Archive for May, 2009

31
May
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 121: The Infinity Gauntlet

We’re getting into another classic comic discussion, friends, this week looking at perhaps the greatest Marvel crossover of all time: The Infinity Gauntlet. The boys look at the roots of Thanos’s story, through the epic series and its crossovers, and at the books that spun out after the series was over. Was this a crossover so good that it ruined crossovers for us since then? In the picks this week, Chase picks Planet Skaar Prologue, Blake loved Wonder Woman #32, and Mike was into Brave and the Bold #23. This week’s graphic novel: Silver Surfer: The Rebirth of Thanos. Write us with comments, suggestions, picks of the week, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@Comixtreme.com!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 121: The Infinity Gauntlet
Inside This Episode:


PLUS:With Blake having technical issues, Chase goes it alone for the first post-season Week in Geek! Listen up for talk about the rumored Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake, the fan-made Green Lantern trailer starring Nathan Fillion, and more!

Week in Geek #22: Chase Flies Solo

30
May
09

What I’m Reading: The Lightning Thief

LightningThieftI’ve mentioned it here before but it bears repeating: I really love Greek Mythology. As you guys have already seen in detail here on the site. But a couple of months ago, one of my fellow teachers recommended this book to me, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The premise sounded intriguing and I always like new series fiction — especially if the series in question is finished and I don’t have to worry (not to sound crass) about the author dying and never finishing. So upon my friend’s recommendation, I picked the book up and cracked it open, finishing just earlier today.

The Lightning Thief is the first volume in a five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Percy is a sixth-grade student who has spent his life bouncing from one boarding school to another, none of them able to handle a genuinely good kid who nonetheless constantly seems to find himself in trouble. This year, that trouble starts getting worse — as in the “monsters and mayhem” kind of trouble instead of just flunking an English test. One of the nastiest encounters leads him to a strange summer camp full of other kids just as extraordinary as he himself is, and Percy finds the truth: the gods of Greek myth are real, are alive, and one of them is his long-lost father.

I didn’t really pay attention to this book when it was released, shelving it mentally with the dozens of Harry Potter clones that were being put on shelves at the time. Having read it, I still think I was partially correct in that assessment. Structurally, this first book is very similar to Harry Potter — Percy has two friends who accompany him, the mentor characters are suitably mysterious, and the school setting is swapped for a summer camp. However, the more I think of it, none of those elements Percy and Harry have in common were really originated by Harry anyway. There are a lot of elements that Percy has unique to himself, and that’s what makes this book easy to recommend. Riordan has a really interesting social structure in place here, with the gods capable of playing both ally and antagonist as the situation demands. He uses the classic Greek deities, monsters, and symbology to great effect here, crafting a story that is singularly exciting. Percy is quite different from Harry in personality, carrying a bit of a god’s temper in him. As for his friends — well, Annabeth does seem to have a dash of Hermione, but considering who her sire is, that’s only natural.

On a personal note, I have to admit reading this book startled me, because Riordan actually overlaps once or twice with things I have done (or was planning to do) with my own work-in-progress Summer Love, but as both stories employ Greek myths, that’s really unavoidable. My story is drastically different from Riordan‘s, as is my interpretation of the Olympians. It was a little hard, still, to divorce my own ideas from what I read here.

Once I was able to do that, though, I really did enjoy this book. It’s a very strong beginning to the series, and I intend to hunt down book two, The Sea of Monsters, ASAP.

BONUS REVIEW:

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a member of the Amazon.com Vine Program, which gives me a chance to read and review books before they are released. I just finished a really great mystery novel by Lyndsay Faye entitled Dust and Shadow, about Sherlock Holmes and his effort to capture Jack the Ripper. If you’re interested in my review, you can read it here: Dust and Shadow review.

29
May
09

More things of intense concern

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question: why do high school seniors get out two weeks earlier than the rest of the students? Today I found out the answer. Apparently, in the pre-computer age, records had to be sent to the state department of education and processed before diplomas could be issues, a process that took about two weeks. So in order to synch graduation with the end of school, grades had to be sent in two weeks before the end of the school year. And once there are no more grades to be given, there isn’t much point in keeping the kids here.

In this day and age, with most grades computerized and with the diplomas issues by the local district, letting the kids out early is an anachronism. But technically, so is summer vacation, and I’m not about to argue with that one.

Speaking of summer vacation…

Today was the last day of school for the rest of my students, the ones who are gonna be back next year, as they haven’t graduated yet. The teachers still have one day — we’ll be back Monday — but for all intents and purposes, the school year is over. And not a moment too soon, really. I’ve got some great kids. I love what I do. But there’s only so long you can be around a person in as intense a situation as school is before you start to grate on each other’s nerves. There are a lot of kids in my classes that I’m going to miss next year, but I know i’ll have another batch of great kids coming in. I’m glad, though, that I’ll have two months before I have to start that.

