Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ink and Paint: Flowers for Saturdays

As of today, the major over-the-air networks have stopped broadcasting Saturday morning cartoons.  A few of the digital sub-channels have shows (my father now knows who Jerry Beck is thanks to something on, I believe, MeTV featuring him talking about Columbia/UPA shorts), but as for the main five non-PBS stations, Saturday morning cartoons are no longer a thing that will exist.

A lot of my early tastes & influences can be traced directly back to Saturday morning.  My love of superheroes?  Earliest was watching the DePatie-Freleng Fantastic Four with my father (yes, the infamous series with H.E.R.B.I.E.), but most formative was watching X-Men & Batman TAS on Fox Kids as a preteen.  Love of supernatural stuff?  Direct line to Real Ghostbusters.  Introduction to the Muppets?  Actually started with Muppet Babies.  Saturday morning cartoons really were tastemakers, at least for me, and they showed that a variety of genres & eras of animation could exist together and keep kids enthralled.

On one hand, I envy the access kids have today to cartoons.  Saturdays were it, except for maybe some UHF stations that had after-school blocks in the late 80s like The Disney Afternoon; even if you had cable, the best you could do without a premium channel was the block of Hanna-Barbera stuff that aired on Sundays (yes, kids, Disney Channel used to be a premium channel a la HBO - preview weekends were freaking holidays in my household).  You have networks with shows on the lion's share of the time and streaming services & apps devoted to making sure you can watch your favorite cartoon* when you feel like it instead of waiting for one designated day.  On the other hand, it feels like animation is pretty much limited to "comedy series from the past decade", and I would not want to live in a world where there's no Looney Tunes, Dynomutt, Jem, or Batman.

Access isn't what I feel ended Saturday morning cartoons - I tend to blame both the CTA that legally required networks to air "E/I" content & the major networks' obsession with having at least 7 hours every day of their schedule occupied by bad local news mixed with 5 hours of bad morning chat shows.  Between a law no one in TV production really wanted to enforce and the discovery that you could pass off questionable "consumer reports" from your local talking heads as "E/I" content, it was no wonder that a traditionally low-rated block would be the first shuttered.  That's a thing people don't realize - Saturday morning cartoons were a weird sort of favor that was done for families, and once it was no longer needed, there was no real financial reason to continue.

RIP Saturday morning cartoons.  Thanks for warping my generation, along with a few others, by giving us something fun to watch.  Thanks to Bill & Joe, Hal & Lou, Ken & Joe, Dave & Friz, Mr. Henson, the folks at Sunbow, Mr. Heyward, the folks at Disney, the folks at Warner/MGM/Paramount vaults, Mr. Saban, and Ms. Loesch & your Fox Kids partners.  You all made it worthwhile to get up early on a weekend.

*Provided it's not action-adventure or targeted to a female audience.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

MGO: Let the Precure specula begin!

Because it's a genre I like & talk about a LOT, I've decided to create yet another sub-category.  Welcome to the inaugural Magical Girl Obsession (MGO) entry, not the first of its topic but the first to bear the name.

Since October is traditionally when news about the next Precure series starts to be found (usually by people combing patent info), I've heard some folks start speculating what they'd like to see in the next season of Precure.  I usually reserve full judgement until I at least hear a title & see one bit of imagery (increasingly, it's from merchandise listings rather than releases), but given the past couple of seasons, I am making a short wish list of things I want from the next season of Precure.

A New Showrunner:  This one should be obvious.  Ever since Hiroaki Shibata took over starting with Doki Doki, the series has been known more for its wasted potential & gross missteps than actual decent plots/characters.  HaChaPre should straight-up be retitled Wasted Potential Precure, since it seems to take great ideas (the international Cures, Cure Honey's fight-song method, the form changes) and ignore them in favor of bad ones.  We've got everyone having a love interest or being part of a love plotline, and no one learned from Yes! that the series just cannot do romance.  We've got the wasted potential - or at least tone-deaf portrayal - of the international Cures, who apparently come from a world where everyone is pale.  We have Queen Mirage's plotline, which is a skeevy "woman scorned" cliche.  Even the stuff that's improved - like Cure Fortune settling into "kind of annoying" after being actively unlikable for so long - hasn't improved by much.  The player that had the most unique approach, Cure Honey, is a one-note character obsessed with food who rarely uses her cool singing tactic, let alone awesome giant clover from space attack.  Also, between that episode about Yuko & Phantom and the Doki Doki movie, it's pretty clear that this guy fetishizes dead dogs the same way Batiuk fetishizes cancer; it's seriously disturbing.  And that's not even getting into Doki Doki, whose reputation as The Mana Show at the expense of way more compelling characters speaks for itself.  If Precure is going to be not frustrating, Toei needs to get someone else in charge of it.  Alas, since like American execs their main concern is the sale of plastic crap, it probably won't happen unless the toys are as uninspired as the seasons.

