Monday, October 29, 2012

giants win the world series.

The San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers last night, to capture their second World Series championship in the last three years. Fittingly, in a series that ended with zero wins in the Tigers column, this one went to extra innings, in a last gasp from Detroit to wring some of the last bits of magic from their otherwise-remarkable season. The only way the extra innings were appropriate, though, is the false sense that it finally put the Giants against the wall. All through the post-season, San Francisco has fought and clung their way back from the brink, only to seemingly walk all over Detroit. So, when it went to extra innings, plenty of nervous baseball fans back in San Francisco were probably holding their collective breath. Would these Giants put themselves into a corner once again?

The worry, it turned out, was unfounded. However, after playing their way out of a hole in every series - coming back from a 1-3 hole in the League Championship Series against St. Louis and an 0-2 hole against the Cincinnati Reds - there was nothing easy about this march to the championship for the Giants. Therefore, the worry, even while being up 3-0 on a team that had just steamrolled the Yankees, seemed rational.

The doubt may have crept in to the minds of fans, but the Giants never let it creep into theirs - and if they did, they certainly never showed it. The team that has battled back over and over and over again this post-season never had to do so in the finals. They forced the Tigers into batting far worse than pedestrian .159 average during this World Series, and San Francisco looked every bit as mighty as the Tigers had previously felt, after vanquishing every opponent in their path. The questions that loom over the future of the Tigers will ensure some serious debate during the offseason, but this moment isn't about them.

This moment is about celebrating a team that pulled it all together and, in a rarity in this day and age of baseball, has their World Series championship before October is actually over. The San Francisco Giants went from a also-ran to champions of the baseball world in a whirlwind postseason that won't soon be forgot.

no comics this week.

Due to the Eid Al Adha holiday and my being in Sharm El Sheikh sans Internet, I've not gotten my comics for last week yet, much less read anything. I'll post last week's reviews a week from today, when I'll be reviewing Fables 116, Invincible 96, Mind MGMT 6, Ultimates 17 and Unwritten 42, as well as comics out two days from now: Angel and Faith 15, Mind MGMT 6, Rachel Rising 12 and Ultimate Spider-Man 16. Boom.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

world series is set!

October's chill is lingering everywhere in America, which means that it's time for baseball's biggest stage: the World Series starts on Wednesday night. It'll be the Detroit Tigers against the San Francisco Giants, after a stunning seven game series sent Giants to their second finals in three years. The Tigers, on the other hand, swept the heavily favored New York Yankees in dominating fashion and have to be seen as having the advantage in the World Series, depending on their ample rest time, as well as the momentum of giant-killers on their side.

The Detroit Tigers made the superstar Yankees look terribly mortal in their League Championship series. Playing the first two games in New York, the Yankees vaunted captain Derek Jeter fractured his ankle and once-invincible Alex Rodriguez was benched for his subpar hitting. The post-season disappointment was enough for General Manager Brian Cashman to declare that A Rod was no longer untouchable in an angry rant that surprised no one.

The Tigers didn't look this impressive in taking five games to dispatch the Oakland A's, but their consistency means that, despite New York garnering the headlines we expect from a metropolis, Detroit is the team that's still making waves for good reasons.

The Cardinals won it all last year, the Giants did the year before. It should have been expected that this would be a spectacular series, but when they split the opening games in San Francisco, some people doubted the resolve. Of course, we should have known this was coming according not only to their last two seasons, but also in regard to their regular seasons this year. Neither team knows how to quit.

Sadly, for St. Louis fans, game 7 in San Francisco brought an end to this epic series, in dramatic fashion. The Cardinals were rolled 9-0. Fortunately for Giants fans, their team will carry their victory with them as just the latest sign that they can never be counted out. The Tigers may have the larger momentum, but San Francisco has a deep-seated belief that they will never lose. They were down in the NLCS 1-3 and won games 5, 6 and 7, with the margin in this last closeout game being the largest of the series. The Giants have shown what it means to refuse to give up.

