Monday, May 28, 2012

comics for the week of 05/23/12.

Variety is the spice of life. But this week, I have two aspects of Marvel and only one of DC. While the DCnU is rapidly losing all my attention, Vertigo continues to be the best line that's being published.

Fables 117 - Therese furthers her career as the Queen of Make Believe Land and learns a very important lesson - one that her brother Darien seems ripe to suffer the consequences from not learning at the end of the issue. Meanwhile, back in new Fabletown, Nurse Spratt is a bad, bad woman. She's leading all the other Fables down a path that she's clearly pre-selected and they're going to have a very tough time getting over whatever traps she's got waiting for them. Darien's battle with the toys goes poorly, but it's awesome to see the army he assembles. The cubs are going to have to fight their own battle, too, since Bigby can't find them at all. The backup was subpar again, it's just not very engaging with the exception of one or two months ago. The art is amazing, but the story is going nowhere.

Fantastic Four 606 - With art by Ron Garney, I thought this was going to be the exception to my love of Hickman's run. But Garney hit this one just right. Although the surprise wasn't much of one (if you've been reading comics for any time at all, you could tell where this one was going), the end was still touching. It's really clear, though, that Hickman is finishing up his run with a few heartfelt stories that he wanted to tell but didn't have the time to do so in the middle of that run. Not a bad thing at all. These will be some of the one-off stories that people talk about for years to come.

Ultimate X-Men 12 - Another side step of the current story, but this one I'm more than OK with. The introduction of Sinister and Apocalypse was one of the coolest, different things that the Ultimate X-Men universe ever did, and then they were gone. Once again, they look bizarre, but there's so much intrigue to this situation that I'm on board. Plus, is this the first appearance of Ultimate Layla Miller? If not, I'm OK with missing it, but damn, there's a lot of Ultimatum backstory here. When I took a break from the Ultimate Universe, I had no idea that I would regret it so much. If there's not going to be continuity in the Ultimate books the way there was from issues 1-5, this is how it should be: crazy, far out stories that are totally removed from anything that's come before in the 616 universe.

The Unwritten 37 - The Wound part 1 starts off in a very strange way. We've clearly leaped ahead a certain amount of time, but the new big bad's right hand man appears to not have moved forward nearly as much as our protagonist's crew. The reveal with all these people who are disappearing is going to be amazing, because I'm pretty sure that it's going to be almost literal. She's gone to the end. The denouement. On the other hand, Rausch and Savoy appear prepped to have a great conversation that's going to tell us quite a little bit right now. That's the single best thing about the Unwritten - how it manages to tell a story now and set beats that are going to be picked up later. Great stuff.

Book of the week goes to the Unwritten. Not many other books can hit a climax and come back just as hard the very next issue. Great work from Carey and Gross.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

nba conference finals.

This weekend, the National Basketball Association began its Conference Finals. The NBA Playoffs started off with a whimper - as player after player fell with injuries - and things seemed almost to be doomed. However, now that we're down to the final four, the NBA has got to be excited with its prospects for matchups.

In the Western Conference, the Spurs, persistently rumored to be too old to get the job done, yet consistently making deep playoff runs, have mowed over every opponent they've face. They blanked both the Utah Jazz as well as the Memphis Grizzlies. Going 8-0, though, the Spurs would have you believe, means nothing. They are a focused group, led by the coach and player examples of Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan, both of whom have been around the block more than a few times. The Jazz and the Grizzlies both had a couple opportunities where they could have stolen a game or two, but they were ultimately pushed by the mettle of the veteran Spurs.

In stark contrast to that aged wisdom stand the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite being one of the youngest teams in the league, no one can make the claim that this group is not experienced. They have made the playoffs for the last three years, and have progressed farther for the last two. This year, they are expected to challenge the Spurs for the Western Conference title, regardless of how good San Antonio looks. The expectation in Oklahoma City is to win an NBA Championship, or the season will be considered a loss. This speaks highly to the atmosphere in the newest NBA market, and shows how committed the coach and players - not to mention ownership - are to the overall goal. The Thunder are led by a three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and super-sub - and Sixth Man of the Year award-winner - James Harden. Their youth and speed will be tested by the Spurs in one of the most highly anticipated series.

