Book Reviews: Graphically Challenging

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth (Rebirth)
First and foremost, don’t read this if you haven’t read the previous; you’ll be lost, because it starts with the wonderful woman all-out crazy in an asylum. How out of it is she? “I am so sorry you’re not real.” To start an issue, and especially a collected volume, with her having lost her mind. . . there really needed to be a “previously” here!
But even without that I found the story boring. For long stretches nothing happens; at times Trevor seems to be talking to her telepathically, which might be exciting to read about but fails in a visual medium.
Luckily there are some interesting moments, like, “He’s a Greek god! They’re track record with young women isn’t exactly progressive.” You’d think Diana would know better than to have tea with serpents. There’s a minotaur involved, which was the most interesting thing for a while.
“What say you come up to my virtual place sometime and I’ll help fix that credit score of yours, handsome.” Says something when the funniest character is the AI.
Wow, in the end it was a simple win. Bit anticlimactic.
I suppose this would have felt different had I read it before the movie. The story was way more convoluted than it needed to be, even without knowing the previous parts. It definitely moved slow in the first two chapters; in fact, my fave was the last. But there were a lot of cute little moments that kept me going.
Ten pages of alternate covers.

Water Memory
A woman and her daughter move into the clifftop house where she lived as a small child until her father died. There are legendary monsters involved, and a curse.
“Jellyfish tart?” After reading that, I had to go get some fresh air before I could continue reading.
I didn’t feel the suspense the authors were obviously going for here, but the historical aspects were fun. The mom/daughter bond is fantastic; they have a great relationship. I was feeling an Irish vibe, but that may be the influence of Song of the Sea, since there’s a lighthouse nearby. A sign is in French, but everything screams New England or Canada. In the end it turned out the sign was the clue.
The kid’s funny. After nearly drowning in a cave, lying on the beach as she recovers, she tells the scavenging seagulls, “Don’t even think about it!” Her explorations keep getting her into danger, as well as her belief in her “Total ninja stealth!”
The artwork has a dreamy romantic vibe, plenty of blue watercolor to symbolize the sea, except during the storms.
About a dozen pages at the end about the making of the book, how it originated, with some beautiful photos.

Spencer and Locke
A detective with a—possibly—imaginary talking blue panther as a partner look to solve a murder and kidnapping. That’s all the plot that’s necessary.
There’s a flashback to the detective as a kid, getting smacked around by his mom. This is in comic strip form; if you’re familiar with a strip about a boy and his imaginary cat, you know how this looks. Locke says Spencer has idiosyncrasies; sure, what talking blue panther doesn’t? We’re told right away about Spencer’s “condition,” so we don’t have to wonder about it the rest of the way.
Now for the fun stuff.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate. . .” That came outta nowhere.
Want to have a science-fiction interlude? Feed your protagonist a multiple-drug overdose. I get the feeling that dinosaur is gonna drop on someone. . .
Turned out to be a surprisingly easy, quick read. I enjoyed it despite some plot holes, which is not an easy thing to say when there’s a giant blue talking panther walking around. The psychology, his motivation for becoming a cop, was well done.
The italics were surprisingly hard to read. As for the art, there’s gritty urban landscapes, not quite film noir but close, as well as bright cheery childhood interludes. During the science-fiction portion it’s bold pulp-comic color.
Each chapter has extras: cover gallery, character designs, script pages, and so on.

If You Give a Man a Cookie
In the long tradition of “For want of a nail” stories, this one is just what the title says, all the repercussions of what a man will want if you give him a cookie. It’s full of clichés (none of which fit me, thankfully), considering not every man has a mustache or likes fishing.
From a guy’s perspective, I have to ask why she’s wearing heels when making cookies and generally just walking around the house. I’m trying not to be mean-spirited here, but I can’t help but think that’s exactly where this story’s coming from, which was likely done as a catharsis for the author.
I think the only opinion that matters here is her husband; hope he laughed, because I didn’t find much funny here.

Sensitive florist is kinda crushing on a girl and getting advice from two friendly ghosts, one of whom might be in love with him. Plus he’s being poltergeisted by another. Then it flashes back a year to when they met in what turned out to be one of the strangest love stories ever.
I don’t know if it’s part of the story, but Blue is really androgynous. Until someone says “He,” I had no idea. And the reaper is a woman! A supernatural being who texts. A strange sight, a smiling skull and crossbones, is also present.
The epilogue was cute, but probably unnecessary, or at least anticlimactic. Despite its length it’s a quick easy read. Though the colors at first seem like muted earth tones, in actuality they’re quite bright. Don’t like the way Chloe’s drawn, though; her facial expressions are just weird.

