Monday, May 17, 2021

What I Bought 5/14/2021

Did anybody else notice that hour or so late last week where all the Blogger sites were being blocked as containing malware? That was concerning, I hadn't saved last year's posts yet. I really don't know what approach I'll take the day Google decides to just throw Blogger in the trash. At some point they'll decide, "this ain't making us any money," and poof, into the aether it goes.

Anyway, to "celebrate" having to return to working in the office, one book from last week. I tried the other store in town, and they didn't have the last issue of The Union, either. Said the sales tanked after issue 3, which doesn't exactly surprise me.

Black Cat #6, by Jed MacKay (writer), Michael Dowling (artist), Brian Reber (color artist), Ferran Delgado (letterer) - Like Scrooge McDuck, Felicia Hardy oversells how comfortable gold coins are.

The Gilded Saint accepts the Fox' offer. It now owns Manhattan, and Fox and Felicia are immortal and youthful. Felicia is outraged at the double-cross, but tearing the Fox' throat out doesn't work and he escapes. After lying to Spider-Man (who shows up for 3 panels, sorry if you were expecting more based on the solicitation), she tells her guys to get lost and goes to bargain with Odessa Drake. This would seem dicey, given all the stealing and threatening her with borrowed Iron Man armor, but when Felicia and the Fox got immortality, it was taken away from Odessa and her Guild. So that's a good reason for everyone to play nice. So Felicia gets magically "booped" into the Saint's vault.

This feels like it's moving slow. Maybe that's just Dowling's art, which isn't particularly dynamic or exciting. It's fairly realistic, but when he's mostly just drawing people standing around talking, that's not all that eye-catching. Not doing a lot to make that a more interesting prospect, either, in terms of layouts or whatnot. I guess I could mention the fact that during their time chatting, Odessa is repeatedly the one leaning into Felicia's space or trying to touch her.

Still, this issue is a conversation between Felicia and Fox, which feels drawn out. A pair of conversations between her and Spider-Man/Bruno and Dr. Korpse that are quick and to the point. And the thing with Odessa, which is the last 8 pages. That one, I think does deserve the pages it gets, because of the fact they've been adversaries until recently, so that has to be addressed before they can work together.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #166

 
"Wrong Marvel Movie, Domino," in Domino (vol. 3) #4, by Gail Simone (writer), David Baldeon (artist), Jesus Aburtov (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer)

The issue before this had a full-page splash of Domino basically drooling over Shang-Chi. I'd have used it if I went with the "Domino in a bikini" splash page two weeks ago. Should try for equal opportunity objectification, right?

So Domino got her first shot at an honest-to-goodness ongoing series in spring of 2018, roughly coinciding with the character's big screen debut in Deadpool 2 (the series started in April, the movie was released in May in the U.S.) Gail Simone wrote the book, no stranger to the world of Cable-adjacent characters (see Sunday Splash Pages #5 and #132). 

Where the two earlier mini-series focused on Domino's past, either her questions about it or ours - I assume someone was asking about if she'd been married - Simone gave her a small mercenary team to lead, consisting of Deadpool supporting cast member Outlaw, and old Serpent Society and Captain America love interest Diamondback. Diamondback being a sort of well-to-do upper crust type didn't seem to track with any previous characterization, but oh well. That way they could get hired for jobs and encounter complications, ala Simone's Secret Six, or Birds of Prey. It's a reliable storytelling approach.

Which isn't to say Simone didn't some use of the character's backstory. The first arc was Domino being menaced by two other subjects from the same program that Pruett and Stelfreeze established as having experimented on her in their mini-series. Simone took a love/hate approach for Domino and her luck power. That she sort of blindly trusted it would keep her alive, but it might leave her bruised and bleeding for the privilege. She also made Domino a little more, I want to say spastic? Not so much a cool, composed mercenary. Maybe that's meant to be a result of knowing your power could save your life in the most embarrassing way possible.

David Baldeon was the series artist for most of the run, although he drew very little of the last two issues, where Domino's hired to kill Longshot to save the world. He has a fluid enough line to draw a Domino that looks exhausted, messy, and confused in bunny slippers and an X-Force commemorative t-shirt, but can also thicken them to make characters look extremely intense or psychotic. Which comes up fairly often in this series.

The series got canceled after 10 issues and one Annual, although there was immediately a five-issue mini-series, which we'll get to next week. My biggest issue with this series was stories seemed to just end abruptly, with major points relegated to offhand comments. The first story raises a question of someone on Domino's team being a traitor, and that's explained and brushed off in one panel. The characters would be in dire situations, where it seemed like someone was going to do a heroic sacrifice, then they were simply OK. A repeated, "Is that it?" reaction.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Random Back Issues #60 - Katana #2

Katana's smack talk is still a work in progress.

I think Ann Nocenti's Katana series is the only other New 52 title I still have besides Dial H. Oh wait, no, I bought the tpb of that Giffen and Didio OMAC series a few years back. Nevermind. Anyway, Katana! I haven't read it in a few years at least, so trying to remember what the heck is going on's a treat. There's a bunch of clans based around what weapons they favor, and Katana's after the Sword Clan, who she holds responsible for her husband's death. She tangled with a guy named Coil, who uses a sword like whip in the first issue, but he's got a lot of reinforcements, and it ends with her refusing an offer to join and everyone scattering.

Katana catches up to one of them, the guy up above, who doesn't want to fight her. Instead, he'd rather parley, even agrees to help her infiltrate his family and bring them down. Which involves her attending a social function in disguise as his date. First though, she visits a woman with tattoos over all of her body, Shun the Untouchable. If I remember right, the tattoos can tell you important stuff, but it costs money for a peek and Tatsu's out of cash, so all she gets is a glimpse of a dragon on the foot and a riddle or proverb.

 
While she's trying to make a plan, she gets harassed by your typical drunk-ass bum martial arts master, who throws candy at her, calls her a twit, then kicks her butt when she fights him. He tells her she's got to learn how to disguise herself. He also explains the riddle that if one is past and two is present, then third is the future. Meaning what Tatsu saw is a glimpse of a future?

The big party has a bunch of ladies with double-ended swords putting on a demonstration. Their boss Sickle steps out and asks if anyone wants to accept a challenge, so Katana jumps in and fights the lot of them. She wins, but her sword acts on its own near the end. And since Sickle is her dead husband's brother and someone else who tried to win her heart, he knows who's under the mask. When he tells her to join up or he'll blow her secret identity, she agrees. The better to get close to her enemy.

 
But that'll have to wait because as she exits the party she's accosted by Steve Trevor, who wants to recruit her for that other Justice League. The one that had Vibe in it. Maybe Hawkman? I can't remember. I more surprised that she apologizes for putting her sword to his throat when he introduces himself. Maybe he was the League's public liaison, but I can't picture him being a well-known figure. 

And meanwhile, Killer Croc of all people has taken an interest in her, because her sword was said to have killed the last dragon, and I think Croc wants to level up. From what was sometime interpreted as a dragon, to the real thing.

[6th longbox, 90th comic. Katana #2, by Ann Nocenti (writer), Alex Sanchez (penciler), Claude St. Aubin (inker), Matt Yackey (colorist), Taylor Esposito (letterer)]

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Return to House on Haunted Hill

A sequel to the 1999 movie with Geoffrey Rush and Chris Kattan, which I enjoy more than any reasonable person probably should. The connection is that one of the two survivors of that film, Ali Larter's character, dies early in this film, and her sister gets dragged into the mess. There's some ancient Satanic idol suspected to be within the place, and there's an archaeology professor and one of his former students turned into a relic-hunting merc after it.

I think the people who made this one worried that too many of the victims in the earlier film were too likeable. So you've got the relic hunter and his team of gun-toting goons, and one of the professor's Ph.D. students was sleeping with him to funnel information to the relic hunter. The sister (who runs a magazine that's probably a lot like Maxim) and one of her photographers (who was just trying to be helpful) are caught in the middle.

