Friday, 20 January 2017

Fury MAX: My War Gone By (#1-13) PART TWO

"I wanted the girl and the war and the victory.  I chose one." - Nick Fury

Time to rejoin our tale of the things a drunken and remorseful Fury has done for his country post World War II.  It's framed with him dictating into an ancient tape recorder in a hotel room in 2009 or so.  The first post covered his involvement in the war for French Indochina, where he was the only person to walk away from a French garrison overrun by the Viet Minh.  Then he was sent to Cuba during the Bay of Pigs to assassinate Castro which went horribly wrong and he only just escaped death by hungry shark.  As Fury hardly ages, the passage of time is being told on the faces and bodies of three supporting characters.  First is George Hatherly, Fury's right hand man, second is Shirley DeFabio a beautiful woman, secretary and then wife to third, "Pug" McCuskey, an up and coming Congressman in a Senate race when involvement the Cuban fiasco very nearly backfired on him. The first half of this maxiseries was pretty glum and it's only going to get glummer and if you are easily triggered by violence against women and children you may want to skip this post all together.  If not, well it's time for Vietnam with a guest appearance from Frank Castle, the man who would go on to become The Punisher.

Back in the present, Fury say that people who are complaining about losses and length of commitment in Afghanistan and Iraq need to shut up and think about "Nam".

Fury: "The greatest American fuck up of all time."

They lost 60,000 US soldiers, three million Vientamese, allowed the Khmer Rouge get a foothold in Cambodia thus killing even more and turned public opinion against soldiers after they came home heroes after World War II.  And they still lost.  The Iraqi and Afghan wars have nothing on those statistics.
Time for another story.
There is a knock at the door and he leaps up, gun at the ready, but it is only the hotel staff checking up on him as he's been there so long.  Then we're in 1970 and Hatherly is telling Fury he can't be his back-up anymore.  His wife is having their fifth kid and "I just don't think I can pull the trigger" he says.

Fury wants Hatherly to stay on the radio, but he has someone else he can call for support. Frank Castle.  It's worth noting in the MAX universe Frank is an even more profoundly damaged man who sacrificed his wife and kids so he could wage eternal war and ended up a broken, burned out shell because of it.  The story of how he made that regretful choice is told in Punisher: Born, coming soon to this blog.

He and Frank fly out and later Frank is at a meeting with three CIA agents and Pug.  They show him a photo of the man they want him to kill, Giap the Vietnamese soldier who let Fury go in 1954. Now he trains the Vietnamese army and they believe if they take him out combat efficiency would fall by 30%.
Frank Castle, pre-Punisher
They are going to drop him and Castle in Laos next night, as US soldiers aren't supposed to be there, they have to be completely "deniable".  Fury has one question, what is the now Senator McCusky doing here? "Oh you know me colonel.  Making introductions, helping things happen.  Facilitating" he responds.

Then we cut to Fury and Castle dropped just outside Laos.  Fury remembers the previous night, having sex with Shirley.  She mentioned Pug and he got pissed off. As he gets dressed she admits that her marriage to Pug is sexless.  He see whores, she finds him repulsive.  But the marriage has other benefits, mainly security.
Way to kill the moment Shirley.
She tells Frank she's spent twenty years following Pug round the world.  And she keeps seeing it again and again:

Shirley: "The locals hate us.  We make such a mess. We always seem to choose some total prick to support."

She admits she's lost track of all of Pug's networking these days. She then says will he come back to bed if she doesn't mention Pug?

Back with Fury and Castle, they are wading through swampy ground then a forest and stumble upon a kid.  Neither has it in them to kill him even though they know he'll raise the alarm.  Fury decides the operation can still go ahead and they let the kid go.  Which proves their undoing as soon after a squad of soldiers attack them.

They are herded to a clifftop and captured despite inflicting heavy casualties on their attackers, Giap says it was the little kid that warned them.  They should have killed him and dumped him because "Frankly Colonel Fury, you gave us all the time in the world".  Castle and Fury are tied up while Giap stands over them lecturing them.  He does apologise for the rough treatment they suffered, those that did it will be "criticised" (killed).
Captured again.
Back at base Hatherly is anxiously listening for any sign of Fury when Shirley comes in to see him.  She kisses him on the cheek and then says she knows they are running "covert ops".  Hatherly says he can't give her any information on the mission.  She says she just wanted to see a friendly face and congratulates him on his latest child, before confessing she can't have any of her own.

This flusters Hatherly, more so when she graphically describes her relationship with Fury. She tells him she'll do her best "to curb my potty mouth" as he blushes.  She then asks outright if Fury is OK, Hatherly says he's got it all under control, he knows "exactly what he's doing".

Back at the interrogation, Giap figures that Castle is the sniper who's been doing so much damage in "Quang Nam Province".   Giap tells Castle "bravo".  Then it's time for a sorry story of CIA corruption.  The three CIA agents started a relationship two years ago with an opium farmer called Nuon Sen who has ties to the Khmer Rouge.   He has photographic evidence to prove it.

The heroin was processed in Cambodia then sent to the US East Coast.  A now dead Vietnamese general was also involved.  The heroin was sold and part of the profits went to Sen and the balance was kept by the three CIA agents.  Giap had planned to show the evidence he had gathered to the world's press, but then had another idea.
Giap outlines his plan.
He leaked through Tra that he knew what was going on and planned to expose it so word would get back to the CIA agents.  Giap would then carefully prepare and capture the people sent to assassinate him.

Giap: "And the gentlemen of the press would get a little spice for their story."

He's going to arrange a conference in Hanoi to present this information, evidence of CIA involvement in narcotics, US Military resources used for distribution and and attempted cover up by murder.

He says they'll make full confessions.  Fury finally speaks saying "not a hope".  Giap says he believes otherwise because he has the means to end the war.  He believes the US has no stomach for continuing the conflict and is looking for means to escape it. 

He says things like this can bring down a government, "and Nixon is not a stupid man." Giap admits to Fury that he will do anything to end this war because "I love my country".  And that Fury should be honest, that he is here because "any war will do."