Tyrannosaurus Ralph
Teen skateboarder is about to be crushed by a bully with a tuba—aka honk-kazoo—then has to be rescued by a barrio inventor, who puts his brain into a t-Rex so he can save the planet by participating in an intergalactic gladiator competition. Got it?
Best named alien: Lord Knuckle-Dragger. Best line: “I don’t think the red food likes you. It’s trying to get away.”
I love the faces drawn on the scared dinosaur; not exactly king of the giant lizards here. And his versions of “Yikes!” are “Oh crudsicles! Crud monkeys! Crud crumbs!” Sensing a theme. . . but you gotta draw the line at “crud-waffles.”
Lugnut has to be the most submissive human being ever to refer to himself in the third person.
I would have liked to see Joona’s story instead. It was okay, though went too far into silly at times. The big fight was surprisingly entertaining, but his lack of emotional control got tiring quickly.
Seven pages of extras.


Book Reviews: Graphically Cute Bugs and Tasty Dinosaurs

She crawled over to the big cat and cooed, “Here kitty kitty. . .”
The tiger turned to her with a look of “Girl, please.”

The Circle
Kid whose mom dies moves with dad to a new town. Depressed enough, he finds the new school so bad even something as simple as trying out for the basketball team gets him beat up. The castoffs are mean to him too, but he’s accepted, and he’ll take that. They go hang out in an abandoned mine shaft, and eventually it turns into an occult thing. Then it really gets horrible. His only hope is the scary old lady who lives upstairs.
In the end I ended up not liking this very much. It’s a mean story full of mean people without even an ounce of hope. And it ended without wrapping up the main plot point, especially now that everyone who could exonerate him is dead. I had to go listen to uplifting music for three hours to get rid of the sudden depression I felt from finishing this.
There’s a lot of sepia, which can be beautiful but in this case only makes everything look dull. The faces are all drawn to look sad; the main kid I can understand, but the rest. . .

X-O Manowar V.1: Soldier
This should have been subtitled, “They just keep pulling me back in. . .”
A seemingly immortal human with magic armor is tired of fighting and goes off to another planet, finds himself a woman, and tries to be a farmer, only to get forcibly drafted into the local war. When he not only survives being cannon fodder but achieves the mission’s objective, he gets sent on a suicide commando raid by a jealous superior.
I don’t know if it was brains or experience, but it’s easy to see how he survived the first battle. . . not that the battle was easy, of course. My other thought was that the visuals were a lot less bloody than usual for such scenes; not complaining, just noticing.
In the end I didn’t see much that was original here. Even the main character looks like a Viking berserker. And the introduction of his support team came too fast, all at once; had no idea who was who, and other than the woman it didn’t get any better during the raid.
The artwork frequently has the characters without pupils, and it’s creepy and disconcerting.
Unlike most collections, this one doesn’t include the whole story, so of course it ends in a cliffhanger.

Voracious V.2: Feeding Time
Right off the bat there’s a “previously.” Thank you!
Chef cooks up dinosaur meat, and it’s authentic, because he has a time machine to go hunt dinosaurs in the past. But now there’s a parallel universe involved where the dinosaurs became the top dog instead of the monkeys, just like in Harry Harrison’s West of Eden. The difference is that while that book actually did have dinosaurs developing their own society as would be expected through their reptilian biology, this is basically a human society, just with dinosaurs instead of mammals. Even the “gear up” scene, with the lead dino in a wifebeater/bulletproof vest cradling his big-ass weapon, is right from the human world. And they get drunk and go on rampages just like the mammals. But hey, they have flying cars. Thankfully they don’t speak the same language as humans; that would have been too much. (slight sarcasm)
This first part is told from the dinosaur point of view, especially the detective whose wife is missing and presumed eaten. . . I mean, never ever existed. The second takes place in Utah and then back in time. There’s enough of the present for me to ascertain that when she isn’t drunk and vomiting, girl-next-door Starlee (is she supposed to be Kaylee from Firefly?) is more attractive than just-another-Noo-Yawk blonde Jenna. {Boots > Heels.} There’s some truly funny stuff in here, such as the intro blurbs, like: {Warning: Contains a dinosaur getting some sweet sweet revenge!}
I know that Owen is crazed on said revenge, but it’s weird that he screams about saving the missing dinosaurs while he’s killed a few of the scientists to get to the gate. I do like how there’s no one truly evil in this story; the “bad” guys are accidental, through ignorance or “disease,” if that’s the word for it. But the dinosaur hoodie. . .
Nice quote from Ozymondius to end it.
The artwork is more than serviceable, with the bright colors taking center stage. There are three main settings—small town in Utah, Dino City, and way-in-the-past forest, and they all look great. Even better is the Native American flashbacks in the last issue. But seriously: did you have to write “Wink” right under the wink?
Each chapter has extras, like dinosaur recipes. Sounds yummy. Also behind-the-scenes stuff from the creators. Particularly interesting is one of the artists explaining why he’d never go back to working by hand now that he uses a computer. And at the very end there’s a page about those who Kickstartered enough to be drawn into the story, even as dinosaurs. Cute.
So, despite a few misgivings and plot points this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I look forward to the last part of the trilogy.

