Monday, February 24, 2014

comics for the week of 02/19/14.

Happy National Margarita Day! (Not when you're reading this, FYI, but when I'm writing it.)

Batwoman 28 – Yeah, this is fine, but it's just a mediocre comic. There's nothing wrong with just good, not great, but I don't feel compelled to continue reading. I'm happy for the people for whom it's working, but it's not for me, so I'll be done until someone tells me to try again.

Daredevil 36 – The last issue of this volume of the series brings us right about to where we had to be. Since Born Again was repeated in infinite varities by Bendis (and then Brubaker) this title felt like it was kind of treading water by just letting Matt Murdock off the hook. Everyone knew he was Daredevil, but no one capitalized on it. Well, Mark Waid finally figured out a way to do so while still making the story seem fresh and worth our time. And, most of all, there'll be a huge change coming up when the book relaunches – Daredevil in San Francisco! Cool. I'm good with the way it all went down and, as long as both Foggy and Kirsten come along for the ride, I'll feel like we're making genuine progress on this book. An excellent conclusion to a fun voyage.

Fables 138 – These guys are the masters of the fill-in issue. Just a simple break from the action of long-term storytelling to let us know what Gepetto's been up to. But it turns out magnificently, with a great little story that's both compelling and interesting. Gepetto has long been a backburner character (since issue 75) and it's nice to see that he'll get his due in the conclusion of this title. We see the lengths that he's already gone to in order to reattain some of his old position, we have a flashback look at Bigby (gone, but never forgotten – he might be a candidate for character who's appeared in, and if not that, at least been mentioned in, every issue of Fables?) and we get to see that he's won, albeit not completely. He's going to throw quite the wrench into the ending, but I'm confident that he'll ultimately be dispatched in pleasing fashion.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse 2 - “Every dream is true, and every truth is broken.” Damn. And it only gets SO MUCH FUCKING BETTER from there. Holy crap, seriously. How is this thing elevating so high? I mean, it was already on the shortlist of best comics of all time. And now the conclusion is getting this much better? I mean, unless it totally falls off a cliff, we're looking at definitive top 5 material. The way Carey and Gross are putting their readers up on genres is like a father reading to his infant child: this is introductory literature for everyone. Smarties and dummies alike should read this because we're all learning lots. Insofar as the actual plot of the comic book, it looks like Wilson is back and working with the team to ensure Tom's return. Lizzie and Savoy have been working for a long time to try to get him back and they've teamed up with the kids, Cosi and Leon. Mingus is there, of course, too, and all the genres of story have spilled out into the world. It's a gnarly new place, but Savoy and especially Lizzie have experience with it, and Hexam gets the gang out of a jam near the end. Of course, you know what they say about frying pans and fires: next issue we see an army coming.

Book of the week goes to Unwritten. This is some next level shit.

Monday, February 17, 2014

comics for the week of 02/12/14.

The Marvel books are coming too quickly and are devolving into poor parodies of what made them good in the first place.

All New X-Men 23 - Yeah, yet another one that wasn't really for me. This wasn't so much an X-Men book as it was a Guardians of the Galaxy book and there's a reason I didn't read part 2, so I wasn't primed to like this issue. We get the kids in space, they're having fun meeting the Guardians, the Shi'ar find them, there's a battle, and there's a bit of humorous characterization. Meanwhile, Jean is on the Shi'ar ship (maybe the homeworld?) and she's being interrogated. The ending finds us meeting up with Corsair, which will provide yet another interesting play for Cyclops, but it all feels like a rerun. I don't find myself caring nearly as much as I hoped to.

Avengers 26 - Yep, all done with this book. As much as I like time traveling stories and alternate versions of teams and people, this does absolutely nothing for me. AIM as world changers and varied looks at Avengers teams and Avengers worlds and still, at the end of the day, there was nothing here. Blah.

Rachel Rising 23 - This was the best issue in this series for characterization. Both Rachel and Zoe displayed the fact that they are truly two people. Rachel knows who Oscar Wilde is, but can open her old magical box as well. Zoe, on the other hand, is a deadly instrument of death, but mistakes the two girls for zombies, just like a real kid would. But more than that, we continue to learn more and more about Lilith, too. The ending, of course, is awesome, but I wanted a little more from this issue. I think it's amazing that Terry Moore is still able to do his own thing, but I'm always left a little shirt when I finish one of his issues.

