Tuesday, February 26, 2013

university of new mexico lobos move up to number 14.

On Monday, the AP released their latest rankings for the NCAA Division I men's college basketball teams and the University of New Mexico's Lobos were moved up to number 14. Although the Lobos have been ranked as highly as eighth as recently as the 2009-2010 season, this week's movement represents significant gains for a team that's made no bones over their serious goals. Since head coach Steve Alford took over the program in 2007, his squads have made some kind of post-season in each year. While the NIT appearances in his first two seasons may have disappointed some, it was clear, in 2010, that the incremental progress had meant something. The Lobos crashed into the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament as a number 3 seed, thanks to the afore-mentioned #8 ranking, which had come about because of the only 30-win season in New Mexico's history. Their 3 seed matched the Lobos up with Montana in the first round, but they were upset by Washington in the second round.

The next season began with obviously high expectations, but failed during that season to live up to most of them. Finishing the year with a 22-13 record, the Lobos headed back to the NIT. However, in the wake of the super-successful previous season, coach Alford and the University had signed a new contract, locking Alford up until 2020 and it would soon be proved that both were serious about keeping the forward momentum.

Last year, the Lobos finished with a record of 28-7, going 10-4 in Mountain West Conference play. The won the MWC Tournament and earned a 5-seed with their automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. They lost in the third round to eventual Final Four team Louisville.

So, with momentum and history on our side, the Lobos now gear up for their final four games of this season. San Diego State visits the Pit on Wednesday night, and though the Aztecs are only the fourth place team in the Mountain West Conference, they are one of only two in-conference teams to beat the Lobos, as well, the other being UNLV, whom the Lobos do not have to play again. SDSU will come to the Pit looking to knock off a quality opponent, hoping to boost their resume for the Big Dance in March. After SDSU's visit, the Lobos have only one home game left - Wyoming will come to play on March 2. The Lobos then finish up their schedule on the road, at Nevada on March 6 and at Air Force on March 9. The Mountain West Tournament will be held in Las Vegas March 12-15.

The biggest thing for these Lobos at this point is to continue their impressive streak. Winning in Moby against a top-25 ranked Colorado State was a great boost for the team's RPI which is the single biggest determining factor in figuring out seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Losing to any of our remaining opponents seems like it would crash that rating. Winning out, and taking that momentum through the MWC Tournament would obviously be ideal. While everyone loves to be nationally ranked during the season, there's a clear preference to be one of the last teams standing, regardless of ranks. These Lobos have shown they've got a strong will to win. They've got four conference games and a conference tournament to show it's not been a fluke.

Monday, February 25, 2013

comics for the week of 02/20/13.

Not caught up on Daredevil yet, so those reviews will be starting next month, but I did read BPRD Volume 1 and, oh my Lord, it was incredible. I know this isn't news to serious comic book fans, but Hellboy has always been one of my blind spots, so it was awesome to start to dig in.

Avengers 6 - All right! This is getting some serious traction at this point! I love how Hickman deftly handles clues and humongous stories; he parcels out actual pieces, not saving the ultimate reveal for the second to last panel and this issue is proof positive that he knows what he's doing and has been leading us along the right path the whole time. The Builder Code that Hickman lays bare at the end of the issue and the revelation that this character is, in fact, Nightmask, not some new invention called Blackveil, make for some great long-term intrigue. But insofar as shorter-term goals, the therapy session with Shang Chi and Captain Universe, where we learn why this ultimate power has been endowed and upon whom it has been thrust is one of the slowest builds with the largest payoffs. The scenes with the new Spidey are amusing, too, but I wonder how long Otto will last, even in his own book, if he's consistently being written like this. I mean, people have GOT to notice the huge change, right? I know it's being exaggerated for the sake of the readers, but there's got to be some realism to it, too. And there are characters who have known him for (at least) ten years of comic book time, no matter what they've done with time, and they're bound to see that fundamental shift as something going wrong. But enough about Spidey. The main takeaway here is that my faith in Hickman has been restored and that I'm rolling with this book no matter who's on the art duties. Great stuff.

