Monday, November 30, 2020

The Shortest Month is Short on Options

So, what's coming out in February?

DC's wrapping up Future State. Hard pass. Maybe after that's over they'll transition into something I'm actually interested in. Anything's possible, right? 

Kyle Higgins and Marcello Costa have a new series out called Radiant Black, about a guy in his early 30s (that makes him a millenial, right? I can't keep track of where the generations start and end) whose life is going nowhere, and then he gets cool powers. Powers that he wasn't supposed to get. I don't know if I'll buy it, but it was the most notable thing I saw from Image.

If I'm still buying Sea of Sorrows come February, it'll be up to issue 4. Marvel is still not done with King in Black. The thing I appreciated about Empyre was that it was over quickly. It came and went in three months. King in Black feels like it's been going for a million years. At least that stupid X of Swords thing will be over by then. I've seen scans from some of the issues, there is appallingly little sword-fighting being done in an event about swords.

That said, Black Cat will still be in tie-in mode, so I guess I'm stuck with symbiotes for a little while longer. (Seriously, do they not still have the fire and sound weaknesses? How hard is it to trounce these things?) Taskmaster is up to issue 4 if, like Sea of Sorrows, I'm still buying it. No idea about that Power Pack mini, but apparently that Paul Grist/Andrea DiVito The Union mini-series that was supposed to be part of Empyre, is coming out starting in December, and it'll be up to issue 3 by February. Plus that Larry Hama Iron Fist book. So that's four things, at least.

Outside that, not a lot going. Kaiju Score 4 and Sympathy for No Devils 5 from Aftershock. The trade for Bleed Them Dry will be out from Vault. Something I did not realize from the one solicit I read for issue 6 a few months back, the series is set in the year 3333. So futuristic cops versus vampires. Not sure if that makes a difference for me or not.

Seven Seas Entertainment has volume 6 of Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General. I think volume 5 just came out last week, though, so I'd have to get that first. Add it to the list. As far as entirely new things, the only one that caught my eye was White Lily, by Preston Poulter and Lavalle Davis, about Soviet fighter pilot Lilya Litvak. I don't typically read war comics, let alone biographical war comics, but it might be worth a shot. The new normal of the buy list not being cramped continues undisturbed.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #142

"Everybody's Looking Over His Shoulder," in Deadshot (vol. 1) #1, by John Ostrander and Kim Yale (writers), Luke McDonnell (artist), Julianna Ferritier (colorist), Tom Harkins (letterer) 

Released in the winter of 1988, this was Ostrander and Yale taking the chance to flesh out Deadshot's backstory and family history, to try and explain why he was how he was. Why is he so indifferent to his own life, or anyone else's? Besides the fact it makes him do cool stuff, I mean. In this first issue, he pretends to be for hire to get close to a drug lord named El Jefe, who stays on the move in airplanes constantly. When he points out one stray shot from Floyd will depressurize the cabin and kill everyone, including Lawton, Deadshot's response is "So?"

There's a great panel of the three guys around him with their jaws dropped right after that.

The real plot's kicked off by the abduction of Floyd's son. While Floyd heads off in pursuit, his therapist at Belle Reve, Marnie Herrs, tries to go digging into his past. Because she's become too attached and wants to save Floyd. Which gets her tangled in the twisted mess of loathing and backstabbing that is Floyd's parents' relationship. There's a lot in there about the two of them, and the social class they ran in, that apparently informs Floyd's perspective on relationships with women. There's also a lot about Floyd and his deceased older brother, Eddie. "Good" brother versus "bad", which I know Ostrander used as part of why Deadshot deliberately misses when he aims at Batman.

I would imagine a lot of it's hokum in any real psychological sense, but it makes interesting ground for writers to play in.

The fallout from this mini-series would come due in Suicide Squad at basically the same time, when Waller tells Deadshot to make sure Rick Flag doesn't kill a senator by any means necessary. Floyd's approach is. . . innovative? Or maybe just a valuable lesson for the Wall to better define her variables when it comes to Deadshot.

For a story about some damaged people trying to screw each other over because of petty grudges, McDonnell's art style is appropriate. It feels a bit like a proto-Sean Phillips. The characters aren't as gritty-looking, shadows aren't used as heavily, everyone's a bit neater, maybe more square, but no one looks glamorous, either. A lot of dumpy, out-of-shape guys and people carrying the years of holding grudges and trauma on their faces. There aren't many fantastic elements to the story, and so McDonnell doesn't make people look fantastic. Floyd's the only one running around in a costume once he gets on his own, and at the end of the day, he's just a crazy guy with guns strapped to his wrists.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Blogsgiving Under A Bubble


Calvin: *setting the table* Huh? What quarantine? Are you sick?

Clever Adolescent Panda: *pulling food from the oven* No. We developed a vaccine two months ago. It only works on pandas and canines so far, though.

Calvin: Did you take it?

CAP: Of course I did!

Deadpool: *sprawled on the couch* [I read a research article that says vaccines make pandas go bald.]

CAP: I'm not sure what's the least credible part of that statement:

Calvin: The part about Wade reading a research article.

Deadpool: [Advances in science mean new ways to kill people!]

Pollock: He's right, you know. Murder is the primary driver of most scientific research.

Deadpool: *nodding sagely* [It's why Tony Stark was a weapons dealer.]

Calvin: I thought that was because he was an amoral asshole.

Deadpool: [Only at first! They say when he got that shrapnel in his chest, his heart grew three sizes that day!]

Pollock: Sounds like a combination of infection and scarring.

CAP: Are you going to wear that the entire meal? You look like a member of AIM.

*Pollock is once again wearing a bulky yellow hazmat suit.*

Pollock: Of course! I'm not risking infection from you cretins.

CAP: But I'm vaccinated.

Deadpool: [My healing factor's taking care of it.]

Calvin: I'm antisocial.

Cassanee: Ditto.

Pollock: I offered you a suit of your own.

Cassanee: *shrugs* Haven't been around anyone other than you for weeks. Should be fine.

Calvin: So how are we violating quarantine?


CAP: Oh.

Pollock: Look, I just don't want any of you puncturing my suit to be mean.

Cassanee: OK.

CAP: Yeah, we aren't jerks!

Calvin: We didn't even cut you out of your suit last time until you were about to suffocate!

Pollock: True, but then you shot me with a bazooka pie and launched me over the deck.

CAP: Good thing you had all those safety measures in there.

Calvin: Where did you land, anyway?

Pollock: *flatly* Indiana.

Deadpool: [Horrifying.]

CAP: Food's on!

Calvin: Let's see, Wade brought taquitos and beer, I made hash, Cass brought some rolls and stuffing, the panda is deliberately pissing me off bringing steamed cauliflower -

CAP: I didn't bring beets, though!

Calvin: I would have thrown you over the balcony if you had.

CAP: You wouldn't do that.

Calvin: Of course not. I'd herniate myself.

Pollock: It would be amusing to see you try, though.

Calvin: Be amusing to see you try and eat inside that get-up.

Pollock: I'm prepared for that. 

*A panel opens in the chest of the suit, revealing a compartment. Pollock places the plate inside, and closes the cover.*

CAP: But it was exposed to outside air.

Pollock: The food is bathed in intense UV light before the back panel opens and - unf - I can simply - curses, my hands are stuck in gloves - simply bring the plate the rest of the way - damn it!

*The plate tips and spills food over the interior of her suit.*

CAP: *insincerely* Oh, that's a shame.

Cass: Wasted two rolls and three taquitos.

Deadpool: [They aren't wasted, it's a clean environment in there!]

Calvin: She's sweating like Ace Ventura when he was inside the mechanical rhinoceros.

CAP: Ew.

Pollock: *sighs* Hold on. *Shuffles awkwardly into the bathroom. Re-emerges minus the beekeeper suit.* I'll just have to keep self-quarantining once I get home.

Pollock: So where is the girl with the strange powers?

Calvin: Don't know. Rhodez hasn't contacted me in months. Last time I did talk to her, she seemed bummed out. You heard anything from your apprentice, Wade?

Deadpool: *slurping pasta* [Nope! Not a peep! She must be busy successfully applying my lessons as a hitman!]

Calvin: You think she would at least call me to brag, if that was the case. Or at least offer me a discount rate to kill some people. I got a long list.

