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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Time... for more comics

Man, pretty big week for comics. There were a lot to pick up, and like many weeks I'm still not through my load. Maybe I need to lighten it. Nahhh.


This week marks the beginning of the next big X-Men event over at Marvel Comics; "Battle of the Atom". This is Marvel's 2nd big event for late summer, the other being "Infinity", the first issue I previously covered. Now, having two Marvel events at the same time may seem like much, but the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe is so vast in its own right that the event could stand alone. The X-Men world is a huge chunk of Marvel lore, so much so that it could easily be its own little universe, with a few guest appearances from other Marvel heroes. After the Marvel NOW! relaunch, Brian Michael Bendis has been given reigns to the X-Men mythos (I go over that a bit more in my review of All New X-Men #13 in the second half of another review, the page posted above beside the cover gives a decent enough statement of his status quo). Battle of the Atom #1 is the first chapter of the event, which continues in the pages of All New X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and the new iteration of the "adjective-less" X-Men in typical crossover fashion. So Bendis, along with other X-writers Jason Aaron and Brian Wood tackle this event.

So this first chapter feels basically like Bendis' ANXM, which is good because I think it is the better of his two X-books, the other being UXM. The story starts out with a narration by Illyana Rasputin writing a "Dear Cyclops" letter explaining her sudden disappearance; she has seen all of the change to the mutant race in recent years and needed to see their consequences by teleporting herself to the future. She sees a group of mutants battling giant, mutant-hunting Sentinels (surprise surprise). Cut back to the present and the new version of the mutant-detecting software Cerebro is going off, telling Kitty Pryde and the original X-Men of a new mutant in Phoenix, Arizona. They head on out to subdue the new mutant, a buff punk chick named Blake Schiel (aka Animax) who can conjure giant beasts through currently unknown abilities. The destruction attracts the attention of, well, just take a look (again, surprise surprise):


In the ensuing battle, Kitty tries to rally the X-Men to defensive positions, but young Cyclops is showing some defiance, trying to take on the Sentinels directly. He is knocked around a bit, along with the rest of the team, when suddenly a blast of crimson energy levels one of the robots. This era's Scott Summers has come with his team of mutants to the rescue, and they briefly put aside their ideological differences with the aim to take down the Sentinels and prevent further destruction.


However, young Cyclops gets targeted by a still functioning Sentinel head, getting blasted in the back. At this point, the teams panic because not only is young Cyclops not breathing, but members of current Scott's team point out his sudden disappearance. One of his team's new mutants, Christopher Muse, uses his abilities to heal young Cyclops, bringing him back from certain death. This also results in the sudden reappearance of the older Scott Summers. With the Sentinels and the new mutant Animax subdued, Kitty and her X-Men return to the Jean Grey School where Wolverine and the other older mutants decide to send the original X-Men back to their home time, clearly seeing now the possible consequences of their presence in modern times. But before they can, the time cube that Hank McCoy used to bring them here starts glowing. A group of people step out of it with a warning:


So ends the first chapter of this new X-Event. With Bendis on writing duty, again we get some good characters and pacing, and he manages to condense his teenager-speak he is known for to cut right to the story. The artist credit is shared between Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, and Wade Von Grawbadger, since they will be working on the other books involved in the crossover. The art is pretty great, although I believe it is mainly Cho working on this issue, since he gets top credit on the cover. This is clearly yet another time travel arc for the X-Men, which I can usually live without. But since the timey-wimey-ness of Bendis' ANXM is actually pretty well done, I am expecting good things from this event. I hope things get shaken up a bit, and I think this will serve as the last straw (at least for a bit) for X-Men cocking up the timestream. The next chapter was released this week as well so we can dive right in, in ANXM #16. But I haven't read that one yet, wanting to get right to reviewing the first chapter. There will be ten parts to this event over the course of a few months, so I am looking forward to it.

In other news...

Villain's Month is here. Ugh. It is DC's newest stunt that ties into the "Forever Evil" event. Forever Evil #1 is a decent establishment of the new status quo in the DC Universe; that being the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 taking the world by storm, releasing all the most dangerous (and not so dangerous) criminals of the DC heroes from their various prisons. Lex Luthor seems to be the (eventual) focal character of this 7-part miniseries, witnessing the reign of destruction of the Crime Syndicate and asking "Where is Superman?" in disbelief. The event itself could still prove to be interesting despite the numerous tie-ins (kryptonite-snorting Ultraman notwithstanding). This is because I have faith in Geoff Johns at least writing a decent book. David Finch on art duty is passable. Finch usually has a grittier art style that works sometimes and other times doesn't. He's been pretty on the ball for Justice League of America, but in this book it looked like he was phoning it in from things being rather bland (except the rather fantastic splash page of the CS addressing a gathered mass of super villains).
The tie-ins on the other hand... I don't know what to make of. The main books of the New 52 have, yet again, been put on hold to make way for "Villain's Month", where an issue gets dedicated to one of the title's respective villains in a .1 issue (ie, Batman #23.1 starring the Joker). A bunch came out this week and I managed to read Batman (Joker), Batman and Robin (Two-Face), Earth 2 (Desaad), and Green Lantern (Relic). They were all over the place. Two-Face's issue was pretty good, dealing with his dichotomous personality on whether or not he should help Gotham City in this time of criminal crisis, or let it bleed. The art was spotty, however, with some strange anatomy at times. Joker was absolute garbage to me, being written by Andy Kubert instead of Scott Snyder who writes the rest of the core Bat-title. We see some glimpses into the Joker's past (that seem a little too revealing if you ask me, he should always be a myster), as well as him training a pet/henchman ape named Jackanapes. It has nothing to do with Snyder's current arc "Year Zero". Desaad was just confusing, since I can't recall his presence in the Earth 2 book at all, so I wondered why they spent an issue dedicated to him killing people and lamenting at the fact he is on Earth and not back home on Apokalips. Relic was at least a backstory on the new baddie of the next arc. I can't tell if these books are supposed to directly tie into Forever Evil, offer an origin story for the villain, tie into the book's current arc, all three, or neither. Two-Face was good because it served as a slight tie into FE as well as help set up Two-Face for the next arc of B&R (also being written by Peter Tomasi, who is actually writing the book that this .1 issue interrupts certainly helps). Relic was passable for giving a full issue of backstory (which I'm sure we would have gotten anyway), even if it was a pretty dull read, being almost all expository word blocks.

So much else this week, but I think I'll leave it at those two big points for today. So, for now, good night.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recent Developments

Back again with more comic talk. Since classes begin next week, this may be the last regular update for a while. I'll try to keep posting but we'll see. So I'll just talk about a bunch of books and junk.

First up, and maybe most "noteworthy" is Part 6 of DC's "Trinity War" event that takes place in Justice League #23. Geoff Johns wraps this up (and I use that word lightly) by directly paving the way for the event that DC really gives half a shit about, "Forever Evil", which will take place in the 7-part limited series named the same. The various heroes of Earth have been fighting over Pandora's Box because of how it can seal all of mankind's sins back into it. Turns out that the Secret Society of Super Villains wants them to open it back up. The Outsider, the leader of the Secret Society, is a being from a parallel Earth and Pandora's Box is actually a gateway to it. The "Trinity" in the title is actually referring to Earth-3, the very same Earth that The Outsider is from (so they explain almost verbatim in the issue, still kind of a jump). And the box opens, and a portal is created. Who should step out of the portal? Why, none other than the rulers of Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate; alternate, evil versions of the Justice League. I guess the final splash page was supposed to be a shocker, but with DC's intended audience of 45 year olds (that is what they actually said), they already read solicits for future books and could have guessed this. Nothing is a surprise. I'm just glad this is done so the actual event can begin, and it still doesn't seem like an event so much as just "the next thing". Geoff Johns already did something similar in his Green Lantern books; his "event" called "Rise of the Third Army" wasn't so much an event as it was a collection of GL stories where "oh shit look out Third Army for no reason" and it was just a prologue to the actual event called "Wrath of the First Lantern" which wasn't all that much better.