There's not a lot of open conflict between the sides, because one side usually has enough guns to just order the other around. So the film quickly dives in to everyone splitting up and getting steadily picked off during what's basically a fetch-it quest. Find Object A, return to Point B, reveal Exit C. 

It's a bit more gruesome about the deaths than its predecessor, more shock value and Raimiesque gore. One guy gets drawn and quartered by angry ghosts. Another gets thrown in a furnace by terrible CGI charred corpses and burned to ash. Another has a fridge dropped on their head. Instead of amorphous shadows, or only being able to see the ghosts through camera monitors and not with the naked eye, the ghosts are perfectly visible whenever they feel like it. Most of them have oddly elongated faces or features that are stretched out. The idol is in the depths of the hospital, in an area that is somehow almost organic. Like that part of the building is flesh-and-blood now. Why? No idea.

It's weird, because occasionally the movie will do something relatively subtle. The sister tries to slip away while everyone is arguing, and the one female merc, blurry in the background of the shot, ducks behind a column and follows her until she eventually cuts her off. The movie doesn't see the need to draw attention to it, which is the first and last time I can say that.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

What I Bought 5/8/2021 - Part 2

Of the four comics I went looking for last weekend, I didn't expect the last issue of The Union to be the one I couldn't find. So instead of two fifth issues to look at, we've only got one.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #5, by Larry Hama (writer), David Wachter (artist), Neeraj Menon (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - She's aimed that kick a little high, hasn't she? Or is Sue Richards riding on Danny's shoulders?

Nobody's very happy Okoye killed one of the dragons, but apparently it was so she can absorb its energy and team-up with Danny to save the day. Somehow. I guess if she's got it the evil Hierophant guy can't get it. Can't decide what that guy reminds me of. Demon King Piccolo crossed with the Lich King from Adventure Time? Eh, probably not. The Mother of Mercy's expositing is interrupted by him and Brenda, or Yama Dragonsbane. Who still has not bothered to actually fight Danny Rand. 

It is funny to watch Luke Cage basically no-sell everyone's offense in this mini-series. Super-strong, bulletproof guy is not impressed by all this kick-flippy ninjitsu stuff. Brenda goes charging to unleash some sword attack and surprise! The blade breaks on his skin and he punches her in the head.

Fooh lures the bad guys into chasing him back to Rand Tower, and blows up his gate, trying to close all the gates that way. Maybe it works, maybe it didn't, but the remaining heroes are going to have to fight the big, angry, presumably evil dragon that's been sitting on that tower in the cursed city for the previous four issues.

The farther into this mini-series we get, the more of it that seems pointless. Like, what was the need for the Immortal Weapons to run around trying to protect their dragons and cities? Apparently it was better for Okoye to kill the dragons and absorb their power herself to keep it from Hierophant. Did they have to do all this so the proper person to assume that "honor" would reveal themselves? Because it feels like nobody has done anything of any use in this story. Move the Heavenly Cities? Doesn't help. Hide the dragons? Doesn't help. Smash a bunch of undead ninjas? Doesn't help.

 
I guess Hama could be going for a "heroism is ultimately futile", or "easy solutions are no solutions at all" sort of ending, although I kind of doubt it. But it really feels like Danny might as well have stayed home and gotten a few more hours sleep.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dead Again in Tombstone

Apparently this is a sequel to an earlier movie where Danny Trejo plays Guerrero, a man who died, went to Hell, and agreed to send other people to Hell if the Devil would let him out. I'm unclear if he was already dead in the first one, or that was how it ended.

He actually spends very little time in Tombstone, instead returning to his childhood home of Silver River, where he's immediately confronted by some Confederate putz who wants a mysterious "bone box" Guerrero's brother said their father hid. Guerrero has no idea where it is, but this doesn't stop the Confederate from blowing up his horse, or ultimately stabbing his mother, or threatening his estranged daughter. It turns into a whole thing about looking for some satanic relic with the power to raise the dead, and Guerrero's got to decide whether he's going to stand and do the right thing or not.

The biggest problem is that the Confederate, named Jackson Boomer of all things, only survives because Guerrero's an idiot. There are multiple occasions where Guerrero or someone else has a gun on Jackson, or he's standing out in the open in front of someone who has a gun, and they simply. . . don't shoot him. They shoot other people instead. Guerrero does this repeatedly, and I'm sitting there wondering why he's not cutting the head off the snake. The rest of the Johnny Rebs have about three brain cells among them, kill Boomer and they're easy pickings. Even when he gets shot, he seems to recover from that rather easily, so who cares if they shoot him a bunch?

Plus, the Rebs love to tie a string around something so that it triggers an explosion when pulled. Guerrero falls for this twice. The second time when he should really be more concerned about finding Boomer than picking up his childhood toy horse.

Oh well, low expectations not exceeded once again.

Monday, May 10, 2021

What I Bought 5/8/2021 - Part 1

Our governor, in his endless brilliance, announced out of the blue last week all state employees will return to the office on the 17th. No remote work options will be considered. This after six weeks of our bosses telling us maybe we'd be in the office by July, and that they're working on remote work options. Never mind a lot of people still won't be fully vaccinated. Tomorrow is 2 weeks since the second shot for me, and I got the first shot the second day I was eligible. To say nothing of all the people in this state who won't get vaccinated at all. But sure, business as usual.

Anyway, here's a couple of first issues.

Jenny Zero #1, by Dave Dwonch (writer/letterer), Brockton McKinney (writer), Magenta King (artist), Megan Huang (color artist) - That kaiju's gonna be lucky if it didn't step on a used needle.

Jenny was part of Japan's giant monster fighting agency, the daughter of the biggest (literally) hero, and she got discharged for currently unspecified reasons. She moved to California, has a publicist/hotel manager that looks after her, and spends her time drinking and taking all kinds of drugs. The giant monsters are moving beyond Japan's borders, so her uncle asks her to fight one headed her way. She's not happy, but does it (while drunk), and while in the process of being carried away by a giant remora, is shot and manifests the same "growing giant-sized" powers her dad apparently had.

I guess the idea is everyone always compared her to her dad, and minus his super-powers, she didn't measure up. That got old, so she decided to stop trying? Either living for herself as much as possible, or trying to rebel as obviously as possible. Her uncle, who King draws about as square-chinned and lantern-jawed as possible, says she's bringing shame to her family. Which, you know, always a good approach to take when asking for a favor.

Seriously, if you flipped the guy upside-down I'm pretty sure you could build scale-models of famous landmarks out of toothpicks and spit on the underside of his face. Overall, King's artwork varies as the situation requires. It seems to get looser, more blacks during the battle at the end, while it's busier, with thinner lines in the first half of the book where there's a lot of talking. Jenny looks ragged, sweaty and tired. Her clothes don't look like they fit terribly well. She's not taking care of herself and her friend's efforts are mostly for naught (boy, do I know what that's like), and the art reflect it.

 
I did raise an eyebrow at the notion that if left to our own devices, the U.S. will simply bomb the monster and cause a lot of collateral damage. Not that it's an inaccurate reading, I'm just not sure having a giant person fight the monster will be all that much less destructive. I'm seen a lot of animes. Fights between giant things break stuff.

You Promised Me Darkness #1, by Damian Connelly (writer/artist), Anabella Mazzaferri (letterer) - Not the cover I ended up with, but it's nice and foreboding.

The issue is narrated by someone called Sage. They're over a hundred, and one of the people who gained powers when Halley's Comet flew past in 1910. There's a lot in there, and Sage's thoughts seem a little scattered, but the most critical part seems to be there's a cataclysm coming in two weeks, and involves a pair of siblings. A boy who creates fire, and a girl who pulls you into your nightmares. 

I thought that's what alcohol was for. 

There's a son of a satanist who can steal other powers closing in on them, and he, plus the song "Gangam Style", are going to somehow destroy everything. Or maybe it's a coincidence that song debuts on the important day (July 15, 2012). Connelly draws PSY so that he reminds me of Kim Jong-Un. Maybe it's just the hair? 

