Monday, July 14, 2014

comics for the week of 07/09/14.

While the Solstice just happened a little bit ago, a New Mexico teacher's summer is more than halfway over. This is incredibly sad.

All New X-Men 29 - Before even reading it, I just want to talk about how weird the cover made me feel. It's like...we're living in a world where the original five X-Men have time traveled to the 'present' and are riding motorcycles around and know about what happened and...isn't that just weird? I mean, even for comics? Man. And then I read the issue and the end was the cover and the beginning and the middle...? Well, it was (KIND OF) a wrap up of some of the craziness that's been going on. While Xavier and Raze are (apparently) now here for good (which seems like a HORRIBLE IDEA, BTW) along with the time-displaced X-Men and the bad-but-not-really-bad-they-were-just-being-mind-controlled-by-Xavier have been sent back to the future (THAT SEEMS LIKE THE REVERSE OF WHAT YOU SHOULD DO, BTW), we have things kinda sorta set back to a status quo. But that status quo now involves a shitload of out of time people, and the bad guys in a place where there's no chance things don't go wrong. In good news, Angel is clearly the most underused of these characters, so it's nice to think we're going to get some shine time on him with X-23 next issue. Deadpool was also funny.

Avengers 32 – Well, I thought that was just about as wacky as it was going to get, but my jaw literally dropped at the last page. Not that it was so shocking or something crazier than I've seen in comic books, but just...I mean...how far down the rabbit hole are we going??? Also, I love that this is ostensibly an Original Sin tie-in, but there's nothing to it. We've got Cap, Black Widow and Starbrand 4,000 years in the future talking to Franklin Richards, seeing an Avengers World, with a cool cameo on the second to last page. And the dialogue was right up my alley, with discussions about time not being linear and space-time being an actual organism and all that good stuff. But every layer that we've peeled back has revealed more and more, so for the first time in a long time, I'm actually really, really excited for the next issue of Avengers because I feel like there's some point finally coming. I'm not sure I know what it is, nor where this battle between Cap and the Illuminati is going, but I feel like things are definitely coming to a head. And that's exciting.

Daredevil 5 - What a hilariously comic book explanation Matt has for Foggy regarding his own death. It's as though Daredevil's been through this before himself, or with his girlfriends, or with enemies, or with Spidey and Iron Man, who get specifically name checked, or he's been reading some Marvel Universe books. And then the whole book plays out and you wonder how Mark Waid hasn't gotten to be one of the biggest writers on the planet year after year after year. He just knows the genre so well, and he knows that DD has had years of bad karma, so he gets this one fortuitous moment, where the Leapfrog attacks, Foggy's complaining about faking his death, wanting to the the hero and he's presented with the perfect opportunity. Ant-Man's on hand for a special (and important) guest spot, and Foggy narrates the whole thing in his diary. It's so touching. A really, really good single issue that fits in so well with the overall narrative that's been happening in this book for the last 2+ years. Superhero comics at their best.

The Walking Dead 129 – Oh man. That's just...I don't know. I don't feel fear for any of the people I've come to love, nor any hatred for Negan, just a whole mess of...I don't even know. I'd forgotten about the new people, but I'm hopeful they're not going to be that stupid. I'm happy for Carl, in more ways than one and I'm worried about Rick. He seems committed to the idea of the new, peaceful society, but to a disturbing degree. I don't know how the rest of his people feel about him, though. They all seem more than okay with him, calling him sir, etc. So, I guess if he cracks down hard on a horse rider, they're not going to care? Which is fine with me? I don't know. It's in a weird place for me right now.

Book of the week goes to Daredevil. While I was really happy with Avengers, I just can't deny the truly happy feeling I get from Waid's DD. And Samnee's art is a huge plus.

Monday, July 7, 2014

comics for the week of 07/02/14.

Before these books came out, the US soccer team lost to Belgium. I'm still sad.

