New Comics Review (9-29-07)

Woo hoo!  More or less on time for this effort.  Amazing what having no social engagements can do for stuff like this!

Countdown #32,31:  The weekly series continues.  All sorts of fun vignettes to enjoy here.  From various party crashers, to the ongoing stroies of Mary Marvel, Jimmy Olsen, and the Flash Rogues.  I’m some what amazed that DC has been able to keep the pace on this going, more so after 52, their first weekly series.  This is a testament to the writers and editors, who have to be on very strict deadlines.

Countdown to Adventure #2:  More fallout from the space faring tro’s journey home.  Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange must continue to confront things they thought in their past.  The Monarch and Forerunner story arc continues as well, further defining and expanding the Multiverse of the DCU, this time they meet up with JLAxis.

52 Aftermath-The Four Horsemen #2:  The four Apokalyptian entities beging to fully adjust to their new surroundings, and taking over Bialya.  Wonder Woman joins Supes and Bats in the desert, while Snapper Carr listens in.  Not sure if this will tie in with the next crisis, or if it’s just to tie up a loose end from 52.  An intriguing read so far.

Green Arrow and Black Canary-Wedding Special:  So the “day” has finally arrived.  The best page is the collection of other heroes and heroines making their “predictions” on how long it will last, or merely expressing their disbelief that it was happening at all.  A big prelude to Green Arrow/Black Canary #1, the end of this issue is obviusly the set up for the new series.  And what a whopper it is! 

Tales of the Sinestro Corps-Parallax:  Or, What goes on inside Kyle Rayner’s head.  The combination of Ron Marz (writer) and Adrianna Melo (pencils) work well in presenting a very dialogue heavy story.  While not a critical or key issue in the Sinestro War story arc, it is enlightening in many ways.  A solid read if a bit more back story dependent than usual.

Green Arrow-Year One #5:  Ollie goes on the offensive against China White and her thugs.  I still think this series was dragged on an issue or two too long, with one issue to go.  Still, it’s a good read, more so for those who aren’t familiar with Oliver Queen and Green Arrow. 

Justice League of America #13: Dwayne McDuffie gets into his run on the series full swing with this issue.  For anyone who ever watched “Superfriends” on TV, or the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series on TV, this series will have appeal to you.  Be warned, this is not your fondly remembered “Legion of Doom.”  Lex has a plan, and has gathered useful villains to aid him, not just the common dregs. 

Countdown to Mystery #1: Finally we get to find out what happened to the Helemt of Fate, and who will become the new Dr.Fate!  This issue is primarily set up, but it does recap several previous related one shots and scenes from 52, so is worth it for that alone, mroe so if you missed those earlier issues.  There are a couple of interesting twists as well to be found here. 

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1:  The begining of a new 8 issue miniseries featuring the iconic Uncle Sam and his band of heroes.  I’m unclear as to where the creative team of Palmiotti and Gray (Jonah Hex) are taking this.  Issue #2 should hopefully clear up some things and get to the heart of the story.

Wonder Woman Annual (2007):  A wrap up to the Amazon’s Attack story arc.  While a good read, it’s not all that.  The second story, titled appropriately enough “Backstory” is also good, but not spectacular.  Allan Heinberg does an OK job on the scripts, but it just lacks a certain degree of oomph the series needs. 

Flash #232:  More of the “Wild Wests.”  While Mark Waid’s writing is up to par, there’s something about Daniel Arcuna’s art that bugs me.  It’s not the pencils and inks, but the colors that get me.  While the watercolor look may be ok once in a while, on a regular basis I find it distracting.  The cover work is solid, but the panels leave me wanting.

Shadowpact #17:  DC’s “premier” mystic team face more challenges and adjustments as the new age of magic settles into form.  The new story arc opens with new faces signing up, at least for now.  Matt Sturges does a solid script, and because he’s using the Phantom Stranger as his narrator, he gets bonus points.  Doug Brathwiate’s art is solid, but I think he’s trying to be too much like Alex Ross with the painted look.  Not that he pales in comparison or anything, just that I’d like too see something a bit more defining from him.

Checkmate #18:  Shake ups inside Checkmate begin here.  Waller and Faraday may have just bitten off more than they bargained for.  I like Greg Rucka’s style of writing for this series, as it brings out more of the characters while maintaining the action level at an acceptable pace.  Joe Bennett compliments Rucks with his pencils, giving Checkmate the right “feel.”

The Spirit #10:  I so love this series, it’s one I eagerly look forward to.  Darwyn Cooke and J.Bone have such a solid handle on Eisner’s character, that it compares very well with Eisner’s original works.  The two current creators pull very few, if any punches, and this issue is no exception, taking on “talk TV” and TV pundits.  This one is definitely wortha pick up, just for the satire and parodies, even if you never get another issue.

All Star Batman and Robin #7:  The latest from creators Frank Miller and Jim Lee.  While I have enjoyed Miller’s take on the Dark Knight, sometimes his takes on other characters can be a bit too jarring.  I’m not sure I’m sold on his take on Black Canary, or any of the other DC characters.  Still, the focus is on Bats and Robin, which Miller handles very well.  And naturally, Jim Lee’s art is among the industry’s best.

