Wednesday, February 29, 2012

comics for the week of 02/22/12.

A great week overall, but definitely the week when I decided that I read comics for the stories, not the pretty pictures. Sorry, Manapul, that's not gonna cut it anymore.

Fantastic Four 603 - Jonathan Hickman is the other side of Scott Snyder! While Snyder is plotting seriously epic superhero fare, Hickman is taking standard superhero affairs and making them into sprawling, year-long stories that make sense not only month to month, but also when viewed on the longest of timelines. He's brilliant! The deaths in this issue felt fresh, even though we knew they were coming, the revelation of the weapon felt intimidating and the ending, where we thought, OK, it's over, revealed that Hickman is still building! Incredible.

Flash 6 - The worst comic that I've intentionally bought since the New52 relaunch. This felt like a 1950s Superman comic, where Clark had to choose between rescuing Lois Lane and Lana Lang. The only thing that half-saved it was the gorgeous art by Manapul, but that will no longer be enough. This book is definitively being dropped. The Captain Cold change didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would, but that wasn't what it came down to. Manapul, if we're being honest, isn't much of a storyteller. There's nothing wrong with that, most people aren't, and most people don't have half his artistic chops to fall back on. But I'm not going to continue to pay 3 bucks a month to look at pretty pictures, and be frustrated by the story. The whole will-he-or-won't-he with Barry Allen has been done before and done better with other characters. I'm not going to stick around to see the conclusion I already know.

Ultimate Spider-Man 7 - I'm not sure if the problem was me or the issue last month, but this issue stood head and shoulders above 6, for me, in terms of story and Samnee's art. The pitch was perfect, the jokes were plentiful, and the interactions were all dead-on. I'm glad that Bendis is still writing this, and that he's had such a historic run on this title, because, honestly, it makes me feel like I imagine people did when comics were first starting. There's just one guy writing it, there's just one little (albeit bigger than Lee imagined things would become in the 60s) universe to deal with, and things matter. When something happens, like Peter Parker dying, it stays happened and isn't used as merely another plot point in inching some pseudostory quote-unquote forward. I ditched Ultimate Spider-Man after the last reboot, so I'm sad to say that my collection has some significant holes in it, but I've been so delighted since jumping back on. It doesn't hurt that Ultimate X-Men and the Ultimates are so, so, so, so good right now, too, but, honestly, I'm not sure that I would be enjoying this book any less if they weren't stellar, too. Great stuff.

Wolverine and the X-Men 6 - Another issue that was better than its former counterpart, and I liked the last issue just fine! We get Kid Omega and Wolverine in space, gambling. We get Kitty Pryde, not pregnant, but invaded by Brood. And we get all kinds of wacky hi-jinks inbetween. You can't ask for much more from an X book that is obviously priding itself on its nostalgia factor. More than that, I continue to be blown away by Jason Aaron's talents. The fact that he can write a book like this at the same time as a book like Scalped is a testament to his talent.

Book of the week goes to Fantastic Four 603. The sheer scale of Hickman's writing is virtuoso.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

new mexico high school state basketball tournament.

The brackets have been released, the teams have been seeded and the matchups have been set. The most exciting time of the year for almost all basketball fans starts right now, with the NMAA high school State Tournament gearing up, bleeding right into the NCAA national tournament. Before we make it to college-level, though, we get to enjoy the preps.

With no disrespect shown to the smaller schools, the first look is at the 5A girls field. Eldorado captured the first seed and reaped may rewards. The first big noticeable effect is a lack of in-district opponents unless the Eagles make it to the championship game. Both Sandia and La Cueva made the tourney on the other side of the bracket, as the 7 and 6 seed, respectively, so it's certainly a possibility. However, with Clovis clocking in as the second seed, Volcano Vista as the 3, and Mayfield rounding things up as the 4 seed, the field is a tough one. No one school's path looks easy, even if Eldorado avoids their in-district competition. Volcano Vista might have an issue with the slight of receiving a 3 seed, but if they've been bumped up a spot, they still would have been on the same side of the bracket, and they'd be facing a potential matchup with Sandia much more quickly.

