Friday, April 29, 2011

Comics Roundup for 4/27/11

As usual, the last week of the month had a lot to offer, so I'll try to keep these brief:

The Mighty Thor #1 - I quit reading Thor a while ago, and I didn't bother to pick it up again when Matt Fraction came on board. I figured that this would be a good place to get back on board, especially considering that Olivier Copiel was back on the artistic duties. I have to say though that if Marvel was hoping that this would be a good jumping-on point for new readers who just saw the movie, they didn't handle it quite right. I feel like I've been dumped in the middle of a story, and if I had no idea who Galactus was, I'd be really confused about his appearance. I'll flip through the next issue at the store, but I'm not sure if I'll be getting it.

The Flash #11 - As always, a fun, enjoyable series. Too bad it's coming to an end soon though, huh?

FF #2 - Speaking of being dropped into stories, I'm really regretting not reading Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four run. This is good stuff, don't get me wrong, but I'm not entirely sure why Mr. Fantastic feels the need to restore Doctor Doom's mind. I'm also not sure of why Spider-Man is on the team other than a marketing gimmick.

The Amazing Spider-Man #659 - Actually, Spidey's solo book is putting his membership on the team to better use. This was a fun issue, and I'm glad to see that all those subplots with the Sinister Six are finally going to pay off.

The Avengers #12.1 - Yeah, I'm not the only one who doesn't quite see the point of all these "point one" issues, but so long as they make for a good read, then I don't mind so much. This was all set-up for the next big story arc, and it did a good job of that, I suppose. Bryan Hitch's artwork is looking better than it has been lately.

Venom #2 - Am I the only one who thinks that Tony Moore's art looks better in black and white? Anyway, I suppose I'd keep up with this series if I didn't already feel like I'm buying too much, but there just isn't enough that's interesting to keep me reading this series. It's not bad, but it's not good enough either.

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #9 - I don't mind buying all the extra GL books so long as the story moves along, and that's what happens here. Looks like I'm in it for another month, which is okay with me so long as it's entertaining stuff.

Captain America #617 - Another solid installment with a Steve Rogers: Super Soldier backup instead of some lame Nomad stuff. That's definitely a smart move.

Secret Avengers #12 & #12.1 - Issue twelve marks Ed Brubaker's last issue on the series, and I just know that I'd get some flak for this if I'd post this on the wrong message forum, but I actually liked Nick Spencer's issue a bit better. As I've always said, this has been a fine series, but it's never felt like much of a team book. With Spencer's issue, it finally feels like that without straying from the series concept at all. Too bad he's only going to be around for a few issues, but Warren Ellis will be on board for about six issues after that, so I'll probably stick around for at least that long.

Batman: Detective Comics #876 - This continues to be a great, probably overlooked, series. It does a nice job of focusing on Dick Grayson and how he's different from Bruce Wayne, yet we get to see some actual "Detective" work going on in the series. Still, I'm wondering how Commissioner Gordon hasn't figured out that Dick is the new Batman. Or maybe he knows and he just doesn't want to say anything?

Batman Incorporated #5 - While this issue was enjoyable on its own, I'm realizing that I should probably go back and re-read the entire series, as it hearkened back to some stuff that happened a few issues ago that aren't exactly fresh in my memory.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tragedy and heroism in the Johnson family history

So I've been doing this "dad" thing for just over eight months now, which probably explains why I haven't written all that much in my blog over the past eight months. It turns out that babies need food and they don't know how to use the bathroom, which really slows down my plans.

Still, I've managed to do a bit of family research on lately, and I've been pretty impressed with what I've found. I managed to track my family as far back as my sixth great-grandfather, an English fella named John Keep who lived from 1698-1751. I suppose that I should send a shout-out to the Mormons for that bit of record-keeping, as John's descendants converted to Mormonism (but my great-great grandma became a Lutheran when she married my great-great grandfather).

