Wednesday, 19 April 2017

DMZ Book 4: Friendly Fire (#18-22)

"This war doesn't even have a name.  Did you ever realise that?" - Sergeant Nunez

Time for more DMZ, a comic set in a version of the noughties where an isolationist, let's say "America First", populist movement sprang up in the American midwest.  They were disillusioned by the way the government was ignoring the people at home for various wars it had going on in the Middle East and declared their own government based in Montana, now known as the "Free States".  This immediately brought them into conflict with the US government and a second civil war soon broke out, a total fantasy of course but go with it.  With many of their soldiers still serving oversees and having never had to fight a war with people who looked just like them, the US was pushed right back to New York. Manhattan was partially evacuated but around 400,000 civilians remained trapped as the bridges, roads and tunnels were sealed off. Fighting between both sides took place there up until what is known as the "Day 204 Massacre" occured, which is what we will be finding out about today as embedded and independent journalist Matty Roth is hired by old station Liberty News to cover the story of the people involved and affected by that terrible event, the soldiers involved are going on trial, and we'll see how it was this event most of all that helped turn Manhattan into the DMZ and force a stalemate there between the US and the Free States.

Matty walks through the U.S government checkpoint to some hostility, "the prodigal son returns" he thinks to himself. Once inside the Liberty News building he bumps into his father who sits on the board of Liberty News.  Matty tells him he won't pull his punches, his dad says he doesn't want him to. "The eyes of the world are on this tribunal, and it has to be transparent and fair" he says.  Matty is then left in an interrogation room with Private First Class Stevens.  Stevens ask if Matty will get him on the six o'clock news, Matty says maybe but right now he wants to listen, "where're you from Stevens?"
Matty meets PFC Stevens.
Stevens tells him he joined up at the start of the war, we see him attending a party and huffing chemicals at his hometown in South Dakota, he'd been arrested and given the option of 18 months in jail or joining the U.S. army.   He figured it was safer to be deployed in some police action in Africa than face the prison showers.

Stevens: "And the idea of a full blown war here, in this country? Even with those militia freaks recruiting anyone they could, there was just no way it could happen... someone would stop it before it got too far.  The lies lies lies we tell ourselves".

After six months of bootcamp he finds himself deployed in Brooklyn, New York.  It's chaos, nowhere to hide, no idea who was firing, what they looked like, the maps were "shit" and everywhere looked the same.  "What the fuck kind of war is that?"

In the initial fighting they droves the Free States back to New Jersey, "it felt good, like we were winning".  The calm lasted a month then fighting started up again, but it was different then.  The Free Staters blended in with the population striking behind human cover.   Some said it was the population rising up against them, or some third enemy joining in, "we were on the fast track to something horrible.  But at the time we couldn't see it coming".
Stevens' squad faces the peace march.
One rainy day his squad was holed up waiting, "we'd sit around until something happened".  And something did happen.  A large group of Manhattan citizens all wearing rain ponchos silently marching, "it was the most goddamn spookiest thing I'd ever seen".  Stevens had the bug and began to see things, blood running in a lake, pooling round his feet.

Stevens: "I couldn't think, I couldn't speak, I couldn't tell the others what I was seeing.  All I could do was watch, helpless."

He staggered fowards to reach for one of the marchers and the person turned, reaching inside their poncho and Stevens's sergeant yelled "gun!" and opened fire on the marchers.  We return to the present and Stevens is silent.  Matty brings the interveiw to a close for now. Matty asks him if there is anything he can do for him, "probably nothing" says Stevens sadly, "but thanks for trying".
A just like that, a war crime happened.
Matty leaves and thinks about what happened. On day 204 of the war, U.S soldiers gunned down and killed one hundred and ninety eight peace protestors.  This resulted in the U.S. government quitting Manhattan and entering into ceasefire talks with the Free States, "that's how much moral high ground was lost that day". 

The tribunal was opened three years later, and just the soldiers.  It's always been maintained that the sergeant saw a weapon being pulled and ordered his squad to open fire. Stevens is the only soldier who has stepped forwards and challenge the established defence, "to reopen the most painful wound of the war".

Next day Matty returns to talk Stevens again and his face is bruised and battered, but he doesn't want to talk about it. They continue on with the interview, Matty thinks "if he talks or doesn't talk... he's probably facing the death penalty either way".  Back on the day of the massacre, they returned to base and were debriefed then returned to active duty as if nothing happened.

Sergeant Nunez checked their ammo and Stevens was the only one who didn't fire a round so was immediately suspect.  He was removed from the unit and reassigned.  He tells Matty he replayed every moment of that day, if there was anything that justified the order to fire, "I always come up zero".  When the criminal investigation was opened, Nunez sent his buddies to beat Stevens to "make sure I remembered that day correctly.  Precisely".  But this made him think finally "fuck Nunez".

Day 204 wasn't a bad day anymore, "it's symbol of a broken county and a discredited military.  Lost trust.  Unhealed wounds". It meant the U.S. army would never be welcome back in the city.  The war would never end.  Who the fuck was he compared to that?  Just a burnout-turned-private first class "and I had no right to anything anymore".

