Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Comic Day 12.29.2010

Oh, post Christmas Comic Day....shall we dance?

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 $3.99
Written by DAVID FINCH
1:25 Variant cover by ANDY CLARKE
1:200 Sketch variant cover by DAVID FINCH

Comics superstar David Finch takes full creative control (both writing and illustrating!) on this brand-new Batman monthly series! Joined by the best of the best – Scott Williams – on inks, this new series is sure to be on everyone's must-read pile! Delving into the more supernatural and esoteric areas of Gotham City, the 6-part storyline explores the horrific murder of one of Bruce Wayne's childhood friends…and the terrible ramifications the brutal crime has on Batman's life!

OK, so...this sounds like a classic, straight-up Batman story. No Batman, Inc., no Damian Wayne, no Multiple Batmen...

Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming.

I'm picking up this issue on a "test" basis, because, as with any new series, you never really know what you're gonna get. Finch is also, as far as I know, kind of an unknown quantity as far as writing. Lovely artist, to be sure. Kinda wish they'd have paired him with Dini, or some other solid writer.

Still counting the days/weeks/months until this Batman, Incorporated thing blows over. Yes, despite the fact I'm actually enjoying the Batman, Incorporated title, so far.

Detective Comics #872 $3.99
Art and cover by JOCK

Continuing the new series direction from the writer Scott Snyder (AMERICAN VAMPIRE) and artist Jock (THE LOSERS)! A series of disturbing clues brings Batman face-to-face with Gotham City's dark past and deadly present. Plus, Jim Gordon continues a harrowing search to uncover the truth about a frightening figure from his own past. . . Be here for part 2 of "The Black Mirror."

Speaking of unknown quantities, I was a total novice to Scott Snyder and Jock when I picked up the last issue of Detective. Loved it. I'm quite excited to see where "The Black Mirror" goes.

Also, as I've said...really excited to see Jim Gordon get a back-up feature.

The Flash #8 $2.99
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by SCOTT KOLINS
1:10 Variant cover by STANLEY "ARTGERM" LAU

"Reverse Flash Rebirth!" In this FLASHPOINT prelude, don't miss the epic telling of the origin of Barry Allen's greatest foe, Professor Zoom! Eobard Thawne's story is just beginning — and he intends to finish it with The Flash!

Ah, Scott Kolins, I have missed your Flash artwork. Can you stay forever?

Still kinda bored with this series, but sticking with it because I'm a lifelong Flash fan. Of course, yes, I miss Wally. I'm also really skittish about this whole "Flashpoint" thing. The last thing we need right now is another damn event/crossover that doesn't really take off, or worse, just dies on the vine.

**cough**Brightest Day**cough**

There are times when I feel like Geoff Johns is pulled way too thin these days. Green Lantern still works, but Brightest Day is on life support, and this title hasn't found it's feet. I mean, the guy's increasingly the one DC turns to on, well, everything. And he's a Creative VP of some sort. Not to mention being attached to several TV and film projects.

At the end of the day, I just want a great Flash series. This ain't it...yet.

Green Lantern #61 $2.99
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:10 Variant cover by ALEX GARNER

BRIGHTEST DAY continues with the revelation of the identity of the cloaked figure that's been collecting the Emotional Spectrum Entities! But how does its end goal involve the Butcher, the personification of rage? Plus, another being seeks the red entity – The Spectre! And he has no patience with his former host Hal Jordan, who happens to be in the way…

OK, so, yes...Green Lantern is consistently good. Solid storytelling, and, honestly, this is the only place where I feel like Brightest Day is gaining momentum.

That said...

(You could feel the "but" coming, couldn't you?)

Spectre? Parallax? Again? Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinsetro Corps War weren't that long ago. I mean, yeah, I get it, villains return, and the plots get recycled, but is anyone else noticing that all of these events coming out of John's Green Lantern kettle tend to pound on the same elements over and over. Oh, sure, new wrinkles are added, the spectrum of corps, the different entities that embody them, but I am going to be glad when, at some point, we just get a good, old fashioned outer-space police story again.

Captain America #613 $3.99
Writer: Ed Brubaker, SEAN MCKEEVER
Artist: Marko Djurdjevic
Penciller: Filipe Andrade, BUTCH GUICE

It's the penultimate issue of the Trial of Captain America, and Bucky Barnes future hangs in the balance as evidence of the Winter Soldier's crimes comes to light. Brought to you by the hit creative team of Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice!

I have loved Ed Brubaker's work on this title. He's pulled it off far more than failed. My gripe has never been with execution, but with direction. Yes, I am ready for the return of Steve Rogers as Captain America. I'm actually very excited to see how this storyline wraps up, because I think it's heading for the end of the Bucky Barnes era as Captain America.

Again, like the character, enjoy how he's been handled, just ready to get back to the real deal. I might not feel the same way if Captain America: Rebirth hadn't been one of Brubaker's big failures. Nay, HUGE.Yeah, we got Steve back, but it didn't feel earned, or, if I'm being brutally honest, at all interesting.

Look, Marvel, Joey Q, Kevin Feige, whoever, we KNOW you'll have Steve back in the costume by the time the movie opens in July. It'll probably even be the new movie costume. The "House of Ideas" has become the "Hose of Corporate Synergy," we all understand this. Hell, I even respect it a bit.

All I'm asking is, give Bucky a good send off, and get the right guy back into the flag suit.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Until the Yuletide's Over...

Merry Christmas!

 From me, and the Boss.

TRON: Legacy Review

So, thanks to my good friend Leigh B, I saw TRON: Legacy at the Navy Peir IMAX last night.

After the pretty awful reviews that had been heaping up, mixed with a few by people who desperately wanted it to be good, I was not hopeful. I expected a stultifying, inert film, with amazing visuals.

Y'know, pretty much the original all over again.

I guess maybe my expectations had been lowered enough that I really didn't find the film as offensive as some people. That said, it is not a great film, and certainly not memorable. It happens, you soak in the visuals, and leave. That's it, nothing more.

I felt the plot was pretty clear, and there's no urgency in getting through it. Plenty of time to figure out what's going on. (Maybe too much - stay tuned for spoilers.) I wasn't confused, but I can't say it was gripping. There's been a lot of talk of the material in this film only there to set up more movies, but I didn't find it that obvious or annoying, no moreso than any number of other franchise pictures. I also didn't find it intriguing enough to really care what they were trying to set up.

What is somewhat annoying is the absolute adherence to the story structure set up in the first film. Flynn, Jr, gets thrown onto the grid, immediately placed in the games. We have a disk game, corresponding exactly to the ring game in the first film. Then, in both films, Sam and Kevin gain some knowledge about the world they're in. From there, both films go to the light cycle sequences.

The light cycles in both films are the best sequences. It's kind of annoying that they occur in the first act, and both movies kinda run out of steam after that. I will say that TRON: Legacy maintains forward momentum a bit better than the original.

