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Posts by Probe
And we’re back.
There are a lot of Batman comics.
After my last post I realized that I never actually talked about Batman, the character. Sure I spoke about some of the stories he’s starred in, but I never actually bothered to explain the actual premise of those stories. I guess I figured I didn’t need to.
So let me correct this: Batman’s a dude who saw his parents get shot and then devoted the rest of his life to being the coolest person alive so he stop all crime forever via punching.
And so naturally he’s become one of the most iconic and beloved creations of the last century.
Don’t let that statement fool you, I genuinely think Batman is the greatest. But there’s this thing you need to know when you transition from the bigger iconic stories and graphic novels into the current monthly series: There are a fuckload of characters that spinoff from Batman. This month DC will put out a total of 12 new Batman related books, and that doesn’t even cover all of the trades, reprints and guest appearances.
The Batman books are a little more interwoven than the rest of the DC books, so I think it’s a good idea to get at least a passing knowledge with some of the spinoff cast (aka: cast with their own books). So for each character I’ll give a brief into, a “classic” story and an easy current starting point for the character. I was going to save the current starting points for DC until the last article, but with so many characters, it fits to do it here.
Now Ranked more or less by importance/how much I like them/when I remember them, The Bat-Family:
Bruce Wayne (Batman I):
Summary: He’s Batman.
Classic Stories: See Last Article
Modern Starting Point: Batman and Son
Dick Grayson (Robin I, Nightwing II, Batman III):
Summary: The first Robin, introduced in 1940. You’re probably already familiar with the character in some form. Basically, Dick was part of a family of circus aerialists and when he was 8-12 (his age retroactively changes quite often) his parents were killed by gangster Tony Zucco during a performance. Bruce Wayne was in the audience during the performance and chose to take in the boy. Eventually Dick found out Bruce’s big secret and demanded to be involved, so Batman trained him until he deemed him ready for action, at which point he went out as the original teen sidekick: Robin.
Being around almost as long as Batman, there are quite a lot of Dick Grayson stories, but what’s important to know is that he fought crime alongside Batman for years until an argument over an injury/a fight with Clayface/Bruce’s cold, demanding ways led them to part ways. Dick later adopted the identity of Nightwing, which was what Superman called himself when he tried to fight crime without powers in the bottle city of Kandor. He’s also a founding member and former leader of the Teen Titans.
As Nightwing he operated on his own in the city of Bludhaven, but the city blew up, so you don’t have to worry about that.
When it appeared that Batman had died, he reluctantly took up the cowl himself, and when Bruce returned, he stayed the Batman of Gotham City while Bruce went around the world on a new mission. Despite all of this he still has a brighter disposition than Bruce.
He’s going back to being Nightwing in September
Classic Stories: Robin Year One, Nightwing Year One, Nightwing: Freefall
Modern Starting Point: Batman and Robin vol. 1: Batman Reborn
Summary: He’s The Commissioner of Police. Been there sine the very first issue. Last good man in Gotham is sometimes his tag, though take it with a grain of salt.
Classic Stories: Batman Year One
Modern Starting Point: Detective Comics #871
Barbara Gordon (Batgirl I, Oracle:)
Summary: Gordon’s daughter (sometimes) and the first Batgirl. She started fighting crime on her own to help her father. She was later paralyzed from the waste down by the Joker in The Killing Joke. After that, she became Oracle, the high tech information trafficker for the Superhero community. She even has her own team of Charlie’s Angels called the Birds of Prey to run missions for her.
She’ll be Batgirl again in September
Classic Stories: Batgirl Year One, JLA vol. 4: Strength in Numbers, Birds of Prey
Modern Starting Point: Birds of Prey #1 (2010)
Damian Wayne (Robin V):
Summary: the genetically enhanced and expertly trained 10 year old son of Batman and Talia (the daughter of villain Ra’s Al Ghul and now a villain herself). He’s a recent addition, but he’s gone through a lot in the 5 years since his creation. Started off as an elitist upper class asshole with 10 year old’s idea of what Badass means. He was raised to replace Batman and lead Ra’s crime empire, and when was first introduced he didn’t really understand anything of what it actually mean to be Batman and Robin, going as far as breaking Batman’s #1 rule.
But after Batman was believed dead, Dick took him in and gave him the Robin identity, and the gold has been in seeing his interplay with Dick, which reverses the formula of the grim Batman and the smiling Robin. Through his adventures as Robin you see him start to learn what it really means to be a hero and to help people. I think he’s one of the best additions to the Batman books in years.
Classic Stories: He showed up 5 years ago. Just start from his first appearance in Batman and Son and then continue to Batman and Robin
Modern Starting Point: What I just said
Oh fuck, I just realized how many more we have to go. Let’s shorten this up a bit.
