Monday, August 27, 2012

comics for the week of 08/22/12.

Well. Scalped is over. I'm not gonna spoil anything for anyone who hasn't read it, and I'm not going to review it, because I wasn't on it from the get go. But let me just say this: it did not end like I thought it was going to.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 1 - Well, this was interesting. I'm glad it didn't turn into the Hughes show, full of busty broads, and I was satisfied with JMS' writing, but intros have never been his problem. We'll see how I feel about it at the conclusion, but for now, it'll do. A solid addition to the Before Watchmen line of books finds Dr. Manhattan pondering his own existence, along the lines of Schrodinger's cat and that famous box of theirs. When he decides to revisit the moment of his creation, though, things get a little bit more complicated than even he expects.

Fables 120 - Man. Talk about the slow burn. This whole issue is like one simmering pot that sits on the stove for hours and hours and hours and finally just explodes! The end is one hell of a splash page and I'll be honest and say I did not see it coming at all. Darien continues to fight for his sister, Therese, who is definitely going crazy. Queen Therese's subjects are worried that she might be going a little too crazy, and Darien's dealing with his own hallucinations in the desert. The Oz backup is back to its casual suckiness, wonderfully pencilled, but not all that compelling of a story. But the next issue is going to be a great one, I hope it's the resolution to the Cubs in Toyland story, because I'm not sure how much longer they can draw it out after this insane conclusion.

Invincible 94 - We learn more of Rex and Monster Girl's story in the alien land, while the big bad stands revealed by the end of the issue. I got the reason for the split in pencils and I'm not an anti-Cory Walker kinda guy, but it didn't really work for me in this issue. The pages that were done by Ryan Ottley were spectacular, even if he didn't have a lot to do, as they were the big bad battle scenes. But I needed a little more from the love story angle and I didn't feel like it was really done by Walker. I've seen him do some great stuff in the past, so I'll just chalk this up to being...rushed? The story is coming along in a great manner, and I think the cliffhanger is going to be a great key to the next couple issues, but I'm bummed we didn't get to see more of Invincible and how his progress is coming along...or, that it's not, as we see in the one page we get of him. I like the fact that this has become such an ensemble book, honestly, I was just a little surprised that we didn't see more than one page of Mark.

Mind MGMT 4 - The way that Matt Kindt is building this story is so, so, so impressive. It's at least four stories in one, every single issue, and that's not including the stuff that we haven't even realized yet. Love it. Lyme's conversation with Maru takes up the majority of this issue, but it's mainly about Lyme's backstory, which is opaque at best. He's a Mind MGMT agent, one of their best, and he loves his teacher and she becomes his handler and he's involved with the first Gulf War. I'd say those are the facts, but I'm not 100% convinced of even those. Everything is clouded by the fact that we're talking about a shadowy organization that has abilities to affect your thoughts, your memories, and even your body. We learn a lot about the organization in this issue and when things are all set and revealed, I have a feeling we'll look back at this issue as a vital one. All of them are, obviously, but this ride just continues to improve.

Rachel Rising 10 - At this point, I have no idea how to review this book. Every issue reads insanely quick, and after the turning point of last issue, I thought things were going to get a bit more substantive for Moore's new work, but I didn't feel that way this time around. That's not to say it was bad. It's beautiful and I can see that there's a story being told her. I'm just thinking that this might read better in TPB form, like I had to do with Echo. I don't remember feeling this way with Strangers in Paradise, but that was a different book, and I was a different person then, too. Here, we see Jet and Rachel visiting Aunt Johnny, seeing Zoe brought into the hospital and we have some interaction between Lilith and Rachel. Honestly, I can't say that I understood much more than that. But it's atmospheric and the art is still some of the best on the market. If you're not getting this book, you're doing yourself a disservice, but if you're waiting for trade, I definitely understand.