A Popular Theme Used:  Nearly every fan (guilty as charge here) has used a theme built around jewels, desserts, and/or seasons for fan Cures.  These seem like obvious choices for a magical girl theme, but they haven't really been used by Precure officially yet.  It'd be cool to see them use these themes, since they're (a) full of built-in potential and (b) already popular.

Singing Cures:  Maybe it's because I'm bummed Cure Honey hasn't used singing as her primary fighting method or maybe it's because I've gotten hooked on shows like Aikatsu & AKB0048, but having Cures who are singers & have to balance their careers with their superheroics or integrate music/dance into their attacks properly would be pretty fun.  And there's your tie-in, Toei - singing Cures equal music sales.

Underused Colors:  If nothing else, I'd appreciate it if we had another green Cure.  We've had two.  Both have had the worst hair of their seasons, too.  I'd love it if they used an under-represented color like green or orange or aqua/teal for a change and not as an accent color like Rosetta had.

Precure is the Super Sentai of magical girl shows; if you love the genre, you have to at least respect it and want it to keep going.  I'd like it to do so better (see the first item on my wish list), and seeing it just be good TV is really what most viewers want, even if they don't say it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Not-So-Brief Update

Huh.  It's been since June that I've had time to update this?  Yikes.  How do Gentlemen of Leisure do it?

My life has been its usual mix of mundane craziness that leaves little free time, so now I'm going to make some time for a brief to-do list.

I am still continuing my Legionnaires Omnicommentaries.  I wish I had a scanner I could trust to show you why the next few issues are going to be a slog, but they are (I'll do my best the next time I get actual non-pseudo-emergency time to myself, which is rarer than any commodity).  I plan to do Legionnaires through the Zero Issues (a.k.a. the start of the Archie Legion), along with a few annuals.  Then it's on to something that's at least fun-bad - Howard Mackie's Mutant X!  So many missed opportunities, so much bizarre dialogue... Unlike the waning days of Legionnaires, this one might actually be fun.

I've been trying to get some original stuff written, but my brain keeps going back to something I had hoped to accomplish by now.  Back in high school, I read Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic, which was last revised around the time The Great Mouse Detective had been released.  In the original edition (which was available at my library), he had expressed a desire that this book about theatrical animation would be the first in a series that would also cover TV, independent, & foreign animation; however, by the time the revised edition was released, Mr. Maltin had decided that these other volumes would not be written and expressed hope that someone else would one day write these volumes in his stead.  In my high school naivete, I declared "Challenge Accepted!", having been raised on TV animation & been disgusted with my first animation history book's utterly dismissive attitude towards it, and made writing the definitive history of TV animation a life's goal.

It's a life's goal that I really should've completed by now.

The thing that people don't realize when you talk about "TV animation" is that the simple term covers a vast range of topics.  It would, no doubt, have to be a multi-volume series that would either have to be divided by subject (animated ads, prime time shows, syndicated shows, cable shows, and/or SatAm shows) or maybe by studios (bigger ones like Hanna-Barbera would need more than one volume).  Or even divided by decade, so that wider trends of those eras could be traced.  And me being me, I'd want to do a bit about puppetry & "costume" shows, since they've always felt like a cousin to animation in my mind.  It's a daunting task, and that doesn't even get into the topic of stuff being readily available even with the brass ring of rightsholder cooperation.  So now that I'm old enough to complete it, I'm old enough to realize how damn near impossible it might have been.

Besides, how could my hobbyist self try to compete with real animation historians?  Let's face it, I'm no Jerry Beck.  It probably would wind up being a series with an "editorial history" bend, but I would definitely not be as dismissive towards works/studios I don't care for as much as the book Serious Business was towards, oh, the entire careers of Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera!  That's just disrespectful & unprofessional.  I might not be a Seth McFarlane fan, but I'd still make an effort to see what in his work connects with others instead of one paragraph of insults & then done.

So yeah, I'm realizing that my life dream was really a pipe dream.  But still, I'll try to keep to my review schedule in lieu of this ridiculous nerd endeavor.