The one branch of my family tree that I've been focusing lately is on the Johnson line. It all began with my third great-grandfather, Sven Johnson, who came from Sweden around 1870 to Nebraska. See, he was the first Johnson in my family, as his last name followed the Scandinavian tradition where a man takes his father's first name plus the word "son". (If we were still following it, my son's last name would be Lanceson.) Once he lived in America, his descendants took on the tradition that most people follow where you simply take your dad's last name. My direct line goes from Sven Johnson to Peter Johnson to William Johnson to Alvin Johnson to Gerald Johnson to me.

While doing this bit of research, I re-read a story that had been told to me several times while I was growing up, but now it's having an impact on me that it never quite did before. It involves how my great-grandfather, William, died.

He was mowing the lawn when it happened, and you have to realize that this was 1924 and he lived on a farm. In other words, the "mower" was pulled by a team of horses. He had left them standing for a moment when he went to check on the washing machine that my great-grandmother, Edith, used since it had stopped working. Somehow, the horses got spooked and they started to run, and they were headed right for my great-uncle Leonard, who was three and a half at the time.

Of course, William's first instinct was to save his son, which he did but not before the sickle took off Leonard's feet just above his ankles*. Tragically, great-grandpa saved his son only to have the blade tear into himself instead - cutting off his right arm below the elbow and wrist and his left thumb. Also, his right leg was cut down to the bone from his knee to the crotch. The evidence also indicated that the horses came back around again and hit him one more time, severing one of his toes. Great-grandma had a hard time getting help, but he eventually got medical attention. Unfortunately, the nature of the injuries were so severe that William Johnson died a couple of weeks later.

As I wrote at the start of this entry, I had heard this story several times growing up, but there's something about being a father that makes me see and feel things differently. For instance, I always tell my freshmen about how Odysseus faked being mad in order to get out of fighting in the Trojan War by acting crazy and driving his oxen all over the field. Sensing that Odysseus was bluffing, Palamedes put Odysseus' baby son in front of the plow. Of course, Odysseus diverts it, revealing that he's perfectly sane - the irony being that while saving his son he has basically doomed his relationship with him considering that the prophecy said that he'd be gone for twenty years. Anyway, I always tell that story. When I told it this year, it hit me in a way that it never hit me before. The same thing happened with this story about my great-grandfather.

While I think that many parents can be annoying and patronizing with their platitudes about "if you were a parent, you'd understand" there is something about being a parent that changes you. There are some things that I get that I didn't get before. I mean, I get it now why some people won't leave couples without children alone about having kids. Don't get me wrong - I don't do that, as I still realize how annoying and obnoxious it is - but the thing is, I at least understand the feelings that makes a person do that.

With this story, there is no question in my mind that I'd react in a similar fashion if my son, Logan, was ever in danger. As gruesome a thought as it is how my great-grandfather died, the thought of something happening to my son is a million times worse. No doubt my dad felt (and probably still feels) the same way about me and his father felt the same way about him. The best part is that we're hardly unique, and I would never think that it's a quality that's particular to the Johnsons. It's one of those things that actually makes you happy to be a human being and start to think that maybe we're not so bad after all.

*Leonard passed away in 2001. I got to meet him once - he was a funny guy and got along just fine with his artificial feet.

**The photo is of my grandfather, Alvin Johnson. I don't have any photos of William - yet.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Comics Roundup for 4/20/11

Dark Horse Presents #1 - I was never a regular reader of Dark Horse's original "Presents" series, but I did pick up all 25 issues of their full-color anthology called Dark Horse Comics. This resurrection of the series is more like the latter, shorter-lived series than the one after which it takes its name, as it's in color and has a Star Wars feature. Anyway, it's eight bucks, but it's a rather thick book, and it looked interesting enough while flipping through it at the store. I was also interested in seeing the preview of Frank Miller's Xerxes. It was interesting enough, and I'll probably pick up the first issue of Star Wars: Crimson Empire III, as I enjoyed the first two miniseries. (The Star Wars segment of this issue was a prelude to CEIII.) Still, I doubt I'll pick up the second issue of this series, as it has the same problem that all anthologies have - a lot of it just isn't very good and/or interesting to me. I figure anything that's worth reading will get reprinted in a collection somewhere.