Here's another thing that started to bug me. In TRON, the games were linked to actual video game play. There was even a cut that took us from Kevin Flynn playing "Space Paranoids," to the game actually happening within the computer world. The inference was that the games were played for the entertainment of the unseen users. That's a huge, somewhat creepy, element that could be exploited, and feed all sorts of actions by the programs, but it's gone. TRON: Legacy shows a vast arena of programs watching.

There's a lot of re-positioning of the way the computer world works. TRON gave us programs that had specific functions, RAM was an actuarial program, and would spout financial advice. TRON was a security program, and thus he was a warrior. They also, implicitly, looked exactly like the users that programmed them, so Bruce Boxleitner played both TRON and his programmer, Alan Bradley. This was logical, and set ground rules that could be exploited. You felt for these mild-mannered programs that were being forced to play the video games.

TRON: Legacy gives us games that feel like high-stakes sports. Sam Flynn meets an array of programs that all look very extreme, the idea of a close connection between a user and his program is gone. The design has overrun it. Maybe that's a reflection of the changes in computer culture, maybe it was intended. Certainly, I've seen lots of people who use the concept of an computer avatar to create something very extreme, very different from their true selves. However, even if it was intentional, it forsakes something that felt immediate and personal in the first film.

The acting is actually pretty good. There's been a lot of blasting of Garrett Hedlund, but I didn't feel like he dropped the ball too badly. He's a ingenue hero, it's not a flashy role. It's about plot mechanics and being stalwart. I mean, did anybody think Orlando Bloom was amazing in Pirates of the Caribbean? Anybody? I'd dare to say that Hedlund is a more compelling screen presence than Bloom, honestly.

The real find in the cast, however, is Olivia Wilde. Her QUORRA has more life on screen than any other character. Whereas everyone else seems kind of constrained in some way, Wilde is brimming with excitement and emotion. She's fun, and you want to see more of the character. She also comes off as a warrior without overdoing the "bad ass," far too often that overwhelms any other character trait. QUORRA comes off as a child, endlessly fascinated by the users she's interacting with. Yes, yes...Easy on the eyes, too.

With that, we do come to Jeff Bridges.

I'm a huge fan, and Bridges doesn't slack off. He's doing that Jeff Bridges, "I'm not acting, acting," that he's a master of. The guy just seems comfortable no matter where you place him. He seems connected to the film, and committed to the performance. He's doing his job.

He's also playing two roles, Kevin Flynn, the user, and creator of this environment (which doesn't ENTIRELY make sense, because it was there before he entered the world in 1982...oh, well.), as well as CLU, the program Flynn created to help manage the grid, and villain of the piece.

Bridges does create two distinct personas. Flynn does hang on Bridges "The Dude" reputation, but CLU is a nice dark spin on that. It's as I sit here now that I realize that they did seem like two different entities. Kudos to Bridges in really pulling that off.

However, no kudos to the FX team that created the "young Flynn" CGI mask that CLU and, well, the younger version of Flynn "wear" in the movie. It's a poster child for the uncanny valley. The mouth doesn't work right at all, and it never really looks like CLU is speaking. I worked with it, but, as Leigh said last night, if Avatar can make the Na'vi seem real and do such exquisite facial capture work, why couldn't Disney?

A few words on the 3-D element.

The 3-D revolution has really been underway for about a year now. In that time I can only think of two movies that really and truly used the technology in any sort of exciting or integral way. That would be Avatar, which used 3-D to create amazing depth and a real sense of immersion in the world of Pandora. The other would be Night and Day, the animated short that ran before Toy Story 3. That one is far more difficult to explain, and is flat-out the most clever use of 3-D I've ever seen. It's still amusing and enjoyable in 2-D, but my jaw was on the floor when I saw it in the theater, in full 3-D.

TRON: Legacy is definitely aiming for the former. Nothing gets poked in your face, or anything. That said, it really didn't work, or matter. I would advise anyone to just go ahead and see a 2-D screening. It's cheaper, anyway.

Although, it might be the IMAX. IMAX 3-D has never worked as well for me as 3-D in a regular digital theater. I saw Avatar in regular Digital 3-D, and was blown away, then saw it again at IMAX, and grew annoyed. Every move of my head would muddle the image, and the glasses would catch glare off the screen. Neither of these problems has ever occurred with a regular digital 3-D screening, but happen every single time I see IMAX 3-D. Perhaps it has to do with re-using the glasses. IMAX has done a great job with convincing people it's the best movie experience, ever, but I personally can't agree.

There's also weird choices in TRON: Legacy of when to switch back and forth from full IMAX frame to widescreen. The long, rather dull conversation between Sam and Kevin on the solar sailor gets full IMAX, but the climactic fight is regular widescreen? Huh?

Some of you out there might be asking at this point, "what about TRON?" I mean, TRON is a character, and it would seem odd to have a movie with TRON in the title, not featuring that character. Well, in order to get into that, I'll have to go into spoiler territory. So, the basic non-spoiler wrap-up is this; I can't say TRON: Legacy is a great, or even really good film, but it's not a total disaster. If you want to see it, and haven't (box office seems to indicate you have), it's worth it. It's not going to stick with you, or make you feel like a new franchise has risen, one you can't wait to see the next installment of, but it's diverting enough for two hours.


 Go back if you don't want to know.

Ok, so RINZLER is TRON. Fine, but it's also really, really predictable. I pegged it (Leigh will back me up) right from the moment Kevin Flynn tells his story about TRON. That's fine, the elements are there so that you don't feel like the reveal is a cheat, but here's what is a cheat.

When RINZLER switches back to TRON, and we hear the line from the first film, "I fight for the users." It should be emotional, it ought to mean something. It doesn't, at all, because we don't see TRON, we just see this blank, black helmet, and hear a disembodied voice. It's the moment when we should see him rip off the helmet, and reveal the "young Bruce Boxleitner" CGI mask. Doesn't happen. If they were trying to cut the budget, it's the absolute wrong moment to get cheap. 

It's a key emotional moment in the movie, a re-connection with an old friend for both Kevin Flynn and the audience, and it's played by a literal cypher. A blank slate. It could, literally, be anyone! How are we supposed to care about that?

It's the one moment in the movie that really made me mad. It's just...nothing. Saying a name doesn't mean anything in a visual medium, especially when your movie is designed to be a massive visual experience. I won't even get into the fact that this movie tells us basically nothing about TRON, other than a couple of brief mentions, so if you haven't seen the previous film, you're just not going to get it.

Horrendously bad storytelling. Just awful. I can give the film a pass on quite a bit, but this is just offensively poor thinking on a story level. It's something that professional filmmakers should be able to avoid. Take that as you will.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Comic Day 12.22.2010

Last new comics before Christmas, folks!! Of course, this all but guarantees a big week.