On to something better. Marvel released issue 10 of Captain America, written by Rick Remender and penciled by John Romita Jr. This is the end of Remender's 10-part opening arc "Escape From Dimension Z", a sci-fi romp where classic Cap villain Arnim Zola captures Steve Rogers and imprisons him in his alternate dimension inhabited by mutated beasts. Steve is trapped in this world for a decade (but only a few hours or so in our time back on Marvel Earth). In this adventure, Steve tries to survive in a hostile alien world while being hunted by Zola's soldiers, robots, and mutates. He befriends a village of mutates that have been oppressed by Zola's rule, he has adopted Zola's test tube baby and named him Ian, he has fought so very long in this new world all while holding on to hope that he will make it out or at least see the next day alive with his new "son" Ian. This is a fantastic story by Remender, and a stark contrast to Ed Brubaker's long but also fantastic run on the character that focused more on his soldier background and gave him a sort of super-spy feel at times. Romita Jr., artist of Kick-Ass, among other books, does good work here illustrating an alien world with some Jack Kirby influences. Remender recently wrote Uncanny X-Force, an excellent run on a black-ops team of mutants. His stories span multiple arcs and show deep connections without getting too obtuse. So with the end of this first arc, Steve has been scarred and has suffered many setbacks and metaphorical kicks to the balls, and he is definitely a changed man. I highly recommend picking up this title because it is going to good places, and for sure be sure to read the first ten issues. It is amazing, and a heart breaker.

I recently decided to give Red Hood and the Outlaws from DC another shot. I read it when it first came out with the New52 reboot, but couldn't get behind it. But the team of formerly-deceased former-Robin Jason Todd (Red Hood), ex-Green Arrow sidekick Roy Harper (Arsenal), and self-exiled Tamaranian Princess Koriand'r (Starfire) demanded my renewed attention. The first 19 issues were written by Scott Lobdell, who was big in the 90's, and the first 12 or so issues were illustrated by Kenneth Rocafort. The initial story is about a team of outcasts that deal with evil in their own "extreme" fashion. There is a lot of background to these characters and it actually makes for an interesting story when I read it again. The first arc takes some missteps, among them being pacing issues and sudden cuts to a page of seemingly irrelevant events, but around issue 11 the story picks up. At this point the story takes the Outlaws to space to help Starfire with some of that pesky backstory. It's a pretty fun sci-fi space opera type story and Rocafort's art really lends itself well to that sort of story, with his unique designs and details along with his dynamic panel layouts (just look at the Star Wars-inspired cover he did to the right, that is pretty par for the course for the first handful of issues).

The main underlying story revolves around Jason Todd and his training after being resurrected by Batman villain Talia al Ghul. He is taken in by the other-worldly monks and warriors of the All-Caste and he is trained to fight the ancient evil of the Untitled, demonic immortals who have been trying to upset the balance of the world since its creation. It's and interesting story, but what makes this book, I think, are the interactions between the teammates. Out of the many Lobdell-penned books of the New52, I think this is his strongest. He keeps the endless dialogue he is known for to a (relative) minimum and seems to really make this a blockbuster-styled 90's book. He has written other properties that have had established changes and evolutions through the ages (such as Teen Titans), and his style doesn't always fit. He is a very 90's kind of writer, with tell-not-show exposition, flashy characters, and gritty action, and with a brand new team without established canon, it works. It's like a Michael Bay movie, leave your brain at the door and have a good time. It starts off rocky but gets pretty enjoyable, if not without a few hiccups.

Around issue 20 the book gets a new creative team. James Tynion IV writes while Julius Gopez does art duty. This is a trade-off in my opinion from the last creative team. Rocafort's art was the highlight over Lobdell's writing last time, but now it's switched. Tynion takes the characters and runs with them, streamlining dialogue a little but keeping the feel of them intact, but Gopez's art just doesn't do it for me. It's chock full of odd poses, faces with too many lines, and some Rob Liefeld-esque designs (as you can see in the panels shown, where Arsenal takes on the League of Assassins single-handedly with a literal arsenal of weaponry, with an oversized cannon with multiple barrels and questionable perspective, but I'm kind of hoping it's a tongue-in-cheek jab at Liefeld characters of the 90's). I just miss Rocafort's art. That would make this book top notch with him and Tynion making it their own. Although, like the rest of the New52, it relies too much on continuity (a lot from before the reboot, which really irks me) instead of the already established stories, further showing this whole thing isn't all that great of a "reboot".

So with that my hands are tired. So good night, internet tumbleweeds.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Acceptance that I am updating late again, but also *SPOILERS*

I like updating at least once a week and talk about comics at least the day after they come out. But things happen and I update later. Not that it matters, nobody reads this anyway. Call it an exercise in routine or whatever. This week had some good comics but nothing that REALLY fit what I wanted to review, just new issues in an existing arc or one offs. But one I will sort of talk about is Batman and Robin #23 by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.


You may notice the cover says, "Batman and Nightwing". That is because a few months ago, Grant Morrison killed off Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son and latest Robin in the penultimate act of this Batman, Inc. story. Obviously, the main point of Batman and Robin in the New 52 DC Universe was to focus on how Bruce interacted with his son, which Tomasi and Gleason have developed amazingly. So since the events mentioned above, each further issue of B&R has focused on another Bat-Family member (for example, issue 19 was titled "Batman and Red Robin", issue 20 was "Batman and Red Hood", 21 was Batgirl, and 22 was Catwoman), and each focused on one of the five stage of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance). Issue 23 brings that to a close with "Acceptance", deftly handled by Tomasi.

After a few issues of Bruce dealing with his son's death, he is shown in the Batcave in a virtual reality simulation of the events that lead to Damian's demise (thanks to his Internet 3.0 invention from Batman, Inc.). Each time he runs the simulation he cannot keep his son from dying. Alfred and Dick Grayson (the first Robin, now Nightwing) watch his futility. Then Dick decides to jump in as a second player to see if he can help even a little.


He does.

Damian is saved and the simulation ends. Bruce begrudgingly comes to terms with his son's death ("I can live with it, but I will never accept it") after the cathartic virtual defeat of the villain responsible. That would have been a good endpoint for a pretty powerful cycle of emotions these past few issues. But Tomasi takes it further, showing us later that night when Alfred sneaks into the cave and hooks himself up to his own simulation:


With those final pages, this arc, and the whole book, in fact, solidifies itself as one of my favorite of the New 52. Tomasi and Gleason picked the story up way back before the reboot from Grant Morrison, and made it their own all the way through to now. This is one of the few consistently good DC books out there right now, and the foreshadowing of the next arc looks to be great. I am excited to see how Tomasi handles it.

Some other points:
 - Justice League Dark brings us to part 5 of 6 in "Trinity War" and it seems to be dying down as fast as it picked up. I'm just waiting for it to be done. There are too many players and too many viewpoints for me to really care what happens, especially since solicitations for Forever Evil basically tell us what's going to happen anyway.
 - When I first read the new issues of Green Lantern: New Guardians, I was skeptical that they'd be as interesting as they were before Geoff Johns left Green Lantern. But since Justin Jordan is writing it now (writer of Valiant's Shadowman, which I have already gushed about), I gave it a few issues to decide. I think this one and the core GL book are the two I will stay with for a while. Red Lanterns and Green Lantern Corps haven't clicked with me since their old writers left (even RL stopped being interesting around the time of the first crossover). But with NG I like how Jordan writes Kyle Rayner and I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops Relic, the new GL baddie. He definitely seems like a Jack Kirby-inspired throwback to Marvel's Galactus.

In a few weeks I will be going to Ramencon in Indiana and I am so very excited. Like, wow. Being my first convention back in 2011, this one is like the "main" convention for me. It's where it all started. But I still need to finish my Sanji costume.

:I

Also, Legend of Korra is goddamn fantastic.

That is all.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Infinity and Beyond


Another busy week, so I still haven't read most of my comics for this week. But I read the important one out of Marvel this week; the first issue of Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung.

