Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #155

 
"There's a Void Inside Me. Outside Me, Too," in Dial H #3, by China Mieville (writer), Mateus Santolouco (artist), Tanya and Richard Horie (colorists), Steve Wands (letterer)

I wouldn't describe DC's New 52 as a success. That they abandoned it at least partially by summer of 2015 with the "DC You" branding (and then entirely with "DC Rebirth" a year after that), less than four years in, would suggest they agreed.

There were a lot of factors. DC throwing out their history and legacies, but even more half-assedly than they did after Crisis on the Infinite Earths. So Batman could still have four Robins (in 5 years, apparently), but there could only be one Batgirl (Barbara, naturally). Four Earth Green Lanterns (and Geoff Johns just kept doing the same stories he already had going), but only one Flash (Barry, naturally). 

The Jim Lee redesigned costumes, were to put it politely, too busy. To put it bluntly, they sucked. The claim that things were going to be new, but the majority of the books were helmed by guys who had been writing comics for decades didn't help. I've enjoyed Tom DeFalco's work, but he's not a writer I'd turn to for something new. Then editorial kept driving creative talent off books with heavy-handed oversight. Not much point to putting George Perez on Superman, only to piss him off in less than 6 issues.

Saying all that, it did give me 16 issues of China Mieville's Dial H series, so it wasn't a complete loss. DC canceled some titles 8 months in, and Dial H was one of the replacements. It's one of the few real examples of DC trying to get outside the box, in the sense they brought in a published, award-winning novelist with, to my knowledge, no prior comic writing experience. If you're looking for something "new" and attention-getting to be done with your characters, that's a better bet than handing them to Scott Lobdell.

Mieville dives into the concept of the dials, how they were made, how they work, how they end up where they end up. Gives them an air of body and especially psychological horror. The toll it takes on the person who uses it, to have another entire personality and memory super-imposed over their own, especially one that seems so much greater than them. One of the two main characters (Nelson) struggles to keep track of who he is and what he planned to use the powers to do when he dials, while the other (Roxie) hides whatever identity she dials behind her own mask, costume, and codename, as a way to keep her mind clear.

There was also an entire issue based around the idea some of the dialed heroes are just too culturally offensive to go out as in public unless there's no other option, which was pretty hilarious, and a fair point, given comics' questionable history when it comes to depicting races, cultural trends, sexual preferences, so on.

As far as the designs for the dialed characters, I don't know where the breakdown is between Mieville and his artists (Mateus Santolouco for issues 0-5, David Lapham for issues 6 and 7, Alberto Ponticelli for 8-15), but the designs are great. From the creepy Boy Chimney, to the ridiculous Cock-a-Hoop, to the Glimpse (who is drawn so you only ever see a small bit of him in the panels). There's an essentially sentient mass of plankton that beats the crap out of a whale. Like I said, I don't know who gets credit, but all parties involved did a great job coming up with some interesting designs and powers to go with them.

Lapham's work is probably the closest to a realistic looking, and the two issues he draws involve the least action by dialed heroes, focused more on a Canadian secret agent with powers. Who is basically a guy in a suit, so it works. Santolouco's art is heavier on shadows, characters look more shell-shocked or freaked out by what's going on. By the time Ponticelli takes over as artist, most of the characters are ones used to this dial stuff, and they just looked kind of tired. His art has a grimy texture, and everybody looks older. His linework's also busier than the other two, a lot more extra shading and scratch mark lines, to the point of overdoing it at times. 

Some of that might have been deadlines, because things clearly get rushed at the end. Mieville had a big, universe-hopping arc going, with Nelson and Roxie teaming up with a crew called The Dial Bunch to chase a dangerous "Operator". Unfortunately, DC canceled the book at issue 15, and you can tell Mieville and Ponticelli were scrambling hard to cram enough in to make some sort of a coherent ending. Which they managed, at times quite well. Mieville ends up just alluding to several worlds they've visited along the way, making it seem as though they may have been at this for years. But if they had even another five issues, it could have been so much better.

There was a post-script of sorts, when DC did a "Villains Month", called Dial E (but it was an issue of Justice League, #23.3). It was one of those jam comics, where each page is by a different artist, and it's as much a mess as those usually are. But it did provide a little bit about the fate of at least a couple of the characters.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Random Back Issues #55 - Amazing Spider-Man #281

How long you think Hydro-Man's been waiting to use that one? For that matter, how long did it take him to think it up?

An opportunity to use my "sinister syndicate" label! It's a great day! This is the second part of the first story that actually introduced that bunch. I have a soft spot for them since they formed to improve their chances of making money, rather than out of a desire for revenge.

Silver Sable's put Spidey on the payroll to help her catch Jack O'Lantern, and how nice, Jack called to tell her he'll be at Coney Island at midnight. Sable knows it's a trap, but figures with Spidey along they've got it under control. Now they're up against five super-villains (although Sable's disappointed none of them have a decent bounty on their heads.) Oh yeah, and Spidey's nursing an injured shoulder after he tripped Speed Demon last issue, and Sable hurt both her ankles kicking the Beetle. You know, the guy in the powered suit of metal armor. (She's not coming off as very bright, especially since she's putting a wrap on the right ankle she insists isn't too bad, rather than the left.)

 
Things look bad, but then the Sandman decides to join the party, having heard the commotion. Spidey and Sable dip out, but you know Parker's not going to abandon someone in need, so back they go. Sandman's doing pretty well when he lets Rhino just pass through him, but tries to match him power for power and gets smashed, then scattered by Speed Demon. He pulls himself together in time to go at it with Hydro-Man, as those two apparently really don't like each other. I do enjoy those kinds of petty beefs among villains. It's fun. 
 
Although Sandman describing Hydro-Man as like looking into a 'broken, distorted mirror,' is a bit much. But this is part of that gradual shift to being a good guy Sandman went through for a few years in the '80s and '90s, so I guess he's gotta feel bad about his past behavior.

 
Silver Sable takes out the source of Beetle's sting blasts (his antennae?) and Spidey slams him into a roof, then stops Boomerang. Unfortunately, Hydro-Man's learned turf beats surf and goes for the easier target (Sable) instead. Spidey disrupts his concentration by throwing Boomerang through him, giving her the chance to grab a fire extinguisher and spray it into waterboy, which makes him nauseous? Sure, fine. Unfortunately, Spidey took a serious hit in the back from the Rhino to make that throw. Fortunately, this activates his secret super-power (at least when DeFalco's writing him), The Desperation Flurry.

Sandman gets the drop on Speed Demon (who was already had one foot out the door wondering what it took to stop Spidey), but Hydro-Man gets the webslinger off Rhino and the villains retreat. Sable tells Spidey he's not getting paid because he quit when he chose to come back to help Sandman, but she wonders if Sandman would like a job? (As we saw in Random Back Issues #20, the answer's yes.) That lady is a shitty, shitty boss. Probably deducts funeral expenses from their pay. Spidey tries swinging home, broke and broken, and collapses on a roof before long, wondering if he got a permanent brain injury. Well, that would explain so many things from the late-2000s.

 
In other developments, the "Who is Hobgoblin?" story still isn't finished. Flash Thompson was arrested in a costume, but Robbie Robertson isn't convinced. Then Jack O'Lantern breaks Flash out of jail, thinking rescuing the Hobgoblin will make him a player in the New York underworld. What it actually does is piss the real Hobgoblin off. I don't know how framing Flash was going to work long-term since presumably the Hobgoblin would want to get back out there at some point.
 
The two of them fight from inside Jack's base out onto the rooftops, but it ends inconclusively. Hobgoblin gets Jack with a 'computerized barrage of electro-blasts', but Jack's armor protects him long enough to hit Hobgoblin with a pumpkin bomb, sending him careening into a storefront window. Meanwhile, Flash escaped in the confusion and is wandering the streets, unsure what to do.

The Hobgoblin thing has a ways to go yet, and of course the eventual end (Ned Leeds), ends up being retconned later, but at this point they've been teasing the mystery out for like 40 issues, which is just way too long.

[1st longbox, 60th comic. Amazing Spider #281, by Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (story layouts), Brett Breeding (pencils and inks), Nelson Yomtov (colorist), Joe Rosen (letterer)]

Thursday, February 25, 2021

No Escape Room

A dad's trying to make his one weekend a month with his disinterested teen daughter a fun one, but their car breaks down. But wait, the town they're in has an escape room, and she's mentioned those, so they go. They meet three other people they'll be working with, and an odd young woman named Josie who offers them tea and explains the house was owned by an inventor and that there are rumors about it. The game begins, and things go wrong.

