Tuesday, April 30, 2013

jason collins comes out as gay.

On Monday morning Jason Collins penned a first-person essay that was released in Sports Illustrated where he came out as the first active player in one of the four major sports leagues of North America as a gay man.

While the chatter about breaking the barrier for sexual orientation has focused on the possibility of four NFL players, Collins said, "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport...If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand." By taking this mantle up for himself, Collins has both inspired people and courted controversy, even if some people see that as not totally justified.

The NBA family, at least those who have spoke out publicly, have done an admirable job welcoming this news into their lives. There are certainly going to be more opinions, though, whether they get expressed or not, that fall into the category of fear or disdain. In fact, just earlier this month, Phil Jackson, seen by many in the NBA as one of the most open-minded individuals, spoke out in a manner that was very difficult to understand - was Jackson dismissing the possibility or the disdain that individual would face?

With so much regarding the gay population of America in turmoil these days and a Supreme Court case to be decided this summer, there's a lot to be said about stepping out into a leadership position on this issue. There will be no lessening when it comes to these kinds of issues, only an intensification. The quicker that individuals can set themselves up as leaders, the easier it will be for the next domino to fall.

Monday, April 29, 2013

comics for the week of 04/24/13.

Holy moly. What a huge week. There were some amazing things out here, too, but let's talk, just for a second, about the movies that are reigning over everything else at the box office recently. If you look at the big movie picture, the nerds have definitely won. Comic book movies are franchises unto themselves. The most exciting thing is that they keep getting better. It's a great time to be a nerd.

Angel and Faith 21 - A great nod to the fact that Dawn's fading from existence and her magic is running out opens up this issue and gets the ball rolling to get Spike back over to the mainline book. Plus, Angel's got all the pieces to get Giles back to the mortal coil. All he needs is just a tiny bit of magic. Well, after a bit of back and forth, he gets it, and the gang begins their final quest. The only problem (at least insofar as this issue, ignoring the possible HUGE repercussions that they'll have to face next issue, if something has really gone wrong?) is that the bad guys finally find Aldasair's home and make off with his massive collection of magical items. So, you know, that's pretty bad. Especially since Whistler isn't exactly aiming low. He's going to do some real harm with these things and if Giles is truly back, he's going to be disappointed in all involved that they didn't do a better job keeping those baddies away from the treasure trove. I've gotta say, I love the way these books are wrapping up and I fully expect Giles to be back in the course of the finish. It's shaping up to be a good little season, and, at least in my opinion, a great path to a new future in Season 10.

Avengers 10 - This is a truly odd book. I don't feel like I'm ever close to getting the full picture, but I do feel like it's worthwhile almost all the time. This is one of those times. Here we got some Alpha Flight, some Canada, some Department H, some alternate futures, and some suicide. It was awesome. But I definitely don't understand most of it. A guy in Department H has a daughter and she's Validator and she goes into the contaminated zone and she gets infected, but then it turns out that maybe that's a good thing? And the Canadian government has nukes and Logan knew it, and Bruce Banner goes with them, and they get fucked up (no surprise) and they come back and they lie to SHIELD and the Canadian government? OK, so far so good. But there's also the question of the system and the fact that it's now online and the massive crop circle (or not so croppy, but whatever) and the ongoing dilemma of what the eff is happening worldwide when the Avengers, with their huge, expanded circle, can't even figure it out, much less solve it. Chalk this one up to another solid issue of Hickman kicking ass and, don't forget to mention, Deodato doing way better than I expected him to.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 6 - Woooow. This was a complete shit show and I don't even want to talk about it. For as terrible as the rest of the books in this series were, this one really takes the cake. This was a disasterous mess, it's an insult to the original Watchmen book and to the character of the Comedian. (Also, in general, modern political history.) Stay away.

BPRD: Vampire 2 - Couldn't find it, will review it next week.

Invincible 102 - One of my favorite scenes from Powers (and one of the reasons I still kind of stand by what it's become) is when Calista comes to get Walker, when he doesn't have powers, and picks him up and flies with him, and he's trying to yell at her the whole time, and when she finally lands, he explains to her that she can't just do that. Normal people can't breathe when they're moving so fast, in such an unexpected way and that she could have killed him. It was such a humanizing moment, such a common sense thing, but I'd never seen it before and I was delighted to get to see it then. The beginning of this issue felt a lot like that scene: to see the terror on Nolan's face as he realized that his wife was being sucked out into the vacuum of space, to see that she was already having trouble, was genuine and refreshing. He can survive a battle with Thragg. He can take his time and really get into it with him. But there's so much more at stake. The focus on this issue is solidly on the human aspect, which is weird, since almost everyone in the issue (Eve and a briefbriefbrief cameo from Cecil aside) is an alien. But it just goes to show that humanity is not limited to humans. It's a great issue, with lots of good revelations that we've had clues about for a while. The ending is tinged with that weird bit of suspicion that we always feel when something so truly strange happens, but it's immediately righted with a bit of happy news that comes from out of nowhere, but is completely expected at the same time. Another solid issue from Kirkman and company.

Jupiter's Legacy 1 - Yep. That was cool. Quitely does good things with pencils and Millar doesn't go overboard with stupid shit. That's about as good as I expected it to get, but it was even cooler - nice premise, good follow-through. Now let's just see that they don't bollocks it right up, huh? So far so good: There's good guys, they went to a crazy place to get powers because a crazy guy dreamt that they could, they saved everything, but now we live in the world we live in and their kids were born with gnarly expectations. Things are going to get crazy. I like it so far.