Star Wars- Knights of the Old Republic #20:  Now that the band is more or less back together, things heat up on the Arkanian flag ship.  John Jackson Miller does an admirable job in not only holding tru to Star Wars “canon,” but does an excellent job in expanding that lore.  Any SW fan who is interested in the “before times” of the SW universe would find this series extremely enjoyable, as I do.

Army>at<Love #7:  Rick Veitch has found a solid satyrical story, and characters galore to populate it.  Right from issue 1, this series has been thought provoking, and just a little strange at times.  Still, for those looking for a “mature” (it does get juvenile at points), and intellectually thought provoking read, pick this one up. 

The Programme #3:  A very interesting series, bringing recent history and current events together with a super science twist.  Peter Milligan does a superb job of scripting the series, and CP Smith’s art is right in tune with the subject matter.  However, they need a new colorist for this series, as the almost monochrome panel colors are not carrying the story or the art properly.  A new colorist and this title will reach a wider audience.

Scalped #9:  This series is a gritty look not only at the sitiation on Native American “Reservations,” but into small time organized crime as well.  I do wish I had more knowledge of the spiritual and mystical aspects of the story, as I know I’m missing something here.  The team of Jason Aaron (scripts), and RM Guera (art) are producing one of the better series on the market today.  Though if you only like superheros, this will not be a title for you.

Avengers Classic #4:  Reprinting Avengers #4, the Return of Captain America.  As I’ve said previously, this series is worth the reprint alone.  Dwayne McDuffie scripts a solid back up story revolving around Cap and Gabe Jones, but Micahel Oeming’s art is not worthy of the script, characters, or anything else.  The hyper-stylized art actually adversely effects the story, distracting from a solid script and plotting.

Captain America #30:  If there weren’t so many continuity problems with Marvel, this would be an even better story than it is (even if it’s predicated on Cap dying!).  Ed Brubaker is growing on me as a writer, but I’m not over the death of Cap just yet.  Still, the story lines of the Falcon, Sharon Carter, and Bucky are intriguing enough to keep me reading.  Now if we can just get rid of Brevoort and Quesada, and start over, things will be just swell!

Sub-Mariner #4: Again, forgetting continuity problems, this one is a fun read.  Watching Namor take out Venom (or is it Carnage?  I forget), was worth while, as was our aquatic Prince meeting up with Sue Storm again.  With two issues left in this miniseries, it’s building up to a very hectic and dramatic ending.

Avengers- The Initiative #6:  I was going to drop this title, but some message board posts encouraged me to pick it up anyway.  I may just see this current story thorugh if it ends quickly enough.  If it drags out too long, I’ll drop it anyway,and read the boards for the conclusion.  I just don’t care for the characters, or the main story, but this little attempted murder mystery may hold me for a few more issues.

World War Hulk-Frontline #4:  The best WWH tie in, just as it was the best tie in to Civil War.  I really wish Marvel would make this title a regular ongoing series, as it has so much potential and terrific characters.  Between the Frontline staffers and the Costume Division back up stories, this is perhaps the best read of any Marvel title, not just in terms of being a WWH tie in.

World War Hulk #4:  The end is almost here.  And  I think I’m more than ready for it to end.  This would probably have been better, much like Civil War, if Marvel wouldn’t be so political, and obviusly so in the scripts and plots.  This is not going to end well, though teh Sentry’s overcoming his agoraphobia to enter the fray amy have some hope of a solid ending.

World War Hulk-Gamma Corps #3: Ummm, yeah.  What’s the purpose of this series again?  It’s not that the scripts or art are bad, they’re pretty good, but you can’t make peanutbutter pancakes out of sludge.  The whole concept of this series is fatally flawed, and it’s just not carrying through.  Would have been better served as a back up story in the main WWH title, or in the regular Hulk title.

Civil War Chronicles #3:  This one reprints Frontline #2-4.  For getting in essence three issues for $4.99 (where each individual one cost $2.99), it is a bit of a deal.  And if you missed CW when it first ran, these are excellent pick ups.

Penance-Relentless:  This one may be coming out a bit too late to properly gel with the end of Civil War, but it’s not a bad read.  I’m not sold on the Thunderbolts (Marvel’s answer to the Suicide Squad), and I’m definitely not feeling Norman Osbourne as the head of it.  But the journey of Robbie Baldwin (formerly of the New Warriors) is intriguing, and I’m curious to see how it plays out.

Mystic Arcan-Scarlet Witch:  I really couldn’t care less about the Ian McNee story.  I get these for the stories featuring the title characters (previously Magik and Black Knight).  The Scarlet Witch story is an interesting bit of retcon to continuity, but enjoyable none the less.  Plus it’s nice to see C-List villains like Damballah back on the scene.

Judge Dredd Megazine Meg 262:  I’m surprised that the 2000AD writers didn’t sneak in a Messerschmit reference in this issue.  Or if they did, I missed it.  As this is the only Brit comic magazine I can get currently on a regular basis, I look forward to it when it comes in.  As an anthology magazine, with stories from a variety of writers, artists, and featuring various characters, it offers up a wider variety of stuff than traditional comics.  In addition, you get a different take on some industry related things, such as movies, and different takes on other writers and artists.  This issue is interesting in that it has a brief bio of Garth Ennis, as well as a bit of history on British comics.