I think my biggest issue with the movie is it can't decide what kind of horror it's going for. Are there monsters loose in the house? Sometimes, maybe. Is it ghosts? Possibly. Is there time travel? Apparently so. What's the deal with the scene where the dad steps through a door and ends up next to a river and a random woman emerges to make out with him until chains wrap around him and nearly drag him underwater (but don't, for reasons that are also unclear)? When one of the other players picks up the phone and is talking to her earlier self, why does she just repeat what she heard herself say? Why does she still tell her boyfriend to run away, even knowing how that ended for him (badly)?

If the inventor is interested in the dead and the spirit realm, why would he be fucking with time travel? Why all the weird locks and gears in the walls of the house? In that sense, the house reminds me of the one from Thirteen Ghosts, except it looks normal instead of being all clear glass walls and whatnot.

Entirely out of nowhere late in the movie, the daughter hypothesizes that they are caught in an "echo" as she puts it. Why would she come to that specific conclusion at that moment? Why does the monster wait as long as it does to drag away the guy that came alone? It's not even a particularly effective moment, and we don't ever see a body. It's like they realized, "oops, we need this character to be dead now," and so they just did it.

The movie could have done something with the tea being drugged and it being a sort of slow-creeping, unsettling horror where they can't trust their eyes. Things being just a bit off-center. Or it could have really leaned into things being messed up, but done a better job establishing some sort of rules for how that shit worked. It didn't really do either, but I guess the title is accurate based on the ending. Points for that?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

May is for Collections, Maybe

The solicitations for May are not as encouraging overall as those for April. However, if we're talking quality over quantity, Volume 4 of Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin's Bandette is coming out! Whoo! Everything is coming up Calvin! The rest of these solicitations can go pound sand, who gives a damn about them?!

. . .

OK, fine, we'll keep going.

DC is bringing the Milestone characters back, again. Just like the last, what two, three? times they did that, it will probably peter out after six months or so. Still, it's better than Marvel doing a Heroes Reborn mini-series.

*forehead strikes desk repeatedly*

I'm sure there are some people who have enough faith in Al Ewing to go for that, but I'm not one of them. To be fair, it seems mostly to be a world where the Squadron Supreme are the big heroes, and most of the typical Marvel heavyweights are absent. If you think that just sounds like DC with the Justice League, well, one of the tie-in series is Peter Parker as a photographer who is also Hyperion's best friend, which, you know, would not do anything do dispel your concerns.

With Marvel, The Union is wrapping up, Iron Fist will be on its penultimate issue, Black Knight's at issue 3. Runaways' solicitations says it can't even show us the cover for the issue because it would spoil possibly the best comic of 2021. I don't know man, that first issue of Iron Fist had Danny Rand knock an undead ninja's skull off with another undead ninja's arm. That's gonna be tough to beat. Black Cat gets a visit from a certain spider, and Way of X does not help its cause with a solicit about a threat in the mindscape, which makes me think Shadow King. No Shadow King, please.

Image has the trade of Dan Watters and Jan Wijngaard's Limbo, which came out five years ago, but I'd swear I saw this solicit for the first time before the time of plague, but maybe not.

Behemoth Comics has the second issue of You Promised Me Darkness, so if I like the first issue, that'll be something to look forward to. There's also Freak Snow by Kevin Roditeli and Rob Cannon, about a guy addicted to psychedelics living in a frozen wasteland on a quest to find a mystic hole of truth. Could be fun, could also be a complete mess.

Mad Cave has a tpb of Hollywood Trash, about two garbagemen who steal from a powerful executive and must survive his attempts to kill them via swords and giant mechs. Also forest fires, but this is set in California, those could be unrelated fires. Vault has the first volume of Brandon Sanderson's Dark One, where a man learns he's prophesied to travel to another realm and become a great destroyer, and has to embrace that? Doesn't that seem like a fate you should be trying to avert? But in this day and age, who hasn't had thoughts of destroying everything?

Beyond that, there's the fourth issue of White Lily from Red 5 Comics, and Source Point has Graham Misuriak and A.L. Jones' Yuki vs. Panda, about a panda that has spent ten years bent on revenge against a schoolgirl for something that happened at the zoo. It sounds bizarre enough to be worth a look, you can go different ways with that.

Scout Comics has the tpb of Sweet Downfall, the story about the crash test dummy turned hitman, I reviewed the sampler issue of last month. And there's a "Legendary Edition" of something called Phantom Starkiller, about a 'cosmic ghoul warrior', based on a toyline? Points for the name alone, though.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Ice Museum - Joanna Kavenna

Kavenna travels to many different places that have been suggested as the mythical Thule that Pytheas says he reached back in fourth century B.C. It's also about what "Thule" as a notion or concept meant or means to different people, and why certain places either did or didn't match those expectations.

For example, the first place Kavenna tries is the Shetland Islands, because the Greeks knew of Britain, and the Shetlands would have been within the six days of sailing Pytheas said he did when he left Scotland and reached Thule. And she discusses what she sees and finds when she travels there, how it makes her feel, but also how it was common for would-be explorers of Victorian England to travel to the Shetlands seeking Thule. Only it seemed too close, too normal, to be such a fanciful place to them. So they set their sights elsewhere, pushing Thule further away.

Sometimes it goes that way. People reach a land they think is strange, but once they've reached it, well, it's just not strange enough is it? But in other cases, it goes the opposite direction. Fridtjof Nansen explored the north polar region, searching for both Thule and a way to the North Pole, but ultimately decided his homeland of Norway was Thule. Kavenna speaks with a former President of Estonia who is convinced that it is Thule, that when Pytheas speaks of the natives taking him to the place where the sun sets, he's referring to an island off the coast where a meteor struck centuries earlier. That the memories of that moment, the explosion, the fire, handed been handed down through the locals, and that's what they showed Pytheas.

And, because the Nazis got it in their heads that Thule was like some Aryan paradise, she has to talk about that for a while. I could have done without that. The only thing I need to know went through Himmler's brain is a bullet.

Kavenna's writing style is very flowery. She's really working hard to try and describe what she's experiencing as she visits all these different northern realms. So a lot of descriptions of the color of the sea and the sky, or the little communities that hang on up there somehow. It feels excessive, maybe because I doubt the words can really do it justice. But I can appreciate the attempt. 

Unfortunately, she's also kind of judgmental and a little condescending in how she describes some of the people she talks with. Like one lady who lives in the very northernmost part of Norway, she feels she needs to mention the inside of the woman's house is adorned with 'ugly china.' Why? One, I don't know what qualifies as 'ugly china', so it doesn't really give me a sense of the setting any more than just saying 'china figurines' would have. Two, what the fuck does that have to do with anything? I'm not here for Kavenna to Marie Kondo this woman's home. She lives up on the proverbial welldigger's bum of the world, let her decorate how she wants.

Kavenna admits that she often has the desire to move to new places, and also to flee the city for remote locations. And the way she writes about people does convey the air of her being a tourist. She shows up, admires the scenery, looks down at the locals, and moves on to the next place. Not so different from some of the Victorians she describes complaining because they couldn't take their fancy dinnerware on horseback across Iceland.

'It was a realistic sublime: the glacier was beautiful and spotless; the ice fields of Iceland, looming above the blistered plains and the curdled pools, supplied a sense of ancient space. It was a Thule of silence, a Thule of magnificent mountains and cold glaciers. A deep-time Thule, the indifferent ages revealed in nature, in the vast and implacable ice.'

Monday, February 22, 2021

What I Bought 2/20/2021

I survived last week's deep freeze, and however many inches of snow that came with it, and so did my car battery. It did not enjoy trying to start on some of those sub-zero mornings, but it always did. Hopefully that's the last of the really crappy winter weather. I managed to find two of the three comics from the previous couple of weeks. Apparently, Marvel handed down some edict everybody has to use Taskmaster this month.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #2, by Larry Hama (writer), Dave Wachter (artist), Neeraj Menon (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Neither of the stores in town had this cover, so I ended up with the Billy Tan one, but count on Marcos Martin to make something look good.