Spike 1 - This was a solid addition to the Buffy line. While the title character's book is suffering in a case of the doldrums, both Angel & Faith, and now Spike's mini-series seem to have found their authentic voices much more quickly. Spike really does love Buffy and he really does get depressed when she (inevitably) shoots him down. Add in the humorous circumstances of his being in charge of a spaceship full of bugs and the vacation on the moon mixing with some space invaders and you've got this story in a nut shell. Great voice, good comedic timing and a story that isn't top shelf but is more than good enough to get me to come back for the next issue. Count me in.

Ultimates 14 - This was awful. The story is descending into another clustered mess of, "Throw in everything! See how much damage we can do!" and it's really showing the lackluster details. The art, divided between Billy Tan and Timothy Green, was atrocious. I can't stand by this book any more. Looks like Ultimate Spider-Man will be the only Ultimate Universe book I keep up with.

Unwritten 40 - Hm, well, a fitting conclusion to The Wound, but I'm still confused by the role of Danny here. Didge I get, sure, she's the dyslexic (spoiler!) detective who's perfectly suited to work on the Tom Taylor case. The crazy pastor, Filby, yeah, he got put in his place. Even the unicorn doesn't bother me, because, well, we're dealing with the Unwritten and crazy creatures are always jumping out from one corner onto center stage. I like that we're expanding the universe and I loved that Tom dealt with the bomb crisis in a totally rational manner, flustering Filby in a way he never expected, but I'm also hopeful that, with Richie arriving via plane, and Didge having word (apparently?) from Lizzie, that we'll get to tie back into the main storyline. Bonus: How much did everyone delight in the fact that Tom was reading the story of Mr. Bun? This book is so layered that it's going to be impossible to process it all in one read, especially monthly. But it's too good not to be buying monthly.

Book of the week goes to Mind MGMT. This is something truly special and if you're not reading this book, you are going to regret it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

lobo soccer on the rise.

While Michael Pehlps continues to stir up controversy that will almost surely turn into nothing, local sports at the University of New Mexico have already kicked off with a bang.

Amongst the award-winners of last year's Lobos bunch, both men's and women's soccer must surely stand as the most proud. While the men's basketball program brought in the most press and the men's and women's cross country teams were both the most impressive, there can be no doubt hat the soccer teams both made significant gains on already-impressive prior records.

The men's soccer team opened their season with two friendly matches in California last weekend. On Thursday, they beat Cal State Northridge 3-2, in a game that went to extra time, even though it didn't need to. Just after halftime, the teams had already decided to play out some extra minutes, getting the most of their exhibition, despite its non-status as a so-called important game.

On Saturday, the Lobos defeated San Diego State 2-1. Michael Calderon was the only Lobo to score in both games, but the Lobos had six shots in the second half of Saturday night's game. The men's team - losers in last year's prelude to the quarterfinals last year - appears to be off to a good start. The men's team will play their first in-season game on Friday, August 24, at UCLA.

The women's team, no slouches in the NCAA Tournament themselves, have begun their season in a bit more of an odd-fashioned manner. After battling TCU to a 1-1 draw, called early because of weather, the Lady Lobos lost to Texas Tech a mere two days later.

The women's team doesn't return to Albuquerque until September 16, when they will play New Mexico State University, in a twist on the Rio Grande rivalry that matches up women's soccer teams instead of the men's basketball squads.

Both soccer teams will be looking to improve on their standings from last year, and seem to be in good position to do so. Now might be the time to mention the Lobo Pride Pass, which debuted last year, but seems to be an even wiser purchase this year. With plenty of winning to go around, at the price of a good football ticket, it seems like a wise investment.

Monday, August 20, 2012

comics for the week of 08/15/12.

At some point, I figure that I'm going to have to start throwing X-Force reviews in here. I'm kind of bummed that I didn't jump on buying this book from the beginning, but it's at the point now where it's so good that if you're not buying it, you should just get over that, like I did, and give in. It's worth it.