Oh man, another event/crossover. Okay, but this one is supposed to be good! It's the first in a six-issue series that is basically the culmination of the events that Hickman has set up in the recent issues of Avengers and New Avengers. Both titles are tied together but with separate plot lines. Avengers sets the world's greatest heroes against threats that no one of them could handle alone, yadda yadda. Except in Hickman's iteration, Captain America and Iron Man aim to "go big" by picking up many new members, such as the mutants Cannonball and Sunspot, Shang Chi, the alternate universe version of Hyperion, Captain Universe, and others (full roster shown to the right). They have been dealing with the emergence of a race of "Builders" that have sent their emissaries to Mars to re-shape the Earth like gods. Builders are an ancient race that evolve races around the universe to their whims and shape events in their worlds. The Avengers have been dealing with containing their attempts to do so on Earth, first off by subduing the, for lack of a better term, leader of the process, the being named Ex Nihilo.
In New Avengers, Hickman once again assemble the Illuminati, a group of heroes formed during the Civil War event way back in 2005. With a few membership changes, this consists of Tony Stark, Black Panther, Beast, Namor, Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange; a collection of the smartest humans and mutants, as well as the leaders of the nations of Wakanda, Atlantis, and the Inhumans. They have been dealing with rips in space/time that cause alternate realities to basically collide alternate Earths with one another. This series hasn't moved as swiftly as the core Avengers book, so the point of this plot is lost on me (or I just forgot, which is always possible).

As I said above, Infinity is supposed to be the culmination of all of this. We are shown right off the bat a race of mysterious beings traveling the galaxy slaying and enslaving worlds while talking about "tributes". These beings are shown talking to another "mysterious" master of theirs about said tributes. We then cut to a team of Avengers taking down a group of Skrulls disguised as slum dwellers on Earth. They didn't really fight back and seemed like they were scared of something more than just the Avengers knocking on their door. Sure enough, Agent Abigail Brand of the Earth-based galactic-monitoring task force S.W.O.R.D. contacts the Avengers to tell them of a Kree distress call warning of a wave of destruction Earthbound. The Builders are aiming to come and complete their mission in person it seems. With this revelation, Captain America assembles the Avengers to blast into space and take them on before they can reach the Earth.

But.

There are spies among them. Outriders, creatures engineered to be the deadliest assassins and information thieves in the galaxy, have infiltrated the S.W.O.R.D. orbital headquarters, as well as the Inhuman city of Attilan, where one such creature steals the knowledge of Black Bolt's Illuminati ties, as well as the fact that they know of the whereabouts of the legendary Infinity Gems (classic Marvel artifacts that warp time and space when combined into the Infinity Gauntlet). These spies return to their master with a message:

Guess who! Thanos, the Mad Titan, is now aware of an undefended Earth. It seems like it is time to strike with his own army while the Avengers are elsewhere.

So that is the first issue. The event looks to deal with a galactic war on two fronts; the Avengers against the Builders, and the Earth against Thanos. There will be many tie-in issues across many Marvel books, with Avengers and New Avengers tying in more closely to the core mini-series, since all three are written by Hickman. Since it is Hickman, we can expect big things. I read his run on Fantastic Four and FF, and while they weren't so much adventure romps that the family has been known for most of the time, it focused on events that unfolded over the course of his whole run instead of between smaller arcs. Hickman writes stories with depth and breadth to match. You may not know what the story is, or what exactly is even happening right away, but you can feel the epic forming. Events are usually played out with the intended gravitas of such things, and I expect Infinity to be no different. I trust Hickman to deliver an Earth-shattering story with long-felt effects. It only feels like much since it is only two-ish months after Brian Bendis' Age of Ultron event, which was long-delayed and longer than it should have been. Hopefully, Infinity will be the event of 2013 that AoU wanted to be.

Other things. I started replaying Final Fantasy XII. For some reason I really like playing it. I think it's the gameplay. I like the freedom of your party and I am trying to give my party actual roles instead of just going to the strongest weapons and armor like the last time I played it. The story is a bag of over-played tropes, and is basically Star Wars in a fantasy realm. It is less annoying this time around though. Also, I am aiming to get the Zodiac Spear, the strongest weapon in the game, to give to my main damage dealing character Basch. I have also started a Pathfinder role-playing campaign with some of my friends. I am playing a halfling rogue named Ebon. We spent five hours making our characters (since half of us hadn't done this before, aka me), and a half hour on the actual campaign, which consisted of one of our party members setting a bush on fire to light his cigarette. That bush was hiding a group of cobolds that was our first encounter. I'm excited to get back into table top role-playing.

And my hand is getting tired from typing. So good night er'rybody.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A day or two ago, in a galaxy actually very close...

STAR WARS COMICS!

In a period of summer where the blogger 
has gotten kinda sorta tired of the big two publishers,
he has turned his gaze elsewhere.
Taking a dive into the freshly-rebooted Valiant universe,
he has found a satisfying alternative.

However, old passions begin to stir.
Having been relatively apathetic in recent years,
a sudden reinvigorated interest arises.
Jumping back into the ever-expanding Star Wars universe,
our hero prepares for adventure from a long time ago,
in a galaxy far, far away...


Yes cheesy title crawl that kinda doesn't work but still you can't stop me. Lo and behold, I have recently re-ignited my interest in all things Star Wars. Discussing the movies with a co-worker made me wanna get back into it and all the expanded universe stuff that is a lot of "dumb but awesome at the same time". I even re-installed The Old Republic to dick around with (fem Zabrak Sith Warrior, natch). So today, instead of another DC or Marvel comic (this week didn't have much noteworthy to me, really, ymmv), I'll take a look at the new Star Wars ongoing series from Dark Horse, written by Brian Wood and penciled by Carlos D'Anda (and amazing cover work by the fantastic Alex Ross. Look at that cover! LOOK AT IT!)

This comic was launched late last year, I believe. It is meant to draw in fans of the films while also appealing to the fans who have read all kinds of expanded universe mythos, starring the original heroes Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. It takes place right after the events of Episode IV; the Rebel Alliance has just succeeded in destroying the Empire's Death Star superweapon, and are in the process of scoping out a new planet to call their base of operations (since their base on Yavin 4 has been compromised, obviously). I have read the first six issues (of which there are 8 so far I think), which basically encompasses the first "arc" in the story ("In the Shadow of Yavin"), although it seems it will be a much longer story than what other publishers define as arcs.

The first issue opens with Luke, Leia, and fellow pilot Wedge Antilles scoping out a planet in the Dominus sector of space. However, they are immediately attacked by an Imperial garrison that just happens to drop out of hyperspace right on top of them. The action begins right off and hooks you in, and we get to see why Leia can be a badass when she wants to be. Here's a spread from the early pages: 


At this point the rebels also face the hot-off-the-assembly-line TIE Interceptor fighters (like the one in the foreground above) that are more advanced than the ones they faced against the Death Star. Escaping in the nick of time the rebels return to their fleet to discuss matters with Mon Mothma, the Rebel's leader. It seems that the Imperial surprise attack could have only been caused by a traitor in the Rebel Alliance, so Mon Mothma gives Leia the go-ahead to set up a sort of black ops X-Wing squad to secretly stake out possible locations for a new Rebel base.

Throughout the first arc there are other sub-plots which hook readers as well. Han Solo is sent by Mon Mothma on a secret mission to Coruscant, the heart of the Empire, to meet with a potential Rebel sympathizer, but things go predictably awry for the smuggler. Darth Vader, recently shamed by his failure at Yavin, is re-assigned by the Emperor to oversee construction of the second Death Star, and we get to see the dynamic between Vader and his replacement on his own flagship. Also we get a possible romance between Luke and a fellow pilot named Prithi, who may have more in common with Luke than they realize.

All in all, this first arc is quite good. While it doesn't wrap up the main points in a neat little box (or at all, yet), it sets up what the comics will be about in the issues to come. So, again, I use the term "arc" loosely. Brian Wood has done some Marvel stuff I am familiar with, notably the current run on Ultimate Comics: X-Men. He accurately brings back the characters from the first film way back in the 70's and gives us more. Since the story focuses on a team of X-Wing fighter pilots, he clearly grasps the naval/techno speak that gives their dialogue meaning. Wood also has some big plans for the series as well. D'Anda's art is crisp and each character is very representative of their film counterparts (when they have them. His unique characters all have that same style to make them significant from one another, although not much of their character has come through quite yet).