At base, the CIA agents realise something is amiss and decide to go with Fury's plan B.  Bomb the place and hope to kill Giap that way with Fury and Castle as unfortunate collatoral.  Hatherly is non-plussed then upset.

In their cell, Fury and Castle discuss what they have learned.  Fury is mad he's been used like this. Frank asks if he thinks Giap could end the war. Fury says he's not sure, the heroin will kick up a fuss and half of congress want out, this could be the tipping point.

Fury: "I don't know about ending the war right away, but... it could sure as hell shorten it".

Castle: "Then we better not take the chance."

Next time they are given water, they manage to beat up the men and escape their cell.  Shirley meanwhile is on the phone to Pug trying desperately to get him to intervene over the air-strike, he says he'll try but then just puts the phone down and whistles to himself while reading the paper.
Time for another escape.
Now armed, Castle and Fury attempt to finish their mission.  Fury gets to where Giap is and sets a fire and Castle makes short work of the enemy.  Fury destroys Giap's evidence with the fire.  Giap confronts him and wants to know why?

Giap: "You've damned yourself for what? A few more years of the war you crave?"

Then Giap takes a sniper bullet from Castle to the throat and falls and Fury makes his getaway. He comes out onto a hill littered with the bodies of pretty much everyone there thanks to Castle, even Fury is moved to say "Jesus Christ Almighty".
Frank does what he does best.
Then the American bombs begin to drop as the airstrike starts. Watching from a far, Castle asks if he knew?  Fury says he recommnded it but didn't think they'd take him seriously.  "Whatever works, the job's done" says Castle and they go to their rendezvous.  Fury puts Castle up for a promotion to Captain.

As Pug and Shirley leave Saigon, Pug and Fury chat on the tarmac.  Pug says how interesting it is that the three CIA agent's bodies were found outside a strip club, dead with their throats cut. He says it's senseless.  "Must have made sense to someone" snarks Fury. At least that puts a lid on the drug scandal now.

Pug tells him he tried to call off the airstrike, but shouldn't have meddled in military affairs.  Fury says that's what Pug is all about, making deals, facillitating. Pug says he noted Fury's potential years ago and has kept him on the boil, giving him the "fun and games" he's been enjoying.  As he climbs the steps of the plane, Fury says if he thought Pug was into what those CIA agents were he'd.... "you'd what?" asks Pug, then says "take care of yourself colonel" chirpily to him.

It's now the story really turns grim because here is Ennis challenging his usual view that the men on the ground despite what they are ordered remain fundamentally decent.  But by the 1980's the military corruption had trickled down to use a popular phrase of the time to the rank and file and it's in Nicuragua where Fury admits it was "the one where it all began to go wrong". Well, he concedes, maybe it did beforehand, but it was here he couldn't ignore it any longer.  This story also introduces regular nemesis of The Punisher, the amoral and fiercely intelligent man known as "Barracuda".
Barracuda.
This segment covers the scandal in which US military trained the anti-commnist Nicuraguan rebels The Contras, ostensibly against the communist Sandinistas.  But the cIA was using drugs confiscated during the operations to secretly fund their own department's secret activities.  This is what Nick Fury and Hatherly have been sent out to check in 1984 at the Special Forces base in Honduras. Before they arrive we are introduced to Barracuda about to murder several Sandinistas with a chainsaw.  When he and his team realise it's living legend Nick Fury sent to check them out, he decides to put on a charm offensive.

Back in the USA, Pug and Shirley discuss the situation.  Pug insists the rumours about the CIA's activities are untrue but they have sent Nick Fury to check anyway.  Shirley is very cynical about the activities of the US trained Contras listing off the atrocities she's heard they have committed.  Pug says opposing communism is the most important factor.  Then the doorbell goes.  Shirley gets up to answer it and is bothered by her arthritic hip.  She opens the door and is greeted by the sight of a young, blonde woman, "who the hell is this?" she shouts at Pug.

In Honduras, Barracuda and Fury are chatting.  Barracuda assures Nick all narcotics found are burned.  He tells Nick they don't see a lot of drugs here because the main growing areas are down south. He says most of the Contras joined for "the right reasons" and want their homes back, but Barracuda can't vouch for every single one of them.

He says the US army people here are all "tight" and volunteered to come here as well.  "You talkin' pretty goddamned motivated S.F support" he doesn't think they are the type to use drugs.  Fury comments that their commander Captain Costanzo isn't Special Forces, Barracuda says he isn't but he gets the job done.

Barracuda sucks up to Fury.
Fury says it's outside his remit and Barracuda doesn't have to answer, "but I'm guessing you don't confine yourself to training duties".  Barracuda admits that they do take time of for "a little trigger time" and does Fury want to come along?  Fury doesn't answer and they talk about World War 2 and how Barracuda's dad served in the "tank destroyer battalion" and would talk about Fury a lot and they share a beer as they toast the "Airbourne" divison.

Later Fury is back indoors, talking with Hatherly about what he's discovered. He says he's befriended Barracuda and believes he's the one who calls the shots around here.  He says the one face that doesn't fit is Captain Costanzo, no experience at running a place like this.

Hatherly says an administrator is perhaps what is needed here someone to deal with all the red tape.  Fury says the man is a "clerk" not a soldier.  Hatherly says he's the type of man who'll keep getting promoted.  When was Fury last promoted? And he's sent out all the time, he succeeds for the agency time and again.

Fury: "What I do is survive the fuck ups. Some are mine and some aren't.  But I walk out intact and clean up behind me.  Someone must think that's worth enough bonus points to kep me around."

Then they hear a gunshot, he races out and with the others find the body of Captain Costanzo, shot in the head with cocaine chopped out in front of him.
A sacrifice is made.
Hatherly reads the suicide note in which Constanzo confesses to being addicted to cocaine and no longer believing in what they are doing. He says the arrival of the "hero" Nick Fury conspired to make him want to take his life as he could never measure up.  Because of his betrayal he doesn't deserve to live.

Hatherly: "Someone's trying to tickle you ego".

Fury: "If you mean I'm getting a world class handjob, I'm inclined to agree."

