Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seriously Random, Including the Reviews

by Thomm

Who says computers save time? Just another damn headache, if you ask me, which you didn't, but I'm telling you anyway. Another thing I have to maintain, only worse than, say, my car. My car has scheduled maintenance and otherwise is pretty good at not needing anything more time consuming than an oil change in between. Sure, there's the occasional flat tire, but that's minor and not the car's fault. It's out there doing its thing in the world and shit happens. The computer, though, doesn't ever leave the house but is totally random in when something new is going to come up. If it's not a security update, whether I want it or not, by the internet provider, or gunked up crap on the hard drive, or a mysteriously missing sound card, some thing is always causing the computer to cry out for attention. My car never needs an update of its programming. It hums along merrily, and is 11 years old. It's paint is fading in spots on the roof after 11 years out in the sun, but that won't keep it from working. Stupid computer. If there's no nice, pretty pictures with this post, you now know why.

Sometimes the unexpected is delightful, though. I'm coaching my son's under 8 soccer team today against a team that beat our asses mightily on Tuesday, 7-2. My kids were playing scared in that one and looked like they hadn't already played 4 games this season. So, they're playing more focused (as focused as 5, 6 & 7 year 0lds get) and are in the 3d quarter down 2-1 when one of the kids on the other team reaches out on a throw-in and uses his arm to stop the ball. Totally instictive, but a free kick for us. It's about midway on our half of the field, but one of my half backs quickly takes the kick and sends it up the middle to our striker just over the mid-line. She kicks it down the field, past the defenders and toward the opposing goal. She runs all out, catches up with the ball and kicks it again, straight into the goal. This was just minutes after our team had given up the go ahead goal. It was like it suddenly clicked, at least for a couple of them, what we'd been coaching them since August. Granted, this girl is my most persistent and speediest player, and the only one who's scored in every game, but the quick set to get the ball to her and the straight line she took to the goal were like text book soccer. Unbelievable.

It's amazing what clogged lungs can do to your running. Last week I posted a 21:56 in a 5k race. Today, I run my 5k course, a loop around my neighborhood with all left turns to avoid crossing intersection traffic, and I'm coming in at 24:06. My congested head from last week through Thursday moved into my chest on Friday, so the lungs were not happy about the run. I think I may take a rest day on Sunday, though I'm supposed to run 6 miles. We'll see.

On to the reviews, then. A bigger week for me (still liliputian in comparison to Jim), as I picked up 10 books.

Starting from the top, Fables #77. This would be the best book of the week just for the news that Willingham is planning at least another 75 issues after the first major arc that ended with issue #75. Comics literature at its finest today, and this issue tells me it's still on track with that standard of excellence. The aftermath of the fall of the Empire is begun in both the lead story featuring two new characters, mercenaries and plunderers Freddy and Mouse, searching for wealth in one of the homelands, and the back up story that starts Mowgli's return to his jungle with Bigbe's brothers and Rose Red via one of the beanstalks. Freddy and Mouse have a nice buddy dynamic going on, but their flawed logic regarding locked boxes and evident unawareness of the story of Pandora's box may indicate they're not long for the world(s). We'll see when the next issue comes out. And our regular artist, Mark Buckingham, is back. Better yet.

Dynamo 5 #17 is next in our heirarchy, with a welcome exploration of the history of Captain Dynamo and Maddie's relationship, her feelings of guilt, and the strong possibility that the siblings will soon be reunited as a team. Scatterbrain's tour of Maddie's memories, with Maddie as his guide, brings up a lot of information for future stories, not the least of which is the seriously pissed ex-fiance who seems to have intended revenge in some way.

Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #3 is easily the best tie in to a major event I've read yet. Not that that means a lot, since I usually skip those things, and even the major events themselves. I haven't read a single Secret Invasion story, but then I've dropped Marvel down to just Thor and Ghost Rider. Anyway, back on point. This issue wraps up the story of Flash's longtime Rogues who've taken a third way, neither with the heroes nor with Libra in the Final Crisis story. They just want to kill Inertia to show that killing Kid Flash wasn't their fault and to make amends with the Flash family. The heroes really don't play into this story, but Libra's dead set on turning them to his side, but mostly ends up getting his own substitute Rogues killed and then his two speedsters, Zoom and Inertia eliminated as elements for his plan to aid Darkseid. Like the Secret Six, stories of villians who occupy the grey spaces are more interesting even than tales of heroes who fall into the grey. At least when you're talking about the established heroes of Marvel or DC. I suppose it's because the villians are often more fluid in how they've been used over the years, so the grey seems more authentic than taking a paragon and dipping him in sludge.

