Wednesday, November 30, 2011

comics for the week of 11/30/11.

The world of comics is shifting drastically, with the advent of digital publishing and the new 52 and the integration of Image as one of the Big Three and the emergence of viable options for printing short runs on books and still making money. And yet...Marvel and DC still seem to rule nearly everything. Is parity really achieved if nothing changes?

Angel and Faith 4 - The end of the first arc and it's a good one. Faith confronts Angel about his plan, but he dodges it in a way that makes Faith pull back on a bit of her criticism, which might have been his intent. The ex-Slayers still want to kill him, his ex-servants got what they wanted after all, and Angel just might be...well...becoming Giles. The last two pages were magnificent.

FF 12 - After the brilliance of Fantastic Four 600, I wasn't sure if I was going to jump back into bed with the Future Foundation, but I'm so glad I did. Despite some subpar art, I think the saga of Franklin Richards is really one that needs telling. If it requires Doom, his son, Nathaniel Richards and (maybe he's gone, but I doubt it) an alternate universe Reed to do so, let's get it on!

Fables 111 - I really don't know how to review this issue. The sad fate of Bufkin hangs over everything else that happened, but I'm not really convinced that it happened. Winter is the new King, as she's been fated to be, and Bufkin appears to have been killed. But are either of those things truly firmed up? I, for one, am not a believer. Not yet. Not totally. All that being said, the book continues to be one of the best on the market, numbing in its brilliance. This must be what it feels like to be Federer or Djokovich - so good, so often that it's just unfair to the rest of your competition and, when you're off, it feels like a much bigger deal than it really is.

The Ultimates 4 - This, though, is the book that I get most excited about, week in and week out. (A note here to say that, if Locke and Key came out on anything resembling a regular schedule, it would fill that spot. But it's not even close.) The revelation that took place in this issue is one that any comic fan worth their salt already knew was coming - it was so obvious! Yet, it's a sign of Hickman's superb writing that it still felt fresh and shocking when we actually got to see the Maker's face. Thor got his ass handed to him, Nick Fury's gonna have to compromise and Tony got put in check. Still no sign of Steve. I wonder if he's really out. And now, does this mean that the World (how funny that this term is being thrown around in two totally dissimilar books) will be here, with us, for the foreseeable future in the Ultimate Universe? Great potential there.

Book of the week is Fables. I've written it before, and I did above, but it's kind of awesome how consistent this book is. It kills so predictably month after month after month after month that it's easy to look at it and say, "Yeah, it was just great. Again." But we shouldn't overlook that.

the nba is back.

Over the Thanksgiving break, there was no happier news than the revelation, entirely unexpected, that the NBA would in fact, have a season this year. With game's slated to begin on Christmas Day (although the schedule appears to still be in doubt), this is the best present a basketball fan could ask for.

Of course, almost immediately the attitude of reporters and bloggers went from grateful for having a season to their default setting of cynicism and calling out trade rumors as legitimate news. This is shocking, given the national media's earlier restraint.

The rumormongering might not be so prevalent, however, if there were more concrete facts available. Billy Hunter claims that the players will be getting 51.2% of the aforementioned Basketball Revenue Income (BRI) and there's not much reason to doubt him. However, we've yet to see an official schedule of games from the NBA. While there's no conspiracy theorizing (yet) going on, there certainly is a dearth of information in a culture that is starving for sustenance.

Current Las Vegas odds favor the Miami Heat to win the season, with the Toronto Raptors clocking in with the lowest chance. The Los Angeles Lakers, of course, figure into that equation, as do the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and, of course, the Boston Celtics, who introduced their own trade rumors just recently.

Regardless of the odds, though, of a season that wasn't even in existence a mere week ago, the simple truth is that NBA fans have a lot to be thankful for. The usual doldrums of the season might be lost in this proposed-66 game schedule, and the traditional masterpiece of Christmas day games appears to be standing strong.