CAP: I should go visit. Maybe I can cheer her up.

Deadpool: [I'll go, too! It'll be a chance to test her progress, just like a proper teacher should. With grenades, and tripwires.]

CAP: That doesn't sound very cheerful.

Deadpool: [It will be. For me.]

Calvin: Hey Pollock, how's business in the pandemic? You aren't peddling fake vaccines are you?

Pollock: Certainly not! I'm no charlatan!

Cass: Vitamins disguised as food.

CAP: Huh?

Pollock: Faux-Food. It gives you all the vitamins and minerals you need, but there's no excess protein or matter, 

Cass: Or taste.

Pollock: -or matter, so you don't release waste. You're immune to toilet paper shortages.

Calvin: That's less cruel and exploitative than I expected.

CAP: Yeah, kind of weak.

Pollock: It's not supposed to be either of those things! I have scruples!

Deadpool: [Pass 'em this way, I love those, especially with barbecue sauce.]

Pollock: *hesitantly* Right. Perhaps we could move on to giving thanks?

Deadpool: [Being a king sucks, Elsa betrayed me before I ever had the chance to actually love her, and the X-Men are hoarding their cancer cure, so I am thankful for. . . Jeff. Such a good little shark. And all of you.] *hugs each of them for much too long*

Calvin: Shouldn't you have returned Jeff to Gwen during your visit to Krakoa?

Deadpool: [Pfft, like Hickman paid any attention to that last mini-series.]

CAP: He's got ya there. I'm thankful that all my friends are safe and happy - 

Pollock: I'm not happy.

Deadpool: [Me neither.]

Cass: I am.

Calvin: I'm not miserable, which is to say I'm in my default state.

CAP: *louder* - safe and that one of them is happy, that I got to shoot Pollock with the pie bazooka, and that I got to punch a necromancer in the face!

Calvin: What was the necromancer doing?

Deadpool: [Was he trying to fix America by resurrecting the presidents, only to learn they're all super-racist?]

CAP: No, she was trying to resurrect dinosaurs for her own theme park. But they'd been dead so long, they were just animated skeletons.

Deadpool: [You deprived us of skeleton dinosaurs? You monster!] *leaps at the panda, is promptly picked up and tossed across the room*

CAP: The skeletons decayed after a couple of minutes. She was just making life worse for paleontologists.

Cass: The raccoons are being friendly with my town. They're good at electrical work. No sign of Amilgars. My friends are all being careful.

Pollock: None of you destroyed any of my projects. I only had to fire three employees for stupidly going out in social situations without taking precautions.

CAP: They posted pictures on social media?

Pollock: I spy on them with little drones. Also, I encourage them to snitch on each other.

Calvin: Now when you say fire - ?

Pollock: They don't work for me any longer. I gave them tough, but honest references. I can't have them infecting the rest of my staff.

Deadpool: [Tough, but fair. You interested in ruling Monster Island?]

Pollock: I prefer to manipulate from behind the scenes.

CAP: Since when? You're always front and center with the threats and the weapons.

Pollock: That's for dealing with you simpletons. Some opponents require a deft touch.

Deadpool: [I appreciate a deft touch.]

Pollock: Ignoring that. Dolt?


CAP: Calvin?

Calvin: Hmm?

Cass: She meant you.

Calvin: Why would I answer to "dolt"?

Pollock: Fine. Ignoramus?

Calvin: That's better. Well, Wade's is going to be hard to beat from a negativity standpoint. Working from home has been better than I expected. I've done a lot of writing. The hailstorm only damaged my windshield.

CAP: Don't give thanks for that!

Calvin: Why not? The hailstorm was beyond my control, so I might as well be glad it didn't do more than it did. Where was I? Nobody I care about got sick. I'm still employed, able to help out friends in need. Some of the pieces I did for Sketchtober turned out well.

CAP: That was. . . surprisingly heartfelt.

Pollock: Certainly a step up from your usual effort.

CAP: Are you dying? Is that why you're kinder and more reflective?

Calvin: Kinder and more reflective? I threatened to throw you over the balcony.

CAP: Only if I'd brought beets. I grade on a curve for you.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

1919 - John Dos Passos

The second part of the U.S.A. trilogy, focuses primarily, as the title suggests, on the last year of World War I. Dos Passos does use many of the same characters from The 42nd Parallel, but they're viewed through the perspectives of other characters, most of whom were introduced in the previous book as well. For example, several chapters in this book are written from the viewpoint of Eveline Hutchins, friend and business partner of Eleanor Stoddard, who was a major part of The 42nd Parallel.

Kind of an interesting approach, although there were times I didn't remember who they were. It took me most of Joe Williams' first section to realize he was Janey's brother Joe, who was popping up sporadically from some merchant ship. But as a different perspective on the characters from the first book, it's clever.

As with the first book, none of the characters seem to know what they want, or where they want to be. Eveline keeps finding things 'tiresome', and seems to have no less than four guys interested in her, each of which she alternates between being interested in, bored with, or trying to talk herself into being in a relationship with them. Richard Ellsworth Savage can't seem to decide what he wants to do, other than he doesn't seem ready to settle. He had a pretty easy stint in the Army, thanks to connections through his family name, but seems dissatisfied with that and the cushy job he parachutes into after getting out of the service. He wrote poetry when he was younger, but that seems to have been left behind.

The crackdown on pro-labor forces during the war doesn't necessarily take center stage, but it's a constant presence. People who are excited about events in Russia, people hopeful that the average soldiers will figure out there's no point to them getting shot in ridiculous numbers all because a bunch of inbred European royal families signed a bunch of confusing and entangling alliances with each other. 

Savage gets in trouble during his time in the volunteer ambulance corps for things he wrote in letters back home (same as Dos Passos himself). One of the last chapters is devoted to a Ben Compton, who becomes a public speaker for labor causes. He gets badly beaten by cops at one point, and eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison. Dos Passos writes those parts with a cynical resignation of someone who knows how it's going to turn out. Not in the sense he knows what the Soviet Union is going to become, but he knows that the workers did not rise up around the world and unite.

He continues the Newsreel and Camera's Eye sections (one of the latter quoted from below). They don't work for me much better than they did in the previous book, so they're just kind of there, taking up space. I especially don't understand why, in the Newsreel parts, he will seemingly quote a newspaper article and then seamlessly switch to a different article mid-sentence. Not sure the significance of that decision at all.

'(Mestre's a railhead and its moonlight over the Brenta and the basehospital and the ammunition dump

carbolic blue moonlight)

all the time he kept trying to get up outta bed  Kiddo you better lay there quiet  his voice was in Minnesota but dontjaunerstandafellersgottogetup  I got a date  animportantengagementtoseeabout and those lots ought nevertohavestayedinbedsolate I'll lose my deposit  For chrissake dont you think I'm broke enough as it is?'

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What I Bought 11/20/2020 - Part 2

One perk of my job is definitely the paid vacation time. So nice to take most of this week off. The tradeoff is all the less-pleasant aspects. Like dealing with angry people who blame me for their poor choices in elected officials. Two Wednesdays from now is going to suck.

But that's a problem for Two Wednesdays From Now Calvin. Right Now Calvin is reviewing the other comic he bought last week.

Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists #3, by Eric Palicki (writer), Wendell Cavalcanti (artist), Mark Dale (colorist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - Was not expecting an Apocalypse Now homage cover. 

So the sheriff clocked Lucas with a shovel. Drags him back to the jail and chains him to chair, wanting to know if there's reinforcements coming. Technically, Lucas should be expecting something from the note he sent with the soda distributor in issue 1, because he shouldn't know that guy got killed, but instead we get Lucas' origin. Which is that his mother's New England fishing town offered her up as a bride of sorts to the mermen that lived off the coast, in exchange for continued good fish catches.

Lucas kind of hates this town because the sheriff is fine with vampires, because the fear of them keeps everyone in town in line and law-abiding. He thinks it benefits the town, and if a few people suffer, oh well. I can see how that would hit home. Plus, the sheriff's a dumbass who thinks the vampire in his brother's body is someone he can trust. Ah well, small-town sheriffs being tin dictators and morons is a well-established trope. Probably because it's accurate.

