Monday, September 24, 2012

comics for the week of 09/19/12.

In a fantastic week, there are a two or three issues that really stand out above the fray. This week, we have at least 4. This was a damn good comic week.

Batwoman 0 - It is incredible to me that JH Williams pencilled this entire book. He is the best artist working in comics right now and I know that I say that so often, but this book ALONE proves how valuable he is. The comic book industry needs him and it needs this book to be this good, month in and month out. There has not been a better zero issue from DC and there will not be another zero issue this good. It retells Batwoman's origin story in such a great way. First off, the art. You have to see it. It's like Manapul was on the Flash: it's worth buying, even if the story wasn't that great. But the story is that great here. The relationship between Kane and her father is the driving force behind a lot of the Batwoman stories so far, but that doesn't make it feel played out. On the contrary, the development of Col. Kane in this issue really makes us as readers empathize with him. Superb issue.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 3 - Man, Kubert's art just gets worse and worse. I really thought, with last issue, that this book was going to turn around and be one of the beacons of the Before Watchmen line. But now...it's just another poorly written, poorly drawn addendums, something that wasn't needed. No need to waste time on the plot, because it really doesn't matter. Don't buy this book.

Fables 121 - Wow. I'm hoping that we get a fitting epilogue next issue, and that it brings us all the way back around, but damn, what a fine issue. The saga of Darien and Therese is (kind of) over, but it didn't end the way I thought it would. Dare seems to truly be gone, and that's disappointing, yeah, but we've got a hell of a cast in Fables to work with, so it's not like we'll be hurting for characters. Therese is obviously going to have some explaining to do to her family, but then she's going back to Toyland, where things are genuinely getting better, thanks to her. So we're down two characters, and they had an amazing arc to see them out. There were times I tired of this story, but the end did a great job of wrapping it up, and I like the fact that we're going to see some maturity from Therese next issue, and that we already have in this issue. The Oz backups have bothered me at times as well, but this was the first issue that I was able to truly appreciate the pencils and colors of Shawn McManus. This is some truly gorgeous art, and I hope that he gets some good work in the future, beyond just four-five pages backups.

Revival 3 - This book is really, really good, and I'm happy to go along for the ride, but after the jubilation of the first issue, the last two have left me pretty convinced that it's something that's going to read better as trade. I think I'm going to leave off getting this monthly and just grab it in chunks. Here, we see more of the police force, the mystery, and the various characters are getting past their original set ups. This is a good thing, but it's just not enough for me at this point. I'm sticking with it, for sure, because Seeley is writing something incredible, but I can't do it monthly.

Spider-Men 5 - It was all a gigantic fan jerk, but it was a delightful one. Even this last issue didn't really have a point, it was just a victory lap. But it was so much fun. The advice that Peter finally gives to Miles, him giving his blessing, Miles getting to see the other side, Tony's playfulness the whole time, it was great. There were no heartstrings like last issue or issue 3, but there was a sense of joviality that came from the whole issue. I think Pichelli's pencils had a lot to do with that, but this is the first time in a long time that I feel like Bendis has been appropriately flippant. The book felt light and fun because it was supposed to, not because he was raging against the dying of the light. It was a lot of fun, and if you didn't read it, you should really pick up the trade. It's worth it.

Spike 2 - Again, I feel like this title really nails Spike's essence. The story isn't one I necessarily care about, but given the last page, I think it's clear that it's going to influence the main line books quite a bit, so I'm eager to enjoy the ride. Spike is a great character and he's at his best when we get to see his pithy wit, which, given the narration we've seen in both of the issues so far, is going to be the primary method of humorous delivery in this book. We get back to Sunnydale, meet a Succubus, look for the shard, and have some guests pop in at the end. We also see progression when it comes to the bugs, which is nice. Solid.

Ultimate Spider-Man 15 - Yeah, sure. This fit fine with the whole unified universe theory that I'm so adamant about, and it seems like Miles is going to get to make some difference in the world, so that'll be nice. I want to keep Ganke around, though, and I want to see more of Maria Hill working for NYPD (or was that just a SHIELD ruse so that they could let him know that he wasn't responsible?) but more than any of that, I want the reverse Uncle Ben to get his world flipped. He seems like a smart guy, but this anti-Spider-Man bias has got to go. Have Miles tell him or have him find out on his own, but this inexplicable disdain of superheroes has got to go. Sure, he hated the Prowler, because his brother was making poor choices. But putting on a mask and helping people can't be seen as the ultimate (no pun intended) stigma in all the adults' eyes of the Ultimate Universe. Plus, where's that girl? She clearly knows Miles is Spider-Man. Let's bring her back.

