previous volume of Deadpool ended because of Secret Wars. Because the Avengers, as written by Jonathan Hickman, are useless and didn't fix the Incursion mess. The book was naturally immediately restarted, and Duggan took the opportunity to make Deadpool massively popular in-universe, becoming a pop culture and merchandising sensation.

Popular enough to franchise his likeness and hire 4th tier characters like those schmucks up there to dress up like as act as the "Mercs for Money" (Murdock sued him on behalf of Luke Cage to prevent the use of "Heroes for Hire"). Popular enough to bankroll Old Man Steve Rogers' Unity Squad Avengers team. The funny thing is this run actually started about 4 months before the first Deadpool movie came out.

The first 35 issues of this run are Wade starting out at the absolute best place he's ever been, and then steadily losing it all. His mercs grow increasingly angry with him as he stiffs them on their paychecks. Which he's doing because Avengers are expensive, and Wade, trying to live up to Captain America's belief in him, is throwing every cent he's got into the team. 

The sad thing about the run is, Deadpool is trying really hard to actually be a hero, be an Avenger, be better, and fails completely. His mercs leave, his wife gets frustrated and starts taking other lovers. And, you know, declaring war on the surface world. He loses track of Michael the necromancer and Ben Franklin's ghost until he needs them for a tie-in to a Dr. Strange event, then loses both of them. He tried to reach out to Madcap, who he thought was alone and sad, but it's too late. The damage Wade did in the past was too much.

The high point of this portion of the run is the Civil War II tie-ins, surprisingly. Because Duggan and Hawthorne just take the piss on the entire stupid thing. Every issue is Wade getting into some pointless fight that could have been resolved if people had just talked about it reasonably. And it gives us Wade dropping the Macho Man flying elbow on the Black Panther, and them hitting each other with toilets.

And then, of course, there was that whole thing where a sentient Cosmic Cube somehow got used to make it so Steve Rogers was always loyal to HYDRA. By the time Wade realizes things are wrong and he shouldn't trust Captain America, he's in too deep, and everyone's using him as Example #1 of how they should have known something was wrong with Rogers all along.

(Just for the record, the Cosmic Cube thing was Maria Hill's fault, as she'd tried to use it to alter villains' minds, and it got turned around on the heroes. She's the worst. Even Gyrich doesn't fuck things up as spectacularly as she does.)

Friday, October 16, 2020

Random Back Issues #46 - Hourman #10

No, you don't understand. He's a demon, so decaf is like a triple espresso for him. Because it's evil. And he's a demon, so evil is good for him. Look, just give him the damn stimulants before he consigns us all to Hell, OK?

We last looked at Hourman five months ago, but 13 issues from now. Seems appropriate for a time-traveler. At the point, Torcher the demon and Dr. Togg, the Golden Age Hourman foe are ready to betray the rest of the group out of bitterness and general stupidity. Here, they're just being added to the supporting cast. Torcher's fresh out of Hell, and Togg's fresh out of prison.

Beth and Snapper are trying to introduce Torcher to local culture, since he decided to stay on Earth after Day of Judgement. Which I think was about the Spectre going nuts. I know, which time? Hourman shows up with Wendi Harris, who was the wife of the original Hourman. Ty tried helping her son, Rick, who has some sort of horrible disease, and fucked that up real good. He had to dump him in the Timepoint, where time never passes, until he can find a cure.

 
All of which leaves him a little leery of trusting a demon from Hell, because maybe his judgement's unsound. Snapper and Beth talk him through that, although Beth is also trying to figure out if something is going on between Ty and Wendi. Which I feel should be gross, because developmentally, Ty is maybe an adolescent, but also because I'm not sure whether he would be considered a descendant of her deceased husband, or a copy of him. Neither of those is great, but the former feels weirder than the latter.

While I'm trying to get over my wiggins about that, a Bill McDowell head of a Big Pharma company asks Hourman to please protect him. He hired Dr. Togg when the doc approached him offering his expertise in genetics. Togg got busy making "gombezis", which are dogs with bird wings and talons that just say the word "Gombezi" all the time.

Togg's watching all this and unleashes the gombezis. Ty and Torcher drive them off, but they grabbed Beth on the way out the door, because Togg's smitten. Beth does spend basically every issue in a crop top and shorts, but as Rick notes, Togg was in prison 58 years, so 'Pat Buchanan in a halter top' might have produced the same effect.

And that mental picture is the greatest crime Snapper Carr ever committed.

Hourman tracks them down, but not before Togg uses his monstroscopic lamp to make Beth like him. Ty flips out a bit and smashes the lab, but calms down, uses him time vision to undo the damage, and restores Beth and Togg to their "normal" states. Ty also offers Togg (or Rocco) his friendship, and a lab on his Timeship. He hopes Togg will find a cure for the mysterious disease Rick Tyler has. Togg is suspicious, and when Ty says that this is because Togg doesn't trust himself, Togg dismisses that as 'self-help crap.'

