Monday, December 30, 2013

comics for the week of 12/18/13 and 12/25/13.

Missed last week due to the holidays, so we've got two weeks to cover.

All New X-Men 20 - Not shocking. Not great. The art is subpar and the story is pretty cliche. Stryker's son is leading the purifiers and is probably some kind of self-loathing mutant. Wolverine's cloned daughter can track people. The X-Men head out to round up some of the haters, Jean has a trite line of dialogue and there's an ending that's supposed to suck me in for more. I guess the cover has some people jacked up because it'd be funny if Logan's "daughter" and young Cyclops got together? I don't find that intriguing or shocking in any way. This book's not doing it for me anymore.

Black Science 2 - Yep, still cool. I want more, though. This might have to be a TPB deal. We're getting a kind of Sliders deal here, except with more science and way more evil, nasty, gnarly shit. That's cool, but I don't like how they're dealing with the backstories. The only one that seemed authentic was Ward, the hired help. The scientists and their rich benefactor ring extremely cliche and, while I know I'm reading a comic, I don't want it to come across as a stereotype. The art is gorgeous, the worlds are going to be incredible, but I'm not sure single issues will do it for me here. The best part of this issue was the disparity between the Germans, stereotyped as Nazis, and the Indians, stereotyped as the native victims, and the way that situation actually plays out.

Daredevil 34 - I really thought they were going to kill her. I really thought that would be the bit that drove Matt out of New York City - maybe he'd be blamed for it, or maybe he'd just be guilty. But then she survived and her speech - although quite melodramatic - sat right with the people and the phone call came in. I don't know if they'd possibly dare to kill Foggy, but it certainly seems like they want us to think they're going to. It'd be a noble way for an ordinary person to die, and it'd be a lasting thing that Mark Waid would do to the Daredevil-mythos, but is it worth it? Foggy's always been around. This new DA, yeah, she's cool, but will she be able to fill that role? I don't think so. The things with the Sons of the Serpent are coming to a close and it's certain that DD is going to win, but what will it cost him? Next issue says Elektra; that's always a good thing!

East of West 8 - This might be the darkest book I'm currently reading? When it comes to trade, are people going to be able to deal with it? I mean, this much heavy shit, all in one dose... So, this single issue was pretty much the epitome of the philosophical debate of freedom, right? I mean, who's really free? If we see our chains, does that make us less free? If we don't see them, are we more free? And this extends all the way to the secondary part of the story in this issue, too, the brief interlude with Death seeking out the Oracle. I'm loving the thematic ties, and the white pages (at least here, if not in Infinity) are definitely serving a purpose. It's a fascinating read and I'm interested to hear more about long-term plans. I'd love to have some reassurance that this is a definitive story, one with a firm ending in mind, because that'll cause me to have more faith in the story as a whole. As it stands now, I'm OK with hope being thrown out the window because at least there's honesty. Comforting? Not at all. Realistic? I think yes.

The Private Eye 5 - While everyone was talking about the Madonna grave, no one mentioned the sexual ambiguity of PI! I think that's a sign that we're advancing as a culture? That's great. You know what else is great? The way this series continues to kick ass. Here we get clued in a bit more on the long term plans of DeGuerre, the relationship between the Internet and the Cloudburst, the way Gramps and PI have lived together and what exactly Taj was working on: turns out, bringing the Internet back! Holla. It's going to be a great conclusion. I'm hopeful that this book will actually conclude next year, as I know it's taken a while, but it's always been worthwhile.

Saga 17 - Man. I don't know how to express the feelings this book gives me. Seriously. It's...it's complex. I really thought we'd have more time with all the characters than we've got with each one who's died. And, of course, there's the possibility that, since Gwen's going there to heal someone, that more than one person will be healed. But...this book toys with my heart so much. Still loving the narration, the ghost Izzy, the subplot with the journalists, and, of course, the conflict that Prince Robot IV is creating for himself. The fact that he's rebooting isn't surprising, as he's got to be a pretty major villain, so he can't be gone already. The fact that they don't know that he's rebooting? Now that's ripe with storytelling potential, and not just for quick bloodshed. Best of all, though? All of our major players are now, for the first time in the series, in one place at one time. I'm really, really excited to see where next issue takes all this.