In the Eastern Conference, proceedings have been understandably marred by Derrick Rose's absence. If Chicago had been around, most people agree that things might have gone differently. But Rose is out for up to a year with an ACL injury, and the Miami Heat capitalized on that opportunity to roll to the Conference Finals for a second year in a row. After their loss in the NBA Finals last year, the Heat have congealed in the last few weeks of the Playoffs to look as good as any other team. Their being tested physically by the Indiana Pacers was probably a great thing for team unity and to prove to the guys on the team not named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade that they deserve to be in this spot. Like the young Thunder in the West, the Heat will not be satisfied with making these Conference Finals, though. Their goal, remember, is not one, not two championships, but a dynasty.

Standing in the way of that dynasty, fittingly enough, once again, are the Boston Celtics. Last year, when LeBron and company finally beat the Celtics, the moment overwhelmed him. It was cathartic. The same pressure is not there for James or the rest of the Heat, but it definitely is on the Celtics. Dismissed all year as too old, as having only this run left in them, the Celtics have relied heavily on ace point guard Rajon Rondo, who notched his ninth career triple double in closing out the Philadelphia 76ers. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have wavered back and forth from their old, reliable selves to unsure players. The other rock in Boston has been Kevin Garnett who still appears hungry long after pundits predicted he'd be making an impact.

It'd be easy - and wrong - to summarize both of these series as the young, upstart teams versus the grizzled vets, trying to make one last stand. But there's no denying that there is a sea change afoot in the NBA. This year's Conference Finals may see some of those prognostications that merely one or two years ago sounded absurd spring to life. The Western Conference Finals begin with Oklahoma City at San Antonio on Sunday night, and the Eastern Conference Finals continue on Monday with Boston heading to Miami.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

comics for the week of 05/16/12.

More variety equals better comics.

Batwoman 9 - This book is now solidly in my waffling pile. I know that others have felt that way since JW Williams was on his art break, but I thought it had held up - until now. With Blackman on art, there's no continuity. It's not that the art is bad, in fact I thought it was pretty good. But the story just isn't compelling enough to leave this many balls up in the air - there's got to be weight behind everything. Here we see an interesting wrinkle to Batwoman's love life, as well as the infiltration of the big bad's fancy yacht. There's some fighting. It wasn't great.

Fantastic Four 605.1 - Hickman and Choi team up to bring a most unexpected point one, none of which I've read, because I'm wary of those type of shenanigans. But this one knocks it out of the park. Incredible stuff from Hickman showing how long-term he's been thinking, and for how long it's all been with him. This is the type of story that I'd waver on where to put it in the inevitable Omnibus - at the beginning, where it falls chronologically, or here where the reader can get as much of a kick out of it as we all got to? We see an alternaworld where Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany won World War II, and Reed Richards falls under their sway. Ben Grimm is no friend of the hero, nor the brother and sister team of Johnny and Sue Sturm. Great contrasts, a fantastic cameo from Viktor von Doom and an ending that'll wrap everything from the beginning all the way around make this just another home run in Hickman's era.

Locke and Key 6 - Clockworks ends with a reminder that this whole story has been seen by Tyler and Kinsey. Ugh. I'd forgotten that and it just makes it that much more painful. We get the whole saga of Dodge in the past played out, and I've already written about how he was a genuinely good person and how much worse that made his fall. Here, though, we get to see how he lost. It's a sad tale, obviously, but there's so much more to tell. The ending, with Kinsey having her sadness and anger back, crying over her picture of her dad, Tyler with the lure, and Bode with the Omega Key was absolutely chilling. The only bad thing about this comic is how infrequently it comes out. The prospect of having to wait until Fall for the next installment to even begin is nigh-unbearable. But it's so worth it.

Saga 3 - I feel like every single issue of Brian K. Vaughn's series has gotten better and better. This one shows some relationship between the Stalk and the Will that might have come before, shows how far Alana is willing to go for baby Hazel, and shows how wars can tear apart families that already weren't on the same page. We also get to see some hardheadedness from the Prince in his interrogation and we get a feel for what a bad guy he truly is. This is what I was hoping for, insofar as character-driven work, when I heard that BKV had a new series coming up and I'm so excited to see where it goes.

Book of the week goes to Locke and Key, although, honestly, it could be any book other than the DC book I picked up. Any time a new Locke and Key comes out, though, it's gonna be some fierce competition.

Monday, May 14, 2012

comics for the week of 05/09/12.

