Saturday, November 15, 2008

#187. Book, Hancock, Eddie Guerrero

It's kind of weird. This was supposed to be my grand return to NaNo, but instead, a new computer problem knocked me out again. Problem is, I think this time, I am going to have the gumption to write the new story anyway, outside of the November stunt. I've become more and more convinced that The God-Slanter has become the bridge The Cloak of Shrouded Men could never be. If nothing else, it is going to be a lot harder to peg just what genre it fits in, despite a number of elements that once again would make it very easy for Borders, say, to stick it in Sci-fi/Fantasy. But to give you an idea, it's more inspired by Melville and Swift than what you would find in that section of your local bookstore. What's more, I'm even interested in possibly putting feelers out for actual publication. Crazy, I know. But one way or another, I'm confident that the next book I write will be first book in the long-gestating Lance Nolan opus.

I'm sorry, but in the six years I've been writing here at Scouring Monk, I don't think I've ever mentioned that one. You would certainly have had the opportunity to investigate certain elements of the story, but it's just something too important to so casually let fly. On the other hand, an equally important part of my literary future, the comic Bandit, I can tell you if that you saw Hancock, you would have become familiar with a startling number of similar details.

That's all you get!

Still watching wrestling, got the new Eddie Guerrero DVD set, started watching it. God, I miss that man, but knowing his legacy lives on and that even this retrospective can't possibly cover everything there is to watch of his career is a comfort. The man lives as long as his memory does. And every time I add a little bit of it to my own, I feel that much more privileged.

Hey, and what about more personal details of this personal life? Sorry. I think too much to need memorializing that much here. If I were still working on the poetry project, maybe you'd know more. (And maybe, when I get the computer issues resolved, you'll get more of that after all, because I miss it.) But for now?

So long. Keep the fish coming.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

#186. Freak Out

Sort of freaked out at work and bought the four remaining copies of my book, sick from a number of things, some related to the book, some related to reasons why the economy stinks so much (read: management culture, or if you will, Dilbert). Anyway, much as part of the reason I eventually quit Paperback Reader, I got tired of the poor treatment the book got in the store, either by staff or perhaps in a final twist, by some random customer (though I doubt it).

Still excited for next month so I can get to work on the story that's going to blow the lid on my philosophy once and for all, though the spate of poetry over the past year certainly did a good job getting most of it across. Yay!

Monday, October 06, 2008

#185. ROH, Wrestling, Creative Directions

Just checkin' in. I meant to write here about the Ring of Honor 'Best in the World' DVD I got a few weeks back, along with the Mr. Perfect retrospective. On the weekend, I got 2003's Bad Blood, the one with Goldberg-Jericho, but more importantly, the first time Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels squared off. Seriously, I don't know why that match isn't more famous. Even granting the knocked off ending, it's probably better than this year's WrestleMania retirement match, except for that ending.

I figured out today that I'm doing NaNo again this year, after the skip that happened last year for various reasons. I've got a new story, a lightning bolt if I must say, that I'm pretty excited about. Along with the Wounded Knee script, the myspace Permanent Interlude, and the latest Star Trek story, I'd say I'm in fairly good creative shape at the moment. Momentum! Hopefully! I also figured out a new angle on the Peter Pan sequel I've been mulling over for the past few years, an important facte that redefines the whole project, gives it a center, but essentially sticks with the same theme I'd been playing with. If you liked Spielberg's Hook, it would make sense to you.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

#184. Jeff Hardy, Brian Kendrick, How I Got These Scars

Jeff Hardy and The Brian Kendrick had a terrific match on Smackdown this week, kind of justifying Kendrick in a title match tonight, just in case people were wondering. It's great thathe's finally getting his chance to shine, and that WWE is smart enough to give him an opponent he matches up with so well. Will Paul London get a chance like this? I doubt it. But at least one of them does.

Tomorrow's my last "Weekly," while Friday is my second "How I Got These Scars." I've got boatloads of things I'll be writing about in the new column, which is appropriate enough, while I'll still be keeping a log of the comics I read, if not stricty for the record then definitely for my own awards season. Change happens!

Friday, September 05, 2008

#183. Paperback Reader Over, PWI 500 2008, Lower Decks

Hey, officially quit the column at Paperback Reader. I just got fed up with the utter lack of attention, either from Bart or from readers (probably a combination of both). He seriously thought improving the site meant, at least for a while, changing the design every few months. Maybe, a few years from now, it'll be everything it could be. But I doubt it. And I don't want to sink with the ship.

Anyway, PWI's new 500 finally arrived a few days back, and of course Randy Orton was number one. The whole issue was refreshing, like the editors have started realizing some of the mistakes they've made in the past, a glaring one being unable to accurately report the heavyweight titles of WWE (the big problem of the annual I ordered at the same time), or being able to pick the top wrestler (RVD, Dead Malenko, Chris Benoit, you were all mistakes, of varying degrees) when they had an minor favorite in mind. They could have easily put Samoa Joe on top, but instead went with the right choice, and seemed to work through the rest of the list accordingly.

But don't cry for me over quitting PBR. I have a new column at Lower Decks, a site (earlier known as the original Section31.com) I've been writing for and visiting for close to a decade. "How I Got These Scars" will hopefully be more successful than "Weekly."

Friday, August 22, 2008

#182. Yes I Am Falling

Waiting for this year's PWI 500 to arrive means you are being spared for a little while longer continued thoughts on pro wrestling. So instead I'll note that Yes I Am Falling concluded after eleven chapters at myspace, a fair bit earlier than I'd thought, but it seemed to run its course. Not to fear, I'm already plotting a follow-up, something a little less dense, a bit more, shall we say? fun. YIAF wasn't that much fun, either for me to write or for its theoretical readers to, well, read. Still, it did what I set out to do, and now I have another short story under my belt. Yay!

Friday, August 08, 2008

#181. Yes I Am Falling, Fringe

I've gotten four chapters into Yes I Am Falling, which is somewhat remarkable because after the first installment, it took a few days for me to get back to it, but then I discovered a new writing pattern, at least for this project, which revolves on getting about a page done per chapter, which seems to be easy enough, and it works well with the morning sessions I can devote to it.

A buddy of mine at Lower Decks has taken the initiative to relaunch the site, and he pencilled me as a columnist for Mondays, after I'd expressed interest to chip in, which will make that two Monday columns...I've also volunteered to review the new J.J. Abrams series Fringe. Now I have to make sure I'm going to be able to actually watch it...

Hey! One more word on Sadie! Her last night at Borders while she was saying her teary goodbyes, I'm pretty sure she said she would be back to buy my book (I've done all sorts of graffiti in the copies at my store). She hasn't yet, and I'm more and more convinced that she should already have moved to California by now. I'm not saying I misunderstood her or necessary anticipate her visiting here again very soon...Just that, yeah, I'd love to see her again...Stop it! Be happy! It'll be okay!

Monday, August 04, 2008

#180. Paperback Reader Returns

In the turnaround of the century, I'm writing my column at Paperback Reader again. I guess I figured because I was writing the column anyway that I might as well start putting it up officially again. I worked out a few bugs, refined some things, and even made a picture of myself for the column image. So, yay!

Sad, sad, sad that Sadie's last day at Borders was on Friday and I get to potentially never see her again. In many ways, I handled the whole emotional arc over the course of July (and in the poems), but it still doesn't exactly make it easy for the countless ways it still sucks. This, um, will probably be my last blog about it...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

#179. Sadie

Hrrm...Didn't really anticipate this when I "completed" my poetry blog project, but I still want to write about that darned Sadie, how it's a terrible, terrible process losing her, never actually "having" her, compounded on other matters, that sort of thing, only much more angsty. I love my life!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

#178. Cloak of Shrouded Men Delusions

Now that We'll See has concluded (and a new project, Yes I Am Falling, ready to be mounted), I officially have four unpublished volumes of poetry, which is a pretty nice thing to have, as a renegade literary voice. My book Cloak of Shrouded Men may be in a better place than it has been since being published last July, with the release and huge success of the tonally similar Dark Knight in theaters. I'd resisted writing a "Staff Picks" blurb for it at work (Borders) despite prodding, but now I have, making the appropriate association. Maybe it makes a difference. Eh.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

#177. Paperback Reader Fallout, Wounded Knee, CM Punk

I've pretty much made it official. Remember that column that was taking up so much space for about a month a few weeks back, from Paperback Reader? I think I'm done writing it. I wrote for PBR for more than two years, and the column almost exactly for two, and I struggled with a distinct lack of readership throughout all of it (when I first started at PBR, I knew at least some people were reading, my reviews anyway, because there used to be a comment function, but when I made the transition to the review-based column, I found no one followed). I discovered when I was writing the column exclusively for this blog that I didn't need PBR as motivation to do it, but when I made an attempt to return, I got through one week before even a minor system glitch dissuaded me yet again to continue. Last week I did buy new comics, but I'm not going to be writing about them, won't be posting my thoughts anywhere. I'm not really sad about it, either. I had my fun. I even allowed myself to indulge in two years worth of awards, which meant nothing much to anyone but me, just another tally, just another personal game.

I don't know if or how this will affect how I read comics. I've been writing about them for almost as long as I have returned to reading them, after the original experiences in the 1990s before I went to college and all but lost track for half a decade (doesn't seem long, but it was). It may take another two years to know for certain, or long before the end of 2008. I don't expect anyone to be bugging me to write again. I'm going to use the free time to write more stories, more scripts (including Wounded Knee, a graphic novel), or perhaps just to goof around. It was a certain amount of fun while it lasted.

