Saturday, December 13, 2008

Secret Invasion: worst. finale. ever.

Here’s what I predicted at the beginning of SI:

Possible Skrulls

1. Spider-Woman.

Called it.

2. Anybody who’s 1970s version didn’t pop out of the crashed Skrull transport (Spider-Woman, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Echo, Ares, and Sentry). In the Director’s cut, Bendis emphasis this panel but suggests it could be all Skrulls. all humans, or even half and half. First, all human would be stupid, and half and half is just cheating.

Called it. But then they brought back a bunch of them--that was weird. Maybe it’s a trick, but really it just seemed like a total cop out. The Skrull’s are a big threat, not big enough to kill anymore than maybe three major characters, but they’re a really big threat. Seriously. Really. Big. Whatever. But every loser that piled out of the space was, indeed a Skrull, but we quickly lost count of who was where and what--and interest. Like halfway through Reed Richards fixes the whole infiltration thing.

Skrull connections

1. AIM was hiding a Skrull in the last Ms. Marvel issue.

Remember when AIM and Hydra had something to do with Nazis?

2. Everyone involved in the Raft Breakout story.

I still don’t quite get why they needed the pterodactyl guy, but I did call the connection, which was almost stated outright by the writers—so, not much of a call.

3. Latveria was invaded by Fury (because they were supplying two-bit villains with super weapons, which was the plot of “acts of vengeance”, right?), and then Fury went underground, so maybe there’s a connection.

Well, not so much a connection as an easy way to write a bunch of SI Fury spy stories.

4. The Hood suddenly grows a spine puts together an evil organization…

Well, apparently this was the way to make him a player for Dark Reign. Whatever.

5. Anybody Kree is automatically connected by rule of lazy writing. Ex: Inhumans, Hulkling (half), Marvel Boy.

Yes, yes, and yes, they all got a taste.

6. Civil War…

Yeah, the Skrulls loved all this, and they made Stark look bad, hey I thought they hated Richards, but really the Civil War was just their “friend with benefits.”

What’s the likely outcome?

1. Somebody rides to the rescue (after a series of defeats that seem devastating). But the villain will do some interesting things.

Completely true. Actually, a couple people rode to the rescue, but the big one was Thor (although Reed Richards seemed to really save everyone). The twist was Osborn getting the credit, which is really kind of “the American people are stupid” as a plot device. And I can’t even figure out how it works considering he was dead, he knew who Spider-Man was (he works with Venom who knows who Spider-Man is! Everyone knew before Brand New Day—wait, didn’t Punisher kill two villains because of the Parker reveal? Are they dead? That was only a year ago and I’m completely confused), and lastly he was completely nuts. But we’re stupid, we’d turn to anyone waving an American flag in a crisis, just like we did with (insert political enemy’s name here). Whatever.

2. This event somehow leads to the next event, and that next event is when “all will be revealed.”

Yes. Except the revealing stuff is more about Osborn’s Dark Reign and the “secrets of the Marvel universe.” They’re gearing up to retcon Emma Frost and then there’s “whatever happened to baby cage” and what about all the Skrulls that didn’t die or get captured???!? All…will be…revealed…if you just keep forking over the cash!

3. Either they got the goods or not, but ultimately, even if they dared to do an occupation series, general status quo is coming back.

That “embrace change” ad run seems to be hype, but while there’s a few loose ends, come on, one battle in central park and we’re back to good guys and bad guys, in fact we have a great number of missing good guys back. The difference now is the gov’ment good guys are now clearly the bad guys, so, now there’s not even a suggestion that the conflict is complex… Osborn is now Stark. Stark is now wanted, just like Cage, Web-head, and the Hulk. At least, Osborn isn’t going to constantly show up, tell rogue super-heroes to “stand down,” and then let them walk. When was it that the gov’ment was the good guys in Marvel?

4. The purge continues.

The Wasp died, the Wasp. And why do we care? They didn’t even make it clear Thor killed her. Totally the woman in the refrigerator. Personally, I think Marvel is all about the Teen/Mature rating these days. Captain America may have bit it just so they could get the okay to have a new Cap waving a gun around on every cover. The other day in a book store a dad was about to show his little kids comics, like he use to read, and picked an issue up. I leaned over to warn him that particular issue probably wasn’t something he wanted to give his little kid—what with the murder and the torture and the overt sexuality. In a super-powered world Marvel’s moving into the government’s role and hopefully world-wide power struggles, which is actually reasonable except they ain’t Tom Clancy. Still, they’re moving things toward a more realistic world, one that’s not so divorced from the media and government. Trimming the fat is fine so long as there’s a point. Is there a point? All… will be… revealed… Whatever.

So, officially, it was an interesting story with a “whatever” ending. Kind of like Cap just stopping the Civil War or Hulk refusing to kill anybody in WWH, hmmmm.

Best of the Event: X-Men. While the X-Men’s new home in San Fran might secure them as the “alternative lifestyle” superheroes, the book’s SI run gave us some hardcore Scott Summers without Logan stealing the spotlight. Hit and run tactics, ruthless/lethal force, and the use of WMD, Scott Summers is actually cool, when did that happen? (Honorable mention to Thor).

But here’s why I’m buying Dark Reign: Dr. Doom may, in fact, have been given his balls back.

First, Fantastic Four had him kill future Sue Richards (which I also called). In the preview of Dark Reign, Dr. Doom scares Emma Frost, detects the Hood in inviso-mode, makes Loki as a God, and senses Norman Osborn coming to the room. Namor looks like a tool (seriously, terribly off-model), Frost a stripper, Loki a dominatrix, but Doom looks tough as nails—shows the artist has a little love for the Doctor. Maybe, just maybe, Marvel’s finally going to bring back the Master of Menace. But with the insulting way the Sentry yanked his mask off before SI, I doubt it. Keeping Doom on a team has always been difficult, and is Doom really going to put up with Osborn?

What possible goals could Osborn have? Complete power? Why, so he can run the world? Revenge? Look, Osborn is going to give freedom to act to his conspirators. Probably something like this: Emma Frost gets protection for mutants, She-Loki gets help in battling Thor, Namor gets his kingdom back and maybe revenge, the Hood (and Dorramu? or however you spell it) gets to rule the super-criminals if he keeps it quiet—and everybody (except maybe Loki) hates Stark. But what does Doom get? Does he need anyone’s help? Taking out Reed Richards? They gang up on each other’s foes? Wasn’t that also the premise of “Act of Vengeance”?

Oh, well, Doom’s in it, so, I’m in. Besides, next issue, all…will be…revealed…

Whatever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Punishment for Punisher Fans

How bad is Punisher: War Zone? Bad. Really bad. And this from somebody that liked the Daredevil movie. It’s not just bad. . . it’s punishment. . . (Couldn’t resist).

The Thomas Jane movie was flawed, but it tried. PWZ doesn’t try. In the earlier movie, Castle is at least kind of developed as a character. PWZ just plops him on the screen.

So, the Punisher creates Jigsaw and accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent. Jigsaw tries for revenge with the dead FBI agent’s family as bait. You’d think a simple plot like that would be hard to screw up.

You’d think. PWZ needs an editor to attack all the odd extra minutes of getting out of cars and staring blankly at other characters. Jigsaw is played for laughs, but his face is well done though seemingly similar to the wheelchair bound billionaire bad guy from Hannibal. Seriously, he’s personally searching a house for $200K, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money, and giving Patton-like speeches to gang members. Looney Bin Jim is as interesting as a drying paint, and just runs around hurting himself and quoting medical trivia. Furthermore, their entire criminal empire seems to be made up of four guys. And the Russian mob boss they anger? He’s got a dozen guys that show up and then he basically disappears from the film. But wait, there’s a possible terror angle, right? Wrong, any terrorism talk is a complete red herring.

The cops are morons, which is only offset by the idea that they are all protecting Frank Castle during his rampage. But would they really not care that the Punisher killed a fed? Microchip doesn’t do anything remotely interesting, except introduce a throwaway character that has nothing to do with anything. Everything that’s not melodrama is cartoonish. Yes, cartoonish—in a bad way.