All that dealt with, Hourman and Beth have themselves a sunset walk on the beach. Just as the android's about to confess his feelings, the Justice League of the 853rd Century shows up, insisting he come home with them. Cockblockers. Tyler will ultimately get them to back off, but Batman, being Batman, decides that doesn't apply to him and will ultimately decide to butt in again later.

Because all Batmen, no matter the era, are jerks.

[6th longbox, 48th comic. Hourman #10, by Tom Peyer (writer), Rags Morales (layouts), Mark Propst (embellisher), John Kalisz (colorist), Heroic Age (seps), Kurt Hathaway (letterer)]

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Defiance

Three Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Soviet Union, trying to keep a bunch of Jewish refugees safe in a forest. Liev Schreiber plays Zus, and Daniel Craig is Tuvia. Zus decides the way to go is seek out and kill Nazis, so he ends up joining a Red Army group and fighting with them. Tuvia and their kid brother Asael stick around and try to keep the refugees alive through the winter with limited food and medical supplies.

Tuvia's struggle is to try and lead, to keep things from falling apart, when he didn't really want the responsibility. I don't think he - or either of his brothers - really get to grieve for their parents who were murdered at the beginning of the movie by the Nazis. He tries to save a few people he finds, other relatives. Because they're family. But that just means more people hear about him and come looking for a safe place. 

Before you know it, there's hundreds of people looking to him for answers. Why isn't there more food? I should get more food? We need medicine. We'd be better off in the ghettos. He gets this white horse from somewhere earlier in the movie that he rides around on occasionally, looking very impressive and leaderish. Then in the winter he has to kill the horse so they don't starve. The fantasy of the joys of  being leader versus the reality.

For Zus, the problem is that even as he fights the Nazis, the Soviets aren't exactly his friends. He gets referred to as the Fighting Hebrew, and there's a certain air of "you're a credit to your people" to a lot of the compliments. Just basic respect is difficult to get, and what he does get will be in spite of his Jewishness. I think he's able to overlook it up to a point because he sees his fighting with this army as being a way to protect his people. He's helping in the way that feels right to him (and getting revenge). 

It's a lot about what was the best approach. Tuvia's trying to shield and keep people together in the face of the threat. Zus chooses to confront the threat head on and try to beat it. There was one elder leader in a ghetto that felt there was a certain amount of security there, and they could just wait it out. Some of them might die, but if they fled into the woods and tried to stay there overwinter, all of them could die. How do you do the math on that?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What I Bought 10/7/2020 - Part 2

Showing a familiar inability to learn from past mistakes, I'm doing Sketchtober again. This year, I'm trying to do all the Marvel and DC characters I highlighted in my "Favorite Characters" posts. Yes, that only adds up to 29, but it gives me a couple days wiggle room (one of which I already used last week). Anyway, it's going as well as it usually does, which is to say my imagination exceeds my talent.

Spy Island #1 and 2, by Chelsea Cain (writer), Lia Miternique (cover artist/designer/supplemental art?), Elise McCall (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - I still like the pulp paperback look of that cover.

So there's an island in the Bermuda Triangle where a lot of spies hang out, for some reason. Schmoozing at fundraisers to protect mermaids, which are a thing in this world. And they eat, small, unwary German children. Nora Freud is a spy, although I couldn't tell you who she works for. She killed a man, for reasons I don't know. Her father, who she claims is dead, is posing as a Quebecois Separatist mime. her sister Connie shows up after the mermaid attack because she works for the Institute of Marine Cryptozoology. Nora's got some sort of back-and-forth going with a guy who wears briefs with the Union Jack on them, so I assume he's meant to be a James Bond knockoff. But given I'm far from an expert on the fictional spies, I may be playing in the wrong kiddie pool here.

I'm not sure at all what's going on. There may be a kraken lurking in the waters off the island, which is apparently unusual, but common enough the tourist trade has a dumb party to "call" it out. I have the impression Nora's Brit fling is after her father, and that Nora may have tried to drown her sister when they were younger. It's possible Nora killing a guy at the start of the story gave a mermaid the taste for human flesh, and that's why the little kid died. Maybe? Probably not.

 
Beyond that, I don't know. I assume there are layers and layers beneath the deliberately cheesy innuendo and the pages done up to look like a memorandum or a drink menu. There's one page that is literally the word "SEX" written in big, neon green letters from bottom to top of the page. Because it happens, but it doesn't actually mean anything to the story, so just acknowledge it happened and move on quickly as possible. Not sure why we need the innuendo beforehand, then, but it's fine. It makes sense in the story (at least something does).

