Wednesday, March 27, 2013

comics for the week of 03/20/13.

This week, the comic book world was changed. While it'll be a while until we can gauge how successful this experiment is/was, just like Radiohead doing it, Brian K. Vaughn is the right person to do this. He's at the top of his game, he's got the name recognition and he'll set a new standard. I'm excited to include he and Marcos Martin's new book, The Private Eye, in my reviews below.

All New X-Men 9 - Good classic X-Men stuff in this issue. We open in the Danger Room, where Bobby is being very young Iceman and Jean is demonstrating the fact that she's got little control of her new powers. Beast seems to be handling this the best, which totally makes sense and also totally doesn't. (It's a great example of an oxymoron.) Angel is still on edge, so he goes off to talk to old Beast, who explains that he thinks his plan has worked: the mere presence of the young X-Men seems to have woken old Cyclops up, stirred his very nature. Well, Hank McCoy, you should know better than to utter those words, much less even think those thoughts. The issue ends with old Slim showing up in his new costume with Magneto, Magik and Lady Mastermind (if that's what she's gonna be calling herself, as the conversation with Mystique hilariously pointed out) ready for a throw down. Next issue should be fantastic!

Avengers 8 - Well, I cannot claim that I have any idea where this big picture is going, but I will fully testify to the fact that I am immensely enjoying the little chapters that are getting us there more and more! What a great book. Starbrand gets some characterization, and he goes rogue pretty quickly. There's some great battle scenes with he and Thor and Hulk, and then Nightmask takes him off-planet and they end up visiting Mom and Dad on Mars. Meanwhile, the dialogue between Cap, Thor, Iron Man and Bruce Banner is just about as good as it gets. The only higher note? The way that Captain Marvel is being used. It's clear that Hickman respects her, because it's clear that the rest of the team does as well. It's so amazing to see Carol Danvers used in the way she's deserved for so long. Here's to hoping that she gets one of these solo chapters some time soon, as well. Starbrand, Nightmask and Captain Universe keep talking about the White Event and the System being Broken, and I know there's so much more to this, but unlike the first few chapters which felt like they required being read in quick succession, this book is finally standing on its own. It's going to be even better when we have the hardcover with everything all together, sure, but I'm comfortable getting these small doses now.

Batwoman 18 - What we've been waiting for: a totally, 100% solid issue of Batwoman without JH Williams on the pencils. Great stuff here as we see all the angles, but each side only has a little piece of the whole picture. Bette's working with her uncle and with Kate, but Kate's not letting Bette know that she's working with the DEO and when Batman comes to crash the party, he figures the whole thing out in mere moments, but doesn't really deign to let all the parties know what he knows. It's a confusing picture, made all the more so by the fact that Batwoman is essentially stalking Mr. Freeze. Everyone can see that there's something wrong with that picture, but on one can piece it together like Bruce. I love the fact that the DEO is set up on the yacht and that Bones is as ruthless as ever in (presumably) setting Kate's sister loose. The almost-end bit, with Maggie scouting out a place for the newly engaged couple is truly touching, and I love the implications without being directly told of both time passed and discussions had. The ending page, though, I'll confess: I didn't totally get it. Is this the Party Crasher? Was I wrong in assuming that'd be Alice? I'm happy if it's someone new, because that's always fun, but the single most important takeaway here is that this book is no longer in grave danger when Williams moves to the plots without the art. Fantastic.

Daredevil 24 - We get a taste of the Big Bad behind DD's latest troubles, but I have no idea who it is yet. (It's ominous, with the coffin, and the slowed speech, and the need for two weeks of darkness, but that doesn't tell me much.) But the contrast between he beginning and the reality that set in as of last issue insofar as Foggy's health is really what makes the issue. The Big Bad is really stepping up their attacks and while the connections in this issue focus on Foggy and, somewhat, on Hank Pym, it's nice to see that Matt is still a part of the Marvel Universe as a whole. The word operatic is repeated several times, so I'm looking for some huge arias in the arc as well as some magnificent tragedy. The idea on the last page - that Matt would just trust some random guy who comes up to him with the much-vaunted truth - is beyond believability, even if he uses his hearing to give him the heartbeat test, but I have a feeling that we're going to be following this rabbit all the way down his hole and we're going to find out some pretty significant things next issue. Can't wait!

