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Ms. Marvel Vol. 6: Civil War II - Kamala continues defending Jersey City, competes in an only-slightly-exaggerated science fair (Sky Shark, the happiest shark!), watches her supporting cast splinter in the wake of their own drama, and comes into conflict with Captain Marvel over pre-crime profiling. While some of the allusions to real-world issues are heavy-handed, I continue to like the general tone of the series.

Superman: Earth One - This is yet another “modernized” retelling of Superman's first appearance in Metropolis, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was JMS's rejected script for the Man of Steel movie. (It's better than what they went with, but that's not exactly a high bar to clear.) I don't think there's enough that sets it apart from so many similar origin stories for the accolades it apparently got—it's good, but nothing stands out.

Lumberjanes Vol. 5: Band Together - Now with more mermaids!

Lumberjanes Vol. 6: Sink or Swim - Now with more selkies! Seriously, though, I am slightly concerned that, while this remains a lot of fun, they're getting stuck in a formulaic rut and they aren't actually going to pay off all the mysteries they've set up. I suppose the eventual volume 7 will tell us whether they're spinning their wheels indefinitely or if they're willing to actually progress things.

Archie Vol. 1 (Mark Waid) - Is Archie still Archie if you reboot the various relationships, adapt the art style and add more minority characters? Short answer: As long as Archie is catastrophically incompetent at most tasks and remains torn between the many women in his life, yes. I think I prefer when it goes for more outright goofy than dramatic, but that's pretty much always been my preference for Archie comics.

Jughead Vol. 1 (Chip Zdarsky) - Set in the same continuity as the Archie reboot, this Jughead is explicitly asexual, exceptionally devious, and prone to extended daydreams that match classic more-fantastic Archie stories (I particularly loved the Jughead's Time Police references).

Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man, Vision Vol. 2: Little Better Than a Beast - This is the story of the Vision making terrible life choices, and his attempt at creating a “normal” suburban family turning into a slow-motion train wreck. Greek tragedy starring android superheroes.

Giant Days Vol. 1 - A slice-of-life comic featuring a trio of college girls as they encounter love, loss, angst, booze and flu season. Fun!
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On the alternate Earth where Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman died to drive off Darkseid’s forces, new heroes have emerged. But will they been enough to stop the renewed assault from Apokolips?

Read more... )

Overall: While the Wildstorm line did the, “We’re really ending the world and it’s not getting undone” plotline first, I give them credit for going through with it here. I liked this series from the beginning because it was a genuine full reboot (one of relatively few in the New 52) and wasn’t bogged down by the requirement to fit with other books.
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Ms. Marvel Volume 4: The End - I continue to love the tone, the 50s Superboy “earnest and positive” tone. This resolves a bunch of the ongoing plots in advance of Marvel’s universal “soft reboot”.

Catwoman Volume 6: Keeper of the Castle - This reminds me very much of a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign, in that there are deeply complicated underground/nightlife politics that a semi-heroic protagonist is trying to steer vaguely towards good (and making terrible choices to do so); punctuated with brief extreme violence.

Faith #1 (Valiant Comics) - Plus-size superwoman Faith “Zephyr” Herbert leaves her super-hero team to strike out with a new secret identity and a solo hero career to explore. Unfortunately, the fact that Faith isn’t drawn as a top-heavy Barbie doll is really the only thing that sets this apart.
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Eternals (2006 miniseries) - A revamp of a Jack Kirby creation by Neil Gaiman, it’s…very Jack Kirby. Clearly he wanted to tell more New Gods stories after his contract with DC ran out and he came back to Marvel, so he set up yet another version of the “immortal beings with loosely-defined powers that are also superheroes” that he was so famous for. It feels over-done by this point (even with Gaiman’s re-vamps) and integrates poorly with the existing Marvel universe, circa Civil War.

Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz (comic adaptation) - Chris Snow has a genetic disorder that makes him very vulnerable to light…nonsensically so, because he cites UV light as the reason he must stay in the dark, and you know what blocks UV light? Glass. And he goes out in the sun with only a ball cap and sunglasses (not even the wrap-around kind!) for protection, rather than a big floppy hat or even a mask. The writer and the artist of the adaptation apparently didn’t talk much, as the art occasionally depicts scenes far different than the narration implies, and the colorist apparently didn’t get the “light sensitive” memo, because plenty of the indoor scenes are lit normally and Snow doesn’t care. Oh, and it sets up a big mystery that apparently Koontz hasn’t even bothered to write the final book that resolves, despite claiming he would since 2003. (Why on earth would you adapt something like this without hope of getting a resolution for it?) I got this for free and I think I overpaid.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - I hadn’t quite connected that this was a Terry Gilliam film when I started watching it, but there was no doubt about that at the end. It can’t decide who the protagonist is, but that’s okay, because none of the obvious choices really get happy endings. It’s very pretty and there are some funny bits, but at the end you have the, “What the hell did I just watch?” moment common to Terry Gilliam films. I give them credit for getting together something resembling a coherent narrative given Ledger’s death and the subsequent restructuring of the film, but I have to think parts of it were never intended to make sense; and there are a few transitions that are just too emotionally abrupt. Tom Waits as Mr. Nick is just delightful, though.