Hatherly says if they visit the address on the note, what will they find? Coke and lots of says Fury. The note only implies the local bandits, nothing about narcotics being run out of the army bases, "nothing linking the drugs to the U.S. at all.  Never mind the Contra funding" says Hatherly.

Fury sends Hatherly to check the address anyway, he wants whoever is watching them thinking they took the bait.  He and Hatherly are on their own now, with no idea who to trust.  He's going to make it look like he went with him, then slip back and have the Huey pilot drop him wherever he dropped Barracuda.

He wants to check him out when there is no one telling him he is coming.  Hatherly asks if he's just after some time in the field, "I know you're never happier than when you're humpng the boonies with a rifle in your hands".  Hatherly asks if he wants him to come back with Fury, but Fury says no, and that fifteen years ago Hatherly told him "you haven't got that kind of courage anymore." Later Hatherly has left and Fury gets aboard the chopper and asks to be dropped off where Barracuda was last.

Back with Pug and Shirley, she is incensed that Pug has asked his young mistress to come and and visit him in their home.  Pug points she and Nick Fury have been sleeping together since they got married.  She sits painfully and says it hasn't happened for a long time now.
Pug tells Shirley the facts of life.
Pug goes on to say he knows she found him repulsive on their wedding night.  But enjoys the privilege it brings. She sought another outlet, so did he.  Nastily he tells her that she owns nothing, everything they have is in his name.  She leaves him and she is left destitute.  He then tells her he even tamed Nick Fury:

Pug: "He goes wherever I want.  And does whatever I tell him.  Essentially for being allowed to live life in the combat zone.  And you are you."

He leaves her dumbstruck saying she should pour herself a drink.  It might be a little early but it's never stopped her before.

The chopper drops Fury off, but before they can take off Fury puts a grenade in the engine and tells them they are about to have an engine fire and orders everyone to bail.  It blows up.  Fury orders them to stay by the wreckage until he finds the others so no warnings can be sent.

Barracuda and his crew are sitting chatting about crude stuff.  The redneck goes on about white superiority so Barracuda knocks him over with his dick.  Then he gets a radio message that the chopper hasn't come back and immediately suspects Fury.
There are no words.
Fury arrives at a scene of total devastation.  Barracuda's mob wiped out a whole village.  The corpses are strewn about and horrific things like a baby torn from it's mothers womb laying on the ground.  Fury regards it with sorrow, "Jesus fucking Christ Almighty" he says.

We then jump to Nick Fury aiming his rifle at Barracuda and his gang who are aiming right back, "go the fuck ahead" goads Barracuda.  Then they drag out Hatherly who had been grabbed at the address he was sent to.  "Go to daddy" sneers Barracuda as they let him free.

Fury says the shit goes north, the money goes to the Contras.  Barracuda says he gets his cut, "s'all I know".  He tells Fury if he puts this in his report the Pentagon will come swarming down, finding out all the shit they didn't know they were involved with.  Fury says they set it up, found a U.S. connection and run it because:

Fury: "...you and your assholes aren't an A-team. You're nothing but a fucking drug gang".

Barracuda says the place is swimming in drugs, "good business where you find it homes".  Everything was fine, but "no you gotta get all Nick Fury an' go to work, ain't you?"

Fury asks about Captain Constanzo's "suicide".  Of course it was nothing of the sort, they offered him up as a sacrifice because they knew he would fold if Fury turned the heat up, "shit, we spent his life like a nickel" says Barracuda.

Fury asks what now?  Barracuda says he isn't about to kill the living legend that is Fury, it would bring down a shitstorm.  He says Fury can go home and file his report.  Hatherly in tears shouts that they have acted shamefully and dishonoured the uniform.  Barracuda pauses, then kicks the dead baby at him and scowls, "fuck the uniform. Feel me?"
Truly a despicable human being.
Fury reports back to Pug and says he knows all about the drug money funding going on.  Pug says that's a "scurrilous" thing to suggest.  Then he asks how they are supposed to operate when the government won't fund the fight against communism in their backyard.  Fury says the place is "no fucking threat."

He says the place is just peasant farmers trying to stay alive. As he said before, treat people like shit and they start to buck and he says he's getting "pretty sick of us backing the assholes they buck against".  Pug says he doesn't think there is no threat from communism out there, but if there was no threat, what would that mean?

Fury: "It would mean we've been prolonging the war.  By whatever means neccessary. For other reasons".

He says Pug has interests in arms, jobs, profits.  But Pug throws it back and says "what's yours?"  He says both of them have the interests of American interests and the love affair with the gods of destruction, who resonates more with more strongly with the warmongers here in Washington? "Which of us is worse?" he says to Fury.  Then he laughs and says that's if all the "preposterous" things he's claimed were actually true.

Sometime later in Miami, Fury and Shirley drown their sorrows together, as she commiserates that Pug:

Shirley: "He's got me in the same way.  I don't have it in me to give up what I've got. I guess neither of us are the people we thought we were."

She says she's seen the reports, she's complicit, but Fury says he is the one "in love with it". Shirley then invites him to have sex, but he brushes her off saying he has an early start.
Shirley discovers she isn't attractiev to Fury anymore.
She says she must have got too old for him, he can find "tighter pussy" anywhere.  He tells her to knock it off and remembers what a "spitfire" she was when they first met in the bar fight.

Shirley: "Oh sure.  I was a spitfire.  I was a doll. I was whatever suited you, nevermind who I actually was.  Now you can't even look at me you son of a bitch!"

Fury gets up and leaves.  Sadly Shirley says to herself, "we could have saved each other from him. From it all."

We return to Fury in the present.  He says he gave it five years, then tracked Barracuda down to a hotel room where he was sleeping with a sex worker.  He put out the lights and using infra-red goggles beat the living shit out of Barracuda with a baseball bat, "sometimes the uniform fucks back" he said as he left, but he knew even at the time it was an empty guesture, worth about "as much as my next shit".

We jump forwards again to 1999.  Hatherly is lying in a hospital bed on life support while Shirley tells him her woes.  She is humiliated by the fact her husband's "whore" now lives with thim.   She says the more she thinks about her shitty life the more she thinks she couldn't have changed it even if she had got serious with Nick Fury.

Hatherly: "I always thought you were lovely"

Shirley: "You did?"