Fables 127 - Brandish continues his uniquely sadistic brand of abduction and hostage-holding of Snow White. Bigby's off looking for their kids in the other worlds. And, surprise, surprise, Ghost is still with Mom! Good stuff, if a bit retro, when it comes to the Mayor and his reluctance to jump into action. No surprise, then, that Rose Red serves as the jumping off point for the big bad rescue and even littler surprise that the big bad himself comes in guns ablazing on the last page to set things right. Things are going to be amazingly touchy next issue with the battle brewing, the legislation passing and the magic amping up to another intensely high level. Love the fact that this book constantly has its eyes on the long arc.

Invincible 101 - Man, what a great juxtaposition from the onslaught of the Viltrumite leader berating his troops for their love to the conversation between Mark and Eve. They're having a baby! This should be a cause for a celebration! But we all know that's not how the real world always works and Invincible has always been a title that comes as close to the real world (with gnarly alien races and superheroes as the ginormous caveat) as possible. The reaction from Rex really echoes the way Mark used to react when Cecil pulled some of his shady government stuff. And the punishment that Cecil foists upon Mark's dad does seem unfair to me, especially given the super ominous last page. All in all, another great book, with plenty of human characterization in the Kirkman style that we've come to expect.

Mind MGMT 9 - Another stunning chapter from Matt Kindt. Since I started reading this book, I've torn through his back catalogue and it's all slanted in this way. Mind MGMT, though, does seem like his most serious look at how deep it all goes. It's jam packed in the best kind of way. Every issue tells at least three stories, sometimes even four or five. I'm impressed with the progress of Dusty in such a short space. Lyme and Meru continue their quest and now we're going to integrate Duncan - or at least, they're going to try to do so. The fact that Lyme dodges certain death so many times is just another intriguing wrinkle.

New Avengers 4 - First of all, the cover is sick. The outline of Galactus, with the Illuminati inside, is worth the price of admission alone. But after that, this issue might be the single best issue that I've read of this book, not to mention of the entire Marvel reboot. It's simply incredible to see the brightest minds of the MarvelU giving up all hope. They're preparing for their own deaths, as well as the deaths of everything and everyone they know, none more so than Namor, who defiantly laughs about their circumstances. Then, when they come up with a plan to MAYBE squeeze a few more hours for themselves and their world, they're confronted with a cruelly logical foe who tells them the simple truth in the starkest terms. Terrax the truly enlightened presents a compelling case. Not good enough for the Illuminati, though, who attack him despite the veracity of the situation as he presents it. Unlike the mainline Avengers book, I can't say that I have any idea whatsoever about what's happening here. But I can say that it might be the most fun that I'm having in comic book form currently.

The Private Eye 1 - I have never kept a digital edition of a comic before. I've also never paid for a digital edition of a comic before. And even though I had a choice of paying nothing for this comic, I chose to do so. Compared to some of my friends, I paid less. Compared to some others, I paid more. ($2, if you're interested in judging me.) But what I can say for sure is that this is the first comic that I have been completely satisfied reading in digital form, and the first one that looked like it was designed intuitively for the screen. I'm not absolutely sure that's a great thing, but I know that it's something that's going to happen more and more as the years pass, so I think it's a good thing to get the ball rolling. I know there have been all-digital comics before, but this is the first one that felt so fresh. Insofar as actual judging of actual content, let me just say: Brian K. Vaughan is the master. And Marcos Martin, whom I've only seen previously in Daredevil, is a delight as a fit. The story concerns the (semi-?) near future, where the Internet has been destroyed (? or at least abandoned) yet people have access to fabulous technology they call nyms. These are amazing holographic disguises (that piss me off because I had an idea for a story that used sort of similar technology and of course a master beat me to it and is going to do it a billion times better than I could have anyway) that most people seem to utilize pretty frequently. This means they can appear as different people (or animals, even) and they can go about their business in private. Of course, in a world like this, the most logical enemy of the privacy of an individual would be called paparazzi. The media bills themselves as the fourth estate and we've got an advanced network (not the Internet, pointedly) of Dick Tracy-style watches that allow them to keep in touch with the police force - if they aren't one and the same. Simply put, this is one of the best debut issues in a long, long time, and the Afterword sets the precedent that The Panel Syndicate will, hopefully, be a nexus of both creativity and creator-owned brilliance for the foreseeable future. For now, we'll have to be satisfied with 10 (9 more) delightful issues of The Private Eye. Bravo.