No new TBPs or collections this time around.  I have yet to finish reading Cerebus-High Society, so once I’m done with that, I’ll get the next volume.  Also the LCS didn’t have volume 3 of the 52 TPBs, so I’ll be cruising for that as well.

More fun quizes

Found this one by trolling through the wordpress Tag surfer option.

 http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/candidate-match-game.htm

It’s a simple, and simplistic quiz of 11 questions.  At the end of the quiz you can adjust the weight of the various topics to fine tune the match.  I’m sure some of you will find a surprise or two by taking this little quiz.

For the record, and no surprise, my top match was John McCain, followed by Rudy and Fred.

My what an interesting week so far

So much frivolous crap to get through so far.  We got political fireworks, NY style, nut jobs in the city (no it’s no Bloomberg), militant Frenchmen (apparently they still exist), college students with little common sense, and all sorts of other time wasting “news.”

So let’s get to the “big story.”  Mahmoud Amadenijad was in NYC to address the UN General Assembly.  Oh, and that little speaking engagement at Columbia University.  What a joke that circus was.  But before he even arrived here, President Tom, as Glenn Beck calls him, was making noises about visiting Ground Zero.  I was tempted to say let him visit, but only if he walks from his hotel to the site.  Now that would have been an entertaining “reality show.”  However, cooler heads prevailed, and the authorities wisely declined to allow him to do so.

So, we have the fiasco at Columbia, and it was a fiasco.  First we have Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia backing up a temporary Dean, who had defended the invite with such idiotic statements as “I’d have invited Hitler.”  Lovely.  Bollinger then tries to salvage his image by attacking President Tom in his opening remarks.  As far as attacks go, this one was pretty tepid, and hardly effected the “guest of honor” in any appreciable way.

So the Tom gets to speak.  The usual rhetoric and denials ensue, as well as a few words of support for some of the more outlandish conspiracy theories out there.  About the only thing he didn’t do was quote from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” but I’m sure he has a copy of that bit of trash in his “library.”  Then, what should have been the fun and entertaining portion of this production, the Q&A part, gets cut short due to “scheduling issues.”  Uh-huh.  Sure it was.  He failed to answer any question, and ducked out when it got too hot for him.

So then it was on to the UN.  If you ever wondered what an Islamic fundamentalist TV preacher looked or sounded like, watch President Tom’s speach to the UN.  He rambled all over the place, bouncing from slamming the USA to quoting scriptures to “science” to this that and the other thing.  It was like watching an uncharismatic, Islamic version of Jim Baker.  All he needed was Tammy Faye in a burkha.  This guy is nuts.  He’s not dangerous, as I believe that even the Grand Council of Ayatollahs think he’s a loose cannon.  So, when the next elections come, fully expect him to be ousted.

A last note on this debacle.  All the media are focusing on how the US delegation’s seats were empty, except for a lone female note taker.  I’m kinda hoping she was a lesbian, just to add insult to insult to Amadenijad.  But there were many others who declined to sit for his ramblings, and some who left during his little talk.  I don’t have a full list, but I did see that Latvia’s seats were growing cold, and even the French delegation was a few bodies short.  Oh, and the Seychelles had one guy there, who I swear fell asleep sometime in the middle of the rant.

Moving on, it seems that the new French President, Nikolas Sarkozy, is feeling his oats.  First he threatens Iran with potential military action (bet that scared the Democrats!), and then goes and gets the Germans to push for tougher sanctions.  I doubt Putin will back Iran in this instance, more likely to try and grab the Northern areas around Tabriz to help shore up the Russian economy.  In addition, Sarkozy is also making some moves, quietly, to try and curb Arab immigration from trouble spots like Algeria and Lebanon.  I doubt that will go too far, but he can always use Jean Marie LePen as his scape goat.  LePen is good for that (if not much else).

Meanwhile, back in the good ole US of A, we have idiots galore.  First there was the smear campaign against Gen. Petreaus.   Which of course was subsidized by MoveOn.org and the NY Times.  It was furthered by Hillary Clinton, who continued in the same vein, but in more diplomatic terms in her opening statement in the hearings.  Somehow, she expects to become CinC, that is the President, and have the military follow her orders, yet cuts down the very people who would execute those orders.  Not smart Ice Queen.

Then we’ve got idiot students, in college no less, whose obvious lack of common sense has hurt themselves.  There was the goofball in Florida who got tasered during a speach by John Kerry.  Funny really, as it was John Kerry speaking, and this eejit was a Kerry supporter.  Still, he deserved what he got, as he should have known what would happen.

Then there’s the bozo in Colorado and his four word “editorial” using a four letter word.  For some reason, he thought there would be no consequencs for his actions.  A student petition to force his resignation is already being readied for presentation, advertisers in the paper are pulling out, and the University has a PR nightmare to deal with.  Good going dunder head, never had a thought about “collateral damage” did ya?  What’s worse is that there are people already trying to take political advantage of this, not for purposes of defending free speach, but to hijack it for other purposes.  It’s a sad statement not only about the state of “higher education” in this country, but as a society as a whole.

