Monday, June 24, 2013

comics for the week of 06/19/13.

Intro. Happy late Juneteeth. If you don't know, you should.

Avengers 14 - I love the fact that this all started off as "Avengers World" and I love even more that it's building to Infinity (and the madness that I've just heard about with Hunger and the Ultimate Universe, etc. etc.) and that Hickman is in charge of it all. Here's the thing: I'm not sure it's going to be better than his FF run. But FF was a pocket universe. It was Marvel trusting Hickman to do something to make the tired old family cool again. This? This is world-building, quite literally. This is Hickman as Geoff Johns, being given the keys to the entire kingdom. The Avengers and the New Avengers seem to start directly influencing each other in this issue, with Cap front and center as the missing piece. (Those Illuminati are going to regret the terrible things they did.) Bruce Banner serves a great point, and the fact that the team is so tremendously large and that they've got so many different aspects leads to a lot of cool scenes. Hyperion and Thor on a team together, but it's Captain Universe who's got the real power - of course, she's got an advantage, since she's kind of tied in with all this madness. Eden as the new Gateway totally works, and he even got a few funny lines about Oz. We're learning more and more about the Origin Bombs and we see that they're communicating with each other and that communication is finally starting to be more than just one way. This is troubling for so many reasons. I also loved the subtle nod to the Sentry with Captain Marvel tossing the nuclear core into the sun, if that's what that was. The Falcon's play with the birds was also genius. Last note is about Stefano Caselli. I have no idea who he is or what he's done before, (ETA: OMG, he did Secret Warriors! No wonder!) but the art was gorgeous. It worried me when I saw the Yu cover, because I'm not his biggest fan, but I feel like the interior pencils brought the best of Yu (a little cross hatching, maybe? I don't know art well enough to term it, but it reminded me of Lenil in some good way) with some cartoony greatness that I always appreciate. It walked that thin line between rough and beautiful, which I feel is totally appropriate for this book. The ending, of course, just left me fiending for more.

Batwoman 21 - Well, that was a cool, different approach. And before I write any of the rest of this, let me say that I've always really liked Francesco Francavilla. And I think he's a natural fit for a character like Killer Croc. I enjoyed this issue for many reasons. First of all, we get both some progress on the character as well as some additional backstory. The changes that Croc is going through have been accelerated by Medusa, sure, but it's reassuring to see him come to the realization that he has always kind of been a man (beast?) in flux. I also loved the end, with his taking charge in a unique way and without the girl betraying him. Maybe that'll come later, or maybe I'm just so jaded that I expect it has to happen, but I loved that it didn't. I love that things can work out in a semi-logical way, just like he saw happening with Batwoman and her friends and family. All this being said, though, I really didn't like the art. Like I've said, I'm a Francavilla fan, but this one just felt off. It was a bit sloppy, a bit rough? Choppy? Croc seems like he'd be perfect for that, too, but it didn't mesh with the beauty of what's come before on this title, so it was really jarring. Bottom line: I'm sticking with Batwoman and I'm happy that this title is still one of the best that DC is putting out, because I'm not sure how many more of their books I'll be reading in the near future. Also, way more excited for next issue, hope it'll mean the return of JHW III on pencils.

Fables 130 - Meh. The first truly meh issue of Fables in 130 issues, though, and I'm more than OK with that ratio. I get that there were probably some rather large clues in this issue, what with the Rat People and the settling of the castle, but I don't know who Junebug is (nor her parents, nor if we're supposed to know who any of them are) and I don't really care. The adventure itself was kind of cool, but nowhere near the level of even the single-issue goodness that we've come to expect from the Vertigo standout. The Rat People are clever and if they're going to be a serious threat (they've got a master who has commanded them to stay hidden...for now...so that seems like a step in the right direction insofar as baddies) it's cool that we got this innocuous introduction to them, but even better was Junebug's running around the library, soaking in the sights, foisting her expectations upon not only her parents but every other adult she encountered. It was fun, like I said, just not very good.

Invincible 103 - Holy moly. I think that I'm of the mind that only Robert Kirkman could write an issue that's basically just a catch up issue where nothing happens where so much happens. (Yes, on purpose.) It feels so passive all the way through, but there's so much being set up and reminded about and then we'll talk about the ending, too. Man oh man. So we get started with the blase jog through the neighborhood, only to see that Angstrom Levy is back and he's discovering the truth re: Mark's not-death. Rex is upset about Cecil, Monster Girl is looking great, they're back to fighting, Eve wants to wait on telling people about the pregnancy (naturally) and the young parents-to-be get some terrible news from Sherry. Let's keep that terrible news in mind, of course, because it's going to come into play not only later this issue but a whooole lot more over the next couple arcs, I'd imagine. The scene between Nolan and Thragg is frightening because of Nolan's naiveté just as much as Thragg's menace. I can't believe that Nolan actually thinks his plan is going to work. It's wonderful to be optimistic, but it's deadly to be in denial. This is going to play out in a huge manner. William and Rick get the biggest laughs in this issue, not only because I'd kind of forgotten them, not only because of the hilarious dialogue and the genuine fashion in which we get to see Eve relaxing, but because I'd completely forgotten about the fact that Rick Sheridan is a cyborg! Man, that panel! Great stuff, adding to the claim that Kirkman writes wonderfully layered characters. He's not a gay man. He's not a cyborg victim. He's just a guy who happens to be all those things and so much more. And finally, when we get to the conclusion, there are so many troubling aspects. The ease with which Levy dispatches Mark, the situation that Eve finds herself in, powerless, but not really and, most of all, the world that Invincible doesn't seem to have any way off. This is going to be a sad, sad storyline, I fear.

