Monday, June 25, 2012

comics for the week of 06/20/12.

Taking suggestions on what to drop when I move.

Batwoman 10 - It's sad how close I am to dropping this book. When JH Williams is doing the pencils, it's the best book on DC's block. No doubt about that. But his storytelling just isn't strong enough yet for a young writer to get away with the pencils that are accompanying the story at this point. We see a revelation about Sune and Maro that I suppose is interesting, but the story has just gone in so many directions at this point, with so few solid plot beats for any of these mini-stories that it's hard to feel any real momentum. There's a good moment between Gordon and Maggie, but that's about it.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 - As different as the Minutemen and Silk Spectre books were, this one was clearly the worst. It struck all the wrong tones with the established character of the Comedian, and I know that was probably part of the point - to see his loss of innocence - but it felt so foreign. And yeah, we get it, JFK was kind of a jerk. But jeez, was that the whole point of the entire issue? The end, with the obvious set up, underestimated Eddie's character - the Comedian we know should have (and would have) seen through the whole thing pretty damn quickly. I know he's younger, so I'm OK with him not seeing through it then, but it should be extremely obvious in the aftermath. Here's to looking forward to what he'll do in response, but I won't be buying this title either.

Fables 118 - Therese's journey in the land of misfit toys takes a dark turn, but big brother Darien is going to turn out to be quite the hero. And Bigby Wolf goes to the other winds to see what they can do for him. The tiger goes through quite the ordeal and that's about it for the main story. I like that we're seeing some action, but it does feel short because of the backups. The Oz story this go round gets some play, it's better than normal, but Bufkin's girlfriend is still the brains behind the whole operation. That's not a bad thing, but I'm not sure how we're supposed to see this as a hero's journey for the flying monkey when he hasn't actually done that much.

Saga 4 - BKV has done so well in the last four months that I felt compelled to re-read the entirety of Y: The Last Man. I'm glad that I did, and it's clearly a much better book than Saga at this point, but I didn't read it because I was unhappy with Saga, but rather because of how good Vaughn's writing has been. He's really, really capable of doing whatever it is that he wants to do and this story is a great one. Here, we get to see Marko and Alana reconcile in a way, but the main focus is on The Will on a planet called Sextillion, where he shows that he's not totally a bad person. There is going to be so much characterization in this book that all we can do every month is just to love what we're getting.

Unwritten 38 - Tommy Taylor keeps plodding along, even without appearing in his own book. Richie Savoy is the main character the last two issues, but the cult of Tommy is the real star, no matter what the English language says about protagonists. This is definitely getting into some of the second act that I talked about seeing coming after the War of the Words. Mme. Rauch is on the way out, the Leviathan is hurt and the new right-hand man will probably turn into the new big bad for a third act, right? But despite this predictability (and I, by no means think that I'm right for sure. I leave wide room for being very, very wrong), the story still comes out in a brilliant manner.

Book of the week goes to Saga. The fact that BKV can switch gears so thoroughly and still tell a killer story proves that he is one of the best young talents in the game.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

king james' coronation nearly complete.

The Miami Heat have a commanding lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are up 3-1. They will play game 5 at home on Thursday night. In the history of the National Basketball Association, no team that has gone down 1-3 in a playoff series has ever come back to win that series.

So, with history on their side, it's time to start assuming that the Heat have won the championship, right? Well, not quite so fast. The Thunder are a more than capable team, and they won the first game in the series in a manner that most pundits termed convincing at bare minimum.

The Thunder's core of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have traded off between dominating performances, but the third member of their triumvirate, James Harden, has been lackluster - to say the least - for the duration of the Finals. His defense has been relentless, which perhaps explains the anemic performance on offense, but it hasn't done much to justify it, at least in the eyes of Oklahoma City fans.

Winning in Miami has not been an easy task for the Thunder, who had a significant lead in game three - nine points, on two separate occasions, but lost a wire to wire outing in game four. They'll have to muster the strength to not only hold a lead, but to do so at the end of the game in Miami at least once, in order to squeeze out a return home for the possibility of game six, much less force a game seven.

The statistical possibility of the Thunder mounting a comeback aside, there are serious repercussions to the idea of LeBron James winning his first championship. The laughable video which critics love to throw in his face upon his yearly exit from the Playoffs will stop being evidence of his supposed crimes and will start to look like eerie prescience from a phenomenal talent. The collection of superstars in South Beach will no longer look like greedy millionaires, but rather basketball players mature enough to put ego aside and play together. Most importantly, LeBron James will no longer have the strike of, "He doesn't have a ring." The all-time greats in the NBA have championship rings and it was bizarre to think of the most talented player of our generation as not having one, not being capable of getting one.