Ultimates 15 - Well. That was certainly different. And the thing is...I can kind of buy it. I'm hoping that the Ultimate Universe changes course, follows through with this bold decision and really finalizes the schism between this universe and the 616. It feels right that this is happening (I mean, I know things have been different in the Ult. Uni. for quite a while now, with the tidal wave, and Reed, etc., but...) while Spider-Men is wrapping up. We get a taste of the two mixing, and I hope that's it. After this issue, things should be different. Forever. And completely. The Ultimates have begun the fight, but every book is going to have a completely different tone now. Miles will be the kid on the street, the X-Men should continue the insurgency, bringing the country back together and the Ultimates? Well, they're the new Secret Service.

Unwritten 41 - Facing my first comic book crisis since moving to another continent, I haven't been able to find a copy of Unwritten yet. My copy is bought and waiting for me back home, but I'll not get to read it until I find one online. Sorry folks.

Book of the week goes to Batwoman. The way that JH kills when he is on is unlike anything I've seen in comic booking ever. I was gonna compare him to Joe Mad, but that was simply a hot artist when I was young and at the right place to be highly impressionable. JH is changing the game.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

nfl replacement refs causing chaos.

When the NFL began its 2012 season last week, the regular crew of referees were not in charge of officiating the games. The NFL Referees Association and the National Football League cannot agree on money (as usual in any lockout) but it didn't seem like a big deal. When Joe Flacco came out with strongly-worded comments condemning the NFL for moving forward with the replacement refs as opposed to hammering out a deal with the old guard, the news was largely met with silence, if not outright scorn. Flacco was just upset, said the contrarians, because his team lost.

However, Steve Young broke it down even further post-game on Monday night, claiming that the NFL knows there is nothing that can happen that will diminish America's desire for football: "The bottom line is they [the NFL] don't care."

Tuesday, ESPN's front page was littered with articles adding on to the dogpile that is now consuming the NFL.

A running back for the Eagles is even claiming that a replacement ref told him directly that the ref needed the player, LeSean McCoy for his fantasy league.

None of this is good press for the NFL, which will see Young's comments played out very publicly over this week. If they stand pat, they run the risk of confirming what he said. If they rush out of the gates in an attempt to convey their concern for both player safety and the integrity of the game that Flacco spoke of, they run the risk of appearing weak with the locked-out refs.

The turning point might have been the Ravens' lost in Philadelphia, which prompted those comments from Baltimore quarterback Flacco.

The turning point, however, does not mean that this matter has passed the point of no return. The choices the NFL makes this week, in regards to the money they will or won't pay their old refs, will be reflected one way or another in the games this weekend. And if we reach a point where it seems the replacement refs actually do decide a game, that point of no return will arrive, and Young's words will have their veracity tested.

Monday, September 17, 2012

comics for the week of 09/12/15.

Zero month continues for DC. They have a weird fascination with zeroes, huh?

Batman 0 - Better than I thought it was going to be, we see Bruce pre-costume, and then a flash forward to a year later, where we get a peek at all the Robins (Tim Drake included, fuck you DC!) and Barbara and her old man. The Red Hood occupies an interesting part of this issue, seeing as we all know his connection to the Joker (a nod to the upcoming story A Death in The Family Death of the Family?) as well as Jason Todd. Regardless of what's been lost to continuity, he certainly reps for the Red Hood in the current-DCnU. The bit with Alfred and the computer and the wall felt a little forced, like, look at the old guy, and the way Gordon just showed up and started bullying (maybe not the right word?) Bruce seemed really odd, but I'm OK with a different dynamic. If we're going to change things, let's really change them. Overall, a good book, especially for the fact that we get two stories in one, but not a great one.