New Avengers 7 - Some more solid work from Deodato. I'm not sure if his style has improved or if I've just come along on it. I remember when he was working on Spider-Man, I would think about skipping the issues he pencilled. Now, I'm good with this. I loved the nod to Reed not being in the MU proper (due to his adventures abroad in FF) and the deftness with which Hickman skipped over it. Reed says, "I don't believe in violence," but if nothing else, this book is clearly about people doing things they do not believe in. We're getting Reed and Strange bullying Doom, Black Bolt working with Maximus, T'Challa and Namor going to war with one another and the fissions amongst the Illuminati haven't even truly started yet. Beast is still the outsider and it's worrying to see how the others are plotting around him. While we didn't see much of the Incursions in this issue (Reed says it's been 28 days since the last one and Tony notes that this is more worrying than anything else. I'd disagree with that, and it's clear that we're meant to. What's most worrying is how off-kilter ALL of these characters have gotten. The things they're willing to do, the things that they've already done, that's what's most worrying.) Black Bolt, as always, in any story he's involved in, is the ultimate wild card. While this issue was mostly just filling in details of the inner turmoil, I'm loving the fact that there's so much going on.

Ultimate Spider-Man 24 - It starts out so well! It's a double page spread with Cloak and Dagger taking on Bombshell! The pencils are so pretty! (<3 U Marquez!) It's got killer narration by Miles. With a mention of Ganke's Twitter habits! It's so great. AND THEN IT GETS BETTER! We get a flashback to the origin story of Cloak and Dagger and - surprise, surprise - they're high school students. Smart ones. At opposite schools. But they're both class presidents. This is so cute. And then...we see some tragedy strike. In a really neat nod to continuity, they present the news in context of things that we know happened in the past, so this issue was really working overall for me. But then, just when we get to (what should be) the coolest part, the part where we see some truly terrifying names from the past (and the regular Marvel U), something happens...the art changes? The dialogue gets a little too hokey? There's...something amiss. When I see the names Layla Miller & Nathaniel Essex (with Dr. Arnim Zola and the FREAKING LEADER!) and read about the Roxxon Labs, I expect this book to get turned up a notch. Instead, it fell a bit flat. Fortunately, it was just that double page spread and the finale to Cloak and Dagger's origin story got a little more mileage. Interestingly, the Leader and Zola are both down in the room with C&D when the dark matter transformation begins, so maybe we'll some mutations in their cases as well? Regardless, I love the fact that Roxxon is the new OsCorp and that we're getting to see history repeat itself in cool, new, different ways. I'm a fan of hewing with character names but radically differentiating from the established storylines. That's why, for me, the moment of this issue recalled Rachel in Batman Begins slapping a young Bruce Wayne: "You don't know what to do? You get up!" Great stuff here, even if the art got a bit sloppy and we had that weird page of dialogue from characters who should know better. Book of the week goes to Avengers. The amount of love that I have for Hickman is, frankly, too high for anything else to compete. The way this Avengers story is going, too, just makes me all the more excited for the Fantastic Four omnibus that you should all be getting.

Friday, June 21, 2013

miami heat are back to back nba champions.

On Thursday night, the Miami Heat completed one of the more difficult tasks in the National Basketball Association - they repeated as champions, winning the Larry O'Brien trophy in back to back years. The Heat have now appeared in three consecutive championship Finals, and won two of the last three. For all the hate that LeBron James endured for The Decision and the pre-celebration the trio did, predicting multiple championships, they - or at least James himself - seem to have either fulfilled that promise or to be on the brink of doing so. 23 teams in NBA history have appeared in the Finals, and 17 of those teams have won at least one championship. But only the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, Bulls, and Rockets had repeated. On Thursday night, the Miami Heat became the sixth team in NBA history to manage to do so.

Of course, Pat Riley, inventor of the term threepeat, and the team president of the Heat, will want to see a continuation of this championship run next year. Of course, so will the members of the Miami Heat. Of course, it's fantastic for the fans of the Heat and for those fans of the NBA who appreciate the fact that LeBron James is, in all likelihood, the best player to ever play this game. Of course, this championship is what the Vegas odds showed would happen.

And this is in no way meant to disparage the Heat or their fans or their amazing title run, but... Wouldn't it be more fun if we'd woke up this morning to a world where the Spurs won? A world where we continued to over-analyze James and question his place amongst the all-time greats? Where we puzzled over Dwyane Wade, formerly nicknamed the Flash, and whether we still had any gas in the tank? Where we wondered whether the Big Three experiment was already over, and whether Chris Bosh would be traded during the off-season, another victim of the continual undervaluation of big men who can pass well? Where the Spurs, the old team that had one more run left in them - for something like six seasons in a row now - finally got over the hump, against a team that was undeniably better than them?