The sheriff's niece gets Lucas out, after she grabs something from her wrecked truck. The escape isn't exactly quiet, so now there's a very large deputy after them. Possibly half-Bigfoot. Not sure if Lucas was joking about the 'shaved Sasquatch.' I mean, he's half-sea person, there's vampires, I'm not ruling out someone fucking a Bigfoot.

With, I think, only one issue to go, I'm curious if Palicki is going to draw all these threads together. maybe some of them never end up coming into play. Or are left dangling for some potential sequel. I can't see Lucas' story ending here, for one. The idea of the large deputy as the sheriff's defense against a vampire betrayal kind of came of late in the game, it feels like. And maybe it's irrelevant at the moment, seeing as all the vampires except one are dead. Be interesting to see how all this falls together.

Although I wonder if Lucas is even telling the truth about anything. If he was conceived in Massachusetts, how does he know his father is near Seattle? There some hive mind connection in that heritage? A lot of literature on the migration patterns of Creatures of the Black Lagoon salt-water cousins?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


A husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) who deals with failure by running from it physically. A wife (Carey Mulligan) who deals with that by running from it emotionally. And their 14-year old son (Ed Oxenbould) is left to just deal with it.

That's basically the movie. Jerry loses his job, and decides to go help fight a wildfire. Jeanette takes a part-time job, but then starts wooing one of her swim class students, an older, successful car dealership owner. Joe is left trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Jeanette seems like she keeps looking to him for the emotional support she wants from Jerry, but Joe doesn't understand enough to offer it. Or maybe she just wants his approval of what she's doing.

She just talks to Joe in a very odd way sometimes. Like she's looking at him, but seeing something entirely different from the reality. Jerry maybe, even though Joe doesn't look a damn thing like his father. It's definitely clear that once Jerry is gone, she has wordlessly decided Joe is in Jerry's role in the house. He's on his own as far as getting to school, or getting food, or anything really. Mulligan's playing someone who decided that if her husband can just abandon all responsibilities, then so can she. Second adolescence. It's just that she's still there for Joe to see.

Oxenbould has this cautious, confused expression most of the time. He's used to the family moving around on Jerry's whims and frustrations, and I think he's trying to figure out why things are different this time. I think he's also used to his parents trying to use him to live out their lives, and that's why he kind of silently bears up to all this. The movie makes these hesitant steps of him developing a friendship with a girl in his class named Ruth, but we only see bits and pieces. I don't know if it's under-developed because it's supposed to be, a friendship that gets sacrificed on the altar of Joe trying to be the adult, or if the writers and director just kind of fucked that part up.

Gyllenhaal carries this hunched over, exhausted air constantly. We never see him while he's out fighting the fires, so there's no telling if he found something he needed out there. He's still awkward and quick to anger when he comes back, quick to point fingers at other people to deflect attention from his failures.

The main thing the movie did was make me grateful my parents managed the gradual dissolution of their marriage during my teen years as well as they did. Which is saying something, considering how hard they tried to demonstrate how to live in two different houses, while actually occupying the same house.

Monday, November 23, 2020

What I Bought 11/20/2020 - Part 1

Managed to find two out of three comics from last week, plus one from the week before. Didn't get the one I wanted the most (Sera and the Royal Stars #9), but that'll just be something to look forward to.

Sea of Sorrows #1, by Rich Douek (writer), Alex Cormack (artist/colorist), Justin Birch (letterer) - Look man, you go deep-sea diving, you can't be surprised when you find corpses. Contrary to what Pennywise said, they don't all float down there.

They're on a boat in the Atlantic, in the 1920s, looking for a sunken submarine full of gold. Or, one guy, a Mr. Shoals, is down there looking for it. Everyone else is up on deck, sniping and plotting against each other. The captain, a Mr. Harlow, owes money to a Mr. Madden, who sent a bunch of his goons along to make sure if there's gold, they get their share. Shoals found the gold, so it's all good. Except for the part where there's a half-woman, half-fish thing down there, too. And the man who knew where to find the sub, who is on their ship, seems to know it's down there.

Douek lays out most of the potential conflicts. That Harlow owes money, that even the people ostensibly on his side, aren't necessarily on his side. That Shoals is haunted by what he did in the trenches in World War 1. That the survivor from the sub is holding back a lot. Including his name. I triple-checked, and I can't find the guy's name mentioned once. Henceforth, he will be Sub Guy.

Cormack goes heavy on the shadows, even on the surface. Makes sense underwater, where Shoals has just a single lamp to light his surroundings, but even on the ship, he shades faces heavily. Half of them in shadow, everyone gaunt and battered. The one woman on board clearly doesn't take care of her teeth, which is a nice touch. It's the 1920s, what do they know about dental hygiene?

I'm curious if Cormack intends to keep using red light significantly. Someone on the ship shot a flare up in celebration, and it segued into Shoals' flashback to the trenches, and him machine-gunning advancing German soldiers. The ship's gotta have more than one flare, so I'm figuring we'll see them again.

Taskmaster #1, by Jed MacKay (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Guru-eFX (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Dang, Taskmaster swiped the Black Knight's old lightsaber. Not like Dane's using it, though. Is he even alive right now?

Taskmaster has been framed for killing Maria Hill. In the most obvious way possible, as someone literally left his shield sticking in the wall at the crime scene. Black Widow is trying to kill him for it. Nick Fury (the new one, although I guess this character is at least 7, 8 years old now) is Tony Masters' old buddy, so he's going to keep him alive. In exchange for helping to unlock some thing that needs three different people's precise gait and body language. Instead of a retinal scanner, it's a buttprint scanner. And all of three of them are going to be tough to get close enough to for Taskmaster to do that.

First things first. Taskmaster is being played. By Hill, Fury, and the Widow most likely. Faked Hill's death, put Natasha on his tail to drive him right to Fury, get him to do this dirty work. The old Escape from New York stunt. Put the person in a bad spot, then benevolently give them the chance to work their way clear. I mean, if the Widow is supposed to be so damn good - and I know this is supposed to capitalize on the Black Widow movie, but fucking spare me with this 'the greatest killer to walk the earth at present' nonsense -  then how did she miss Taskmaster with about 300 bullets when he's trying to escape in a damn golf cart?

Also ludicrous? The notion there are people who would actually be mad Maria Hill was dead.

The best part of the issue is the start, where Taskmaster is working as a partner for a Maggia guy trying to win a golf tournament. Against another Maggia guy who hired Bullseye as his partner. That concept I enjoyed quite a bit. It can't all be stealing crap and fighting Avengers. Sometimes you got a pulled hammy and you take the low-impact gig.

MacKay's writing Taskmaster as a bit melodramatic. Some of his reactions - especially to learning the Black Widow's after him - are more what I'd expect from Deadpool. Other times he seems pretty professional, but those odd moments here and there are noticeable. But at least it makes Vitti occasionally draw a character who is squinting grimly. I think there's one panel of Fury's mouth slightly upturned, and that's the closest we get to a smile in this entire comic. There's too many extraneous little lines on people, and whatever color-shading technique Guru-eFX is using wasn't doing the characters in the golf course scene any favors. It just made people look blocky and plastic-skinned.

I'm not sure I'll buy the second issue of either of these books, but I'd say Sea of Sorrows made the stronger case for itself.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #141

 "Not Appropriate for Young Audiences" in Deadpool Team-Up #899, by Fred van Lente (writer), Dalibor Talijac (artist), Jeff Eckleberry (letterer)

During the time of Daniel Way's Deadpool run, the Merc with a Mouth became incredibly popular, to the extent Marvel gave him the treatment once reserved for Spider-Man. He got a second ongoing (Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth), almost a third ongoing that became a mini-series by Rob Liefeld (Deadpool Corps), and this team-up book. 

I can't actually remember what made him so popular at that point, seeing as we're still over five years away from the Deadpool movie. Heck, in this very comic, Deadpool describes this level of popularity as 'inexplicable and totally undeserved'.

Anyway, they did an oversized, one-shot 900th issue of Deadpool in late 2009, then started the numbering for this series at 899, and started running backwards. Made it all the way to 883, which isn't bad for Marvel these days. As every issue was by a different creative team, it was basically an opportunity to write their pet characters and/or do whatever random nonsense they felt like.