Liberty Science Center have a Sid the Science Kid temporary exhibit, which was great and ARR loved it*, but I had a weird random thought: I think the cast, despite being digital muppets who are colored Simpsons-yellow, are supposed to be black. (Cursory internet research reveals that Sid is supposed to be half-African, half-Jewish.) This occurred to me because the only non-yellow character is pink. Not that it really matters regardless, but it struck me as an odd bit of stealth-diversity.

* Though I can’t get the “Looking For My Friends” song out of my head, and I don’t think ARR can either.
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Bitch Planet - A modern-day Handmaiden’s Tale (with a heaping helping of Orange is the New Black) in which “non-compliant” women are shipped off to a penal colony, and order is maintained on Earth by a “Council of Fathers” and mandatory viewing of a rugby-like sport called Megaton. It’s clever, but I think it may lay things on a bit thick. (I did love that there was a Megaton team called the “Florida Men”, though.)

(There’s also the issue of the gaping plot-hole: If you’re shipping off women to a prison planet for basically any old reason, including rich old guys trading-up their wives, there better be an unmentioned matching prison planet for men, or no amount of sci-fi rugby is going to keep your society harmonious.)

Descender - Everything was hunky-dory in the universe until giant world-destroying robots called Harvesters showed up and nobody knew why. Now a little boy android named Tim-21 might be the key to figuring out where the Harvesters came from and why. It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t trust Lemire’s ability to play it out.

Virgil - A gay cop in Kingston, Jamaica is outed and his boyfriend is seemingly killed. He goes on a roaring rampage of revenge. Bloody violence ensues. That’s pretty much it.

A Game of Thrones - I had thought the Humble Bundle contained the first four volumes of this—turns out that no, it has the first four issues, which means they barely get through two episodes of the TV series worth of material. I have no idea if it’s still going (these were published in 2011), but it’s entirely possible they won’t catch up with Martin before the next book comes out. (They seem a bit more thorough with scenes and characters and a bit lighter on the sexposition than the show, but if that’s what you want, why not just read the novels?)

Legends of Red Sonja - What it says on the tin told mostly in flashbacks, with the framing story of the Grey Riders trying to hunt down Red Sonja. A fun little collection that’s just long enough—Sonja is unbeatable, which would make this boring as an ongoing, but works for a series of “legends”.

The Twilight Zone Volume 2: The Way In - J. M. Straczynski apparently did an ongoing series of Twilight Zone stories, though this volume stands alone as a single story of a women gifted with strange visions of the future, and how she tries to deal with them. It’s basically a decent episode of the TV show, done in comic form.

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson: Hopcross Jilly - I’m not familiar with the novels this is a spinoff from, but Mercy is apparently a werecoyote; she and her werewolf friends fight crime. You can pick up enough of the worldbuilding to have everything make sense, though I suspect I missed things a fan of the novels would have caught. The ending of this was a little too pat—the pacing is a bit rocky given the length. Also, it barely counts as a mystery story when the audience can figure out what’s going on in the first dozen pages.

The Last Temptation A mysterious man who could easily be related to the Endless (or is, perhaps, Alice Cooper) entices a young boy with a free ticket to a grand guignol show: The Theatre of the Real. As goes the classic temptation, he shows the boy the sins of the world and invites him to forgo it and stay on as part of the theater. It’s predictable and not Gaiman’s best work, but it’s decently done.
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I never managed proper reviews for a lot of the comics I’ve read recently; apparently I just wasn’t in the mood. I bought most of the comic-based Humble Bundles, including Forbidden Books, Top Cow, BOOM Studios, and Creator’s Own Worlds.

The Best:
- Lumberjanes is adorable, generally PG-rated (they tend to curse with, “What the junk?” and “Holy [historical feminist figure]!”), very progressive and has decently well-contained arcs. Highly recommended.

- Are you reading Saga? Because it’s fantastic and you really should. Also, if you like rpgs at all, you should be reading Rat Queens.

“Recommended With Reservations”:
- Midnight Nation is J. M. Straczynski working through some of his issues with religion, death, predestination and the state of society. It has some interesting ideas, but also some glaring issues.

- The Freshman was co-created by Seth Green, and feels like it. A lab accident grants a bunch of college students superpowers, and while the story mainly follows the telepathic girl and the non-powered Batman character, the other characters include a guy who can pass on his drunken state, one who’s perpetually sticky, and one with an enormous “third leg”. If that seems your brand of humor, go ahead.