What I liked most about this story is the focus on something other than Jedi and Sith and lightsaber wankfests for once. Lucas loves his Jedi, and the over saturated "Clone Wars" is what helped keep me away from Star Wars for a while. Jedi were less the stoic warrior monks from the original trilogy and started becoming more like superhero/Super Saiyan mishmashes except that EVERYBODY was one. Coming back to this is a good start. It gives something familiar and something new. That isn't to say I don't like the whole Jedi/Sith thing. I do. I just got tired of it for a bit. I plan to give Dawn of the Jedi a look, as well as re-read the Knights of the Old Republic comics.

Lastly, I am actually very excited for the upcoming 8-issue limited series The Star Wars. It is a story that is based on George Lucas' original script and vision way back before it became A New Hope. I'll probably review the first issue when it comes out.

So may the Force be with you etcetera etcetera. ;P

Friday, August 2, 2013

On Valiant

Late night write-up, aw yiss.

Technically, the issue I'm looking at tonight didn't come out this week, but a few weeks back. I only just decided to find it and give it a go, but since it is the first issue it still works.


Tonight I look at Valiant Entertainment's Quantum and Woody, written by James Asmus and penciled by Tom Fowler. But first, a bit about Valiant. Valiant was a comics publisher in the 90's and had a nice corner of the comics market besides the big two publishers. They fell off the map once the 00's came around with some of their characters bought up by Acclaim (such as Turok: Dinosaur Hunter which turned into a pretty rad N64 game, but other properties weren't so lucky). But now they are back, with most of their characters getting a reboot. They started off their relaunch with "The Summer of Valiant 2012", where each month or so they released a new #1 issue for a handful of new ongoing series with their 90's characters. These were Harbinger, Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, and Shadowman (in no particular order), and each is written by some of the industry's top talent (such as Duane Swierczynski on Bloodshot) and each has received nearly universal praise. 

Having read the first trades (each with 4-5 issues) for the four mentioned titles, I can attest to this. Each book delivers a solid hook to get people interested, as I mentioned Shadowman and X-O Manowar in previous posts. Bloodshot gives us the story of a government-controlled super soldier who begins thinking for himself and is faced with an identity crisis while messily gunning down the different players who want to control him. Think Punisher meets Captain America meets Jason Bourne, but with nanites in his blood that give him super powers and limited shape shifting. Harbinger is the sort of teenage drama you'd get from the good X-Men books, but psiots use their mental abilities to shape their reality, and instead of the mostly good guy Charles Xavier the guy gathering them is kind of an asshole (along with basically everyone else).

But on to Quantum and Woody. This is the story of Eric Henderson and his adopted brother Woody (billed as "The World's Worst Superheroes" from the get go). They were very close as kids and got into many shenanigans, as is illustrated in this first issue. But fast forward to the present day and they ain't exactly that close anymore, with Eric being ex-military and Woody being a wandering grifter and heavily-implied conman. They are once again brought together with the information that their father has passed away. But early on in the issue we are shown the elder Mr. Henderson and is it quite clear his death was no accident. It becomes clear to Eric and Woody as well, as they decide to, individually, take this into their own hands, but meet up yet again with each other.


The issue ends with them breaking into their late father's place of work, a hush-hush-looking research lab. Bumbling and bickering, they accidentally activate one of the experimental machines, with both of them waking up naked (except for mysterious golden wristbands) in a pile of rubble with the city's police department arresting them.

This is how you grab someone with the first issue. Asmus' clever writing and witty banter make this duo shine from the beginning while Fowler's characters have the slight cartoonishness that keeps this from being too serious-looking. If not from the cover illustration alone, I got a good Booster Gold and Blue Beetle vibe from these two. The first page gives us a preview of what to expect from these two while the rest of the issue is a flashback to how they got there. This looks to provide a more light-hearted story than the other Valiant titles.

Valiant seems to be playing all their cards right with this reboot. It seems like each of their books are a hit with readers, which is actually a better success rate than DC or Marvel. DC's New52 reboot was largely, in my opinion, a failure. They managed to condense some titles down and reboot a large amount of their continuity but they are falling into exactly the kind of thing they were doing before it. There are a lot of rushed crossovers and bad writing decisions by editorial that prevent a lot of their better writers from getting the stories that they want to write done. Granted, where DC succeeds they succeed well, such as Animal Man, Batman, among others. But when HALF of their titles they launched two years ago are cancelled and they pump out other titles to keep them at 52 books the quality is very low. Marvel on the other hand didn't reboot their books but instead launched a bunch of #1s under the "Marvel NOW!" banner, which basically started a new era in the Marvel universe after the "Avengers vs. X-Men" event. They released new #1s at the pace of a few each month instead of DC doing all 52 new titles in one month. This gave readers a slower transition and, I think, had a much higher rate of success. Most Marvel NOW! books have gotten praise from critics, with a few duds like Thunderbolts here and there. So they had a better plan of attack, but to be fair, DC did a COMPLETE reboot of continuity whereas Marvel just relaunched their characters in a new status quo. 

But Valiant, although on a much smaller scale, has shown how to do a reboot right. One new book each month, each #1 setting up an old 90's character in a totally new light for new readers with top talent, each title receiving large amounts of praise. I have never read any of Valiant's old stuff. Ever. But with the few issues of the reboot I have read I feel like I've know these characters for as long as I've been reading comics. Maybe I'll pick up some of their older stories and compare their new versions to the old.

Good night/good early early morning everyone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Life Events"

So, THINGS!

I haven't made a post about me in a while. Just on comics but not on stuff I've been up to or other things. I guess the first thing to talk about is the next convention I will be going to. In about a month and a half, I'll be going to the third annual Ramencon in Merrilville, IN. I went the past two years, in fact you can read my impressions of it in an earlier (MUCH earlier, like two years ago) post on this blog for the very first Ramencon. This con is very special to me since it was my first convention and really expanded my group of friends and began my journey into con-going fandom.


I have two cosplays in mind for it. Sanji from One Piece (above), and Castiel from Supernatural. Cass will be easy because I've done him before, and I'll let my 5 o'clock shadow get all good for him Friday of the con. Saturday will be Sanji (freshly shaved of course, with "sharpie" goatee marks and eyebrow curl). I just don't know which version of him to do yet. It'll depend on what kind of shirt I find at thrift stores I guess. Kinda want to do either the middle or right version, but if I can't find striped shirts for cheap I'll have to go with the one on the left. BUT! What I really wanna do is fashion a heart-shaped prop that I can easily affix to my face for photos and remove as easily (because One Piece fans will know that Sanji falls in love every five minutes, like below).

I am very excited for Ramencon if I can pull that off. I just need a good double-breasted suit jacket, a good shirt, and his wig. Tie, shoes, and pants are all already owned.

Otherwise my life has been eventfully uneventful. I recently began rekindling my love of Star Wars, so I got my hands on some expanded universe comics like Knight Errant and Legacy (to re-read/catch up on). I dived into Valiant's new catalog of books, including Harbinger, X-O Manowar, and Bloodshot. Those three, along with Shadowman, are solid titles. "X-O" in particular is quite interesting, starring a Visigoth warrior who is captured by an alien race called The Vine and hijacks a sacred armor called the Manowar and travels through time to fight against his captors. Whacky 90's plots re-done for a new generation with hot new writers is Valiant's new bread-and-butter and it's doing pretty well.

To catch up with the rest of the world, and some rad friends, I have also started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've seen bits and pieces of it on TV but my brother had the DVDs so I have no excuse anymore not to watch it. I wanna get caught up and watch the first season of The Legend of Korra, its sequel, as well by September when its second season airs. It's just as good as I remember from what I've seen already and I look forward to powering through it at a blinding speed.

And finally, in the past few weeks, I've discovered my taste for real German beer. Danke, Bierstube.

_________________
With eyes so dilated I become your pupil.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hungry for Comics

Greetings again. My comic list this week was smaller than usual, and not much really jumped out at me so far. On top of actually having decent hours at work, I haven't had time to get through this week's comics, but what I did read I'll go over. So I'll just have a look at one of the titles this week that could shape up to be important.

