Wednesday, September 28, 2011

lobo soccer vaults into top ten nationally.

When news broke that coach Mike Locksley had been asked to vacate his head coaching position, the Albuquerque populace tried to react. But after more than two years, exactly two wins, and countless affairs off the field that led people to this conflicted moment, there's not much to say about the beleaguered (now-) ex-coach of the men's football team.

The better place to focus is on the sport that the rest of the world calls futbol. On Monday, almost simultaneously, news broke that the men's soccer team had broke into the Top 10 of the nation. As previously noted, the men's soccer team has not yet lost this season. They played the reigning national champions to a standstill in double overtime.

The men's soccer team is a proud follow-up to a recent dynasty at UNM. Although our previous teams never won it all, they gave fans plenty to cheer about, and they packed the stands. In 2005, the Lobos lost to Maryland in the national championship game. It was a one-point game, and fans went bonkers for the matches on the road to that loss.

Now people are getting to the point where they're counting on more thrills to come. The men's team, meanwhile, isn't backing down from those expectations. As a proud follow-up to a great (albeit recent) tradition, the men's team neither shies away from the spotlight, nor embarrasses those of us who root for the team with any antics.

The next opportunity to support the men's soccer team at home is on Friday, October 14, when they host Denver. The game will start at 7 PM.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

lobos football is awful.

As I've mentioned a few times in the past, sometimes I write something that I feel is just too much beyond the pale. Our football team is atrocious and lots of people (especially in our town) know it. But when I write something like this, I feel bad that I'm picking on kids who are younger (albeit much stronger) than me, and I think, well, shit, if I was on that team, I'd already know it was a shitty team and I don't need some knucklehead writer taking me to task. So I'm hiding this writing behind a cut, hoping that it won't get indexed as easily, as well as to show some of the edits that I went through. At first, I just thought I was going to excise this from here, so what's called the first draft below is actually more like the third or fourth. I don't know if this is interesting or worthwhile for anyone else, but I figure this is a good place for me to keep track of things.

First draft can be found here

Monday, September 19, 2011

comics for the week of 09/14/11.

All right. Something really wonderful is happening with the New 52. Unfortunately, it's confined to pretty much one book. Meanwhile, something awful is happening, too. Read on to see if you agree.

Batwoman 1 - The best thing to come out of the New 52, by far. Head and shoulders above the rest of the competition which, aptly, are pretty much sinking. This book is so good, it should be called Locke and Key. Is that effusive enough for y'all? All right, let's break it down just a little bit. Issue 1 picks up pretty much right where the Batwoman run in Detective Comics left off, which was as solid and innovative comic-writing (and illustrating!) as I've seen in a long, long time. Kate Kane is still Batwoman, her father is still on the outs for the lies he told, and Flamebird comes back in a nice way. The writing is that great mix of real-world crime with some supernatural elements and we can see drops for long-term storytelling while still getting a superb one-issue arc under the belt as well. Let's not kid ourselves, though, the art is the major draw here and there's nothing wrong with that. This book is the best looking book that's been put out since Alex Ross first made a splash with painting instead of penciling - I know that might sound too heavy, but I truly believe it. This is the best book that will come out of the New 52 - I don't even have to see the other books to feel confident in saying that.

Buffy Season 9 1 - She's back! This issue had that mix of humor and real life that people claimed was missing from Season 8. The party was great, the way the flashbacks were set up was ideal and the involvement of Spike was a great addition. It's my hope that he gets to stay in the book longterm and isn't banished back into the dirigible with the insects. He brings a je ne sais quoi that's important to the overall tone that was missing for a lot of the last season. I'm not even a huge Spike fan, but I think he's important to the theme. On the other hand, the last page was kind of a let down. That being said, I remember that, in the TV series, sometimes we didn't get to the big bad until the last quarter of the season, so I know this can be a slow build.