Like I said, Sage doesn't seem an entirely reliable narrator. They've got people looking for the siblings, Son of a Satanist Preacher Man has a bunch of zombified lawyers after them, there's a giant Doberman in the city. I am unclear on whether Sage means it's large for a Doberman, or large like it's the size of a house. I guess if it was the latter it wouldn't be so difficult to find, but it apparently can talk, so maybe it can turn invisible, too.

 
I wonder if Connelly is going to stick with Sage as narrator, or switch between characters. I can only hope for the latter, because Sage is kind of annoying. They don't have the Bendis stammering tic, but there's a lot of random "Yikes!", or "Oops!" in there. Example: 'I don't know why sometimes I make promises I'm not sure I can keep, Yikes!' Sage is probably a good character to use for exposition in the sense they've been around a while and know a lot. Their thought process means they can jump from topic to topic without it seeming like the author is trying to info-dump. It's like talking to a grandparent where one story about the old days segues into the next and then the next.

The art is all black-and-white, and I'd say the black dominates. In some panels it works, where faces stand out sharply. The panel of the mushroom cloud, where it's in white, against a black backdrop and mostly black city? That works pretty well. In others, I can hardly tell what I'm supposed to be looking at. The first panel where we see Sage, they're on a balcony at the bottom of the page, and it's hard to tell it's supposed to be a person and not just a sculpture like the ones on either side of Sage. I can't figure out what's going on with Sebastian's (fire boy) hair at all. Is it long, is it standing up, is it constantly windblown? Does he have a white streak like Rogue, or is that smoke wafting from his head because he's always a little on fire?

Of the two books, You Promised Me Darkness is the one that intrigues more, but it's also the one that's more likely to put me off stylistically.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #165

 
"Glass Confetti Didn't Catch On," in Domino (vol. 2) #1, by Joe Pruett (writer), Brian Stelfreeze (writer/artist/colorist), John Costanza (letterer)

Six years after the first Domino mini-series, Joe Pruett and Brian Stelfreeze took a shot at it. They take more of an action movie approach compared to Raab/Perrin's "doomed romance" melodrama. Pruett and Stelfreeze shift back-and-forth between Domino dodging bullets, and people doing exposition dumps. In the first issue, it goes from her acquiring a biological weapon, to her contact accepting the weapon and sending her to meet a hacker who has some information she wants, to Domino having to avoid death at the hands of an attack helicopter (in a sequence where she wore a wig, but didn't do anything to disguise her black eye patch or startlingly white skin). It's not a bad approach.

They also mostly divorce it from the Marvel Universe. No Donald Pierce or Lady Deathstrike, no Gyrich. No Puck. Well, they can't all be good decisions. Cable shows up in one panel when Domino calls for help and tells her to basically piss off. She calls Siryn, but she's identified as "Theresa", and there's no discussion of how they know each other. Not really any discussion about mutants or X-Force or anything.

The story is similar in that it delves into Domino's past, but Pruett and Stelfreeze have her searching for her mother. Which puts her up against both some cruel experimental branch of the US military, and a group of crazy ninja monks calling themselves the Armajesuits. Stelfreeze gives them the hooded, flowing robe look, then adds in very sharply outlined masks for a little extra flair. The story serves as an origin for her powers, and gives her both a brother and a mother. Neither of whom I think we've ever seen again. The mother, just like Domino's now-deceased ex-husband from the first mini-series, can perceive the future. Interesting how someone with powers that could cause unlikely events would gravitate to people with that skillset.

Stelfreeze's art is very sharp and hard-edged. Uses a lot of thin lines to starkly outline jaws or cheekbones to make people look fierce or stubborn. Or really set someone's eyes out from their face to make them look fanatical. Also goes with a lot of broad panels stacked one on top of the other during the action sequences. Usually with thick black gutters between them. It feels like it's going for a widescreen movie approach, and his art has enough flow to it the reader can follow the course of the action easily.

They write Domino as a bit more lackadasical than Raab did. Although it doesn't seem like she's necessarily relying on her power to save her, so much as she's just that confident in her abilities. And she does come off as much more capable here than in that prior story. There's rarely a point where she seems over-matched or at a complete loss. This story ends on a what could be an upbeat note for Domino, but probably a down note overall. I guess that depends on what you think her mother did after the last panel.

Next week, Marvel attempts to capitalize on the character's popularity after Deadpool 2 by handing her an ongoing series. Spoiler alert: It doesn't work.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Random Back Issues #59 - The Spectre #15

At least when he's passed out in his own vomit he's not condemning his friends' souls to Hell.

The last time we looked at an issue of John Ostrander's Spectre run, it was a fill-in artist issue about a scientist that created life but didn't respect it. This time, we've got that good Tom Mandrake stuff goin'.

Jim Corrigan, and by extension the Spectre, aren't doing too well. A good friend of his died a few issues earlier while the Spectre was tangled up fighting a demon. Jim, being a man from the 1920s and 1930s, deals with his grief like you'd expect: He lashes out. Problem being, he's attached to God's Spirit of Vengeance, so the blast radius is pretty wide.

The issue begins with the Spectre in the Sinai, debating whether to just destroy the planet since humanity is such a bunch of assholes. I identify with that mood. The Phantom Stranger pops up to tell him that wouldn't be allowed. Spectre's not even sure if he'll do it, but if he does, who's gonna stop him?

 
The Stranger sets off to gather a team of magical forces to help him out. Inza Nelson's rocking the Dr. Fate helm, and she's game. The only other thing she had planned was to maybe use its power to clean up a neighborhood or reupholster her couch, so why not? After that, it's on to a drunkard, a demon, a sorceress, and a woman who does not die. 
 
Constantine is, as seen up top, unavailable. Although Inza offers to flush his system, and the Stranger basically says, "fuck that guy." Oh well, good thing he wasn't part of whatever ridiculous plan you had. Jason Blood's a little put out nobody ever shows up asking for his help, but to be fair, Jason Blood's kind of a pill. Etrigan is at least cheerful, and curious to see if he's stronger than the Spectre.

I said Etrigan was cheerful, not that he was intelligent.

That's as far as that plotline gets this month. The rest of the issue follows the Spectre, who ventures on to Cairo. A major Palestinian leader is there as part of peace talks, and the Israeli super-powered security group Ostrander and Yale introduced in Suicide Squad, the Hayoth, are there too. But not to kill him. While Saad had committed attacks against Israel, including some that took the lives of their leader Colonel Hacohen's family, he's pushing for peace now, enough extremists on both sides hate him. Better to protect him, and spare more innocent blood.

Well, a certain chalk-white spook in a green cloak has other plans for someone with innocent blood on his hands. The mage Ramban senses his approach, but the Golem's attempt to smash the Spectre gets him scattered over the landscape. Ramban's a little tougher, because his magic draws on the same power that fuels the Spectre. He tries reasoning with the Spectre, that killing Saad will result in more death, but the Spectre brushes that off. He'll just kill those murderers, and anyone else who kills in response to their murders. Brilliant. DC's Spirit of Vengeance may have needed to pass a literacy test, but clearly wasn't imbued with common sense. God must have created that on the 9th Day. 

 
Though Corrigan can't blast Ramban directly, he can pummel him with large stones. The last member of Hayoth, the assassin Judith, tries getting Dr. Saad to safety (after fighting his security detail), but when she reaches her team's room, Hacohen shoots her. His rage at Saad - plus a certain black diamond - has brought him under Eclipso's control. He pulls the trigger, but the bullet halts in mid-air, and turns into the Spectre. Neat trick. Eclipso calls him "usurper", since he was God's fiery hand first, and they have a brief skirmish before Eclipso bails. Spectre's ready to get back to handing out vengeance, but Ramban explains his life force is now linked with Saad. Will the Spectre take an innocent life to kill this man?

Considering he killed every single person in the civil war-torn country of Vlatava, minus the rival leaders, literally two issues earlier, because he deemed everyone a murderer? Seems like a risky gamble, especially if you're a person who was part of a covert government strike force. Really doubt Ramban's hands are clean, you know? But the Spectre leaves, though his opinion of humanity hasn't improved. And now Eclipso's got plans to take advantage of his unbalanced state. . .