Batwoman 17 - Sometimes I get tired of repeating myself in regards to how good Batwoman is. Then I have an issue like this one, with its cover and its first page, with the blank inks and the hypercolor backgrounds and the way that JH Williams is constantly innovating in a medium that's been around in this format for at least 80 years. The layouts, which were so mind-bendingly amazing when I first saw them, are now old hat. Something that he may not have invented but he damn well perfected is now a mere expectation. The page featuring Hawkfire's new name being revealed is the perfect example. How can a page this astounding seem just ordinary to me now? The following double-page spread takes a standard of comic books, a staple, something we've literally seen hundreds of thousands of times, and still brings the new! The end of Medusa is another old story told in an old manner, but it still feels fresh, especially since we've known that she's not the Big Bad for a while now. So when she gets her just desserts, we know it's not the end. We know Batwoman & her cousin and Wonder Woman haven't triumphed yet. And the twist that arises with that Big Bad is an example of Williams' improved storytelling. It's not just the art that we're staying around for nowadays. The reveal with Maggie and the post-script prove that there are long-term plans, that there are definite beats that have been planned, and that this book is DEFINITIVELY the best of the New 52. When this comes out as a hardcover, you'd be a damn fool not to pick it up.

Fables 126 - I've been a fan of this new style of narration since it started and this chapter proves to be no different. Plus, older Ambrose writing out the history of the Fables and Fabletown just plain makes sense. The confrontation between Brandish and Snow White gets big time serious, while Leigh is still hiding in plain sight. Bigby and Stinky are still off looking for the wolf cubs and the cover was awesome, too. The prince comes across like the truly stunning asshole he is and the way he talks makes us hate him with ease. But the power that Leigh can see coursing through him, plus the disdain with which he knocked out the Mayor and Rose Red makes it clear that he's not some chump that's going to be easily taken out. Snow White's promise, then, to take him out herself, comes off as even more incredible. The end bit with the Blue Fairy and Beast and Reynard and Geppetto (and his weird potted plant) is a good lead-in to next issue. As always, Fables is operating on a level far above most other comics.

Green Lantern 17 - All right, sure, this is interesting enough. The first lantern is a good concept, but it's just more backlog from Johns. At some point, he's going to have to tell a story that resonates in the current time period (other than Hal and Sinestro being trapped in the land of the dead, and Baz now joining them) if he wants his mojo back. I didn't read the introduction of Volthoom, so I felt a bit lost, but I don't feel like I lost out on anything, per se. That's a problem when your book brings up apathy as the foremost emotion. I'll probably keep track of Green Lantern from here on out, but I can't see myself continuing to read it.

Locke and Key: Omega 3 - Holy shit. That was ominous and nothing seems good. Tyler goes to his last dance, Uncle Duncan gets taken care of by the shadows, Nina gets mentally and emotionally abused in the worst ways conceivable and then Kinsey gets home and misunderstands everything. They're all on their way to the Cave Rave, where Dodge is set to win. There are a few great things about this issue, though, insofar as the hope department: the return of Jordan and Tyler's mature approach to her suggest that she's going to be a supremely important bit character, just as we'd suspected in the beginning of the story. She is a gun, and she was shown in Act I for a very specific reason. Plus, the pencils are starkly beautiful during their love scene and it's a superb contrast with the naked and raw torture that Nina is put through beforehand. Those scenes were uncomfortable to read/look at, but the contrast with Tyler and Jordan makes it clear that it was a conscious choice. Hard to deal with, for sure, but they've made a phenomenal book by making hard choices, and they're not gonna shy away at the climax.