Selina Kyle (Catwoman):
Summary: Thief and sometimes girlfriend to Batman. Occasionally protects the east side of Gotham
Classic Stories: Selina’s Big Score, Catwoman (2001): Pretty much the whole series, there was a lot of good in those 82 issues
Modern Starting Point: Gotham City Sirens #1, Batman Inc #1
Tim Drake (Robin III, Red Robin)
Classic Stories: Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying
Modern Starting Point: Red Robin: The Grail
Stephanie Brown (Spoiler, Robin IV, Batgirl III)::
Summary: Daughter of a small time villain who decided to become a vigilante. Annoying, inexperienced and eager to prove herself to everyone. Had her own identity, briefly became Robin when Tim Drake left the role, was fired from being Robin, started a gang war to prove herself, died, came back, became Batgirl.
Classic Stories: uh…
Modern Starting Point: Batgirl #1 (2009)
The Gotham City Police Department:
Summary: The cops that have to deal with the boiling insanity that is Gotham city while having a bunch of vigilante’s coming in and doing their jobs. Notable members include: Harvey Bullock, Maggie Sawyer.
Classic Stories: Gotham Central
Modern Starting Point: Detective Comics #871
Rene Montoya (Question II):
Summary: GCPD officer who quit after the death of her partner. Met the original Question, a philosopher vigilante, who helped her work through her self destructive behavior. She took up his identity when he died of Lung Cancer.
Classic Stories: Gotham Central, 52
Modern Starting Point: The Question: Pipeline
Kate Kane (Batwoman II):
Summary: Daughter of a military family who lost her mother and sister after being taken hostage when she was a child. Kicked out of the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she found a new purpose to serve in Batman. So using her Father’s connections and Step-Mother’s money she trained herself to become Batwoman.
Classic Stories:Batwoman: Elegy
Modern Starting Point: Batwoman #0
Michael Lane (Azreal II):
Summary: A former cop tortured by one of Batman’s enemies, becoming a villain himself until he donned some cursed armor that belonged to an ancient cult and began waging a holy war on crime.
Classic Stories: He was only created in 2007
Modern Starting Point: Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight
Jean Paul Valley (Batman II, Azreal I)
Summary: Raised into a killing machine named Azreal by the same cult who had Lane’s armor, he later broke free of their brainwashing and began helping Batman. When Bruce broke his back, Jean Paul was asked to step in as Batman. As Batman, he began to lose his mind, reverting back to the cult’s programming. He was a violent, murderous Batman and Bruce took him down and took back the costume and identity. Afterwards he regained his sanity and began helping Batman under the Azreal name again until he died in the line of duty
Classic Stories: Batman: Knightfall
Modern Starting Point: He’s dead.
Jason Todd (Robin II, Red Hood II):
Summary: Second Robin, was taken in by Batman after he tried to steal the tires off the batmobile. Was whiny, annoying, and eventually murderous. Was voted to die via phone poll. Came back anyway 15 years later. Is still annoying and murderous.
Classic Stories: Problem with Jason Todd is that all of his “classic stories” that are actually in print are not very good. So just read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s For The Man Who Has Everything, which is the best story Jason Todd has ever been in.
Modern Starting Point:
Red Hood: Lost Days, Batman and Robin vol. 1: Batman Reborn
Kathy Kane (Batwoman I)
Summary: Rich circus-owning widow who was inspired by Batman early in his career. Has only recently been brought into post crisis canon (I’ll get to that soon).
Classic Stories: None really
Modern Starting Point: Batman INC #4
Helena Bartinelli (Huntress II)
Summary: Man, I REALLY don’t care about Huntress.
Editor’s Note: “I know you don’t care about the huntress, but you should probably at least explain who she is a little”
*sigh* Yeah, okay. The Daughter of an Italian crime family. When her family was murdered she swore vengeance and patterned herself after Batman and his ilk. Occasionally kills. Clashes with the rest of the Batfamily over ethics, but is often desperate for their approval. She’s a school teacher by day and one of Oracle’s Birds of Prey
Classic Stories: Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood
Modern Starting Point: Birds of Prey #1 (2010)
The Batmen of All Nations and Batman Incorporated
Summary: Many years ago, a group of men who were all inspired by Batman came together to form a short-lived super hero group. Now, Bruce Wayne is recruiting like-minded vigilantes from across the world and offering them the resources and even name of Batman in preparation for a coming danger that only Bruce knows about.
Some notable members include Knight and Squire, the batman and robin of England, and Gaucho, the Batman of Argentina.
Classic Stories: Batman: The Black Glove
Modern Starting Point: Batman Inc #1
Summary: Sometimes a crazed fan from the 5th dimension, sometimes a drug enduced hallucination.