There's a couple more issues to go in this story, and then there's some understandable fallout. Suffice to say, the Phantom Stranger's plan to attack the Spectre is a bust, but a different group has a little more success reaching Corrigan.

[10th longbox, 15th comic. The Spectre (vol. 3) #15, by John Ostrander (writer), Tom Mandrake (artist), Carla Feeny  and Digital Chameleon (colorists), Todd Klein (letterer)]

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Chaplin (1992)

I'm not sure I've ever watched a Charlie Chaplin film (although I want to see The Great Dictator at some point), but I was curious to watch this. Robert Downey Jr., before Tony Stark, Ally McBeal, the rehab stint, all that jazz.

The movie presents Chaplin's life as him, via him discussing his autobiography in the 1960s with either his ghost writer or his publisher (Anthony Hopkins). Which allows the way the narratives told to offer insight into Chaplin, via what he focuses on, what he doesn't. He ignores his father entirely, and we never see the man. Hopkins notes at one point that Chaplin only devoted five sentences to his second wife, the mother of two of his children. This is while the movie is showing them working together on-set and constantly demonstrating affection for one another. 

And that's kind of how it goes. The things that mean the most to him, he keeps hidden. Either he can't find the words, or he doesn't want to share them. So he glosses over it, or makes something up, such as when he describes how he settled on "The Tramp" as a character, how the costume just called to him, and in the middle of this dramatic retelling, with Downey doing all this exaggerated gestures, Hopkins cuts in with "poppycock," and we see the real deal.

Downey plays it that way, too. When Chaplin is around people - fans, cameras, whatever - he assumes this energetic persona. The smiles, the waves, the greetings. A jovial guy. But the minute they turn away, he drops it almost instantly, and he spends a lot of time with this almost blank look. Like he's just waiting for his cue to start acting again. There's a lot of shots of him alone. Alone in a studio, on a street, in his house. Even in crowd sequences, there's often space between him and most other people, like when he visits a pub in England after WWI. The comedian who wonders if people actually like him is apparently a recurring thing, along with the comedian who wants to make films that speak on societal issues.

There's a couple of places where they apply the old style of slapstick film-making to the movie. Such as when they do a Keystone Kops bit when the police are trying to seize the film Chaplin and his studio are working on, because his first wife (played by Milla Jovovich, was not expecting her name in the credits) has listed in as an asset in their divorce. 

For that matter, the whole sequence where he first plays The Tramp was highly entertaining just for how it shows them making films. Basically, that the director (played by Dan Aykroyd, hell of a cast on this movie) shouts out instructions (like "Domino fall") and they react instantly. I guess it's just improv, but I'm used to that as people just talking, not physical comedy like pratfalls and chases.

So there were some funny bits, some sad bits, Chaplin's an interesting figure, and J. Edgar Hoover's in there, being his usual, hateable fascist self.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

What I Bought 5/1/2021 - Part 2

I'd hoped to have more comics to discuss in this round, but I couldn't find a copy of the first issue of You Promised Me Darkness, and the first issue of Jenny Zero, which was originally supposed to be out two weeks ago, is only just out today. So one book is what you get.

White Lily #2, by Preston Poulter (writer), Lovalle Davis (penciler), Walden Wong and Diana Greenhalgh (inkers), Alonso Espinoza (colorist), Taylor Esposito (letterer) - German bombers are like potato chips, shoot down one and you're hungry for another.

Lilya goes from winning her first dogfight to getting the instructor she beat to take her to bed. Lady who knows what she wants and gets it. It leaves her friend Katya pining, and one of the other pilots, Raisa, jealous. That goes on for six months, and then they're sent to Stalingrad, because most of the air units there are dead. Lilya shoots down a plane in their first real battle, and she Katya, and two other pilots are transferred to the same squadron as Alexi, the instructor she beat. Who Lilya's been keeping up a long-distance relationship with. No time for her to focus on that, because they're really going to get mixed up in the madness of Stalingrad very soon.

Davis continues to use the sideways page approach for the air combat scenes. I think it works better in this issue, because now Lilya's mixed up in huge dogfights with dozens or hundreds of other planes, so it allows for him to simultaneously show the scale of the fight, but have room to focus on smaller details within it. 

It becomes like a vertical double-page splash, where the backdrop is all the other planes flitting around, with Lilya or someone else occasionally in the midground. Then Davis intersperses smaller panels throughout that zoom in on a particular bit of action, or show the perspective from that fighter's cockpit (and he draws some of those panels in the shape of the cockpit glass).

There's also a page where Raisa makes a snide comment about Lilya constantly receiving letters from Alexi, where Davis spends six panels on Lilya pulling out papers, rolling the letter up in them, lighting it, and taking a puff. Then at the bottom of the page, she blows the smoke in Raisa's face. I like the deliberate step-by-step approach there, showing how far she's going for this brief, but satisfying bit of spite.

The bad news is, at the end of the issue there's a note from Poulter that Davis passed away not long after his finished this issue. Which is sad for a lot of reasons, obviously, beyond him not getting to finish this series. That's a low note to finish a review on, but it feels odd to go on discussing the differences in Wong and Greenhalgh's inking styles after that.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Young Sherlock Holmes

Not sure why my dad had this saved as something he wanted to watch. The movie feels the need to run a brief thing at the beginning and end that basically, "Yes, we know this doesn't match the canon established by Doyle's stories, just go with it will ya?" Film equivalent of Silver Age DC's "imaginary story" tag.

Holmes reads notices about two people committing suicide for no apparent reason, and decides there must be foul play. Even more so when one of his mentors ends up the same way. It turns out the victims are being dosed with some hallucinogenic via blowdart, and seeing all sorts of crazy crap. The serpent heads on a guys hat rack seem to come to life and coil around him. Watson is attacked by a crypt full of sweets, although they try to shove themselves down his throat rather than eat him in revenge. Feels like an excuse to show off the finest in mid-1980s special effects, or some props they must have had lying around from an early treatment of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The mystery is no great shakes. Granting that Holmes is not anywhere near the observational genius he'll become at this point, the movie feels more like a high adventure trying to use a half-assed mystery to get to the action set piece. It's really more a matter of how Holmes and Watson are going to overcome the long odds they're up against as two teenagers with no backup.

It's fine as far as a movie about Holmes and Watson meeting as adolescents and solving their first case together goes. The movie does the bit with nods to significant characters or costuming. Holmes already annoying Lestrade all the time, Watson buying an antique pipe that he gifts to Holmes later, Holmes trying to learn the violin and being annoyed he hasn't mastered it after 7 minutes or something. No early examples of Holmes taking illicit drugs, unless his getting dosed with the hallucinogen is what started him on his path of taking opium.

Monday, May 03, 2021

What I Bought 5/1/2021 - Part 1

I think I had less of a reaction to my second vaccination shot than the first. Better than having a worse reaction, certainly. Now I just have to wait another week or so and I'm free and clear, more or less. Although I really doubt all the people I see walking around with no masks are fully vaccinated, or vaccinated at all, given the state I live in.

Whatever. Humanity being fucked is not news. Here's a couple of first issues from Marvel. More pages than their average comic, but more money, too. Unless you buy one of them in less-than-perfect condition like I did.

The Marvels #1, by Kurt Busiek (writer), Yildray Cinar (artist), Richard Isanove (color artist), Simon Bowland (letterer) - I don't know which Torch Alex Ross is drawing there - guessing it's Jim Hammond - but he's got a creepy smile on his face. Not what you want to see when a burning man's bearing down on you.

Whatever the ultimate plot of this is going to be, at least for this first arc, seems to revolve around a place called "Sin-Cong", which seems to be sort of a stand-in for Vietnam. It's in French Indochina, it becomes a Socialist Republic, Flash Thompson went there while in the military (and saw Daredevil perform in a USO show, which is the most bizarre thing in this issue). It tracks. 

