Some Comic Reviews

April 29, 2017

Finally got caught up on my comic book subscriptions, so I figured I would write a few quick reviews.  Today’s issues include: Batman #21, Sex Criminals #18, My Little Pony: Legends of Magic #1, Hulk #4 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Adaptation #1.

  • Batman #21.  Written by Tom King with art from Jason Fabok, this story essentially goes back to the major events of the DC: Rebirth one-shot where Batman is investigating the Watchmen button found in the Batcave when the pre-Flashpoint Reverse Flash arrives.  Other than a major fight between Batman and the Reverse Flash, not much really happens here and basically essentially it lays the groundwork for the rest of the investigation to occur over the next issues of the Flash and Batman.  Although the DC books have dropped various hints as to the mystery behind the Button, I’m glad they haven’t gone as seriously into until now, giving the Rebirth take on the characters a chance to get established before building up the big event.
  • Sex Criminals #18.  I’ve really enjoyed this series.  Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have turned what seems like a silly, immature concept into something more.  This particular issue had a scene or two that reminded me of a conversation with an ex, where they are discussing some frustrations with each other.  Great issue, I definitely consider this series at times to be a major influence in my views on relationships.
  • My Little Pony: Legends of Magic #1.  This series is replacing the Friends Forever series and focus on the historical figures of the MLP universe.  This first story was focused on Starswirl the Bearded training Celestia and Luna in magic, which Luna struggling as Celestia taunts her.  Luna attempts some dangerous magic and Starswirl has to fix it.  This was solid, definitely was a bit of fresh air as it felt like the team-up element of Friends Forever was getting a bit more stretched and they were scrapping the bottom of the barrel.
  • Hulk #4.  Overall, I’ve liked this series.  One of the few non-Star Wars Marvel Comics that I’m still collecting.  Essentially, the story follows Jennifer Walters as she deals with the aftershocks of Civil War II, where she was nearly killed by Thanos and her cousin Bruce–aka the original Hulk–was killed by Hawkeye.  Focusing on Jennifer’s struggle to keep herself under control, the interesting aspect of this series has been how through four issues she has yet to transform.  Written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Nico Leon, this has been a fairly well done book.
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story #1.  I initially only collected this because it was a Star Wars book, but the first issue of the adaptation of the movie was fairly interesting.  It isn’t as direct as some adaptations, a few things rearranged for flow in print form and a couple of added bits–like Galen Erso and Bodhi Rook talking about the Death Star before Rook goes in search of Saw Guerrera.  Like the Star Wars prequels, the challenge of an adaptation like this is that most people already know the story, it is more important to make it worth reading.  And in that sense, I think it was a fairly well done attempt here.

For if one is remembered by a friend, one is never truly gone.

-Star Wars: Thrawn

  • Finally broke the hour mark in Overwatch with Orisa.  In some ways she can be annoying, but her abilities can be useful.  I probably will play as her more often than I play as some others.
  • Weekend off coming up.  Hopefully going to power through some reading, writing and drawing that I’ve been putting off.  Getting closer to Comic Con season, so I stepping that up is a priority.  Might also start the process of selling off my comics.  That is a bit of a trickier thing, as I want to have a steady flow of books getting signed and graded as I sell them.  Maximize and extend my profit window.
  • I saw recently that Greg Rucka’s run as writer of Wonder Woman will be coming to an end relatively soon.  Part of me is kind of glad about that.  It’s not that he’s a bad writer, but I just get tired of him working with lesbian characters all of the time–I could argue Wonder Woman as more bisexual, but in the current storyline she has not necessarily shown an overwhelming interest in men.  Regardless, Rucka’s work–thinking of Rene Montoya, Kate Kane, Carrie Stetko–tends to focus on lesbian heroines.  I’m all for diversity, but I think there could be a bit more variation to the diversity.  Kind of goes along with my biggest complaint about Tracer from Overwatch.  I thought there were more powerful statements to be made with the character and the game in general.
  • Finished reading the new Star Wars: Thrawn novel.  Pretty solid stuff.  Think Timothy Zahn did a good job building up the characters and showing the functioning of the Empire at that time.  I was a bit taken aback when Disney announced that the novels and comics and video games from the last couple of decades were no longer canon, but I understood the need to declutter.  A lot of the material was clutter and detracted from the better stories of the Expanded Universe.  I’m glad they brought back Thrawn though.  The Thrawn books were some of my favorites from the novels, probably the most well written.  Makes me wonder if Thrawn or Eli Vanto will appear in Last Jedi or Episode IX.  In some form, maybe the character portrayed by Benicio Del Toro?