UPDATE: Attention reading-comprehension-deficient deleted comment poster - I am not a Baby Boomer.  I am not a fan of Baby Boomers.  Being a fan of media that existed prior to my birth is not an indicator of my age.  Save the rants for Facebook, child.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ink and Paint: In Which I Get Angry at Magical Girls

The last couple of seasons of Precure have been... rough.  Doki Doki was a carnival of wasted ideas that were thrown out throughout the series (Cure Sword's world having a standing army of Precures to defend it, the existence of Cure Empress & her unnamed teammates spring most readily to mind), and it chose to focus on a main character in Mana who was dully infallible.  And while Happiness Charge started strong & has addressed many of the character problems with The Mana Show (along with giving fandom a gift on a silver platter as far as creating new fan Cures), one character & said character's impending story arc has more than soured me on watching the rest.  But then I encountered this translated interview and one quote in particular:

...Speaking of which, Pretty Cure is separated into three periods by which producer is doing the show. 
First is the Washio era, starting from Futari wa to Yes! 5 GoGo.
Second is the Umezawa era, lasting Fresh to Smile (currently, the producer of Sailor Moon Crystal, if you are curious). 
Third is Hiroaki Shibata's era, which is also what we are currently in and began from Doki Doki onwards.
Okay, this explains quite a bit.  I would argue that Washio's signature is how grounded his three continuities feel; everything in there feels like an attempt to reflect the lives of the audience, aspirational or otherwise, while still telling a fantasy superhero story.  Umezawa seems to focus more on character showcases, either by highlighting growth or just letting the fully-formed characters react in dramatic situations; notice how two of his seasons, Fresh and Suite, have major redemption arcs, how the "minion" villains in all of these seasons turn out to be decent people by the end, and how much these series are remembered for their characters and drama as much as, if not more than, anything else.  Shibata's theme is simple - characters who put Mela's teeth on edge.

You think I'm kidding?  Until his run started, there was never a character I actively hated in any Precure season.  No matter how whiny Nagisa got, no matter how bratty Milk was, no matter how much Kanade was sidelined into being Hibiki's naggy girlfriend, I didn't hate them; sometimes they made me laugh, and sometimes I even related to Nagisa's "why me" annoyance or Kanade's eternal frustration.  But Doki Doki gave us Cure Ace, a joyless scold of a 10-year-old whom everyone just rolls over to obey & who straight up wants to murder her "dark" sister Regina until Mana talks her out of it.  And then there's Cure Fortune, a.k.a. Cure Bully, a.k.a. Cure Selfish Asshole, a.k.a. Cure Lack of Basic Empathy.  Horrible character.  She wages an out & out harassment campaign against a girl who is the last survivor of her people, both as a Cure and as a civilian, and actively tries to turn Hime's friends against her.  Why?  Y'see, the villains who are causing chaos & destroyed Hime's homeland/people were accidentally released by Hime in a Pandora's Box sort of situation; Cure Fortune's sister was another Cure who tried to fight them but got caught by the villains.  So in Cure Fortune's rat brain, her pseudo-dead sister trumps everything Hime has lost & any/all efforts at making amends that Hime is doing; it also justifies trying to drive her into alienation.  That they're setting her up to be a proper member of the team and have everyone just... forget her complete & utter lack of empathy/decency/heroism/redeeming character traits has made me rage quit a Precure season.

A bit of perspective.  I didn't quit Max Heart or either Yes! season because they were boring.  I didn't quit Smile when I started to lose patience in the stock attacks.  I didn't even quit Doki Doki when it was clear that the showrunners weren't going to do anything with their best ideas and continue to dwell on their worst instead.  But none of those have a character who is downright offensive.  Anyone who has ever been the subject of bullying & gossip campaigns or knew someone who was will recognize Cure Fortune's behavior and should be appalled that Shibata & Co. are basically giving it a pass.  I know Japan has some... wrong-headed ideas about bullying, but this is beyond the pale.  Hopefully this showrunner will move on relatively soon, because if he stays longer than either of his predecessors, I will not hanging around.  It's clear that the "character who sets teeth on edge" will simply increase in unpleasantness if this continues.

Life's too short to hate-watch, in my view.

Friday, May 16, 2014

X-Nonsense: Three Headcanons I Refuse to Drop

So I'm home sick, and I've been catching up on a great new podcast: Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men.  Their last episode talked about "Deadly Genesis", and it reminded me of one of three things that, no matter what the actual books say, will always be considered 100% true in my nerd-heart.  I'm going in order from when the stories/characters affected were first introduced.

