Monday, January 27, 2014

comics for the week of 01/22/14.

Well, I'm in the midst of trying out a bunch of new things. I'm catching up on Pretty Deadly and the Manhattan Projects and I expect them to be added to this list soon. I tried out Avengers World and it wasn't quite to my tastes. But there are some other new titles on here that are already golden in my eyes and the (somewhat surprising) return of another one. Cool week.

All New X-Men 22.NOW - Between the stupid costumes and the ridiculous numbering, I don't even have it in me to pretend that I give a shit about reviewing this issue. The Guardians of the Galaxy, with Angela, show up. Bobby is hilarious. The rest is trash. I don't care.

Avengers 25 - Welllllll...I just have no idea what the hell is happening in this book anymore. When it comes to X-Men, time travel is one of my favorite tropes, but when it's getting down to Avengers World and Hickman, I'm afraid he's operating above my level. It's cute to see the original Avengers again, but then it turns out they're not the original Avengers, and modern Tony is still wearing that stupid suit, and poor Maria Hill is really getting overworked, being everywhere at once in every Marvel book except Daredevil, and AIM is really stepping up their reputation, but those names are still ridiculously stupid. "Scientist Supreme"? Really? Anyway, I'm not really down for this any more. If someone tells me it gets great again, I'll jump back in, but for now, I think I'm done with this.

Batwoman 27 - Well, I picked it up only because Dave kept talking about the last issue, which I wasn't even that impressed with. But I've got to say: this was a solid issue. The Batwoman stuff itself was good, the Wolf Spider and his interactions with his benefactor were better and the Manapul art that (at least to me) seemingly came from out of nowhere was awesome to see. I've just heard about Manapul getting some work on Detective, which I'm psyched for, and this issue only served to further that interest. This was a cool look at Manapul aping Williams' layout style, if not any of the actual artistic stylistic choices beyond that. And that's totally OK. I loved the double page spreads and the involvement of Alice (and Bane and Dr. Bones, even though we don't know WTF actually happened with all this, and now I'm getting upset again, but I digress...) and the way that Manapul's cartoony style didn't hurt any of the gravity that was conveyed there. I didn't like Bette just leaving her cousin out to dry like that, but apparently it all worked out? Except...I didn't get the cliffhanger and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to and I think that's a problem for a series that I've read every issue of. But other than those minor quibbles, this was a solid issue. I'm in for a while more, at least.

Deadly Class 1 - Cool concept, nice execution. Remender doing a comic set in the 1980s and (at least for now) in San Francisco. The protagonist has an intriguing backstory and the group that seeks him out, while Remender says in the letter pages that this is a real world story (no aliens, no super heroes, no magic), definitely seems like they're going to be pretty over the top. I'm in, at least for the first arc, to see how wacky it gets. A hidden, underground school for assassins; what's not to like?

Hawkeye 16 - Self-Flagel-Kate-Tion and Joltin' Joe Kate-Zier. That says it all. Honestly, at this point, I may like the Kate stories even more than I do the Clint ones. This one's a hardly veiled look at the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson's Smile record, which he thinks his evil brother leaked online, to make him look crazy. But he doesn't need help looking crazy, and Kate thinks something is up with the nursing staff where he's staying. She's the best narrator ever, with her casual dismissal of culture, pop music, computers and the Internet. She's like a cranky 80 year old woman in the body of an awesome 20-something (or is she supposed to be a teen?). Annie Wu's art is perfectly suited to the irreverent tone of the book, too. The scene where Will is explaining the "Wish" record and we've got the classic portrait style, with his brother and the planets...man. The story itself winds up in a semi-satisfying manner, with Kate giving up on the case, but Grey dying, Will performing, and Kate (and her neighbors) getting to see the concert. And everything is good. But just for a second, as someone has found her. The ominous tone struck by that moment continues into the letter pages where the editor explains the insanity that Marvel is forcing upon creative teams now and the inane numbering system has to be related, right? Anyway, great book, hope it gets to continue to be its own thing for as long as Fraction and whichever artists he wants to work with desire.