What will I be going in the meantime? Well, Erin is coming to town for a visit next week, and I can’t wait. Other than that, the biggest thing I’ll be working on is the initiative I’ve been talking about, clandestinely, as “Project Rebirth.” I’m still not quite ready to say exactly what that is, although I think I’ve said enough in various places that someone has probably figured it out by now, but it’s been moving along at quite a pace lately. I’ve got a major push that is going to need a lot of work out of me to make happen, and that’s what summer is going to be for.

Random Question

Has there ever been a decent zombie movie made that didn’t use the “I got bit but I don’t want to turn into a zombie, please kill me” scene?

Agent Orange

MINE.

28
May
09

Toy Stories: New Star Trek is Old-School Cool

Hey, guys. First of all, thanks to everyone who’s been reading and replying to the little impromptu Kanye West rant I posted yesterday. Less than 24 hours later, it’s already the fourth-highest viewed blog post on the whole site. It’s nice to know there are so many of you out there you actually… y’know… read things.

For this week’s Toy Stories post, I’m going back to the new Star Trek movie, which I’m still rather dazzled by. I looked before at some of the stars of the film. This time, I’m looking at some of the more classic creations that made this movie so awesome.

Dont forget, Shatner, this was my ship first!

Don't forget, Shatner, this was my ship first!

First up, let’s look at Captain Christopher Pike, as portrayed by the awesome Bruce Greenwood. Pike, for those of you not familiar with the original Star Trek series, was the character originally conceived as the captain of the Enterprise by creator Gene Roddenberry. He was featured in the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” and played by Jeffrey Hunter before the network asked for changes to the show. Roddenberry’s second try eliminated the entire cast except for Leonard Nimoy‘s Spock, but Pike was brought back in an episode that used the scenes from the original pilot in a flashback sequence, and thus his place in true Trek canon was assured.

Bruce Greenwood‘s Pike took on a much larger role than I would have expected for this film, becoming part mentor and part inspiration for Chris Pine‘s James T. Kirk. In terms of his importance to Trek lore, I thought the character would be little more than a cameo, but he was a significant supporting player.

As an action figure, he got pretty good treatment. Although he came with the same accessories as every other Trek figure, the head sculpt is okay and at least bears a passing resemblance to Greenwood. I don’t know if there was ever a Pike figure before (it seems like there would have been, with all the years they’ve been making Star Trek figures), but Greenwood should be pleased with this.

I am, and have always been, made of plastic.

I am, and have always been, made of plastic.

Next up, I hope it’s not a spoiler at this point to mention the fact that Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance in the film. Although the movie credits list the character as “Spock Prime” (which, depending on your preferred fandom, either brings to mind an image of a transforming 18-wheeler or a petulant teenager trying to destroy the universe), the toy packaging calls him “Original Spock.” So we’re going with the O.S. I am so freaking white.

Original Spock here is one of the better-looking figures in the line. The sculpt of Nimoy is pretty impressive. The problem is one of articulation. With the long, stiff robe he wears, this Spock has even less motion than the rest of the Trek figures — really, only his neck, shoulders, and elbows have any movement at all, and not much there. These figures really are for display more than play, which is kind of a shame considering that this is a movie that’s bound to have a new generation of kids wanting to get their hands on these toys.

As for accessories, Spock here gets a bit less than the Starfleet officers (remember, he’s a Federation ambassador now): a different base, an alternate set of hands in the classic “Live long and prosper” salute, and a piece of the transporter room, as opposed to the bridge playset pieces most of the figures include.

The figures are okay, and I think I’m still more in love with the idea of this line than the toys themselves. Still, there’s some good here.

27
May
09

Kanye West hates reading

I got home late tonight. I didn’t think I was going to have time for a blog post. You see, I spent the evening at a high school graduation — not for my kids, not for my relatives, certainly not for myself. For students. A few of them were mine, but as I teach ninth grade and most of these kids were in tenth grade when I started at this school, there were very few I ever had in my own classroom. Still, I managed to talk to a couple of them that I did know, and I was pretty proud to see them pick up their diplomas. Thinking that I had even the smallest part to play in that is one of the proudest moments of my entire life.

So I get home and I check my e-mail and Twitter messages, planning to go to bed, only to come across this little news article that is bound to make my job a little harder soon.

“Proud non-reader Kanye West pens a (short) book”

I don’t like Kanye West. I never have. It’s not just because his kind of music isn’t what I like — although that is the case — but more because every time he opens his mouth in the public area he says something so outrageously stupid and ignorant that it baffles me how many people waste money supporting him. Now this guy, this musician that I promise you a large percentage of the kids I try desperately every day of my life to get to pick up a book listen to on a regular basis, comes out trashing books in general.

“I am a proud non-reader of books,” Kanye says. “I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”

Nothing wrong with a little life experience, Kanye. But let’s say your “real life” involves someone having a critical disease and there’s a desperate race to find a cure. Where do you think the doctors find their information they need to save someone’s life?

From books.

Your country, Kanye, the one you’ve felt free to trash on multiple occasions, is currently embroiled in two military actions. How do you think the generals and strategists and policy makers got the knowledge they need to have any hope of victory?