Mind MGMT 10 - Another fantastic issue from Matt Kindt. This issue reminds me of the beginning of Rising Stars where we saw a neat method (obvious in retrospect, in the way that the best things make happen) for killing someone who can't be hurt. Here we are presented with the dilemma: How are the gang going to surprise someone who can see the future? Well, turns out, he can't see the future. He can just read all the things happening around him and make the most likely conclusion. That's an important difference and, while it worked to their benefit here, to intercept him, I think it's worth keeping in mind later, when he's on their side and they're relying on his abilities. They've already proved that he's not infallible and it's imperative that someone on their side recognize the distinction: there's no telling the future. There's just the ability to make predictions that are most likely. Again, the sidebars told an important aspect of the story, beginning with his ability to read everyone (and everything) around him. Then we continued the murder mystery story, and Duncan revealed more than ever before that Lyme and Meru have some very complicated secrets in their shared past. This book is never boring and always excels. It's almost hard to compare any other comics to it (maybe other than Saga) because it honestly feels like it's just operating at another level. The art, again, was superb, perfect in that sparse style that fits the story so appropriately. The fact that all of these characters have been shown to be real people, with actual histories is even better.

New Avengers 5 - First of all, I just want to note that Reed Richards' descriptor on the page listing the Illuminati is "Universal Builder" and that there's a HUGE storyline happening over in regular Avengers involving Builders and their Code. If it turns out to be nothing but a coincidence, I'll be shocked. Hickman is too good. So, for now, onto the book itself. We get to see that the Illuminati conquered Terrax on the other Earth and that they didn't leave one of their own behind - presumably because they didn't have time to grab the Infinity Gems and build another glove? Presumably because that world was already dying? There was no point? It's not explained, but they're back, they have Terrax and they let out the Black Swan to tell them a story. And what a story she tells: "All I have, all I have ever known, are scary stories. And they are real." A lot of the stories I've been reading lately, at least in my eyes, have had a heck of a religious bent, and, even more importantly, have stressed the power of stories themselves. And when this story ends, we're going to, hopefully, see some huge changes in the Marvel Universe. These guys simply cannot continue on the path they've set themselves on. They're going too far, getting in too deep, people are going to find out and they're going to have a serious problem. And it's going to be more than just a Captain America, whom they can simply mind wipe. (Add that to the list of things they're going to get in serious trouble for, BTW.) For now, though, the issue ends with the problem of yet another incursion occurring, this one in Latveria. That's going to present quite the problem. But, there was mention of at least eight ways to stop the incursions. I don't think this means they stop the incursions at all, for what it's worth, but rather, that they dodge them. None of these paths are going to accomplish what any member of the Illuminati wants, because that is to win. To end it. The (at least) 8 paths are ways of avoiding the problem. None of them will be satisfied with that.

Rachel Rising 16 - Oh man, this story is really messed up. I feel like it's obviously continuing to build, which is awesome, but I'm also understanding more of the overall arc now, too. It's getting really good, and I could see it going on much, much longer than I originally anticipated. Here we get to see Rachel, Jet and Aunt Johnny getting together to compare notes, which is super realistic and I wish would happen in more plots. People usually don't just walk blindly into their fates. On the other hand, we have Lilith initiating some sort of change, while her underlings watch her burn herself - presumably not to death. Finally, we have Zoe, looking for refuge from the world, hiding in a church, but finding herself in the worst possible place, with a freaky priest who ties up a ram, waiting for the sacrifice to happen. He delights when it does, of course, but his co-worker isn't nearly as pleased with what he sees - which means he's got a price to pay. There are a lot of pieces at play in this work, and we're only starting to really get to any kind of understanding with them, but I'm loving the scale and the fact that each issue seems to matter now. Earlier, this title was a bit scattered, but now that we've got some sense of the scope, I feel like it's really got its feet.

Ultimate Spider-Man 22 - This issue started poorly, had some great sequences in the middle and then finished in a manner that I just know is going to piss some people off, especially with the homage cover that we got previewed for next month. Here's the thing: I don't mind the re-treading of ground covered in the 616 Universe. But it's got to be a little bit more. I don't understand the point of doing the same things just to do the same things. And this is a criticism that my buddy Dave leveled against this title a while ago and I defended it. But now? This feels tired. I like that it seemed like his mom knew even before that. I like that Maria Hill urges Miles to do the right thing, regardless of her later intent. I like the fact that Venom turned out to be some dude that we didn't know and not just another callback to Peter Parker - although the fact that he was a Roxxon employee and that we get to see Roxxon himself again bodes poorly for that idea. But what I didn't like is the fact that we're now doubling down on the tragedy that Miles is facing but none of it is unique in any way. I get that all stories are derivative in some manner or another, but this felt a bit cheap. I didn't even tear up at the end, either, when Miles woke up and had his slow realization, because the moment was pounded over the head with the melodrama of him tearing up his costume. The good things about this issue was that Gwen and MJ moved into more solid supporting character status, as opposed to one-note generics, but that was about it.

Unwritten 48 - So, Pauly's an even bigger asshole than we thought. And Tom remembers. And Lizzie is exactly where we thought she'd be. And the kids come back at the right moment to save Tom. But....then we go through the portal and we end up...in a different land of the dead? (What is this, Journey into Mystery?) Wilson's down in Hades, being tortured by Pauly, so I think we'll probably need to pick him up before we all leave. But that's a problem for the future. For now we're going to have to face off against the Devil (an appropriate visage for Pullman to take) with God's favorite pet or toy. (Again, appropriate.) This book is getting deeper and deeper and while I loved the beginning of this Orpheus tale, this one wandered a bit more than I thought it would. For containing so many revelations, it felt a bit flat. Don't get me wrong, it's still head and shoulders above the vast majority of the superhero books. But when you're expecting solid gold, even silver feels a bit off.