Wolverine is a father who outlived his young daughter:  One of the things I always liked was that Wolverine always has a surrogate daughter figure, no matter what era.  This led me to believe that, somewhere in his then-unexplained past, he had a like-aged daughter who died young.  Maybe illness, maybe not, but either way, he outlived a daughter he loved & now he doted on surrogates to make up for that loss.  Now that so much of his past has been revealed I don't think it's likely that will ever apply, but it doesn't change the fact that I find Wolverine's fatherly behavior towards Kitty, Jubilee, & Hiroko (among others) any less endearing.

The real Monet is dead, with the twins taking her form out of self-loathing:  The origins/story of Monet St. Croix are, putting it politely, a mindfuck.  I never liked the explanation we were given for her or for Penance's origins, especially since after it was all resolved a third Penance just sort of... showed up.  It was a total mess.  My theory was that the Monet that signed on with Generation X was the twins merged into her form, but they did this because the original Monet was murdered by their evil brother.  Why would they do this since it would mean the St. Croix would now have to deal with two missing children?  Because the twins were the unfavorites - one was a locked-in autistic & the other refused to leave her side.  Whereas Monet was beautiful, smart, and confident - clearly, the family would rather have her back than have the twins.  Any family that could spawn both Marius & Monet would be that shallow & heartless.  And they keep up the ruse because, with them as Monet, everyone seems to be happier; whether the twins themselves are, that remains to be seen.  I'd be miserable playing a masquerade my whole life, though.  As for Penance, she is exactly what her initial origin was - a Bosnian refugee & deaf-mute with zero ties to the St. Croix family.

The Krakoa at the Jean Grey School is Petra:  Here's one that came to me while listening to Rachel & Miles.  In "Deadly Genesis", we learn that four earlier students trained by Moira MacTaggart were killed by Krakoa in a failed rescue attempt before the canon second X-team showed up.  Naturally, not everyone actually was dead but of course, the two girls - the ones who had the most interesting powers & potential - stayed very dead.  Even a "What If" storyline where a writers' interview showed that they put some real thought into how Sway & Petra would work as characters failed to deliver on that, making the story yet another Kid Vulcan tale.  But after the "good" piece of Krakoa showed up that guards the Jean Grey School, I realized something - that piece of Krakoa houses Petra's consciousness.  Petra basically had the same powerset as Terra, and as she was dying, she burrowed herself & her surviving teammates into the soil to try & protect them; instead of dying, her body merged with the soil & her consciousness with it.  While her ability to communicate - and maybe much of her human memories - were lost, the fragment where she was merged landed on where the Jean Grey School would be built.  Driven by an instinctive desire to protect her fellow students, possibly out of a form of survivors' guilt (since this would be the second time she lived when others didn't), she takes it upon herself to guard the school in her new form with only a vague inkling that she may have once been human.

So yeah, those are my headcanons.  Even if what was printed contradicts it, I don't care.  I just like these better.  If anyone wants to share their own, feel free - these are usually more interesting than what we get.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

List-O-Rama: Top Five Game Franchises That Need Sequels

Day off equals time for another list!  I've been enjoying lots of videos about nostalgic gaming lately, and it made me think that there's a bunch of franchises that I'd love to see get a new entry.  I don't mean another brown & grim "reimagining" - I mean a proper revival.  Some are existing series that have strayed far from their old format, and some just sort of vanished.  There's some series that I would welcome another entry in even though I think they've reached a good end point (i.e. the Mother series), and there are some that I haven't played enough to really judge beyond a single game (such as, I've played Chrono Trigger but not Chrono Cross, so I can't weigh in on it at all).  Others I'm not sure I'd want another game but I would like to see the characters again (such as wanting to see Liddell as DLC for a Disgaea game but not necessarily wanting a sequel to A Witch's Tale - although I'd happily play it if it showed up).  So these are franchises I played in my youth, even relative recent youth, that have either vanished or turned into something else that I'd like to see return to their roots.