Mind MGMT 8 - Like Batwoman, there's only so much repeated gushing I feel comfortable thrusting upon Mind MGMT. But when it comes to storytelling and brilliant art, Matt Kindt is God. The beginning of the story made me think that we were going to get a one-off kind of tale, but we shift to Henry Lyme making his little self-effacing dig, which made me laugh out loud. The story moves back to Zanzibar, which Meru doesn't remember, picking up a Perrier sister on the way, then to Egypt, where we meet a kid named Dusty. It's full of the kinds of clues that we'll look back on and find so obvious, but for now, I'm just enjoying the ride. The last page is too good to make us wait another month.

Saga 10 - There's been a lot of high praise going around this week for a few writers and artists and you can be damn sure Brian K. Vaughn is on that list, too. Saga gets another chapter, where Marko and his mother get back after finding Izabel. The relationship between Alana and Marko's father continues to improve, but Gwen and the Will are closing in on the runaways' ship, even if they can't see it. The planet turns out to be housing (e.g. the way the Celestials are born?) something called a Timesuck, which the Will is tremendously frightened of, but Gwen forces him to push on. Turns out, that's a bad idea, and there are some prices to be paid; some collateral damage as the narrator puts it. Sad stuff in this book, but one of the highlights that I haven't talked about nearly enough in any of my reviews of this book is the art, by Fiona Staples. The looks on the faces of Alana and Marko's dad when their respective partners get back is a superbly pencilled panel, and the look of Izabel, both herself and her gorilla illusion, is great throughout. This is a book destined for greatness.

Thor 5 - Gorr's appearance in this book is simply jaw-dropping. The art, by Esad Ribic, has reached a new, incredible plateau. He's always been great, but this is some incredible work. The consistency is key. The progress of each character (including Thor, obviously, but mostly focusing on Gorr) as the time periods pass is beautiful. And the end, when modern day Thor meets his future self, confuses him for Odin, and future Thor cracks, "I'm not your father, you beardless whelp," is the best. Jason Aaron is proving that he's so multi-faceted in his writing skills and I'm excited for this book in a way that very few other Marvel books are making me. Fantastic.

Book of the week goes to Batwoman. No matter how much I'm turning away from the Big Two, and no matter how insanely great Locke & Key, Mind MGMT and Saga always are, I've got some major feelings about the level of this work that's being put out. I think it even gets bonus points (in my head and in my warped rating scale) for being produced by DC, as though Williams is succeeding despite his setting, as opposed to the indie creators who have always had the freedom to produce work at this level. All that should be read as a large disclaimer that I think this was one of the best weeks in comic book history ever. You can't lose. (Unless you're still hanging on to Green Lantern. Which I'm not.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

nba all-star weekend recap.

The 2013 National Basketball Association's All-Star Weekend in Houston is officially in the books, and the League, after suffering through a lockout-shortened season last year, is back on track in a major way. While LeBron James is playing at a record-breaking efficiency rate and the Lakers have stumbled in ways that no one expected, the regular season has been full of drama. Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs might be having his best season ever and the Oklahoma City Thunder, after shocking the League by trading James Harden have quietly put together one of their best seasons. The Boston Celtics are in the midst of proving the Ewing Theory to be a valid theory, going 8-1 in games since star point guard Rajon Rondo went down, and the Chicago Bulls are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference despite Derrick Rose being far away from returning to the court.

In the midst of this tumultuous return-to-glory season, the NBA's just-over halfway break is a welcome change of pace for the competitors. On Friday night, things get kicked off in the most relaxed way possible: an All-Star game in name only, celebrities and ex-players attempted to show off their skills. Amongst the players this year: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who played professionally in Australia, and comedian Kevin Hart, who makes a habit of winning the MVP trophy in these games, whether he has the best game or not. Theoretically, after the celebs get off the court, things are supposed to pick up a notch. Formerly called the Rookies versus Sophomores Game, All-Star Friday night's last event has been rechristened the Rising Stars Challenge. The reasoning? The NBA wanted to break up the 1st and 2nd year players, making for a more competitive game. This year's game showed that intentions don't always follow format. The Rising Stars game's final score was 163-135.