The World Series is the best time for the casual baseball fan to embrace one team getting their shot. Despite the Yankees still dominating the newspaper headlines, and their decorated history, baseball feels like a sport that has achieved true parity. In the last ten years, eight different teams have won. The repeaters: the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.The Giants now have a chance to join that repeaters club. If they can get over the Detroit Tigers. It's going to be a fantastic battle.

Monday, October 22, 2012

comics for the week of 10/17/12.

My comic book collecting days are dwindling, I believe. I'm still gonna read a whole lot of them, but being overseas has really removed a lot of the impetus to keep up with the buying aspect. Good for me, bad for the industry? I do feel bad about it, but not that much.

Batwoman 13 - I mean, what more is there left to say with this book? It's entering Fables & Locke & Key territory, where every issue (with JH Williams on the pencils - an important caveat) is another superlative. There's not many more places Ican go with my over the top effusiveness. Here, we get to see another awesome shot at Wonder Woman, and I think it's way better than the first part. The way Williams is playing with the panels, the way that the mythos are overlapping, there's just so much happening on every page. This is something that you could go over with a microscope and still find stuff to be amazed about. This time around, the page that got me all wobbly was the mainly text page, with the silhouettes of the creatures on the double page spread. Just gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 4 - Holy hell. This book is getting so deep. Darwyn Cooke is truly making some whole other level shit here. This Minutemen book is filled with the kind of agenda-filled writing that Watchmen was and if it's not as subtle, that doesn't make it not as good. The interactions that we're getting from the characters, the back stories that are being invented...these are SOLID developments. I can't really say it for any of the other Before Watchmen stuff, even the 2 other books that I personally really like, but this should be considered canon! Of course, we'll have to wait to see how it turns out, but if you're not reading this because you have some kind of stupid bias against the BW stuff, you are truly missing out. Here, Cooke weaves at least 4 tales that don't seem to be connected, but they all show how far the Minutemen have fallen. While Silhouette and Silk Spectre are tied together, so are Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis, as well as Hollis and Mothman, and finally, Sally and the Comedian, bringing the circle all the way back around on itself. This is superb storytelling and the tone is heartbreaking. It's incredible to see these characters fleshed out in such a thoughtful, provoking way.

Ultimate Spider-Man 16 - Nice to see an actual acknowledgment of the timeline overlap. The idea of Spidey being on the Ultimates, while not original, is a cool one and I'm glad to see the Ultimate Universe being more accepting in general of this Spider-Man. I have a feeling the situation with Miles' dad is going to work out in a way that I'm a fan of, with him learning that Miles is Spider-Man. I'm always in favor of the dramatic tension when someone knows the identity but doesn't WANT to know. I liked it in ASM with Aunt May, and I'd be more than willing to give it a go here. Plus, it feels like a natural fit: his dad's a pretty smart guy. This book should be getting better and it is, so I'll be sticking with it for sure.

Book of the week goes to Minutemen. This was...a masterpiece.

Monday, October 15, 2012

mlb league championships.

The lead up to the World Series is on again, and October has proved to be a cruel month for some of the most promising teams in Major League Baseball. The Washington Nationals, absent from the post-season since their reincarnation seven years ago - and since 1933 before disappearing from the nation's capital before that - were smoked by the St. Louis Cardinals in game one, 0-8, then lost a squeaker in game two, 1-2, only to brutally collapse in game three. The Nats scored the game's first 6 runs, led in the 9th inning by two runs. However, the Nationals and their fans might be regretting the decision to shut down green ace Stephen Strasburg despite the young team's best record so far, and a solid shot in the postseason. The Cardinals, last year's World Series champs, have the resolve of a championship team for good reason. They've been all the way to the mountain top and they know what it takes to get there

On the other side of the equation, the San Francisco Giants lost their first two games against the Cincinnati Reds before storming back to win three in a row. Despite losing game one to St. Louis, the Giants have a chance to even things out at home tonight. Their championship pedigree shouldn't be questioned when compared to the Cardinals either, as they didn't win it all last year, but they did in 2010. The Giants won the National League West by a wide margin and ranked 5th overall in regular season batting average. They will not be an easy out.

