Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Breaking Down, Chapters 6 - 9

Chapter 6 - There Should be Laws Against This Much Nothing In One Book

* “My entertainment became the number-one priority on Isle Esme.” Ha ha, became! Who do you think you’re kidding, Steph?

* “I knew what was going on. He was trying to keep me busy, distracted, so that I wouldn’t continue badgering him about the sex thing.” So stop. It’d be one thing if the story didn’t make an effort to portray Bella as something more than your average dramatic teenager…

“Whenever I tried to talk him into talking it easy with one of the million DVDs under the big-screen plasma TV,” (Isn’t it awesome that the Cullens have things like that?? It’s awesome, right???) “he would lure me out of the house with magic words like coral reefs and submerged caves and sea turtles. We were going, going, going all day, so that I found myself completely famished and exhausted when the sun eventually set.” They’re not even comfortable enough to sit on the couch and chill, Edward has to keep her constantly distracted so that dreaded topic doesn’t come up. How long’s that going to work even on a space case like Bella? Actually, probably a while, if “magic words” like those are enough to throw her off for an entire day. And hell, a glance at his perfect face always dissipates all annoyance she might be feeling toward Eddie.

Bella, you suck.

* Bella tries harder to seduce Edward, trying to make more use of the lingerie and “scanty bikinis” Alice packed for her. Oh god, stop giving me details on Bella’s plans to seduce Edward.

She tries to get him to give on the sex by being willing to hold off on being transformed, saying she’d like to go to Dartmouth and have some “human experiences,” but Edward sees right through it. “You are so human, Bella. Ruled by your hormones.” Wait, so what’s her deal supposed to be?

Eventually Bella starts to freak about the Volturi coming for her, and that with her sheer aura of desperation seems to overwhelm Edward enough for them to do the nasty again. Bella of course feels guilty, but Edward blows it off. “So you seduced your all-too-willing husband. That’s not a capital offense.” The same husband who refused to do it, refused to cut any sort of deal that would include it. How wishy-washy can you get?? Edward’s hardly been able to think of Bella’s own good even while he’s thinking of Bella’s own good before, though. At least she’s consistent about that.

* Bella realizes that getting laid has made her genuinely want to try college as a human and hold off on being turned. And if you think that’s honestly going to go anywhere, I’m going to have to assume you haven’t been paying attention.

* Bella goes to watch a movie while Edward goes to let the cleaners in (“They had more DVDs than a rental store”). I worked at a Blockbuster for a while. We were always getting asked for movies we didn’t have. I’m tempted to say the selection of a rental store’s really not that great, and it’s a lame-sounding comparison to make anyway. Maybe if she’d said, “They had more DVDs than an Amazon warehouse”…

Perhaps more pertinently, Bella’s interests pretty much shrank to Edward Cullen as soon as she moved to Forks. How long’s it been since she was even inside a video rental place? I’d say New Moon but it’s hard to imagine even Bella Swan turning DVD-watching into a life-threatening experience.

Also I just have to love the line that says Edward was talking to the cleaners “in what I assumed was perfect Portuguese.” Because Edward’s perfect. Edward knows everything. She just assumes that by now. Except we’re going to see a huge example of his deficiencies in the very near future.

* One of the cleaners, an indigenous lady, apparently tells Edward, to his face yet, that she thinks he’s something called a “libishomen.” That is, “a blood-drinking demon who preys exclusively on beautiful women.” You might think that the Cullens don’t care about letting these people know they’re vampires, but this sounds like this is the first time the people who clean the beach house have ever had cause to think this.

Also, I can’t find anything about a “libishomen,” so I’ll just quote what a TV tropes commenter had to say: “In Breaking Dawn, a Brazilian cleaning woman recognizes Edward as a "libishomen". Ignoring the fact that it's Lobisomem, that particular Portuguese myth is a werewolf and not a vampire. To make matters worse, the lobisomem looks like a man-ape, so it should have been impossible for Edward Cullen to be recognized as one."

Why exactly is she telling the guy who she thinks is a monster, that she thinks he’s a monster, though? Her concern is for the could-not-be-more-obviously-pregnant-if-you--built-a-50-foot-neon-sign-next-to-her Bella, who doesn’t speak her language, yeah. But what purpose is telling the monster he’s a monster meant to serve? I dunno, what if she was right? Won’t that just double the body count so she doesn’t go home and tell her people the guys who own that island are libishomens? She’s not, I know, but what IS the thinking? Is there any?

* Apparently it doesn’t even matter that this might be the love nest of a demon, since the cleaners just come in and get to work. Boy I wish I could say I was surprised. Within a page Bella forgets they’re even there and ponders sex again, which they leave to have.

Chapter 7 - It Took This Long For the Plot to Get Started, Aren’t You Filled With Confidence?

 * Bella has another nightmare about the Volturi, and I don’t care how many times you tell me otherwise, until you show them being scary, I’m not going to believe you when you say they are.

“And then, like a burst of light from a flash, the whole scene was different.” Just for the record, that’s what a flash is. A burst of light.

She wakes up to find a note from Edward that he went to the mainland to hunt. Guess it would’ve been too mean to have him eat one of those cute porpoises Bella went diving with in the last chapter.

“We seemed to exist outside of time here, just drifting along in a perfect state.” Imagine the impact of that same sentence coming from someone not disconnected from reality as the rule and not the exception. She totally forgot about other people being in the house because she was getting horny again in the last chapter, remember? Ditto for when she watches CNN later and notes “we’d been so out of touch, world war three could have broken out and we wouldn’t have known.”

* More signs of impending about-to-be-a-mommy-ness. Bella gets nauseated by food and decides she doesn’t want to go back “to the hot room.” So turn on the AC? Do they seriously not have that? They have plenty of things to make them look normal at their house in Forks nobody visits, why the hell would they skimp on the charade on a property normal people actually do come to? Why do I even ask anymore?