That time period is almost through. Maybe the Thunder have a last gasp in them. Maybe they pull together. Maybe James Harden comes out and plays the game of his life. But even given the best possible outcome for a Thunder fan in game five, the odds and the historical record both say that the Heat will win the NBA Finals. Get ready for the reign of King James.

Monday, June 18, 2012

comics for the week of 06/13/12.

It's time to continue the cutting. This is getting ridiculous. I can't keep buying comics that I'm not truly loving. Sorry, DC, you're gonna be the biggest victim.

Batman 10 - Welp. This is the worst issue of the new run of Batman. I still have faith in Scott Snyder, no matter which way he chooses to play this cliffhanger, but it's a pretty bad single issue regardless. I don't want to rehash old ground of a soap opera twist, and I'll feel cheated if it's just the ravings of a crazy man. However, the biggest thing that's going to bother me is how many people are going to say it's a great story, but were the same people raving against Morrison and the Black Hand and the Thomas Wayne possibility. The Court of Owls has passed, thankfully, so let's focus on the new guy - is he going to be the Talon in the book that's going to launch? I hope not.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10 - This was a step in the right direction, especially after the epic mess that this title has become the last few issues. Buffy gets to confront Simone and talk to the body that Andrew ripped her out of, and things are sorted out pretty quickly (a bit too much so, for sure). Spike is on the way out, for his own miniseries, which makes me wonder what the point of it all was. This has easily been the worst arc of any of the Buffy comics, including the entirety of Season 8, which most people hated. I'm hopeful that there will be some long-term ramifications from this arc, otherwise it was a waste of a few months. The story has a weak conclusion, with Buffy quitting her job, but at least there's forward momentum. Try to hang on to it.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 1 - This issue wasn't nearly as strong as Minutemen, but it still struck the right vibe. Connor's artwork is really a great fit for the whole Before Watchmen idea. The story goes a little too fast for my taste, but I don't know where they're going to take it, either, so I'm comfortable taking the ride so far.

Fantastic Four 607 - The start of another story, this one involving the ancient history of Wakanda. Turns out T'Challa doesn't want Reed's help getting the Vibranium back to what it was - there's something more sinister! Yeah, I don't really care about T'Challa or Wakanda and this, finally, might be my jump off point. Like I said after Johnny came back, I know that Hickman is leaving this title, and I just don't think I have it in me to stick around and be disappointed by whomever has the bad fortune of following him up. So, if we're going to spend some time overseas, then I think my time has come. There's definitely no insult intended - Hickman has crafted, in my opinion, the greatest Fantastic Four story ever told. I applaud him for that, but I want to leave it on a high note.

Green Lantern 10 - The Indigo Tribe storyline finally wraps up. It's a good one, and I'm happy with the progression of the relationship between Hal and Sinestro, but there's a lot left to be said about Indigo 1, too. The way that this book continues to deftly maneuver around the DCnU reboot is the best thing about it, because these are the characters that we've all come to know and love for the last X amount of years. However, I get the feeling that the GL titles (even though this is the only one I'm reading) are gearing up for another massive crossover, which bodes ill for this (self-contained) universe and the characters inside it - Johns has passed that prime. He's at his best when he's doing exactly this: laying down a solid story with a couple characters. Give him too much rope for that next story and he just may hang himself.

Invincible 92 - Zandale has a weird relationship with his parents and Mark has a weird relationship with everyone. Robot and Monster Girl have a weird relationship with each other, but at least part of it is finally explained. Spoiler alert: They've been alive more than 700 years. Wow. Yeah, we're gonna learn more, but that's a hell of a start. Mark's powers may or may not come back (my bet, obviously, is on yes) but he's having a hard time adjusting already. Finally, Zandale is in a weird place. It's hard to feel sympathy for him, given the dickish nature that we're already seen him exude, but...Damn. The guy's got it rough in some areas that aren't his fault. I'm anxious to see Dinosaurus come back and have Thragg's master plan revealed.

Resurrection Man 10 - I'm sad this book is going to be canceled, but I hope that with the announcement, they've allowed Abnett and Lanning enough time to finish up their story in a semi-competent manner. It's a fun book, but I knew it wouldn't sell enough copies to justify a continued existence. Mitch Shelley doesn't really fit in, whether that's the old DCU, or the DCnU. Here's to hoping he can find the lab in the week he's bought himself, figure out the girl's no good, find a way to outsmart both Heaven and Hell, and get some kind of guest spot in some corner of the DCnU - maybe JL Dark?

