Friday, January 30, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/28/09) part 2

Teen Titans #67 - this "Faces of Evil" issue focuses fully on the return of Brother Blood and ties in, loosely, to the events from Reign In Hell. McKeever appears to enjoy writing for the villains of this book and it shows in this issue. The Titans really only appear for a battle and to help rescue Kid Eternity from Blood's grasp. The issue sets up plot lines for upcoming issues.

Faces of Evil: Kobra - this one-shot really takes a lot of the history of the Kobra character, all the way back from its debut in the 70's, and brings it all up to speed. The villain is relaunched with a new take on things, one that should prove to be very interesting in 2009 as the character will be surfacing in other DCU books. Again, a nice focus of the villains.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 - this kid-friendly title is based on the new cartoon of the same name. Like the show, it features Batman teaming up with other heroes. It is written in that same tone - fun, four-color, classic - and even mimics the show in that the first few pages start out with the tale end of some other adventure. This issue the Caped Crusader teams up with Power Girl in London. I also like a feature in the end where there is a half-page bio of the guest hero and guest villain, to bring young readers up to speed on characters they might not know. I hope they continue this as it is kind of fun. The art style is sort of like the show's, but with a little twist too. It is good that books based on the animated shows have their own visual style and this one should work well for the book.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/28/09) part 1

Trinity #35 - we get some more details about the past of the E-3 Edward Nigma which really helps provide the motivation for this character in the series. Meanwhile, the "remembering six" (Alfred, Dick, Donna, Nemesis, Lois, Supergirl) learn more of the tribal legends. The story keeps moving which is what a weekly needs to do. It is like reading a novel and we're smack dab in the middle of the second act. Things should pick up again nicely as we get closer to the final issues.

Final Crisis #7 (of 7) - well, that was an unenjoyable conclusion. The appearance of the deux ex machina last issue played out this issue as expected. All got cleaned up nice and neatly, making the mini series have very little lasting effects. The only things changed were a) the New Gods getting a new home even if it totally ignored the Death of the New Gods mini, b) Batman being "away" for awhile - you know he'll be back, c) the return of Barry Allen (for which I am very happy), d) the death of J'Onn remained in place and e) the return of the Zoo Crew (which needed to be reversed). I think my big problem with this issue and this whole mini in general is how Grant Morrison presented his narrative. There is a lot of jumping about - mostly to get reaction shots. There is little exposition, little narrative to explain things. Things just are - with no details on what happened. They just did. I expect a writer when they tell me a story to tell me the story, or at least give me enough details so I can figure out how we got from A to B to C. He also spends too much time on "cool scenes" when he could have used those pages for provide clarity. In hindsight, I wish I would have skipped this main mini and only read the tie-ins. I would have gotten all I needed from them and save $28.

Final Crisis: Revelations #5 (of 5) - now this was one of the tie-ins I really enjoyed. It featured the Spectre, the Question and a battle against Vandal Savage/Cain. In five issues, it told a story of the rise of darkness, of sacrifice, of redemption and of triumph. It told it in a clear, concise manner and evoked the mood that the main mini should have as Darkseid's reign over Earth took hold. It filled in details via dialogue and narrative what a reader might have needed from other books so that the story could be enjoyed if one just read these five issues. It focused on characters and allowed the reader to feel for them, understand them and experience what they experienced. Greg Rucca knows how to tell a good story, and the artwork fit well with the tone and mood of the book. This is the type of stuff Final Crisis should have been telling, just like Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge and the couple one-shots did.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/21/09) part 2

The January "Faces of Evil" event continues...

Justice League of America #29 - guest writer Len Wein brings a classic retelling of the origin of Starbreaker, the cosmic vampire, and his battle with the classic JLA line up (original tale from back in 1972). This was a fun issue and it is good to see Wein back doing more work for DC.

Green Lantern #37 - Johns and Reis continue the "Rage of the Red Lanterns" arc with Hal Jordan having to try to save Sinestro and former GL Laira from the grip of Atrocious and his angry ring-weilders. The ending is pretty cool, and I am loving that this arc is keeping me guessing as we build toward the "Blackest Night" event.

Faces of Evil: Deathstroke - I was pleasantly surprised that writer David Hine pulled this issue off. Clearly he can write a nice, gritty tale about one of DC's coolest villains to come out of the 80's. This issue was a great read and a great new chapter for the villain. I can't wait to see where he turns up next.