Guess not, since when Edward gets back he promises, “I’ll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again.” Edward, I’d say you suck at foresight, but it sounds like your dad sucks at it too since this is his and his wife’s private retreat. Next you’ll tell me Edward forgot to get a bed for the house he bought near Dartmouth for them (because he did. Buy a house there).

* Bella realizes her period’s late, and yanks her shirt up. “I had absolutely no experience with pregnancy or babies or any part of that world, but I wasn’t an idiot.” You don’t need me to say anything by now, do you? “I’d seen enough movies and TV shows to know that this wasn’t how it worked.” Well, if you’re going by sensationalized Hollywood depictions, maybe you are an idiot. I can’t help myself, can I?

She moans to herself, “there was no way I could be pregnant. The only person I’d ever had sex with was a vampire, for crying out loud.” It’s like she somehow tapped into the author’s mind and got used to there being no consequences to anything, and got complacent.

She remembers her research on vampires from the first book, and stuff like succubi and incubi. Then she thinks about Rosalie’s frustrations about not getting to experience motherhood, and realizes there is a difference between the two of them.

Damn. Now I really have to ask what the Cullens do with their immortality. Carlisle’s been alive for three and a half centuries. Apparently neither he nor even the Volturi, the oldest of whom have been alive for somewhere around thirty centuries, have ever asked what happens if a male vampire has sex with a human woman (hell, if a male human has sex with a female vampire). No, it’s just nothing happens when vampires have sex with each other, so nothing could possibly happen if a vampire has sex with a non-vampire.

I don’t know, but Carlisle gets kind of excited at getting to study something like this when they get home. You’d think at some point it would’ve occurred to him, and it’s not like he’s lacking for time to run scenarios or come up with a list of what-ifs. If not for that, I almost could’ve believed this just never occurred to anybody in the book.

* I know it’s said that normal vampires wouldn’t have the restraint to have sex with a human and not drink their blood, but that ties into two of the books’ shortcomings. One is that we spend all our time with the Cullens, and the other is that because Bella’s the POV character we hardly ever see non-veggie vampires. Even the non-veggies we see tend to come across as civil and restrained. Aside from Jasper’s slip in New Moon, the Cullens can talk all they want about how hard they have to fight their urges. But after a while all the civil, restrained vampires make civility seem like the norm, and that makes sparklepires as a species look pretty safe except when they take a direct interest in killing a specific person.

Because being around vampires seems so safe on the whole, it seems kind of weird nobody would ever get the desire to have a liaison with a warm body again, just to remember what it’s like. And if so, then it seems kind of weird nobody knows that impregnation with humans is possible.

* Alarmed, Edward calls Carlise, and Bella isn’t sure how she’ll talk to him. “Would he laugh at my conclusions, tell me I was crazy?” Does that sound like the guy who invented feeding on animals because he thinks enough of humans not to want to kill them or vampify them if they still have lives to live?

* I will admit that there’s a nice bit here, and it’s the revelation that she’s going to have a baby causes Bella to grow up a little. Think that maybe there is in fact more to life than Edward’s perfect face and Edward’s perfect dick. That maybe being caretaker for a life is a good thing.

Granted, very little’s actually done with it, but having that moment was kind of nice.

* Bella then wonders why Edward’s suddenly so angry, and “I was sure I had it. He must be so worried about the baby. I hadn’t gotten around to freaking out yet. “My brain worked slower than his.” Oh and he’s gotten so much use of it, hasn’t he? He just overthinks everything, doesn’t he?

* Sure he does, since he immediately identifies Bella’s fetus as a threat to her and decides for her that Carlisle’s going to get it out. I suppose I’m meant to be appalled at Edward immediately deciding to do this with no input from her, but let’s us be reasonable if we’re going to ask the characters to be. This is something totally unexpected (however dumb that is), something he has no idea how to deal with, and something that could very well kill his wife. He’s protecting his dearest loved one from a bad spot he put her in. I haven’t got an opinion on abortion, but I don’t know that I totally disagree with him here.

* The cleaning lady shows up and starts yelling at Edward, implicitly over what’s happening Bella (who cares?). And it goes on for a little while even though, as usual, our POV character is totally out of the loop. She says things like Edward starts to sound pleading and begging but that’s of pretty limited usefulness when we have no idea what’s being said. Keep it short and to the point, okay?

We do actually hear one word of the conversation. “Morte.” “I knew enough Spanish for that one.” What if I don’t? What if I’m a tweener who thinks studying foreign languages is stupid? These books were, theoretically, being marketed to that age group, right?)

* “As if I could discount something because it was a legend. My life was circled by legend on every side. They were all true.” No, is that what all the vampires and lupine shapeshifters mean? The first sentence would’ve said plenty by itself. So we’re going from no help, right to too much.

Incidentally, didn’t she have a line somewhere back where she was flat-out annoyed with how many legends were turning out to be true? Hell, I seem to remember at one point she was dismissive of the Quileute legends of werewolves, and that was after she found out vampires are real. Yeah, not being dismissive of legends when you live up to your neck in them makes sense, but when did that start happening for Bella?

* Close out Book One on Bella tearfully calling Rosalie for help. It doesn’t say what for, but I bet you don’t have to guess it’s bribing Rosalie for protection with the promise of a baby around the house.

Book Two: Jacob, Chapter 9 - Waiting For the Damn Fight to Start Already

* “Preface - Life sucks, and then you die. Yeah, I should be so lucky.”

Um, what in the hell??

* As the heading indicates, we now switch over to Jacob’s perspective. Implicitly, this and the epilogue to Eclipse were in response to readers who didn’t like Jacob to help them understand him better.

Also, rather than Bella’s brief and often tangential chapter titles, well, that really is the title of the chapter, not one of the snarky ones I’ve been substituting.

