Thursday, March 31, 2011

comics for the week of 03/30/11.

These have never been called reviews, because they're really not. If there was ever any interest in that, I suppose I could switch it up, but for now, let's call them what they are: recaps for people who read. They're not for people who don't read, and they're not for someone trying to find out if they should read.

Action Comics 899 - Lex's quest is complete. A twist from Brainiac here and a turn from RobotLois there, and we have a revelation that...is kind of complicated? I mean, I know I read comics and am thus expected to be kind of a geek, and I get the Negative Zone, and... but... well... it was good. It's not that it wasn't good. It was just...flat? Kind of? I was psyched to see Brainiac versus Luthor and it lived up to the billing, but the big bad...he was weird. I'm excited to see how Superman is going to deal with this next issue, though. The whole revelation about the black energy, and its tying into Blackest Night, though, at this point, feels like something that's going to retconned more than actually genuinely connected. That's all right sometimes, but also, sometimes, they should just let it go.

Detective Comics 875 - Scott Snyder continues to write the best Bat book on the market and Francisco Francavilla did the art to death on this issue! Remember last month when I said it was good, and it fit the tone of the story, and it was perfect? Well this issue confirmed that. Damn, this was a spooky story, and perfectly spooky art to match. The old school feel of the story was reinforced by the flashbacks to the original case, and the role of Bullock (both in this book and in the current Bat mythos) cannot be overstated. He's old hat by this point. In fact (and this just occurred to me) he might be getting groomed to be Commissioner someday? Regardless, the story of James turns out to be equally as creepy as we were all imagining, not least of all because it's not truly wrapped up when this story ends. Some stories end on a cliffhanger; this one was more like we ran over the cliff and ended right on impact with the ground. Who knows if we survived or not, but we can damn sure feel that sting.

Green Lantern Corps 58 - War of the Green Lanterns Part 2 was just as good as Part 1, with Kyle taking center stage (I guess he's sharing it with John Stewart, to be fair) but still managing to continue the main storyline. I love the tension between the two of them as polar opposites, but how they continue to work and even thrive together. The art-effect of turning the GL symbols yellow in the background was a nice little touch, and Ganthet's role in this book and in this arc is going to be impossible to overlook. I have a sad feeling that he's going to die? If his death means that other Guardians will follow in his footsteps, both literally by becoming GLs and figuratively, by embracing emotion, I've got to be OK with that, though.

Green Lantern Emerald Warriors 8 - The showdown we've all been waiting for in the War of the Green Lanterns part 3: Guy Gardner versus Hal Jordan. I love the joke of the Green House, and I love that they're shown as having made some major contingency plans after the Corps last decimating event. However. The fight felt more than a little off, and it was odd how Gardner (but not so much Jordan) was able to fight the Parallax effects for so long when we'd already seen Kyle and John succumb so quickly. Ganthet's hand exploded from the will power it took to rip their rings off - Guy's just that tough?? Hard to believe. But I like what's happening with the overall feel of the War of the GLs: we've got a good story, a huge big bad, and some separate threads that are being rapidly pulled together. Here's to hoping this won't be a five month event that stretches into six or seven or eight, even, and here's to being blissfully ignorant of those details by avoiding Previews.

Scarlet 5 - The end of book one, eh? That'll work. I think this story has pretty much been told as far as it can go, so I was glad to have those last few pages of Scarlet's narration saying that she was going to have to give in and become the person they wanted her to become. Things have got to be picked up a notch (or five) if Bendis wants this to continue to be a semi-believable tale, because there's not much more to say in this vein. I loved the beginning with Detective Going and her narration, the way she smelled the BS setup that was coming and I loved her interaction with Federal Agent James. There were several times where I laughed out loud and this, I think, more than anything is what Bendis does well. Before he burst onto the scene, there weren't many comic book writers who could really, really nail a dialogue scene, whether it was supposed to be straight or comedic and throw in the zingers the way he does. Of course, it's played out now, and everyone and their mother apes the style, but when it's done well, like it is here, it still holds up. He does people well, and the people in Scarlet's universe are about to get bumped up a notch, or five, like I said. This is good stuff and here's to hoping it gets better.