Green Lantern 1 - My buddy Greg was right: Geoff Johns is basically just skipping the whole New 52 nonsense. There is absolutely nothing in this book to make us think that it's not Green Lantern 68. And that's not a bad thing! But it is a solid sign that the New 52 is not something that everyone is planning on sticking around forever, much less for a long time. And to this the ambiguity of Gardener in JLI saying that Hal is a part of the regular Justice League and it's easy to see that all the ducks are not in a row. A bad sign from the supposedly coherent universe. All that being said, this was a good issue, continuing upon the course that Johns has set up for Hal (& Sinestro!) since the Sinestro Corps War. The biggest thing that bummed me out about the issue was that Doug Mahnke's art didn't look as good as I'm used to it looking. In fact, in some panels, I found myself wishing for a different artist. I hope this was a hiccup and not an indication that his art, like Johns' writing, is falling off.

Resurrection Man 1 - A blast from the past and it feels so good. I used to read Resurrection Man back in the '90s and I always thought it was a pretty clever concept. In a DC Universe where at least three characters (Beast Boy, Animal Man and Vixen) all have the same powers, this guy Mitch gets to experience a wild variety of cool stuff. Plus, there were all the nods to Soder Cola and Hitman and the subtle aspects of the DC Universe that made the book a fun ride. This debut issue does a good job of maintaining that tone and also of giving a few long-term drops. This will be a book that I'll stick with through the first arc at bare minimum. A fun ride.

Superboy 1 - I've loved the character of Superboy since before his last number one, all the way to the creation of the character. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the New 52 truly starts to collapse. There is no way that this can mesh with everything else that we're seeing. It frustrates me so much, too, because Connor Kent had become such a great character and I was proud of the way that he'd mature and taken his place in the DCU. So, in this issue, we get Cadmus and Dubbilex and it's acceptable and I even thought maybe we'd see the Guardian and it's fun but all just goes straight to hell. Superboy is being invented as we speak. He's barely getting started. And yet, Barbara Gordon was merely shot three years ago. Blackest Night still happened. Superman has only been around five years. Sinestro is Earth's GL (along with Guy Gardener, apparently - so what happened to John Stewart? and Mogo?) but he's not in Justice League. I know all these things don't necessarily have to do with Superboy, but this is the problem with their quote-unquote soft reboot. It's not a reboot at all. It's neither soft nor hard. It's just a shoddily put together plan with some gaping holes in it. It was cute to see Rose Wilson in a radically different role (and to hear her calling her VR self out as a Mary Sue was an instant classic!) but it just doesn't work. I know not every comic book fan has to (or does) think like this, but there's just no getting around the fact that DC is claiming to be presenting something that they're not. And for me, Superboy was the title that made that clear to me. Unlike Batgirl, I won't be returning this book, because I want to hold on to it for sentimental reasons, but you can be damn sure that I won't be buying anymore of this title.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1 - A Marvel title that's at number one, too? And Spidey back in my life? I do declare this a hilarious day. Miles makes a great debut here, and we can see plenty of strife for upcoming issues in his home life. The origin, sure, is a pretty blatant ripoff from Peter's Spider-Man, but I don't have a problem with that. If they're going to make him a legacy character, make it a real legacy. I like to see that there's some kind of connection, as opposed to pure chance and then putting on Pete's costume. Make it apparent, because it already is! And so, the issue of shame doesn't come up for me. All that comes up is that this is a well-written, nicely-pencilled issue. And I, for one, will be sticking around to see if they run with this, or if it's just a gimmick. It's my hope that they go whole hog - this could be the chance the the Ultimate Universe needed to really, truly differentiate itself in a bold way.

The Unwritten 29 - The only comic that I bought that wasn't a number 1 and it was a solid book, as always. However, after spilling my guts about hating the New 52 and having my emotional reconnection with Spidey, I'm just not convinced that I have that many things to say about this book. It's great, as usual, but this story hasn't really pulled me in, like previous ones have. That being said, the last page is a doozy and I'm anxiously awaiting next issue. I feel like that's gonna be the one that I love. Insofar as what happens in this issue, Wilson Taylor tries to pull one over on Pullman and the rest of the Cabal, Milton Jardine pays the price of letting his lady friend use his name, and Tom and Lizzie do some more exploring. Tom's gaining a lot more control over his magic powers, although it's clear that he's not quite in command yet. Great book.

