Thursday, November 29, 2012

Comics Roundup for 11/28/12

All New X-Men #1 & #2 - For some reason, I had told myself that I was going to hold off and maybe get this series in trade paperbacks.  When I realized that I had no desire to get the second issue of Iron Man, I figured I'd check these out, mainly because this particular creative team has been responsible for many of my favorite comics over the last several years (New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man).  I'm glad that I picked it up.  It's a really compelling story, and I'm hoping that it will explore what's so potentially great about the concept of the X-Men.  Basically the setup is that the original X-Men are brought into the present in order to help Scott Summers find his way again, considering that he's a bit more Magneto than Professor X lately.  It has potential, and so far it's living up to it.  And of course, Stuart Immonen is drawing some absolutely awesome stuff, like always.

Batman, Incorporated #5 - Another wild and zany Grant Morrison issue, where we find out the ultimate doom that awaits Gotham City if Damien Wayne becomes Batman...or do we?

Thor: God of Thunder #2 - Another great issue, and the art by Esad Ribic is darn-near perfect for this series.  I hear that Iron Man will be making an appearance in this series soon, but I personally hope that it stays away from the whole superhero stuff too much.  We can read The Avengers for Thor-as-superhero.  With this, and Wonder Woman, we're getting mythology comics, and that's cool enough without the trappings of superheroes.  (And just like with Thor, you can read Justice League if you want Wonder Woman as a superhero.)

Uncanny Avengers #2 - So much coolness this week that I almost forgot how cool this issue was as well.  Gotta say that I'm digging the return of the Red Skull, and I like how this team is forming in an organic fashion, rather than having them all tossed together in the first issue.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Comics Roundup for 11/21/12

Captain America #1 - A new era begins for Cap with Rick Remender at the helm.  This was pretty good, and while I really like the idea of delving into the childhood of Steve Rogers, I hope that it gets a bit more complex than what we saw in this issue.  Aside from that, I think it's smart to take such a completely different approach to the title, as we've got Captain America in some bizarre dimension where Arnim Zola is doing all sorts of funky experiments.  If Remender tried to continue what Brubaker was doing, it would have fallen flat.  So, while I didn't love this, it has potential.  Cap is one of those characters where the book has to be particularly uninspiring for me to stop reading it.

Wonder Woman #14 - Even though I've been cutting back on some books, including some that I really like, I didn't even consider dropping this title.  This series has so much of what I love - superheroes, Greek Mythology, great art, etc. that it's unlikely that I'll drop it if it keeps going like this.  Shoot, I even think that Tony Akins, the fill-in artist for Cliff Chiang, is getting a lot better.  Anyway, another solid installment on this one - glad to see that the introduction of Jack Kirby's Fourth World seems to be well thought-out and not just a gimmick.

The Avengers #34 - It's the end of this series and a departure for writer Brian Michael Bendis.  Meh.  While I've been re-reading his stuff and enjoying it tremendously, I still feel like this grand finale feels a bit rushed.  Still, I've enjoyed so much of it that I definitely won't miss that special series involving Ultron that's coming up.

The Amazing Spider-Man #698 - Managed to miss all the spoilers on this issue, which is a good thing, as the ending came as a bit of a shock.  I guess I understand what the new direction for the series will be, but it's pretty clear that it can't last for too long.

Indestructible Hulk #1 - I picked this one up because Mark Waid is writing it, and the fact that Leinil Yu is penciling it doesn't hurt matters.  It didn't blow me away, but it set up some pretty interesting possibilities, and it sure as heck looks good, so I'll definitely check out the next issue.

Daredevil #20 - Man, but there's some freaky stuff going on in this issue - namely a bunch of heads piled up in a room, and they're all still alive.  (I was going to attempt to explain the mechanics of it, but it's one of those things that works better as a visual.)  I always like this comic, but this one was a real page-turner.  I still don't know why The Spot was considered C-list, as I think a guy who can do what he does would be pretty formidable.

Hawkeye #4 - I really wish that I didn't like this book so much, but this was another really fun issue.  I'm thinking that I'm starting to like this series more and more with each issue.  I even tried to find fault because it has a guest artist, but when the guest artist is Javier Pulido, it's kinda hard to get mad.