The most decorated, dynastic team in baseball's history has once again made the postseason, and this year, the New York Yankees did so in style. After winning the American League East with 95 games, the Yankees traded wins with the Baltimore Orioles - second place in the AL East, only 2 games back - taking two of the games into extra innings.

However mighty the Yankees looked during the regular season, though, the Detroit Tigers have made them look terribly mortal in their two games so far. Playing both games in New York, the Yankees vaunted captain Derek Jeter has fractured his ankle and superstar Alex Rodriguez has been benched for his subpar hitting. The Tigers didn't look this impressive in taking five games to dispatch the Oakland A's, but they've put on a show when it comes to the Yankees.

With four teams left and a chill in the air, baseball's moment of excitement is here. The World Series is just around the corner and every team left has a sizable claim to deserving to be there, deserving to win it all. The Giants need to make a move tonight in order to get back in their series and tomorrow, the Yankees' season could be over.

comics for the week of 10/10/12.

Marvel NOW! launched this week with Uncanny Avengers 1. I read it, but will not be reviewing it below, because I will not be buying it in the future. While I love Rick Remender and his writing, I'm ambivalent about Cassady's art. I know this is blasphemy to some, but I just don't think it's that good. Plus, the story doesn't have much for me to care about. I want a Brubaker-written Cap, or no Cap at all. I've never cared about Thor, the Scarlet Witch or Rogue. Havok is super interesting as a character and I have a feeling he's going to be even better in this new, post-Scott Summers Marvel Universe, but if the only way he's getting play is as a foil, that means it's only a matter of time until the story of Scott's "redemption" is upon us. And there's nothing in the world I want to read less than that.

Batman 13 - The beginning of The Death of the Family was billed as a huge deal, and Scott Snyder doesn't disappoint. The first chapter is as good as anything in the vaunted Court of Owls story, which everyone should know I was a little disappointed in the ending of. The return of the Joker feels like one of the few elements of the DC reboot that was actually planned and has the weight that editorial is trying to force on everything else. The fact that the ending plays out like it does (not the backup with great art by Jock, but the actual spoilertastic ending of the main story) says a lot about where this story is going to go. Here's to hoping for some serious Joker-level mayhem. P.S. All of the covers were pretty amazing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 14 - Man. This was really, really bad. I'm a fan of the LGBT community and I'm for pushing ideas, but geez, a whole comic dedicated to just the idea that gay people are people too? Doesn't exactly have that subtle Wedonesque ring, does it? It doesn't help that the pencils were choppy and that the story had nothing to do with anyone we cared about. If this arc is all about Billy, I'll seriously consider skipping it, based on this issue. Season 9 has been more disappointment than happiness. Words I never thought I'd say.

Ultimate X-Men 18 - Meh. I'm happy they're showing how long of a fight this is going to be, and setting up Kitty and James are a great couple leaders, but I'm just not interested in this aspect of the Ultimate Universe. Nick Fury should know better, too. He should get President Cap over here, have him clean up the whole mess, like he did the rest of the country in a single day, and then we could move on. Instead, the tone of this book is going to shift dramatically, which could be a good thing, but doesn't appeal to me. If it does to you, more power to you. Next issue seems like it's gonna be a quick wrap-up despite the advice Fury gives to Kitty here. Over the top foreshadowing. Not my cup of tea.

Wolverine and the X-Men 18 - Wow. Did not see this ending happening. I love the fact that the dance was actually billed as Dance Like There's No Tomorrow. The concept of "tomorrow" has always been a huge one in the X Family, and I feel like this issue, with its focus on the school, and on Xavier had a great grasp on that feeling. Jason Aaron's writing continues to get stronger and stronger, he's really got a great hold on the ideas that are behind our feelings for these characters, whether they're newly introduced folks like Idie or Broo, or old-hat staples like Kitty, Husk or Logan. The only thing that still feels off is the kiddie Hellfire Club, but I think they're about to take several steps up the ladder of true evil.