Batwoman 12 - God. It cannot be overstated what it means to have JH Williams back on art on this title. Without him on pencils, this title is middling at best! With him returning, this title jumps up to the top of DC's stack. Here, he seems to be aping Cliff Chiang's style on Wonder Woman, throws plenty of variation into the mirrored views of Werebeast and Batwoman, stylizes the page in roundabouts and exaggerated angles, and still leaves room for Kate to smash a glass version of Bloody Mary and talk to the shards that her explosion leaves. This book is magnificent. When he switches back to traditional comic book art, as in the section with GCPD and the protests, it still looks head and shoulders better than anything anyone else is doing! The fight with Maggie Swayer reminds us that these are real people, and then he kicks it up ANOTHER notch! He can ramble in his new-author way all he wants, if he's going to deliver a book that is this gorgeous.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 1 - Wow! This book starts off gnarly! There's a reason why I've mentioned Rorschach as the character that most people relate to/think of as the protagonist of Watchmen. He's a compelling figure. Here, Azzarello really gets his voice right (not just with the Hurm, which is easy) and Bermejo's art is nearly at its peak. The tone of the book, the way it looks and feels, is perfect. Rorschach is a mess the entire time, and that's pretty much how he should be. He's compelling because he's human - so flawed and so imperfect, in so many ways. There's nothing pretty about his birth, his life, his circumstances, or the way he sees the world. This is his reality. This issue feels like just as much, if not more, of a home run as Minutemen 1 did. The Before Watchmen line is picking up.

Green Lantern 12 - While the change in artists bummed me out, I'm still happy with this book overall. The tone of Hal and Sinestro working together has been something that Johns has always had a really good grip on, and it's fortunate that he's one of the people in charge of the DCnU (presumably), because he knows where it's all ultimately going to go, and I think that's reflected in the strength of his writing. Continuing the story of the Book of the Black, we find out more about the other books, the third army, and how far the Guardians have fallen. Regardless of how good it is, though, there's no denying that we're in something of a holding pattern. Bendis-style decompressed storytelling has made its way to the DC Universe, and GJ (and Johns, in general) is definitely guilty. Black Hand gets his comeuppance, which makes it clear just how bad Nekron was and how much of a chump William has always been. The zombie angle was something of a waste, and why even show Carol for those few panels? Overall, good book, but it's just biding its time until the next event, which doesn't bode well for those of us who are more than a little fatigued by the endlessness of the GL assault.

Revival 2 - Yeah, this one was good. But I can't say that it lived up to the promise of the first issue. It was solid, and I'm loving the characterization that we're getting. Tim Seeley is writing the hell out of this book and it shows. But...it didn't captivate me the way the previous issue did. I know it's going to be a slow(er) build, and I'm OK with that, but it didn't have the shock and awe factor working in its favor. I'm sticking with the book, but for now, all we have is family dynamics added to the intriguing premise we had last issue. I'm not complaining.

Saga 6 - This is some whole other level shit. Brian K. Vaughn is plotting a saga and he is not messing around. The whole, "I named it Saga on purpose"? That was real. We have here a multi-generational, multi-planet, space opera unfolding before our eyes. I don't believe (I hope!) that Izabel is dead, because she's too good of a character. Hazel has already characterized The Will as a terrible creature, but I can see him becoming the best kind of anti-hero. And the Robot Prince? God, he's pretty straight up evil. And we haven't even gotten to the main characters yet! The further along in this tale we go, the better Alana and Marko get. They're believable, their relationship seems real, and the way they treat their daughter is priceless. This is the book to be reading.

Book of the week goes to Batwoman, for the pure pleasure of JH Williams coming back to take other artists to school.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

eastdale little league plays for world series championship tonight on espn2.

On Wednesday night, Eastdale Little League's softball team will be playing in the World Series championship game.

All of the girls on the team are in middle school here in Albuquerque, and they've done a fantastic job representing our town so far. They started pool play with a no-hitter against the team from the Philippines, and continued that streak in their second game, against Hawaii.

After giving up three hits, which became three runs, to New York, our Albuquerque girls once again triumphed in their third game, 9-3.