Mild Spoilers, anyone that saw the Ghost and Chopper in Rogue One kinda figured where the next step would be.  On a side note, Marvel’s doing an six issue adaptation of Rogue One set to start coming out in April?  Seriously?

So season three of Star Wars: Rebels came to a close this last weekend.  Was mildly surprised that the season did not end on the Battle of Scarif.  It essentially ended with the crew narrowly escaping Thrawn’s attack and proceeding to Yavin 4.  Sabine led a team of Mandalorians to the Rebels’ aid, briefly returning before having to go back to continue fighting to free Mandalore.  That storyline appears to be the main story for season four, which I do have a theory on.

Ezra and Kanan are still present with the team, but this season did introduce the Bendu, who added a new dynamic to the Jedi storyline.  One of the things that seems to be happening with them is that they are being pushed more to the middle between light and dark.  Between Maul, Vader and the Inquisitors, they were confronted or tempted by the Dark Side, with the Bendu being the first to truly advocate for the middle.  That continued throughout the season, leading up to the final battle.

Overall, it was a solid season.  I think they neatly wrapped up a few plot storylines before they progressed into the finale and set up the next season.  I know that they officially list the events of season three unfolding two years before Rogue One and Episode IV, but I can’t help but think there will be a general progression of events to bring that point about sooner.  Maybe have the Battle of Scarif be the mid-season event?  Or even to start the season?  I like the midseason idea myself, but I really don’t think the season will end there.

My theory is that the opening of the season will involve Kanan and Ezra learning about Jedi connections on Yavin 4, Hera getting a promotion, a couple of quick checks on Sabine, some missions for Agent Kallus as he adjusts to working with the Rebels directly–maybe working with Cassian Andor and K-2SO?–with the Battle of Scarif and the Death Star coming about in the middle of the season.  After that, Mandalore.  I think the Darksaber history will be revisited as Kanan and Ezra continue their journey.  Maybe even some explanation of Ahsoka Tano’s fate?  I saw some speculation that Episode VIII will have some connections to the Old Republic stories, so it would not necessarily be surprising to see some of that occur in Rebels.  Especially since a lot of that history that has been confirmed involves Mandalore.

So that’s my prediction.  The group will be straight off to Mandalore after the battle of Scarif and that’s the big arc and focus for the season.

Been playing a lot of Overwatch.  Making it a goal to play at least one hour as each character.  That could take awhile.

  • Started getting serious again with the Order of the Dragon stuff.  Drawing it out in pencil, rather than on the computer.  I just like the feel of it better.  Going to try to do more of a hybrid workflow.  The mix has worked well in other projects, I’m hoping for the same here.  I always found a more hybrid approach more appealing, as there are some details that I can get better in pencil and some I can get better digitally.  If I have what I consider to be a healthy start, I might start posting new pages in the next week or two.  That’s kinda dependent on me stopping with Overwatch long enough.
  • Still giving some thought to bringing back Chlorine and Acid in some form, just want to make sure I get it right.  One of my main goals with that–and in writing here–is to get some more self-evaluation going.  I might be too open and honest at times, but there is a goal at work.  Try to share the ideas that will help people grow.  I feel like that I failed that in the first go around, but I wonder if a more focused attempt might work for the comic.
  • So I heard there will be Star Wars: Rebels Season Four.  Is there enough story left to tell?  I mean, I feel like the storylines for each character are wrapping up now–we got the freaking Obi-Wan and Maul showdown coming up–and the Rebel Alliance has essentially been formed.  I just have to wonder if there is going to be enough story to tell and if it is really going to justify a fourth season.
  • So I live the next town over from Middlebury, where there were protests recently about Charles Murray’s speaking engagement and a professor was injured in the course of events.  I am honestly not that familiar with his views, but those I am aware of are ones I don’t necessarily agree with.  I get the impression that his beliefs influence his research and potentially skew it.  Not to fault having beliefs, but there are times when beliefs can interfere with your ability to observe, think and develop ideas.  I would personally prefer to see people challenge his ideas than resort to violence, but I can understand the strong feelings.
  • Freedom of Speech should be about ideas, but do when certain individuals aren’t really bringing ideas, should they be entitled to a platform?  Is Murray really bringing ideas to the table?  Was Milo Yiannopoulos anything more than an exploited and troubled individual?  (Not to dismiss anything he said, but I do think there are some real personal issues at work there)

One thing I find myself thinking about more lately is problem solving.  In particular, the desire and preference for the fast solution or the “Quick Fix.”  This has been something I’ve noticed at work lately, as there has been a lot more… micromanaging in the cheese production process.  I won’t get very technical or detailed about it, but there has been a lot of small adjustments that might solve one problem, but in the end only create two or three more.