As a dyed-in-the-wool basketball fan, I know this might sound a little bit like sacrilege (even though every serious basketball fan has had this discussion at several points in their fandom, it seems like the stink eye is alway the response) but it might be time to think about shortening the season and making this a regular season. Football as America's religion is not just a trope as this point; it's a fact. So, if the NBA can make a splash by starting the season on Christmas and then playing out their "It's early in the season, no one cares about these games," period in January and early February, while the NFL is building to the Super Bowl, maybe that's not a bad thing.

The time for longterm plans, now, thankfully, seems far off. The time for celebration? Just about to begin. Welcome back, NBA.

Monday, November 28, 2011

comics for the week of 11/23/11.

The shock of the DCnU is fading a bit. There's things about it that kill me still, but, overall, I just don't care enough to continue raging against it. The couple good books are great, but overall...I'm just tired of it.

Fantastic Four 600 - 100 pages of amazing. This book was frustratingly priced when I bought it, but I don't understand how anyone could regret paying for it after reading it. What a great read. Every single story was good, the different illustrators all brought their strengths and we've got several stories that are still intriguingly going. There were some resolutions, but not many; more like halfway points. Hickman's got a gift for the long view and I'm really enjoying the way he's weaving together disparate elements. Johnny Storm's story is the one everyone's going to be talking about, but I think it's clear that Franklin Richards has been the simmering star of this book since Hickman's taken over. This is just another aspect where Marvel, tragically/unbelievably not DC, has been pushing their legacies in a true, meaningful way.

The Flash 3 - Perhaps my least favorite issue of this run so far. Manapul's art is as beautiful as ever, but it's just not enough. The story is cool enough, I guess, but I'm having a hard time caring about Barry and his relationship with this woman, when we all know that Iris is waiting in the background. Plus, his buddy, whose name I can't even remember, doesn't feel like a character I care about, nor should. He's been introduced, I've been fed their retconned history, but I don't believe that he's going to stick around, so why get attached? The biggest compliment I can muster for this iteration of the Flash is that I would love to own any page of the original artwork.

Invincible 85 - I'm not going to insist on my viewpoint having to be right, but damn, how great would it be, after Oliver's monologue in this issue, if he ended up having to protect Earth from his brother? Robert Kirkman has such a wide lense available to him insofar as storytelling and it's magnificent to see that he's able to continue in such diverse ways. The only bad note on this book was Cory Walker's art, which is a sad thing to say, given that he's the OG, but let's all just be honest: Ryan Ottley is a far superior talent. The art looked flat compared to Ottley's brilliance and it took away from the story, even if just slightly. The battle between Nolan and Allen has been brewing for a while now, and I'm looking forward to seeing the two of them truly go at it.

Locke & Key One-Shot - I had told myself that I was going to stop buying the individual issues of Locke & Key. The wait between issues is just too frustrating, and the hardcover trades are just too appealing, so it made little sense to spend double on this title. But I just couldn't resist its appeal on the shelves and I was right not to. At first blush, this book seems like a short, unnecessary read. But upon reading the guide to the keys in the back and going back through the story to see who the characters actually are, and their relation to the characters we know, it seems like some of this info might come back in a useful way. Bode's hand-drawn additions to that appendix, also, are a totally great touch, indicative of the level of thought that's going into this title, making it the best comic book on the market.

The Unwritten 31.5 - The backstory of Pullman - and he's old as hell! I mean, we knew that, but damn. This got the point fives off to a great start and now I'm looking forward to these supplements even more than I was when I first heard of the idea. I loved the mini-stories, each with its own art team, and I loved the fact that the character they were profiling didn't even appear in each. This is how a story can truly be broken down (or decompressed, if you prefer that Bendis-ian term) in a way that is enlightening for the reader, not just padding for the company.

Wolverine and the X-Men 2 - This is what I've been waiting for! The X-Men are not only good again, they're great. Bachelo's art is hitting the spot and Jason Aaron (remarkably) is writing this book in the perfect manner: it's got nods to the past (check the big bad) and a deft handling of a group cast. I can see myself reading and loving this book for a long, long time. The only bad note is the acknowledgement that, yes, the kiddie Hellfire Club is ridiculous. I can't take them seriously. If they get replaced or aged, this book will be perfect.