Danny speaks with the Mother of Mercy in the Heart of Heaven, who tells him he's gotta save the dragons to preserve everything or else the Hidden City will emerge. But he and the remaining Immortal Weapons won't be enough, so he has to use the portals to bring the Heavenly Cities to Earth, then get Earth's heroes to help. Fooh's already got the portal machine ready (which I feel Danny should be more concerned about), but then he activates it before they've even tried alerting the Avengers or anyone. So when the Hidden City manifests, Danny, his friends, and the other three Immortal Weapons have to go charging in themselves. Meanwhile, the Wakandans are not too stoked about this city appearing out of nowhere on their border, complete with a dragon. And the gate Danny has to keep closed is already trying to open.

Once again, Hama is wasting no time. No pages spent on a difficult trip to reach the Mother of Mercy, or on collecting items to construct the portal. They're already at the Heart of Heaven when the issue begins, and Foon's been building the machine. Which actually seems ominous, like Danny's being rushed into this, but maybe I'm just too accustomed to decompression. Hama's Bride of the Nine Spiders is also much chattier than I remember her being. But Fraction and Brubaker mostly just had her do a creepy laugh, not a lot to judge by. He also pulls out an, I think, old Shang-Chi villain, Midnight Sun. Wears a fedora and a cape over a spandex. Sure, why not?

Wachter might need to ease off on the cross-hatching around Danny's jawline. There's panels it looks like Danny's trying for a scruffy hipster look to impress Misty Knight, while at the same time his jaw just sort of disappears into his neck. More noticeable from the front than in profile. So I think in general he might want to reduce the shading and extra lines a bit, but the design for Fooh's gate is cool enough, and I like the massive door they've got to keep shut. The dragons look imposing and gigantic. Which still makes me wonder how the hell Taskmaster managed to kill one.

 
Oh yeah, the Taskmaster appearance is that he delivers a dragon heart to whoever the mastermind is, but before he can properly present it, has to dump an entire bucket of blood over his head. Man, that's dedication to a paycheck.

Power Pack #3, by Ryan North (writer), Nico Leon (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (color artist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - Why the doves?

The kids are generating power as part of Agent Aether, and they aren't in trouble with the stupid authorities, so that's good. Then they see Taskmaster blowing something up and try to fight him. But their powers are barely functioning. Uh-oh. Still, Julie tricks Taskmaster into trying to show off so Katie can taze him through a fence and they win. Oh, the humiliation. In comparison, dumping a bucket of blood over his head is probably a good day. Leon even draws Tasky in the some position after his crash-and-burn that he drew Julie in when she goaded him by trying the move and failing. Nice touch.

The kids go see their mentor, who feigns concern and starts talking about giving some of the energy they generated back. Which Julie notes is not how that works at all. I honestly didn't know she was supposed to be this smart. But I didn't know Alex was smart enough to be in the Future Foundation either, so why not? All teen superheroes are geniuses! The kids are trapped, the Wizard drops the disguise and prepares to blow them up, Julie manages to break out of her cage and puts herself in the line of fire.

Credit to North for having the Wizard mention that hacking into the government's database to add "Agent Aether" as an approved mentor was easy because it was built by the lowest bidder. Although if my experience is anything to go by, the lowest bidder didn't even do it. They worked up a proposal, and then the agency had their extremely overworked IT people do it themselves. So it's even shittier quality than he implies! Capitalism!

 
I feel like the kids should have noticed their powers were fading sooner, though. The day before the fight with Taskmaster, we see three of them using their powers to fly home, without any apparent difficulty whatsoever. And yet, by the very next day, before they've even gone back to the Wizard's lair, it's now almost impossible for them to do anything?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #154

 
No Mixed Emotions Here," in Detective Comics Annual #5, by Alan Grant and John Wagner (writers), Tom Mandrake (penciler/inker), Jan Duursema and Rick Magyar (inkers), Adrienne Roy (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer)

The only Detective Comics Annual I own, and Norm Breyfogle has nothing to do with it. Bizarre, I know. I feel as though I got this in one of those 5 packs on random comics you could get a grocery stores, and I liked it enough I actually held on to it.

This is, of all things, an Eclipso:The Darkness Within tie-in. I have no idea what that means, other than Eclipso is involved. And I don't know how much it relates to whatever the larger story was about, as Wagner and Grant seem to just try and fit the Eclipso stuff into a more general Batman story. Which is probably the way to go with these things. Over Marvel's last 15+ years of Big Event crap, the stuff I've liked the best is the titles that can use the Event to push forward what they were already doing.

In this case, Scarface is running a nightclub, where all the tables are bugged, so he can pick up intel on other mobsters' schemes. One of them mentions a $20 million heist the Joker pulled, but the money's never been found. So Scarface decides to bust the Joker out and get the location of the money. This is obviously a terrible idea, but he's made from a block of wood, so what do you expect?

But they are an interesting pair, the sort of old-school gangster in a suit, and the nutbag clown. The Joker's unimpressed with all Scarface's posturing and threats, just screwing around constantly. And Scarface refuses to play along with the Joker's antics, resorting the having his men punch the clown.

Batman stops a theft of a solid gold replica Ancient Egyptian bust, which had three black diamonds on his head. Commissioner Gordon ends up holding the diamonds, which feed on anger and hate. And Gordon's kind of pissed about the Joker being on the loose. 

Did I forget to mention it's the anniversary of Barbara being shot by the Joker? Funny how that works out. Barbara shows up in one panel, talking on the phone with her dad, telling him she's done her best to put it behind her, and he should too.

All of which leads to Batman, once again, protecting the Joker's life. Sigh. At least this time, it involves fighting a giant monster with the might of solar-powered toy lightsabers. You probably won't find another comic where Batman defeats a creature of shadows and hate by stabbing it through the heart with a knockoff lightsaber.

Considering the monster somehow doesn't kill anyone, I'm not sure Grant and Wagner made sure Mandrake was on the same page about that. We see one cop impaled on the creature's claw, and another basically eviscerated. Another falls out of a cop car the monster's holding above its head, so 20+ foot drop to the pavement. Then again, the one cop does says it's a miracle no one had died.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Random Back Issues #54 - Deadpool #6

In the name of presenting both sides, the New York Times will run an editorial arguing this was the right move because those people on the coasts haven't taken cyber-Jesus into their hearts, or they'd know about the hurricanes already. So they deserve to die.

During Gerry Duggan's post-Secret Wars run on Deadpool, there would be these issues flashing ahead to 2099, showing how things were going for Deadpool. The answer, as it usually is, was "poorly, depending on which Deadpool you're talking about."

You've got one Deadpool in some sort of digital-looking suit, flying around on some A.I. dragon, with a whole legion of "Bobs" for henchmen. She and her crew make "stims", so, drug dealers. Deadpool is supposed to take drugs, not deal them! Worst cosplay ever! But she starts the issue on the run from the police, who she claims she can't actually fight all of. Well, sure, but if you're really Deadpool, you should just enjoy causing as much destruction as you can before being thrown in jail. 

Damn, I've become a gatekeeper fan, what a horrifying fate. You know what? Nevermind, you're Deadpooling just fine as you are.

She chooses to escape instead, retreating to a crappy apartment where we find regular Deadpool as an old man with a beard, shackled to an easy chair, forced to watch C-SPAN 2099. Wade isn't happy to see her, and when she asks if that's any way to speak to his daughter, replies he has no daughter. And she replies. . .

 
Well, if the alternatives are "no dad", and "Deadpool for a dad", yeah, that's probably the right call. Maybe she can go join the Straw Hat Pirates? I'm pretty sure we've only seen three of their actual, biological dads (Luffy, Usopp, and Sanji's), and they all either abused or abandoned their kids. She'd fit right in.

This isn't Eleanor though. This is Warda, a child he had with Shiklah at some point along the line. She wants to know where her mother is. Wade's mind is more of a mess than normal, with an additional eighty years of whatever added to it, so good luck. He tells her she's trying to find Jimmy Hoffa, and when she responds she doesn't know who that he is, admits he can't remember either. He suggests Preston might know (where Shiklah is, not who Jimmy Hoffa is), even though they were on the outs as then. Preston was a spy, so she knew all sorts of things. He also says he can't remember why he was angry at her.

 
All he can remember about what happened with Shiklah is some sort of fallout that may have been related to Elle dying. Given Wade's memory problems, I think that's questionable testimony. Just as likely he conflated two things, although Shiklah did, during the Civil War II tie-ins, possibly suggest she'd kill Eleanor for making him soft. (We'll find out Eleanor's mutant power during these 2099 issues and that would have made it a real challenge for Shiklah.) I'm not sure if I can believe him wearing that outfit. It's almost too stupid-looking, even for Deadpool. More like something Liefeld would draw for Cable.