Thor: God of Thunder 16 - Not as happy with this issue as I have been with the previous issues in the run. Don't like Thor going off half-cocked and just killing his allies, nor the reveal of the traitor; feels like a cheap back door. Also, the fact that this is rising to the conclusion and the whole purpose of the League of Realms is now gone, the League itself dispersed makes it feel as though the prior issues didn't really matter. If it was just going to come down to yet another Thor slugfest, let's just have that first. I know, I know, that makes it less of a story, but I'm not feeling this one anymore at this point anyway, so it might as well have gotten here earlier? I don't know. This was just weird. The Garney art bothered me more than it has in the past, and the story seems to be slogging. I hope the conclusion can get us back to a great point.

Young Avengers 14 - Well, it's all almost over. The fun ride always has to come to an end and this is just about it. And, while I thought the other artists were just fine and did more than a passable job, after 13 issues of McKelvie's gorgeous pencils, they just couldn't cut the mustard. I loved the relationship between America and Kate Bishop, I loved the semi-cliffhanger ending, and I dug the kind-of confrontation between Billy and Prodigy. The parallels to Phonogram were obvious, but the backstory to Miss America was totally unexpected. I love the fact that they're still able to surprise, even in, essentially, an epilogue. I'll be sad when this book is gone, but I'll look forward to the inevitable hardcover and, hopefully, a resurgence of interest in the first two runs, which should be collected as hardcovers, too.

Book of the week goes to Saga. In the official aftermath of Locke & Key, we've got a firm transfer of power to the best comic book being produced.

*

The new week brought only two books. Good to let me catch up.

Avengers 24.NOW - More stupid numbering, but the story wasn't half bad. The art, however, was a hit and miss. None of the artists, in and of themselves, are bad artists, but I dislike the rapid changing from page to page. We start in 3030 with the Baxter Buildings and Franklin Richards running things. (He's the best future character, right? I mean, theoretically, he should always be in charge of everything in every future.) Then we have a future Iron Man jump back to the past, reveal the new problem and the Avengers dealing with it. We also have a great relaxation scene, conspicuously missing Tony Stark and Cap. Those two are inside dealing with the future of the Avengers - removing Wolverine and potentially Spider-Man - while a different future makes its way toward them and changes their course. The ending with the Rhodey reveal and grandfather and the Illuminati foretelling is exciting in a dangerous way. I like the idea that Cap and Iron Man are destined for yet another clash. I'm glad just to be keeping track of this and not necessarily needing to see every little bit, because, while it's good and interesting, I'm still not sure of every single intent. I think, when all is said and done, Hickman will go down as one of the best builders, if not one of the best executors.

Origin II 1 - More stupid numbering and not much more. Although I like the idea of including some information about Sinister in the early days, and I love the idea of Kieron Gillen doing some work with Wolverine, I didn't find there to be much intriguing about this issue. The pencils were fine, for a Kubert, I guess, but they weren't great. And the story, despite that button on the bear's nose at the end, wasn't anything to write home about. I get that it's supposed to show the animal side, and it did, but it was neither compelling nor all that interesting.

Book of the week goes to Avengers. I guess.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

lobo soccer loses to notre dame.

On Friday afternoon, the University of New Mexico soccer team lost in the Final Four of the NCAA post-season tournament. Although UNM did a good job of controlling possession and took an equal number of shots on goal than the Fighting Irish did, they allowed an early slip in defense, which led opportunistic Patrick Hodan to a goal in the seventh minute. With that disadvantage ensconced in their minds, the Lobos refused to play timid, challenging the staunch Notre Dame offense again and again.

As the second half began, though, and time started to slip through the fingers of the Cherry and Silver, things got a bit more tight. The set pieces started to develop for both teams - there were no corner kicks in the first half, and 8 total in the second. UNM still played the role of the aggressor, but it was clear by the mid-point of the second half that it was because they had to, not because they wanted to. Finally, in the 65th minute, Notre Dame connected again with the back of the net. Again, it was Hodan, this time off an extremely odd miss, hammered off the crossbar by Vince Cicciarelli and followed up on by Hodan after an unlucky Lobo touch.

From then on, it was desperation mode for coach Jeremy Fishbein and his crew; watching their magical season evaporate in front of their eyes and on ESPNU. When the final whistle sounded, UNM was still down 0-2, and Notre Dame was advancing, although their opponent was still to be determined at the time. Later Friday evening, Maryland took down Virginia for their place in the national title match.