Book of the week would have been Wolvie, but Fantastic Four was just too epic. If this isn't your book of the week, that's because you didn't pick it up and if that's the case, you made a huge mistake.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

lobos beat duke.

If the headlines referred to basketball, this would be a big deal. However, seeing as it was the second round of the NCAA Tournament for soccer, it's hard to see why this isn't a bigger deal. Granted, it's not one of the magically large college sports that dominate not only the media but the social atmosphere. Regardless, a sell-out crowd of 6,200 (and then some!) at the UNM Soccer Stadium acted like it was a big deal to them.

Due to the intricacies of the selection process, the Lobos, ranked number one in the country in almost every poll – and certainly by every poll that matters to the NCAA selection committee – and the only undefeated team in the country, got a 10 seed. This afforded UNM the luxury of a bye in the first round of the tournament but also presented a tough match up in the second round: Duke.

UNM seemed to control the first half, running ahead on corner kicks 4-1, forcing the Duke goalkeeper to make 2 saves to UNM's one, and staying ahead in the foul count 7-4. The only area where UNM was behind, in fact, was shots, where Duke led 8-6. All the breakdown of stats, though, could not prepare the Lobos or the crowd for Duke's Nick Palodichuk breaking free of the defense a mere six minutes into the second half and putting one in the back of the net. Playing a goal down, UNM had to increase their pressure, whereas Duke settled into a deep freeze, content to push when the opportunity seemed ample, but happy to let their lead win the game for them otherwise. The change that allowed UNM back in the game was a red card received by Chris Tweed-Kent, forcing Duke to play the last 15 minutes of the second half a man down. The equalizer came in the 82nd minute on a solo blast from Blake Smith. The crowd, teetering on the edge on nervous insanity mere moments before, burst into cheers. The undefeated season still had a chance!

The overtime goal to win the game was a thing of beauty: Matthew Gibbons sent in the perfect cross, Devon Sandoval headed it back across the net, and Carson Baldinger sent it straight to the back of the net. The crowd erupted, the UNM players held up their arms in triumph and Duke sank down to the field, justified in feeling they'd missed their opportunity.

The next game that UNM plays will be in South Florida, against the number 7 seed. Thanks to the aforementioned 10 seed that the number one Lobos received, they are unlikely to play any more home games. However, the game will be played at 4 PM (MST) and will be broadcast online, through golobos.com. It might not have the air of the more-prestigious football or basketball programs, but it is the number one team in the country, fighting for every inch – and it's a beautiful game.

Monday, November 21, 2011

comics for the week of 11/16/11.

The quirkiest thing about the DCnU is how it plays havoc with all the other numbering systems. Rachel Rising, the new Ultimate books, etc. just so happen to be closely aligned with the relaunch which means that some weeks, all of the books I pick up are the same number. This might have never happened before.

Batman 3 - The Court of Owls is here! People are freaking out over this issue (in a good way) and it was good, don't get me wrong, but where were these people's cheers for the last two months? Batman by Scott Snyder has always been this good, maybe even more so when Batman was Dick Grayson. (Although that might be the bitterness speaking.) The rich backstory that's being weaved here feels much less like a retcon and much more like something that would actually happen in Gotham. I'm still really interested in the reason for the Grayson DNA, but I'm sure that's not the type of detail that Snyder hasn't got planned all the way out. If you like your Batman to be the best, you should accept no substitute for Snyder. Just because people were pleasantly surprised by how not bad Tony Daniels was on Detective is no reason to act like there's not a clear king. This is it, folks.