Anyway, I found it funny when CM Punk concluded the punchline of the 2008 WWE Draft after Edge and Triple H emerged from Night of Champions with their world titles intact. Punk was supposedly a fill-in winner of WrestleMania XXIV's Money in the Bank Ladder Match, and said to not exactly be popular backstage, let alone have a real chance of capitalizing on the briefcase in any significant way. Well, now he's world heavyweight champion on Raw, leading the way for the company's renewed effort to crack open the next era in professional wrestling. That's a subject for another day, but for now, Punk deserves his laurels.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

#176. Guster, Coldplay, Thrice, How I Met Your Mother, WrestleMania XXIV

First, a couple bits:

One, I'm am obsessed with Guster's Ganging Up on the Sun, Coldplay's Viva la Vida, and still working on the Thrice catalogue, which now includes the complete Alchemy Index. Also, still attempting to help How I Met Your Mother take over the world.

Two, my column as of tomorrow is back at Paperback Reader.

Okay! Now let's talk wrestling! Watched WrestleMania XXIV again over vacation. The Money in the Bank Ladder Match came off better, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover. Flair-Michaels still the obvious highlight, though. Of course, the big news round WWE these days is the 2008 Draft, which to my mind was the company's way of positioning Smackdown for its transition from the CW to MyTV this fall, and not so much any real need fans have been whining about for years now to even out the brands. Triple H being traded to the blue squad was the culmination of Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho both appearing on Friday nights earlier this year, the first time either had been on the show in half a dozen years Triple H, who famously had avoided during at least one draft switching brands, is now at a point in his career where he literally doesn't have to carry either brand on his back, but now it's just fun to have him play at it again. On the flipside, Batista heading back to Raw with Rey Misterio in tow is another significant development. On the whole, the Draft was a terrific move, and the timing was even more brilliant, the next logical step from what happened in 2005, when both heavyweight champions swapped over. This time it's before a PPV (Night of Champions), so it literally leaves hanging in the air which championship will end up on each show. One of Smackdown's Big Gold Belts will lose tonight. Which one?

And then the new brand alignments will get to enjoy their new situations, and the fun will really begin.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

#175. Weekly No. 94

PBR’s Weekly

No. 89v

This week I actually passed on a number of titles I’ve been reading recently, and still ended up with another gargantuan pile of comics. Wonder Woman has become all but unreadable under the current regime, which is a downright shame considering all the momentum the character has built over the last few years. What the Amazon needs is one definitive, genius creator, not unlike a Grant Morrison (Batman) or Geoff Johns (Action Comics), to be given the chance to not only define where she’s been but where she’s headed and what she represents, which has never been enough to simply state: she’s the female of the Big Three. She’s always been more, and she’s destined to be more. It’s just, no writer seems willing to embrace her potential as anything but something that needs to be propped up with whatever trappings she’s been given and what she means for DC and comics in general. She may even be written well now, but it’s become increasingly meaningless, which is the trap she’s constantly condemned to. I also skipped out on the latest Green Arrow and Black Canary, because it’s become the very thing Oliver Queen should never be: a story that doesn’t need Green Arrow to be told. We’re talking about one of the most opinionated, alienating characters in comics, and DC created yet another new series for him, demonstrating that he’s got more room to grow by finally marrying Black Canary, than perhaps any other character in its roster. And yet, all his series does is stagnate. Finally, I also have officially quit Titans after two issues. The art is probably the biggest killer, but once again, the storytelling just seems like it’s just there to be there. Both series are currently under the auspices of Judd Winick, but this must not be seen as a criticism of Winick so much as projects he’s either outgrown or clearly not suited for at this time. The man knocked The Trials of Shazam! out of the park, and was the main reason why the reboot of the Outsiders was such a terrible idea, because his team was exactly what the Outsiders should be, not just a book that for no particular reason other than DC making Batman their Wolverine and “needing” him to return the team to its roots.

But there’s plenty of good news as well.

Week of June 11, 2008

~Captain Britain and MI13 #2 (Marvel) I’m still not quite ready to bestow QB status to this book, but it’s still an inexplicably smart move on Marvel’s part to capitalize on a mandated story to launch an established character in an imaginative and thrilling new direction (read: Incredible Hercules. No, really.). The book actually owes its existence to a short-lived interest on the part of the company to match DC’s recent expansion into exploiting every level of its universe, because, ostensibly, the British heroes featured in the book are protecting magic from the invading Skrull horde. In reality, this plot is nothing more than one of the elements Paul Cornell is so exquisitely spinning around a bunch of characters that by all rights shouldn’t be entertaining me at all. I mean, aside from a brief flirtation a few years ago in reading Chris Claremont’s Excalibur (believe me, whatever superficial connections may be made between these books, there’s no comparison in long-term appeal), I knew Marvel’s British creations pretty much by reputation only, and even the guys I do know are paired with characters that were either created for this series or pretty much were anyway because of their obscurity. But Cornell helps the characters rise above these limitations by doing the one thing most writers are actually afraid of: combining them with stories with momentum behind them, so that a story may accurately be called a story and not just a plot that fills out an issue. By next issue, I’ll be ready to bestow iconic status on them all…

~The Magdalena/Daredevil #1 (Top Cow) I know, the clerk was confused, too. I mean, why am I reading this? I know, I know, I was following Daredevil for about the past year, but I’ve almost never read a Top Cow ever, not even when Ron Marz started doing Witchblade, or when some dude named Phil Hester took on The Darkness. That guy is the reason I bought this one. Hester isn’t doing the art with Darkness, just writing, which isn’t itself a bad thing, because he’s one of the rare (and in an inspiring creator point of view, incredibly enviable) breed that’s a double threat in the truest sense of the word (though at this point entirely unrecognized by the wider comics community). In fact, I don’t read his Darkness because the artist he’s paired with is pretty much the opposite of everything Phil stands for: distinctive, artistic integrity. Anyway, just as I support him whenever I can when he’s working on a Desperado project I can manage to get my hands on, he does writing and art on this one, pairing one of those characters I’d previously assumed to be one of those generic Top Cow Art (read: Female Form) First creations with Daredevil. Turns out, Magdalena is probably worth tons more than I gave her credit for, certainly timely in these Dan Brown times, and the pairing is worth reading not only for the distinct perspectives Phil gives both heroes, but how they eventually, perfectly naturally, fight together in a story that could basically have served as a b-plot in Phil’s “Quiver” story with Kevin Smith in Green Arrow. (For the record, his art was also a highlight of Devin K. Grayson’s final issues on Nightwing.)

QB ~Booster Gold #10 (DC) Any further doubts one may have had (read: me) about the worth of this series were erased this issue, as the basic elements established in the premise (and origin) in 52 are perfectly exploited yet again, and perhaps in the best way yet, this issue, as the Ted Kord arc winds up in dramatic fashion. Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz are also promoting an incredible standard for the series in that this issue also counts as a direct continuation of the first issue, making for a far more serialized adventure than is usually found in comics, where shorter arcs (of considerably less disciplined planning) and single issues dominate even in an era constantly criticized for exploiting crossovers. Booster Gold is also setting a standard for superhero storytelling in a solo title, featuring an ensemble but a definite main character, which the creators have known so thoroughly that next issue they’re retroactively participating in their second crossover event (after the zero issue) with the underrated DC One Million (from the mind of Grant Morrison, no less) making a return engagement. Last time I was still being the skeptic, so I didn’t appreciate like I should have. I won’t be making that mistake again. He’s never going to be in the league of Superman, Batman, or even Green Lantern, but Booster’s fast embracing his new slogan of being the greatest hero you’ve never heard of!

QB ~Batman #677 (DC) It’s almost embarrassing to constantly be namechecking creators earlier in the column, and then coming to a title they’re actually writing. It’s not planned. It’s not propaganda. It’s just synergy. Grant Morrison is still knocking them out of the park. Everything I’ve been saying about his run on this title is once again affirmed as his epic “Batman R.I.P.” continues in the way only he can, by confirming the legend by tearing it apart. Questions are raised not only about the true natures of Bruce Wayne’s beloved parents but his faithful butler Alfred as well. His own quest is all but ridiculed by his current love. And his enemy’s plans seem to be falling into place perfectly, just as the Dark Knight himself predicted. You might call this “Knightfall” 2.0, but this time, there’s no cheating. The foe may not be calculated so perfectly as his opposite, but this time, Batman’s future, his mythos, are being torn apart once again, like never before. As only Grant Morrison can do it.

~Eternals #1 (Marvel) Neil Gaiman couldn’t do it. But Daniel Acuña can. The artist I crowned in the original QB awards two years ago, he originally made his mark on DC covers and in the pages of The Battle for Blüdhaven and first Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters mini-series. Now across town, he’s elevated a Jack Kirby concept along with writing brothers Charles & Daniel Knauf to the point where its essential value can be appreciated, a desperate struggle between classic Marvel warring factions fixated on a number of intriguing characters. Acuña’s great ability is to take what has become a clichéd art style (painterly) and elevate it to a distinctive, evocative form that embraces classic comic book values of capturing an essence of over a realistic form. Somehow, once again, it has found a perfect home in the Eternals.

~Salvation Run #7 (of 7) (DC) Now that Grant’s put the villains under auspices of Libra, someone must have figured it was high time I got to read how they got off that Parademon training planet. Truth be told, I had gotten pretty tired of this book early on, a combination of a good concept turned bad pretty quickly, reduced to an improbable and should-have-been impossible showdown between Lex Luthor and the Joker. The conclusion, however, turns out much to the credit of the concept, mostly because it finally allows Luthor to shine as only he can, and for a few stray commentaries that justify what’s gone down in the series. The final page is pretty ominous for Martian Manhunter, even more in the hindsight knowledge of how prophetic it is, though it leaves little room for explaining just how he would’ve gotten from that point to what happened in Final Crisis #1.

~Contract #0 (First Salvo) A twenty-five cent, black and white preview, this was a pleasant surprise from an upstart company that seems to be taking on the old Image challenge of employing a bunch of artists (among them, Yvel Guichet from Drew Melbourne’s ArchEnemies). The series pivots around a fairly standard yet entertaining set of bounty hunters, which is good enough for me to consider giving it a thumbs up for future prospects.