Mind MGMT 18 - The fact that Matt Kindt can make some incredible arcs and blend them with one-off stories like this is part of what makes him a modern master. While this issue wasn't my favorite of the entire series, it was totally indicative of why this comic is operating on levels that the mainstream companies can never hope to accomplish. The art seemed a bit looser than usual, but that felt appropriate for this childish tale, too. I loved the Zookeeper and the way she communicated with the animals. I loved Lyme's interactions with her as a kid, and we could definitely tell he was the bear from the get-go, right? So who was his wife supposed to be in that original image? Interesting. Meru is the perfect person to talk to Ella as a (young?) adult, too, but only for that little bit of time. I'd be scared if Meru's power-blocking ability worked on the girl for too long, because that's a whole lot of animals around without anyone to hold them back. In the letters page, there was a not-so-subtle hint dropped that we're halfway through the story. While I'll be sad in just under 20 more issues to say goodbye to Mind MGMT, I'm delighted to hear that they've got an end in mind. Serial storytelling is losing its appeal to me, thanks to the power of comics like this one. Fantastic.

The Walking Dead 120 - Yeah man...All Out War is at its midpoint. And we've already had two switcheroos. Maggie's back, Carl is injured, Rick's being a little baby and Negan thinks he's won. I think that means it's time for the tide to turn back to the good guys' favor, which is nice, but I'm still tempted to think about the far flung future, too. I'm loving this story. It feels like just the antidote to what we've been slogging through in TWD for a bit of time now. There was a little while where it was just atrocious, but ever since 100, things have been positively jumping. And I'm a fan. While I realize it's not all about war and killing (whether that's zombies or people) all the time, it's still nice to have a go with an action comic again. I'm curious to see how Kirkman will once again flip the script and I'm happy to see that...what's his name? The scarred guy? He's still with Negan, but working for Rick (and co.) in as effective a way as he can. This is going to be good.

Wolverine and the X-Men 40 - Wolverine and Cyclops get drunk together and have (at least half of) a reconciliation. It's awesome. The art, by Pepe Larraz, was perfectly cartoonish while not ridiculously so. The other half of the story was the SHIELD agents getting worked over by the kiddie X-Men and it was satisfying, but not nearly as much as Logan and Slim working out their problems. It's my hope that this issue is really relied upon and that other series start to reference it as we begin to look at healing the mutant rift that's been hanging over all the X books since the last Dark Phoenix saga. And if this series is truly ending in a couple issues, as opposed to just starting over, I can't imagine a better way for it to go out. This has been great.

Book of the week goes to Mind MGMT. There is very little better.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

comics for the week of 01/15/14.

An all Marvel week. Unusual. For as much crap as I talk about DC, there's usually a Vertigo book and almost always an Image one. Not this go round, though, apparently.

All New X-Men 21 - Yeah, this isn't for me anymore. I don't care abotu Stryker or the Purifiers or AIM or the shitty new costumes of the original X-Men. I don't care about hearing yet another person talk about how they can't be killed because of the possible ramifications. I don't care about X-23 and her feelings for Slim and I don't care about the fact that the next issue is called the Trial of Jean Grey. At this point, it feels exploitative. The art is subpar and the story is getting repetitive in the worst kind of way. After my brief hope during the middle of this run, after my initial fear, those fears have been confirmed. This is a one-note story that's ringing hollow over and over and over again. Not for me.

Daredevil 35 - I've said before and I'll say again: Mark Waid on Daredevil has been amazing. It's one of those things where he does common sense things that you didn't think were common sense until he started doing them. Here we see the Sons of the Serpent put Matt into yet another rock and a hard place and I think I knew what was going to happen before it happened. But that's the virtue of having a veteran as a writer; I'm not really sure that I knew that. I mean, when I read the last page, it wasn't surprising, but it was. (If that makes sense.) Here's the takeaway: this story is awesome. And I love almost all of the parts of it. But the part I don't love was so surprising to me that I don't even know how to react to it. Elektra showing up is always one of the highlights of a Daredevil book, although there's certainly a danger of overusing her and their banter getting too light. Neither happen here, but...despite loving Samnee's art, I hated his depiction of her. It's not that I thought he changed her in any fundamental way, it's just that the just-this-side-of-cartoony (which I normally love) didn't feel suited to her. That's a minor nitpick, though, in an overall great book. Next issue it's all over.