Comics of the Week (1/21/09) part 1

Brave and the Bold #21 - part three of Hine's cosmic tale, and I am still not thrilled with it. I just don't get his writing of the Phantom Stranger at all, and his GL doesn't stand out very well either. Surprisingly, the scenes with Green Arrow seem to work well. Maybe cosmic isn't his genre. He gets the urban stuff a lot more. Of, and misleading cover - GL and GA don't team up in this issue at all. I think it was a marketing way to give this tale some variety. At least the arc ends next issue.

Tangent: Superman's Reign #11 (of 12) - I am so glad this one is almost over. I usually love Jurgens' writing but this has been a long, drawn out story that could probably have been done better and cleanly in eight issues.

Trinity #34 - the weekly runs hot and cold. Last week was cold. This week was much better. I know the writers have the luxury of fifty two issues but that doesn't mean things should drag. Each issue should have some good action, which this one does provide. This might be one that would read better later in a collected edition(s).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Moment...

In watching the inauguration festivities today, one thing that struck me - and it always does for some reason - is seeing the former Presidents come together at events. It is nice to see them at something more positive than say a funeral for one of their own. I realized that these were, for the most part, the men who led this country for most of my life - the time for which I knew what the President was or did. Carter, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. - all that was missing was the great, late Ronald Reagan. It just struck me as a very important piece to an already historic day. That they can all come together, despite political differences and personal differences, to be present at the inauguration, really says a lot about this country in which we live. Makes me proud to be an American.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/14/09) part 2

DC's January 2009 "theme event" is in full force this week, with various Faces of Evil covers and specials.

Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy - this one shot by Johns and Kolins, the great team behind revitalizing so many Flash Rogues, work their magic on that muck monster from the golden age. This one-shot special recaps who Grundy is, how he came to be, and serves as a prelude to the mini-series starring Grundy that comes in a few months. It was a pretty good start and makes me want more.

Faces of Evil: Prometheus - this one-shot really tells the origin of the villain that once trounced the whole JLA (twice) in the 90's but who since appears to have become more of a joke. The book rectifies these differing portrayals, shows again why Prometheus was such a bad-ass villain and sets him up for an appearance in Justice League of America later in 2009.

Action Comics #873 - part 10 of the New Krypton storyline, and Luthor is the villain on the cover. Sadly, Luthor does little in the issue, so it is sort of false advertising. Ah well. All the event tie-ins can't work. The issue reads okay, but having missed some of the earlier chapters in books I don't buy or can't read in the library, I fell like I am constantly coming in on the middle of a program. Time to drop this title, especially with Johns leaving as writer.

Booster Gold #16 - a cool cover featuring the Enemy Ace heralds Booster's adventure in the World War I era. Our hero gets himself involved and breaks some typical time travel rules (first one: don't get involved!) and it leads to a twist of consequences in the end. This is part 2 of a 4 part tale, so of course Skeets and Goldstar still need to find Booster and help him return to his proper time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/14/09) part 1

So, I was at the library last night for my regular Wednesday visit (while my son is at Faith Formation class at the church) and I decided to take advantage of the few comics they get regularly that I don't (they get four: Superman, Batman, an Archie title, and Amazing Spider-Man). Anyway, last night's reading was the end of the R.I.P. arc from Batman. I'll explain why in a moment.

Now, I have to say for all the grief I've been giving Grant Morrison as a writer, the story line running in Batman seemed to be pretty good (it certainly had some ideas more fully explored the way a story should). Not sure if it was the artwork that helped, but I could see it held together fairly well and it was fairly clear for a reader to follow. I especially enjoyed issues 881 and 882 which were titled under a "Last Rights" banner. These were the issues I wanted to check out especially since they told of events that spun out of Final Crisis #2, when Batman was made captive by Darkseid's scientific crew. Parts of this was touched on very briefly in Final Crisis #5 last month, but I was lost then because the events were told outside of the main mini-series. That was a problem for me. As a reader, I don't get every title. So, the main mini had me lost and there was no reference to point me to the right place to fill in the gap. I had to figure it out on my own (or go online and read someone's biased review of the issues). That brings us to...