Book of the week goes to 'Tec. The shift in storytelling was stark and could have come across as shifty and even pandering. Instead, we got one of the best two-issue (if you really want to call it that) stories that I can remember. Great work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

goliaths.

Unlike the men's tournament, where we have, perhaps, the most unlikely Final Four of all time, the women's tournament has all the regal airs of a coronation. Will the University of Connecticut continue their otherworldly dominance? Will they meet up with Stanford, a team that many have claimed is actually the best team in the country, throughout the regular season, even as UConn was winning a record amount of games? Or, will the (semi-) underdogs have a chance? Notre Dame's Fighting Irish took out the Tennessee Volunteers on Monday night, ending Pat Summitt's revenge-quest on Geno and his UConn Huskies. The Fighting Irish are ranked as a 2 seed, so it's not like people were taking them for granted. But, usually, when the path goes through Tennessee, that's where the path ends. And, finally, on Tuesday night, the second-seeded Texas A&M Aggies dismantled the Baylor Bears. Brittney Griner is one of the most exciting players in women's basketball - if only for pure spectacle, but she and her team were completely destroyed by A&M.

With all the fuss on Stanford and UConn's potential rematch - you might recall that they've played once this season already - there's a lot missing from the conversation about the contenders that will vie to keep them from that game.

On the one hand, Notre Dame enters their matchup with UConn with some nice momentum on their side. UConn cruised past Duke, where as the Fighting Irish had to scrap at times to get past the specter of Tennessee. (Notre Dame entered the game against the Vols with a lifetime record of 0-20 against Tennessee.) Also, there's a pesky knee injury that might be troubling Maya Moore.

On the other hand, Texas A&M seems ready and willing to take the fight to anyone. As they demonstrated against 6'8" Brittney Griner, they're not in the NCAA Tournament bowing to any team - and that will include Stanford. Stanford, though, roughed up the highest-scoring team in the nation in their Elite Eight matchup with Gonzaga - holding them to only 60 points in a game where the Lady Zags scored 38 in the first half.

The Final Four games begin on Sunday. Texas A&M will try to play the spoiler for Stanford at 5 PM MST on ESPN and then Notre Dame will attempt to deny Geno Auriemma's ladies their chance at the title game. Two teams will be vanquished, and it's a good bet that the titans will play each other on Tuesday night for all the marbles. That game promises to be one of the best seen in a long, long time - as long as neither of those pesky 2 seeds decide they have something to say about it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

comics for the week of 03/23/11.

I was a bit behind from last week, but I think that's OK. Here's to playing catch up through the magic of being done with vacation. It's funny how that works.

Fables 103 - The super team is shaping up and it looks damn good! The strife between Pinocchio and Ozma continues to grow! What will happen next? Well, a showdown with Mister Dark, obviously, but stupid Gepetto is also going to have a role to play. I wonder if he's going to play the villain again, or if he's going to find some sort of semi-redemption? Either way, this book is back up to the top notch build that it's always seemed to fit.

FF 1 - The Future Foundation keeps it real. (Except for the part about everyone knowing Peter Parker is Spider-Man again; WTF? How does this happen??) The aftermath of the eulogy for Johnny Storm starts out fantastically strong (see what I did there) not that many people expected much different. Ben is dealing with it in her own way, as is Sue and, remarkably, Reed seems to be the one who's the driving force behind all this. It's not like Reed wasn't the driving force behind the Fantastic Four, I get that, but of all the characters, it seems painfully obvious that he was the least close to Johnny - it's not that he wasn't close, but...Sue's his sister. Ben's his best friend. Even Spidey's probably closer? And yet, here's Reed, pushing for this team and these ideas in his memory. It's a great touch. The addition of Doom to this team means that I'll continue to buy this book as long as that's something they're serious about, and he's not just some guest star. Doom keeps it real-est.