That brings us to the Punisher himself. He looks right. The acting, especially the voice, isn’t bad. The skull symbol is down played, which we can live with. He fights okay. But his dialogue, hardcore-ness, and brains are unacceptable. Take a gander at this little exchange:

“What’s the plan?"
"The plan is I go in and get them."
"That’s the plan?!"
"That’s all the plan I need.”
And apparently all the work the script needs, too. Seriously, did they film this over a long weekend?

And he jogs. What? Jigsaw is after the widow and her kid? I better take off at a medium trot across Manhattan. Somehow this Punisher can hit a cartwheeling meth-head in the air with a rocket launcher, but watching him slowly reload is important for the realism. Gee, maybe if he’s such a bad dude he could reload without constantly looking down to fumble with his battle-rattle?

The Punisher does do some things right: mercy killings (which the audience is envious of), abrupt shotgun blasts to the head, and some creative kills. But where are the claymores? Where are the flame throwers and heavy machine guns?

Now, you have to say the final scene is reasonably like the Punisher comic: an abandoned building full of armed gang members who barricaded the windows but forgot to build up any cover to fight behind in the squeaky clean hallways. They just hide in the rooms waiting to be killed video game style. And Jigsaw does do a good job with the whole “final showdown thing.” But, really, the best action you saw in the previews.

Why can’t we get a good Punisher movie? It’s not hard. Frank Castle kills a bunch of criminals and makes Jigsaw. Jigsaw pulls some twist like kidnapping his cop conspirator’s family. Castle saves them and then learns that the big bad guy is really like the Police Chief or the FBI big whig. Before anybody can kill Frank the cops and media show up. He goes to jail, and while being brought into a courtroom Jigsaw attacks letting all the jailed criminals loose into the building. Big battle ensues, showdown on the roof, Frank kills everyone and maybe saves the judge for a little irony—maybe his buddy cop blows away the crooked cop and helps him escape. There, was that sooooo hard?

Punisher is about blowing away the bad guys. Hasn’t anybody seen a Deathwish movie? If we want some chuckles we’ll watch the Catwoman movie. You know what the Punisher really is? Ultimate Punisher plus Welcome Back Frank. A serial killer of criminals and a military trained warrior using special forces warfare against the scum that the law can’t seem to deal with. The Punisher is a soldier, a murderer, a grim but fun anti-hero that outsmarts the bad guys and shocks the audience with his brutal tactics. Somebody buy a copy of The Dark Knight DVD for the people that made this and let them know they just can’t crap out a loser comic book movie anymore!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Always the last place you look

Nicholas Holderman fell on his parents' car keys. One entered his eyelid and penetrated his brain.
Full Story. Also: Obligatory.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

No new content today folks; there's much eating and watching of football to be done. Ya'll have a good day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Here's looking at you, Nardelli

From CNN comes the story of JAL CEO Haruka Nishimatsu who, in response to his company's downturn, cut his benefits and pay; he now makes less than his pilots. Contrast that to the execs of the Big Three and the failed or failing financial institutions, among others, and realize that this is what the CEOs here should be doing, not floating away on $200 million+ golden parachutes after wrecking or harming their companies. . . especially if those CEOs go before Congress to beg for money without a plan to pay us back or even a plan to turn their companies around. I don't begrudge the executives of these giant corporations their giant paychecks; after all, they are paid such large sums because of their large responsibilities. If they fail in those responsibilities, however, shouldn't they also face the same financial hardships that they guided their companies, stockholders, and employees into?

I can't shake the suspicion that the CEOs in this country probably think of Nishimatsu as a laughable naïf who doesn't understand that a CEO can fail to turn a profit and still walk away with a fat paycheck. . . even if he's fired.

Consequences? Bah, who needs 'em, right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good 2A News in GA

Good stuff:
Madison County gun ordinance swiftly rejected

Madison County commissioners voted 4-1 Monday night not to enact an ordinance that would have prohibited residents from firing a weapon within 300 feet of a home in the unincorporated areas of the county.

At least 100 county residents, many of them wearing anti-gun-control stickers, attended the meeting to protest the ordinance. The crowd forced commissioners to move the meeting to the county's courtroom, which still did not accommodate everyone.

Commissioners would violate not only the Second Amendment, but also the rights of property owners if they approved the firearms ordinance, residents said.

"I don't appreciate anyone trying to pass a law that's going to erode my rights to fire my firearm on my property," said resident Mike Smith. "Our laws are eroded daily for gun control, and I stand in opposition to this."
Damn straight Mr. Smith. For now the right of Madison Co. residents to go out back and pop eviilll Coke cans off the fence (among other things) is preserved, as long as said residents live outside city limits.

As always with 2nd Amendment rights, we must remain vigilant to not only those cases which affect us on a national level or get national press attention (Heller, most recently) but also those laws which are drafted and/or modified in our own backyards. After all, the creation of local laws and ordinances are both the easiest for us to ignore and the easiest for us to affect. A gradual reduction of local firearms rights at the local level is still a reduction of our 2nd Amendment rights and just as heinous as a reduction of rights concocted at a national level.

At the same time, however, those of us on the pro-2A side must restrain ourselves from engaging in rumor-mongering in the hopes of provoking an emotional reaction from the less-informed:
Once word got out that the board planned to discuss an ordinance, Youngblood said rumors flew, including that commissioners wanted to ban deer hunting and take away residents' guns.
I'm of the opinion that we mustn't stoop to the level of mudslinging and rumor-mongering to educate and/or change the minds of the less- or misinformed, but I do acknowledge that the dirty side of politics is ever-present. Acknowledging that the mud exists does not mean that we sink into; should we do so, we might find ourselves stuck in a quagmire from which we may never escape.

Regardless, it's good to see that citizens are engaged in 2nd Amendment rights at the local level; it gives me hope for the future. Additionally, Mike Youngblood, the Madison Co. commissioner who brought up this issue to his colleagues, also had this to say:
"I've gotten more phone calls and e-mails in the last three days than I've ever gotten, and I appreciate it," he said. "If we could get this kind of crowd at every meeting and have you voice your concerns about the decisions we're making up here, the county could be a lot better place to live."
Yep. If we don't speak up, how could they ignore us listen?

Wha? WTF? Poor Dog

Rumor is that this a viral marketing video, but whatever, it's funny. Just wait for it. . .

Subtitles I can't read, not to mention the crappiest cover of the crappiest saccharine-sweet pop-rock pap ever recorded, just adds to the hilarity and the overall WTF?ness of the vid.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Through the Eyes of the Allies

Via BLACKFIVE comes a depiction of American troops in Afghanistan as seen by a French Infantryman:
Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.
Read the whole thing; it's well worth your time. I promise I won't make fun of the French for at least a week.

(Sorry about that Freedom Fries thing bro.)

All Hail Megatron

Update: IDW has linked to this post on their site, you can also see the first edition of this article here.

What do you call a cut of beef named after a civic club? Optimus Prime.

In 1985, the comic world was a heady place. Secret Wars was out, Watchmen and The ’Nam was about to be, and Wolverine and the Punisher culling out a fan base that would soon lead to their appearance in every Marvel title including Barbie and He-Man (just kidding—or am I?). And Transfromers the comic, which wasn’t bad, was selling right alongside the TV series building to the inevitable.

In 1985, the toasters were king: Go-bots, Voltron, and Transformers, with Transformers being probably the best and definitely the best opening montage and song. G.I. Joe (also a great opening) had huge fire fights with laser rifles that never hit anything, but then Transformers was up next and, because they were robots, they routinely got shot and blown apart—though always repaired.

And then it happened.

In 1986, Transformers: the Movie did the best and the worst thing it could do. It gave Optimus Prime a noble death and it traumatized an entire generation of kids (you cried; you know you did—we all did). They also killed a ton of main characters like Ironhide and Prowl, and, amazingly enough, improved the opening song. After that the Transformers took to the stars and only later did Prime return in at the end of the series’ run. Since then it seemed the Transformers (Generation I, the real Transformers) rarely seemed to return to the earth in anything worth watching or reading though there were a number of good tries.

