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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New articles coming!

I'm going to start writing reviews of RPG systems and books soon. Right now, this will be limited to my personal collection. I'm hoping that after posting some reviews that I may possibly receive some support from one of the local game stores in my area.



I don't plan on getting into miniature games or collectible card games right now, but maybe in time. I've already tried playing Warhammer Fantasy and Heroclix a few times, and neither have really impressed me much. I did enjoy painting the mini's for Warhammer, but the problem was when I had time to paint, I didn't have the money to buy. When I had the money to buy, I didn't have time to paint.



I know that when I started this blog, I was going to stay away from writing RPG reviews. Now, I want to expand things.



I look forward to your feedback.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods & Monsters



Title: The Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods & Monsters



ISBN: 9780785110934

Price: $15.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2012

Artist: Bryan Hitch

Writer: Mark Millar

Collects: The Ultimates 2 #1-6



Rating: 3/5



Hank Pym, the superhero formerly known as Giant Man, is still on the outs with the team after his assault on his wife, Janet "Wasp" Pym. She, in the midst of divorce proceedings, has reclaimed her maiden name and, as Janet van Dyne, is dating Steve "Captain America" Rogers, while Hank is reinventing himself as Ant Man and shopping around for a place with a bargain-basement team called the Defenders. Tony Stark decides to share his Iron Man technology with his new fiancee. Bruce Banner is still incarcerated (secretly) by S.H.I.E.L.D. for his murderous rampage as the Hulk, but a leak to the media forces the authorities to bring Banner to trial. With the number of murdered civilians nearing four digits, the prosecution is seeking the death penalty.



Meanwhile, Thor's belief that he's really the Norse god is getting challenged from all sides, and the issue is forced when the team receives strong evidence that he's really just a lunatic with really cool toys. On the other hand, Loki -- if he does exist and isn't one of Thor's delusions -- is a bit more sinister and far more subtle than his mainstream Marvel counterpart.



The Ultimates is, on the whole, darker than the other titles in the Ultimate line. This volume shows even greater maturity, as heroes face consequences for their actions and political maneuverings come into play in both the national and international arenas. Heroes begin to appear in other nations, and their potential use in various global conflicts is a hot topic on every front.



But even as personalities clash and governments rumble into motion, Gods & Monsters provides plenty of costumed action. The clash between the Ultimates and Thor is, in particular, one for the record books. And for laughs, there's the Defenders, where the members have low-budget costumes and, for the most part, nonexistent powers. Still, Valkyrie serves up the cheesecake in spite of the team's overall incompetence.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion

Title:
Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion







ISBN:
9781401224950


Price:
$14.99


Publisher/Year:
DC, 2009


Artist: Tom Mandrake, Jim Calafiore, Jeremy Haun,
Pablo Raimondi, Don Kramer, Mark McKenna


Writer:
Royal McGraw, Joe Harris, David Hine, Chris Yost, Fabian Nicieza


Collects:
Batman: Battle for the Cowl Specials:
Arkham Asylum, The Network, Man-Bat, Underground
and Commissioner Gordon





Rating:
3/5





I
enjoyed the stories in the Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion, but indeed
that's just what they are -- stories. The five specials collected here range
from closely or tertiary connected to Batman: Battle for the Cowl, all the way
to advertisements for other comics entirely; there's not a bad one in the
bunch, but you hardly need this companion to understand Battle for the Cowl.





Both
the "Commissioner Gordon" and "Underground" chapters
intersect directly with Battle for the Cowl. In Battle, Gordon mentions his
"run-in" with Mr. Freeze, and indeed this is that run-in. Chris
Yost's "Underground" -- apparently what we call Batman's villains
these days -- answers my earlier question as to what became of Catwoman during
Battle for the Cowl; I'm not sure the timeline of the two stories quite fits,
but Catwoman running in to Black Mask (whom she believes she murdered) and the
post-Countdown to Final Crisis reunion of Harley Quinn and sometime-Catwoman
Holly Robison are both great moments.





Unexpectedly,
my favorite of the stories was "Arkham Asylum." The story is an
unabashed lead-in to writer David Hine's forthcoming Arkham Reborn miniseries,
but it also takes on the concept of insanity, imprisonment, and the meaning of
asylum with striking seriousness. Through the narration of Jermiah Arkham, Hine
introduces three fascinating inmates -- one obsessed with his own looks, one so
ugly her face drives men insane, and with no face other than what he himself
draws -- and the detailed description of Arkham's treatment of the inmates is
equally interesting. The cliffhanger ending comes seemingly out of nowhere, but
it does its job -- whereas I might otherwise have skipped that miniseries, now
I'm curious to see what happens next.