Sometimes, in sports, the narrative becomes more important than the actual events. And sometimes, we only wish it did. The Miami Heat trounced their competition in the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference Playoffs and struggled mightily with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Spurs had one of the best teams in the West, but were undoubtedly aided by a bit of luck in their matchups, as well as Russell Westbrook's unfortunate injury. The Spurs pushed the best team in the league to seven games and everyone on the Heat, from head coach Erik Spoelstra to James, acknowledged that this was the toughest series they've ever played. Next year, it all goes out the window. Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Danny Granger and Rajon Rondo, amongst so many others, will be back from injury. Who knows what trades will occur during this off-season, from Dwight Howard to Chris Paul? For now, the long grind of the NBA season - and the more-than two-month post-season - is finally over. The champs have been crowned. Congratulations to the Miami Heat.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

blackhawks even things out.

On Wednesday night, the Stanley Cup Finals went to overtime for the third time in five games - tying a record for second place in OT games in Stanley Cup Finals history - when the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins in game four of what's already been a compelling series.

The instant classic game one was incredible and set the tone for two teams that have both shown a willingness to fight for every scrap. Chicago needed three extra periods to get it done, but winning at home was expected. Chicago did, after all, finish the regular season with the best record, thus earning home ice advantage in the Finals. But game 2 went to overtime as well and, despite the home ice, Boston stole the game, negating Chicago's raucous crowd.

Boston pressed their momentum by capturing game 3 in what was a disappointing letdown compared to the thrills of games one and two. With a two-nil victory, it seemed as though Boston had solved the problem of Chicago's defense, while cementing Tuukka Rask's reputation as a goalie destined for greatness.

The claim almost immediately became moot, as Rask allowed five goals in the three regulation periods and the Blackhawks crashed into their latest victory with a goal by Brent Seabrook just under 10 minutes into the extra time. Rask will remain one of the top names in the game and one loss won't tarnish his record too much, but his teammate Jarmoir Jagr will surely attest to the need for not only winning but continued winning.

The series now heads back to Chicago for game 5 on Saturday night, which can be seen on xxx at xxx PM MST.

Monday, June 17, 2013

comics for the week of 06/12/13.

I made this joke on Twitter, but seriously, to anyone who reads this: you clearly sought this out, cuz my Google numbers don't reflect too much pass-through traffic: Thanks. I appreciate y'all.

Batman 21 - All right, so it appears as though I'm dropping Batman. Zero Year begins (I don't know, is this a DC-wide thing, or is it just Batman?) and I can't imagine a lot of ways it could be worse. First of all, the name. It recalls both Zero Hour as well as Year One, neither of which it's better than. And yeah, getting over Year One would have been a hell of a feat, but getting over Zero Hour should have been half a jump for a talented writer like Snyder with the richness of Batman's character. Instead, we have Bruce and Alfred arguing about why young master Wayne came back to Gotham, the retcon of an Uncle Phillip and some sort of Capulet/Montague fued between Bruce's progenitors. And worst of all? It appears as though the dear old Uncle who wants Bruce to come back to Wayne Enterprises for totally unselfish reasons isn't what he seems! Shocking. He's using the Riddler and we see that it was Nygma's (God, what a stupid, pointless respelling of his name) algorithm that allowed Wayne Industries to rise to the top while Bruce was off training and Thomas was dead. This is a poor use of a blank slate. Even the back-up, with art by Rafael Albuquerque, seems wasted on explaining a throwaway line that came from the main story: Where did Bruce learn how to drive like a madman? It's not that the book is bad, really, it's not. It's just that with so much opportunity in front of them, I can't believe that this is the direction that Synder chose to take, and if he didn't choose, I can't believe this is the direction that DC Editorial is forcing. No more for me.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 22 - I've already expressed my disappointment with this title, so I'm not going to get too redundant. But I am going to say that this issue continues a trend, and that pattern is not a good one. Buffy is too blind to see something that's been staring her right in the face until she hears a keyword from Xander and at that point, we have this artificial feeling conflict brewing of saving the world again, which we REALLY DIDN'T NEED. We could have gotten to this exact same point without any of the pointless backtracking from Xander's character. Literally. This is just pointless regression. And that's what makes me so sad. In the same issue that we have a conversation between Spike and Dawn that shows how far they've all come, we have Xander needlessly sliding back, further and further back. It's stupid. It's like how mainstream comics think they need to keep everything status quo. Not only is it OK for these characters to grow, but that's part of the attraction. Let me finish it by saying that Spike and Dawn are incredible and everyone else in this book sucks. Hopefully the great progress we've already achieved in Angel and Faith will carry over into some amazing things for this book, because otherwise it's almost worthless to even talk about this shitshow.

Thumbprint 1 - Yeah, this was interesting. I came for the Joe Hill, since he's impressed me with everything he's done and I stayed for the art, the gnarly subject and the graphic tone. But I'm not sure how long I'll stick with it. Honestly, war stories just aren't necessarily my cup of tea, so it's hard for me to stay with them. I appreciate the contemporary angle, and I'm sure Hill's got some impressive things to say about what happened not just at Abu Ghraib but regarding the War on Terror in general, but that's not my wheelhouse. All that being said, if it turns into some complicated family dynamics, like we saw in the too-brief bar scene, I'm into that. This poor girl is clearly living in the shadow of her father and her narration in the beginning describing his death was spot on. I'll have to listen to people who are talking about this title in the near future, just to see if it's worth pursuing. For now, I definitely give it a recommendation, it's more than worth your time, check it out.