Warda tells him she wants to hurt him as much as he hurt her, and sets the C-SPAN on repeat before leaving. Then Wade cries for Eleanor, which um, wrong kid, Wade. But then he notices the Texan up there vowing to dissolve the EPA to solve the problem of the environment, and wonders why everyone doesn't just listen to the Texan?

Elsewhere, the Bobs deliver "stims" to The Rose 2099, who is a woman with either a holographic or actual crystalline rose around her head. On their way home, the Bobs are jumped by a mysterious woman wearing a mask and a red cape with weird white lines on its inner lining. She wants to know how to find Deadpool (meaning Warda), and wants her to know it.

This would run through at least three more of these before being resolved in a larger-than-normal 25th issue. I liked them better than most of the arcs in the present day Duggan did during that stretch. Probably because watching Wade have to deal with a century worth of accumulated family shit was kind of funny.

[3rd longbox, 195th comic. Deadpool (vol. 4) #6, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Scott Koblish (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer)]

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Princess and the Pilot

A mercenary is chosen to fly the princess of the nation he's currently fighting for, to a warship of the nation whose prince she's marrying. A lot of people aren't happy about it, because even though he's a native, he's of mixed ethnicity, with half coming from the nation his home country (and the prince's home country) are currently fighting (and being beaten by). This puts him at the lowest social class. 

As a child, not do other kids pick on him, even adults insult and hit him. As a pilot, he's called a "sewer rat" to his face because of it, including by the officer who gives him the mission. It's at least heavily implied that he would not have been able to enlist, but then he catches shit for being a mercenary. When he explains he learned to fly by watching the pilots while he worked as a custodian at the airfield as a child, the guy sneers that he learned by stealing with his eyes, like a rat. Motherfucker, how do you expect someone to learn to fly? With their nose?

Charles is advised to only give "yes" or "no" responses to the princess, but that goes out the window almost immediately. They're flying through enemy territory, so Juana's got to watch their rear and (eventually) act as gunner. The attempt to give their flight cover with a massive daylight attack fails miserably due to poor communication security, so they're hounded and surrounded repeatedly.

The film has a mixed aesthetic for its machinery. They big ships are like Helicarriers, in that they can float on the sea, but spend most of their time in the air. Their homing missiles look like torpedoes. The single-engine aircraft resemble World War 2 designs - the enemy ace at the end is flying what looks like and I think is called a "Shiden", which was a Japanese fighter from very late in the war - but apparently run off a hydrogen fuel cell. Fine with me, that particular look is right up my alley, but it seemed an interesting choice.

The scenes of flight combat and evasion are pretty exciting and entertaining. Definitely my favorite part of the movie. Distinct lack of people telling Charles he's a piece of garbage during those scenes. The princess doesn't share the views of many of her people, which means the two characters can have pleasant conversation, which is nice. Makes the audience want those crazy kids to pull through. I'm not sure about having Juana and Charles having a previous connection, but I feel like the character arcs are erratic.

I think Juana has a decent arc about standing up for herself, rather than sort of gliding through life, letting people direct and position her, telling her it's for the good of their family/nation/war effort. She gets to actually do things to help her and Charles stay alive, and say what she thinks and feels without being criticized on how she does it. Charles, I'm less sure on. He gets her there, but is it because of his feelings for her, which he knows can't be returned, or because he believes that she really is that important? I guess by giving away his money for completing the mission he shows it wasn't just a job for him, and he can believe in his country, even if it's spent his entire life telling him he sucks.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Theatricality and Cruelty

I was thinking about Mark Waid's "Tower of Babel" story in JLA on Monday for some reason. The one where Ra's al Ghul steals Batman's top-secret "defeat the Justice League" plans and uses them to try and clear the way for his latest plot to improve the planet by killing a bunch of humans.

The League, of course, survives and saves the world, then votes Batman out. Or more accurately, Batman leaves before Superman can cast the deciding vote in favor of giving Bats the boot. So at least it makes sense where Damien got his "you can't fire me, I quit" mindset. 

If I remember right, Superman's main issue is that he was the only one who knew Batman had a plan to take him down, just in case, and that it's just one more example of Batman not being a team player by keeping secrets. I'm not sure it would make a difference if the League knew, since they wouldn't know the specifics of the plans or that Ra's was using them unless Batman told them. And Bats was distracted by Ra's stealing his parents' corpses (done for precisely that reason, solid strategy).

The thing that struck me, isn't that Batman had these plans, but how cruel they seemed to be. Like, it's not enough to just kill them, he's got to hurt them. Aquaman gets dosed with fear gas so he's afraid to go in the water, and will eventually die of dehydration. He plans to blind Green Lantern*. Flash gets hit with a bullet that causes him to basically seizure while vibrating at near-lightspeed. Plastic Man gets frozen and shattered (which Joe Kelly's Obsidian Age story suggests wouldn't have killed him, but would leave him aware of what's happening for however long he remained frozen).

I suppose Batman could argue they weren't intended to kill, only to thoroughly incapacitate until the Justice Leaguer in question could be helped or imprisoned. But man, having nanites infect the Martian Manhunter so his entire body is on fire when he's in contact with oxygen, would seem a little much. How are you going to help him if he's on fire? Plus, I'm pretty sure the captions in one issue mention the nanites and that layer of skin eventually burn off and fall away, but the plan didn't call for J'onn to still be alive by then.

It all just seems excessive for a vigilante whose normal shtick is to scare criminals by making them think he'll do stuff he'd never do. Like how we know he's not going to let that crook he dropped off the roof go splat, but the crook clearly thinks otherwise. There are lines, but apparently not when it comes to his teammates.

* I feel as though Kalinara and Ragnell both pointed out Kyle's used his ring while asleep before, so being blind really shouldn't have slowed him down that much. Maybe it was a leftover Hal Jordan plan, although you'd think that would just be the plan Zemo used on Hercules in the "Under Siege" story. Send a leggy blonde at him and get him too drunk to function.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Hike - Drew Magary

I read Magary's first novel, The Postmortal, several years ago. This is his second novel, and he's actually published a third subsequently. It's still weird to me the guy I remember doing dumb posts about how Rex Grossman was gonna 'unleash the dragon' on the old Kissing Suzy Kolber website became a published author who does pieces for GQ. I feel like this is something I should point to for Alex any time he gets low about how his music career is going.

Ben arrives at a hotel for a conference, and since he's early, he takes a walk in the woods. Then he meets two crazed men wearing the faces of Rottweiler's as masks. Then he can't find his way back to the hotel, or anything he recognizes. All there is, is a path. If he stays on the path, he'll meet challenges, but he also seems to always meet someone or receive something that can get him past it.

If he leaves the path, he'll die. Or so he's told, and the two times he tries it he encounters the masked loonies again, and then a tidal wave, so perhaps understandable he opts to believe it. There are a lot of different settings and creatures, and Magary describes them enough to give you a general idea, but still leave some room to your imagination.

He's also pretty good at making Ben's exhaustion, confusion, and despair come across on the page. Maybe a little too good, honestly. About halfway through, Ben and a crab part ways after the crab gives Ben what I would consider distressing news. At that point, I was honestly surprised Ben didn't simply sit down and call it a day. Just decide he was done following the stupid path, and if something wanted him, then it could come get him.

Of course, Ben just sitting there until he starves to death probably isn't much of a story, unless he wakes up all the way back at the beginning of the path. But based on how overwhelmed Ben is presented as being at times, it got hard to believe he kept wading through everything that was thrown at him.

'"Wolf!"

The wolf stopped, looked at him, and then went back to clawing.

"Can you talk, wolf?" It was a reasonable question at this point. But no, the wolf couldn't talk. It could only kick ass on that door with maximum aggression.'

Monday, February 15, 2021

When the Bill Comes Due

And we never had to see Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, or Lady Deathstrike ever again, he said, wishing it was true. Actually, I'm fine with Lady Deathstrike, but the other two, especially "last week's stale pizza" version of Logan, can fuck right off.

It's colder than shit here today, and has been for over a week. On the plus side, I have learned that wind chills lower than -5 are apparently the point at which I'm no longer willing to try going for a run, but reviewing comics allows me to stay inside where I can sneer at the elements. (Until I see my electric bill for the month.)