Green Lantern 64 - The War of the Green Lanterns Part One and I foolishly did not buy part 2, even though it's already out. I know, I'm stupid. With how good this book already has been, I don't know what the hold up was, but I'll tell you that I instantly regretted it. The Book of Dark pulling the Lanterns into its confines, the impending battle between Jordan and the rest of the Green Corps, and the way that Krona bitchslapped all of the rest of the Guardians made this the best thing I read in a week full of great books. The War of the Green Lanterns shows great promise to get these books back on track and to fulfill the promise of what a Johns-centered event can be, again.

Invincible 78 - Atom Eve got fat! I promise you, despite another stellar issue from Kirkman and Co. that's all people are going to be able to talk about. Which is so stupid. This issue was pitch perfect, again, and the only takeaway that some people are going to have is that the hot girl is now fat and pregnant. Man. As for the good things that some other people will see, the relationship between Nolan and Debbie feels real. The reaction of Cecil was real. And hilarious. The interaction of Nolan and Mark with Tech Jacket was another great touch, and I hope we get to see more of Allen in his new role as President of the Council - he's going to have some tough decisions to make pretty soon.

The New York Five 3 (of 4) - This book was god, but, to be honest, I'm really starting to be glad that it's just a four-issue mini-series. The real life stuff is actually kind of bumming me out. That's not to say that I'm all superheroes all the time, nor that I want to be, but damn; this much reality is sometimes tough when you're expecting aliens to be beating each other up nonstop. The girls are getting along well enough, except for Ren's revelation that she's pregnant, which doesn't get the reception that she wants. Luckily, Olive is there to pick up the slack of the roommate issue (presumably) but it definitely is leaving me wondering how they're going to wrap all this up in one more issue. I get that it's an ongoing story, really, and that the girls are only at the end of their freshman year, but...there's a lot going on. The best part of the issue was seeing Lona (at least temporarily) hear her boyfriend's advice and abandon her quest against her professor - she even looked happy.

The Unwritten 23 - The big reveal was promised...and...delivered on. Kind of. It's not a whale. It's people. (SOYLENT GREEN!!) I guess that's kind of a revelation... But, honestly, who didn't see this coming? It's a difficult position for me to criticize the Unwritten, because I do feel that it's brilliant, but this didn't have some grand significance to me. It's a post-modern tale that's been told millions of times in our short span already - we get our powers because you believe in us! It's a good story, don't get me wrong. But...it wasn't the great twist and turn that I was hoping for. I did love the beginning where we get to see/hear Tom's thought process on the whale entering all the different stories. I liked to see the various characters and the way that Tom is so much more authentic than all of them. He's got real depth, real emotion, while they're just stuck with the script. I loved the look back at Wilson and the way he created Tom, but he did come off here as more harsh than he usually does. I suppose that's to be expected, because, as we learn more about him, I expect him to be a morally ambiguous character. Sure, he's quote-unquote Dad, but...he clearly had more in mind than just raising a son. Next issue we get to see the gang reunited? There's a bunny on the cover! I hope we get to see Lit Hell!

Book of the week goes to Green Lantern, amidst the indie goodness of Invincible, Fables, and the Unwritten. A TON of great books last week, and you pretty much couldn't go wrong with any of them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

don't forget: women play the game too.

As I suffered through the heartache of another Gonzaga loss in the NCAA Tourney, my thoughts were comforted by a couple notions:

First of all, the accomplishments of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team have been well-documented. And they should continue to be so, rolling through all challengers, as they are. UConn accomplished something this season that will probably never be matched (although people probably said that about the UCLA record that the women broke, to be fair) and continue to maul opponent after opponent, on their seemingly inevitable march toward another NCAA Championship.

