Monday, July 29, 2013

us men's national team wins the gold cup.

On Sunday afternoon, at Soldier Field in Chicago, on a cool day of merely 68 degrees but with plenty of wind, the United States Men's National Team won the Gold Cup championship, playing against an unexpected but totally justified team from Panama.

The match began under the cloud of controversy, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann - ejected in the 87th minute on Wednesday's semifinal match against xxx - and on Friday, the CONCACAF ruling board decided the head coach could not be on the sideline during the final match. Assistant coaches Martin Vasquez and Andreas Herzog were declared co-coaches for the match – with Herzog being listed as the official manager on the score card.

Panama got the first corner kick of the match in the 10th minute. The United States got their first in the 17th minute. When Panama attacked on the counter, Stuart Holden took a hit on the knee and went out of the game, leaving the US with only 10 for a brief time. The disadvantage was enough that the replacement coaches felt the need to make an unusually early substitution, bringing in Mikkel Diskerud in the 23rd minute. Holden's history of injury – he broke his leg in 2010, tore his ACL in 2011 and suffered from knee cartilage damage just 6 months after that ACL tear – made his quick disappearance from the game particularly disappointing. Grant Wahl reported that Holden had sprained his right knee and would be evaluated further at a later date. The biggest bit of action in the first half was the 9 fouls on the side of the US, to Panama's 5. The red, white and blue did control 75% possession in the first half, but neither team had any shots on goal.

In the second half, Landon Donovan continued his impressive performance during the Gold Cup, completing his comeback tour for the men's national team with something of an aberration. When Brek Shea came in for Joe Corona in the 68th minute, he scored almost immediately - in the 69th - off a Landon Donovan whiff that was fortunately a miss – had Donovan touched the ball, it certainly appeared as though Shea would have had to be called off side. It was an unusual way for Donovan to put his imprint on the game, but it was undeniable fun.

57,000 out of the 61,000 seats were filled and after this game, the national team will return to World Cup qualifying matches, playing in Costa Rica on September 6 and Mexico in Columbus on September 10.

With the win, Klinsmann's role as a coach during the record-breaking run of wins in a row for the men's national team is now up to 11. The US now has five Gold Cup titles - second only to Mexico's six. Panama ended the game without a shot on goal.

Monday, July 15, 2013

comics for the week of 06/26/13 and 07/03/13 and 07/10/13.

Holy smokes. So much stuff happened this week. I'm not gonna get into the politics or the sports here, but man...just look at how many books came out!

All New X-Men 13 - Man, I lost my first review of this book. It was long and it was good. Let's try to recapture some of that initial impression by saying that this book that once seemed like it was going to be a one trick pony has really moved past that point, and I'm really impressed with how much fun it consistently is. The biggest things that I care to rewrite are as follows: it's really, really fun to have a young Iceman back. And Bendis writing him is almost as perfect as it can get. I love the interactions between Wolverine and young Cyclops. I didn't read Uncanny Avengers 5, so I was glad they reprinted the speech. I didn't see it as crazy as some of the reviews have painted it, but I can see why some people are up in arms about it. I love Havok as a central character in the Marvel Universe. He's always deserved a bit more than just being Cyke's brother. It seems like Mystique's plan is finally actually being revealed: she wants to move from rich to wealthy. And she thinks the way to do that is to get out of being a supervillain and into being a super evil organization. Hooray for bigger thinking. Last but not least, Lady Mastermind's place in this whole ordeal is finally revealed; she's just a vehicle to torture young Jean in the visage of her father. Bummer, I thought she could (and should) do more. There's room to hope, though, in a title that's having this much fun with something that logically didn't seem to have much initial traction. The last point is one that's worth really getting into and it's about Kitty and her barely-concealed Bendis-voice: I see the parallels in what she's (he's, really) saying. And I see how that's a fight worth fighting. But it's kind of disconcerting to me to ally the mutant message with that particular one, when it's had such loftier aims in the past (and that's not an attempt to be dismissive toward the persecution of the Jewish people...I know it's real and it's consistent and it's a matter of grave consequence in our world) and there are other, perhaps loftier, things happening in our world right now. Again, not trying to say it's not OK, it just struck me as a little unusual, given how little I see that side of the fight in 2013. But maybe that's part of his problem. (And young Bobby gets the killer final joke in that scene anyway.)