Thor: God of Thunder 17 - Yeah, my complaints from last month continue. It's not that it's a bad book or story, but it just couldn't possibly live up to the previous run. The art was worse, the story felt movie-shoehorned in and the ending really, really dragged. It's Malekith, so that's cool, but there was almost entirely pointless, except the literal end point. I don't care about the future of the League of Realms and I doubt they'll ever be brought up again. I do care that Malekith is now king of the dark elves, but only because there's immediate possibility. I don't care about the lady dark elf going to prison for Malekith, or the one funny panel where the Warriors Three see the comparisons to the League. I'm excited for the next arc, though.

Book of the week goes to Daredevil. Waid is killing it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

super bowl XLVIII is set.

The final four teams in the National Football League have been whittled down to two. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will meet on Sunday, February 2 in Super Bowl XLVIII.

In the first game on Sunday afternoon, the New England Patriots visited Mile High Stadium in Denver, losing to the Broncos. Peyton Manning and company jumped out to a meager 3-0 lead in the first quarter. However, once the second quarter began, Manning went on a 7-minute drive for the first touchdown of the game. 9 minutes in, the Patriots finally kicked a field goal to get on the board. With only thirty seconds left in the first half, Matt Prater kicked his own for Denver, and New England couldn't do anything in the time remaining, sending the game to halftime with the Broncos up 13-3.

When the Broncos received the ball to start the second half, they began a drive that culminated with a Manning touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas that took up almost half the quarter. Denver worked methodically but not slowly and went up 20-3. Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots have never been a team to roll over and die. Subsequently, on their next drive, the Patriots, driven by Brady's accuracy and coach Bill Belichick's relentlessness went for the first down on 4th and 2. Unfortunately for New England, Brady was sacked on the play by Terrance Knighton. To add insult to injury, on Denver's first play after the turnover, Manning threw for more than 20 yards to Thomas once again, setting up the switch of sides on the field between the third and the fourth. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Broncos had a mere 12 yards to conquer. However, it took the orange squad more than three minutes of game time to score, as Denver was called for holding twice on that opening drive. The Broncos settled for a field goal, going up 23-3 with 12 minutes left in the game.

New England still gave it a go in the 4th quarter, driving for a touchdown with just over three minutes remaining. When the Pats went for 2 and failed in their conversion, though, the game took on an all-but inevitable feel. The proceeding onside kick was successfully caught by the Broncos and the formality of running through an obligatory offense began to unfold. Belichick took the timeouts he still had and the two-minute warning stopped the action one more time, but the game was over.

In the second game of the afternoon, the Seahawks pulled out a victory in Seattle. The first half gave the illusion that the game was the 49ers' to lose, with San Francisco going into the tunnel up 10-3. But the third quarter started with a bang, as Marshawn Lynch ran in a touchdown for Seattle, knotting the score at 10-10.

Then things got crazy. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an impeccable touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin and the Seahawks drove back up their side for a field goal, kicked by Steven Hauschka. With a 17-13 edge, the 49ers began the 4th quarter on defense.

On 4th and 7, Seattle QB Russel Wilson tossed a bomb to Jermaine Kearse, going 35 yards for the touchdown and the first lead of the game for the Seahawks. When Hauschka kicked yet another field goal with only three and a half minutes remaining, the 49ers were put in the position of needing a touchdown. Kaepernick put them in great position to get the win, throwing a beautiful pass to Michael Crabtree with thirty seconds left on the clock. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, though, was there for the block, tipping it to Malcolm Smith, who laid down in the end zone. The game ended with the Seahawks up 23-17.

With the Pro Bowl next weekend, Super Bowl XLVIII two weeks away, and media week in between, we'll have plenty of time to ponder questions about the big game coming up. Sherman already made some provocative comments after the victory against San Francisco, which certainly dispel some of the pre-game narrative that Seattle was the blue-collar hard-working team. And Peyton Manning will face plenty of questions, yet again, about his ability to perform in cold weather. In 2 weeks, the 2013-2014 NFL season will be over. For now, though, we've got two teams left.