The double-page splash of the Kraken emerging from the ocean to eat 50 people in 1926 was pretty cool. No complaints on that front. McCall makes her characters look basically realistic. Nobody's impossibly fit or proportioned, they all show their age at times, except maybe Connie but I think she's a bit younger than everyone else. I don't know if the design for the mermaids was her idea, Miternique's Cain's, or taken from mythology, but it's cool. Definitely emphasizes them as a potential predator.

Rosenberg uses these extremely bright colors that work in different ways depending on the setting. In the outdoors, they seem to make the island seem almost magical. The tropical paradise everybody talks about. Indoors, it becomes this garish thing that reminds you the tropical paradise was turned into a fucking tourist trap and is a complete nightmare.

I think my biggest question, halfway through this mini-series, is whether things are going to make sense at the end. I'm sure there will be explanations for some things (unless this is one of those stories where nothing gets answered because it only works that way in stories or whatever), but will the explanations make sense.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mr. Majestyk

Who knew the lives of small farmers in the early 1970s was so fraught with danger?

Charles Bronson just wants to get his melon crop in to market so he can keep his farm, but keeps having problems. First he's got some yahoo that tries to force Bronson to hire his random drunks to pick the melons, when Bronson already hired workers. When Bronson beats the guy up - including a very satisfying part where he smashes the yahoo in the nuts with the guy's own shotgun - he ends up being arrested by the useless local shitbag cops.

That puts him in lockup with a big-time hitman, who doesn't appreciate it when Bronson refuses his offer to help him escape. So now he's trying to get his crop in, while this hitman and his goons linger around and make trouble. I was not expecting the killer to have his own henchmen, but he seems like a pretty sloppy hitman anyway. The cops know the hitman's around, but being useless shitbags, are content to sit back and wait for him to actually try to kill Majestyk before stepping in.

It's interesting to me just how long it takes for Bronson to actually start fighting back. I guess it helps put across how he really is only concerned about trying to keep his farm above water. As he points at, if Renda kills him, he won't have to worry about it. But until then, he's got shit to do. Or maybe he figures the cops want to catch this killer badly enough he really can just leave it to them.

Even once he does finally fight back, it's really more of a hint-and-run game on his part. There's a lengthy chase sequence with him in his beat up pickup leading them down all these roads, letting the bad guys unfamiliarity with the roads help pick them off for him.

There's a certain amount of poetic justice, because Renda had made this big deal about how Majestyk was never going to know when he was gonna get it. Might happen at any time. Tomorrow, next week, whenever. And then Majestyk turns it around him, leads Renda and his guys by the nose right where he wants them, lets them trap themselves and then turn on each other.

As these kinds of movies go, it's not bad.

Monday, October 12, 2020

What I Bought 10/7/2020 - Part 1

The only good thing Columbus ever did was trick people into giving me a paid holiday in his name. It's really helped this go-around. Having an extra day meant I felt nice and relaxed yesterday afternoon, instead of being frustrated about all the things I hadn't gotten done yet.

And one of those things was this post, which I did eventually get written.

Deadpool #7, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Gerardo Sandoval (penciler/inker), Victor Nava (inker), Chris Sotomayor (color artist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Kind of a weird (and late) Valentine's Day gift, but I think Wade would appreciate it.

Deadpool accompanies Elsa to Greenland to find a way into the realm of the Bone Beasts which have infected her. Their realm is also the weird place Elsa's magic bullet teleported Wade briefly back when Kraven was trying to kill him. Elsa says all they gotta do is kill the Queen and the other creatures (which look like inky voids with multiple jaws) die. Except, oops, she actually made a deal with the Queen to offer up Deadpool as a host body in exchange for being cured of the infection.

Hmm, for some reason, I thought the idea was Deadpool was going to be an endless food supply, since he can just regenerate whatever bones they eat, but no. That would have at least made a certain amount of sense. Gross and extremely shitty, backstabbing behavior, but logical. Elsa's in the lead for Deadpool's worst love interest ever, and considering Shiklah declared war on the surface world, and Cable is Cyclops' kid, that's saying something.

That's pretty much the issue. Elsa gets two pages to explain how she got to this point, before Wade interrupts her because this is his book. Sotomayor goes for a more simplified, bright color scheme on the flashback than in the rest of the book, and I think Sandoval inks himself less heavily than he does most of the time. Unless those are the pages Nava is inking. Overall, it looks like someone doing a kind of half-assed attempt at looking more like a '60s book. Like if someone in a '90s comic tried to do a flashback to the '60s and ape the coloring style and whatnot. 

Honestly, when I think of an art style for Elsa Bloodstone, I think of Immonen doing the Mignola impression for that alternate reality of hers in NextWave. Might be out of Sandoval's wheelhouse, though.

Locke and Key: In Pale Battalions Go #2, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (storytellers), Jay Fotos (colorist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - That one German looks really excited about attacking a lady and her daughter. Best not to consider the implications of that!