Justice League 3 - Wonder Woman is a weirdass who acts more like an alien than Superman and Aquaman is gonna try on his badass act for a little while. Overall, it's kind of a drag. We have the re-introduction of Darkseid happening and I guess it's cool for people who have been out of comics for 20 years, but for the rest of us, there have been so many spins on him in the last 5-10 that it's just more of the same. He's bounced from Superman/Batman to Infinite Crisis and everywhere in between and I don't care how much faith I previously had in Geoff Johns, there's no way that I think he's actually gonna get a fresh take on the New God. Especially not when so much of that supposedly fresh take depends on Jim Lee pencils making the paratroopers look 'different', hinting that Darkseid might be infinitely powerful, and alienating voices coming out of characters that I've known for a long, long time. I'm off this book at the end of the first arc and if I wasn't such a junkie, I would just drop it now.

Ultimate X-Men 3 - Wolverine's kid returns with a friend and Bobby, Johnny and Kitty don't actually go anywhere or do anything. This was a disappointment after the excitement of issue two, and I feel like this book will probably get dropped soon, as I don't actually care about most of these characters. Jimmy is interesting, Pietro looks like he might go somewhere, and I want to see Johnny meet up with the new Spidey, but I feel like that's more likely to happen over in Ultimate Spider-Man. As for the rest...how compelling are the X-Men? It always depends on Magneto. And if they're just struggling against the specter of his ghost (yes, I did that on purpose)....well, I don't think the draw can last very long at the level that it did previously. I reserve the right to be pleasantly surprised, though.

Book of the week is Batman. Between this and Batwoman, it's clear that there are some great things happening at DC. Too bad it took such a piss-poor drastic measure to get some great titles, which, for what it's worth, were already being produced. The sweet with the sour, I guess.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

comics for the week of 11/9/11.

Apparently I forgot to put this up. My bad.

Batwoman 3 - The fight with La Llorona gets real and Batwoman comes out a victor in at least one sense. However, her relationship with Maggie takes a bad turn, and she kicks her cousin out of the fight, setting up some bad circumstances. The DEO takes on the Colonel and he shuts them down. The art, as always, is the most beautiful thing I've seen outside of Locke & Key. The premise, the setup, the follow-through...everything is good here. This book delivers on a level that no other books even aspire to.

Buffy 3 - The reveal of the Siphon was well done, and Spike gets to fulfill his promise of becoming a more major character again. However, I do have to say, this book is falling a bit behind for me insofar as its booming start. The lack of the Scooby gang, and the casual way they were dismissed in this issue, is starting to bother me. While it's funny to see Andrew spacing on Lady Gaga and I know that Willow will come back and star, it was sad to see Xander and Dawn kind of turn their backs on Buffy. Spike alone cannot take those places. And the last-page reveal sets me up for next issue, but I'm curious how long this can last. I want the band to get back together.

Green Lantern 3 - Sinestro's battle with his Yellow Corps begins - and Hal messes up as only he can. The biggest part of this issue, though, seems like the long-term plans with Ganthet. I'm intrigued by this development with the third army. This book is maintaining its pace as one of the best in the DCnU, but is the most obviously non-rebooted book.

Rachel Rising 3 - This book continues to baffle in the best way. We have a clear bad guy, we have some bad shit going on, but I'm not quite sure who the good guy is or what exactly is happening, either. All that being said, I love this book. It's so odd, it's so different than the rest of the books that I'm reading, it makes me want to go back and pick up Echo. Terry Moore is a great storyteller.

Resurrection Man 3 - The Body Doubles really get this issue to themselves, other than Mitch's conversation in Limbo with...a demon? It's a fun issue, but it's also indicative of how this book is probably going to be canceled. There's just not a lot of room for books where we just have fun...which is a shame. The ending, with the obvious not-a-surprise, was worthy of a chuckle, but not much more.

The Unwritten 31 - The War of Words begins here (as it says on the cover) and it's going to be awesome! Tom's mastering his magic and Lizzie is worried it's not gonna last. Spolier: she's right. Tom's gonna be in a world full of hurt at the end of this war, would be my guess. But he'll score at least one important victory. The end of this series might be a lot closer than some people realize.