5.) Eternal Champions/Fighting Vipers:  These were two Sega fighting game series that were shut down around the time of the Saturn's mid-life due to an executive decision to concentrate on Virtua Fighter as their premiere fighting game.  That's fine - Virtua Fighter is an excellent series.  But these were both unique series that could've stood on their own and wouldn't eat into VF's audience.  Eternal Champions is a game made by Sega of America with a very comic book-y style, an interesting hook (all the players are capable of changing the world for the better but only one can be revived), and gory end moves that would shame Mortal Kombat.  The characters were interesting & creatively designed, and the universe of the game was pretty clever, too.  I think the punishing nature of the CPU (which was just cheap), the first game being designed for the awful Activator peripheral, and the second being on the Sega CD kind of doomed it to obscurity.  Fighting Vipers, meanwhile, was an arcade game and a 3D fighter in the style of VF.  Its hook was that all the characters had a sort of armor, and it could be knocked off to make different limbs or their torsos easier to damage.  What's more, there were moves built entirely around slamming characters into walls - no ring-outs here.  Characters ranged from a kid in skater gear to a fetish lady to a bear (my personal favorite was Grace the rollerblader).  But unless you had a Saturn, odds are you either stumbled on it randomly in an arcade (like me) or never played it at all.  Both were very different from Virtua Fighter, and it'd be neat to see what they'd look like with updated game engines.

4.) Rival Schools:  Another fighting game series, this one was from Capcom and was structured around the students at different themed schools (one for sports, one for delinquents, one for foreigners, etc.) fighting to stop the takeover of their schools (or, in some cases, advance it) by a sinister conspiracy.  It's a tag-team fighting game, where the characters can perform different attacks in pairs or even as a trio.  One of the more unique elements of it is that the first player campaigns advance the story with light novel-esque scenes, so you get a lot more characterization and plot than you normally get from fighting games.  A few characters have popped up in Capcom's crossover games, but this is another one that would do well on modern consoles.  Think about how much fun a three-on-three fighting game would be with online versus capability.

3.) Old-School Phantasy Star:  I've played & enjoyed mobile versions of the post-PSO Phantasy Star games for PSP & DS, but I've always enjoyed the more JRPG-structured entries from the Genesis era a lot more (especially III & IV).  If there was a game done in the new style or using the character archetypes from PSO onward but with the old-school play style, I'd be super excited.  Just don't do what II did and take all the decisions out of my hand; I like JRPGs because I like the strategy, dammit.

2.) Golden Sun:  Probably the second most forgotten-about Nintendo franchise after Mother, and at least Mother has protagonists that were playable in Smash Brothers beyond assists.  Starting late in the life of the GBA & being largely forgotten since then, this series had a game on the DS that vastly expanded & changed its universe, and even worse, it ended on a massive cliffhanger.  Even if it's just to wrap up the series, I'd like to see Nintendo put out one more entry.  It's an enjoyable, surprisingly deep JRPG that has plenty of action-RPG puzzle solving mixed in and surprisingly complex job/summon systems.  It really doesn't deserve the sort of dismissal the franchise has received.

1.) Darkstalkers:  My absolute favorite fighting game franchise.  It pisses me off so much that Capcom has allowed it to languish in obscurity outside of the occasional Morrigan cameo in a crossover fighting game.  Again, we have a fighting game series with a unique, colorful plotline and absolutely fabulous character designs.  An evil zombie metal rocker?  A mafia assassin who looks & acts like Little Red Riding Hood?  An ancient Mayan robot that guards the orphaned son the archaeologists who found him?  A Chinese-style zombie with sleeves full of weapons?  Add them to well-designed standard monster archetypes, and it's just a wonderful game.  The first time I played the last entry in the series was in an arcade; I selected BB Hood on a lark, and my laugh of disbelief at how ridiculous she was (she's the assassin) made the attendant laugh & earned me a free play.  It has a loyal following among Capcom fans & fighting game enthusiasts, but that doesn't change the fact that there's been no new game since the PS1 era.

So yeah, those are the games I'd love to see revived from franchise limbo.  As you can see, I have my genre preferences, and unfortunately, they're genres that are becoming more "fringe".  But as Double Dragon Neon has shown, you can revive a moribund genre (in that case, beat-em-ups) if you just put enough time, talent, effort, care, and respect into it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Omnicommentary #9: Subplotapalooza!

Legionnaires #9: Skin Deep

Creative Team: Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writers); Chris Sprouse (penciller); Karl Story (inker); Adam Hughes (guest artist pp.16-20); Brian Stelfreeze (guest artist pp.21-22); Pat Brosseau (letterer); Tom McCraw (colorist); December 1993

Legion Roll Call: Andromeda; Catspaw; Cosmic Boy; Dragonmage; Inferno; Invisible Kid; Live Wire; Matter-Eater Lad; Lifetime Lass; and Shrinking Violet.

Miscellaneous Notes: From here on out, we'll be seeing a mix of artists for several issues.  Chris Sprouse does a little in each, however, and it's not until #12 that you get a lousy artist.  Until then, at least they all feel "of a piece" and blend well.