Batman Annual #28 $4.99
Written by DAVID HINE

This year's Batman annuals collide in a 2-part story involving both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson as Batman! In this second part of the story, when a Batman, Inc. recruitment trip to Paris, France leads to a murder mystery, the heroes deduce that the assassinations are connected to a strange cult leader. But will this religious figure take them one step closer to solving the bizarre murders? Or are The Question, Bruce and Dick getting one step closer to becoming the next victims? Continued from this month's DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #12!

Sue me, I bought the Detective Comics Annual, and now I need to see how it wraps up.

I ought to trust my gut more.

Batman, Inc. #2 $3.99
Variant cover by YANICK PAQUETTE

The dynamic new era of Batman continues! The Dark Knight and Mr. Unknown – the Batman of Japan – go up against Lord Death Man. It's going to be a fight to the end that could see the failure of Batman, Inc. before it's even begun! 

I'll eat a little crow here. Batman, Inc. #1 was pretty damn good. I'm still skeptical of the whole thing, but I'll ride out the first arc, at least. The art is quite delicious, and I especially want to high-five Morrison for writing a great, interesting Selina Kyle in #1. This may be a good book, but the concept still feels wrong.

Green Lantern Larfleeze Christmas Special #1 $3.99
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Cover by GENE HA

It's BRIGHTEST (CHRISTMAS) DAY! What do you want for Christmas? Orange Lantern Larfleeze wants everything – including Santa Claus himself! And nothing, not even the heroes of the DC Universe can to stop the Orange Lantern from getting what he wants! Plus, you won't want to miss the strange holiday season shenanigans starring the rest of the Orange Lantern Corps! Superstar writer Geoff Johns and artist Brett Booth team up for an unbelievable sleigh ride adventure!

I've been looking forward to this one for a while. One of the best things to come out of the whole Blackest Night cycle was Orange Lantern Larfleeze. I'll try to be brief on this. The Lantern Corps rings have a color spectrum that corresponds to an emotional spectrum. (Green = Will, Yellow = Fear, etc.) Orange is greed and envy. There is only one, actual, Orange Lantern, because he just can't share. He wants everything he sees, and no one else can have it.

Well, what happens when that guy finds out about Santa Claus?


Seriously, Geoff has done wonders with this character, who's been described as a deadly version of Gonzo...Yes, The Muppet Show Gonzo. I always have fun reading about him.

Justice League of America #52 $3.99
1:10 Variant cover by DAVID MACK

With Washington, D.C. in the hands of The Omega Man and the full extent of his horrific power revealed, the JLA is forced to make a difficult decision. Is there no choice for the World's Greatest Heroes but to team with the World's Worst Villains – the Crime Syndicate – in order to save both Earths? How will this desperate action be affected by Ultra Man's betrayal of everyone. . . and the reappearance of Dark Supergirl?

So, Marvel announced that Mark Bagley was returning to Ultimate Spider-Man this Spring. Good news, I like that. Exciting, fun.

I think it's also a nail in the coffin of my following this title. That is, unless something really cool happens. Robinson's not had a great track record on that score.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #151 $3.99
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: DAVID LAFUENTE, Sara Pichelli

After the shocking status quo game changer from last issue's 10th anniversary special, Spider-Man must now undergo afterschool super hero training—and the lessons start here!!! Plus Peter Parker gets a new girlfriend? And you won't believe who she is. They’ll be guest stars galore in this action packed adventure as Spidey gets schooled!

So, Ultimate Spidey is no longer a free agent. He's under the thumb of S.H.I.E.L.D., and they mean to train him to not make so many mistakes.

I love this turn of events. It's great because it completely fits with the established Ultimate Marvel Universe, and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s place within it. Plus it'll be great to see Peter deal with his costumed persona no longer being an escape from the pressures of school and real life. It is school, now, all over again.

Of course...we also have Bagley's return and "The Death of Spider-Man" in the Spring...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do You Owe Something to the Source Material?

So, as a proud XBOX owner, I have never played Uncharted, or any of it's sequels. Not that I haven't wanted to. It's a game franchise that has such a great reputation, I've considered buying a Playstation to get on board. It's a modern-era adventure/treasure hunt game, much in the vein of Indiana Jones.

One of the enduring legends of the development of the game was that the team were huge fans of Firefly, and based their lead character, treasure hunter Nathan Drake on Nathan Fillion, and his performance as Captain Malcom Reynolds on that show. Now, as I said, I've never played the game, but apparently the character bits are obvious and all over the place. Nathan Drake just IS Nathan Fillion, and the folks at developing company Naughty Dog have been pretty open and upfront about it.

Now, the idea of adapting a game like this, with a decent plot, proven premise (See Indy Jones), and bit action set pieces, into a movie seems like a no-brainer. David O. Russell is set to direct, at this point. Yep, the guy that gave you I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings and Flirting With Disaster is gonna give a big-time action franchise a whirl. I have no problem with this. I feel like sometimes, the oddest choices in filmmakers give us the most interesting takes on the material. Apparently, Marky Mark Wahlberg is on tap to play Drake, with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in supporting roles.

With the character so connected to an established actor like Fillion, you know the fanbase would want to make their desire to see the guy actually play the part known. Hence, you get this video:

Now, I am not one to ever think that fans should be dictating the direction of the franchises/games/movies/TV shows they are fans of. I think that fan influence, more than anything else, has led to the "fanfictionalization," and ultimate downfall, of things like Star Trek. For example; Enterprise was a fantastic premise, and could've been the best Star Trek since the original. It was totally ruined (which is not to say there weren't problems beforehand) when the scripts obviously started trying to curry favor with the fanbase that was quibbling about the show.

No, Nathan Fillion doesn't HAVE to play Nathan Drake. Not at all, Russell has to make the film he's happy with and proud of. Mark Wahlberg is a decent actor, and I think can do a respectable, fun and involving job. The fan that made that video expressed his opinion in a direct and pretty respectful way, in my opinion.

That doesn't change the fact that this video makes David O. Russell look like a bit of a douche.

I would expect the guy making the movie version of this video game to have heard of the Nathan Fillion connection, one of the biggest elements of the fan lore of the game. He doesn't even seem to know who Nathan Fillion is. That would actually be fine, and understandable, if he wasn't working on this property. It seems to me if you do just a tad bit of internet research about the game and the Fillion connection, lots of info will come up.

Now, let's be fair. Fillion isn't a STAR! He's not a name to open a wide release picture. He is, however, a draw for a pretty damn devoted group of people. He's a pretty popular TV star on a fairly popular show (finally!). He's not Mark Wahlberg, ok, granted, but that "not a big deal" line? It's, getting down to brass tacks, and in Russell's defense, probably a true statement, but it's also not exactly kind. Acting like this kid is trying to push some utter unknown on to him? Like somebody walked up, and gave him my headshot? Douchey.