While in the mid-80s the writing in comics suffered in some places, the art, marketing, and events were waxing until the excesses of the 90s turned many readers away. In hindsight, one of those excesses might have been the Marvel Universe series, which seemed like a good thing in the early 90s—we didn’t know about the Internet then—but was really just a character pic with a profile and a history. So, instead of ordering back issues or waiting for trades or looking it upon Wikipedia, we kids read Marvel Saga and Marvel Universe and Marvel Tales for about a buck an issue (25 cents if you got the beat up copies from the sales bin) to catch up on characters. These profiles included many Transformers and listed numerous powers that were extremely violent and terrifying and rarely came up in the Saturday morning cartoon.

But in the wake of the Michael Bay blockbuster, the Transformers are all over comics again, but in series not the easiest to just pick up and run with. Enter All Hail Megatron, and readers shying away from the transformers’ books since Optimus became one with the All-Spark (you know you cried, just be a man and admit it) get a well crafted adult book with all the punch of both movies. But what’s more, the terrifying power disclosed in the old Marvel Universe profiles is brought to bear.

For readers that don’t know what happened between the 80s and now All Hail Megatron side steps the problem by making it a reason to keep reading. Issue one starts with the on model, un-Michael Bay-ed, classic Decepticons doing what they did to Autobot City, only this time it’s New York City and humans are dying by the thousands. The black, gray, and red Megatron of the ’86 movie went from clownish to scary and actually successfully evil with a few cannon blasts, and that’s the Megatron that shows up in this issue to squash the humans like insects. It’s sort of like watching Skeletor behead the Sorceress and burn Castle Grayskull to the ground. The military response is flattened; in fact, Frenzy wipes out a large portion alone using the crazy powers not seen on TV. Any comic that makes a tape cassette robot look more horrific than the terminator is doing something right. Plus, there’s a Witwicky in it as part of a band of human survivors, a story arc that’s shades of Cloverfield, but this time in the subway we know what’s happening before the refugees as Astrotrain pulls into the station.

The old villains make grand appearances, one by one, invoking a sense of nostalgia and shock as your childhood characters commit genocide. Starscream shows up after blowing Air Force One out of the sky. And Megatron and Starscream have this father/son moment of praise and regret that actually develops their characters as tyrant and usurping champion—unbelievable, right?

So, where are the Autobots? In the most recent issue where we find the Autobots hiding and dying on Cybertron. Prime is apparently dead again (steady, fight the tears) but who knows, really? Ironhide is all in a huff about some betrayal: who’s the traitor? Jazz is keeping some secret project from the group. They’re at each other's throats when they stumble upon Hot Rod, who thinks they have come to rescue him. The writers sort of says, “you don’t know what’s happened, but keep reading because it’s all part of the mystery and charm,” which is arguably more fun than a caption reading “see Transformers Mangaverse vol. 17 and Beast-Wars #4—Ed.” Very Old Man Logan, very “how did this come to pass?” “What did they do to you,” which, incidentally, is exactly the cliffhanger line from the last issue of the Old Man Logan story arc, thus proving the effectiveness of starting inside the whale’s belly.

All Hail Megatron is an interesting series: characterization, good dialogue, action, “end of the world” level destruction, mysterious backstory, and a weird connection to the Saturday mornings of your childhood. Sure, it’s not Hamlet but for a Transformers comic the story’s got grit and surprise. Plus, any book that has the Decepticons decimating NYC and America in general, and then flips to the beleaguered Autobots is setting up a confrontation; perhaps a confrontation where, at the end of the battle, one shall stand and one shall fall? (You so cried when Optimus died).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dude, BEAR

The idiocy of people. . .
Panda attacks man who wanted a cuddle at Chinese zoo

A PANDA at a zoo in southern China attacked a student who sneaked into its pen hoping for a cuddle.

The 20-year-old male student surnamed Liu jumped over the fence at the zoo in the tourist city of Guilin, ignoring warning signs not to, Xinhua news agency said.

"The panda, named Yangyang, was wide awake. Apparently scared by the intruder, he bit at Liu's arms and legs," it quoted an unnamed worker as saying.

Zoo keepers managed to calm the bear and rescue Mr Liu, the report said.

"Yangyang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him," Mr Liu was quoted as saying from his hospital bed.

"I didn't expect he would attack."

Scientists believe fewer than 2000 giant pandas live in the wild in China.

"Didn't expect he would attack?" Really, even though it's, like, a BEAR and stuff? I know Pandas and other wild f'ing animals are all cute and cuddly looking, but that doesn't mean they're actually cute and cuddly. Not to be too heartless, but maybe the workers should have just let this guy Darwin himself. Hell, if some random dude just started trying to hug me, I'd be justifiably annoyed. . . probably enough to want to attack.* And I'm not a BEAR.**

*Cute ladies are still free to hug me (though I'd still prefer some warning) without fear of being mauled. . . maybe.
**Yeah, yeah, [generic gay joke goes here], etc.

Obamania

A school on Long Island is being renamed for Barack Obama. Other than being the first black President-Elect, what exactly has he done? Why not wait a year and THEN decide whether or not it's worth it to rename every park, school, and public restroom after His Barackness? At least wait 'til he's sworn in. Besides, what if everything we name after Obama is afflicted with the M.L.K. phenomenon?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Internet Therapy

No matter how I feel about myself or my life, and no matter how maudlin and melancholic I tend to be, it seems that I can always count on the bounty of the WWW to put a silver lining on the storm cloud that is my life. After all, I'm not even on the same planet of screwed-up in the head as this crazy bastard.* So I've got that going for me.

*Not Safe For Lunch text

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: Kull Number One

Kull number one starts with a bang. You ever seen Army of Darkness? The 13th Warrior? Read an issue of Vault of Horror? Somebody over at Dark Horse has too. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Ass-kickery. Welcome home geeks, welcome home.

The Days of High Adventure:

Kull the Conquer is another Robert E. Howard sword and sorcery hero like Conan. Perhaps the less well known Conan predecessor offers a freer hand to writers as Conan has expectations tacked on movies and books, and that can be a good thing. Picking up a copy of Kull number one readers my be less than impressed with the odd cover, which appears to be the weird variant cover fad we’re still suffering from the excessive 90s. But buck up, that’s Joe Kubert of Sgt. Rock fame and the art inside is actually pretty good!

Now spoiling will occur but seeing how this is issue one there’s not much to spoil. Kull’s king and he’s trying to take out the last Count to resist his rule who’s laid up in an impenetrable castle. Luckily, one guardsmen has been passed over for promotion and agrees to open the gate. Next panel, Kull’s army swarm’s in, no boring speeches or build up, let the body count begin.

Dark Horse Gods:

So, the Count has his men open this trap door in the courtyard. Anything foreshadowed with a “release the Kraken” moment and “we’re all dead,” has to be all cuddly and fun, right? From the dark an unseen fiend says “Yesss, release me…” Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness, anyone? What is this Etrigor? Why it appears to be an undead, demon centaur with nasty wings and a C.H.U.D. head—and he’s about the size of an elephant. Ladies and gentlemen this is why we love comics!

In comes Kull in a two page splash that looks great and says, “let’s rock.” He’s got an axe and with here a chop-chop and there a chop-chop he fights the monster. Some of the action panels are a little wonky, but, seriously, demon centaur! And Etrigor also likes to talk smack, before it’s all over we get a little insight that the old ones are coming and things are going to get rough for our King Kull. Kull actually cracks a joke and his men laugh, which is kind of cool in a Viking way, but then again laughing at the demon centaur probably isn’t the smartest move.