(To be fair, I'm also now reading Scalped, which I highly recommend, but I'm not about to start throwing my two cents into the reviewing ring on issue 52 of a 60-issue book. Suffice it to say that I was damn late to this party and I should not have been. If you have the chance, pick up all the trades, blaze your way through the first one, which might not draw you in all the way, and stick around for the ride. By the time you finish the second, you'll be hooked.)

Book of the week is easily Batwoman. This book is the epitome of what all comics companies should be doing. Find someone who knows what the hell they're doing, sit back, and let them do their thing. If you're not buying Batwoman, there is no chance we will relate as comic book people. Go find someone else to talk to.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

pity rafa nadal.

The greatest rivalry in modern tennis just got a new twist. No, not Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Rather, Nadal and Roger Federer. For years, Nadal and Federer have battled back and forth. Their styles have been contrasted, and their stories have been written. It was Federer on top, with his precision and beautiful game. Nadal was the brash young kid with the passion and the angst, especially at the fact that he could never get over the top against the king. He was ranked second to Federer's first for a record 160 consecutive weeks. Then, all of a sudden, in 2008, Nadal went on a spree against Federer. Rafa beat Fed three times in a year and took the number one spot. It was as though his time had come. At only 27 years old, it's not like Federer was knocking on the door of retirement by any means. But those who followed the game got a sense that Nadal had paid his dues. He'd been rooted against long enough. He'd been the wild child. It was his time to ascend the throne. To categorize the last three years as poor for Nadal would be a mistake of the grossest severity. After winning what some called the greatest tennis match ever, Rafa went on a rampage. He won his first Olympic gold medal in Beijing, ran through several of the majors (but never completing a true Grand Slam) and compiled a magnificent record. He was a monster by anyone's account. As the U.S. Open progressed this year, however, Rafa and Fed were, once again, on opposite sides of the bracket. The match-up was there to be had. But Djokovic insisted upon playing spoiler as a set piece conclusion to his season for the ages. When historians look back to the 2011 tennis season, the big font at the top will be about Djokovic's season record: 64-2 at this point with not a sign in sight that his rate will decrease. Djokovic has received plenty of press for his change in diet and the possibility of this being the move that puts him truly (and, seemingly at this point, inevitably) over the top. Members of the press have never been shy to describe Roger Federer as, perhaps, the greatest tennis player of all time. Lost in the fray between these two singular talents, somehow, is Rafael Nadal. If ever there has been an overlooked number two talent in the game, this is that moment. If all of these circumstances can somehow be believed, there is a distinct possibility that those same people who have dismissed Rafa as a boyish rager may now start to root for him. Ironically, they might be too late.

Monday, September 12, 2011

comics for the week of 09/07/11.