Even as I write that...I think about the utterly painful exchanges I have witnessed between talent and fans in "controlled" environments like conventions. I understand that, as a person of some renown, Like Russell, you have to have your guard up at all times. If I was in his shoes, in this situation, the guard would be way up. So, yeah, the dismissive tone is understandable, to a point, but the kid is not crazy, insulting, or threatening (at least not on the video, which can give a false impression).

That said, look, Mr. Russell, that guy is the core on which the success of this film your making will be built. He bought the game, loved it, and bought all the sequels. That's why you're getting to make the movie. Maybe you might be, for research purposes, interested in what it was that connected him to the game so much? A connection so strong he's go out of his way to talk to you about it?

I guess what it comes down to, for me, is that this video feels like Russell doesn't know, or care much about the game, outside of the "modern Indiana Jones" pitch.  In contrast, when I read stuff from Michel Gondry about The Green Hornet, I feel like he does know the property, and is still doing it his way. Which, of course, feels too comedic for the uber-serious wing of the fanboy brigade.

Of course, it all could've gone much, much worse.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuck in My Head 12.20.2010

Downloaded Wilderness Heart by Black Mountain over the weekend.

Yeah, the album cover grabbed my attention right off.
I'm loving the crap out of it. Expect a write-up sooner, rather than later. The album is vastly diverse, with big, hooky, 70's-style hard rock mixed with more rootsy stuff like this track.

The Hair Song

And somethign a bit more rockin'

Old Fangs

I haven't found lyrics on line, yet, nor have I really dug into the digital booklet, either.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holy Moley

I am exhausted.

Utterly exhausted. I kinda wonder if I'm not getting sick, as I feel sorta "disconnected" right now.

It's Friday, at least. Four days next week, and then a four day weekend. Time to tough it out.

On the exciting news front, the Tascam is up and running. All hooked up, and I managed to clear out a lot of space in the office, spurred on by it's arrival. Gone is the old desktop computer, unused by anyone for over a year, as well as a HUGE pile of boxes in my closet. My clothes aren't jammed into a corner on their hangers anymore!
So, that's a bonus. 

Now, I just have to figure out how to effectively use the thing. My goal tonight is to get tracks down for two songs, as my friend Paulie is scheduled to come over for a couple hours tomorrow. He's a bassist, and I want to have a couple of things ready. Put him to work, y'know?

It'll be nice to have a "second opinion" on what I'm doing. If he doesn't turn his nose up and say, "that sucks," I figure maybe I'm on the right track.

The real test will be when I get to mixing and mastering...The manual makes HOW to do it, technically, pretty clear, but, y'know, figuring out what each change does to the sound will, I think rightly, be an exercise in trial and error. I mean, what does changing the "knee" do? What the hell is the "knee?" 

We shall find out.

Not my actual setup...I will post pictures soon, promise. Hey! Cool Superman, dude!
As usual, the new equipment has got me excited, and that leads me to set goals. Hourglass 34 was "released" on my thirty-fourth birthday, in 2005. My goal right now is to have these new tracks on disk, with artwork, and in people's hands by my fortieth, which would be August 23rd, 2011. I've got about eight tracks started (which, of course, will be re-worked on the new equipment), so I only need about four more songs. 

And, well, lyrics for what I have already.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Second Run at the Best Video Game Ever

I love Batman. I love Batman a lot. Batman is, in my mind, one of the greatest fictional characters of all time. I mean, right up there with Hamlet. I think Bruce Wayne, and his masked persona, are a pool of character elements that are rife with potential and can be exploited in myriad ways.

I really think this is part of the reason that Batman has, by my admittedly possibly wrong memory, been exploited in other media more than any other superhero character. Seven feature films, a live-action television show, and 4 animated series, not to mention several attempts at a video game version. The character, I think, just feels more realistic, and the motivations are easily understood.

 So many super heroes have had games attempted. Some work better than others, but, in general, the track record has been miserable. Most games are slapped together monstrosities designed only to cash in on a movie, or other media. The hardly ever capture the feel of the characters, even remotely. This is especially true of Batman, where you have so many disparate elements.

Batman is a powerful fighter, a honed martial arts expert and fighting machine. He's also a creature of stealth and darkness, emerging from the shadows to eliminate enemies, and then sliding back into the night. He's equipped with an arsenal of gadgets and weapons, which he can wield with expert precision. Add to that his brilliant mind and incomparable detective skills.

Any of those elements can fulfill a complete gaming experience. Most games would only tackle one of them, and most games, lets be honest, wouldn't even exploit that one element to the fullest. (The shelves are filled with games that fit that description.) The idea that one game could encompass all of those parts of the character, execute them in an excellent manner, and balance the experiences against each other to make a well-rounded game is almost a miracle.

It's a miracle that Batman: Arkham Asylum pulls off with style, wit, and a storyline that feels completely organic to Batman and the world he inhabits. It's simply the best Batman game, ever, and I'd even call it the best superhero game ever.

I've finished the game once, on "normal" difficulty, probably about a year ago. I just loved the experience, and knew that I would play the game again. Likely several times, honestly, but I wanted to put it away for a while, so as to make the experience fresh again. So, a week, or so, ago I popped the disk in and started in on "hard" difficulty. I can honestly say this is a game that simply does not wear out it's welcome with me.

It's a matter of feel. I start playing, and I feel, immediately, like Batman. The game play is an exercise in total immersion in a world that, as a fan of the character, always feels exactly right. There's a neat trick the designers of this game pulled off, in that their Batman, and his world, feel like an amalgamation and extension of  all of the versions that have appeared in various media over the last couple decades. A fan of the Christopher Nolan movies? This feels connected to that. The Tim Burton films? Ditto. The Bruce Timm animated series? Fits in there, as well.

The latter version, Batman: The Animated Series, is probably the closest connection. The wonderful voice actors for Batman (Kevin Conroy), Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin), and the incomparable Mark Hamill version of The Joker are a part of this game. We also have a story and script by the wonderful Paul Dini, who worked on that show.

Batman: TAS is likely the best adaptation of the Batman comics that will ever exist, capturing all the facets of the character, from the most juvenile and outlandish, to the most serious and noir-derived. What the game does so well is take that version, and make the visuals a bit more realistic. The version of the Batsuit in this game is probably the most "realistic" looking ever presented, outside of the Nolan films. It also makes the action and tone a bit more adult. The series had numerous network censor problems involving physical violence and fight scenes. Notably, Batman could never punch a crook in the face.

(Amusing side bit...When The Animated Series crew were tasked to create a feature film from their series, without network censors, the result was Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (so far, the only animated Batman film to actually appear in theatres). I was always amused that the very first time Batman strikes a crook in that film, it's a close-up of his gloved fist slamming into the poor sap's face. Take that Fox network censors!!)