Ultimate Spider-Man 4 - I wish this book came out more frequently. It's so good. The only bad part is the compressed storytelling, where we get to (have to?) see the death of Peter Parker and his funeral over again. The scenes with Gwen were nice, though, I didn't mind seeing a new angle on that. Also, the ending was killer.

Book of the week goes to Batwoman. This is, by far, the best superhero book being made now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

lobo soccer continues to impress.

Both the men's soccer program as well as the women's team continue to dominate their respective fields, with each capturing important wins over the weekend.

The women cliched the Mountain West Conference championship in the finals with a pair of goals that mirrored each other in time. Scoring nineteen seconds into the game, Natalie Jenks put away the quickest game-winner in MWC tournament history. The game ended with the Lobos on top 2-0 and they secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They will begin play at UCLA on Saturday, November 12. The Lady Lobos are playing in only their second NCAA Tournament and hope to surpass last year's first-round exit.

On the other hand, with their number one ranking secure, and an unbeaten streak that is the talk of the town, the men's team has a bit higher expectations foisted upon them. The men's team also performed admirably over the weekend, shutting out UNLV in an ugly game that saw two ejections from the opposing side in the second half. No doubt frustrated by the score, the Lobos' ability and the fact that they'd already been eliminated from the post-season, UNLV turned what had been a pretty even affair in the first half into a slogged-down, foul-filled game in the last half.

Both teams, obviously, will be cheered for, but there's no denying that, between the rankings, the press and the past history, the men's team will be waiting with bated breath on Monday, November 14, when the men's NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed. Because of the afore-mentioned circumstances, the clear hope – and expectation – is for a healthy slate of home field advantage for the early rounds of the tournament. But no matter where they play, the Lobos are sure to have a target on their backs.

Monday, November 7, 2011

comics for the week of 11/2/11.

I can't believe it, but...I might be delving back into the X books. More than one of my friends has been pushing X-Force on me (and he's right! Read those TPBs, they're so incredibly good) and now I bought Wolverine and the X-Men. Next week, a week late again, yeah, but still, I'll probably pick up Uncanny. Never thought this day would come, but, if you read below, you'll see that I don't regret it, either.

Animal Man 3 - I made the crack on Twitter that between the Red and Black here and the Green (and alluded-to Black) in Swamp Thing the DCnU is starting to look like Magic: The Gathering. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, if it's revealing a deeper focus on in-line continuity. Lord knows they could use some, and if Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are the men to do it, then DC is all the better for it. As for the actual story here, there's a pretty strange revelation, which I think could be incredibly great: the Red tells Animal Man that he actually doesn't matter, except for the fact that he brought his daughter into the world. This has great potential for future storytelling and I'm psyched to see if they'll (DC editorial) allow it to bear fruit. That's the problem with new directions: they're so tempting, but rarely are shown the patience they need. I'm firmly on record as not liking the DCnU, but I'm more than willing to give it time and chance. We'll see if the people pushing it are as willing. Last notes: Travel Foreman's art is nearly as ground-breaking as JH Williams III's, but it's nowhere near as pretty, so it won't get (nor does it deserve) as many accolades. The ending, with the cop? Pure terror. Great book. Buy it.

Invincible 84 - This month: Invincible hints at Darth Vader. Seriously. I'm very concerned. The all-black (except for Mark) cover is the perfect tonal preview for this issue, as we see Mark taking his realization that perhaps he's been approaching things wrong to the penultimate degree. Cecil brings an army and next issue it looks like we're getting the classic dodge; Nolan and Oliver are on the cover next month. Dinosaurus is turning into quite the important character, which is a Kirkman classic: bring someone in for a bit part, revisit them months and months later and look at how there's a whole world around them. This is where Kirkman excels in a very 21st century, post-modern way - he's a storyteller, not just focused on his one baby that he thinks is so important. Lastly, we only got one page of Rex and Monster Girl (who, yes, seriously, is now amazingly hot), but their mystery continues to be dangled in a totally satisfactory manner. This is a comic where at least three stories are being told, and all three of them are fantastic.