Sergeant Nunez comes to say his piece.
Matty mulls this over and Stevens is taken away to be replaced with Sergeant Nunez.  He thanks Matty for the Trustwell thing, so he guesses he can spare Matty a few minutes "you know, for your little bullshit witch hunt investigation".

He tells Matty that he was born and raised in New York, "so when the Free States arrived I took it pretty fucking personal".  He was out in Iraq when war broke out, he was transferred back home when he'd "killed enough ragheads".

Nunez: "I've been to Haiti, I've been to Somalia, I've been to Afghanistan, Pakistan... and three tours in Iraq.  But this is my war.  I was born for this shit... You'd have to kill me to get me away from it".

He recalls the day of the march, he tells Matty he doesn't give a fuck about what we know now.  What matters is "what's going on right then".  He held his fire as he discussed with the rest of the men who they were.  Then he saw one of the protestors pull a gun and gave the order to open fire.
Nunez, not the most sympathetic of characters.
Afterwards, he told Stevens to start picking up shell casing and told him there was a gun, "are you crying Stevens?"  Later they went back to base and everyone backed him up about seeing a gun.  They were cleared and sent back to active duty.  Nunez says it was the start of the war, they barely knew who and where the enemy was and orders were kept simple "to allow for a broad application".

Nunez: "It was an armed mob in a warzone with unmistakable hostile intent.  What the fuck do you want from me, huh? You gave us the tools... get out of the fucking way and let us do our job."

Later Matty thinks that Nunez stuck to the script he'd heard many times, he could have recited it himself.  But Nunez truly thinks he did the right thing.  He's trying to be objective, but it's been debated over and over, "most of us have already made up our minds".

Matty goes to leave the U.S. outpost and sees on the TV that the trial testimony will be reached the next day and the verdict by the end of the week, "what's the fucking rush?" he says.  As a boat takes him back to the DMZ he reflects that Zee has told him it's tensing up as people there expect the worst.   He is now going to interview the people left behind.  Survivors and the friends and family of people killed.

Zee takes Matty to where it happened, he asks why there is no marker.  Zee says metalworkers made a plaque but soldiers stole it.  Anyway, everyone knows it happened there.  She asks him if the kid Stevens did it, "I honestly don't know" he thinks. Technically he's guilty, but can he be blamed for his role in the massacre?  Zee takes him to meet Dina, a survivor of that day.
Dina, one of the peace marchers.
Zee introduces her as a peace protestor, but she says "I was a fool in a crowd of fools.  I was feeling half my age that day.  I was feeling invulnerable". She has a scarred face  because by the time the bullets reached her they gas slowed considerably and Zee patched her up.  She asks Matty to put his journalistic objectivity aside, "the people who did this... don't you think they should die?"

Later he is having a meal with his friend Wilson and his grandsons.  Wilson says it's none of their business, the war is not their war.  "We sit, we wait.  We stay alive.  We position ourselves for end of war.  Can't last forever, you know... someone gotta inherit what's left, right?"  He declares himself the future king of New York.  Matty laughs while thinking "Ah... he's not kidding is he?"  As he sits outside with Wilson, drunk, he wonders why those who ordered the patrol aren't on trial. Then he throws up.

Next day he speaks to the leader of a right-wing militia group called The Nation of Fearghus. The leader says he lost brothers that day, Matty asks why members would join.  Turns out it was the leaders actual brothers, "the stupid little fuckers" says the leader bitterly.  The Free States don't respond to Matty's request for an interview.

Matty then goes to Soho to speak with the ex-U.S, army gunner living in self-imposed exile.  He says day 204 was the "day America died".  With public support "down the crapper" the U.S. never recovered.  The message was that the U.S. kills its own which helped the FSA propaganda, even though this is a civil war so all they are doing is killing their own. With a show trial and a few heads on the chopping block, a sense of closure and a fresh round of regret from the brass, it'll go no higher than Nunez. "It's become a truism of modern American warfare" he says, "you fix old wounds with new ones".
Zee has no answers for Matty.
Later Matty tells Zee that he doesn't know a "single fucking thing more than I did yesterday.  Except that everything about this is still shit".   Zee says she was one of the first people on the scene and has had years to think about it.  She says she has about as much to show for it as Matty does.  He says there has to be answers.

Zee: "Does there?  What if it's just one of those horrible thing that happen in a war?  Wouldn't that be answer enough?  Why does day 204 get to be different from all the other times innocent people have been killed in this war? Or any war?"

Matty says this is different.  Why though, asks Zee.  When Matty is left alone he thinks that it's because it was when the war changed.  It put the U.S. on the defensive and gave the FSA a chance of maybe taking the country.  It created hundreds of survivors and put a dozen shell shocked soldiers in front of the TV cameras and called them murderers. It swayed public opinion around the globe and created funds for insurgents and funding for opposition groups. 