- Sunstone, despite being a Top Cow book, does not involve any magic stones at all. It’s a highly NSFW story of a lesbian couple having a meet-cute over their shared love of BDSM.

- Outcast is about a demon-haunted man with some kind of exorcism powers; it’s by Robert Kirkman (of Walking Dead fame) and has a similar aesthetic, which I don’t really go for, but I suspect would go over well if you like his work.

- Trees is Warren Ellis asking, “What if aliens arrived but didn’t care about us at all?” It’s a series of interwoven stories about people and how they react to giant alien trees all over the world.

The Worst:
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 3 seems to mostly be an excuse to drag the old gang out of hiding and draw a lot of boobs. The first two volumes could qualify as art. This? Meh.

- Genius has an interesting concept—every generation has a “greatest military mind”, and this one happens to be a black teenage girl in Compton who has taken over and organized the gangs against the police. The execution is pure Blaxploitation, though, and mostly an excuse to show gang-bangers and cops being assholes and shooting each other.

- Self-Obsessed is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s like the second coming of Harvey Pekar, except with even less narrative thrust and artistic consistency.

- For that matter, The Little Man was only marginally better. Self-indulgent autobiographical comics without much to them.

- No Mercy is a slasher film / misery parade in which a busload of prefrosh Princeton students are in a bus crash on a Central America humanitarian trip and suffer in all sorts of exciting ways. Basically, the students are all stupid, entitled and incompetent (except the deaf kid, who is apparently a ninja); and the locals are all mobsters, corrupt, rapists or nuns.

I Don’t Get it / It’s Not “For” Me:
- Bone apparently isn’t for me. It’s like a Donald Duck comic with the serial numbers filed off and fewer jokes.

- Love and Rockets I couldn’t get into at all. It’s clearly meant to be a take-off on the old romance comics, but I found it just…tedious?

- Bravest Warriors is a goofy Power Rangers pastiche with an Adventure Time aesthetic. It’s cute and has some funny bits, but I grew tired of it.

- Kaptara - It’s He-Man, it just isn’t shy about exactly how gay He-Man was. They filed off the serial numbers and there’s a storyline with some knockoff Smurfs, but really, this is the He-Man fanfic Zdarsky has been writing since he was eight.

- Essex County is about several generations of a hockey-playing family out in the boondocks. The bittersweetness of it works, but I never really like Lemire’s artwork and really don’t care about hockey.

Superman is Crazy / Evil / “Realistic”:
- Irredeemable was my favorite of the lot. Mark Waid does, “What if Superman went totally nuts?”

- Rising Stars was a decent self-contained yarn; J. M. Straczynski with a “What if all the 100+ heroes were the same age and grew up together, and then someone started murdering them?”

- The Boys: Herogasm has Garth Ennis mixing corrupt superheroes with his favorite topics: Gay sex and horrible bloody violence.

- Jupiter’s Circle is Mark Millar’s take, revealing the dirty laundry of an early Silver Age Justice League. Apparently this is the prequel to a “troubled production” story about the next generation of characters in that world; I feel no need to seek that out, but this stands alone decently.

- Invincible mostly focuses on Superman’s son and I really liked it for the first dozen issues…until we hit the big reveal that it fell into this category (which I really should have seen coming), and I was just, “really?” Because the interactions of a loving super-dad and his teenage son (who has teenage problems) made for a fun and interesting book. I’ll likely read the later volumes anyway, but this irritated me.
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Fables finally ends, on a number of bittersweet notes. These three final volumes tell how.

Read more... )

Overall: Fables was a great series, but I’d generally only recommend the first half of it. I mean, if you love it, you’ll never want for material even with it ended.  
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This is the book by the guy who writes xkcd; and I find it hard to believe anyone who wasn't already a fan of his style of extreme nerd humor would find themselves reading it.

Based on his columns (link) but including some new questions and annotations to old ones, there's a fun variety of insanity. Light-speed fastballs? Disappearing atmospheres? Giant raindrops? (I fell way behind on reading the posted columns, so a lot of the questions and answers were new to me.)

My one big disappointment is that I thought a bunch of the weird "rejected" questions would have made for fun dissections. Instead they mostly get rejected with a "You're a weirdo for asking this, ha ha." Which seems kind of insulting to his target audience, especially coming from him, y'know?
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I had actually been looking at somebody’s incomplete collection of late-80s AD&D comics at a yard sale a month or two ago; but eventually opted not to buy them because we don’t really have the space to store comics I’m likely to read once and be underwhelmed by. When DriveThruComics sent me an email noting that they had added them for sale as pdfs, that seemed a reasonable use of my money.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Classics, Volume 1 - A “reprint” of the first eight issues originally published in 1989, using rules from the then-current second edition of the system. (…Though it gets at least a few of them wrong, and one character spends four issues casting spells that have never existed in any version of the system.) It does feel appropriate to the themes of a game, or at least what an aspiring GM would want the game to be like. (A more accurate representation would involve more depictions of the minutia of combat and more intra-party bickering; in both cases it’s a good change.) The second storyline is a lot lighter than the first, centering around the ghost of a jester and (as one might expect) eventually devolving into slapstick.

