Sunday, December 31, 2006

Essentials & Showcases

Marvel and DC have years and years worth of stories in their respective libraries. It makes sense for them to publish the stories in special collections. Whether its as a single trade for a much loved story, high quality hardcovers of a series in chronological order(DC Archives, Marvel Masterworks), or big oversized special editions of famous runs or books(DC Absolutes, Marvel Omnibus'). Of course, these cost quite a bit of green. Sure you can get some of these books at a lower price online but do you feel like shelling out thirty bucks for 10 issues of story in a nice hardcover? Or fifty dollars for 40 issues? Sounds good but the more you buy, the more you pay. So why wouldn't anyway like the idea of 17 dollar trades with 500 pages of material? Oh, that's right, they're black and white and on cheap paper.

I have a budget for comic books. I own one Absolute which was a gift, ordered an omnibus for 40 dollars off(still 60 bucks), and two archives. I'm telling you, as nice as they are I can't afford to buy all the stuff I want high end. So if I absolutely need it I'll get it but if I can pick it up in a trade series over time, that's fine by me. But when it comes to chronological reprints of older stories, I have to go with Essentials or Showcases. I own 18 essentials and 11 showcases and I love most of them. Their cheap and allow you to read a wealth of stories. I was apprehensive at first but I wanted to read the older X-Men series under Chris Claremont and tried it. I liked it, and I started buying more. When Showcase was announced I hopped on it. I found that no color didn't take away from my enjoyment of the stories.

However when I'm online I see fans just terribly upset over this line of books they have all the right to ignore. Why sling crap at the doorstep of companies knowing people would like to buy cheap reprints of series because they are more "affordable" then the high priced edition? I can't afford to buy the Justice League archives nor would I have ever considered it because I wasn't sure I'd like them. I buy the Showcase to try it out, which is 16.99 for a little more then two archives worth of stories which individually would cost 50 dollars each.

I think Marvel and DC made right by these collections and if you don't want to buy them, don't. Wait till the masterworks and archives come out. It may take longer, but they are transferring them to high class paper and color fixing each panel so why moan about the black and white reprints?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Understanding Your Future Masters: Excel Saga Overview Part 3

Table of Contents
Introduction & Part 1
Part 2
Excel Saga Wikipedia

Volume 5
Mission 1: Hyatt and Excel work at a cabin lodge during the winter for the recurring character of Mr. Owner. An ex-military man. Not much known about him but there's a flashback about how his friend Antonio died, which was because Mr. Manager chose to end his suffering. Sumiyoshi, Watanabe and Iwata are trying to make their way up but get lost. Mince tries playing with an active grenade and ends up destroying the cabin. Nice kick off, huh?

Mission 2: Valentines day and Matsuya views at as another day, though Iwata tries hard to get some attention from her. Eventually she buys him some pocky(chocalate covered stick cookie) snacks.

Mission 3: Excel is thinking a career change from her current position working part time at a grocery. This is after the manager notices some items missing. As Excel is taking out trash into the alley she notices suspicious men and then stumbles upon a brown bag which has a pistol in it. "I don't get it. Did daddy pick this up for the kids and just forget it after his pre-commute bender..." Excel says while toying around what she believes to be a fake. She rushes home with it after realizing it's real.

Hyatt's home, sick, and Excel works out what to do with the piece. At firsts he fantasizes about life with the gun but then decides to ditch it. She returns to the alley the next day to leave it only to see cops. The next morning the alley's covered with cops. As Excel works out how to get rid of the gun her very presence in the home is effecting Hyatts state so much Excel has to retrieve more medicine. At the pharmacy, she mistakenly pulls her gun instead of her wallet and scares the clerk, leading her to run from the scene.

"Oh God! Oh Buddha! Please know if you really do exist... YOU'RE BOTH MY ENEMIES!!!"-Excel

Then fires into the sky to bring out the suspicious gangster types. Excel flees and tosses the gun. Kabapu finds it, thinking its a fake, and fires it taking out a piece of his hair-and effecting his personal balance.

Mission 4: Secretary Momochi informs Kabapu that the gun he found tied to an illegal arms smuggling ring. She's already started the process to track them down, and dispose of the minor criminal ring. Kapabu's hair is now featuring an attachment which allows him to keep his balance, and for some of the others to continue their mockery of him behind his back.

Mission 4 introduces the supporting character of Professor Shiouji. In his introduction he's seen outside his car watching little girls and speaking to Dr. Kabapu. On his way to meet the doctor, he runs into excel(or Excel jumped out in front of the car leading it to swerve). She checks inside and is abducted by what turns out to be an automated car with strong feelings for it's creator. jealous it attempts to drive them both off an unfinished freeway into the water. Shiouji uses his emergency ejector seat toe scape leaving Excel to die. Though he does order a salvage crew.

Mission 5: Excel finds a new underground route to HQ which puts Hyatts worries to rest. Il Palazzo seems, well, his usual nonchalant self. Back at the department Kabapu introduces the staff to their new co-worker: Ropponmatsu. Ropponmatsut is instantly a hit with Iwata who become infatuated after first glance. They attempt to go out to lunch but Matsuya notices something wrong first when she notes her doll like presence in their first meeting and then when they all try to share the same elevator. All the while Hyatt and Excel are looking to deliver a package for Il Palazzo and then retreat. The civil servants, on the way to lunch they spot the box where Excel and Hyatt dropped it after Hyatt collapsed and spit out blood all over it. Ropponmatsu detects a time bomb inside where Excel and Hyatt dropped the package after Hyatt collapsed and spit out blood. Ropponmatsu contacts HQ as her co-workers are confused. Dr. Kabapu arrives to instruct Ropponmatsu and the others. Roppon attempts to defuse the bomb but it explodes killing her.

Mission 6: Kabapu sends in the SWAT team(or Defense Army, whatever) in to seal off the scene and detain spectators including his own staff. Begins the disinformation campaign.

"Yes! Blow up a building or two that aren't important as camouflage if you must."

Soon Kabapu is meeting with Prof. Shiouji who built Ropponmatsu. Seems that salvage crew was to locate her body from the river where Excel was left to die(apparently she broke through the armor windows). He had told Kabapu to wait 36 hours before using her but he didn't listen. Seems Kabapu provided the professor with the technical data and Shiuji built it with that information. Shiouji says that he will create a replacement model that's lighter and of different material.

The detained staff was blindfolded and hauled off city limits to a secret detainment center. Kabapu retrieves them and explains that Ropponmatsu was a robot. Next day Shiouji meets the staff and introduces a petite, teenage girl version Ropponmatsu II. Iwata hates her while Roppon II takes to Matsuya as her big sister. Somewhere Il Palazzo senses some disappointment in his enemy.

Mission 7: Back track a day when Excel was fleeing with Hyatt on her back, from the package they were suppose to deliver. Excel takes Hyatt to the hospital hoping to get a blood transfusion for her. Meanwhile Dr. Iwata goes to check out the explosion and gets detained. Excel, after stealing a nurses outfit and giving stolen blood to Hyatt, leaves her to find the package. The place she returns has no sign of Il Palazzos case, nor of any sign of an explosion. Dr. Iwata returns a changed man. Hoping to amend the problems he's caused the hospital in the past. Which includes helping Hyatt who he finds. Excel hurries to the rescue with a swift kick and retreats to HQ. Where Il Palazzo seems to know there was success in his soldiers mission.

-Skip Bonus Fantasy Mission-



Volume 6
Mission 1: Excel and Hyatt look to return to HQ which has magically disappeared. excel leaves Hyatt to go look for another entrance. Ropponmatsu II moves into the apartment complex where here co-workers live. Iwata is very angry at this turn of events. Excel returns to get Hyatt only to find the HQ has reappeared, with a new look, and Il Palazzo wearing a new outfit.

Mission 2: Ropponmatsu II invites her co-workers to lunch, though she herself can't actually eat. They(Iwata, Sumiyoshi, Watanabe, and Matsuya) go to a steak house where Excel and Hyatt are working undercover to learn about the food services and earn money to pay rent. The steakhouse is pushing chicken because an over abundance but since Iwata is demanding steak excel is sent to retrieve it. Though she learns they slaughter cows on the spot(!?). Excel fights the steer through the restaurant, into the streets causing a rig to swerve and destroy the restaurant. Eventually her and steer are out to sea.