The women's bracket doesn't get as much attention as the men's, for several reasons. The debate over that lack of attention could span several day's worth of arguments, so let's summarize it by saying it's unfair and it's unfortunate, but it's also an inevitability in this day and age and at this point for the sport. (Women's basketball, as a profession, has been around significantly less time than men's. This is a fact. Sports take time to catch on. These things are true no matter how much the sports are pushed by marketers or feminists. The result will be the same.) But if we move past the lack of attention and the criticism that some level at the game, we have the chance to see some exciting basketball.

There have been exciting games played at the Pit. There have been first-time records for the sport set by exciting contemporary players. (For what it's worth, look at Gonzaga getting to play in Spokane for a great example of how the NCAA should be rewarding certain teams. Dragging UNC and UK all the way out here to the desert made for some good hoops, but might not have been a great reward for those teams.)

The sport is picking up, and the time seems right. For the casual fan, UConn is the perfect team to root for: they're fun, they win all the time, and you can talk to practically anyone about them. In these aspects, they're kind of like the Chicago Bulls of the 90s - super-easy for the casual sports fan to get into, but they'll probably be looked back at as at least a bit of a bully. Meanwhile, Gonzaga gets to continue playing the Cinderella role, albeit in the women's game. All of the women's Tournament games are broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2 - tune in and give the game a chance as its reaching its highest peak. It's hard to be disappointed at people playing the game at this high of a level.

Monday, March 14, 2011

ncaa tournament: start!

The brackets are out. The games start tomorrow. There are now 68 teams, and the National Championship will be played on Monday, April 4, 2011, in Houston, Texas.

The number one seeds, as previously discussed, are Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, and Pittsburgh. Ohio State was rewarded with the overall number one seed, and does seem to be the consensus among the experts to make the Final Four.

Pat Forde does a good job of bringing up some of the more interesting stories that will make up this Tournament (as well as some minutia) but one of the most fascinating stories that he skips over is that of Steve Fisher. With San Diego State rolling the way they have through this season, and the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Fab Five debuting last night, plenty of people are going to have Michigan on the mind. Fisher was fired from the University of Michigan amidst plenty of controversy relating to the Fab Five and NCAA infractions and the selection committee chose to put Fisher's former school, Michigan, on the same side as his new school, San Diego State. The Aztecs only lost to one team all season long, both at BYU and at home against BYU. Of course, in order to set up this theoretical revenge, Michigan would have to get past Duke. The Blue Devils may not have won the ACC, but they beat up on UNC in the ACC Tournament to grab some serious momentum running into the Big Dance.

The First Four, as the newly expanded NCAA Tournament is calling their new play-in games, start tomorrow night, and the for-real Tournament gets raring on Thursday and Friday. Regardless of filling in your brackets amongst your work colleagues, it's really worth taking some time to watch some of the games as they're taking place, especially in these first few days. There's very little to match up with the magic of any team being able to catch fire and knock off any other given team. There's a reason it's nicknamed March Madness - and the madness is about to set in.

Friday, March 11, 2011

comics for the week of 03/09/11.

Wednesday was Biggie Day. 14 years ago, the greatest rapper of all time died. It's sometimes hard for me to reconcile growing up in the Valley and teaching in the Heights, just like it's hard to imagine a hip-hop fan who's first love is comic books. But, as hard as it is to imagine, it's damn fun to live.

Batgirl 19 - Part 1 of 2 of The Lesson: Tunnel Vision. Apparently, there's some things going on in Birds of Prey that I should be aware of. Oracle is supposedly dead (even though it's Barbara Gordon who tells Stephanie this) and the Grey Ghost makes his return. Other than those things, the only thing that made this issue stand out was the subpar art. After getting Nguyen for the last few issues, Ramon Bachs just couldn't live up to the task. (And boo on DC for being tricky and putting Nguyen's name on the cover. He didn't do the art. Shame on y'all.) The relationship between Steph and her mom is fine, if you believe the old comic book stereotype that parents are clueless. As a semi-adult myself, who deals with kids on a regular basis, I find it kind of impossible to believe. However, the story was good, the art was good enough, and I'm still a Batgirl fan. I will say, though, that this issue was more than disappointing after the tremendous success of the last two stand-alone issues.