Book of the week goes to Batman in something of a process of elimination. It's not that Batman wasn't clearly the champ, but with Buffy being so terrible and Ultimate X-Men having nothing going on, Batman's triumph feels a little hollow.

Monday, October 8, 2012

comics for the week of 10/3/12.

An all-DC week. It's been so long. This one turned out great, with the exception of GL and the addition of X-Force, which is one of the best books Marvel is putting out.

Animal Man 13 - This is a straight horror comic book. I know I've said that before, but every time I read a new issue of Animal Man, I am so impressed. Jeff Lemire is surpassing Scott Snyder as one of my new favorite writers, given the struggles that Batman is going through. Lemire's grip on horror and the tone of this book surpasses almost anything that DC is putting out now (exception made for Batwoman and nothing else) and makes the other chapter of Rotworld appear less than it would be if it stood on its own. I didn't like the idea of the crossover running concurrently, but after reading both titles, I can see the meticulous planning (other than the separate takes on Supergirl, which was disappointing, given how careful it appeared in all other aspects) that Memire and Snyder have done. Here, we get to see Shepherd again, as well as the remnants of the Red: the totems have made themselves into a city. They're in no position to help and, unfortunately, both timelines need it. In the present, the Bakers are in serious trouble and I don't know how they're going to escape. In the future, the bad guys have arrived and Buddy is going to have to time travel somehow, along with Alec.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 2 - Wow. The panel looking up at him when he enters the Rio Hotel. The whole attitude of the book. The tone, the grit. The pencils - I finally feel like Bermejo is perfect for something. (I know others have felt that way about him before, what can I say?) The way he interrogates Joe. Man. Rorschach. The most gangster. The interest that the waitress is seeming to show in Rorschach is tragic in the most dramatic irony sense. Too bad for her she's clearly going to have to die some kind of horrible death. Or, Rorschach will just totally turn on her. Not sure which will be worse, but I have total confidence in Azzarello to have this plotted out well. Superb book.

Green Lantern 13 - The biggest bummer about this issue was the forcing of more of a timetable onto this stupid DCnU. Kyle's only been a GL for 2 years? Wow. More pushing of stereotypes when DC has a chance to introduce a truly new character shouldn't surprise me, but it's still disappointing, regardless of how obvious it is. Johns is still capable of writing a great GL book without Hal as the lead, but this push to outer limits is frustrating. The Rise of the Third Army should be a great, seminal story, but because it's being forced upon us in the midst of at least two misguided pushes (diversity! DCnU!), it's falling really, really flat.

Swamp Thing 13 - This was a great book and it would have been good no matter what. But, it came out the same day as Rotworld Chapter 1: The Red Kingdom. In that respect, it fails, because it just was not as good. But in many aspects, it succeeded. Swamp Thing's journey is more familiar because of the presence of the love interest, Abby, but it also feels more generic. It's nice to see Deadman and Ivy, who are more familiar characters than grown-up Beast Boy, cyborg Steel and also-ran Black Orchid. That, however, is the only real way in which this book is superior to its fellow first chapter. The fake Swamp Things, the fake death of Abby, the fake Hawkman...they all feel like lesser version of the story we already saw on the West Coast.

Book of the week goes to BW: Rorschach. I'm not sure if this is the first BW book to win the book of the week in my subjective reviewing, but I am sure that this is one of the best that I've seen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

lobo football is rolling!

Last weekend, Lobo football defeated Texas State for their third victory of the year, equalling their total wins from the last three seasons combined. When coach Bon Davie took over the cherry and silver head coaching duties, not even the most jaded Lobo fan could have imagined such a convincing turnaround.