Books.

Hey, Kanye? As a musician, I’m going to assume that you actually use — y’know — music. Sheet music, to be precice. Guess where people learn how to read and write music?

C’mon. Guess.

Of course, these people all need practical experience, but all the practical experience in the world doesn’t mean a damn if they don’t have the knowledge base necessary to use that experience. This is the fight I have (and I use “fight” in the context of “struggle,” Kanye, not in the context of throwing punches or whipping out guns. “Context” is also something I learned from books.) with kids who don’t understand why we’re reading The Odyssey or Romeo and Juliet or the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Do I really think it will matter in their life, ten years from now, if they understand what William Wordsworth meant when he wrote “I wandered lonely as a cloud”?

Of course not.

But if a kid can read that poem and understand it, that sir is a skill. And skills can be transferred and applied to other things. If you can understand Shakespeare, it will help you if you try to understand a medical journal. It will be there when your car breaks down and you need a manual to fix it because you can’t afford a mechanic. It will protect you if some sleazy record executive tries to get you to sign your life away on a shoddy contract that he’s hoping you won’t be smart enough to understand.

But I’ll say this, and the kids in my class will hear this, shrug their shoulders, and say, “Kanye doesn’t need to read.”

Kanye goes on to say, “I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph.”

I really hope this is an accurate quote. I can only imagine that, if Kanye had ever bothered to pick up a book, he would understand that they can’t actually write.

Two more points that really burn me about this. First of all, this news comes out as Kanye decides to promote — wait for it — his own new book. Well… I suppose it’s a book in the publishing sense. I don’t know that I’d count a 52-page volume that includes blank and sparsely-written pages a “book,” but Kanye does. Not only does Kanye consider this a book, in fact, but he needed help to write it. It’s a collection of his “thoughts and theories.”

I’m going to avoid the obvious joke and just point out the sheer audacity of this man, tearing apart the medium that helped pull mankind out of the stone age while simultaneously shilling his slender little tome that joins the ranks of such literary giants as Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, and David Hasselhoff on the shelves that should be labelled “Books that wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of being published if the author wasn’t a celebrity and we know stupid people will buy them.”

The last thing? The thing that wounds most of all? Kanye has dedicated the book to his late mother — which, in and of itself, is a sweet enough thing to do and I don’t begrudge him that. The thing is, Ma West was… yep. A University English Professor. That is, before she taught him (and again I quote) “to believe in my flyness and conquer my shyness.”

Yep. Wow, Kanye. Mom must be proud. Go ahead and roll in the cash you’ll get from this “book” you conjured up. I’m sure it keeps you warm at night. When I go to bed, I’ll remember the kids I saw walk across the stage tonight — the one who struggled until he broke a “B” in my class and then smiled as wide as the sky itself. The one who came to me — even though she’d never been in my class — asking me to proofread her final term paper and asking my advice. The one who got in trouble her first year, the girl we were afraid would get expelled, who managed to turn her life around and graduate on time, and with true pride.

I guarantee you, Kanye, I may never have your cash, but you’ll never know the feeling I got from watching these kids and glimpsing the bright futures I helped — at least a little bit — to create. And I promise you, every one of them got there with the help of a book or two.

26
May
09

The Mouse Returning to Comics?

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuckWith this being the last week of school for the year, friends, I’m afraid I don’t have time for a full Everything But Imaginary column this week. However, some really interesting news just broke earlier today. Columnist Rick Johnston, in his (apparently final) Lying in the Gutters column, is reporting that Boom! Studios has gained the license to the classic Disney Comics including Uncle Scrooge, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the family.

As I wrote in EBI back in March when Gemstone Publishing lost the license, I was really upset to see these books going away. I suggested several alternatives to the method of publication Gemstone used in that column, including suggesting that the excellent work Boom! was doing with the Pixar and Muppet comics for Disney would be a great model, and that perhaps it would even be great if they could get the license for the core Disney properties. I suggested it, but I didn’t really think it would happen.

Now, I always take Johnston‘s news with a grain of salt. His work is referred to as a “rumor” column for a reason. Sometimes he’s right on the money, sometimes he’s not even in the same galaxy. But this is one time I absolutely want him to be right. Boom! has done awesome work with the two Disney properties they already have, and if they can make that happen for the classic comics too, it’ll be great for fans of the characters and of comics in general. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

A pair of Terminator reviews

As you know if you listen to the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast, this weekend we caught the new film Terminator: Salvation. If you’ve been waiting for the review… well, there’s two of ’em. You can read my thoughts on the film at my Comixtreme.com review, or you can listen to Chase and I chat about it on 2 in 1 Showcase At the Movies Episode 5. How’s that for convenient?

25
May
09

Universal Rule of the Universe #57

57. Everybody is annoying once in a while. Some people just make it a lifestyle choice.

Read all of the rules right here!