* We open on Jacob griping that some werewolf named Paul has imprinted on Jacob’s sister that I don’t remember ever hearing about. Durrr, I wonder where Steph could be going with this after we just found out Bella’s pregnant!

* Jacob’s griping wanders off into what convenient excuse the Cullens will use for Bella not coming back from her honeymoon, or if they’ll even bother and just suddenly disappear into thin air one morning. He fantasizes about getting the pack and going out to get the Cullens (fantasizing because he’s already been turned down by the others). The thought’s a sweet one because he knows Edward well enough to know that if he does get any of the others, Edward will come after him without a thought. Because Edward over thinks everything, and never seizes upon his first emotional impulse.

* Then Jacob goes to see another werewolf who’s playing with the girl he’s imprinted on. The little girl. Who just turned three. Ewwwww. I don’t care how Meyer tries to justify this, this is a grown man grooming a girl who can’t even tie her shoes yet to grow up to be his wife. Ewwwww.

Also, the other werewolf’s child bride “pulled his hair like a horse’s reigns.” A reign with a G is something you can’t touch, so no. Think about it like this: once upon a time there was a cartoon called Reign. It was about Alexander the Great. What spelling of the word do you think was intended?

Jacob says the werewolf’s way more jazzed than any parent would be to play “stupid kiddie games” with his underage paramour. What does that even mean, that Jacob’s just a cynical bastard who doesn’t know what parenthood’s like? Or is that true, because the child the book focuses on is mentally older than her parents within a few weeks of being born? I’m just asking because in the next chapter Jacob makes some surprisingly accurate observations, implying he has a pretty good handle on life in the real world.

Anyway, the other werewolf suggests that maybe Jacob trying to get a date, or a life. So what’s the message on that one? Is the series finally admitting how pathetic its main characters are for obsessing over Bella?

* Sam howls for the pack to gather, and Jake runs off, wolfing out with a “silent shimmer that made me something else.” Uh, listen, it’s cold! Shimmers are light, they’re visual. These couple chapters are making me wonder if Steph understands what light is.

The meeting’s because they’ve heard Bella’s back from her honeymoon and suffering from some kind of “rare disease in South America,” wink wink. None of them but Jacob want to attack, though, since they don’t have any proof. How law-abiding for a bunch of mystical warriors. Kind of calls all that car theft and such on the Cullens’ parts into focus, maybe?

Sam hits Jacob below the belt asking “Are you sure this is what you want? Is it really the right thing? We all know what she wanted.” Even after saving her from diving off a cliff. As they say, Jacob’s probably just a glutton for punishment.

Then Seth hits Jacob below the belt, asking what Jacob’s going to do when Bella fights on the Cullens’ side. I wonder if his opinion of her’s colored by his opinion of Edward, as if becoming a vampire makes you tough. I kinda see Bella curling up into a ball as her mind shuts down at the horrific spectacle of two factions she both considers friends fighting. Like she has every single time something bad’s happened.

“She’s not Bella anymore,” Jacob retorts. Who is Bella, exactly? Even the author’s said she avoided describing Bella more than she had to in order to make it easier to insert yourself into her shoes.

* “Nope, the pack wasn’t attacking anyone today. But I was.”

Over Bella.

Chapter 9 - Sure As Hell Didn’t See That One Coming
* You were the only one, Jake.

* Jacob retreats back to his place where he talks to his dad about his newly-revealed sister, and we hear “It’s hard -- the girls were older than you when your mom passed,” and if not for her new boyfriend “she probably would have taken off again real quick. Maybe that was why Billy didn’t kick him out.” Gee, it seems like she was only introduced to also introduce some quick pathos. Also seems like the author still thinks a guy’s the only thing that matters to a girl.

Oh, and also sayeth Billy, “She’d rather sleep on the floor than lose you.” Show it. Let us see this character’s face. Let us see how she acts toward Jacob that she feels close to him. With all the space Meyer had to work with, is that asking so much?

* Jacob heads over to the Cullen house, planning his strategy (mainly forcing his way in, seeing Bella and wolfing out so the others can have their evidence and attack), but Carlisle politely meets him at the door. “Carlisle was just so…human or something.” So please tell me and tell me true, Steph, what a sparklepire is. With all the space Meyer had to work with, is that asking so much?

* Carlisle lets Jacob in since he’s not an evil lord of the night, and Jake sees Bella really for real is sick, it wasn’t just a story. Also, Rosalie’s hovering around her protectively because this is the only chance she’ll get to be this close to being a mom. Even Edward points out in a bit, “Bella’s life means nothing to her.” Which Bella’s exploiting. I dunno, maybe if these books actually had complex morality instead of just pretending they did, that’d work.

Rosalie, or “blondie” as Jacob takes to calling her (it’s not like she deserves something more flattering) “was easier to ignore than I ever would have dreamed.” Wait til you’ve seen things from my side, Mr. Black.

* Jacob and Bella talk, with Bella snapping, “sounding a little more like the way she usually talked to me.” Oh you guys are such good friends.

More striking than that his how massively, how quickly, Bella’s got pregnant. “There was no way she could be pregnant. Not that pregnant. Except that she was.” Even a werewolf’s chained by ideas of normalcy.

Edward takes Jacob aside and explains why nobody’s done anything about this fetus, which is plainly killing its mother. Bella won’t let them. “Jeez, she was running true to form. Of course, die for the monster spawn. It was so Bella.” In a little bit we also get, “Make Bella see sense? What universe do you live in?” Although if you kind of think about it, that kind of awareness coupled with Meyer writing Bella in a minimalist fashion could be read as “Bella thinks this/acts this way because it’s the easiest way to advance the plot.”

It’s a little bit nice the author seems to be acknowledging the shortcomings of her story, but you’d think she might take the opportunity to fix it. This is a perfect chance for everybody to grow up and fill out as characters. At the very least, she could explain why it’s laudable that Bella’s always so willing to throw her life away. Or when Edward says Jacob couldn’t possibly hate him as much as he hates himself.