Angel and Faith 4 – Hm. Cool. First of all, I love the art in this book. But beyond that, the story is working on several levels. I like what's happening with Nadira, and the detective, and Corky, and the magic bottles and the reveal of the baddie at the end. I even flipped back a few pages to see if she was around. Yup, she was. I'll have to check some of the previous issues at this point. Really cool take on bringing back yet another old face, but I'll be curious to see how it all gets explained, if it does at all. I mean, I'm sure there'll be some kind of token, but... There's a lot of ground to cover. For now, I'm not really clear on believing who's the good guys versus who's the baddies. (Except for the last page.) And the most interesting wrinkle in that equation is Faith, on the other side of the pond, who's got to contend with a missing Riley all of a sudden. Yep, that's worth sticking around for. And, as much as I've always hated Riley, he's a great draw to continue to connect the series to the books. I hate him and it was a hook even for me. So good for the writers.

East of West 13 – Huh. Well, I still don't understand this book at all. Beside the fight between Death and the lawman, I didn't grok any of the Crow/Wolf/demons encounter. But I guess I don't necessarily need to just yet. It's a long game (as usual) Hickman's playing. It's pretty and it's entertaining and I feel there's some sort of (mini, perhaps) conclusion coming up, so I'm happy with that.

Original Sin 5 – Well that was different. A hell of a retcon, there's no doubt. I mean, when the term was introduced, I don't think they even contemplated this scale. But here it is. Nick Fury is Jon Snow. The man on the wall. Times infinity. But with Howard Stark dead, why does he continue? Who does he talk to? To whom does he make his reports? How will he know how to pass the position on to? Why does all of this seem so convoluted? Really, I mean, that's all we get from this issue, aside from the question of who killed the Watcher. It still doesn't seem like it was Nick, but he certainly knows who it was. Also, way to write a mini-series for the express purpose of retconning everyone and everything Marvel. I can't believe it took this long for someone to suggest this concept, much less this long for the comics industry to embrace it. Damn, this is going to be a hell of a game changer when it's over, regardless of how this series turns out. We can just introduce all kinds of secrets from “back in the day” and say they've been around all along and were obscured by the Watcher or Fury or this semi-SHIELD (notes of Hickman's old series, huh?) or just...stuff... Man. What a weird thing I'm reading.

Thor 24 - Sad, in a weird way. But fitting. Asgard leaves Earth, through an odd set of circumstances, but no more weird than what brought it to our planet in the first place. (Ragnarok, right? I mean...) Roz gets some real love here, not just from the oblique references of everyone around her (good thing for comic book writers - characters live as long as you want them to, they're not subject to contract renegotiations, so Roz looks like she'll be around for the long term) but also from Old King Thor himself, having his granddaughters name a river after her, Jane and Steve. (Love the love that emanates from every character in the Marvel Universe for Captain America, BTW.) Also, Galactus is a whipped little puppy but he's transforming, we see that Roxxon has, in fact, set up base on Mars - but is apparently in no shape to challenge Galactus upon his arrival there like old Thor did when he showed up on Earth, so at least that's good - and we get the conclusion of the saga in Broxton. (Is that the name of the town?) Thor makes many sacrifices, Jane will still be around, she's accepting of Roz and next issue is a diversion. The art wasn't perfect, because I think only Ribic's art is perfect for this book and I'm going to be disappointed every time he's not on it. But it's still a hell of a comic book.

Ultimate Spider-Man 3 – Oh cool! The recap page just told me that Miles' girlfriend is Katie Bishop! I'm sure that's supposed to be an analogue for Stature in the 616, right? So...can we assume she has powers? Or is this going to be yet another divergent point? But then the issue started and all I could see was responsible JJJ, the beautiful art of Marquez and the LOLz at cross-dressing Carol talking about the incursions. Man, this book is so good. It's the little touches: the way Norman disables Chang by talking to her, the Blaire realty sign, the Scooby Doo homage, everything that used to make comics feel like a cool in-joke that nerds could get is in here. But it doesn't feel exclusionary. The only bad part of this issue was the fact that it ended where the cover began. It wasn't a huge surprise, but I hate to be drawn out like that. Beautiful all the way around, I feel bad for Spider fans who aren't reading this.