Final Crisis #6 (of 7) - this was a much better issue for me. Two reasons: first was the artwork which was clean, concise and easy to follow; it wasn't all dark and confusing as some previous issues were (I could tell who was who, what was what, and what was going on). Second, I actually read the above mentioned issues of Batman, so it made the major event of this issue make a lot more sense. Overall, Grant's writing seems to have gotten slightly more focused with the penultimate issue. Maybe with the finish line approaching, he realized he had to pull it all in and make it make sense (though if that opening scene was any indication, it might turn out to be a cheap-out resolution to make it all "go away"). It is getting there, but there is still some areas of weakness. So far, Barry Allen has been back but done very little. Green Lantern is also prominently absent. Superman was shunted off for most of the time in a tie-in mini Superman Beyond and then in Legion of 3 Worlds (which also gets a sort of reference this issue - I really wish Perez could draw faster to get that mini out, but I am willing to wait for the goodness). Wonder Woman has been corrupted and very unheroic. All of this is a major problem. These are the big guns, the characters the readers care about! They needed to be prominent in the mini. That's what made this "crisis" suffer compared to others, for me. And even though Batman gets a big moment to shine before his "fate", if one is not a regular reader of Batman where Grant clearly was telling an epic tale, they could easily be lost because they were missing a part of the picture. The main event mini needs to give the readers all that they need. They should not have to go to the Internet or other places to fill in the gaps. It should tell the whole story clearly, and allow the tie-ins to add additional texture and subtext. Lastly, I'm not feeling the emotional connection in this story. It is like we're getting just reaction shots that could easily involve most any character (just switch them out). I want more than that. Along with plot depth and clarity, I want to feel connections to the cast. I think that is why this one has fallen very short for me. We'll see if issue #7 can tie it all together without going for a cop-out ending. I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Remembering Great Music

What do the Alarm, the Cult, Sparks and Big Country all have in common?

Okay, besides being bands who surfaced in the late 70's/early 80's and whose music does show up on Sirrius/XM's "First Wave" (the former "Fred"), they all have a majority of their music catalogs on

I've been an emusic member for over a year now and have gotten hundreds of downloads in that time. A lot of it, like for the bands above, is stuff you can't find on CD anywhere (outside of some greatest hits collections, if that). Sure, you might find some of this stuff to download on iTunes, but if I am looking at 99 cents per track versus something as low as 27 cents per track, which route would I go? Yeah, 27 cents looks a lot more enticing. And for that price, I can take a risk on some of the deeper cuts of the albums - just for completeness sake.

Other cool finds there of late: the first albums by the Waitresses and Flash & the Pan.

If you're a music downloader, you should go and check out emusic's catalog. You can do that without being a member of the site. If you find quite a bit of stuff you'd like, sign up.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/7/09)

Trinity #32 - another slower issue. Nice Batman cover by Jim Lee though.

Terror Titans #4 (of 6) - this book focus a lot on characters having issues with their parents, a different theme to be sure. We also get the DCU debut of Static, one of the Milestone characters from the 90's who also had a great run as a Saturday morning cartoon. Hopefully this will signal the addition of the character into the main Teen Titans line. That would be pretty cool. I always liked him.

Secret Six #5 - with a Deadshot "faces of evil" cover, the book focus on his viewpoint as well as that of Bane. And, boy, Bane is shown to be made of some pretty solid stuff. The beating he takes from Junior is brutal. And speaking of Junior, the final page is a shocker! (okay, not so much if you read enough messages boards - this was sort of guessed - still, Gail Simone knows how to bring up the creepy factor!)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Social Networking

After my high school reunion last August, I joined MySpace to connect with friends from my class. I also had a few other friends there from other activities over the years. Net total of friends: about a dozen or so.

On Sunday, my wife convinced me to join Facebook (she has a page there). I created an account and as of this morning have reconnected with 20 friends from the past. Big difference. Facebook definitely helped facilitate finding folks too.

Guess which one I'll spend more time on?

I like how in this day and age it is very easy to locate and reconnect with people from your past. It really is amazing. We can talk with friends from all over, any day, any time. We don't have to wait for the mail to deliver our communications, or pay for phone calls. Just type and send.

Most of my friends I connect with are online, and we use the Internet to communicate. Sure, I have people I know at work, the place I spend most time at every day, but those are co-workers. I've never been one to hang with folks from work. Work is your job, a place to accomplish tasks and get assignments done. It should not be a place for major socializing. You know the folks that socialize at work - they're at the water cooler or hanging outside the conference rooms, chatting and laughing and planning where to go for lunch. Know what? They're using the company dime to be social. I never got that.

I do my socializing on my own time, from my own house on nights and weekends. That's the seperation of work and play (much like the seperation of church and state, without all the messy stuff that happens with politics).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Resolutions - How Did I Do?