Having Conroy and Hamill, especially, doing the voices is a real boon to the game, it attaches an immediate familiarity, and, again, helps with immersion into the world. Your avatar certainly looks like Batman, it moves like Batman, and does all the things you expect Batman to do, that it also sounds like a Batman you're familiar with is the cherry on top.

Dini's plot is pure Batman. The Joker is captured yet again, and we join Batman in the midst of transporting him back to Arkham Asylum. Of course, it's not all as it seems. Joker manages to manipulate the situation to have his gang moved to the asylum from Blackgate prison, and then take violent control of the island where Arkham is situated. It's a nod to Nolan's Batman Begins, where Arkham was situated in "The Narrows," which was some sort of island portion of Gotham. The game takes it further, with the institution being an entire island, much like Alcatraz, in the middle of Gotham Bay.

That geography is unique to the game, and honestly, it something that might be really cool to use in the comics. It effectively places Batman in a "Die Hard" situation, he's trapped in a (relatively) confined space with dangerous criminals and psychopaths on the loose, and innocents (guards, doctors, Commissioner Gordon) to protect. It's a pressure cooker plot, and as you travel around the grounds, you're more than aware that you're completely outnumbered.

The location being Arkham Asylum also allows many of the classic rogues gallery to be used at will, as well as some of the not-so-classic (*sigh* Bane). The game makes liberal use of Harley Quinn (almost a given with Joker and Paul Dini involved), Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and Scarface (no Ventriloquist, however). Special notice must be given to the clever sequences involving The Scarecrow, which, in a lovely little meta touch, have a moment that simulates a "3 rings of death" XBOX meltdown (really scary, believe me). The Riddler is also very prominent in the game, but never appears on screen, having scattered various riddles and prizes about the island for Batman to collect, he taunts you repeatedly as you progress.

I was sad that my personal favorite, Two-Face, was nowhere to be found, well, aside from a couple of riddles. Although, he's already announced as part of the sequel, due next Fall, Arkham City. Kudos to that.

The action beats of the game fall into two basic types, straight hand-to-hand combat, where Batman will square off against a bunch, sometimes dozens, of the Joker's goon squad, and "predator" sections, where you use stealth and strategy to take out your enemies one by one. Both are highly compelling, and the game mechanics are smoother than most.

The hand-to-hand sections have simple mechanics. One button to punch and kick, one to counter blows, and one to evade. It can drive you toward a simple "button mashing" style, but you learn pretty quickly that just jabbing the controller only gets you so far. There is some strategy involved, like knowing when to counter an oncoming hood, or just take a swing. The best thing I can say is that this strategy, the quick decision, becomes pretty much instinctive. You're making the move before you even realize you need to. This makes for very fast-paced fun combat, and the game also offers some really cool, slow motion takedown animations for Batman. It really drives home the physical power of the character.

The "predator" sections can move quickly, or be very methodical. One of the game's strengths in these sections is a real sense, as it would be in "real life," that Batman is controlling the environment and determining the pace of his work. You can rely on physical force, or set traps using elements in the rooms. What's also nice, for a character who's whole gimmick is based on the idea that criminals are "a cowardly and superstitious lot," is that you can get heartbeat readings on your prey. You see them get more and more terrified as you take out their compatriots. There's a real sense of grim victory as you watch the last guy freak out when he realizes he's all alone.

I should say there are also non-plotline "challenge" levels for each type of action beat outlines above. You can compete in score for the hand-to-hand sections, and speed in the predator levels. The challenge levels are a ton of fun, and satisfy my need foe some quick action if I don't want to drop back fully into the game, proper.

I'm solidly back into the storyline, now. I'm just as enthralled as I was the first time. This game is set to have a long shelf life, for me. I can completely see myself pulling it out every six months and running through the story. I can't say that about a lot of games. As a Batman fan, it's just too much damn fun to play a game that gets so much of the character exactly right. There's even sections, admittedly limited, that dive into detective work, where you need to find clues and use them to hunt your quarry.

In my book, this is the best video game I've ever played. It's been out for at least a year, at this point, so I'm sure, if you have interest, you've played it. If you haven't, however, it's too much fun not to encourage you to check it out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Comic Day 12.15.2010

Hey all! It's ten days to Christmas.

Batman #705 $2.99
Written by TONY DANIEL
Art and cover by TONY DANIEL

Batman joins forces with a new hero who's as dangerous as she is beautiful. When members of a secret order turn up dead and tortured in Gotham City's Chinatown district, I-Ching informs Batman that he fears an ancient relic is the target. Batman connects this case to that of a missing satellite architect. With few clues to go by and the stakes getting higher, Batman races to locate the surviving members of the order before it's too late.

Hmmm, interesting. This is one of the things about Daniel that I like, he's not the greatest writer ever, but he gets outside the standard mobster/gangster milieu that  tends to dominate most Batman writers. I mean, really...think about it, almost all of Batman's rogues gallery tend to be some variation of a mob boss. Mob bosses with a gimmick, sometimes literally. Two-Face (my personal favorite)? The good man forced into a life of crime, but his gang? Essentially the mafia.

Nothing wrong with this, at all, but I do love it when writers start using the sections of Gotham you KNOW have to be there, but aren't used often, like, well...Chinatown. It gives Gotham a much more realistic flavor. I mean every city has their ethnic areas, but, many times Gotham just seems to be a collection of areas names after old comic book creators...

Batman and Robin #18 $2.99
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Scott McDaniel and Rob Hunter
Cover by Guillem March
Variant cover by Gene Ha

The Absence has come for Batman and Robin, and, as they hear the tale in a burning church, our heroes start to realize the scale of the horror they're protecting Bruce Wayne from. The Absence is on a mission, and it can only end in fire and destruction.

Here's the only thing I'll say...I took one look at that cover, and the first thought that jumped into my head was, "I thought Grant Morrison had left this title." It's kinda funny, for a writer that's supposed to be cutting edge and unpredictable, I feel like even the art direction for his stories has become kinda easy to pick out.

I dunno, I really am kinda biding time until this Morrison era on the Batman line reaches it's end. I was impressed with Batman, Inc., believe it or not. If nothing else, the use of Selena Kyle/Catwoman was really excellent.

Brightest Day #16 $2.99
1:10 Variant covers by IVAN REIS

The hottest series in comics blazes on as the legacy of the new Aqualad is forged and the extent of his powers is revealed! Plus, Aquagirl joins the battle, and Firestorm seeks out the Justice League's help!

Yeah, yeah..."hottest series," whatever. A internet friend of mine, Grant, commented to me that Brightest Day feels like it's turning out like Heroes, it's just piddling out. I was excited when this whole thing got rolling, but here we are, eight months in, and it's feels like nothing but running in circles and padding. Seriously, the whole thing feels like The Matrix Reloaded.