A heavy week, but nothing truly stood out, with the exception of one book.

Batman 9 - Way better than last issue, we finally get some traction on the Court of Owls story. Maybe it's because I'm not reading any other Bat books, but I'm not going to, so I should be able to get the story just from this side. (I loved the editor's note in the box saying that the other half of Bruce's night took place in Detective. Well played.) The suit that Bruce has constructed is cool, sure, but we've seen things like this before. Maybe not from this Bruce, per se, but it doesn't have the wow factor that Snyder clearly wanted it to have. The backup, meanwhile, is stunningly penciled by Rafael Albuquerque (shout out!), but I hate the story. I hate how Alfred isn't there when Bruce looks like he's almost 6 or 7 already, I hate how DC is forcing a new timeline on us, claiming that they have their ducks all in a row, when it's perfectly obvious they don't. The story is all right, but if the Owls were really this big of a deal, there's no way Bruce (OR ALFRED!) wouldn't have already heard of them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 9 - My least favorite issue of both comic book seasons thus far, even surpassing issue 7 and 8. I'm unhappy with where Buffy is going right now, mainly because it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere. As usual, I trust Joss, and if I look back after this season is done and see that this was important, I'll love eating my words, but I just can't see the big picture at this point. The last-page revelation is intriguing, at least, but the rest of the issue felt flat, forced, and a failure.

Green Lantern 9 - The secret of Abin Sur is revealed and it's just as bad as we all imagined. He imprisoned all the bad guys, mind wiped them with Indigo rings, and he had a partner in the whole affair. (Just imagine if pre-DCnU Bruce Wayne found out about this! He'd be pissed.) The new guy seems like he'll be a good addition to the supporting cast, but as he makes his decision so quickly to destroy the battery and then he acts on it, and leaves Hal and Sinestro in that terrible position, I'm not convinced that he'll be around that long. Someone's going to have to take a fall here, and it's clearly not going to be either of our Big Two. Can't wait for the conclusion next issue and to see where they're going next. Feels like Johns is finally back on track.

Invincible 91 - I was happy to see that the whole thing wasn't the classic, superheroes doubt each other and have small misunderstandings that turn into huge fights, for the whole issue. It was handled well, but to be honest, I don't really care about the characterization of Zandale. I hope Kirkman's only forcing it because he plans to kill him soon and wants it to have more impact, because at this point, there's very little that's redeeming about the guy. The main characters of the book, though, have a lot going on for themselves. It's really great to see that Dinosaurus gets to have a newly healed body every time he re-ups because, honestly, I thought that dude was dead, no ifs, ands or buts. However, the real shocker of this issue, and the thing everyone is going to be talking about, is the last page. Robert Kirkman knows how to write a cliffhanger and I get the feeling that this will not be something that's easily resolved in an issue or two. We're in for a long haul story here, and that's great with me.

Resurrection Man 9 - As I said last month, there's no way I'm reading the Suicide Squad, and, honestly, I don't feel like I had to. I was able to go pretty seamlessly into this story without reading that one, which is a great sign. Here we see two rival squads competing over Mitch to see who gets to capture him, and ultimately, neither of them do. However, Amanda Waller and company do end up with one of his hands, which will probably be a long-term plot thread that won't have the chance to fully unravel. The book is fun, I enjoy it, and I wish it would sell more copies, but I just don't see it lasting a whole lot longer.

The Ultimates 10 - The conflicts that are brewing (and the ones that are already boiled over) in this book are gargantuan in nature. I don't understand how they're going to get back to any semblance of normalcy in the Ultimate universe. I don't necessarily mind it, because I love stories that are huge in scope, but it's definitely going to present them with a difficult genie to put back in the bottle. Here we get the elimination of the US government, essentially, a slimy character stealing Shield from Fury (reminiscent of Secret Invasion and Secret War) and we finally get a look at Sue Storm. I can't imagine that the world has been going to hell as thoroughly as it's been shown and yet she's only now coming to grips with who's responsible. The art was subpar, but I'm all right with that as long as the story stays in this mode. The ending was intriguing with Thor and Iron Man appearing to have some sort of a plan, but I hope they move quickly, as it appears that Tony Stark is going to be running out of time faster than he thought.