Resurrection Man 0 - So, that was the end, huh? Well, it was a neat story, and I'm glad DC gave Mitch Shelly another go. I have the whole first run tucked away somewhere and now this one will join it, as cool concepts that DC just couldn't justify. My buddy Dave says that DC's being pretty ruthless when it comes to sales: if it's not selling, it's gonna get cancelled. And while I think that's a good business move and I wish DC would pare down a LOT more of their titles, I do think it's a shame that we can't have little books like this anymore. It seems like more and more the Big Two are running like businesses and less like the comic book companies that I grew up with. Probably good for their bottom lines. Mitch's origin story, then, is his last story. Fitting enough for his character. I'm glad they used this opportunity to get rid of the other one. Here's to hoping to see RM pop up in some stories every now and then in this supposedly-connected universe.

Ultimate X-Men 16 - And the march goes on. This was a better issue than the last few have been, but it still feels like everything is disjointed. I'm happy to see Kitty in a leadership role, but I'm still confused by what Jimmy's role on this team is. He was in Wolverine-lite gear on the cover of the first issue, but now he's just...along for the ride? Fury is here, that's good, and he and Kitty kill 2 Nimrods, which is more than a little unbelievable. I'm down for the ride, but I'm not expecting much from the book at this point.

Wolverine and the X-Men 16 - Meh. The idea of being intrigued by a kiddie-Hellfire Club-narrated issue depends on being intrigued by the kiddie-Hellfire Club. And we all stand in the firmly-not-interested side of that club, right? Look, there are limits to what even Jason Aaron and Chris Bachelo can do. The art was great, if a little more blocky than I'm used to and Aaron deftly maneuvers around the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline again, but I just don't care about Kid Kilgore and his merry band of pranksters.

Book of the week this week goes to Resurrection Man. Not that it was outstanding, just most of the other stuff I read was pretty garbage, and I feel like Mitch probably never got the nod and now he'll never have another chance.

P.S. Thanks to my buddy Dave for pointing out my typo. That wasn't even the worst part though; look at that wack, inexplicable capitalization! Ugh. Thanks for proofing me, Dave!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

are you ready for some football? (i'm almost positive i've used that title for this article before.)

The NFL debuted its 2012 season on Wednesday night, and on Sunday, America's new favorite pastime got into its full swing.

On Wednesday night, in the official debut, the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants in New York, to deliver Dallas a somewhat reassuring, definitely vindictive, start to the season. The Giants, of course, knocked Dallas out of the 2011 NFL Playoffs, and are one of the teams favored to win the Super Bowl this year - a feat they accomplished last year in Super Bowl XLV.

The Giants may say it's only one game, and it certainly was, but Tony Romo seems destined for a truly breakout year, and the Cowboys seem ready for the first half of the season in a way that some of their fans have complained they weren't in the past.

Beyond the ramifications of one game, however intriguing those shock waves prove to be five months from now, the weekend saw the majority of the action. The penalty-riddled Saints took the field against the new-look Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III showed the world that his greatness will not be contained to collegiate competition.

Meanwhile, Albuquerque's other favorite team to root for, the Denver Broncos, had their own offseason moves validated when Peyton Manning took the field at Sports Authority Field and threw his 400th touchdown in a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the spectacle of Tebowmania engulfed not only Denver - and Broncos fans - but most of the nation, there was considerable skepticism at the idea of trading him. However, John Elway made the decision to go in another direction and even if his decision was difficult at the time, it certainly seems validated now.

Meanwhile, Tebow's new home of New York triumphed easily over the Buffalo Bills with Mark Sanchez squarely handling the quarterback position. Tebow was, in fact, used during the game, but ended with a mere five rushes, for 11 yards.

The San Francisco 49ers upset the Green bay Packers and the red-headed stepchild of Albuquerque's fandom - closer than Dallas, certainly, but perpetually less popular than both the Cowboys and the Broncos - managed to complete the trifecta: The Arizona Cardinals took their first game over the visiting Seattle Seahawks in one of the weekend's closest low-scoring games.

The opening weekend closed out in Baltimore, with the Cincinnati Bengals getting blown out by the home team Ravens, and Oakland, where the Raiders lost against the San Diego Chargers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

comics for the week of 09/05/12.

A DC heavy week, which used to be an every week kind of thing, but is now a significant rarity. It's been more than a year since the New 52 launched and I have to say, as a hopeful final word on this front: it's just not that great. The books that are great (Animal Man, Swamp Thing and Batwoman) are amazing. The rest? Enh.