Green Lantern #60 $2.99
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by DOUG MAHNKE
1:10 "DC 75th Anniversary" Variant cover by FRANK QUITELY

BRIGHTEST DAY continues as the truth about the Indigo Tribe members is revealed along with their Entity: the enigmatic Proselyte.

Plus, don't miss a special Green Lantern movie image!

Oh, how many times have I seen that cover layout? Not really bitching, it's a classic way to present our rugged hero and his vile arch-nemesis. Green Lantern has become a little oasis of coherence within Brightest Day, for me. It's not to say that every other book involved with this crossover is BAD, in fact that's not the case at all. Green Lantern is, however, the one place where it feels like all of this might, actually mean something. Call it faith in Geoff Johns, or, maybe just a sign that the whole story should've just stayed in the Green Lantern books.

The Spirit #9 $3.99
Written by DAVID HINE
Co-feature written by PAUL DINI
Co-feature art by MIKE PLOOG
Cover by LADRĂ–NN

The Spirit knew there was something suspicious about the relationship of mafia heir Ophelia Ottoman and no-good loser Jimmy Bauhaus, but he didn't know that the secret they kept could pit Central City's crime families against each other! But that doesn't mean he's going to let Ottoman get away with murder. . . does it? Say it ain't so, Spirit!

And in the co-feature, THE SPIRIT: BLACK & WHITE, Paul Dini and Mike Ploog have a holiday gift for you: the tale of an extremely bad Santa – a crook haunted by the Spirit of Christmas everywhere he turns!

I am overjoyed with the end, or at least rolling back of the $3.99 price point at the big two companies (DC & Marvel), even with the regular titles going from 22 pages to 20. That's bad news, I know, but I also worry about some of the great back-up features that DC has kicked out. Among the best of that is the Black & White series in The Spirit. I'm so excited to see Paul Dini writing for this issue. Hopefully, that content can live on elsewhere.

I am really on board with this title. DC has rounded up some really talented people to play with Will Eisner's character. It took me a while to get over losing Darwyn Cooke, but recently it dawned on me exactly how long it's been since Cooke left the last version of this title. Yeah, the Next Wave version of The Spirit re-arranges the chairs a bit, but it's still a solid, entertaining seating chart. Which is kinda stunning, because the rest of the Next Wave line has been a total wash-out for me. The Doc Savage title started out so horrid, I can't even bear to look again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Something That Bugged the Crap Out of Me on The Walking Dead

So, this is probably spoiler material.

I've, along with pretty much everyone else, according to the ratings, been watching The Walking Dead on AMC. In one of the earlier episodes, Merle, a hateful white supremacist, is left handcuffed on a roof, with zombies all around. The key is lost, and the more, shall we say, palatable characters leave him there.

Later they return to rescue him, having an attack of conscience. What they find is the handcuffs still latched, and a severed hand. Graphic, unsettling, and a nice little moment.

Bugged me to death.

Zombies are trying to get to Merle, but the door is chained shut, keeping them off the roof pretty effectively. There's no time crunch to get out of the handcuffs. Why cut off your hand instead of chain on the cuffs?

I mean, Mad Max taught us all you can hack through the handcuff chain (even high tensile steel) in 10 minutes....

The Sword at Metro 12.12.2010

Sometimes, what you need is just a total throw-down hard rock show. Sunday night was horrid, weather-wise, in Chicago. Bone-chilling cold, high winds, blowing snow, the full package of winter crap weather. Getting to the show was a pain in the ass. Walking from the Addison Red Line stop to the club was downright painful. Thankfully, I get aside some bucks to cab it home.

The openers were a Band from Columbus, OH called Mount Carmel. Pretty good, kind of an Allman Brothers vibe, with a bit more edge. Also a three-piece.My buddy Shea, who went with me, liked them enough to pick up a CD. I thought they were pretty good, not really pretentious, but lacking in a bit of stage presence.

Then followed Karma to Burn, which was an odd act. They played for a good hour, really intense, really heavy. Great live act. Trouble is, only two songs had vocals. Now, I'm all kinds of good with instrumental hard rock, love me some Joe Satriani, but the thing is...Satriani serves up catchy melodies on the guitar. Karma to Burn just lay out the stomp. It was like watching Metallica with no vocals, the melody wasn't exactly apparent. This sorta made everything kinda sound the same.

In a live environment, with this style, I'm actually OK with that. It's high-energy, the crowd was into it, and they really worked for it. I just couldn't imagine buying a CD with 10-12 songs that all sound the same, and don't even have lyrical content (on the main) to differentiate them. So, loved 'em live...can't imagine becoming a "fan."

Ah, but then...the main event.

I freakin' love The Sword.

It's a love that's really sprung from their latest record, Warp Riders. (Yes, I have written about this album a lot.) The first two albums, Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth were really good throwback heavy metal albums, I really enjoyed them. Each has what I would call classic tracks. However, the formula didn't gell on every track, but the latest release is where I think everything comes together for this band.

I read a brief interview with guitarist/vocalist/songwriter J.D. Cronise where, when asked if touring with bands like Metallica impacted the new record, his response was that it made him want to take the focus away from "being heavy" and more toward storytelling. This is so very, very obvious in the results. Yes, Warp Riders is heavy, but it's also lyrical, and it grooves. It's the exact sort of progression curve a band should have in the genre. As they move forward we're seeing more and more of what the band can do.

this is all to say, if they'd just got up there and played the new record front to back, I would've been over the moon. It is a concept record, after all, so it's a possibility. That did not happen, and we got a fine selection of tracks from the earlier albums.

When people ask me about The Sword, at some point, or another, I usually say "a throwback band." There are other acts that have gotten that label, Wolfmother comes immediately to mind. To me, the thing that sets The Sword apart from these other groups is a certain sense of authenticity. I mean, Wolfmother...I dug some tracks, the first album was pretty good, but it always struck me as a hipster's idea of what a 70's metal act was. Andrew Stockdale is talented, but there's just a little too much "cool" in the mix. The outfits are too thought out, too designer, and the hooks feel more than a little over-engineered to sound like off-the-cuff, "let's thrash" riffage.

I look at The Sword, and they look EXACTLY like the hessian kids who used to gather at "cancer corner" 'round the back of my high school, and talk about how "fucking rad" the new Iron Maiden cassette was. If it was just the look, I might still be skeptical, but then there's the vibe that comes off the stage. They seem unaffected by the adoration that's heaped on them. Cronise, for example, almost seems embarrassed by the whole thing. As I left the venue, the bassist, Bryan Ritchie, was just standing there, hobnobbing with some guy about two feet from the fans shuffling out, and Cronice stepped out into view at the end of the hall. I threw the horns, and he kinda waved back...I immediately felt like an idiot.

See, CByrd? There are places where the horns work, and some they don't ;). In the hall after a show just makes you look like a meathead.