Classic Stories: Batman: Brave and The Bold Season 1, Episode 19: “Legends of the Dark Mite”
Modern Starting Point: Batman RIP
Terry McGuiness (Batman BEYOND)
Summary: The Batman of… THE FUTURE! In a world where Bruce Wayne has retired, Terry, a former street tough becomes Batman after the murder of his father. Working with an elderly Wayne, he fights the eerily familiar threats of Neo-Gotham
Classic Stories: The Batman Beyond television series
Modern Starting Point: Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond
Christ. Well now you have a little bit of reference for all of the Spinoff Batman characters. And man, I didn’t even get into the villains. And holy shit, the villains are plentiful and often star in the stories. Luckily for me, around the time The Dark Knight came out DC put out a mini series called Joker’s Asylum, which was a series of one shots, each giving a complete story about a different villain. They also published a sequel the following year. Those two volumes are a good starting point for most of the murderous ghouls in Batman’s life.
Next: Superman. Believe it or not, it’s going to get even more complicated.
If it’s good, I’ll buy it, if it’s bad I wont.
Day and Date Digital is good though
Maru: So I recently (read an hour or so ago) watched a great movie called Collateral with my bud Probe. And we both loved it.
Maru: Man, what really got me in Collateral was how well Tom Cruise played the villain. They had all kinds of creepy close up shots of his face in here.
Probe: Like I said while we were watching the movie, Tom Cruise always has a perpetual stone-cold sociopath face going on, this movie just finally decided to take advantage of that with long close up shots.
This was my second viewing of this movie, my first was when it just hit dvd in 2004. I went in only half remembering it, but liking what I remembered. This time around I noticed so much more, for better and worse.
Want to start going through the plot and give our thoughts as we go Maru?
Maru: Yeah, this was my second time watching it as well. First time on DVD though. But the synopsis sounds like as good a start as any. It starts out simple enough, a taxi driver in L.A. named Max, played by Jamie Foxx, picks up a lawyer going in to work on a case for the next day. They flirt, and she gives him her number. This is where he picks up Vincent, played by Tom Cruise.
And this, as they say, is where the fun starts.
Probe: The first thing I noticed this time around were the aerial shots. There’s a long sequence at the very beginning which introduces our three main players with very little dialogue all while showing as much of L.A. as possible. For a movie that’s more or less about driving, they sure went out of their way to create not only a sense of atmosphere with the setting, but to create a sense of understanding and familiarity with the audience. All of the driving sequences in this movie are cinematic joy.
But yes, we see our two main characters, Max Foxx), and Vincent (Cruise) start their day in L.A. Max walks through his routine with a clear familiarity and ease while Vincent is shown as uncomfortable and gawky. After that, Max gives a ride to Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) and here we see Max’s taxi-cab-confessional style of interaction established. It was a cute sequence where Max gets Pinkett’s character to open up about her job and insecurities, but compared to the other two stars batting for the fence, Pinkett’s character seems a little flat and expected, but that’s just as much to do with the script as it does the performance.
Before we move on: how weird was that bit with Jason Statham showing up for no reason?
Maru: It was weird one way, and in another it was kind of cool, a very Jason Statham role, even though he didn’t do much in the movie. Speaking of those aerial shots, not only do they give a sense of atmosphere, they’re also a way for the audience to get a general sense of what time certain scenes take place at. As the movie goes on, the streets start to get emptier and emptier, until Max’s cab is pretty much alone on the streets.
But anyways, more plot. Vincent convinced Max to drive him around all night, saying that he’s in town to finish some business and talk to a few friends. This story falls apart once a dead guy, shot by Vincent and pushed out a second floor window, lands on Max’s cab. It turns out that Vincent is a hired killer, and his whole plan was to have Max drive him to wherever his targets were, and then kill them, and at the end, kill Max.
I gotta say, Vincent and Max’s conversations are pretty gold in this movie, before and after Max learns Vincent is a killer. There’s no specific lines that jump out at you as quotable or memorable, but every conversation leave me with a sense of enjoyment from their by-play. Vincent, despite being a hired killer isn’t like a lot of other movie hired killers, not loudly self assured or anything. Vincent’s self assuredness is a lot quieter, and seems to actually like the guy he’s gonna kill at the end.
Probe: The conversations make this movie, the actual plot is more or less a vehicle to carry on the dialogue between the two. These men who are opposites in so many ways, in terms of morals, success, and how they view themselves. They’re not just talking heads either, thanks to the fact that the cab is the main setting, most of the conversation is had during driving, and it’s shot with so much attention to detail. The part of this movie that impressed me the most was that while Vincent was talking at one point you heard the faint music of a car outside, and it blended perfectly.
After the first murder, the movie runs at a murder-conversation-murder pace for a little while with Vincent also killing a well dressed man and the owner of a Jazz club. All the while the police are starting to sniff around and piece things together, headed by Detective Fanning an undercover cop that dealt with the first victim. Fanning is one step of the other cops in his line of thinking, but he’s constantly worried about other cops or the FBI taking the case out of his hands and causing more damage than is necessary (man it was so hard not to make a title drop there). What I did not realize for the entire length of the movie was that Fanning was played by Mark Ruffalo, I mean christ, I did not recognize him at all.
Have any thoughts on the first three hits or Detective Ruffalo Maru?