All DC. All DCnU. Some things change and some things don't. It's a weird time in my comic book-collecting life. Animal Man 1 - I never read Animal Man before and, to be honest, I didn't really give him much thought as a character. But with Jeff Lemire writing the book (and promising to work so closely with Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing) I knew that I needed to check it out. I'm glad that I did, because I think it's been the best of the New 52 thus far. The one page intro was pitch perfect and the art (although it wasn't my favorite) was hitting all the right notes with the tone. The last page was a great mix of creepy and enticing and the whole story just seemed really well plotted. The only bad part, for me, was the full page splash of Animal Man in his new costume that looks exactly like the early X-Factor Angel. After the newspaper interview had mentioned his iconic costume (and especially the goggles!) it seemed really weird to have that drastic a change. Batgirl 1 - This book was the opposite of the Animal Man experience for me: a character that I'd read extensively where nothing seemed to work out quite right. Sure, there were plenty of parts that were good, but the bad just so heavily outweighed it and the whole reading experience came across as awkward. We have our answer as to how they're going to deal with Killing Joke (and Oracle!) and the answer is...they're side-stepping it. She got shot, she couldn't walk, but now she can. That's it. (Are we to believe that some DC exec didn't say, "It's magic!"?) The art was good, it was a hoot to see Babs in the costume again, but those were about the only good things for me in this issue. The way that things can be waved aside in such a blatantly disregarding manner is disturbing to me and the inconsistency of this reboot is only going to get worse. Swamp Thing 1 - This is where the inconsistency is really starting to get to me. Swamp Thing was a good book, but not as good as I was hoping. But before I get into anything about the book itself, we have to talk about the meeting with Superman. There are clear references to the Search for Swamp Thing as well as Brightest Day, which would be awesome in the normal DCU, but just doesn't seem to make sense in the DCnU. I'm fine if these things all happened, like the Killing Joke and Brightest Day and I know that's what they're going for, but it just doesn't make sense to me. Superman and Batman just hit the scene five years ago, we're told in JLA. Batgirl was shot 3 years ago. Hal was GL 5 years ago, but now he's not, as Sinestro is filling that role in Green Lantern. The events are all connected! You can't just say, OK, this happened, but not that. It's a whole universe. It's not so simple. Ah, rant over. Swamp Thing as a book was good, the art by Paquette was divine and the way the story was told made it interesting, I'm going to enjoy this back and forth. However, I don't know if it made a difference, but I read this comic digitally, as my LCS was sold out (!) and it just felt...not as good. I was more excited for this book than any other new title I'm trying out, and I liked it, sure, but it didn't feel like a golden child. I'll still give it time to find its legs, as I'm definitely on for the first arc (as opposed to Batgirl, where I won't be buying any more copies) but I wasn't head over heels for this one. Book of the week goes to Animal Man. I'm excited to get into this new character. I like how insular this book felt in the first issue, because now I don't have to worry about the space-time continuum or the severity of the reboot or the rest of the issues that the New 52 is causing inside of me. Solid book, definitely worth your time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

other lobo sports offer relief.

Perhaps you saw or were at the University of New Mexico's inaugural football game of the 2011 season last Saturday. Perhaps, like myself, you were disappointed in what looked like it could have been a reversal of the losing trend. Perhaps the last-second penalties and resulting turnover were just a little too much. Perhaps you're thinking that there is nothing good happening in the Lobos Nation until the arrival of our basketball season - if even that will offer respite. However, I'm here to tell you that, despite our tumultuous start to a young football season (which can still be saved, by the way, no matter losing the first game and no matter that it was one of the games I'd circled as one we could and should win) there are still many reasons to be excited about UNM's teams. Our local university may not rank up there with the Oregons or LSUs – and maybe not even the Cals or Texas Techs – when it comes to football. Fortunately, there are many other sports where we are doing just fine, if not outright excelling. Recently, our women's cross country team was ranked, before the start of the season, as the number two team in the nation. Despite losing to Northern Arizona University last weekend, our volleyball team had three members make the all-tournament team. Our women's soccer team continued the winning ways of New Mexico with a 1-0 triumph over the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara. Perhaps most impressively, the Lobos men's soccer team is thus-far undefeated, with a big tournament coming up here in town. The soccer team, as previously noted, has some big shoes to fill and is looking forward a good season after a middling disappointment last year. With the sole exception of the cross country meets, all of these sporting events can be seen via a new ticketing experiment UNM is trying out, the Olympic Sport Pass. For an adult, 50 dollars will get admission to all women's and men's soccer games as well as the volleyball games. Next semester, as the madness of basketball is fading away, the same pass can be used for admission to the baseball and softball home games. So as the football season progresses, I'd urge everyone to expand their horizons. Continue to support our cherry and silver football team, sure, but think about branching out and seeing some of the other kids at the University do what they do best – and oftentimes, win the game while doing so.