The Walking Dead 121 - Well, after the intense last issue, I couldn't really expect that much from this one, but it truly felt like just turning pages. It was a placeholder, where Rick (and co.) abandons the city and Eugene gets kidnapped by Negan (and co.). Other than that, nothing happened. I know it's a long arc, but this whole story could have fit into a couple pages of another issue where they actually tell a story. I guess it was significant that Rick finally left his phone behind, but that's it. Nothing here for me this week.

Thor: God of Thunder 19 - Yes, Esad Ribic is back and it's so good. The dual nature of the story - our Thor hitting on Agent on SHIELD and saving the world from Roxxon Corporation (for now) and old King Thor still visiting the barren Earth in the future (only to have Galactus show up as the cliffhanger we all knew was coming) works really well in the format they've got it. I like that the story didn't bounce back and forth as some of the previous ones have done, and it shows great things about Jason Aaron as a plotter, too. He doesn't rely on the same old format all the time, he knows how to take a varied approach. The art is what carries the book, but the story is just as good, if not better.

Wolverine and the X-Men 41 - They're wrapping up the loose ends and that's good for the story, but it sure feels rushed. You know what else felt off? The mix of the art. While Larraz proved himself last issue and Nauck has always been a favorite of mine from back in the day, the latter felt horribly sloppy and the former didn't get enough time to shine. It probably has to do with how quickly Marvel is shipping these books nowadays, which doesn't feel like it's paying off. If the story and the art are so rushed, why not just slow down a bit and let things actually play out the way they should? Hopefully next issue, the last for this series, will get the focus it deserves.

Book of the week goes to Thor. Ribic's return on art was almost enough in and of itself.

Monday, February 10, 2014

comics for the week of 02/05/14.

Every week should be this good, where every book had something incredible. It doesn't hurt that I missed out on one of the best books in a long, long time.

New Avengers 14 - I've never particularly cared for Simone Bianchi's art, but it seemed to suit this issue well. We start off by seeing the POV of a different Illuminati, which is always awesome. If I'm looking at this as an extended Elseworlds tale, it's a lot easier to just enjoy, on a purely base level. Then we have Doctor Strange going to a crazy magical land, trying to buy more power. That seems like the last thing you should want to buy, especially if the ONE lesson you've learned in all this time is that the price is always too steep. Hickman has done more for the character of Captain Britain with one line in one alternate view than the entire Otherworld story in Remender's X-Force run (the vast majority of which I loved) when he repeats, "I don't run!" Then, finally, his love affair with Victor Von Doom reaches new heights. Alterna-Reed sacrifices him for Omega Level aterna-Doom and regular Reed sees it through their new mirror and, man, it's effective. But the money shot comes on the second to last page, when Stephen is framed just like the Devil and agrees to the price. It's not a surprise what the price is or what he's willing to pay, but the art really, really worked, in that one frame, if nowhere else. This is a high stakes book.

Trillium 6 - I don't even know how to praise this anymore. If you're not reading it, you're a fucking idiot, but it might be too late. Wait and pick it up in trade and feel stupid that you didn't get to it. The innovation hasn't stopped, the story is more human than ever while simultaneously casting out about the universe and exploring an alternative world where the British Empire never died and is fighting blue aliens in Peru. The art is sublime and the story is feeling wonderfully personal. This is exquisite.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse 1 - I have no idea how this happened and I'm ashamed to report that it did: I wasn't keeping close enough track and I missed this issue when it came out. But I'm happy to have read it in such a light week, because it was the best. It's almost superfluous to say at this point, but Mike Carey and Peter Gross have created something far, far better than we ever give them credit for; and they get tons of credit. This, though, is one of those series that deserves all the praise it gets and so much more. Here we see the birth, transformation, death and rebirth of Tom Taylor, who might also be Tommy Taylor, in addition to a dung better (or something like that?), the ugly duckling, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (or the sons and daughters of Nag and Nagaina?), the doormouse, and Aslan. Jesus. (No pun intended.) It's fucking intense. But this is the beginning of the end and when the puppet lady Madam Rausch (or...Frau Totenkinder...or...some doesn't matter because they're all the same character...or...they're different and it's really important...) switches places with him and allows him to die for her... Man. That's when my head exploded. And we hadn't even gotten to the ending where Tom is finally reunited with Richie Savoy and Lizzie Hexam, but maybe they're too late to save the world? Savor this ending, man. It's going to be sweet.