Angel and Faith 23 - Well, from the moment Nadira started with the speech-making, we all kind of knew she was done for, right? But it was amazing to finally see Whistler's true form and I'm bummed that, by the end of this story, he's going to have to die. He'd be a fascinating character to get to explore in much, much more detail. I'm still loving where this is going. I love the fact that Faith is becoming more and more of a true Watcher. That she's emotionally invested in the lives of those around her. That she can see things like we the audience can, such as the repetition of history all around her. She's a shining example of how characters can progress, become totally different from their original incarnations, but still be amazing. Young Giles is another. Him standing next to Aldasair, casting spells and praying that they'll work is such a sight and I really, really hope that they'll decide to keep him in this foreign situation. The ending is surprising, but I think it had to go there, just so we could still have some huge action as things wrap up. I believe S9's issues are ending at issues 25 (a quick Google check tells me that's correct) so there are actually quite a few balls still up in the air to truly wrap up. I'm loving what's happening here just as much as I'm disliking what's going on in Buffy, so I hope some of the virtues of this title will wear off on its compatriot, seeing as they're all fighting the same idea. Great stuff.

BPRD: Vampire 4 - The witches take on the vampire and it doesn't go so hot for the ladies. In fact, with the ending of the issue, it doesn't look good for any of the ladies we've met. I've got to be honest: because I'm just starting to dig into the Hellboy Universe (Mignolaverse, I'm sure, is the better term) I'm not really enjoying the story too much. But the art, by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, is more than worth the price of admission. I hope these guys get some regular work, but I'm sure it would have to be in the Dark Horse vein - I'm not sure I can see them working for any Big Two titles. All that being said, I'd love to see them any place I could get a regular dose.

Daredevil 27 - And that's how you end a killer arc. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee do some amazing work, as they've done on this entire run, and it's damn near perfect. Love the fact that we get a cameo from Lady Bullseye, love that Matt beats both her and Ikari so handily, love the manner in which Bullseye is dispatched and love the certainty that Waid's got something else up his sleeve in regards to that radiation and the killer's eyes. Love that we've got Ikari to add to the stable of DD villains and love that Foggy was one of the real hearts of this book. Love that Milla is still used in a stable manner, that she wasn't just tossed aside, that writers at Marvel prove they know how to do growth when they're given the opportunity, and hope that Joe Q sees this book and realizes what he missed out on by tossing out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to Spidey. Love the last page. Love the reveal of Matt's friends. Love the fact that I can read this comic, feel like a kid, but enjoy it on both the kid and the adult levels. Looking forward to the future.

Fury MAX 13 - "We shouldn't do any of the things we do, Nicky. It makes such a mess of us. Makes a mess of the whole world." With all of the confrontations (most of them cold) in this issue, it's actually those words that will stand out the most to me. Those are the words by which I will remember this series. What a damn series it was. It'll never continue, and it shouldn't. It'll be one of those tiny little things (that more people than usual saw) and it'll fade into the memories of those who got to see it. And the last page, the true ending, the heart of it all, the meat of "My War Gone By"? That's why most of us who are around my age still read comics. Because we get to see things like that. It may not be often, and we may complain a shitload in the interim while we're suffering through the latest Age of Uncanny Apocalypse Striking Back Over Heroes Reborn Into a New 52 Now, but every once in a while, when it comes to the Big 2, it's damn worthwhile.