QB ~Action Comics #866 (DC) The cover sports one of those spiffy new “Sightings” banners, but unlike the recent Justice League of America, it’s considerably less obvious about what DC thinks we should be paying attention to, unless it’s Brainiac himself. Anyway, Geoff Johns knocks another opening issue for a new arc out of the park, setting up a return engagement with an old foe so that it feels like the story is really going to mean something, both in terms of the story itself and how it’s going to impact Superman mythology in general, because Johns nails the whole “context” issue with a look into Brainiac’s past and strong hints about further revelations to come. This is literally textbook work on what to do with established characters. For good measure, he also gives the staff of the Daily Planet more serious material than it has probably received in a decade, feeling like a reboot only because of that fact (last decade this element would have felt unnecessary and probably condescending, but now, not so much).

QB ~Green Lantern Corps #25 (DC) Okay, speaking about the whole continuity thing, Peter Tomasi, whom I’ve been giving a hard time to in Nightwing, proves an able student of the game in this latest issue of DC’s biggest hidden treasure (although at times, the whole Sinestro Corps War seemed like an excuse to try and clear that up). He does it by exploding the story of the Black Mercy parasite Mongul and his son have so happily exploited over the years. Like discovering Mogo for the first time, this issue is an invaluable example of the kind of story the space-faring Corps behind Green Lantern is capable of telling, almost making every other interstellar effort DC seems intent on producing entirely irrelevant. Plus, the other great thing about the issue is that Patrick Gleason is back on art. The dude should be synonymous with this series, but incredibly, he doesn’t do every issue. So savor him whenever he’s here.

~Gotham Underground #9 (of 9) (DC) The other long-running mini-series I’ve been following from DC happens to have its final issue on shelves during the same week. And just like Salvation Run, I’ve almost been following Gotham Underground reluctantly, because the good stuff that’s drawn me to it has not always been there. Still, I remained more hopeful for this one from month to month, mostly because its charms have been more evident. The concluding issue from the distinctive team of Frank Tieri and J. Calafiore hits all the best notes of the series, focusing on history and character, in the form of the Penguin, who hasn’t always been the obvious lead character, but as of this issue, really should have been. As he prepares to deal with the ramifications of everything that has gone before, neatly summarized throughout the story, Penguin represents the kind of long-standing character in DC that is fortunate enough to have grown, and Gotham Underground becomes his historic forum to grow still further, as Riddler has before him. I perhaps shouldn’t spoil whatever exactly becomes of him, but rest assured, it’s perfectly befitting and satisfying.

QB ~Simon Dark #9 (DC) As I’ve been ruminating recently on the fortunes of recent series launches from DC, I didn’t realize what it takes sometimes for them to stick around, even when they best deserve to. At the DC forums, where I had been attempting to gage what other readers have been thinking about Wonder Woman and Green Arrow & Black Canary, I discovered, for example, that Blue Beetle in fact has terrible numbers countered only by support within DC itself to stick around (and good trade numbers). (That, and Chuck Dixon’s return to Robin will be as short-lived as Mark Waid’s on Flash). All of which is to say, I have no illusion that Simon Dark is going to be around for a long time to come. Steve Niles may be doing brilliant work, but the days were numbered from the start. Best not to pretend otherwise. Still, that’s no reason to skip out on it while it lasts, because it’s still unlike anything else you will find in the comics market today. I have to apologize to artist Scott Hampton, because I have not as often praised what can only be described as an appropriately gothic version of the kind of realism Steve Epting has been doing in Captain America, keeping the series on the same foreboding edge Niles has sustained since the first issue. As with a number of these other recent launches (Booster Gold, Infinity Inc.), the next issue is being billed as a culmination against forces that have been plaguing our hero from the start. In this case, it cannot feel anything but the same kind of bizarre sense of comic relief that comes from every development in the series, as Simon’s conspiratorial foes build on their own sense of achievement while Simon and his allies whittle further away at their power.

~Trinity #2 (DC) Okay, not a whiz-bang follow-up, but not a disappointment, either. A year-long series must be nothing if not methodical, so every week has to take its time, measure its shots. In this instance, the developments from the first issue merge in the first half of the book while the second half confirms what I’d suspected last week, that it takes a look at a side story, which in this instance involves John Stewart battling a pair of eccentric foes that will no doubt have greater meaning in future issues. The best part of the issue happens to be one of its most throwaway elements, as well as stark contrast to how Wonder Woman is being viewed in her own series. The Big Three are all confronted with challenges, yet the Amazon is the only one to take it on as a chance to further her own recreational objectives. It makes more sense to read it yourself, as well as enjoy how Kurt Busiek accomplishes the rare feat of making a story title both fairly self-explanatory as well as satisfying once you see that explanation play out. It’s storytelling flair, and that’s what can best be described as the heart of this third weekly series.

QB ~The Twelve #6 (of 12) (Marvel) Now having reached the halfway point, J. Michael Straczynski is challenged to start the push from mere novelty to the epic he has been promising from the start, and he chooses as his focal point the perfect moment and opportunity to explore the tragic nature of one of his best characters, Rockman, whose story becomes still more tragic, and all the more emblematic of the group he’s found himself in. By now we’re perfectly familiar with the fact that these time-lost heroes have a difficult time adjusting to the fact that the future isn’t what they thought it’d be, anymore than their pasts have ever made their lives easy for them. Yet now, Straczynski begins his subtle shift back to what he first hinted in the first issue, that hardship in their continuing lack of fortune is only going to complicate things further. The decisions they make continue to seem like simple ones, but the ramifications are always the key. All of which only makes the final page more ominous. In a time when we’re all anticipating the Watchmen movie, it’s appropriate that a direct descendent is enjoying such a terrific push to immortality.

***

QB is an indication for a must-read.

***

THE EIDOLON NEVER HAD A GHOST OF A CHANCE ~ Read The Cloak of Shrouded Men, an original work of prose heroic fiction.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#174. Weekly No. 93

PBR’s Weekly

No. 89iv

Fourth week, even though DC’s new weekly series has begun (and I’d secretly conspired to return the column back home at Paperback Reader in time for it), I’m still in ‘exile,’ partly because nobody seems to miss me there, partly because I still seem to have the motivation to write the column, even though I have no ‘official’ reason to. That’s a month at this point, right? It seems weird. And just a few months ago, I relaunched the column with the new name and everything was going smoothly. I consider this period not so much one of turmoil but a testing ground I never had when I started the Quarter Bin back in July of 2006. Everything was an improvisation, complicated by the fact that I started out at PBR as a reviewer, and stuck around pulling double duty to a significant degree for at least the first year, when I had 52 fueling my interests so feverishly. Gradually, the column format changed, until just around the time I moved from Burlington to Colorado Springs, when it became primarily a home for reviews rather than whatever discussion topic that had clearly never worked I thought up week to week. At least with the comics themselves, I never had to convince myself I was writing for any other purpose than to detail my ongoing comics experience as a vital and interested fan of the medium, a forum to express a point of view that’s easily lost in the rush to pick apart new stories and old characters, as you will typically find elsewhere, to be free from the trends and the fads that distort what comics truly have to offer. As its gimmick, Weekly has only my visits to the local shop, Heroes and Dragons, where I pick out the books that look interesting (or are sometimes just plain worth writing about, which is the only corruption I can truly blame this new career for) or have already proven themselves to be among the best literature, illustrated or otherwise, being published today. It’s why I stick around to read, and why I continue to write.

Week of June 4, 2008

QB ~Justice Society of America #16 (DC) Some books seem like they come out more frequently than others, whether because the publisher is actually monkeying around or because they’re so good the anticipation from issue to issue bridges whatever gap in time exists, whether it’s a weekly or a monthly series. This is one of those books. Geoff Johns continues to prove he’s the best possible collaborator for Alex Ross (or at the very least, successor to Mark Waid) as the second phase of their sequel to Kingdom Come kicks off. While I’m not crazy about what he actually looks like (and am at a loss to find some witty metaphor for just how loony it is), Gog (the one true Gog!) is every bit the perfect culmination of the work the team has been doing since the first issue of “Thy Kingdom Come” as well as a worthy use of Johns’ approach to the JSA as a team primarily concerned not with action (there’s plenty of that, too, but it never seems as if that’s the whole point, which you’ll find in the more misguided superhero stories), but with the mechanics of a world where the JSA exists as an everyday reality. Of course, built-in to this incarnation is the notion that the JSA today exists as much to cultivate new heroes as to extend its own legacy, but the fact is, no other book I can think of considers taking their characters seriously as seriously as this one consistently does. There’ve been times this has become the obvious detriment it would seem to be for readers who’ve never bought an issue, but for the most part, and certainly for most of say, the last year of this book, the execution has been off the charts, with the focus so finely tuned you could easily take this one series as the only book in DC that you need to read to know what’s going to matter tomorrow.