25
May
09

Lost in Silver Chapter Eleven: The Surface

Hey, friends. If you’re new to the website, every Monday I’ve been posting a chapter of my work-in-progress, a fantasy adventure called Lost in Silver. If this is your first time here, why not start with Chapter One: The Visitor? For those of you who’ve been following along, here’s chapter eleven!

Chapter Eleven

The Surface

“Taking in nourishment” turned out to mean some sort of khaki mush that almost, but not quite, reminded Linda of a glob of oatmeal. Lallura apologized, saying they were unfamiliar with the preferences of the children, so they could not tailor the proteins to an appealing configuration, but she assured her that the glob contained all of the vitamins and nutrients they would require for at least half a day. That was probably the worst thing about the stuff, Linda decided, – the knowledge that they would require another glob that afternoon.

After they ate, Lallura opened the door to the medical chamber they were residing in and, for the first time, took them out into the interior of the rest of the ship. All of the walls were made of the same clean, white metal, and many of them had electronic readouts of various sizes and colors. The halls themselves had an arch-shape to them, like half of a flattened tube, with recesses every few yards that led to another door. There were several of the slender, blue Mitimae wandering the halls, singing to one another when the need to convey information arose, all of them wearing the same blue and red robes as Lallura and the males they had already met. Their presence on the Mitimae ship had evidently been made public knowledge, as none of the people reacted to them with true surprise, but a great many of them stared or looked upon them with expressions ranging from wonder to suspicion. That was fair enough – Linda was doing her best not to let it show on her face, but she was looking upon them the same way.

The first Mitimae they saw that were not wearing robes were in the hangar bay Lallura led them to. There, milling about around a small fleet of vehicles, was a group of the aliens in white vacuum-suits. Each bore small patches on the shoulders featuring an insignia that had the same red and blue color scheme as the robes the others wore. There were two of them waiting by the smallest of the vehicles, made of the same white metal as the rest of the ship, and looking a bit like a minivan. It had six black tires, three on either side, and a windshield that wrapped around the front and several feet down the sides. The only entry into the vehicle was a sliding door on the left side, which was flanked by the two vacuum-suited Mitimae.

“Alar. Raelle.” Lallura bowed to the two, one male, one female, Linda could tell now that they were close enough to see them, and introduced each of the children. “These are the visitors who will be joining you on today’s expedition.”

Alar hummed a quick message to Lallura, and she hummed back. He nodded, but did not look pleased. “Very well. Please, enter,” he said to the children.

They climbed into the vehicle, where six chairs were lined up in rows of two. Linda sat in the left seat in the second row, next to the window. After a few moments of jockeying for position, Kevin took the seat next to her. Gene and Gail sat in the back, next to a back wall that seemed several feet short of the actual end of the vehicle. Gene looked at the blank wall, thinking. In any sort of space exploration vehicle, he was certain that room would be at a premium. There would be no wasted space. What was in that few extra feet at the end?

Alar and Raelle sat in the two chairs in the front and began operating a bank of controls. Gene caught himself being surprised at the panel of sliding rods, switches and buttons. There was no reason to think an alien craft would have a steering wheel or foot-pedals, but somehow, that was what he expected all the same.

“Where are we going, exactly?” Linda asked.

“We will patrol the area where we found you,” Alar said. “We will be looking for evidence of the cataclysm that has befallen this world. Now do be silent, younglings, we must concentrate.”

“Friendly, ain’t he?” Kevin said.

Gene tried to watch the controls as they guided the craft through the hanger. He was hoping he could learn how to pilot it from the way Alar and Raelle did the same, but their motions did not logically correspond with the movement of the vehicle – at least, not in any way he could understand. Gliding one of the rods right did not result in a right turn, nor did it necessarily result in a left turn, and he was left to conclude that the rods did not control direction at all, but served some other function. There must be some sort of rationale behind it, but it wasn’t something Gene could learn just by watching.

The two Mitimae at the controls took their high-tech sport utility vehicle and drove to into another chamber at the end of the hangar. It was much smaller – it could accommodate maybe two or three of the vans at a time, and as they drove into it a wall came down behind them and sealed them off. Within seconds, there was a humming sound as pumps cycled the air out of the room. When the humming finally stopped, the wall in front of them slid open, and they looked out at the cold vacuum and the vast, gray plains of dust.

Linda thought she had gotten a good look at it before, even for those brief seconds, but with the luxury to really look out without an immediate fear for her life, it was almost awe-inspiring. There were so many stars – she’d never known how beautiful they could be with all that air getting in the way.

Sadly, the stars were the only beautiful feature of the devastated landscape. Where there should have been grass or shrubs or sun-bleached sand, there was nothing but mounds of dead, gray ash. They were perfect mounds, undisturbed by wind, untouched by human or Mitimae hands. Linda took hope when she saw some tire tracks until she realized they must have been made by one of these vans on an earlier run.

The only feature that made the landscape of this world stand out, distinguishing it as a dead world rather than one that had never had life at all, were the trees. There were many trees, but they were all shrunken husks. The bark that had once shielded them from the elements was burnt away, leaving more oily ash, but as there were no longer any elements to shield them from it seemed a small loss. The gnarled limbs were stripped of their leaves as though by a flash-fire and every tree was bare and dead.