So Jack Locke's been using the keys and other assorted tools to wreak havoc on the Germans. A pair of brothers have been investigating his attacks, and concluded the soldiers are hallucinating from drinking cheap hooch. Until they get caught in an attack. One dies, Jack lets the other run, presumably to spread fear among the Boche. Things turns when the Germans unleash chlorine gas on the enemy trenches and storm the lines. Jack's wounded and tries using the Anywhere Key to run home. Except he doesn't take it out of the door so the Germans follow him through and his mother gets bayoneted.

Great hustle, you dumbass kid. It was all fun and games when you had the Germans running in terror from your shadow wolves

I wonder how accurate the depiction of the effects of the chlorine gas is. The inflamed areas around the eyes, the vomiting, the veins bulging in the forehead. Although that last bit might just be a side effect of the vomiting. But you could tell me this is actually toned down from reality and I wouldn't be surprised. Mostly because I don't feel like the get-ups the German soldiers are using - goggles and cloths wrapped across their mouths and noses - would actually do the trick.

The landscapes are this depressing swath of disgusting orangish mud and rock, where it's difficult to tell what they're walking over. During the attack, everything except the gas is grey and dingy. It makes that green gas drifting over everything stand out that much more, and it's like it killed everything in its path, not just soldiers, and the Germans are right on its heels. The trees are gnarled and mostly lifeless.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #135

"Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard," in Deadpool (vol. 3) #43, by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan (writers), Salva Espin (artist), Val Staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer)

The first half of Posehn and Duggan's Deadpool run ended with Agent Preston's mind and soul being removed from Deadpool's mind and placed into a spiffy Life Model Decoy body, and with Wade finally receiving the money for re-killing the undead presidents, and him killing the turncoat Agent Gorman, who embezzled the money in the first place. 

Having gotten his unwanted tenant out of his head, Wade's actually feeling a bit lonely. The second half of this run is him building a new network of friends and loved ones, then trying to figure out how to juggle what all those people expect of him. It actually kicks off in a mini-series, Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet, which we'll get to in a month or so. The end result, though, is that Deadpool meets Shiklah, a succubus who is next in line to rule over the Monster Metropolis below New York. Back in the main title, Wade and Shiklah get married (in an oversized issue that apparently set a record for most characters on a single cover).

After that, he finds the daughter he thought might have died in North Korea with her mother during an Original Sin tie-in (one big issue with the second half of the run versus the first is they go from no event tie-ins to about six straight months of event tie-ins). He gets inverted into a nonviolent "Zenpool" right as the X-Men all become assholes (I mean bigger assholes than usual) as part of Axis and try to kill the few remaining survivors of the attempt by North Korea and the guy harvesting Wade's organs to create their own, knockoff X-Men.

Wade's caught in a situation where he doesn't want to be a killer, because he'd like to try and be a parent to Eleanor (and a mentor to Evan Sabah Nur, the kid who might become the next Apocalypse some day). But Shiklah likes him because of his capacity for massive violence, and Zenpool wasn't massively effective against the Inverted X-Men. Then ULTIMATUM shows a complete lack of sound judgment and tries to mess with his loved ones again, and Wade goes John Wick on their asses. 

Then Secret Wars cancels the book.

There's also a few funny one-off stories in here. Scott Koblish does another inventory issue, where Wade and Cable protect post-Howling Commandos, pre-SHIELD Nick Fury from time-traveling Hitler, plus one about the magic of "gracking", aka fracking using gamma energy, that involves Sarah Silverman teaming up with the at-the-time Thor creative team of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour to fight the minotaur that runs Roxxon these days. 

I'm not making any of that up, that's actually part of the comic.

Plus a story where we find out the organ-harvesting, child-abducting asshole pumped Wade full of memory-erasing drugs and had him kill his own parents. OK, that's not actually funny. But Koblish drew it all in a send-up of Liefeld's style (including making sure to never draw feet), which I guess is supposed to be funny. I'm not judging. I can't draw feet, or hands. Shit's hard, OK?

Friday, October 09, 2020

Random Back Issues #45 - Nova #34

No, but I didn't take you for being rude, either, Karla.

Our first Random Back Issue was from Nova, and now we're back, with an issue from about 10 months later. By this point, we're out of War of Kings, and into Realm of Kings, which was basically just what Cosmic Marvel was like after War of Kings. Less an event than a vague tagline they could stamp on the top of the cover.

There's a giant tear in the fabric of the universe called the Fault as a result of the most recent Kree/Shi'ar war. Nova went in there after Darkhawk (accused of killing Empress Lilandra), and they got caught up in a war between two versions of The Sphinx, something possible because normal rules of reality don't apply in this place which isn't technically within reality. The old one is riddled with time cancer basically, from his fucking around with his own timeline, and is trying to convince his younger self not to make the same mistakes. That didn't work, so now they're fighting, using proxies.