Super Dinosaur #1 - The team of The Astounding Wolf-Man reunites to bring this all-ages series to the stands. While it all looks cool and fun enough, it just didn't grab me for some reason. Yeah, I like the idea of putting a harness on a T-Rex with huge robotic arms (which he manipulates with a couple of controllers that his tiny arms can reach) but that's not enough to get me to pick up further issues. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing really wrong with this series, and I'm sure that others will really like it, but it just didn't do it for me.

Green Lantern #65 & Green Lantern Corps #59 - Looks like I'll be picking up all the Green Lantern books until the "War of the Green Lanterns" story ends, but that's okay considering it's a pretty good story. I like how it simultaneously introduces a new story while building upon everything that's gone on since the new "Lantern" series debuted. When all of the green rings have been corrupted, how does Hal Jordan (and the other Green Lanterns from Earth) manage to fight back without using his power ring? Well, there are a whole lot of other Lantern Corps out there now. Let's see now, Jordan's been a Green, a Red, an Orange, a Blue, a White and now a Yellow Lantern. All he needs is a shot at the Indigo ring and he'll be the master of the emotional spectrum. Somehow, I think that Geoff Johns has thought of that, and hopefully they'll do something with that idea.

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish - This was a fun enough of an issue, and it was nice seeing Kevin Nowlan draw an issue, but I'm glad to see that Mignola is going to get back to the character's major story arc with the next minseries. This issue involves kids performing Satanic rituals and aliens trying to give Hellboy an anal probe. What's not to like?

Wolverine #8 - Not much to say about this one other than it was another fun installment. Wolverine finally gets that demon out of his head, and he's now getting ready to kick the asses of those responsible. Should be interesting.

The Avengers #12 - There were a lot of "what you think is happening is not really happening" moments in this issue, and even though I think that Bendis stretches out a story a bit too much with page after page of characters hitting one another, it was still a satisfying conclusion that set the stage for some interesting possibilities for the future.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comics Roundup for 4/13/11

Fear Itself #1 (of 7) - This is the latest crossover event, and while it's a decent first issue, I can't seem to get as enthused about it as some other events like Blackest Night, Civil War, or Siege. I think that the main problem is that it's tough to give a quick synopsis as to what it's all about, whereas it was a lot easier to do so for the aforementioned ones. What we have so far is that the daughter of the Red Skull has discovered that there are more mystical hammers out there than Mjolnir, and she has brought back to life some old Norse god of fear. That's a decent enough of a setup, but why a major crossover event? I'm not sure, but again, it's interesting enough to keep reading, and I'm glad to see Stuart Immonen on the art duties, as I think he's one of the best superhero artists working today.

The Flash #10 - Speaking of crossovers, this introduces DC's next big crossover story, Flashpoint. I'm even less certain as to what this one is about, but just like with Fear Itself I'm enjoying what's happened so far. It looks like there's a Flash from a parallel Earth who might not be exactly what he says he is. I guess the most disappointing thing is that this series is supposedly coming to an end soon. Too bad, as I really like it, but I guess I'll check out Aquaman, which will be written by Geoff Johns when he presumably leaves this series to write that one.

Batman and Robin #22 - This was a satisfying conclusion to a fun three-part storyline that introduced a new villain. I'm disappointed though to hear that Peter J. Tomasi is not going to keep on with the series. However, Judd Winick will be writing the next story that will deal with the Red Hood. Considering that I liked all of his other Red Hood stuff, and that this will be building on what Grant Morrison did with the character, I'll be sure to stick around. Still, I'd like to see a consistent creative team on this series; otherwise, it will all just start to seem like another aimless anthology series.