QB ~Robin/Spoiler Special #1 (DC) Even being a suspicious reader of the regular Robin book since Chuck Dixon returned to the fold, I eagerly anticipated this one-shot, hoping it would do what Chuck seemed so reluctant to in the last regular issue, deliver the big bang of the whole Spoiler Returns saga, not just the big reveal but the juicy backstory that was going to make everything worth it. Turns out, he’s more interested in getting the chemistry rolling again, like nothing ever happened (though things clearly did, when I wasn’t reading Tim’s adventures a few years ago; Stephanie actually replaced him as Robin and was pretty much killed right off as thanks). And you know what? It’s not really such a bad thing. Robin as an individual entity within the Batman mythos has undergone such drastic changes over the past two decades it’s been a little difficult to remember the plain old days when even killing Jason Todd seemed simple in comparison. The remarkable thing about Spoiler is that she can still be counted, despite that whole awkward period I described earlier, as Robin’s own ancillary character, still the only one he’s managed to pick up since gaining his own series (Nightwing, by contrast, has had time to burn through several groups of them, with fidgety writers plotting new groups every time they come aboard his series). Even though we’re a quarter away from two hundred issues into Robin, only Dixon in the early issues has ever managed to build a cast around Tim distinctly his own. That’s what this special is all about, fast-forwarding, along with everything else Chuck has done since his return, to a point that makes sense again for Robin as his own man. For good measure, we’re also given a glimpse at Steph’s life and inner turmoil during her own exile in Africa. It would’ve been nice to connect both stories for one that would’ve marked Spoiler’s return more clearly, but as a book that gets a good thing going again, it could’ve been worse. And hey, at the center of it, the reunion is definitely fun reading. I guess we can save the angst for later.

QB ~Trinity #1 (DC) I’m sure if you asked three different people, they’d have three different reasons for being nervous about this book. It’s the third weekly series. The first one was brilliant. The second one seemed more labored. This one seemed like it was going to take things easy, center itself, as the others avoided, on the most famous mugs DC has to offer. If you’d have asked me why I was nervous, I would have pointed in the direction of the head writer, Kurt Busiek. I respect the reputation that he’s developed over the years, but my own experience with him has been spotty at best. The first time I read one of his books was an Avengers relaunch (yeah, and I still haven’t read Marvels, by the way) which basically confirmed every suspicion I’d had about Marvel to that point (read: a bad thing). More recently, during his extended tenure on Superman, he had the bad luck of writing the man of Steel at the same time that Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns somehow managed to perfect the old rule book and completely throw it away at the same time. Busiek seemed more interested in telling stories that had nothing to do with Superman, but rather whatever gonzo idea he could come up with, which had become the worst habit of Superman’s writers since the heyday of the Nineties (and yeah, I include Electric Superman in that estimation), and when he had a rare moment of inspiration, it was based off something Johns made possible. Of course, then I picked up my first ever issue of Astro City a few months back. Wow. Maybe those rare glimpses of flare weren’t flukes after all. Maybe, just maybe, this guy actually had talent.

But still, I mean, really? Busiek was going to be in charge of the latest weekly? I wasn’t convinced that he was up for it. Turns out he is. And when I say that, I don’t mean to say I was merely surprised by the first issue, but literally astonished. The new format for the weekly, and I’m most curious about how this is going to play out over a year, is that Busiek is literally going to be all over it, first as solo writer in the first half, then as co-writer for the second, which extrapolates a different side of the story as readers first experience it with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, with Fabien Nicieza, a writer who has been toiling away both at DC and Marvel for some time now, just itching for that big break that will allow him to finally burst onto the upper echelon. Mark Bagley, who was the other all star of Ultimate Spider-Man for so long, will somehow supply the art for each first half, weekly (not rough sketches, as Keith Giffen did during 52). He’s already developed a different tone (perhaps with aid from inker Art Thibert). The result, at least judging from this first issue, is going to elevate both the weekly format and the creators involved. I’m not saying that this is better than 52, but it’s a whole different ballgame, better focused than Countdown, a calculated machine that is going to deliver a ride like none other. As much as the Busiek/Bagley half reads like the classic conversations between the Big Three recent takes like the initial issues of Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America exemplify, the second half, which introduces Enigma and Morgan Le Fey as the initial antagonists, is where the magic really begins to shine, illustrated by Scott McDaniel. As with the previous weeklies, the second issue may be the best place to determine just as well this is going to work, but as of now, I can unquestionably call Trinity a success in inspiration. For a company that certainly has no trouble putting books out on a weekly basis, DC has and continues to revolutionize the ability to create weekly series. If a book like Justice Society of America were the only book you would need to read on a monthly basis, DC has once again put together a book that would make the statement of “the only book you need to read on a weekly basis” mean something.

~Nightwing #145 (DC) It wasn’t until the credits on the bottom of the first page, which read, among other things, “Nightwing: Freefall Chapter Six” that I realized two things: Peter Tomasi’s run on the title now has a fair bit of history to it and he’s spent all of it on a story that after six issues hasn’t really done that much. I mean, think about it. Originally, the story was about a mysterious foe stealing dead supervillain bodies, and then it was the winged villains, and then it was Talia, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, and then it was all of those things jumbled together (or at least, as of this issue, how all of that works is pretty much sorted out). I’d been pretty excited about Tomasi coming aboard for a couple of reasons. One was because of his stellar work in Black Adam: The Dark Age. The other was closely related, because he was following Marv Wolfman, who’d managed to put the fun back in the series after a miscalculated One Year Later effort from Bruce Jones (which in hindsight, if Jason Todd’s role had simply been played better, was never as bad as you may have been led to believe), and if Wolfman (whose tenure had already been extended well beyond its originally intended run) had to leave, then someone who would be able to quickly get at the heart of the series was as welcome as a new writer could be. And because he seemed to be starting off with a daring, bold arc right off the bat, there seemed to be no way Tomasi could fail. Six issues later, I can’t say that he has, but there’s also no denying that, aside from reestablishing the feel of Nightwing in the Bat-family, there’s been very little of Dick Grayson driving this story, a lot of establishing him (once again) in a new setting (even though it’s still New York, just not the same context Jones had placed him in), and an emphasis on sky-diving that would play off better if it better reflected his aerial youth and perhaps new approach as an adult still attempting to strike out definitely on his own (not that, um, he didn’t do it during the New Teen Titans era). It can only be deemed as disappointing, for these reasons, not because it hasn’t been worth reading or that there’s any reason as a Wingnut to be embarrassed, but for the sheer potential of it, Tomasi hasn’t reached his stride yet. I can only hope that he’s allowed to stick around long enough to find it, or that he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve in relation to other developments in Batman lore now boiling around him. The arc actually concludes next issue, so this can’t even be a final note on this opening story. Next month should be interesting.

QB ~Batman Confidential #17 (DC) Well, here we are at the start of a third arc for me in this series. Aside from Grant Morrison and Frank Miller, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any book starring Batman regularly, and yet I find myself doing exactly that. Michael Green’s “Lovers and Madmen” was exactly to par with Morrison and Miller, and the last four issues since then proved to be a fair bit of fun as well. This issue kicks off Fabien Nicieza (there he is again!) and Kevin Maguire’s five-part Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)/Catwoman story. The most obvious thing, beyond someone telling a new story about the original Batgirl (that doesn’t involve Nightwing), is Maguire on art. My experience with Kevin is pretty much limited to his legendary pairing with Keith Giffen (and because Giffen usually hogs the glory, I’d really associated even the art just with him and his style of storytelling) from Justice League and their limited run Defenders (at the time, a rare foray into Marvel, which they should rightly consider an honor). His famed facial expressions are on full display here, but his storytelling (yeah, Kevin, I’m giving you some of that honor, now!) is here tempered by Nicieza working a more serious script, which in this issue involves mostly Barbara’s dogged determination to keep up with Catwoman, who represents what the newly-minted Batgirl is still just getting used to, which is being a part of the Bat-mythos. All of this combines in a sort of completely irresistible package: part nostalgia (at the start of a continually outstanding series of female variations on the classic Batman costume, this one’s still the best), part plain old good storytelling, which is exactly what these Confidential series are aiming for and only sometimes really achieve.

~Legion of Super-Heroes #42 (DC) I haven’t actually read a Legion comic since around Zero Hour. Long time, I know, and kind of surprising, since Mark Waid was responsible for kicking off this most recent relaunch, and clearly I’m a fan of his work. For several months now, ever since the 31st century super-team started appearing in adult incarnations throughout a few of the mainstream DC titles, I’ve been trying to find a spot in their own title where I could reasonably pick up an issue and get my hand back on the Legion’s pulse back at home base. Jim Shooter had come aboard, and with his history, I figured now would be a great time to try it. Month after month, I would take a look inside the newest issue, and it just wouldn’t feel right, until I caught a preview that looked to suggest starting the kind of starting point I had been anticipating. So last week I was reasonably confident when I saw the vibrant cover of the latest issue that I had at last found my opportunity. I wasn’t wrong. Shooter and artist Francis Manapul, whose work is reflective of so many underappreciated gems I’d discovered in the past, deliver a concise adventure that reflects all the key strengths of the Legion, reasonably in the middle of things so you definitely feel that things have been happening without feeling lost in them, an excellent reintroduction to what makes the team both unique and reflective of all the best elements of the comics tradition, which they are a big part of while having become paradoxically the biggest hidden treasure of the modern era, probably because they’re published by one of the two biggest companies in the medium while being completely removed chronologically from the rest of the slate, a fete they’ve managed to sustain on a sort of cult level for decades now, long after scores of series have attempted similar gimmicks and failed, a mainstream imprint phenomenon. Or, you know, just a fun read.

QB ~Manhunter #31 (DC) Okay, speaking of cult entities, this is the little series that has repeatedly saved itself from cancellation, launched a fair bit longer in the past than its issue count suggests. In fact, Blue Beetle, a series with four fewer issues at this point, wasn’t even hatched yet the last time I actually read an issue, the events from which are partially recounted in the first few pages of Marc Andreyko and Michael Gaydos’ latest effort (for the record, the comic was Wonder Woman appearing to ask Kate Spencer for a little legal assistance, back during the Greg Rucka era that pushed the Amazon back into a meaningful Big Three position). By pure coincidence, Beetle actually makes an appearance on the last page of this issue. Because it has been a darling of a tiny audience, I’ve been familiar with Manhunter for some time, but had only the one other issue under my belt, so picking this one up seems pretty random, except for my expanded sense of trying to cover the best of what’s around. I can tell you, at least in this instance, Manhunter is definitely among it. If you really need further encouragement, I associate it best, in all my previous experiences, with James Robinson’s Starman.