Batman and Robin 21 - Tomasi and Gleason continue their run on the Morrison-originated book and it's...all right. The story that began last month didn't seem to have a lot of places it could run, but this issue played out better than last month's. I don't know if the art was a lot better, but I do know there were no single panels that bugged me as much as the fat Bruce of last month. And the inclusion of various Rogues and their family members felt like a nice way to keep this story semi-rooted in the past, even while moving forward at a rather rapid pace. The single best thing about this book, always, and especially in this issue, is the developing relationship between Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. The way they speak to each other is unique in all of the Batman and Robin relationships that I've ever read. It's enjoyable, it's refreshing, and it's something that's working really well right now, no matter who's writing the pair. I'm a big fan.

New Avengers 10 - What an interesting idea - Nick Fury putting together a team of the Avengers in 1959. Of course, it totally takes away from the spontaneous creation of the so-called original Avengers, but that probably doesn't bother Bendis, even though it should, with everything he's ever said. This is the thing about retcons: they're cool, for the most part, and I think they appeal to the majority of comic book fans, but they can go horribly awry! This is just another example of how that's happening. Kraven, Sabretooth, Nick Fury, Dum Dum, and some other schmucks got together on a team to battle against the Red Skull in the later 1950s and early 1960s and just never happened to mention it? I don't care if the arc ends with the lame Wolverine pseudo-explanation there's just no way this is a good decision. Also, in the present day arc, Spider-Man takes the whole issue to get help for Bobbi, who's dying (but don't worry, she won't die) and it's just...Deodato's art is shitty! And Chaykin's isn't much better! I know there are people who are fans, but I say to you now, those people are crazy! No love for this book.

Superboy 5 - What a fun issue. A great idea, something that's been recycled successfully over the years: A Superboy (or Man) race versus Flash (or Kid Flash). It works here, and I love all the dynamics that go into it: Lori Luthor (getting some good screen time), Cassie, the Teen Titans, the Phantom Stranger and the ongoing weird-ification of Smallville. All these things add up to a great single issue, with a semi-surprise ending, at least to the race, that still advances some of the big ideas that we've been pursuing since the start of this book. Jeff Lemire seems like the perfect writer for this book, as he can strike exactly the right tone between serious, seriously funny, and ridiculous. I hope those boundaries aren't pushed too hard in the near future, because I can see the temptation for Lemire to go there, but I think this book is just about pitch perfect at the moment.

Book of the week goes to Superboy for giving the reader a thrill and a throwback. There's not much more we can ask for.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

dance tickets punched.

College basketball's third season is winding down. The dance cards for eleven teams have already been reserved. Belmont, UNC-Asheville, Old Dominion, Butler, St. Peter's, Indiana State, Morehead State, Wofford, Oakland, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Gonzaga have won their respective tournaments and earned the automatic entries. To keep track of who's definitely in, ESPN's set up this handy page but if you're bored of the facts and want pure prognostication, just turn to Joe Lunardi's Bracketology page.

By now, of course, most people are familiar with the concept of March Madness, even if they're not hoops fans. March Madness has turned into its own mini-Super Bowl, complete with insane advertising dollars being spent, and massive coverage.

This year, every single NCAA Tournament game will be streamed online, a first for an event this big. As Championship Week continues its clip and more teams are admitted to the Tournament, expect to see more and more news on the annual event that has become an office pool staple. Selection Sunday is this Sunday, the 13th of March, so brackets will be out in Monday's paper and, for those too impatient for tradition, on Sunday's webpages, available for immediate printout.

The number one seeds are projected, at this time, as Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Pittsburgh. Where the final teams are seeded and who makes it in off the bubble (still a possibility for UNM!) really affects things, but of those four, it seems as though the safe money's on Duke and Kansas, especially if they're on opposite sides of the bracket. Duke looked invincible earlier in the season and, despite some late-season missteps, should be able to pick up some momentum in the early rounds. Kansas, on the other hand, enters the Tournament with plenty of momentum already. They rank 1st in the nation in field goal percentage and rattled off wins against Top 25 teams Texas A&M and Mizzou in the last week. It'll be no cake walk to get through the Big 12 Tournament, as Duke learned last weekend in the ACC Tourney, but they'll be favored.