Things were planned to pick up on Saturday night, but once again didn't necessarily live up to expectations. After the much-maligned Shooting Stars challenge, the guards took to the floor for the Skills Challenge. The only safe bet was that defending champ Tony Parker wouldn't want to win again in order to avoid being asked back next year. Damian Lillard won the event with a time of 29.8 seconds. After the presumable-rookie of the year got his trophy, the anticipation for the next two events was building. Normally a snoozable event, the Three Point Contest had received a little press for the grassroots Twitter campaign of Matt Bonner. Bonner's dedication to the event paid off when he made the final round, but he couldn't overcome the red-hot shooting of last year's ROY, Kyrie Irving. Last but not least, the Dunk Contest was supposed to be filled with pure dunkers, despite a lack of starpowered names. While Gerald Green got things off on the right foot with a 50 as the first dunk of the night, nailing it on his first attempt, the contest quickly descended into what Deadspin noted was a less than 30 percent shooting event. Granted, some of the dunks were incredibly difficult, but it's hard to maintain enthusiasm for something - even if it's incredibly difficult - when the misses are piling up. Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors eventually took the crown from last year's champ, Jeremy Evans, despite an amazingly so-cheesy-it-was-good dunk, with Evans jumping over a painting of himself dunking.

When Sunday finally rolled around, the elements were all in place for a great game, the best in the world getting to play basketball without any of that pesky defense getting in the way. The game never descended into the trap of a blowout that makes viewers tune out and players give up on anything other than one on one clear outs and dunk contests. The biggest attention gatherers were the MVP-performance of Chris Paul and the stifling defense that Kobe Bryant played on LeBron James down the stretch. More than anything else, those two factors led to the West triumphing over the East, with a final score of 143-138.

The NBA's regular schedule returns on Tuesday as the players make ready for the second half of the season and the push to the playoffs.

Monday, February 18, 2013

comics for the week of 02/13/13.

It seems like I'm alone on this, but I pretty much hated the conclusion to the Death of the Family. DC has fallen off in a huge, huge way for me.

Batman 17 - It's frankly embarrassing how far this book has fallen. Like I said last week in my Swamp Thing review, I've still got faith in Scott Snyder, but he's turning into a premise-only kind of writer, someone who simply cannot live up to his own press. The Death of the Family arc concludes with a hell of a whimper as opposed to any kind of bang. Again, I'll offer this disclaimer that I didn't read any of the tie-in books, so maybe the fault is mine, but I'll go back to a standard argument against that too: if I need to read more books to understand a plotline in a book that I'm reading, it's not a great idea. This is the mainline book. I should be able to get the story from here. All I got was the following: the Joker is twisted (we knew that), Bruce (maybe) found out the Joker's identity (before he became the Joker?), the Joker does not know (or maybe just doesn't care) that Batman is Bruce and ergo doesn't know who all the rest of the family is. However, the family does seem fractured, with all of them canceling on the meeting that Bruce calls. Alfred seems fine, but he's always been an outlier. And the Joker? He's probably not dead. Yeah, he was scary in the first issue of this arc, but at the end? He's the same as he's always been. Nothing amazing here, certainly not worth the expectations that were thrust upon the book after issue 1, nor after the Joker's re-introduction.

Buffy 18 - All right, we're getting better here. Buffy figures out that the Siphon has been after Illyria this whole time, Dawn's got some serious problems, Xander turns to the one person he can actually reach during this crisis to try to help her, and Billy's still doing some amateur detective work. I still don't care for the Billy angle, but I'm glad that he's actually doing something now, as opposed to simply being an agenda-driven character. The Council and Illyria are turning into actual characters, too, instead of just templates, which is always nice in a comic that's renowned for the people. The dialogue also is back, especially in the shortening of expos (that's a nice little nod) and the way that Andrew Star Treks Dawn out of the hospital. We had to figure that Illyria's plan to get Buffy and Eldre Koh out to help her wasn't going to work, so now we've got a serious cliffhanger. This is the first time that I've felt genuinely enthralled by the ending of the Buffy book since she went through her (false) pregnancy scare and I'm really excited. Here's to hoping that as they continue to move us toward a conclusion, everything can continue to pick up. I'd love if this book would finish at a high level.