Animal Man 0 - A good glimpse into the creation of Buddy Baker and the retconning of his not truly being the avatar of the Red. It's been mentioned before, but this issue does a really good job of fleshing most of the parts of Buddy's history out, making what came before fit with the picture they're presenting now. Probably the best of the zero issue so-called origin issues I read.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 3 - I'm not going with, "This book was a trip!" but it really was. The art here is perfect, and the story is doing a great job of showing the way the generations (and families) that we've come to know from the Watchmen universe fit together. Is this what Alan Moore had in mind as a backstory when he wrote Watchmen? Who cares. It's an entertaining read.

Green Lantern 0 - Not sure how to feel about this one. If Simon turns out to be a great, important character who's around for ages and ages to come, it'll be better. If he's a character they've brought in only to kill sooner rather than later, then I'll be upset. Introduce people that you want us to care about and have them stick around, other than just to be devices to move the plot forward. It's a shame that we have to guess along those lines, but that's reality. As for the story itself, it was pretty overtly political. I haven't seen much of Amanda Waller in the New 52 Universe, but apparently she's a pretty heartless woman in this version, too, huh?

Mind the Gap 4 - With the exception of some great art, this book has really fallen off. I'm not accustomed to having to grasp for every single little thing. The story doesn't truly seem like it's going anywhere yet. This one might be something that reads better in one whole piece when it's done. Here's to hoping it's a finite mystery that they've got the end to already, as opposed to something they're going to try to stretch on forever. It's got great potential, the first issue was killer, and there are some intriguing pieces with the wolves and the dreamscape here, but the soap opera twists and turns (father shows up! he turned his son in!) are a little silly, as is the wants-to-be-bold tagline EVERYONE IS A SUSPECT! Some people just shouldn't be in order for it to be a good mystery.

Swamp Thing 0 - I was less happy with this origin issue than Animal Man because it did far less to explain how and why Holland is alive. Maybe I missed this pre-New52? Was it revealed already in the Quest to Save Swamp Thing or whatever that book was called? I don't really care, but it just felt like more about his old life than about his origin. It was neat to see Anton in both books, it's amazing how closely tied these books are and it shows what can be done when there are writers who care about working together to tell a coherent story, which is what all of the New52 should have been.

Ultimate Spider-Man 14 - Enh. Not great, not bad. Cap reconsiders training Miles after Gwen and MJ and Aunt May give the new Spidey a pep talk (and a sweet gift!) and he helps Capt. Rogers take down the Rhino. This is a prime example, though, of the opposite of what I was just talking about. There are 2 other books in the Ultimate Universe that are presenting the entire US as a torn, destroyed piece of garbage, but Cap is just chilling in NY to talk to Spidey and they have a minor breakout to take care of? I thought he was in the Southwest, fighting militiamen? This shouldn't be so hard. You've had this event planned for at least a year, right? Line things up better.

Book of the week goes to Silk Spectre for the way Conner is stretching herself. Beyond impressive.

Monday, September 3, 2012

comics for the week of 08/29/12.

Um. I'm in Cairo now. It's really, really, really weird. I began downloading comics a while ago, but I hope it's not a huge crime here. Cross your fingers for me?

Angel and Faith 13 - Man. This book is so much better than Buffy. The interaction between everyone feels so much more genuine. The dialogue is so much more B:TVS-esque. (Whedonesque?) The story is so much more compelling. The role of Whistler is still one I'm trying to figure out, but I'm loving the direction he's taking. Willow's blindness to what was inevitable is a bit troubling, but not out of her character. I look forward to how they all deal with her next issue. They're obviously going back to Earth, probably at the end of next issue, after struggling around the (incredibly powerful) roadblock that has now been put in their way. Connor and Angel always make me happy, and Faith and Angel's developing relationship seems just right. They're never going to be lovers, which is a great thing, but they could easily fall into that familiar couple-type atmosphere. This is a really good book.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 3 - Holy cow. This was...everything that every comic should strive to be. The amount of implications, the layering, the paneling, the pencils, the story: pretty much everything was perfect. Hollis' storytelling feels super genuine, he is becoming the character I think we all thought he authentically was. He is a stalwart, but even the best intentioned man makes mistakes. Here's where we're truly digging into those. And while Hollis is the most well-intentioned of them, he's not the only one whose mistakes we're digging into. Man. If this was the only Before Watchmen book coming out, I think the praise would be superlative. This would be the sole focus, people wouldn't have the others to drag the average down... It's really that good. It stands on its own, and it will for a long, long time. Can't wait to finish this book up and see how obsessively Darwyn Cooke truly crafted it. This is superb.