Regardless, the madness of March is almost fully upon us. Grab a bracket, enjoy some of the upsets and follow along.

Monday, March 7, 2011

pledge your allegiance to lasers.

Lupe Fiasco's Lasers comes out tomorrow. The story behind the record and whether it would ever come out at all has been long documented, and so has my love for Lupe, since he put out The Cool and the Enemy of the State mixtape. So, I was understandably excited for this album. On first listen, I was more than a little disappointed and I still there there is one big problem with it but, having arrived at my fourth listen in the space of three days, I can safely say this is better than a halfway decent album and it shows great promise for Lupe in the future.

The album starts off with "Letting Go" featuring Sarah Green, but Kanye's the real one who's a guest here, even though he's nowhere to be found on the album. This track really seems inspired by 808s as well as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in so far as the vocal distortions and the subject matter. It's a great way to open the album and if we'd had more tracks with Lupe being backed on the hook by a nice female voice, this album would have been an instant classic. The trend continues on the next track, second single "Words I Never Said" which features new It Girl Skylar Grey. (Seriously, where did this girl come from? She popped up so quick and is now in so many things that it's beyond impressive.) "Words I Never Said" has the best lines on the album, but that's not really a surprise, since this is where Lupe excels: he's a pissed-off political rapper who's doing his best to masquerade as a pop-rapper. Sometimes the record label gets upset with that (see the delay) and sometimes they let him do his thing (see: "Your child's future was the first to go with budget cuts/If you think that hurts then wait, here comes the uppercut/The school was garbage in the first place, that's on the up and up" and "Complain about the gloom, but when'd you pick a broom up/Just listening to Pac ain't gonna make it stop/A rebel in your thoughts ain't gonna make it halt/If you don't become an actor, you'll never be a factor"). When he gets to this level, it's hard to argue that he's not one of the greatest voices in the game. (And this isn't new.)

"Till I Get There" does a roundabout way of addressing the label situation and it continues the strong start of the album, mainly because it's just Lupe rapping over a nice enough beat. There's not much more to the song, and that's really the time when he's at his best. There's no guest stars (seriously, thanks for nothing Atlantic) and it's just Lupe talking directly to the people who have been supporting him all this time. If he's not doing politics, this is where he should be at.

The major problems start with track four, where we have our first guest appearance and, surprise, surprise, it's from MDMA! Lupe's verse seems to be about nothing, turning circles on itself just to pass the time (unless it's a shot at Kanye, what with all the references to lights and selling out, etc.) until we have MDMA making his voice felt on the hook, transforming this song (and, essentially, the album) from a Lupe affair to a Black Eyed Peas soundalike. This song sounds exactly like the 3/4 of the Billboard Top 40 that I deleted today after I had listened to approximately a minute of each song. Taio Cruz, Bruno Mars, BEP, etc. This production has no place on a project like Lupe's and, unfortunately, it's not the worst example. Trey Songz visits on the next song "Out of My Head" and we continue this vibe. Lupe's lines are a little better, we get some of the meta-conscious rapping that was en vogue four years ago in the first verse, but after that, it descends back into generic radio-rap song.

I feel like I've already expressed my feelings for "The Show Goes On" but let me say again that I love this song. Love it. ("Even if they turn the lights out, the show is going on!")