Hatherly: "Always.  There, there darling.  Roads not taken.  Don't cry."

Then it's Hatherly's funeral.  His kids don't want anything to do with Fury because he never visited Hatherly in hospital.
Hatherly's funeral.
But a young woman introduces herself as Courtney, Hatherly was her grandfather.  She said her grandad told her not to think badly about Fury not visiting him, he can't stand hospitals, with all the sickness and weakness, "you don't have that sort of courage"  she ironically echoes. She says her grandad was great, Fury starts to say he was a good friend but she cuts him off.

She tells him there are limits to her understanding, "so please.  No more platitudes for the fallen you've failed."  But she wants to know something, he had kept most of his work secret, but at the end of his life he opened up and seemed to suggest it had all gone wrong and been completely pointless.  They had started with the best of intentions, can Fury tell her what those intentions were "not so much what he did, but why". He stands silent.

Later as he contemplates the war memorial, an old man comes up and introduces himself as Letrong Giap.  The bullet that passed through his neck didn't kill him and he survived the airstrike although no one else did.  He says he is there for the Smithsonian conference on Cold War historical studies. He thinks Fury is there for that too, but Fury says he's not.

Giap says it is a fine memorial, one where you can touch the names. He says he would like his country to have one too, but it would never be big enough to incorporate all the war dead, "such a waste and all for nothing" he says.  As they walk together, Fury says that "you won".  Giap says the coming of the communist utopia was never realised because they brought the cruelty they fought the war with into peacetime.

He saw his comrades grow corrupt and rule with violence, fear and oppression.  He had degraded himself and sacrificed thousands, and for what?

Giap: "Perhaps that is why the likes of you and I are spared.  So we might witness the full extent of our follies"

Giap says they are both bound for hell, but he hopes Fury finds a comfortable place to wait and holds out his hand.  Fury pauses, then shakes it.
A handshake across the years.
At Pug and Shirley's house, Pug is having sex with his live-in girlfriend.  Shirley however has had enough.  She put a bullet through the woman's eye, then holds the gun to Pug's head and orders him to have sex with the body.  He complies in panicked terror.

Shirley: "I could have been a good man's wife.  Not the thing you bought to decorate your arm.  Not Nicky's easy lay.  But sweet Jesus look where I am now".

And she pulls the trigger, killing Pug instantly.  She calls Fury on his mobile and rambles that she "got away from him".
Shirley has had enough.
She carries on telling Fury about the time in Saigon she thought he was dead.   She went out and "blew a kiss on the wind" and then the phone goes silent.  Later we see three dead bodies being removed from Pug's house.  Fury is there, absolutely grief stricken.

And we return to Fury in the present.  He says that was years ago, and no matter how many times he lies down "I just don't seem able to die. I keep waking up in the morning". He says this recording will probably be seized and fired into the sun by the agency.

We then return to him speaking with Hatherly's grandaughter and he answers her question as to why her grandad did what he did. When they first met in Saigon back in the 50's, Fury asked what him he thought when he saw the American flag and we finally hear Hatherly's reply via Fury:

Fury: "He told me it had to do with the debt we paid to the past, and the responsibility we owed to the future.  He said it was right there for all to see.  Blood on the bandaged wounds of brave men.  And all the stars in the sky".

The final sentence is spoken in the present as Fury finally stops dictating, looks tired and distressed and suddenly very old and the final panel ominously foregrounds his pistol. The end.
When it's cold, I'd like to die.
Sad, and powerful stuff.  It really brings home how futile the fight against the threat of communism really was, with Fury able to walk and talk with his one time nemesis and find that events he was involved with are now the subject of historical study.  With Fury barely aging as time passes, we get to see it in the faces of his friend, his lover and his controller.  All the sacrifices he made to be able to constantly be at war is shown to have led to a life as hollow as that of Frank Castle as the Punisher in Ennis's run on the series. Pug is a consumate political animal with Fury as his enforcer, much as Fury might like to deny that.  And he also exercises absolute power in his own household, with his control over Shirley and her fear of being alone driving her into a long term marriage with a man who sexually repulses her and finally who she hates enough to kill after degrading Pug the way she feels he degraded her.  Only Hatherly, the one who managed to balance his war work with life outside of it and raise a large family seems to have had a happy life dying peacefully in his sleep.  This is a real downer of a book, that's not to say it's not powerful, moving and incredibly well written, because it is.  But it doesn't leave you feeling anything but sorrow and pity for the people in it.  Goran Parlov's art is subdued and detailed, like the script there is no brightness, no comicbook levity it's all played totally straight.  What's all the more depressing is the realisation that it's all based on real life, the intent reminds me of the J.G Ballard quote "I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror".  These are crimes that need to be returned to for each new generation, a comicbook being one of those ways, Ennis is all about remembering what the military does for good or bad and has always hated the politicisation of the military as coporate interests and war profiteers got involved at a high level, spinning the threat of communism into a way to earn money and influence.  This book is a hard read, but it bristles with passion and anger and if you are into Ennis's work especially the Punisher MAX run, then this is well worth seeking out, either as two softcovers or one sumptious hardback.

Man, this month has got super-dark.  I think this calls for Squirrel Girl.  Join me and her in a few days time, let's lighten things up a bit (a lot).

24 comments:

  1. Some of your captions on the pictures really make me giggle.

    Which is probably just as well cos bloomin hummer, this was a bit grim. Still loving it though. Again I feel very in tune with Ennis and that we've read a lot of the same stuff. You famille with "We were warriors, and young once"? If you have, you'll certainly recognise a lot of the interaction between Fury and his Vietnamese nemesis. Even down to the post war meeting.

    The Iran Contra bit was also interesting; although I was expecting an Oliver North cameo.

    As it happens the CIA have just released hundreds of thousands of files. I haven't yet had time to read them all but I wonder if they'll shed any new light on the events covered here? Possibly not. It's not like the background is in the public domain now anyway, but be nice to see some of the details.