The talk begins with Eldorado, as the 1 seed, and stays focused in the heights thanks to the power of that district. However, such shading shouldn't cause anyone to overlook Hobbs – the Eagles come in as the 5 seed; Las Cruces – the Lady Bulldawgs went 17-9 in the regular season and 6-2 in their district – or the upset-minded Carlsbad Cavegirls, who enter the tournament on a losing streak of pretty serious proportions, and who have to be eager to put an end to that.

The boys bracket confirms what most watchers have known all year long: the Las Cruces Bulldawgs are the number one team in the state. Albuquerque High, La Cueva – perhaps by virtue of winning Round 4 on Saturday night – and Cibola wrap up the top four seeds in the boys tournament.

However, once again, there is a concentration of wealth from Albuquerque. Unlike the girls tournament though, this power is divided between two regions, the first being the west side. Aforementioned Cibola is the 4 seed, but Volcano Vista also represents at the 7 spot, and Rio Rancho squeezes in at number 16. No surprise where the other pocket pops up: the northeast heights of Albuquerque look to make another strong push for supremacy with Eldorado at the 5 seed, Manzano at the 13, and Sandia at 11.

With 9 of the 16 teams in the field being from the city, Albuquerque has once again staked a claim as the seat of power, but Las Cruces has looked incredible all year. Surely, the team is fired up to prove something for their southern citizens.

The first round of state basketball games are played at the home gym of the higher seed. After that, all boys games are played at the Pit, near UNM's campus, and girls' games are played at the Santa Ana Star Center. Class A quarterfinals will be played at Bernalillo High School. As always, the games can be streamed via ProView Networks, given that you are a paid subscriber.

Monday, February 27, 2012

comics for the week of 02/15/12.

A solid week, but nothing worth bragging about. I feel like I'm ripe for some serious change.

Batman 6 - A solid continuation of the storyline that I feel like I didn't enjoy as much as my friends did, especially after the epic nature of issue 5. I also thought it was going to conclude the arc and while I'm happy it didn't (the story deserves more!) it was a little bit of a gotcha. With this issue, though, Snyder has confirmed, for me, that this story is not just something that's going to be hot this year. It's something that's going to have real roots (backwards in time even) and reach, with these characters sticking around. Shit, they've got Professor Pyg in Arkham nowadays, so I'm sure the Court of the Owls is going to be a big deal. This just shows more and more how transcendent Snyder is becoming. Is he the single best cape and tights superhero plotter? I'm gonna have to hedge my answer for now, because of Kirkman, but he's fast approaching that level.

Fables 114 - It's past redundant to say this, but Fables kicks ass every month. I was shocked when they surpassed the Adversary story in such less space of issues, but it's been even better since the Dark Man's been beaten. The storylines that are going on right now are all engaging, even more so with the Wolves and the Wind storyline since the North Wind made his sacrifice. Even the Oz arc isn't bothering me the way it used to. In this issue, we get to see one of the baby wolves get duped by a seriously sinister looking toy boat, as well as the start of a clean up to Fabletown (yeah, good call not calling it Castle Dark anymore) that's going to be fractured by the former fat lady. Damn, this book is good.

Ultimate X-Men 7 - The all-Quicksilver issue wasn't bad, but the interaction with Wanda is still weird, because I still can't tell whether she's really supposed to be alive, or if she's actually in Pietro's head and he's genuinely crazy. But the reveal at the end wasn't that shocking given the dialogue and it doesn't actually clear anything up for me regarding Wanda and her life status. I'm guessing this is going to be a big deal, though, especially since Pietro's been in the White House, and it looks like this whole Nimrod debacle is his fault and maybe his doing.

Book of the week goes to Fables for maintaining that level. Even when we're bouncing around between stories, not getting much in each, it's better than most comics out there. But if Snyder continues to write Batman like he has, Vertigo titles won't stand a chance.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

lin goes bananas.