* Then Edward does something that’s earned him a lot more condemnation, but again this time…I’m not so sure.

He tries to get Jacob to talk Bella into aborting the baby, with the alternative of having “puppies” with Jacob instead. Who presumably won’t eat her from the inside out. Although I don't see any particular reason their wolf mojo couldn't manifest right in Bella's womb since she'd still be married to Edward and presumably still surrounded by vampires. Oh, like big, mature Bella could stand to be separated from Edward for nine months, and like Edward could resist the urge to be around to do everything for her, no matter how good an idea that would be.

The thing is, Edward doesn’t say that as a derogatory remark when he says it. He comes across as pretty desperate to save his wife’s life if that’s what it takes.

I don’t know if he’d be forcing his will on her if his family hadn’t lined up behind Bella, but…I believe for this moment he wants to save her. Besides, at literally every turn, Bella’s shown she needs to be protected from herself even more than all the vampires after her. I hate both of these characters, but Bella’s history of poor judgment and pointless attempts at sacrifice add up to a bigger negative on her side. And if I were reading this for the first time, how would I know what kind of hellspawn she’d be stubbornly releasing upon the world? This isn’t exactly Rosemary’s Baby, where you can sympathize with the character and get some inkling of why she loves her child even though he’s the frigging antichrist. Bella’s the idiot’s idiot and I’ve had, I think, good cause to hate her since she landed in Forks. Edward kind of wins by default.

* Jacob agrees to Edward’s plan, although I’m not sure if it’s the one to abort the fetus or to kill Edward when the baby kills her.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Loonatics Unleashed - Going Underground

Open on Chinatown, where it looks to be Chinese New Year. Because it’s always Chinese New Year. The same way it’s always Mardi Gras.

Lexi (the girl bunny, because I’ve decided I’m just calling everyone else by their old names) and Daffy are getting takeout (because what else would they be doing there?) when Lexi suddenly hears something via her super-hearing and the buildings start to shake. “Comically” splattering Daffy with all the food he was carrying.

Then it starts to shake more, and a guy lets go of a serving cart of more Chinese food which splatters…more on Daffy. Who was still splattered from the first time. Was that supposed to be funny? Er? Then another guy lets go of another serving cart and Daffy teleports out of the way, but a carton flies off and splatters on him anyway. Oh come on, you just did the same stupid thing three times in the same thirty seconds! That doesn’t even count as a running gag.

Then we pan out and it looks like all the ground around Chinatown is sinking, except only one building’s apparently sinking, a big purple one with an atom symbol on the side. I know you were making this for kids with tiny attention spans, guys, but if you don’t care why should I?

Then that whole part of town on the hill sinks into the ground instead, so was that part being raised up? So why does it sink into the ground from up there…forget it. Although I’m kind of curious if they’ll try to explain how nobody was inside those buildings when they collapsed and didn’t get crushed.

Then a nerdy-looking midget walks up to a glowing green jewel and laughs after saying “there’s going to be a whole lot more shaking going on!” Okay, that’s not even a joke. If it was “a whole lot OF shaking going on,” that’d sound dumb but at least it’d be a reference to something. Not that I’d expect this show’s target audience to have heard that song.

After theme song, we return to the Loonatics in their meeting room, and a comment from Bugs enlightens us that the ground wasn’t sinking, that one part rose up. To make that one building sink, apparently.

Wile E. wheels in a miniature rendering of the city but isn’t happy with it because he had to make it “on my break. Total rush job.” Okay, how long was his break? The show doesn’t even explain the characters’ powers, how am I supposed to know their scheduling regulations? Heck, these guys are a superhero team. Not exactly a 9-to-5 job.

Lexi notes the detail’s so extreme it even has little trains that actually run, then looks at her watch and adds “and on time.” That’s not even a joke either. How would she tell that from glancing at her wrist? Does she memorize train schedules? When they get around via jetpack?

The point of the model city is no matter what tectonic variations he tries, Wile E. can’t figure out what would make a little mountain rise up in the middle of town like that. Not that investigations matter, because Zadavia pops in right then to conveniently explain who’s behind this.

One Dr. Thaddeus Dare, a scientist who made it his life’s work to find a way to control rock. Daffy shouts out, “Whacko, party of one!” after that. And he should. I mean, imagine the practical applications of that kind of power, like preventing earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, or digging foundations for a new building in one day.

Disfigured by the meteor crash, he grew more and more reckless until he was “banished by the scientific community.” And not, like, arrested or anything? Just driven out of the scientific community? What’d he do?

“Lemme guess, a guy that into rocks went underground, right?” Bugs posits. Not hard to figure out, are these shows? Kind of makes you wonder why they bothered pretending that those little fuzz balls weren’t the same as those big honkin’ monsters in that other episode.

“Deep underground,” Zadavia answers. And if he was a probable threat, why has nobody done anything about him until now? Anyway she also knows about the jewel he stole, the Jade Serpent Crystal, “said to contain untold energy.” Said to? With all the ridiculous hyper technology on display in this show, that seems like something they could at least tell, even if they couldn’t tell what kind of energy or what they could do with it. Heck, it was in some kind of research lab when Dare stole it.

Zadavia warns them that if Dr. Dare figures out how to tap the jewel’s energy, “there’s no telling what he might do.” Yeah there is, it’ll have something to do with rocks. Also, it looks like Dare really meant to just steal the building with the jewel and all the ones around it collapsed into the ground by accident. Not exactly awestruck by this bad guy’s competence.

With the exposition dropped in our laps, it’s time to head out and stop the bad guy, with Bugs trotting out his usual line of “Let’s jet!” I thought that was some kind of play on how whenever he said that they’d fly out in their jetpacks, but here, as you’d expect, they hop into a handy drill tank instead.