Superman Unchained 1 - Oh man. Oh man. Boo. That's the only response I can muster. I don't even wanna get into it, honestly. If you liked it, I'm happy for you. Jim Lee can still draw when he wants to (although those much-vaunted splash pages didn't do ANYTHING for me) and Snyder seems to have a story he wants to tell. But there was literally nothing here for me.

The Walking Dead 111 - Wow, Negan is terrible. And I'm back on this comic month to month because this is the type of story that I can easily go to because stuff is actually happening. This is great. In the frist half, we get the gathering of the army and we see that things are going pretty swimmingly for everyone. (Now, in the back of my head, as a wounded Walking Dead reader, I know this is bad. I know this is just the calm before the storm. I know that something is going to go terribly, terribly wrong. But, again, as a season reader, I also know that I will not be able to predict the shenanigans that Kirkman will pull. All I can do is wait with dreadful anticipation.) The armies are combining and the plan is forming. And while the first half was good, I was kind of disappointed because I thought that meant we were going to get yet another issue full of plotting without any real action. But then...Negan comes knocking. He's arrived at Rick's group to pull his share a bit early. And Rick's not there. (Fortunately, Rick is smart, so he'll come back with some things.) But who should approach Negan but Spencer. He's here to warn Negan that Rick is insane. (Because he is.) But Negan, arrogant asshole that he is, isn't having it. I hope we get to hear some words from Negan as he's dying, letting us know that he sees all the ways he slipped up and that he could have avoided his fate. (Although, I guess that's presuming that he's going to die. I hope to God he is, but that would be a unique angle for Kirkman to take if Negan got away or something. I mean, Rick and his assembled armies have to win, right? BTW, still concerned about Ezekiel. God, this book makes you paranoid.) Anyway, the ending is great, the action is enough to keep me engaged and it's actually looking like we'll get the grand battle soon. Maybe not next issue, but the one after?

Thor: God of Thunder 9 - Let me just preface all of this before I even read the book by saying: I can't believe we have a story with three different timelines of Thor and they're about to battle a God Slayer and that the recap page says, "The hammers are about to fall." This is almost everything I dreamed about as a comic-book-reading kid. But it involves Thor, whom I've never really cared about, and yet, it's one of the best books being put out nowadays! This is incredible. OK, now to read. OMG. YOU SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT MORE THORS. THIS BOOK IS INCREDIBLE! I love the page of all of them jumping into battle with Gor in their own, so so so so so so different styles. Damn. And then we give them all a moment to shine. They all have great lines, so varied in their styles and approaches, and Gorr breaks them all down so expertly. It's as though Gorr is the voice of the author and he's letting us know exactly what differentiates each of his characters in a way that's perfectly cheating because it doesn't feel anything like cheating. Gorr goes against three Thors and I'm not going to spoil the result, but let's be satisfied to say that next issue is a must-read, almost no matter what. Even if you haven't been picking up this book, I'd recommend that you get the next one. This is one of the best comics on the market right now at all, much less from Marvel. Jason Aaron has a great grip on the story, and Esad Ribic is the perfect artist for all of this. It's solid.

Wolverine and the X-Men 31 - Quentin is a natural fit as the narrator of this book and I'm glad that he's finally getting his chance to shine, even though I still think he's a good guy at heart. (I'm not quite convinced that should read "even though..." I think it's a good thing he's a good guy. He's gonna be one of the greats.) The splash with him saying the classic line? So good. I also loved the (not-so) subtle dig at the Distinguished Competition with option B from Professor Mystique. Other than that (and the fantastic cliffhanger that I'll get to) though...yeah...I get it. This is the opposite of the Jean Grey School. It's the kiddie Hellfire Club (again) and the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (again) and they've teamed up and they're doing the opposite of Wolvie and Co. Yeah. I get it. But to take us through the periods, well, that was wack. (Sidenote here: what the fuck is going on with Husk? I'm pretty sure I mentioned this last month, but this is beyond the pale now. She's either DEEEEEEP undercover [with some sort of mental blocks on herself] or she's going through a radical change of character. I'm not really OK with either, I don't think.) But once we get through the school day, Quire's plan to find the Broo shooter and rescue himself, Broo and Idie all at once encounters a serious roadblock. Snot got an upgrade and, surprise, the seemingly innocuous guy from the beginning (the Philistine! What a great name!) turns out to be the harbinger of an amazingly great throwback villain, if it can even be called that. Even when he said just the first part of the name, I didn't immediately snap to it. I like where this is going, but I don't like the depressive nature of Wolverine and his insistence that they give up the school (this despite his knowledge of the future from the last issue) and I hate the over-reliance on the mirror format. All that being said, I'm intrigued and delighted by the ending.

Book of the week goes to Thor. This is exactly what I want from a super hero comic. Huge storylines, solid art, and things that my younger self would have thought of, but plotted out to the exponentially better degree. I love the fact that this is a mainstream comic and I hope Jason Aaron gets to frolic in this playground as long as he'd like.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

nhl finals begin.

The National Hockey League's battle for Lord Stanley's Cup is about to begin.

The Chicago Blackhawks will represent the Western Conference after defeating the reigning champion LA Kings in five games. The clincher was a thrilling double overtime victory, but the entire series really showed why and how the Blackhawks managed the best regular season record in the entire NHL. They appear to be primed for their run to the top.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins, destroying the chances of the up-and-down all-season Pens in thorough fashion. Sidney Crosby, of the Penguins, might still be the best player in the NHL world, but the real story here was the defense of the B's, which was particularly strong in this series, but has stood out for the entirety of the playoffs. After their back and forth series with the Toronto Maple Leafs and a remarkable Game 7 comeback, the Bruins have set themselves apart from their opponents with stifling defense and a stingy goalkeeper in the form of Tuukka Rask.