~Rann-Thanagar Holy War #2 (of 8) (DC) Okay! Far better cover than last time, only the interior work (not the art, but the work itself) is less slam-bang than last issue, feeling a bit more like they-really-just-want-to-keep-doing-these-space-hero-stories (which is the reason, when DC started this up several years ago, I had skipped out on so much of it) than it should. I love that Hawkman gets to be involved, because Hawkman is one of those franchise characters who rarely receive the kind of love it seems they’re due (they get series, which may or may not be up to snuff, are cancelled, and sometimes, like Martian Manhunter, are killed off as a thank you), but when they show up, you can’t help but cheer. There’s also the space version of Starman who’s a highlight, as is the new Captain Comet, but then the rest of the cast is just DC milking not only the same old Rann-Thanagar thing again but the trio of Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire, so soon after Countdown to Adventure. Six more issues may prove, as CtA did, that there’s a story worth telling in it, but I can’t help feeling as if Jim Starlin really just has an objective to keep this particular ball rolling, just because DC feels like it. Plus there’s also the Weird! Going over the issue again, I actually feel better about it than I remember from reading it, but it just needs a little extra kick. It’ll probably get there.

~Secret Invasion #3 (of 8) (Marvel) Speaking of getting there, Brian Bendis seems bent on doing the exact opposite. The only element that seems to be going anywhere this third issue is the Skrull Spiderwoman impersonator trying to convince Tony Stark about his true nature, which is in fact the only element in the first three issues that seems in the least bit interested to explore something relevant to the whole invasion gimmick. It’s also the only thing that will get me to read another issue, to see if she’s just screwing with him or telling the truth, because Stark is poised once again to be the most important figure of a Marvel event, and if his arc proves interesting, so goes the rest of it. Hmm, they should give him a movie or something…

~Dark Tower: The Long Road Home #4 (of 5) (Marvel) Shorter than the first series, this one has also been even more single-minded, doggedly expecting the reader to find interest in events slowly, excruciatingly, unfolding. Somewhere along the way this time, however, the charm has begun to crack, the folksy appeal being casually placed aside because the creators have become a bit too comfortable with themselves, confident that their epic little mythology can carry its own weight. This issue, even the prose section is sacrificed, which at first was a relief, because sometimes I dread that the handful of pages that’re devoted to this element will drag (as they seemingly always threaten to but somehow find a way to avoid). Instead, they’re given to encyclopedic entries on mutants. Um, yay!

QB ~Infinity Inc. #10 (DC) Just because last week I more or less said this series was doomed doesn’t mean I’m no longer enjoying it. In fact, this is probably the best issue yet, building on all of the elements that’ve made it unique from the start, that defined the series and gave it direction, because now, it’s clearly headed somewhere, an exploration of isolation, alienation, and the need to rally together more clear than ever before. Plus, Steel appears in costume! On the last page! But next issue promises to finally conclude a long-standing mystery, which will position the series better than ever for readers to have a look at what it’s all about. In fact, I’m willing to say that now would be a great time to get aboard, because however long it lasts, it’ll be worth the ride.

QB ~Atomic Robo #1, 2 & 5 (of 6) (Red 5) The last time I read this series, I ended up pretty much trashing its publisher (mostly because of the other book I had a look at, Abyss) and writing off Atomic Robo as, more or less, a Hellboy rip-off. Then the PX! Crew (by the way, new pages of their signature series are being posted every week again) made me aware of the 2008 Eisner nominations, and to my surprise, this series was among them. Hmm, I said to myself. Either people will buy and/or celebrate anything, or there’s something to this one. I’d liked enough the issue I’d read (the conclusion of the, at this point, initial limited series, because a second one is being launched at some point this year), but just hadn’t found enough weight behind it, even though its backstory had been, along with the art, what attracted me to it (hey, you mention Tesla, you get points, okay?). Beyond those elements, I found little. So when Heroes had these three issues sitting on the shelf (reprint orders, the clerk told me, that were supposed to include every issue), I took one, then two, then all three that were available (thereby officially blowing my “budget” and/or whatever sense of self-restraint I’d begun to develop recently). (For the record, initially, I liked the idea of having the fifth issue, and then the first issue, and finally, to complete my folly, the second issue, too.) I came away with a new sense of the achievement. Yeah, it’s light entertainment, but it’s snappy and if I really want to, I can just call it kid-oriented (better so than FX, the John Byrne-on-art series that has somehow hit four issues without me noticing), something that could naturally become a better cartoon series than has been kid-oriented in some time. Robo himself is a classic indestructible figure, a natural leading character who also inspires a decent supporting cast around him and perhaps a villain or two. However they came about making it happen (inspired by Hellboy as they admitted), Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener have created a new indy gem.

Hey, for the record, I saw Super Hero Movie the other day. Despite what the poster art suggests, it's pretty much Dragonfly the whole way, and for a spoof, it happens to be pretty much as good as any actual Spider-Man movie in every other regard. It just happens to be funnier.

***

QB is an indication for a must-read.

***

THE EIDOLON NEVER HAD A GHOST OF A CHANCE ~ Read The Cloak of Shrouded Men, an original work of prose heroic fiction.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

#173. Weekly No. 92

PBR’s Weekly

No. 89iii

Now in our third week of self-imposed exile, I can’t help but notice that over at Paperback Reader itself, Bart’s not having the best of times, with or without my absence. A.C. Hall has more or less continued the exile he briefly returned from himself, starting around the time he decided to abandon Dead Letter Quarterly without actually informing myself or Derek Koch (presumably); Dan Head has taken yet another leave as well, and hasn’t this time bothered to corner a replacement columnist, as he normally does; meaning that at the moment, the columns there have been reduced to ones focusing on anime and Battlestar Galactica, with Derek’s bi-weekly Letters thrown in for good measure. To make matters worse, upstart reviewer Andrew McDonald, whom I’d actually tried to recruit as a collaborator, has since quit, apparently, or has even further reduced his output, after a brief introductory flurry (if Bart treated him the same as he did me, he probably told Andrew that “he didn’t have to review everything he read,” no doubt still as a joke, but still coming off the same way). I don’t mean to pick on either Bart or the site, but it’s hard to paint a rosy picture, as Bart always insists on, when things could look better. The latest redesign has effectively pushed reviews down the scroll, to where you won’t even know they’re there upon first encounter. Heck, for the longest time I didn’t bother checking in on whatever someone had written up because the list was literally out of sight, out of mind. Again, I don’t want to sound negative (I inevitably sound that way anyway, I guess; I swear, though, in person, it’s absolutely mixed with my acerbic wit), it’s just I’ve grown increasingly cynical about the site, and that’s what pushed me to remove myself from it, a process that began before the ill-fated Dead Letter Quarterly but certainly wasn’t helped by the experience. Bart is a terrific administrator in some respects, but in others, he’s maddeningly content to let progress mostly sit within only his awareness. I think transparency is a good thing, I really do. And again, this is not to be construed as a dominant explanation for the current predicament, but the fact that he has proven far less supportive of the fact that I have a book than he first claimed he’d be, only to continually make decisions that benefit the site in incremental ways, streamlining away any support he’s shown for his contributors (beginning with a very speedy removal thereof for Dead Letter, in fact, long before the project self-imploded) can’t possibly help, nor his continued blackwalling of information regarding these decisions, other than asking for our approval of the cosmetic changes. I adore Bart for the opportunity he enthusiastically gave me, even walking alongside my infant stages, but as a long-term figure, he’s proven lacking, and I know from inconceivable loyalty for an Internet site, having stuck by a message board called the Observation Lounge for the previous incarnation of Section 31.com that eventually became Lower Decks, growing into a contributor position that has since, along with everyone else, fallen by the wayside for the moment, a process that has covered most of the last decade. I respect Bart for running the site and perhaps for having more patience than I can possibly know, and that alone will be the reason if I return the column to its rightful place and thus have the opportunity to properly reach a hundredth column (the reason I’ve modified the numbering since the first week of exile).

Anyway, there were comics this past week, too, including the launch of the year‘s biggest DC event! And because last Monday was Memorial Day, they shipped a day late:

Week of May 29, 2008

QB ~Final Crisis #1 (of 7) (DC) Hopefully you’ve heard of this one. Aside from every other obvious thing about it, DC’s also been and will continue to support it with a number of side projects, some of which have already introduced readers to a number of important underpinning concepts, and the one the company has apparently felt most important to at least the early stages is the establishment of Libra as the villain of pivotal choice. Of course, this is being written by Grant Morrison (and being drawn by J.G. Jones, responsible for all those historic 52 covers), meaning it’s not even going to be ordinary by Crisis standards (I love Geoff Johns, but Infinite Crisis already feels comparatively ordinary, as epic as it was). This is Grant unleashed to tell his story exactly as he wants, which doesn’t mean he’s going to completely wig out, place it in the far future (DC One Million) or within an intricately woven team non-team tapestry (Seven Soldiers of Victory) or even break the fourth wall (Animal Man), but do something truly revolutionary (are you reading this, Secret Invasion’s Brian Bendis?), and once again, as he’s been doing in the pages of Batman, tell an in-continuity as if he doesn’t have to follow the usual continuity rules. Think Kingdom Come, if you will, Marvels or Dark Knight Returns, whatever, a story that is in complete command of itself. To make it brief, Grant’s not pulling any punches. You may be able to tell because he kills an honest-to-god major character during the issue, off-panel, even, Martian Manhunter (the uproar resulting from this event that I don’t even need to spoil is just a little hypocritical, because readers have almost never actually cared about him, even through his recent mini-series and transformation into literally one of the most fascinating heroes in comics), and otherwise spends the issue on a prelude that insists on still treating Libra as if the reader is only just becoming acquainted with him, even though he’s made two appearances (DC Universe Zero and Justice League of America #21) that have basically covered the same ground, which isn’t so much a signal of redundancy as it is to reiterate that, even with all the other material DC will be publishing around this event, Grant is determined to make this book a self-contained, must-read, instant-classic all its own. He’s succeeding. He’s setting a new standard. And yes, DC’s been readying the stage for a long time, it’s ready, and this time, nothing is ever going to be the same again, and you will be able to count on that. This ending is just a beginning.