Book of the week goes to Angel and Faith. It's weird, I felt like ALL the books this week were great, but looking back over the list, a single title didn't jump out at me. That's not a diss of Angel & Faith, just a note.

Monday, June 30, 2014

comics for the week of 06/25/14.

I don't know what to say about the state of DC anymore. I have no more books from them (aside from Vertigo) but I wish I did. The comic book market is better when there are more people making better books.

Invincible 112 - Wow, there were a lot of feels, but none bigger than that last page. We're seeing Robot's plan unfold much more quickly than some people might have anticipated, but the way he put it to Monster Girl is about as accurate as it could be. He has to make his move in this fashion because if it doesn't go as planned, it won't happen at all. And that's, I think, all that we're left hoping for in the next issue. The weirdest part for me was how much I cared about the Martian guy, whose name I can't even remember and how effective that line of dialogue was. Man. This is great.

Mind MGMT 23 - This is the issue of heartache. Man, so much loss. I'm proud of Perrier for finding a backbone, but it definitely seems like it was too little too late. Bill is gone and with that, the conclusion of this book must be imminent. (In fact, the letter pages say we're now 2/3 of the way through the book. What a shame.) But Lyme can't really be gone. Especially given his partner's return to save Perrier. But the real key is in Dusty's sidebar interview with Rolling Stone and the fact that his music survived. Clearly, the people who killed him were not aware of the real threat. Fools.

New Avengers 20 - The matchups are really what make this issue. I've never been a Black Panther hater, but I'm no huge proponent of his, and he comes across really well here. Meanwhile, Namor is still intent on becoming the villain of the piece. Iron Man, Hulk and Beast all get slapped around. But, of course, we knew it was coming: Doctor Strange comes to the rescue. (Kinda. I mean...) I'm not exactly sure where he's getting this power, given what we see is the ultimate end of his voyage, which we'd seen glimpses of earlier, in this issue, but he's gotten himself to a dark, dark place. (Also, as a side note, does this kind of feel like Hickman admitting that the Justice League would whup the shit out of the Avengers? I mean...) The only saving grace here is that Black Bolt and Spectrum are off world here, working on the bomb from our world, and maybe they'll come back with some sort of compromise? However, that's definitely the dumbest thing to hope for, as Black Bolt can't talk, won't be willing to do so even if he could, and Spectrum seems to be the GL analog; not exactly a winning combo. So, we've gotten to the point where the elite heroes of the Marvel Universe are going to willingly, knowingly and purposefully destroy another world to save their own. Man, this is a dark book.

New Avengers Annual 1 - Pretty art. Complementary to the story of Stephen Strange in the regular issue. But not quite to my taste.

Rachel Rising 26 - So, we're fully transitioning, and I'm in firm support of that, Although I can never remember the little girl's name (Zoe?) she's serving as a perfect spoiler. While she's hanging out with the good guys, they shouldn't ever let it occur in their minds that she actually is one of them. Amongst the scenes that Rachel sees when she picks up her knife are The Fall, Abraham's sacrifice, Hitler, the Crusades, the atomic bomb, and at least a couple more. Meanwhile, I don't know if we're supposed to know what's happening with Aunt Johnny, as I don't remember anything involving her head, but that might just be my poor memory. Last but not least, we have official confirmation that the priest is not, in fact, dead, as we'd suspected. It's terrible the way things awful happen in this book and we just let them go because we expect them. But that's what makes it great, too.