And no one is asking who the soldiers are and why it happened, no one is digging deeper.  Soldiers did it and will be punished, "doesn't everyone deserve better than that?"  The tribunal is hearing the final arguments, the city is holding its breath, what will happen after the verdict is announced?

The next day Matty is woken by a phonecall from Liberty summoning him to the Manhattan Bridge checkpoint. There he is met by a U.S, army general who tells him, "I thought I'd clear up all the bullshit for you, once and for all." He drops a bullet casing in Matty's hand which is from the massacre.  He tells Matty he can keep it, he has a couple of dozen. He tells Matty it's just a bullet casing, the city is carpeted in them, this one is no more special than others.  Matty says "that's not true. I wouldn't be talking to you if it was."
Matty meets one of the higher ups.
Matty says he's taping it, the general says he's being very careful about what he says.   He then asks if he knows what asymetrical warfare is? 

General: "It's when the small guy breaks the rules so he can try and kill the big guy.  Pretend for a moment that you're the big guy.  What do you do about it?  We had plans and scenarios on the books for just about anything you can think of.  Except this war".

But war is what they do, so they deployed the troops and maintained the moral high ground, "the enemy was scum.  White trash. We just had to show the world that".

He says that they'd been fighting trash all over the world, but trash that spoke American? "Even the best of the best has trouble with that" he tells Matty.   But they figured it was only a one hundred and fifty years since the last civil war, they'd remember.   On Day 204 most squads in the city had been out of contact for hours and days, "communications infrastructure had taken a hit".  They had soldiers reporting in from payphones, you can't jam a landline.
Pretty awful being a soldier in Manhattan really.
They had to trust in the men, trust the squads to complete their patrols, trust the training, trust the men to do their jobs. Did they do their jobs asks Matty?  "Yes" says the general.  Matty asks him if he'd accept or even order another Day 204?  "I'd have to" says the general.

General: "Day 204 was a bad call. But you have to be ready to live with a bad call if only for all the other times when you get it right. We train these men to follow procedure.  To do thi shit by the book.  Over and over again.  We don't train them to second-guess".

Then suddenly a soldier comes to the APC the general and Matty are in, while Matty gets a phonecall from Zee.  Turns out the general was distracting Matty while the tribunal announced the results, which was guilty and dishonourable discharges for the men involved as punishment.

As the U.S, soldiers retreat from the checkpoint while coming under fire, Matty races back to where a crowd in an ugly mood has gathered.  He thinks about how the citizens of the DMZ deserved justice, but they got nothing. "The soldiers take the fall and get to go back home.  And the DMZ keeps on bleeding".

The final chapter begins with the DMZ full of rioting. Matty and Zee are out on the streets as Matty realises the tension he's always felt in the DMZ was building to this day,  "I didn't recognise the place anymore.  Or the people".  A U.S. army patrol trapped in the DMZ is murdered by the Nation of Fearghus and the pictures emailed to Liberty News. it reports that the death toll resulting from the riots will skyrocket and the U.S. military is helpless to intervene.
Matty and Zee finally bond romantically.
Hiding out in a deserted restaurant, Matty is patching up a wounded Zee has recieved to the back of her head.  As he does so he thinks on how his story was "fucking pointless" now with the verdict being read so early, "but could anything I learned have made a difference?"  Was there some great conspiracy, or was it just everyone's word against the others?

Stevens gave compelling evidence including the planting of a weapon and picking up of shell casings, Stevens with multiple convictions for possession, substance abuse and theft on his record.  Or Nunez, telling him how they were confronted and outnumbered by an unknown mob, a weapon pulled on them and the righteous order to fire.  Nunez, a decorated soldier who risked his life hundreds of times in the service of his country.  Stevens, who suffered abuse on a daily basis because he wanted to tell the truth.  Nunez, who racked up an impressive body count over the years.

Nunez's squad backs him up as does the military leadership.  The residents of the DMZ see things differently although they have no love for Stevens either.

Matty: "Are they right?  Is the warrior culture created by the United States government to blame? Is sending roving packs of young soldiers out into a civilian area with shitty training and no intel and expecting results a defensible act? Is it intentional?  Or is this world so fucked up that no one has a handle on what they're doing anymore?"

As he reflects some more we see him and Zee kissing as the DMZ burns.  Next day Matty is writing the story on his laptop while Zee tells him she has to be out there to see what she can do to help.  He joins her and once outside she says Dina texted her to tell her to get over to The Bowery.

They get there and see a crowd has gathered and a helicopter is hovering overhead.  Zee says to Matty, "I think something really fucking bad is about to happen".  Then a man with his hand tied behind his back is tossed out by a man who yells "you want him, you got him!"  It's Stevens.  And when the crowd realise who he is, they start beating him.  Matty and Zee fight their way to him and get the crowd to stop, but it's too late, Stevens is dead.  Zee look around and sees Dina standing there with blood spattered on her face.