Wolverine & the X-Men 25 - I know there were some people who were really looking forward to Perez's art on this book, but I've gotta say, for me, it's a huge step down. The characters all felt flat. The backgrounds were nice, but the faces, the bodies, all elements of motion? They felt really lacking, especially compared with the hyper-detailed artists we've had on this book in the past. Plus, the story didn't do much to help. We start with a reference to Wolverine: Origin, move to the Savage Land, see Broo with Idie and have that semi-explained by Beast, which moves us into the good parts of this book. I love to see Logan and Hank still talking like friends. Their conversation (and the reality of the fact that most of the 'adults' in this school have known each other for 20+ years and treat each other as such) is the best part of the book. I also love seeing Doop all over the place, fulfilling random duties. He's a great character and even though we're not getting to see him in action, it's still wonderful that he's neither gone nor forgotten. The main issue, though, is that this book feels like it could and should be Quentin Quire's tale. It's always been about him. But the way-too-wild swings back and forth from uberresponsible to anarchist are hard to hold on to, even if we believe he's a child and prone to over the top swings. The ending matching the beginning was an obvious one, and I didn't care for it, but I'm definitely willing to see how it plays out next issue. The playful touches at the back of the book remind me that this is a keeper even if I didn't care for the art nor the story.

Book of the week goes to Buffy, but kind of only by default. I didn't think it was a phenomenal issue, but for me, it was way better than either of the other books I read this week.

Monday, February 11, 2013

comics for the week of 02/06/13.

Also playing catch up on New Avengers, but not there yet.

All New X-Men 7 - Since getting over my feeling about this story as though it's a one-note deal that Bendis is just going to strike over and over and over again, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And this issue, it got even better, because David Marquez is on the pencils. Mystique guest-starring always means subterfuge and this issue really showcased that, with the pseudo-Wolverine at first and with her mysterious conversation at the end. The bit with the human at the bank loving Cyclops was interesting, too, but the best part was (and probably should be, going forward) the relationship between Scott and Jean as they learn more and more about each other in the future and the way they've essentially influenced every single mutant ever. This book feels fun in a lot of the same ways that Wolverine & the X-Men does, which is refreshing in the ever-darkening world of comic books.

Animal Man 17 - The first part of the conclusion to Rotworld brings Animal Man and Swamp Thing together. It's nice that we're getting toward the end of this story because it's already stretched on too long. It's nice to see the teams all getting together and working on winning, although it's strange to see the Flash and Superman vanquished so relatively easily. I know it wasn't easy, but...it feels odd. There's more at stake here than maintaining the top tier's reputation, I know, but it sets a bad precedent. Regardless, this is less than half the tale, the rest should be continued in Swamp Thing, where we'll get to the actual cliffhanger that we were presented with on the last page. There are no spoilers at all to say that it's the loved ones, having been turned by the Rot.

Avengers 5 - It's an interesting thing to say, but I preferred this issue to 4. The art was still atrocious, but I think it might have been the fact that this Smasher is a totally original (maybe?) creation, as opposed to a character ripped from an alternate universe that's being forced into the mold of the Avengers. (Plus, I'll reiterate my claim about Hyperion being another version of the Sentry, whom Marvel have already proved they don't know how to operate with.) The inclusion of the Shi'ar and the Imperial Guard make for some of the wide scope that we know Hickman is planning, and while the story stands on its own, it's also got hallmarks of something we'll come back to later and see things we can't see yet. Smasher's got some good development here, including origins, power and rank increases, and familiarity with more than one team. We also got a few glimpses of Manifold (terrible name, BTW) and the ways in which the team is dividing and conquering. They don't need to be all together all the time, that's one of the benefits of getting bigger, as Steve and Tony have discussed.