Busiek starts in 1947, with a lady fleeing from the All-Winners Squad, then jumps forward several times from there. To Ben Grimm and Reed Richards (pre-rocket flight, and Ben looking taller than Reed, which seems wrong to me, although I think Ben's been getting drawn as bigger and taller for decades now) investigating a strange giant corpse, to Thor and Iron Man fighting a weird dragon out at sea. All the way up to the present, with Frank Castle killing some drug dealers (one of the few universal constants), and the entire building blowing up. Accidentally for once, when Frank's around. And there are some new characters around, watching and talking in vague and ominous phrases. As you do.

It's not exactly what I was expecting. Which was something more along the lines of the old Marvel Comics Presents. A bunch of short stories about different characters which would gradually interconnect. It seems like it'll still sort of be that, but probably done more seamlessly and less gradually than I was thinking. But Kurt Busiek's a writer I trust to pull off something like that more than most comics writers I can think of. Not likely to lose track of plot threads or get too lost in the weeds. No guarantee every thread will play out satisfactorily, but a solid chance.

Cinar and Isanove don't try to switch up their styles as the story moves through different eras. Even though that's a stylistic approach I like, they made the right call. Keeps the feeling of all these different events being part of the same larger story. Things look like they're all over the place, but they're all connected. Cinar's art is very classic superhero, probably descended from the Neal Adams style. Reminds me a bit of Bagley's (although that might be Isanove's coloring), but with a slightly heavier line. The character's are outlined against their surroundings strongly.

Isanove doesn't muddy things up, keeps them bright and clear without going too high-definition. Busiek says in a text piece at the end of the book that while Marvels was superheroes from the average Joes perspective, this series is superheroes from their own perspective. So things really shouldn't look too wild or bizarrely day-glo. Superheroes see weird stuff everyday.

All that said, this feels like the kind of book that might be better read in collected format. If it continues to jump around like it did in this issue. If it settles in and focuses on one or two threads in subsequent issues, where the reader gets something closer to a full story (that's part of something larger), then that's another matter. And again, that's the sort of thing I'd trust Busiek to manage better than most in these decompressed days.

Way of X #1, by Si Spurrier (writer), Bob Quinn (artist), Java Tartaglia (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (design) - I'm guessing "design" means Muller does the text page/Krakoan files things. Also, I got the Skottie Young variant because this copy is somehow dinged up and it saved me almost $2. I can't see what's wrong with it, but hell, I'm not complaining.

So mutants have their happy, sentient island nation, but Nightcrawler's concerned. The younger mutants are daring each other to get killed because you have to experience resurrection. Pixie succumbs to peer pressure and lets a bigot blow her head off with a shotgun at point blank range. To think Nico Minoru missed out on being in a relationship with someone who has worse judgement than her.

There's also the whole bit where, if you were a depowered mutant and wish to be resurrected with your powers, you have to be murdered through brutal ritual combat first. When a young woman is asking Nightcrawler to do it because he's a kind one (meaning I guess he'd just teleport her head off), things are fucked. Unfortunately, Kurt doesn't understand what she's asking, so she ends up with Magneto cutting her to pieces with jagged metal and insisting they can't simply give that gift to people. Why the fuck not? You sure as hell resurrected Pixie in a hurry and she's clearly a fucking imbecile! Oh, and Chuck Xavier thinks his son is up to no-good. Well sure, why not? Maybe he'll make Chuck eat that stupid helmet.

So in theory, Spurrier's writing about Kurt's attempt to find some larger shared ideals Krakoa can believe in. Except it certainly seems to me they've already found them, namely this blind belief they've transcended normal human thoughts, even as they continue to do all the things human societies do. They're going to resurrect dead mutants, but Pixie gets to jump the line because she knows people, and precogs like Destiny or Blindfold get skipped over entirely. They say "kill no human", but then quickly disqualify all sorts of other life from that definition - like artificial intelligences or other genetically enhanced life - so they can kill it. You have to die horribly to get your powers back. Someone can be barred from resurrection for crimes against mutants and humans (Maddy Pryor), but Mr. Sinister and Magneto are walking around free as birds.

They have a faith already, and it's Apocalypse's. The strong survive. Or maybe the present day United States, where if you die because you can't pay your medical bills, it's your own fault for being poor. Which, to be fair, Dr. Nemesis says is what will happen if Kurt doesn't come up with something. No pressure! If I can't stick with this book, it's going to be because I want to see all these characters die horribly. Without being resurrected. Magneto especially. What a shithead. Someone make him eat that stupid bucket on his head.

Quinn's Nightcrawler is a thin, spends a lot of time with stooped shoulders. Even when he tries to lighten things by pranking Magneto, it ends with him slouched again. The coloring tends to shade his face darker, casting a cloud over him because he's troubled or depressed. A lot of characters shown as standing above or over Kurt - Xavier, Magneto, Legion, Dr. Nemesis. Either the ones making things happen while Kurt's stuck and indecisive, or just assholes. Mopey, Depressed Nightcrawler is not my favorite (and I still can't believe they didn't put Nightcrawler in Marauders. It's a book about X-Men being pirates and you didn't include the most pirate-obsessed X-Man of all.)

Also, those Krakoan file pages are straight garbage. They're so wildly different from how the actual drawn pages look that I kept thinking they were ads and skipping right past them. As it is, I could barely bother to go back and read them once I realized my mistake. Why would I want to read an organizational flowchart? I can do that shit at work, if I feel like making experience deep regret about my life choices.

Ultimately, I think both these books can get one more issue, but beyond that, I'm really not sure. I guess Way of X made me think more, but it may have simply crystallized a lot of issues I had with the current direction of the X-books as is. And it's entirely possible everything that bugs me is part of a plan, but do I trust the group of writers to not draw a frankly terrible conclusion. Probably not.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #164

 
"Bullets and Bike Shorts" in Domino (vol. 1) #2, by Ben Raab (writer), David Perrin (penciler), Harry Candelario (inker), Joe Rosas and Heroic Age (colorists), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letterers)

Welcome to Mercenary May! I couldn't come up with an appropriate alliterative title using "Domino", and the last Sunday on the month will be a different character anyway.

As far as options for this three-issue mini-series went, it was really either this, or the splash page from issue #1 of Domino in a bikini at Carnival. Where the captions describe her as 'having the time of her life', while the art makes her look bored. Or like her mind has left her body.

I don't know what prompted this mini-series to exist, other than it was Marvel in the late '90s (this came out in 1997), and so anything X-adjacent was worth a shot on a floundering ship. I guess not much had been done with Domino's backstory, so they figured it's free real estate. Raab goes the "never before mentioned spouse" approach, as we learn Domino fell for a guy with predictive abilities she was assigned to guard when she worked for, I'm not sure, Department H or SHIELD, or something. A group that has access to Mandroid armors, and least Henry Peter Gyrich in the door.

Domino thought the guy got killed by AIM years ago, but finds out from Puck (who doesn't love Puck?) that isn't the case. Donald Pierce, Lady Deathstrike, and the Reavers play the antagonists, as Pierce wants to put Milo's mind into electronic form so he can use it to dominate world markets or something. I dunno, like Domino, I tuned out when Pierce started monologuing about how Fitzroy's weird Sentinels didn't kill him in that issue of Uncanny X-Men (which is almost certainly more notable for appearing to have been Emma Frost's death).

Raab writes Domino as the sort who likes to banter and throw juvenile insults. She's impulsive and quick to act, which is a little strange, since I remember her playing more of a moderating presence in X-Force. I guess when she doesn't have to keep a bunch of teenagers (and Cable) under control, she lets loose.

At times, she's written as really relying on her luck power to help her somehow, but other times it just seems to save the day when she's not expecting it. Which is good, because she spends most of this story seeming completely outclassed. Her fight against Lady Deathstrike presents Deathstrike as almost like a Terminator, the flesh parts being steadily burned or shot away, increasingly revealing the metal underneath. Domino's barely staying alive, closer to Sarah Conner in the first Terminator than T2.

Perrin gives her the bike shorts and exposed midriff sports bra look above, which, maybe that was her usual look back in the '90s, I don't know. At one point she's wearing a skullcap to keep her hair under control while she infiltrates the base, but it's not like all her chalk-white exposed skin isn't going to stand out like a flare in a nighttime environment.