Saga 11 - Oh my God. Once upon a time, I thought that I was a little bit sad at the death last issue of this book. Then this issue came up and I had a lump in my throat almost the entire time. The continuing story of Alana and Marko and their amazing baby Hazel continues here in just the fashion you'd expect it to if you've been reading every issue so far: some sex, some hilarious dialogue, a little backstory, big time conflict, witty banter, supporting characters doing things that push our definitions of them waaaay past one-dimensional, some serious heart ache, and then...Hazel's narration to bring it all back down to Earth (so to speak). The flashback that Marko experiences, while being totally untranslateable, serves its purpose perfectly. This might be the single most perfect comic to give your friend who's not into comics in order to get them into the genre - but only if they're OK with the first couple pages being gratuitous. BKV has got the master's grip on storytelling, mixing gravitas with jump cuts, complete with the word bubbles complementing each other in the most perfect way. This was it.

Ultimate Spider-Man 21 - Man. It was just a little while ago when Miles Morales represented the bet thing in the Ultimate Universe. What in the fuck happened? You'd think with Sarah Pichelli doing the artwork for the book, and with the return of Venom, things would be getting better and better. Unfortunately, this is just about the worst this book has been since I dropped it prior to the Ultimatum line. Mary Jane and Gwen look terrible. I know the book's not about them, but geez, they should have a little more gloss, even if they're not the focus. Ganke's part in this drama is still the best thing about the book on a regular basis and I like the fact that Miles is differentiating himself further from Peter Parker by talking about his best catchphrase as a cautionary tale. But this whole Venom storyline has felt adrift since it began and it hasn't found its legs yet. I'm holding out hope that it'll conclude in a better way, but for now, it's on the wavering line.

Book of the week goes to Saga. While I wanted to reward The Private Eye for pushing the boundaries and while I might have liked New Avengers the most, I can't deny this issue of Saga its place in the oeuvre.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

lobos path to the final four.

The University of New Mexico Lobos received a number 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. Selection Sunday was a huge occasion in Albuquerque this year, gathering thousands of people in the Pit to watch the Lobos receive their placement in the Big Dance. The Lobos were rewarded for ranking tenth in the final AP poll of the regular season by being placed in the West section of the tournament, playing the vast majority of their early games - as long as they continue to win - near home.

The Lobos will play their first game against 14th-seeded Harvard on Thursday, March 21 in Salt Lake City. The game will be nationally broadcast on TNT, and regional preferences will almost assuredly guarantee that New Mexicans will see the majority of the game, unless something extremely dramatic happens in one of the other games scheduled around 7:50 PM MST.

With the disparity in seedings and overall records for the year, Lobo fans are expecting a big victory. If UNM does win on Thursday, they'll play again on Saturday, again in Salt Lake City, against either the sixth-seeded Arizona Wildcats or the eleventh-seeded Belmont Bruins, time TBA.

A win over either of those teams would send UNM back to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1974 - the first time the NCAA Tournament was strictly a Division I affair, but also a time when the post-season only took in 25 teams. The ESPN preview of the West bracket, written by Robbi Pickeral, says the team is ready. The fans who celebrated on Sunday seem to believe so. But with a run into the Sweet Sixteen, the path gets significantly more difficult.

If the seeding holds up, UNM will match up with Ohio State University in the Sweet Sixteen on March 28 in Los Angeles. OSU is a powerhouse that many feel could have qualified for a number 1 seed. The game is never easy, of course, but this match up might prove difficult for the Cherry and Silver squad. However, the Lobos aren't without their believers. None other than Seth Davis says the Lobos will not only defeat OSU, but will be carried into the Final Four.

A victory in the quarterfinals would take UNM - again, if the seeding all holds up and the teams that are supposed to win do so - against the little mid-major that could, Gonzaga. A constant presence in the NCAA Tournament for the last 15 years, Gonzaga's been rewarded for its consistent non-conference play, and the winning they did along with that schedule this year, with a number 1 seed in the West. An Elite Eight appearance would match Gonzaga's best-ever Big Dance record, but it'd be a new one for the Lobos. Both teams, then, will have plenty to fight for, if the match up arises, in order to make the Final Four in Atlanta.