Volume 5 of All-New Wolverine finds most of the Logan knockoffs under siege from a group calling themselves the "Orphans of X". The grieving family members of the many, many, many people Logan, his kids, enemies, and alternate timeline versions of himself have killed over the years. This wouldn't normally be an issue. People with a grudge coming after you is called Tuesday for a Wolverine, but these folks found the shattered remains of the Muramasa blade Logan had forged with a piece of his soul, and made bullets from it.

It boggles my mind that a weapon Daniel Way introduced in Wolverine: Origins as a method to hurt Wolverine without his healing factor countering it, has actually stuck in continuity. Of all things. Taylor actually expands it, saying the swords-smith made a shield from some of Logan's more noble aspects without telling him. And then he makes a suit of armor from bits of Laura, Gabby, and Daken's souls. You can judge what you think of the design yourself.

 
I feel like the mask reminds me of Ogun's oni mask from the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series a little more than is maybe good, given that guy's past history with Logan. Actually a little surprised Ogun has never tried to start shit with Laura. Although he may be completely dead these days. Frank Tieri killed him off in his Wolverine run 20 years ago, but it was really just a soul appearing to dissipate, so that's easily wormed out of.

There's a couple of problems with the storyline. One is that, as Laura points out, she wasn't given a choice. She was raised in a lab and trained to be a weapon. Manipulated so that a trigger scent would send her into a killing frenzy, then thrown at anyone someone with money wanted dead. She is a victim as well. And Gabby, so far as I know, hasn't killed anyone who didn't try killing her first.

That doesn't clear the other four. Old Man Logan, Deathstrike, Sabretooth, and Daken (not to mention regular variety Logan) all have massive body counts, and have generally been unrepentant about it. At best, the Logans excuse it with "honor" or "vengeance" or "they deserved it". The other three can't even make that argument. I mean, Sabretooth really has no business not being executed, even if this is during that stretch where he'd been "inverted" by events in Axis, and is nominally not a terrible person.

Laura even acknowledges this right before she goes to make her pitch to the Orphans of X, by telling he and Deathstrike to leave because they are, as Creed notes, 'inexcusable.' So frickin' hand them over and let the Orphans kill them and be done with it. Show of good faith and all that. I'm also not sure about the idea that the location of the wound doesn't heal, but if you cut away the affected areas, you're fine, and that having a seemingly unlimited timeline. I mean, it had to have been at least several hours, if not a day or more, from when those three get shot in the brain and anyone removing the bullet, and they heal back up. 

They were dead. That's kind of pushing it. (Also, if the sword works by cutting at a 'molecular level', then why do the bullets do anything? Bullets don't cut; they tear or push.)

The idea behind the threat is a decent one, but the realities of the characters mean the ending doesn't entirely land, even if Laura's actions feel in keeping with the direction Taylor was trying to move her. It's hard to picture Logan doing this, rather than just deciding they tried to kill him, so mass slaughter is once again acceptable. but Laura's tying to move past being a weapon, and probably set a good example for Gabby.

Gabby continues to be a delight. At some point I'll get the first six issues and hopefully understand how she's as well adjusted as she is, but she's great fun. Cabal's artwork is as expressive here as it would be on the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man run he did with Taylor a couple of years later, and that fits well with her character, as she's a very animated child. 

 
And for the first time I can recall, Daken actually adds something to a book he appears in. His interactions with Gabby are different from how she and Laura interact, since he definitely behaves like an older sibling. Alternately encouraging and insulting her, as it suits him. That's kind of how Daken normally is, the guy that enjoys winding people up, or else egging other people on, whatever makes things more fun. Turns out he's the one who gave her the "Honey Badger" codename, which doesn't detract from its coolness (much), but he also tells her at one point their aliases don't need backstories, to her annoyance.

Cabal also draws Laura as a bit more muscular than most artists, especially in the shoulders and the jawline. I think she's doing a lot of chin-ups. It makes sense; most artists seem to take the approach that she inherited all her looks from her mother, and everything else from Logan (she's already taller than him). But it wouldn't be a surprise if she got his broad shoulders and jaw.

I feel like Cabal also does a little better with the flow of fight scenes here than he did in Friendly Neighborhood, although there aren't a ton of them. Daken's initial escape from the Orphans is done pretty well. The surprised expression on the face of the dog Daken hurls at one person is kind of hilarious. In Daken's defense, the dog had been trying to kill him. In the dog's defense, Daken's kind of a prick and he deserves it.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #153

 
"You Have No Idea, Tim," in Detective Comics #621, by Alan Grant (writer), Norm Breyfogle (penciler), Steve Mitchell (inker), Adrienne Roy (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer)

As you probably guessed from last week's hint, most of the Detective Comics issues I have are from Norm Breyfogle's run with Alan Grant on the book. At least the parts that are collected in the two Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle hardcovers DC put out a few years back.

Breyfogle and Grant (and John Wagner as co-writer), started at issue #583, and went to issue #594. There's a gap, and then starting with issue #601 and running until the issue shown above, it's the Grant and Breyfogle show.

The stories are a nice mix of done-in-ones, and two to four-part stories, kept within the title, rather than jumping across the various Bat-books. So there might an issue about a First Nations warrior coming to Gotham to retrieve items of cultural significance (and mete out a little justice) from some white guy that paid to have them stolen. Or Catman's pet tiger escapes and Batman ends up tangling with them while Catwoman looks on. 

There's an element of supernatural/psychological threat or horror to the stories. Whether it's Cornelius Stirk terrifying his captives because he needs the chemicals their brains produce in response to fear to keep himself sane, or a desperate man creating a monster from his own anger, fear and hate to protect him from mobsters demanding protecting money. The original Clayface gathers the third and fourth versions to make himself the "ultimate" Clayface, and while he's at it, dopes Batman up and sends him into a hallucinatory nightmare.

I'm not sure what Grant's trying to say about Batman with all that. His version is kind of all over the map. At times cracking one-liners and quips while knocking people out, other times snarling and gritting his teeth like he's severely constipated. His Batman is self-aware enough to recognize when he's out of his depth, and capable of being scared. He's also ridiculous enough that, when Vicki vale breaks things off with Bruce, Bats swings over the city thinking about how Batman needs no soft kiss on the cheek, and "Vicki? Who's that?"

Sure, Batsy.

Either way, it gives Breyfogle a chance to really expand his boundaries as the series goes on. Get a little more creative with some of the page layouts when it's the mind that's under attack. Make Batman appear as more of a looming dark shadow than a person. He seems especially fond of putting Batman's face and limbs either in shadow or hidden under the cape, but having the emblem on his chest clearly visible. I guess to emphasize the idea of Batman as a symbol rather than a person. He can still humanize Batman when he needs to, soften his lines when Batman wants to avoid frightening a child, or is feeling a little cocky. But a lot of the time, Batman looks more like something more than human.

Anarky's probably the biggest character actually created during this run, and the legion of homeless guys he'd later employ in the Grant/Breyfogle mini-series (see Sunday Splash Page #25) are recurring characters throughout. Other than that, I don't know if Stirk got much traction. Kadaver fucked around with the Penguin (shown repeatedly committing actual crimes, instead of pretending to be a nightclub owner or politcian), which didn't end well. Corrosive Man was neutralized (neutralimed?) I guess Ratcatcher pops up in crowd scenes.

People who are allowed to fall through the crack in society are something Grant at least touches on regularly during the run. That and people who suffered hardship or loss like Batman, but decided to be a bit more lethal in how they handled it (see Ratcatcher and also the aforementioned guy who summoned a demon from his mind). Batman tells Tim Drake (who starts showing up right near the end of this stretch, but won't become Robin until Grant and Breyfogle switch over to Batman), to accept the anger, because one day it'll be his friend. I'm not sure that's a great message, but I guess the idea is it's your friend, not your master. Bats tells Stirk something similar, that he lets his fear have its say, then he chooses to listen to it or not.

Overall, it's a solid run. Fun stories that aren't trying to redefine the character for all time (futile as that would be), where Batman is allowed to be caught off-guard, overwhelmed, or just plain out-smarted (temporarily).

Friday, February 12, 2021

Random Back Issues #53 - Dynamo 5 #16

You think that's bad, faceless cannon fodder, you should try the DC Universe. Four Green Lanterns, two Flashes, a fluctuating number of Robins and Batmen. . .

First time talking about this series that I grabbed in back issues back in 2015 or so. Quick synopsis is that the Superman-type of this universe died, but it turns out he was kind of horndog, so his Lois Lane (a secret agent named Maddie, who played reporter as a cover) tracks down 5 of his illegitimate kids, each with one of his powers, and turns them into a super-team to protect Tower City.