Saga 20 - Something terrible happens. And indeed it does, but it's nowhere near what we've been conditioned to think of since BKV knows how to mess with our emotions. Turns out, when you're telling a story that you've termed a saga, there are going to be many sides to that story. Yup. So, we can see in this issue where the last page of the last issue might be taking us, but more to the point of the description, we can see how even the bad guys aren't necessarily bad guys. (It'd be an interesting side story to see what would happen if The Will saw Prince Robot IV on Sextillion there and realized that he was quite literally out of his head. Would there have been an intervention? Are those sorts of actions reserved for little girls? Is that OK?) The janitorial staff massacre that ends the issue was shocking because, despite the fact that this book takes place during a war, despite our having seen horrific acts of violence before in this book, these felt more...raw. And, of course, I'd be negligent if I didn't mention Alana's drug trip, which was incredible and that splash page, which was even more so. Obviously, the person who buys that page is the envy of my life.

Trees 2 - The beginning was very interesting, so I'm throwing this on the list for now. This one, though, was too complicated for me. I feel like I've been thrown into the deep end. I'm giving it more time, like I said, but I have no idea what's happening in the lab, or with the guy that might be crazy, or the new girl who vomited, or the president who's an economist, or the journalist who came to visit him, and especially not with the girl who's dating the gangster, who apparently imagined a dude running away from her, but pulling a knife on her. Ellis always messes me up.

Book of the week goes to Mind MGMT. It's hard to reconcile the fact that we have both Saga and this book being produced on a regular basis.

Monday, June 23, 2014

comics for the week of 06/18/14.

I caught up on Sex Criminals as a whole before reading this issue and I'm torn on the idea of staying monthly with it or reading it in arcs. Anyone have a suggestion?

Avengers 31 - More wacky time travel. More layers. More shit I don't understand from what was previously a straight forward book. And I don't mind it. But I don't love it. We see how Stark is kind of the progenitor of all of this type of stuff, but now we've got Ultron (Prime!) involved in the mess as well as a lack of Thor and Hyperion, both of whom are always helpful. Barton less so, but it's always good to see that he's alive.

Buffy 4 - I like everything about where this issue has gone. The interplay between Xander and Dracula, the explanation for the tension between Xander and Dawn, the reconciliation of Buffy and Dawn, the way that Spike and Giles are being used as solid supporting characters. Man, it's good. And the ending makes sense, too. This season is going really well. The only thing that's off - kind of surprisingly - is the art. I'm not sure if it was just that one shot of Buffy when she and Dawn were talking in the kitchen, and if it was just her nose in that one panel, but it just felt half a degree off. However, I'm loving the book overall, and I like the fact that Nicholas Brendan is getting to contribute in this cool way. He has a grasp for the language, it comes off as very similar to the TV show.

Daredevil 4 - Awesome. We've got some magnificent seeds planted for the Owl's ascension as a master super villain. I love that this title is actually going places. I loved the Bendis arc because it was the first time I felt like a superhero comic was moving beyond its self-imposed limitations. And honestly? It's only gotten better since then. It continues to push the envelope on what continuity can mean, in the best way. When you take into account that a hero has a backstory, not only with a city (San Fran) but with enemies (like the Owl), it all of a sudden matters that those stories exist. It's not perpetually now. Sure, we've still got ridiculously decompressed timelines, but I'll take it. The art is gorgeous, the storyline is clearly plotted beyond just TODAY (the all caps, bold tradition of comics) and there are great things happening in the short term, too. Liked the not-so-subtle hints that Murdock is becoming a local celebrity just as much as I liked his being oblivious to it all. The Shroud will continue to develop, too. What a book.

Fables 141 - Jesus, what a beginning of an end. But other than that - and the last two pages (one of which was, like, a one page story? or a coda?) - there's not a lot to go on here. It's mainly just accumulating the pieces in place. Red vs. White, magicians taking sides and Cinderella coming back into the fold via a forgotten character. Lovely, but not quite the rolling start I'd hoped for. On the other hand, I'm sure when all the details are finally fleshed out, it'll look amazing in retrospect. This has been one of the most solid additions to the oeuvre of comics literature and I'm confident in its conclusion, even if that solid start (to the end) makes me fear for the state of Rose Red; let's not forget, with the last page in sight: they started the series by "killing" her.