QB ~All Star Superman #11 (DC) As if he really needs any help justifying the hype as the best writer in comics today, Grant also delivers this penultimate issue of his Superman saga, in which the Man of Steel faces mortality and his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor in a defining story that sets a new standard only one other writer is capable of reaching…

QB ~Action Comics #865 (DC) And that’s Geoff Johns, who here delivers one of his classic Rogues issues, first perfected during his Flash run, focusing on Toyman, a perfect segue from Geoff’s initial adventures with Superman effectively concluded with the publishing of his and Richard Donner’s final “Last Son” issue and now set for the next leg kicking off with Brainiac (the non-Legionnaire one). With James Robinson joining rank on Superman, this will truly be the best possible time to be reading the Man of Steel, arguably since he first appeared.

~G.I. Joe: America’s Elite! #35 (DDP) Part 11 of “World War III” comes as another confirmation of what this event has ultimately become: a fine story but one that refused to push any real buttons, a disappointment I didn‘t expect from this series, which I started reading shortly before the event began. When I first picked it up, I was amazed that writer Mark Powers was able to so vividly recreate the Joes, not only as I’d remembered them, but better, as a force that could be taken seriously in a real world scenario, which previous incarnations had always hinted at but never truly embraced. When he started this war, Powers seemed ready to push the Joes to their limit, but he preferred letting them continue running around pretty much as always, the drama around them dampened by the lack of any consequence to our heroes. Owing to the knowledge that the series is actually ending along with the event, I have to believe a relaunch will follow, and perhaps that will finally allow some growth to occur. Powers has displayed flashes of brilliance in past issues, but much as artist Mike Bear was apparently overwhelmed by the effort of putting this thing together for the past year, I think the weight of putting together such an epic story got to him. Or maybe the conclusion will truly be awesome. At least he’s still got me interested, and hopefully, there will be more chances to come for a long time to come…

~Booster Gold #9 (DC) Johns, Jeff Katz, and Dan Jurgens, having safely established Ted Kord’s return, now accomplish what might have been even more impossible, reuniting the Justice League International (Booster, Beetle, Guy Gardner, Mister Miracle, Fire, Ice, Doctor Light (non-evil, female version), Batman, and Martian Manhunter) to stop Max Lord as the alternate timeline Booster created in saving Ted is saved, only for the Time Stealers (the collection of villains the series has been employing) to make their appearance, setting up an even more epic confrontation. It’s great that Johns and Katz have found a rhythm out of the random elements they’ve chosen thus far to create the book out of, reaching at this point a momentum best akin to Mark Waid’s Book of Destiny arc in Brave & the Bold. If the series continues like this, I probably won’t have a reason to complain about it again.

QB ~Blue Beetle #27 (DC) Okay! I only missed like half a year’s worth of issues! But, finally, Heroes had it again! Woo! And here’s the funny thing: even though the issue actually features both a guest wrier (Will Pfeifer) and guest artist (David Baldeón), it felt completely natural slipping back in as a reader, and that owes a ton to what this series has been able to manage since the first issue, keeping Jaime Reyes’ adventures in the same unique and distinct style from writer to writer, artist to artist, no matter what. Now more than two years on, this is quite an achievement, one I can’t even begin to find a comparison for, because most series, if they can possibly keep the writing consistent, they never in a million years keep the art looking the same with a new artist coming aboard, and a lot of the time, the newbie is ten times less complimentary than the one they originally found. If there’s a possible criticism to this, it’s that the book may come off as being afraid to try something new, but that’s completely irrelevant. Jaime’s armor has shown up in other books; he’s even since joined the Teen Titans. The new Blue Beetle always looks good (which is yet another achievement of this incarnation). And darn it, a little consistency is a good thing, on art or in the writing, and Jaime is getting the chance to explore a whole new vein of the emerging hero archetype in the best way possible. I’m glad I get to read it again.

~Shadowpact #25 (DC) The final issue of this book, it’s one of the series to come out of the same wave of new launches the above series were a part of, both of whom will probably outlive their contemporizes for the simple fact that their creators are blazing new paths will old concepts. Shadowpact was probably doomed from the start (ha! that's the joke from the book, too!), and Infinity Inc. , too, because they’re too far from the mainstream and they knew it and embraced it too willingly. When Bill Willingham first introduced the Shadowpact, it was already clear to be another in-everything-but-name incarnation of Primal Force, a similar team from the Zero Hour era that gave us James Robinson’s Starman, which both Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, in their own ways, borrow from. Of course, under Willingham’s wing, more than just the concept was around; the individual members meant something, perhaps more, than the concept. He kicked off the series, though, focusing more on the concept, and only got back to the characters later, when readers were probably already lost, and once he found his footing, Bill turned the reins over to buddy Matt Sturges, who never had anything else in mind but the concept, which is fine, because over at Vertigo, concept is sometimes king, certainly in the kind of work the two do together there. Shadowpact was always meant to be something different, and when it wasn’t, it was an easy call for DC to cancel it. I long ago speculated about how I would care when it actually happened, when I finished the final issue. Well, now I can say for certain. It’s a kind of relief. It’s done, gone, and only the memories remain. I choose to stick with the good ones.

~Young Avengers Presents: Stature #5 (of 6) (Marvel) What sucks is that after this book, the Young Avengers will once again have to be saddled with the mediocre (but once inconceivably better-hyped) Runaways for a Marvel event mini-series, as they were during Civil War. While it’s inarguably better to read the team as a team, preferably with Allan Heinberg, these spotlight issues have been a perfectly serviceable way to reconnect with the team that made it okay for outsiders to read Marvel again and thoroughly enjoy it, especially to discover that there are a number of writers capable of capturing the dynamics between the members.

~Green Lantern #31 (DC) “Secret Origin” hits Part 3 as Hal begins learning what it means to be Green Lantern, including the seeds of stealing Carol Ferris from Hector Hammond of all people and meeting the rest of the Corps for the first time, with the conspicuous absence of Sinestro, who is instead teased as the big draw of next issue. Yeah, I’ve read this story before in Emerald Dawn, but Geoff Johns (him again!) is still the expert at pulling all the stops away from discovering how everything connects, not the least being his own recent additions to the mythology, not stopping at the deeper meaning behind the yellow immunity the ring always inexplicably had. Still, next issue is really going to make this arc and we all know it…

~Captain Britain and MI13 #1 (Marvel) I picked this one up on a lark, because it looked like it might be worth checking out, another recent Marvel book that has an obvious interest for DC tastes, and I was pretty much right, except the darn thing ends on a cliffhanger! It’s as if Paul Cornell just wants to trick me into reading the next issue. Anyway, the main hook, at least for the moment, is that it seems to be another series, like Incredible Hercules, that seems to know instinctively how to incorporate itself with an outside story arc (well, not so much outside with Herc, unless you still count Herc himself as sort of outside the Hulk saga, which he…sort of is). I’m really not familiar with any of the characters in this one, but that didn’t seem to bother me while reading it. Which is a good sign, right?

Also released last week was a new issue of Daredevil, which I passed on, partly because I had been intending to streamline my purchases, partly because I’d thought I would be buying the first volume of Countdown to Final Crisis trades. After discovering that all the volume had was the actual issues and no behind the scenes information, like the 52 collections did, I decided I could pass on it, and that’s why I bought Captain Britain. Daredevil was actually co-written by Greg Rucka this issue, the only thing that made me question my decision, but I guess I’ve just sort of had it with Ed Brubaker soft-shoeing his way through the series, even though he seems to do anything but. Still, I think the week pulled through nicely despite these things. In fact, I’m only now just realizing that I actually bought ten comics…

***

QB is an indication for a must-read.

***

THE EIDOLON NEVER HAD A GHOST OF A CHANCE ~ Read The Cloak of Shrouded Men, an original work of prose heroic fiction.

Friday, May 30, 2008

#172. WrestleMania XXIV

To warm up for WrestleMania XXIV last week, I watched IX and X, and came away thinking how much Shawn Michaels stole both shows, obviously the latter with Scott Hall and the ladder, but even the former working with Tatanka, the WWE star who got the worst break of the past two decades (pushed like mad, had all the tools he needed, and then he got pushed out of the picture for a few months, only to return, get a bad gimmick, and never recover, even when he made a comeback a few years back). That's how he became the Showstopper, not when he had his first main event (XI) or even when he got to steal the show officially (XII). Everything he did after that, HBK has those two to thank for it.

Anyway, he did an excellent job at XXIV, too. You might have heard about it. His match with Ric Flair was the only pure wrestling match of the evening, and he pulled it off. The Money in the Bank match, although packed with talented stars, came off worse than some of the previous editions, because the participants have become so convinced that there are only a few things you can do in a match like that. Chris Jericho was probably the worst of them, even though he's arguably one of the best wrestlers of our time. He'll never win one of these, because he'll be the first one to do everything you don't need to do to win. Shelton Benjamin has actually started taking after him, even though he was te star of the first two.