The finals, set to begin tonight on NBC at 6 MST, represent the first meeting between two of the Original Six NHL teams since 1979. While both clubs, then, obviously have long histories, Boston's is a bit more decorated, with 6 championships, stretching back to 1929. Chicago has a mere 4, with its first coming in 1934. However, both teams have had recent success with the Blackhawks winning in 2010 and the Bruins following them up in 2011. With the defending champs out the way, a new king will be crowned and either way they'll have a familiar taste.

Monday, June 10, 2013

comics for the week of 06/05/13.

The NBA Finals have begun so, despite this being an amazing week for comics, at least insofar as my stack, my attention is wholly focused in another direction.

All New X-Men 14 - This continues to be a fun book. The best parts of this issue are modern-day Havok getting to have a reunion with his younger (older) brother and the joy that we can see on both of their faces at seeing the better versions of each other. Also, the revisiting of the House of M via Jean Grey's sneaky little new powers. This is a new wrinkle to me, but I'm sure smarter people have thought of it already: we're basically going to get to see everything that's already happened through the eyes of people who haven't seen it yet. So that presents this awesome scenario where Jean learns what Wanda did and reacts like we'd expect any sane person to and then the current crew all have to justify something that's honestly pretty mystifying: why is Wanda allowed to be an Avenger and everyone the world over is chasing after modern Cyclops? Pretty interesting double standard, huh? The rest of the issue is filled with Mystique still going after money and framing the young X-Kids and the growing realization on the part of Mastermind that there's got to be more behind this than just money. Smart one, that lady.

Avengers 13 - There were no single words or lines that stuck out of Hickman's masterful work here like there were last issue, but that doesn't change the fact that this was incredible. The High Evolutionary has the kids that Hyperion and Thor (and the others) were teaching and he's used them to resurrect a Terminus. This is a big deal, obviously, but it's dealt with by the big guns of these new Avengers. Hyperion and Thor prove to be way more than a match for the Terminus, and Hyperion snags the batteries that are powering the monster just in time to save them from Thor's lightning powers. More importantly, though, is the conversation between the High Evolutionary and Hyperion and then Hyperion and Thor. The narration carries over from last issue and proves to be a great touch as we finally have some kind of human grounding to a character that never had it before. I love the fact that we're getting this so early, because it shows that Hickman learned from the lesson of Sentry; you can't just have a totally unrelateable, all-powerful character. He needs this grounding and it benefits the future potential of this story. The only bad thing here is the poor art of Deodato, which hits a low point on the very page where it should be overwhelming in the best way: the resurrection of the Terminus. However, there is a small redemption in the closing conversation, with the way that Hyperion looks - so fragile, matching his inner thoughts. Solid.

Daredevil: End of Days 8 - Well. That was...cute. And kind of touching. I guess. It was mainly just a summarization of why and how this mini series could have been just four issues, or even just three, or even just two. So, last issue we found out that Ben Urich's kid is the new Daredevil. And this issue we get to see some flashbacks, not to Matt training him, but rather to their last conversation. They're gorgeously illustrated by David Mack. But other than those pages, the whole thing is a mishmash. We have the funeral of Ben Urich, where his last piece on Daredevil is read by JJJ and it's a great piece. Probably some of the most solid, sentimental writing that Bendis has done in a long, long time. But then he has to ruin it with his Bendis touches. A card from Foggy seems about right, but Peter ending up with Kitty is a delusion. Peter having that conversation with Lil' Urich at the funeral, much less at the bar, is crazy out of place. The Punisher showing this much sentimentality for any of the involved parties, whether that's Matt or his successor, is incomprehensible. And then, yeah, we get to the Rosebud. I'm not going to spoil it here, but let me just say that I'll have to go back and read some of the interactions between Urich and the people he interviews to see how this possibly could have escaped everyone's notice. They have a PICTURE together? And her last name is straight up? I mean... Ugh. It's cool that the legend of Stick carries on. But it really took us 8 issues to get to the most logical conclusion point? Decompressed (and shitty) storytelling at its finest. Interesting take on the end, not my fave.

East of West 3 - Hickman's other big work going on right now is something equally as ambitious and nearly as incomprehensible. It's a mashup of Stephen King's The Dark Tower and a post-apocalyptic story set on actual Earth with an alternate history. It's so weird that, thus far, I definitely have no idea what's happening other than the Four Horsemen are minus Death, who was married, the USA is divided into 7 (but actually 8) nations and there are some crazy people wandering around who are actively trying to bring about the end of the world. Some of these people are on the same side, some are opposites, but they're all pretty generally bad people. There are many references to cults and/or religion and there appears to be some sort of emphasis on keeping people in their corner, both stereotypically ethnically speaking as well as geographically. The art is great, the story is intriguing.