There have got to be several consolations to ending the season in a loss, even in the face of departure from their seniors. Kyle Venter has been invited to the MLS Super Draft and is almost certain to be selected, while goalkeeper Michael Lisch and a pair of Michaels - Kafarri and Calderon - will all be gone next year, even if they don't all make it to the MLS. But the silver lining to these heavy contributors leaving the team is that there is a strong youth movement behind them. For a team that sometimes felt like it was overachieving this year, there's a solid foundation to build upon next year. And, much like this year's eventual champion, Notre Dame, there's a strong chance the Lobos will come back stronger next season.

The Lobos played yet another fantastic season and have much to be proud of. The future looks bright.

Monday, December 16, 2013

comics for the week of 12/11/13.

Short week. That's all.

Invincible 107 - Oh Monster Girl. That short skirt. That tragic story. And then. Mark. That power. The Viltrumite making moves on him. His angst over Eve. The ending. So good. The wack ass villains didn't help, but they also didn't hurt, since we saw that they will eventually be much more of a threat than they were this issue. So, yeah, another issue that's moving the long-term planning further ahead, as well as one that's entertaining in its own right. I love these kind of issues in general, and I love them even more from Invincible, because they're the type of issue that are always worth looking back on. The bits with Monster Girl, Rex's machine and the villains seem particularly ripe for future revelations. Good stuff, Kirkman.

The Walking Dead 118 - Oh man. That was great. They're really, really, really laying it on thick with the Rick Grimes as Savior thing, which only amps up my hope for the crazy change in direction that we've talked about previously. But for now, what we see is a mini-story from Ezekiel's point of view. And it's a sad one. And it's a good one. (We also get that awesome intro from Maggie, where she asserts her authority and it's great, too.) RIP Shiva.

Wolverine and the X-Men 39 - This book is GREAT again. This was the best issue I've read in a long, long time. Dual stories of Wolverine (who's apparently lost his healing factor?) and Cyclops taking on a SHIELD factory where they're making Sentinels, as per the end of Battle of the Atom. Meanwhile, back at the school, we see that a couple of SWORD agents have infiltrated the youngsters group. of course, one of those traitors is torn. He likes the kids. He's made friends! He seems them as people! But in the end..he makes his choice. And it turns out the kids knew all along! So next issue, we'll get two big battles and they'll both he awesome and then, hopefully, this book will go out with a bang, just like it began.

Book of the week goes to Wolverine and the X-Men. Honestly, all of the books this week were great, though.

Monday, December 9, 2013

comics for the week of 12/04/13.

As I was writing these reviews, I learned that Nelson Mandela died. It's my hope that anyone who reads these reviews already knows tons about him. But if you're the one in a million who stumbles across this and you don't, educate yourself; it's worth knowing.

Trillium 5 - Well, that was wacky. Just when I thought Lemire was done playing tricks in the single issue, we get yet another innovative technique. I like what he's doing here, but I am starting to worry that the spectacle might be coming at a cost. I mean, the story's great and all, but it's not necessarily one that we haven't seen or read before and it's not all that amazing - outside of the cool quirks of every issue. Is this going to look as good in reflection, when we read it in trade? I'm worried it might not be a story that lasts. Anyway, it's great while it's here. In this issue, we get half a story from each character, Nika and William (?), but they've switched places. Nika gets to be back in some version of post-Victorian England, where there are zepplins (oh, those classic signs of this trope!) all over the place, and William gets to be in the future, each joined by others who shouldn't be with them - their compatriots have somehow joined them both and been reassigned roles; Nika fought in the First War (but there was a Second Great War? And there were Blues?) and William's brother is alive all of a sudden. It's as though they should know that something is amiss... And they do! And it's awesome.

Young Avengers 13 - Man, this book is so much fun. And the fact that I thought I'd known the ending to last issue only helped me this issue when it turned out...whoah. All of the bad guys (except Mother and the villains the good guys themselves had gathered) were merely figments of Loki's imagination?!? Wow. OK. Yeah, I didn't see that coming at all. That was bizarre to see them all melt away. And Noh-Varr got exactly what he deserved and Billy and Teddy saved the day with gay love and America called it correct when she said, "Of course love is going to save us all." I love this book. At the end, Billy got his parents back, but not his brother, we still didn't figure out Not-Patriot, Loki is getting away (only to be ushered into service in some other book) and we're going to get the afterparty after all. I love this book.

Book of the week goes to Young Avengers. Trillium is an amazing experiment, but YA is fun.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

lobo soccer to face uw in elite eight.