Halfway through the album, Lupe starts to get direct about his vision for his Lasers. It's some sort of combination of the politics that is clearly close to his heart, and living life passionately, and triumphing over old loves. I know that sounds weird for the direct vision that I just talked about, but it seems as though all the external projections at this point start to get turned inward. This, to me, is really the good turning point of the album. "Beautiful Lasers" is the first track to hit the central theme of the album right on its head. And that major theme is fear. There's a lot of it on Lasers. Sure, there's the fear we all know about, of the album not coming out at all, of it flopping when it does, etc. These, however, are the same old things that everyone stresses about. When it comes down to it, I think Lupe's hope for his Lasers trumps everything else that he's doing. And the most dominant thought in his head, it seems, especially during this song, is that maybe other people aren't going to live up to his visions of them. But even worse than that, maybe he won't live up to his own visions. There's no doubt that this song is about other people, in a relationship sense, but there's also no denying the fact that he hedges that with every line, reaffirming that, at the end of the day, it's a song about overcoming himself more than anything else.

"Coming Up" vetoes everything I just wrote by being just another generic rap song. It's a filler track that should have been cut, but "State Run Radio" pops up next and gets back to the political message from the beginning of the album. That being said, it's a pretty generic song, and it's nothing special. The best thing about the song is that it makes me think of former Dispatch band State Radio. Not bad company to keep, but he's not exactly living up to his own billing here. "Break the Chain" continues the trend by trying, but not very hard. It's filled with platitudes and great ideas but doesn't come close to matching the scope of vision of next track, "All Black Everything" - a great thought experiment, even if it's at least partially ripping off Dre and Snoop's "Imagine".

Album closer "Never Forget You" seems to summarize everything almost perfectly. Sweeping hook from a great singer, Lupe's rapping starting on the verses with grand statements like, "Let the record reflect..." and "Let the evidence show..." that, well, ultimately...lead to ho-hum accounts of what he thinks a rapper should say when they're telling an epic story.

All in all, Lupe's new album is an almost perfect reflection of him: uneven, fun at times, frustratingly poppy at others - when it seems like he doesn't want to be. He (and the album) want to do politics and want to be taken seriously above all. He's got the vision of his followers being his Lasers and he takes a few opportunities to talk about what that means. Ultimately, though, the vision is diluted and the rapping is just about par. It's certainly not bad. But it's nowhere near the level it could be. With Lupe's talent for putting words together and his passion for politics and his vision for people, he should be consistently mentioned as one of the greatest to ever do it. As it stands now, he's put out a decent intro album that generated a single that defined him as something he wasn't and a great concept album that promised bigger things. Whether this was really the album that he wanted to put out now or not, the fact remains that Lasers feels dry. There are moments of passion shining through, and there are some good pop choices, but too often, there's neither.

Friday, March 4, 2011

comics for the week of 03/02/11.

I'm trying to find something great to latch onto. I got turned on to Scalped by a friend giving me the first trade, but I didn't think it was as mind-blowingly great as he said it was. Now, Kat told me they're starting to film a Locke & Key TV series in the PGH, so I figured I would give it a try. Any other recommendations? What's Morninglories about?

Green Lantern 63 - Despite the fact that we've seen this book previewed for what seemed like months already, this came across as a solid read. Also, I really didn't miss Mahnke on art here, which was a good thing. I've always tended to favor Ed Benes and I think he did a good enough job here. Interesting that we don't get to see anything of the fight between Krona and the Predator (or the Violet Lanterns, for that matter) but it might have been covered in Brightest Day? I know this has been covered in the past, but I wonder if Johns is going to (further) retcon the Guardians in regards to their shrinking. I love the glimpses of their society from back in the day. And, of course, at the end, the Book of Black and more talk about Abin Sur. Great, great stuff.

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom 1 - Man, this is good. Like, I said, Kat clued me in and when I asked about it at the LCS, a girl who was in there butted her way into my conversation to say it was her favorite book in the last long time. Coupled with the good reviews I'd heard otherwise, I was wiling to take a chance, even though it's the middle of the long arc, apparently. And I'm glad I did. The art is perfectly cartoony, kind of reminding me of old Judd Winick stuff, but not over the top like the new manga style. The book is a semi-quick read, but to be honest, I've never really minded that. I'll definitely be searching out the first two trades and probably picking up the single issues from here on out. Intriguing concept, I'm not sure I'm qualified to say much more yet. I'm digging it, though.