With a game-winning three over the Toronto Raptors, the Jeremy Lin story was taken to the next level. The Raptors are certainly no team to brag about beating, but Lin has now been too good for too long to be taken as anything other than the real deal.

While Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather spar on Twitter about whether or not there's a racist element to the lionizing that's going on, the rest of the pundits are salivating over the pure numbers. In five starts, Lin has five wins. The Knicks have gone from a laughingstock that would, perhaps, get better if Carmelo Anthony shot the ball less frequently to the team Anthony is having the give interviews about, saying he can co-exist with Lin when he comes back from injury.

Lin has notched a double-double in two of the last five games and has scored 20 or more each time. When he torched the Lakers on Friday night for 38 points, people claimed he couldn't keep it up. He matched up with phenom Ricky Rubio in Minnesota just one night later, going for 20-8-6 and the all-important win.

Even Stephen Colbert is singing his praises. So what to make of a player that comes from out of nowhere – a career at Harvard doesn't exactly count, although he did set a school record and generally impress the Ivy League – and who's bounced around since graduating from college without being drafted into the NBA? His two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors was filled with rookie type of minutes and the dwindling box scores that accompany garbage time. After being waived at the beginning of this lockout-shortened season, Lin was claimed off waiver wires by the Houston Rockets, where he was subsequently waived again before playing in a single regular-season game.

Since coming to the Knicks, though, Lin's story has changed dramatically. He began competing for a third- or fourth-string point guard spot, only to have his team suffer one of those uniquely good cases of bad luck. Injuries and setbacks conspired to spring Lin on the unsuspecting masses, and he's rewarded that leap of faith.

Lin has already proved he's for real. Now the only question is: How long can he keep this up? The Knicks get to pick on the visiting Sacramento Kings tonight and New Orleans on Friday. On Sunday, though, the Knicks have a game on ABC pitting them against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Lin's been impressive. Now the feat will be to get consistent.

Monday, February 13, 2012

comics for the week of 02/08/12.

Tons of good stuff and not much bad to say. You can't ask for much more than that.

Batwoman 6 - Not drawn by JH Williams, still satisfying. While I was happy with the story and the art, I do have to say that if it's going to be a half and half thing, I might have trouble maintaining my love for this title. When Williams is drawing this bad boy it's clearly head and shoulders above all the other superhero books. When he's not, well, it's not. I know that sounds simplistic, but that doesn't mean it's not true. The story here is best when it's in the present, with Kane working for the DEO, but it's definitely clear that Williams is not just a penciller - he's got solid ideas that are being fleshed out in the flashbacks, and I'm along for the ride. Keep up this end and we'll all have nothing to worry about

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 6 - An interesting look back at Nikki and Robin. The whole time I was reading this issue, I thought Robin was Gunn, and that made me wonder when the first instance of someone from the Angelverse for sure appearing in the Dark Horse Buffyverse will occur. (Like, for instance: Wasn't Gunn solidly a vampire last time we saw him? I gave up on the Angel book sometime after LA became Hell. It was too much for me. But I occasionally still Byrne-stole it. So I'm passingly familiar. But obviously not enough so. Unless they're changing things. Which I think they said they were going to have to do...) Getting back on track, there's no way Buffy's really going to have an abortion, right? And are we all solidly on the idea that she didn't just get drunk, pass out, and become pregnant? There's got to be more to this than that. Even if we're trying a back to basics approach for Season Nine, that seems a little above and beyond. That's not basics. That's...poor judgment. And I know Buffy's never been the best judge, but...this seems beyond the pale.

Green Lantern 6 - With a focus on the non-hero side of Hal, I actually found myself liking this book more. I don't really know why. I have no interest in Hal Jordan as a character, but maybe it was just so refreshing to see him operating on a level we don't normally get to see. The Sinestro side story was also better than normal. Although I didn't really enjoy Mike Choi's art, I think this might have been my favorite issue since the relaunch. I'll be curious to see how Carol blames Hal for this when it's clear that he doesn't really want it (as of this moment).