The Lobo soccer team continued its roll in the NCAA post-season tournament on Sunday, winning the match against Penn State by a final score of 2-0. The opportunities for more scoring in the match were numerous, but the Lobos just could not connect for the extra insurance. However, as the clock ticked down the seconds of the Sweet Sixteen game, it became apparent that the bonus points weren't needed - the Lobos are now headed back to the Elite Eight for their second time since 2005.

The Lobos will match up in Seattle against the University of Washington Huskies, where the current head coach is Jamie Clark - a man well-known in Albuquerque for his role as an assistant coach to the Lobos from 2002 to 2005. Clark served under current head coach Jeremy Fishbein and was present for some of the most exciting times in Lobo soccer. Ultimately, he would depart the Cherry and Silver squad when an opportunity arose at Notre Dame, where he would assist under his father. After brief stints at Harvard and Creighton, Clark has now taken the Huskies to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.

Neither Washington nor UNM have faced ranked opponents in the Tournament thus far, but if the Lobos win the game on Saturday, they'll have to travel again. Their opponent, should they win in Washington? Either an upstart Michigan State team, or the Notre Dame team that Clark left UNM to work with.

Either way, Coach Fishbein, cognizant of having been here before, says he would love to continue playing at home, but the team is ready to take the battle up to Washington. As one of only three programs in the nation to make three consecutive Sweet Sixteens, the Lobos will look to match or beat their prior best; the last time UNM made it past the Sweet Sixteen, they went all the way to the national championship game, before ultimately falling to Maryland.

The UNM/UW game will be streamed on link at 6 PM MST and should be shown at various bars around town. The soccer program is making waves yet again as an organization worth the time to support.

Monday, December 2, 2013

comics for the week of 11/27/13.

Well. Infinity finished. And....it was terrible. Maybe it's the five-year plan, but God...some things are just too epic. I'm holding out hope for the New Avengers issue from this week, but if it's not mind blowing, I think that book and Avengers too might both be off my list. It's not that they're bad, because, honestly, they're not. But they're not for me. And I've been pretending they are for too long now.

All New X-Men 19 - Yeah, there were cool parts of this, such as the ending (Hooray? X-23?) and the condescension from Angel regarding Cyke's directions, but overall, this was pretty generic. This whole book now feels like an extended prologue to making the Phoenix the worst thing anyone's ever seen, yet again. The fact that Angel is one of the best parts of the book isn't necessarily a bad thing, but he's never been the most compelling X character, so that should tell us quite a bit. Lacking the contrast with their current contemporaries (Cyclops aside) is going to make this book suffer. Also, the costumes are horrible. Cyclops' blind naivete continues to make no sense, given what he's already seen. And every issue is just going to give us a splash page of Jean going further and further off the deep end. It's not that it's not warranted, it's just that...is this really all Bendis thinks she's good for?

Black Science 1 - Dave Jordan recommended it, so I follow. And boy was he right. Damn, that's good. It's only a premise issue, but it's a hell of a one, at that. There's a league of scientists and it appears as though they're jumping from world to world. We only meet 2 of them in this issue (although we get glimpses of the others, briefly) and one of those dies in the first five pages. Man. This is going to move quickly and it's going to be beautiful. There are some huge ideas here, and they're only very loosely sketched, but it's a gorgeous idea in the making. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Hawkeye 13 - Another great issue of another great Marvel NOW! series, but I do have a problem with Wu on art - it's just not up to par. The story, too, with Kate and her back and forths (pluralized cuz there are so many - with Ward, with the Detective, and, ultimately, with Madame Masque) feel so damn awkward. I get that it's a quirky book, and I like that quirkiness when it comes to Clint and I obviously don't dislike Kate, because I love Young Avengers, but I just can't get behind how off the walls this long arc is. (Also, like the letters pages of YA, I can't figure out the timeline here.) However, I do like the variety of Kate in LA, Clint in NY, and the changing art for their stories. I like the fact that Kate is doing yoga, and is broke and is a plucky young detective. I like that she's got some awesome neighbors and that she's taking the initiative on setting herself up as a legitimate hero (I wonder if she'll run into DD when he moves out there?) insofar as advertising on the web and in person. It's fun; we need more fun.