Luckily our main players got out alive and Kabapu, on his way, figures it'll be fine to skip the festivities.

Mission 3: Ordinary day for everyone? Roppon II adjusts to life at her new home as Shiouji monitors her from his lab. Watanabe comes home to find Iwata and Sumiyoshi made copies of his keys. This is after Iwata rushes into his room thinking his bed was levitated by a spirit(actually Roppon II burrowing up into his room from under). Matsuya tries keeping in shape, while dodging her boss who goes to her gym. Excel and Hyatt dine on a mix of mayonnaise, water, and bread crusts. Plus Hyatt tries fixing Excels uniform but doesn't quite get it right.

Mission4: Hiyako is a lost little girl who runs into Excel and Hyatt. Excel and Hyatt try helping her but she seems extremly confused by everything. Excel and Hyatt grab her to dodge suspicious men in black suits and cars. After getting away Excel considers "destruction of ecidence" but Hyatt thinks that getting to ahead of themselves. Hiyako now believes their evil doers because they've kidnapped her. Hyatt tries explaining their not evil though they are trying to take over the city. Kabapu gets a call from "the chairman" asking for assitance in this matter but he turns them down. Excel, carrying Hyatt and Hiyako run away, up a building. then the wheels in Excel's head start turning.

Problem 1: Kid knows too much->Problem 2: Pursued by bad guys->Option: Abandon kid to them and run.

Analysis: 93% chance kid meeting horrible fate. ->Outcome 1: Kid never heard from again. Outcome 2: Hyatt and I escape.->A two-birds-with-one-stone denouement.

Excel launches Hyatt over the building and follows her ditching the girl(and some how surviving the fall). The suspicious men turned out to be working for her grandfather, Mr. Kinshu Iwata! The chairman of Iwata Medical Association. Il Palazzo uses a measure of punishment for his soldiers late arrival and their state. That means Excel down a pit and Hyatt dropped a few inches. How equal his to lackey's are.

Mission 5: Excel tries some of Hyatt's omelet, unaware it's laced with various medication. Causing her to collapse and have various dreams.

Mission 6: Iwata awakens to a naked Roppon II in his bed. Ashamed, at first thinking it was a random little girl, awakens Watanabe. The two go to talk to Matsuya hoping she can help when Shiouji interrupts. He's there to retrieves her. the next day Ropponmatsu I moves into that apartment and Iwata is elated with joy. The two, along with Watanabe, go to lunch when Roppon catches excel and Hyatt from falling off a scaffold(they're new job involves cleaning windows of skyscrapers) and incidentally taking out both Iwata and Watanabe. Excel takes Hyatt to retreat but Ropponmatsu goes after them hoping to help Hyatt who she notices to be dead. After tracking them down in an ally she collapses and the monitor feed Shiouji has on her cuts out after standing face to face with Excel. Follows are scenes with Kabapu and Il Palazzo in deep thought, planning.

Mission 7: Excel, now with a cured Hyatt, try waking Ropponmatsu to no luck. Excel notices her weight as she's been lugging her around. They try taking her to the hospital in a cart but the cart slips away and crashes into a building causing a fire. Excel and Hyatt retreat but Ropponmatsu awakens, this time fit to survive an explosion. At the office Ropponmatsu explains to co-workers she carries the same memories despite frame/personality changes.

Continued
Part 4

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Understanding Your Future Masters: Excel Saga Overview Part 2

Table of Contents
Wikipedia Entry
Introduction & Part 1

Volume 3
Mission 1: Quick summary of Across' goal to take over the city as the first step to world conquest. Plus reviewing the fact Excel and Hyatt have to support themselves with part-time jobs during a recession and are generally poor.

This story they take temp jobs on a mayoral campaign and also to gather information on the possible new mayor as well as the voting system in Fukoaka. It turns out that the mayors campaign team had plan to release a last minute voters kit to certain areas but had to be redone when damaging information on the prime minister, who the mayoral candidate had inserted a picture of the prime minister and himself shaking hands into the voters kit, had to be removed. The prime minister had just gotten caught up in some sort of scandal. We also learn here that Excel and Hyatt really know nothing about whose running the country or any of the major players in Japanese politics. The two get paid, plus a bribe to vote. We also learn this potential mayor is in the pocket of our Dr. Kabapu.

Mission 2: During the opening Il Palazzo speech we witness again Il Palazzos weird memory lapses as he forgets the job titles he assigned his subordinates. Excel and Hyatt take jobs giving away prizes in order to give away free phones and make people sign contracts. Ties into Il Palazzo's speech on information exchange. Excel, in her mind, equates orientation and boss' to minions of Satan.

Mission Statement: THE FATE IF YOUR SOUL DEPENDS ON HOW MANY CONTRACTS YOU GET THEM TO SIGN!

Boss: Yebo ruoy retsam! Retsam!

Does everyone have a cell? Iwata feels excluded from his co-workers(Watanabe and Sumiyoshi) so he goes to the giveaway to get one. Even trades a free VCR(a high prize) to get one. Poor Watanabe buys a second one because Mrs. Ayasugi's(alias Hyatt) selling.

Mission 3: Health care concerns? Il sends his subordinates undercover to gather information. We once again meet Dr. Iwata and nurse Fukuya. Dr. Iwata, of course, turns out to be taking bribes to push a new set of pills from a pharmaceutical company. Excel and Hyatt blend in easy, so much their sent out on jobs. Hyatt shows an aptitude for the job, which no doubt has something to do with her many deaths.

Misaka Matsuya takes (Norikuni)Iwata to the hospital where we finally see the good doctor and his cousin face to face. This is also where we find out how Dr. Iwata got his facial scars(damn google can't find me a pic) as his cousin slashed him with surgical tools while he slept. He holds a grudge, obviously. Iwata was injured by Matsuya after he offended her. The doctor uses a syringe with some drug to put his cousin to sleep. This is before Dr. Iwata explains his hate and how he wants to enact a gruesome revenge. The nurse puts Dr. Iwata down and Misaki eventually just leaves Iwata out in the gutter.

Hyatt and Excel are spotted by the nurse, who recognizes them from volume 1: mission 7. Tells them to just leave. Quickly they get separated and Excel looks for Hyatt who goes missing, when she ended up dead in the morgue.

Mission 4: Everyone has various dream sequences. The end. Oh, except the final pages where we have Il Palazzo and Kabapu standing around plotting against one another because somehow they know each other exists to oppose the other.

Mission 5: Snow day. The civil servants are off from work and as they plan to go out, the run into Mrs. Ayasugi/Hyatt(after she awakens from death while Excels out). She joins them. Some violence between Iwata and Watanabe(of course). Iwata then ticks off Matsuya with a snowball, she responds in kind knocking him out. Hyatt offers some of her pills which puts Iwata back onto his feet, briefly, before becoming sick. Matsuya recommends a "special" hospital where Iwata's cousin works.

Mission 6: Security breach at Across HQ has Excel and Hyatt responding with extreme measures. Except the control room to protect Across is analog. Filled with levers, pulleys, and voice tubes. No buttons, switches, or even monitor screens. As they plan to fend of the intruders we learn Iwata, Sumiyoshi, Watanabe, and Matsuya weren't sent down by Kabapu to explroe any suspicious activities. The group elect Iwata as leader to hold the new version of the laser gun appearing back in volume 2. This allows them to stand behind him and possibly out of harms way. They get that with a dropping wall blocking the path back and a sudden flood of the sewers. Excel and Hyatt get caught into it as well as their defense room is not the most well constructed. Before the flood and after the cage wall, the voice tubes carry the intruders voices up to their location where Excel remarks their voices where familiar somehow.

Mission 7: Il Palazzo has a screen to view the chaos. The servants get separated with Matsuya ending up with Iwata. Watanabe awakens with Hyatt and is confused. Excel appears with a jump kick to the head, knocking him out and retrieving her partner. Matsuya and Iwata find Sumiyoshi and then Watanabe whose collapses. He explains what happened. Sumi comments on it as a dream.

"Me guess is that dream wuz a reflection o' how ye hev th' secret desire t' abduct lasses ye are attracted to, an' then lock them away in spots like these, an' then toy wi' them, an' kill them"

Il watches as Excel opens a secret room, and is surprised. Then he blows out a door and floods the sewer. Matsuya looks up, annoyed, as if she knows she's being monitored.