Spider-Men 1 - Not as good as I wanted it to be. Sara Pichelli's art felt really flat in the 616 Universe, although it was cool that we could tell (assuming this is right) that the Mysterio was from the Ultimate Universe right away. It's nice to recognize that distinction. However, as far as set up issues go, it was middle of the road: I know they've got to explain how we all get where we're going, but the issue still felt like not a lot happened. Bummer, because I really wanted to LOVE this, but just because I didn't doesn't mean I won't be buying the rest of it. I liked it, and I have faith that the story will be worth reading. (Best note in the book? When the guy he just saved tells Peter that his costume is in bad taste. Good to see that line still running.)

Ultimate X-Men 13 - The art by Paco Medina is so damn beautiful that it's hard to focus on the story here, but we'll (finally!) be grateful that we do so. After suffering the most out of all the Ultimate Universe books, X-Men finally feels like it's back on track. Kitty Pryde decides that she's been sulking in the sewers for long enough, and that there are things that need to be done. Her symbolic shedding of her costume is cool and so is the fact that she tells the kiddos not to come along on the Great X-Men Journey. What's disappointing is Johnny Storm staying behind, not because I think it's a bad decision on his part, but rather because it'll reinforce the mutants vs. humans idea. Finally, though, we're going to see some of these vaunted new X-Men. Let's do it!

Book of the week goes to Invincible. Of all the titles above, Invincible is the one that showcases how to continue writing a kickass comic month after month after month. To some people, that continuity might get boring, but one man's stale is another man's rock solid.

Friday, June 15, 2012

thunder lose hca.

The NBA Finals have begun in an emphatic manner. After the Oklahoma City Thunder roller over the San Antonio Spurs, who were looking as near-invincible as any team can, they awaited their Eastern Conference opponent. And while it took them seven games, the Miami Heat eventually triumphed over the Boston Celtics. This presents, of course, a sort of dream match-up for all sorts of basketball fans. Commissioner David Stern has got to be giddy over the ratings prospects of the Heat in the Finals for a second year in a row, especially against his youngest, most marketable stars. Old school purists must find something delectable about the way the Thunder have taken on characteristics of the Spurs after dispatching them, passing the ball in that crisp manner, and always deflecting individual praise in deference of the team concept. Finally, the drama-seeker in all of us craves LeBron James in almost every situation. Win or lose, he presents compelling viewing.

Game 1 showed the tenacity of the youngsters in Oklahoma. The Heat poured on the points in the first half, but the Thunder hung on, and changed the game in a significant manner in the second half. Eventually winning by 11, it seemed as though the Thunder had the momentum heading into Game 2, at home.

On Thursday night, however, the Thunder came out flat. They came out uninspired. They came out looking like a team that thought, perhaps, the road to the trophy would be a bit easier than it turned out to be. They fell into an 18-2 hole, with just over seven minutes elapsed in the first quarter, and the game almost seemed out of reach by halftime, when the Thunder trailed 43-55.

However, after tying the second quarter, the Thunder proceeded to win both the third and the fourth quarters, eventually pulling within four points with four minutes to play.

The aforementioned hole, however, ultimately proved to be too much. In conjunction with the five fouls that Kevin Durant was playing with - having picked up that dreaded fifth foul only a minute and a half into the fourth quarter - still more than ten minutes left in the game! - the Thunder simply could not get the job done. They now face the daunting task of going into Miami and playing three straight games in South Beach.

The pressure now shifts from Miami and the anti-LeBron crowd to the young Thunder. Coming into the series, they were seen as slight favorites. Of course, it'll be very difficult for Miami to win all three in a row at home, but the Thunder have got to consider their backs to be up against the wall now. Coming back home for the final two games of the series, needing to win both is a terrible place to be. On the other hand, there are worse options, such as Miami sweeping these middle three games, and closing the series out in Florida. The Oklahoma City Thunder have responded thus far in the Playoffs every time they've needed to, and the truth is: they need to now more than ever.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

comics for the week of 06/06/12.

I'm writing this set terribly late, so it's really hard for me to honestly remember everything about the books. Honesty. Ugh.