Hawkeye 11 - Well that was legitimately awesome. While I wanted more connections or serious repercussions to happen (maybe I've been brainwashed into thinking that something like Lassie could actually occur?), I was totally satisfied with this radical departure. I love the fact that a title like this one, much less an issue like this one, is being put out by Marvel Comics in 2013. There was definitely a time when I did not think I'd be able to say that. Do yourself a favor: buy all of the issues of Hawkeye. You will not regret it.

Jupiter's Legacy 2 - Well, again, it's not terrible, and, I suppose, if you're aping something, Hamlet's one of the best places to start, but... I'm just not that interested. The Utopian isn't nearly the perfect being we were led to believe he is in issue one, and his son and his brother are conspiring against him. There's a secret (or two) that the sister is keeping, and there's going to be some forced reconciliation on the part of the family before the whole thing gets torn apart. Frankly, Quitely doesn't do enough of a trick for me anymore to overlook Millar's writing, which just isn't worth my time or money. If I hear phenomenal things about it, I'll check it out in trade. For now, that's enough.

Mind MGMT 12 - Honestly, I don't even know how to review this issue. I need to reread the whole series again, and I need to see everything we've seen about the Hulk, and I need to register the fact that it was him in the beginning. I love how many levels this story constantly works on, and I love the fact that it's got a constant eye on the end. I don't know how much else to say other than it seems like we have two defined sides now and Meru's not on either one. I love to think about how this is going to progress, but I know it's going to surprise me any way, so it's almost pointless. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Private Eye 3 - This is some next level shit, so let's take a moment to appreciate the little things: there's a Blockbuster Video in his world. She's wearing a Facebook hoodie. He has a record collection and he (or his grandpa?) also has a Free Assange poster. I mean, shit, I LOVE this world. This is incredible. This comic is incredible, BKV is incredible and Marcos Martin is incredible. I've long-maintained Hickman as the best writer in the biz today, but my friends always mention Saga as the BKV masterpiece that dooms my argument to failure. With The Private Eye being a mini, with a set end, and with Saga being the sprawling, endless tale that he wants it to be, it feels like they have a point. The first person to come up with a great replica of the coat will get my money. The killers were terrible at aiming and Gramps is good at doctoring and the Cloudburst is coming and this review is scattered, but really, if you're reading this page, you already know how truly excellent The Private Eye is and you don't need me wasting your time. This is solid gold and you're a fool if you're not reading it. Digital comics are the future and this will be one of the ones that's written into the history books. Damn it's fun.

Powers 5 - Well, at least they're embracing the full circle at this point. I mean, all of the dialogue in this issue makes it clear that Bendis doesn't see that as a bad thing. (In fact, writing that now, I'm not sure I've ever read anything from him that made me think that he thought it was. I don't know where I got this idea? Just cuz other people might? Hah! He doesn't give a fuck about them or their conventions.) So, Walker's undercover position gets fully blown, Retro Girl is back, there's a TV series that's exploring her (and Powers at large) and is kind of getting back to the reverential tone, especially in regards to her in particular. And we've already known who the Big Bad was going to be, but she's especially callous in this issue. It's cool, and I'll probably keeping reading it, but it's never going to be compelling if it just keeps covering the same ground.

Scarlet 7 - Haven't gotten this yet, even three weeks later. Don't know how to feel about this.

The Unwritten 50 - I guess I've gotten the impression that there are some people who didn't like this issue, and to those people, I would say: Well, you should have been reading Fables! Sure, it was more like a Fables book, but this isn't the first time that either of these books have pulled the old switcheroo and I'm more than fine with it. We got to see a Fringe Fableverse, where Pinocchio looked like a Lost Boy and Totenkinder was crazy and the Dark Man had made Snow White into a total bitch - and Bigby was still alive, but I'd be willing to bet that he'll come back into play as someone who's more than willing to sacrifice this shitty life as well as his other fantastic one - which still seems like it's not really at an end - to get rid of this godawful world. And Tom's part in all of it? Turns out that he gets to play Tommy Taylor, and there'll probably be some repercussions. It's a cool conceit, and I love that his reaction to Savoy mirrored our own. There's going to be some bad, bad things happening in this book over this arc and I'm psyched to see it all play out.