Locke And Key: Omega 5 - Holy poop. Locke and Key, you break my heart. And you do it every issue and you do it so exquisitely and I love you so much for making me so miserable. Oh my God. I don't really know how to react. There are only two more issues left (and it looks like next issue is going to be a flashback issue that will frustrate me because I don't get the ending, but, in retrospect [probably even almost-immediate retrospect] will be incredibly important) and I have no idea what exactly is going to happen. Do I expect the good guys to triumph? Absolutely. Do I think that's actually going to happen? I have no clue. Tyler gets to have a conversation with an unexpected guest that nearly brought me to tears, Nina appears to be sobering up, Kinsey, Jordan and Jamal are trapped on the catwalk and Bode is nowhere to be seen. But Erin Voss does come back in a neat way, too, and it seems very likely that these components of her are going to play an important part. The bad aspect of people coming back is doubled up on, though, as the Giant Key and the Flying Key play important parts, too. Plus, we get to see Detective Mutuku start to believe in magic and Dunk's full commitment to doing so, although his scenes are ambiguous in the worst way possible. While Dodge is marching the teenagers downstairs toward their deaths and the only mention we see of Rufus is in the intro, this issue hits all the marks that we could ever hope for. Those who have the guts to stand up to Dodge (we get some great whispered-to-herself monologue from a nerd) pay the price and Jordan appears to make a sacrifice that I expected from Kinsey. This book will, undoubtedly, go down as one of the best comics of all time.

Rachel Rising 14 - This book just keeps getting kookier and kookier. I like the connections that Terry Moore is making, but even more than that, I love that he's finally directly addressing his own personal science versus religion feelings. "That pure science thing...it's just like another religion, isn't it? They use the word believe a lot. And if you don't agree with them, you're an idiot." After his relationship with God via David in SiP and his relationship with science via the entirety of Echo, this seems like the perfect book to look at the reconciliation of the two. There are a lot of other noteworthy things, too, including the connectivity of the universe that my friend Dave described as "plotz-worthy," which I thought was a cute way of doing something that I just figured had to be done. I was more shocked at the revelation in Echo and when it happened here, it generated a smile. But more importantly, we have the firm establishing of bad guys and the slow coming around of the good guys. Aunt Johnny and her partner have a unique take on the science/religion dichotomy, but even more tellingly, Aunt Johnny is slowly coming around to the possibility of non-scientific explanations. I have a feeling this will be especially important as she seems like a key ally in the battle that is inevitably coming. The art, as always, is great, but I was a little disappointed that the last panel didn't get a page to itself, even flipping the pages back and forth a few times just to make sure that I wasn't missing the last page.

The Wake 1 - That was interesting and I like Snyder well enough (I'm back and forth on Murphy) but I don't know if it was compelling enough for me to feel like I have to stick around. I might come back and check it out in trade if I hear great things. For now, we've got a contemporary story, a future quest and the briefest of ancient preludes. It all involves some sort of shadowy government conspiracy and whale noises and a poor female protagonist whose family is in disarray. She's suffered some sort of trauma in the past and she's being given a chance to make it all right - of course she takes it. However, from our look into the future, it seems as though it's not going to turn out very well. Cool if you love the ocean. For me, just OK.

Winter Soldier 19 - I've got to be honest: With all the time-jumping and body-swapping, I'm not really convinced I got all the little details of this issue. But I'm confident enough to say that I got the overall picture and it was a good one. Bucky, riding off into the sunset for now at least, gets a somewhat happy ending. The dude whose wife he killed kinda sorta forgives him. The girl he's been chasing saves both herself and him, after transforming the Cosmic Cube into the Tesseract, so that we have the much-vaunted movie connection. And, most importantly, we get that last image of Widow and Soldier. That was nice. The parallels between the first page and Bucky falling with Cap to the penultimate pages with Bucky falling with Tesla were nice, too, and I love the fact that we finally saw Bucky without his metal arm in a non-combat setting. It really hammers home the idea that he's an ex-soldier (although I don't know how far I'll go in calling him ex-anything, since he's still working harder than a lot of full time heroes) when he's sitting for his dinner (or breakfast, as we don't know if it's sunrise or sunset) and joined by the HYDRA-SHIELD agent. If this is the end, which it isn't really, then this was good enough. But I'm still bummed that they'd put this on the back burner just to bring it back later. It was a hell of a ride, though.

Book of the week goes to Locke and Key. This is a time that we would all do well to remember in the future, when so many good comics are coming out, not only from the indie guys (who produce pretty consistently) but also from the mainstreams. But even amongst the cream of the crop, Locke and Key stands head and shoulders above the rest and will for a long, long time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

nba finals 2013 start tonight.

The NBA Finals begin Thursday night when the San Antonio Spurs play in Miami against the Heat. The Spurs, idle for nine days after sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies will fight against the idea that they've had too much time to rest. The Heat, rested only for a third of that time, after grinding out a game seven victory over the Indiana Pacers, look to repeat after winning the Larry O'Brien championship last year.

There are tons of plot lines going into the 2013 NBA Finals, but there's little concrete evidence to go on. The teams played only two games during the regular season and they both have enormous asterisks next to their results. Coach Gregg Popovich - himself one of the most interesting subplots insofar as his brusque interview style during games - sent most of his starters home, without notifying the NBA in due time, before the Spurs' visit to Miami on November 29. Then, the JV lineup for the Spurs nearly beat the Heat. And Pop, officially for not giving notice in time, but ostensibly for throwing a nationally broadcast game with the reigning champs, was fined 250,000 dollars. David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, said the Spurs organization did a, "disservice to the league and our fans." Fans of the Spurs, on the other hand, saw their second-stringers nearly beat the best team in the league, on their court.