Maru: I think the most interesting hit was the jazz player. It was the only time we learned something about someone Vincent was going to kill, other than a main character. The jazz man tells stories about playing in his club when he was a kid, playing with Miles Davis and how cool he was. Not bad, not good, but cool. Max figures out that the jazz man is another of Vincent’s targets, and tries to get Vincent to let him go. He agrees to let the jazz man live and disappear if he can answer a question about Miles Davis. The jazz man answers the question correctly, but it wasn’t the whole answer, so Vincent kills him. He was probably going to kill him no matter what though.
Speaking of Miles Davis and jazz, the music in this movie is very eclectic, going from blues, to jazz to just about every other genre you can think of. And it all fits with the scenes perfectly. It really makes it feel like you’re in the car with them, cause I know I’m always listening to music while I’m driving somewhere.
As for Detective Ruffalo, I have nothing to say other than this dude likes playing detectives. Collateral, Shutter Island…
Got anything to say about Vincent’s other targets Probe, or how they were killed?
Probe: The second one was basically a nobody, there to hammer home the scenario.
Jazz man however was pretty cool, and his hit surprised me by being the best part of that scene. His story began to trail off into irrelevance, but keeps it close enough to the vest that i didn’t roll my eyes.
After the Jazz club, the taxi dispatcher informs Max that his Mother has been calling because he missed his visit with her at the hospital, so Vincent forces Max to go pay her a visit, under the pretense that if he starts missing his commitments, people might come looking for him.
At the hospital they run into Detective Fanning in the elevator, in a move that I thought was too cute for its own good (and what hospital has its morgue on the top floor?).
Care to tackle the hospital scene and its result Maru?
Maru: Right-o. So, the cabbie dispatcher calls up Max, and tells him his mom has been calling all night long wondering where he was. Apparently, every night Max visits his mother in the hospital, makes sure she’s alright, and then goes on with the job. Well, since he’s been driving Vincent around, he hasn’t really had time to visit his mom, not to mention wanting to keep Vincent the hell away from her. Which, really, if I had an assassin riding around the back of my car killing people, I wouldn’t want them anywhere near my mom either. But anyways, Vincent forces Max to go to the hospital, cause if he didn’t, it would be breaking routine, and thus, would be suspicious. After Max, Vincent and Max’s mom talk, Max steals the briefcase with all the information about the targets. After a chase, Max ends up on an over pass, and he tosses the briefcase onto the highway, where it is promptly run over by a truck.
Of course, instead of being totally pissed off, Vincent is more amused than anything. He points out to Max that, yeah, destroying his stuff was an inconvenience, but there are back ups out there. So, he has Max go into a nightclub called Fever to retrieve them, threatening to kill Max’s mom on his way out of town if he’s not successful.
This scene is one of the best ones in the movie. It’s the where Max decides that he can’t keep being pushed around by Vincent and the situation he’s gotten himself into. He doesn’t know exactly how to get out of it, or stop it yet, but here, right here, he’s decided he has to do something other than let Vincent drag him around town on a killing spree ending with his own death.
Probe, any thoughts on the Fever scene? Different interpretation, or do you think I got it just about right?
Probe: Fever is actually the name of the club in the NEXT scene, I’m not sure if the club where Max meets Vincent’s boss was ever named.
But yeah, that scene. The boss starts telling a long-winded story about Santa Clause, and this is the point where the movie got too cute with the dialogue. The Jazz scene was pushing it, but this just went beyond the attempted realism the film was shooting for, right to being full of itself.
Outside of the monologue, the thing to really pay attention to in this scene is how Max is aping all of Vincent’s tics and repeating things that Vincent has said. We’ve seen little hints at this before, but this is the first time the movie made it clear that Max is slowly taking on what Vincent is selling. The threatening power and exclusionary attitude are real alluring things.
After the scene finishes and Max gets the rest of the names for Vincent, we see that the cops and the FBI have started to piece things together, except that the feds think Max is Vincent and plan on killing him on sight and only Mark Ruffalo thinks that someone is pulling Max’s strings
Which is another thing I didn’t like: the Feds were cartoonishly ignorant and incompetent. They were a helicopter away from being the Feds in Die Hard, and while I love Die Hard, like seriously, I think Die Hard is still the best straight action movie ever made, this is not Die Hard. Die Hard did not strive for realism, nor character study, which is what this movie is all about, and having the FBI act that trigger happy and dumb rang hollow and took me out of the movie.
Anyway, on to the next hit, which takes place at the club called Fever, Maru?
Maru: I’m not so sure Max is actually believing what Vincent believes, because…
Well, we’ll get there soon enough. So, we know that Vincent is a killer. But up until this point the only evidence that Vincent is Dangerous with a capital D was when he was going up against the three idiot muggers in the alley that I’m not sure we mentioned, and the jazz man, both of whom he took mostly by surprise. But Fever is where the movie says “This is how fucking Dangerous Vincent is.” Up until this point, Vincent has made sure to get his targets alone, with as few witnesses around as he could, waiting for the waitress to walk into the back room at the jazz club, his first target being alone in his apartment, etc. But the fourth target is in a club, surrounded by bodyguards, security, and bouncers, and Vincent calmly and methodically wipes them, and the target, out. I’m not gonna lie, as Probe pointed out, this really isn’t much of an action movie. But this scene really is action-y.