Homage, not Swiping:

No surprise, but Kull makes it through his first issue alive, but not before the table is set for this adaption of Howard’s Shadow Kingdom tales. If Etrigor and an issue that has multiple disembowelings and beheading is the warm up act how metal is the main attraction going to be? The Count doesn’t make it, the traitor beheads him and whips the trophy out of a box with a callback line of dialogue straight out of the Vault of Horror: “I didn’t harm a hair on his head like you ordered, but, and get this angry King with a sword, I cut his head off, so you know, technically—wait what are you doing, aaaaa!” Kull, who looks a lot like Valdimir Kulich in The 13th Warrior, is less than happy, and berates his advisor Tu, who looks a lot like Omar Sharif from the same Crichton flick, because the murder made him look bad and heavy is the head—blah, blah, blah, look, bad stuff’s going to happen, that’s the jist. Buckle up. (Seriously, what is with the face swipes from movies, like the earthquake chick in Fury’s Secret War—totally Angelina Jolie from Hackers!)

Some of the dialogue is crisp, some a little talky, some just corny like when Etrigor says he didn’t know men like Kull still existed. Kind of sounded like they were on a first date. They use a lot of old language and stuff, like coxcomb which totally sounds dirty. And scars, every body’s got scars, which is a nice touch; still it is a bit of a face scar convention.

Bottom line:

Kull number one comes out strong, fast paced, and enjoyable. I’m not trying to gush about this comic, but when you pick up a comic book these days and you get a demon centaur you feel like that cute girl remembered it was your birthday: “really? For me?” In a world of fantasy and a sci/fi comics that are short on action and story Kull number one wraps up three story arcs in one issue (plus: did I mention the demon centaur?). King Kull rules in this issue and if they match the fun next time the series should be good addition to any pull list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Secret Six: Review

DC has a long tradition of groups using the name “secret six,” but the most recent limited series may soon become the only team anyone remembers. Back in 2006, the first volume mixed with Villains United teaming Knockout (now dead), Catman, Rag Doll, Deadshot, and others under Scandal Savage, Vandal Savage’s lesbian daughter. But with the addition of a “reformed” Bane, the first two issues of Secret Six have far surpassed that overly busy title by combining the suicide squad’s caper stories with the always interesting character insight super-villain team-ups bring.

The Good: Issue one shot out of the gates with all four elements that make this a fun and interesting read. A freaky, mystery villain, plus actual character development, plus costumed crazies in a gritty, down to earth world, topped off with a decent sense of humor. “Junior” is the monstrous crime-boss who lives in a crate in the male strip-joint’s basement and is seriously messed up. For a character almost completely off-panel his impact is stunning—and the wrap up with him at issue one’s end reveals he’s even more off the chain than you thought! The Six (actually five) get lots of time to talk while going on an impossible mission to break Tarantula out of Alcatraz and fetch “the card,” some cosmic McGuffin that’s got Junior all in a tizzy. Catman, something of the lead, apparently went totally sick-house on some poachers in Africa and is all messed up about it. Scandal is grieving for her very dead girlfriend. Bane is suddenly a moralist mercenary. Rag Doll is the go-to comic relief as the seriously depraved and murderous fop. Deadshot is Deadshot, DC’s merc with a mouth. These extreme players occupy a world of ice-cream and strippers, vomit and skin-heads (for better or for worse); it’s a world with more four-letter words than Bawahhahahahaas! As ridiculous as a bunch of costumed psychos sitting around having birthday cake might be, unmasked and (sort of) human characters work better than a cartoony, legion of doom scene. They might not be super-realistic, but when Deadshot executed the Fiddler for being incompetent in 2006 the book carved out an edge for itself. That being said these characters could be played way too serious, instead the books are peppered with dark humor and one-liners. Black Manta charges them a rental fee to use his sub, Deadshot stops a robbery basically because they were doing it all wrong, and Ragdoll laments the loss of his “tackle.” (Also, they totally snuck in a dirty Catwoman joke). Good banter, and there’s some great pacing, like the reader figuring out what Mammoth’s “watch-thing” is just about the same time as the characters.

The Bad: There is a clash though between “real life” and humor. Issue two has Catman fighting Batman, supposedly to keep him busy, but there’s this whole “Batman ate a burrito” theme that is pretty dumb. 1) Catman you can bring down to earth, leave Batman alone. 2) Catman cannot hold his own with Batman. 3) How does the burrito pay off? Either it’s a joke and more “real life” stuff, or the Burrito is a major plot point, both are terrible results. 4) If you’re a character like Catman and you think you’re destiny to kill Batman, start coffin shopping. Otherwise, sometimes the jokes are too blunt, sometimes the grit is too gritty. Life’s not all vomit, strippers, and verbs ending in linguist. Being edgy is a fine line.

The Ugly: The artwork is pretty good. Feels a little rushed, but in world delayed books who can complain? Batman and Catman fighting in issue two look kind of Men’s Health: the Speedo Edition. With all the dismembering and cursing and daddy-issues, this book ain’t for the kiddies. And frankly, it’s one “Logan touting the Canadian health care system” from losing the magic. Edgy, fun, mildly insightful can all go “poof” when somebody sneaks in a message about Bane’s position on the Death Penalty. The rest is nit-picky. For example, the skin-heads in issue one, why are they skin-heads, how often do you hear about skin-heads on the news? Not nearly as often as you see them in comics. But when a soul-searching Catman is reminded he left an innocent woman at their mercy and leaps back into the store Wolverine-style, you get one little Skin-Head in the panel’s bottom left-side whispering, “Oh, my white Jesus.” I like to think they were skin-heads just for that line, and not some weird aversion to putting Black or Hispanic gangs in comics (Asians are fine apparently with the truckloads Marvel has).

Bottomline: Pulp-Fiction meets Taskforce X, with completely enjoyable dialogue and fun surprises, but you couldn’t live on it.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Profiles in Courage

I totally called this Friday. Powell endorsed Obama. I knew because if he had nothing to say he'd stay home, and he's not hawking any charity I know of recently. But to go on and endorse McCain? He'd have to have all the balls in the world. No if he's endorsing it was always Obama. And you can't fault him for being "electrified" by a black president, his life story is a reaffirmation of the American Dream and the civil rights movement. A black president? What better way to cap off the last 50 years?

So 1). We've reached the promised land (until anyone challenges any of Obama's ideas, then, like Palin, they are crypto-racist, because racial politics are only used by old white racists).

2) Powell goes down as the proto-Obama, whether he realizes it or not.

3) Powell is now has a line of credit with the party in power (and has figured out the GOP will never cut him loose because they are pathetically unable to attract minorities--despite the facts that the ruling power in America, and even longer in heavily African-American populations, has been Democrats since the 40s--and clings in a my-one-black-friend manner).

4) Powell is no longer Bush's man (or Uncle Tom if you a jerk lib).

5) It is the two point conversion after the touch down return from the fumble of the bailout. It's pile on time.

But this isn't about race? Obama is a "transformational figure." But it is not about race? So, Powell's for socialism? It is brave for him to come out for Obama, because frankly it was a political move which always has risks, but it is in no other way risky. And, sure, Obama is no weak canidate, but to say it is not about race, and you like McCain. And then to say, not that you prefer one as a voter, but that you are throwing your full support to one--and its not about race???? What is the other major difference that would matter to the Republican Icon? He said something about the Supreme Court--I'm brain-blanking on one darn issue he would fear so much to break with the GOP if the Democrat canidate was white.

Brave: endorsing Obama.
Braver: endorsing McCain.
Bravest: endorsing Obama and admiting it is about race but you can't say that because it undermines your endorsement.
Super-brave: Running back in 2000.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Man-Thing Returns

Ever read Man-Thing? Yeah, most didn’t, it seems. Man-Thing fits even less well into the mainstream of Marvel superheroes than the likes of Blade or Werewolf by Night. He protects this “nexus of realities” in a swamp, and "whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch." His better known brother, Swamp Thing, is no less esoteric, but Man-Thing is way weirder. Man-Thing is back in the new MAX imprint title Dead of Night.