Mind MGMT 17 - Wow. I don't even know how to judge this book anymore. It's so appropriate that there's a quote from the AV Club on the front comparing it to LOST, because that's definitely how I feel when I read it. There's so much going on and, while in the first arc we got some answers to questions, it feels like quite a while since that happened. Now we're just layering, making things more and more complex, building a puzzle that's too big too solve just yet. I like the fact that Meru's back on a side and that we've got some more clearly defined characters, but the drama is just on another level. There's so much backstory, and on the first page Second Floor we got introduced to yet another character whom I'm sure will pop up sooner rather than later. There are a lot of angles working in this plot and it's confusing but it's always good. The fact that Megan went with the bad guys (if they're even properly bad guys) is disappointing, not only from a character point of view, but from a rooting for the other side POV; she seems insanely powerful. I loved the double page of instructions from both field guides, too, as well as the straight-forward revelation that she's been working both sides and that pretty much everyone knew that. It's a kooky book.

New Avengers 12 - Yeah...so...about this... I'm done. Everything dies. Cool, I'm in for that. But I'm not going to follow the trail one bread crumb at a time. If it's amazing when it's done, I'll go back and re-read it. I love the character of the Black Swan and I've always loved the idea of the Illuminati, and I like the scope of what Hickman is trying to do here, but I just don't find myself caring enough. It's always been about the characters for me, and this feels like it's about the landscape. I'm sure it's amazing for some people. But I'm off that list.

Powers Bureau 7 - I've made myself a promise that I'm no longer going to get upset about this, essentially, being the same 40-ish issue arc every 40-ish issues or so and since making that promise I've enjoyed this book a lot more. Like, Retro Girl?! She's sick?! She might die?! Wow! It's so different! It's so cool! And Walker is struggling with his Powers balance?! Cool! There's a case where a group of Powers has been killed? And there's a guy who will only talk to Walker?! Cool! I'm OK with this, honestly. It's not sarcasm. Because, while, yeah, it's a drag that we're not getting any forward momentum on the book, it's still true that it's good. It's a good story to tell. And, it's like the novel just keeps getting revised. So that's cool. Whenever I want to read the original, I've got the hardcovers on the shelf and whenever I want to see what Bendis thinks he should have done differently, I'll be happy to check in on the current progress.

Saga 16 - Oh man. The fact that Gwen recognized so quickly that the food was hallucinogenic really says a lot about her. She's going to continue to be an amazing part of this play. And the fact that the end of this issue FINALLY brings us back up to speed and shows not only Prince Robot IV but Gwendy and the Lying Cat arriving where the whole gang has been hanging out is even better. I love the fact that the ghost babysitter is giving Marko's mom advice on how quickly to get with the author and I love how far ahead of the thread the oldies are compared to our two protagonists. They've carefully plotted pretty much every decision we've seen the two young'uns make since getting to the author's planet, which is a great indication that BKV understands the wisdom of old age. Mostly, though, I love that there's such a rich universe of characters out here. We get the two reporters on the cover and the story starts with them and a winged compatriot coming up with a new story regarding Alana. I don't think the intent of it is to confuse the reader, but it does show that there's either an official response to sow dissent among the public regarding this story that is imminently bursting forth or this guy is just incredibly quick on his feet. There's so much happening in the background that it shows the real level of thought that goes into Saga every month. That's why it's the best.

The Walking Dead 117 - Negan comes across more stupid than I thought he was, Rick thinks he's winning - and appears to actually be doing so - and the community is making progress. Negan's got some rules inside his, though, which we see at the end and that makes this a bit more interesting. The relationship between Michonne and Ezekiel is a great one, and I want to see what's happening next. That's about it.

Wolverine and the X-Men Annual 1 - One of the best possibilities of an awesome writer like Jason Aaron devoting himself to such old-timey books as the X-Men series is that we'll have some serious development of new characters, such as Kid Gladiator. That's what the X Books truly need at this point is some honest enthusiasm for the youth culture that's always fueled them. And this issue, while it wasn't my cup of tea, is a step in the right direction. There's some kid who might read this issue and KG might become his favorite character - I know, it's a stretch, but every issue is someone's favorite issue. It's a cool world and I hope that the X books get this kind of hero worship for a while, because I think it's good for superhero comics when the X books are good. And a crossover with Infinity seemed to be the last place in the world we'd get such an unironically fun issue. Cool stuff.

Book of the week goes to Saga. Black Science was cool and all, but Saga is incredible. Awesome in the old sense of the word.