Old Sphinx has Nova, Darkhawk, and versions of Black Bolt, Reed Richards, and Namorita from earlier time periods. Young Sphinx brings in a bunch of people whose powers are derived from mysterious gems, same as him. Moonstone, Basilisk, Man-Wolf, Ulysses Bloodstone, and Gyre, one of the Fraternity of Raptors Darkhawk's been struggling with. One-on-one combat, best-of-five.

Nova draws Moonstone, fighting in his old high school playground, and seems to be struggling despite the fact he fought her and three other Thunderbolts when he got back to Earth after Annihilation. But he's also trying to talk to her, as well. I assume because he thinks Young Sphinx is controlling his proxies via their power sources, but still. Boooooo! No talking! 

Namorita squares off in swordfight with Man-Wolf in 'the Floating Fortress of Arisen Tyrk', in the Other Realm. There's also undead soldiers there, so a mermaid princess and a wolfman are swordfighting while being attacked by zombies. Richards ends up against Bloodstone in Vanaheim. I forget which of the Nine Realms that is. Looks like Arizona with active volcanoes. Reed's playing to subdue, but Ulysses has time-delayed exploding shells and is out for the kill.

Black Bolt ends up against Basilisk in the ruins of Attilan. he finds his own grave marker, and basically stands there dumbfounded until he's turned to stone and shattered, giving Young Sphinx the first win.

The Inhumans, fucking useless as always. This is why nobody likes your people, Boltagon.

Darkhawk (who Old Sphinx somehow didn't even perceive) ends up fighting Gyre at the Fraternity Tree in Null Space, where all the crystals that house Darkhawk armors sit. Or something. Honestly, I lost track of all the retconning they did to Darkhawk long before Chris Sims and Chad Bowers did that shit about how the Darkhawks were meant to be an 'anti-Phoenix' or something. Fuck, that was stupid. Anyway, Chris has figured out how to force the A.I., or disembodied mind in the crystal out of the body it's using, and he does that to Gyre, netting Old Sphinx his first win.

Even so, Young Sphinx is feeling cocky. He says Nita's only seconds away from being beaten by Man-Wolf, and Bloodstone is about to slit Reed's throat. I call bullshit on an Atlantean losing to John Jameson dressed as a furry. Reed's able to fend him off, and mess with the fuses to the shells so they explode on Bloodstone's belt. I feel like Reed could have picked that up from Johnny and Ben's prank wars.

Meanwhile, Moonstone is going for the blunt force approach of crushing Nova under 150 times Earth's gravity and rising. Goku and Vegeta are not impressed. And neither is Rich, who ultimately pulls out the win by hitting her with a 'compressed grav pulse'. Pencil-thin bit of gravity energy, I guess. Precise application rather than broad-based.

So, it's a 3-1 win for Old Sphinx. No one is quite sure what that means, until Darkhawk marches up and rips the Ka Stone right of Young Sphinx' head. Well, OK then. Unfortunately, because Darkhawk's crystal is apparently also one of those old stone power sources, Old Sphinx can control him and gets two Ka Stones. Well, shit.

The book ends two issues from now as Thanos Imperative kicks off. So we aren't quite at the end of the Abnett/Lanning Cosmic Marvel, but it's close. Probably only a year or so from Bendis taking over Guardians of the Galaxy. Yeesh. Also included in this issue a preview of Jeph Loeb and Frank Cho's New Ultimates series, spinning out of the trash fire that was Ultimatum

Written by the same guy who is responsible for said trash fire! Plus with 9000% more butt shots in the art, courtesy of the guy who gave us Naked Lady Ultron!

It's a miracle any of us still read comics at all.

[8th long box, 38th comic. Nova (vol. 4) #34. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (writers), Mahmud A. Asrar (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Bruno Hang (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)]

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Leviathan

I went in thinking this might be like Jaws, giant creature threatens people trapped in a vulnerable place. But it's much more like John Carpenter's The Thing (with a healthy dose of Alien thrown in.) The threat attack from within the body, either mutating it or emerging from the inside. You have the heartless corporation, which is willing to sacrifice everyone, and the doctor (played by Richard Crenna) who decides to keep the crew trapped with the creature.

(There's a scene where Crenna is explaining the reasons one might want to modify a human to have the characteristics of a marine animal. He uses the same cadence for the speech he did when he was telling Brian Dennehy about how Rambo would eat things that make a billy goat puke in First Blood.)

Although, unlike Alien, both the doctor and the company appear to be acting to try and prevent the spread of the threat, rather than because they want more people to become affected and produce more mutations. The most unbelievable part is that the company would willingly take the stock hit by doing a faked up press release that their undersea mining operation had a structural failure that killed everyone.