Powers 6 - The last arc of Powers was such a fun run that it made me forget that I was going to drop the book when this newest reboot happened. But now, it's happening again. Another arc about supposed Gods dying? Another time Walker has to hide his powered secret from his partner? The best thing about this book was Deena Pilgrim, but I get the feeling that she's going to be a shade of her former self. (Best line of the book? "How my big shoes feeling?" If we get more of that, more of Deena, more of her coming back into the fold, I'm willing to buy it. But I don't think we really are going to.) She's going to be the occasional foil to the new partner set of Enki and Walker, and I just don't think I care that much. Not about this faux-anti-religious angle that Bendis is now pushing, not about the supposedly new world where the people of the Powers universe are residing, not about much, if any, of it. The second-best part of the issue, though, was the focus on Calista, whom I can see myself caring about very deeply. Tell her story. Move the ideas forward. Stop recycling the same old things that you've already done.

Book of the week goes to Green Lantern. As much as I loved Locke & Key, I can't throw out a solid story from Geoff Johns just because I liked the first issue of the middle of a story that I'm only starting to get into. The fact of the matter is that the War of the Green Lanterns is shaping up to be another blockbuster event. Johns is the master.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

thunder up!

Every time I write about Kevin Durant, I recall the stupidest thing I ever wrote. No, I won't tell you what it is, but, yes, it's still up. So, yeah, this has to be taken with a huge chunk of salt. I've been wrong about KD before and I'll be wrong again. But, for what it's worth...I think there's something to be said here.

Bill Simmons quotes Kenny Smith as musing about the state of the National Basketball League and saying, "If [a small-market team] builds the right pieces around the right guy, he will stay. Period. Duncan stayed in San Antonio because it built the right team around him. Stockton and Malone stayed in Utah because they had each other. Durant will stay in Oklahoma City because of Westbrook and everyone else."

Kevin Durant is an interesting player. When he was drafted, the two biggest lines of thinking were that it might have been a mistake for the Portland Trailblazers to take Greg Oden over him (that one might be close to proven by now) and that he could only bench press 185 pounds. However, now, he's a proven commodity. Despite the Oklahoma City Thunder not doing as well this year as prognosticators said they could or would, no one would deny that Durant is an All-Star, nor that he's one of the most up and coming players in the league.

Oklahoma City seems to be the perfect place for him, too. He's encouraged the nickname of Thunder U. for the team, harkening back to his college days. He's joined on the court by some of the youngest stars the league didn't know it had to offer. And he interacts with his fans and the online community) in the best way a manager could ask for.

But, as the NBA trade deadline passed, and the Thunder made significant moves, it seemed as though this was a day worth noting. This is the beginning of the end. This is the day we will look back on, in future times, and we will realize: Kevin Durant saw that the NBA is a business. He pretended, and the Thunder enabled him to pretend, that it was fun, that he nad his buddies could hang out together forever. That they would be able to maintain this atmosphere, this environment, forever. That the fans would come all in blue and make it, in his words, a college-like environment.

But this was the day when that all changed. His own words prove it. First he termed it a hard day and just three hours later, he was claiming how deathly quiet the team bus was. These are the kinds of ways Kevin Durant wears his heart on his sleeve.

Years from now, when we look back, we'll see a change in Durant from this day forward. I believe this.

However.

There is one thing that can stop this. If Kendrick Perkins plays out of his mind and the Thunder go on a tear, and they make the Western Conference Finals, and they make it to the NBA Finals, and maybe, maybe, maybe, if they win - that will change things. Winning makes everything okay. Everything. Look at the list that Simmons compiled. Duncan: 4 championships (and maybe counting). Stockton and Malone: continually pushing to the border of winning it all. Winning is all that matters.

If the Thunder start to kill, Durant will stay. If not, ten years from now, we'll look back and see that, however brilliant Sam Presti is, he made a mistake in trading away Kevin Durant's friends, in robbing him of his belief that things could be the way he thought they were.