Miraculous: Tales of Lady Bug and Cat Noir
Three stories from this animated TV show from France.
Story #1:
It’s the dreaded Valentine’s Day in Paris, and most of the characters can’t say I love you to the face of their crush, while the one who does gets crushed on the bridge of locks. . . then turns evil, making people fall out of love with the sling of an arrow.
If there’s a quibble, it’s in the fight scenes, which in two dimensions are confusing. And I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for having the villain actually say “Mwahaha!”
Story #2
The kids are filming a movie in class, but the lead heroine is scared of. . . well, everything and everyone, it seems. Perfect candidate to be made evil; too bad the ensuing monster wasn’t scary at all.
It’s funny how Marinette likes Adrien when he’s himself and loathes him as Cat Noir, even though they’re the same person. And he likes her as Lady Bug but doesn’t spare her a second look in her civilian guise.
The father of one of the girls is a mime about to star in a big production, but his understudy blocks him, leaving him susceptible to the dark side. Have to admit, giving the bad guy the superpower of. . . mime was inspired.

Marinette is an awesome character. For a teen to be a superhero but unable to gloat about it, and always failing to get what she wants in the end, she takes things remarkably in stride, never losing her sense of humor or sweetness. Her big aquamarine eyes, which get even bigger when she’s joyful, perfectly offset the purple hair. Early on there’s a shot of her caught as she’s rooting through the trash, and the look she gives is priceless, worth the price of admission alone. She’s incredibly cute and usually doesn’t mind being teased, and is one of the most intriguing teen protagonists I’ve ever seen. Adrien manages to pull that off in no small way as well, even when his fame and wealth are added to it, though he becomes a bit of an arrogant jerk when he’s dressed feline.
The best parts of these stories are the humor and the way the friends have each other’s backs. My one pet peeve is in wondering: when the person in each story gets turned evil, how do they instinctively know their powers? Who told them they could suddenly fly or use their props to shoot lasers and such? But anyway, ignore those plot holes and just enjoy.
There are 225 pages for only three stories—including “Exclusive digital pages!”—which seems like a lot of work until I realized that these are screencaps from the TV show, with everything 3-D and bubbly.
BTW, I liked the first of these so much I went looking for the TV show, and found it on Netflix! It’s surprisingly accessible for adults. Can you say “binged?”


Book Reviews: This Blog Is Graphic

Sometimes a cigar is just a cancer stick.

A David Beckham-ish soccer star—he’s even moving to the States to continue his career—and his rather shrewish wife, along with their latest baby, crash on a deserted island and have to survive against—gasp!—dinosaurs! And bad humans, with access to a portal. The soccer player’s last name is Sauvage, hence the title; cute.
There’s a brief clip of the present before flashing back to original crash, which is a lot funnier than I would have thought: as the crash occurs and stuff is flying around, including the two adults, there’s a shot of the baby looking all kinds of concerned, and it’s hilarious! Later the kid looks right at the “camera,” also really funny. Not that the rest was bad, but that was such a high point I couldn’t help but feel a little let down after that.
A few complaints, such as all the British-isms, and not familiar ones at that. The way the writer got rid of one of the main characters struck me as abrupt and unnecessary. It’s interesting that while the kid grew up without any schooling or even jungle training, he’s smarter than the other semi-humans on the island. And as always, it’s not the dinosaurs that are the most dangerous.
Not so much a cliffhanger ending as a jump point for his next adventure.
Each issue has author/artist commentary at end; the first has side-by-side versions of the same page showing the first draft, the inked version, and the colored. Interesting in a DVD extra kinda way.
Some vivid colors, maybe even go as far as bright, others muted. At times the artwork was a little too realistic, as in gory, but this is probably the most detailed I’ve ever seen dinosaurs drawn (not that there’s a huge pool to wade through on that). The colorist, in the last interview, says he wanted to make the setting “alarmingly beautiful,” a character in itself, and I think he succeeded.