I own this because it was included in a collection of Domino stories Marvel released to coincide with Deadpool 2, along with next week's entry. From what I understand, it's the more highly-regarded Domino mini-series.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Random Back Issues #58 - The Mighty Thor #362

Sometimes the dice give me a comic nobody's talked about that turns out to be fun to dig into. Sometimes they give me one 500 other comic bloggers have already discussed extensively.

Probably the most famous issue of Walt Simonson's run on Thor (I figure either the Beta Ray Bill issues that started it or the all-splash-page fight with the Midgard Serpent are the other two candidates.) Thor led a host of Asgardian warriors into Hel to recover a bunch of mortal souls Hela isn't supposed to have. Noble as that is, Thor's also trying to avoid dealing with Odin being locked in battle with Surtur somewhere he can't reach. Plus the fact he said some harsh things to Sif while under the control of Enchantress' sister, Lorelei.

The mission's a rough go, as you'd expect when trying to steal from a death goddess. Some of the Einherjar are lured to their doom by visions of their loved ones. Balder's trying to hold it together since he barely made it out of Hel once before, and was a traumatized wreck for months after. Having his dead wife try kill him while proclaiming her hatred isn't helping. Although Thor finds out she lied to help Balder move on from her. Not sure how sound a strategy that is. Thor ultimately challenges Hela to a fight, one-on-one, for the souls. He wins, but she just about pimp slaps the lower half of his face off.

Still, souls won, and Hela having sworn to let them leave, it's time to go. Then Hela pops up, bringing along Skurge the Executioner. He was part of the army, but broke off when he found the Enchantress waiting. Balder reminds him things often aren't as they seem, and Skurge cuts through the illusion, revealing someone named Mordonna. Hela offers Skurge a job sailing the ship of the damned (made from the fingernails of the dead) once it's finished. She's actually hoping he'll attack her, so she can attack Thor and the others without breaking her word. Wonder what she'd have done if he shrugged and said, "Sure, mama always wanted me to be a sailor man."

 
Instead, Skurge blows up her fingernail ship with his axe. Whoops. With Hela now furious beyond measure, everyone beats a hasty retreat, only to find their path barred by all the warriors they've ever slain. Thor leads the charge through, and they're on their way to the Gjallerbru, the bridge that takes them out of Hel. But the tunnels beyond the bridge are dark, not suited for swift travel. They won't be able to stay ahead of the dead in there, not unless someone stays behind to hold the line. Someone brave, and strong, prepared to fight for honor.

Someone like Thor. Or, well, no, Skurge sucker-punches Thor. Nobody's real happy about that, but he explains he's going to hold the bridge instead. He's tired of feeling like everyone jerks him around and plays him for a sap, the Enchantress at the top of that list. So, rather than go back to that life, to letting himself be led around by the nose and losing all his self-respect, he's going out in a blaze of glory. And he does. Not one of Hela's forces gets past him, even at cost of his life. His stand apparently so heroic, that even Hela herself bows to him (and later allows him to leave for a happier realm of the dead, claiming one as noble as he doesn't belong there.)

 
Thor wakes up as they navigate the tunnels. Disappointed he lost his chance to escape his emotional turmoil in battle, but agreeing Skurge needed it more. Get the feeling Thor would not have minded dying in battle there, even though it would have been bad for those souls, and worse for Asgard. Meanwhile, they're almost clear, but Hela's guardian hound Garm is waiting. Too bad he's got to deal with a pissed off thunder god. It takes just one hit, and Thor's glad he didn't let his anger get the best of him and kill Garm, as he still has some role to play in the world's tale.

Safely away, the Asgardians return home to their families and ruined homes, while Thor ferries the souls back to Earth. While there, he's going to get roped into a combination Secret Wars II tie-in/Power Pack team-up. Then he gets turned into a frog. Being turned into a frog doesn't do much to stop him from beating Loki's face in.

We never actually see the extent of the damage Hela does to Thor's face. Either he covers it with a piece of his cape, or its kept in shadow when he shows others. Two drunks that tried mouthing off to him lose their lunches at the sight. Eventually, he grows a beard, which he maintains for the remainder of Simonson's run. DeFalco and Frenz shave it off immediately, revealing his wounds have healed. Skurge pops up again late in Simonson's run, when Thor has reason to settle some things with Hela.

[11th longbox, 117th comic. The Mighty Thor #362, by Walt Simonson (writer/artist), Max Scheele (colorist), John Workman Jr. (letterer)]

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton plays a gumshoe that tries to get to the bottom of his boss' (Bruce Willis, in a brief but pivotal role) murder. Although it's more about why he was killed than who's behind it. It leads into a whole thing about abusing eminent domain, racial discrimination, and the eternal problem of people who think they have "vision" and should be able to run over people. 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the main female lead, playing a young law student involved in the fight against gentrification, but also more tied up in the whole thing than she suspects. Alec Baldwin's in here, playing an obnoxious, pushy shithead. Really stretching his range, but hell, he's good at it. Willem Dafoe shows up, playing an idealistic, nearly broken man.

Norton's thing is that his character has Tourette's, although neither he or anyone else seem to know that name for it. I have no idea how accurate the portrayal is. It isn't just swearing at random moments; it seems almost like word association. Where something he or someone else says or does triggers an outburst. Some times it's just muscle spasms or a need to touch the person on the shoulder. And according to him, it gets worse when he's stressed.

Norton makes sure to behave as someone who is used to his, who has developed workarounds, or knows situations to avoid. Knows how to try to muffle outbursts into his sleeve, make it look like a sneeze or a cough. Doesn't go to clubs or places with lots of people if he can avoid it. Apologizes almost on reflex to people. I'm actually surprised how nice most of the people he interacts with are about it. They're usually confused, but for all that he gets punched in this movie, only once is it because of an outburst. And that guy already hit him once before. 

The film is set some time after World War 2, so maybe they think it's from the war.

It's a leisurely paced movie. Norton's working off very incomplete information to start with, so his investigation isn't anything resembling straightforward. Which gets used to flesh out and build connections between characters, gradually reveal the political corruption, and let Norton decide what he's really hoping to accomplish. Some of it is personal, but he's not incapable of empathy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

July is Too Hot to Shake Things Up

July's solicits suggest not a quiet month, exactly, but there's not much in the way of new stuff. Mostly just things I was already buying and will continue to buy.

Marvel, for example, has one new thing I might get, hidden beneath the pile of the X-book stuff, the "Final Annihilation" stuff, and the "Sinister War" one-month Spider-Man event thing. Jed MacKay and Alessandro Cappuccio are doing a Moon Knight series. Taskmaster was a dud, but Black Cat earns MacKay another shot. Beyond that, the aforementioned Black Cat, Black Knight's final issue, Runaways was on a skip month in June, and Way of X (if I'm still buying it.)

DC actually has two things I'm considering. One is the fifth issue of Batman: Urban Legends, because there's a Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain story in there. Not worth $8, but if I can find a beat up copy eventually, I might get it. The other is Blue & Gold, a Dan Jurgens/Ryan Sook Booster Gold and Blue Beetle mini-series. There's some question of whether Sook can stick to a monthly schedule for 8 issues, but Jurgens as writer concerns me more. His work seems technically fine, but I have never gotten excited reading his writing. It's like Cullen Bunn in that there's just something that doesn't connect.

Outside that, the last issue of Jenny Zero from Dark Horse (maybe by next week I'll have the first issue to see if that's going to be relevant.) Freak Snow and You Promised Me Darkness, the latter of which will be in the first half of the conclusion to the first arc. The third issue of Yuki vs. Panda from Source Point. Midnight Western Theatre is going to ship two months in a row, and the second issue of Locust will be out, too. There's also a one-shot connected to that Phantom Starkiller book called Count Draco Knuckleduster, but Joseph Schmalke and Peter Goral. So that's maybe something new.