Of course, Max is in the club as well, used to distract any cops or FBI agents. Thing is, Detective Ruffalo is convinced that Max isn’t Vincent, and that he’s innocent in all of this. Ruffalo says he believes that Max is innocent, and uses the shoot out between Vincent and the guards to escape from the club. He takes too long, and by the time they exit, Vincent is waiting for them. And, in typical Vincent behavior, he shoots Detective Ruffalo, and forces Max back into the cab.
I won’t lie. I like to gush. I like a lot of scenes in this movie, but the next taxi ride is probably my favorite scene. But first, Probe would like to say a few words.
Probe: Oh, I don’t think Max ever really buys what Vincent is selling, but he does start taking on characteristics, right up until that last cab scene.
As far as action goes, for a movie that’s so interestingly shot, I suppose it might be considered odd that the one with the most action would be the one that’s the most visually boring. It’s not bad, it takes the movie from point A to point B, and the death of the Detective was necessary as it breaks any illusions Max had about Vincent, but the action scene inside the club is just kinda there.
The last cab scene however, while not my favorite scene, it is definitely a highlight, and I have a lot to say about it, but I’ll let Maru tackle the summary.
Maru: Gotcha. So, like Probe said, at this point Max has lost any hope of getting out of this alive. He and Vincent talk, and Max actually starts to argue with Vincent instead of just allowing himself to be pushed around. And this is where things get interesting. Vincent posits that what he does, it doesn’t actually matter. “There’s no reason. There’s no good reason, there’s no bad reason to live or to die.” “Then what are you?” “I’m indifferent.” and then he goes into how small we are compared to the universe, and how we really don’t matter. What happens next is Max using that against Vincent. He begins speeding up, running red lights, taking sharp corners at high speeds, all the while Vincent holds a gun to his head and tells him to slow down. He refuses, and keeps speeding up. Keeps repeating the same things Vincent just said. “What does it matter? We’re all so little out here.”
And this is why its my favorite scene in the movie. Max just gives a great big “Fuck you” to Vincent’s philosophy, and the crashes his car, hoping to stop Vincent from getting to his last target. This conversation, to me, is one of those “If nothing matters, why bother?” versus “If nothing matters, why not?” arguments, and Max comes out squarely on the side of Why Not. It just speaks to something in me that hopes that people, deep down, are good and decent, even in a world where everything seems dirty and unclear. Kind of ties back to Vincent’s feelings about how every time he goes to L.A. he feels dirty and wants to be out of here as soon as possible. I dunno, maybe that’s just the superhero fan in me talking.
Probe? Any thoughts?
Probe: Yeah like I’ve been saying, Max has been struggling reconciling Vincent’s statements with how he has lived his own life and where it has landed him, and here he is at the high point of the film, rejecting both Vincent’s views and his own failure to act by wrecking his cab. It really brings the moment together.
It was the big climax of the film, unfortunately we still have more than 20 minutes left. While the remaining scenes are not bad by any means, you do get a sense that the movie is now limping to a forgone conclusion. The winner of the thematic battle has been determined, now we’re just waiting for the text to catch up to the subtext.
But we can’t stop here, so after the crash, both men walk away (rather miraculously) without much injury. Vincent slinks off after his last kill and Max lays down is resignation. After a police officer arrives at the scene to help, the officer find the body in the trunk from the beginning of the movie and arrests Max, who goes along with a relieved resignation. But then, just as he’s being read his rights, he sees the name of Vincent’s next hit in the wreckage of the cab. It’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s character. So naturally, instead of convincing the cop to get protection for the attorney whose lead witnesses have all been murdered tonight, he beats up the cop up, handcufsf him to the cab, and then runs after Vincent.
We’ve got one more scene to go Maru!
Maru: and of course you leave it to me. Well, like Probe says, we’re nearing the ending. The reason, by the way, the cop was trying to arrest Max was because the cop found the body of Target #1 in his trunk. So, Max picks up the gun that was being held to his head, and chases after Vincent. On the way, he picks up a cellphone (read: mugs a guy for it) in order to call Anne, Jada Pinkett Smith’s character, and warn her that Vincent was coming after her. After a bit of “Is this a joke?” “No, it really isn’t”, Max is able to convince her that Vincent is in the building, and is coming to kill her. First he tells her to get out, then, when he’s about to tell her to hide, the phone’s battery dies on him. Max goes rushing off to save Anne. Which leads to a kind of amusing scene when Max tries to break the door using a trash can, and it just bounces back at him. It kind of shows that, yeah, Max is trying to be a hero, but he’s still a cabbie in over his head. Eventually he gets in, finds Anne, and manages to shoot Vincent and escape.