Carnage #4 (of 5) - While this started out really interesting, it's now starting to read like a reason to bring Carnage back to life, which I guess was really the point all along. Still, I'm hoping for a more interesting final issue than just a big superhero/supervillain brawl. I hope that rich businessman with the misplaced sense of priorities gets what's coming to him.

The New Avengers #11 - We're continuing the double story here with the really-old Avengers and the New Avengers, but I'm not quite seeing how the two storylines connect. It still feels like the flashbacks belong in something like Secret Avengers, but it doesn't matter that much so long as both stories are enjoyable. Plus, I really have to wonder if Bendis is going to kill off Mockingbird when she's been back from the dead for just a few years now. Seems a little soon to kill her AGAIN.

The Amazing Spider-Man #658 - Nothing too special about this issue, as it basically just shows us Spidey's adventures with the Freedom Foundation from his perspective. (That's the new incarnation of The Fantastic Four with Spidey replacing The Human Torch.) Still, it's nice to see both the art of Javier Pulido and Peter having problems with his girlfriend due to his secret identity.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comics Roundup for 3/30/11

Wow - a ton of stuff came out, and I didn't pick it up until Friday. I'll keep my thoughts brief:

Captain America #616 - Well, we're definitely gearing up for the return of Steve Rogers as Captain America, as I just read about the series reboot with Ed Brubaker still writing. The testament to his writing is that I'm genuinely concerned as to what's going to happen to James "Bucky" Barnes when Steve carries the shield yet again. Anyway, this was a rather huge issue with a lot of backup stories. Some were stronger than others, but they were all at least enjoyable.

Detective Comics #875 - This issue focused mainly on the plot involving Commissioner Gordon and his son, which I actually find to be a more compelling story than the one involving Batman (not that the Batman stuff is bad). Interesting stuff.

Kick Ass 2 #2 - Thinking back on the movie, I only liked it okay. This stuff really works better as a comic with its ultra-violence and superheroes with names like "Night Bitch". As always, Mark Millar really knows how to move a story forward.

Echo #29 - According to Terry Moore's blog, this is the penultimate issue. Really? He's going to wrap it all up in the next issue? Oh well, guess I'd better go through the entire series again, and one thing is for sure, I will definitely pick up his next series, although I'll probably pick up the trade paperbacks, as his work reads better in that format, I think.

Wolverine #7 - There was a plan to take out Logan if he got out of control again. The problem? It didn't work, but of course it didn't, because it would have to involve the death of the title character. This remains an entertaining title.

The Amazing Spider-Man #657 - This ties in with the new FF series, as it's a tribute to the relationship between Spider-Man and the Human Torch. Pretty entertaining stuff, even though I didn't like all of the artists they got for the flashback segments.

The Avengers #11 - The entire issue is told in full page panels. I don't know - feels gimmicky and a way to drag out the story longer than necessary. Still, we get Thanos at the end, so that's cool.

Fear Itself Prologue: Book of the Skull - Honestly, I'm not too sure what to make of this whole Fear Itself crossover coming up. The descriptions seem kind of vague and not as to the point as some of the other crossovers from the past few years. This was interesting enough though, and I'll at least check out the first issue of the actual series.

Secret Avengers #11 - So, Brubaker is leaving this book after next issue. I was going to give the new guy a try, and then I heard that he's not sticking around for long; however, Warren Ellis will be writing it for six issues. Oh well, my complaint about the title is my usual one - it's a good "Steve Rogers and Friends" comic, but it's not really an Avengers comic.

Green Lantern Corps #58 & Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #8 - I don't normally buy either of these two series, but I picked them up because they're tying in with the main Green Lantern title. They were fine and moved the story along, but I definitely liked Emerald Warriors more, as the fight between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner was a good one, as it revealed some of the differences between the characters, as a good superhero fight out to do.