Rachel Rising, Volume 2:  "Fear No Malus" - I pretty much devoured the first volume of this series from Terry Moore, so I was eager for the second volume.  While I had to spend some time flipping through the first to remind myself of what was going on, I quickly got back involved with this issue.  Mr. Moore is definitely setting up something cool here; I just hope that he has a good payoff in mind for the conclusion.  And I gotta say, for a somewhat macabre horror story, it had a pretty damned touching bit of human interaction in it.

The Walking Dead, Volume 17: "Something to Fear" - I usually save a trade paperback for the bottom of my stack of stuff to read, but I think that this was the second book I read this week.  The story is moving forward in the usual way where I'm stressed out over everything that happens and want more, more, MORE by the time I get to the end.  Also, just when it seemed like Rick and company were on top of things, their situation is much worse than they thought.  And then, of course, the last couple of pages let you know that what you thought was happening wasn't actually what was happening.  Dammit.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Comics Roundup for 11/14/12

I'm suffering from a bit of comic book burnout, which is affecting both my enjoyment and my wallet.  So, I'm cutting back.  I passed up on Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Avengers Assemble, and Wolverine and the X-Men.  It's not that I haven't been enjoying them; it's just that I'm reading so much that I don't remember a damned thing about the last issues of each of those series.  I have to face the fact that I'll never get to read everything I want to read.  I also passed up on the relaunched Fantastic Four, figuring that I could always pick up the trade paperback if it turns out that I've missed something special.  Anyway, with that said, I still wound up spending a bit more than usual this week, and that's mostly due to the first entry on the list:

Walt Disney's Donald Duck: "A Christmas for Shacktown" by Carl Barks - This is the third collection from Fantagraphics, and I've only read the first story so far.  However, I can tell you that it was probably one of the best Christmas stories that I've ever read.  Apparently Barks was a bit of a critic when it came to Christmas - not that he was a Scrooge (McDuck) but because he was turned off by how commercial and superficial it was.  I guess it takes a person who sees through the phoniness that can be the Christmas season to write a genuinely touching (and funny) Christmas story.

If you're a fan of the comics medium, then you really owe it to yourself to pick up at least one of these collections.  If you have kids who like to read, then you should get one of these for them.  They're great stories with compelling characters, and it's all put together in a breezy style that you can only get with comics.  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this volume.

The New Avengers #33 - Bendis's penultimate issue is pretty compelling as it gives Dr. Strange something important to do.  Michael Avon Oeming is a good artist, but it doesn't quite fit this book, especially considering that his style is so different from the last issue's.  Oh, and it turns out that there is still a big Ultron story in Bendis's future; we just wont' see it played out in this or the other Avengers title.  A graphic novel, perhaps?

Batman #14 - This is the second part of the Joker-centric "Death of the Family" storyline.  As usual, the team of Snyder/Capullo deliver a solid read that makes me eager for more.

The Amazing Spider-Man #697 - The Hobgoblin war didn't quite work out the way I was hoping, but that's okay, it was still satisfying, and it leaves things open for some interesting possibilities.  Roderick Kingsley was always more ambitious than simply wanting to be a Green Goblin clone, and this gives him a whole new angle that fulfills that ambition while making him different enough from Norman Osborn.

Thor: God of Thunder #1 - I read about this one, and I had to pick it up.  I'm glad that I did.  I really like Jason Aaron's approach to the character.  No "he's not a god, just an alien" bullcrap.  Thor is a god, dammit.  He even answers prayers.  But now there's something that kills gods out there - looking forward to the next issue.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Some election thoughts

I'm a little late getting my thoughts down on this, but I figured that I'd write a little something about the 2012 election, as it is my understanding that it was THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF ALL TIME!!!!!!

My thoughts are all over the place, so here goes some semblance of order:

Gay marriage - Three states: Maine, Maryland, and Washington had voters approve of gay marriage, and Minnesota rejected a proposal to outlaw it.  As others have pointed out, the right-wing talking point of "The people always vote against it" is now officially dead.  They'll have to make it "The people always vote against it with four exceptions".  Shoot, if they're totally honest, it will be:  "The people always vote against it with four exceptions and probably even more, including California, if given the chance to vote on it again".

Even when Proposition 8 passed in California, it's been pretty clear where the wind is blowing on this issue.  As more and more young people reach voting age, you'll see more of what you saw in this election.  I have to wonder about people like Newt Gingrich, who called the issue of gay marriage a "temporary aberration that will dissipate".  Do these people really believe that?  Do they really think that it's going to swing the other way?