Daredevil: End of Days 5 - This book has been total horse shit. But in the first few pages here, with Ben Urich getting some real talk from Punisher (locked away, rotting in a prison cell) it seems like it's going to turn. But, as the pages continue to turn, it doesn't get a lot better. This story has been essentially the same every issue: Ben goes to investigate, gets nothing, goes on, finds the same word has a chilling effect on people who don't know much to begin with and pretends like he's moving on. The end result is going to be an unfitting capstone to one of the best Daredevil runs of all time, and it's unbecoming of Bendis to unspool his tale in this manner. I'll read the rest, I'll continue to write them up, but I'm disappointed to see it happening like this. Here we have Melvin Potter, Peter Parker, Foggy Nelson and a web that's continuing to convolute upon itself. The last page seems to promise some actual development next issue but I won't be holding my breath.

Green Arrow 17 - Jeff Lemire took over the writing duties on Green Arrow and my buddy @MyGalactus thought I'd like the new artist, whom I don't think I've seen before, Andrea Sorrentino. While it was cool, reminiscent of the art from Travel Foreman that I didn't initially care for in Animal Man, the main draw here, surprisingly, was the story. I believe in Jeff Lemire, sure, but I just can't bring myself to care even a little bit about Oliver Queen, Green Arrow. However, the story here was an interesting one. It's a Daredevil-style approach, where everything is taken away from a character and it's a damn good base to draw from. When the issue starts, we see Ollie wandering the desert, seemingly near death, and then we flash back to see how he got there. I don't care for the ins and outs of Queen's fortunes nor his company, but it's always interesting to see another archer, Komodo, kill a dude Ollie's talking to and then come for Ollie himself and easily best him. The deus ex machina, Magus, was worrying to me until I knew that he wasn't supposed to be explained already. I'll give this one a few more issues, it's definitely entertaining. The Magus and the island and Komodo all make for a good draw.

Scarlet 6 - OK. It's nice to have Bendis back in his creator-owned universe (even if it is Icon, which is a subsidy, etc. etc. etc.) but...I still have complaints about Scarlet. I mean, I'm a fan of the concept. Obviously. But...it's supposed to be rooted in reality, right? I mean...there's just no way this is reality. And I know that's a silly complaint to make of a comic book, but...it's supposed to be rooted in reality. And it's so clearly not. I mean, this could never happen. And there's so little being said. It's a lot of naivete, youthful exuberence and meandering wishful attitudes, which is all well and good, but there's the jaded adult side of me that just doesn't see it as compelling. All that negativity being expressed, there's something to be said for Maleev's art. He's one of my all-time favorites and it's a shame that he's not working on something more regular.

Swamp Thing 17 - Wow. What a crappy conclusion. What terrible art. Honestly, there wasn't much about this issue that I can say good things about, so I'm just going to leave it at this: there's not a lot of impetus for me to keep reading this book if it continues like this. I'm giving it one more issue and then, if it's not better, DC will have lost one of their three premier books of the New 52. Horrible.

Ultimate Spider-Man 20 - Yes! Still a fun book! I'm sure Dave Jordan will complain that Jefferson, Miles' dad, getting hurt is derivative of Uncle Ben or Captain Stacy, but it's so good! Venom comes back and, honestly, we have no idea what he wants. I've still not looked up his old appearances, because I love the mystery of not hearing from him. Who knows? It might not be anywhere near as bad as it looks. I'm a huge fan of what's happening here. Ganke making web fluid for Miles, the return of the symbiote, the beautiful art by Pichelli, and the family dynamic are all winners. Plus, Jefferson clocks that camera man, so even when (if?) he does survive, there are going to be unpleasant ripples in his civilian life. The scenes with the EMTs talking about Spider-Man and the cops firing at him, but not firing at the apartment building are also gold. The scenes that are spliced with YouTube footage of Peter Parker fighting Venom look like authentic Bagley panels, too, which is an awesome tough. Fun book.