“Hey, what’s that over there?” Kevin asked, pointing off to their left. Linda craned her head around Alar’s chair to see what he was pointing at. At first she didn’t see anything, but then she noticed the black patch against the horizon where she saw no stars. As she looked harder, she realized the patch was actually a spot where the stars were blocked by the scorched, ruined husk of a building. It was the first sign the children had seen that this poor world had once played host to intelligent life.

“It is nothing to concern yourself with,” Alar said. “That is not in our survey zone.” He looked back down at the readout in front of him – orange lights flashing in patterns across a black screen. The kids looked harder and, sure enough, saw another Mitimae van patrolling the area near the building. They drove over another ash-mound and the edifice vanished from sight.

Evidently, there wasn’t much in their “survey zone” at all. After the first few minutes, awestruck by the stars, heartbroken by the ruins, there was very little new for the children or the Mitimae to see on their journey. No matter how tragic the implications were, after you’ve seen ten or fifteen masses of ash, new ones have less of an impact. That was why Kevin got very excited when he realized that a closely-grouped clump of trees they were approaching were not trees at all, but the remaining posts of a destroyed fence.

“Someone lived here,” he said. “Those posts are all in the straight line, it must have been a fence.”

“Perhaps,” Alar said. He navigated the van between some of the slats and, for the first time, came to a complete stop. “This area does require closer inspection. We must go onto the surface.”

“What?” Gene said. “But we’re not wearing vacuum-suits like you are! If you open the door, we’ll be killed.”

“Do not be concerned, youngling. This chamber will remain sealed. Our comrades in the back will conduct the testing.”

“The back?”

Alar tapped a few keys on the baffling control panel and a sliding sound came from behind the back wall of the compartment. So that’s what was in those extra feet – an airlock. Two vacuum-suited Mitimae walked out away from the van, coming into their field of vision, carrying a device that looked like a jackhammer with a laptop computer attached to the top of it, all made out of the odd Mitimae white metal. One of the aliens was guiding the end of the jackhammer along the ground as his partner studied the readout on the screen at the top. They were looking for something, Gene could tell, but what? And how? Some sort of radar or X-ray or maybe even a Geiger counter? The thought that the land they were rolling across may be pulsing with a low radioactivity made him shudder a little. Gene was smart enough to know that, no matter what Stan Lee wrote in the comics, heavy doses of real radiation were less likely to turn you green and super-strong than bald and weak.

The Mitimae seemed to find what they were looking for, and then they placed the tip of the jackhammer firmly into the ash. One of them hit a switch on the device and it started to hammer into the ground, kicking ash up into the vacuum. With no air to carry it, the ash settled quickly then was kicked right back up again. It was very strange to watch this procedure with no sound, and Gene thought of every science-fiction movie he’d ever seen full of gunfire and explosions in outer space. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to fully enjoy those movies again.

“What are they looking for?” he asked.

“Clues,” Raelle hummed. “Evidence as to what fate may have befallen this world.”

“And they think they found something underground?”

“Perhaps. They are marking the territory for greater scrutiny later.”

At about that point the jackhammer finished its silent job and the Mitimae pulled it from the ground. As they walked back to the van, Linda saw perhaps the strangest thing she’d seen since she came up out of the Evertime pool into this world. Around the edge of the hole they had drilled, some of the ash was spitting up from the ground, swirling like it was caught in a tiny gust of wind, as though there were a balloon under the ground that was leaking its precious air into the vacuum. A balloon… or a pocket of air.

“What is it, Linda?” Kevin asked. “Your face just got really white.”

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s all just… horrible out here. I hate looking at all of this.” She was lying, of course, but the more she watched these Mitimae, the more she became suspicious about what they were really searching for here, and until those suspicions were answered, she’d say what she thought was best. She didn’t like to lie, but she would do it as long as she was unsure as to the consequences of the truth.

*   *   *

“What didn’t you tell them, Linda?” asked Gail when they were returned to their little cabin aboard the Mitimae ship. She and Linda may not have been talking to each other very much at the moment, but after so many years of being best friends, she could tell when Linda was hiding something.

“Oh, so now you want to be a team player?” Linda said.

“I’ve always been a team player.”

“You’ve got a lousy way of showing it.”

“What, by wanting to go home before one of us gets killed? I don’t know if you noticed, Linda, but I was right. If the Mitimae hadn’t seen us just when we were coming out of Evertime, we’d all be goners by now.”

“And if you hadn’t wasted your question, we wouldn’t have had to come to Mitimae in the first place!”

“Ladies, ladies,” Kevin said,” is this really the best time to have this argument? Better to wait until we jump back into the pool. Then we’ll have all the time in the world.”

Were you hiding something, Linda?” Gene asked. He’d thought she was lying too, but not knowing her as well as Gail did, he wasn’t sure.