Randy Orton made his case for legend status in the Raw main event, dominating in his own way John Cena and Triple H, only to eventually steal the victory. Edge and Undertaker in the Smackdown main event sort of squandered most of their match, only to end on a classic note. And that was pretty much all there was to talk about concerning WrestleMania this year. I'm convinced that for the next one, they either have to ditch MitB or let the wrestlers actually wrestle in it again, because for now it's holding back the quality of the show. They packed the best, most innovative stars in this one, which is nice, because at least they were on the card, but they could've made better impacts getting to actually wrestle. Some of them should be in the main event, no question about it. Next year, they really should be. I don't care which brand. The MitB competitors this year are WWE's future. Please let them be.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

#171. ECW/Smackdown Tapings Thoughts

For me, it's just great that the WWE tapings I attended on Tuesday have gotten a fair bit of press, at least at WrestleView, the site I get all my news and views from, and have for about three years now. The fan who jumped the barricade near the end of the show, from my perspective up in the stadium seating, looked when he first popped over to be dressed in black, like the security personnel themselves. I thought he was part of the act, because the Edgeheads, Chavo, and Bam Neely at first seemed to react to him like a wrestler, until security absolutely mauled him, manhandling him away. Even the incident with Vince where he came out so randomly near the end of the ECW taping I had been wondering about. But apparently even that was significant.

What was significant to me was discovering, after my first and only other to this point wrestling show back in October 2004 (you can look back in the archives to read about it), this was likea whole new perspective, even though it was a second experience, maybe because this time is was being taped. I started noticing more the wrestlers who looked like they were wrestling at least as much for the cameras as for the live audience, and believe me, that makes a difference. Matt Hardy was a surprise. I know the guy has a presence, but in person, his opponent, Elijah Burke, whom I've never really remarked on before (most notable for me was that he ended up being Chris Benoit's final opponent), came off so much better, moving around like moving around mattered, and not sort of posturing. Kofi Kingston had the same kind of vibe, even Mike Knox, who looks better now with his hair growing out than he has before. C.M. Punk looked better against Chavo Guerrero than he did with John Morrison, perhaps accounting for the length of the respective matches. Jamie Noble was great. MVP, not just because he was wrestling Jamie Noble, looked bigger than he does on TV. Batista translates beautifully. Big Show was probably, sorry Montel, the MVP of the night, coming out several times (the headbutts don't look so impressive live, though). The pyro is loud (LOUD!). Can't imagine how someone like Batista doesn't go deaf. He had to hear it twice! The flames Kane has and are set off periodically for other pyro are hot, too. Don't know why that didn't occur to me before. Don't know how the wrestlers deal with that, either.

Overall, fun, fun stuff. I'll be back with more later!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

#170. ECW/Smackdown Tapings

I'll be back hopefully tomorrow with some thoughts about how awesome it was to attend the ECW/Smackdown tapings last night, as well as experiencing this year's WrestleMania, at long last...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

#169. Weekly No. 91

PBR's Weekly

No. 89ii

This is the second week of the self-imposed exile from Paperback Reader for this column and this writer, now being hosted by my own long-running but seldom-updated blog. Last week’s edition was about as stripped-down as I could have made it, but I can’t do that again because this past week was too rich for such treatment. Of course, in expanding it I might as well post the column back at PBR, but I could expect the same kind of readership here as there, and that has been as much the issue as anything I’ve let under my skin, so no real difference except a slightly more professional layout there (unless you count the irritation of the programming updates there causing me formatting issues that don’t exist here), plus a slightly better chance at feedback here, despite a promise of that returning over there, now like other matters stretching on a bit. Still, I remain grateful to Bart for giving me the opportunity to write this column and the occasional review, and because he has been the only source of interest in my writing, if I choose to, I will probably end up back at PBR anyway, despite lingering issues.

Much to my glee, the two back-issues I placed on order at Heroes and Dragons arrived this week, along with an embarrassing glut of riches in regular releases, effectively putting a halt to my attempts at slowing down the pace of my reading. At work, the manga and graphic novels were relocated, adding the general sense of festivity in this area of my life, even though those who made the shift happen paid a fair bit less attention to the details than my friend Daniel did when he affected the comics shift a few months back on his own initiative (thanks to him, too, in inviting me to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with the boys on Thursday, capping off the visit to Heroes and buying the WrestleMania XXIV DVD, which as of this writing I‘ve now had the chance to finish watching; some of the MVP performances over the course of those two days are obvious, but JBL at the Hall of Fame ceremony only cements his status as a Wrestling God). Oh, and on the same day, I registered to vote in Colorado, remaining proudly Unaffiliated (apparently, Independent really has become Green Party).

Week of May 21, 2008

QB ~Action Comics #11 (DC) Having missed it at my usual Heroes location on original release, saw it at the other site a few days later, and passed up the seeming second chance, I was happy that my first instance of placing a book (along with the next comic) on re-order with the store turned out so well (and so promptly!). The long-awaited conclusion of the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner/Adam Kubert “Last Son” arc with General Zod, it’d been so long, I honestly couldn’t remember very much of how the story had ended off however many months ago, but the issue more than reminded of why I fell in love with the team of Johns and Donner, the latter clearly vicariously living through a sort of fulfillment of his aborted cinematic vision, since the former would continue on with several more stories on the title alone, even if the last of them to this point, Superman and the Legion, didn’t finish its vision as strongly as is presented here. The Zod/Christopher Kent drama ends up playing a backseat to a reaffirmation of what makes Superman so super, the kind of story you wish everyone who ever doubts why he’s still being featured in a monthly series after so many decades would read. Maybe the publishing schedule as it ended up being with this story didn’t help its chances of doing that job of convincing the skeptics, but now that it’s complete, “Last Son” stands as only the tip of an iceberg that remains ready to radically represent the continuing saga of the Man of Steel in the modern era, even as it takes back one element it gave us, if temporarily, even as James Robinson is poised to debut in the other ongoing title. We’re in for some great comics, Superman.

QB ~DC Universe 0 (DC) Now, now I’ve finally gotten a chance to see this (the clerk evidently hadn’t seen it either, and even Tim seemed surprised to have been able to get it for me when he called), and can reinterpret the criticism I’d found when looking for reactions a few weeks back. Those readers found it to be a terrible starting point for new readers, evidently the self-presumed audience. What I found was a preview book that took ominous glances at some things readers already knew and other looks at characters whose importance hasn’t properly been understood or introduced in some time. Batman and Joker shared a conversation readers of Salvation Run won’t get, but those of Grant Morrison’s Batman will, or even fans of Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Dark Knight (it hasn’t come out yet; they already exist). Wonder Woman, who a few years back had finally, truly earned her place in the Big Three but has since all but collapsed in a gradually decaying swap meet of creators, is repositioned. The Spectre (we’ll pretend Morrison and Johns aren’t aware of Countdown to Mystery) is poised for big things. Even the “Rainbow Corps” concept from Johns’ Green Lantern is teased. New readers shouldn’t and won’t get most of this. But if they find nothing intriguing, then they’re a dead audience already. The narrator’s identity and ultimate purpose aren’t promised to be one and the same, but his role may be the best of the book, as it should be. This is the starting point of a race. Let the best runner get the head start. The book best stands as the timer; it’s not a part of the competition but it damn sure is going to be a part of the history books, marking the exact moment everything changed, exactly as Countdown to Infinite Crisis did when Ted Kord was shot through the head. This time, Barry Allen becomes a significant player again, whatever that ultimately means. So sue me for liking it. I’m not a groupie. I just know what reads like a million dollars.

~Scud the Disposable Assassin #24 (Image) Apparently a long-awaited conclusion all its own, Rob Schrab’s cult favorite hits shelves a final time. While I was never what you could call an actual reader of the series, I was well aware of its novelty back in the day, the charm of a robotic hitman programmed to self-destruct on completion of its mission realizing there may be a reason to live. This issue is a primer in what Scud meant to his creator thanks to a concluding interview conducted with a friend, so I get what happened with the character. What I don’t understand is why the potential I saw in Scud all those years ago seems to have been wasted. Maybe this comes from someone who didn’t read the previous twenty-three issues, but it just feels like the concept was lost along the way in favor of quirks that popped up, other characters, even other concepts concerning what made Scud’s life worth living. In a way, I lament that, or at least regret missing out on what happened previous to this final issue. It’s just one of those things where I end up knowing why I should care, but don’t anyway, and that’s always frustrating.

QB ~Hercules #1 (of 5) (Radical) A new publisher picks a character currently undergoing a revolution on another company’s watch (and in the same week!), and the surprise is, this second modern take is also well worth reading! This one’s set to an era more contemporary to the traditional version of Hercules, but with the same kind of latter-day world-weary perspective as Marvel’s. I love pleasant surprises like this. The publisher itself seems dedicated to replicating the feel evident here with each of its other titles, which it will be rolling out soon, which makes the issue not just a promising debut for a series, but for an entire company.

QB ~Countdown to Mystery #8 (of 8) (DC) As Matt Sturges wraps up his tale of Eclipso and Spectre, the final installment of the late Steve Gerber’s Doctor Fate saga has a unique fate all its own. Last issue, Adam Beechen had the stage all to himself, but he shares the conclusion with three other writers, each giving their own interpretation to the notes Gerber no doubt left behind. Beechen’s version comes first and in its way and perhaps placement, feels most official (possibly because he alone retains original artist, Stephen Jorge Segovia, on whom I have not heaped enough praise). Mark Evanier and Mark Waid follow with their own versions, and finally Gail Simone concludes the festivities, offering as an endnote a poignant tribute to Gerber himself, who once made her feel better about being exactly the kind of outsider Gerber and his whole story had been about. The exercise, far from feeling gimmicky, is a worthy conclusion not only to the spirit of the story itself, but to Gerber as well. A few months back, I expressed a certain amount of guilt that it took Gerber’s death to make me read this mini-series again, but it’s a feeling DC should be feeling instead, since originally, the whole “Helmet of Fate” project that led to Gerber’s half of this book was meant to be a new ongoing series for Fate. In atonement, the company ought to finally make that series a reality. They’ve already booked four writers who share the right spirit for such a project. There are others. It’s possible. And we still owe Gerber so much.