Volume 4
Mission 1: The opening scene alludes to Il Palazzo communicating with someone in his dreams. He also seems to have forgotten the recent intrusion. At the department Matsuya lies, for the team, about their recent encounter. Also Iwata takes the blame for losing the fun(which turns out to be a non functioning replica and Kabapu had the working model, but didn't notice). Iwata's punishment is to frog hop the buildings stairway, Kabapu makes this punishment expecting his co-workers to stand up for him, but they don't.

Matsuya explains to Sumiyoshi and Watanabe that giving Kabapu the truth would send them back down in the sewer and they don't get paid enough for the dangerous work. Back in Hyatt and Excels home, Mince is using a gardening tool to pick away at the wall in secret, hoping to escape.

Mission 2: In Japan you can pay bills at the post office so Hyatt spends a little of their money to handle this while Excel looks to get some groceries. However Hyatt gets kidnapped on her way by a pair of bank robbers. They take her to their hidden cabin but Hyatt does well to use a bottle of pills to leave a trail for Excel to follow. The trail then becomes a bunch of dead birds. In the cabin, Hyatt's naive and questioning nature upsets one of the robbers who accidentally knocks her, while tied to a chair, over and killing her. They set the cabin on fire as Excel arrives, she rushes in to save her but Hyatt already escaped. the two try hitching a ride back home, where the robbers driving away spot them and fly off the side of the highway into the country side.

Mission 3: Tooth decay strikes Excel! Goes to the dental clinic which is connected with the hospital and Dr. Iwata is filling in that day. Nurse Fukuya tries supervising him as he wants to operate on the tooth by pulling it out. In an attempt to escape excel knocks out the tooth herself, before the Nurse strikes down Dr. Iwata.

"It was a baby tooth, right!?"-Doc.
"If you don't explain your actions to me, I have no choice but to assume the worst."-Nurse

Mission 4 : Introducing new supporting character Secretary Momochi, assistant to Dr. Kabapu. This story here is a spotlight on him. The two talk about the selection for the fifth member who died the night before, meaning they'll have to find someone else to fill the spot with the civil servants/employees. The new mayor drops by and Matsuya ponders to herself why would he come out to visit Kabapu instead of the other way around. The guys follow Kabapu and Momochi to a sushi bar where Iwata(with the thumbs up from the other two) spikes Kabapu's wasabi for a joke. As Matsuya is dropping off a report she finds a folder of pictures on Kabapu's desk from the training seminar as well as an old black and white picture from the doctor. Later she finds the location of the picture and notes how there is now a skyscraper behind the building the shot was taken in front of. Iwata, Sumiyoshi, and Watanabe get stuck with double the workload because of the practical joke.

Mission 5: Local newspaper gives out free tickets to the pool. Excel and Hyatt work out a way to claim it as an observation operation for Across. Excels gear is from a life guarding job, though the style is indicative, In Japan, of a school swim gear. Hyatt(as Mrs. Ayasugi) and Watanabe run in to one another. They talk briefly until a sip of Hyatts drink sparks a severe sickness in him where he has to be rushed to the hospital. Poor guy.

Mission 6: Excel coats over the wall where Mince was digging, crushing his fragile dreams. While walking down the street she gets hit. Hyatt passes out from the sight while Excel ends up in a public restroom with amnesia. She heads to the hospital and occasionally gets flashes of memory and in one moment finds herself crying uncontrollably. On a side note, Sumi and Iwata are on their way to the hospital when they run into Mrs. Ayasugi who declines to tag along as she searches for Excel.

Mission 7: Excel continues having flashes. She bumps into Kabapu for a moment. nothing important in that scene, but thought it's worth a note. Hyatt and Mince find her, however Hyatt collapses/dies and and Excel tries chasing the dog knowing that they know who she is. Upon her chase she falls into the channel and her memories come back, yet block out the period of time she went amnesiac. Though Mince is acting unusal after she was chased into the river by Excel.

Mission 8: Watanabe leaves the hospital early and returns to work searching for Iwata. Iwata vandalized him as he slept with permanent marker. Iwata takes off on vactaion but Watanabe finds him and beats him down. Both end up in hospital. Matsuya remarks: I suppose it was a fitting match up. One still recovering from near-fatal poisoning, the other a complete coward."

Il Palazzo envisions some door, and speaks with Hyatt and Excel about Excels recent amnesiac episode.

I actualy have notes done for volumes 5-6 but I'm tired. Peace out.


Continued
Part 3

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yeah, I Went There(unpopular comic opinions)

I respect Stan Lee's contributions and influence on comic books but to be honest with you, I don't like most of what I read of his work. That is right, I'd much rather read Bob Haney, John Broome, Gardner Fox, and other silver age writers.

I prefer DCs silver age comics to what I've read from Marvel. Yes, Marvel added more characterization and culture to the titles, but at the same time it makes the titles feel a little more dated to me. Where as going into silver age Superman, you know it's written for kids and to be simple and fun.

Most superhero comics being produced today are ghost written by Alan Moore and Frank Miller. By that I mean, it feels like many writers want that level of acclaim ofr their books. Doesn't mean they're bad, it just gets tiring after a while.

I don't like Daredevil and I'm "meh" on Wolverine and Spider-Man.

I think the characters in the Fantastic 4 are either annoying or boring.

Luke Cage was cooler in the 70s.

Grant Morrison wrote the best X-Men stories since right after Paul Smith left Uncanny X-Men.

I think Crisis on Infinite Earths is rather boring. Same with Teen Titans: the Judas Contract. Maybe I just don't care for Marv Wolfman.

Emma Frost+Cyclops > Jean Grey+Cyclops

Brian Bendis doesn't do a thing for me. I'm basing this on the first ultimate Spider-Man trade, a year of New Avengers, House of M, Ultimate X-Men run, and a few random issues of Daredevil.

I think Ed Brubakers a fine writer, but because my tastes for superhero comics usually warrants more "fun" and "escapist" style stories I don't follow his work. It's just too serious, grim and gritty for me. I have almost the same opinion on Warren Ellis. But Nextwaves cool.

Grant Morrison is the best writer working in comics right now as far as I'm concerned.

JH Williams III and Frank Quitely are my favorite artists. Possibly ever.

Jack Kirbys still better than 99.5% of artists working in comics today. Doesn't matter which era of Kirby. Hell, his Green Arrow work surpass' anything done since the books relaunch.

Brad Meltzer writes good comics. And Identity Crisis was fine. Yes, I know, I prefer "sunny" superhero comics but I really liked that mini-series. And for the record, I loved the Giffen/DeMatties Justice League stuff.

Justice Society of America(JSA) is Geoff Johns best work.

Comics would downright suck without Vertigo.


Crazy Frank Millers worst works are still better then most level headed writers best work. Or at least more entertaining.

DC: the New Frontier is better than Watchman and Dark Knight Returns.

I do not care for Greg Land or the Luna Bros. I think David Finch and Steve McNiven are quality artists but i wouldn't buy a book on their name alone.

Marvels best artist right now is Ruanways co-creator Adrian Alphona.

When it comes to art my opinion goes like this Pop/experimental(Williams, Quietly, etc.) > Animated(Marcos Martin, Darwyn Cooke, etc.) > Superhero(Jim Lee, Jack Kirby, etc.) > Indy(Becky Cloonan, Jim Rugg, etc.) > Photo-Realistic(insert name here).

Wonder Woman is the coolest female superhero. Ever.

My favorite era of Marvel comics was the 70s to the mid-80s.

That's it... so tell me how wrong I am.

edit: spellcheck ain't working right. sorry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Random Musings(Or whatever)

Today's haul included 52 Week 33. Which was alright. Tom Derenicks art didn't bug me, and nice to see more Joe Prado art. Birds of Prey #101 was very good. Though Gail Simone's pulling out some old Oracle(Barbara Gordon, original Batgirl for those who don't know) business back I have no familiarity with. Fables Vol. 8: Wolves which I read most of and warms my heart. Also picked up Wolverine. That's right, the originally mini-series re released. This is old school Chris Claremont(he wrote the best X-Men stories) and Frank Miller(just before he went to DC and went from superstar to legend in a short couple years). look forward to reading it.