"Man-Bat"
and "The Network" round out the book. Joe Harris's
"Man-Bat" makes good use of Dr. Phosphorus, last seen in the recent
Batman: Detective stories, and also references Man-Bat's wife Francine's ties
to the Outsiders, but the story also ends on a cliffhanger which I'm not sure
where, if ever, will be followed up. Fabian Nicieza's "The Network"
-- as strange a name as "The Underground" -- works as a Birds of Prey
story in that Oracle gets the spotlight, though his ultra-violent
characterization of the Huntress is largely outdated. There's also a suggestion
in the story that former Bird of Prey Misfit is ill, though again it's hard to
know if that's something that will be continued elsewhere.





The
Battle for the Cowl Companion spotlights a good cross-section of the Batman
universe, and each of the stories has a fair or twist at the end; I also
appreciated reading a selection of writers I wasn't familiar with. Most of
these stories are pretty well disconnected from the main Batman events,
however; either they don't branch well from Battle for the Cowl or it's unclear
where they're meant to fit elsewhere in the DC Universe. Inasmuch as one might
have thought DC would have learned their lesson by now, these seem to be fairly
needless crossover issues, banking on rather than adding to Battle for the
Cowl. The saving grace indeed is only that they're all surprisingly well written;
otherwise this volume might not get the recommendation that it does.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Batman and Son

Title:
Batman and Son







ISBN:
9781401212414


Price:
$14.99


Publisher/Year:
DC, 2007


Artist: Andy Kubert


Writer:
Grant Morrison


Collects:
Batman #655-658, 663-666





Rating: 3/5





This,
in a word, great, though not perhaps the volume I would give a first-time
Batman reader (save that for Batman: Detective). Morrison is steeped here in
Batman coolness, and there's much to savor--from the straight-up superhero
action of the main storyline, the short Joker prose story, the more esoteric
"Black Casebook" two-parter, and the final Elseworlds epilogue--but
the variety of writing styles might jar a casual reader.





Letting
alone, Morrison's writing is at times as super-heroic as it is metaphoric.
There's an extended sequence with Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and the Joker in
the first few pages which serve more thematically than anything else (where
Gordon, in true Morrison style, speaks to the reader), and it's hard to miss
the meta-interpretive background when Batman fights ninja Man-Bats in a museum
full of pop art.





I was
most taken in this volume not by the "Batman and Son" storyline,
which has classic elements in its own right, but more by "The Clown at
Midnight" and "The Black Casebook."
"Casebook"--apparently part of Morrison's larger Batman arc--begins
with a match between Batman and a Bane-like figure; Morrison's take on a
Knightfall-haunted Bruce Wayne is remarkably compelling. Even moreso is
Morrison's new Joker novella, with images by John Van Fleet, which is
unquestionable supposed to put one in mind of Morrison's Arkham Asylum. The end
to "Clown" comes a little quick, but there are more than enough scary
bits along the way.





Morrison
has famously referred to his take on Batman as the "hairy-chested Neal
Adams love god"; think, perhaps, Bruce Wayne crossed with James Bond, a
reference Morrison makes in the story (only, Wayne remarks, "much
cooler"). Indeed, the Bruce Wayne here, in relationships both with Talia
and new character Jezebel Jet, is lustful--if not loving--and also a bit
naive--he can't quite believe Talia would risk the life of her own child.





More
importantly, in our post-Infinite Crisis world, we see a Bruce Wayne concerned
with things like whether Robin knows that Bruce is proud of him. Whereas
previously we had the sense that Batman's partners were a means to an end in
his war on crime, we now get the sense that his partners are his end--that is,
his war on crime is for the purpose of keeping Alfred, Tim, Selina, and the
rest safe. This is a Bruce Wayne, as in the Batman movies, which has a soft
spot for people who do good and seems eager to find the good in everyone, and
he's far more readable than Batmen past.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Marvel Zombies 3

Title:
Marvel Zombies 3







ISBN:
9780785135265


Price:
$15.99


Publisher/Year:
Marvel, 2009


Artist: Kev Walker


Writer:
Fred Van Lente


Collects:
Marvel Zombies 3 #1-4





Rating:
2/5





There
exist soft spots in our world - where reality stretches paper thin and
sometimes unknown forces from outside our universe can slip through.  One such place is a swamp in Florida where a
pair of super zombies crawls out of the muck and eat a bunch of hicks.