Wolverine and the X-Men 22 - Well, at least the conclusion had some cool notes to offer us. The story of Dog and his intrusion on the instruction of the students at the Jean Grey School is over. Thank God. Now, it looks like next issue, we're going to peek into the future. Future + X-Men usually equals a good time, so I'm excited for that. Insofar as this one, though, we got to see Quire near what he could be if he wasn't focused all the time on being such a jerk. We saw Glob reveal his true colors (and we saw that he's a true idiot - can't wait to see Sauron eat him). We saw Idie and Broo, still making a cute couple, in that weird way of theirs. And we saw Dog...maybe learn a lesson? Maybe mature? But then he still just bailed via time travel, and he was getting beat up by someone who...looked like his own future self? He's a pretty worthless character if this is all he's going to do, and that's a shame, because Origin still holds a lot of potential. I'm still not a fan of Perez on this book, but I like the fact that Jason Aaron is so comfortable with the character of Wolverine and uses his to narrate so much of the happenings. Here's to hoping this will improve with the next arc.

Young Avengers 4 - Oh. My. God. After the magnificence of that page in Daredevil, I didn't think I'd be so obviously drooling over another one so soon. But this double page spread that shows Noh-Varr making his way into the club is broken down into so many good parts. The architect-like plans. The corners of detail. The sparse wording, both from the narrator-position, as well as his own interior monologue, detailing his time with Hawkguy. The inclusion of more music. This is amazing. The fact that it concludes (not the issue, but rather just the brief sequence) with his homage to the Terminator is just a superb bonus. Then we get the dialogue, the faking it of Noh-Varr, the Kirby engines, and the interlude with real Cap and Thor. It's just amazing. But then we get to the real dilemma. The problem in this book was never going to be the shape-shifting bad guys - the good team always wins against them. But when we've got Loki, even the kid version, involved, we're going to have some serious wordplay. And here, in talking with the improbably dashing prince, he plants the seeds of doubt that he's so renowned for. Once he's done that, it's only a matter of time before things start going his way. For what it's worth, I'm not so worried about the cliffhanger, because this book's got to last a long, long, long time, and Kid Loki's got to be a huge part of it. So he's going to be back next issue and they're all going to defeat the bad guys, but even in their victory, no matter how total it is, those seeds of doubt are there, and they're going to play all kinds of wonderful havoc with the dynamics of this team. God, this book is so good.

Book of the week goes to Mind MGMT, but Young Avengers was so much fun it deserves a nod. Hard to compete with chess-players, though, if you're only playing checkers. Matt Kindt is serving up a clinic.

Monday, April 22, 2013

comics for the week of 04/17/13.

While I'm busying myself week to week with the super hero stuff, I also got a chance to read Habibi this week. It was incredible and if you haven't read it, but fancy yourself a lover of indie comics, I'd highly recommend that you do so.

Batwoman 19 - Trevor McCarthy proves himself on art again, JH Williams is writing great stories, and this book is excelling as the best DC title. When we called it one of the top five of the New 52, I don't think any of us anticipated how good it was going to be this far out, nor how drastically the rest of the books that were previously in its company would have fallen. First of all, the story is great. Williams is certifying that he can writer a solid script. He's got a great grasp on Batwoman and Kate Kane, as well as her domestic partner, Maggie. The use of dreams can come across like a cheap ploy, but it works perfectly here. Then, he shows that he's got a graph on writing the family dynamic, with dad, Kate and Bette all playing together, but in totally different ways, but once again differentiating it by not having the twist play out like last issue. (BTW, love the snark between the cousins, especially in regard to the Bat symbol and the control freak aspect of Bruce and Kate.) Take it a step further with the Bones conversation with Batwoman, his desire to unmask Bruce and the ultimate twist, which we already knew was coming, but it plays out for great effect. And, I haven't even mentioned the art yet! The breakdown of the fight, seen twice actually, once in 'real time' and once on the iPad, is glorious. It's an emulation of Williams, sure, but if you're going to emulate any artist in the comics biz these days, why not him? Shit. This is just phenomenal stuff here.

Daredevil 25 - Wow! A fantastic issue of a fantastic series! I hope Ikari sticks around for a lot longer, he's got rich potential as a new Bullseye. Every bit of this issue was great, but the panel showing Matt using his hearing, sense of smell and taste, broken up into those panels was just amazing. The reliance on his moniker, the man without fear, was appropriate, given the villains' purpose. And fight was well-done and the conclusion was truly surprising. (I mean, not the END, but the revelation.) I'm so delighted by this title. It feels like a superhero comic should, with continuing adventures month after month, but there's also that overall arc that I crave in my stories. The fact that the sub-plots are sometimes more affecting than the overall is the sign of a master writer, too. Foggy's issue still stands above the rest, but this one comes the closest. It's great, great stuff overall. Can't wait to see who's pulling the strings and how DD gets over Ikari, even while I'm hoping that his victory is only temporary, so that this great new baddie can have some staying power.