Swamp Thing 3 - The other half to the new mystical team of the DCnU and the one I was more excited about originally finally pays off for me. This issue has a little bit of everything: some backstory, some revised history and some new developments, all while being gorgeously illustrated by Yanick Paquette. The story with the kid, William, was disturbing in the best kind of way. I called this the mystical book (with Animal Man) but that's obviously the wrong term. These are clearly horror books, harkening back to the best aspects of the old EC line, but with some nouveau elements that make it impossible to think they're actually relics. The shots of how William kills his victims, and the grim look on his face is deftly handled. And the coolest page in the book is the non sequitur of the little girl in the dress that, I think, is supposed to indicate Alec accessing his powers? It was so out there I had to look at it four or five times to verify that it wasn't just a misprinted page. But it's part of an overall message that this book (and Animal Man) are pushing. Purposeful chaos. It's wicked.

Wolverine and the X-Men 1 - I'm breaking my own rules for this, I know, because this book did not come out this week, but I'd heard such good things about it that I had to get it. And boy am I glad that I did. This could easily be the best book of the week with all the throwback references (Kitty talking smack to the Prof, Logan jokingly asking if Scott had gotten rid of their rooms, Logan vetoing baseball in his chat with Xavier, etc.) and the amazing throwback art. Bachelo has always been a favorite, but when he's getting to play in the X-Universe, it's clear that he's having the most fun. The way the group is going to interact is going to be the best part of this book and I am excited to join the ride. I'm curious if Jason Aaron will be able to keep up his impressive run with a cast that I think is insanely different than I've seen him succeeding in (solo focus or groups that can't stand each other versus this X-Book where they're supposed to be more of a family) but I have enough confidence in his writing ability to trust that he'll get it done. Whether you're an X newbie or an old hand, this book is worth getting, just for an injection of the fun the X books used to be. Plus, come on now: they killed Jean and have kept her dead for how long now? Give them applause for following through!

Book of the week goes to Invincible. This book is incredible and, just when I thought I had an idea of where it may be going, it takes a sharp, drastic turn - maybe. This is the way to stay engaged with a readership, even when you've been at it for more than half a decade.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

no nba.

Tuesday night was supposed to be Opening Day for the National Basketball Association. Instead, we have headlines like "The Opening Day That Wasn't" and New Mexico residents got to see UNM beat up on NAIA Davenport. The defending NBA Finals MVP is saying things indicating that the NBA might lose some of their star power. And, of course, the long shadow of the dominant face of American sports (the NFL, of course) only grows longer.

Basketball should have learned its lesson from the National Hockey League. Even if NBA commissioner David Stern had somehow succeeded in making basketball the most popular sport in America, he should have taken one long, hard look at what happened to the NHL after their lockout and done everything in his power to avoid this. Of course, there are those who claim that he still is. There are those who claim that this lockout is simply about greedy players wanting more money. The refuting of this point having already been done, let's go ahead and assume that people on both sides are working – just not hard enough.

An intermediary could not get the two sides close enough. The cancelation of at least one month of the season is not going to do it either. So what's it going to take?

The economics of the lockout have been broken down so many times that it feels a little frustrating to go over them again. Instead, a little speculation.

There had been talk that the owners were simply waiting for the season to start, for the players to miss their paychecks. This theory held that the owners felt that once money started not appearing, the players would break. With the dawn of new media and the way players are directly connected to both their fans and their sponsors, this seems like a shoddy theory to base your entire game theory around.

On the other hand, how many of the NBA players have super-popular Twitter accounts – or websites, failing that? How many of them have such airtight endorsements that they won't feel the pinch once money is supposed to be rolling in?

The players can present a united front all they'd like (and they really, really, really want to) but there will surely be some cracks in the armor soon. It all depends on how large those cracks appear, and how violently they assert themselves. If guys stop getting together and planning flag football games, you'll know something else is wrong.

For now, the only thing that's wrong is that baseball's over, football's at its midway point and yet, for some reason, there is no NBA on television. It's a sad day for a basketball junkie.