    There's a nice compare and contrast element to Fury and Castle here. Superficially they could seem bery similar. But it's noteworthy that Castel already has a more dispassionate view of things. He's less phased about the implications of the mission and the context. He's just doing the job. But at the same time he seems less of the war junkie. So although Fury is more self reflective and cynical about what they're doing he's also the one who can't function out of that life. I like how things aren't laid on with a trowel and spelt out, but there's lots of room to ponder their respective psychologies. Does Fury hate himself? does that feed into his relationship with Shirley etc?

    If there's a common motif here, its the effects of conscience. The moral seems to be that ultimately you'll have a much happier life if you don't have one. The only 'moral' character who survives spiritually is the one who bails early to spend time with his family. Fury and Shirely though pay a high price. Is it their self loathing that causes their relationships to fail, or is it the failure that makes them hate themselves.

    Heady stuff. No doubt I'll have more to jabber on about as I ruminate further.

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  2. Hiyah, sorry bought the delayed reponse was staying over in Manchester cos it was mum's birthday yesterday.

    Anyway it is definitely the saddest comic book I think I have ever read. I find Ennis is a master of building events to culminate with a killer line. There are two main moments in this for me, the one where Frank says they must stop any attempt to end the Vietnam war and you realise just why he transitioned so comfortably into the vigilante life. And when Hatherly on his dying bed tells Shirley he thought she was lovely. I sort of curse abit that I didn't put in an image of her reaction but you can definitely see why it was the last straw for her.

    And Nick Fury ends up showing how much it must suck to never die as he outlives everyone except the man he once considered an enemy. Tragic really.

    Those CIA files might be interesting to compare with what was "known" at the time and now. Did you know Alan Moore penned a look at the CIA's dirty deeds over a thirty year period back in 1989. I don't own a copy, but it's dropped enough in price that I should be able to pic up a copy at some point this year.

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  3. Ooh, hope you had a lovely time. I sort of imagine Biff arranging a cat party when you're away and having to tidy up quickly before you get back. Just make sure he doesn't advertise it on cat Facebook so you end up in the Daily Mail saying "and then it just got out of hand".

    Coincidentally enough I just put something on Mammoth about outliving your friends. That was in relation to pets but I wonder if I was subconsciously influenced by this blog post.

    Didn't know about the Moore thing. Hope you can track it down. Be interested in hearing 'more' about it ( see what I did there). He does have a bit of a conspiracist view of history. Wonder if he really believes that or if it's just because it's such a good narrative device.

    You got me thinking more about the desire not to end the war. Frank's view sort of parallels what was going on with Nixon and Kissinger behind the scenes. Of course they had their own reasons for keeping it going a bit longer. But I'm sure Ennis had that in mind when he wrote the bit between Fury and Castle.

    Oh, speaking of CIA shenanigans I did respond a bit more on that spiderman article. On a wider level, that thing about how we excuse or even cheer the actions of designated heroes is a topic I'm interesting in exploring more. I think that's why Im so drawn to this story. It's one of the rare examples in comics that addresses the subject in a deeper manner.

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  4. Gah, booted up my game of Diablo 2 and nodded off, woke up dead. Downside of a laptop in bed!

    I can trust Biff to behave himself while I'm away. He mainly just moves to sleep in the middle of the double-bed, when I am in it he sleeps by my left arm. He wouldn't have a party, although I have never seen him act aggressively toany other cat he is feared by all. I guess he exudes dominance somehow, I think he thinks he's really a human...

    If the cost of the Moore comic doesn't spiral into unreasonableness I hope to grab it soon because I am beginning to run short of Moore's obscurities. I'm guessing it'll be very conspiracy theorist, he's an old hippy like my mum, but he does do his research but I guess it'd be harder to find evidence when he was writing in the late 80's. Be interesting for me as well, I'd like to see how it would work as a comic.

    It is horrible outliving your pets, fortunately my cats have been pretty long lived, my first got to 19, my second to 14 and he overlapped with the first cat by six years! Biff will be twelve in April, He's very pateint and allows me to check his teeth and ears regularly, he's only landed up at the vets once outside of neutering and vaccinations, and it only turned out to be an upset tummy.

    I'm about to formulate a response on the other post...

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  5. It is cute when animals cooperate when you're checking them out. I think it's also the trust thing. It's a nice feeling. I've mentioned before I think about all the times Sas would just stand there with her mouth open whilst I removed whatever stick or bone she'd managed to get lodged this time. I'm a sucker for YouTube clips like that hippo getting his teeth cleaned. There's also a great one where some divers cut a whale loose from a fishing net and the whale then follows their boat leaping about and blowing water in the air.

    I found your response on the other thread interesting. I've put some thoughts in an email.

    Speaking of Watchmen I found out the other day about the origin of the "Who watches..." phrase. I knew it came from Juvenal. I'd assumed it was some great political point he'd been making. I didn't realise it's from a story where someone has his servants chaperone his girlfriend. But then his mate points out who's going to stop her copping off with them. I like that. It's like finding out Churchill's "fight them on the beaches" speech came from his time when he was a mod in Brighton (or would he have been a rocker?)

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  6. Yeah cats can be a bit funny about their heads sometimes but Biff loves being scratched on the head and tickled under the chin and generally fiddled with there. I'm fairly diligent about checking his teeth because my last cat had terrible tooth problems. But Biff eats a pretty much all dry diet so that's kept them strong and healthy.

    Hah, I didn't know that about "Who watches..." either. I also thought it was some political point too. Given all the cheating that goes on in Watchmen, maybe it's more fitting now.

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  7. It's funny how even the most misanthropic cats (ie all of them) love a chin tickle. Especially that way they try to pass it off as "Ok then just this once, but remember this is for *your* benefit. I'm not enjoying this at all.....Hey, did I say stop?"

    Picking up our earlier points about meta and self awareness in media I do like that line in Demolition Man:

    "Hurting people isn't good. Well, sometimes it's good. But anyway..."

    That film, and Last Action Hero, were surprisingly brave at poking fun at their own genre whilst still revelling in it.