Daredevil: End of Days 7 - So, we get the super-unambiguous church at the beginning, then we go to the Church of the Hand. (In between, we have Urich's phone call to the Bugle where Suki answers. I don't know if this is new or if I just blocked it out from before, but that is some straight up racist, stupid shit. Come on, Bendis!) Then we have the opportunity for an awesome encounter between Urich and a Hand Ninja, but just when the ninja's extracting info from Urich's head via some wacky ninja mystical stuff, Urich just escapes with no explanation. Then he wanders into the apartment that he originally went to the place for, which the ninja had told he he couldn't see. Then he finds some files on a computer that freak him out so much that he doesn't notice at least 7 ninjas sneaking up on him. Then, new Daredevil takes them all out with one well-bounded billy club. New DD tackles Urich out the window and, because they wanted a cool page FULL of arrows, the next panel, where ALL those arrows somehow miss both DD and Urich, they run. They duck for cover, DD jumps out and fights the ninjas (hundreds of them, all firing arrows) and Punisher jumps into the fray, spilling automatic fire with no discretion. Somehow, despite all of this, new DD escapes without any wounds, although his costume does appear torn in several places in the final panel. And we get the reveal about who the new DD is, but I won't spoil it here. Suffice it to say that this issue, just like the rest of the series, is a hot piece of shit mess. I've stuck with it simply out of curiosity and I'll be glad to see it finish with the next issue, but damn. This could not possibly be recommended for anyone.

Fables 128 - "Through A Glass Darkly" - The battle I've been waiting for! And then...it starts to change. Death by a thousand cuts. Amplifying the spell. (And, of course, the weird wedding arrangements between Beast and the Lady of the Lake on the part of Gepetto and the Blue Fairy.) And...the ultimate reveal of Brandish's deadly weapon. So, the battle doesn't exactly go as we'd planned or hoped. But it does leave hope for the next issue with Snow White proving herself yet again. She's always been one of the strongest characters in the book, and she's proved it time and time again. She's going to get some serious revenge on Brandish next issue, but I'm curious to see the price she has to pay. She's got to live for a while still, so she's not going to die, and I don't get the feeling that she and Bigby are going to split, so it's going to be something out of left field. Meanwhile, gone unmentioned is the fact that Bigby's abandoned (albeit only temporarily, for sure) his quest for his kids, so we'll have to wait even longer to see them return to the fold. Fables continues to tell incredible stories using characters that sat in popular culture for so long, proving that there are, in fact, new stories to be told.

Wolverine and the X-Men 20 - Well. I'm torn on this issue. I had no idea that it was going to be written by Matt Kindt, who is one of my new favorites ever. Also, it was pencilled by Paco Medina, whose work is always gorgeous. On the other hand, it was typical Marvel crossover bullshit where the story that was told was one that had literally nothing to do with what came before and I'm not interested in. I'm not reading Age of Ultron. I'm not going to read Age of Ultron. There's almost nothing that could make me interested in Age of Ultron. But...I wasn't really digging the previous plots on this book anyway, right? So might as well have a well-written (but it wasn't Kindt's best work, IMO) and beautiful distraction? I'm not sure. Sue Storm as a women who's lost it all is semi-intriguing, and her interference with the past was a nice humanizing touch to see, but I didn't care very much, Likewise, it was kind of funny to see Logan help the Brood to evolve into something much more deadly than they would be all on their own, but, again, don't really care. I'm not a Previews guy, so I never really know when these writer/artist changes are coming up, and I don't know if this is going to last more than an issue, but even though I'm not enjoying it like I Have in the past, Wolverine and the X-Men is nowhere near my chopping block.

Book of the week goes to Daredevil. Batwoman was a close second with how great it is proving itself to be, but Daredevil was just pure fun, mixed with that veteran artistry on all levels.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

boston marathon attack.

While the attack at the Boston Marathon is still being investigated, the stories have already started rolling in concerning the human cost, putting names and faces with the sobering numbers.

In the aftermath of an event like this, there are so many angles to take. And while there are reporters who are digging into the whos and whats of motive, perpetrators, etc. it can be somewhat reassuring to see the kindness of people in uniting to overcome. There were the initial reports of people running straight from the finish line of the marathon to the hospital to give blood; always something in short supply after a tragedy. There was Patton Oswalt's reminder that mankind's goodness has almost always outweighed those who would do harm. There was, of course, a nod to Mr. Rogers.

This taking place at a sporting event, though, there were uniting factors beyond the above-mentioned. The Boston Bruins have postponed their next game, originally scheduled to take place on Monday night. The Boston Celtics have canceled their last home game of the season, originally schedule for Tuesday night. And more than the logical steps of Boston stepping up security and delaying or canceling events, there have been showings of support from near and far.

Chicago - no stranger to misery in regard to sports, nor in terms of tragedy in their own streets - showed unity in their newspaper. New York had monuments that were thrown up quickly and will, presumably, show much more support, both emotionally and financially. Even the London Marathon, amidst worries of their own, showed mental fortitude.

When disaster strikes, whether man-made or nature-related, there are so many different ways in which people react. It's incredible to see the world of sports doing what they can to contribute to the good.

Monday, April 15, 2013

comics for the week of 04/10/13.

I'm backtracking over the Journey Into Mystery run from Kieron Gillen, thanks to @mfeige. I'm also continuing to read The Walking Dead, but after my experiment with reading it monthly ended so poorly last time, I'm not going to put it back in these reviews until I'm confident that I'm going to stick with it.

Avengers 9 - Wow, this book is really transforming. The long arc seemingly gets put on pause by the end here, and the connection between this book and the New Avengers gets made much more explicit. The fact that Starbrand and Nightmask go to see the Builder and that he gives them a pretty significant reveal will have a lot of influence on where this is all going. But for now, after a fight that could have really messed things up, there seems to be a calm that we're in for. Knowing Hickman's writing style, though, makes me suspect that things will not be without consequence. Even with those two locked away, even with the focus (seemingly) about to change, there will be ramifications to what's going on in this book for the long-term future. I love the fact that this team is so big and it's got so many different people who, on their own, could change the course of any given battle. Put them all together and it seems like there's nothing they can't do, but I'm pretty sure that we're going to see some tremendous odds for them - much, much later. Ex Nihilo, also, will be a player in that future. Great stuff.