Man-Thing vs. Swamp Thing is a battle from old times in geekdom. Most recently, Kung Fu Rodeo had a wonderful piece about the true origin and “who came first” question. Dating the idea back to a 1940s short-story and the infamous Solomon Grundy, KFR explores the muddy waters of origin. And more recently, KFR pointed out that, while Man-Thing beat his DC counterpart to press by a month in ’71, two months later a Man-Thing look alike sprung from the house Superman built—oddly, too close in time for a knock off! But the swamp monster cover is a simple formula: a monstrous creature rising from or escaping into the mire, plus shocked onlookers, often disheveled young women. Less effective when paired with the red and blue Spider-Man, Man-Thing’s vibe is a throw back to horror comics of yore.

And that’s where Dead of Night picks up. Borrowing a cover and narrator cloned from the pages of Vault of Horror, Dead of Night plays on a taste for the old school (at which point one might also mention the latest Mighty Avengers for its throwback style). The left side carries a “featuring” column of three headshots, the title bannered in solid blue, a quarter of the cover, in block white letters. Digger, a ghoulish grave digger (duh), tells the tale and sandwiches the issues; introducing the issue so faithfully to the style that his fade out literally ends with “…the Dead of Night.” A perfect setting for Man-Thing: not mainstream, not fantasy: horror; “fear” is emblazoned right on the cover!

Inside, the story is a bit too much like comics of yore, and even they had a “B” story at least. Four bucks gets you 16 to 17 pages of simple plot. While most Marvel books are struggling to fit an entire arc and the action into an issue, Dead of Night introduces murderers, introduces the next victim, there’s a twist, and then Man-Thing mops up in the time New Avengers takes to get through a telephone conversation. A lot of shoe leather in the panels, doubtlessly attempting mood, but one feels it is over a little quick at about 20 cents a page.

Brevity aside, this is an adult comic, and for the wrong reasons. Truly the villains’ deeds are not for kiddies, but not themes totally unexplored in more famous titles. Apparently, the cover warning allows characters, and—clumsily—the narrator, to drop the f-bomb a few times. Plus, we get a 50 cents piece-sized panel of a character changing clothes to allow nudity that’s less provocative than some panels in the frame story from the recent Mighty Avengers annual, or one second with a certain splash page (pun intended) from the late Dave Steven’s work on the Rocketeer. One imagines old mighty Joe clapping his hands in the bull-pen and shouting, “alright people, this is the MAX imprint, let’s nude it up a bit!”

But one must appreciate the not-so-subliminal word appearing in the big twist splash page. After, the infamous New X-men issue, one spends hours peering at swamp backgrounds and Man-Thing’s carrot-nose trying to find the secret messages. So far only one confirmed, but “Cheese Dip” or “Secret Message” is definitely ruled out (buy a back issue of Groo if you’re wondering). But this careful reading will disclose what is some subtle foreshadowing in the issue. An odd candle in the background, an out of place book, and an interesting choice of domestic pet are so carefully inserted you’ll be shocked you missed them.

There’s plenty to complain about: the tawdry plot points, the oddly muscled up Man-Thing, and the fact one villain dies completely off-panel and his body is never seen, but considering the long wait most horror fans have endured Dead of Night is a gritty and gory fix. Man-Thing kills with an unnatural strength that makes a guy with a carrot nose seem a little freaky again. Considering the patchwork of awfulness that was the Man-Thing made for TV Sci-Fi Channel movie, it’s nice to see the big guy get some good treatment. Even if Marvel feels it needs a few panels of exposed flesh to sell it, Man-Thing has returned…beware!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Scouting Report From DragonCon

At the end of August, there is a con. This con is not the biggest, but it is by no means small. Is this Dragon-con and it is open to one and all.

Seussian rhymes seem appropriate to describe my first time visit to the biggest Atlanta based con as the trip was a carefree mish-mash of genres with slightly disturbing subtext. Most of you have probably gone to the Labor Day weekend event, but I hadn’t because above all else, even fanboy-status, I’m cheap. And Dragon Con is not. But the chance to go for one day sprang up, and now I gift to those future noobs my basic working knowledge of waiting in line and what to expect. Practical gifts, like socks on Christmas. Garm was with me, and complained non-stop about every flaw, so, the mistakes I made are fresh in my mind. And if not, I can reference the enumerated email he sent me.

Race/Class/Profession:

Dragon Con is a four day-ish convention with sci-fi, fantasy, horror, anime/cartoons, cos-play (dressing up as characters only geeks recognize) and comics. About four hotels in the Hyaitt regency area host events in all their ball rooms, exhibit halls, and broom closets. You pay get a badge and start going to presentations, Q&As with actors, roundtable discussions, art exhibits, demonstrations, autograph signings, and other stuff I didn’t have enough time to see. It’s crowded and confusing and the guide book has a class on how to read the guide book. Seriously. Dragon Con is also a mix of Ren Fest, Halloween, a Trekkie Convention, and the of Comic Book Guy’s family reunion. Here’s the website, I suggest you read up and plan ahead because there’s too much confusion to just play it by ear. Oh, and waiting in line, plenty of that at popular events and registration.

There and Back Again:

You really do not want to drive back and forth with gas like it is, and with events going to the early morning in some cases. Securing local lodgings is a must. If you’re doing the whole con, register early and get a room in the area. I suggest printing your own maps from the internet for getting there and walking. Walking up is easy, as you can just follow the growing crowd of storm troopers and pirates, but finding the right building can be a time waster. Parking is amble, but drop the extra cash for a nearby spot because wandering back to the three dollar lot at night can be an adventure of its own. I departed the con to find a Romero-like unlit lot with scattered, lifeless bodies covering the concrete, which slowly stirred as we made our way to the car. This impromptu game of “don’t wake up the homeless” was super-fun, but all the same, probably something to avoid in the future.

The Mos Eisley Cantina:

So, while on my short-lived scouting trip I visited a number of events.
First, was the Q and A with Nathon Fillion and Alan Tudyk. Incredibly long wait to get in, but they didn’t start until both brown-coated super-fans and the rest of us muggles were in the cramped seating. The actors gave away signed prizes to the questioners and told funny stories. Very enjoyable and the con has many similar forums.

Next was the [adult swim] panel. First off, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer were sitting a few empty rows behind us, so, much to the embarrassment of Garm, I gave Doc the old “what’s up” wave/head nod and the Venture Bros. hand sign. The [adult swim] panel was dressed as dragons (well, as a 6 year old might be costumed as a dragon) and acted as if the event was a forum for human/dragon relations—absurd humor, but funny. Clips from next years line up were shown and then in-character questions were fielded. They run a tight PR ship because when nobody rushed to the microphone their staffer underlings quickly formed a line and started a heated back and forth about dragons, dragon porn, and golf. It was funny, but not an insightful discussion of the good-to-great television they make. I left thinking they must vacation in coal mines because their jobs seem to be nothing but cool and fun.

After a 20 dollar hamburger, we checked out the Cthulhu movie panel. Though a small forum, it was in some ways the most fun because the horror based panel, which included the comic book editor of Hellboy, echoed many of the same ideas and opinions about the horror genre one cannot just insert into everyday conversation without ending up on a government watch list. We got real substance, real insight, and a hopeful feeling that some people are trying to save the genre.

Last we popped into the animated history of Batman. In an extremely overcrowded room, fanboys showed and were shown clips from various Batman cartoons. It was mildly interesting, but by that time in the evening the beer had begun to flow like wine and nary a minute went by without someone throwing down a geek gauntlet.

Of course, the big draw for most nerds is the scores of scantily-clad costumed womens (most of who were, yet again, on the tattooed arm of some loser). I myself fell in love half a dozen times, but bravely brooded from afar so as to avoid the risk of losing my soul—damn this gypsy curse! After a subtle but concerted effort on my part to stay really late and study the effects of alcohol on the fanged, chainmailed, and fairy-winged sirens was rebuffed by Garm, I left feeling at the very least the con had social aspects which were well worth future exploration. As one veteran put it, “Dragon Con is the only place your prowess as a man will be judged by the size of your long-box.” Moreover, it’s a place where you’ll meet thousands of people that think your ability to completely reenact the movie Predator by yourself is a healthy, non-disturbing skill.