Kiss: The Elder V.1: World Without Sun
“A world without heroes is like a world without sun.” Nice tag line, and lyric.
In a dystopian future where war has destroyed the surface of the planet, four kids explore where they’re not supposed to and change the course of history (there, got the requisite cliché out of the way).
What sets this apart from most other graphics is how well written it is. You know the government is up to no good when they call the society a “collective.” But once I saw how far in the future this was set, I wondered how the author was going to get KISS to be relevant. That worked out okay, though in the end I realized they didn’t need to be there at all to make the story work, so that was a little disappointing.
There’s some cool touches, like the Sphinx wearing sunglasses; just imagine how big those things must be. The “educational” (brainwashing) videos for the citizens remind me of the FedNet from Starship Troopers. Adi was my fave of the four main characters; the way she uses her butt to open the secret door is awesome. And most of all the dystopian story and setting were well made.
A couple of nitpicks, though. The robot battle was too confusing, couldn’t tell which side was which. And there’s an oopsie medical-wise; one of the characters sprains an ankle but is running fine a little later.
The artwork was okay in the old underground city, but once the story gets to the forbidden levels it really takes off. Much brighter in the garden, for example.
Bonus starts at 116 of 154, with the first two pages being congratulatory notes from two members of KISS. After that comes the expected early designs and alternate covers.
If only they could have worked Detroit Rock City into it. . .

Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods
Original Galactica, not “reimagined,” so don’t whine about getting the wrong one.
Adama’s injured getting the fleet through a black hole, and his concussed mind has him thinking about Baltar and reliving the past. In the real world the Cylons are still following the fleet until they encounter the last enemy you would expect, and then Baltar shows up for realsies; this guy’s like a thousand bad pennies! In fact, the writers brought absolutely everyone they could think of back for this. . . except Athena!
Not happy with the deus ex machina that ends it. In fact, the story wasn’t much good from plenty of perspectives. There’s a lot of borrowing from other places; there’s even some Borg overtones in these new Cylons. For someone who was a huge fan of the original series, and who’d enjoyed previous graphics, this is really disappointing.
The artwork is watercolor-y, but the humans are drawn very strangely; it’s them in the general sense, like you might recognize someone at a distance, but in the close-ups it doesn’t look anything like the actors. Apollo in particular looks horrible. Oddly enough, Iblis is the one who looks most lifelike.
About a dozen pages of variant covers.

Betty Boop
She’s listed as “The most famous female cartoon star of all!” and I don’t know if I can argue with that.
Betty is a waitress and wannabe star trying to keep her grampy from losing his house, but not doing a good job of it; perhaps grampy shouldn’t waste all his time and money buying tiny jet engines to put on turtles. Despite there being numerous stories, they all have that same plot: bad spirits want the house.
The first thing you see is the cover art, and it looks kinda surreal: her pose, her clothes. . . the fact that’s a clown behind her. . .
An orchestra made of bones seems like a good idea. Not so great when a little dog has a crush on you. The double-headed blonde is creepy. There’s a shot from behind that shows just how little Betty’s dress is, but later we see she looks better in her winter skating gear. So does Sally, for that matter.
Some fun lines:
“Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
“Mephistopheles Metamorphosis!”
“Every member of the clown’s guild is required to carry a crowbar with them at all times.”
Best moment: the clown making the nightclub owner literally smile is awesome.
20 pages of extra stuff. Mostly alternate covers, with a sketch of her on a rolling log, for some reason.