Batman 19 - Well, at least in my opinion, Batman has been seriously suffering since its strong start. The Court of Owls was an amazing revamp, but it quickly fell off the rails, and the book hasn't been right since then. The Death of the Family suffered from the same fate, and this issue didn't improve things at all. Clayface is back and he's not threatening, just like he wasn't before. I'm unimpressed and close to dropping the book...but then! Alex Maleev pencils a backup tale featuring Superman, where the dialogue gets close to the Batman we all know and love and would expect to encounter in the wake of Damian's death. Pitch perfect. Contrast this with Bruce merely looking at videos of old Damian footage in his cowl in the main story, like some parent in a depressing feature film. I don't know who James Tynion IV is (apparently he's writing Red Hood and is going to do Talon [or already is, if it's out?]), but the fact that he's got a better take on Bruce's response to tragedy is worrying for my faith in Scott Snyder. Snyder's still got a lot of room, but the troubling fact is that DC's track record right now is less than spotty and they seem to be squandering the good will they engendered with the handful of good books that came out of the New 52.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 20 - Remember when we all kind of hated Xander? (But also, remember The Zeppo? And how that showed us we shouldn't? But then no one really learned the lesson? At least not permanently?) Well, we're being played right along that angle again. Sure, the fact that he's not the hero of the book (or even of his own life) must get to him every once in a while. (Or most of the time.) But even if he's just putting himself in position to blow this evil plan out of the water, it's frustrating that the writers can't think of anything new to do with him. It's such backwards momentum. He's a great character who just keeps being reduced to being the same plot beats over and over again. He deserves better. And, speaking of that, so do all the characters and their looks. The art on this book isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not good either. It's amazing to see Willow back in the book, but it's hard to see that it's even her. Andrew looks flat the whole time he's on page. The best bits of this book are the BPRD jacket that Xander wears and the fact that we're getting an art change next issue. Sad to say that those are the highlights of what used to be a top-notch book. Hopefully, with the minis over, the arcs wrapping up and the synthesis of the Angel & Faith plot with this one, we'll be able to look forward to a strong conclusion.

Hawkeye 9 - Oh man. I don't know how else to tell you guys this: If you're not reading Hawkeye, you're missing out. This comic is exactly what people talk about when they say working class. You know how there was that stat about Bush that said people liked him because they could imagine having a beer with him? Well, that's like Hawkeye, except he's not turning out to be a miserable failure. (Not partisan! Just some Google humor!) It's so ordinary. It's so gritty. (But not in the Frank Miller/80s way.) It's so street level. And it's so damn good. It's just Clint Barton trying to live his life when he's got some pretty extraordinary circumstances surrounding him pretty much all the time. He's trying to do his best most of the time, but he's pretty damn flawed. It's not that he's a bad guy. It's just that he's human. The art, by David Aja, almost makes the book, but it's another great example (two this week!) of collaboration between artist and writer. Matt Fraction is creating something entirely new here. It feels almost like voyeurism in its honestly. It's so straight forward that sometimes it feels awkward to watch. And when Jessica slaps him, repeatedly, we feel it. Things are building up for Hawkguy and we get to see, by way of that last page heart-stopper, that the amping up is going to get significantly more intense very quickly. Fantastic stuff.

Invincible Universe 1 - Well, I've loved Todd Nauck for a long, long time, and I've got plenty of faith in Phil Hester, but I'm just not sure that this book is for me. I don't find myself caring enough about the Invincible universe enough to get into it. It's just like the Wolfman book: great, great stuff that I just don't have time for. If someone I trust tells me that it gets phenomenal, I'll go back and get after it, but for now, if you love the Kirkman-verse, definitely get this. If not, you can probably feel free to skip it. I loved the art, I thought the story was engaging and I don't regret reading it. But it's not compelling enough to make my stack month after month.

Saga 12 - I can't believe this issue got so much press for all the wrong reasons, especially because, upon reading it, that 'controversial' part was so little! The issue overall has so much more, and so much more that is truly praise-worthy that it's shocking to me that people focused on such a small part of the issue. Therefore, I'm not going to get into it any more than I already have. Let's focus on the great: the little creatures that Prince Robot runs into when he lands on the author's planet. I know this is another small thing, but come on! Just look at the detail and the imagination that went into that! Fiona Staples is working with BKV at a level that we rarely see in this collaborative art form. Plus, the backstory that we get from the Robot makes him a bit more of a relatable character. The position he's put in by the land forces also help us see him as a bit more human. And then, his conversation with the author... Wow. We kind of got that double sense from the beginning, but I love how quickly they both turned into their true selves. And, of course, the ending was fantastic. Didn't see that coming and looking forward to the waiting game of next issue. Of course, that brings us to the only bad double entendre of this issue, because in the letters column, there's the confession that it's time for another little chunk of waiting. The only bad thing about such a great product is that sometimes it takes a bit longer to come out. For something this good, we should all be willing to wait.

Thor: God of Thunder 7 - We see the title reflected in a nice revelation at the end, but way before that, we get to see old Thor team up with young Thor and it is an absolute delight. Highlights include the "Thor-force" and "By my beard!" God, this book is incredible. I love how deep the mythology is getting, and, for that reason especially, I'm glad that I'm getting into the backlog of JiM. But here, Thor is front and center, and he's an incredible force. We get to see some instantaneous growth, thanks to the time-traveling nature of the story (maybe time-spanning is a better term) and it's great to see how different each of his incarnations is. The young(est) Thor is incredibly naive. The old(est) Thor is so jaded, even if it's justifiably so. And Gorr continues to demonstrate that he is more than a capable foe, tricking the Godbomb into existence. I can't wait to see Odin-Thor and middle Thor go into battle together and I can't wait to see what they're going to be up against.

