About Those Five Lights…

…well, well, well. Looks like Mr. Fraction is having a little Battlestar Galactica fun with the X-faithful.

I was discussing Uncanny X-Men #526 with Department operative Chris “Slarti” Pinard today, and he stopped and said:

“I keep seeing Laurie the new mutant’s blue skin and lines around the lips and expecting that there’ll eventually be some connection to Ol’ Pocky Lips.”

Laurie in UXM 526.

Gee, she looks just like her possible progenitor! Art by Whilce Portacio.

Being me, I hit up Google and typed in “five lights Apocalypse,” and, uh, well… I got this BSG episode recap. Which mentions “the five lights” of the eventual apocalypse in that universe, and also mentions a building called the “Temple of Five.”

Hm. Suspicious, certainly leading, but not quite enough to invoke a total nerd squeal. Let’s poke a little further.

Well, looking up the Temple of Five on BattlestarWiki gets you a swift redirect to “Temple of Hopes.” Most likely a reference both to Hope herself, back in 616 Marvel, and to the hope the new lights represent.

Is Fraction having it on with us a bit, tossing in some BSG references to send us all on a merry chase? After all, BSG is about the struggles of the last dying gasp of the human race; it’s an appropriate metaphor for the post-M-Day condition of mutantkind. Or are we being given some foreshadowing on the cause of these new, delayed X-gene manifestations?

I think “yes to all” is probably the best answer. After all, as Fraction himself said at his SDCC spotlight panel, why does Tony Stark keep digging up mandarin oranges in Stark: Disassembled?

Five Things about SDCC 2010

We are back from SDCC. The run-up to the con was challenging; I came down with episodic vertigo about two weeks before the show, and Chad’s had a crazy work schedule. We weren’t able to come hang out with you guys on the blog, but we’re here now, I have some vacation time, and I’m starting the SDCC recap posts with five things about the first day of the con.

1. The con is better if you’re hydrated.

I know, everyone says this in all the con survival guides. They’re really not joking.

Ten days or so prior to the con, my ENT gave me some new medication and noted that I would have to drink a LOT of water and Gatorade every day to stave off annoying side effects. This was the last thing I wanted to hear, but Chad and I sucked it up, hit REI, and brought home this sexy engine of hydration:

The 2010 Camelbak Lobo

Not quite a Fremen stillsuit, but it'll do.

That’s a Camelbak Lobo, 2010 edition. Three-liter capacity, slim form factor. Best $75 I’ve ever dropped on con prep, no joke.

And yes, I named it “Rescue.” You were expecting something else?

Once you’ve sunk the initial cash on a hydration pack that will last you for several con seasons, it’s easier, cheaper, and better for the environment than it is to keep getting overpriced bottles of water at Mrs. Fields or Starbucks inside the hall. You won’t have to interrupt your con experience to go on a quest for fluids. If you’re close with your friends, they’ll appreciate the occasional hit off the supply.

Plus, Jeff Bridges wants you to stop using disposable plastic bottles. You so don’t want to upset the Dude. Or Obadiah Stane.

2. That Jeff Bridges seems like a nice guy, really.

We ran into him for five seconds outside the Flynn’s Arcade replica in the Gaslamp on Thursday morning. He said hi; he seemed fantastically happy to be at the con hanging out.

3. We really like Cliff Chiang; we especially like paying his rent, it seems.

Thursday morning’s other two big scores were a signed copy of Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang’s adaptation of Neil Young’s album “Greendale,” and, for my supervisor at work, one of Cliff’s awesome Every Night I Have the Same Dream, Issue 3 shirts from the new Threadless comics collection.

Cliff’s not only a fantastic artist, he is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet on the con floor. You should check out his work and give him money. We can’t meet all his expenses alone, no matter how hard Chad’s been trying the last couple years.

4. You should go to w00tstock.

The Department’s main obligation to the con and related events was Thursday night’s w00tstock 2.4 performance at the 4th and B; we had arranged with w00tstock Dungeon Master Liz Smith to work the merch table and assist with anything else that came up. (Thanks again, Liz! We’re glad we could help.)

Adam Savage sang “I Will Survive” in Gollum’s voice, accompanied by a Wookiee on a guitar (video by k8greenisageek on YouTube). There was a Parry Gripp video, that, well, here:

Marian Call accompanied herself on a manual typewriter (and was incredibly great to me while I worked her end of the merch table). Molly Lewis had to be escorted into and out of the venue for her performance by security because she’s not yet 21– and graciously performed an awesome all-request ninja gig outside the venue for all the other under-21 folks who were screwed by the local liquor laws. Behold these videos from Kevin Savino-Riker, who was reporting for GeekyPleasures:

Len Peralta of Geek a Week fame drew an entire concert poster in four hours from the stage:

Official w00tstock San Diego Poster

(If you have mad geek art lust, Len’s taking orders on the poster until Friday. Details are on his Flickr page; he’s also on Twitter as jawboneradio. Len and his wife Nora are completely awesome people, and they were a real pleasure to work with at the show– support them!)

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait showed us every single schlong-shaped celestial object he could think of, and then dropped a bombshell of a trailer for his new Discovery Channel show, “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe:”

That? That there is some high-end science porn, kids. You want that. Three episodes, coming this fall.