Matty sheds a tear as he thinks about Stevens, "a dumb kid from South Dakota who had nothing to offer anyone but his life.  And we were more than happy to take it".  He called his mother, finding out his first name was Chris, and wasn't able to lie and say he hadn't suffered.  He emailed her his finished story, "if Liberty News or the military want it, they'll have to go ask the mother of the soldier they murdered".
There are no happy endi... you know the rest.
Lying in bed with Zee we finish the story with Matty's reflections that with Stevens's death a bit of poison bled out, "everything felt sunnier, somehow.  Happier" He decides no more working for networks, no more working for a paycheck.  He wants to do right by the city, the armies and corporations and politicians "can go fuck themselves for awhile".  And the story ends with the image of Stevens standing over the New York skyline.

Another depressing story from the DMZ, but adds in some vital backstory to the war including how hard it is to effectively war against your own people and the problems faced by the modern U.S. soldier attempting to take on a well armed militia army in a warzone filled with the people you're ostensibly supposed to be fighting for.  It's interesting that in this story the Free States don't actually appear, because this was entirely about a U.S. military fuck up even though it was fear of the FSA that caused it. Matty's search for the truth and his feeling that someone higher up should be held accountable seems from the point of view of a cynic to be somewhat naive.  There never was going to be a wider investigation into the culture that produced both wet-behind-the-ears new meat like Stevens nor hardened career soldiers like Nunez. Really his investigation was a fig leaf covering the fact the trial was pretty much a forgone conclusion, a sop to the residents of the DMZ in an attempt to prevent violence erupting when the verdicts were announced.  And in the end Matty didn't even really matter except to us the reader.  The citizens of the DMZ don't get let off either with the beating to death of Stevens without whom the trial would never have come about, and yet showing that the comic operates in the greyest of grey areas, Matty admits that Stevens's death lanced a boil that had been festering away in the DMZ since the event occured.  Superb writing as ever from Brian Wood, backed up with fantastic art by Riccardo Burchielli, Nathan Fox and Kristian Donaldson.


  1. Gosh, even more to get my teeth into. You've read that paper I did and you know about my (non) involvement with the Iraq courts martial cases. But this resonantes on other levels as well. I can see the allusions the writer is trying to make. There's the obvious My Lai comparison. The line about the day America lost the war seems to be an echo of Walter Cronkite after the Tet Offensive. There's obviously a Nurenberg vibe, but I think the author is also familiar with the background to the Eichmann trial as well. (There's a rather brilliant TV play about that and how it was primarily driven by journalists).

    Do any of the episodes address something called 'posse comitatus' by the way? That's a factor that would be worthy of a mention.

    Anyway, just my initial thoughts. There's always so much to chew on with this one. Oh, and your comments about Japanese on the other thread have remained me of the brilliant bit in the IT Crowd when Jen manages to ruin the merger. You seen that?

    "Your gift of this fine Samurai sword honours me. I can only apologise that my gift, a pair of giant Dr Marten boots, is so unworthy by comparison"

  2. I thought there would be much meat for you here. Funnily enough the My Lai thing hadn't occured to me, but I can see now how it must have been an influence. Brian Wood does a really good thing here, despite the atrocity and despite the victimisation of Stevens, you don't come away (or at least I didn't) thinking the soldiers are monsters.

    It's made clear by everyone they were in a shitty situation with inadequate preparation, fighting an enemy who looks just like them and they did the job they were trained to do. And it lead to a disaster. Matty's need for someone higher up to shoulder some of the blame points out the injustice of laying all the responsibilities on the soldiers. But realistically that was never gonna happen.

    I am not familiar with "posse comitatus" so it most likely doesn't appear, that said I haven't read the last four books as much so it might turn up there.

    I still haven't watched the IT Crowd, you've reminded me I need to get the boxset off my sister so shall do that next time I see her.

  3. That's just me being a legal nerd. Posse Comitatus is the prohibition on using the Army on US soil without congressional approval. Presumably the authorities took care of that when it all kicked off (although would they have a quorum without the Free States? Hmm)

    Yeah, there are some obvious parallels with My Lai. Especially the refusal to look up the chain of command. See my paper for further details :-). There's also a bit of a 'shot heard around the world' vibe (another aspect of US history, although the phrase was apparently first used after the Peterloo Massacre). It's a common theme though. Like that 'Marine A' case here.

    I think you'll enjoy IT Crowd. Matt Berry is just so good (as they all are).

    Feminist writer: "I don't need to remind you of the report that denounced Reynholm Industries as an institutionally sexist organisation"

    Douglas: "Woah, hold on a minute sugar tits"

    There's also some nice (and very affectionate) stuff about geek culture. Mos's webcasts about tabletop gaming are a particular delight.

    "Tonight we'll be reviewing '13th century wool trader' the Norfolk edition expansion pack"

    But I digress. Yeah, does really get you thinking this story. I though it might be hard to keep going over such a long run without becoming repetitive or getting a bit whacky. But they're doing a really good job of coming up with new ideas but making them flow logically from the plot. Looking forward to seeing how it concludes.

  4. I'll be seeing sister no.1 next week, I will whisk the IT Crowd away from her. I just finished rewatching all of The Sopranos so I could do with something a bit more light-hearted to marathon :)

    The DMZ series does keep throwing new ideas into the mix including Matty's getting caught up in the political upheavals that start rocking the DMZ as the series scope widens.