Locke and Key: Grindhouse - A great nod to some of the horror comics of the past, but it was nothing to do with anything I care about. Unless the mouth key (nice idea!) comes into play in a huge way in the next series, this won't really affect the overall arc. But I can't believe that to be true. Joe Hill has proved himself a super capable writer and I think that there's going to be more to this story than what we saw. I do find the idea of a family that fully utilized the keys (and note that the adults did so, too) a very intriguing one. Despite its one-off nature, regardless of whether it impacts the overall story, I'm always happy to see Locke & Key on the shelves.

Ultimate X-Men 14 - Enh. I just don't care about these characters the way I did when the book relaunched. Happy with the last page, happy to see some development between Kitty and Jimmy, but I have to repeat, honestly: I just don't care. They make it to the Southwest, they meet Paige Guthrie in a nice little nod, and there appears to be forward motion on the idea of a story. But there's no reason for me to continue with this. So I won't be.

Wolverine and the X-Men 15 - Wow. So glad I stuck with this title. This is the type of tie-in book that proves they can be done well, dealing with an overall arc in the Marvel Universe, but focusing on the characters we've come to know and love. The school features prominently in this book, and there's a little bit on every character, which is so nice to see. The bit with Rachel and Xavier was one of my favorites, but Toad and Husk get an honorable mention, too. This, to me, seems as real as war can get. People saying their goodbyes before they go off to fight. The only note that felt a little bit off to me was Gladiator's dismissal of Warbird. I can understand his taking his kid, who obviously is not going to stay gone, but why did big Poppa let the bodyguard go? What'd he see that made him doubt her? And what's her role going to be, if not with Kid Gladiator? Maybe this is just setting something up for them in the future? The second to last page, with Henry looking back at the old pic of the original five, was heartbreaking in the best kind of way.

Book of the week goes to Minutemen. As much as the nerd in me loved Angel and Faith, there's no denying that BW is purely better. Phenomenal.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

lobo football wins!

Over the last three years, the state of Lobo football has been dismal, to say the least. Winning only one game in each of the previous three seasons, there were calls for change at a bare minimum.

On Saturday night, the Lobos took their first step in that journey, under new coach Bob Davie. Trouncing Southern University might not seem like a huge deal, when one factors in their FCS status, but it's important to remember two factors.

First, as coach Davie said after the game, "Half of the teams in the country are 1-0. We're one of them." It's a pleasant surprise for the Lobos to be on the right side of that equation after the constant struggles of the last couple years. Secondly, scheduling cupcakes in the past didn't always work out the way UNM coaching staff planned.

Scoring was divided between nine Lobos - including two for phenom freshman Cole Gautsche, who defected from New Mexico State to join the young Lobos squad, and nine extra points from kicker Justus Adams, on top of a field goal all his own - the prospects for the future finally look a bit brighter. ESPN notes that the Lobos 38 point explosion in the second quarter equalled the team's point total from the last six games of the previous season.

With a great crowd cheering them on for the game, and favorable weather, the atmosphere was almost enough to convince a recent transplant to Albuquerque that the team was not stuck in the mire the last two years, but rather just on the wrong end of the power conferences.

Of course, that's not the case, and there's quite a ways to go before UNM can challenge for a winning season, much less respectability. However, for one day, at least, there was no doubt that it is, indeed, good to be a Lobo.

All the positivity will have to wait, however, as the schedule gets no easier from here on out. New Mexico visits #15 Texas next weekend, and one of Davie's prior coaching stops the weekend after that, at Texas A&M. Finally, for the trifecta, we get the newest chapter in the Rio Grande Rivalry, playing against the New Mexico State Aggies in Las Cruces. Cole Gautsche may have shined in his collegiate debut, but the Aggies and their fans are sure to have something extra in store for him when he finally makes it down south.