I'm really hoping that when my son gets old enough to understand these things, he will have the same reaction that I did when I learned about separate drinking fountains for black people during the Jim Crow days.  I remember thinking that it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard.  I'm betting he'll have a hard time wrapping his head around it, and I envy him that he'll never have to go through the soul search that I did as I got older, when I actually had to be convinced that gays deserved the same rights as me.

Personally, I'd love to see a proposition to overturn Prop 8 in California.  I'm confident that it would pass.  Even though Prop 8 doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, it would be a great symbolic gesture.

Prop 30 - This was the one that I had the most invested in, as if it didn't pass, I'd be looking at 11 furlough days this year, 15 next year, and 15 the following year.  Even if that didn't mean a serious blow to my personal bank account, I'd still be depressed if it didn't pass, as that's basically getting rid of an entire unit from my lesson plans.  Schools have faced cut after cut after cut, and we need to put a stop to it.  Unfortunately, the money has to come from somewhere, and that means taxes.  One thing that I find interesting is that the counties that have the highest income earners (in other words, those who will be most affected by Prop 30) are the ones where it passed by a wider percentage.

When I went to bed on Tuesday, it wasn't passing, and I was pretty depressed about that.  My wife woke me up some time later (not that I was really sleeping) to tell me that it was passing.  I felt better, but I was in too much suspense about it to fall asleep.  I was definitely happy when I saw that it passed by the time I got up, although I was exhausted and had to go to work.  I think I went to bed at about 8:30 that night and slept harder than I had in a long time.

The complaints that I hear are from the usual sorts who have a knee-jerk reaction to any kind of tax increase.  I could go into it, but I have the feeling that some folks wouldn't vote to increase taxes by a penny a year if it meant saving the lives of their own mothers.

Anyway, kudos to Jerry Brown.  It was impressive how he used strategy to defeat Meg Whitman, who spent a bazillion and two dollars in the gubernatorial campaign, and it looks like he did something similar with Prop 30.  I didn't hear or see a lot of ads until the eleventh hour.  Perhaps that's risky, but it worked.

California's Democratic Super Majority - The Republican party can't block everything that the Democrats want to do in both houses.  This is good and bad for the Dems, as there will be absolutely nobody to blame but themselves if things don't start turning around in this state.

Barry O'Bama - I voted my conscience, which is easy to do when you're left-leaning and you live in California, where the lesser of two evils will win even if you do vote for the Green Party.  So, am I happy that Obama won again?  Not so much, but I'm happy that the Republicans lost.

The thing is, there are so many legitimate things to criticize of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, but the rhetoric against him has been positively insane, with so many conservatives out there not even approaching reality in their criticism.  The man's not a Marxist, nor is he a Muslim nor the anti-Christ nor an atheist nor a Skrull.

I can understand it when some conservatives criticize the way he's handled the economy or even some of his other policies.  But the worst thing you can say about him is that he's not doing what needs to be done to fix the economy.  Some of these people act as though we were doing just great until he stepped into office, and then everything took a steep decline.  We were in this mess when he took the job, and the worst you can say about him is that he isn't helping, but you don't get to blame it all on him.

Not only that, but if you take some time to read some right-wing blogs out there, you have some people believing that Obama's intentions are to destroy this country.  I read some comments from a particular nutjob who said that Obama's going to make sure that this is the last free election we have, and he's planning on completely dismantling the military so we can be defenseless.

Shoot, I really didn't like Bush, but I never thought that he was actively trying to ruin the country.  I just thought that his choices were bad.

I also find it to be pretty funny, as so many conservatives were just so damned positive that Obama wasn't going to get a second term.  I remember shortly after he was inaugurated, a former student of mine put a countdown clock on her Facebook page, with the timer running out when his first term was up.  As the election drew nearer, there was even a pundit who said that Romney would win "in a landslide".  Landslide?  Who the heck won the last landslide in this country?  Reagan, maybe?

Let's face it.  Obama didn't win because the people were in love with him.  Romney lost for the same reason that Kerry couldn't defeat Bush, who was also pretty unpopular when he ran for re-election.  Romney was just completely uninspiring, and he even managed to out flip-flop Kerry.

Plus, he was trashed in the primaries as he tried to lean as far right as he could, only to have one right-wing nutjob after the other surpass him in popularity until the public heard them actually speak a bit too much.  He eventually came out on top because all the others were too extreme, but by the time he came out, he was too far right for the majority of the country.