Except Maddie's in a coma, and four of the teens said enough. The remaining holdout, Scrap, has cobbled together a makeshift team from a few other heroes she or the team met along the way to try and hold the line. Which includes the two Firebirds up there, a guy named Quake who's a fine hero (as long as he stays on his meds), and Vigil, who's your mysterious terror that flaps in the night type (but is actually a character a reader of the series would already know).

As for this issue, there's not much to it, really. The new roster fights a bunch of guys calling themselves "the Veil" who were trying to rob a bank. It's just dudes in green jumpsuits with guns, so it goes pretty easy, but the previous team already trounced these guys and handed all their stuff over the a covert security agency, so where did this bunch come from?

 
After a little "enhanced interrogation" by Vigil, it turns out the bank robbers are actually a bunch of those covert security guys who decided there was enough chaos in the city they could make easy money using the bad guys' identities for themselves. Jeez, just take payoffs like regular bent cops.

The issue ends with news Maddie's condition is getting worse, and the only one who might be able to pull her out of it is Gage, the high school football star who got pop's telepathy (which at the moment, he's mostly using to know what play the other team is about to run.)

[4th longbox, 35th comic. Dynamo 5 #16, by Jay Faerber (writer), Mahmud Asrar (artist), Ron Riley (color artist), Charles Pritchett (letterer)]

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Hard Rain (1998)

When Alex and I watched the god-awful Hurricane Heist last September, it made me think of this movie. Because of the whole "pulling a heist during a natural disaster" thing, and the "shocking betrayal" thing. This is better, though. I mean, it's got Morgan Freeman in it, that gives it a massive leg up. Hell Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Betty White, and Ed Asner are in this. Any of them beats anybody that was in Hurricane Heist.

Beyond that, though, it just feels less ridiculous that they're doing this stuff during a flood, as opposed to a hurricane. The flooding is, theoretically, sort of under control. There is a guy at the dam, opening gates to release more water as the dam nears capacity, but he's trying to keep the few people in town in the loop when he does it, so they can be ready. And the rising water levels mean the same stretch of town can present an entirely different landscape over the course of the film. Moving through knee-high water presents one set of challenges and solutions, chest-high water another. And steadily rising water presents a gradually increasing tension, versus the spectacle of maybe the hurricane dumps a silo on your head.

I'm not sure Christian Slater playing the protagonist is the best idea, just because he kind of has a punchable face at all times, but he does his best to do Bruce Willis in Die Hard. That kind of weary, sarcastic guy that would rather be at home, warm and safe. But he's here, so he's going to do his job and not let anyone steal the money from the armored car.

The film takes the time to lay the groundwork for Quaid's turn. That takes the surprise out of it, sure, but at least it feels earned, rather than just a "gotcha!" moment. Plus, when he finally makes that move it acts as a lever to shift some alliances a bit, puts a few other things in motion for the end of the film.

It's nothing great, but I think it's trying to be a solid action movie, and it mostly succeeds at that. The secondary characters at least get enough time to establish a few character traits, even if that's just "dumbass deputy", or "scripture-quoting thief". It gives them something distinctive to differentiate them a little. Basic storytelling, but at least it's there. They put the bare minimum work in.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

When They All Agree He's a Moron

There's this relatively early Family Guy episode - hang on, don't leave already, I'm just setting the stage - where Peter concludes he's a genius and takes a test to prove it. He finds instead that he is, Forrest Gump, basically. The hidden menu item for this is apparently, no one holds him responsible for anything he does. If he runs into the street causing a car to swerve and it's driver to be badly injured, well, he just doesn't know any better. I think this wildly overstates people's forgiving nature.

I've seen other characters in stories where it seems like all the other characters have come to a similar conclusion about them. Where there's just no point in being frustrated when they do inexplicable things. Michelangelo with the Ninja Turtles is one, but my go-to is probably Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Even when he was summoning a demon that made people sing and dance until they spontaneously combusted, ultimately killing a half-dozen people, at a point (Season 6) when he couldn't claim ignorance of the dangers inherit to fucking around with magic, no one ever called him on it. He never faced any consequences for his actions. It was as though Buffy, Willow and the rest all just sort of threw up their hands and said, "It's Xander, what do you expect?"

This can, as you might have guessed, annoy the hell out of me. Whether I'm just not a fan of that particular blessed character, or I'm a fan of another character who isn't getting the benefit of this generosity, it grates on the nerves. Especially when there's no reason for it given. I'm left to assume it's either lazy writing (the writers didn't want to deal with Xander being responsible for six deaths in their fun musical episode, so just sweep that under the rug), or they expect me to tacitly agree this is OK.

At the moment, I'm trying to decide if it's worse when the story does it, or when the fans of the character do it. Tony Stark is probably a good example of a character with fans just dying to excuse his every fuck-up, but my go-to for that phenomenon has to be Vegeta fans. When Vegeta not only decides to let Cell so they can become more powerful and give him a better fight, but then actively helps Cell by attacking other people who tried to kill it. 

His legion of defenders will insist it's everyone else's fault Cell achieved his perfect form, but not Vegeta's. Krillin should have killed Android 18, who hadn't killed anyone yet and was a victim of Dr. Gero, so Cell couldn't absorb her. Or she should have self-destructed. Goku shouldn't have agreed to let Vegeta train in the Time Chamber first (even though Vegeta insisted and there wasn't time for them to waste arguing about that). Trunks should have just killed Cell himself (except when he tried, Vegeta prevented it). 

And the reason they should have done all these things is because they should have known Vegeta is a fucking idiot who would mess everything up by actively helping the bad guy, to the extent of attacking his own son.

They don't frame it that way, of course. It's that the other characters should have known his "pride" or "Saiyan love of battle" would push him to do it. It comes down to the same thing. According to them, Vegeta is too stupid to be held responsible for his actions.

I'm really not sure which is more annoying. It happening in-story is harder to deal with, because that's the actual text, such as it is. Even if I come up with an alternative take, it's still a reaction to the original, which affirms its existence. The fans are ultimately irrelevant, but they can be all over the place, or extremely obnoxious about pushing their opinions into my face. I can avoid a particular episode or issue of a show or comic I don't like, and maybe that lets me avoid its impact, but avoiding obnoxious fans can be kind of tricky if I actually want to interact with, you know, other fans of that thing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

No Longer on the Map - Raymond H. Ramsay

No Longer on the Map falls somewhere in between Lost Islands and The Undiscovered Islands. Less focused on only locations that were believed confirmed by recent nautical sightings than the former, considerably more detailed than the latter. Combined, this makes it a far more enjoyable and readable book than either.

Ramsay is more than willing to discuss islands described in myths and ancient tales, such as Saint Brendan's Island, or Freisland, but he still delves into the cartographic history of those places. Where did people think they were, and how did this change over time? What were they using as a basis, if that can be determined? One thing that comes up periodically is that one of the maps or writers whose work Ramsay describes apparently alludes to a source they were using which has since been lost. So Ramsay can't exactly trace the lineage of that line of thinking. 

Which isn't much of a surprise when we're talking about maps that were drawn in the 1300s, but I feel like it's not necessarily something I see come up in the other history books I read. Probably because they aren't covering stuff nearly as old.

All this gives Ramsay the opportunity to pull from a wide variety of sources, as he tries to determine what place might have been the origin of a given fabled land. Or in some cases, what place people decided worked as a stand-in for the fabled land. This involves not only looking for geographic locations which might match some of the described terrain, but also delving into the meanings of the names they were given and how these could have started out meaning one thing in their original language, and were subsequently altered when a nonnative speaker tried to translate it. I'm not much of a linguist, but it's fun to watch him go through what people might have been thinking or trying to convey.

Ramsay also doesn't limit himself to islands, as the book starts with the Spanish scouring South America for El Dorado, touches on the search for a vast, unknown southern continent the Greeks and Romans believed must exist, because they knew the world extended much farther than simply the places they had reached, and it seemed impossible there could be nothing but open water everywhere else. It would be too asymmetrical, so there must be land in all the different quadrants. OK, maybe not the soundest reasoning, but not terrible as a starting point. 