    I could also ramble on a lot about James Bond here. The films are classic family fun. But if you think about it JB makes Jack Bauer look like he's in Amnesty. But it's all played for laughs. When they did try to address the issues in a more serious way with the Dalton films they bombed. Although now the Craig films are more like that. Maybe it needed the right Zeitgeist. I'm a big fan of the books though and they really do go into the implications of that life. Bond is a much more complex, and believable, character in the books and his job really takes a toll. It completely fucks him to the point of breakdown. In the books the reason he gets all the desperate missions is that he's the one agent they can afford to lose.

    Speaking of realistic portrayals of depression btw, have you read any Sherlock Holmes? Now continuity wasn't something Conan Doyle cared much about. He just churned out great stories. So Holmes can vary between being hyper clever and thick as pig shit. But a lot of people have commented on how accurate the portrayal of what we'd now call manic depression is.

    Of course it has been suggested that's just a device so that Holmes could have whatever personality suited the particular story.

    Be curious as to your thoughts though if you're familiar with the tales.

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  8. No cat can resist the chin tickle, it is known.

    Ah someone else who likes the Last Action Hero. I saw it at the cinema but at the time people seemed really confused by it. I guess it came a bit ahead of it's time in that respect, fourth wall breaking tended to be restricted to pure comedies then.

    I haven't read the Bond books, I grew up with the Roger Moore version, kindof skipped Dalton. Loved the first two Brosnan ones (admittedly Goldeneye more for the absurd amount of time me and my then GF spent playing the videogame based on it, and Tommorrow Never Dies for having Michelle Yeoh in it), hated the other two Brosnans, haven't seen any of the Craig ones. So my Bond knowledge is decidedly lacking.

    Also I have read the Holmes books although not for years. It does strike me that he does feel quite bipolar, but part of me wonders if that isn't more a comment on him taking cocaine to stop himself getting bored! That said I have never taken cocaine so I don't know how it really affects mood, so I could be talking through my hat here. I did read a very amusing article once about some of the inconsistences across the stories, like Watson having something like five different wives. The sly dog.

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  9. It's so sweet in the stories how Watson fusses over Holmes' drug taking. They're such a married couple. Notwithstanding Watson's wives. Just the three though, he wasn't a total lothario.

    The effects of cocaine are interesting. It's well known for making people quite hyper. But if people are naturally manic (not necessarily in the technical sense) it can have the effect of being a bit of a depressant. I'm given to understand Ritalin (which is related to cocaine) works in a similar way. It calms down hyperactive kids but if you just give it to 'normal' people it gives them a real buzz. No doubt someone with an expertise in pharma-psychology could explain why.

    I could ramble about the Bond films, but there's a great documentary by Mark Gatiss that's just so spot on I have nothing to add to that really. He echoes my thoughts exactly.

    But 80s action movies! Gawd I love those. Back when the only criterion was "be entertaining". But having said that they could be amazingly self aware and quite insightful.

    One of my favourite films of all time is Commando. Now it's one of my arguments that Commando is one of the most feminist films of all time. But beyond that it's such a fantastic commentary on all those super macho action films. It works as an action film but it's the fact it had its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek that also makes it a very loveable film. It doesn't quite break the fourth wall but it leans pretty heavily.

    "Have you ever heard such macho bullshit?"

    It's very interesting to compare it to Taken (which just rips it off). Taken is a nasty film on so many levels. I also think it's got a real streak of misogyny. The basic premise is women who don't listen to their man will deservedly get kidnapped and nearly raped. And then it'll be for the man to rescue the hopeless females.

    Compare how in Commando, Matrix is a loving single dad who enjoys spending time with his daughter doing both traditionally boys stuff and girly stuff, and even takes her comments on board when she calls him out on some of his views.

    "More like *girl* George"

    Note also that by the time Matrix arrives (with the help of Cindy) to rescue her she's already escaped using her own resources.

    Argh, what have you done to me? Previously I'd just be saying "Commando's great; Taken's rubbish" But now I'm getting all Bechtel Test!

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  10. I'm very pro-the 80's action film. Jackie Chan's Police Story films were a big influence on them plus lots of things regularly explode. Always up for a bit of that (incidentally there is a videogame where you play an undercover Hong Kong cop which plays out exactly like a mash-up of an eighties Jackie Chan and John Woo film, I adore it!)

    I have to admit Commando is not one I have seen, but look at me here with a new laptop and one TB of HDD space to fill... hem hem hem.

    I'll have to try and find that Gatiss doc, he's good at doing them, what's it called? I 'll see if I can track it down via the Usual Places. hem hem hem again.

    Well Watson has my respect, three can be quite a handful. Oh wait you don't mean all at once do you? :D

    I don't know much about pharmacology myself, I just know I am on eight different medications seven of which are downers and I am still regularly am too buzzed to sleep. So you can probably imagine what a pain in the arse I am without them.

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  11. You've never seen Commando?! Oh you poor deprived thing. Apart from anything else you've missed out on 25 years opportunity to say "You're a funny guy. I'll kill you last". Well it's certainly worth a few gig on that ridiculously large hard drive.

    Those Jackie Chan films are ace. And speaking of both torture and gender roles there's a great bit in one of the films. He's a spy and gets caught along with the heroine. The bad guys do the classic 'torture him so the woman will be unable to watch and thus blab'. But she's pretty stoic. Which leads to the classic line:

    "Why don't you torture her? Maybe I'll talk".

    The Gattis doc is rather obviously "Premium Bond". It is very good though.

    The Watson timeline is a bit nebulous. So he's either a bigamist or more likely they've got the longevity of mayflies. Unless of course he's a serial killer. It's a bit of a thing with Holmes fans to try to reconcile all the inconsistencies. The fallback position is that whenever Holmes is shown to be ignorant about a topic (like how he doesn't know the earth goes around the sun) his embarrassment and ego makes him learn all about it (hence him suddenly being an expert in advanced astronomy)

    Moffat in the new series (not that I've seen it) explains the discrepancy over where Watson got shot by having it being in his shoulder but giving him a PTSD related psychosomatic limp.

    I'd be intrigued to hang out with you without your meds. You know I quite like the idea of you as a Berserker. It's pretty cool really. Like you're this super dangerous predator only kept in check until we need to unleash you. Be a great scene in a film:

    (to the bad guys)

    "Now you've asked for it. Release the Varalys!"