Disappointed that I can't find a copy of the trade to Gunsmith Cats: Kidnapped. Though Dark Horse is releasing a series of omnibus so I might just get those. Damn... I would've just liked all the old trades, but I guess newer reprints taking up less room is fine too.

Alright, I've been listening to a lot of Sister Machine Gun. Very awesome industrial band. they started in 1992 and developed a more unique sound. I'm missing only three singles but I don't need them, I got all the albums and EPs. Also been listening to Mindless Self Indulgence limited release Another Mindless Rip Off. Also a special Static X mix of songs from the first four records. Right now I'm making a special White Zombie/Rob Zombie mix.

Saw the new Transformer Movie trailer. It was okay. I'm still scared they'll mess it up. What am I kidding, of course they will. Sad to say I haven't seen too many movies this year. I even missed some that I thought looked real good. that said, I am not missing Pans Labyrinth. best movie I saw this year? Ugh... I'd feel like a total loser to say Jackass No. 2 but it's the most fresh in my mind. Prestige and V for Vendetta were very good but I don't think I'd ever watch those again. Superman Returns and Pirates 2 stood out but... I don't know. I'm such a loser. And so are the professional critics who gave it glowing reviews.

It's closing in to the end of the year, over the next few months I'll be putting together my best of the year for comics and wrestling. Wrestling will be later, just after I get the DVDs for ROHs last two shows of the year(which are filmed this weekend. Go Danielson! Retain the title!). I'll do my fav list of comics of 2006 in January.

Okay... that's it...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

10 Weird Things About Me

Well Lauren.. yeah right... we'll see if I make it to ten.

1. Um... when I eat cauliflower I have to mush it down to almost paste. Force of habit.

2. I admit to never noticing when a woman's flirting with me.

3. I have weighed between 120 and 130 pounds since I was in 9th grade.

4. I suffered a concussion once when I was backyard wrestling.

5. I once kissed my buddy Twisto on the forehead.

6. I haven't heard from my (step)father in over a year and I, hate to admit this, don't really care.

Ugh... really, I hate talking about my feelings or even personal secrets so no thanks Lauren, I think I'll just stick to 6. I only would trust certain things with certain people.

Though... peeps.. you can email me questions and I might answer them. Reader mail and all.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Understanding Your Future Masters: Excel Saga Overview Part 1

Introduction


Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the first in a series of overviews about a manga by one Rikdo Koshi entitled Excel Saga. Excel Saga is the story of the organization of the promotion of the institution for the [supreme ideological ideal [on Earth] known as ACROSS. But before the take over the world, the take over of the city. Fukoaka Prefecture on Kyushu, one of the islands that make up Japan. Across is made up of Lord Il Palazzo and his minions, a trio of girls named Excel, Hyatt, and Elgala. With the exception of Elgala, all named after hotels. Elgala herself named after a community hall in Fukoaka. Yes, they are understaffed with complete incompetents but that won't prevent the dream, or will it?

In their conquest for city domination their only enemies include the mysterious Dr. Kabapu and his less then eager soldiers(Tooru Watanabe, Daimaru Sumiyoshi, Norikuni Iwata, and Misaki Matsuya) in the governments top secret Department of Environmental Security. As well as the assistance of his secretary Momochi and scientist Professor Shioji. Little to the knowledge of many involved, Il Palazzo's minions and several of Kabapu's employees live in the same low rent apartment complex.

Rickdos original purpose for the manga was to develop Excel from an earlier manga as well as a way to joke about various problems in real world Japan. Rikdo hails from Fukoaku and named several characters after various landmarks or locations.

I discovered Excel Saga through it's anime series in 2001(or 2002). The anime was meant as a parody on other shows and cliches present in the medium of Japanamation. Running for twenty-six episodes including one unaired in Japan because it was designed to be too explicit for broadcast TV. I thought the series was funny enough to check out the manga which I was happy to see had only some similarities to the actual adaptation. The directors and staffed added characters, left out plot points, and made it more over-the-top then the original source material.

Now that our intros are out of the way...



Volume 1
Mission 1: Opens with Il Palazzo and Excel. Both have no background information at this point. Excel is simply Excel. Hyperactive, loud, dense, and truly incapable of almost any task without failure. She has a habit of justifying any situation as progress or sabotage for Across. Has a habit of narrating out loud for no other reason but to hear herself talk. Or maybe she knows we're reading. Il Palazzo is a soft spoken individual, except during his speeches, who is rarely seen outside his secret headquarters. Besides his ridiculous gear(but you can say that about all Across soldiers) their is something just not right about him. Not counting imaginary chapters, I'd say volume 15 is the first we see him outside his secret lair. Il Palazzo also delivers punishment to his soldiers. usually as a trap door in the ground that sends Excel falling into some sort of pit. This is a running gag throughout the series. The first time is a shallow water grave and used as a way to silence her enthusiasm so he can speak. Nice guy, huh?

Excel comments on the lack of staff as she carved out a life size wooden doll to "assist" in operations. Il Palazzo promotes the dummy before mentioning he will get her help. Excel promptly burns dummy in celebration before whisking off to her part-time job at a construction site as a traffic director. Seems Across doesn't pay well, or anything at all. Similar to the first episode of the anime series Excels incompetence causes a severe car crash in which she flees the scene. "Mr. Foreman... and everyone else on the site, I'm sorry you all got mixed up in this. A conspiracy! This must be some sort of conspiracy!" Oh, that Excel... "... my wardrobe has certainly grown." Commenting on her many work uniforms.

Brief cameo from next door neighbor Tooru Watanabe and ends with a profile on Excel that reveals nothing of any clue to who she really is.

Mission 2: On Excels new job as a newspaper delivery girl she navigates through the rainy weather and flood. There she meets a dog named Mince which in her head she equates as edible. Yep, Mince, emergency food ration is introduced here. You see, Excels poor, and needs food. Part of this scene was used in episode 2 of the series and just like episode 2, while Excel tries to capture Mince(who was actually in episode 1 but in episode 2 tried to escape) her bike floats away. Which she believes another sabotage attempt against Across. Once back at headquarters Il Palazzo uses his trap door to drain the water from the lair which inadvertently, or intentionally, leads Excel in Mince out in the ocean. Poor Excel. There's also a brief cameo by Norukino Iwata as him and Watanabe come to blows over the sound level in the complex.

Mission 3: We're introduced to Hyatt. She is soft spoken, has a very calming attitude and personality, and might be a little clueless. Oh, and she dies a lot. Like Kenny from South Park. Except with Hyatt it's some sort of disease that allows her to slip in and out of the state of living. On the first time Il Palazzo discovers her ability to revive they hold an interesting conversation.

"I was just thinking about how I should get rid of the body," Il.
"Three hours... I've broken my old record," Hyatt.

Hyatt answers the ad in the newspaper for help. That's right, Il Palazzo sent out an ad in the classifieds back in mission 1. Excel however is in an immigrant detention center trying to break free. Excel eventually leads a prison riot for diversion as she "rescues" Mince, who was being treated with kindness and love by the prison guards and workers, and escapes by pole vaulting the wall. It is a comedy manga. Watanabe meets Hyatt outside his home, who is ill and can barely move. he is infatuated with her as he helps her into the room next door thinking she's replacing the last, very annoying loud, tenant. The mission ends with Excel utilizing an Across stead(actually a horse she stole) and getting back to HQ to meet her new partner, Hyatt.

Mission 4: Excel adapts to living with Hyatt. Including her rushing to keep Hyatt alive that very morning. Il Palazzo leaves the two for three days to an undisclosed location for business he can't divulge. Plus Watanabe gives up one of his parents care packages to Hyatt which becomes a trend in the series. Sumiyoshi has a brief cameo.

Mission 5: Today's trap door pit includes crickets. poor Excel, should let Il Palazzo speak instead of wasting his time. Il Palazzo asks about an investigation into the city's waste management all while at home Mince tries escaping with a mouth made rope of cloth. But realizes she has no hands to descend down. Poor girl. Apparently, in Fukoaku, people leave unwanted appliances and tools out on the curb for Neighborhood day. Watanabe and Sumiyoshi are rummaging as Excel and Hyatt enter the scene. Watanabe gets embarrassed and pulls Sumiyoshi with him saying some people have it worst off.