(Well, that or the part where Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, and Amanda Pays are trying to make it to a safe part of the station before it implodes, and Pays is the one struggling to keep up. This despite the fact the movie emphasizes that she exercises more than anyone else, including regularly running through the interior. Because she's trying to qualify to become an astronaut. But of course she can't outrun Hudson or Weller.)

I like that they actually let Peter Weller punch the two-faced, backstabbing CEO at the end, given that the CEO was played by a woman. Don't usually expect to see that, where the male protagonist just hauls off and sucker-punches a lady, even if she is a duplicitous scumbag.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

They Say Diamonds Last Forever

It occurred to me randomly last week, as things often do, that Emma Frost has been what could be loosely considered a good guy since Generation X was going back in the mid-90s. So it's been 25 years.

Setting aside how old that makes me feel, villains becoming heroes isn't that unusual. Especially among the X-Men. But what's strange about it to me is that she's stayed on that side. I don't know the ratio, but it feels like a lot of villains ultimately backslide. Spider-Man's had several enemies who turned good over the years, but some of them went back to being villains. Sandman, Puma, Rocket Racer (if he's in money trouble). The Black Cat, obviously, and she actually backslide to the point she became a bigger villain than she was originally. (Crime boss is worse than high-class thief, right?) Venom, if you assume that the symbiote ever really changed.

Hawkeye turned good and stayed that way. Quicksilver goes back-and-forth. Scarlet Witch, I don't know if she ever really went back to being evil. People (writers) just keep fucking with her brain.

Fabian Nicieza rehabilitated Baron Zemo, then Ed Brubaker shifted Zemo right back in just a fraction of the time that Emma's spent with the X-Men. Deadpool shifts across a smaller range. He's rarely ever fully a hero, but also rarely been a full villain after his earliest days. Advantage of being a mercenary, I guess. Taskmater's only a hero if you pay him. Elektra? I'm not sure how to define her. 

Mystique is always a villain, because she's always going to betray you. Juggernaut drifts back and forth, seemingly depending on how weak he feels (if he feels weak, time to break bad). Moonstone is occasionally heroic, but I think mostly she's just self-interested. Songbird seems to have stuck as a hero (being in Avengers Forever may have helped). 

Magneto and Namor basically treat the whole concept like Homer Simpson jumping between America and Australia.

"Now I'm a villain! Now I'm a hero! Villain! Hero! Villain! Hero!" *gets punched in the face*

Although I imagine both of those guys would insist they are staying true to their goals and beliefs. Only their methods change, or it's all in the eyes of the beholder which they are. Which, maybe, until you hit the entire planet with an EMP and kill I don't know how many people in the plane crashes and various failures of hospital equipment. Doom is probably the same, in that his goal is always the same no matter what course of action he takes. Quicksilver would probably argue the same, but really, he just keeps having mental breakdowns.

Emma's had a few occasions where it looks like she switched sides. Whedon's X-Men run, the time when she joined Norman Osborn's Bad Guys Illuminati. It always turns out she acting as a mole, and she's still loyal to the X-Men. Which strikes me as strange, considering when she was in the Hellfire Club she seemed just as much into the manipulating, maneuvering and backstabbing as Shaw and all those other putzes. Wouldn't really expect loyalty to be a defining characteristic for her.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Birds of Prey

Yeah, I'm not typing out that entire title.

First things first, to get it out of the way: Ella Jay Basco does fine as this movie's version of Cassandra Cain. Which is to say, at playing a sassy teen, marginally competent* pickpocket that drives the plot.  Granted, her character bears no resemblance to anything I'd associate with the name "Cassandra Cain", and unless Kelly Puckett and Daimon Scott got some nice royalty checks for this, I'd just as soon they'd named the character something else, but that's not on Basco or her performance. She did what the movie asked her to do.

Margot Robbie's a good Harley Quinn. She seems to be having fun, certainly, which feels essential for a movie with a kind of absurd comic tone like this one. Ewan McGregor is doing. . . something. It was like a combination of Kevin Bacon in X-Men First Class and Jason Schwatzman as Gideon Graves in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This sort of cheesy over-the-top thing where the guy is trying so hard to be "quirky" you can't tell if it's supposed to be part of the character, or it's just the actor. You definitely need the villain to be more evil than Harley (and given the crap she openly admits to doing when she was with the Joker, that's a long order), but I'm not sure you want someone out-crazying her.

Also, was I supposed to read Roman Sionis and Zsasz as lovers? Or maybe it's an unrequited thing where Zsasz is hung up on his boss, so he likes killing women to keep them away from what's "his", but I don't know.