Powers 8 - Not worth the wait. Not even really gonna get into it, because it's not worth talking about unless it's really going to continue. But I will say that it was refreshing to read Bendis taking ultimate responsibility in the letters column and to hear him say there were no excuses. I'll give a recap for 8 and 9 if/when 9 comes out.

Resurrection Man 6 - Mitch is trapped in Arkham! Great premise for this book, with the guards unwilling to kill him, but totally willing to use him in any other way for their own benefit. Of course, the ending is perfect, showing that single-issue comics can still have magnitude and meaning. Here's to looking forward to resuming the overarching plot, while still having the flexibility to take these sorts of detours.

The Unwritten 34 - Tom Taylor takes on the Cabal! Last issue, it looked like Tommy was up the creek, but this issue, he pulls a rabbit out of his hat, and things turn out all right. Pretty impressive, of course, especially on the parts of Lizzie and Savoy. Savoy in particular has really come into his own since taking his vampire fall, and I love where this is going, insofar as the showdown between Pullman and Tom.

Wolverine and the X-Men 5 - Problems are cropping up for the school, in that most historied kind of way. The only problem I had with this issue was the fact that the new penciller, whom I admitted I like just fine, really screwed the pooch with Bobby. He looked like he was approximately 12 years old, playing dress up in his dad's suit. The way that Wolvie is going to deal with the money problems will be interesting, although not a surprise, thanks to the ads. The ongoing dilemma with the students at the school, though, is really where the bread and meat of this series gains its traction. I love Lil' Brood and the introduction of Genesis is going to give everyone tons of ground to trod upon. Really liking this book.

Book of the week goes to Buffy. In continuing to explore real world problems in a fantastic setting, they're doing things that other comic writers have been perpetually scared to do.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

comics for the week of 02/01/12.

Remember approximately a month ago, when all I got was Animal Man, Rachel Rising and Swamp Thing and I made my comment about how all I'd gotten was horror comics and it was a throwback to EC? Yeah, well, take that week and add Locke & Key and Invincible. Damn. This was fantastic. (Also, hilarious that last week I said Marvel was winning and this week, I have no Marvel books. I skipped on Winter Soldier and I haven't started buying singles of X-Force yet, even though I'm reading it.)

Animal Man 6 - Easily the worst issue of the week. The fill-in was obvious, the story was noneventful and the delay felt palpable. Really, really disappointed that we didn't see anything of consequence. Also, I might not have been (and I still might not be, to be honest) the world's biggest Travel Foreman fan, and certainly John Paul Leon's art felt more traditional, but it just didn't sit right on this book. It's got a definite feel by this point and Mr. Leon, talented though he may be, didn't hit it. Really bummed out by this one.

Invincible 88 - A damn good issue that actually played out significantly different than I thought it would. If Kirkman keeps up with this idea machine, he just might get his wish of the longest running, most kickass superhero series ever. The cooler heads will prevail train of thought almost came through on this one, which was the most impressive thing about it. The way that Allen, Mark, Oliver and Thragg all sat around and discussed things, even with all the veiled threats was incredible. More proof that Kirkman can write a variety of scenes extremely well.

Locke & Key 4 - This book is so unfair. A whole issue set in the past, where we learned so many good things, and still were left hanging at the end! Along with all the good things we learned, there were some messed up elements, too. Dodge turns out to have been a way better guy than Rendell, which is a sad realization, although I guess they spent the rest of their respective lives changing those facts. There's no doubt that Dodge is truly evil now, but...damn. I really don't think he was at this point. Also, this has got to be the scene that Duncan painted and it's just more evidence that Joe Hill is a great, great plotter. He's had these large beats down for quite a while, huh? The way that the shadows were interacting, the intermixed love interests and the reversal of fates here give this Locke & Key series a head above anything else that could be happening. Homerun.