Monday, January 13, 2014

comics for the week of 01/08/14.

Nothing has made me feel that we're in a new year better than one of the books below. Luckily, there's only two, and it's pretty explicit.

The Walking Dead 119 - Negan just changed the game! Love that Rick knows what they're going to do, that he's right, but that Negan is working so much more quickly than anyone expected. Also, this tactic that gets used at the end is brilliant and evil and it's going to work, to some degree. The way that it was plotted out makes me think much more highly of Negan than I already had, and he was up there, so that's a good sign for him. All Out War has lived up to the promise so far, my only hope remains the foolish belief that things can truly change in any comic book. Here's the thing: this is Image, this is Robert Kirkman, this is a proven property; if it can happen anywhere, it's here. Make it real, Kirkman!

Young Avengers 15 - I avoided reading this for a couple days just to avoid the possibility that it was really over. And then I read it and, honestly, it felt like the PERFECT ending. I don't know how I can say any more about this issue, other than this: it needed more McKelvie. But the issue fit, they got to tell the story they wanted to tell, and the ending was the absolute perfect note. More than the music, if someone asks me what 2013 was like, I'm going to hand them this comic. Can't think of a better compliment.

Book of the week goes to Young Avengers. Goodbye to a great thing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

nfl playoffs begin with a bang!

Look, let's just get this out of the way first: The Cincinnati Bengals had home field advantage, a better record and, at least according to some people, were supposed to win. But what turned into the only letdown game of the first weekend of the 2014 NFL Playoffs the San Diego Chargers won at Paul Brown Stadium to set up a rematch with the Broncos next weekend. Faithful supporters of the orange guys up north will remember that the Chargers and Denver split their regular season games, each team winning as the visitor.

Aside from that single blowout, though, the remaining three games in the National Football League's first weekend of Playoffs were decided by a collective six points. One touchdown's worth of points is all the separated three teams from advancing to face the teams that got a bye and the teams that will be watching those games from home. An amazing weekend of football, made better only by the sheer number of points that got it all started.

On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs, who started the season so well, becoming the last unbeaten team in the league in week 10, lost to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts scored 35 points in the second half to mount the second-largest playoff comeback of all time. Luck had three - of his four total - touchdown passes in the second half, and put the final points on the board with a beauty of a toss to a wide open T.Y. Hilton. Though the Chiefs would have a chance to win the game after that drive by Indy, it was really the play before, when the Colts fumbled the ball going into the endzone and Luck, thinking quickly, scooped it up and dove in for a touchdown, when it felt like it was all but over. The Colts finished the game 45-44 and will move on to play the New England Patriots in the next round.

Just after the Colts finished breaking the hearts of Kansas City fans all across the nation, the Saints took the field in Philadelphia. New Orleans had never won a playoff game on another field, and they had the better record, so there were legitimate concerns. But the Eagles allowed Drew Brees to get into field goal range, where Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal was good for the win. After a snoozer of a first quarter, where neither team scored any points, the Saints and the Eagles went back and forth. In fact, halfway through the third, the game was verging on a Saints blowout over the Eagles, who finally got their mojo back on a TD pass from Nick Foles with just under five minutes left in the game. It wasn't to be, though, as Drew Brees fought to set his kicker up with great position. The Saints will now travel, once again, though this time without that daunting 0-5 record outside their home field in the Playoffs. They've got quite the matchup, though, traveling to Seattle, to play the NFC one seed Seahawks.

Finally, after the Chargers/Browns upset, the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay for the game that had been talked about all week. With concerns about the extreme cold settling in over the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, there had been inevitable comparisons to the infamous Ice Bowl and constant interview questions directed toward the Californians: How will you deal with the cold? Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for San Francisco, put on a cold-weather show, and then sat back and did his best Drew Brees impression, with kicker Phil Dawson ending the game. As time expired, the three points put the 49ers on top of the Packers, 23-20. San Francisco will journey to Carolina and face the Panthers next week.

So a weekend full of the visitors winning, almost all of the games coming down to the wire, and some spectacular performances. What can the NFL do next weekend for a sequel?