Excel and Hyatt rummage for things and Excel accidentally leaves a magnifying glass in position of the sun. Eventually causing a fire which she equate to another attempt at sabotage.

Mission 6: Not much here except a couple of characters have colds.

Mission 7: Today's pit involves making your own reptilian skinned accessories. Excel & Hyatt work part time selling cakes for Christmas. Excel takes time to explain the proper way to kill a crocodile with a knife. Very educational. Hyatt, unsurprisingly, dies on the job and is whisked away in an ambulance. Excel locates her and revives her in front of a stunned and horrified Dr. Sekifumi Iwata and Nurse Shiki Fukya. Dr. Iwata is the cousin of Norikuni. The doctor is a lecherous man who is one nurse away from malpractice. In an odd moment that can only work in manga/anime, our three neighbors of Iwata, Watanabe, and Sumiyoshi finally give one another proper introductions. I should to.

Watanabe-He is prone to quick burst of anger, especially towards Iwata. Is also easily depressed. Crush on Hyatt, who he still hasn't had a proper introduction to.

Iwata-One of those kind of guys whose a jerk on accident. Seems to chime in with things he shouldn't say and is very slefish and delusional.

Sumiyoshi-Um... the normal one? Doesn't really speak, as in the manga and anime captions appear to spell out what he's saying. Has an accent as he's from the country.


That hair... that mustache.. weird...


Volume 2
Mission 1: Introducing the mysterious Dr. Kabapu. A government official who wants to protest his city but is waiting for a threat to present it self. Kabapu is a very secretive person about his intentions. Also kind of outrageous. Excel and Hyatt are happy at their promotions and bring Mince some food which he believes to mean that this is his last meal. Excel now in public relations wants to get the word out on the conquest. She, with some help from Hyatt, print out notices to the people of Fukoaka. Next day in HQ, Excel fields a question on her cell from a citizen inquiring on this apparent conquest. Il Palazzo punishes her with a drop in the pit. At the bottom there is a copy of the Across Employee Handbook to reevaluate secret organization. The caller, Kabapu.

Mission 2: Il Palazzo plans for what he believes will be future enemies. How right is he? Weird... Kabapu begins practicing his elaborate welcoming speech(including a double corkscrew backflip on stage) to his future employees. In another odd coincidence Iwata, Watanabe, and Sumiyoshi unemployed and barley scratching by applied for civil servant jobs and all got accepted under the same branch. Entry level for Extra Special Technical Work. Excel and Hyatt ditch their part time jobs for the call to HQ by Il Palazzo. They take a severance package of consumer goods at the local mart. We learn what their fake names are for their W4 forms: Excel is Slammin' Flowerchild and Hyatt is Convoy Butterfly. "They sound like pro-wrestlers, don't they?" Hyatt chimes in. Il asks about any attempts at sabotage, Excel exaggerates a bunch of little things. The two notice how exhausted Il seemed in their recent meeting. Hmmm...

Mission 3: Excel fights to awaken Hyatt who was possibly moments from crossing over. The trio of Iwata, Watanabe, and Sumiyoshi prepare for their orientation today and Watanabe and Hyatt finally get proper introductions to one another. Hyatt however uses the alias of Ayasugi. Il Palazzo sends the two to scope out a government building to look for suspicious people. The trio meet Kabapu, whose elaborate gymnastic display ends in him cracking his head on the podium. he instructs them on where to get proper paperwork before collapsing. The department the trio will be working with is the Environmental Security department. Watanabe takes time to point out how this whole thing was strange. About how exams are usually given in the fall, not before employment and how they usually assign jobs based on preferences and performance on interviews. But the others don't question much because their glad they are hired.

Ayasugi/Hyatt and Watanabe run into one another again. There's a brief cameo by Dr. Iwata who is about to go out a date but learning a government official is in trouble, ops to work his hardest. Yeah...

Mission 4: Excel assumes the delicious breakfast was brought to her by Hyatts wonderful cooking of Mince meat. Nope, Mince lives! Watanabe next door gave her his food as he was leaving for a training seminar. Though, in actuality he bought it the night before to give to her just so he could briefly talk to her. SKILLS(note the sarcasm in statement).

Mince attempts escape but gets almost ran over by a taxi. After a fruitless seacrh Excel and Hyatt return home to find Mince thanks to Matsuya, whose only seen from the waist down in this cameo. She's running late for a training seminar. Yes, Misaki Matsuya lives in the same complex.

Mission 5: Matsuya makes her formal appearance in the series. We learn that Iwata, who develops a crush on Matsuya, attended a lecture in college with Matsuya. Our entire brain trust here are college graduates and probably been living in the same complex for roughly the same time as Matsuya move din after Iwata but left to trek around Europe. Watanabe didn't know she lived there.

Il Palazzo assigns his two soldiers to deliver some luggage(bomb) to a location in the countryside. Coincidentally the same countryside of the seminar? I doubt it. Il Palazzo is aware he has an enemy somehow. excel appropriates cart in the name of Across(thievery). The Civil Servants find themselves adorning bizarre skintight super sentai-type costumes and sporting lightweight guns. They turn out to be experimental, and highly unstable, lasers. Here we learn Kabapu definitely has his finger on the future of science but how?

Excel gets lose on a training course, tripping mines and showing just how hard it is for her to die. They end up a cave marked goal. Having confused this and the training course as objectives set by Il Palazzo Excel feels warmed by her lords training. Excel sets the bomb and her and Hyatt flee as it evaporates the mountain which is where Kabapu was storing fireworks for his congratulations party to his new employees.

Mission 6: Short part that seems to indicate Il Palazzo has memory lapses.

Mission 7: The recession is still ongoing in Fukuoka and Excel and Hyatt are without money. The two set off to acquire part time jobs so they can afford to eat a meal. Mince is out of the question because it isn't exactly an emergency yet. Hyatt finds a money clip and excel wants to keep the funds however Hyatt believes they should return it. They track down the owner, Dr. Iwata. When Iwata sees them he explains to the nurse they should dissect Hyatt as he's still in disbelief she revived from being brain dead for thirty minutes in their previous meeting(Vol. 1 Mission 7). The nurse knocks him out and tells the two that business came up. So Excel and Hyatt keep the money as donations from an Across sympathiser.

Mission 8: Training ends with a little party where Kabapu casually mentiosn that the leaking of classified information could result in harm to lively hood. Il Palazzo seems to be developing headaches frequently. Excel contemplates energy and environmental concerns.

Well, that's it for this entry in what will no doubt take me forever. There are currently 15 volumes out with no end yet in sight. Next week(or two weeks from now) I'll attempt another update about mangas volume 3 through 6. Maybe less but we'll see.

Continuation
Part 2

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fighting with Honor



In a past column here on here I admitted my love for pro-wrestling. So I decided to take this time to talk about my personal favorite promotion: Ring of Honor.

In 2002, as I started to slowly lose interest in pro-wrestling with the collapse of WCW and ECW this acquaintance of a one time friend turned out to be a tape trader/bootlegger. Ryan, his name, had a large collection of VHS wrestling tapes filled with mainstream wrestling as well as some Japanese wrestling and a good number of independent promotions. For most fans, these are the people to go to because locating indy and Japanese wrestling was not easy. You didn't see it on TV and it wasn't sold in stores.

Ryan started hooking me up with tapes of old favorites and even things he figured I would like. Eventually he got hold of a video for the debut of the new promotion Ring of Honor. ROH, for short, was being introduced as the pinnacle of independent wrestling. Booking top stars from other promotions in Philadelphia where wrestling has a loyal fan following. it was this same city which helped catapult ECW to cult status and ROH was looking to do the same except without the ultra violence. ROH wanted to be wrestling and built a code of honor about sportsmanship.

I was skeptical at first. Here was a promotion full of indy stars and I had only gotten to see a few in action but the first show was damn fine. Jay of the tag team the Briscoe Briscoes fought the high flying sensation Amazing Red which was the stand out until the finale which featured three wrestlers I had just gotten to know: Bryan Danielson, Low Ki(Senshi), and Christopher Daniels. Most triple threat matches are pretty lousy but this one was exciting and ranks up there with some of my favorite matches of all time. The attitude and personality, the counters, the head dropping and strikes, and the one up man ship was what made it great. But a company built around being straight forward in the US? yeah right and you knew it when Daniels walked out of the ring without shaking the hands of the two other men.