If you’ve never been to a con don’t wait like I did. Go, you’ll have some fun, you’ll see some cool stuff, and meet tons of people with similar interests. As for Dragon con, with some planning more in depth than mine, it’s a good time for all manner of geeks and freaks—just try not to stare.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Golf Clap

Dude, you're doing something very, very right:
NEW CASTLE — A report of a family fight Wednesday afternoon in New Castle didn't turn out to be what police expected.

A nine-year-old girl called 911 after she awoke from a nap and heard her mother screaming. She went to her mother's bedroom and thought her mother was being attacked.

Turns out, her parents were just enjoying marital relations.

But the New Castle Police Department responded to the little girl's call, and even filed a report, noting "Mom and Daddy were involved in a romantic moment and daughter mistook them as fighting."
I think I'd carry a copy of that report around in my wallet. . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, We're Alive


One of my two possible endorsements this year. I just can't narrow it down. . . more later.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Inside Joke in Bones Finally

So, David Boreanaz from Angel fame is reading a comic book in the bath tub in the last episode of Bones. He's reading Green Lantern. He did the voice for Hal Jordan for New Frontier and he's been a maybe on the star of the live action. Just innocent fun or an omen? Anyway, that's an excuse to post this.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New Frontier and other bed-time stories for the New Left

Justice League: The New Frontier is the animated adaption of “DC: The New Frontier.” This late 50s period piece re-tells the Golden Age transition to Silver Age, with political themes. JL: TNF is a revisionist DC history for comics and America—a love letter to circa 1960 comics and the New Left’s rise.

Beautiful Kirby-like models and editing make a well-paced geek-fest. Great actors; Jeremy Sistro vocalizes Batman with his chilling, dark tone. Timm and Cooke trim the comics to a brisk, faithful film—almost too faithful, with no big surprises. The villainous Centre speaks continuously through crazies, tying storylines together. There are no“this is Sparta!” moments, but numerous DCU cameos.

In this re-imagined age, the gov’ment persecutes masked heroes threatening the status quo during the so-called “Red Scare.” Many may be surprised the era’s establishment was the Democrats. AG Palmer, HCUA’s Hart, and even RFK hunted communists. These heroes stand in for activists and revolutionaries, the socialists pushing the democrats left and ushering in the Kennedy presidency.

The New Left was, with others, in the civil rights movement, and in the book the hammer wielding John Henry fought the KKK. In the movie, J’onn J’onzz takes the role as the mistreated outsider or subversive: fearing our xenophobia, his people viewed as a threat, yet won over by King Faraday’s secret hope for some utopian future.

Cooke calls it going from John Wayne to Paul Newman, with Rick Flagg representing the old traditionalists and Hal Jordan being the new enlightened hero. In Korea, Jordan would not fire on MiGs, doubting the goal was worth killing or dying. Odd, considering millions lived because the US stalemated the North. Flagg and Jordan’s space mission goes awry and the secret WMD arsenal threatens the planet. Flagg’s answer is self-destruction, pushing the proverbial big, red button. Jordan, the youthful hero, fights, attempting to land the symbolic “Ship of State.”

Superman is in the middle—an uneasy establishment agent. In the book, he’s working inside for change. Largely sidelined, he finally demands the Left’s metaphorical factions rally to stop the Centre.

A laser-belching, flying island means something. Cooke claims the Centre is communism. A fair metaphor, since socialists, while sharing communists ideals, historically have resisted politely. This monster is an island onto itself, populated with dinosaurs; opposed to human progress. Perhaps, the Centre is the status quo/political-center. Either way, the Centre is destroyed by shrinking it and destabilizing it—there’s an analogy.

"There are no Democrats, no Republicans. No hawks, no doves," King Faraday pronounces as the reconciled Left marches The Right Stuff style into battle. This sums up the ridiculous notion non-Democrats had any power in the late 50s. The enlightened, pacifist hero that wouldn’t kill for freedom or suffering, rejects the Centre’s self-declared dominance, “the Centre will hold,” and wills the world safe for the nanny-state.

The book and the movie’s montage ending echo with JFK’s speech. Interestingly, the JFK Library website’s transcript does not mirror the audio. This source’s errors are repeated in the book, and both works’ completely delete whole passages. These deletions show JFK heralding liberalism/socialism and attacking Communism. The italics lines are from the movie:

…the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their own lives to build our new West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, nor the prisoners of their own price tags. They were determined to make that new world strong and free, an example to the world, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

The line: “Their motto was not "every man for himself"--but ‘all for the common cause,’” JFK did not say though quoted in the book.

Today some would say that those struggles are all over – that all the horizons have been explored – that all the battles have been won – that there is no longer an American frontier. … and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier – the frontier of the 1960's the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. … Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. … But I believe the times require imagination and courage and perseverance. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of ageto all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”

The book keeps “poverty and surplus” and the Scripture quote. Both omit lines attacking promised futures, “where taxes are always low and subsidies ever high.” JFK asks, “…whether this nation … can compete with the single-minded advance of the Communist system.” This omitted anti-communist line changes the speech’s context.

Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction, but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men’s minds?

JFK never said the next part, "Are we up to the task--are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future--or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present?" The book drops the Russian bit. JFK’s answer to these challenges was “all for the common cause”—matching the Russian philosophy?!—no wonder he skipped it!

That is the question of the New Frontier. …a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort – between national greatness and national decline – between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy” – between dedication and mediocrity.

Not in the movie. The “two parties” line is not in the book; removing the words partisanship.

All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. And we cannot fail that trust. And we cannot fail to try.

Both works pick and chose, eliminating the Cold War context and promoting gilded exhortations for collectivism and socialistic reform. Doubtless this reading is disputable, but —much like this article—clearly there is some message. The audience can digest it themselves, if they acknowledge they are, in fact, being fed something. Otherwise they may just swallow it whole.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Superman Says, "Buy Acme Brand Products!"

So, we've all seen this Stride Gum ad where the long-lasting flavor bring sales to a stand still.



Not a bad series of TV spots; funny, ironic, and they even have one ad exploring a character's deja vu of being stuck in the ad cycle.

But now they have really done it. Last, Thursday's Smallville was one long Stride ad. See, Smallville likes to have s little fun playing around with some origins--often fake-outs that geeks may enjoy or groan at. So, they whip out a little diddy about "plastic man" (who isn't the well-known one) tying in with the return of Pete Ross, and--trumpets--Stride gum. Ross chews some kryptonite infused Stride gum and, of course, becomes stretchy (a trans-flesh in Ultimate-U parlance). He found it in an abandoned Stride factory where a band he was roadying for was playing.
Clark: "That place is closed down already?!"
Chloe: "Maybe next time they won't make the flavor last so long."
I. Kid. You. Not.

As Ross departed, he pops one more piece of gum into his gob, holds the product face-out like it was a pack of Mentos, and heaves it at a smiling pretty girl. I like to think of the ad men that came up with this as floating leg-crossed around board room table in a Zen-like peace. This is one of those things that so transcends retarded that it comes out the other end as genius. Retarded? Retarded like a fox.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A+ B Movies

The Last Boy Scout is a "love it or hate it" kind of movie. But, whether one of the Die Hard sequel scripts that didn't make it or just a zany buddy cop movie, this movie has nothing if not great lines. Somebody had to watch this before Die Hard 3, because the banter is like some beta-rough draft. Halle Berry, Damon Wayans, and Bruce Willis turn in a classic that is so "B" it can break most rules.

So, Willis is a private detective and former Secret Service agent that got canned for hitting a congressman. He's hired by a former pro-football player's stripper girlfriend (Berry) for protection. Turns out she was messing around with the team owner who was doing dirty deals with said congressman.