The funny thing is, a lot of conservatives are saying that the problem was he wasn't conservative enough.  I have to wonder what would have happened if somebody like John Huntsman was the candidate.  He could never make it through the primaries because he wasn't, you know, insane, but I think that he might have given Obama a real run for his money, as it would be much harder to smear him, and he would have won over a lot more independent voters.

Would I have voted for him?  I'm not sure, but I knew right away that I'd never vote for Romney.  With Huntsman, I think that I might have actually had something to consider.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

20 Year Reunion

Last night I went to my 20th high school reunion.  It was held at Skipolini's Pizza in Clayton.  I saw some people for the first time in twenty years, and a few of them I had seen ten years ago at the last reunion.  I definitely had a good time, as it's always nice to reminisce a little bit with people who shared some formative years with me.

Of course, I'm somewhat lying.  It wasn't officially my 20th reunion.  That's happening tonight.  Last night was more of an informal gathering.  As for the official one, I decided against going.  I've had a couple of people ask me why I'm not, and all I replied with was "I don't wanna."  While that's true, there's a bit more to it than that.

Honestly, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to go in the first place.  I went to the 10 year reunion, and I didn't have that great of a time.  I felt bad because I kept running into people who seemed to remember me, but I had a hard time placing who they were.  Sometimes I didn't even remember when they told me who they were!  Don't misunderstand me, it wasn't a horrible time, as I did have a few nice conversations with some people.  However, I can be a bit awkward at social events when I don't know people - or in this case, I haven't seen them in a long time.  I mean, I definitely can be social, but it requires a real energy-draining effort on my part, and I just wasn't up for it.

So, when it came time to start planning for the 20 year, my initial reaction was that I had no plans on going.  I figured that I already was keeping in touch with anybody from high school that I wanted to keep in touch with, either in-person or through Facebook (although there are some former classmates who have friended me, and I honestly don't remember them at all.  But hey, being friends with somebody on Facebook isn't really much of a commitment.)

I started to change my mind when people started posting to the Facebook group about the reunion.  I found myself genuinely enthused about it.  The funny thing is, I would have figured that social media would make me less likely to want to have a reunion, but it actually made me more likely.  There were some folks that, while I didn't know them that well in high school, I've established a pretty friendly rapport with them online.  So, I started to get excited about hanging out with some of these people.

What killed it for me though?  I gotta be honest; it was the price tag.  The tickets started out for less, but eventually they went up to $85 per person.  It's not that I couldn't afford it; I just wasn't sure enough that I wanted to even go in the first place to cough up that much money.  After all, I figured if it was like the last one, then I definitely wouldn't be getting my money's worth.  Plus, I'm not really all that into formal events.  I don't like dressing up, and I've managed to make it 38 years without owning a suit.  Crap, I used to own some ties, but I have no idea where they are now.  I didn't want to go out and buy clothes for it either.

Still, I hadn't completely committed to not going, and I was still on the fence about the whole thing until I saw the announcement for the informal reunion at Skipolini's.  No admission fee?  Informal?  Pizza?  I can do that.  I figured that even if I didn't have a good time, I could get the heck out of there early and not feel like it was a waste.  Plus, most of the folks that I wanted to see were planning on going to that, so I was set.

All in all, I had a really great time.  While I didn't stay as late as others, I did stay past eleven, which is pretty late considering that I can barely make it to nine ever since Daylight Savings ended.  My only regret is that there were some folks there whom I would have liked to talk to more, but I didn't get a chance to do so.  Sure, I could probably get a chance if I went to the official reunion, but it's pretty obvious that I still wouldn't get to reminisce with everybody that I wanted even with another day.  Plus, it was interesting because when I went back home, I looked through my old yearbook.  I had felt that I saw a lot of people, but then it dawned on me how many people I did NOT see!  I'm not even sure if a lot of those people are coming to the real reunion.  (Oh, I should also point out that a big plus was that the pizza was free!  Apparently there was some money left over from all the admission tickets that were sold for tonight's reunion.  No such thing as free pizza?  Not in my world, pal.)

And while I hate to admit it, I should probably confess that one of the reasons why I didn't have a problem socializing is because I had a couple of beers before going, and then I continued to have them as the night went on.  I was no doubt loud and using more curse words than I normally do, but otherwise I might have just sat in a dark corner.  And no, I didn't drink to the point of getting sick, and I didn't have a hangover.