Book of the week goes to Trillium. Unwritten might have been better, but I can't give it to that book as I missed out the first time. Luckily, it's a win-win.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

super bowl xlviii results.

First, a recap of how we got here. Next, a note on the potential: Super Bowl XLVIII was the first big game to be played in the cold since 1972, and even that was played in New Orleans xxxx not exactly the frigid climate of the Northeast. It was played on Groundhog Day, which means it also took place on Tutu Day. The comedic possibilities were there, as were the historical ones. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks arrived in New Jersey determined to make the most of it. (Special shoutout to the reporters who asked the players if the game was a "must win" one.)

Then the game began and the bloodbath commenced. The Seahawks got the quickest points on the board in Super Bowl history and it was all downhill for the Broncos after that. The Broncos would eventually lose the Super Bowl by 35 points, 43-8. The tale of how the league's best offense, prior to this game, got to that point, though, is worth exploring.

The Seahawks kicked two field goals in the first quarter and scored a touchdown almost immediately after the second quarter began. With a 15-0 lead, things looked dire for the Broncos, but there's no way the game was out of hand; those numbers represented a mere two-score difference, should the Broncos opt out of one of their PATs for a 2-point conversion. Then, Malcolm Smith picked off Peyton with just over 3:20 left in the first half and ran it all the way back; 69 yards for a pick six. With the extra point, Seattle went into the locker room up huge, 22-0.

Despite knowing that this game was for all the marbles, John Fox, coach of the Broncos, must have given one of the least inspiring half time speeches of all time. After kicking to the Seahawks, the Denver special team let Percy Harvin run back an 87 yard kickoff return. Down 29-0 only 12 seconds into the second half, the Broncos situation looked hopeless and it didn't get any better. Russell Wilson, stud young quarterback of the dynasty-in-the-making Seattle Seahawks threw for another touchdown in the 3rd, putting the navy, green and grey squad up 36-0. The Broncos, for what it's worth, did finally get off the schneid as the third quarter ended, scoring a touchdown and converting for 2.

But with 15 minutes to play, the 4th quarter felt like an extended celebration for Seattle. Even the much-vaunted Peyton Manning would not be able to overcome the odds of the NFL's best defense, xxx a defense that is now making claims about being one of the best ever xxx the short time span and a 28 point deficit. In fact, the only team to score again in the game was Pete Carroll's crew, with Russell Wilson putting the icing on the cake with ten minutes to go. Wilson would finish with only 25 attempts and 18 completions, but he managed 206 yards out of those passes. Manning, on the other hand, threw far more often, completing 34 of 49 attempts, for 280 yards. With their percentages within a presidential poll's margin of error, the game was clearly decided on the ground. Seattle, free to roam the field, racked up 135 total yards, while Denver, playing against the stingiest defense they'd faced this season, managed only a paltry 27 total yards. Smith, for his pick and so much more, would grab the Most Valuable Player award.

So the beatdown was complete and thorough. And now we'll endure all the off-season questions about Manning's place in history. And, perhaps more intriguingly, the questions of the young guns in Seattle. Is this a dynasty? Has Pete Carroll justified his departure from USC? While the city of Seattle celebrates, 31 other teams are plotting their course to dethrone the champs.

Monday, February 3, 2014

comics for the week of 01/29/14.

Last week, not here, I posted something about how Image was on top of the world. This week's list verifies that fact as true, at least for me. A hell of an Image week, with a Vertigo and a Marvel book thrown in the mix so that life doesn't get too boring.