The Private Eye 7 - An origin story for the driver starts the tale, but mixed in are some of the details that this team is famous for: the not-so-subtle nods to the current, with the oldies on sale, as well as some sweet aspects to the Dreamcoat. But that's shaded by the change to PI's present, because I'd forgotten why we might need/deserve a backstory on Melanie. So we have that tragic aspect of this chapter of the coolest comic on the market, we have an amazing car chase (involving an electronic/hovering motorcycle?) and we have the resumption of the Internet as imminent. DeGuerre seems intent on winning this battle and it seems like he probably will, too. So that puts us in a precarious position. I mean, obviously, I'm still rooting for my protagonists, but I think they seemed destined to fail in a way that'll make things all right... Brilliance, in a pay what what you format, on a recurring basis. Is there any better theoretical comic available right now?

Sex Criminals 6 - On the one hand, it's great. On the other hand, I don't know if I can handle adding yet another book that takes regular breaks. Regardless, in this issue, we see Jon facing some issues that we knew he'd have to, but that's going to continue for quite a while longer. What's more interesting, and what may be wrapped up sooner, is his battle with the Sex Police. The thing with each of these groups is, since they all have the same powers, there are some extraordinary things they can do to each other. And really, neither of them will ever know, unless their enemy wants them to. That's a fucked up situation. But in the good way. I feel like next issue will definitely focus on Suzie's side of things, and we won't get to see too much of what I want to see: the confrontation. But it was great, obviously.

Thor 23 - Haha. A great issue in every way. The parallelism that Jason Aaron writes with really puts him on another level. And Ribic's art is perfectly suited to this book. I definitely would not be reading this if it was another combo. I've never cared about Thor. But somehow, they've hooked me for more than two years now. Incredible stuff. I like the differentiation we're starting to see in Thor's granddaughters and I'm curious about how exactly old Thor disposed on Galactus without killing him. I didn't totally follow that, so I'm hoping there'll be some further explanation. I know next issue will tell us some more about Brixton, but I don't really care about the Oklahoman town or Asgard's presence there. It's been a good little run, but I'm comfortable with the change that feels inevitable at this point. More amazing? How much I've grown to care about Roz in a relatively little amount of time. It's just so so so good. Last of all, here's hoping that Dario doesn't get out of the trouble he should be in; lawyers and corporations can only take care of so much and it would push just a bit beyond the pale if he's just off scot-free.

Unwritten: Apocalypse 6 - First of all, can I just say that I love the fact that we've arrived at the point where Wilson and Tom are having a conversation where the kid calls the elder dad? I mean, man, what a small touch in such a wacky book. Additionally, in this story, we get at least two other names for Pullman, and we see him in a form that makes me think he's not just Cain, but he might be the Devil himself. Jesus. Also, Rauch is still playing the middle and she's only getting stronger and stronger. Pullman is firmly set as the opposition, but I'm starting to think of the Madame as a solid spoiler, which I didn't before. The subject of this issue, though, is the Maanim. I still don't know exactly what it is, but, like Pullman says, it's clearly a metaphor. But the ending, man, the ending. It's all coming together! It's so great. I love the criss-cross and how it's been building this whole time and how it makes sense. Tom is obviously going to kill the black knight (if not next issue, he's got to do it before the end) but the most important thing is that he's now entered the world of Arthurian legend. I'm curious about two things: are his friends with him? And, more importantly, will time work in a different manner there? Because he's still got quite the quest in front of him if he's now looking for the Holy Grail - that thing is NEVER easily obtained, no matter how pure he is.

The Wicked and the Divine 1 - Well if that isn't a hell of a comic (semi-pun fully intended) I don't know what is. Gillen and McKelvie create another monster and it's going to amazing. We only see the barest of beginnings (although we do see two of them, for what it's worth) to the story, but we have confirmation from Gillen in the letter pages that this is both intended to be an ongoing as well as the comforting fact that they have the ending plotted out. The art (DUH) is the most beautiful thing that came out this week, but the story's got a lot going on, too.