Under former coach Locksley's tenure, there was a certain bit of infamy regarding his comments that the Lobos were going to need to add another digit to their scoreboard because they were going to be piling on the points. So far this season, the Lobos are nowhere near that ambitious boasting, but they are averaging more than 28 points a game, which far surpasses their previous records. Consider that in 2011, the Lobos scored a meager 17 touchdowns over the whole season and 21 in each of the two before that.

Unlike the Lobos' first victory this season, their last two have come over respectable if not powerhouse Division I schools. The win two weeks ago against the Aggies was more than a moral victory, as the intra-state rivalry is important to most sports-loving New Mexicans. But the lack of a blow out last week against powerful Boise State seemed to say even more. With this game now adding to the Lobos self-esteem and win total, things seem to be primed for a turnaround.

There are a few issues with declaring the future to be a bed of roses, however. First of all, the game against the Bobcats wasn't pretty. New Mexico managed a lone completed pass in the entire game. The rushing yards were ample, making up for the lack of a passing game in this instance, but it's not going to be enough in the future. The Lobos have now rushed for more than 400 yards in 4 separate games, but they'll need to balance out the attack in order to get these kinds of wins over more quality opponents.

And the more quality opponents are on their way. All of the games from this point are conference matches, and the Lobos currently sit at 7th in the Mountain West. Staring up at our opponents is not necessarily the way we want to start conference play but, fortunately, next week the Lobos face Hawaii - one of the three teams that hasn't won a game in our conference thus far.

If the winning ways can keep up, even just for next week, the Lobos can lay claim to something they haven't had in more than four years: a winning record halfway through the season.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

lobos soccer continues to dominate.

The University of New Mexico Lobos came out a bit sloppy against the Houston Baptist University Huskies this weekend, allowing a goal in the 16th minute. The number-four ranked Lobos ultimately put two in the back of the net on Sunday morning, though, to come out on top in Houston.

The Lobos continue their march toward redemption from last year's undefeated season - a remarkable season that, due to the odd rules of soccer, concluded in the third round of the NCAA Tournament with a match that sent the Lobos home, but did not count as a loss.

The Huskies have lost five games this season, but the Lobos have taken only a single loss. Their tenacity, in the face of a 13-hour weather delay and a site change for the game, shows how focused this team is on improving last year's considerable accomplishments.

The Lobos opened conference play with this game and now face nine consecutive conference matches, in order to determine the automatic bid for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Ultimately, the conference games wind down with another match against Houston Baptist on Saturday, November 3. In between, of course, there are plenty of tough matches, none against the old giants of the MPSF, Sacramento State or Colorado. CSU Bakersfield, another MPSF team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year, will be visiting Albuquerque on Sunday, October 21, however.

In a year full of individual accolades that continue to pile up for the Lobos, the most promising praise is the national ranking and the idea that, after a couple years worth of repeated success, our team deserves to be considered among the national title contenders.

This weekend, the Lobos will look to continue their assault, as two in-conference visitors will visit Albuquerque: Air Force plays on Friday at 5 and Denver's match will start on Sunday at 1. Both matches should showcase the Lobos talents and serve as an excellent time to get behind a local team that could make waves when it comes time for the championship rounds.

Monday, October 1, 2012

comics for the week of 09/26/12.

Including the review for last week's Unwritten first, since I didn't get to it last week.

Unwritten 41 - Wow. This was some real shit. Richie Savoy gets some hard truths and we see how their relationship is going to be so, so, so different from this point forward. We've already seen some of the future, so obviously they're going to reconcile, but this is really going to change things. It also explains more of the relationship between Savoy and Rausch that we've already seen. The ghosts were a good touch, and the acknowledgement of the meta-level story was great. Mike Carey is proving, month after month, that his name belongs on the list of writers who know exactly what they're doing. Tommy's journey of healing began here. Great issue.