On the manga front, Square Enix has the fourth volume of Soul Eater Perfect Edition out. I'm a couple of volumes behind yet, but something to keep an eye on. And Vertical has the fifth volume of a series by Aki Irie called Go With Clouds North by Northwest, about a detective in Iceland that can talk to cars. I'd have to go back to find the earlier volumes first, but it's a form of back issue hunting. That's still fun for me, sometimes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Off Limits

Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines are a pair of CID men in Saigon. Their attempt to arrest a deserter is interrupted when they're assigned to investigate the murder of a sex worker by an American officer. 

As these things often do, it grows more complicated when it becomes apparent that not only is this not the first of these. A novice (Amanda Pays) in a convent knew each of the victims had a child from an American GI. The militaries already closed down the investigation once before. The Marine initially assigned to investigate decided he was safer on the front lines. Their first witness (played by Keith David) gets blown up, along with the guy assigned to guard him (played by David Alan Grier, was not expecting to see him). Dafoe gets interested in the novice. Scott Glenn pops up as a well-regarded Army colonel (and kind of nuts, got a bit of the Colonel Kurtz in him) who is also a suspect.

Most of the movie is the DaFoe and Hines trying to navigate all the various roadblocks. As you might guess, not everyone in Vietnam is excited to help members of the US military. Not that they help themselves any. They spend a lot of time chasing people, using racial slurs to people's faces, and antagonizing the Vietnamese military police. The draw their handguns at a drop of a hat, and Hinds' go-to threat to unhelpful suspects is to rip their nuts off.

Of the two, I think Hines' character is a little more focused on just trying to make it home alive, which might explain his attitude. He doesn't want to get killed because he was caught unprepared to fight back. Dafoe is, well, Dafoe. He's not as over-the-top as in some other roles, but there's still a fair amount of that intensity he typically brings to roles. But there's also a certain awkwardness, especially when he interacts with the novice. There's one bit where she brings them to speak with the sister of a witness. The sister works in a strip club, and Dafoe is very embarrassed to be sitting there with a couple of nuns, while they're entirely unaffected.

As a mystery goes, it's not that great. I figured out the killer just based on the role the character played in the film. But it's interesting to watch a movie about the U.S. presence in Vietnam that isn't about the fights in the jungles.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Bounty Hunting Is Both More and Less Fun Than You Think

Gonna be one of those kinds of weeks, huh?

Kim And Kim: This Glamorous High-Flying Rock Star Life is the first of currently three mini-series about a pair of space bounty hunters, Kim D. and Kim Q (that's her with the guitar). I've seen comparisons to Dirty Pair, in the amount of immense destruction and chaos they leave in their wake, but I tend to agree with the blurb on the back of the trade that mentions Cowboy Bebop. These two are always broke or nearly broke, and none of their plans and schemes ever seem to go how they hoped. They've each got pasts, both of which Magdalene Visaggio reveals pieces of as the story goes along, and while Kim Q. frequently irritates Kim D., they've got each other's backs.

That, and their spaceship is a beat up hunk of junk. It's basically a VW bus with wings.

The plot is them trying to make some money by going after an extremely high-profile bounty, and getting into all kinds of problems as a result. Unexpectedly, Visaggio kind of lets that thread go with an issue left, the Kims relating the story to a couple of friends and admitting they fell asleep, and everyone was gone when they woke up. So they just assume everything worked out. One of their friends, who works as an assassin, lampshades that being a mistake, but it doesn't seem to come to anything here. Actually, it's been a couple years since I read the third mini-series (Oh Shit, It's Kim and Kim!), but I can't remember there having been fallout from it yet.

I think the plot is mostly incidental, as a way to introduce parts of the Kims' backstories (Kim D. comes from a line of probate necromancers, Kim Q. is the estranged daughter of some asshole that runs a big merc crew), and highlight their characters. Kim D. is a little calmer, more practical, a bit more insecure. When she tries to use necromancy to track down a lead, she's constantly convinced she's gonna screw it up. Which she does, but that attitude can't help.

 
Kim Q. is the one who causes problems. Starts fights, spends all their money on booze, refuses to accept jobs from her father on principle, but encourages Kim to beg her mom to cover their rent. Honestly, she seems like a horrible friend, but I guess she's fun to be around, and she likes to hit things with a guitar. Can't find too many partners like that, I'm sure.

Cabrera's has a flexible, somewhat cartoonish style that fits with the high emotions and occasional weird crap the Kims encounter. Her linework is kept pretty simple. There's not a lot of needless little lines, which probably fits well with Claudia Aguirre's colors. They aren't blindingly bright, although it is a colorful book. Kim D.'s pink Kalashnikov is eye-catching, but not to the point it's distracting. The dark gloom and shadows are saved for when it actually fits the scene. But a lot of the colors are solid, not much in gradients, so lighter cross-hatching or whatever would probably get swamped anyway. 

Most of the characters' fashion senses could be easily described as "show off your abs". The men and women, Cabrera's equal opportunity on that score. It's a like a commercial for The Gap. But given it's a bunch of people living the "glamorous, rock star life", it and the colors, make perfect sense.

 
Plus, as a product of the mid-2000s comic blogowhatchamafloogle, I am obligated to be excited about any comic that has an evil scientist with a body made of famous monkeys, who makes robot gorilla henchmen.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #163

 
"An Empty Monument," in Doctor Strange: What is it that Disturbs You, Stephen?, by Marc Andreyko (writer), P. Craig Russell (artist), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), Galen Showman (letterer)

I did a review of this when I purchased it back in 2012. I knew it had been a while - I think I bought this around the same time as Triumph and Torment during a Dr. Strange binge I went on - but I didn't realize it had been that long ago.

I don't think I'd change any of what I said in that first review, but looking at the story now, it's interesting how much of a bystander Stephen is in some respects. A bit like the Phantom Stranger is sometimes presented. Trying to nudge things to a proper conclusion through minor words or actions. He's drawn in by Wong's abduction, and Electra seemingly wants his help in finding away around her father's protective ward. A way that all the power that she shares with her sister can be hers, as well as the angel Galtus. She frames it differently, of course, but Stephen learns the truth quickly.

Once he has, though, it turns more into more of a struggle between Electra and her sister. Or maybe Electra and her inner demons. Stephen tries to convince her to make peace, to stop grabbing so feverishly for what's not hers, and she won't. Any such argument reads as either madness or treachery to her. Strange ultimately can't do anything to save the realm, or any of the three inhabitants. He's able to send Wong home, and he escapes alive, or is thrown away by the forces unleashed, but that's about it. At the end of the day, Strange and Wong just got sucked into somebody else's family drama, and that's always messy and unpleasant.

Russell and Kindzierski's artwork is spectacular. All the little flourishes in the architecture, or in the form Stephen's spells take as they leave his fingers. When he's trying to hold something together, they may have more of a rigid, blocky design. Right angles and sharp corners. Or the spell may be an onion-shaped purple mass with little spines sticking out. Just a lot of variety in it. The way dialogue can follow actions through a portal or circling around an important object. I think it's worth finding for the art alone, if you can.

Friday, April 23, 2021

What I Bought 4/21/2021

My work travels this week gave me a chance to hit up a comics store I haven't in a few years. Did better on back issues than new issues, but one new comic to review is better than none. Actually, having seen some of it posted online, I'm not sure whether I want to get Way of X #1 or not now.

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #2, by Si Spurrier (writer), Sergio Davila (artist), Sean Parsons (inker), Arif Prianto (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer) - I don't know why Dane has blue energy sparking from his nipple, and the interior of the comics is no help, either.

So Dane's alive, and rather confused and freaked out by it. He sends away the scholar he'd sent for and gets Sir Percy's ghost out to try and explain things. Where he learns Merlin cast some sort of resurrection spell on the material the sword is made out of. Also, that Percy crafted three other items from the stuff, which were supposedly destroyed in some blood river after he chose the sword for himself. Except Jacks, having returned to her professor for help and found him murdered, has another vision of the past and sees someone saved the staff that helps those burdened with wisdom.