Wolverine and the X-Men 32 - If young Bobby in All New X-Men is a perfect version of that character, I'm going to have to go with old Bobby, specifically in this book, as the perfection version of this character. I remember reading X books in the 90s, when Bobby was pissed off because Emma Frost knew more about his powers than he did, and in the 00s, when he was experimenting with them, and came off brooding sometimes, as a reflection of the AOA time. This guy perfectly blends the wisecracking youth with the wisdom of age. And I love the relationship that's developing between him and Kitty. All that goodness about the title aside, there are times where it goes a bit too far on the kitsch for me. I like the parallels and I like the fact that they're trying to be serious about recommitting on the baby Hellfire Club, but it's not that good. And the faculty at the Hellfire Club School doesn't make it any better. I loved the ending, though, because it's always a good idea when Wolverine goes against the Hellfire Club and the Hellions with a serious vengeance.

Young Avengers 6 - Whoah. That was really weird. I mean, it was so cool and so fun and I didn't really care that it was such an abrupt interlude and I was OK with learning about new characters while having a mini blast from the past and then, BAM! It ended and I was like, WTF? So yeah, there are going to have to be some repercussions here, or else it's just going to be toooo weird. As for now, though, I love how Tommy shows the toll that it takes on him to work and the different approach that he's taken to post-super hero life. And I love that David is suffering for his role in something that he honestly had very little to do with. It's amazing character issue and then, the ending sneaks up on you and it suddenly becomes something very, very different. I'm going to be sad next issue if we don't get any kind of follow up at all and have to wait until the arc is over to check back in with these guys and with the creepy villain. Nicely done on something that I thought I would just kinda tolerate at best. This book stays on top even when I expect a minimal drop. That's the kind of greatness that I can get behind.

Book of the week goes to Fury MAX. Although The Private Eye was the issue that I enjoyed the most, I feel like Fury is a legacy book that deserves this honor one time before it's gone. And since it's gone, that time is now. If you didn't read it, you need to pick up the inevitable hardcover.


After the gnarly week that I had last time, and missing my writing deadline, as I'm on vacation, I have only one book this week. I did, for what it's worth, pick up a few more, including Swamp Thing, which solidified my urge to be done with that title, and Avengers AI 1, which was cute, but I really don't care about Hank Pym. I'm glad Marvel seems to be moving in one direction, but I'll sort out the stuff I love from that theme and, honestly, most of the stuff I'm already loving (obvious exception below exempted) is falling far outside that scope.

Avengers 15 - Clint wins with the line: "You realize they're breeding while they fight, right? I can't respect that." But I love the fact that Banner is so overrated again! I might have to start reading Indestructible Hulk to see why people are giving him the time of day. While it's a cool prospect that he came with for SHIELD, he hasn't done muc hto earn his keep thus far. Meanwhile, the Avengers continue being amazing and they take out the whole alien force of the transmitter. However, Captain Universe shows up to ruin their victory with her dark cloud of foreboding - and who was that who got the message? She takes the new Gateway (what's his name again? Checks TOC - oh yes, Manifold - wack ass name) to space so they can see the beginning of the end and Abby sees a Skrull ship make it past the SWORD station. Lastly, Banner gets the last word, warning Cap and team of a new attack - I'd venture a guess it's the guy who received the signal, but I wouldn't bet heavy on it. The only good news about his renewed presence in this issue? The fact that Hulk's on the cover of next issue, which means that it SHOULD be a slugfest. Hyperion plus Thor plus Hulk? That's gotta be some alien if anyone's gonna give him a fighting chance.

Book of the week doesn't get doled out when there's only one book reviewed, cuz that's kind of an insult.


comics for the week of 07/10/13.