The
official Florida super team “The Command” (sponsored by the Fifty-State
Initiative after the events of Civil War) investigates and are quickly
dismantled by zombies.  Now it's up to
Michael Morbius (the Living Vampire) working for A.R.M.O.R. to discover a cure
before our world succumbs to the super plague. 
His only hope - to get a living human blood sample from the original
dimension of the plague.  Now Machine Man
and Jacosta must travel to a world overrun by the evil dead while back at home
A.R.M.O.R. is under siege!





Van
Lente writes good dialogue and has a comprehensive story, some lame old
characters get eaten, introduces zombie Deadpool.





Land's
covers are not as good as Suydam's, a lot of third-rate characters no one cares
about, hefty price tag for only four issues of material, not a big fan of
Machine Man's post-Nextwave (Warren Ellis) attitude adjustment





This
story ups the stakes by having the super zombie plague show up in the real
Marvel universe.  It's short at only four
issues (and pricey), but actually written fairly well.  The art is mildly decent, but no major
characters are featured which downgrades significance.  Van Lente brings back the horror-movie
suspense by offing a few minor characters right in the beginning and setting a
creepy tone. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

ECCC 2014 - My Experiences

Well, another con has come and gone for the Pacific Northwest. I'm happy to have been able to come back to Seattle this year after having to miss last year. Some general observations before I get into my experiences.





1- This has been the biggest comic con I've ever attended. As much as I don't concern myself too much with the thought that some nut-job could easily turn this into a horrible event, actions like the Boston marathon make some people wary. I saw a post on the ECCC Facebook post around this specific topic, and it made me think. I'm thinking that a comic con would be considered a "soft" target but with the number of people in attendance, it would be a horrible situation. Consider also that there are celebrities at this event, and you've got the makings of something that would make the national news.





2- This year, ECCC decided to create their own app in lieu of using the Guidebook app. Not sure why this decision was made, but I found the app very slow and useless. I utilized my paper guide more than the app... and I've never really had to use it before. That speaks to the enormity of the event as well as the usefulness of the app.





3- There were so many people trying to sell badges outside of the convention center. Even though I had my badge clearly hanging around my neck, there were guys asking me if I needed one. Too many people were also buying badges off of people only to turn around and sell them for a profit. Don't get me wrong, I am a capitalist in a capitalist society, but some people really need to improve their methodology of sales. It was a minor annoyance, but one I felt needed to be brought up.



4- With as big as the convention was, I was not able to take in nearly as much as I wanted to. I didn't do any extraneous buying outside of picking-up the exclusive comics being offered. Between that and running around for signatures, I had little time for anything else while I was there. This is as much a problem with the size of the event as it is with my plan of action for getting everything I wanted to done. To that end, I'm thinking that if I come back to ECCC, I'll need to make better plans such as coming a day earlier and staying a day longer. This will be determined by my finances over anything else.



As for my personal experiences at this years con...



Of everyone I brought comics for signatures, I wasn't able to see Jim Lee (Little surprise there as my train arrived in Seattle after noon with little time for me to get to my hotel, prepare, get to the convention center, get a ticket at the DC booth and then get in line for the signing), Scott Snyder (Every time I went by Scott's table, he was either not there or swamped with people with a minion at the end of the line with a sign saying to come back in 5 mins.) and Gail Simone (I just couldn't find her.)



My biggest goal for the con was to collect additional signatures in my Walking Dead 100 Project trade. Of the 17 artists who were in attendance, I was able to collect signatures from 11 of them. It seems as though Karl Kesel decided not to attend. Everyone else I either couldn't find or they were in another area of the con that I didn't get a chance to get to.



As I was collecting signatures for my Walking Dead trade, I did receive a couple of comments about getting all the signatures and how several of the artists weren't even aware that the covers had been collected in a trade. Not sure I'll ever be able to collect every signature, but I'll give it my all.



All-in-all, I did enjoy myself even though I didn't get through the entire con, take in any panels, do any shopping, or get some good "chat time" with anyone. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not sure I'll come back to ECCC. I'm looking forward to Rose City Comic Con in September, but next we have the first Cherry City Comic Con in May.

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I

 Title: Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I ISBN: 0919359094 Price: $ Publisher/Year: Aardvark-Vanheim, 1987 Artist: Gerhard Writer: ...