Before she can return to Dane and clue him in, Elsa Bloodstone drives a motorcycle through Dane's stained glass window and starts trying to kill him. She's been following a series of murders (including Jacks' professor) that involve a bloodstone somehow. There's a brief fight where Elsa insults Americans taste in alcohol (probably fair, fuck if I know), and our penchant for talking. Those British detective series my father adores would suggest that's pot calling kettle black. Jacks arrives soon enough to keep Elsa from losing her head, or Dane from losing his two best friends (and I'm not talking about the ghost or the weird goat-man servant). And everyone concludes Mordred is behind all this, as he's trying to recover the other items.

I feel like I should enjoy this more than I do. I'm not sure Dane's attitude is helping. There's a bit where Percy is into his spiel with Dane sitting behind him, scanning his phone and pretending to listen. I mean, Spurrier is clearly playing with the idea these two have a long history. That Percy enjoys making Dane jump through hoops to get any kind of assistance, and Dane, having realized he can't get around it, does his best to bear it in his own way. But I'm presumably supposed to care about this exposition dump, so maybe don't have the main character no-sell it.

 
I do like the page where Dane and Jacks are having dinner and Dane is pouring himself wine and Davila has him just keeping pouring and overfilling the glass. Never making eye contact with Jacks, and asking the goat-guy to turn off the news (which is showing Dane's decapitated body from the previous issue) because it's disturbing her. Right, sure it is. The first panel on the next page takes up half of it and is him flipping the table and yelling about why none of them are freaking out he's moving around. The other half of the page is him reacting to Jacks pleading with him not to eat her brains. 

Granted, with that half he does the bit where he repeats the panel exactly (the second one having no dialogue), which I guess we're all supposed to not like now. (There was some bullshit about that online a few weeks back, about some Bagley pages in a Venom issue.) I kind of like it here, because Jacks has just asked Dane how he knows he's not a zombie, and so everyone remaining in the same position kind of works. Dane's trying to figure out an answer, and I think Jacks and Phillip are staying still in case the answer is, "You're right. BRAIIIIIIINNNNSSSS!" and they don't want to set off the feeding frenzy of a crazed undead with a powerful sword.

I don't actually know at the moment whether I'm going to get the next issue. Probably, but there's a bit of uncertainty.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

What I Bought 4/14/2021 - Part 3

It snowed yesterday while I was out in the field. In the middle of April. Lovely. A complication I did not need, to be sure. But whatever, here's a couple of first issues. Well, one is a first issue, the other is a one-shot.

Darkhawk: Heart of the Hawk, by Danny Fingeroth, Dan Abnett, Kyle Higgins (writers), Mike Manley, Andrea Di Vito, Juanan Ramirez (artists), Le Beau Underwood (inker for Di Vito), Chris Sotomayor, Sebastian Cheng, Erick Arciniega (colorists), Travis Lanham (letterer) - They didn't have that cover at the store, but it was the one I liked best.

Three stories in this. Fingeroth, Manley, and Sotomayor set one sometime in the first year of Darkhawk's ongoing, where he briefly tries chatting up the daughter of the crimelord he was feuding with for information, then ends up fighting a crooked cop in a super-suit out to kill her. It's fine. Fingeroth works in a lot of angst for Chris about his mother and his little brothers, about trying to do the right thing but really hating Bazin. Sotomayor's coloring makes Manley's artwork look smoother than it did on Darkhawk back in the day. Less heavy on the shading and blacks, bit less of a gritty texture to things. 

Which is interesting. I'm just going off memory but I feel like the title had the look and feel of something closer to a street-level crime book, at least initially. Closer to JRJR on Daredevil than most Spider-Man titles of the time. Which makes sense, given it was mostly about Chris wanting to bring down a particular crime boss, but running into all this other increasingly crazy crap on the way.

The second story, by Abnett and Di Vito is set after Thanos Imperative, with Chris out in space trying to help people. In this case, by killing a bunch of Brood that were trying to set up in a rebuilding settlement. Chris wipes them out, but the locals prove being ungrateful shits isn't exclusive to Earth in the Marvel Universe and complain because the bar got destroyed. Cheng's coloring on the first page looks different from all the others. Almost bright to the point things look washed out. I mostly only noticed because it made Di Vito's work look a bit softer than normal, blunted some of the lines on faces. But it's only on the first page. Otherwise, it looks pretty much as Di Vito's work always does.

 
Higgins and Ramirez wrap things up with a five-part teaser for something. Chris is in the future, getting ready to send back his amulet with all his memories and experiences in the hope someone can stave off the "shadow war" that's about to destroy the universe or something. Oh joy, another one. The common thread between all three stories is Chris trying to figure out who he is. What does being Darkhawk mean to him, what is he wanting to accomplish, and what is he willing to do? I guess by the third story he's figured it out, but it's too late to help.

Locust #1, by Massimo Rosi (writer), Alex Nieto (artist), Mattia Gentili (letterer) - Great, more snow. Can't get away from that stuff.

The story moves back and forth between the present, where a lone man named Max is searching for a child taken by some religious wackjobs, and two years earlier. In the past, he worked on a fishing boat when the first reports of a new disease started to surface. The next time we see the past, he's at his mother's rest home, which has been fortified. But not fortified enough, as one of his childhood friends crawls in, rapidly turning into a giant bug. 

In the present, Max shoots a couple dogs to lure their owner into a trap. Where he dumps some toxic waste on the guy and his remaining dogs, then starts hacking pieces off with a machete to get what he wants. Delightful.

So the first issue sets up a search, as well as the question of how Max got from caring for his mother to seeking this child. I suppose you could add the question of why this happened, but Max feels too far removed from that to find answers. I suspect the "why" doesn't matter much to him, anyway.

 
Nieto's characters all have an aged and well-won look to them. Bags under the eyes, scraggly beards and unkempt hair. The end of civilization doesn't seem to change much for Max in that regard. he might look a little wilder, Nieto might shift perspective to let him loom over someone occasionally, face in shadow, but much the same beyond that. 

The cities, even before the plague, all depicted as dark and quiet. Even the shot of New York City in the past is done from a remove, where the lights on the buildings are so subdued you could easily miss them. Nieto favors overhead shots or long shots, where people are either small or can't be seen at all. It makes everything seem empty, even if it reasonably can't be. Max talks in a flashback about moving his family out of the city, away from the crush and demands, so it seems like he got at least part of his wish. The cities are much quieter now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Don't Listen

This couple that buy houses, renovate them, then sell them, purchase a big old house out in the countryside. Their son doesn't like it, saying he hears voices that tell him bad things. Soon enough, he turns up floating dead in the pool.

The mother retreats to her parents, but the father stays to try and finish the house (or process the loss). While listening to a voicemail he sent his wife that she claimed was garbled, he hears his son calling for his help. He enlists a guy who's written a bunch of books about ghosts communicating through electrical stuff, and the guy and his daughter (who doesn't believe in any of this) comes along as his assistant.

For a while, the movie feels like it's about grief. The ghost is able to mimic other people's voices, or even their appearance, and exploits this. When the mother returns to the house, having received a call from her son, she sees him disappear under his bed. The father sees his wife and son through a some plastic sheeting. The expert sees his deceased wife. The only one who seems resistant is Ruth, the expert's daughter. As soon as her mother beckons to her, she starts shaking her head and insists it isn't her.

Of course, it quickly becomes apparent the ghost doesn't have to bother with that, since it can attack people directly or even possess them somehow with flies the buzz into the victim's ears. Which makes you wonder why she bothers with all the deception and fanfare. I guess you've got to do something to pass the time when you're dead.

Fair number of jump scares, or scenes that get you to anticipate jump scares. The character sees something in one direction and it disappears. But the camera is pulled in on them so you can't see what's behind them, so when they go to turn around you're expecting a big surprise. They usually drag it out longer than that, and I can't decide whether they keep it going too long, or just long enough. You know it's gonna end badly, but the mounting confusion into terror of the characters is effective.

This movie is set in Spain, and it eventually turns out the house was used by the Inquisition. I thought it was funny the movie seems to argue that while, sure, the Catholic Church probably killed a bunch of innocent people here, this particular person probably really was an evil witch. Oh yes, now she's an angry, murdering, witch ghost. Much better.