With five teams from the Mountain West conference in to the NCAA Tournament, UNM doesn't have to go to the trouble of scheduling so many non-conference games to toughen up their schedule. In fact, UNM had the second most difficult schedule strength in the nation. And it's clear that the MWC is holding its own during the season. Now is the time, however, for the real stars to shine. If any MWC teams can make deep runs in the post-season, it's good for the whole league. And Burquenos are hoping that it'll be their beloved Lobos that get the chance to shine the brightest, with a possible trip to Atlanta as the end game.

Monday, March 18, 2013

comics for the week of 03/13/13.

Honestly, I wasn't even that into Damian. But good God, his death has made a hell of a difference in the bat books.

Batman 18 - How incredibly lucky are we to get Alex Maleev on a Batman book? And while the Harper side story has always felt like a bit of a forced issue, I was glad to see it rear back here, even if it feels kind of obvious as to where it's going to go. (And let's just cut through any of the evasion here: if Harper becomes the next Robin, that's cool and all, but the Stephanie Brown diehards are going to shit a brick. And they won't be completely without a point.) The Kubert pencils were less of a gift, but they weren't totally awful, which is always a nice change. And the overall point of the issue? Well, it's nice that I read Batman & Robin first, because that was a far superior issue. But I loved the touch of the word Requiem being echoed by the title of this issue and the touch of the first letter being the last thing we saw, in that great Maleev page. Damian was a character that will grow in legend as time passes, if only because of his brief window and the things that he'll come to mean. These issues are fitting tributes to a character who always felt a little out of place, but who grew as time passed and was taken out at seemingly the exact right time. Whether Harper is being groomed as the next Robin or not, this issue follows Bruce's path of grief in a tragically wonderful manner.

Batman and Robin 18 - Not sure I've ever read a better tribute issue than this one. Honestly, I can't even get into it without getting overly emotional. I didn't read the vast majority of the newly reset Batman and Robin title, but if you can make it through this issue without shedding tears, you're a stronger reader than I am. Huge in all the best ways, it does the best job possible of showing what Bruce is going through right now and I think it'll go down as one of the best single issues of all time. Marvel's Nuff Said campaign was downright put to shame by the pure energy of this issue, which shows how powerful the technique can be when it's used correctly and not just as a marketing ploy. The letter was what put it over the top. Incredible issue. Thank you, Grant Morrison. Wow, Davey J pointed out to me that Grant didn't write this (and hasn't written B&R for a while now!). Like I said, I haven't been reading the book, so I'll give myself half a pass, but that's embarrassing that I didn't even check the credits. All credit due to Peter Tomasi, whom I'd previously undervalued as a writer, for putting this great capstone on the story of Damian which, to be fair, Grant got started. I can't believe that Morrison didn't want to finish it himself, but, again, I'm more ashamed of myself for not even checking.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 6 - While I've truly enjoyed Jae Lee's art on this title and I was excited about Len Wein's writing earlier, I feel like this concluding issue is more than a bit of a let down. As unexpectedly excited as I was by JMS' Dr. Manhattan conclusion, this feels like the opposite. The pencils (Jae Lee was born to draw comics - they are exquisite!) are amazing, but the story feels like the second to worst realization we expected when they announced the Before Watchmen line. While titles like Silk Spectre and Nite Owl were simply bad and totally unnecessary (thus qualifying them as the worst outcomes possible), and this book felt fresh at times, the last issue here feels like a mere retread of things that we already knew. It was neat to go back and compare the dialogue of Comedian's confession to Moloch in this book to the original Watchmen, and I got a great kick out of Veidt's narration about climbing up the mostly-glass facade of the building, there wasn't anything in here that validated the existence. Beautiful art is worth more than thousands of words, but the book fell flat on its face when it came to innovation in terms of story. Disappointing to say the least, but not all that surprising, to be honest.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 19 - Jesus, that was a depressing revelation regarding Dawn's illness. And I'll admit that it took me completely by surprise. I should have thought about her magical nature a little more, but I was just so caught up in all the other changes that I disregarded it completely. I love the way that Xander lashed out at Buffy in this issue and I love the fact that she responded in such a human way. I love the fact that things seem to be coming back together, with Dawn and Xander as central characters in Buffy's life now, as well as Illyria tagging along. It's always been my belief that Joss has been interested in characters first and story second, but the Buffy book has been the sole exception to that rule since Season 9 began. The Angel & Faith book has been superb and the Spike and Willow minis proved that there were plenty of amazingly interesting things happening to these guys and gals. Buffy's still staggering along, trying to find her place in the post-seed world, but it's my belief that Willow's return will aid the quest to revive Dawn. I'm even starting to think that Angel might succeed in his quest to bring back Giles. I don't think it would be a step back, I think it would serve as a reminder that she's only as strong as the people who are around her. Because honestly, on her own? She's been pretty insufferable. If Billy's going to stick around, I hope it's on his own merits and not on some silly retcon of the roomie being an undercover spy the whole time and their bonding over how cool Buffy is. They've got to bring something to the table other than hero worship.