    Ah, you're born out of your time. In a more civilised era you'd be roaming the wastelands rescuing villagers from tyrannical despots.

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  12. Heh sorry for the delayed response, made a big mistake installing Diablo 2 on my laptop and had to sleep off a three day binge :D

    Actually, I'm not quite playing a Beserker in it, but close enough, a Werewolf, running about frenziedly clawing everything to death, grrrr. Most enjoyable. Sigh if only I could do that in real life... I've always thought werewolves were one of the cooler enemies of folklore.

    I stopped watching Sherlock in it's second series when Moffat said he couldn't believe any woman could outwit his Mary Sue Sherlock and turned Irene Adler into a simpering, love sick nitwit. But the nakedness was much appreciated.

    I like it when a fandom tries to reconcile the reconcilable. Lance Parkin's ever more insane attempts to write a coherent History of the Whoniverse including all the EU stuff must be sending him round the twist!

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  13. Heh, I'm like that when mates lend me box sets. "Just one more...." Luckily being my own boss I can usually sleep at the office. I'm tempted to go 1970s British Leyland style and bring in a camp bed.

    I love werewolves. They're my favourite supernatural creature. I'd make a good one. I'm furry enough and practical feral anyway. Years ago I read a short story called "The Skin Game" (I think it was by that guy who wrote game of thrones). That was one for the first bits of fiction I encountered that did that, now pretty common, thing of looking at the traditional 'horror monsters' from a sympathetic viewpoint. Werewolves are so much cooler than vampires though; they're just hipsters now. Watched American Werewolf a little while ago. That's such a good film (I love the really middle class ghost zombie couple. They're just so polite "and if you wouldn't mind killing yourself that would be super"). I first saw it when I was a kid. Then my mum and dad sent me out into nighttime London on my own "You'll be fine". Did freak me out a bit when I came across Picadilly Circus. "Dog soldiers" is also brilliant. Although the wolves are perhaps a teensy bit less sympathetic there.

    Haven't seen Sherlock. I'll probably wait until it's definitely finished with no dangling plot threads then binge. It's funny a it Irene Adler. She's been built up into such an imperative character, even though she's only in one story and it's a relatively minor role at that. That's pretty common though in Holmes. Moriarty is barely in the canon, same with Mycroft. But I like how the fans have run away with the characters and imputed all sorts of characteristics and backstory to them. It is annoying though when great women characters just get sidelined like that and have to fall for the hero. I heard about the naked thing, but really that shouldn't have phased Holmes. If he can tell a persons life no sorry for their pocket watch he could have done the same here "Hmm, I see that you use a Gillette ladyshave. They're very expensive, but from those scratches you haven't been able to change to blade in a while. So you clearly come from money but have now fallen on hard times..."

    (Ooh, someone had just dropped in with chips! Yey. To be continued...)

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  14. And we're back. It's great trying to life a healthy lifestyle in Cornwall. You mention you had a salad the other night and friends bring round food like they're a relief agency. They were nice chops though.

    I enjoy trying to reconcile stuff in fiction I enjoy. Easy in Dr Who though. You can just explain everything with time travel, paradoxes and parallel universes. And if there's still a plot hole then the explanation just hasn't happened yet. When I'm show runner though first thing I establish is the Morbius Doctors as canon.

    The best time travel story Ive read is The Fall of Chronopolis. It's hard to do someone new with all the tropes but this dos it in the 70s and still hasn't been beaten. Basic plot is a time war between a 'chronic empire' spanning a millennium or so against an enemy from the future. Time travel has taken on a religious bent and there's a persecuted religious minority who have a hard time proving their loyalty to the empire in the war. The twist is that the future enemy is composed of refugees from that minority fleeing persecution.

    Some great treatment of all the standards though. Like ontological paradoxes and causal loops. Also a nice bit with a gay character who's in a relationship with his younger self. He lives in dread of the day, which he knows is coming, when he's going to dump himself for the younger model.

    But yeah, I'd love to go around clawing and eating people. I have been known to wake up naked in strange places with no memory of how I got there. So I'm well prepared for life as a werewolf.

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  15. I'm playing a Druid so I can summon wolves to help and turn into a werebear if I need to tank more, but I am choosing pure wolf this time. Fewer hotkeys to manage than when I play as my Summoner Necromancer (my usual class). Have you seen the film Brotherhood of the Wolf, been a while since I saw it at the cinema so mightbe hazy on some details but seemed to recall a fun mix of folklore and kungfu happening (which should happen more often, I have a few Mr. Vampire films on dvd bcause I love the Chinese Hopping Vampires!).

    Also yep to American Werewolf, one of the first horror flicks I saw (on VHS, bit young to see it in the cinema) and w00t someone else who likes Dog Soldiers. I might have to drag that out the dvd pile at some point for a rewatch.

    I know what you mean about trying to have a healthy lifestyle. I am pure veggie on my own, but I eat round at either mum's or my sisters once a week. We almost always have meat. But how can I turn down home cooked beef stew and dumplings?! My principles only stretch so far :D

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  16. Dog Soldiers is one of those perfect films. Concept, dialogue, acting, aesthetics. Everything about it is brilliant. And it rewards further viewing, so many subtle things. Have you noticed for instance the order things are blown up in? Straw pile, wooden shed, brick house. There's even a red hoodie.

    Now you've mentioned were-bears I can't get the Hair Bear Bunch theme out of my head. "Help help, here come the bears.."

    Not seen Brotherhood to my knowledge, but I'll keep an eye out. Of course for martial arts canines you can't top Hong Kong Phooey. It's canon that he's the number one superguy. (Trivia quiz: Connection with the Shining?)

    I'm glad you're enjoying your marauding. You're almost getting me tempted to try video games. Sounds fun. I've got to visit some gamer friends soon so maybe I'll ask them if I can have a go.

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  17. Bear in mind I am playing a game that is 17 years old on a brand new Windows 10 Laptop. Using a touchpad isn't an optimal way to play this type of game as you click about 10x per second if not more, so I am dying a bit more than usual, but death just costs you any gold you had about your person. Not very newb friendly though, I'm sure your gamer pals can find something that'd suit. DIablo 2 is just like crack though because it is deceptively simple. ALso I am supposed to be writing the next blog post, as I finally ran out of stock. Yeah, might have to wait a couple more days for Squirrel Girl xD

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  18. Yey, no fake geek girls here!