Over the next several months I would receive tapes and come to enjoy the likes of Brian Kendrick, Paul London, CM Punk, Samoa Joe and others. Few were over 220 pounds with incredible physiques, many couldn't even handle a microphone promo. But I'd get caught up in the feuds and grudges because of the wrestling aspect. By being impressed with the athleticism and abilities of wrestlers who were working mostly for the love of wrestling as many knew their chances of stardom was slim to none. ROH did was provide pro-wrestling to me.

However, a couple years back my friend moved and dropped out of the trade business leaving me ROH-less for a few years. This was before I started ordering on a credit card but by the time I had gotten one I was out. I didn't know what was going on and when I looked I was confused. but my friend kept talking about wanting to see this match between Samoa Joe and his favorite Japanese wrestler Kenta Kobashi. I decided to pick it up and show him since I doubted he'd ever see it any other way. I was happy to see some other stars on there I had been familiar with: Jimmy Rave, Tony Mamaluke, BJ Whitmer, James Gibson, Homicide, Colt Cabana, and others. So when I got the DVD, I was back in.



It had been at least two years I had missed and I saw Jimmy Rave had gotten bigger, had a new look, and had a hated personage. I watched as Homicide take on a crazy high-flying Eminem look a like wrestler in Jack Evans. Then there was the main event, Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi. I knew Kobashi from Japanese tapes. He was stiff, mean, and could go. Samoa Joe... well, I always liked Joe but he was never an ROH favorite of mine. But this Joe... he had grown more since last I saw him. When I first watched that match, I didn't feel it in the beginning. It had been a while since I had watched a serious competition like that but at the half point mark-I got the bite again. Ring of Honor hooked me. I started buying DVDs.

It's been a year since I started up on ROH again and in this year I've caught bits and pieces of what missed and played catch up with 2006. Ring of Honor had evolved since my last time watching it. The code of honor wasn't enforced. Hardcore and brawling were natural, but ROH still had some of the most exciting mat wrestling, high flying, and hard hitting action around. Complimented with great personalities. Not just people who can cut an entertaining promo but wrestlers who could perform with a flair in the ring that made them stand out. In 2006 I got to see how a one time favorite in American Dragon Bryan Danielson was now arguably the Best in the World. Meaner, more precise, and overall a jerk in the ring. I got to see ROH wrestler I barely knew or care become stars in my eyes. Guys like Nigel NcGuinness or Chris Hero. I got to watch some of the most absorbing story lines I had seen in wrestling in years. Like the feud between ROH and rival company Combat Zone Wrestling which built around a mutual dislike for each others styles. A feud culminating in a violent 5 on 5 match in the Cage of Death. I watched as Bryan Danielson juggled contender after contender for his world title. I became entranced in the elaborate storyline of Emo wrestler Jimmy Jacobs infatuation for his manager Lacey and how it effected his career with former partners like BJ Whitmer or a rival like Colt Cabana.

Ring of Honor to me is a company that understands where wrestling needs to go. you can have story lines, both comedic and serious, but you still need to treat the wrestlers and fans with respect. Show them what they paid to see, good wrestling. That's what I get from ROH: the best wrestling the US can provide.


Emo Kids Fear BJ Whitmer

41 Issues & Fantastic Four Gets Good?

Recently I mentioned my preference of New Gods over Fantastic 4, as Kirbys best work. Well, not best, but between the two I like New Gods more. I mentioned that I had read the first forty issues of the classic Lee/Kirby run and someone responded that I stopped too early. Let me get this straight... 41 issues to get to the great stuff?

Now I won't deny that comic teams reach their peak in the middle of their run. But Personally asking someone to stick with a comic a little over three and a half years is really stretching. yeah, I bought them in trade, but will nine issues change my opinion that I dislike the Fantastic 4. Mr. Fantastic bores me. He now annoys me in the Marvel Universe. Human Torch, annoys me. Thing, meh. Invisible Woman, meh? The only issues of the series I truly liked was when Dr. Doom showed up. Well, a few of the Hulk run-ins were good too.

Now, I bought this in trade because, well, their old and actually have the book collecting the classic run but the enthusiasm to try F4 faded away after finding myself fighting through reading the first two essentials. I like Kirbys art but Marvels work then is, arguably, more dated then DCs. Marvel tried to be a little more "of the culture" at the time and it just gnaws away at me.

Sorry, I don't care if the meeting of Galactus, Inhumans, and the Silver Surfer are the pinnacles of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's run, because almost forty issues of comics that does not interest you is not made up for by nine good issues in my opinion.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Evil Music I Enjoy Part 2: Mindless Self Indulgence

WARNING! MAY NOT BE WORK SAFE!

Mindless Self Indulgence

Brief History
Take some Atari driven electronics, mix in rap and new wave influences, and add the punk rock style you more or less get what Mindless Self Indulgence is. MSI(for short) is the bastard child of one James Euringer who likes to go by the name of Little Jimmy Urine.

I can't really give you too much of a background on Jimmy and his cohorts of Steve(aka Righ?), Kitty, and Lyn-z but it all started when Jimmy produced a demo EP Mindless Self-Indulgence with a little help from Righ? A little later Jimmy and his pals released their debut album Tight on their own record label after Roadrunner Records decided not to release the album. The band quickly gained cult status with their look, outrageous live performances, and musical and lyrical content. Not meant to be taken seriously but could easily be deemed offensive.

In 2000 they signed to Elektra records. they released the album Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy with album art from Tank Girl and Gorillaz co-creator Jaime Hewlett. The 30 song albums track listing was put in alphabetical order due to some labels need to rearrange track listings from bands. As well as the overuse of asteriks on the back cover as a form of protest against censorship. MSI and Elektra had a falling out which lead or MSI going back underground and releasing a live album and an EP. They signed to electro/goth label Metropolis in 2005 and released their first real follow up to Frankenstein Girls entitled You'll Rebel to Anything featuring a music video directed by Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim Jhonen Vasquez. The band has since released a few remix and EPs to date.

MSI has went on to tour with the likes of popular groups like Rammstein, Insane Clown Posse, KoRn as well as having now mainstream groups like My Chemical Romance or Kill Hannah open for them. Their live performances are notorious and in at least one case had Jimmy Urine arrested and charged with public obscenity.

The band has scored some semblance of mainstream success as two singles, Straight to Video and Shut Me Up, both debuted #1 on Billboards dance charts over the likes of popualr artists like Justin Timberlake and Beyonce.




My Interest in Mindless Self Indulgence
So the first time I heard MSI was at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The one I had went to a few times had a little dance club environment going until people got in and situated. I was on the floor, you know keeping raw, when a song came on and got the attention of me and my friend. It had this simple beep-beep-beep keyboard and catchy pseudo-industrial punk feel. I asked the "DJ" and he told me the song was Faggot by Mindless Self Indulgence. Next morning my friend had the song downloaded and loved it enough to buy the album an hour later and burn me a copy. 30 songs(more or less) none over 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Just fun, sing-a-long music with Jimmy doing a simple verse over a sampled Siouxsie & the Banshees beat for Bitches, rapping random nonsense on I Hate Jimmy Page, or going quick polished punk number like Seven-Eleven. Most the songs are just silly fun for the Ritalin generation.

For me MSI is just the kind of band I can put it and just nod my head to. Laugh at the silliness (If your so smart explain this Clarissa/pow!-Clarissa, about the Nickelodeon show Clarissa Explains it All), sarcasm (I'd like to thank god for all my dopest rhymes-Thank God, about Music Award Acceptance speeches), or occasionally serious content of certain lyrics. That, and at times I am just amazed at the range vocally and musically. Songs like Pussy All Night has Jimmy switching from singing mock-up reggae to R&B to hip-hop with the beat accompanying it. It's just music unlike any I had heard at the time.