Thor 6 - Well, this book just continues to improve! Honestly, when I saw that Esad Ribic wasn't pencilling this issue, I was a little disappointed. As much as I think that Butch Guice's art works with Winter Soldier, I wasn't sure that it would be right for the tone of Thor. But, I was wrong. This was a great issue and I appreciated the different look when it came time to tell the tale of Gorr's origin. I love the fact that Volstagg made a guest appearance and that he seems like he knows more about the weapon (it reminds me of the symbiote that became Spidey's black costume, insofar as we've seen it as a weapon as well as parts of his 'costume') Gorr uses than Gorr does himself. I also loved the fact that the origin wasn't overblown. It was everything we could have assumed it would have been, but it fit neatly and perfectly into a single issue. We don't need much more. Great work.

Wolverine and the X-Men 26 - Well, I guess Jason Aaron really wants to delve into Wolverine's story in more depth, and the use of the school is going to just be secondary in this arc here. The return of Dog is an interesting concept, but I've got to say that I don't feel like it's panning out. The art, by Ramon Perez, is terribly off-note other than the sweet watercolor-looking segments of the flashbacks. The story, convoluted as it stands, isn't bad, but it seems awfully forced and definitely a non sequitur, abrupt interruption. The theory of Dog taking over as teacher and putting the kids through some more rigorous testing is interesting, but I don't get that that's the focus here. The whole issue feels like a filling in of the gaps of Wolverine: Origin, which is fine and all, but doesn't feel necessary in any way. Plus, this kind of rules out any possibility of Sabertooth being Dog, which is a drag, even if it was a stretch given the developments that we've seen post-Origin. Unfortunately, with this arc coming essentially right on the heels of the atrocious circus story, this book is suffering an all time low. Hope that it picks up next issue.

Book of the week goes to Batman and Robin. Even if you're not reading the title, you should pick up this issue. Wow.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

mwc conference preview.

The University of New Mexico Lobos lost to Air Force Academy on Saturday night, and slipped to number 15 in the AP Poll as a result on Monday. Despite all this, the Lobos still have the second rated RPI in the country and the third-rated strength of schedule. With Wyoming's victory over Nevada on Tuesday night's play-in game, the Mountain West Conference Tournament is set to officially begin.

The Lobos will play Wyoming in Las Vegas on Wednesday and the semifinals games will be played on Friday. The championship game will be played on Saturday at 4 PM MST, and Selection Sunday is the very next day.

With the MWC Tournament coming up, it's important to remember that the winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. While the Lobos are the only team in the Mountain West Conference currently ranked in the Top 25, Saturday's loss to the Falcons proved that UNM is far from infallible and that the auto-bid isn't a certainty. The Lobos will enter the MWC Tournament with the recent accolades of Conference Player of the Year and Coach of the Year bestowed upon Kendall Williams and Steve Alford, respectively, but also the total focus of every other team.

While Colorado State currently sits second in the MWC, it's hard to overlook University of Las Vegas - who spent 8 weeks ranked in the AP top 25 and have ample potential for home crowd advantage - or newcomer Boise State as potential dark horses to upset top-seeded UNM.

With seeding in the Big Dance as one of the epicenters of its focus, UNM has got to come out strong on Wednesday night, no matter how weak Wyoming appears. Presuming they make it through that game, the focus of the Cherry and Silver will need to be maintained on Friday and Saturday's games. As the loss in Colorado Springs proved, nothing is promised in this game, regardless of a team being nationally ranked.

Monday, March 11, 2013

comics for the week of 03/06/13.

Apparently Powers is back? And I looked at the two issues. I've already publicly exclaimed that I'm not buying into this, but let me mention the good parts: Pilgrim meeting her new partner, calling him Tom Selleck, the girl telling Pilgrim, "Tomorrow is another day," the opening dialogue between Pilgrim and Walker in the beginning of issue 2, and...that's about it. It's good, but it's more of the same. I won't be following along. Also, I've dropped Green Lantern. If it gets significantly better after Johns' departure, I'm more than willing to check it out, but I have my doubts. DC is losing me.