Book of the week goes to Unwritten. If it's too complicated for you at this point, maybe you shouldn't have been reading it at all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

comics for the week of 06/11/14.

I also read Figment 1 for @mfeige. It was cute and reminded me of my childhood, but isn't really in my wheelhouse.

All New X-Men 28 – Well, that's neat. The bad guys used a trick that the fanboys have talked about for years now. So that's cool. But I'm not sure how much farther this can go. Raze was already saying that they were going to go back to when he was one and Xavier was just born, and now we find out they're on their second attempt. So yeah, technically, they have at least 364 more tries, but I'm not sure that's a realistic possibility in any way. First of all, the story would be ridiculously boring. Second of all, how much farther back can they get in writing letters to themselves if the idea just occurred to them and then they get the letter? They can always plant the idea earlier, but they'll be less and less experienced, less and less ready to take the fight to that level. On a more realistic note, the idea of taking out Jean Grey first is a good one, but I'm not sure how she turns the tables. Either X-23's arrival is merely fortuitous, or Jean's trick is calling to X-23, or BMB is planting more and more seeds regarding Jean's eventual turn as the Phoenix. She's getting way too powerful, way too quickly. I don't see good things coming from that, even given the new X-Babies' eventual and inevitable triumph over Xavier's latest, greatest model of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

New Avengers 19 – The Avengers versus the Justice League! Buuuuuutttt...it doesn't really come down to that until the last page. What it truly comes down to is Namor acting like Namor and the rest of the Illuminati trying to convince both the Justice League and themselves that they're not the monsters they've already become. Additionally, we get an interesting conversation between Bruce and Beast, wherein we lay some seeds for Hank McCoy becoming the heart of this dastardly group. Namor's embrace of his nature is admirable in a way, but the line that resonated the most was the comment about rationalizing mass murder – it's true and I think it's what Hickman's ultimately been building to which leaves me wondering: what's the aftermath? Original Sin is playing into this, the Hulk and Cap both have legitimate beefs against the Illuminati...Are we merely going toward another Dark Reign? Is something coming that's going to foist another level of heroes into the spotlight, since these ones are so flawed? I don't really know.

The Walking Dead 128 – Meh. I do actually think things are different and I like this new direction. I'm not one who thought last issue was a cop out. I just don't find anything too compelling about this storyline. My hope is that the new group plays the reverse expectations game and flips when they find out nothing's wrong with Rick's group. That would be a true twist. But I'm worried that it's just more paranoia stacked on even more paranoia and that there's not a lot original going on here. Which is fine, it's established what it is.

Book of the week goes to All New X-Men. Time travel is fun, Beast is important and Xaviers are always ruining things.

Monday, June 9, 2014

comics for the week of 06/04/14.

I'm catching up on SHIELD, too. It's fine.

Angel and Faith 3 – After missing 2 for a long time, I read it just before this issue, so that was really helpful with the first couple pages. Although it was clear to me what was going to happen with Deepscan, I still don't blame Faith for not seeing it coming. And really, that's a positive aspect of her personality. On the other hand, I still don't really know what's happening with Angel and Nadira. The whole idea of Magic Town is a cool one, but I'm not sure where it's going. I like the metaphor of where the sea meets the river and I love that it was the title here, but I'm not sure which side she's pushing, nor which one I'd like to see, nor what the “good” side is. Angel's encounter with the Glass Blower and the refugee coming in to see Nadira certainly paint her side as the good one, but who knows what the truth is? And when we got to the end, I had the lovely surprise of having forgotten the cover. Awesome.

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man 2 - Well, I'm not saying that I didn't like this issue, because I did, but I am saying that not much happened that we didn't already know - or figure. I mean, this seems like a classic case of the decompressed storytelling that we were all railing against Bendis, like, five to seven years ago about. Ganke and Miles have a conversation, but that's what I already figured. Miles talks about how he was going to talk to May, but he doesn't actually talk to anyone about anything, other than fretting with Ganke. And then, yeah, we got that last page build up with his lady friend, whom I still think is the lady from the last series who MUST know that he's Spidey. And, sure, we got a few pages of Osborn. But other than that, not much happened in an issue where Miles Morales may or may not have seen a resurrected Peter Parker. But he didn't. It's a clone. (Loved that page, BTW.)