Rachel Rising 5 - Terry Moore advised that we read this issue in an elevator, and by the end of the issue (although there's a hint on the cover), we know why. My only complaint is that as soon as I saw the foster parents, I knew the dad was gonna be a sick pervert. It's refreshing how well Moore writes women, but it's disappointing that he suffers just as much from the Virgin/Whore concept, just when it comes to guys. They're all either David, flawed (yet perfect) sinners or worthless predators who can do no right. The book is still good, though, especially on its core concept: a girl who's (kind of) come back from the dead. The introduction of her best friend, and the recurrence of a concept from SiP (Ma Malai) were the best things here.

Swamp Thing 6 - This book gets the silver medal this week. After the disappointment of Animal Man, I was worried that Lemire would have convinced Snyder to take a week off, too, so their stories could still align perfectly. No need to worry! Snyder just might be the best mainstream superhero books writer nowadays, huh? Here, Alec Holland gets tortured by watching his semi-girlfriend get eaten alive by the Rot, screwed over by her brother, abandoned by the Green (probably not really) and, just before the end, has to be momentarily saved by that same girlfriend, in an ultimate humiliation. Man, this is some really, really good stuff. The only troubling part? Another guest artist! Not a bad one, as opposed to the AM counterpart, but it was noticeable. I'm guessing that baby brother is going to have to die soon, as Abby's going to take over Big Bad duties, but I really wouldn't mind if both of them were alive to keep this tension going. Solid book.

Book of the week goes to Locke and Key. When this book comes out, it's open season on all other books. By the end of its run, I'd be shocked if it hasn't earned a place on my Top 10 (maybe even Top 5) books of all time list. Someone love me? Get me that limited run edition of the first book that just came out. Retails for a hundred bucks. But it'd be worth it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

super bowl xlvi.

The Giants beat the Patriots and all of a sudden, we've got a new meme. The idea that Tom Brady is incapable of beating Eli Manning gained some serious traction on Sunday night, as the New York G-Men beat New England's favorite son for the second time in the biggest game of them all.

While the biggest story at the water cooler on Monday morning might revolve around the half time show and the maybe-controversy of Madonna's guest M.I.A. flipping the bird, there was plenty of football to comment on, too. The game, while sloppy in many places, proceeded at a pace that was far from predicted. The 38 total points fell pretty easily under the Vegas-based line of 53, and probably surprised many people who were expecting an offensive slugfest with little defense.

With 2 points scored in the first six minutes of play, the Giants seized control of the game quickly, thanks to an unusual safety. Brady had attempted a pass from his own end zone, which was ruled intentional grounding, resulting in the 2 points and a return of possession to the Giants.

Just five and a half minutes later, the Giants scored on that drive, making the score 9-0. The Patriots were seemingly on the ropes. However, New England started the second quarter by chipping in a field goal after five minutes. They proceeded to make two strong defensive stands, sandwiched by an anemic offensive set of three and out, but followed up that weakness by going 99 yards in just under 4 minutes - a performance that netted them a touchdown and the lead to go into halftime.

After the halftime controversy that wasn't – although it's probably a good thing Heather Wilson isn't our Representative here in New Mexico anymore – the big surprises started coming. The slow start might have been expected, given Super Bowl-sized nerves, but surely no one counted on 19 points in the first half being repeated in the second.

The Patriots grabbed a lead, seemingly confident even as the Giants first kicked one field goal and then another, to pull within two points. But the 4th quarter opened with Brady throwing it deep, only to be intercepted. The following drive by the Giants, while resulting in no points, killed enough clock that things were getting to an end point no matter what. With that same two point lead, the Patriots were in delicate positioning.

That perilous footing proved to be disastrous when, following a null Patriots set, the Giants got deep enough field position that New England coach Bill Belichick gambled on allowing the touchdown to go through, leaving Brady and Co. just under one minute to put together a game-winning drive.

It wasn't to be. Despite making one first down. the clock continued to murder any chances of New England making their come back, and Brady's final two Hail Marys resulted in nothing but false hope for those who were rooting for the Patriots.

Belichick and Brady are now 2-5 in Super Bowls together, and Manning is 2-2. No one can deny the Patriots their place as a (mini-) dynasty, but it appears as though there is a new force to be reckoned with at the top of the heap.