Linda told them about the swirling ash she saw when the Mitimae pulled their jackhammer from the ground. It had been the only stop during their entire trip to the surface, but on the way back they saw a few aliens in their vacuum-suits conducting similar surveys with jackhammers. When they got closer, they saw that the area they had been studying was near the Evertime pool. Gene immediately began to map out the path they took back to the ship so they would know how to find the pool again when they needed it.

“How could it have swirled up out of the ground?” Kevin said. “There’s no air for it to swirl in.”

“Exactly,” Linda said. “I think the Mitimae are looking for pockets of air underground and cracking them open.”

“Why would they want to do that?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it. We need to find a way out of here.”

“Easier said than done,” Kevin said. “Every time I try to come up with an escape plan, I feel like my head is going to explode.”

At the word “explode,” the Medibots hummed to life. “Explode?” one said.

“Blood thinner,” said another, opening a compartment in his chest to reveal a selection of pills.

“High pressure,” buzzed the first.

“Trephination,” said the third, as one finger retreated into his hand, replaced by what appeared to be a surgical drill-bit.

“It’s a figure of speech!” Kevin said, leaping up on one of the gurneys as though the room were full of mice instead of excessively helpful robots. The metallic trio each stopped moving, cocking their heads to one side as though they were trying to listen to something. There was a whirring sound, then their heads popped back into place and each returned to their previous position.

“Figure of speech noted,” one of them said.

“What’s with you guys?” Gail asked. “How can you take everything so literally?”

“Still processing your language,” one robot said.

“Very confusing,” said the second.

“Humans should say what they mean,” the third buzzed.

Kevin sat back down, making a mental note to look up “trephination” the next time he got his hands on a dictionary. “Sometimes it’s easier to exaggerate,” he said. Gail and Linda looked at each other when he said that, then they turned away.

One of the robots cocked his head in the “listening” pose again. There was a whirr, and he stepped forward, towards Linda.

“Leave me alone, my head is fine,” she said.

“Lallura wishes to speak to you,” he buzzed. The door to the cabin slid open and the robot stepped through, the obvious implication being that he wanted her to follow. She looked back at her friends nervously.

“Guys?” she said.

“Go on, Linda,” Kevin said. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Don’t anybody answer that,” Gene said. “But I think you should go. Maybe you can find something out.”

Linda and Gail’s eyes met. Gail shrugged. “Try to be careful,” she said. With something that close to an admission of friendship between then, Linda steeled her gut and followed the robot out into the ship.

*   *   *

Lallura’s chamber, as it turned out, was relatively near the medical cabin the children occupied, so Linda didn’t get as good a look at the rest of the Mitimae ship as she may have hoped. Between this walk and their journey to the hangar earlier, though, she was beginning to get the impression that the ship was very, very large. Far larger, in fact, than they realized from the few glimpses they got of it while returning from the surveying mission.

The Medibot escorted her into a chamber only a few doors down the corridor. It wasn’t a very big room, but it wasn’t confining either, and Lallura seemed quite comfortable sitting there in a chair that was too slim to comfortably fit someone from Linda’s world, but which seemed a very good fit for the Mitimae. For the first time since they met, Lallura was not wearing the red and blue robes Linda had come to expect. Her costume now seemed less ceremonial, a simpler green robe with a golden trim pattern that draped her form in one large piece with a v-shaped opening for her head and neck. She was smiling.

“Hello, Linda,” she said. “Do you know why I wanted to speak with you privately?”

“Not really, no.”

“It’s obvious, don’t you think? You’re quite clearly the leader of your group. The one you call Gene seems quite competent, but your friend Kevin is far too headstrong and Gail is hardly there at all, mentally. They all look to you.”

“Maybe so,” Linda said. “But so what?”

“So, I have summoned you here to discuss your quest as one leader to another. Here. Join me.” She motioned to a chair next to her own. Linda, still cautious, climbed into it. It was slimmer than she was comfortable with, and anyone bigger than her may not be able to sit on it at all, but she made do.

“Would you like to see something magnificent, Linda?”

“Okay.”

Lallura sang a few notes in her own language and two things happened at once, dividing Linda’s attention between the ceiling and the floor. From below, a rail appeared, growing up out of the floor and surrounding the chairs Lallura and Linda sat upon. Above them, a panel opened in the ceiling, revealing a long chute. Linda instantly recognized its purpose, and when the floor beneath them began to raise them up into the chute, her suspicions were confirmed.

Lallura maintained her uneasy smile as they were elevated higher and higher, the chute lit by fluorescent panels in the walls, throwing bright light on the white metal that seemed to make up everything that marked the Mitimae civilization. The light began to dim as they approached the top of the shaft and another panel opened up above them. The elevator slid into place, raising them into a transparent bubble that was fully exposed to the exterior of the ship. Linda and Lallura were sitting beneath the stars with only a thin layer of glass between them and the emptiness of space.

They were very high up. Linda could see a few roving vans of Mitimae in the distance, a few burnt-out husks of buildings… and the groups studying the Evertime pool as well.