    I bet you've got your own copy of the Hong-Kong Book of Kung-fu. I'd love that red and black kimono.

    My computer mad mates would sometimes slow down the processor clock to play classic games (Well one game really, Syndicate. We loved the loading screen). Most of the time though they'd just overclock until you could smell burning.

    The last games I played were beneath a steel sky and Dune 2. Guess things have moved on since then. I did have a go on a friend's Wii. I tried the fitness stuff but because I forgot to change from her profile she suddenly doubled in weight, which rather threw out her personal regime. (I suggested she just eat burgers til it was right for her too). I did enjoy that though. But I can pretty much do the same thing with a stopwatch app I've got.

    Hopefully we'll get to meet. Then you can show me the sights in Fallout. I'd be up for being a wolf though too.

    *howls at moon*

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  19. I don't have the book, but I DO have a Hong Kong Phooey mug which is one of the ones I use when I have gracious company.

    Most old PC games I've had to get off you-know-where. I own the damn discs but installation from them is such a pain it's easier to get a copy someone has done all the work for. You can fiddle around with DOSBox and WinEMu but.. meh I go the quick easy way.

    I might even have Fallout 4 by the time we meet, I am trying to save some cash for a XBone now I have Xbox Live and can transfer my account across. You'd probably enjoy Skyrim too, lots of dragons and oh yes, my current character is a werewolf there as well!

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  20. Heh, it took me ages to figure out what an 'XBone' was. Are the games back compatible, ie will you be able to play the old ones on the new machine? Or is it a cunning marketing ploy, like having to buy all your favourite vinyl albums on CD.

    At the risk of sounding like an old fogey I do prefer all those old 8 bit games. I have found a few that have been ported to stuff like Java. I might download a Commodore 64 emulator though so I can play the rest of the classics now they're all on the Web.

    Funny how the world was divided by computer choice back then. Like how posh kids ended up with BBC Micros. But it's like Blue Peter v Magpie or Swap Shop v Tiswas. Those choices told you everything you needed to know about families.

    On an unrelated note, apparently there's a new Dr Who spin off. Called 'Class'. It's about the pupils from Coldhill School. (when I lived in Shoreditch I loved the fact thats where Who started). Haven't seen it. Probably on IPlayer. But I've been told it's like someone said "There can never be anything as bad as Torchwood and the Beeb went "Hold my pint".

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  21. Ah "backwards compatibility" always a thorny issue with new consoles. AFAIK because the Xbone is internet connectable you can download a small patch so your 360 game will play. Now they are still supporting the 360 online so it's not a huge hassle but at some point they'll stop and I need to keep my profile because it has nearly 100K in Acheivemenents stored on it. Of course the original Xbox games were supposed to be backwards compatible with a small patch I believe the problem was a different hardware processor made the changeover hard on game stability. So I won't be packing away my 360 anytime soon. Of course right now I have under my TV an Xbox 360, an Xbox, a PS2 and a US PS2 (with stepdown transformer, guess who gave me that!).

    I never had my own computer until I was 22 (too poor, tiny violin) and got my first PC with a MASSIVE 1 GB of HDD space, WOW!! But I always had friends with them or used the schools computers (learned to type on a BBC Micro, learnt to use a mouse on the Acorn Archimedes, did my A'level essays on the school Macintosh, being a nerd then helped because no1curred about them but me so I had the run of the schools tech). Me and my sister were loaned a C64 in the summer of 1985 and spent many happy hours loading games from tapes and occasionally getting to play something, woohoo!

    I have heard similar reports of Class being dire. But really, worse than Torchwood? Man, that is bad.

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  22. I'm on a right nostalgia trip now. We had Commodore PETs at school. I still have a bit of a soft spot for that aesthetic. It is very 'form follows function'. I didn't do computer studies (zero math skills) but they were cool about us using them in our own time, so I got a sort of practical knowledge. I remember I'd read the computer magazines of the day. Initially they were incomprehensible. But I'd keep going back to them and it was a nice feeling as they'd make more and more sense.

    My parents then scrimped and saved and got me a VIC20. Bless them. We weren't exactly loaded at the time so it was really cool of them. (Hmm, I'm getting a bit emotional thinking back now). I was quite good on the hardware side so I used the school facilities to acid etch a circuit board and managed to get hold of some 2k RAM chips. So I boosted my VIC to a massive 11.5k! Didn't know what to do with all that tbh.

    Later I got a job as a roadie for a local band ("Hi mum, I'm a 14 year old boy so is it ok if I disappear with these strange guys in a van for days at a time?"). So I ended up with loads of spare cash and was able to buy a C64 and even a disk drive (172k floppies, yey). Some friends and I joined a local computer club. This was the days when even the big companies were having games written by teenage kids. There were some in that club, so we got access to all the games even before they were released (or even finished). I rigged a device so I could crash ROM cartridges and then copy them to disk. Had a pretty good collection. Happy times.

    When PCs took off I had a lot of nerdy friends who had them so learned via them. I got my first one when I moved to London. One of my old mates from my debauched music biz days had a computer company that made high end PCs for specialist clients so he took care of my PC needs. Had some pretty flash machines over the years. Started using Windows NT and then UNIX and that's pretty much when I stopped playing games. It was just to much hassle getting them to work. But then I sold my soul and got into macs. And I've been an Apple cult member ever since. Now I just use the iPad for stuff.

    Chatting to you though does inspire me to maybe check out games. You do make them sound interesting.

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  23. It's amazing how nostagiac us nerds can get over our history with computers. Things changed so fast and so rapidly. I mean I could never have imagined I could sit in bed surfing the high speed internet with a laptop that had one thousand times the storage space of the desktop PC I was using twenty years ago. Nor that games would look as incredible as they do now!

    I don't know much about Macs and gaming, I don't tend to play the kind of casual games that seem to make up the majority of stuff availiable as apps. But I am sure there is some fun stuff lurking about if you look hard enough.

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