The Wake 9 - Huh. Well. I did not see that ending coming. I mean, almost everything before that, sure? (And BTW, what a rich possibility for world building did Murphy leave himself there, huh? Geez, there's a LOT of untold story right in those 2-4 pages of traveling.) But it's really the very last page, where the good doctor finally returns that gets to the intrigue. It's going to be an awesome conclusion, but I'm left curious as to whether it'll be satisfying or not. There are a lot of people Leeward has killed, inadvertently or not, and she still hasn't even chosen her new name. We'll see what happens to all the timelines, the kids, the moms and the mers next issue.

Book of the week goes to Angel and Faith. It was a really weird week.

Monday, June 2, 2014

nba finals rematch set - heat vs. spurs, part ii.

The 2014 National Basketball Association has its Finals matchup: The two-time defending champions Miami Heat will play the San Antonio Spurs. It's a rematch of the Finals from last year, which were billed as the ultimate test of the fans' attention span. The league's most compelling star – LeBron James - against the team most often billed as boring – the Spurs. However, there were numerous subplots then and there are many more this time around.

First of all, let's revisit the narrative from last go-round. The Spurs have seen James in the Finals before last year; they swept his Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007. James, however, is no longer the boy he was then. He's a two-time champion. Maligned for his self-promotion on ESPN, perhaps, but The Decision is far behind us at this point. The way he got to Miami might still rankle a few people, but James has ultimately been proved correct. The Heat are on the way to their fourth consecutive Finals since The Decision, a feat unmatched by any other teams aside from perennial winners the Lakers and the Celtics. Not even Michael Jordan's Bulls went to four straight Finals. The Decision might have been a misstep, but the decision itself certainly was not.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have settled into their roles and even Mario Chalmers has had sparks of greatness, not only this season, but increasingly as the team has figured out the way to play. However, many pundits claim that this Heat team is not as good as last year's team – the loss of Mike Miller being the most oft-cited component. Ray Allen is still key and coach Erik Spoelstra is only getting better at his job, both of which have to be good signs for Heat fans.

On the other side of the match-up, the always-overlooked Spurs have made it back to the Finals after the heartbreak of last season's Game 6 collapse. 28 seconds away from yet another odd-year championship, the Spurs seemed to lose Game 7 purely on the emotional letdown after Allen's game winner in the previous game. However, after being dismissed year after year after year as too old, the Spurs have now entered into their first back-to-back Finals in franchise history. Their focus in the regular season led them to the best overall record, giving them home court advantage in this year's contest.

The Spurs' big three have much room to improve, especially Manu Ginobili; his oftentimes out of control performance in last year's Finals was unlike the improvisational genius basketball fans had grown accustomed to seeing. Tim Duncan, who won his first title in 1999, setting him up for the longest gap between championships in NBA history, should the Spurs prevail, missed a chippy in Game 6 last year that he's made at least 100 times since then. And last but not least, the point guard, to whom much of the offense has been turned over to, Tony Parker. The biggest question mark of the series on the Spurs side, since he was held out of Game 6 against the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. One of the keys to the Spurs offense missed the second-half of a close-out game because of an injury that almost no one knew about. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has always kept his cards close to the vest, but this seemed unprecedented.

Game 1 starts on Thursday in San Antonio, where Game 2 will be played on Sunday. This year's Finals will be the series that returns to the previous 2-2-1-1-1 format, thankfully. When all's said and done, the Spurs, miscast as the boring team, who in reality play the team ball that every coach any player's ever heard speak constantly praises, should bring their laser focus to its most logical conclusion. Tim Duncan claimed that the Spurs still had the bad taste of last year's loss in their collective mouths. It's time for the veterans to prove it. Nothing else matters.