Today I read the first issue of Marvel's four-part miniseries called Hunger, written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and art by Leonard Kirk. Like with any modern comic from the big two publishers, there is a chunk of backstory to address. Hunger is the follow up to Brian Michael Bendis' 10-part event Age of Ultron. In this overdrawn story, the evil artificial intelligence Ultron created by Hank Pym, the hero Ant-Man (or Goliath, or Yellowjacket, or Wasp, or whatevethehell), somehow takes over the Marvel Universe and a small group of resistance fighters have to take him down. Time travel is a big part of this, and one aim of the heroes is to go back in time to off Pym before he can create Ultron. This leads to a lot of timey-wimey nonsense and at the end of the day, reality is getting tired of being messed with all the time. Marvel has a thing with time travel and dimension-hopping. The events of "AoU" are basically the last straw and the fabric of reality begins to tear, which is where this mini begins. It tells the reader basically what I just did in the first page. 

This book picks up in the Ultimate Universe, an imprint of Marvel books that have a modern continuity as if all the heroes got their powers in the past decade instead of over the past century like the main Marvel 'verse. This continuity has some excellent books like Ultimate Spider-Man and some not so great things like the Ultimatum event, a huge point of it all being that it is a "real" world with real consequences (ie, you die, you stay dead. No resurrections like other comics). This first issue focuses on the Ultimate version of Rick Jones (in the core universe, he is a friend of Bruce Banner and has made his way all around the galaxy and is currently the Hulk-like being called A-Bomb), who in this universe has been given cosmic powers by the intergalactic totems called The Watchers, essentially this universe's Nova. He tries to find a moment of normalcy from his star-hopping on Earth but is interrupted by the Watcher in his head. He is transported to the galactic battleground between Kree and Chitauri warships (these two are classically warring species, like the main Marvel U's Kree/Skrull war), where he is told something BIG will occur; the arrival of the Gah Lak Tus swarm.

Gah Lak Tus is a swarm of alien robot/warships that destroy planets through the use of a flesh-eating virus. This may seem familiar, since we then see the Watcher in Rick's head basically say that, no, something BIGGER is coming. Cut to a patch of space with a glowing crack in it. The crack expands, and two purple hands grasp each side of the fissure and pull itself through as Galactus, the core Marvel U's near-omnipotent world-eater. The GLT swarm then reconfigures its programming and merges with Galactus into a new super-being. Not much is given to the reader other than being told that reality is tearing because of the previously mentioned Age of Ultron

This issue is well-written by Fialkov, who has done some stuff for DC, namely I, Vampire. His writing has some good dialogue, but there are some pacing issues with liberal use of Rick's teleportation power. Then again, it might be because Marvel is attempting a crossover between their core universe and the Ultimate Universe in four issues. The art is crisp and vibrant thanks to Kirk, who has done work with both DC and Marvel but nothing of his immediately rings a bell to me. All in all, this is an alright issue of what it is, but what it is is steeped in continuity. It's not a book to jump right into unless you have some familiarity of the Ultimate Universe and Age of Ultron. It could be a promising payoff to see Super Galactus take on the Ultimate U's heroes. But this also may be a hollow set-up to the Ultimate U's next big event "Cataclysm". Good thing is there are only three more issues to see what it turns into.

Other points this week:
 - Justice League Dark #22 is Part 3 of DC's "Trinity War" event. It could be just me, but Jeff Lemire's "JLD" is getting too wordy for me. His writing works for the character-focused book Animal Man, but for a whole team of sarcastic magic-users it just gets a little tiring. BUT! But this book sets up the real "War" now that the heroes have split amongst themselves, with Wonder Woman leading a group that wants to go after Pandora and her box, Batman heading the group that thinks that is a BAAAD idea, and Superman led by The Question to see if there is something else behind all of this. This event could still prove interesting, and I may have to give it a re-read once all six parts are out.
 - Geoff Johns is basically the top of the totem pole at the DC offices (if that totem pole was still the bottom of the barrel that Editorial is shitting in), and I have said a few times that he is up top for good reasons. He's got ideas that shake things up and cause controversy. Some are great, some are not, like any writer. But I will say this. He has made me care about Aquaman. His writing in Aquaman  has poked fun at the joke that the character is with many people and establishes him as a hero who aims to be taken seriously. He introduces new aspects to his mythology much like he did with the Green Lantern mythos. Issue 22 continues the arc about Atlantis' "First King" and how his throne was actually usurped by Aquaman's ancestors. It is an interesting book about a person's legacy and ghosts from the past. I would wholeheartedly recommend giving Aquaman a shot, especially if you were dubious of his status as a hero like many are these days.

Or swim with the fishes.


Sorry.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Carnage is back... again. Again.


This week in comics, I picked up the first issue of Marvel's five-part miniseries called Superior Carnage. The book is wrriten by Kevin Shinick and Stephen Segovia. This is the fourth in a chain of miniseries and events that star Cletus Kasaday, the homicidal killer possessed by the even more homicidal alien symbiote named Carnage. There isn't a strict continuity from one miniseries to the next other than that this guy cannot be gotten rid of so easily. In roughly the past decade, Carnage hasn't seen much action outside of the mentioned miniseries, so I'll give a brief overview of what he's been up to these past few years.

Back in around 2005, a little after the Civil War crossover event, there was a newly created character called The Sentry. He was a purposefully unambiguous Superman analog for Marvel whose main gimmick was that he has been around since the Golden Age, but nobody except he and his arch-nemesis, The Void, remembers it. He had many Superman-esque powers, and one of the big things Marvel did to establish his not-to-be-fucked-with status was to have him tackle the many villains escaping from the maximum security prison The Raft. The highlight of which was to effortlessly grab the murderous symbiote Carnage, fly him out to the vacuum of space, and tear him in half, leaving him to die. Up until then, Carnage was one of Spider-Man's deadliest enemies, and one of the crazier villains of the Marvel Universe. 

Fast forward to 2010. A rival technology company to Stark Industries releases the prototype for a new prosthetic limb. It is a merging of biological and computer technology that they used a "mysterious" substance that crashed to Earth to help create. Three guesses what this substance was. Using bits and pieces of Carnage's symbiote body to create new technology, they eventually gain sentience once again to seek out the preserved body of Kasaday who also returned to Earth. With Carnage back to full strength, it takes the combined efforts of Spider-Man and Iron Man to defeat him once again, in the miniseries Carnage - Family Feud. Later, in Carnage U.S.A., a regenerated Kasaday turns up in middle America, taking over an entire town with his symbiote. Fighting the main team of Avengers, he is, once again, eventually subdued. Most recently, Carnage was transported to the microverse to wreak havok among two rival factions of microverse dwellers. He is put down by Venom and the new Scarlet Spider, during the crossover event of their respective books called "Minimum Carnage". 

Carnage's fight with the Scarlet Spider left Kasaday near catatonic, as we are told in the early pages of Superior Carnage #1. He is being handled by a maximum security prison for supervillains, and we are told this by the narration of an inmate who doesn't really belong there (being only convicted of insider trading). But, of course, something goes wrong, and the alien inside Kasaday is allowed to once again take over the killer's body, slaughtering many inmates and guards. But it turns out, this was the doing of The Wizard, a super-genius nemesis of the Fantastic Four. His aim is to control the symbiote as the cornerstone of the new incarnation of his villainous super team, the Frightful Four. When Carnage predictably doesn't want to play by his rules, The Wizard reveals his contingency plan in the last panel of this issue, which I did not expect.
So, for this first issue I was kind of impressed. But only because of my expectations being rather low. The first two minis, Carnage - Family Feud, and Carnage U.S.A., were written by Zeb Wells and illustrated by Clayton Crain. Both of these were pretty good books that showed how Carnage has shaped up to be a force of chaos closer to home than the many cosmic villains that the contemporary Marvel heroes are tackling these days. The "Minimum Carnage" crossover, however, was a disappointment. Being a crossover, it was written by both Cullen Bunn (from Venom), and Chris Yost (from Scarlet Spider). It was kind of a mess to me, and I just never cared about the microverse. So the first issue of Superior Carnage is not bad. It is competently written by Kevin Shinick, whom I cannot recall reading anything of previously. So far, the only character we get any real characterization from is The Wizard, as well as the inmate from the early pages of the book, both done pretty well to establish things. Carnage himself has never really had much character besides being crazy and having daddy issues (being born from the Venom symbiote). The art by Stephen Segovia is pretty good at points, such as the splash page below, but otherwise your basic comic fare. Again, I compare this to the previous minis, the first two of which were done by Clayton Crain, who has become one of my favorite comic artists. His digital work is remarkable and does dark stories a lot of justice, having worked on Ghost Rider and the bloody X-Force book from the later '00's (although he is doing the cover art for this mini, as you can see on the cover image at the top of this page). The art for "Minimum Carnage" was fairly unremarkable, however. 