Monday, September 5, 2011

comics for the week of 08/31/11.

So this is it. The New 52 is upon us.

Angel & Faith 1 - Love the fact that so much of this book is concerned with Giles. That seems right, somehow. The book starts off in an arresting manner, and this seems right for what they're going to do with this book - or, at least, what I think they're going to do with this book. I hope it doesn't turn into Angel the show, because, to be honest, I really couldn't stand that show after a certain point. But I will say that I liked this book and I loved how I anticipate it's going to have a different tone than Buffy Season 9. If it's going to be a saga of Faith trying to stop other ex-Slayers from killing Angel, though, I think that'll get tired really quickly. Here's to hoping they get that thread out of the way sooner rather than later. There's tons of room for great drama between Faith, Angel, Buffy and the whole United Kingdom. Let's leave it at that for now.

Flashpoint 5 (of 5) - If the New 52 wasn't here, there were actually a lot of cool things that ran through my head that they could have done with this if they'd chosen something different. As it is, this is (perhaps by far?) Geoff Johns' most poorly-written mini-series ever. The Kubert pencils didn't help. The drama between Barry Allen and Zoom was the best part of the issue and the worst was the double page spread with Barry getting his mystical instructions that make the New 52 seem even more likely that it's just a gimmick. It's just a short-term publicity stunt. If they're still rocking the New 52 three years from now, I'm more than willing to eat my words. But this story doesn't really set it up that way. That being said, the real best part of the issue was the last three pages where any lover of comics got a little teary-eyed.

Invincible 82 - This issue honestly made me feel like I had missed an issue. Or, like, an entire arc. I had to look up where Robot had been and when he'd left. (No solving that mystery? It's just left hanging out there?) However, that was the only complaint in an otherwise solid issue. Kirkman is back to what he does best, which is writing believable characters and putting them in tough situations. The maturity of Mark as he continues to grow is obviously something they're looking to showcase here and they do a good job of it. The continuing manipulation by Cecil is worrisome, but I think that's always just going to be sitting on the back burner. And, of course, Eve's dinner out was a bummer to read. It's a drag to think that girls really do have friends like that.

JLA 1 - This is the big one. What everyone has been waiting for. It's gotten its share of positive reviews but you won't find more of that here. I found the dialogue to be cliched at best and stilted at times, to the point of laughing at it. Setting things up so obviously for new readers with lines like, "Batman, you don't have any powers? Really? Really? Really?" is just a little too over the top for me. The pandering of making Hal his arrogant movie self was also a little brusque for those of us who have been really comics for more than two decades. And, of course, the ending was so trite that it warranted nothing more than a scoff. That being said, I know that I'm not who the issue was written for. They want to bring in new readers and I hope they succeed in doing so, for the good of the comic business. My friend Dave Jordan is fond of saying they sold more than 200,000 copies of this book, and I'm glad about that, but I'm doubtful that it'll stay that high. I showed this issue to a couple comic virgins and the best they could say about it was, "It was pretty." That's not gonna do it.

Locke & Key: Clockworks 2 (of 6) - Put simply: This is the best comic book that is coming out right now. If you are not buying this book and you call yourself a comic book fan, you have got to do something about that ASAP. Seriously, this book is insanely well-done. It's pencilled beautifully and the writing is tight. The stories have all been phenomenal and now we're truly reaching the conclusion. Some gnarly stuff is about to go down. With Dodge in Bode's body, we knew things were going to go from bad to worse, but this has now occurred way more quickly than I anticipated. Kinsey puts back her fear and sorrow, which is a good thing that I figured had to happen, but it comes with a terrible price. It certainly seems, at this point, that Dodge has the Omega Key! The worst thing about buying this book month to month is now the wait for next issue. Great news, though, when these hardcovers come up on Thwipster, they have a guaranteed purchase.

Book of the week goes to Locke & Key which I've gushed over enough already. If you're not buying it and you claim to like comic books, we can't be (and probably aren't) friends. Simple as that.