Summary: How boy, this is more a bunch of subplots than a single story.  First, we've got Andromeda, Catspaw, Dragonmage, Tenzil, & Vi tracking some Khunds to an isolated planet; after a crash landing, they encounter mysterious natives that resemble people beloved to the Legionnaires & that lead them to another downed ship that the Khunds are seeking.  Elsewhere, Lyle & Leviathan (who was shafted out of the roll call) learn that some much-needed food stores have been stolen by Sklarian pirates.  Finally, back on New Earth, the founders are called away from another open audition to quell a food riot in Acapulco; after Lifetime Lass is hit by a brick & his own moxie is insulted, Live Wire tries to kill a rioter - only to hit Cosmic Boy instead, who's doing what heroes do & not trying to kill civilians.  The issue ends with Lifetime Lass declaring that Cos must be dead because he's not breathing, with the thought of CPR never crossing anyone's mind, diagetically or otherwise.

Continuity Notes: The crash scene finally gives us some backstory on Catspaw & Dragonmage via their scenes with their loved ones.  Catspaw is visited by her ex-boyfriend Ansis, the man who turned her over to the Dominators for experimentation, and she is torn between her justifiable anger & her raw attraction.  Dragonmage is visited by his sorcery teacher Chu Hua; judging from his comments, she always treated him coldly, so he welcomes her warmer & more maternal treatment at their reunion.  Tenzil & Vi have some sweet scenes for my deeply-buried-Tenzil-and-Vi-shipper heart to enjoy... until he finds the real Vi passed out on a log while "his" Vi is still by his side.  If you're wondering where Andromeda is during all this, she flew off to punch the Khunds that shot down their ship.

The one-page Sklarian pirate plot will play a larger role in future issues.  Of course.
Inferno's sole role is macking on ladies again.  Though much like the pirates' plot, the Khundish girl he's wooing will turn up again in a plot that ultimately goes nowhere.

We Get Letters: Oh, hi, fellow Emerald Empress fan from Camden!  I hope you got to somewhere better.  Anyway...  This issue has a good number of international letters, which is cool.  Simon Del Monte from Queens echoes one of the elements I like - the feeling that New Earth is doomed to failure & youthful idealism will only help so much.

I Love the 90s: Anyone want a Skid Row Video Collection?  Complete with free 3-D glasses?  You can watch the video for "18 & Life" in 3-D AND on Laserdisc!  Tellingly, no prices are provided.

DC Commercial Break: There's a "Superman Trilogy" called "Spilled Blood" advertised with 3 genericky villains surrounded by too much neon yellow.  The token girl, Hi-Tech, is kind of neat - she has Rocket's haircut, a Cyberwoman's metal bikini, & what appears to be the Technarch virus from New Mutants.  If a character with that design was a hero, I'd probably love her.

Commentary: Yeah, I'm not a big fan of this issue.  It starts a run where each issue is half-main-story, half-setup.  The main story with the crash ship is good, since it's basically a character showcase in service to a mystery, but I feel its coming conclusion could easily have been done in one issue instead.  As it is, my thoughts on the cliffhanger & where it is destined to go should be clear to everyone, and I am not looking forward to that.

As much as I appreciate finally giving them a spotlight, the character of Catspaw makes me feel weirdly uncomfortable.  The Legion has a spotty record as far as diversity, and I understand that they wanted to add new non-white members that could fill a niche not already occupied on the team.  But Computo's practically an extra, and Dragonmage is swathed in really stereotypical "mystic Chinese" trappings.  But at least they're treated like actual people.  Aside from her scenes with Ansis, Catspaw is a pure joke character; she's either in "ha, ha, she thinks she's a cat, not a human" scenes or "ha, ha, she's horny for every guy she sees" scenes.  It just feels really wrong to treat one of your few black characters like an easily dismissed oversexed housepet.  It makes me really uncomfortable, and while Tom Bierbaum's LJ suggests he was aiming for a comic relief, light-hearted character, it went down an unpleasant path he probably never intended.
Let's close out on a positive note and give some props to the guest artists.  Adam Hughes has some serious fun with the background action at the audition, which makes me wish yet again he still did interiors.  And while I hate the ending scene & the forced cliffhanger, the panels where Brian Stelfreeze shows Garth's face going from concern for Pseudo-Imra to raw, irrationally murderous rage almost make up for the inherently flawed writing.  It makes something that's normally a distraction while reading - an art shift - feel enjoyable & appropriate.