“We are very interested in the pool where we found you,” Lallura said, as if she were merely reacting to Linda’s interest in it and not her own. “It’s so strange – no gas, no vapor, no liquid anywhere on the surface of this world except for that small pond. How do you suppose that came to be, Linda?”

“I don’t know,” she said, which technically wasn’t a lie. She had no idea why the Evertime pool would have escaped whatever cataclysm had destroyed the rest of this planet, and if pressured for an answer would only be forced to conclude it was some sort of magic like everything else that had happened to her lately.

Lallura did not say anything in response, but continued to focus her gaze on the shapes moving around. “It’s really very bright out there, you know.”

“It’s not so bad.”

“You do not understand me. This shield that protects us is polarized – tinted. So are the shields on our vehicles and the helmets of our vacuum-suits. With no atmosphere to diffuse the rays of the sun, it is really very bright outside. Luckily for you, the sun had set when you arrived, or else you may have been left blind after you woke up.

“Oh,” Linda said, uneasy. “Thanks again, then.”

“Are you unhappy, Linda?”

She wasn’t expecting that one. “You’ve been kind to us here,” she said, “but we don’t want to stay. We have something very important to do.”

“Where will you be going, Linda? And how do you intend to get there? We have surveyed the planet. There are no other vehicles anywhere on the surface, nor are there any in orbit around this world. How did you come to be here? How do you intend to leave?”

“Um… well…”

“Is it possible, Linda, that you and your friends came from elsewhere?”

Linda’s blood froze. The prospect of this woman, this creature she could not bring herself to trust, learning about Evertime, scared her more than anything else they had encountered. “Elsewhere?” she said, aware that repeating a question was a red flag for someone stalling until she could conjure a lie, and hoping that the Mitimae did not share that tradition with people from her own world.

“Yes, Linda. Do you think it may be possible that you came from somewhere beneath the surface?”

Linda bit back a furious denial, unsure how to answer such a direct question. Out of the corner of her eye, though, she saw another squadron of Mitimae treating the ashen ground with their computerized jackhammers. Lallura wasn’t talking about Evertime at all. She thought Linda and the others came from somewhere underground.

“I can’t imagine what would make you think that,” Linda said.

“No, I suppose you couldn’t.”

“How do you know our language?” Linda asked. She’d been interrogated long enough – she was going to turn the tables if she could.

“I told you, this world is our cradle. It is the language of our ancients.”

Sure it is, Linda thought. The language Lallura spoke was full of smooth, rolling syllables… no harsh “t”s or “f”s, no sibilant “s”s. Their mouths didn’t evolve from any race that would have crafted such a gruff language. “If you’re not going to let us go, can I go back to my friends now?”

Lallura hummed a few cool syllables and the elevator began to bring them down to her chambers. “Of course, Linda. Do not be melodramatic. You are not a prisoner here.”

“Mmm-hmm,” Linda said.

“By the way, Linda, what precisely is ‘Evertime’?”

Linda’s veins were so cold she was afraid she would hear snapping sounds as the ice broke when she tried to walk.

“I’ve never heard of it,” she said, trying to hide the quaking terror in her voice.

“Really?” Lallura said. “I’m very disappointed to hear that, Linda. Very disappointed indeed.”

*   *   *

“So if I chopped off my arm, you guys would, like, run in and weld it back on?” Kevin said. He had gone to lengths to explain the concept of the hypothetical question to them, and he was fairly certain they got it now. As he applied this poser to them, they buzzed to each other, seeming to confer.

“Why would you do that?” one robot asked.

“Just pretend.”

“We would not weld,” said number two. “Heat would cause too much damage.”

“Sew,” said the third. “Stitches. Anesthetic. Staunch blood loss.”

“What if I ate a lit firecracker?”

“Oh good grief,” Gail said. The robots just buzzed.

“Fi-er-crack-er?” one of them ventured.

Gene, for his part, was not involved in this horizon-broadening conversation. Something was really bothering him, but he was having trouble figuring it out. He wondered if, in addition to a sleep-inducer, this room might also be equipped with some sort of intellect-suppressant. If he didn’t know Kevin so well, he may suspect his current behavior was evidence of this.

No, it was something one of the Medibots said. It was something eating into his gut, and if Kevin would stop explaining gunpowder for five seconds he might be able to figure it out…

“And it would explode into a hundred pieces! Ka-boom!” Kevin announced, miming the detonation that would turn his stomach into shrapnel. Gail wretched.

“We do not understand,” said one of the robots.

“Do humans normally ingest explosive substances?” said number two.

“Do you wish to go ‘ka-boom’?” hummed the third.

“Wait a minute,” Gene said. He sat up like a bolt. “Gail, Kevin, did either of you call us ‘humans’? Did you use that word exactly? Did Linda?”

“I don’t know, man. Not that I remember.”

“What’s this about Gene?”