*

Angel & Faith 14 - Still a better book than the mainline Buffy book. The characters feel real, their relationships feel like they matter and, as is driven home so many times in this issue, they have progressed. Angel, Faith, Willow and Connor, for as much as they may revisit the past (literally for all of them in this issue/arc) have changed in significant ways since their respective inceptions. Angel may have been a lackluster show in comparison to Buffy, but the ways in which the supporting cast have developed is no comparison to Buffy's stagnation. The journey to Quor'Toth finished, the gang all goes their separate ways, and the London Slayer crew gets a nasty surprise. Things are going to be tense as we draw ever nearer to the conclusion of Season 9.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 3 - How perfect that this book ends with the words, "And so it begins." This is one of the two BW books that makes the whole experiment worthwhile, and I don't think that I'm saying that just because Jae Lee is on it, styling on fools. Lee's art is superb, some of the best in the game (ever?) but Len Wein's writing is exquisite! He really gets who Ozymandias is: an arrogant asshole. The contrast between he and the Comedian drives this issue, but it's the introduction of Dr. Manhattan that gets the biggest reaction out of Veidt. Little does he know how connected those two will be in his grand finale. Man. This is just great, great stuff.

Invincible 95 - And finally, we get the whole story of Amanda and Rex on the alien planet of Flaxan. Good stuff, especially from Cory Walker, whom I normally don't like as much. The story was touching, the comedy hit the right notes, and Rex is totally the type of guy who'd get carried away with power, thinking he was right in all aspects, and lose the babe and the planet. Bummer to see, but Kirkman certainly nailed it. The recap finally over, here's to hoping that next issue we see some forward momentum and that Mark can go back to starring in his own book. I love the side characters and I've enjoyed this story, but there's an overall arc to get back to and it involves Mark in a huge way - not to mention his own race.

Mind MGMT 5 - Almost to the end of Book 1 and we have many confessions in this issue, which the margins warn us we should not trust. It's an incredible read, and definitely the best book coming out right now, since Locke and Key is still on hiatus. The gorgeous art and the intricate storytelling are one of the best combos I've seen. The fact that Lyme and Meru's conversation in this issue primarily takes place over water, and that all of Lyme's stories happen on land can't be a coincidence. The Immortals showing up is no surprise, but the flashback (or wraparound, whatever you'd like to call it) was. It was delightful and made me want to go back and read issue one all over again. This is a series that I will enjoy time and time again, reading it in single issues as well as trades. The reveal with Lyme's wife makes it seem one way, but I'm still not convinced that's actually what it is.

Rachel Rising 11 - Well. This is certainly ramping up, huh? I mean, it started as a seemingly sleepy, small town type of thing, but now we're all the way up to epic levels of Good and Evil. OK. I can go with that. Terry Moore really does go for the gusto on pretty much every level, and I'm good with that. Oftentimes, it falls on its face, as the ending of SiP proved (it's difficult to change the story and still stick the landing) but when it works, as it did with Echo (especially for one issue [12?]) it's thematic goodness. We'll see how this one goes, could be either at this point. The good guys are down, the bad guys are up and it seems as though Manson is in for some trouble - that is, unless the plucky (male) detective can solve the mystery in time! OK, so I'm a bit cynical at this point. I have faith that it'll get better.

Ultimates 16 - It's kind of comical how quickly one man is able to solve everything, but in that aspect, this might be the most pure comic that I got this week. Cap is elected President, and he single-handedly brings the wartorn nation back together in what seems like a few hours. This is a crisis that the Ultimates all together, along with the United States government, couldn't handle, but Cap can do it. On the other hand, it's kind of the antithesis of the first and second volume of the Ultimates, where they tried to be hyperrealistic. I dig it. It's funny and not great writing (some of the leaps are more than chuckle-worthy) but I'm OK with it. Don't read it if you haven't already been following along, but the scope, the split with the 616, the sheer absurd scale of it...? It's worth it.

Book of the week goes to Mind MGMT. When you are the best book on the market, it's gonna take a knock-it-out-of-the-park issue from something else to dethrone you and that did not happen this week.