Now there’s the ongoing saga of a bully-boy governor and his cronies trying to take out a political rival.  Yes, I speak of Eliot Spitzer and Troopergate.  This one is not going to just go away as so many Democrats would like.  Opinion polls clearly indicate that the people of the State of New York, to the tune of 70%, want the Guv and his cohorts to testify under oath on the scandal, something that only the State Senate’s Investigative Committee is doing by issuing subpoenas.  The AG didn’t do it, the IG surely wasn’t going to do it, and Albany DA David Soares was pressured (as reported in the NY Post, NY Daily News, and Schenectady Gazette) into not doing so, the State Ethics Commission (recently packed with Spitzer partisans) is unlikely to do so.  I even doubt the State Senate would have, had the acting Superintendent of the State Police not refused to testify.

A bit more on the David Soares issue.  It seems (from the same reports cited earlier), that not only did the Guv put pressure on Soares not to put his underlings under oath, but also pressured Soares’ office to rush the report out the door.  To be fair, Soares’ Public Integrity Unit is understaffed and over worked, and thus is very vulnerable to outside pressure.  Still, the 80 page report was shoddy at best, and disgraceful at worst.  It parroted a lot of the AG’s report, but absolved all of the Guv’s hirelings of any worngdoing, criminal or ethical.  Compared to the AG’s report, which cited ethical violations, but no criminal ones.  Can you say “whitewash” boys and girls?  I knew you could.

But wait, there’s more!  The Senate minority leader, Malcolm Smith just had to stoke the fires a bit.  I’m sure he’ll get a call from Eliot about his grandstanding.  You see, Malcolm Smith is an ambitious man.  He wants to control the State Senate (unlikely), and be one of the top dawgs in the State.  And he came across as exactly that in his press conference.  First he attacks Joe Bruno and the Senate Investigation, which would have been fine, except he couldn’t leave it at that.  Instead, he just had to pipe up and say that if Joe couldn’t “do the business of the state” then he would be happy to take control and do so.  Uh-huh, sure thing Malcolm.  I’m quite sure that your little display of peacock feathers will earn you a “just shut up” call from Eliot and Shelly Silver. 

On a more “philosophical and intellectual” note (HA!), there were two interesting articles in last weeks Irish Echo (vol 80 no 38).  First off is one on the future plans of Fianna Fail, the leading Irish political party at the moment.  It seems that FF is now planning on conducting political operations in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland, in a likely partnership with the SDLP.  This would make them the second party with operations in all 32 counties, matching Sinn Fein.  That is if Bertie Ahern can weather another money scandal.  Still, I find it to be an indicator of things to come.  If Fianna Fail is seeing a real opportunity in the Six, and wants to genuinely be an all Ireland party, then the future may held hold a full reconcilliation of the island, as well as a full reunification.

The other article was bit more thought provoking.  Larry Kirwan (Black47), has taken up his word processor for some commentaries for the Echo.  This time around, he speaks of geography and history, how the two go hand in hand, and the lack of knowledge of either, not only in the USA (where it’s most glaring), but around the world as well. 

It is true that some 60% of Americans can’t find Iraq on a blank map.  Even though it’s on TV every night.  They also have little clue about what happened 10 years ago, let alone the full history of the region, or even their own country.  Kirwan correctly points out that geography and history go together.  One should inevitably lead to the other.  On this, I am in full agreement with Larry, but I find his other conclusions to be faulty.

I don’t always agree with Larry.  In fact it is rare when I do so, at least when it comes to politics.  He seems to be of the opinion that more knowledge of geography and history would have somehow prevented the current war in Iraq, and somehow prevent a potential war with Iran (gotta calm those French down!).  I must disagree with this assessment.  I would say that is because of history that we must continue in Iraq.  While what Kirwan says sounds good in a 750 word op-ed piece, and makes for a good sound bite on TV or Radio, it is hardly a solid and cogent assessment. 

That region has been dominated by one empire or another since the Biblical days.  Be it Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Assyrians, Mongols, Ottomans, Hittites, or British, they have all had their turn at the wheel.  The region has also been home to various ethnic struggles, often resulting in mass exoduses or executions.  This too has been going on since the Biblical era. 

Kirwan suggests that we could have just let the change come “organically” from with in.  While this can, and I believe will happen in Iran, it was not going to happen in Iraq.  You see, Kirwan ignores his history here.  Saddam was paranoid, to a Stalinist extreme.  The difference between Uncle Joe and Saddam was that Saddam didn’t care how useful you were.  If you were a potential threat to his power, or could become one, he had you killed.  Didn’t much matter who you were, or where you were from, though if you were Shi’a or Kurdish, your family went with you.  This effectively killed any sort of domestic leadership other than Saddam from emerging.  We waited 12 years for someone to emerge as a potential replacement.  It didn’t happen.  Instead we got the very real, and highly probable outcome that when Saddam went, his two psycho sons would vie for control of the country.  Neither of these two nit wits were capable of leading lemmings off a cliff, so it would have devolved into a genuine civil war (what we have now is far from being a civil war).  We would have been forced to intervene, if only to try and contain the conflict so it did not draw in Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran into a larger conflict.  No, in my opinion, it was best that we went in before that happened, where we would have some degree of control over the outcome.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  So is a lot.” – Albert Einstein

Football Football Football!