This was the only issue I actually bought at the time, because Arcade was in it, and van Lente and Talijac had done good work on a short story in that Deadpool #900 issue, but I've picked up maybe another 7 issues since then, and it's as much a mixed bag as you'd expect.

Jeff Parker brings in Gorilla Man from Agents of Atlas. Tom Fowler and Cullen Bunn do an issue harkening back to the Thing's days of pro wrestling. David Lapham and Shawn Crystal have Wade get married to Satana, which googum has gotten a lot of use out of at Random Happenstance over the years. Skottie Young and Ramon Perez make Wade Galactus' Herald. Stuff like that.

And with that, we are past all Deadpool-related titles. But we aren't out of the "Dead" woods yet.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Random Back Issues #48 - Joe Kubert Presents #5

Like the Fallout series says, 'war never changes.' Or more broadly, shit runs downhill.

Joe Kubert Presents was DC giving Joe Kubert 6 issues to do basically whatever he felt like doing. Which certainly produces better results than when they give similar carte blanche to Dan Didio, Geoff Johns, or Tom King.

Of the five stories in this issue, Kubert handles art chores on three, and writes two of those. The one he doesn't, "Farewell" is about a historian and his son visiting the Normandy beaches the historian's father fought on, and reflecting on war. There's a text piece in the middle of the book where Kubert explains this is a trip Levitz and his son actually made at one point. I don't know if Levitz' father was in Easy Co., as the grandfather in this story was. It kind of leaves open whether Rock died there, although Kubert mentions he and Len Wein had Rock die saving a kid from the last bullet fired in the European Theater in Legacies.

"The Biker", done entirely by Kubert, is about a veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan to a very determined woman with a bomb, and now roams the U.S. on his motorcycle. (The text piece notes the main character is partially based on Kubert's oldest son Dave, who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.) He decides to camp in an abandoned house for the night, but it's not a good place to stay. Especially when he finds a photo of the family that lived there, and the mom is a dead ringer for the lady that nearly killed him in Afghanistan. So there's a bit of Edgar Allen Poe in it, but I'm not sure the story has enough room to breathe to pull it off. The unease can't settle in quickly enough.

The last story is by Brian Buniak, and involves Lois Lane interviewing the Angel and the Ape team on how they started a detective agency. This part is just Angel telling her story up until them, which involves excelling in all forms of combat and academia, but being given the boot from the detective agency she joined because she didn't fit in their 'exotic/cool dynamic'. Even after she catches notorious international criminal Jean-Francois Henri, thanks to his limo driver waiting at the airport with a sign with his name on it. Lois doesn't seem pleased with how long-winded Angel's being, and Sam takes over in the next issue. 

Look Lois, just because Angel's story doesn't involve her being turned into a baby or an ostrich during some dumbass attempt to prove Clark Kent is Superman, doesn't make it a bad story.

In addition to all that, Sam Glanzman does a brief retelling of the first four years of the war in the Pacific, and Kubert continues his story about a runty little kid on a 19th Century whaling vessel in "Spit". That one's interesting because it's done on some sort of entirely grey paper, with just extremely dark, thick lines. I almost think he might be working with charcoal, but I can't swear to that. It definitely conveys what a dreary, awful existence life on a whaler would be, especially for the kid at the bottom of the totem pole.

[6th longbox, 160th comic. Joe Kubert Presents #5, by Paul Levitz (writer), Joe Kubert (artist/colorist/letterer) in "Farewell"; Sam Glanzman (everything) in "Back and Forth 1941-1944"; Joe Kubert (everything) in "The Biker"; Joe Kubert (everything) in "Spit"; Brian Buniak (everything) in "When Hairy met Angel"]

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The 12th Man

This is based on the story of Jan Baalsrud (played by Thomas Gullestad), one of twelve Norwegians trained in England and sent back to their country to hamper the Nazi war effort. Jan is the only one who survives an ambush, but now he's got to get the hell out of Norway. Which wouldn't be so bad, since most of the Nazis are convinced he died trying to swim across a fjord in late March. Unfortunately, there's one Gestapo officer (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who won't be satisfied until he's got a body.

So it's the Nazis, with their typical tactics of beatings, torture, murder, and intimidation, trying to track down this one, half-frozen guy who got his toe shot off in his initial escape. I lost track of how many times he ended up in near-freezing water. His survival hinges on being able to find people who are willing to help him, and risk reprisals if they're caught. From his perspective, it's a matter of whether he can trust the people he approaches not to turn him in, and whether they can keep him one step ahead of pursuit. 

The latter seems like the greater risk, since the movie does make sure to note Norwegians that are working with the Germans. (At one point, one of the guys protecting Jan asks a countryman in an SS uniform if it was difficult to join, and if he is fully committed to that cause. I think he means it sarcastically, but the guy responds more or less seriously.)

There's a bit of text at the beginning that says all the most fantastic elements are absolutely true. Which I assume includes the repeated exposures to freezing water, the gangrenous toes, being left under a rock on a mountainside to be picked up by the next set of helpful people, except those people went to the wrong goddamn mountain. It's almost too much for me to believe how they got him across the border into Sweden, but I guess it's true.

Gullestad plays Jan with an increasingly desperate air. Initially he's in fairly good cheer, manages to take the ups and downs well, but that wears off as the story progresses. He knows the longer he's in Norway, the more likely he is to be caught. He gets scared, gets angry when he wakes up to learn they didn't get him across the border the first time because of a storm. It feels believable. Just the fact he made it that far is incredible, you can't really blame him for feeling like he's at the end of his tether.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Punisher Season 2

Out of boredom as much as anything, I watched Season 2 of The Punisher on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Probably spoilers because who cares? It's a Punisher series, you know how things end. People get shot in large numbers.

It was OK. I didn't exactly like that the season starts with the girl on the run and mysterious religious guy who kills a lot of people, which I was interested in, only to be sidetracked onto the whole mess with Billy Russo, Agent Midani, and Billy's extremely unprofessional therapist/psychologist Dr. Dumont. There are points you almost forget the "pilgrim" is supposed to be out there, somewhere, hunting them down. The urgency he showed in killing a crapload of people, in staging an Assault of Precinct 13 on some podunk-ass sheriff station, vanishes like a fart in the wind the moment things move to New York City.

Also, the way Pilgrim never answers anyone's questions gets really irritating. Mostly because no one ever calls him on it. They ask his name, or where he's from, and he just walks away or asks a question of his own. You think someone would point out how rude that is.

I was intrigued by the idea Billy didn't remember exactly what happened to him or why. In fact, I'm not sure he ever actually remembers that Frank smashed his face into glass because Billy was responsible for killing Frank's family. That could have been an emotional scene. Or a hilarious one, depending. Billy just being gobsmacked to learn he did that.

Agent Midani seems marginally more competent than she did in Season 1. I mean, she eventually figures out something is up with Dr. Dumont, and manages to not die against a furious Billy Russo. I'm not sure what to make of her decision to switch from Homeland Security to the CIA at the end of the season. A decision made apparently because she hated having to play by rules and laws. 

I know that in a Punisher story, there's going to be a certain amount of support for ignoring laws and human rights, given that the main character is a mass murderer. Like that saying about how all war movies are pro-war (which I don't think I agree with, necessarily). The characters that should ostensibly object - Midani, Detective Mahoney, probably Karen Page who shows up again in one episode - all come up with some convoluted reason or another not to. 

(Well, Mahoney may not have excused it, so much as he was too beat to shit to stop Frank escaping, and he didn't want to just shoot a man in the back. Surprising turn from a cop.)

Not sure you want a situation where Frank's success doing whatever he wants in turn encourages other characters to behave similarly. At least, not when that involves joining the CIA, with its history of destabilizing governments, assassinations, abducting people and throwing them in hidden prisons.

At least Curtis, Frank and Billy's old Marine friend, has a valid reason to work with Frank. He's terrified of Billy, and doesn't appreciate Billy gathering up disgruntled veterans and convincing them to pull heists.

Monday, November 16, 2020

A Tale of Two Halves of a Trade

Damn, I miss Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

I heard pretty much nothing but good things about All-New Wolverine, the solo title where Laura Kinney (X-23) took over being Wolverine after Logan was dead for awhile. This was of course undercut by Marvel throwing as many other knockoff Wolverines out there at one time as possible, but that isn't this book's fault.