Book of the week goes to Hawkeye. I'm giving it to Fraction & Aja over Saga because of the fact that they're working on a Big Two book and they still have the guts to make it this great. Incredible.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

huskies destroy louisville for 8th national championship.

On Tuesday night, the University of Connecticut Huskies demolished the Louisville Cardinals for the women's basketball NCAA championship. With the Louisville men's coach, Rick Pitino, in the stands, fresh off his team's victory in the men's game the previous night, and women's coach Jeff Walz in his trademark tie-less dress shirt, momentum seemed to be on the side of the Cardinals.

Louisville had already knocked off both heavy favorite Baylor as well as UConn's most historic rival Tennessee. However, there was no stopping coach Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies. The Huskies thoroughly dominated the game and rolled to their eighth overall championship. Coach Auriemma is now tied with former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt for the most championships in all of women's college basketball and they are tied under legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, who has ten.

Louisville was trying to replicate a special circumstance that had only happened in 2004, when a university won both the men's and the women's championships. The team that did it in 2004? The UConn Huskies.

These Huskies were simply too good, too fast, too sharp shooting of a team for the Cardinals. The Huskies broke a 23 year old record in netting 13 three pointers and shooting 53% overall. The Huskies led at halftime 48-29 and began the second half on a 12-7 run, it seemed like things were all but wrapped up.

Breanna Stewart was named Most Outstanding Player and Kelly Faris got to win a national championship in her senior season after making Final Fours all of her years in Storrs.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

ncaa title game.

On Monday night, the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines for the NCAA men's basketball championship. Rick Pitino, the coach of the Cardinals, has now won xxx titles and the University of Louisville captured their third title overall. On the same day that coach Pitino was elected to the Hall of Fame, he became the first coach ever to win national championships with two different schools.

Much was made of the sicon-tastic talent of the Wolverines, including Glen Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr., but the Wolverines simply could not keep up with the number one overall seed, Louisville.

Louisville had its own superstars, notably in Peyton Siva, who led the team in heart if in no statistical categories, and Luke Hancock, who was named most outstanding player of the Final Four, and finished the game with a team-high 22 points. However, there's no denying the impact that Kevin Ware had on the Louisville team. Sitting courtside and being interviewed as the last player for the Cardinals, he said represented the will of a team that refused to lose.

In the first half, Michigan led by as many as 12 points. There was a special significance to the event for the Wolverines, as it brought about a reunion of sorts of one of the most heralded teams of all time. With the Fab Five in attendance, it seemed as though the circumstances might be ripe for a cathartic forgiveness for the voided Final Four appearances 19 and 20 years ago. Instead, those five ceded the spotlight - as people might hope they would have done had Michigan won, too - and let the new champions have their one shining moment.

While the Cardinals won the game and deserve the accolades that Hancock and Siva accumulated, it's worth noting that, aside from the progeny of former NBA stars, the Wolverines have a player who's been touted as an example for all athletes insofar as diet and working out, Mitch McGary and the player of the year, Trey Burke, who sat out of the last twelve minutes of the first half due to foul trouble. At the time, it didn't seem like too much of a problem, thanks to Spike Albrecht, who hadn't missed a three pointer in the entire NCAA Tournament and started the championship game by going 4 for 4 from deep, before finally missing one with 11:23 left in the game. Averaging only 7.5 points per game for the season, McGary had 9 points before the first half was halfway through.

When the game was over, though, the Cardinals were the victors, Pitino added another notch to his coaching resume, and Americans who'd gasped for breath upon seeing Kevin Ware's traumatic injury were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Monday, April 8, 2013

comics for the week of 04/03/13.

With so many good comics out, my friends and I constantly argue, it's a waste of time to focus on the bad ones. But the truth is, with Carrie Kelly being announced as the new Robin and with the mess that is the Marvel Universe, it's a bad time for the Big Two. Luckily, there's always Image and the indies as well as the handful of titles from both universes that stand out.

All New X-Men 10 - The only thing wrong with this issue is that Immonen makes Logan's face look fat in the solo panels. Seriously. That's the only thing. Well, OK, and the weak cliffhanger of an ending. Like, we're all clear that it's Jean, right? She's clearly the only choice. And she's volunteering because she thinks she's a strong enough telepath (already, with her newly discovered powers) to block out Emma Frost. And she shouldn't be. But she will be. I love Jean Grey. But this seems like too much, so I'm hoping I'm wrong, even though I don't think I will be. For now, though, let's just deal with this issue alone. Old Cyclops shows up and gives the kids at the school a choice: they can come and train at his new school. Named the Xavier School. Diss! Wolverine wants to kill him, but doesn't. (Why? I don't really know. He should. It would solve a few things.) Quire's looking on as an agitator, but doesn't have too much to say, honestly. Bobby Drake sure does give old Slim an earful, though. But it's too late, because old Cyke gives young Cyke the news that he kind of had the Phoenix force thrust upon him. Young Slim doesn't take too kindly to that news and wanders the grounds, getting into a discussion with the old man later. (Which is a confusing scene, because it's just him and him talking, with Magneto, Magik and Emma in tow, and then, all of a sudden, the whole school is there? I didn't get it.) While the two Cyclopses are talking, though, the faculty gets a call from Maria Hill at SHIELD, who tells them of the activities of the latest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who got this issue started by robbing 18 million dollars via a Lady Mastermind scheme to make them look like Wolverine and the kids. Bummer. Things are about to get worse next issue as one of the students (it's so clearly Jean) has decided to take up the offer from the Xavier school. This was a fantastic issue.