Funny, I suddenly wish I was playing WURM instead.
They drive around underground with no indication whatsoever they know where they’re going until suddenly the vehicle’s grabbed by a bunch of rock monsters. One reaches in and grabs Lexi, leading to a not terribly impressive battle sequence. As soon as Lexi gets away from the monster with help from Daffy, she starts shooting lasers from her ears left and right, but didn’t think to turn to the one carrying her and try that.

I will admit this part had one attempt at humor that wasn’t completely terrible, with Bugs spouting off “What’s up, rock?”

Things reach something of a climax when one of the monsters throws Taz off a cliff, and Bugs, attacking it in a fit of rage, knocks it off the same cliff. Right on top of Taz, in fact. Way to avenge your teammate there, dumbass.

Through it all Wile E.’s been trying to get the drill thingy started again, and tries to hook up something to a battery but the cable’s too short. He completes the connection by using his own body and is fried in the process. Which is okay because his power is to heal. Which would’ve been a nice thing for the freaking show to explain.

Then Dr. Dare himself shows up, and as badly-written villains are wont to do, he explains his plan. Which is to drag everyone else underground while he lives on the surface. That’s kind of a new one for mole-man type villains, I’ll admit. It doesn’t really make any sense, but hey, he’s supposed to be crazy anyway. He then uses the jewel to bury the Loonatics’ drill vehicle, and commercial.

We return to Taz digging them out with his tornado powers, even though it’s a tunneling vehicle and digging through rock’s the whole point. Zadavia calls them and tells them that Dr. Dare’s doing exactly what he said he’d do, so they hurry back to the surface and find…the city gone and lots of people still standing around a rocky wilderness? Huh? The Loonatics hop on ATV’s that can apparently drive straight up sheer rock walls to get to Dare’s new castle, which literally has a giant green “come get me, heroes” beacon on top.

What is this, Loonatics or Biker Mice From Mars?

Some more rock monsters show up to get in their way, but as in many a badly-written show the bad guys get easier to beat the closer we are to the credits, and Lexi knocks the entire group off the mountain with one ear laser.

Dr. Dare says he thought he left the Loonatics buried, and Lexi hits him with “Haven’t you heard? Down is the new up.” Was that a joke? For real? Then what I have to admit is a not-terrible attempt at humor rears its head when Daffy says they’re going to stop him “stone cold.” That probably only worked because the only character I can stand said it.

Dare uses the jewel to encase them in crystal so he can keep them around as trophies. That is, in crystal up to their noses, so Bugs is free to shoot off some laser vision and hit the jewel, setting them free. Dare tries to run for it, and Lexi and Bugs decided to use some rehearsed acrobatic maneuver to cut him off (#29, if you care), even though he has  short legs and they could catch him anyway without any trouble. And it’s not as if any of the Loonatics can teleport.

Bugs and Dare have a sword fight that ends when Bugs reflects a beam that turns Dare to stone. Wile E. uses Dare’s crystal keyboard thing to somehow make the city come back, and I’m suddenly feeling like not watching this show anymore and playing some Torin’s Passage.

We started stupid, so let’s end stupid. It turns out the petrified villain’s been deposited in the middle of a freaking park for safekeeping. Oh yeah, nothing could possibly could wrong. At least it sounds like it wasn’t the Loonatics’ idea, but I can’t shake the feeling it was Zadavia’s…

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thrusts of Justice

Despite sounding like an awful superhero-themed porno, Thrusts of Justice is actually a surprisingly successful blend of comedy and action in a literary format that hasn’t seen any decent worthwhile output from seemingly anyone but John Green in a long time.

While you and some fellow unemployed journalists are BSing plans for the future over drinks, suddenly there’s a strange voice in the air warning of impending doom. Then all hell breaks loose as a supervillain explodes out of the side of a bank, a mech-suited space warrior saves the city from meteoric annihilation, while a grim avenger of the night looks on. Those journalist instincts kick in, and it’s just a question of who to follow, and whether you can really pull off a bit of world-saving on your first time out.

Actually, you probably won’t, because the cover isn’t kidding about how easily and often you’ll die in some over-the-top, sometimes silly way. This works well, though. Both because a lot of the endings are fairly amusing, and it makes a certain kind of sense if you think about it. After all, you’re nothing but a boozed-up former journalist who stumbled into a set of powers you barely understand just in time to have to prevent a global cataclysm with them. No, you probably aren’t any match for the psychotic, revenge-crazed archenemy of the previous owner of your heroic mantle, come to think of it. Even if it does feel a bit like playing I Wanna Be the Guy! after a few deaths.

On the other hand, I did like how the book seemed to be giving me a little respect for the progress I had made after making it a ways in and not meeting a horrible untimely death. Upon meeting other veteran metahumans, they start deferring to your judgment. Rather than feeling like the reason for that is because it’s an interactive book, it feels like you’ve earned the characters’ respect by doing well enough to get that far despite being a complete noob. As often as I was killed, that was rewarding.

The story’s divided into three sections depending on which particular power set you end up receiving. The basic plot behind the book is the same no matter which one you pick, but you’re only privy to certain parts of the story behind what’s going on in each particular section. This was a great motivator to keep reading, to thoroughly plumb each section for something more than just that rare ending where I actually pulled off saving the world.

Aside from the story, though, this managed to be a rare game book where I didn’t mind dying so much because the humor the book’s saturated with works more often than it doesn’t. I chuckled a lot, and a couple times I laughed out loud. I was even going to begin the review with a few of my favorite quotes, until I decided I’d rather let you read this and experience them for yourself. If I have to complain about anything, it’s that perhaps the author leaned a little too hard on getting drunk as a source of humor.

I mean, being a neophyte superhero up against harrowing odds could only be milked so much, sure, but it’s not even consistent. In one section you can find out one of your fellow unemployed journalists also got powers, and you have the choice of either going out and getting drunk to celebrate, or remembering that you’re a superhero now and should probably be out catching villains. In that same section you can run into a pair of retired heroes, and you don’t even get the choice to decline getting wasted with them.