Thing is, that reaction, the sorta embarrassed, "oh, hey guys"? Makes me love that dude more than anything. Could it be an act? Sure, every band, every musician, has an act, I think. An image they cultivate, and use to keep the world away from their "real" selves. Still, it just feels like a bunch of guys that cut some tracks, and the heavy metal world came to them.

Anyway, yes...A throwback band. When you watch The Sword play, you get the sense that this is a group that could've come up in the 80's, or even the 70's, without much change. The first two albums felt very much like Black Sabbath, and Warp Riders peppers in a heaping helping of Thin Lizzy. It's a sense of hard-workin', blue collar hard rock. I dig that, and always have.

I guess as a last point, as a immediate, physical example of how much I enjoyed this show...My neck is stiff as a board, today. Total whiplash.

Heh heh...The metalheads know what I'm talking about.

Night City, Freya, Lawless Lands, (The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire, How Heavy This Axe, Winter Wolves

Acheron/Unearthing the Orb  
Tres Brujas  
Barael's Blade 
Arrows In The Dark 
How Heavy This Axe 
Lawless Lands 
Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzephyrians 
The Chronomancer II: Nemesis 
The Horned Goddess 
Iron Swan 
Night City 
The Black River 
(The Night The Sky Cried) Tears Of Fire  

Winter's Wolves

Friday, December 10, 2010

15 Characters/15 Minutes

OK, you know the routine: Don't take too long to think about it. Name fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what characters my friends choose. These are in no particular order.  Remember - these aren't GREAT characters, just ones that have stuck w/ you. 

1. Indiana Jones
2. Han Solo (Star Wars)
3. Joe Kavalier (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay)
4. Sam Clay (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay)
5. Peter Parker/Spider-Man
6. Bruce Wayne/Batman
7. Josey Wales (The Outlaw Josey Wales)
8. Rocky Balboa
9. Andy DuFrene (The Shawshank Redemption)
10. "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Mad Max movies)
11. Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
12. Guy Montag (Fahrenheit 451)
13. Malcom Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity)
14. Roy Neary (Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind)
15. Shane

Ahh....It is Friday

And thank God for that. It has been a long week for me, and, as a reward, I've got a 3-day weekend coming up. Yeah, I took Monday off, because I'm going to see The Sword play Sunday night, and it's sure to be a late one, as the show doesn't even start until 9:00, and there are (I think) two openers.

I saw them open for Metallica a couple of years ago, also in the midst of a deep freeze. Yeah, supposedly temperatures around here are going to plunge on Sunday night. Joy on that. I got fairly sick after that Metallica show, and my intention is not to repeat that.

Should be OK. Far easier (and cheaper) to get a cab from The Metro to our place, than from all the way out in Rosemont. That's the plan, in my mind, at this moment.

The Sword is one of those bands that rose to mainstream prominence on the back of Guitar Hero. I believe it was the first, or maybe second game that included the track Freya, off their first album, Age of Winters. I really liked that track. When I'm asked to describe their sound, I've found myself using "they sound like Black Sabbath crossed with Thin Lizzy." I think that's pretty accurate for the latest album, Warp Riders, which I've talked about on this blog before.

I think it's fun that the new record is an honest-to-God concept record, and the three videos they are releasing will form a trilogy. The first two have been released.

Tres Brujas

Lawless Lands

Yeah, yeah it's all sci-fi and stuff, so of course, I think it's awesome.

Can't wait to see the show.

Still thinking and considering on the recording upgrade. I spent some time looking at the Tascam 2488 NEO's owner's manual. So cool you can find this stuff on line these days. I see the package is back in stock, now...

Arrgh. I just don't know what to do. I really don't.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Upgrade Quandry

I have been recording on my Fostex MR-8 digital 8-Track recorder for the past 5 years, or so. The two CDs of material I have "released" have been recoded entirely on this little unit. It's been a workhorse for me, and I have no complaints. There's a MR-8 MkII version of this unit available now, as well as a MR-8HD, with an internal hard drive. I've, honestly, got nothing bad to say about this unit.

It's served me well, and I wouldn't be as good a musician as I am right now (which is a debatable level) without it. It's allowed me to record my little songs and refine them to a fairly respectable level.

After five years, however, I'm feeling a bit confined by 8 tracks. Add to that, the unit requires track bouncing (fairly decent description of the concept here) to use all 8 tracks. It's not as bad as doing it on a 4-track, because there are 4 dedicated "bounce tracks," so you can record 4 tracks, bounce those to tacks 5 & 6, in stereo, and then record on tracks 1-4 again.

It's effective, but what it also means is that the mix you set for tracks 1-4 is set in stone once you bounce 'em over to 5 & 6. If you'd like to chuck the levels you set the drums and bass, for example, on 1-4, when you star laying down guitar, you can't just do it, and you may have recorded over the original takes. (When you record on 1-4 again, you're recording over the original takes, leaving only the mixed stereo on 5 & 6)

All this is a long-winded, and probably too technical, way of saying I feel I'm ready to have more tracks, and more flexibility, to work with. I feel like I've more than gotten my money's worth out of the MR-8, and I feel OK with looking for something new. Plus, there's a offer for twelve months same-as-cash in December, and the account is basically paid off. The time is right to look at a larger purchase.

I also want to get some monitors to work with. I've always used headphones for recording and mixing, which isn't the best option. Anybody will tell you the truest sound will come from a monitor, and not speakers pushed up against your ears. So, that's an upgrade that's in the cards, too.

The question that is now on the table is, what would be a reasonable upgrade? There are 16 and 24 track digital options.

For the 16 track, we have the Fostex MR-16HD/CD. Looks like a solid unit, and it's the same manufacturer as my current unit. The reviews I've found are solid, and my history with Fostex tends to make me confidant. One unfortunate thing is that Fostex is NOT a brand offering the 12 month financing. However, since I'm buying monitors, too, I can get monitors with that financing, and anything I buy with it is covered, as well. So, a thought, but not a huge issue.

On the 24-Track end, we have the Tascam 2488 NEO. As would be expected, it's more expensive, but I'm also reading through the manual right now, and it's simply has a ton of features.

(Side note...How great is it that you can find the owner's manual of just about anything easily on-line now? So many questions answered by looking at this.)

I gotta say, this thing is, essentially, a pro recording studio in a single unit. That's really cool, and really compelling, in a "that would be so cool" way. Tascam is a known brand, so it's not like an unknown quantity, even if I've never worked with their stuff, personally. Financing is in full effect here, no shucking and jiving with other items to get the deal.

In both of these cases, bouncing is going to be an issue, looks like. The MR-16 offers 8 tracks, then combined stereo bounce tracks for the rest. The 2488 NEO has 12. At the end of the day, I'm kinda hedging toward this package, which would give me the 24 track, with the monitors, and some extra equipment.