Of the Birds, I like Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress the best. She's very angry, but also extremely awkward with people in a way where you can tell she spent a lot of time around assassins and focused on killing. The whole, 'You got rage issues. I don't have rage issues!' part made me laugh. Jurnee Smollett kind of gets the short end of the stick, because she's the world-weary, sensible one. Has to play the calm exasperated center with all these complete lunatics running around her. 

You'd think that would be Rosie Perez' role as Renee Montoya, as a burnt-out cop, but she's too much of a loose cannon. She still believes in the work if not the institution of the police. Little disappointed we never saw her punch her captain. But we did get Harley shooting a bunch of cops in the face with beanbag rounds. That was good.

I didn't really like the back-and-forth nature of how the story was presented. Where the plot would advance, then screech to a halt so Harley could detail someone else's backstory. I liked it fine in the first Deadpool movie as an approach, but that movie picked better points to stop. Or maybe I just felt like the exposition was unnecessary. 

Like the one where Harley explains why she's attacking a police station looking for Cassandra. I knew why. Roman's guys caught her, and she's retrieving Cass and the diamond to get herself out of trouble. I didn't need what felt like an interminable flashback of her and Sionis interacting to connect those dots. It felt like the story had momentum, shit was happening, she was going to meet the kid and have to make a choice and then. . . it just crashes to a halt.

There were some structural issues, but it was funny in places, and I mostly didn't get impatient for it to hurry up, so count it as a win.

* She was getting caught by Gotham cops, who are presented as so stupid and incompetent I can't believe they manage to zip up their flies without getting their balls caught.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Meeting Your Idols Is Often Disappointing

That means he's a godless Commie. Any real American will tell you the only proper way to hunt is with the biggest weapon possible.

The One Piece manga is up to about volume 95 here in the U.S. This is volume 6, the first and thus far only volume I own, since I'm planning to grab whichever ones happen to interest me. There's a lot going on in this, since we're still a long way from the kinds of story arcs where a single battle drags on for multiple volumes.

Case in point, this volume is partially about defending a floating restaurant from pirates. Luffy's trying to recruit one of the cooks for his crew, the cook (Sanji) keeps refusing. A starving and battered pirate crew shows up, asking for food. And once they get it - because Sanji and his boss both refuse to let anyone starve - declare they'll be commandeering this ship. And as Luffy gets ready to help the cooks defend their home, he finds out his navigator (Nami) stole his ship and all his treasure and just bailed.

I picked this one up because, as with most shonen manga, the best friend of the main character is my favorite. In One Piece, that's Zoro, the first person Luffy recruits. And today, he's getting to face the World's Greatest Swordsman, Dracule "Hawk-Eyes" Mihawk. Zoro intends to take the title, and figures there's no time like the present. As you might guess from his chosen weapon, Mihawk isn't too impressed by the East Blue's best swordsman.

Or maybe he's just naturally dramatic. I mean, seriously, just look at him:

The guy travels the sea alone, on a tiny little sailboat shaped like a coffin, with a couple of torches on it so you can tell he's coming even at night or in the fog. He just happened across this pirate crew of 50 ships and 1,000 men one day, and decided to reduce them to one battered ship and less than 100 men, just for the hell of it. Then went ahead and chased the rest of them down. But setting all that aside, I bet he's just a lot of talk.

Er. . .

Zoro gets his ass absolutely kicked, Mihawk casually deflecting all his attacks with that little knife. But he also shows a complete unwillingness to surrender or retreat, even in the face of certain death. Which impresses Mihawk enough he draws the freaking boat oar on his back as a show of respect. Zoro's best attack isn't enough, and he gets a scar across his torso and Mihawk telling him to survive and get strong enough to actually take Mihawk's title (which hasn't happened yet, 90 volumes later, and doesn't seem likely to any time soon). 

Then Mihawk just leaves. He definitely knows how to put on a show.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #134

 "Still More Hygenic than Chuck E. Cheese", in Deadpool (Vol. 3) #8, by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn (writer), Mike Hawthorne (artist), Val staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) 

After Way's run finally ended, Marvel handed Deadpool over to Gerry Duggan and comedian Brian Posehn. Their first arc involved a necromancer named Michael, who resurrected all the dead Presidents in the hopes they would help America find its way. Instead, the angry old white men went berserk, trying to destroy the country. Deadpool, once again alone and hated by all, is hired by SHIELD agent Preston to take care of this problem so neither SHIELD or Captain America make the cable news for punching FDR or whatever. Preston is killed by Sorcery Enhanced Undead George Washington, and Michael saves her by placing her essence inside Deadpool's mind.

The first 25 issues revolve around two goals. One, get Preston out of Wade's head and into a body of her own, for both their sakes. Two, Wade is determined to hunt down Preston's boss, Agent Gorman, who has stiffed Wade on the money he was promised for killing all those Presidents.