And that was, uh, about a quarter of the awesome things that went on all night. Paul and Storm, Adam Savage, and Wil Wheaton serve as the w00tstock ringleaders and assemble a crew of performers for every concert; this one was particularly epic owing to everyone having shown up for SDCC in the first place. We were on our feet and on the move from 2pm until 3:30am, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

“But,” you say, “that’s not much comics content, for an ensemble performance at a comics convention. Aren’t you guys comics bloggers?”

Well…

5. Matt Fraction speaks for the comics tribe at w00tstock.

Matt Fraction thinks about process and inspiration a great deal. He presented his spoken-word piece “The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines” at the Portland w00tstock earlier this year, and he did it at SDCC twice– once at w00tstock, and once as a spotlight panel at the con proper.

Unfortunately, his wife, Kelly Sue DeConnick (hey, she’s writing a new book about Norman Osborn! Buy that!), has never been able to make it to one of these presentations. She’s never seen Matt bust out a bunch of raunchy jokes about Stilt-Man’s taint in front of a screaming crowd.

We had to fix that. Fortunately for you guys, the Department acquired new iPhones prior to the con, and Chad shot the following video of Matt’s “The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines.” The HD master went to Kelly Sue, and this one is up for everyone else’s delectation:

We know the angle is suboptimal– the rule at w00tstock is “record all you want, but don’t annoy other guests,” so we shot from the side. If you need a version of the talk that is slightly different in content and has a better view of the slide show, but not as much of a view of Matt himself, Laura Hudson at Comics Alliance recorded the SDCC spotlight panel.

Watch both recordings; they have different things to offer, but Matt is saying a lot of inspirational and important things about comics here. Can we get this man a speaking gig at TED?

Tomorrow, depending on how my morning goes: Isaiah Mustafa hits the con floor; a young man from Chad’s alma mater writes a book about historical badassery; Fraction and I get in trouble on the throne of Allfather Odin, and more.

Review: Human Target (Pilot, Fox, 2010)

Director: Simon West
Writer: Jonathan E. Steinberg

The odd track my life has taken through and around comics over the last ~25 years means there’s a lot that I’ve missed that I’m only now getting to. While it occasionally makes me feel like I’m behind the curve, it does have the bonus of discovering a lot of things as if they were new. I was lucky enough to have to have a copy of Human Target: Living in Amerikaput in my hands by Cliff Chiang himself last summer in San Diego. (Overall, 2009 was a good year for me and hard-boiled crime comics. I also picked up Darwyn Cooke’s absolutely breathtaking Parker: The Hunter,and Ed Brubaker’s deluxe edition of Criminal.)

Human Target

Mark Valley as Christopher Chance

Human Target has an interesting hook to go along with it in addition to being a pretty lively hardboiled detective style crime drama. The protagonist, Christopher Chance, assumes the identity of a client in some form of trouble, usually the kind of trouble that needs a solution beyond the law, in order to draw the bad guy(s) out and, hopefully, turn the tables on them. Usually there’s an attractive woman involved, and Chance fights an ongoing battle with losing himself in the role. It adds an interesting psychological twist to the genre.

Therein lies my first real problem with Fox’s new tv series based on the character. There are no disguises. The mechanic seems to have been changed to Chance (played here by Mark Valley) conveniently taking the place of another person close to the client. In the pilot, he assumes the role of the client’s new translator, the previous one having just been conveniently fired. I can only imagine the change was made so as to avoid either hiding Valley’s face for an entire episode, or having to depend on other actors entirely. The changed setup might be more realistic, but still requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. (I find myself reminded of Bart and Lisa’s objection to Knightboat on The Simpsons. “Oh, every week there’s a canal.” “Or an inlet.” “Or a fjord.”) The act of physically losing his own identity is one of the things that makes Christopher interesting; reducing him to a pariah who kicks people by removing the disguise aspect loses something in the translation.

I can, however, look past a lot of things for good action fun, and for a pilot, the first episode of Human Target moderately delivers. I could wish for, say, the fight choreographer from Leverage, but Target has its moments. The scene where a classic  Air Vent Escape leads to a cargo compartment fight feels like a budget Bourne movie with all the quick, jarring cuts but no camera shake, which actually makes the jarring cuts more irritating. Fortunately, the fight ends on an amusing note and mostly makes up for the moment of viewer annoyance.

At the end of the day it’s the characters that make the difference. Even taking into account that this is his first episode in the role, Valley’s Chance is a bit flat and lacks some charisma. I allow that this might improve as the series continues, but right now it’s a little tough. I can only assume the trademark white sideburns were also lost to vanity, though I suppose they’d hinder Chance’s attempts to hide in plain sight.

Chi McBride plays Chance’s business partner Winston decently, but seems saddled with the role of resident nag.  Winston dislikes Chance’s jobs, loathes his friends, and constantly points out that Chance might be either suicidal, nuts, or “yes.” I find myself wondering how he makes a living.

Jackie Earle Haley is a treat to watch as Chance’s shady friend Guerrero, though. I found myself already wishing for a spinoff show just watching Haley tear into his hitter role. His opening scene– turning a pair of thugs from being ready to break his kneecaps to leaving with their tails between their legs through sheer force of will–  a great bit of television. I might give the next few episodes a go just on Guerrero’s characterization and Haley’s performance alone.

All in all, it’s a decent first showing, but I worry that it won’t hold up over the long run unless the showrunners address some of the weak points. Human Target seems to have traded away the nuances of the comic in favor of standard, hotheaded Fox-series action– the showing I watched did air right before the season premiere of 24, after all. We’ll have to wait to find out if the trade was worth it.