The give you game stats for various characters and monsters at the end of each issue.

As a random observation, my dad’s old pal Barbara Kesel was the editor on these. (The original DC masthead is removed, presumably for copyright reasons, but I suspect that my dad was listed on that in the original printing.)

I mean, when I take a step back from the nostalgia value (AD&D 2E was my very first gaming system), these are fairly standard media tie-in fantasy comics. But never let it be said that nostalgia couldn’t drive my approval.

Dungeons & Dragons Volume 1: Shadowplague - These are the new comics produced recently by IDW. They’re fun. The banter is witty, and though the plots aren’t anything amazing or particularly new, they take a fun enough approach to them that I don’t mind. (They are specifically going for “fun” rather than “dark and gritty”, which I think has been common to 4E material and I love that.)

It’s clearly using 4th Edition classes/races/cosmology, and as close to the rules as one can get and still have comic stories work. At the end of the pdf, they provide an adventure module for the story you just read, so you can run it yourself.

I rather enjoyed these, both from my appreciation of 4E in general and because they’re well-written.

Dark Sun Volume 1: Ianto’s Tomb - This feels more like a general tie-in somehow, though I’m not entirely sure how to articulate that. They’re less straightforward with what characters are actually doing or with giving backstory (they seem to just assume you’ve read the corebook). The characters are also unlikely allies thrown together by circumstances, rather than any sort of established adventuring party. Dark Sun is not a pleasant setting, but despite giving game stats for the characters being in the epic tier, it’s a very ground-level, “heroic tier” style of adventure. A 25th-level character should be the equivalent of the Prism Pentad protagonists who drove the Dark Sun metaplot back in 2E.

For the record, I’m okay with them simplifying the backstory of Athas in 4E (basically dropping the Blue Age entirely and removing a few other complications), but I’d love to see more meta/world-shaping stories in the new cosmology.

Rat Queens Volume 1 - This isn’t officially-licensed as a D&D comic, but it might as well be. More tongue-in-cheek than most but still obeying the standard tabletop rpg tropes, it follows the adventures of an all-female adventuring party with an assortment of absurd quirks and foibles. There’s plenty of bloody violence, if you like that sort of thing; and also drinking, carousing and “adult situations.”

This is one I’ll definitely be on the lookout for volume 2 of.
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The Big Feminist BUT - A comic anthology about feminism, predicated on the issues of “I’m not a feminist, BUT…” The quality is inconsistent, as is common with comic anthologies, but there are a couple of clever ones.

Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less - This is less about surviving in poverty and more aimed at recent college grads and similar newly-minted adults who don’t actually know how to take care of themselves. Virtually all of it is aimed at people who have an abundance of time (and the energy and health that comes with youth) and not a lot of money. And while some of it is a little absurd (you don’t need to grate bar soap to make your own laundry detergent—just buy the $3 bottle of store-brand), much of it is useful advice. Like the Tiny Houses book I read recently, there’s an emphasis on being aware of what you actually need and not paying for things you don’t need or won’t use.

Code Monkey Save World - This is a comic book mash-up of a bunch of Jonathan Coulton’s songs, most notably “Code Monkey”, “Skullcrusher Mountain”, “The Future Soon”, “Creepy Doll” and “Re: Your Brains”. It’s an amusing little story of lovable incompetence for JoCo fans who get the references, and would make no sense whatsoever to anyone else.

God Hates Astronauts - A superhero story that falls somewhere between Umbrella Academy and Seaguy; in that it arguably makes sense as a narrative but leaves you asking, “What the #$^ did I just read?” In what I’m guessing was originally stretch goals/supplemental material, there’s a series of two-page origin stories of pretty much every character that appears.

Imagined Realms, Book 1 - This is a collection of fantasy artwork by Julie Dillon, with a bit of exploratory prose to accompany each one. Every one of them could easily be the basis for a bigger story, though I’m not sure how much use I have for them. They’re pretty?

The Sleep of Reason: An Anthology of Horror - A collection of short horror comics, none of which are amazing, but each of which presents an interesting look at what that particularly cartoonist is freaked out by. (Randy Milholland of Something*Positive did one of them.) The ones that involved things happening to small children were probably the ones that freaked me out the most.