Animal Man 19 - Steve Pugh brought a nice new visual tone to the book and I'm glad that this issue (at least) felt a little more like some genuine emotion was coursing through it, as opposed to the previous one. The conflict between Elle and Buddy was real, as we've seen in so many movies. But the conflict between Buddy and the Red was intense and one-sided in a way that the confrontation at the funeral could never approach. The potential is there for this book. but it's just so odd that it's been so bad for so long after starting so hotly. I'm interested to see how Maxine's relationship with the cat (and, of course, her mom and her grandma) progresses, as well as this new angle on a (seemingly) depowered Animal Man who now simultaneously has so much more and so much less to fight for.

Locke and Key: Omega 4 - Damn. That was messed up. There's so much to process in this issue that I honestly don't even know where to start. The real Bode helping his mother, but still denying that he helped her? Jesus, that nearly put a tear in my eye. He's mature enough to know that she needs it? Or he honestly doesn't think that he did? Either way, that kid deserves his body back. And at this point, I'm in serious doubt as to whether any of the Locke children are going to escape this tale alive. Mom's up off the floor, but the crazy thing about this point of the story is that it's all happening on one night, so this issue only takes us through the paces of about an hour, max. Last issue was a bit more, maybe, but next issue might be even less? We get to see Tyler tell Uncle Duncan about the shadows and Dunk accepts it pretty rapidly. We see the return of Detective Mutuku and we see a confrontation quickly brew and be snuffed out between Kinsey and Jordan. The sacrifices of the title are multiple and the ending came far too abruptly. Incredible stuff, especially how it's all coming back together: Kavanaugh, Dunk, Jordan, Rufus; anyone who's still alive is going to play a part. God, this book is good.

Swamp Thing 19 - All right! Charles Soule and Kano come in and change the direction of this book in a way that's abrupt but feels just right. The reference back to Superman and the beginning of this book feels right. It's still got the history. The mentions of Abby feel right. The almost-morose narration feels right. But it's not the same. And I mean that in the best way possible. Swamp Thing had become a stale title, something that just plodded along. And while I'm not sure what's going to be happening here exactly, I will say that it was clearly time for a change and this is clearly a change. That's the best thing I can tell. I love the fact that Holland has a discussion with the Scarecrow and that Superman's initial reaction upon seeing all the plants in Metropolis is that ominous way he just says the Big Green's name. This feels good, I'll be sticking it out to see if the new creative team can keep up the momentum they've built here, even if it's just the first chapter of an in-progress story.

Winter Soldier 17 - God, what writing. "I find myself thinking of what our chaplain once told me back in the war. The body is temporary. A vessel for the soul, he'd say. It's the soul that is eternal. Immortal. Claimed we are bound to this mortal coil in order that we take note of the pain and hardship here. So that we might carry that knowledge with us into our next life. I've lived longer than any man was intended to. In my time I've more than witnessed the fragility of humanity. I've felt it a thousand times over." The Summer Protocols involve Nick Fury and Bucky Barnes making things right that they've both had a hand in making wrong sometime in the past. And in this issue, Bucky finally makes direct contact with one of the biggest ghosts from his past. It's a heartbreaking scene, and the cliffhanger is just right. We've seen some fantastic stuff in this book practically the whole time it's been on, but this one stands out for the art in the flashbacks, the dialogue bubbles of the USSR cronies and their liberal usage of stereotypically backwards Rs as well as the overall atmosphere of Nick Fury-ness invading the whole book. He's in charge, just like he always has been. The Winter Soldier is just the latest piece in his long game.

Book of the week goes to Locke and Key. There's no way that anything put out by either of the Big Two can compete with this behemoth.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

lobos lose alford to ucla.

The news started pouring in on Saturday morning, first broken by Andy Katz via Twitter: University of New Mexico men's basketball head coach Steve Alford will resign his job here to take the reins at UCLA. (Andy Katz, for those who might not remember, has a history in Albuquerque and seems like a natural to break this sort of news.) Alford had, merely days before, signed a contract extension with UNM, furthering his time in Albuquerque by a decade. As the rumors flew back and forth regarding buyouts, betrayal and hurt feelings all around, both UCLA and UNM moved quickly to offer their official statements. Alford held a noontime press conference to get his side of the story out and it became official.

In the ensuing days, Athletic Director Paul Krebs has named former assistant coach Craig Neal as the interim head coach and people have begun to speculate. Will Neal get that interim tag removed and become the next head coach of the Cherry and Silver? There are rumors that prized center Alex Kirk has told the University that he will transfer to UCLA if that's not the case. Of course, there are always clamors from all over the city to hire a big name.

The biggest question, beyond the next coach and the impact that will have on which players leave and which players stay, though, is the effect this will have on the team and its relationship with the city. Lobo fever was near its all-time high as the NCAA Tournament rolled around this year. People who hadn't cheered for the Lobos in years picked them as a Final Four team and bought tickets to the newly-renovated Pit in record numbers, averaging 11,000 tickets sold per year. After yet another disappointingly early exit from the post-season and the departure of a nearly uniformly revered coach, how will the fan base handle the change? Alford has already confirmed that he will take his son, Bryce Alford, with him to UCLA after graduation from La Cueva High School. And the reigning MWC player of the year, Kendall Williams, was himself plucked from UCLA by Alford, after the Bruins pulled his scholarship. In fact, the only other player, so far, to have committed to UNM for next year comes from California.

While UNM begins its search for the next person to guide the men's basketball team, Alford will be moving on to what he called, "the premier basketball program in the country." No matter how hurt any fan's feelings may be today, Alford should be recognized and commended for the job he did in establishing a winning culture in Albuquerque. As a fan of basketball, it should be acknowledged that this is probably a step up for him. As a fan of the Lobos, I'll look for a continuation of the success that Alford reignited in our city. And with a little bit of a grudge, I'll look forward to a UNM-UCLA match up.