Volume 1 is kind of pricey (even with the new Omnibus available now), so I started with volume 2. Which is, naturally, a tie-in to Civil War II: Dumbass Boogaloo. Fortunately, only half of the six issues really deal with that, and those are, as you'd imagine, the crappier half.

That half follows the predictable pattern. The kid, Ulysses, sees a vision of something terrible happening. SHIELD tries to mobilize to stop it, and in turn, bring it about. The main characters yell at them for being dumbasses. 

In this case, Old Man Logan, the Wolverine from that shitty ripoff of Unforgiven Mark Millar wrote that one time that Marvel simply will not let die, is supposed to kill Gabby, the delightful clone of X-23 that Laura has adopted as her little sister. Captain America shows up (I assume this is HYDRA Cap, although Secret Empire is still several months away), Laura and Gabby object, and try to help the old man escape. He gets shot with a laser, then a bunch of tranq darts, and stabs Gabby when she tries to calm him down. Good thing she's a clone of someone with an actual healing factor and stabbing is a mild inconvenience. Granting Laura somehow hadn't figured that out, but what a waste of time.

The only interesting part of it is this Logan actually thinks he did a good job raising his Laura, and hates Gabby because the version from his timeline took Laura away. With that attitude, I'm guessing she didn't have to try very hard. No matter the timeline, Logan will fuck up his interpersonal relationships because he never learned sharing is caring. Laura tells him to stay the hell away, or else, because she's now dead certain he's not her Logan. Eh, closer than you think, kid. And I know he pops up again two stories later during a crisis.

Anyway, that's more time than that shit deserved.

The good half is the first three issues, kicking off with a team-up with the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Laura has committed crimes against the squirrels, and must make restitution. Which means helping to find a father squirrel she stuck a tracking device on, who has now vanished. Also, she made some people crash their car into the squirrels' tree home, knocking it down. 

Civil War III: Back For More Cash will be the squirrels deciding they're taking over our homes and exiling us to the trees, like the dolphins in that one Simpsons Halloween Special. I, for one, welcome our squirrel overlords. Get yourself a leader who eats nuts, instead of being nuts.

Doreen is cheerful and singing as always, except when she's serious, and she even brings a housewarming gift. An actual wolverine named Jonathan she rescued from a lab when she was rescuing squirrels. She's a little put out Laura can't speak to, sorry, understand wolverines, but Gabby loves him, so it's all good. Gabby's assessment: 'I will walk him and feed him and dress him up in fine suits and build little cities out of cardboard for him to tear through like some hairy, giant, formally attired monster.' 

Laura is fortunately new enough at being a big sister to think there's nothing wrong with having a wolverine for a pet.

After that, Laura is called in by SHIELD because an entire team went missing, and so did the person they first sent looking. Which would be Old Man Logan (hence him being around for the CW2 stuff). As it turns out, the SHIELD team was trying to interrupt a weapons buy, and the weapon is a pheromone. Not the one that sends Laura into a killing frenzy, but one that puts a certain dragon in the mood for love.

Yes, a Fin Fang Pheromone. I love how absolutely ridiculous that is. Gabby's assessment: 'So this is like when a giant rampaging lizard and a flying aircraft carrier love each other very much. . .' That kid is the best. 

Laura figures out Logan must be inside the dragon, which is how you get her diving inside. I'm not sure if we're meant to deduce he was swallowed because he's a klutz, or he got swallowed because that's where the trail led and he hoped some of them survived. The former probably, but he's an old man, he might have got confused and thought the giant dragon was a diner selling a Early Bird Special.

Iron Man and Captain Marvel show up, but since Civil War II hadn't officially started, there's no sniping at each other yet. The only awkward moment is when Tony states he has a lot of experience sterilizing rooms, and Carol and Laura are both disgusted. Which is totally understandable, so I stand corrected, Civil War III will be about Tony's tendency to overshare.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #140

 "Great, Deadpool's Confused About His Powers Again," in Deadpool/Great Lakes Initiative Summer Fun Spectacular, by Fabian Nicieza and Dan Slott (writer), Nelson DeCastro (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer)

Skipping past Deadpool: Games of Death, which is an enjoyable, but sadly lacking in splash pages, one-shot by Mike Benson and Shawn Crystal where Deadpool goes undercover in a death stunt reality show with a bunch of parodies of various action heroes, we come to this. 

Released in the post-Civil War Marvel of 2007, when the Great Lakes Avengers were part of the Initiative as Wisconsin's official super-team, and Cable was "dead". It's a bunch of short comics with two threads that run through it. 

One is Squirrel Girl finding out that thanks to Mark Millar and Paul Jenkins, her crush Speedball is now the completely idiotic Penance, and setting out to fix this. This involves Doom's time machine, references to a story from the at-that-time current volume of Marvel Team-Up (the same volume Robert Kirkman used to do a Spider-Man/Invincible team-up), and Niels the bouncing cat becoming P-Cat, the penitent puss.

The other is that, after they team up to stop an AIM plot to incapacitate all the "real" superheroes with an inebriation ray created by harnessing the power of the completely wasted god Dionysus (seen above), the GLI invite Deadpool to join the team and then can't get rid of him. Eventually the two storylines dovetail and the comic ends. Speedball is still not released from the ridiculous hell the character was dumped in, but oh well.

It's silly, and treats the entire idea of Speedball becoming a character whose powers are triggered by pain so he wears an iron maiden for a costume with exactly as much respect as it deserves. I love it.

Friday, November 13, 2020

What I Bought 11/6/2020 - Part 2

One delightful side effect to the hailstorm busting my windshield back in the spring is I'm now much more concerned about the possibility of that happening again. Curse our increasingly erratic weather patterns!

Wicked Things #6, by John Allison (writer), Max Sarin (artist), Whitney Cogar (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer) - They're all the same suit? Someone is clearly cheating. 

Charlotte gets to be in the sting operation for the impending robbery at the Le Grand Jeu casino. As it turns out, rather than it being two rival gangs, it's all being done by one mastermind: Charlotte's chess pal, Bulldog (and some local biathletes). He helped Dennison put away the worst criminals, but that makes him persona non grata among the criminal set. Charlotte ends up as a hostage, Dennison gets shot. He's fine, Bulldog shows up at the hospital to apology, Charlotte reveals she was on to him for sometime, and Bulldog gets tased. 

Unfortunately, Claire is not having any success finding who actually stabbed Miyamoto. Fortunately (for Charlotte, anyway) he wakes up just long enough to exonerate her and ask his assistant to help Charlotte find his killers, 'cause he died. Without telling them anything about his attackers, other than it is, indeed "attackers", plural, not singular. And unless the series gets continued at some later date, that's where we're leaving it.

Ah, I should have known Allison was setting us up by making Bulldog so likeable. As always, I'm bad at mysteries. I didn't really buy the two flappers as casino robbers. Granted, mostly because they didn't strike me as the sorts to commit crime in the sweatshirt and ski mask look. Much more "Bonnie and Clyde". I do like the gag about using biathletes. That is such a weird sport. Cross-country ski, then target shooting. Also weird my spellcheck recognizes "triathletes", but not "biathletes". Discrimination!

I wish Sarin had more opportunity to get fanciful with the art. Given Lotte's ability to make the wildest connections, there was a lot of potential there for the random panels of strange things which she did so well in Giant Days. The work was still high-quality, Sarin still has great skill with expressions, and I liked the page with the see-through wall with the British equivalent of at SWAT team on one side of a door, and the casino interior on the other.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Stranger Than Fiction

When I reviewed A Thousand Words last month, kelvin remarked it sounded like a movie that Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler would have made in 2002, or Matthew Perry in 2006. Along those lines, here's a movie by Will Ferrell from 2006.

He plays an IRS agent who begins hearing a British lady's voice in his head. She narrates how dull and repetitive his life is, and eventually that he's going to die soon. He understandably freaks out about this, and ends up consulting with a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), who concludes he is caught in a story. But is it a tragedy or a comedy? Either way, he starts trying to improve his life by learning the guitar and dating a bake shop owner (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, in a role that largely wastes her).