Given the hubbub surrounding their previous match up, when the Heat visited San Antonio four months later, the national media's interest was piqued. This time, the Spurs were near full strength, missing only Manu Ginobili, who sat out with a strained hamstring. The Heat, however, were not. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both out, the Heat still managed to eke out a two-point win in the AT&T Center. It's worth noting that James and Wade were definitely hurt as they had played in the previous game but did not play in the Heat's next, at New York. Coach Pop, feigning surprise and hostility at the news of James and Wade missing the game, was gracious enough to not comment on the fact that the Heat were not fined when their players missed the game.

So, the regular season games are tossed out the window, if not taken with an enormous chunk of salt. What does that leave prognosticators with? James has faced the Spurs in the Finals before. In 2007, when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, his team was swept by the Spurs. He has acknowledged that he'd love revenge for the loss that came so early in his career. But James was a completely different player and these Heat are not only geographically different from those Cavs - the presence of All-Stars, in Wade and Chris Bosh, a former Finals MVP, again Wade, and the small ball revolution that the Heat fully embraced during last year's championship run - the past history seems just as invalid.

Looking at the paths both teams took results in just as much confusion. The Western Conference was seen as vastly more competitive. But the Spurs swept both their first round opponents, the Lakers, and their Western Conference Finals opponents, the Grizzlies. The Heat were far and away the best team in the East, almost universally assumed to come out on top. After sweeping the first round against the Bucks, though, they gave away a game to Chicago and fought for a five-game victory in that series. Then came the Pacers, who took the Heat to seven games, and had some pundits believing in Indiana's ability to take the series.

So what does it actually come down to? The Heat have the best player in LeBron James. There can be no denying that. But Tim Duncan, the rock of the Spurs for the last sixteen years, is just as good now as he was in the early championship days. The Heat have home court advantage, but the format shifts in the Finals to a 2-3-2, wherein the lower seed gets three games in a row at home. It's a matter of debate who this actually benefits. The Heat will look to run more than they got to against the Pacers, but Tony Parker, point guard for the Spurs, has looked incredible at all speeds. The Heat have the Vegas odds on their side, as well as the majority of the expert picks. They won last year and are a mere four games away from repeating. The Finals start tonight at 7 MST and all games are broadcast on ABC.

Monday, June 3, 2013

comics for the week of 05/29/13.

Unrelated to the fact that Angel and Faith came out this week, I was discussing my Top 5 Buffy episodes just the other day. Number one is obviously Passion, but I think that number two might be Once More With Feeling. It's weird to think that all my favorite episodes after that (Hush, The Body, The Gift, etc.) are pretty depressing, but, I mean, it was a show wherein the main character died. Twice. Your lists?

Angel and Faith 22 - It just continues to impress. There's something magical (yep, intended) about this book and how much better it is compared to the mainline Buffy book. I hope it's not a spoiler to say that Giles is, indeed, back, but I won't ruin the twist that he comes back with. Suffice to say that I wasn't expecting it and it gives a lot of potential to his character. I hope there is no solution found, but that this is merely a new wrinkle for both him and his friends to deal with. I love the fact that there's now this awkwardness with him, especially in his conversations with Faith. The moments that really got me, though, were his talk up on the roof with Faith, where he expressed frustration and then happiness. We hadn't really heard that from him yet, and it was perfect to finally get there. Also, it had that hilarious little break with the awkwardness popping up again. (Yep.) The next great moment was during the battle-planning where he made it clear that, should he die again, he doesn't want to be raised yet again, even if it was possible. I think it's a really great attribute of Giles that he wants what's right all the time, even if it's not perfect for him. And it was met with the chorus that we'd totally expect. The ending, I will say, did confuse me a little bit. There's just that one image, one girl, whom I don't really recognize, and I've always thought the art in this book was perfect. So either my memory is failing in a huge way, or there's something else going on here. I love the fact that Whistler is back and that we're gearing up for the final showdown. There are only 3 issues left in this season, there's a lot of crossover continuity, even though the gangs are fighting different enemies (ostensibly) but I feel there's going to be some coming together, which will be even better. I am totally satisfied with this issue and I hope that Giles gets to stay.

BRPD: Vampire 3 - Man. Ba and Moon. They draw some of the most gorgeous, terrible images I've ever seen. I love their style and it's such a perfect fit for the Mignola-verse. I'm so happy to have it here, but bummed that it's only for 5 issues. What we have here is a good old fashioned brawl and it concludes in spectacular fashion. I'm a bit afraid for our protagonist, Mr. Anders, but given that I don't have huge stakes (pun intended) in his story, I'm way happier that I get to see it play out in such beautiful fashion. The story isn't big on exposition, which is fine with me because the art is so incredible. But there's not a lot more to say other than Anders seems like he's going to a dark place. I hope he makes it through whatever's coming next, because it's clear that the town is just as sinister as we'd originally been prepped to believe.