Well, we’re two weeks into the NFL season, and already there have been some surpises.

Break up the Lions!  I laughed heartily when John Kitna said that Detroit would win 10 games this year.  I may have to choke that laugh down now.  The Lion’s are 2-0, though they haven’t played anyone that impressive.  They beat a hapless Raiders, and a struggling Minnesota.  Though Adrian Peterson will be a star in the league.  The best star for Detroit has to be first round pick Calvin Johnson, who is having an outstanding start to his career.  We’ll see if Detroit is for real after they face Philly and Chicago.

Speaking of 2-0 suprises, what’s up with the Texans?  I’m sure Atlanta is seriously regretting trading away Matt Schaub.  Houston faces Indianapolis next week, so we’ll see how the Texans fare against an elite team.  Nice to see Mario Williams finally showing what he’s capable of.

It’s going to be a long season in Atlanta and Oakland and Minnesota.  This is not to mention the soap opera that is the NY Giants.  The Vikings and Giants will get better as the season goes on, provided they can avoid major injuries.  Oakland and Atlanta will take much, much longer. 

There are just as many 0-2 surpises as there are 2-0.  Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and San Diego are all in this category.  Philly lost last night to Washington of all teams.  KC has been beat on, and the Chargers just caren’t living up to expectations.  So much for Marvin Lewis being the defensive genius.  Giving up 51 points to the Browns, the Browns of all teams (!), is mind boggling.  Even worse, is that the Bengals scored 45, and lost. 

My Cowboys are now 2-0.  Still have some worries about the defense, but Romo and the offense look very solid.  The two pronged rushing attack of Julius Jones and Marion Barber should provide enough of a pressure release to allow Romo to hit Jason Whitten and Terrel Owens.  If the defense steps it up a notch, look for Big D to be back in the Super Bowl.

Here’s to hoping Brett Favre has a nice swan song season.  While the team is 2-0, game 1 was not what Green Bay is capable of.  Expect GB to be in the play offs, more so with such a weak division, even with the Lion’s unbelievable start. 

Pittsburgh is not yet for real.  So far they’ve played Cleveland and Buffalo, so haven’t been truly tested just yet.  Let;s see what they do against a tougher opponent.  The NY Jets suck.  That’s it.  Eric Mangini is not the super-coach he was made out to be last year.  This year is the proff to that.  Buffalo is just as bad.  Maybe if they had a real QB, they might be able to do something, but JP Losman is not that QB. 

 Forget spy-gate.  Bill Belichick is still the best coach in the NFL right now.  Sunday’s drubbing of the Chargers was ample proof of that.  Brady was Brady, and I think we should be checking for pods in Randy Moss’ basement. 

Still need to wait to see who will emerge in the NFC West.  Arizona is looking surprisingly good, as are the 49er’s.  St.Louis is bad, but could squeak out the division, and Seattle is looking pretty Jeckyll and Hyde, as Shaun Alexander is just not what he used to be.

In the NFC South, a sub-.500 team could win the division, though I suspect that Carolina will get its act together.  The disaster that is the New Orleans Saints is a bit of a shock.  For a team that was the darling of the NFL, and captured the imagination of the nation last year, and was the feel good story, they have fallen hard.  It’s partly defenses figuring out Sean Payton’s offense, and part of it is a lack of drive by the players.  They may rebound, but don’t expect mroe than a .500 season from them. 

Let’s see who I haven’t mentioned.  Well there is Miami, Jacksonville, Tennesee, and Chicago.  Miami is competing for the #1 pick with Oakland and the Jets.  Tennesee could be interesting.  They play Indianapolis tough, and Vince Young is an emerging star.  Jacksonville?  Too much instability on offense to really go anywhere this year.  Now the Bears are a tale of two teams.  The defense, which is perhaps the best in the NFL, and the offense which is perhaps one of the worst in the NFL.  The Bears will only go as far as their defense will carry them.  Rex Grossman is not for real, and will cost the Bears with turn overs.  Plus, there isn’t anyone for him to toss (he can’t throw) to, nor is there a running game that anyone except the Falcons need to worry about. 

Of course, we’re only two weeks in, and everything can change from week to week. 

New Comics Review (9-18-07)

Much closer to ontime this week.  Cleaning out the garage and tearing up carpets put a bit of a crimp in my online time.  So, let’s get to it…

Countdown #34 and 33:  Things begin to pick up again in this series.  The Flash Rogues, Jimmy Olsen, Mary Marvel, Holly Robinson, and the search for Ray Palmer all move along nicely.  The interesting thing is how Kyle Rayner fits in to the Ray Palmer arc, and when in terms of continuity.  The back up origins of Lex Luthor and the Riddler are nice synopses.

The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1:  The The team looking to track down Ray Palmer leaves the Palmerverse, and starts moving across the 52 alternate realities.  First stop is universe #50, which is the home of the Wildstorm imprint characters.  Appearances by the likes of the Authority and Wetworks.  If for nothing else, this series will establish which universes are which. 