My fascination and interest for the band jumped when I eventually got my hands on a burnt copy of their out of print first record, Tight, and was mesmerized. Not just the before mentioned Pussy All night but their dynamic cover of Method Mans Bring the Pain, somewhat haunting Molly, or just adrenaline pumping Tornado. I've picked up all their albums since becoming a fan and just the other day got to check out their latest EP, Another Mindless Rip Off, which harkens back to back to their Tight/Frankenstein Girls sound. Pre-Teen Violence may not make much sense and at first listen be a pretty stupid song, but it just puts a smile on my face as I listen and sing with urine.

Now I just need to find a copy of their demo. Back when Jimmy was a little more goth with his lyrics.

Favorite Albums

Tight


Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy


Alienating Our Audience(Live Album)

Videos For Your Amusement

Bring the Pain


Shut Me Up-Directed by Jhonen Vasquez


Pantyshot


I Hate Jimmy Page

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Top 10 for November 2006


#10: Pirates of Coney Island #2(of 8)
Rick Spears
Vasilis Lolos

Can't, for the best of me, figure out exactly what this comic is about other than a runaway in Coney Island and the people he's meeting. However the oddness and beautiful artwork by Lolos edged this into my top 10 another month in a row.(last months top 10 is on my Myspace so we'll ignore that.) This issue has our mystery runaway(unless I somehow missed his name), now one eyed, pick pocketing people until he's spotted by the cops. A motley group called the pirates pick him up for the save and recruit him into their group. They even give him a patch. Just a beautiful looking book with the same enticing storytelling Rick Spears used on Teenagers From Mars. Great stuff.



#9: Superman: Confidential #1
Darwyn Cooke
Tim Sale

Take the talents of one Darwyn Cooke and hook him up with an amazing artist in Tim Sale and what you have is gold. That's right, GOLD! The first issue in one of this new Superman title is set in the early days of Clark Kent's career as the protector of Metropolis. The story is set around Superman's first encounter with Kryptonite but in part one we get a slamming fight scene with the Royal Flush Gang all while Clark, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen are looking to nail Casino owner Anthony Gallo who they believe is attributing to the rise of crime in Metropolis. This is my first time reading Cooke as only a writer but Tim Sale on art is a good match. These two produce an issue that makes one wonder-what is the best Superman title out right now. Makes it sad this tag team made in heavens only doing six issues.



#8: Batman/the Spirit
Jeph Loeb
Darwyn Cooke

From writer to artist, Darwyn Cooke takes to sequential storytelling in this first ever, and maybe even long awaited, team up between the Dark Knight and classic newspaper comic icon. Written by Jeph Loeb who I admittedly am not sure what to think about half the time, produces a very well done script about villains of both heroes luring certain officers of the law to a special getaway. A trap no doubt to take out both the Batman and the Spirit. The two run into each other and Spirit doesn't believe Batman's Batman because he's a myth the Gotham City police department made up. "Let me assure you-- I am very real." The book has tons of Batman's rogues and some familiar faces from the Spirit. For me, this is probably the best Loeb script I read in a while. I was not impressed with anything but the art on Superman/Batman and Supergirl was corny fun. The real star of course is Darwyn Cooke. The man is amazing with his cartoony, expressive, and very detailed art.



#7: Checkmate #8
Greg Rucka
Jesus Saiz

While OMAC Project wasn't my favorite Countdown mini, it certainly produced my favorite spin off in this espionage thriller set in the superhero world of DC Comics. Checkmate is an organization with checks and balances. A white side and a black side with agents corresponding to the pieces in chess. Featuring DC characters like Fire, Mr. Terrific and others. Greg Rucka is one of those writers who builds over time but unlike other writers of the decompression style he still knows when and where to put action sequences to keep the fans contempt to wiat for the break out moment. This series however has been off and running since issue #4 and #8 is the first part in an exciting new arc entitled Pawn 502 about a Checkmate agent trying to infiltrate the terrorist organization known as Kobra. The story has a nice twist ending that I didn't see coming as well as Ruckas great dialogue and handling of such a large cast. Jesus Saiz provides artwork. The regular artist returns after a hiatus to show off his artwork which feels at times like a cross between Neal Adams and Mike Lark. Definitely good stuff.



#6: DMZ #13
Brian Wood
Riccardo Burchielli

Matty goes undercover in Trustwell, a company reward with select rebuilding projects within Manhattan to expose the secrets from within. Part one of Public Works starts off strong with the main character getting an assignment from an independent news source to look into Trustwells operations. Once there he sees suicide bombers and workers sabotaging the site. not to mention the Trustwell security have a very hands on interrogation process. When he doesn't report his fellow workers, they offer him a way to make some money. DMZ is a dark, gritty, very realistic comic book about life in a city torn apart by war; in this case civil. These are the comics I tend to disregard but DMZ is strongly written with great art. How can you expect any less of Vertigo whose arguably putting out the best comics today. Even the books I don't care for are still better than most books published but DMZ I do like and is one of the titles I look forward to each and every month.



#5: Doctor Strange: The Oath #2(of 5)
Brian K. Vaughan
Marcos Martin

I never cared too much for Doc. Strange. I thought his portrayal in the last defenders mini was amusing but the only reason I picked this bad boy up was for the artwork of Marcos Martin who wowed me on the short lived Breach series. Paired up with BKV who writes the wonderful Runaways series they produce a fun, escapist, and thrilling fantasy/superhero comic. Doc. Strange is looking to relocate a vial of magic elixir stolen form him that could cure his servant Wong of his terminal illness. Assisted by the Night Nurse the three track down the crook who stole the elixir and almost killed Strange. Also, much like issue one, BKV gives those of us unfamiliar with Strange a look into his origin. Thanks BKV. Marcos Martin is one of the most underrated artists working today. If you like Tim Sale and Darwyn Cooke, who themselves are awesome, you should really take a look at Marcos Martins work. It has the same animated feel but still a look all unto it self. Do yourself a favor and check out this gem.



#4: Astonishing X-Men #4
Joss Whedon
John Cassaday

Scott Summers capping away at members of the Hellfire Club while the rest of his team are trying to come to their senses after the mental attacks which were orchestrated by the White Queen/Emma Frost. To add some more problems as My favorite X-Men book by a mile. I really don't know what to say about this title that hasn't already been said by lovers of this book. Great dialogue, wonderful handling of these characters, and amazing art. This issue wraps up the current arc which is more of a lead in to Whedon and Cassadays finale. This book opens with the newly biclops Ord and Danger hit the x-mansion each looking for a level of revenge. Then SWORD drops by to pick the entire gang up and head to the alien planet of Break World. Yeah, this is going to be fun.



#3: Runaways #22
Brian K. Vaughan
Adrain Alphona

books and soon it'll be none. Until then time to enjoy his last arc on Runaways. The book survived cancellation to get rebooted with better sales and now him and artist Adrian It's been awhile since I've bought two consecutive BKVAlphona are leaving with issue #24. The final story, Live Fast, has Chase still reeling after the death of his girlfriend Gertrude. So much so it worries his team mates. Victor even suggest him leaving the group. Chase however has alternate plans as he deals with the Gibborim, the force that the Runaways parents were working with. Chase is looking to resurrect his love but for that he needs to offer a pure soul. As per usual Alphona artwork is brilliant on this series. new artist Mike Ryan is going to have one hell of a time following up as will Alphona to find a title that best exemplifies his talent like this book does. I'm anxious to see where this is going and how Joss Whedon and Mike Ryan plan to follow such an amazing run.


#2: Justice League of America #3
Brad Meltzer
Ed Benes

I think a number of critics and fans are giving this book a hard time for no other reason then they didn't like Identity Crisis. I liked IDC but I also enjoyed Meltzer's green arrow arc as well as Benes Birds of Prey work and the little of his Superman I saw. This title is going slow but it's still has some great character moments and some nice action, especially this issue. The scene with Arsenal, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, and Black Canary taking on dozens of Red Tornado clone-bots. The best stuff has been with Red Tornado himself. Now human, it adds an extra amount of tension with his wife and adopted daughter that if he dies this time he really dies, rather then being an elemental who can live on in robotic bodies. Yes, complex origin but Meltzer made me care for a hero I knew next to nothing about. the mystery villain and his plans add a good level of mystery to this series. Ed Benes art here is strong though I wish Alex Lei was doing his inking and Sno-Cone on colors but it's still a good looking superhero comic. Justice League is only three issues in and I am loving it.