6 or 7 murders later, one committed by Willis, the game's afoot at a the football stadium. But the real greatness lies in the concept of the man against a world of evil. Willis is from a different world--a world of honor and duty--but we meet him after the real world has broken him and his family. Perhaps some conservative fantasy, the violent action strips away the modern baggage and reconnects him with his family on the basic level of protector. It is vintage, world weary anti-hero Willis wrapped in a twisting, crazy plot. It ain't Shakespeare, but hits with two fists of action and comedy in the head and the gut.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Can't Resist . . .

posting this picture, mostly because I can imagine this conversation actually taking place:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Geek Parodies

Parody of geek favorites has maybe hit an all time high these days. On Adult Swim you have the Venture Brothers and Robot Chicken hammering out laughs about everything from the Fantastic Four to He-Man. Recently, Family Guy did an hour long parody of Star Wars: A New Hope. Truly, you can find many parodies on-line, but let's take a second to look at two geeky parodies that are better than good.

First up, Seanbaby.com; this little site is pretty R-rated, dirty but also very funny.
Think David Spade or Dennis Miller ripping on the Superfriends.He's got about three sections on comic stuff and some more on video games. One section focuses on those old Hostess Fruit Pie ads that use to be in comic books. In the ads, some hero would defeat some villain in a couple of panels by occupying them and their murderous urges with the irresistible taste of jelly filled pastries. To the right of the bit-o-seventies-craziness is Seanbaby's commentary. Here's a chime-in from Doom himself, which nails these strange ads:

"Doom admits he cannot conceive of how the Trapster's plan failed. It had all things necessary - a nondescript henchman who is distracted with food, a metal base with no personnel or defenses, and doors that are easily punched off their hinges. Doom feels the only thing missing from its perfection was an air vent leading from the outside directly to the central control room. Oh yes-- a tiny flying robot who beeps hello and occasionally bonks into walls and makes weeping sounds might be nice."

If that's not enough, Seanbaby.com has a section on old, insane, racist, or just plain dumb ads from comic book yore with commentary and ratings. But the best is the SuperFriends page. He has video clips and funny character profiles, plus little one panel strips made from screen captures. One goes something like:

Lex Luthor: I have just invented the bathrobe!

Grodd: Bathrobe? What does it do?

Lex: When worn by gorillas the bathrobe renders them not (bleep)ing naked! Just look at you! Sitting there all naked!

Good stuff!

Another parody is a bit more esoteric. Calls for Cthulu is a YouTube show and blog. It's based on the fiction of guy named H. P. Lovecraft. If you don't know of him you've probably at least seen horror films deeply influenced by his work like In the Mouth of Madness. Cthulu is an "alien god,” and giant monster with an octopus face. He’s sleeping under most of the Pacific Ocean and he wants to eat your soul! Well, sort of, that’s the dime version.

In Calls, Cthulu runs a call-in talk show. The whole premise is that this inescapable horror is a dishing out advice and answering questions for average joes. He slips from ranting madly about rivers running red with blood and madness engulfing humanity to breaking down how long to wait to call girl you met. He also bags on the evil god of Scientology who video links in to take his abuse.

You kind of have to have met a Cult of Cthulu role playing freak to understand what a great send up these videos makes. Cthulu is an unfathomable “elder god” whose rise means the complete destruction of mankind and he’s giving out T-Shirts for any of us that make past the first wave. Calls takes a deep, rich mythology and brilliantly applies satire. Not sure if it has legs, but this parody takes something many people take waaaayyy too seriously and craps all over it--in a manner that's fun for all concerned.

Howitshouldhaveended.com is a another video site. Their website might take awhile to load, but HISHE is on YouTube as well. It parodies a number of mainstream movies, but it also hits movies like Superman, Spider-Man 3, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. Now, one can easily find funny comic parodies on sites like YouTube or Newgrounds, but its the premise that makes parodies solid gold. In HISHE, they make fun of the entire movie by questioning the ending. Like in Superman, the movie establishes early on that he's essentially a demi-god and then Luthor threatens him with two missiles. In the HISHE version, he hilariously dispatches the danger and then spends the rest of his time having coffee with Batman. The ending is the keystone to any good movie, and by completely undermining it HISHE has a premise that seems to work as long as Hollywood keeps cranking out the movies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nothing Racist About This

Hendrik Hertzberg:
"To deal first with the obvious: Rice may be “only” the second woman and the second African-American to be Secretary of State, but she is indisputably the highest-ranking black female official ever to have served in any branch of the United States government. Her nomination to a constitutional executive office would cost McCain the votes of his party’s hardened racists and incorrigible misogynists. They are surely fewer in number, though, than the people who would like to participate in breaking the glass ceiling of race or gender but, given the choice, would rather do so in a more timid way, and/or without abandoning their party. And with Rice on the ticket the Republicans could attack Clinton or Obama with far less restraint."
First off, what hardened racists? I've met many a repub and they never introduced themselves as hardened racists, there are no "plantation republicans" like the log cabin republicans. But see how it is written "his party's hardened racists." Not "lose the votes of hardened racists who might otherwise vote republican," no, the GOP's full racists and misogynists, like we seat a delegation of klansmen at the convention.

But that aside what is with these lines:
"given the choice, would rather do so in a more timid way, and/or without abandoning their party. And with Rice on the ticket the Republicans could attack Clinton or Obama with far less restraint."
So, let me get this striaght. 1) Rice is a timid breakthrough. Is this because she's some uncle tom, or does this writer wish to suggest that a VP spot is a "timid" breakthrough? Is she somehow more "safe" for us cross-burning types? 2) So, then Rice allows us to attack the black guy and the woman in ways we couldn't get away with otherwise? Something like following up a prejudiced joke with "some of my best friends are black?" Wow. Just wow. Oh. Oh, wait there more--he's got a little more bile--wait a sec.

"Choosing Rice would be a trick. Her failures would be buried in an avalanche of positive publicity... But the trick would not be an entirely cynical one. Her ascension, though nowhere near as momentous a breakthrough as the election of Obama or Clinton, would be a breakthrough all the same. In this connection, a kind word for George W. Bush may be in order. By appointing first Colin Powell and then Rice to the most senior job in the Cabinet, a job of global scope, Bush changed the way millions of white Americans think about black public officials. This may turn out to the most positive legacy of his benighted Presidency."
So, again she's not momentous, not exactly clear why, but she would be wrongly greeted as a positive when the truth is she's part of the benighted "junta." In fact, she's the only good thing Bush ever did! She's less than Hill or Obama, she's failed, she's a shield for race-baiting, but she's the best thing Bush ever did.

Dude! That was the political equivalent of kung-fu kicking five guys at once! What's a thank-you card like from this guy? "I didn't need the help, and you could have done better, but considering your retardation, this was fine work which my moron boss likes... PS: you're ugly."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Angel: After the Fall





















I know I'm not the first person to point it out. But I looked for the article I read about it and couldn't find it, so I'm writing my own article.

Angel: After the Fall is pretty good. The next book's cover (one of them) will mirror the JLI number one cover. It is an interesting choice. Justice League International, as it came to be known, was an odd-ball version with a wierd humor.

Clearly, some match-ups are visual: blue Beetle's goggles and Wesley's eye-glasses, or Lorne and the Martian Manhunter because of the green skin. But there might be more. Guy Gardner and Angel, well he had to be up-front, but also Guy Gardner was one of two chosen to be earth's protector, and he kind of resented the other guy.

Take Gwen and Illyria. Both could have taken the place of Dr. Light, but Illyria stands in for the mystically powered Dr. Fate--a fit for her but not for Gwen. Dr. Light and Gwen can both control a basic force of nature. Oberon the dwarf and Gru don't really jive except they are both bit characters.

Most interestingly is Gunn as Mister Miracle. Whedon has written every issue full of twists until finally he's going to need an escape artist to get the heroes out of this one. It just screams confidence and that's good because I'll need greatness from Angel since Buffy is now gay--for like no reason what-so-ever.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Oh Great

So now if I have one too many arguments over whether or not I actually own the bed, need my hands while driving, or own the pizza I just paid for, I may end up not being allowed to go within 1000 feet of my own home? Oh, that's just super.