Meanwhile, Emma Thompson is the author in question, who is trying to come up with a proper way to kill off Will Ferrell to end her first book in several years. Queen Latifah is in here as an assistant sent by the publisher to help Emma Thompson finish the book on schedule. This is complicated somewhat once they find out the person who is going to die is a real person.

So it's that kind of movie. I don't really understand the part where Will Ferrell's wristwatch seems to have developed sentience and is trying to take an active role in his life. Also, Emma Thompson gives him the outline of the death she ultimately decides on, and he gives it to Dustin Hoffman to read. Hoffman tells him he has to go through with this, because it's the greatest work of literary fiction in decades, and his death is the culmination. 

My first thought is, "like hell I'm dying for art, especially someone else's art." My second thought is, "there is no way this story, based on what we've seen of it in this movie, is that good." It's simply not that great a story. Guy with boring life tries to step out of his routine, then dies as he's achieving real happiness? That sounds like what some first semester English grad writes under the logic that sad endings are more realistic, and therefore better.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

What I Bought 11/6/2020 - Part 1

Between last week's books and one leftover book from October, I had four books to look for last weekend. Found three of them. Spy Island is still apparently very popular in central Missouri. Weird how that works sometimes.

Deadpool #8, by Kelly Thompson (writer), Gerardo Sandoval (penciler/inker), Victor Nava (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - And they say on that random November Wednesday, Deadpool's heart shrank three sizes. And collapsed into a neutron star, killing hundreds.

Wade, Elsa, and Jeff were captured. Great rescue attempt. 0 out of 10. Would not hire them to rescue me from monsters in another dimension. Elsa admits she was allowed to escape last time to return with another host for the Bone Beast Queen. The Bone Beasts underestimated how many weapons Wade carries, so he gets them loose, arms the children, and they try to escape. But Elsa's infection catches up with her, so Wade turns back and in an attempt to halt the infection, pulls out her Bloodstone and puts it in himself. Well, I guess his healing factor will compensate. it better, because now that she hasn't got the Bloodstone, Elsa is just food to the Queen. So Wade's got to hold the line.

I'm not really excited about the Bloodstone having an infection with it. I know this is the Marvel Universe, and everything is always shit, but wasn't being drawn into an endless war against the monsters curse enough? 

The pacing on this is. . . not great. There are two double-page splashes, one for Wade freeing everyone, and another for him trying to defend Elsa. But Sandoval doesn't really do anything with the pages that requires them to be double-page splashes. Could have done either one in a single page or less, and had more, you know, actual story progression.

I am curious to learn more about this Deo Monstri Cult that is possibly roaming the woods of Staten Island. So the sooner we can wrap this story up, the better. At this point, it's a book where I think Thompson nails the small character bits and some of the humor, and I like the "Monster King" as a starting point, but the larger plots aren't working. Not really loving Sandoval as an artist, either.

Runaways #32, by Rainbow Rowell (writer), Natacha Bustos (artist), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Except for the freezing cold and the lack of oxygen, that would be a pretty awesome view.

So the group's latest attempt in trusting adults went horribly. I've only bought the first trade, so I'm about 20 issues away from fully grasping that. You know, the book says they should know to never trust adults in spandex, but Spider-Man did right by them. He bought Chase and Gert dinner, and then Nico just attacked him. And it wasn't Cloak and Dagger's fault they got mind-wiped by the Pride.

Anyway, they're feeling a bit adrift. No one is talking. A fantastically dressed Doombot is moving in because of their poor judgment. Gert wants to go to actual high school. Vic wants to go with her, and so does Gib, who can make himself into an extremely large, generally Caucasian-looking dude. So he's immediately popular with the football coach. Molly is looking at websites for Krakoa on her phone. Don't do it, Molly! You're too young for creepy sex cults, and even with two dead former team members, your survival rate is still a lot higher than the X-Men!

That's pretty much the issue. An issue for the characters to deal with the immediate fallout and set the next direction of the book. Whatever that's going to be. I like Bustos' art. It's expressive without being too exaggerated. I don't necessarily mind exaggerated, but it doesn't seem like it would fit in an issue that's got such a subdued tone. The body language is excellent, Gert's nervous, hunched over look in school, Gib's constantly straight-backed stance. He's just at ease, no reason to be defensive or aggressive.

I don't know if this is necessarily a great issue to jump on with, but it isn't a terrible issue, and I want to see where it goes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The 42nd Parallel - John Dos Passos

My dad, being my dad, decided to get me the collection of Dos Passos' USA trilogy, which starts with The 42nd Parallel. He returns to his motif in Manhattan Transfer of jumping between different characters' stories over the course of years. He goes even further this time, by adding a bunch of short sections called "The Camera's Eye" and "Newsreels". 

The former seems like a child's stream of consciousness of different moments in a life, while the latter is a collection of I assume headlines and pieces of news articles. Although Dos Passos combines them so that a given sentence will shift focus entirely halfway through. It seems like some attempt at a mosaic of the moment in time he's trying to capture, but it mostly just turns into an opportunity for me to speedread through those sections.

So that mostly leaves following the character's lives. Most of whom usually find themselves stuck in a bad spot by the time they'd be leaving high school. One of their parents usually gets hurt, finances get tight, kid has to start working, sacrifice whatever plans they had. Ward Moorhouse wanted to be songwriter, didn't happen. Eleanor's plans to pursue an art career don't quite pan out.

That isn't to say everyone's life goes horribly, but there's a constant sense of dissatisfaction. They meet people, get married, but it doesn't last for one reason or the other. Moorhouse and Eleanor are both well-respected, but their businesses are houses of cards, able to crumble at any moment. Mac drifts back and forth between trying to work in printing shops and get involved in the labor struggle. Every time the honest work dries up, or the pressures at home mount, he wants to get involved in a revolution. Then he decides he gets tired of that and wants to go back to work, start a family. That falls apart, whole thing starts over again.

The whole story is set prior to the United States actually getting involved in World War I, so I don't figure Dos Passos is commenting on the confusion and listlessness of the people who survived that. Or maybe he is and he's saying that it was a pre-existing condition. that they're caught in a culture that says wealth and prosperity is there for everyone, and they just need to grab it, but there's a system of hoops that have to be jumped through and it's exhausting. An endless hamster wheel of never feeling you've quite made it, or you aren't secure in the place you've reached.

'and they let him be a socialist and believe that human society could be improved the way you can improve a dynamo and they let him be pro-German and write a letter offering his services to Lenin because mathematicians are so impractical who make up formulas by which you can build power plants, factories, subway systems, light, heat, air, sunshine but not human relations that affect the stockholders' money and the directors' salaries.'

Monday, November 09, 2020

What I Bought 11/2/2020 - Part 2

Hello there! Greetings from last Thursday! Hopefully my entire country isn't on fire as you read this! If it is, I hope you are in a different, less insane locale. Today's selection is two comics, each with overly length titles!

Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists #2, by Eric Palicki (writer), Wendell Cavalcanti (artist), Mark Dale (colorist), Shawn Lee (letterer) - Oh crap, upside-down world. Or is it invisible zombie world?

Sheriff Dale isn't too pleased to find Lucas didn't get scared off by the vampires eating a drunk in the jail last night. The sheriff explains over morning beers that his brother, the former sheriff, caused all this by making a deal with the vampires to avoid dying of cancer. Well, when your job doesn't provide adequate health insurance. . .

Lucas makes a deal with the sheriff to wipe them all out, but when he gets down to the last one, the sheriff cracks him in the head with a shovel. 'Cause the last one's his brother. So the question is, which way is this double-cross running? Do Lucas and the sheriff want Jack to think he's got things in hand, or did the sheriff trick Lucas? I'd suspect the latter, but the sheriff sounds like he's always played second fiddle to his brother. Jack was sheriff first, Dale dated Jack's wife first, but she married Jack instead. Now Dale's sheriff, but Jack and his vamps are the ones who really run things. Maybe Dale'd like to get his brother out of the way once and for all, be the big man.

I'm curious if the townspeople live with this because they don't see another option, or because the vampires are friends and family, and they'd rather have them alive in this form than not at all. Is it fear that makes the town close ranks rather than seek help, or a sense of community? "He ain't heavy, he's my vampire brother."