I know, I’m not supposed to take it too seriously, but this same section of the book also brings up topics like the value of life of cloned beings, or the insane hosts of alien shock troopers. You can be funny and dramatic in the same work, but it seems a weird thing to do to combine boozer humor with who decides who’s worth mourning. Particularly since as we all know, superheroes don't drink. Especially when they're on duty.

Also, while there’s no multiple-X content despite the title, there is one part with a makeout session between a pair of retirement-age heroines.

But that said, on the whole I really did enjoy the book. The characters you meet are memorable, and a lot of them are silly and likable enough to add to the experience rather than detracting from it. It was a lot of fun working with a crotchety old lady with power on a par with Superman's, and I'll admit it, I even kind of started to like Ox when he stopped trying to beat my face in. It even includes the “geriatric superheroes” trope and dares to take it in a direction in search of humor other than "here's a bunch of superheroes who you'd expect to be all cool and strong, but they're actually old and decrepit." It has some great twists, I like how the background was revealed with different bits in its different sections, and I liked that you’re not forced to be a good guy. There’s one path where you can become a villain, and save the world to take it over yourself.

Highly recommended. More spoofs should strive to be like this.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Breaking Down, Book One: Bella, Chapters 2 - 5

Chapter 2 - Long Night (You’re Telling Me)

* Things open on Bella telling us how awesome it is to kiss someone like Edward, and how she still can’t believe he acts like she’s “the prize rather than the outrageously lucky winner.” Seriously? Still? It’s like she deliberately refuses to grow as a person.

“I never got over the shock of how perfect his body was -- white, cool, and polished as marble.” I’m sorry, but I don’t see the appeal of cuddling up with a statue. Could somebody explain that to me? Is it something you are or you aren’t?

* Then I get confused because Bella mentions how some kind of “glitch” in her brain keeps Edward out as much as she’d love to let him in. As if she does suddenly care about bringing new people up to speed. Also, you’re not fooling anyone, Steph. The only things wrong with Bella are the ones the characters never acknowledge.

* It turns out Edward’s skipping his bachelor party to be with her, kissing. I’m sorry but is that all they do? I bet if I got the chance to ask Meyer she’d say part of being a vampire is you don’t get bored with the things you enjoy anymore.

“Bachelor parties are designed for those who are sad to see the passing of their single days.” How enlightened of him. Of course if you didn’t want your single days to end, all you’d have to do is…not get married. Sounds like someone with the wisdom of ages, all right.

Then they discuss getting intimate, but Edward gets antsy because he’s afraid of hurting her. She assures him she’ll be fine, but her thoughts betray something other than faith: “He wasn’t getting out of this deal. Not after insisting I marry him first.” Yeah.

* More blathering about all the things and people Bella would be giving up by becoming one of the sparkly dead. Which is all perfectly valid, and not just hot air put in an attempt to create drama by an author who can’t stand to actually put her Sue in an uncomfortable spot.

Some more blather about how Bella isn’t entirely looking forward to finally meeting the Alaskan vampires at her wedding. Because they’re friends with the Cullens and are bound to be so beautiful and blah-de blah-de blah. Steph, if you honestly think I think Tanya’s going to say anything at all except Bella and Edward are the perfect couple and she couldn’t be happier to see this union taking place despite not even knowing the girl…

* Bella remembers Carlisle explaining to her the tragic history of the Alaskan vampires. I’m sure it’s all very heartfelt stuff, but you know what would be even better development for the peripheral characters? Not making them peripheral characters. And with how much they’ve been talked about as being the Cullens’ best buddies, it’s kind of mystifying we’re only about to see them for the first time, isn’t it?

Anyway, to explain this without recanting every single detail, their mother turned a little boy into a vampire. He was so beautiful and enchanting he couldn’t be resisted (because vampires are pretty. Have I ever told you that, Bella?) Because vampires are frozen in time, however, kids turned into vampires act exactly like hyperactive kids with awesome physical powers and the Volturi made it against the rules to let kids be vampires for the sake of their secrecy. So they had to kill the Alaskans’ mom along with the kid vampire.

Then Bella has some kind of dream or prophetic vision or something (I’m honestly curious whether her dreams about werewolves and this are meant to be visions or just Bella’s overactive imagination going into hyper drive. The chapter summary in the guidebook doesn’t even mention it). It’s of an impossibly beautiful child that she feels she must protect from the approaching Volturi, even though when she gets closer she sees him sitting atop the corpses of the kids from school we don’t care about, and Charlie and Renee. Yes, I’m sure something even remotely like that will happen.

If you guessed this was mainly awkward setup to involve the Volturi later, well…these books aren’t too hard to peg, are they?

Chapter 3 - Formality To The Saix

* Bella wakes up feeling “a little annoyed with myself. What a dream to have the night before my wedding!” Those kinds of dreams seem the norm for her. And if she’s annoyed thinking that, maybe it’s time to try to stop wallowing in her delusions of inadequacy? Somehow I don’t see that with Bella meeting Charlie over breakfast, and Charlie admitting that he has “the lesser ordeal” having to wear a tux because Alice is going to be dolling Bella up all day. And boy, don’t those girls sound like the best of friends?

Also for some reason it’s pointed out that “Charlie had taken the entire day off for the wedding”. Um, yeah? I can understand Charlie wanting to spend as little time with his daughter and the Cullens as possible, but I don’t think that’s what Steph meant. When my kids get married, I sure as hell don’t plan to only be there for a little while. Then again this is Bella thinking this, and all indicators point to her wanting this over with as soon as possible so she can finally get some nookie.

* After Alice works on Bella for a while, Rosalie shows up “in a shimmery silver gown with her gold hair piled up in a soft crown on top of her head. She was so beautiful it made me want to cry.” Then cry. Admit you’re a whiny little baby no matter what you’re dealing with after all.