Probably best of all from my perspective is this book opens up a lot of things I hadn't really been aware of, but now might want to learn more about. Irish monks forming monasteries on Greenland before the Norse got there. European fishermen being aware of the existence of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as a great place to fish, long before Columbus ever set sail. Again, it probably makes sense they would, given it's pretty accepted the Norse reached North America centuries earlier, but it was always presented in the history classes I took like the Norse settled there, got wiped out or died, and everyone just kind of forgot about it.

'For some curious reason, the name Quivira, officially established with reference to an inland plains region more than 1,000 miles away, was transferred to this incongruous Pacific coast, and why this should have happened is now impossible to say. The first mention of this mythical Quivira is found in a history of the American explorations published in 1552 by Francisco Lopez de Gomara, who is now generally regarded as a most accomplished liar.'

Monday, February 08, 2021

What I Bought 2/5/2021

I thought I was going to have two comics to pick up last week, although I was confused by why the Black Knight mini-series was starting a month earlier than solicited. But no, that was actually a King in Black one-shot that I guess leads into whatever the mini-series is gonna be about. Never mind, then.

Runaways #33, by Rainbow Rowell (writer), Andres Genolet (artist), Dee Cunniffe (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Oh, I get it. because the big guy plays for the Sabretooths, and all the hapless little guys play for the Wolverines.

Chase has something going on so that he's not around to drive the kids to school, so Doombot offers, because Nico doesn't want them riding the bus. Because then people will think no one loves them? Jesus Nico, what the hell? In other news, Karolina's still recovering from nearly dying in the last storyarc, and Gert doesn't seem to like school much better than she liked not being in school. But maybe she made a friend. I'm sure that won't end horribly.

Speaking of things ending horribly, Wolverine and Pixie show up at the end of the issue to abduct Molly back to their mutant prison island. Sorry, they show up to take Molly to their mutant utopia *loudest fart noise possible* because Molly contacted them. What the shit, Molly? I thought Chase was the resident dumbass.

I'm left wondering why, other than comedic value, the X-Men would send Logan to get Molly. They have literally never had a good interaction. The first time they met, he went all, "grr snarl snikt" and she punched him out of a church. Why not send Nightcrawler, or X-23 and the Honey Badger? (I heard they changed her codename to "Scout", which is much less cool than "Honey Badger". I assume this is Hickman's fault.) 

 
On the other hand, it's good to see Molly continue to increase her height advantage over him. I also noticed Genolet draws Molly as taller than Nico, which kind of surprised me. Maybe because there are so many times I've seen Nico floating above people or ramped up on magical energy, she it seems like she'd be taller.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Sunday Splash Page #152

 
"Leave that Street Performer Alone, Batman," in Detective Comics #358, by John Broome (writer), Sheldon Moldoff (penciler), Joe Giella (inker), Gaspar Saladino (letterer)

Most of the issues of Detective Comics I own fall within a specific run, which we'll look at next week. If you remember the recurring theme when I was looking at titles that started with "Batman", you'll probably be able to guess.

The other four issues I own are a hodgepodge. The two issues that mark Stephanie Brown's first appearance as Spoiler, plus the issue from Mike Barr and Alan Davis' run where Catwoman is subjected a mind-altering device by the Joker and becomes a villain again. Then there's this holdover from my dad's collection.

It's almost an extremely important or significant issue. Two issue before this was the story of Batman fighting the Outsider, which turned out to be Alfred and gave so many bloggers such joy to write about. The issue after this is the first appearance of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. Unfortunately, this is the first appearance of Spellbinder, who I'm pretty sure is much better known as an arch-foe of the Terry McGinnis Batman.

As you can tell, this is still before the Denny O'Neill/Neal Adams era, firmly in the same zone occupied by the Adam West TV show, which would have started the same year this came out, I believe. I guess the show is mimicking the art style, since I figure Moldoff is working the in the same general style the Batman comics had been in since the 1950s. 

The story structure is of its time, too. Batman faces Spellbinder once, and isn't ready for cartwheels that hypnotize you into having dreams where you almost die. When Spellbinder's goons ask why he doesn't just shoot Batman while he's in the trance, the villain replies that then he'd be on the hook for murder. But if Batman dies because he died in his dream and that killed him, well you can't prove Spellbinder did that, can you?

I'm not sure that logic tracks even if dying in your dreams really did kill you. Even if Spellbinder claims he didn't know that would happen, which would be a lie but work with me here for a second, wouldn't that still be manslaughter? You put him in the hypnotized state. There are witnesses.

Anyway, Batman figures he's ready when Round 2 comes up, but Spellbinder hypnotizes him a different way. Why Batman was ready to punch him out before the cartwheels started, but can't do the same before Spellbinder uses a pinwheel, I don't know. It's on the third attempt that Bats figures out there's always something rotating clockwise in his dreams, and if he can make it rotate counter-clockwise, maybe he can wake up. And he does, and that's pretty much it for Spellbinder.

It's disposable entertainment, as it was intended to be.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Random Back Issues #52 - Avengers Spotlight #28

That's it, that's the entire conceit of the story.

The last time we looked at an issue from this series, it was still called Avengers Solo, and focused on Hawkeye being roped into working for Silver Sable to get home after he was abducted and taken to France by his mentor Trick Shot. Now it's Avengers Spotlight, and we've got an Acts of Vengeance tie-in. Which would normally be cause for celebration on this blog, but the first story is pretty lackluster.

As arguments over the Super-Human Registration Act rage, Hawkeye and Mockingbird are committing robberies in Denver. Which is news to Hawkeye and Mockingbird, news they only learn by reading the New York Post (despite living in Los Angeles?). Hawkeye wants to sue someone, but Bobbi suggests they simply investigate, so they hop a Quinjet to Denver. Since they radio the airport for permission to land, the cops are waiting, stunned they actually come back. Clint's ready to throw down, but a convenient radio call informs the police Hawkeye and Mockingbird are robbing a bank.

The heroes rush off, and when they reach the bank, well, Mockingbird thinks she's seeing doubles, but Hawkeye sees Angar the Screamer and Screaming Mimi (the future Thunderbolt Songbird). I don't know if I'd ever really looked at her Screaming Mimi get-up, but holy shit that's terrible. Turns out the two acoustic-based villains figured out their powers could combine to make Angar's hallucinations something other than weird monsters. So they decided to impersonate two Avengers and have a crime spree. Brilliant.

 
Anyway, Hawkeye's immune because he doesn't have his hearing aid turned up (not joking), so he catches them with no sweat. Not sure how he was able to talk with the police or Mockingbird if he couldn't hear the villains' sound powers, but maybe it's some sub-harmonic his hearing aid can't detect. 

The second story is a bit more clever. Makes sense, considering it was written by Dwayne McDuffie while the first one was by Howard Mackie. The mysterious guy (Loki) who convinced all the bigwig villains to team-up, is making the same pitch to the Mad Thinker. Who declines, because he predicts disaster for everyone involved, especially Mysterious Guy when his "brother" figures out he's behind it. Loki freaks out the Thinker deduced his identity and bails, but the Thinker's not quite done for the day. The SHRA passing would be bad for a lot of his schemes, too, so he decides to turn public opinion against it.

Several weeks later in Washington D.C., Wonder Man and the Wasp are supposed to make a speech about why the SHRA is a bad idea, although neither is sure what to say. Great planning there, team. They're saved from needing to be eloquent by the arrival of a large man calling himself, eventually, Gargantua. He starts picking up cars and throwing them around, although he's confused at the reason. Wonder Man's trying to fight him, but he forgot his little jet packs he wore on his hips, so he can't reach the guy's jaw.

 
Really? Guy's only 50 feet tall or so. Wonder Man's supposed to be a strong as Thor. He can't do a Hulk-jump that high? Spider-Man can almost jump that high. Fucking lame, Simon, go back to your crappy Arkon movies.

Anyway, the Wasp figures an attack from inside might go better and flies in Gargantua's ear. Where she hears a voice giving commands. She crawls further in, reflecting this guy never cleans his ears, and finds some little transmitter, which she smashes so she can give orders.

Outside, Simon's climbed a telephone pole, and Gargantua, as ordered, politely bends over so Simon can paste him one. Simon and Janet figure out what to say for their speech, to a crowd already fired up by their heroics, and the Thinker sits in his lab and reflects it was nice to win one for a change, even if helping heroes isn't something he wants to make a habit of.

I like the idea that not all the villains were on-board with this scheme, for whatever reason. I know in Spectacular Spider-Man, they nodded at the fact that some villains didn't appreciate others horning in on their turf so to to speak, and started fighting amongst themselves.