Willow 4 - Great, great stuff here. Willow is getting her hippie-witch vibe back on, and it's not annoying at all. Maybe it's the lack of overtly agenda-driven writing, maybe it's the outside-of-Earth storylines, maybe it's the reveal about her companion Marrack, but it feels so organic. This book feels like a true reflection of the David Mack covers: layers upon layers. I'm a fan of the fact that the side books aren't just distractions, they feel like they're going to be important subplots that are going to come into play in the mainline book, even if the mainline Buffy book is the weakest of all four titles. I'm bummed that this book is running so late, but I have confidence that they'll wrap things up in time for the conclusions that we're racing towards in both Buffy and Angel & Faith. In the borderlands, Willow's found something that some of her old, dark magic friends would never be able to recognize. It's up to her to make sure she stays there and receives the full message. We'll find out next month.

Book of the week goes to All New X-Men. I'm glad I got over my initial qualms and stuck around for this one. It's a fun book and I'm enjoying the ride.

Monday, February 4, 2013

comics for the week of 01/30/13.

A little late this week, but no apologies. Still catching up.

Angel and Faith 18 - This is a great issue of a great series. The ways that this book is superseding the main title has already been documented, but more than that, the characters feel authentic, the emotions are real, and the story feels like it matters. We get to see more young Giles, as well as an older role model (of the female gender, no surprise) and then we play catch up to modern times where his demon is trying to take over (at least part of) the world. Rebekah Issacs' art makes a huge difference here. It's the best. Eyghon seems like a real threat, but the best thing about his capability is what it brings out of Alasdair, whom I didn't fully trust the last time we saw him. Maybe I'm a fool to do so now and it's going to come back to haunt me, but I'm a fan of that. Great stuff.

Avengers 4 - I read issues 1-3 in a whirlwind blast and I'm glad I did so. Those issues told one story and it looks like the next few issues are going to be mini-introductions in the form of new origins for some old/new characters. First up: Hyperion. I'm curious how they're going to make this work, given the problems Marvel had with the Sentry, but I'm always willing to give it a go. However, the art by Adam Kubert was terrible and the story was convoluted for me, since I have no idea about these recent changes with AIM. (Maybe this is new, too? That might make me feel a bit better personally, as a comics nerd, but it would make me feel worse for the other newbs trying to get into the series.) Once again, Hickman's enormous scope is on display and it's clear that there's a lot going on here, but I'm not fully on board yet. Hyperion's going to play a huge part in this saga, no matter what happens, I just hope that Marvel continues to give Hickman free reign and lets him create this large scale masterpiece however he wants, so that we get a FF-style payoff.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 5 - Another great entry from Wein and Lee in the form of the most compelling character in all of the Watchmen legacy. This time around, Jae Lee gets to tackle brief panels of Silk Spectre, Rorschach and the rest of the Minutemen, but in that detached way that we've gotten from the rest of the solo books. Adrian Veidt shows off how far ahead of the curve he always has been, buying up the island, studying Dr. Manhattan, and getting out of the costumed adventurer business just ahead of the Keene Act's passage. No surprise that he's the smartest man in the room at all times, but it is a bit surprising to see how he navigates and, even in his audio diary, the things that he keeps from his audience (us, sure, but presumably himself? Unless this is designed to be something more at a later date?) for the last chapter.

Hawkeye 7 - First of all, this is another Marvel book that I've recently caught up on, reading all six of the prior issues via a friend's stack. Secondly, even if you don't buy comics, you should go and buy a copy (or five) of this issue. There are reasons. However, on to the issue itself. The first half, focusing on Hawkguy in Rockaway is poignantly touching. A family focuses on what its got left when it seems like they've got nothing left and everything's been taken. The second half, with Hawkeye (Kate Bishop style!) starts out hilarious, especially her interactions with Clint and "Steve Buscemi's tiny grandpa." The way this book is written (MATT FRACTION!) is fantastic. The humor, while maintained, quickly turns to a celebration not only of people under terrible circumstances, but of Jersey in particular. The problems that were underreported in significant areas have been well-documented already, but Fraction does a great job of getting them front and center, too.