Cavalcanti still has a lot of panels that seem to zoom in real close on a character's face. I don't really know why. If it's meant to be dramatic, it's not really working. Because most of the time, there's a layered meaning to what they're saying, but since we don't know all the mysteries yet, it just seems strangely ominous. Like one of those parody horror movies where the creepy weirdo says something like, "I make a steak that's to. . . die for." with really heavy emphasis on die and the other characters are like, "OK, great, weirdo."

The fight scene in the cave between Lucas and the horde of vampires was kind of fun, if brief. For a moment I thought the blood on his arms was matching the pattern of his arm tattoo, but no. I do wonder how, if the vampire can protect himself from the sun by pulling up the hood on his sweatshirt, his hands aren't burning? They're not covered. The mysteries of vampires are legion.

Sympathy for No Devils #1, by Brandon Thomas (writer), Lee Ferguson (artist), Jose Villarubia (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer) - That squirrel thing wants to know when it can go back inside its stump. It wasn't doin' nothing wrong, just tryin' to live my life here officer! That OK with you?

Winston Wallis was a cop, now he's a private investigator. He's also the last human left, the rest of the planet inhabited by people that look like ogres or insect people or whatever. he ends up in the middle of a crime scene run by his old partner, Raleigh, who would like Winston's help. Apparently, three years ago, a colossus was murdered, and something bad happened when Winston and Raleigh tried to solve the case. Three years to the day, another colossus turns up dead in the exact same spot. Why that spot is in Carson City, Nevada would seem to be the biggest mystery. Perhaps the rest of the world is a barely inhabitable wasteland, except Nevada is already that in our world sooooo. . .

Oh, and the newest victim's wife, a lovely blue lady named Jacinda who implies Raleigh is a bent cop wants to hire Winston to find her husband. Well, he's right there on the cover of this comic. Another case closed! Top that Sherlock Holmes.

The comic seems to be narrated by Winston's assistant, a little pink thing who looks like he's missing an eyestalk named Floyd. Floyd's writing a book, and plotting Winston's doom so he he can be reunited with somebody. Unless that's just literary license. A disgruntled employee releasing his frustration through revenge fantasy stories. Which means I don't know how seriously to take all the stuff about how Winston's like all the humans were, and can't help tearing things down. The perspective could be a little slanted, you know? Granted I'm not clear on if all these other folks used to be human, or if the other humans are all dead and were replaced by these folks. Or how long any of this has been this way. Questions for another day.

Ferguson's art has a bit of Mike Parobeck or Rich Burchett in it. Most notably with Jacinda, but also with most of the non-Winston characters. Straightforward designs, sort of the Star Trek alien approach. Different people distinguished by colors or having a couple of horns or a fin on their head. Clean strong linework, some cross-hatching in the close-ups, but not to a distracting degree. Winston's a little rougher looking, but he's the outlier in this world, so that tracks. I don't know if the others age like humans, slower, faster, or what, but Winston's clearly meant to be getting on in years. Gets worn out running and fighting more than Raleigh. 

I'm curious to see if the rainbow-colored blood is going to be a consistent thing. They use it on the cover, and again at the crime scene in the beginning of the book. If it is blood. Maybe it's saliva.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Sunday Splash Page #139

"Let the Lady Kill How She Likes," in Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet #4, by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan (writer), Reilly Brown (penciler), Nelson DeCastro and Terry Pallot (inkers), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer)

We looked at this very issue of this mini-series two months ago for Random Back Issues #42. Originally done as a digital release, then later released in physical copies, it's wedged in between the two halves of the Posehn/Duggan Deadpool run we looked at in Sunday Splash Pages #134 and 135. 

After Agent Preston is moved from Deadpool's mind into an LMD, and Wade has taken revenge on Agent Gorman and gotten his money for killing all those undead presidents, Deadpool wants to take a break from insanity. Naturally, his vacation is interrupted by a job offer from Dracula (unfortunately still rocking the Final Fantasy villain remake he got during that X-Men event where Jubilee became a vampire.) Dracula wants Deadpool to retrieve a coffin.

During an incident in Greece involving a minotaur, a zebra, and two mopeds, the coffin breaks open revealing Shiklah, succubus queen of the undead. She's supposed to be Dracula's betrothed, to bring peace between their people (although Drac just wants control of her family's empire.) Naturally, she falls for the wacky merc who won't shut up and doesn't stay dead when she kisses him. Wade, despite insisting she's just a job, finds himself growing attracted to her wide-eyed interest in a world he's all-too familiar with. 

Also, she's hot.

This is kind of a bonkers mini-series, where Duggan and Posehn throw every damn thing in here. Blade shows up, that stupid Thunderbolts team Deadpool was on with the Red Hulk, Punisher, and Elektra. HYDRA, AIM (with MODOK), Werewolf by Night and Frankenstein's Monster. Deadpool stabs someone with his hand. Not that the hand is holding a bladed weapon. He stabs them with the jagged bone of his severed hand.

The mini-series sets up Wade getting married in his ongoing series, which ultimately (after Civil War II) ended very badly. Because that's how things go for Deadpool. But it's a tremendous amount of fun getting to that point.

Friday, November 06, 2020

What I Bought 11/2/2020 - Part 1

Typing this Wednesday afternoon, so I don't yet know if I need to be deeply depressed that we somehow reelected Trump, or mildly depressed that we didn't, but he didn't suffer such a crushing defeat that he had a stroke and died. Anyway, comics.

Broken Gargoyles #2 and 3, by Bob Salley (writer), Stan Yak (artist, issue 3, pencils and inks issue 2), Mike Lilly (roughs and layouts issue 3), Robert Nugent (colorist), Justin Birch (letterer) -  Maybe ask him where you can get one of those Darth Vader helmets for yourself.

So Prescott was supposed to be stealing the weapons to sell to Russians who are, I think, trying to reinstate the czar. The joke being the Russians would pay for the weapons with money made by drilling for oil in America, which America then buys. Except the Russian threatens to blow up all the oil if they don't leave, minus the money. 

Yeah, that didn't work out for him so well. Not that it matters, since Prescott was apparently never going to give him the weapon anyway. Does no one believe in a honest deal any longer?

They escape with the money and the weapon, but the Russians who were supposed to retrieve the weapon chase them down about the same time the FBI (with Manco in tow) show up and the whole thing goes nuts. In theory. In practice, it's not a very chaotic fight. Salley and Yak keep breaking it up with flashbacks to the Great War, explaining why Manco and Prescott's backstory, and why they look like they do. Yak uses a more simplified style, while Nugent goes to a grainy, antiquated film reel look for those segments. 

They don't really apply it to the sound effects, though, which makes them look out of place. I guess that could be the point, but I don't think so. I mean, the sound of gunshots is kind of an intrinsic part of their terrible battlefield experience, correct? It's not like Manco is remembering some idyllic, pastoral scene from his happy childhood, which was tragically ruined by gun violence. He was in the middle of a war where at least one side built some kind of contraption where they attached spider legs to a person(?) and put a bell around his neck to send across the No Man's Land and see if the bell bumped against anything. That pretty horrific, so bullets aren't really out of place there.

Long story short, Prescott's still on the loose with the weapon, and Manco runs across some lady marshal, and I thought this was listed as a 3-issue mini-series, but clearly it isn't because this resolved jack and shit. 

I'm not sure what's even supposed to be happening. Germany has sent delegates to New York to sue for peace, but the war is supposed to be over. Prescott is supposedly heading east, so I don't know if he's fixing to get involved in this somehow, or if he has other objectives. They make a big deal about this weapon, but it seems like some kind of mech you can fit on a truck, and they have helicarriers in this world, so that doesn't seem terribly impressive. I kinda doubt the U.S. only had the one of these mechs. And Prescott, so far at least, is going around trying to rally people to his banner. He's picked up a couple of people on the way, but one of them was an old war buddy he felt deserved better, and the other was a prisoner who just happened to get caught in the middle of all this crap. So I'm not certain there's a plan anywhere in this.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Bone Tomahawk

This is kind of a weird movie, a Western that's sort of a horror movie, but at times almost feels darkly comic. On the one hand, you have a four-man party, led by the town sheriff (played by Kurt Russell), going out to try and rescue his deputy and the town's effective doctor (Lili Simmons) from a band on inbred, cannibal, cave-dwelling Native Americans. Said cave dwellers came to town after a couple of murdering drifters wandered into their territory and stupidly disturbed a burial ground, as dumbasses frequently do.