Also, what the hell do I know about fashion design, but silver clothes always sound really chintzy when I read about them. “Piled” doesn’t sound the least bit glamorous, either.

* Most of the rest of the chapter is endless goings on meant to show everyone’s enjoying this but Bella. And all the luxurious crap being heaped on her for being alive.

Like Charlie and Renee present her with silver combs from her grandma. The jewels used to be paste, but for the occasion they were replaced with real sapphires. “Alice wouldn’t let us do anything else. Every time we tried, she all but ripped our throats out.”

So wait, who was shelling out for real sapphires? It almost sounds like Alice forced Bella’s parents to pay for it.

Also, yeah, Alice is definitely not Bella’s friend. Bella hates this dress up stuff, and Alice must know that, and she makes Bella indulge her because she knows Bella won’t say no and Edward thinks too much of her for some reason to make her lay off his girlfriend.

* As soon as she’s next to Edward, Bella’s mind goes numb, as usual, and she takes about a page and a half to sum up the entire ceremony, only really snapping out of it when it’s time to kiss. Then they kiss, and her obligation to Edward is fulfilled and she can get to the part she really wants. How romantic.

Chapter 4 - I Don’t Care What You Say, Jacob’s Not Your Best Friend. He’s Just A Bigger Doormat Than You Are To Keep Coming Back

* “It was just twilight over the river”. I see what you did there, Steph.

* On to the reception, and some of the Quileutes are in attendance. Bella thinks about their deal, that there would be peace only as long as the Cullens never created another vampire. “Before the alliance, it would have meant an immediate attack. A war.” Thank you for spelling that out. “But now that they knew each other better, would there be forgiveness instead?” Or would the Cullens say fnck it, pack up all their suitcases of money and move someplace a couple guys from a reservation in rain-soaked Washington state wouldn’t bother to pursue them? If it would bug the Quileutes that much, why do they only stay where they are and protect it from the vampires that happen to wander onto their territory? Maybe it’s just me being dubious about how damn special Bella is, but it seems kind of far-fetched to me that the Cullens vamping Edward’s wife would be what finally decides to make them go on the offensive and go chasing after vampires.

“As if in response to that thought, Seth leaned toward Edward, arms extend. Edward returned the hug with his free arm.” Sounds like you’re not even kidding yourself anymore, Steph. “Perhaps a stronger truce was on the horizon.” Again, why would the Cullens be so attached to this particular piece of ground except that simply leaving would be a copout unless the author was suddenly willing to make an effort? It’s official that they don’t just live in Forks, they move somewhere else when they’ve been in one place too long for their lack of aging to go unnoticed anymore.

* Mentions are made of Bella’s human “friends,” but you don’t care about that so let’s skip to the Alaskan’s. They don’t actually say Bella and Edward are the perfect couple, but they do happily accept Bella into their extended family, since they consider the Cullens part of their family (then why do they live so far apart?). They also apologize profusely for not helping to fight the newborns and don’t say why. See you later, Alaskans.

* Bella graciously dances with Charlie while “Edward and Esme spun around us like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.” Because lots of teens in the 21st century know who they are. I don’t mean Bella, I mean the target audience.

* Anyway she dances with Edward next and still refuses to believe how beautiful she is, until they look at a mirror and she sees “a dark-haired beauty at his side.” It’s only after laying out everything great about that beauty (the only thing Bella seems any good at) before she realizes it’s her. See?? She was beautiful all along! Which just makes all the denials that much more annoying. I’m just saying, even if you say over and over your character isn’t a Sue, that doesn’t mean they’re not. When has that stopped Steph yet, though?

* “Before I could blink and make the beauty turn back into me,” Edward reveals a surprise for her has shown up. Then suddenly she’s not dancing with him anymore, Jacob is. They get away somewhere private and soon they’re laughing and joking and Bella thinks she’s never done anything to deserve a friend like Jacob, so basically seeing what a beautiful person she is was pointless after all.

As always, though, things get sour when Jacob asks when she’s going to get turned into a vampire, she says probably after their honeymoon, and he implies it’s going to be a pretty lame honeymoon if hitting the sheets would kill her. He makes a crack about them spending the whole time playing checkers, but hell, that’d be something. All they freaking do is kiss and lounge around in each other’s arms. I don’t care who I’m with, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity just doing that.

Things get really ugly when he realizes she fully intends to bum chicka bow wow with Edward as a human. “You can’t be that stupid!” he demands. Uh, yeah she can, and yeah she is. Maybe Bella really is smart, but what’s the point of having something you never use?

Edward comes in and angrily demands Jacob get away from her, and the other Quileutes help break it up, even wolfing out. Are they somewhere with a backdoor they can sneak out of in their remaining rags?

Edward says they need to get back before anyone misses them, and Bella for her part asks herself how anyone could’ve missed that. “Then, as I thought about it, I realized the confrontation that had seemed so catastrophic to me had, in reality, been very quiet and short here in the shadows.” And that’s why I’m not involved in her problems, and don’t believe anything anyone says about her.

* Edward tries to calm her down. “Jacob is way too prejudiced to see anything clearly.”  Uh, Eddie? He got mad over something you’ve been worrying about too, which is how you’re going to please your wife in bed without turning her into a greasy smear. Maybe Edward didn’t hear the whole conversation, but with how super-awesome vampires have super-awesome senses, I doubt it.

And I will remind everyone that Meyer claims she writes these books for children, and they were talking about doing the bump and grind.

* Alice then interrupts and asks if they want to miss their plane. “I’m sure you’ll have a lovely honeymoon camped out in the airport waiting for another flight.” I’m a little surprised they’re not saying they own a private plane. Good surprise, though.

Sayeth Bella as they leave, “ ‘Thank you, Alice. It was the most beautiful wedding anyone ever had,’ I told her earnestly. ‘Everything was exactly right.’ ” Because Bella was totally paying attention to anything. Where’s the friendship between these two?