Animal Man 10 - Buddy's still trapped in the Red and he's hunting down the totems with the help of the Shepherd, who, by the way, is totally hilarious. Maxine, however, exerts a lot of control over the Red, even though she's not there, and her wily ways kind of get in the middle of Buddy and his search. This is one of the best books in the DCnU, without a doubt.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 1 - I'm not sure what anyone could have against this book, as it's actually presented. Against the concept? Sure, I can roll with that, although I'm not totally on your side. But the book itself? Well, I'm not the world's biggest Darwyn Cooke fan, but he does a great job here of presenting an homage to Watchmen, without slipping into parody or mind-numbing tribute. It's a good book, a strong opening. We'll see what I have to say about the rest of them, but for now, it's good enough.

Swamp Thing 10 - This book, on the other hand, sticks out in the memory. It's far surpassed Animal Man, which isn't a bad thing, as it gives us a clear pecking order. The art, by Francesco Francavilla, is one of the driving forces here, but let's be clear: Scott Snyder is at the top of his game in this book. While Batman has slipped a little bit during the Court of Owls run, Swamp Thing has been gaining speed. The return of Anton Arcane lends a lot of tension to his narration, but the order in which it unfolds is a little bit confusing: is he talking to Swampy the whole time? If so, what does that mean when he says his daughter is here? Hasn't she been there the whole time? If not, who is he talking to? Next issue, regardless, is going to be great.

Ultimate Spider-Man 11 - Miles Morales makes some big mistakes. He's going to pay for them later. But for now, he's teaming up with Uncle Aaron, taking down the Scorpion, and things seem to be going well enough. Ganke is still a great addition to this book, he plays a solid role, even if he's only present for a couple pages. The biggest thing, though, is that Miles is showing potential in both ways: he can be pulled in the negative direction by his uncle fairly easily, but he's also come a long way insofar as using his powers, since the first couple issues. The coolest part of this issue, though, was seeing Aunt May return. I hope that this is just a temporary thing, that it's a great sub plot and then melts away again, so as to allow Miles to truly take up the mantle.

Book of the week goes to Ultimate Spider-Man for the pure potential.

Friday, June 8, 2012

kings look to wrap up stanley cup finals.

On Saturday night, Game 5 of the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Finals will be played in New Jersey. The New Jersey Devils will be playing host to the Los Angeles Kings, who have not lost a single road match during their entire playoff run. The Kings snatched home ice advantage away from the Devils in Games 1 and 2, shocking the Eastern Conference champions, and proceeded to win only 1 of the 2 games in LA. However, as the series shifts back to the road - where the Kings, improbably but undeniably, have been better than at home - there's a sense of inevitability in the air. The Kings, who have never won Lord Stanley's Cup, seem to have destiny on their side.

Much has been said of the last time the Kings made the Stanley Cup Finals. That team, with Wayne Gretzky at the forefront, captured the attention of a town not known for caring about hockey, as well as the hearts of many impartial hockey-watchers. Their failure in those Finals has hounded the team for almost two decades - this is merely the Kings seventh entry into the Playoffs at all, since that season.

After failing to close out the Devils on their home ice on Wednesday, the Kings will look to repeat their pattern from the Conference Quarterfinals and the Conference Finals. If there's any consolation to be had for Los Angeles, the fact that they are a perfect 2-0 in this situation's previous incarnations thus far in the Playoffs has got to factor in. Additionally, although it most likely does not matter one whit to the players or coaches, fans of the NHL in general must be pleased that the current elimination game will be played on Saturday in prime time (6 PM MST) on NBC, as opposed to being relegated to NBC Sports.

All this focus on the Kings, though, belies how good New Jersey has been during its Playoff run, as well. Compiling a Playoff record of 12-6 prior to the Finals, the Devils have moved beyond their mediocre stats - they finished a paltry fourth in their Conference and were middle of the road in goals per game - to outlast and outwit their opponents. Even with a possible loss in the Finals approaching, there is chatter of a bright future for the organization thanks to the youth and power of Adam Henrique.

All of this is merely to say that if you haven't tuned in to the NHL Finals yet, Saturday night is the perfect time to do so. What will unfold is hard to prognosticate precisely, but either the Los Angeles Kings will get to celebrate in a way they never have before in club history, or they will lose on someone else's ice for the first time in this Playoff run, extending the delight of a Stanley Cup Finals for a bit longer. Both are wins for fans of the game.

Monday, June 4, 2012

comics for the week of 05/30/12.

As though five-Wednesday months aren't expensive enough, DC had to put out some annuals this week, huh? Well, they were both good, but I'm not sure if my wallet appreciated them as much as my brain did. I know they're more pages, but drawing the line at 4.99 doesn't have quite the same ring.