Monday, April 1, 2013

comics for the week of 03/27/13.

Hopping onto BPRD turned out to be much easier, thanks to some Ba and Moon action this week. Plus, every indie book was great and the mainstreams were terrible. Bummer?

Angel & Faith 20 - What a great start, from the cover to Spike's first panel to the desire for a drink to the insanity of Angel and the sanity of Faith. This is a book that (I know I'm repeating myself here, but) has really captured the tone of all of its principal actors. I'm so glad we have this line. Alasdair's narration is properly called out by Faith as redundant, but it's more dramatic irony where the reader knows that magic is coming back (in some shape or form) thanks to Willow. Unfortunately, it's not here quite yet, so Faith and Spike have to go seek out the Enders. An ominous name for an ominous species. (One of the best things about reading a book based in magic is that there can always be all sorts of new baddies invented for whatever we need. I love it.) On their magical mystery tour, the dialogue between the two is nowhere near the sex-fueled tension it once was and the specifics address that in the perfect way. It's wonderful to see the way the characters have matured, yet they keep that self-referential nature of the Buffy TV show up. The way that Faith manipulates the timing of her conversation with him is proof of that and more evidence of the great writing of this book. The ending, while funny, is hopefully a one-off note, because I have no desire to see that girl back in the storyline; this is about all she's good for. Another 10 issues did they say? Let's get to the conclusion, this is gonna be great!

BPRD: Vampire 1 - As I've mentioned in the past, the Mignolaverse is something with which I've always been more than passingly familiar, but I've not read nearly enough (e.g. hardly any at all) of it over the years. That was bound to change when I heard about this title, though. Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon did Daytripper, which was one of the best comics of 2010, and I'd follow them pretty much anywhere. For it to be in this corner where I should be going anyway just turned out to be an amazing bonus. The story, set in the past, is delicious for the way it avoids all the big characters - we see Hellboy in his young form, but we don't see any of the rest of the typical BPRD crew. Having not read the books that immediately preceded this one, I feel a little lost on the details of the possession and why exactly this man had to leave the Department, but, as usual, they do a great job of making it thin enough that we don't really need to know in order to enjoy the story. The issue is a great set up and it's definitely beautiful, but I'm looking forward to a little more in the second issue.

Powers Bureau 3 - Bendis doing Powers exactly as we'd expect. It's not bad, it's not fantastic, and it's just good enough to keep me coming back for me. We're essentially back exactly where we started. It's not bad, but it definitely feels like a retread. There are some new elements, of course, like the history that we now know about Walker, and his progress from one side to the other and back again. But this whole pregnant Deena thing feels just like when she got the virus, and the undercover Walker doesn't strike me as any different than the moved-up Walker or the new-powers Walker or the crazy-history Walker. I'm entertained and I'm happy to see that Bendis isn't just focusing on the Marvel Universe any more (of course, he's got the prerogative to do what the fuck ever he pleases) but it's not earth-shattering stuff like it felt like it was when we got it in the beginning.

Rachel Rising 15 - Wow, so this one really took a turn. Jet is back - again - and Rachel goes to talk to her mom, in a very disturbing fashion. We see a complicating of the relationship between Jet and Earl, but it's nice to suspect that he's just as good as ever. The turn, the revelation of the rats, was something that I did not see coming. Hilariously, it's Uncle Johnny who's the first one to point it out, despite her being out of action for the last few issues. Rachel's catharsis is stepped on by her return home and her learning of this freak out for the city, and we see how Lilith is already manipulating the media to convince them that this is somewhat natural - although I don't see how that would ever fly, no matter how much kiddie porn the guy's got on his computer. I'm excited for some more action-filled issues like this one.

Unwritten 47 - Holy hell. What an ending. What an issue. Tom gets to have his discussion with the king of the dead, who it turns out is no Hades at all. He's still searching for Lizzie and it turns out one of the servants is up for (semi-) helping him. The people that he passes, the ones he knows, are incredible reminders of how long (and detailed) this book has run and how great it's been for the whole time. Meanwhile, the kids evade the rabbit king by hopping in his magic bag, which is going to be an incredible turn when it's followed up on. And the last page reveal is not one I saw coming. It's incredible how layered this book is, and the fact that we can have separate arcs back to back that focus on the diversity of the characters proves that it's not a one man show. I love the idea of Tommy having amnesia, kind of, and how it's affected his arc. But the kicker arrives when we think that while this story is running, Savoy's probably above-ground going through his own storyline in Australia. I love this book.

Wolverine and the X-Men 27 - Well, not much to say here with this one. The story of Dog continues. It seems to me that he had so much more to offer, but what we're getting here is pretty one-dimensional. He was beaten as a child, his brother is more famous than him, so he's on a pretty generic one-upping quest. Cool. But not really. The beginning, with the dialogue of the old guard, and Kitty's instilled trust in Wolverine, is a great highlight, but other than that, it's just a mishmash of kiddie ideas. The cowboys and neanderthals and robots are fun stuff for kids, but Quentin Quire sums it up perfectly when he says that he's never felt more American then when he's shooting them all with laser guns. It's basically just a conglomerate of childish ideas, mixed together in one comic. Not bad, but nothing great. And the subpar art does nothing to bolster the case. It could be pure joy, but it comes off as pretty flat and disappointing, especially insofar as the longterm potential for the character of Dog.

Book of the week goes to Unwritten. Taking on more classic mythology and making it not only relevant but compelling in a whole new context is not nearly as either as Mike Carey and Peter Gross have consistently made it seem.