And this can be a brutally violent movie. People lose limbs. People are getting shot in limbs with bullets and arrows. The doctor's husband (played by Patrick Wilson) is one of the sheriff's posse, and he's got a broken tibia from trying to repair his roof during a storm. So there's a part where the bone gets reset with a hammer. One guy gets scalped, then has to eat his own scalp, and things get worse for him from there. Someone gets a metal flask that fell in a fire jammed into an open torso wound.

On the other hand, as a lot of the movie is the posse slowly making their way to the general area they think the cave dwellers inhabit, there's a lot of time for talk. And the backup deputy (played by Richard Jenkins as a possibly dotty old man) likes to talk about all sorts of things. One minute Kurt Russell is explaining that he lied to his other deputy because he figures it would be a comforting thing to know you're going to be avenged, and then Chicory is talking about the time the flea circus came to town, and do you think his late wife was right, and it was all just a mechanical trick? Or Patrick Wilson apologizes for calling him a stupid imbecile, and Chicory responds that it's fine, his wife used to call him that, felt rather nostalgic.

I think he's meant to be doing it on purpose, because he knows this is going to be bad, and left to fixate on it in silence, he'd probably lose his nerve, along with most of the others. But man it can feel abrupt and out of place at times. There's a lot of enjoyable parts to it, even if they do fit together a little strangely.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Some Comics Make for Better First Experiences than Others

I've spoken before about how my earliest Spider-Man comics were a two-part Secret Wars II tie-in in Amazing and Spectacular where the Puma tries to enlist his help in killing the Beyonder. Which is kind of a strange introduction. Cat-man trying to get Spidey to help him kill a jheri curl wearing sentient universe. Peter and MJ, in "just friends" mode, repainting his apartment because some punks torched it for Parker calling the cops on them.

But it's still fairly recognizable as a standard Spider-Man story. Animal-themed opponent (since Spidey ends up between Puma and the Beyonder). Spidey being completely outclassed on both sides, but still trying to get in the middle of it and keep anyone from dying. Undercut somewhat by the point where the Beyonder tells him to let the Puma kill him and Spidey calls them both nuts and just leaves.

The funnier thing, though, is the next Spider-Man comic I remember getting, Web of Spider-Man #32. Part 4 of Kraven's Last Hunt. For a long time, over a decade at least, the only part of that story I'd actually read. That's a weird experience for a kid.

Page 1 opens with Peter floating naked in an endless white void. Page 3 has Ned Leeds (recently dead) pulling a Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not that I'd seen that movie yet (I might have seen Last Crusade in the theaters by this point, not sure).

By page 6, Peter is crawling naked from the corpse of a spider (love the bit of spider entrails hanging out there, Mike Zeck killed it on this comic) towards a bunch of shadowy monsters with sharp nails and teeth. I don't know about other elementary school kids, but I had no idea what was going on there. I was probably trying to interpret this thing literally, and that wasn't helping it make any more sense. "Metaphor" and "symbolism" were definitely not in my vocabulary yet. 

Page 9 he's climbing from his own grave (which is infested with little black spiders). Then he finds out he's been "dead" for two weeks, tears up a bunch of stuffed tigers and shit. I had no idea that the two black guys he briefly yells at before leaving worked for Kraven. Minus that context, I thought he was attacking two innocent funeral home directors because he was confused. I mean, he just dug himself out a grave, he probably doesn't know where he even is.

It's not until after that we might have hit something that made sense, when he goes home to Mary Jane. Then he's awake and determined to go find Kraven, even though he really doesn't want to. But then you get to the last page, Kraven's standing there wearing a copy of Spidey's costume (minus the mask). I have to think this was my intro to Kraven, so I don't think I had any clue what was going on there. Although I know I liked the three panels at the top of the page, where Kraven's smile fades as Spider-Man gradually lowers himself into the background.

I can't say it was an effective cliffhanger, since it was years before I got around to finding a tpb of the entire story to learn what happened next. I think it was maybe just such a strange read at that point in my life, I didn't know what to make of it. He doesn't really fight anyone, there's no banter or wisecracking. The last three pages are almost entirely silent. Until the last page, Kraven only shows up in these occasional panels where he's slowly pulling off the mask and repeating that "he's coming." There's one page of Vermin (not that I had any idea that's who it was) running into an electric fence and retreating into the dark. 

It's definitely a comic that assumes you did not decide to start reading with part 4 of 6. In my defense, this was included in one of those packs of comics you could buy from the Penney's Christmas catalogue, so it's not like I grabbed it off the old spinner rack.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

The Naked City

Sure is a perfectly ordinary day, with absolutely nothing of importance happening anywhere in the world. Definitely not whistling past the graveyard here.

The Naked City is basically a police procedural movie. Starting with the murder of a woman in her apartment, then moving through the steps the police take in trying to figure things out. Determining cause of death, asking the victim's friends and family questions, trapping witnesses in lies (one guy in particular lies a lot, does it badly, and tends to double-down with new lies when the old ones are exposed.)

It's kind of like a 90 minute episode of Law & Order, although played less dramatically. The cops probably do fewer objectionable things in this movie, too, despite having fewer (theoretical) checks on them. It's not exactly a gripping movie, though. Accurate for police work I'm sure. 

The only actor I recognized was Barry Fitzgerald (Michaleen Oge Flynn in The Quiet Man), who plays the lieutenant leading the investigation. he tones down the brogue a lot, but still has this sort of patient, wry amusement with everything. he's watching a witness dig a deeper hole for himself, and it's just kind of funny to him.

I could have done without the voiceover narration, performed by one of the film's producer Mark Hellinger. Sometimes it tries for deeply meaningful, like at the end when he notes that the deceased's murder only got her six days on the front page, and then everyone moved on to the next one. other times, like when it's asking the young sergeant how he's enjoying pounding that pavement, it's more like the narration on those old Disney shorts about Goofy trying to show you how to build your own patio. Just unnecessary.

Monday, November 02, 2020

He's Got a Cabinet Full of Spirits

Right, he's not a thief. He just hunts treasures. Which he then steals. Totally different.

So I did end up finding a copy of the first volume of Five Ghosts a few months back. Contrary to what the solicitation led me to believe, the treasure hunter up there doesn't access the abilities of particular authors, but of their characters. Which makes more sense, certainly.

The gist of the story is that Fabian convinced his sister to try and use a "dreamstone" to make their imaginations of being fabulously wealthy come true. Instead, he wound up with pieces of the stone embedded in his body, and her soul was ripped from her body and pulled into another realm. Fabian's trying to find some clue that will help him bring her back. But his powers are going kind of wonky (because having a solidified piece of the Dreaming Realm in your body is unhealthy) and there are other forces with similar powers moving against him.

It's very much in the pulp hero (or anti-hero) vein, starting with being set in the 1930s. You got biplanes, airships, Shangri-La, Nazis, hidden African tribes that worship gigantic spiders, swordfights, pretty much the whole magilla. I assume the leggy dames who are nuthin' but trouble show up in subsequent volumes.

Mooneyham's art reminds me a bit of when Bill Sienkiewicz was inking over Sal Buscema on Spectacular Spider-Man. It has that solid, squared-jawed hero look, but the shadows are a bit thicker and heavier than Buscema's normally were. Especially in the scenes when Fabian is losing control, or the vampire takes hold and he becomes more monstrous. Most of the page layouts are straightforward, but there are times when the images and caption boxes wander across the pages. Usually when the Dreaming Realm is involved. It makes sense, but it's not always the easiest thing to follow.

Lauren Affe and S.M. Vidaurri tend to give scenes a specific hue that colors everything, like the blue in the first image, and then play off that for contrast when it comes to Fabian using the abilities of one of the ghosts, or some particular bit of violence. The colors usually aren't bright, more soft and muted, but it seems to work. Fabian's quest isn't a happy one, so bright, cheery colors wouldn't fit, but this is still supposed to be an adventure, so it's not a dark slog, either.