Blast Furnace Volume 1: Recreational Thief - From the same author who did God Hates Astronauts, further pushing the boundaries of absurdity is BLAST FURNACE, a man whose tie is perpetually on fire. It feels like a 24-hour comic more than anything—each page is the author going, “Hey, what would be funny right here?” (This is also in black and white, with much less refined art.) Flashbacks layered within each other! Random talking animals! Violence! Mayhem! Bestiality! Sound effects!

Mother Russia - World War 2 has ended in Russia because of a zombie plague. One woman still stands against them; and she discovers she might not be the only one. The backup stories are prequels to the main one, telling the stories of characters before they ended up in zombie-covered Berlin. It’s cute, but nothing I haven’t really seen before. Zombies, explosions, the usual lot.

(This was just the graphic stuff. The bundle also included a number of novels and prose anthologies—those will take me much longer to read, I think.)
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Ms. Marvel Volume 3: Crushed - There are definitely things I’m missing by not being plugged into the greater Marvel comics universe. Why is Loki trying to be a good guy? What’s going on with the Inhumans? But I don’t really have to know or care the details, because the stories are about how they intersect with Kamala’s world, and the book is actually helped by sharing her perspective. It remains so much fun.

Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick - I had heard good things about this, and they were accurate. The calmly humorous sensibility of Fraction’s Hawkeye is evident here too, and there are both some clever ideas and a very realistic “confessional” tone to the whole thing. Recommended as long as you’re not shy about, y’know, people masturbating and having sex.
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Struck By Lightning - Written and starring Chris Colfer, this movie isn’t entirely sure what it’s trying to be. It’s not quite a shaggy dog story, but the elements of that mean it’s not really a coming of age story; and it’s got major elements of a stock teen comedy but is ultimately a tragedy. It’s got some clever bit, and some polemic bits, and some attempts at heartbreaking bits—actually, it feels a bit like Colfer took every good idea he had / everything he wanted to put on screen and crammed them all into a single movie. How well that works is debatable.

Really Terrible Bible Stories Vol. 1: Genesis, by Dana Hunter - Most things you can get for free via Amazon Prime Unlimited are worth what you pay for them, and this isn’t really an exception. It reads like a series of blog posts, each dissection a couple of chapters of the book of Genesis and explaining why it’s actually terrible. The thing is, her overblown and hyperbolic style isn’t actually terribly funny; and if her nominal goal is to convince Christians that their scared texts are full of terrible things, she isn’t actually going to persuade anyone. (Of course, her obvious actual goal is to convince fellow atheists that Christians are illiterate idiots and of how much smarter atheists are.)

Afterlife with Archie, Issues #1-7 - Horrible mistakes are made, and Riverdale becomes the center point of a zombie apocalypse. It’s like The Walking Dead, only starring Archie and the gang. I’m not the biggest fan of zombie stories and their tropes, but this was decently done. As “adult” Archie stories go, I think there are worse ways to go. Though I have issues with the slow pacing of the story—I feel like everything that happens in the first five books could have been crammed into a single issue of Dilton’s Strange Science, back in the day. I also read the first issue of the Sabrina comic that is marketed as a spin-off, but is clearly in its own continuity with a similar style. It’s fun, but I’m not planning to shell out for the trade paperbacks.
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The Unwritten Volume 11: Apocalypse - The series comes to an appropriate end, resolving a bunch of characters and bringing an end to the “real” villains of the piece. I’m reasonably certain that the ending was planned from the very beginning. I’m also fairly certain that Carey and Gross designed the series to be able to run as few or as many issues as DC gave them, given that visits to various genres and stories were very episodic in nature. At some point, I should re-read the entire series in one go, as I’m certain there are references in the later books to things I’ve forgotten because I read them five years ago.

Eversion - A free-to-play PC platformer, modeled off of NES games with the twist that you can “evert” the world around you in special spots on each level, changing the properties of the terrain. It’s fairly well known that this isn’t the happy candyland game it looks like at first, but it’s a pretty solid platformer experience regardless. Infinite lives balanced by decent difficulty (especially on level 6); and you need to find all of the hidden gems to unlock the 8th level and the bonus ending. Not for those of nervous disposition.

Atari Flashback 5 - My sister got me this for my birthday, and I was super excited about it because it has a whopping 92 games, and Atari 2600 games are generally simple enough that I suspect ARR could play them soon. The problem is that most of these 92 games aren’t particularly good—the best of the first-party titles for the system were released ages ago on the plug-and-play Joystick and Paddle sets, which I already have. The other really noteworthy games for the system (such as the Superman and Ghostbusters games) are licensed properties they can’t include on something like this. I’m still going to get some fun time out of it, but it doesn’t recapture my Atari-playing youth the way I might have hoped.

The Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue - Ivy03 got this for free and decided that I might want it, given my affection for women in swimsuits. It’s perfectly nice (though some of the pagefolds are in odd places; the layout has some issues), but I don’t really get why people buy it when Playboy is still publishing—that has both naked ladies and articles actually worth reading.
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Runaways: The Complete Collection Volume 1 - This is the first 18 issues / the first complete storyline featuring the characters, with a couple of shocking twists. The fact that there didn’t seem to be any clues as to the last one—the identity of the mole—actually frustrated me, given how plotted out the rest of the story seemed. It felt, I don’t know, not “thrown in”, but certainly “cheap.” I’m also amused by some of the similarities to Vaughan’s run on Swamp Thing--there are certain themes he obviously likes to explore when writing a superpowered child on the run from “evil” parents.

Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why - While this gets a little preachy, it remains such, such fun. It clearly takes place in a world not trying to be like our own, where a super-powered brown girl is treated like Superboy in the ‘60s—respected for her capabilities, helped by the police, adored by the crowds. It’s positive and optimistic, and I can’t find a way to argue with that. (My complaint is mostly about a slightly grating “middle-aged woman writes the standard ‘don’t shit on millennials’ speech coming from a teenager” near the story’s climax. G. Willow Wilson is my age, a classic “Gen Y” in-betweener, and the speech feels like a cross between her complaints and a 22-year-old’s Tumblr screed. 16-year-old Kamala doesn’t even count as a “millennial”, she’s part of “generation Z” / “post-millennials”.)

Earth-2 Volume 4: The Dark Age - I think, perhaps, we’ve had a few too many secret origins and new characters added, as this volume brings in the Earth-2 new Batman, Red Tornado and a character I suspect will be the rebooted Val-Or. One threat is brushed aside to bring in much bigger ones, and it seems very unlikely that Earth-2 will outlive its comic series.

Unwritten Volume 10: War Stories - Tommy Taylor gets home to a world that’s effectively in ruins, as the stories that drive it all run free and Leviathan slowly dies. It’s clear that the end is coming, as setups from earlier in the series start getting their payoffs and a final confrontation mounts. I look forward to the final volume.

Fables Vol. 16: Super Team, Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Fables, Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland, Fables, Vol. 19: Snow White - I had read fragmented pieces of the first three books as my supply of free pamphlets was drying up a few years ago. So I knew, for instance, that Mister Dark was beaten and the repercussions thereof, but it’s nice to get all of the bits in order. Also of note, stories about missing children and children in trouble are a lot harder to read now than a few years ago. Fables apparently (finally) ends with Volume 22; in a few months I’ll probably buy the last three books and finish out the series. 
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Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal - This is really good, y’all. Okay, the Jersey City Kamala lives in doesn’t quite match up to the reality—there’s no part of Grove Street that has houses like hers, for instance—but I think I can still have some hometown pride. I’m reminded of the original run of Jamie Reyes as Blue Beetle, or every some of the best Superboy and Spider-Man stories: It gives you everything you need to recognize the character as a person in a real place and culture (even if you don’t share it) and identify with them even when they aren’t doing impossibly cool things. I liked Wilson’s work on Air, but I think she really found her footing here.

Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More - I find it amusing that after all the years of back-and-forth, it was Carol Danvers that finally made DC give up and rename Billy Batson’s alter-ego “Shazam”. The first issue in this is a setup for the book’s change in setting / supporting cast from its previous incarnation (which I might also want to find), but then the actual arc is a well-set-up mystery that drops a lot of useful clues up front where you’ll never catch them. (Also, and this is probably a statement about the way female heroes are often written, it plays like a Wonder Woman story in that the ultimate resolution comes from clever politicking as much as it comes from punching stuff.)

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon - A fast and fun read. This is much more a set of standalone stories than an arc, and the real winning moments are the throwaway gags (“Everything Awful Oh God Somebody Do Something”), but it does give you a good sense of how Hawkeye manages to keep up with a team that features Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. Like Batman, it’s a combination of preparedness, very good improvisation, dumb luck, good taste in sidekicks, and sheer blind determination.

And from the DC side…
Earth 2 Vol. 3: Battle Cry - I think the best thing about Earth-2 is that it doesn’t really cross over with anything, which means that it isn’t constrained by the limitations of a shared universe. Want to destroy half of Asia to show how close the villains came to really winning? Want to radically rewrite history and current politics? Want to introduce new characters and kill them off willy-nilly? Great, do your thing, the comic will be more exciting for it. I think I could stand to go a few issues without an origin story, mind you (there are SO MANY), but the impending demise of the New 52 universe and this book tell me that there will be a resolution, even if that resolution is “Everybody’s dead, Dave.”