Travel Thursday: The Girl With Three Left Feet, Part 3

Finding a friendlier, and female, guard at the museum entrance the next morning, I got through with a wink and a quick flash of the I.D. without breaking stride a few hours after Shannon. Now knowing where the elevators were, and not feeling guilty about not taking the stairs because she’d left me delightfully exhausted, I quickly made my way through the anteroom and into her office before most people could look up.
“What’re you up to?” I had indeed learned my lesson about hugging her from behind, especially now that she was bent over the microscope.
“Building a bomb,” she replied absently.
“Well. . . I’ll be seein’ ya, then. . .” I backed away carefully.
“It’s a genetic bomb,” she laughed. “Inside.”
“Ouch even more.”
“This bomb kills the bad guys, don’t worry.”
“What about collateral damage?”
She thought about ignoring me, but figured it might be something worth knowing. “What’s that?”
“When someone wants to kill a particular person with a bomb, there’s always a chance that innocent passerby might also be injured–”
“Oh! No, this’ll leave all the good cells alone. You know I’m a humanitarian scientist.”
Not having anywhere to go with that, I stayed quiet.
“Unlike that Swedish redhead floozy you’re always panting after. . .”
“Are you still mad because of that one time she slipped me the tungsten?”
The blonde stuck hers at me, then giggled. “I love how you always play along.” Then she let out a sigh that was different from all the other ones I’d heard recently. “I need exact timing. One minute, forty-three seconds. . . exactly.”
“Exactly?” I thought about it, rejected the obvious sex joke, then grinned and went over to the microwave.
Less than two minutes later she was muttering, “There are no experimental failures, just more data.”
I leaned over, now that the smoke had cleared, and wiped the soot from her face with a harsh napkin. Luckily she’d been wearing goggles, so at least her blonde eyebrows were clean. “Science strikes again, huh?”
“Hey, you scientific imbecile!” She jabbed a new test tube at me, for some reason. “I could show you some cells that would have you crying in wonder! Now sit in the corner and ponder your mistake in not being supportive to your girlfriend. . . of the day.”
“C’mon, at least of the week. And can I ponder your ass when you bend over the scope?”
“That’s what I meant.”
“Instead I’m gonna go talk to security.”
“Ooo, wait, I wanna go! Time to learn something new.”
“So it’s not only when you’re unclothed?”
“My curiosity knows no bounds, no matter the subject. After you, dearest.”
We made our way down quickly, and for a change I was the one who led, since she’d never had cause to visit the security office before and therefore had no idea where it was. The people who normally inhabited the room were cold to the interlopers, but not more so than usual. Well, maybe the women, on seeing Shannon and particularly her perkiness, but on the plus side it did defrost the guys a bit.
Unfortunately, the liaison to the investigation was female. Fortunately, I knew how to do some defrosting of my own, which in this case meant nothing more than treating her like a fellow professional. Women seemed to like that.
“It’s been confirmed,” she told me as soon as she saw I wasn’t going to be a typical male superior asshole. “Surveillance cameras show no sign of him coming in through the three main entrances.”
“Are there any other doors?”
“Yes, but they can only be opened from inside.”
“So he called someone to open it.”
“There are security cams on each door.”
“No gaps?”
“No sir. No one used the doors all day.”
So the security people weren’t completely useless.
“What about windows?” Shannon piped, causing the female to roll her eyes and the males to think she was just adorable. Too bad she had a rule of not playing with people where she worked, or she might have been able to knock another fantasy off her list.
“But there is video, as well as witnesses, that have him coming out, right?”
The security lady admitted this was so, though you could tell it pained her.
“Okay. Thanks.” With a sigh I led the way out, Shannon making the guys, and even the woman, laugh as she pretended to be following her master out, leash pulled and tongue panting. She was quite a ham.
“As long as we’re here, let’s take a look around the areas accessible to everyone.”
“Luckily I don’t have a supervisor who checks in to see if I’m actually doing what I’m paid to do,” she mused, then realized we were right next to the cafeteria. “How ‘bout lunch first?”
“Now you’re thinking like an investigator.”
Chortling to herself, she led the way. “You know I’ve always been a dessert first kinda girl. As you found out last night.”
“That may be why your taste buds don’t discriminate anymore.”
“The problem with eating dessert first is that it makes the rest of the meal taste horrible in comparison.”
“Ah, I see.”
“There is one logical way out of that trap, though.” I let her think about it as I looked over the menu above the ordering area.