All New X-Men 8 - The art was great. The story is still fun. But the weakest part was the Angel-Angel interaction. The new Angel is still just toooooo weird. (I mean, he's really, really weird.) But the best part made up for it: Bobby and Kitty doing Cap and Beast's conversation made for some of the funniest comics that I got to read this week. And the most frightening part? Jean Grey acting like a total badass at the end, changing young Warren's mind for him. Young Warren is probably the only one who's reacting appropriately in this situation. I know they're mutants and X-Men and they live in a crazy world and they've seen crazy things, but this is, by far, the craziest at this point in their young lives. And he just wants to go home. Because he's seen how crazy things get. Scott's being selfish, trying to change his future, which he knows he can't do. Bobby's just being immature, which is perfect, because that's always been him, and he wants to play. Hank's just being a scientist, trying to figure everything out. But we didn't really have a reason for Jean staying yet, and here, we're starting to get into some of the deeper, more terribly horrifying ways in which this story might get extended: Jean Grey is starting to see some of the world. She's always been a good character. But she's never been better than when she's been bad.

Animal Man 18 - Ugh. Rotworld was so terrible. This supposed conclusion/epilogue to Rotworld was so terrible. I'm still proud that Lemire got such a high-profile gig at DC, showing that the New 52 wasn't 100% risk-averse, but even it's best and brightest are suffering. From the overwrought cover to the narration full of Cliff, if you couldn't tell what was going to happen in this issue, you haven't read more than two books. Also, the pacing felt off the whole time. He should have died during the battle, as opposed to the trite manner of the bad guy coming back for one final blow. Plus, Animal Man and Swamp Thing jump into the portal just because the Rot tells them to, because Arcane has gone beyond their demands? THose are some dumb superheroes. The only bright side? Maxine really tapping into her potential means that maybe we'll have a truly generational possibility in Animal Man. The only downside to that? DC has proven, over the course of decades, that they are unwilling to take advantage of those generations. Almost done with this title.

Angel and Faith 19 - Admittedly, this is the book I wasn't able to find last week, so it's not exactly current, but Dark Horse and Joss and Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs are all doing such a great job with this title that it'd be excellent no matter when you read it. Starting with the cover, going through more of Ripper's backstory (and seeing family members he doesn't loathe), the great dialogue between Angel and Spike (their relationship is a million times better than Buffy with either of them), and the 'pass' that the baby slayers give to Spike. This book is the epitome of the TV show on paper. It's really, really great. It's got soul (no pun intended) and it's constantly witty. The battle that Eyghon brings to the crew seems to be over pretty quickly for such a big baddie, but I didn't really see that as a bad thing, since it let us get to the point of Angel having three complete souls in his body and the fight that he's going to have to go through. The only bad part, for me, was the overuse of dialogue when the slayer crew was making their way out. We could see it coming a mile away, but it still needed four pages to tell the story of their departure and reasoning? Next up, Spike and Faith taking care of crazy Angel. Good times.

Avengers 7 - "The superflow of Universe 616." "The Last White Event." Builders, makers, grand cosmic events, comic books and Jonathan Hickman... Jesus. This guy is really swinging for the fences, huh? The story seems to be moving slow, but I think that's because these are all the opening moves of an incredibly complex chess game. It's clear that Hickman knows how to spin a monumental story from his time with the FF and I'm positive that's what he's doing here. The panels highlighting the Starbrand are a perfect example of this. A background character, hidden in plain sight, even when he told us that was exactly what he was doing. The interaction between the Nightmask and Captain Universe is great, as is the alternate armor that Tony is wearing and the add-ons that Hulk has gotten as part of his Avenger duty. While we're not quite getting the big picture story yet, I have no doubt that it's coming and I'm loving the way we're getting there. All these New Universe revelations have me wondering how many more we're going to get and, even more so, if Hickman is being groomed to give the WHOLE Marvel Universe a new go, not just the little pockets he's chosen thus far. It wouldn't be a bad idea.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 4 - First of all, great cover, way to use the shadows. Secondly, though, there wasn't much more good to say about this book. It was a pretty weak ending for a pretty surprisingly good book. I felt like there wasn't much that they really wanted to say, but there were reasons (obviously) why Rorschach had to have his own book. The writer and the artist were the perfect pair for him, and, like I said, the book surprised me early on by being eerily and unexpectedly good. But here, with the conclusion, there just turned out not to be much of a point. It was nice to see the raw, gritty street-level ethos of Watchmen reflected in this book, because it wasn't really shown anywhere else, but that's about it. We didn't learn anything about Rorschach, nor did this book extend the Watchmen line in any significant way. But it wasn't terrible, and it's worth your time to read if you want to see more general goodness from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo.