#1: Birds of Prey #100
Gail Simone
Nicola Scott
Tony Bedard
Paulo Sequiera

Despite my joking around, Gail Simone is writ ting the one comic I've been buying for the longest time since making my way into comic as a hardcore collector and reader. Issue #100 is an amazing issue that marks another turning point in the series. Now, Black Canary has left the group and oracle has changed her way of operating. Zinda and Huntress are her top operatives with full access to her headquarters but she also employs other female operatives for specific missions. This issue has Huntress and Zinda teaming with Manhunter, Big Barda, and Judo Master to free a teenage girl from a Mexican prison and reunite her with her father. seems easy enough but with a twist in the end you know it's going to get seriously rocky. While new artist Nicola Scott is coming in after the amazing work of the likes of Ed Benes, Joe Bennett and Paulo Sequeria she does a sold job. Not blown away but she has chops and can no doubt get better in time. The back up story gives you background on the exiting Black Canary as she tells her adopted daughter Sin about her life as they plan on moving. Co-written by Tony Bedard and featuring art by outgoing artist Paulo Sequeria(DC better have something for him to do) this is a great origin recap that puts the Mark Waid/Howard Chaykin back up form 52 to shame. Though they did try it in two pages.

So there it is, my top 10 for November. My December one will probably be a tad late with holidays and shipping from Mail Order Comics.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Doing My Part for the Manhunt(er)

I love me some comic books and one book I'm happy is back is Manhunter. Now, this nice title came these close to cancellation and has just been given a five issue extended run. Depending on the sales, it may live longer than that and I am surely hoping it will.

For those who do not know Manhunter is a DC legacy book, meaning it's an identity that moves on from its originator much like Flash and Green Lantern. The current Manhunter is one Kate Spencer, an attorney who gets tired of seeing villains cheat the justice system. Lifting several confiscated items form police lock up(Darkstars outfit, "new" Batman gauntlets, Mark Shaw's staff) goes out and decides to take the matter into her own hands.

In the course of her 25 issue run she killed Copperhead in her affairs without the mask. Kate's a strong female , battled and tried prosecuting the Shadow Thief, dealt with the Secret Society featuring the likes of Merlyn, Phobia, and Monocle, defended Dr. Psycho in court(before fighting him) and tussled with others. That's not counting her life without the mask. She is a strong female protagonist. A divorcee in her thirties with a young child whose being raised by her ex-husband and his new wife. Her supporting cast features former super villain tech specialist Dylan Battles and DEO officer and DC cult character Cameron Chase. Plus her association with JSA as her associate dates the son of the original Green Lantern, Obsidian, not to mention her own familial ties to that superhero team.

The current arc has Wonder Woman seeking help from Kate as she looks to be formally charged by the USA in the death of Max Lords. Though exonerated in World Court she is still in the same boat. In payment Wonder Woman is helping to train Manhunter and that's only the tip of the iceberg as we continue the plotline of Mark Shaw and a new subplot with Chase which is suppose to handle loose ends from her canceled title from years back.

The title is written b one Marc Andreyko and is currently being drawn by Javir Pina who is putting together his best work thus far with new inker Robin Riggs. Pina's been on the title as a penciller and "finisher" since original artist Jesus Saiz left. Currently DC has been putting several big name/acclaimed artists like Howard Chaykin, Phil Jimenez and others on cover duty for these five issues hoping to push up sales to a respectable point. I Hope it works because I'd hate to see this title go again.



Manhunters a cult fav so much that it was a letter campaign that gave it a five issue extension. It's got support from several creators including Greg Rucka, Joe Casey, Brian Bendis, and Gail Simone(boo!) to name a few. I am asking all you comic fans to grab issue #26 in stores now and take a look at one of the buzz books that is worth your hard earned cash. Manhunter is an amazing title.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Sailor Moon Is Hardcore

Now, I grew up as a geek. As such, there was anime around whenever I was hanging out with my uncles Mike and Brian however I didn't catch the anime bug too early. I found things like Dragonball(the original series) and Lensman fun. I wasn't taken by Robotech at first glance as well as other properties. This anime bug didn't bite me until my eyes fell upon a ditsy blond haired girl named Serena on a cartoon one early morning before the job.

I recognized it as Sailor Moon, having seen it advertised once before. It was the episode the introduced Sailor Jupiter into the group as Zoisite was looking for the rainbow jewels to bring together the silver crystal. Yes, an girly cartoon made me a fan of anime.

Now I haven't seen every episode of the series but I have seen most and while some of it seems sillier to me now then it once was I can't help but smile as Usagi(Sailor Moons Japanese name) and her pals Ami/Mercury, Rei/Mars, Makoto/Jupiter, and Minaka/Venus transformed into skimpy colored school girl outfits to battle the Negaverse(I'm sure fans of the uncut series will take offense to me pointing out the English version) with the occasional helping hand of one Mamoru Chiba aka Tuxedo Mask. Something about fun, escapism with storybook happy endings seem to warm my heart and Sailor Moon fills me with joy.

Though I've missed a season, the one before the final storyline, I can easily point and say the first season was my favorite. It focused on the relatively small cast more and had a great build until the finale when Sailor Moon stared down Queen Beryl who helped destroy the Moon kingdom centuries ago. My favorite episode is in this season as well, episode 24 which focus' on Usagis friend Naru and her crush on the villainous Beryl lackey Nephrite who risks his life to save her as his one time associates turn on him. For a cartoon aimed at girls, I was quite impressed with how dark, and yet moving, it could be.

I was first tape recording the series in the mornings as I had to be in school but when i got home I'd play them all. I though the local affiliate station out here really messed up the series. First season, second season about half way through, and then the filler season and almost repeat until an abrupt cancellation. Luckily my uncle kept me in touch with the movies and some of the episodes I missed. Though, watching it now, some of it feels a little cheesy(especially in English, but I think the voice acting's fine, just the dialogue) I still crack a smile in enjoyment.

Now I've got to read a handful of comics, seen most the series and movies, and though I've missed the boat on a few Sailor Moon related things but I can tell you that Sailor Moon has a fan in me.

Monday, December 4, 2006

DOWN WITH GAIL SIMONE!!!!!!


This woman is pure evil.



You know, I had thought it was all coincidence until a mysterious email crashed my computer several months ago. I finally got it looked at and what I was told was it was sent by a certain person under the alias of YABS. We'll, I knew who that was... is... Gail Simone. "Comic book" writer.

You see I met Gail Simone briefly waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1999. Same year she started up You'll All be Sorry column for Comic Book Resources. I mentioned I liked her column and she admitted to me she was running out of ideas so I suggested making fun of the upcoming Black Bull comic company and she did in her column on November 22, 1999. But since then strange things have happened.

You see, I use to be a fan fiction writer and submitted a script eerily similar to one Gail Simone wrote in the pages of Deadpool about Rhino being shrunk down to key chain size. Of course, my computer suffered a virus soon before and that side was taking down at the hands of a comic company. I thought it was coincidence, but then again...

Now, I ran into former DC editor of Birds of Prey Lisa Hawkins once at San Diego Comic Con and threw some ideas out for Birds of Prey progressed little things annoyed me. Inclusion of Lady Shiva in the second arc tying her and as they were looking for a new writer but being that I was a nobody it didn't go through. Understandable. But Gail Simone got the job and used a character that was quite similar to one I had initially suggested in my pitch. Though i didn't name him Savant, I did have a super-extortionist in the original pitch. But it was only one thing, great minds think a like much like the title of that arc Of Like Minds. But as the seires continued there was a story with Black Canary and Lady Shiva working together as they both had the same former mentor. Or even Huntress going deep cover with the mob. Small bits yes, but very reminiscent of what I had hoped to do. Now, this wouldn't bother me but a few weeks ago I heard that Gail's original pitch didn't make the cut, yet she still got the job. Hmmm...

Now I can't take credit for everything she's done but the fact that Catman but I got the revitalize about a few months after Identity Crisis catches me as strange as I was corresponding with an artist friend about bring the character back in a super cool fashion. Also, i find it strange that a new Gen 13 is out and about. Though not suing any of my ideas I had suggested to Scott Dunbier I clearly remember Gail briefly mentioning she never cared for the property.

This is obviously a huge plot against me and I will not stand by and take it. I declare war on Gail Simone. WAR I SAY!