  5. I hope you enjoy it. I think it'll very much suit your sense of humour.

    Did you speak to Jessie btw? Just thought about that cos she wants me to do a few spots on her webcasts. So that'll be me doing a few crunches to try and look more appropriate. I aim to look like tarzan but I'm currently in line for the Oscar for 'best use of a chimp to hide a beer belly'.

  6. I emailed her, but I haven't had an email back. Now AOL likes to eat my emails every now and then, so if you get a chance maybe you could check with her? I too need to flatten my belly. I lose weight fast off my back, bum and hips but have a big old belly that is seriously hard to shift fat from. It truly annoys me.

  7. Just dropped her a line. Shes in the states at the moment but I think it's daytime there.

    I'm sure she can sort you out. I have to begrudgingly admit she's very good (although still want someone who can do it without making me do all the hard work). Still, we can mutually inspire each other. We'll be looking like a comic book cover before we know it.

    (me probably like Robin in that one where he's dead)

  8. Cheers! I just don't want to end up looking like a Rob Liefeld cover, my poor spine suffers enough as it is :D

  9. Well, you can never have enough pockets.

  10. But the temptation is to keep sweeties in them!

  11. Ah that's OK though because I believe Jess has now responded, so you can ear all the sweets you want.

    Hmm, now I want sweets but the shops are shut.

  12. I must resist sweets. The only sweet stuff I eat now is mum's homemade cake. Helps that I have never been that keen on chocolate. I'm a bit of a choccy snob, I like dark chocolate the bitter the better. And supposedly it's good for you!

  13. Sooooo... to be perfectly off topic:

    I finally read enough of the Unstoppable Wasp to have an opinion. It's... cute, even if issue #4 went to a surprisingly dark place, Nadia, and the book by extension, is generally almost insufferably cheerful. Maybe the coloring could be less muted though I feel it undermines the mood somewhat (this is a problem I've with many "indie style" Marvel books so it could be just me ^^;).

    Also her origin still bothers me... (I can explain if anybody wants me to.)

  14. Malitia

    I knew nothing about thus character but I've just had a quick TV Tropes scan and I'd be interested in hearing more. Especially about the red room thing (which I've only just learned about)

  15. @Alan

    I brought it up because varalys mentioned some months ago that she found the title interesting based on a newspaper article, but I couldn't say much then because "not enough issues out". ^^;

    Yeah. She is a Red Room (also known as the Black Widow Project) escapee. This comes back haunting very heavily in issue #4, which I wrote went surprisingly dark. Said issue also went in detail about martial arts in the captions (especially krav maga) the authenticity of which I couldn't judge. ^^; Said captions generally contain science and engineering trivia loosely related to the plot (how fast T-rexes could run when meeting Devil Dinosaur for example).

    Where was I? Yeah. Red Room. Soviet and/or Russian (the comics are sorta vague) secret organization most notable for training female spies and assassins. And not much else is known because even those trainees who switch side (most notably the Black Widow) don't tend to talk about them much.

    Nadia Pym (the Unstoppable Wasp) is the daughter of Hank Pym (the first Ant Man) and his late* Hungarian wife Maria Trovaya** who got abducted and murdered by Soviet/Russian agents***. Nadia then was raised in the Red Room to be a science-spy-assassin... Until she escaped. *dun-dun-duuuuuuun*

    My problems with the backstory:
    * It's a clear case of fridgeing. She dies so her scientist husband is motivated to become a superhero.
    ** That's not a name that goes with that nationality. They should lose the family name ending "a" the very least. (Switching the "o" with the "r" in it would be nice too.)
    *** Thanks to the sliding timescale of comicbooks that's an international incident right there. :/

  16. Malitia

    This is really interesting, so thank you. I've been doing a bit of googling since you alerted us to the story. I do like what I've seen so far. You may have spotted my thing for real (as opposed to faux) action girls. That Red Room project sounds right up my street. I suppose I have a bit of an amateur version going on with the Krav training; and I do joke that I'm trying to create an Amazon army.

    I'm obviously curious about the authenticity of the Krav. I've only managed to find one image. That's where someone is defending against a baseball bat. Have to say the method illustrated is *not* Krav. Interestingly its a technique you see in a lot of works of fiction, because it looks flash, but in real life you'd just end up with two broken arms and a fractured skull. Also a Russian faculty would be more likely to use a marital art called Systema. It's functionally identical to Krav, but you think they'd use the local name.

    Speaking of which, thanks for your expert input on the names. There does seem to be a bit of a thing in the West to get Eastern European names wrong, just so long as they sound a bit 'foreign'. So everyone is called Natasha or Dimitri. For bonus points put a few random reversed letters in there. About the only western author I know who gets things like patrynomics right is Tom Clancy.