Mind MGMT 11 - Every time there's a new issue of Mind MGMT, I have no idea how to review it. All my normal confidence goes flying out the window. I think of myself as a pretty smart guy, but while I'm reading these issues, I'm constantly thinking, "I have no idea what's going on." And then, when the threads start to get pulled in tighter, when I feel like I might have some idea what's going on, that I might be seeing the overall picture, I start to doubt myself. This book is amazing. There is so much going on here, from the Premeditated excerpts in the margins to the return of the field notes, from the cover recalling that issue they told us last issue to read - and which I'm glad I did, because it really sheds a lot of light on Duncan and his abilities, and what exactly happens during that prison break - and the pre- and post-script stories being more important than ever before. And that hasn't even touched the story itself. I mean, everything I've just said is the precursor or the marginalia. God. OK, so here, we have the crew deciding to make their assault on Shangri-La, but first Duncan needs to tell Meru a story. He does, but the story isn't really the point. Their relationship is the point. (This goes further back to the Meru-Lyme relationship, too.) Finally, when they land, they find Shangri-La, they break in (insofar as a place that can only be seen by people who are meant to see it can be broken in to, per se) and Duncan gives them the bad news: the bosses already know they're there and their mission is doomed. Man. What a bummer. We get to see an Immortal on the last page, plus two other characters whom we might already know. It's gonzo the whole time. And in the letters page, it's acknowledged, but then we get the promise of an even crazier season finale next issue. The art is perfect, the story is so detailed, there's nothing not to love about this book or this issue.

New Avengers 6 - "The turn of the wheel breaks hope - it crushes what makes us decent and steals what little honor remains." I know this isn't a new line, but this is 2 weeks in a row where Jonathan Hickman made me feel like I was reading a classical novel instead of a disposable comic book. This is the new hotness. This is where things can turn around for an entire industry. When you bring in someone who's a fan, but is also an artist. When you give the reins to someone who wants to MAKE something. The Black Swan's constant reference to "Rabum Alal" (a God figure?) and the fact that she's proud of the Illuminati is a definite sign for worry. There's nothing truly GOOD happening in this book - it's the terrible nothingness compared to the blind optimism of Avengers World happening over in the mainline book. But that's what makes it so interesting. "The wheel grinds men down or sharpens them into weapons. You've built a knife...Now you have to find the courage to get it bloody." The fact that Beast is in this book, pulled unwillingly by the legacy (curse?) of Xavier really gives a great contrast, too. I'm not sure that Henry, for all his muttering about in time and space, even over in All New X-Men, would ever want to know about this stuff, much less to take part in any of it. Plus, going to Latveria means we're going to see Doom, and we already know that Hickman is the number one writer for that character. He gets to the essence of what makes him who he is. The dynamic of this group means that they should eventually be joined by Doom, which will make it even better. But if they're not, that's OK, too, because these heroes have already fallen so far. I talk constantly with Nick and them mindwiping Cap, and I thought that was as bad as they could get. But the truth of the matter is that it's not the one, large, single horrific act that marks them as fallen; it's the little things that this book is full of. And no one summarizes that better than Namor, constantly clamoring for doing the dirty deeds, not caring at all, and Black Panter, who eulogizes all of their souls with his momentary hesitation and his response to Namor's impudent question, "What are you waiting for?" "I'm not waiting...I'm remembering who I used to be." God, this is a work of art and I love it and I can only pray that my faith in Hickman gives me just as good an ending as we got on his Fantastic Four opus.

Wolverine and the X-Men 30 - Well, looking at the books this week, I had to settle on one to read first and I usually try to go best bad best, but this week they all looked good, so I started with what I thought might be the least good. It started off so well: cool, new penciller! Very pencil-y! And then, the Bachelo homage on the first page we see the baby Hellfire Club kids? Nice, it's superb. We get to see Beast engage in witty banter with Abbie on the SWORD station and then Storm plays her part perfectly. (I loved Kitty's aside about the kids on Twitter. Nice to see other teachers keeping track.) But Bobby gets the best line: "We are officially the worst teachers in X-Men history." Don't worry, Iceman: Professor Xavier invited both Magneto and Xorn into teaching capacities, so... (Plus, Prof X himself lost teams and mindwiped his kids, so I'd say you're actually in good company.) Even Quentin's looks, young as they may be, kind of fit. These are, after all, supposed to be kids. But it does get to a point where it goes too far: if Kitty had set the localized thought amplifier, why didn't she hear all of the things Q did? Because he read them from the BAMFs? They weren't directly his thoughts? First of all, the BAMFs are still awesome. But secondly, that doesn't make any sense. Hold him where he is, let Rachel get back and then have her pull out what he pulled already. This jumping to conclusions thing has never turned out well. Certainly they know that. There's no doubt in my mind that Q is jumping over to the Hellfire side of things for a good reason - he's one of the most intriguing new characters and they're not going to go the simple route of him turning out to be a villain. But Paige turning out to be nuts, Toad seemingly evolving into a major player when he was merely comic relief...these things seem a bit out of place to me. All that being said, none of it was bad, it's more pure X-Men off the walls wacky style comics and I know Jason Aaron knows how to plot a long-term story, so I'm excited for his first, official, real consequences foray in this book. He's got his intro. Now he'll get to have some fun.

Book of the week goes to New Avengers. For all my recent infatuation with Matt Kindt and even granting the fact that I think Mind MGMT is one of the top 3 comics being produced right now (Saga, Locke and Key and it, right?), I can't deny the fact that the little kid in me loves superhero stuff more than he loves adult-only concepts. So when I get to have my advanced themes inside a superhero comic? That's what does it for me. Your mileage may vary.