So this first issue seems promising to give us another five issue story about Carnage trying to be incorporated into a supervillain team instead of being the solitary killer he has been in the past. So we get a change up that could be an interesting read. It seems like this could be a story about how other villains deal with his insanity as opposed to another story about what kind of crazy thing Carnage will do next. So I hope this proves to be an interesting new take on the character, so we'll just have to wait and see.

I haven't read much else of note this week, but here are some blurbs:
 - The second part of DC's "Trinity War" arc was released in Justice League of America #6. The throw down between the JLA and the original Justice League that started in Part 1 was quickly ended. Many heroes on both sides start questioning things, with a focus on Superman and his confusion at having committed the act from Part 1 that I won't spoil yet, as well as Wonder Woman digging around to find out Pandora's secrets. We are given a bigger glimpse into The Question and his stake in all of this, but Geoff Johns doesn't seem to be writing him as anything more than a paint-by-numbers conspiracy theorist, albeit a mysterious possibly-immortal one. I hope this crossover does big things, but so far I haven't been impressed. But I trust Geoff Johns to make it good, at least.

 - Batman and Robin #22 by Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason continues the 5 Stages of Grief metaphor that Batman is going through after the death of his son Damian. He teams up with Catwoman in this issue to help her rescue a hostage from the Chinese Embassy. It doesn't quite communicate the "Despair" stage of grief it is titled after, but serves more to establish the New52 version of Carrie Kelly, the Robin from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. It just confuses me a little since in the other Batman books they have been toying with a brand new character to take over the Robin mantle named Harper Row. So who knows if they'll even use either character.

That's all I've got this week. But I'll be back next week with something, so watch for that.

Good night, all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trinity War and More


This week I'll be taking a look at DC's Justice League #22, the first part of the big crossover "Trinity War". Part 1 is written by Geoff Johns, the creative head honcho of the New52, and illustrated by Ivan Reis. DC has been forcing its many books into crossovers since the beginning of the reboot, allowing a 5 or 6 issue arc to establish the various titles, then shoehorning in an event or crossover between many titles. Some were good, some were not. For example, the forerunner seemed to be the "Night of the Owls" event that ran through the core Batman title with tie-ins throughout the other Bat-family books like Nightwing, Batman and Robin, and the rest. This event was well done by Scott Snyder with minimal intrusion into other titles by the tie in issues. Then you've got "The Culling", and event throughout the majority of issues of Teen Titans and Superboy. These two books were supposed to overlap but were just one big ham-fisted headache penned by Scott Lobdell, a guy who forgets that it's not the 90's anymore.

"Trinity War" could turn out to follow either of those. It has a structure similar to "The Culling" and Justice League's previous crossover "Throne of Atlantis" (which I actually enjoyed and was pretty simply executed thanks to both JL and Aquaman being written by Mr. Johns), where you start with JL #22 as Part 1, then pick up Part 2 in Justice League of America #6, and Part 3 in Justice League Dark, etc etc. This is a simple structure that allows the story to move on quick, as opposed to the "Court of Owls" story which only took place in Batman which, like every other title, is a monthly book. This allows Johns to get Trinity War out of the way quickly so he can then move on to his 7-part "Forever Evil" (pfhahaha) story and DC's latest mistake, Villains Month. But anyway, on to the book itself.

In the New52 universe, there are three mysterious entities that may or may not have something to do with why the DC 'verse was rebooted in the first place, if they decide to even address that. They are Pandora, The Phantom Stranger, and The Question. We don't know much about them, since Pandora only just had her first issue released last week, while Phantom Stranger has had a short and as I hear it mediocre run of around 10 issues. While we don't know much about them, other than Pandora releasing the 7 Deadly Sins on humanity, there have been tensions among the world's superhuman crowd. America's secret organization ARGUS has formed a team of heroes and anti-heroes to take down the Justice League if they should go bad. This is their "Justice League of America". There's also the magic-using Justice League Dark which didn't do much in this issue but they have been burned by ARGUS in the past. This first part focuses on the hero Shazam traveling to the nation of Kahndaq which has banned any superhuman fly-bys. Both the Justice League and the JLA want to keep this from happening but for different reasons, which brings them both into a conflict.


As the first issue of this event, we get the deft writing of Geoff Johns. He establishes a little bit of needed info if you've just been reading JL. Otherwise he flies right into the two teams and their various concerns. Johns and JL are basically the core of the new DC universe as far as I can see, and he definitely wants this to be their first BIG event. You know, besides all the other ones editorial wants their writers to interrupt their individual stories for. Johns has been writing for DC for a while. You love him or you don't. I loved his run on Green Lantern, and what other stuff I've read (such as old DC's Justice Society) has been pretty good. He does good team books as well as decently-focused individual character books like Aquaman. Ivan Reis draws this book as well as his other work from earlier Green Lantern and the previous issues of JL. As you can see from the spread above, this event will allow him to make some dynamic pieces, of which this first issue has a few.

This first issue establishes what the main problem is without getting too much into it. It could have been a stronger hook, but with comics how they are, we had a bunch of titles serving as a "prelude" to it and comic solicits saying "read this pleasepleaseplease". Some of the dialogue is iffy, as you can see The Question to the right talking about EEEEVVVVIIILLL, which there is a lot of in this issue. But maybe that's just how The Question talks in the New52, and I'm kinda looking forward cautiously to how Johns treats the character. Since the JL books keep their fingers on the pulse of the new DC universe, this is really their first "big" event, so I want to see where it goes. If you've been reading Justice League since the beginning of the reboot, this should shape up to be bigger than "Throne of Atlantis" and worth following. The only wild card is how Justice League Dark, the one of the three titles not written by Johns (instead by Animal Man's Jeff Lemire), fits into his story. Luckily we've got two weeks (I think) to find out instead of two months.

Some other comic highlights:
 - Superman Unchained #2 by Scott Snyder looks to be interesting, introducing a new character from Supes' past into the mix of hidden terrorist plots by the group Ascension. Snyder is known for his writing in Batman focusing on Bruce Wayne's inner thoughts and is very personal and kinda dark. He brings that to Unchained with some good insight into Supes' mind and that he doesn't ALWAYS know what to do. I haven't read a lot of Superman books, so maybe this isn't all that great a job, but I'm liking it so far. At least, it's better than the core Superman book launched for the New52.

 - I recently picked up the first trade of Irredeemable by Mark Waid. It is about a Superman-esque superhero who "goes bad". But not like sudden mind control or evil clone, but a slow erosion of his principles and personality over time. Waid poses the possibility that not all heroes are emotionally equipped to deal with the praise and criticism of being a hero, and shows what could happen if a god-like being just can't take the pressure and stress anymore. The first volume brings in some classic hero tropes and makes them go wrong, such as revealing his secret identity costs him a possible marriage. It's an interesting idea that I think I'll keep going on with for its run of 37 issues.

 - Having seen some of their books pop up in my Amazon recommendations, I looked into Valiant and their heroes like Shadowman, X-O Manowar, and Bloodshot, some popular comics from the 90's that weren't from the big two publishers. They recently did their own little reboot by launching four (I believe, more have been added) titles that have all received relative praise. So I picked up the bargain-priced first volume of their rebooted Shadowman ($9.99 for a trade with 4 issues, an incentive to give the first story a shot, something more publishers are doing now it seems). Having only read the first issue of it, it seems it's right up my alley. It's got themes of family and powers passed down through generations with a horror vibe. Sounds like Animal Man. I'll be looking into the other reboots too because I already like this book.