Batman 22 - OK, well, yeah, that was cool and there were some differences, but I stand by my opinion of last month: this is not compelling reading. There's no reason for me to continue here, so I can see Alfred turn into a combination of Rachel and himself from the Nolan Batman films. And the Red Hood was fresh when Winnick was using him to bring back Jason Todd, but this incarnation seems like a pale retread of the Joker with any given mobster. And if he was around then and is around still, why is (or was?) Jason Todd ever calling himself the Red Hood? Surely that'd be in bad taste, not only in Gotham? The Penguin and Riddler guest star, but once again the back up feature is more interesting than the mainline story. Not a good sign. Dropping Batman. If I hear that the origin retelling turns out awesome, I'll pick it up in trade.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 23 - Good things about this book: Spike has Xander in his phone as 'Wanker.' Willow's face when she can't remember Dawn's name. The bickering back and forth between almost everyone. The almost-touching moments between Dawn/Xander/Spike. Bad things about this book: How RIDICULOUSLY BAD Dawn looks. I get that she's dying (fading out of existence) but Jesus! Not all the art in this book is that bad, so it seems like they're doing it to Dawn on purpose. It's God awful. All that being said, there are some twists and turns and there are some cool reveals, but none of it really brings up the level of this book. It still feels like the needy little steb-sibling of the Angel and Faith book, which should never have been allowed to vault so highly over this one. It's a sad state of affairs, but I maintain my hope that the conclusion will give them a level playing field for next season. Xander begins his slow march back toward respectability, Illyria is being shown as a capable leader no matter the circumstances (I hope we don't lose her to the Council) and Buffy is (nearly) back to trusting her friends, despite previous screw-ups. I guess that's as much as I can hope for from this issue for now.

Daredevil 27 - The whole issue was cool. Sure, yeah, cool. It was kind of a fun little distraction and a nice comedown after the epic nature of the last two years plus of this whole title. But the double page spread started it. It was then that I felt, Oh, hold up, wait; there might be more to this. And by the end? Oh yeah, there sure is. It might play out a bit cheesy, as these sorts of stories almost always do, but that's OK. Not everything has to be the fairest, finest, most fantastical, most dangerous story of all time. Not everything has to be epic. This one can be a little fond reminder of the past, when we got one- or two-issue story arcs all the time. And that was fine and it still is. I'm not a huge fan of the Nate character, but if he serves his purpose and disappears again, so be it. If he sticks around, I have enough faith in not only Waid, but this title overall to make him worthwhile. (Milla.) And the ending gives me hope that there'll be a quick resolution and that it'll be a happy one (gee, that never happens in comics) but that this will have been worth our time. Another fun outing.

East of West 4 - It just gets better and better, huh? This is a comic that I don't mind reading monthly at all, but I know it's going to read better in trade. It's a fascinating experiment, this alternate world, this sort of here, sort of not style. It reminds me a lot of King's Dark Tower series, and that's about as good a compliment I can muster, in some regards. I still have no idea how it's going to play out long term, but that's more than half the fun. In this issue, we get to see Death and his gang take on New Shanghai and the fall of the House of Mao. The baby sister wins, no surprise there, and the narrator of the issue confronts Death's former gang about the realities of this new world: Death has abandoned his role as one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and has been conquered by this girl. So what kind of world is it where Death only wants one thing? One person? A scary world, it would seem, but a damn good one to read about.

Hawkeye 12 - Sorry, can't type through the tears of how good that was. SERIOUSLY, HOW GOOD WAS THAT? Give me a fucking break if you didn't think it was great. It was so solid. It's a superb example of how solidly good comics can elevate to the level of greatness. It didn't have grand themes. It wasn't a groundbreaking new trend in the genre. It was just the story of two brothers, one pretty down on his luck, and some of their origins. But the little touches were there, sometimes literally, like when Clint and Barney went to sleep with the elder's arms around the younger. And sometimes metaphorically, as in the speech bubbles that were filled with bro and seriously. And Francavilla was perfect for it. I was a bit worried, but I shouldn't have been; he's a master, and not just of one atmosphere anymore, if he even ever was. It's so touching that there are the phone calls at the beginning and the end and I love to see that Clint didn't wussy out of this meeting. I'm not sure if we'll see more of it, but I'm not convinced that we need to, either. If we do, that'll be cool. I'd welcome another side character. But if we don't, this issue will stand alone, far superior to issue 11, which was a cool idea in and of itself. The fact that comics like this are still getting made is what makes me love this industry.