~Captain America #38 (Marvel) Clearly, Ed Brubaker is a student of Cap’s past, because as it turns out, the “Steve Rogers” he’d been teasing for the past few months not only turns out to be someone else, but also a continuation of a seemingly random single issue adventure from way back in the first year of this run. I feel cheated, in a way, not because Brubaker once again proves how methodically he plans his stories and ahead of the reader he’s able to keep himself, but because of how deliberately he misled his readers. Maybe there were some, like during Countdown when Paul Dini and his co-writers were teasing certain members of the Jack Kirby pantheon, who suspected immediately what was really going on, based on certain physical attributes of the man we were seeing, but as I read this issue, I never once felt the same sensation I did when Brubaker was unraveling the mystery of Bucky’s return during that same first year of the book. I’m not saying I’ve returned to the skeptical nature of my sporadic reading that began soon after that year was completed. If anything, in every other way recent issues have better delivered on the initial promise of this run than even those issues themselves. But, c’mon Brubaker. In other titles you’ve proven a distinct lack of control over your own impulses, even though your brilliance is always on display. Please say you can still salvage this arc. Your penchant for realism can still be betrayed. Don’t give in, because when you do, you invariably end up failing. And you’re too good for that.

QB ~The Brave and the Bold #13 (DC) At some point, I’m pretty sure Mark Waid’s leaving the series, so any further issues past his original twelve-episode arc is a blessing. Here, he teams original Flash Jay Garrick with Batman to weave a standalone adventure that probes deeper into both characters than most other writers would, or could, dare in such a seemingly throwaway issue, and that’s both what I’ve loved about this series and about Mark’s obvious passion for DC’s characters, both famous and obscure.

~The Flash #240 (DC) Remember what I was saying last issue? That I was on the verge of quitting one of my favorite heroes? Well, Tom Peyer ups his game this month, pulling all the right strings (much as Bilson and DeMeo were doing when their run came to a close), even paying off on story elements Mark Waid left behind to ensure future issues have the essential character weight that has made Flash’s adventures worth coming back to for so long. Plus, elements of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis are woven into the issue, familiar both from last week’s Sketchbook and Morrison’s Mister Miracle from his epic Seven Soldiers project (if readers need incentive to rediscover that, now they have it).

~Titans #2 (DC) Better than the first issue, but plagued with art that only solidifies the theory that DC put this book together because modern fans of this particular team of Titans are more influenced by the cartoon series than the Marv Wolfman era (which itself inspired the cartoon…), the best reason for me to support this particular installment ended up being the appearance of Argent from the Dan Jurgens Titans, who coincidentally was a member of the team Devin K. Grayson put together the last time the company put a book out under this specific title. Oh! And on the back of current DC books is an ad for Vampirates! Random knowledge and glorious combinations abound!

~Justice League of America #21 (DC) Reminiscent of the “Crisis of Conscience” arc from the previous JLA series that latched onto Identity Crisis a few years back, this issue is dedicated to Libra and DC’s theory that his appearance is significant enough to pretend it’s a better selling point that good writing and the fact that the reader is already reading the Justice League, which in itself should already be incentive enough. But in reality, in either incarnation, you can’t always expect the best, even though that’s the promise and sometimes the delivery, so the gimmick of a “Sightings” tag is necessary, even though, in this issue, all the perfectly obvious implications are met as they should be. Dwayne McDuffie has definitely settled in at this point, enough to pull the Big Three aside for the kind of conversation Brad Meltzer built his initial issues around, at least for a few pages. Otherwise, it’s Libra being Libra, plus Human Torch plotting bad things for Martian Manhunter. Carlos Pacheco, meanwhile, officially joins the ranks of artists fully worthy of doing the Justice League.

QB ~Justice Society of America #15 (DC) I’m pretty sure “Thy Kingdom Come” concludes this issue, at least to segue to another chapter of the same story, as Gog helps the Society and Geoff Johns continue perhaps the most important story DC is publishing not being written by Grant Morrison. Heck, let’s not make it an argument. What may be an argument is that Johns is doing work here that is, at least at this point, more important than Final Crisis, but in a regular, ongoing, shockingly self-contained book, employing a mythology begun more than ten years ago which is still unfolding. Magog may have been introduced in 1996, but he’s is destined to become the most important new addition to DC lore perhaps in decades. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

~Robin #174 (DC) Okay, this time, I haven’t jumped the gun. This time, it’s really a new issue, and it’s one of the most important issues of this series in a long, long time. The secret of the Spoiler is revealed. It’s Chuck Dixon getting his Ed Brubaker on. And yeah, it’s a great moment to be reading, for a creator to have come back to one of his most famous haunts. It could also have been more. It may not be Chuck’s fault. Unlike Brubaker’s shot at resurrection, DC’s been quietly hyping this for a while, putting up ads, letting the DC Nation column talk it up, all while keeping it mostly self-contained (Gotham Underground also featured Spoiler), as Brubaker had the luxury of doing. But Tim had gotten so impatient, he spoiled the moment, in effect. Maybe DC’s got the best moments of this story saved for a later issue, even the upcoming Robin/Spoiler Special. Maybe this just means the series is returning to the kind of issues Adam Beechen was pulling off in the immediate wake of One Year Later, when he had the run of Batgirl all to himself, or when Batman was trying to handle the death of Jason Todd twenty years ago. Maybe it’s safe to read this book as a serialized story again, like Dixon was doing when the series launched. That’s what I’m hoping. Hey, he even brought the Redbird back!

QB ~Tangent: Superman’s Reign #3 (of 12) (Tangent/DC) Dan Jurgens continues his superior event, the Tangent return engagement that revels in exploring a new alternate look at familiar names in unfamiliar roles, the modern age embracing the birth of the silver age all over again (just because it’s most popular to stick with golden age nostalgia these days, doesn’t mean you have to). Unlike other comics of this nature, which even when they start off strong they start to taper off by refusing to continue the actual story soon enough, the Tangent Superman appears this issue, upping the ante by continuing the unflinching look at what this other world has been up to and where it’s going. It’s very much like a Grant Morrison comic in that way, or even Young Avengers, significant stories being told just below the mainstream model, or rather, just above, daring to continue those stories not just because they can, but because it’s a built-in imperative.

QB ~The Incredible Hercules #117 (Marvel) Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, meanwhile, must have also siphoned some of the Morrison Moxie (if you’ve never had Moxie, you’ve never truly had a carbonated drink), because now they’re blasting off at reckless speeds with mythologies they only half expect readers to keep up with, creating a God Squad around Herc and his pal Amadeus Cho (they didn’t go with my suggestion for the dog’s name after all, but Coyote’s not bad) based on a necessary tie-in with Secret Invasion that only affirms my obsession with this series and faith that it can pull anything off. Even with characters coming in left and right, sporting names I’ll never be able to remember, this book remains addictively readable, one of the best ongoing series on the market.

~House of Mystery #1 (Vertigo) The dynamic duo of Matt Sturges and Bill Willingham resurrect the House of Mystery for a series they describe in Vertigo’s own “On the Edge” column as a destination for writerly pleasures and pursuits, letting loose in still more bold strokes than has been possible in books like Shadowpact and the Fables franchise, and that’s exactly what I love about them. In an era that is willing to embrace every eccentric id, they’re fast establishing themselves as leading contenders for the crown. I’m not giving this one a QB for the sole reason that I won’t pretend this one’s for everyone, but for those up to it, this is going to be another wild ride.

***

QB is an indication for a must-read.

***

THE EIDOLON NEVER HAD A GHOST OF A CHANCE ~ Read The Cloak of Shrouded Men, an original work of prose heroic fiction, now with its very own Borders binc!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

#168. 2008 Movie Favorites, Wrestling, In Treatment

On Monday I finally completed the 2008 version of my favorite movies list. When I began this project in 2004, it consisted of a hundred films, and again in 2006, but last year, I expanded it to two hundred. This year, I felt confident enough to expand it further, to three hundred, and to shake things even further than I had with the previous version in terms of honesty in ranking. Each version to this point has been posted at Lower Decks' Observation Lounge, where I've been posting since 2000, when the parent site was still called Section 31 and we could be said to have an active membership. If you visit Lower Decks now, you'll note that there hasn't been an update in the news bullets since last October, and that's just the tip of the decline, which began when site contributors stopped coordinating and lost interest in what had at one point been the whole point of the enterprise, namely Star Trek. Yeah, it was one of those things. When the franchise lost its mass appeal a few years back (watch out, next year!), it was perfectly reflected within the community. Still, I've never stopped visiting, and I still write 'fan fiction' I post there, the same stuff you'll find in the current version of my Mouldwarp personal site on the links list. I'm writing another one at the moment, this despite several years ago claiming I'd written my last one.

Anyway, I've been debating whether I want to post the new favorites list at the board. They've generally gone over extremely well, better than anything else I've done there, so that's not the issue. I do worry, though, that such an extensive list may test their patience, even though at this point 300 movies is what it takes to be a representative idea of my taste in film. Regardless, if and when I do get the new Google Pages site up I talked about a few months back, the list will definitely be posted there.

Going to ECW/Smackdown tapings next Tuesday!

And I'll get to buy WrestleMania XXIV tomorrow, and hopefully get to watch it by Sunday! Woooooooo! It'll be joining a slowly growing compilation of wrestling DVDs, most of the recent ones featuring career retrospectives and the like, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, the Horsemen (and the last Ric Flair set when it's released in July, unless the previous one turns out to have been better). I've been watching those in anticipation of 'Mania, taking a break from the endless DVD marathon of movies I've been amassing. Deer Hunter derailed it, actually. I'm not a fan, I guess, and all it ended up convincing me to do is watch more wrestling. But I'm back on track, continuing last night with a promo for HBO's unsung gem In Treatment, which is like seeing a play in ongoing thirty minute installments. It's the first time I've seen the show, but I'm already in love. Viewers, get watching!

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