It was all snapping together in his head. The robots may not have recognized his darker skin color as something normal, but they did know the difference between the Mitimae and the four from Earth. Well… their Earth. They didn’t think the others were suffering from some sickness that turned them pink, or that any of them were short, pudgy mutants. If this planet was really the “cradle” of the Mitimae race, how would they know about any difference? How would they know what to call the non-Mitimae? How did they know?

The door slid open and Linda came back in, looking frustrated. Gene nearly popped. “Linda, did you ever–”

“Be quiet, Gene,” she said. She plopped down on her gurney.

“What? Linda, you don’t understand.”

“I understand perfectly, Gene,” she said. “So shut up.” There was something in her voice – she wasn’t being angry or rude. She was pleading.

“What’s wrong, Linda?” he said.

“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, pointing to her ear. She looked at Gail and shook her head, hoping she’d be able to pick up on her manual shorthand.

Gail nodded. “Oh,” she said. “Right. Shut up.”

She got it, and as she nodded, Kevin and Gene picked up on it too.

They were listening. Spying on them. The Mitimae could hear every world they said.

Next: Chapter Twelve-The Escape

24
May
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 120: The Terminator

The movie season is in high gear now, and this week’s big release is Terminator: Salvation. To prepare for the movie, the Showcase gang converged on the home of Mike “I Left My Heart in 2029” Bellamy for a marathon of the first three Terminator movies and the pilot episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The boys talk about the films and show, discuss the property in comics, and pre-hash the new movie. Come back on Tuesday for our review of Terminator: Salvation! In the picks this week, Blake enjoyed the first issue of Olympus and Chase provides the graphic novel pick, Hellblazer: Original Sins. WARNING: This podcast contains frequent terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonations. Parental Discretion is advised. Write us with comments, suggestions, picks of the week, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@Comixtreme.com!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 120: The Terminator
Inside This Episode:

PLUS:Week in Geek returns! This week, the guys pick apart the season finale of Lost, “The Incident.” People who want to remain Lost-free can skip from 6:10 to 42:20 on their iTunes, and join us as we discuss the end of the TV season, which shows got picked up, and what some of our new favorites are. Plus: the winner of the Battle For the Cowl wager is revealed (in a spoiler-free fashion)! Special thanks to Monty for the new Week in Geek logo!

Week in Geek #21: Blake and Chase’s Big Ol’ Incident

23
May
09

A family wedding, a Kindle suggestion, more reviews

Best Wishes, Chase

This first blurb today isn’t for my Good Buddy Chase, he of the 2 in 1 Showcase fame, but rather for my cousin Chase, who is getting married today. I really wish I could be at the wedding, but Chase is getting married in Germany because Andrea, his fiance (actually, considering the time difference, she’s probably his wife by the time I write this) is a German native and they’re going to be living there, at least for the next few years. Much as I’d like to be there, if I could afford a trip to Germany I’d already have that Amazon Kindle I keep rambling about. Anyway, Chase, we wish you all the best, we hope to see you back home soon, and please don’t cause any international incidents while you’re over there. That message really applies more to your brothers, but they’re both over there for the wedding, so pass it along.

Short stories on the Kindle?

Speaking of the Amazon Kindle, something occurred to me earlier that’s yet another reason for me to pine for one. It seems to me that it would be an excellent way to read short stories. I don’t read many short stories, which is something I actually feel sort of bad about because it’s a dying art form that I’d like to support. The thing is, how do you get a new short story? Well, you have to buy a book of short stories, which (let’s face it) is a crapshoot. If it’s an anthology full of different authors, you know perfectly well that there will be some stories in there you like and some that you don’t like at all. Even if it’s a book of stories all by the same author, say Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, you lose that impetus to keep reading every time you hit the end of a story. Rather than chugging along to the end like you will with a novel, when you finish a short story it’s rather easy to put it aside and get distracted by something else.

I think it would be brilliant if Amazon established a short writing store, similar to the iTunes music store, where writers and publishers alike could submit short pieces of writing (both fiction and non-fiction) for a cheap download. I may be reluctant to spend even the $9.99 Kindle asks for a whole book if I’m unfamiliar with most of the contributing writers, but if you give me a first paragraph as a sample and I like it, I’d be inclined to spend 50 to 99 cents to download just that story and read it. I think this would be a hit, and may help to revive the short story format if only people would listen to my brilliance.

Termination

As you may have heard, there’s a new Terminator movie out this weekend. We at the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast, being shameless hangers-on to popular culture, always like to do an episode to coincide with a major genre film. So today, we’re converging at Mike “The Internet is a Bunch of Tubes” Bellamy’s house to watch the first three films in the series and record the episode. Then, tomorrow, we’re going to catch the new movie and do our review. If you’ve already seen the film, don’t spoil it for me. I hear the reviews are mixed, but I’m genuinely excited for this flick, and if I’m going to be disappointed, I’d rather be disappointed on my own terms.

Reviews

Finally, how about a few more Comixtreme.com reviews for you guys? Here are some comics I’ve reviewed since the last time I did one of these posts:




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