Ultimate X-Men 11 - This book was the exact opposite of its Ultimate brethren. The art by Paco Medina is almost as gorgeous as it can get, and yet, the story did absolutely nothing for me. The Eastern half of the United States is under way more significant attack in the Ultimates, and that doesn't appear to be acknowledged at all in this book. The Sentinals are building some sort of base in the West, but there's a scene with Val Cooper and I thought she was at the White House when we last saw her? And now she's still there? It appears as though the right hand doesn't know what the left is up to anymore, which is a shame because these two books were playing so well together. But this is the reality of negotiating an entire universe with three separate writers: you're going to have three different stories going on. This isn't a bad thing, but compared to how tight it was previously, it's a disappointment. I'm glad, though, that we're finally seeing Jimmy and Kitty in the Morlock tunnels again, as this book had definitely slipped away from that. Storm and co. can find their way to them, obviously, but let's have some sort of X-Men story happening if we're abandoning the Ultimate Universe as coherent entity.

Wolverine and the X-Men 10 - I didn't think this issue was as good as 9, but it was still really good. It's great to see such diverse opinions on the X-Men, because that's really what they are: a bunch of people who don't truly agree on many things who are willing to set those disagreements aside for the purpose of a common goal. Unfortunately, their goals right now are not that common, as Logan is finding out. I'm curious as to why Scott came to the school, just like Logan is, and I think we'll find out in the future that there was something much, much larger at play here than was revealed in this issue. Surely, he wasn't just there to inspire some dissent, or to talk to Wolverine. There's got to be a bigger play. For now, it's great to have Scott Bachelo back on art, and Jason Aaron is doing a heck of a job with one of the most difficult writing assignments in the Marvel Universe.

Book of the week goes to Invincible. Buffy's not doing it, Batman and Green Lantern were solid, and the Ultimate books are wavering. Meanwhile, Kirkman is slow and steady, moving his way up the food chain of always-great comics one month at a time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

comics for the week of 05/02/12.

More DC, more problems.

Animal Man 9 - I feel like this title and Swamp Thing kind of vary month to month with which one's gonna kick ass and this month wasn't Animal Man's turn. Although the first couple pages were a great shout out to the classic Morrison tales, I wasn't that intrigued by seeing this plotline continue to get stretched out. The fact that Buddy Baker might actually be dead is awesome, but it didn't get much play here, since we were primarily in the Red and outside with the family. The appearance of Hellblazer at the end, though, is definitely a good sign. There's not much to complain about in regards to John Constantine, even in the DCnU.

Earth 2 1 - James Robinson is always worth taking a chance on, but this book isn't going to be for me. I'm glad I got to read the intro, but I just don't care about Jay Garrick or Alan Scott, especially not in a world where they're young screw ups instead of the vaunted old characters that I might not love, but I'd grown to respect. I can't wait for Wildcat to be revealed as a homeless kid who had to learn how to fight in order to survive on the streets and is now ready, at the ripe old age of 19, to join a team of like-minded hard-headed heroes. It's no fault of Robinson's; I'm sure he's going to tell an engaging tale - it's just not for me.

Swamp Thing 9 - This book took a left turn when I expected it to play close to the vest. While Seethe is battling over in Animal Man, the Rot goes down pretty hard here in this issue, except...it doesn't really. While I expected Abigail to be the Big Bad in this book (maybe forever?) they snagged her out of that role very, very quickly, and we're left with a throwback. For those of us who have been around comics (and Swamp Thing) for quite a while, the who wasn't a surprise, as much as the fact that they're retreading so much of the same old ground. It's not a bad thing, the book felt fresh, with one major exception: the art by Yanick Paquette is gorgeous as usual, but when the sub Marco Rudy took over, the book fell down a notch. Let's get some consistent teams on both this book and Animal Man and they'll regain their flagship status.

Ultimate Spider-Man 10 - Miles has it out with his uncle, the Prowler, and you can just see the ways that adults constantly manipulate kids. It's laid out clear as day to the readers, but Miles is blissfully ignorant. (Ahhhh, the dramatic irony!) The art is beautiful, the storytelling is compelling and the action is great. The fight between Miles and his uncle is well-paced and we can see all the ways in which Miles is stronger, faster, and overall better. However, Uncle Aaron just knows more. This is the problem with fighting someone who is more experienced than you, and it's written all over this battle. The way this decision weighs on Miles' shoulders is clear in his interaction with Ganke as well as his parents, but, ultimately, it's going to be his decision alone, and his consequences to deal with alone as well.