So that's it for now. Back next week with another comic review.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Bit About Anime Midwest

This past weekend I went to Anime Midwest at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, IL. It's a big anime convention, naturally. But with this one there has been some drama behind the scenes involving people behind the convention and things I won't get into other than my opinion that I didn't quite care if the con was ran smoothly and I didn't have to be witness to any of it. Like almost all cons, I spent the whole weekend there; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was the first convention that I'd be bringing two of my hometown friends who normally don't hang with my con-going friends.

I was anxious to say the least. As Jim Gaffigan has said, mixing two groups of friends is stressful ("Yeah, these people don't know I drink. And don't be thrown by my British accent"). Would they get along? Would they behave themselves? My groups of friends do vastly different things on their downtime, mind you, and I didn't know how it would go. Minus the joking at my expense of torching the place, my doubts were unfounded and things went smoothly and they all made friends which was cool.

Friday my carpool of friends TJ, Melysa, and Caleb hit the road to Rosemont. I didn't get the best sleep so I had a nice headache most of the day. Waiting for other friends to show up, we scoped out the hotel and where the various event rooms were. There was a dealer room with all kinds of junk to spend money on, a game room, tabletop rooms, panel rooms, and the main ballroom. I actually attended some panels that day. The first one was "Breaking Into Comics" which was run by Russel Lissau and Steve Horton, two comic writers who have been around the industry. These two guys I have seen at other conventions around the midwest area, but I never much paid attention to them. The panel was interesting, but was mostly just people asking questions without a WHOLE lot of actual ins and outs of the comic industry. It was good insight, however. Also, I walked away with their main piece of advice; DO THE WORK. Just DO IT. If you want to be a writer, don't want to. Go be it. It's a strange thing to grasp, because if only things were that simple. But maybe it is. I need to get on that. Actually try my hand at writing something out like a comic script or a page layout or some characters sketches and see what I feel best with right away and work from there. I'd love to do it all but who knows. Much like the last panel, I went to "Making Webcomics Part 1", the first in a trilogy of panels all weekend about, naturally, making webcomics. It was interesting but didn't give me much more than the previous panel. Both were well done though, without any problems with guests or attendees.

The night ended by my showing my two friends around the con area and giving them the low down about where they could go and a bit about etiquette, since they missed the deadline to pick up badges that night. Late that night around 11pm, my friends Brock, Evan, Matt, and I went to the karaoke room to sing "Rocky Road to Dublin" as done by the Irish Descendants. We got the whole room clapping around and most of them joined in the merry jig that ensued. It was amazing and we will be doing it at any con we can and I can't wait.

Saturday was equally eventful, but my stress levels were all over the place that day so I didn't really do much convention stuff besides wander around. My good friend Brock presented his panel "A Primer to Doctor Who" which went over fantastically, much like the first time he did it at Kitsunekon a few months ago. The Masquerade, the costume contest, was that evening. It was... far from amazing. It was the least organized part of the con I could tell of. The line for it basically filled up the whole of the lobby in a horrible mass and was delayed by a good half an hour. Even after that delay the contest itself lasted maybe 40 minutes, most of it being the MC's rather unprofessional commentary. I asked myself if the contestants found him rude at all that he kept interjecting into their walk-ons. Whenever I could actually hear what he was saying (the tech crew had an off night it seemed), he was always doing the same joke of asking female contestants for their numbers. It wasn't funny the first time, nor the subsequent twelve times. But that may be harsh since the whole thing was a disappointment. I wasn't wowed by any of the costumes. Maybe I'm just to expectant of cosplay contests being a way for the best costumes to show off. Good work to all of the contestants though, I don't want to put any of them down because I know costumes are difficult regardless of what they are. But few of them really stood out. There was a group of Silent Hill cosplayers that did pretty well though.

That night, my friends and I actually went to an 18+ panel, one naturally for adults only. We had never been, so it was... an experience for all of us. The panel was taking volunteers to dub over Hentai games based on improv topics provided by the audience. It started out pretty hilarious but devolved into ear-piercing screeches of god knows what that lost any humor. To me anyway. Other people found it hilarious. After that we all lined up for the rave, the Saturday night party of lights, noise, and sweaty people gyrating and bouncing around to the beats of the music. I was there with my friends pretty much all night, on and off with breaks from the chaos. The night ended and the morning began sitting in my room discussing many things with friends Aaron, Kristen, Autumn, and Cody. Then I got about three hours of sleep. Maybe.

Sunday was a headache trying to get shit out of the room before noon. It all worked out in the end though. The day consisted of one last lap around the dealer room to buy stuff (I nabbed a Doctor Who licence plate border, One Piece figurine, and some comics signed by the aforementioned panelists). The afternoon was spent with our big group splayed out in the chairs in the lobby just talking about life, the universe, and everything, which is one of my favorite parts of conventions. Just as an aside, talking out loud about things just helps compartmentalize all the stuff that goes on up in your head, which I had a lot of.

The drive home was to the music of the Digimon Movie soundtrack. A mix of music from the TV show and hits of the late 90's and early 00's. Nostalgia up the wazoo.

It was overall a good weekend in terms of the convention itself. I avoided any drama and had a good time with friends. Personal anxieties of this particular weekend convention were for the most part unfounded. So I'll put this down as a win. I likely won't go next year however. It's mostly due to it being over the 4th of July weekend, but a little to do with the drama that I heard so much about that I just wanna be as far away from as I can. Neither I nor anyone I know personally is involved, but I just don't need to hear it; I just want to have a good time.

So with that I eagerly await this year's Ramencon in Indiana in September.

______________________
So everything's not perfect
Don't matter 'cause you'll rework it
Nothings holding you
Never stopping, never stopping, never stopping now

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Everybody Read Animal Man

...and Swamp Thing.

I mentioned them a few days ago and how great they were. It's been a busy week with the 4th of July and working at a grocery store, it's a big week for people who eat food. I've not had time to read all the floppies this week, but so far DC's stuff was pretty good. Batman Inc, is winding down to the final issue (at least of Grant Morrison's years-long story arc), Detective Comics is re-introducing Wrath into the Batman corner of the New52, and Green Lantern is still showing some promise two issues into the new writer's run.

But I did manage to finish the second volume of DC's Animal Man of the New52. I can't recommend it enough. Swamp Thing is very much related to the concepts of Animal Man, as I wrote a few days ago, but if I HAD to pick which of the two is the better book, it would be Animal Man, but by just a hair. If you don't read it for the art (gruesome as it may often be), or the story of primordial forces destroying the balance of the world, read it for the following:


At it's core, Animal Man is about a family where the father has abilities beyond imagination. The book shows the effect of Buddy Baker's place in the world on the family. And it gets better from there.

So yeah.

Anywho, tomorrow morning I head out for Anime Midwest in Rosemont, IL. I'm quite excited but also anxious as always because people. But I won't have anything more for here until Monday at the earliest with details of the con experience.

That is all.

_______________________
(Read Animal Man)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Stuff and Things

Just gonna talk about things I've been doing the past few days. Not much.

Picked up a copy of Okage: Shadow King, an old JRPG for the Playstation 2 by Zener Works. $8 at Half-Price Books. I love that store. I remember playing it years ago as a kid and being really excited for it, but I never got anywhere in it. Now I'm older and can appreciate its cleverness and tongue-in-cheek humor. The battles are repetitive and arbitrary, but the story is unique with some witty dialogue. The story centers around a young boy named Ari whose father finds a mysterious jar. When Ari's sister gets attacked by a ghost and cursed to speak only pig latin, Father decides that the jar must be some sort of mystic artifact that can cure her. It does, but the ritual releases a demon by the name of Evil King Stan. Stan wants to reclaim his former glory as the Great Evil King, but he can't because his essence was spread over the years to many lesser Evil Kings. Stan merges with Ari's shadow and commands him to find these impostor Kings and slay them. It's all very interesting in a "WTF" sort of way. I'm really digging it.