Invincible 100 - The Death of Everyone concludes. The first page shocked the hell out of me, exactly as it was supposed to. Overall, the issue had a tone of commemoration, and while that could have bugged, I felt like it was appropriate. Robert Kirkman now has 2 separate series over the 100-issue mark and that's an incredible accomplishment for some indie books - despite their presence at Image, they're clearly indie books. As for the issue itself, I don't want to spoil things too much, but let me say that I was convinced that Kirkman had gone through with it, but when the truth was revealed, I didn't feel a lot of whiplash, which I thought was odd. Maybe this is a better way to get there? I don't know. As far as the middle bit with Cecil, I thought that's been unavoidable since ten or so issues ago. Also, the last page with Eve was great, as was the page with Eve and Mark's parents. There were some genuine emotions in this issue, which is a great thing. I'm also interested in the idea of Invincible Universe; with all the different groups and characters running around here, there's a lot of room for bigger stories that don't necessarily focus on the Viltrumite angle, which is what I think Invincible is at its core. Congratulations, Kirkman!

Rachel Rising 14 - Beautiful. Amazing. Inspiring storytelling. And I already said last issue that I was probably done with this in singles and so I am. I'm still fully recommending this comics, but I can't do it in single doses. Maybe you can, and if you can, you should. But I'll be picking up the trades. Rachel's history gets more convoluted, Zoe comes back, Jet doesn't, Aunt Johnny has some insight and we see glimpses of the past. See you in TPB.

Unwritten 45 - Contains the line of the week: "Without story - without the ability to step sideways from fact into hypothesis, human life is untenable." Focuses on Richie Savoy. Lovely to see that he's still in Australia and that we still get to hang out with Didge. Here we see a gnarly case of story becoming reality, in a great new twist. New powers are being revealed and Mme. Rauch seems to know something about what's coming up. Didge goes to check out a homicide case that's pulled straight from The Walking Dead and Savoy doesn't see anything odd about the fact that a kid's horror story seemingly caused it. In fact, he seems to think that her confronting him will just make him stop. Silly vampire. This is only gonna be a two-part break, but I'd be shocked if there weren't long-lasting ramifications from this distraction storyline, and I'm loving the fact that we didn't see Tom Taylor at all in this issue, but that it didn't feel like a letdown.

Young Avengers 1 - Playing catch up from last week, thanks to a friend's recommendation on Twitter, and I have to say that this is an underrated title. BTW, Buffy books: this is how you can and should write gay characters: they're people who are gay, not gay things there to be manipulated for gay reasons. Young men like Billy and Teddy are people besides their sexual identities and that's proved from the first moment we see them. The Spider-Man cameo is hilarious and the fight the young couple get into over it is over far too quickly, just like many arguments we all had when we were 18. Their emotions veer far too wildly, far too quickly, and that's one of the reasons why Billy acts so rapidly, without thinking through the consequences of his actions. However, we get to see one of those consequences on the last-page cliffhanger. Meanwhile, there's a plot going on with Loki and it seems clear that he's telling people to remember. Could it be that things have already changed and he's the only one who realizes it and he's actually there to do some sort of good? I mean, he's the Mischief God, sure, but he's also pretty egocentric and if things aren't working out well for the world and he's not behind it, well, I'd venture a guess that he's not going to be happy about that. Great stuff in the beginning re: Noh-Varr and his odd place in the Marvel U, too, with Kate's narration being a central thread. I loved the nod in the credits to the song that was playing, too. I'll be sticking with this one, and if you didn't pick it up, you're missing out, too.

Book of the week goes to Hawkeye. I'm that much of a fan, sure, because I've got the passion of the converted, but it goes beyond my zeal and the special appeal of this issue in particular. Plus, it's got the funniest line of the week: "Why are you crying? Did you just watch Rudy?"