I also got four volumes of Fables and two of The Unwritten to catch up on. I was getting the pamphlets kinda randomly for a while there, so I missed chunks of storylines starting somewhere around the “Super Team” arc.
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The Prisoner: Shattered Visage - This hits a major issue with anything having to do with The Prisoner: You can’t add much to the canon without explaining something that the series left open, and you can’t explain anything without nuking someone’s fan theory, because it’s just that kind of a show. As a sequel set 20 years after the show, it needs to declare that the events of “Fall Out” were a drug-induced hallucination and that The Village was run by the side Number Six WASN’T on. It also tries to keep the mystery of who is actually running the show with cryptic references to “archangels”, but has to admit that British intelligence is the next level up from the Village superiors. The story was okay, but I didn’t find that it really added anything to Prisoner canon that was worth what you needed to accept in order to buy into it. (It occurs to me that if I were doing a 6-issue miniseries of Prisoner stories, I’d have six entirely separate stories, each based on a completely different interpretation of the events of the series. That would be fun.)

Supreme Power (collected issues #1 - #18) - JMS came up with a Justice League elseworlds story, but had better luck selling it to Marvel with the serial numbers filed off. (Okay, yes, the Squadron Supreme and Squadron Sinister existed before this, but they were JLA-expies from the start, just like the Justifiers of Angor were DC’s answer to the Avengers; or the great Freedom Fighters/The Invaders pseudo-crossover. Man, Roy Thomas just loved doing that.) It’s his take on a “realistic” JLA story, creating a meta-origin for all the superhumans and giving everyone a what-if twist: Superman was raised by the US government, Wonder Woman is insane, Green Lantern is periodically possessed by his sentient power ring, Batman is black and obsessed with racism, the Flash is famous, and Aquaman is a mute and telepathic blue girl. Unpleasantness ensues and the body count is very high. It was fun to read given that I paid $4 for each trade, but I feel like most of what it does has been done elsewhere; JMS isn’t quite as smart as he thinks he is (particularly regarding racism and sexism); and it’s unnecessarily gratuitous with the nudity and violence. Not everything can be Watchmen…and this wasn’t.
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This weekend, Jethrien gave me the day off to go with my dad to Big Apple Comic Con. This was a completely different affair from Wicked Faire, as there were virtually no panels or events—this was the sort of con that was all about the dealer’s room/artist’s alley. (Which, as I discussed with my dad, makes a lot more sense for a one-day con based on media properties with distinct “celebrities”. People don’t go to steampunk cons to see the steampunk TV stars of the 80s or rifle through boxes of books; they go to meet, greet and sing along.)

This also meant that except for a spin around the floor to check everything out (and buy a few bargain-priced hardcovers) and going to get lunch, I spent the entire con sitting behind a table. As my only goals for this con were A) to hang out with my dad, and B) Maybe buy some comics, this worked out just fine.

Particularly amusing was that one of the things my dad brought to sell were the two collected volumes of Secret Society of Super-Villains, which he’d written a fair amount of. Rich Buckler, who was the artist on most of those stories, was also at the con. Every time we sold a copy, my dad would sign the book and then point out that the artist was two rows down, if they wanted him to also autograph it.

We were at a table right down the lane from where the celebrity signings were taking place, so we got to see the big line-ups for each of the media guests. I expected Jason David Frank (the Green Ranger) to be the big draw, and he was, but I didn’t expect that “Rowdy” Roddy Piper would be a close second. Even more amusing, it appeared that Jake “the Snake” Roberts got barely anyone. Apparently Piper kept his fandom going much better since his late-80s big WWE career.

The cosplay scene was pretty robust, but something I was amused by was the quality of several of the Power Rangers costumes: Like, I’m fairly sure those replicas were much, much nicer than anything the actors ever actually wore. Somebody had the lion-headed green knife made of actual metal. I’m 90% certain that the one show on TV was cheap plastic. (Keep in mind, this is the show that when Rita was shrunken to doll size and picked up by a Ranger, her action figure was used in the shots. They didn’t actually have a budget.)

I doubt I’ll be going to this con every year, but it’s a good “once every few years” sort of experience. Maybe we’ll bring ARR in a couple of years, if he starts getting into comics.
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There are probably a bunch of comics that, for whatever reason, I “should” be reading but I never really got into. But I have recently added a bunch to the regular reading list:

The first (and most recent): Do you feel like a terrible person? Then you might want to be reading The League of Super Redundant Heroes. In a similar vein to The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, it’s a strip about superheroes who are terrible at their jobs and at life in general. Which sucks and is hilarious.

Another fun strip to pick up, this one a bit more for the discerning intellectual, is Hamlet’s Danish. It's a gag-a-day (gag-a-week) strip done by the creator of Rob and Elliot. It’s solid and generally continuity-free.