Animal Man Annual 1 - I like how we're seeing some of the backlog of Red versus Green versus Black and the line that each of the elements has overreached in the past was the best. That being said, the inconsistent art of this title (though not this book in particular) is really troubling. With this issue, we see how valuable a regular artist is and I wish that would transfer over to the main title. The story isn't really worth telling, at the end of the day, though, which makes this the lesser of the two annuals this week.

Angel and Faith 10 - A fun fill-in issue with Chris Samnee on art, which makes it all the more enjoyable. The sisters don't seem like characters who are truly going to stick around, and I'm OK with that. If you need a filler issue every once in a while, this is the way to do it, especially with the nice drop at the end of the issue. It's always interesting, though, to get bits of Giles' childhood, and that was the best thing about this issue.

Batman Annual 1 - A much better story than the Animal Man annual, credit due to Scott Snyder. The origin of the DCnU Mr. Freeze is familiar for longtime comic fans, but it's well-played here, especially with the connection to the Court of the Owls. This crossover has felt a bit forced at times, but this was not one of those times. It was a well thought-out connection and the twists and turns that the story takes (especially the end with the reveal about his mother, but I'm definitely not discounting the reveal about his wife) show what a monster Snyder is right now. While Lemire is a good writer, Snyder is one who's at the peak of his skills.

FF 18 - Hickman continues to tell little bits of the story, filler that manages to continue the overall arc as well. Johnny takes over the class and its title and aim switches many times, but the intent never does: to prove that Johnny Storm is more than the one-dimensional jerk he's been written as before. (This issue also serves as a great contrast to the Peter and Johnny roommates issue, as Hickman was nodding to that past there, and disproves it entirely here.) The way the issue plays out isn't a surprise, but the ending will leave more than a few threads that need to be wrapped up (by Hickman!) before he leaves. The best bits are the small parts, such as Franklin working with Franklin, Franklin's admission that he isn't long for this world, and the construction of a box so secure that we get to hear Black Bolt's voice. Incredible stuff here.

Powers 10 - So, Powers is going to restart...again. It's getting crazy, yes, but we've seen crazy from this book before. I'm not sure if Bendis really has committed to a vision here, or if he just feels backed into a corner. However, the story is still intriguing enough to me that I'm going to continue with it, even though it doesn't feel original in any way, and I feel like it's a bit of a lazy cop-out (no pun intended). I'm curious to see the new status quo a couple months from now, so it feels like discussion on the events of this issue are a bit redundant. Here they are, quickly: Gods might be real, the press have always been a bunch of idiots, lots of people are going to die. Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker will not be amongst those who die.

Rachel Rising 8 - I love Terry Moore, and I love this book, but there are definitely times where I feel like I'm not getting my money's worth. I know indy comics are a tougher gig than the Big Two, and I'm always down to support great creators, like I have with all of his series, but for an issue where a LOT of stuff happened, it felt shockingly light. All that being said, if you love comics and you're not buying Rachel Rising, you're a fool. Dr. Siemen is still incredibly creepy, as are most of the residents of this world. The woman who's hanging out with the wolves...I don't know? This is another issue for me (revealed especially by my recent reading of the entire run of Echo): Terry Moore's characters all look a lot alike. Jet's development is strange, even given Rachel's predicament, because Rachel isn't talking in weird-possessed speech bubbles. What's the difference between them? A poor man named Rudy shows up to check on his friend Natalie and pays quite the price for his kindness. Lastly, Earl is turning into a great character. I'm loving the dynamic between him and Jet.

The Ultimates 11 - The universe is coming back together! Thank God! (Also, the promos inside for "Divided We Fall" promise more unity, which is a great thing. Sometimes it's hard to be a comic book fan who stays away from Previews.) This issue teases in all the right ways, challenging our fanboy assumptions that the good guys we root for will find some way to triumph over the tremendous odds they face. Tony and Thor get to have their meet up and schedule a visit with the President. The WCOS crew makes it to their destination and, even when things look bleak, they find a way to conquer the army that's there to take them in. But...both of those victories change pretty quickly as the President calls out Tony for being an alcoholic and Hawkeye, Black Widow and Falcon, it turns out, are no match for superior numbers. Things are looking bleak. And that's when they're the best.

Wolverine and the X-Men 11 - Weakest book of this run so far. Bouncing between all the battles that are happening in Avengers vs. X-Men, none of which I care about, the only part of this book that was interesting was getting to see Logan coming around to the realization that he can't kill a kid; especially not Hope.

Book of the week goes to FF. I'm long past my suspicion that I should drop this book and am even thinking that I might try out whoever steers the ship after Hickman leaves.