Black Canary Wedding Planner: OK, this may not seem like a “guys” comic.  But if you are one of those people who have ever been married, or been involved in planning a wedding, you will find great humor in this issue.  Sure, it’s got that super hero twist to it, but in so many ways it’s so mundane as to be “normal.”  Married readers will find this brings back many memories.  Others, who have not had that experience, will get far less out of it.

Justice League of America-Wedding Special: More lead up to the Green Arrow-Black Canary Wedding.  This issue has a lot, and I mean a lot, of story set up in it.  While not strictly needed to understand where these prologues are going, but it’s nice to have.  Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited animated series), uses this issue to set up more of his run on Justice League of America, from his line up to story arcs.  Older fans, and anyone who watched Saturday morning cartoons between 1970-1982 will find a lot of “fan service” here.

Green Lantern #23:  How much more praise can I heap upon Geoff Johns?  The Sinestro Corps War reaches part 5, with all sorts of great imagery and back story references.  Casual fans will not get many of these, but it’s not needed to understand the story.  A big twist at the end may change the whole nature of the GLC forever.  This may perhaps be the best series in comicdom today.

Booster Gold#2:  Geoff Johns may be the best creative comic writer since Stan Lee.  He’s taken a C-List character in Booster Gold, and transformed him into a great character with depth and a future, not just a throw away character.  The time travelling aspect will allow for some interesting character interactions, as well as insights into existing characters and story arcs.

Black Adam #2: I’m really liking what they’re doing with Teth-Adam since his “episode” resulting in the WW3 story arc.  Though what role Felix Faust will play in this 6 issue melodrama is anyone’s guess at this point.  I have the feeling that several not seen in a while characters will play an important role in this miniseries.

Wonder Girl #1: I picked this one up out of curiosity.  I’ve liked J. Torres’ other stuff, but this one falls a bit short IMO.  Sanford Greene’s art work doesn’t help, as it’s a bit too “cartoony” for what is to be a main line title.  I’m just not feeling this one.  I’ll see what my daughter thinks of it.  It may just have a greater appeal to a younger audience.

infinity inc #1: John Henry Irons, aka Steel, continues to investigate the results of Lex Luthor’s everyman project.  Between his niece Natasha, Gerome McKenna (Nuklon), and Erik Storn (Fury), he has plenty of subjects.  Peter Milligan has a chance to revive several almost forgotten secondar characters with this series.  It has a lot of potential, and I hope it gets pulled off.

Trials of Shazam! #8: The trial of Atlas this time.  Not only does Freddy Freman need to step into the shoes of Atlas, but there’s more to it.  Like many others, I’d like to see this title come out on the original schedule, but it’s worth the wait.  Judd Winick has done an excellent job so far, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out, and how it will tie into the Mary Marvel and Black Adam stories.

Justice Society of America #9: More goodness from master scribe Geoff Johns.  This issue begins a new story arc for the JSA, one harkening back to one of the better miniseries ever produced, Kingdom Come.  New fans will want to get this previous series, just to get the whole story, but it’s well worth it.

Suicide Squad #1: A new miniseries to resurrect Amand Waller’s super secret hit squad of bad guys working for the government.  Current and former members are brought back together for a “one shot” mission to see if a fallen comrade is still alive.  The action is pretty good, with the Russian “People’s Heroes” and the opening back story segment.  Should be a fun 8 issue run.

Jonah Hex #23:  Who says westerns are dead?  The team of Palmiotti and Gray once again deliver with this title.  Our narrator for this story is a school teacher who once traveled with our favorite bounty hunter.  In many aspects this is a typical Hex story, but the use of using a non-regular character to tell the story makes it much different. 

Batman Confidential #9:  This one is a great read.  Carrying on with the “origin” of the Joker.  I’m really liking how Michael Green is playing out the transformation of a robber to a psychopathic sociopath.  It’s also interesting to see how the actions and reactions effect not only the Joker to be, but Bats and his circle as well.

Thor #3:  This issue bought it a few more purchases on my part.  While not a terrific issue, it ends with a typical JMS smarmy speach, it did give it some hope for improvement.  Oliver Copiel’s art is the best thing about this series, but it won’t be enough to sustain it.  While a distinct improvement over the first two issues, I hope someone else takes over this title and takes it to where it could, and should be.  Oh, and continuity is once again in dire jeopardy.

Captain America- The Chosen #1:  I’m unsire where David Morrell is going with this, but that’s not a bad thing right now.  With all the back lash from Marvel killing off Cap, this may be one of the options to “bring him back.”  I’m not sure where this falls into contunuity, or if it does at all, but there seems to be some tie in to when Cap lay dying.  This could be one of the best series Marvel has done in a long time, if it’s handled right at the end.

Moon Knight #12:  I think that Charlie Huston needs to reign in his style a bit.  It’s not that holding three story lines is a problem, but with two having several similarities, it gets a tad confusing.  More so as time lines and story orders are unclear.  Still, I enjoy this series, as Huston has a good grasp of the character, and all his issues. 

Ghost Rider #15:  Hobb’s choice takes on a whole new meaning in this issue.  Johnny Blaze/Zarathos continue their quest to take on Lucifer and his component bits.  However, two new players are about to make their appearance on the scene.  Daniel Way and company have revitalized a character that had not been handled especially well since the mid 1980’s.