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #3 continues a great action tale set in WWII. Like the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, it has great Nazi villians to kick around, sci-fi gimicks and traps, and an all around pulp feel to it. One day, though, I'd like to see a story of the grunts on the German side. Not the SS ideologues but the regular army soldiers fighting for country, honor and all that. An All Quiet on the Western Front one war later and in comics. That would be interesting. Totally different tenor, though.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 is showing me that this series may dethrone the above mentioned Rogue's Revenge as best tie in story to a major event. We're only at issue #2. We'll have to wait and see. I'm not a big Legion fan, but I do like Geoff Johns, so that's why I'm here, and why I got Rogue's Revenge, for that matter. The bickering Brainiac 5's are a nice touch, and even though I don't know who a lot of the villians are, or some of the lesser Legionaires, I'm on board for what's shaping up to be another great Superboy Prime as massively powerful loon story. Quite possibly my favorite psychotic character in the superhero world these days.

Where, exactly, does the JSA Gog story fit in with the Final Crisis? JSA #19 keeps motoring along with this story, and it looks like we're going to have a nice battle between the JSA and Justice League Infinity in the next issue, but if Darkseid's coming to town in Final Crisis, and Gog is already in town for the JSA, why don't we have a nice intergallactic slug fest between them coming up? Why not? Johns is involved with both stories. I'll bet he'd make it work. Ok, whatever. I told you this was random. The internecine conflict in this issue progressed logically and when the conflict actually came, was considerably more realistic than any other hero v hero fight I've seen set up, or resolved.

Air #3 has me needing to go back to the first 2 issues to get my head around the whole disappearing country thing and what it is that's being fought over. Or who the players are. Nonetheless, I like this story. It's kind of the reverse for my usual tastes because the art is kinda keeping me on board right now. It reminds me of some of my favorite Vertigo titles, like Fables and Sandman. The little exposition of the moral issues for both the torturer and the tortured was nice, too.

I have to go back to the Darwyn Cooke Spirit issues and see if there really is a big change from his work to the current Aragones run. I like what's going on now, but I can't decide if I'm really missing something from Cooke's work or if I'm allowing others' opinions to shape my thoughts on this one. I would like to see some more of the long standing characters that Eisner had created and Cooke used, but I don't want to see the stories limited to just those characters, either. And the fact that stories are almost always one and done certainly helps me stay with it, irony being what it is. This story of the mystery of who killed a magic tricks supplier was certainly clever, and typically convoluted in the plan of the villain, but it was something of a throw away, too, that isn't likely to stick with me for long. Ah, well. As long as I'm enjoying it, I suppose.

As I mentioned, Ghost Rider is one if the only two titles I'm getting from Marvel. Issue 28 continues the story of Blaze's quest to fight Zadkiel. He's going to have to go through his brother to do it, it seems. I'm getting this because Jason Aaron is writing and I really like Scalped, but what's up with Marvel? From what Jim's written about Iron Fist there are now hundreds of Iron Fists throughout history and even multiple ones at the same time. Now the same thing seems to be going on with Ghost Riders. Although that sort of thing allows the development of new stories, and it worked quite well with Swamp Thing 20 years ago, I think it can also dilute the character. When it was done with Swamp Thing it was part and parcel with the major change that Alec Holland didn't exist at all anymore and the character was an earth elemental. Ghost Rider was originally uniquely a human bonded to a demon as an agent of punishment for evil. Somewhere along the line that shifted to an agent of heaven, but it was still the same idea. There was still a uniquness to the character. We'll see how it plays out, though. I hadn't read Ghost Rider since I was a kid, so I did find the back up narrative of the history of the character very helpful.

And, at the bottom of the heap, and deservedly so, is The Brave and the Bold #18. After more than a year of really good stories, this two issue line that started last issue was really disappointing. I don't know why it was told or what it was trying to accomplish. Supergirl is a brat, and not even an amusing one like Jack of Fables. Raven's a lot more stable than the last time I read any stories with her, but we're still at the Trigon fear as the root of her story. I know Marv Wolfman created the character and should be allowed to do what he wants with it to a large extent, but she hasn't really grown from those days in this story. Or rather, she has grown in that she seems to be the one in control here, but the story hasn't grown because Trigon's still at the center of it. Barely makes sense, but that's what I've got. Beyond that, the villian was utterly forgettable and not believable as a real threat to either of these young ladies. He seemed like he could have been taken out in a couple of panels last issue and we could have moved on from there. Hopefully we'll have something a lot better with #19 or I may be dropping this one.

I tried to add pictures, but I've been on this computer more than an hour and a half already and it's moving at a snail's pace. If you want to see the issue covers, check out Jim's listing of what he was getting this week. They're all on there. I'm beat.

And with that, I say go Penn State! Go Phillies! Go Steelers! Go Flyers!

That pretty much covers it, in a typically random sort of way today.

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