Book of the week goes to Spider-Man. The art by David Marquez continues to impress and the fact that this doesn't really feel like a Bendis book, like all the rest of his books do is the best thing about it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

rip junior seau.

News broke on Wednesday that Junior Seau had been found dead. He was shot to death, according to the preliminary reports, but word started leaking pretty quickly that it looked like a case of suicide. This can still be termed a shooting death, sure, but there's a lot more impact to the word suicide. In news reporting, the words we choose to use matter. And they should.

In the days before this awful event occurred, the NFL had been aflutter with news of the Saints bounty program. In fact, Sports Illustrated was even linking to this article with the header "The Final Shoe Drops." It's incredible to think that a sport that is literally predicated upon players hitting one another could find itself so aghast at the existence of this bounty program.

The connecting factor between these two stories, of course, is the commissioner of the National Football League: Roger Goodell. Charged with protecting the sport that Americans cherish, and preserving its place at the top of the nation's sporting pyramid, Goodell has done more than a passable job. He's done well, and football is constantly surpassing its old records: more money made, more games shown, bigger audience for the Super Bowl. The list goes on.

However, there's no denying that, while Goodell has shown genuine concern about the concussion issue, that very issue is much, much larger than we previously understood. Even with all the recent focus on concussions, there's a compelling argument to be made that we still don't understand them fully.

Junior Seau, by all accounts, was a highly successful, positive-thinking role model, celebrated in his community, by his team, and even by a large portion of the country, especially in his playing days. His intensity may have put some people off, sure, but practically everyone who was living in Southern California in the early and mid-90s was rooting for him. He seems a poor candidate for suicide at first glance, but the connection between getting your brain addled on a regular basis and coming down with serious depression afterwards seems like it's becoming more and more clear with every incident the sports-loving public suffers through. The saga of Barret Robbins and the litany of lawsuits concerning concussions seem to suggest we as an audience (and participants!) are reaching the breaking point.

It should be abundantly clear that I am not a medical expert, nor has it been confirmed that Seau actually killed himself. Further, having a concussion has not, ever, definitively lead to suicide, or even self-harm. Plenty of people suffer through concussions and go on to lead rich, full, successful lives.

Despite the above disclaimers, though, if Roger Goodell's duty is to serve as the vanguard of the National Football League, there have got to be some common sense steps taken before the damning proof has been served. Americans love football and want to continue to, but as concussions and health care of ex-players are increasingly presented in the news, plenty of NIMBY mothers and fathers are going to extend those cares beyond their backyards and onto their children. Everybody wants to raise the next successful quarterback. But what if the risk is too high?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

comics for the week of 04/25/12.

Intro.

Angel and Faith 9 - The Daddy Issues arc finishes up with not many surprises, except for Angel's penchant for misery has been fully noticed by Drusilla in her sane-phase. And she's right. This is the only thing that bugs me about Angel and part of why I never felt like his show lived up to Buffy. He's a great character when he's put in the right position, but it's so, so rare - he's usually just a morose old fool. Faith, on the other hand, is very dynamic. Her flipflipping might have seemed a bit out of character, but it wasn't unforeseen, nor unforgivable. She's had a tough life, but now she seems to be committing to Angel's quest, which should move the story right along.

FF 17 - Once again, I'm glad I didn't drop this book, but it wasn't as good as last issue. The thing is, this allowed me to see someone else take on Peter Parker's personality, which is a nice stretch of the legs for Hickman, and he handled it well. The touches with Johnny and Peter living together are fun, but it felt a little forced. The ending, however, was a pure laugh, proving how versatile Hickman is.

The Ultimates 9 - And Hickman continued his run with this book, where we get to see the People versus the City, Reed continuing to work on the Hulk and the President's launching of the nuclear arsenal. Here's a spoiler alert that isn't really one: it doesn't go well. The interplay with Fury and Clint Barton (and Natasha?) in the beginning of the book was a great one and you can tell how much they truly care about each other. The best part, though, was Thor and Tony fighting back against the government and making their presence felt. There's still a huge story that's being told here, and it's going to be so long until it's done that it feels hard to judge it now, when it's only partially done, but it's being told so well that it's hard not to be effusive in the praise.

Book of the week goes to the Ultimates. Hickman, that's all that needs to be said.