Monday, January 6, 2014

comics for the week of 01/01/14.

A brand new year! I'm trying out all kinds of things, some that I said I would, some that I said I wouldn't. I tried out Aquaman for one of my buddies, Kyle, who loves the character, and for Dave, who loves Jeff Parker. The art looked like Bagley, which I like, as opposed to most others nowadays, but the story did nothing for me. I'll be passing.

Batwoman 26 - Well, I tried it out because Dave said it was good, and it was fine. The art's not bad, the story was intriguing enough and I liked the villain. But I hated (and am still furious) that they just skipped over the conclusion to JH Williams' story. We're going to have to wait until Batwoman Annual 1? There's very little chance that I'll be reading the book regularly then, so I need to set a reminder in the calendar for a comic. That shit is annoying. But, moving on, I did like the semi-meta-commentary on the wedding plans, and I like the backstory of some more relatives. I don't like the idea of Gotham being LOST and everyone being related, but I'm OK with Kate and Bette having some fraternal ties to the city. The sheer amount of gay characters in this book is a good thing, and their calling each other out on their cliches was pretty great, but I'd love it more if it ever felt like it went beyond token-level surfaceness. As for the conclusion, I'm not one to believe that Batwoman would just stop without totally subduing her opponent. That's not in her military-style training to just let up on someone who's begging. It's a good enough book, and I'll check out the next one simply for the art thief appeal, but I'm not sure of its long term potential.

Fables 136 - The revelation about Lancelot wasn't even the coolest thing about this issue. The twist with the former fat lady wasn't either. The best thing about this issue? Honestly, it might have been the cover! But when you get into playing that game with an issue that was this good, it's really hard to start breaking it down into levels. The truth is, as Camelot's storyline is coming to an end - and Fables as a whole is winding down with it - it's only getting better. The Lady of the Lake meets her future hubby and is underwhelmed, the parallels are drawn for us to King Arthur and we see Rose rise up to meet that responsibility. We know who has the last piece of Bigby Wolf and we know that he's coming back, so we know she's going to have to be dealt with. It's an intricate puzzle and all the pieces are on the table. We're just working on getting them all to the right place at this point. It's beautiful.

New Avengers 13.INH - Stop it with this idiotic numbering. I can't deal with it. It makes me hate the story preemptively. And then, I know I'm semi-alone on this, but I really don't care for Simone Bianchi's art. I do feel like it fit the story well enough in this issue, but it's just not for me. As far as the good, I'm glad to see Reed's previous adventures in Hickman's FF run connecting to some of the bigger ideas here, and the recurrence of the Teregenesis bomb on other alternate earths. I like that the Black Swan STILL might be playing all of our heroes and yet they persist on their course. Other than that, though, there's not much here that's compelling me to come back week after week, month after month. If the story is going to be a humongous arc, I'm going to have to tackle it that way. I did, though, like seeing Charles Xavier still alive and working with Magneto on the other earth. Always interesting to see what brings them together. Lastly, the Black Priests appear to be scarily powerful.

Rachel Rising 22 - "You didn't save my life - you stole my afterlife!" Maybe it's the echoes of Buffy season 6, or my love for religion and my questions and life and the afterlife, but I thought this was clearly the best issue of a superb book. The dynamics between Rachel/Bryn and Jet/James are at their most powerful thus far, and the disdain with which Earl dealing with the Jet/James situation is the best characterization we've had of him so far, too. Dr. Siemen is turning into a fascinating character as well, and we haven't even touched on the Lilith business yet. The backstory of Manson keeps evolving and I have a feeling that Lilith has more than a little to do with that. Sure, death definitely can affect your memories, but I think there's some kind of purpose behind the modifications. A great chapter.

Something Terrible - Supremely powerful, incredibly done. I'm not going to say anything more. If you haven't bought it yet, like I hadn't, you should be ashamed, like I was. It should have made my best of 2013 list, but I waited too long to check it out. If you've made the same mistake, go here: http://www.tencentticker.com/somethingterrible/ and correct it.

Book of the week goes to Something Terrible. YOU NEED THIS.