Daredevil: End of Days 6 - Same story as my last few reviews. Nothing much worthwhile here, other than the second page. Ben Urich is still chasing this story, he kind of sort of meets the maybe new Daredevil, his kid is infatuated with the new guy, the Owl's a piece of shit, and Punisher is killing bad guys. That's about it.

Swamp Thing 18 - It's reassuring that, even if Animal Man is sliding off the tracks, this book can still seem somewhat salvageable. But that doesn't mean that it's anywhere near its former levels of greatness. There are trite elements (sure, I know, I'm reading a comic book; but it doesn't have to read like a soap opera) that need to be overcome and there are way too many deaths and rebirths for such a short-lived book already. I get that that's part of what this epilogue was meant to focus on, and I get what that's meant for Swamp Thing in the past. I get the inner conflict aspect of this story, and I appreciate that. But...it still comes across as merely hitting a reset button. In contrast to Animal Man, though, I feel like the next issue of Swamp Thing might actually be vitally different, and I think there's potential here. Snyder may have disappointed me with Death of the Family, but this feels like there could be something good spawning from it. The reunion of Abbie and Alec was, after all, genuinely touching. The art helped more than a little bit, too. I'll be interested to see how long they can genuinely keep Arcane away, though, after giving in to the temptation to bring him back so quickly and in such a huge manner. His Parliament has its hands full for now, but we'll see if that lasts.

Willow 5 - Well, just a fantastic conclusion to a great story. Willow sums it up best when she says that she's returned from her grand quest without knowing if she accomplished anything or not. We know plenty, though: She's got magic, she's back on Earth, she's joining back up with the Scoobies and there are plenty of areas in which her friends are going to need magic, notably Angel with getting Giles back and Buffy in her fight against the Siphon. This is clearly wrapping up in a really neat way, and I credit Joss for doing a much better job of planning a tight story (with room for some side trips) this season as opposed to last. Willow's fight against Rack in this issue and her subsequent talk with the embodiment of magic were both great touches and the little chalk drawing that closed the issue served as a neat metaphor/preview of what Willow is capable of now. The art was spectacular in places but very sloppy in others. I really enjoyed these issues, and I love the fact that the Buffy line is so strong right now.

Winter Soldier 16 - Bucky's quest continues and man, he is one guilt-ridden SOB. Bringing him back is one of the best things that Ed Brubaker has ever done. His book, always good, has plunged into great territory by exponentially tripling down on the layers that he's having to fight through now: guilt over being the Winter Soldier in the first place. Then, moral ambiguity toward Steve Rogers for making him remember all the terrible things he's done. And now, being totally out of water over the newest turn with Black Widow, essentially erasing all the progress that he's made since he's been back. Now, he's working one-on-one with Nick Fury, tracking down some of his older mistakes (that's putting it lightly) and trying to set them right. Currently, we have the ghost (?) of a girl whose parents he killed and a training program that he went through under the Iron Curtain. And, oh yeah, he's teamed up with a man who's totally off the reservation because, long ago, Bucky killed his lady friend. Man, this book is good.

Book of the week goes to Avengers. It was kind of a weak week; Willow was great (as was Angel and Faith, but that's from last week) and Avengers was't purely better than it, but it has much richer long-term potential.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

lobos continue to rise.

The University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team continued to climb in the national rankings, rising to number 12 this week. With only two games left in their regular season, now is the right time for the Lobos to be peaking, and it appears to be working out that way. On Wednesday, UNM plays at Nevada. While no team should ever be overlooked nor any game looked past, the Wolf Pack currently sit in the basement of the Mountain West Conference rankings and have only won 12 games all season. If the Lobos can get past Nevada, the Air Force Falcons wait in Colorado Springs on Saturday night, for the conference finale. With no games between then and next Monday, when rankings are released, it's reasonable to expect a little bump before the MWC Tournament begins in Las Vegas on March 12.