“Nope, don’t get it. What?”
“Eat only dessert!”
“Wait, they seriously want more than four bucks for a burger?”
“My treat today.”
“Doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll just have dessert.”
“Then try the meat loaf sundae. It looks like a brownie sundae, but it’s made with meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy.”
It made me think of a beautiful musician who used the phrase “brownie sundae” in one of her songs. “Don’t like meatloaf, though.”
“Ah well, let’s gorge on the desserts then.”
Which we did, for unlike the burger, the desserts were oversized enough to justify the price. Thus fortified, we were able to start the first preliminary search.
The basement, in addition to having the cafeteria and security office, was also home to the members’ lending library, work lockers, and staff lounge, along with the cultural part of the museum’s mission, which consisted mostly of the history of California.
“Most people don’t know that there’s stuff down here,” she ruminated as she led the way into a small temporary gallery which today housed a collection of ship-filled bottles. I let her ooo and aaah and wonder how they managed to stuff those ships through the narrow openings–a really simple trick that I had seen once, but also something most people didn’t know–as I checked the temporary walls of the exhibit. There did seem to be enough room to put something up there, since the walls didn’t reach to the roof, but it was too high to do it on a whim, and there were docents/security wannabes/whatever they were called watching everything carefully. I made a mental note to check later and followed her out, telling her I wasn’t going to explain the ships into the bottle thing until she’d had at least a day to cogitate on it.
The corridor leading past the elevators and to the work locker room had several doors, but all were secured very high-tech-wise. Again I left that as a last resort, thinking that unless the guy had everything planned out from the beginning, there was very little chance he’d gotten any access codes for these rooms. An arrogant guy like that–had to be full of himself for no reason, if he worked at that play school across the street–confident he would never be found. . . very doubtful he would have thought that far ahead.
No one had reported their lockers being broken into, so I stood up on the benches to see the top of the lockers, finding all manner of stuff but none that was useful to the investigation. Shannon spent these moments revisiting the new fantasy she’d thought of last night, but luckily wasn’t given enough time to put it into the planning stages.
The big room down here lodged the History of California exhibits, in chronological order if you started at the right place. Not much on the pre-nineteen hundreds, which wasn’t a surprise, but it did have the biggest exhibits sizewise, what with huge prairie schooners and the like. On the side I spotted a 3-D montage of downtown several decades ago, but it wouldn’t do to take things out of order, so I continued on century by century.
Next to the conquistadors exhibit I spotted a very old looking door, which didn’t look at all like the ones I’d previously found that led to the back stairs. I noticed scratches on the rudimentary lock, but that could simply mean the key had been lost sometime in the past almost-hundred years. Picking the lock easily, I looked into what turned out to be a janitor’s closet. Still checking everything closely, I got out of there with clean hands as well as the certainty it had nothing to do with the case.
Walking along, she happily pointed out one of her favorite exhibits, but I found my mind wandering to its more usual musings. “Check out that mom. Nice.”
She checked, and agreed. About twenty-five, dark blonde, slim. One cute little girl walked next to her as she pushed a stroller. “That coulda been me,” she mulled.
“Still could be.”
“Doubtful. Do you really thing I could go through all those months of not having sex while I was pregnant?”
Rather than pointing out ways around that, I settled for, “You have such a tender heart I’m sure you’d adopt.”
“Now that’s a lovely thought!”
Done with the basement, for now, we mounted the stairs to the main floor, sharing an amused glance at the tiredness in our legs. I told her we should concentrate on seeing things from the bad guy’s point of view, and since we had no evidence yet that he was in cahoots–she called it “Cahooties!”–with anyone in the museum, that meant basically a tourist’s viewpoint. Besides, I didn’t want any curious visitors to wonder why these people, who were dressed just like them, got to go to restricted places and they didn’t.
Not mentioning that she had no other way of thinking about it, not being a trained investigator, she tried, “I suppose that means checking back after closing hours if we don‘t find it before?”
“If necessary, yes.”
“Had I known it would involve all this walking, I woulda just lay back and let you do all the work last night.”
“Then I’d be too tired to do the job. You’re not saying you’d be better at it, are ya?”