Like Probe said, its kind of a straight shoot to the end from here on out. But, eventually Max and Anne are able to escape onto a train, and Vincent follows them. Max and Anne reach the front of the train, with Vincent hot on their trail. Eventually, it turns into a shoot out between Max and Vincent, both emptying their guns at each other. Vincent goes to reload when he notices that he’s been shot. He brings up a comment he said at the beginning of the movie, something like “A man died on a train here in L.A. Took them 6 hours to notice he was gone.” Vincent wonders how long it will take people to notice he’s gone as well.
Anything I’ve missed Probe? Final thoughts time?
Probe: You got the gist of it.
I appreciated the touches to at least attempt to keep the relatability they were attempting before we started scenes that looked like a deleted scene from John Woo’s Hard Boiled. The trashcan bouncing back off the glass, Max’s unfamiliarity with guns, and seeing him screw up the same headshot that we’ve seen Vincent do about 4 or 5 times now, so that Vincent ends up with only a bloody ear? All good ways to keep a suspenseful chase sequence lively but grounded.
Even the first time I watched it, I could predict how the film would end once they got down into the subway, and it was overly clever, but the imagery still managed to work.
All in all, I loved this movie. I nitpicked it a lot, but it is still a beautifully shot movie, with amazing care for detail and production, so if you’re into that, then you’re good.
If not, it’s still a strong and clever suspense movie, with two stars at the absolute top of their game. The dialogue is engaging, but with all of the callbacks to earlier conversations in the film, without strong performances, the movie could have easily come off as trite, but Cruise and Foxx blew it out of the water.
Jesus Christ we’ve been talking about this movie for a long time. Which I guess is the mark of either a great or a terrible movie. But I tend to think this one falls into the former category.
Maru: Agreed. This movie was great stuff. Clever dialogue, great shots to establish location, and actors that were created to play these roles, at least in Tom Cruise’s position.
Christ we have been talking about this movie for a while. Welp, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations, and thanks for reading. See you boys and girls next time!
Avengers 12.1 was a good issue. So, I’m going to use that as an excuse to talk about the main Avengers title. I’ve actually been really enjoying the past 12 issues of Avengers. Because it’s the Avengers written like the Avengers.
That’s a lot of Avengers, and that’s not even getting into to all of the other Avengers.
There, it’s out of my system, we can move on now.
For me, I turn to the big team books for the action heavy side of an already very action heavy genre, because the entire conceit behind them is that they face a threat “no hero can face alone”. So while you do get good interplay between traditionally solo characters, all of it is, more or less, flavor for the big action set pieces.
However, since 2003, Brian Michael Bendis, who has been more or less running the show for the franchise, has been writing Avengers, mostly New Avengers, as more or less a drama. And while his books certainly enjoyed success despite, or possibly because of, Bendis’ distinct style of dialogue, they weren’t what I was looking for, so for the most part I had avoided them. And it seems like I wasn’t alone.
Bendis has slowly been building to the style of writing he displays in the new Avengers title. It first really showed it’s head in the first arc of Mighty Avengers, and then later in New Avengers: Illuminati and Dark Avengers. The almost reactionary move toward an action focused narrative, one that is heavily influenced by classic Marvel while still retaining his own voice. Avengers is where he brings that action packed style, which almost clashes with his normal meandering one, to the forefront of the franchise, polished and practiced and ready for the big time. And I like it.
Speaking of polished and keeping with the theme of creators using opposite styles, John Romita Jr., the main penciller of the first twelve issues is very much unpolished. Continuing the recent trend in his style from his work on Kick Ass, his art here is very raw and energetic. The figures are distorted in a way that adds kinetic power to the way they look on the page, which, while great for fights and the whirling chaos that occurs when the world’s greatest heroes meet world threatening dangers, it looks strange and unappealing when it comes to static poses or dialogue heavy scenes. And even with his different style, this is still a Brian Michael Bendis penned comic, so there are a lot of dialogue heavy scenes. The fact that the art flows better as the series goes on seems to be a testament to the two creators learning to work with each other.
I’d also like to say a word about the colouring, because that’s what finally sold me on the series. The series’ colourist, Dean White (with occasional help from Paul Mounts) has pulled off stuff that stood out amongst the pencils and inks, and colouring rarely does that. See, in Avengers #10, there’s a scene where a team of avengers join Professor Xavier on the grounds of the old Xavier mansion. And when the old danger room turns on, the entire colour palette shifts, and suddenly looks like an x-men book published in the early 80′s (God Loves, Man Kills is what sprang to my mind when I read the scene). That shift in colouring stood out to me so much that I gave then entire series a second chance. Clearly this was a polished product by several creators on the top of their game, trying to create quintessential Marvel comics.
Another note about the colouring: it’s varied. That’s not something you see much in Marvel comics, at least in these past few years. I’ve noticed the change in other books too, such as Amazing Spider-man. They’ve finally begun matching colourists and artists rather than just sticking to the drab house digital colouring style. I welcome this change.