Death Dealer #4: Two thirds of the way through this take on Frank Frazetta’s character.  Nat Jones has created a very worthy take on the Frazetta painting, and has carried the story well so far.  In some aspects, this harkens back to when Frazetta was working on comics in the 50’s, especially the fantasy series.  It should also be noted that Image is coming out with 5 more titles based on Frazetta works.  If they are as good as Death Dealer, they will be worth the pick up.

Lone Ranger #8: Along with Jonah Hex and titles like Loveless, the Western comic is far from dead.  Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello have brought a solid sense of story and character to this title, which I have found immensely enjoyable since issue #1.  I’m kind of hoping that Dynamite will pick up the “legacy” character of the Green Hornet with the same team.  That is if they survive long enough as a business.

DMZ #23: Having just complete the Friendly Fire arc, creator Brian Wood takes us on a journey with a “regular” resident of the Zone.  This is not a ground breaking story, but it does offer a nice look into the lives of others besides our main characters.  One of the best scripted and plotted series out there, even if over looked by many.

Groo- Silver Anniversary Special: Woo hoo!  New Groo material from Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier.  Groo is one of those odd ball characters that just make for a great read.  While Dave Sim’s Cerebus was more ironic, Groo is just plain silly fun.  Think Conan with less brain power, more invincibility, and a serious case of bad luck and timing.  One of the most fun reads I’ve had in a long while. 

 Speaking of Dave Sim and Cerebus, I picked up volume two of the Cerebus collections.  This volume, titled “High Society” compiles issues 26-50, and chronicles Cerebus’ continued stay in Iest under the employ of Lord Julius.  This is a genre that is sorely lacking in today’s comics.  Someone needs to pick up the slack left by the likes of Dave Sim, Sergio Aragones, and Fred Hembeck.

Back in two weeks folks!

9-11 Six Years On

It’s been six years since I got a slew of phone calls that September morning.  It started a period of about six months I barely recall with any clarity now.  But that day is one I do remember with crystal clarity. 

 On that morning, I was asleep.  I work over nights, and had only gotten home at around 6:30 AM, dragging as usual.  Everything seemed normal, my daughter (not yet 5 at that time), was sound alseep, and wouldn’t get up untill 10 or so.  My wife was off to work shortly after I got home.  All I wanted was sleep.

The first call came at around 8:50.  I let the machine pick up, half listening to the simple message: “Turn on the TV, there’s something interesting happening.”  I thought “yeah, whatever, I’ll catch it later.”  Less than five minutes later, another call, and I again let the machine pick up.  “Turn on the TV, a plane hit the World Trade Center.”  At that point I grabbed the phone, and turned on the TV.  I tuned in just in time to watch the second plane hit the South Tower.  For the next 3-4 days, either the TV in the living room or the bedroom was on.

The converstaion I had at that moment, while long in terms of time, was short on words.  My first statement, after hello was “That was intentional” referring to the second plane.  Then came word of the Pentagon, then of United 93 going down in Pennsylvania.  My mind was racing a mile a minute.  I wasn’t immediately going to the who’s, and how’s and why’s of it all, but was thinking of all the people I knew in NYC, from family to friends, to mere acquaintances. 

A few quick calls assured me that all the family was safe.  Word had gotten out despite the clogged lines of communications from and to NYC.  So I went online, sending out emails to about a dozen different people.  I did this while I watched the Towers collapse on CNN and ABC news. 

Responses came dribbling in.  Most were the “we’re safe and OK” variety.  Most.  I got one from the commissioner of a Strat league I was in at that time.  One of our members, a guy I had been chatting with online, was missing at the Towers.  The email was short: “Ken’s missing at the World Trade Center collapse.”  This one hit home, as I had just been IM’ing with Ken the previous day, talking some trade possibilities, and how much the Yankees were over rated.

Then came what I can only describe as a panic email from Ken’s wife, Katrina.  I will summarize the details here:

Ken’s among the missing.  Please call his pager at XXX-XXX-XXXX.  Maybe they’ll be able to hear it, and get to him.

I emailed back that I would, and I’d make sure everyone that was involved in the league, and few beyond would get this message.  Our league commissioner had already done so, but I did it anyway.

This was one of those heart over mind moments.  I had watched the Towers collapse on TV.  I my head I knew that few, if any, had survived it.  Yet there was hope, faint and futile as it may have been. So I called the pager.  I called once every half hour.  I kept checking my email hoping for a “you can stop now, I’m fine” message.  It never came.

Over the next week or two, I watched the lists of names of those who had died.  I bought the NY Post and Daily News to get the latest lists.  I searched for Ken’s name.  Eventually it was there, Ken Marino, FDNY, Rescue 1.  But there were other names I recognized as well.  The cousin and uncle of a college roommate were on that list as well, one FDNY, the other NYPD.  I had met both on several occasions during that year were roomed together. 

It’s amazing how some things can become so personal, even when you yourself are distanced from the event.  9-11 is one of those things.  There was a statistic put out in October or November of 2001 that said that over 50% of the USA knew someone, or was closely related to someone who died in the attacks.  Now I don’t know how extended they considered being related, but still, that’s a staggering fact. 

I think that my aunt put it best: “Now I understand how people felt when Pearl Harbor was attacked.” 