In their last game of pool play, Eastdale demolished Canada, 16-0, winning in four innings due to a mercy rule. Canada made an incredible 13 errors in the short four innings, but also had very little to play for, as they hadn't won a single game previously and would not be moving on to the next round, regardless of the result.

Finally, on Tuesday night, Eastdale accomplished a goal that's been the focus of many of the newspaper pieces to run about them in the last few days. It was a goal they set two years ago: to appear on national TV at the World Series.

In a game that was broadcast nationally on ESPN2, the Eastdale softball team exploded offensively in the first inning. Up to bat first, the girls scored eleven runs and seized control of the game. When their offensive prowess was finally caged, their defense stepped up to continue their mastery. Pitcher Shannon Stein has pitched 11 innings without conceding a run. She pitched the first two on Tuesday night, and was pulled after that point, in a wise coaching move that should pay off tonight. When Eastdale finally managed to score again, it provided a little wiggle room, heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, up 12-0. The Central team did manage one run in that fourth inning, but Eastdale closed things up with their strong team defense, ending the game due to the afore-mentioned mercy rule, up 12-1 at the end of the fourth.

Tonight, the Eastdale softball team will play the Southeast team, from Windermere, Florida, in the championship game. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2, and airs at 8 PM, MST.

Monday, August 13, 2012

comics for the week of 08/08/12.

The Before Watchmen line generated a lot of controversy when it was announced, but at this point, honestly, I think the main reaction is apathy. Two of the books have been great, 2 have been good (ish) and 2 have been very bad. I haven't heard anyone raving about any of them, but I also haven't heard anyone claiming they're the worst thing to happen to comics. I think this makes me happy?

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 2 - As far as Nite Owl progressed from book 1 to 2, this book has done the same. The only exception is that this book was head and shoulders above Nite Owl when it debuted. Jae Lee is a true professional when it comes to artistry, and every single page of this issue feels intentional. Len Wein's writing didn't bother me the way it did last issue, either, which was a great boon. We get to see more of the Adrian Veidt that we've come to know from the main Watchmen series and he is an amazing character. The layout of the pages reflects the original book, too, which really ties in with the carefully orchestrated nature of Veidt's character. His beginning is, of course, much more prodigious than we've come to expect from a super hero's origin, but that's to be expected as well. In fact, three quarters of the way through the issue, I was starting to feel a little doubt creep in. Was it all going to be this easy? But then, perfectly, we get the last page surprise, which is magnificent. Comedian really is tying all these books together, huh? I mean, it's funny, Rorshach is probably who most people think of as the quote-unquote main character of Watchmen, but at this point, Eddie Blake is winning the Before Watchmen protagonist award. And I'm excited for how he's going to improve this series.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 12 - Well, that was disappointing. I thought, after the new direction of the previous issue, that this series was going to pick up. But if you didn't see every single aspect of this issue telegraphed ten pages in advance, I don't think you've read enough comic books. (Or watched enough Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.) It's not that it was bad, it's just that there wasn't anything compelling about it. I'm used to being compelled when it comes to Buffy, but pretty much everything else in the Buffy-verse is taking that place. Spike, Angel, Faith, even Connor are more compelling than Buffy's story right now, which feels directionless. She's got the new job, which I thought was going to be a positive direction, but it's back to the flip-flopping bad guy, and a change of hear that everyone, but most especially Buffy, should have seen coming. It's back to explaining season 8 as a necessary evil, which I'm not sure it was - evil, that is. Season 9 just feels especially adrift right now, and I know that previous seasons have waited quite a while before introducing the Big Bad (and sometimes have gone the sneaky route and revealed it to be someone who's been around for a while) so I'm still placing faith in Joss' direction. But it's just not the shining diamond that it once was.