So far, Avengers have had two arcs and one special issue. The Avengers, and frequently all the other characters in the other avengers books, have dealt with Kang the Conquerer, Apocalypse, Killraven, The Hood, The Infinity Gauntlet, The Danger Room, and the recent super scientist criminal group The Intelligencia. It’s action packed, and yet, still funny in small doses. It’s what I want out of a Marvel Comic. The only thing I don’t like about the book are the text-only backups that justify the 3.99 price tag.
I rarely go back and enjoy these silly remixes of video game tunes. But now seemed like the time.
I just spent about 3 hours trading pokemon. With myself.
I guess I got into this generation more than I had intended, but I really want to make an all bug team, because the bug pokemon from this generation are actually really cool.
I’m still having fun, because the pokemon I’m working on are actually cool and I’m doing this in order to battle people I actually know, but at the same time I’m almost scaring myself.
After you look back on the period of your life that you lost to a hobby, it’s most often with regret, and while my more obsessive terms as a pokemon trainer luckily never really affected my outside life negatively its still not something I’d like to repeat.
But now I’m done the story in Black, and I’ve caught all the in-game legendary pokemon and I even went out of my way to catch at least one part of an evolutionary line for all of the new pokemon in the game. And now I’m EV training, mother fucking EV training. Sure, I’m technically cheating this time and using non-nintendo software (this is the nice way of putting it) to add the appropriate Effort Values and then trade the pokemon back to me, so its nowhere near as time intensive. But that kind of maneuvering is almost sadder than spending three solid hours forcing a digital representation of a fake animal to battle again and again in order to increase the number by which its stats increase every level it’s raised. I’m keeping all of my pokemon within the “legal” bounds for competitive battling, and in fact I’m being even more fair and only changing the effort values (which would be changed in-game anyway), making a point of not touching the hidden values or adding specific moves or abilities that would be difficult to put on the pokemon without cheating.
But am I standing upon the precipice of obsession once again? When I finally finish my glorious bug team helmed by my Fire Moth and enter onto the vast online battling scene will I be able to just set it all down whenever I want?
I think so. I like to think I’m a different person now than when I was 19. I mean, we all like to think we’ve grown, and we’ll never know until we test that, but still.
Going back always feels strange. Anything that you’ve put a lot of time and energy into but have had to leave behind for whatever reason. You can go home again, but no one said the decor was going to be the same. It’s an awful weird sentiment to have over pokemon, but I connect these games with two distinct periods in my life: when I was 12 and when I was 19. The friends I had, how I saw the world, and all of that bitter nostalgia is mixed into my perceptions of those games. Silver carries the weird memories of being put into a new environment and Pearl is my college life. And it is really fucked up that in my head the two are so related, but they are.
So I guess my fear of obsession is just as much a fear of regression. I don’t really like 19 year old me. He was anti-social and closed off and he’s caused quite a few problems for 22 year old me.
But I genuinely like the games, though they play differently now. When I was a kid it was me vs. the game, when I was in college, the actual in game challenges were just a way to test myself and improve. Now, it’s a slower process of taking it all in and trying to find things that make me smile. Black’s surprisingly self aware story, many of the new pokemon, Volcarona, the weird things I can do will a Jellicent to teams that use weather effects. All of these feel like the roses I’ve stopped to smell.
But I get to cock fight with my fire moth. So I’m good.
I have zero problem with the fact that there are 649 Pokemon.
I mean sure there’s that kneejerk need to shit on anything that dare change from when you were 12. But from where I stand, having a hundred or so new pokemon every four or five years is a good thing. Not only from the fact that it adds variety, differentiates games and just leaves the door open for new, cool pokemon to come about, but also from the view of someone who understands the game mechanics, it’s always cool to see how new additions shake up the competitive field.
But for me, really, it’s just cause some of them are mother fucking cool:
Take Torterra here, he’s a boss ass world turtle. He’s probably my favorite starter, and it really speaks to what I love about these games that the mythological creature that holds islands on its back is just something they hand out to 10 year olds.
Slaking is a mix of a Sloth and mother fucking King Kong. And on top of that he has one of my favorite gimmicks in the game. His ability forces him to only attack every second turn. So even his in-game mechanics reflect that he is massively fucking powerful, but just too fucking lazy to be real standout. I love when they blur mechanics and flavor (which is also why I’ve been enjoying Magic The Gathering’s recent sets)
I love Drifblim and Drifloon. I have a Drifloon keychain, and I tried every way I could to put these guys on my team. Ghost baloons. Adorable pokemon that at the same time border on sinister amuse me so much.
But man, I can never leave out Slowbro. He’s unassuming, looks hilarious, and has an amazing name. It doesn’t hurt that in the game he’s kind of a powerhouse, I went through all of pearl with Slowbro as my engine of destruction.
Next: The Best.
Apologies to Chris Sims for more or less cribbing his shtick.