I see this more and more in the news lately.  Take Trump’s Wall on the Mexican border.  Does it really solve anything?  Drugs are still going to come in.  A wall isn’t going to do a damn thing to stop that.  Most of the “criminals” are already well established here.  Undocumented workers?  They are what keep a lot of agricultural industry going.  They are the dishwashers.  I don’t see a lot of Americans lining up to do these jobs.  It might be a short term solution, but doesn’t it just create more problems and cost even more billions later on to maintain the wall?

I’m reminded of what Yoda said about the Dark Side being stronger–another case in which that puppet had more wisdom than most people–in Empire Strikes Back, when he said, “No, no, no.  Quicker, easier, more seductive.”  The point I see in that is that quick fix might seem easier and more seductive, but doesn’t it lead to more problems in the end?

In another life, with an ex, we had a couple of fish tanks.  Each had probably five or six fish and my ex had suggested we get more fish.  Personally, I was never really that interested in fish and we did struggle to keep them alive.  I told her this and she was a bit miffed.  I suggest the idea of getting a dog at that point, being something I had an interest in doing at the time.  She ignored the suggestion and brushed it off, and I didn’t really bring it up again.

As serious of a step as that would have been, there were a myriad of issues that needed to be solved.  We could have gotten a puppy.  We could have gotten ponies if it made her happy.  Or more fish.  But would it have done that?  It would have been the same deal with proposing.  Yes, we could have done it, but would it have made a difference if she didn’t want to deal with those other issues?  I mean, I lost count of the number of times I said, “we’ll talk when you’re ready” only to have her never really want to talk about anything.  In a lot of ways, her quick fix of breaking up saved me from dealing with her drama, but I doubt it really solved any of her problems.

In general, I do find that the quick fixes are more detrimental to the long term than people like to think.  One thing I’ve been doing more of lately is thinking about the long term.  Have the long term goals clear and defined.  My mother asked me the other day if I had “given up” on trying to be a writer.  Given up?  Fuck no.  Admittedly the mental toll of working nights has caught up to me and I’m a bit more sidetracked, but that’s temporary.  I’m thirty, I got plenty of time.  If I leave my current job, I want to make sure its a better situation, which is the only reason I’m still there.  I haven’t set up the better, long term situation.

Speaking Truth

February 10, 2017

I was reading something the other day about how Tom Perez and his bungling a comment about last year’s Democratic Primary.  He acknowledged that the primary process was rigged against Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton and that the next DNC Chair Person would have to be “honest” and “transparent” to succeed.  Then he essentially retracted the statement, stating that he “misspoke”.  Or rather the party elders and establishment got wind of it and voiced their disapproval.  Cue the groaning and eye-rolling.  He was right the first time.

I’m trying to be a little less political, but this article I read kind of fits with my general train of thought on a number of matters.  Our whole political system needs an influx of new ideas.  Why do you think Bernie Sanders, the Green Party and the Libertarian Party had such a significant impact on the election last year?  However, those ideas cannot be expected to flourish if truth cannot be acknowledged.

One of the overarching themes I’ve tried to deal with in my writing this blog has been the “Idea of Ideas” and how important it is to always embrace new ideas and information.  When it comes to truth, I often quote Obi-Wan Kenobi from Return of the Jedi.  In explaining his misleading account of what happened to Luke’s father, Kenobi states that “Many of the Truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”  I keep throwing that line out there, but it is a good line.

Ideas were a focus of mine here, but how we regard those ideas is also worth looking at.  Truth and belief can be subjective, but they can inspire ideas.  I will admit that something I’ve struggled with is knowing when to challenge people’s truths and ideas.  Where the lines are drawn.  I have disregarded a myriad of them, but sometimes that needs to happen too.  Although I would hope my writing here does occasionally inspire people to look at their beliefs, ideas and truths from a different perspective, I don’t claim absolute authority on right or wrong here.  I’m sure there a number of opinions on that.  I simply hope I challenged some truths and some new ideas came as a result of them.  Even if it is just an expanded perception, I think it would be a benefit.

Regardless of the situation, ideas and truth need to be challenged.

Been thinking about doing a recurring thing about comics lately.  I still get my newstands mailed to me every month, so might as well do some review type stuff.  Right now I’m collecting the following titles:

Marvel: Thor, Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Hulk, Star Wars, Star Wars: Poe Dameron, and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra.  I’ve been cutting back on the Marvel a bit, mostly keeping the Star Wars titles.  I’ve really liked what Thor is doing lately and the first issue of Hulk was actually pretty decent.