Ken’s story of that day was well publicized in the NY papers, and beyond.  It even made ESPN, which I’m sure Ken would have found funny, and honoring.  You see, Ken was a huge fan of Ken Griffey jr.  Well, Junior got told of Ken’s story, and promised to take his widow and two kids to the park the next time he was in NY for a game.  That wouldn’t happen until 2002.

So here’s a genuine feel good story from Baseball, one to restore hope that we will get through all the PED stories.  IIRC, it was in June of 2002 when the Reds next came to NY to play the Mets.  It was some 10 months after 9-11, and one could have forgiven Junior if he had forgotten his promise.  But he didn’t.  He came through, and never considered not doing so.  He took Katrina and the kids to Shea, had them meet the players in the club house, gave them autographed memorabilia, and treated them to a day at the park.  Junior showed his class, and what kind of man he truly was that day.  And for one more time, Ken made Sportscenter.

I could go on more about Baseball and those days after 9-11.  From Bud Selig’s tough decision to resume play, to Jack Buck’s empassioned speach in St.Louis, to Mike Piazza’s GW Home Run at Shea in the first game in NY.  But that’ll be for another day.

Today is for Ken Marino, and all the others who died that bright Spetember morning.

They are gone, but not forgotten.  Some of us shall never forget.

Comic Collector Live a Review

I suppose I should do an actual review and assessment of this software, like I promise oh so long ago.

 On the whole, this is perhaps the best collecting software available that is under $150.  It’s even better because the software is free to download.  It has many advantages over similar products out there, and has some of the best customer responsiveness of any software company.  It is very intuitive to use, and is visually easy to see what you’re doing.  Is it perfect?  No, but it’s awful close IMO.

Here are some of the features available:

1. Customizable database.  You only add in what you have, or want.  You are not stuck with catalogue entries of stuff you never heard of, or ever wanted.

2. Customizable reports.  You can generate a report for just about any category you want.  Collected issues, want lists, by title, by publisher, or what not.  It’s far from complete, but what is there is fully usable, and very easy to use.

3. Search functions allow you to search by title, character, story arc, writer, artist, etc.  As of right now you can only do this in titles you have in your personal catalogue, but it will eventually be available when looking to add titles to your catalogue from the master data base.

4. Customizable fields.  You can add all sorts of personal data notes to any issue or title in your catalogue.  These can be anything you can imagine, from where you got it, to condition notes, to personal ratings. 

5. Online sales.  It’s a fairly simple process to sell your unwanted comics through CCL.  This is where they generate their revenues, so it is a bit pricey compared to sites like Ebay.  However, the upside is that maintaining your catalogue, either from buying or selling, is nearly automatic through the software. 

6. Evolving Software.  Midten Media, who make the CCL software, regularly update it, and keep adding new and improved features.  Much of this is in response to user requests and feedback.  The software is not yet “complete,” but is always improving, and the future is bright on this end.

7. Offline functionality.  Unlike some other software, you do not need to be online to use it.  You will need to be online to update, sell, or buy, but not to generate reports, add issues in added titles, or generally review your collection.  You will also need to be online to register the software before you can use it, but as you have to download it to begin with, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Other kudos to hand out as well here.  First off, I must give props to the CCL team, and they way they respond to end user complaints, feature requests, bug reports, and so on.  Unlike many other software companies, these folks generally respond to a given post with in 48 hours, regardless if it’s one person, or a hundred making the notation.  They are pleasant to deal with, very personable, and best yet, comic collectors and fans themselves.  They are active, but not excessively so on the CCL forums, and it’s there that they show off their wondeful customer service skills.  A big round of applause must also go to the CCL community, not just on the forums, but all those who have contributed to the master data base with issue updates, additional titles, and corrections to issues and titles.  The forumites at CCL are among the best to “chat” with, and rarely does anyone get over worked over a post, and even then it’s minor at worst.

Now, there is a bit of a mixed bag with this software.  The data base is far from complete, and is completely reliant on the community for expanding it.  This is both good and bad.  On the good side, it gives the community at large a sense of being part of the process, a bit of a sense of “ownership.”  There are some truly impressive individuals who seem to be robots, inputing vast numbers of edits.  On the down side, there tend to be a number of change requests for the master data base that just end up wasting time.  Either they are making additional errors, or fail to note what they want changed, or fail to follow change guidelines.  This does get mitigated somewhat by the peer review process, where CCL users can vote on changes (for or against), though CCL adminstrators have the final say on what gets approved or rejected (for now). 

In addition to the data base stuff, the software does tend to be a bit of a memory hog.  I highly reccomend having at least 1GB of RAM if you’re running XP, and more if you’re running Vista.  This is of course, highly dependent upon how large your personal catalogue is, and how many issues you have entered as owning.  Processor speed is also a fatcor, bit that’s mainly in terms of load time and initializing. 

 In the end, I highly reccomend this software for comic collectors.  It beats the heck out of using a spread sheet (Excel or Open Office or what ever), or a text file.  The forum community is great, and very active.  The CCL employees are very friendly and responsive, and make everyone feel at home.  And I’m not just saying this because they sent me a t-shirt, or because I’m now a moderator on the forums.  I was singing thier praises before the swag!