I wanted to start this off by saying something about my general feelings about high school.  I realize that there are some people who are stuck in the past, forever reminiscing about those days (and honestly, nobody specific is springing to mind - I'm just assuming that must apply to somebody at least).  There are also others who hated high school and want absolutely nothing that even hints at reliving those days.  (This description might actually come close to some folks that I know.)  Most folks probably fit somewhere in between.

As for myself, I enjoyed high school.  I had a lot of friends who complained about how awful it was and how they couldn't wait to get away from it, but I never did that.  However, as the years go by it all just starts to feel more and more distant.  Was it the best time of my life?  No.  Was it the worst?  Definitely not.  It was a period of my life with mostly good memories, but I don't feel any more attached to them than any other time in my life.  Still, it was great to see some familiar faces, and I genuinely do hope to see some of them again sometime soon.  I don't think that I'll regret not going to tonight's party, and that would be true even if it wasn't for last night's unofficial reunion.  Still, I'm thankful that the Skipolini's event was arranged, and I'm glad that I went to it.

EDIT:  My wife has just informed me that we left at about 9:30.  I am lame and old.

Comics Roundup for 11/7/12

The Avengers #33 & The New Avengers #32 - I've been re-reading all of the Avengers books since Brian Michael Bendis took over years ago, and I'm really enjoying them.  Unfortunately, I feel like his final issues on both of these books seem a bit rushed.  I guess he's trying to put everything back together after all of the changes he made when he wrote the "Disassembled" story, and that's nice to see.  However, the inconsistent art teams are hurting the story, and wasn't Ultron supposed to have something to do with the final Bendis Avengers story?

A vs. X: Consequences #5 (of 5) - This issue wraps everything up and sets forth a new status quo for Cyclops and the X-Men.  You didn't really expect him to just sit in jail, did you?  Me neither.  Anyway, I think that this story actually had a tighter plot and a more satisfying ending than the main crossover.

Green Lantern #14 - We get to have our cake and eat it too as the new Green Lantern realizes that it would be stupid to fight the Justice League.  However, his ring has other plans.  Fun stuff, like usual.

Iron Man #1 - I figured I'd give this new series a try.  It was pretty entertaining, but nothing special.  I'll check out the second issue at least before I make up my mind whether to continue or not.

Avenging Spider-Man #14 - I think this book might be running its course, as it can't seem to keep a consistent creative team.  Plus, Devil Dinosaur?  Lame.  I think this might be it for me.  Cool cover though.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Comics Roundup for 10/31/12

AvX: Consequences #4 (of 5) - I'm continuing to enjoy this series although I'm still annoyed by the "You won't understand the Phoenix using science" line that gets brought up over and over again.  What does that mean?  You can't understand it by making observations?  Predictions?  Seems to me that if it functions on a physical level, there is at least some "science" to it.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it's fiction, but it still doesn't sit right.  Good thing I like all the character interactions, and I'm curious to see how this all shapes up.

Aquaman #13 - This wraps up a storyline, and Geoff Johns is going to be leaving after issue #16.  I think that I might be done here.  I liked the beginning, and I had high hopes for the series, but if Johns isn't in it for the long haul, then I need to use this excuse to drop another book before all the Marvel Now stuff starts hitting.

Joe Kubert Presents #1 (of 5) - This is a nice, thick book with lots of great art by the posthumous artist.  Still, I'm having a hard time getting into it.  I think that this will make for some nice reading material in my classroom for the kids who are too lazy to bring their own books.

Batgirl Annual #1 - I would have skipped this if it weren't for the fact that Gail Simone wrote it and that it ties into the "Court of Owls" storyline.  Overall, I thought it was decent, but not great.  I would have wanted to see more interaction between Catwoman and Batgirl than we got in this one, as there seems to be a lot of potential there.

Winter Soldier #12 - This was a fun issue.  Too bad Ed Brubaker is going to be focusing on more creator-owned work, as I think that he'd be a good choice to write Wolverine.

Hit-Girl #4 - Fun stuff, like always from this team.  Again though, I don't think it would work well as a movie.  I don't mind seeing a girl in a comic book go through this abuse, but I don't think I'd like it in a live-action format.

Wolverine and the X-Men #19 - Fun, wacky stuff like usual with this issue.  Even when Wolverine plays a minimal role in this book, it's really top-notch stuff - almost more reminiscent of the Alan Davis issues of Excalibur.