Rachel Rising 18 - You know what the weirdest thing about this comic is? Not that Lilith is resurrected from the dead, not that the Angel of Death appears and she's named Ma Malai, not that there are witches from the deep, deep past who are going to take vengeance on a town called Manson (a little on the nose, huh, Terry?) and not that the priest is an evil, evil motherfucker. It's that the government apparently can do its job so well that they know to look into Mr. Ruiz's case and they can see the witches on the videos and that they see there's something in the water and they know the shit's about to hit the fan in the city. That's crazy. The evil priest and his knife definitely recall Jack the Ripper, although I'm not sure if that's what Moore's leading to, but that's the feeling I get for now. It's clear he's not on the side of the Angels and, in fact, it appears that no one in this book is! Even our protagonists, Rachel (and Jet, to a lesser degree) don't seem GOOD, as opposed to less evil. That's OK with me, though, because I don't think for half a second that those ladies are dead. Carol almost certainly is, but not our heroes. They'll be back next issue, but my feeling is they'll be....slightly changed. Whether that's for the better or worse is up in the air. But that's a good thing, too. Let's have some more twists and turns.

The Walking Dead 118 - Oh man, this is some gangster shit. Seriously. I thought it was going to be all over that fast. And then...BANG! The script got flipped! Things are in for some big big big bad trouble now and I'm loving it. I love that Negan has turned out to have so many levels. He's not really a terrible guy, he's just the best worst guy to survive thus far. I love that he's got plans and plans and plans and then some back-up plans. I love that Andrea has no idea what to do now and that it's only going to get worse for her next issue. I love how many people and guns we see in that nasty double page spread, when we thought it was going to be just fine. I love that it seems like Negan honesty just would have gone home and let Rick go on like it was before if he hadn't run after him. I love that we see how treacherous these dudes are. And most of all? I love that my heart got racing when it genuinely felt like Negan was teaching Rick. He's survived for this long (and he was definitely crazy for part of that time, if he's not still) but he's still got so much to learn. And part of his education is going to come from gnarly Negan. Man, that's really gonna mess with his head.

Young Avengers 7 - Kate being in this book as well as Hawkeye is amazing. Wiccan's Starboy influence on the sides of his costume is incredible. The dialogue is whipcrack smart. The constant (and constantly hilarious) pop culture references. The dedication to not portraying characters who are gay as just gay characters. The cool, new, JH Williams-styled layouts (I know there are others who did it, and others who did it before, but I'm officially giving him the credit) make this book a joy to look at as well as to read. Prodigy joins the team and should prove to be valuable. The AMAZING revelations about America Chavez are only getting started. But the best thing about this book? Kate and Noh-Varr's relationship - if it can truly be called that. I hope this continues forever. "Shush time again. Be pretty and silent." The ways in which this book impresses make me think that we might be living in a new golden era of smaller, mainstream books. I mean, if you look at the best things that the Big Two are doing now, they're all really weird, quirky books that should be HUGE, but are still kind of under the radar - as much as books that are published by humongous companies can be, that is. Here we get to see that the mini-events I talked about two weeks ago, in last issue, are having not only consequences, but rather large ones and almost immediately. I love books like this. It makes it clear to me that Buffy as a TV series worked and that the people who are in charge of some of the most fun properties right now are absolutely the right people. This is FANTASTIC.

Book of the week goes to Young Avengers. Maybe it's just cuz I read it last, but I'm giving it the narrow edge over Hawkeye. Both are incredible examples of smart superhero comics done right, though. Pick them up.