She didn’t bother answering, figuring I was joking again. So far nothing had happened to make her feel like she was contributing to this case, although she did enjoy the few times we’d busted in on people hard at work and she got to say “Security audit,” with a wink.
Hours and seemingly miles later, starting to feel a little bored, she looked at the lit she’d collected off the internet, where she’d been crossing off the places as we checked them out, but now she was actually getting around to reading the stuff.
Not asking if I wanted to hear it, she read aloud, paraphrasing when it would do the most good. “The museum’s mission is to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.”
“Hmmm, someone’s thinking outside the box, not saying ‘resources’ at the end.”
Figuring this was going to make wonderful snarking material for both of us, she read on in a more jovial mood, practically skipping along as I continued to check the surroundings. Though skipping made it hard to read accurately. “The vast and diverse collection has more than thirty million specimens and artifacts–”
“They must be counting each of your study molecules.”
“–Covering four and a half billion years of Earth and human history.”
I let that one pass without a comment, much to her disappointment. Apparently she’d forgotten she was going to snark too.
“ Free admission to school groups, community outreach programs, monthly lectures and classes, yada yada yada. Adventures in Nature, that sounds like it might be fun. Interactive Discovery Center and Insect Zoo, where children can learn first-hand about natural science and history.”
“Let’s leave the insect collection for the very last,” I begged.
“You’re the boss,” she reminded.
“Only when it suits you.”
Ignoring my latest lie, she read on. “Hey, did you know that big dinosaur exhibit actually has a name? ‘Dueling Dinosaurs!’” She beat me to it. “Hmmm, I was hoping for something a little more poetical than that. Sounds like a 50s movie.” Not getting any response, she tried, “Who do you think would win in a real battle between a Rex and a Triceratops, even though I think they’re not called that anymore?”
“I prefer descriptive anyway, so I’ll keep calling him that. This is the age-old sports question of whether offense or defense wins championships.”
She frowned. “When I played basketball in high school, coach said rebounding wins championships.”
“So he was obviously no help. But what about volleyball?”
“Kills as opposed to blocks and digs?”
“Don’t forget the serves. No, that doesn’t apply anyway. Try football.”
She tried, but it didn’t help her much. “So Rex, being mobile and fast, relatively speaking amongst dinosaurs anyway, is on offense. Three Top, being slow and heavy, but having armor and spikes, is the defense.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe this conversation has lasted this long! Moving on. . .” She checked her papers, wondering why she didn’t just use her laptop. “Three world-famous habitat halls that showcase African and North American mammals in their natural environments. Okay, we did all we could with that, but we’ll have to come back tonight and actually go into the exhibits, right?”
“Yep. That’ll be fun.”
“You say so.” She didn’t have to do her famous dubious face, since her voice conveyed it well enough, but it was fun to watch. “Hey, here’s something I haven’t heard of: Megamouth!”
“C’mon, don’t leave it so easy for me!”
“Hmmmph. You better smile when you say that, or I’m never doing that to you again.”
“Most women would have said no more sex of any kind. You are so different.”
“That would have been worse for me, and you like me being different, so anyway, Megamouth is a shark, the world’s rarest. This one’s over fourteen feet long and the only one of its kind on public view in North America. Yeah! Countin’ coup on my buddy at the Field in Chicago. Woo-hoo!”
“You take this more seriously than your college pride. Notice you’re not wearing purple today.”
“That’s because you gave me a green fishing shirt, silly. More than eight hundred pieces from the permanent collections of the Hall of Native American Cultures. . . hey, remember those beaded sneakers? Woulda loved to play in those! ”
“And slipping on the beads that came off?” Knowing that was far too logical for her–at least when she wasn’t in her lab coat–I quickly added, “They were beautiful, though.”
“Knew you’d like them,” she giggled, then uughed, “Madagascar hissing cockroaches! A fully-stocked refrigerator of insect delicacies and interactive displays? I can see why you didn’t want to go into Insect Containment.”
“Yeah, that’s one door I’ll never open. And they put that office so it comes out in the rotunda.”
“So if the insects escape, they’ve got the biggest empty space in the place to play wild goose.”
“Hmmm. . . remember that guy we met in England whose last name was Wildgoose?”
“He got married.”
“Changed his name to Wildgeese.”
“Liar!” She laughed and smacked me on the shoulder, luckily hitting her target this time. “So I guess you don’t like snakes either.”