Black Science 3 - Coooooool. This one was good, too! I liked the premise of issues one and two, but not necessarily the execution. However, this issue felt like it had it all. Some backstory, which was good, some action, which propelled us forward, and some stakes. It seems clear that Grant can't die, but it's enough of a new series (and a couple characters [?] have already kicked the bucket) that it makes me think anything is possible, even if reason says it's not. Love the interactions with the kids and the way the corporate suit (Kadir?) is making himself valuable. It's always nice to have a scapegoat, but it's even better when that person is a complex individual as opposed to a one-dimensional loser. Also, the name the Dimensionauts is hilarious and awesome. This series is on the way up for me.

East of West 9 - Awesome world-building is awesome. Man. There are some serious threads being pulled at here. I repeat the claim I've made about this book before: it's going to read better in trade (or omnibus). But it's fantastic issue to issue and I don't think I'd be able to give it up. However, it's dense and there's so much alterna-history and so many different characters working with so many subtle (and not-so-subtle) motives that it can be hard to keep track of. I love that the last couple issues have had ONE main plot and a smalllllll side plot. This issue's main idea was the seventh nation, which is a cool place, turns out. The king has many potential heirs, but the Crown Prince was contacted previously and hold (maybe dangerously?) to his religion. His little brothers are bitches compared to him. And then, in the sub-plot, we see Death pay a serious price to gather the whereabouts of his son. Man. This is good.

Fables 137 - "I contain multitudes." Winter as the North Wind is amazing. And she sees some of the power in Rose Red that we've been suspecting for a long time now, due to her ability (compulsion?) to be everywhere at once. Her talk with Santa Claus is the highlight and really showcases the mistake she makes by not looking in more carefully to Fabletown. The missing piece of Bigby is fashioned into ...a weapon? It's just a ring, but it's obviously going to be something more. His disappearance is a freaky one, and the fact that the witches are freaked out makes it even more so. And then, the ending, with Lancelot doing some direct translation for us is perfect. I like that Fables oftentimes works best by refusing to beat around the bush; they're upfront with their symbolism and it works well for the style. I love this story and I'll be sad when it's gone.

Invincible 108 - Wow. I started with this issue because I figured Saga would be the best and I had heard good things about this one, and I always try to start and end with great issues, but I had NO IDEA how good this was going to be. This was awesome. Even if this whole dilemma wraps up in a couple of issues, it's still going to totally change the status quo of the book. And it wasn't at all what I was thinking. So, the issue starts with Eve and Mark having yet another fight about him going over and he says some gnarly things. And then the evil Mark in the other dimension says the same things. And I really, really thought we were hedging toward evil Mark in our dimension territory. (And we still are, obviously, but it's going to be a ways out.) But when Mark has the reaction to the torturing of Angstrom Levy that he does, it proves he's still good. Until his breaking point. Robot has always had something on the back burner, but it truly seemed as though he'd changed. This issue proves that he has not and that there is some serious shit coming up. This is going to be awesome. I don't know how to convey my genuine shock and amazement as I finished up the issue. I was vocalizing out loud my delight mixed with horror. One of the best issues I've read in a long, long time.

Saga 18 - Whoah. BKV continues to kill it. I really did think Heist would make it. But the plot twists with Gwen, The Will, The Brand and, of course, the ending with Hazel made the whole thing more than worthwhile. This is the best comic and it continues to get better and better. I love the idea of a time jump and the hiatus as taking that space and using it meaningfully. I hate that Heist and Grandma didn't get more time together, as I thought they would. I love the character development of Lying Cat and Sophie and the bond they've formed. And on the backburner is the mystery of Prince Robot IV and the reporters trying to circumvent their curse. This is incredible.

Thor: God of Thunder 18 - This was a cute filler issue, but it didn't really do it for me. Maybe it was all the truly amazing issues that came out otherwise this week. But the basic story of Thor teaming up with a dragon and taking on some trolls was cool enough. The line of the issue, though, goes to Thor, in response to Heimdall's claim that his father had been looking for him. "My father is omnipotent! He must not have looked very hard!" Good little one-off, but nothing special.

Book of the week goes to Invincible. This was the one.