Spider-Men 4 - This issue honestly made me tear up. I've given up on Amazing Spider-Man because of my disgust with the revamp that wasn't a revamp, not because of some silly protest over deals with the devil or bad writing, because we've dealt with all those things in comics before. But getting rid of Peter's marriage to MJ and saying that things were reset when they kind of were, but kind of weren't? I couldn't stand that. (Much like the poorly thought out plan in the DCnU.) And in this issue? We get to see Peter seeing Gwen Stacy and Aunt May again (different versions, sure, but...) and those two seeing him again, after their version of him died. It was incredible. Those are the sorts of emotions that I read comics for, and that I regularly expect from the Spider-Man brand. Miles' presence in the issue doesn't feel forced or alienating in any way, either. He's perfect. The inclusion of MJ felt a bit stranger, as did her bizarre new appearance, but I certainly didn't mind it. Fury's talks with Peter are a consistent highlight in this book.

Book of the week goes to Before Watchmen. Despite the tears that Spider-Men brought, and the history that I have with Spidey (and Buffy), the level of professionalism that's present in Ozymandias feels like an aberration that truly needs to be pointed out. If only all comics were taken as seriously as this one has been.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

women's dominant win streak overshadowed.

While the biggest story out of this year's rendition of Team USA men's basketball has been the blowout win over Nigeria and the relentless stream of questions about whether this team could beat the 1992 Dream Team, there's been a steady storm of wins accumulating on the women's side that very few people have talked about.

On Tuesday, the women put up nearly twice as many points as their opponent, Team Canada. Team USA slaughtered Canada so effectively that only two players - Chelsea Aubry at Nebraska and Kim Smith at Utah were both D1 talents during their college days in America - scored in double figures.

Aside from demolishing one opponent on any given day, though, Team USA has now won 39 straight Olympic games. The last time the women's basketball team has lost, in fact, was in 1992, when that storied men's Dream Team was unveiled to the world.

Since '92, however, the men's game has teetered back and forth between nonchalant dominance and embarrassingly lackadaisical effort, resulting in a disappointing bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. While the men's team has recommitted after those Athens games, the women's team never needed to; they never stopped winning. They haven't lost a game in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics since 1976 - the very first time women's basketball was even a sport in the Olympics.

Team USA faces a tough challenge on Thursday, going up against an Australian team that made waves of its own in the publicity field, and has played some mean games of basketball, to boot. The Opals will challenge the Americans inside with strong post play, but might have trouble with the way Team USA likes to get out and run on the break.

More importantly, the mainstream press is doing its quadrennial look at women's basketball: seemingly impressed, ESPN even featured a story about how the US women are the real Dream Team. That being said, it's troubling, as with so many other professions and occupations, what kind of disparity the women will come back home to, regardless of whether they medal or not, gold or otherwise.

While the league minimum in the NBA - where every player on the men's team has a job after the Olympics are done - is at least 473,604 dollars, depending on whether it's a rookie contract, women in the WNBA cannot earn more than a 103,500 dollars. Anthony Davis has trademarked his unibrow, just in case he needs to supplement his income, but if you asked our female athletes who Candace Parker, Maya Moore or Diana Taurasi are, it's likely they might not know their names.

It'd be wonderful if the Olympics rewarded the best play with the most money or the most fame, or whatever it is that society decides is the way to reward these people who dedicate their lives to excellence. Unfortunately, it seems the thing we value most is a good story.

Monday, August 6, 2012

comics for the week of 08/01/12.

No indies in my stack this week, which feels weird. Continuing to pare down the mainstream Marvel & DC, but honestly, don't feel like any of these books will actually get cut. Ultimate Universe Spidey stays winning and Animal Man & Swamp Thing might be the best results of the DC reboot. Why abandon a good thing?

Animal Man 12 - Rotworld begins, Swampy meets Buddy, and things get real. Honestly, though, the best part of this issue was seeing Abby tell Ellen to get over herself. Mrs. Baker has easily been the worst part of this series and it's wonderful to hear someone tell her that there's more going on than her precious feelings. The only real drag to this issue was the fact that it was all recap for readers who have been faithful to the series thus far, and we only got two real new shots: Buddy and Alec arriving in the Rot and Cliff looking scary as hell claiming that Rotworld was coming. The fact that next month's zero issues will inevitably present gaps in this story was alleviated by the fact that part two came out today, in Swamp Thing 12!