Hey, Spot, see how far that restraining order gets you when you realize I put the food in the laundry room and you don't have the opposable thumbs necessary to open the door. Yeah, that's right. Beg! Beg for me to come back.

Friday, February 29, 2008

An All-Stoner Iraqi Army?*

Apparently so. According to this Military.com article, the Iraqi Army plans on phasing out their existing stock of venerable old Kalashnikov-designed AK-47 to the, well, less-old but updated Stoner-designed M-16/M-4.
In a move that could be the most enduring imprint of U.S. influence in the Arab world, American military officials in Baghdad have begun a crash program to outfit the entire Iraqi army with M-16 rifles.

[. . . ]

So far, the U.S. military has helped the Iraqi army purchase 43,000 rifles - a mix of full-stock M-16A2s and compact M-4 carbines. Another 50,000 rifles are currently on order, and the objective is to outfit the entire Iraqi army with 165,000 American rifles in a one-for-one replacement of the AK-47.
Now I must admit that the first thing that jumped out at me in the article was this:
"We in the U.S. know that the M-16 is superior to the AK ... it's more durable," said Army Col. Stephen Scott, who's in charge of helping the Iraqi army get all the equipment it needs to outfit its forces.
Wait, what!?! Well, with regular maintenance it might (and that's a big "might") be a push, but c'mon. It's an AK, which has well over half a century of well-documented legendary resilience in the most deplorable conditions imaginable. However, there's a caveat to Col. Scott's statement, which hopefully will quell the never-ceasing, often-tiresome, and usually-good natured argument over which platform is better:
Scott added the mass of AK-47s from various manufacturers floating through the Iraqi army's inventory could cause maintenance and reliability problems. Getting both U.S. and Iraqi forces on the same page when it comes to basic weaponry is part of the argument for M-16 outfitting.

"I'm also a fan of AKs," Scott said. "But keep in mind most of these AKs have been sitting around in bunkers or whatnot for 30 or 40 years [and] are in various stages of disrepair."
OK, so it won't quell the arguments, but if it's true that the AK's the IA has now are falling apart (and a lack of maintenance and/or years of use/abuse will do that to any machine) then yeah, there's a need to replace exisiting arms. Why the M-16/M-4 family, though? First the positives, at least as I see them.

For starters, the M-16/M-4 is certainly more accurate than the AK-47 family; I've never talked with anyone who seriously disputes that. For the IA trainers on the ground, be they SF, Regular Army/Marine personnel, or civilian contractors, the task of training the IA is made much easier by having a universal platform with which the trainers are intimately familiar. For U.S. troops, knowing that the "good" Iraqis are the ones with M-16's will hopefully make friendly-fire incidents easier to avoid. . . at least until some of the new weapons fall into insurgent hands. Ideally, and this is touched upon in the original article, we or the IA will be able to trace any M-16's that fall into insurgent hands back to the units to which they were issued via serial numbers or other identifying marks. Additionally, and these points may be a bit niggling, the M-16 is lighter, easier to reconfigure for mission-specific roles, has less felt-recoil and better ergonomics (easier to shoot well), and, as mentioned above, uses the same ammunition and (obviously) parts that are already in the U.S. supply chain.

A further point, as Grim over at BLACKFIVE points out, is that this further cements a still newly-born modern Iraq with the west, at least as far as military-industrial supply chains and politics go:
Envision an army trained by the United States, with extensive counterinsurgency experience, an internal structure increasingly in line with the NATO standard (cf. the new NCO academy) -- an Arab, Muslim army that integrates Sunnis and Shi'ites in cooperation toward a goal of a modern state open to peaceful trade and prosperity. Now imagine this army in a future world with a happier Iraq, and no longer needing such large force numbers internally. Now imagine that army can tie into NATO supply chains, and partially deploy in support of future Coalitions dealing with further COIN operations -- an army that, like the army of El Salvador, remembers kindly American sacrifices that brought its people out of tyranny and chaos.

We've talked a lot about what future challenges face the world. Imagine what that army would be worth, in a decade or two. What investment would be worth having that army, that ally?
I admit I'm not too sure about such optimism; after all, I'm negative by nature. But hey, a future Iraqi army, well-trained and equipped by us, going on to help other oppressed peoples at least sounds good.

So that's the good; what about the bad things regarding the replacement of all IA AK's with M-16's or M-4's? There's the weapon itself; it's just not as well-designed from a reliability standpoint as the Kalashnikov family of weapons. Yeah, it's all that great stuff I mentioned above, but unless the troops are very well-disciplined regarding weapons maintenance, those slick new M-16's are going to crap out in a hurry in a small-parts-hostile environment such as Iraq. U.S. troops have to clean their weapons at least daily; after all, not having a working gun in a free-fire zone would really, really suck. Will the Iraqi Army be as diligent? I grant that this is a training issue; hopefully with the right kind of basic and refresher training, such problems can be alleviated, especially if the eventual withdrawal of U.S. personnel involves transitioning the IA into all Counter-Insurgency roles with embedded U.S. personnel advising IA units.

Then there's the much-derided cartridge/caliber of the M-16/M-4/AR-15 family: 5.56MM NATO. Yes, it's flat-shooting. Yes, it has a higher velocity than the AK-47's 7.62x39MM. Yes, it's an inherently more accurate cartridge than the 7.62x39. Yes, it has better range than the 7.62x39. Yes, under optimal conditions and good shot placement, it can instantly incapacitate or kill. . . though at shorter ranges the 7.62x39 has more inherent stopping power.** But is a 1/2 MOA difference in accuracy really worth the decrease in familiarity, the cost of procurement, decrease in reliability, and shorter-range stopping power?

And why the M-16, with it's rather notorious operating system? Why not use something along the lines of HK416 or any of the other piston-driven M16 derivatives that use the same magazines and most of the parts of the M-16? After all, if we ignore the ammunition issue for the moment, why not use an M-16 derivative that uses an operating system that plays a huge role in the AK's afore, and oft-mentioned reliability?

Well, the SECOND thing that jumped out at me in the Military.com article was something that wasn't there: who exactly is going to benefit from this armament transition? Well, considering Colt and FN make the majority of U.S. military small arms, I'd say Colt and FN. Especially in light of what Confederate Yankee found regarding Colt and The Hill:
Colt had relied on a series of lobbyists in Washington, but now [Colt President] Keys, a decorated veteran who played an important role in the 1991 Gulf War, has taken on more of those responsibilities himself.

"I knew a lot of guys up on the Hill," he said, referring to Congress. Among those is Rep. John Murtha, the powerful Pennsylvanian who is the highest-ranking Democrat on the House defense appropriations subcommittee.

Keys' uncle, Thomas Morgan, also represented western Pennsylvania in the House and served as mentor to Murtha when he first arrived in Congress in 1974.

"You couldn't have a better guy than him, with his experience," Murtha said of Keys. "When he tells you something, you can take it to the bank. No matter how good a lobbyist is, talking to the president of the company means more."

Oh, well, that's great. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for American businesses making money, but how much of the Iraqi Army decision was swayed by the U.S. Government and how much was the U.S. Government swayed by lobbyists? As Confederate Yankee says, it's not a smoking gun, but it's certainly something to ponder.

I'll adjust my tinfoil hat a bit here, but speaking of large government contracts and the Iraqi's switching out their small arms, what about SAW's and crew-served weapons? Are we going to be replacing all those RPK and PK machine guns as well? I wonder if FNH-USA is about to get a large order for M-249's and M-240's. Again, something to think about.

So, is the Iraqi Army getting the best tool for the job and are we getting our money's worth? Only time will tell; but I can't help but get a sour taste in my mouth.

*No, I couldn't resist the horrible pun. I can't help it.
**I'm speaking of mil-spec, full metal jacket ammunition of course; the hollow-points et al. available to civilians in the U.S. is another matter entirely.