So, the next Probing DC comics post will be delayed on account of the fact that I’m making it even more awesome. It’s a surprise. I may end up skipping ahead to Superman and post Batman Part 2 when it’s ready.
I’ve also started to write for Nerd Girl Pinups. You can read my review of Thunderbolts: Cage here
Pokemon has become pretty much my primary gaming hobby for the past 4 or so years, and I owe it all to my friend.
My asshole friend.
We were all 19 and bored the fuck out of our minds one summer between semesters of unfulfilling secondary education. So naturally, instead of proposing we go on a trip, take up a sports, or try to pick up girls, and this wonderful, lovable genius of a friend proposes that we all buy Nintendo DS’s and a copy of the then new Pokemon game in order to have fun like we did when we were kids.
I will never forgive him for this.
Him and the other guy who went in with us never got that far into the game, maybe past the elite 4, while my Pearl game had 154 hours on it when I traded in. To get Platinum.
See, I’ll get obsessed with something for a little while if I think it’s good, like Bioshock or Assassins Creed 2, or if it has Batman. But usually it only lasts a week or two at most. By then I’ll have beaten the game and exhausted the poorly constructed wiki and then I’m done, I can wash my hands and move on, maybe come back if the sequel looks good. But even in 2006 pokemon was just too large to do that. Not quite the kind of large you get with the Star Wars Extended Universe, but generally the same idea. Unlike the terrifying and foreboding Star Wars EU, Pokemon doesn’t seem like a giant gripping beast from the surface, they just seem like normal games.
But they are not just normal games. Beneath the part of the game that everyone plays lies a whole other game, that uses similar mechanics, but in a much more focussed way. This is a game only for obsessives. This is the metagame.
When the story of a pokemon game ends, you essentially unlock access to the pokemon released in the previous games and then the real game begins. With Pearl and Diamond, you now had online access with your pokemon games, which meant that you could battle pokemon with anyone in the world. In my haze of playing the game and learning everything I can off of Bulbapedia I was totally stoked to play online. And then I began learning. You see, the game changes when you begin playing people who aren’t just your buddies, because just like that asshole playing a fighting game that manages to pull off a 87 move combo before you throw a punch, pokemon becomes totally different when you know the game.
Basically when you battle competetivly you have to be aware of the most powerful pokemon, the most powerful or useful moves, and types. And it becomes a matter of strategy. With such a wide variety of pokemon, even though there are probably 50 who are considered top tier and you’ll see in about 80% of your matches, you’re trying to out-menouver your opponent.
On top of learning the best strategies and stuff like type advantages, you also learn how to optimize your pokemon in hidden ways. Pokemon naturally have natures, hidden values and effort values. Natures and hidden values are static things that exist from the moment you encounter the pokemon and determine how much more of one specific stat goes up as you increase its level. Effort Values are hidden values that increase depending on which pokemon that specific pokemon battles, and they increase stats in much the same way hidden values do. For example, if you want your pokemon to gain even more HP with each level, then you would battle (again and again and again) against and entire team of Bidoofs, which each give one EV towards HP whenever you beat one. Pretty much, optimizing your pokemon accounts for a luck of the draw in regards to the first two, and grinding against the same pokemon hundreds of time for the latter one.
There are far better descriptions of all this that you can find (I preferred Serebii.net)
Anyway, I got balls deep into this, crafting teams (and if you do it legitimately, that can be hour and hours to get your pokemon ev trained). I was not the best, not even close, there are vast communities devoted to this stuff. That doesn’t mean I didn’t go all in though, I had sheets and sheets and sheets of hand drawn math to track my pokemon’s EV training process. I wouldn’t get sleep for days.
And mother FUCK it was a black hole. It bordered on obsession, because with so many variables that you have to manage and the depth of information you have to absorb it was too easy to get lost. This is why I will never ever touch world of warcraft. I’m afraid no one will ever see me agian.
Now I’m older and (no) wiser and while I had dabbled in Platinum and Heart Gold, I never took the full leap in either. But then months ago my buddy started ominously posting on my facebook counting down to a date. The launch for Black and White.
I was reluctant, but I had time to kill, so eventually I caved and picked up the new game same as my friend. But I have a different priority this game. To have fun.
The game isn’t terribly different from the last generation aside from some minor mechanics changes, the big thing are the new pokemon. There are 155 new pokemon, and unlike the previous generation, all of the pokemon you encounter before you beat the game are new.
So I just take my time now, raising up my mother fucking fire moth, trying to catch all of the new pokemon. I went in cold, not even looking at pictures of any of the new pokemon in the game, so every one I encountered was a pleasant surprise. But the real joy is simply that my friend is more or less keeping up with me this time. We spend like, three hours a week just talking about pokemon. It’s fucking
pathetic awesome! I’m slowly building a competitive team, but I’m not really diving in headfirst, just building something I think I can have fun with.
Despite everything I said, Pokemon doesn’t have to be complicated, hell it’s barely changed since 1994.
Final Point: Enjoy your shit. Moderation is key, just like with heroin.