The focus in the team's locker room, of course, remains solidly committed to the sports cliche of one game at a time and never looking past any opponent. But that's not something that we have to pretend to indulge in - let the speculation run rampant! If UNM does what they should and takes care of business in Nevada and Colorado Springs, they'll have a clear path to a 1 seed in the MWC Tournament - not to mention the rumblings of their deserving a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament already. If they can manage to run the gamut of the MWC, they'll earn the automatic berth into the Big Dance, and Selection Sunday will be an interesting day.

Of course, nothing is automatic. Nothing is promised or guaranteed. But, if the standings stay as they are, UNM will play either Nevada or Fresno State on March 13, followed by either San Diego State or Boise State on March 14. The path to the MWC Championship Game and the automatic berth looks possible. More appealing than the auto-entry to the Tournament, though, is the prospect of reeling off all those wins in a row and entering March Madness with all that momentum on the side of the Cherry and Silver crowd. While there will always be anonymous commenters who dismiss any non-major conference team's placement in the national rankings - don't even think about reading the comments on Gonzaga's recent ascent to number one if you want to retain faith in your fellow humans - the numbers are pretty solidly on the side of the Lobos in this case. With an RPI of 2 right now, and a strength of schedule of 3, the data-driven amongst the selection committee have to be looking very hard in the direction of UNM.

College basketball is a game of runs and momentum. UNM taking care of business in its regular season schedule was the first step. The Lobos are now close to finishing taking care of business during the in-conference schedule. Next up, the conference tournament. After that? With the right momentum, match-ups and seeding, it could be an unprecedented time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

comics for the week of 02/27/13.

Well, I caught all up on Daredevil and read last week's and let me say that it would have just added to the greatness of last week's stack. I know Dave is probably flipping for the Samnee art, and while it's my opinion that Mark Waid's writing isn't as fabulous as everyone's made it out to be, the book is top notch and last week's issue was the best the book's had.

Angel & Faith 19 - I wasn't able to find this comic this week, hoping to get it into next week's reviews.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 4 - Wow. What a fitting conclusion. The fact that this book serves as something of a postscript to Watchmen, in a way that none of the other books have (so far - or should, IMO) is pretty appropriate, since it's only Dr. Manhattan's character that is, in fact, larger than the story. I'm going to have to check the previous issues of the Ozymandias mini, but I'm pretty sure we've seen part of that conversation already, right? And not in this book? The scale at which Adrian is constantly thinking, including monitoring himself, puts him on par with Dr. Manhattan and I loved his constantly referring to the ubermensch as Jon. Way to put in those subtle digs, Ozy. The flip in the book didn't feel like a gimmick at all, it felt perfectly conceptualized and ideally implemented. When people ask about the Before Watchmen project, we're all going to answer with "Minutemen." But this conclusion proved that Dr. Manhattan belongs in that conversation as well. And, honestly, it's nice to see Jon get something of a happy ending. He deserves it.

Hawkeye 8 - Sure, this one was cool. But the biggest thing that I got from this issue is that there's actually a long-term story being told here. It's cool and all to have the one-offs and the short story arcs, but it's even cooler to say that there are going to be some longer-ranging ideas. The appearance of Kingpin was a nice touch, as was the over-the-top bro dialogue. While this felt a little like a filler, it also gave some of those important touches that are clearly going to come back into play when we make it into the deeper narrative. I'm loving Hawkeye right now and I'm psyched to be reading a solid Big Two superhero comic book because, honestly, there's not too many of them coming out right now.

The Unwritten 46 - Diss! Rauch tricks Savoy and the kid, Jason! Jason's understandable, he's just a kid who didn't want the power, but Savoy seemed overly eager to listen to the puppet lady. Is it because of the lovely ghost who was urging him that way? If so, does that mean Savoy's lady friend has got some kind of connection to Rauch and was purposely pushing him that way? If not, how's she going to figure into the whole story? And, as Richie was saying while he was returning to his hotel room, where's Tom? I think the book's gotten along just fine without him during this little lull, but we need some kind of sign about what's going on, especially given Rauch's recovery and her assertion that there are lesser entities (gods?) who are stepping up to the plate now that Leviathan is no more. There are so many twists and turns in this story (long-term) and it's still teaching me new things with every issue. Bravo.

Book of the week goes to Unwritten. I've been loving on Angel and Faith and I have no doubt that it's going to be a great issue, but even if I would have gotten it, I'm so impressed by the Unwritten (on a consistent basis) that it's hard to be toppled.