* Then it’s finally enough of this crap, and time for the honeymoon.

Chapter 5 - First Day Of Forever And Already They’re Arguing About How They Can Spend It

* They end up in Rio de Janeiro, and then we get this informed little tidbit.  “The taxi continued through the swarming crowds until they thinned somewhat, and we appeared to be nearing the extreme western edge of the city, heading into the ocean.” Because Meyer wanted to get all foreign and exotic but couldn't be bothered to learn the first thing about reading a map, apparently.

* After hopping in an insanely luxurious boat they cruise out into the ocean and Bella asks where they’re going. “ ‘A gift from Carlisle--Esme offered to let us borrow it.’ A gift? Who gives an island as a gift?” Someone annoyingly wealthy with no common sense? Come on, how many fake identities do you really want to keep up at the same time?

* “He set the suitcases on the deep porch to open the doors--they were unlocked.” It’s an island. Not exactly down the street from the Kwik-E-Mart.

Also, I don’t know about Bella, but it seems to me one of the major elements of committing crimes is having a dependable means of escape if you get caught, and there aren’t a lot of places to hide out on open water.

Even if you owned a private island, would you keep anything worth stealing there when you hardly ever go there? This is the first we’ve heard of Isle Esme, and it’s never once been brought to our attention that Carlisle and Esme disappeared for a few days with Bella not knowing where they went. Then again it’s not like Bella’s ever been a narrator worth her salt.

“The room was big and white, and the far wall was mostly glass--standard d├ęcor for my vampires.” And with the main reason they’re different, that makes total sense with lots of windows to let the sun in…

* “Had there ever been a honeymoon like this before? I kenw the answer to that. No. There had not.” Cuz yer so speshul. There’s never, EVER been another vampire who fell in love with a human and it played out like this.

Also, Bella complains of the heat. They have power at this place, as we’ll see, but no AC? Not even for the sake of keeping up appearances with the cleaning staff? And they have cleaning staff.

* Edward suggests a dip, but leaves Bella alone to prepare. She digs a little through her bags and “it came to my attention that there was an awful lot of sheer lace and skimpy satin in my hands. Lingerie. Very lingerie-ish lingerie, with French tags.” In a kids book.

Again, I fail to see how this is “clean”. You could make that claim if the scene was a little ambiguous (Bella and Edward are kissing then the lights fade out to them in the kitchen the next morning), but Meyer does everything BUT include the actual sex. Jacob gets angry at finding out Bella’s going to perform erotic acts that could kill her. Bella and Edward go skinny dipping. The morning after the bedroom’s destroyed and Bella feels like some kind of boneless organism. Alice packed lingerie for Bella, for crying out loud.

Eurlgh! Another girl bought racy underwear with Bella Swan in mind. To entice Edward Cullen into having sex with her. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

* So. She follows Edward out to the beach. They go skinny dipping. They talk some about how in love they are and how beautiful the other is. Then things head upstairs and take their course. Offscreen, but nonetheless, in a kids book.

* I could describe the morning after, but I already did, except for Bella’s bruises. Edward’s upset wit himself, but Bella of course sees no reason at all not to do that again exactly like they just did. I wouldn’t even mind if she was actually made out to be a wangsty, hormonal teen instead of anything but. Well, I probably would, but I’d at least give the books points for honesty.

She keeps insisting she’s happy about last night so much that she yells “Why can’t you just read my mind already? It’s so inconvenient to be a mental mute!” That’s a relatable problem! To have to resort to communicating your thoughts to your significant other like some kind of normal person!

“You are killing my buzz, Edward.”

* Edward asked Carlisle what making the beast with two backs was like for vampires, and was told not to take it lightly. “With our rarely changing temperaments, strong emotions can alter us in permanent ways.” Now just hold the damn phone. Which is it, frozen in time or alterable in permanent ways?

Jasper and Emmett told him it was like drinking human blood. “But I’ve tasted your blood, and there could be no blood more potent than that…” Stop me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like they’re trying to come to some kind of understanding. Maybe it’d help to take a somewhat objective look at things? Drop the smarmy hyperbole for once? “I don’t think they were wrong, really. Just that it was different for us. Something more.” Or we could just go along with the assumption that Bella and Edward are special snowflakes doing things nobody’s ever done in the history of forever.

“It was more. It was everything,” Bella adds. Okay now you just shut up, lady. You lost your virginity doing that. You don’t know nothing. This is like when she thought she knew everything in the midst of her first relationship with someone of the opposite sex in her entire life.

* They do seem to get over it and think about breakfast, but Bella has one last thought. “My skin marked up easily. By the time a bruise showed I’d usually forgotten how I’d come by it.” Wouldn’t that mean her bruises would appear more quickly, which would make her even more of a short attention-spanned idiot?

“I sat in one of the two metal chairs and started snarfing down the eggs.” Pardon me, but isn’t that “scarfing”? I admit I haven’t been a teenager in a while but I don’t think Meyer ever was. She comments this is pretty good considering he doesn’t eat. “Food Network,” he replies. Did they start watching after Bella started hanging around? I’m just asking because when they had dinner in the first one it seemed like it was the first time they’d actually used the kitchen since moving in. And while we’re on the subject, if they never cook, do they have an alibi for why the gas works never get any money from them?

And while we’re on the subject of secrecy, Bella asks where the eggs came from. “I asked the cleaning crew to stock the kitchen a first for this place.” I’m just saying, I got the impression the cleaners didn’t know about the vampire thing before coming by while Edward and Bella were there. But then I’ve never bought the Cullens’ act.

We go out on Edward promising never to hurt Bella again. So make her like you, dude. She’ll have all eternity to go to Dartmouth, and it’s not like the bribe put a noticeable dent in your checkbook. But if he did that we would’ve been spared the moronic wrap-up of this “saga.”

* Boy that was 75 pages well-spent.