I also got into the Final Fantasy XIV beta. It's pretty cool, but so far boils down to yet another WoW clone. Which isn't BAD per se, just that besides the setting of being an FF, it's nothing special. Yet. But I dunno if I'll stick around. I know I'll get addicted and be tempted to shill out the money for a subscription. Nope. Also my video card is either on its last legs or I just need to clean the fans. It crapped out on me once yesterday. And good GOD my computer chair is squeaking like mad.

I went and watched DC's animated film "Batman: Under the Red Hood" and I liked it. I want to read the comics it's lifted from, and I'm also digging around for the other pre-reboot Batman arcs that aren't written by Grant Morrison. I've got my fill of him for a while, since I'm almost caught up with Batman, Inc. I've also gone back to re-read the New52 Swamp Thing and Animal Man, since I wanna catch up with those, as they are both amazing books. Swamp Thing is written by Scott Snyder, who's been having a great run on Batman stories the past few years, and has done American Vampire, so he's no stranger to dark stories. Yanick Paquette is the illustrator for the first chunk of issues, and the arts is gorgeous. Vibrant colors, thick lines, creative panel placement makes everything flow. Animal Man is also great, with a story by Jeff Lemire (also no stranger to the horror genre), and art duties by Travel Foreman. This is a much more, um, visceral book. It's quite explicit with the imagery, where Swamp Thing is more tame. Both books deal with the world of the Green (plants, Swamp Thing) and of the Red (animals, flesh, Animal Man). They individually tackle the hidden third world of the Black, aka the Rot (dead stuff, naturally). You can imagine the kinds of things the Rot would be. Both books illustrate the Rot as macabre and gruesome, but Animal Man's Travel Foreman draws some truly disturbing imagery. Both books are creatively and visually gripping, and I'm waiting on the second collection of Animal Man to reach my doorstep so I can catch up. They are both books that people need to read if they haven't already.

Finally, next week I'll be hitting up an anime convention in Rosemon, IL called Anime Midwest. Last year was really fun, even though I really didn't do much except hang out. This year I plan on actually attending some panels, as there are a bunch about webcomics and voice actors. I plan on having a write up of my experience next week.

That's about it for now. Just stretching my typing hands tonight.

__________________
I become the distance.
I am the sober and irrelevant.
I don't feel part in this,
What is there to believe?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

*Clever Title Here*: Comic Review

Every Wednesday, new comics hit the newsstands and comic stores. Every Wednesday I have a pile of new comics to read either physically or digitally. So every week, maybe on Wednesday, or maybe the next day, I'll try to pick out one issue to go over and talk about. Ideally, this would be a 1st issue, a last issue, the start of a major arc or crossover event, or something other than just "the next issue". But today, since it's my first installment of this, and that I couldn't get said comics yesterday in a timely manner, I've got two issues to really go over. Otherwise, I'll give my brief thoughts on the many other issues I've read this week. So let's get to it.

The first proper review is for DC Comics' 1st issue of "Larfleeze", written by Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis, and illustrated by Scott Kolins. Larfleeze is a character created by Geoff Johns during his acclaimed run on Green Lantern. In his expansion of the GL mythos, Johns created more colors of the Emotional Spectrum, such as Red Lanterns stand for Rage, Blue Lanterns stand for Hope, etc. Larfleeze was the single holder of the Orange part of the Emotional Spectrum, Avarice. His whole thing was that, unlike the other colored Lantern Corps., he was the only wielder of the Orange light. His Power Ring could increase its power seemingly without limit and his ring's "constructs" were the bodies of those he has killed with his Orange power, effectively creating and controlling an army of constructs. The flip side of this was that Larfleeze was perpetually greedy and a bit dim. After the events of "Wrath of the First Lantern" (Johns' big finale of his GL run), Larfleeze was basically sent to the edge of the universe nearly powerless with only his alien butler for companionship. This story picks up after that, much like the other titles in the New52 Green Lantern group of books.

This first issue reestablishes Larfleeze's character with a (possibly inaccurate) life story reiterated by the sleaze himself to his butler, since at the end of the universe there isn't much better to do than tell stories. However, at the end of the issue his story gets interrupted by something that calls this part of the universe home. It's not a very eventful first issue, but it sets up the character of Larfleeze for anyone who doesn't already know about him (and let's be honest, if you don't know, then you don't care about the GL part of the DC Universe too much and this book on the shelf won't attract someone who isn't already terribly familiar with its continuity). What we get from it is the setup for what would make a decent mini series of maybe 5 issues instead of the ongoing series it's supposed to be. I really don't see how they can make this character into something readers will come back for each month. But I've been wrong before. So far we've got the makings of a clever romp through the outer reaches of space with a greedy little monster and his companion/slave.

Keith Giffen is a writer I've not read much of, but I have heard good things about. His issue of Green Lantern: New Guardians was not what I expected, but it was setting up a new series called Threshold which has since been cancelled, I believe. With Giffen on the plot and Dematteis writing the scripts, however, we get some clever dialog and an interesting set up for the rest of this particular story. Giffen also wrties Larfleeze like he was depicted in New Guardians; as a conniving, greasy, and sometimes amusing ball of greed as opposed to the more sinister version that Johns wrote before the reboot. Scott Kolins' art is actually pretty good too. It leans ever so slightly towards the cartoony than many more realistic approaches the Green Lantern books have had over the years. The colorist makes good use of the various colors and glows of the Orange light, and the whole thing has a unity in its orange gutters and dialog boxes.

All in all, for the Green Lantern fan this offers a more focused look at one of the lesser known Lantern colors with not much to offer right away. But, with good back-and-forth between the two main characters, some well timed gags, and a sudden appearance of conflict near the end, this COULD be an interesting title. But with all of the problems DC has been having, trying to make this a continuing story could prove difficult. Even if Giffen manages to get a huge arc out of this I have little faith in DC keeping this around for long.

The second book I picked up to review was Marvel's "All New X-Men" #13, written by Brian Michael Bendis and art by Stuart Immonen. The main idea behind this book is that, after the events of the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, Hank McCoy (Beast) traveled back to the past to recruit the original team of X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, and Angel) to come to the future with him to shame the main timeline's Cyclops into... I dunno, undoing all his actions from the aforementioned conflict? It's confusing to explain, and silly when you ask why is this a good idea. But the status quo is that the young, original team of X-Men are now living in the current X-Men continuity. Meaning some amusing or depressing conversations between a young Bobby Drake and his older self, or a young Angel asking his future self why he suddenly has metal wings. Bendis writes these conversations amazingly, since his forte has always seemed to be dialog between confused teenagers (great for Ultimate Spider-Man, silly and grating for Avengers). Bendis is basically in control of the X-Men corner of the Marvel universe for now, and ANX-Men, along with his also ongoing run on Uncanny X-Men, show that it is actually in capable hands. The past team getting timey-wimey'd off to the present is hard to get over for the first few issues, but it actually works out.

Anywho, the story right now is that Mystique is up to her old (or new) tricks, using her shape-shifting ability along with Lady Mastermind's illusion abilities to make it seem like this old team of X-Men have been robbing banks and dealing with HYDRA. This issue focuses on Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, and the original X-Men finding their hideout to bust some heads, without spoiling too much. Stuart Immonen has been on art duty for all 13 issues, and it has been really good. Just good design, layout, and action in the whole package, as you can see from this spread near the end of the issue (forgive my poor scanning abilities).

There's not much else to say on this. It's continuing Bendis' plot and developing how these younger X-Men interact with a confusing modern world. It is an interesting status quo for the X-Men, but all the time travel antics in this and many other books are setting up for something big in the Marvel U.

So this is roughly what I'll be doing each week, hopefully. With my work schedule never being totally set in stone, I don't know if I'll be able to make this every Wednesday, as this post clearly illustrates on account of it being Thursday. But at some point each week I will try to pick out an issue to review in such a way. Since I'm sure I'm boring anybody reading this by now, I'll leave it at that.

Yay, comics!