Swamp Thing 12 - The story continues, immediately! This is how good comics should work. This chapter, unfortunately, was not as good as the one before it. There were several things that I didn't like, starting with Marco Rudy's pencils. They weren't bad, but they don't live up to Paquette's high standard. It's just unavoidable. Secondly, it was weird that Baker didn't have his powers down in Rotworld and that he didn't turn around. What kind of help does he honestly expect to provide? Lastly, those ominous words from Abby, as Maxine is looking down at Swamp Thing's tether to the world, were worrying. Someone's gonna die soon, huh? Baker, bare minimum, should have known better than to go down into the Rot. He was stronger in the Red, he's got to figure that the Rot forces would be stronger at home. All those negatives being said, it was still great. Rudy did fine, the work on Maxine was unclear at times, but the styling was still there. The story is not only holding up, but exceeding expectations. The only hesitation I have on that count is that a year can't have passed and they'll have to backtrack, in order to stay with the rest of the DCnU. What a drag to be reined in by all these constraints.

Ultimate Spider-Man 13 - This is exactly how it should be going. Cap comes back, still feels guilty about Peter, hears about Miles, sees that he's good, and akes him under his wing. I know we're not there yet, but...it's what's going to happen. The twist with Aunt May (and Gwen) that I should have seen coming but didn't was good. I like that she (they? maybe?) understands what Miles is doing and doesn't really have to go through a whole thing about it. She's going to be the one to talk Cap into letting him continue and then we're going to be in for some really awesome things. I also like the fact that Miles and Ganke acknowledge what's going on in the rest of their Universe and how unfair it seems that Spidey is getting blamed for murder, despite all the rest of that stuff going on. I missed the girl that Ganke spilled the beans to, but I'm sure she'll come back. Well done, and the dialogue between Cap and Tony was spot-on as well.

Book of the week goes to Ultimate Spidey. Getting back on track is one thing, but looking forward is a whole other. I love when books manage to do both at once.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

london 2012 olympics better than advertised.

Despite the idea that the Olympics serve as something of a goodwill games for the world and the insistence on amateur status to compete - with some healthy exceptions, of course - there has been a lot of chatter about these particular games since they began in London on Friday.

Currently trending on Twitter is the idea of #NBCFail. Bloggers, Internet-savvy people around the world, and generally anyone who's living in the connected digital village of the 21st century have noticed that the American broadcast - tape-delayed for practical reasons - has been particularly egregious this time around. It should be noted, of course, that people have complained about NBC's coverage of the Olympics.

With so many positive stories emanating from these Olympics, not just for America, it's frankly shocking that so much of the coverage is focused on the negative aspects. Just for recap's sake:

Michael Phelps is now the most-decorated Olympian of all time.

His rival, Ryan Lochte, is coming into his own, as the greatest swimmer of right now.

The American team of female gymnasts won gold for the first time in 16 years, and gave marketing companies some amazing stories to go with their team victory.

The home crowd is enamored with Bradley Wiggins, who, just a couple weeks ago, won the Tour de France and, on Wednesday, won the men's individual time trial.

Beyond the English-speaking countries, Ye Shiwen swam a faster split than Ryan Lochte for China, which should have been an amazing feat, but was immediately clouded by doubts about doping. Ruta Meilutyte won the first gold medal for Lithuiana in the sport of swimming at the tender age of 15. Daniel Gyurta set a world record in the 200 meter breaststroke, winning gold for Hungary.

It's easy to look at the overall medal count and be disappointed, as an American, with the United States not topping that list. But the games stand for a bit more than just medal counts and avoiding spoilers. They stand for more than corporate sponsorships and post-competition careers as broadcasters. After all, let's not forget the last time the games were held in London: the Austerity Games of 1948 followed closely on the heels of a time truly worth complaining about.