    I'd never really thought about fridging get before this blog, although I'd seen the term in TV Tropes. When you think of it it is amazingly common. Everything from Braveheart to the Punisher. Of course, after the rip roaring rampage of revenge, the guy usually cops off with the female partner he picked up along the way anyway.

    But this does seem like a cool story. Heh, shall we deplete Varalys's cat food budget even further and request a review? :-)

  17. @Alan

    The collected edition isn't even solicited yet so that request will have to wait. ^^;

    This is when the captions start to talk about martial arts:

    What is also demonstrated that perfectly fictional shrinking powers would actually be useful in a fight. XD Especially combined with flying.

    Generally she is like this though:

    Also the panel that convinced me that she is Hank Pym's kid alright. I mean that family tree already has several robotic branches. (Later she identifies herself as the sorta sister of Ultron and great aunt of the "children" of the Vision.)

  18. Malitia

    That's very interesting because the narrative is complete accurate; and indeed something you see/hear in just about any Krav introduction. But the pictures do not match the practicalities (apart from the palm strike to the nose). But that's understandable; Krav, like most similar systems, doesn't look very flash so it's not visually interesting. That shrinking thing looks handy though. I'll suggest it to the syllabus people. I'm guessing you just have to breath in very hard.

    I think I'll post that frame to the Krav syllabus Facebook page and solicit comments. If anyone responds I'll report back.

    But once again cheers for this.

    (I also have some opinions on T-Rex speed, but I'll save that for when Varalys's buys the trade paperback)

  19. In the unlikely event you ever need to defend against a baseball bat...

  20. Not like this

    Although it's interesting that once again the narrative is quite correct, just the visuals don't match. That crossing your arms in an X thing used to be a popular anti knife technique but it's useless if there's any force behind the strike, as there would be with a baseball bat.

  21. The classical Marvel method, which I'm not sure if still in use, cut a round of back and forth between the writer and the artist for efficiency reason. So writer told artist what to draw, artist drew what they think that meant, writer put in the finalized script. Then inker, colorist, letterer finished the page. Which occasionally lead to quite a disconnect between text and visuals. I'm not saying that happened here, but would be an explanation. :/

  22. A Pym being the victim of the Marvel method wouldn't be unprecedented though.

    (Hank Pym's infamous wife beater reputation comes from Jack Kirby and Stan Lee somewhat miscommunicating and per method not going back to fixing it but rolling with it.)

  23. My favourite miscommunication is when John Wagner mentioned to Spanish based artist Carlos Ezquerra that he got the name for their new character from reggae artist Judge Dread. So Ezquerra drew Dredd as black.

    The irony is the original musician Dread is a white guy.

  24. About the Hungarian name thing (a bit late) everybody can skip this because probably long and boring. ^^;

    Maria is a perfectly good given name in this case albeit the correct spelling would be Mária.

    The family name ("Trovaya") is what's really off, as almost no Hungarian family name ends with an "a" on the other hand "i" or "y" (denoting the same sound, depends on some transliteration weirdness and snobbery by the nobility) is INCREDIBLY common as it's basically "from" (so "Trovay" would be "from Trova" I don't expect anybody to google if that's a real place, at least it'll sound halfway right). Also "tr" is almost exclusively a thing in loanwords that's why I suggested switching the letters "t" and "o" (making it "Torvay").

    Aaaaand if I really wanted to nitpick Hungarian uses the eastern name order, that means family name first which would get us "Torvay Mária". :3

  25. Aaaaand according to google both in Trovay and Torvai are actually existing Hungarian family names. YAY! \o/ XD

  26. Malitia

    That's all really interesting. I love stuff like that. You may have seen my minor grumble on Mammoth about Gladiator getting Latin names wrong. On a related note, I seem to recall that Hungary is one of those places where nodding means no and shaking heads means yes. Or is that just a myth?

  27. So once again I sleep all day and miss an interesting back n'forth.

    Fighting errors nothwithstanding I think I'm interested enough in this new Wasp story to check it out. It wouldn't deplete the catfood budget though, money comes out of my food budget lol.

  28. Yey, Biff gets to eat. I'm glad about that. I don't want him appearing in a cat charity advert being played by an actor. And spending all your sweet money on comics can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

    I do want to hear more about Wasp though, especially this 'dark' fourth episode. Also, bit of a dumb question, but are those wings a body part or just the costume?

    I've been thinking a bit more about martial arts in comics. I notice that in the 70s it was guys knew kung-fu and girls knew ju-jitsu. Although even then the moves weren't necessarily very accurately depicted. Tended to be lots of throws most normally associated with judo. But then again in that post Okinawa martial arts boom a lot of the terms were used interchangeably anyway, even within the martial arts community.

  29. This brings back memories. Tandy Snow was on the way to being a great character, but her story fizzled out when they cancelled this particular title.

  30. Biff only eats dried catfood and isn't a greedypants so only costs a couple of quid to feed a week.

    Malitia has definitely whetted my appetite for the first collected adition. Marvel seem to be doing far better with their female supers than DC right now alas.