“You suppose correctly, but how’d’ya know?”
“The pilgrims in an unholy land line from Indiana Jones. He didn’t like snakes. Plus you’re an archaeologist.”
“Only as a hobby. But the snake thing was from the first movie, and the pilgrims were in the third. Probably not the same writer.”
“So how come you don’t like snakes?”
“Most recent example? I was hiking in the Angelus Crest, on a slight animal path along the tall grass, when I hear a rattle.”
“Oh no! That’ll do it!”
“Both my body and my blood froze, and I looked around for the snake, but of course didn’t spot anything because the grass was too tall. Then I heard it again and realized it was in my headphones. Why Libbie Schrader decided that was the best place to put that particular brand of percussion, I’ll never know. My heart started beating again the next morning; my shorts are a different story.”
She was laughing much too hard for the next few minutes to make a comment, gosh durn it. By the time she came back, the moment was long gone.
“I really need to check your music collection. You always know what I like.”
“Hmmm, if I hadn’t said ‘we have the same great taste,’ you woulda smacked me.”
“I must be more tired than I thought.” She rested her head on my shoulder, but only for a moment. “Hey, you still are buying CDs, right? Or do you just download now?”
“I’ve bought downloads, but only when I couldn’t wait to get a CD, especially if I’m in a foreign country. If your computer crashes or you lose the music somehow, it’s better to have the CD there just in case.”
“Good thinking. But what’s to keep you from bootlegging?”
“What’s to keep anyone from bootlegging once they’ve downloaded it?”
“Okay, I am officially too tired to even think! Let’s go to my office and rest.”
“Have we missed anything? Besides the insects? Run a check.”
She took a moment to throw me a mock salute, then went to the pages. “Discovery Center?”
“Chaparral exhibit?”
“Hasn’t burned yet.”
Giggling and happy I wasn’t going to let this get boring, she continued on down the list. “Marine Hall?”
“We came back up without getting the bends.”
“I’ll be bending over my desk soon enough, I hope. Ich. . . um, ichthy. . .”
“Don’t look so damned innocent!” she groused. “Like you know what it means!”
“Fish, of course. Your favorite animal even before you met Megamouth.”
Seeing she wasn’t going to win that one, she tried, “Herpetology?”
“Why’d it have to be snakes?”
A little chortle at that, nothing more. “Too bad butterflies are included with insects. I wouldn’t have minded checking those out.”
“You’ve never seen a butterfly up close, have ya?”
Best to ignore that, she told herself. “Marine mammalogy? I didn’t see any whales!”
“There was that narwhal tusk, but that was in the special exhibits, director’s gallery, or whatever it’s called. Mark that one to see later.”
“Okay-doke! Marine invertebrates? Biggest collection of West Coast watery no-spines in the world, crabs, starfish, water snails and worms from Antarctica to the Galapagos.”
“Yeah, check.”
“Largest catalogued vertebrate fossil collection in North America? And sixth largest invertebrate?”
“Not much room to hide a briefcase in one of those. Check.”
“Hey! According to this, there’s still an art collection here! More than five hundred works by American artists, though I don’t recognize the names on the painters. Drawings and prints by Currier and Ives, Audobon–”
“Well, that figures.”
“True. Western History Research?”
“Don’t remember it, so don’t check it.”
“What about the History Collections?”
“Didn’t see any room called that. Is it more specific?”
“Textiles, scientific instruments, armor, firearms, dolls, toys, games. . .”
“Could that be the basement stuff?”
“Could be!”
“Well, put half a check on it.”
“How do I do that?”
“It would look like a little v.”
“Oh, right!”
We passed through the dinosaur exhibit for the second time, the one that actually had its own room, not the big skeletons at the entrance. Having checked all I could on the previous runthrough, this time I was able to give my attention to the little workshop full of early instruments used by ancient paleontologists I’d given the skeletons and models as much consideration as I could, considering I was mentally running down as well.
Reaching the next exhibit room, I checked my watch as I saw the cleaning lady furiously squeegeeing the exhibit glass. “She’s getting an early start.”
“Think of all the glass she has to do.”
“True. Buenas tardes.”
“Como esta?” Shannon asked with her trademark pretty smile.
“Bien, gracias.” The lady smiled back and scrubbed all the harder.
“When did you learn Spanish?”
“Glad three years in high school retained something.”
I was prevented from replying to that by a pompous voice behind us. “This part of the museum is closing. Thank you for joining us today.”
She turned and laughed when she saw who it was. “Work on the sincerity, Brad.”
The guy scurried off.
“Now he knows he’ll never have you,” I sighed melodramatically, and walked away before she could say he already had. . .