I’ve also picked up Leftover Soup and Carbon Dating, though I’m less straightforward in recommending them. Both definitely have some solidly funny bits (and the former couches several of those bits in cooking wizardry and totally-broken rpgs, both of which appeal to me), but both are also written by guys who are just a little too full of how “enlightened” they are, and like to create “thought experiment” situations that might be a bit uncomfortable to people who know the reality of them. “Preachy” might also be a useful descriptor for Carbon Dating.

And finally, Jeff Rowland (creator of Wigu and Overcompensating, master do-stuff guy at Topatoco) has finally come back to the “making comics” thing with Iverly. It’s about talking animals and it’s just as insane as pretty much everything else he’s written. (His previous comics included a story ostensibly about a young boy and his family that ended up being a battle between Space Mummy and a flying potato made of poison.) That said, I kinda love Observation Duck regardless of the other insanity involved.
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Before Watchmen – I got copies of the Nite Owl / Dr. Manhattan volume (by Strazynski) and the Comedian / Rorschach volume (by Azzarello), not actually expecting much from either. The former is much better than it has any right to be (as it’s all official Watchmen fanfic), and puts a cute twist on some of the throwaway bits of Nite Owl’s history, and a more in-depth explanation of why Manhattan is a slave to fate. It oddly references the movie ending to Watchmen in a couple of places, though, which is strange. The latter is tolerable at best; with the Comedian story trying to mesh with history and not really working, and the Rorschach story just being a assortment of Rorschach getting beaten bloody and beating other people bloody. With a subplot about a serial killer that’s completely pointless to the main story.

I also got a big stack of the November cover dated DC books (generally issues 35-36, and the Future’s End tie-ins), most of which didn’t really win me in any particular way. Teen Titans has a new and terrible artist. Green Arrow is trying to introduce all of the Arrow TV show supporting cast. The New Gods of New Genesis are being introduced as antagonists in the Green Lantern books. Superman appears to have been cured of the Doomsday virus, only to be immediately exposed to the Amazo Virus in the Justice League books. Lex Luthor is apparently doing a spin pretending to be a good guy. Aquaman has a new team that spends an entire issue standing around talking and doing nothing (seriously, it was one of the most pointless filler-exposition issues I’ve ever read). And Future’s End takes place “five years from now”, but most of the tie-ins are sneak previews of how the currently-running arcs will supposedly end (except they won’t, because five years of in-comic time is 30+ of real-time, and the current arcs will be long forgotten); and the main plot is basically “Terminator with more superheroes”.

One standout: The Harley Quinn Comic-Con special (by Conner and Palmiotti) was hilarious; a delightful cameo-filled, fourth-wall-breaking commentary on the industry and cons in general. That one is worth your four bucks.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Nine - The season 8 comics were collected in nine trades, which meant that even with the slower pacing and lighter density of comics versus a 22-episode tv season, it felt like a long series of events was being paid off. Season 9 got only five trades worth of issues where even less seems to happen and more time is devoted to extensive fight scenes and “unearned” confrontations with big villains. (Though apparently reading the Angel & Faith, Spike and Willow trades—which are considered canon to this series—would have fleshed out the revelations a bit more and made some things feel less deus ex machine.) That combined with fact that both the interpersonal growth and interaction has become repetitive and underdone; and the quipping and general wit has declined; makes me less interested with continuing the series into season 10 or buying the various spin-offs.

The Unwritten Volume 8: Orpheus in the Underworld and Volume 9: The Unwritten Fables - Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and in the ninth volume, Bill Willingham. Hard to go wrong here. The wonder of Unwritten, a blending of Books of Magic with Lucifer in a Harry Potter-shaped bowl, continues apace. The ninth volume is a crossover with an alternate history of Fables, in which Mister Dark was not defeated and a last, desperate plan is enacted to stop him.

Final Fantasy VII NES (Lugia Hack) - I had not realized the size of the fanhacking community for the Chinese knockoff FF7 NES cart. People apparently not only have translated this into English, but they rework the graphics and map setup to bring it more closely in-line with the PS original. (Also to decrease the difficulty, because apparently the Chinese original is insanely hard.) I don’t think the hacks are enough to make it a particularly good game, as it’s still a NES rpg and gets bogged down by slow and frequent battles and a more-complicated-than-helpful experience system; but it’s a neat little thing.

The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters by Stephanie Wu - I’ll admit, I only bought and read this because the third story in the book is one that I told; and honestly, mine is both one of the only positive stories in the book and probably one of the least interesting. The stories are told memoir-style, and are very lightly edited, presumably to remove personal or incriminating details. (In my case, the title of the terrible comic book we passed back and forth, likely at some lawyer’s insistence.) Which also means that some of them could have desperately used some reworking or punching up to make for better stories. If you like true stories of living with mostly unpleasant people, it’s a decent collection. Though one thing that did strike me as odd: In something like 50 stories that were almost all set in NYC, there were virtually no queer people. Am I just biased by the circles I usually move in, or is that weird?
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