{2nd longbox, 54th comic. Avengers Spotlight #28, "Denver Doubles" by Howard Mackie (writer), Al Milgrom (penciler), Don Heck (inker), Paul Becton (colorist), Jack Morelli (letterer); "Second Thoughts" by Dwayne McDuffie (writer), Dwayne Turner (penciler), Chris Ivy (inker), Mike Rockwitz (colorist), Jack Morelli (letterer)}

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Golgo 13: The Professional

Alex and I wanted to watch some anime, and this is free on Amazon Prime, so there you go. Golgo's an assassin, and he kills the son of a powerful tycoon, right as the young man's going to take over as president of the company. So Golgo soon finds himself beset by forces that seem able to easily track him down wherever he goes, and kill anyone close to him. His information specialist, his mechanic, other people who hired him.

It takes him a while, and several near misses to learn who's after him, and that he's got the help of the CIA and the US military. Although perhaps the guys in Army fatigues with bazookas and miniguns were a bit of a clue. Of course the story reveals that for all that Golgo will kill basically anyone he's paid to kill, the tycoon is far worse. He demands a pair of psychopathic twins the CIA experimented on, then dumped in a jungle where they killed 2,000 rebel guerillas, be released from prison and given to him. A fleet of attack helicopters? He gets them. Tries to turn his granddaughter into a killer. He locks his widowed daughter-in-law in a room with a different lunatic, because the guy implied he'd be sure to get Golgo if he got a little time with her.

Spoiler alert: He did not get Golgo.

Oh, and the oil tycoon apparently ordered JFK's assassination. I'd say they were going a little overboard trying to make us root for the hired killer, and against the bereaved father, but I really enjoyed the guy's eventual death, so I guess it worked.

I'm guessing it's faithful to the manga that practically every woman who meets Golgo wants to sleep with him, but the problem is they use the same sort of saxophone melodies for the sex scenes as for the what are supposed to be sort of melancholy scenes of him moving through city streets. Alex and I made a lot of jokes about that. Most of the fight scenes are pretty good, fairly well-animated and designed. The one with the twins seemed underwhelming at first, but the film did a good job of playing with our expectations on that one, and it was actually a pleasant surprise. 

We both really hated that the mass helicopter attack was apparently done with the finest computer-generated graphics 1983 had to offer. Just hideous. Did the regular animators run out of time, or did someone honestly think something that was so completely distinct from the entire rest of the film's look was a good idea? I also can't help wondering what happened to the granddaughter. We kind of see what happened to her mother, and it's not good. Film just kind of brushes over the innocent people Golgo had a hand in destroying.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

What I Bought 1/30/2021 - Part 2

It took until early February, but I feel like the cold's finally starting to set in. At least to the extent I started thinking about turning up the heat in my apartment. I didn't do it, but I thought about it.

Kaiju Score #3, by James Patrick (writer), Rem Broo (artist), Dave Sharpe (letterer) - Don't be worried, Palmiero. I'm sure that knife is meant for someone else.

So there's two giant monsters, and they hate each other. This is bad. But, they need two hours of build-up to get ready before they'll actually fight (and destroy the city in the process). Given that, I find it strange they'd even bother to fight. Just eat and leave. I guess kaiju are as stupid as humans.

This gives Marco time to modify his plan. Instead of getting Gina down to the vault, they're going to hook cables to the vault and a support pillar in the nearby mall, lure one of the kaiju with chum so it hits the wires, and that will pull the vault out to them. That is some Wil E. Coyote-ass nonsense and I love it, but Mujara goes the wrong way. So Marco drives in front of her and makes an impassioned plea to either take the other street, or eat him.

She takes the other street. Maybe the wind shifted and she picked up the scent. And the cables hold, the vault is out, but it's monster fightin' time and Pierson is making his own play to bolster his retirement portfolio.

 
While the plan's being putting in motion, there's a nice conversation between Marco and Gina about doubt. Gina wondering if Marco ever allows himself to doubt, or question whether he's just not cut out for this, and admitting that she has doubted herself. She also admitted she's growing to like being Gina, which could be foreshadowing for a lot of things. Broo does some good work with the expressions and body language, where Gina is trying to look casual, sprawled in a chair smoking a cigarette, but she keeps pulling her arms and legs in, and she and Marco are rarely looking at each other directly. If one of them is, the other either has their back turned, or is watching them from the corner of their eye. Both hiding something, or trying to.

Sympathy for No Devils #4, by Brandon Thomas (writer), Lee Ferguson (artist), Jose Villarrubia (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer) - Raleigh does not seem like he's got a firm base there, especially in the middle of a rainstorm.

Raleigh and Winston got thrown off the same bridge, but Raleigh fishes Winston out. Then he admits that mobster's got him in his pocket and they argue a bit, and figure out Winston's assistant was spying on them. But Floyd's busy visiting the Mayor and confessing his love. That doesn't go well, so he kills her, which may have removed Winston's luck. Too bad, because Jacinda's out for blood and Winston's down a hand.

Well, I was definitely right that she was bad news, but it's a noir so no credit for knowing the tearful widow's trouble. I kind of figured she wanted to use Win to get rid of Raleigh and keep her own hands clean. Hence jumping into the water after him last issue, but apparently not. The conclusion of the thing with Floyd's unrequited love and idealization of the Mayor kind of happened abruptly, but this story doesn't seem like it can decide what it wants to focus on. The mystery of the dead colossals, or the whole thing with Floyd, or whatever. So it swings from one to another, and I don't feel like they're ever build much momentum. 

It's probably unrealistic and too neat for all the threads to be interconnected and dovetail. But if they did, I think they'd be able to support and build off each other better than they have up to this point. Maybe if I read it all in one go after the next issue it'll hold together better.

 
I did like the set-up of the page where Jacinda does her big reveal, even though I made the mistake of reading it from the top down initially. I think you're supposed to go from the last panel of the previous page to the one directly opposite it, then go diagonally up the page so you're back at the top when you flip the page and get the payoff. Ferguson's art is definitely the selling point for this series.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Bad Boys for Life

I probably saw Bad Boys on HBO back in the '90s, and it was fine, enjoyable enough. I'm pretty sure Alex and I watched Bad Boys 2 on DVD sometime not long after it came out (possibly the same night we watched SWAT and House of 1000 Corpses, and holy shit, that night was dire as viewing experiences go), and even in my younger days, I knew it was a stupid piece of crap. Just dumb and lazy as shit. Michael Bay, everyone! So I was not placing much hope in the third movie, that came out last year or the year before.

But, it's actually pretty funny. I laughed a lot. At things I was supposed to be laughing at, no less! As Alex told me beforehand, it gets a lot of mileage out of the fact these two are old now (relatively speaking). It's been 17 years since the last movie. Martin Lawrence is decidedly not in shape. It actually reminds me of Lethal Weapon 4 a bit, right down to Will Smith getting his ass whooped by a younger asskicker. Except instead of Jet Li beating Mel Gibson's ass (something I think we can all get behind), Mike is getting beat by some guy who clearly rips his jeans to make them look worn, and wears stupid little leather boots. I'm sorry, the guy's motorcycle outfit was just goofy. Anyway, this movie is much better than that movie. Low bar, I know.

The whole part where they're supposed to be hurrying to meet an old informant who fears for his life cracked me up. Mike being embarrassed to be seen in a Nissan Quest, them ruining a spa day, the whole bit with the eventual damage to the car. Will Smith can deliver a good outraged line, even if the fact that his gradual fall at the hands of Time is an unpleasant reminder of my own encroaching mortality.

The humor helps a lot, because while the action sequences have their fair share of ridiculous nonsense, they aren't that great. Partially because the two leads can't do the sort of stuff they used to (or their characters can't, anyway). And I didn't really care that much about the team of young hotshots that act as backup and keep popping up. The climactic final fight scene in the decaying hotel, during a rainstorm, except the hotel ends up on fire, for some reason made me think of the end of a Resident Evil game. Not sure why, neither of the RE games I played ended with fights in circumstances like that, but there was something about how it looked.

Not sure about the part where Marcus swears to God that if Mike pulls through, Marcus will renounce violence, only to later basically decide, "Nah, God wants me to shoot these guys." Granting that Mike's argument that God sent Marcus that .50 caliber machine gun in his time of need was pretty funny.

Anyway, by leaning into comedy, rather than absurd action set pieces, it made the stupidity more tolerable, and it was a surprisingly enjoyable viewing experience.