I was going to do a 2008 year in review entry (still might), but of course I didn't have the time over the past week or so. We had a house full of company (my wife's brother and his spouse, and their four kids all under the age of 7 - we are so past that stage having just one kid who is now a teenager) so I didn't have a lot of quiet time to reflect.

So, looking back at my 2008 New Year's Resolutions, let's see how I did.

1) to lose a few more pounds. I didn't hit my 175lb weight goal by Christmas but I am close. I'd like to be at least 175 by my 25th high school reunion this summer, whenever it ends up being.

I just weighed in this morning at 170lbs. Had a two pound gain over the holidays, not bad considering all the eating out and eating at my inlaws' house. Once I get back into normal mode I should be back to 168lb easily and on the road to 165lbs. I did hit below 175lbs for my reunion, so that one was a success.

2) to add another 45 minutes of exercise each week. This will help with number 1 above. I already do two 45 minute sessions each week (Saturday mornings at the YMCA) and Wednesday night walking. We'll see what I can do to add a little here and there.

I did add another hour and a half of walking on Monday nights when my son was at his Boy Scout meetings. When gas prices were topping in near $4 a gallon, it made no sense running back and forth the ten plus miles to the meeting. So, I did walk and that helped a lot with the weight drop and maintenance. So, this one was a success too.

3) to catch up on some reading. I still have a back pile of novels and other things on the nightstand to read. With a cut back on TV viewing, maybe this will give me the time to get some of those books read.

Well, I starting going to the library regularly and managed to read 30+ Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker (a new author for me) plus a few books on writing. I did also read on oustanding novel on my nightstand, so I'd consider this a success as well. Wow, three out of three - that's pretty good.

4) to cut back on TV viewing. The ongoing Writers' Strike has showed me I don't miss the viewing so I need to seriously review what's on the DVR when the shows return to determine what gets my time and what goes.

I think the shortened TV season in 2007-2008 cut me back a bit. When the fall season started in 2008, I did get back to my usual shows - the Monday CBS comedies, Heroes, Bones and I added a new comedy Gary Unmarried. VH-1 still provided me some with Sunday night mindless reality shows like Rock of Love: Charm School, I Love Money and such. So, I don't think I've cut back too much on my schedule. Maybe in 2009 when I am seriously considering to not set the DVR for the three American Idol shows each week.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/2/09) part 2

Justice League of America #28 - part two of the story arc with the Milestone characters, and McDuffie and Luis deliver a great battle royale. Even though the Shadow Cabinet our outmatched, they put up a valiant fight. Interesting too the interactions between Superman and Icon, given how much alike the two characters are in many ways. All in all, a solid issue.

Justice Society of America #22 - "One World, Under Gog" concludes as the Superman of Earth-22 (the Kingdom Come world) realizes what he must do. The art by Alex Ross once again enhances the Johns storyline and really helps to cap off this mega story arc.

Green Lantern #6 - part two of the "Rege of the Red Lanterns", and we learn quite a bit more about the nature of the Blue Lanterns, who put them together and what their ultimate goal is. All the pieces are starting to fill the board - between Sinestro's corps of fear, Atrocius' corp of rage, and the Star Sapphires as well. I think we're being set up for another emotional (no pun intended) rollercoaster ride by Johns and Reis - and I know they can deliver. I would like to see this book get back to a monthly schedule, if possible, because each issue makes me want to read more of the story.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Comics of the Week (1/2/09) part 1

The first comic reviews for 2009, and so far I have to say it is starting off as a good year. Here's the first batch for the week:

Final Crisis: Secret Files - wow, an issue related to this mini series directly that actually makes sense! Of course, it should since it was written by Len Wein. This special tells the origin/story of Libra, the classic JLA villain whose original debut was written by Wein himself back in the 70's. The rest of the issue is filled out with two text pieces and then some more sketchbook pages - the later really doesn't offer a lot. Still, a good issue.

Trinity #31 - things are picking up again in this weekly, which is nice. Lots of action, lots of characters, lots of fun. I'm hoping this is a good sign of things to come as we get into the back stretch of this series.

Teen Titans #66 - it is time to get some new members, always a fun issue theme. McKeever and Barrows again do a bang up job. They've really turned this title around nicely. I like how the book is going into a new era with a changing of leadership. Also, the revelation of Wendy and Marvin's father is a nice surprise as well (and it makes sense in a lot of ways).