    One of the best depictor of fighting was Jack Kirby, because that guy was a boxer who was involved in a lot of street fights when he was young. You can see that most of all in Benjamin "The Thing" Grimm who was a member of a street gang and Jewish. Probably the best choreographer is fights right now is Michael Lark of Lazarus fame. His fights are a good trade off between feeling real and having enough flashiness to look good to the reader.

  31. I used to buy Sassy's food by the hundredweight from the farming supply place. Interestingly 'working' dog food is cheaper because there's no tax on it. They did dog muesli and it was nicer than even the posh stuff you get from Waitrose.

    That's interesting about Mr Grimm. The guy credited with inventing Krav was a member of a Jewish street gang. Ooh, and I've just remembered I wrote the Krav entry for TV Tropes. Wonder if it's still there?

    Depicting fighting is an interesting challenge in every medium. It's like how the Rocky films capture the essence of boxing brilliantly but obviously real matches are nothing like that (the boxers would be dead if they were). Saw a fascinating mini documentary about movie fight choreography. There's a little trick where you run a string from the camera to the 'target' of the strike. So long as the attacker 'breaks' the string (obviously they remove it for filming) it'll always look like the strike made contact. Simple but amazing how many directors still don't get it so it looks obviously fake and pulled punches.

    There's a great bit on the commentary to The Raid. The director yelled cut because he thought a kick didn't look realistic. Then noticed his very annoyed actor was spitting a tooth out.

  32. Yeah I buy big bags of Go-Cat "Crunchy N'Tender" for Biff. I did some research into whether it was OK for a cat to have a sole dry food diet and as long as he has plenty of water it's fine. Oddly he'll eat wet food when he's round at mum's place stealing her cat's food. But if I put it out for him? Turns his wee pink nosey right up at it, heh.

    Fight coreography always fascinates me. I have over 125 martial arts films on DVD and it's cool how Hong Kong fight choreography made it over to the west. I was watching Marvel Agents of Shield a while back with my sister and she commented how crap fights used to be on TV shows and how cool they are now.

    Both The Raid films are amazing and the commentary's fascinating. I wasn't surprised that some injuries happened, seems to be par for the course in martial arts movies. One of my favourite films is the first Ong-Bak one, and there is no way to really fake kicking someone's ass while on fire!

  33. My favourite Ong-Bak fact is that elephant in the second film was the highest paid actor on set. He was amazing though. "These two guys are going to have a big fight on you, you cool with that?". Also, if you read the graffiti in the first film it says stuff like "Hey Mr Spielberg, any chance of a job?"

    I enjoy my fighty films as you know. I love the realistic stuff but I'm also a fan of wushu theatrics. If you go on Vimeo I think there's the video to 'get yourself high' by chemical brothers. I think you'd find that funny. And it's so well done.

    Oh, and that man with the iron fists film I mentioned a while back turns out to be by the Wu Tang Clan, whom I believe you like.

  34. Yeah the Wu Tang Clan is cool, NZA does commentaries on the dvd's of Shaw Brothers films, but they are hard to track down because few have a R2 release.

    Elephants are really holy in Thailand so it was cool seeing one just chilling as two people fight on him. Also Warrior King has retrieving an elephant as a major plot point too.

    I do like seeing some good wu shu, Jet Li is another I am a fan of and he makes it look both fierce and graceful.

  35. Yeah, it explains why that film, whilst flawed, is such an affectionate homage. I love seeing the Shaw Brothers logo. It's like Pearl & Dean. Gets you all tingly with anticipation. Didn't Tarantino do some weird deal so he could use the Shaw Brothers credit on some of his films?

    You ever seen 'Unleashed'? Jet Li is wonderful in that. Shows he's also just a great actor as well as the action stuff. It's a really emotional performance. And there's a great bit guaranteed to make you blub.

    Heffalumps are fantastic. They make any film better.

  36. I haven't see much Shaw Brothers stuff, most of the kung fu films I have were the Golden Harvest ones as they got published over here by Hong Kong Legends then Cine Asia. They also released non martial films too, all the John Woo stuff, while cine asia and Tartan gave us some great South Korean cinema too.

  37. @Alan

    "I seem to recall that Hungary is one of those places where nodding means no and shaking heads means yes. Or is that just a myth?"

    Myth. So there too nodding means "yes", and head shaking "no". I heard this thing about Greece by the way... no I'm not sure if it's true. O.o

  38. @varalys

    The Unstoppable Wasp is a very very cute book, it occasionally might overdo the "you go, girl!" attitude, but at least it lampshades selection bias as the title character sets out to find girl geniuses for her research lab.

    Unsurprisingly she finds some... that fight scene happens when she tries to recruit a geneticist, who happens to work at a clothing store and just tries to be normal.

    My general Marvel opinion: They make some interesting mostly self-contained comics, but dear god is the metaplot stupid currently. I'll not read their events so much harder!! ;) I'm not sure how exactly will I achieve this though, I mean, I even call events SoAE (Source of All Evil) already. ^^;

  39. Oddly I have a few Marvel event comic collections. I really liked Age of Ultron, House Of M was OK. Avengers vs. X-Men made me cross and currently I'm ploughing through Original Sin which is very confusing. Maybe because I'm not so invested in the Marvel U I can tolerate them because DC's crossovers make me furious in general, Final Crisis is about the only one I actually like.