DC: Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Scooby: Apocalypse, All-Star Batman, Batgirl, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and the Flash.   I’d collect more DC titles like Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Superman, but there have been some need to keep to a budget.  Scooby: Apocalypse is fascinating if only for the reimagining of the gang in a post-apocalyptic hell-scape.

Others (Image, Dynamite, IDW, Titan, etc.):  East of West, Sex Criminals, Doctor Who (4th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors), My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friends Forever, Insexts, and James Bond.  Kinda kicking myself for not collecting the Torchwood series, but probably should cut back the number of books.  A lot of these are just odd ball series I collect because I’m intrigued by the creative teams, etc.  I used to get the MLP stuff for my ex, but I actually do like reading them and it is one of better all ages books out there.  Might try to complete the run and collect the series at some point.

 

I’ve collected others but there have been a few cuts of late.  Some were series that just came to their own conclusions–Darth Vader, Han Solo, A-Force, etc.–and others that just have lost me or had to be dropped for budget reasons.

The biggest one that’s lost me is Captain America.  I collected that book for a long time.  First there was Ed Brubakers run with the character and his spin-off work with the Winter Soldier, which was fantastic.  He did an amazing job of bringing the spy noir quality back to the character and much of his influence has been felt in the Winter Soldier and Civil War movies.  After that, the title was followed up with Rick Remender taking over as writer.  He brought it more to a traditional superhero story and played a lot more with the “Man Out of Time” aspect of the character.  That period also featured Sam Wilson becoming Captain America and a more team dynamic.

Which brings us to the present.  After the “Secret Wars” event, Remender concluded his work at Marvel and the Captain America title was turned over to a new writer, Nick Spencer.  Sam Wilson was still Cap, as Steve Rogers had been aged after his encounter with a supervillain called the Nail.  This led to a more interesting take on the character that started out with Sam Wilson trying to take a more socially aware approach.  This involved intervening when a number of illegal immigrants were being abducted by members of a terrorist group called Sons of Serpent.  His actions put him at odds with Steve Rogers who is a high ranking member of SHIELD and he finds himself a bit more on his own.  Then the events of Avengers: Standoff! unfold and Steve Rogers is restored to his younger self and we go straight into the secret agent of Hydra nonsense.

The basic premise of Avengers: Standoff! was that somebody leaked the existence of a SHIELD black site, called Pleasant Hill.  At work there was a sentient cosmic cube in the form of a little girl calling itself Kobik who is essentially brainwashing and altering villains to live peacefully in the idyllic little town.  When all the heroes go to investigate she loses control and the villains revolt, led by Baron Zemo.  As events unfold, elderly Steve Rogers finds himself face to face with Crossbones who begins to beat him to death.  At this point Kobik intervenes and restores Rogers’ youth and strength.  Later it is revealed that the Red Skull has made contact with Kobik and when she restored his youth, he is altered to believe he has always been a Hydra operative in service of the Red Skull.

Even before the obnoxius Deus Ex Machina aspects of Kobik and the Red Skull having Professor X’s mental abilities–a completely different storyline that annoys me–the storyline has fallen off the rails.  Steve Rogers would trust Sam Wilson.  He would trust his friend.  This is before Kobik and the Red Skull did their thing.  Rogers would trust the judgement of his friend.  He would not come down on his friend in the ways he did.  Not even Old Man Rogers would do that.  If he was not going to trust his friend and back him up, why give him the Shield?

So yeah, that’s why I stopped reading Captain America.  For something trying to be socially conscious in its own way, it does not seem will to push things like it should.

Also got my second round of CGC signature series books back  They are as follows:

Fantastic Four #46: signed by Stan Lee, graded at a 5.0.  Came back a bit higher of a grade than I thought it would.  First appearance of Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans.

Fantastic Four #66: signed by Stan Lee, graded at a 7.5.  Hoped for a wee bit higher.  First part of the two part story that Adam Warlock appears in.  Gives his origin.

Fantastic Four #67: Signed by Stan Lee, graded at a 6.5.  Hoped for a bit higher here too, but still a nice book.  Second part of the first Adam Warlock story and his first brief appearance.

Thor #165:  signed by Stan Lee, graded at a 7.0.  First full appearance of Adam Warlock.

Thor #193:  I had gotten this signed at NYCC in 2015, by Gerry Conway and John Romita Sr.  Last issue of Thor that Stan Lee worked on in his original run on the character.  In 2016, I got Stan Lee to sign it.  Came back at a 9.4.

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