These goals are complicated by a variety of factors. Finding Preston a body she's OK with being the obvious one. But also the fact that Deadpool's life is rarely quiet. They run up against a demon Deadpool pissed off in a "lost" inventory issue for his non-existent series in the '80s, where he was supposed to get Iron Man drunk, but rather than push Stark out of sobriety, Wade knocked him out and piloted the armor drunk himself. Credit for lateral thinking, at least.

After that, some things Deadpool tried very hard to forget, or was made to forget, came scrabbling out his past. Like how someone had been doping him and stealing his organs for years. And how he might have fathered a child during a brief hookup in another lost inventory issue from the '70s where he teamed up with Power Man and Iron Fist. 

Note that I'm not saying either of those two is the father of the child. I'm also not saying they aren't. You'll have to find the comic and read it yourself.

While Mike Hawthorne draws most of the issues after the initial, President-killing arc (which is drawn by Tony Moore), all the inventory issues are done by Scott Koblish, in some pretty solid attempts to ape the art styles of the eras they're supposedly from. Hawthorne's got a good style for superheroics. Clean lines, good energy, knows how to use panels in a fight scene to act as distinct moments in a fight, but also make it clear how one panel leads to the next.

I first picked up issue 20, which was another of the inventory issues, my least favorite to be honest, since Kirby pastiche ain't really my thing. But the issue after that was when Gorman made his big play to be rid of Deadpool and Preston once and for all, and Deadpool reminds everyone how terrifying he can be when he puts his mind to it.

Friday, October 02, 2020

What I Bought 9/28/2020 - Part 2

I'm still trying to get used to this new posting format. Getting images where you want them is more complicated than it used to be. I guess eventually it'll seem like old hat. Anyway, here's an interesting little one-shot comic.

Hedra, by Jesse Lonergan - The cover is also a first page, sort of. The back cover is definitely a final page.

A world is largely destroyed by nuclear war, and selects one person to travel through space to find something that can render the soil fertile again, or maybe something that can grow in the irradiated soil. While traveling between worlds, she encounters a guy dressed like Captain Mar-Vell in his Kree outfit flying through space, and they independently arrive on another world. He gets ambushed, she rescues him, he brings her with him to a world with a handful of other people. She gains some power, returns home, brings it to life, then leaves again.

There's no dialogue, and Lonergan takes an interesting approach to page layout. Basically starts with a 5x7 grid of small squares, then modifies from that as necessary. So half the page might be the small panels, then the other half is one big panel of a mushroom cloud. A lot of panels that are just dark blue square, then some of them have a white line moving through them to indicate motion. That can be the trajectory of a spaceship, the arc of a sword, whatever. 

 

Rarely are you simply reading a page left to right. You end up following the path of the ship, which may just progress diagonally straight across the page. In one case, the main character is crawling through a subterranean tunnel to escape some unfriendly locals, and the panels are laid out almost like they would be on a game board. Chutes and Ladders or something, so that they wind up, then down, right instead of left. There were more than a couple of times I had to stop, then start a page over because I'd lost the thread I was supposed to be following.

So it's a fun read in that sense, the way Lonergan tells the story with minimal actual detail at times. And I'm always interested by clever ways of depicting motion in comics. Still, at times it feels a bit like reading the instructions to a piece of furniture. The art and story are straightforward enough you can follow it, but with so many panels that are blank, or with tiny, barely discernible figures scrambling through them, there's a certain distance it creates. You can follow the story, but I'm not sure it encourages you to be drawn into it.

Still, it's a neat piece of work, so I'm glad I picked it up.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

A Thousand Words

Eddie Murphy plays a literary agent who talks all the time, but never listens or says anything sincere. He tries to schmooze this spiritual leader, Dr. Sinja, but reveals his total moral bankruptcy. He ends up with a mysterious tree in his backyard, and every time he speaks, leaves fall off the tree. Sinja concludes that once all the leaves fall off, Eddie Murphy will die, because that's what happens when a tree's leaves fall off.

You know, unless it's winter, in which case the tree is just conserving energy until there's enough daily sunlight to be worth producing leaves. Maybe he'll just go mute? I mean, Sinja outright admits he's never seen anything like this before.

So there's a lot of bits about him trying to work around not wanting to speak. Trying to close a book deal by using a bunch of dolls with pre-programmed phrases, hand gestures to get his coffee order, stuff like that. Which also means a lot of Eddie Murphy mugging for the camera as his character tries to convey some sort of message through bizarre facial expressions. That stuff wasn't very good.

I did laugh when he tried to argue with the tree because it counted "dickhead" as two separate words. That was funny. And the part near the end when he loses all hope, gets drunk, and decides he'll just use up the last of his words singing? That felt real. The tree, or the universe or whatever wants to be a dickhead about things? Screw it, at least go out on your terms.

Or he could have an 11th hour epiphany about what are the important things and what really needs to be said. I guess that works, too. It's boring, though.