  40. My general attitude is that I ignore events as completely as possible. I might read them collected if I hear good things about it (preferably much) later.

    I would say I'm suffering from Post-Inferno Trauma. I mean Infarno was my very first actual event (it was one of Marvel's very first events too), and I love it, but I never got over it in many ways. (I need a "JUSTICE FOR MADELYNE PRYOR!" T-shirt.)

  41. ... Whut? O.o Where did my comment go? (It was about how Inferno traumatized me. ^^;) Oh well, not as important.

    Original Sin. I only read one tie-in mini from that because it was relevant to my Loki related interests. :3

  42. And randomly. Mainstream superhero comics are very good for weird non sequiturs:
    -- Royals #2

  43. "It's time to make a metaphorical deal with the devil. And by devil I mean robot devil and by metaphorical I mean 'get your coat'"

    I'm not surprised it's a myth. Supposedly shaking your head derives from babies refusing food by turning away, so I'd expect it to be universal.

    Metaplot is a real turn off for me. I think we've sort of addressed this before in regard to 'new reader' reboots. But I feel very locked out of US comics. There's just too much backstory and continuity. That's not to say a previous history is a bad thing. I love Dr Who when it makes little continuity references. But you can still enjoy and more importantly understand what's going on without knowing every detail. To adopt TV Tropes language one person's fanwank is another person's noodle incident.

    But even as a kid Marvel confused me. Like how you had to read 4 different spiderman titles to follow a story. I think that's why I preferred the more self contained black and white titles like Savage Tales. Of course my beloved 2000AD nearly went down that route when they started running Dredd stories across both the original and the megazine. Interestingly theres a weird rule here about TV programmes. They can have expanded universe materials but such materials mustn't have any bearing on the plot of the TV series. So the little minisode where the 8th Doctor returns was allowed to refer to big finish characters but only because it wasn't broadcast to air.

  44. Metaplot can be fun, but DC did it in the worst way with the New 52. Crossovers every few months and stories that started in one comic finishing in another title. Most of the goof New 52 stuff I have covered tended to be titles that stood alone like "Dial H" and "The Movement". I hated how the excellent "Frankenstein Agent of SHADE" got mired in a crossover then cancelled directly after meaning it ended confusingly and lamely. As a non-Marvelite the Marvel NOW initiative really helped bring me into the universe, and I thought the DC You would do the same for non-DC readers. The first bunch of DC Rebirth trades have hit the shelves, I am umming and ahhing about if I should check them out or not...

  45. Nowadays that level of interconnectedness happens mostly when an event strikes (which in the case of Marvel is very very OFTEN). Then you can suddenly find yourself in a completely different story from one issue to another and be totally lost*.

    Or if you happen to be reading whatever part of their universe has the "metaplot ball". Which is currently Captains America, before that was Iron Man (this also fell into the next category), before that the Avengers... and so forth.

    Or if you're reading anything by for example Bendis that has a companion title. Because some writers neeeeeeeed as many pages as they can get to fill it with not much happening. :/

    * For example: I'm reading my very mediocre but at least pretty self-contained adjectiveless X-Men BAM! two random issues of "Battle of the Atom"! Whut? WHUT?!

    ... One of the reasons reeeeeeeeeeeeally hate events.

  46. What I mean by Marvel having way too many crossovers/events?

    - Avengers: Standoff - Hit the Avengers line. Some readable standalone... others less so.
    - Spider-Women - Hit the woman led books of the Spider-verse.
    - Apocalypse Wars - Hit the X-Men side more thematic so not as bad... maybe.
    - Civil War II - Hit the whole line but most tie-ins are mercifully in name only.
    - Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy - Hit the whole Spider side albeit some titles more than others.

    - Inhumans vs. X-Men - Hit the Inhuman and the X-Men BUT just the teambooks.
    - Grounded - Hit the Guardians of The Galaxy but more of a shared status quo so not so bad.
    - Monsters Unleashed - Kept itself to its own mini and one-shots! YAY!
    - 'Til Death Do Us... - Hit the Deadpool books. HARD.
    - Secret Empire - Is starting now and will flood everything with possibly the stupidest thing Marvel ever did.


  47. There was a great quote on Gallifrey One once "I'm so hardcore the only episode I regard as canon is the unbroadcast pilot. I don't know what show you lot are watching"

    I understand the attraction of being 'in the know'. It's nice to have an attachment to works of fiction. That can lead to all those problems though around 'ownership' where knowledge of obscure bits of trivia turns into shibboleths to gatekeep and exclude more casual fans as somehow fake. And of course the ultimate extension of that with the Gamergate mentality. Still, as Doctor Spock said in Stargate "If at first you don't succeed there is no try".

  48. "as Doctor Spock said in Stargate "If at first you don't succeed there is no try"."

    I need this on a T-Shirt. XD