I really don't know what to do here. This recorder would be a MAJOR upgrade for me. It would be like having an actual, professional recording studio at my beckon call. That's exciting, and the features and stuff are top notch. Plus, with this package, I'd have actual monitors for mixing, plus some nice new headphones, and a new microphone. Don't NEED that stuff, but buying the recorder with monitors is only about $20 less than the package.

Thing is I don't NEED 24 tracks. I don't. Not at this point. However, this unit would make it very easy to record things like real drums and stuff in the future, if I go that way. I mean, like I said, I've been using my 8-track for 5 years now, so I'm looking at this as a long-term investment. That said, would a 16 Track be just as good?


Maybe I just need a better-quality 8-Track

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stuck In My Head 12.8.2010

All I can say is; they better play this Sunday night.

Night City 

There is a place where the losers win
A port of call for desperate men
It is known by many names
We come and go but it remains
Nobody cares, nobody cries
if you're scared or if you die
That's the way it goes
You should know...

You're in the place they call the Night-side
In the shadows where the killers and the pirates hide
Stick around if you think you can survive
in the city on the Night-side

Running scared through endless night
Too afraid to put up a fight
They shackle her wrists
It's too late to resist
Scanned for weapons and transmitters
Sold at auction to the highest bidder
That's the way it goes
Now you know...

You can find us on the Night-side
In the shadows where the killers and the pirates hide
Come around if you think you can survive
in the city on the Night-side

You can find us on the Night-side
In the shadows where the killers and the pirates hide
Come around if you think you can survive
in the place they call the Night-side 

-  J. D. Cronise

New Comic Day 12.8.2010

Another relatively light week.

It's kind of amazing how quickly you can get behind on storing your books. In general, I tend to make a pile, and let it grow until I'm "ready" to pull out the short boxes, and put the stuff away. Well, apparently, when I put away my pile last week, I'd let things go on for about five months. I couldn't believe it, almost a half a year of books.

Of course, it also pointed out how badly off the schedule some books are. I had five issues of things like Green Lantern and Ultimate Spider-Man, only three issues of The Flash, and, the worst offender, one measly issue of The Brave and the Bold. It's just kind of amazing how far these things can go.

I'd LOVE for one of the big two to just come out and say, "a year with no late issues, no matter what!" That would mean more to me than a big crossover. Keep fill-in artists in place to take up the slack, have fill-in issues ready to go if the scripting gets behind. I mean, put the pressure on the creators to understand what a deadline is. DC looked like they were heading that way a couple of years ago, but they didn't have the balls to pull it off.

Never happen, though. The power wielded by the "hot" creators is too much, sadly.

Anyway, here we go.

Booster Gold #39 $2.99
Art and cover by CHRIS BATISTA

Forced to face the reality that his best friend Ted Kord is never coming back from the dead, Booster Gold withdraws from reality by running home to his original time and place. Unfortunately, once home, he's arrested for the theft of the Time Sphere that allowed him to become Booster Gold in the first place!

I have to say, reading this solicit makes me happy.

I love Ted Kord as much as the next guy, and the Blue & Gold team is something I loved dearly. Thing is, DC's been pretty solid that Ted is DEAD, with a legacy replacement and the whole shebang. I also think this book has done great, even terrific, work with Booster's grief over loosing Blue Beetle. All that said, I think it's time to move on. I don't want this series to be about Booster visiting Ted Kord in different eras, over and over again.

The concept behind this series, with Booster Gold being the guardian of the DC Universe time stream, give you so many places to play. So many story options, so many possible adventures, and it kinda feels like they keep going back to the Ted Kord thing over and over again. It's certainly a storyline I'd like to see revisited in the future, but...I think it's time to let it lie for a while.

The Flash #7 $2.99
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:10 "DC 75th Anniversary" Variant cover

The Rogue Profile issues return as BRIGHTEST DAY zips on with a spotlight turned toward the resurrected Captain Boomerang! He knows why he's back and what he needs to do. But does he still have what it takes to be a Rogue?

Manapul gets six stuttering, stop-and-start, issues out, and is rewarded with a month free. I can point specifically at him because Geoff Johns has proven to be someone that can get a series out monthly. Green Lantern is never late, so...we're looking at you, Francis.

Sad part is, I really do wish Kolins was just the artist on this book, or Mark Bagley. When Bagley was wrapping up on Trinity, they were talking about where he could go next, and I SWORE it was going to be The Flash. His clean, lean style is perfect for a runner's physique, plus the sort of dynamic, agile stuff he did with Spider-Man would lend itself to this title, as well.

Not to mention...IT WOULD'VE BEEN ON TIME!! Which, as I've discussed before, might've made this return of Barry Allen fly. It's been so hampered with delays and missed issues. As it is we get Bagley's top-notch art on a sub-par Justice League of America title (yeah, the last couple of issues have shown a pulse, here's hoping!), and the well-written Flash book feels...slow. Which is so wrong, on so many levels.

Red Robin #18 $2.99
Art and cover by MARCUS TO

To infiltrate the computer systems of a Russian industrialist tied to the mysterious Unternet, Red Robin must stop a vengeance-driven vigilante named Promise from killing the oligarch while making sure his former ally Red Star doesn't stop him!
If you'd have told me a year, or even six months ago, that Red Robin would be my favorite, and the most consistently good Batman-related book on the shelves, I'd have told you that you were high. It didn't really snap out of the gate, but the arrival of Fabian Nicieza really gave the title shape, and a dramatic thrust.

Yeah, I'd have to say that, month in, month out, I enjoy reading it more than Batman and Robin, and that has been a great book, too. I just think this title, out of everything going on, swirling around the Bat-titles, feels like a classic Batman-related book. In all the best ways. Tim Drake has grown into a really solid lead, although that really shouldn't be a surprise, as he carried the Robin title for years. He just needed good writers to make it fly. He has one now, and it's become a steady, solid read. 


Detective Comics Annual #12 $4.99
Written by DAVID HINE

What starts as a Batman, Inc. recruitment trip soon turns into an international incident as The Dark Knight encounters a string of bizarre murders in Paris, France. Featuring both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson as Batman, this extra-sized spectacular guest-stars The Question and spotlights the debut of a new Bat-ally!

In part 1, Bruce, Dick and Renee Montoya are presented with a series of cryptic clues, which lead them to the underground catacombs of Paris — and the most unexpected of assassins! Continued in this month's BATMAN ANNUAL #28!

Ah, Annuals.  I remember when annuals were places to let new talents play around with established characters, without having to tie in, directly, to the ongoing story of the main title. As I look at all the Batman, Inc. references here, I see that this isn't going to be the case. OOH! Continued in the Batman Annual, as well!!

I know that's pretty snarky. I know it is. Still, I'm going to flip through the issue, and make a call based on art and the bits I read. Five dollars is just too damn much to pay for something that isn't much good, and ties in intimately with a storyline I'm not overly excited about.

Although...Featuring The Question always helps.