Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Pull List: June 26, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Captain America #8 (Rick Remender, John Romita Jr.)
Captain America fights his way through Arnim Zola's interdimensional spaceship fortress castle to save the Earth and his son only for a shocking last second twist.  Though can twists really be shocking when you call them before you even open the comic?  That said, I am interested to see where Remender is going with this reveal.  There's an exchange mid-battle where the bad guy gives voice to some detractors of Captain America who have never read a comic of his.  I liked it, because it recognized some of the complaints while also framing them in the context that people who think like that are also brainwashed psycho-Nazi clones.  The art and story complement each other so well it's uncanny as the bizarre plot elements are given a form so fitting that they make perfect sense.

-Avengers Arena #11 (Dennis Hopeless, Riccardo Burchielli)
Some acceptable character work is done this issue.  It's just a shame that the set-up for it is completely asinine.  Thus rendering the entire exercise pointless.  This series isn't irredeemable yet, but each issue brings it that much closer to the event horizon.

-Nova #5 (Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness)
An OK comic book, which is pretty high praise for a recent Jeph Loeb comic.  The plot is weak, but the script lets the art go all out.  It's hard to fault Loeb too much since there are few things I wouldn't do to get an Ed McGuinness-drawn fight scene involving a cyborg tiger with a gun arm.  

-Deadpool #12 (Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne)
I think it's safe to say that Deadpool is once again one of my favorite comics without fear of incurring the wrath and scorn of other comic book readers.  The battle with the middleman from hell making a power play ended in a suitable fashion and allowed for all manner of jokes regarding the Marvel universe.  It really seems like a comic for fans by fans.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Pull List: Two-In-One June 12 and 19, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.

Since there's a lot of ground to cover I'll try to be brief


-Deadpool #11 (Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne)
Hijinks continue to ensue as Deadpool runs down a creep who sold his soul so that he could perv out. The comedy action remains to hit the right beats and stay fresh.

-Wolverine and the X-Men #31 (Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw)
We get a look inside the Hellfire Academy for future evil mutants. Wolverine will eventually get his claws into this new Hellfire Club, and the way Aaron is building to it will make that moment so much sweeter.

-Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli)
Decent story. Bad characterization. Cool drawings. Not so hot redesigns.

-Uncanny Avengers #9 (Rick Remender, Daniel Acuña)
I wonder if there are people reading this that didn't read Uncanny X-Force? Read that first if you haven't and catch up on this, because Remender is in for the glorious long haul.

-Superior Spider-Man #12 (Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli)
Superior is still an interesting read, and it still is something I wouldn't hand to a kid who wants to read a Spider-Man comic.  Not necessarily because it is "mature," but because I want kids to see superheroes as heroic. Setting out to end someone's life is certainly not heroic (it can still make for a great comic if that's your thing).

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 MLS jersey rankings update: LA Galaxy third kit

This should be the final addition to my 2013 MLS jersey rankings. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Galaxy unveiled its new third kit. The internet's reaction has been very polarized. What do you think?

I guess they weren't allowed to smile for the photo shoot.

Detractors are saying it's a super ugly, clown-like color scheme. I absolutely love it. For a team with such a traditional color set otherwise, it's a nice way to jazz things up. Yes, it's a bit gaudy, but it's a third jersey. Third jerseys are meant to be experimental and weird.

The new uniforms are an homage to LA's original, gloriously hideous 1996 kits:

The homage is much more faithful than Sporting KC's new "retro" third jersey. Fashion is cyclical--are we reaching the point where over-the-top '90s designs are back in style? Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in the world, recently unveiled an incredibly-'90s away kit as well.

Aside from being a throwback, this new LA Galaxy jersey tickles my flag-enthusiast fancy. The seemingly strange color scheme is a reference to the Los Angeles city flag:

I guess they wanted to outdo their LA rivals Chivas USA, who use the city crest on their new away jersey. If more MLS teams incorporated their city and state/provincial flags into their uniforms, I'd be a satisfied man.

Much like Sporting KC's new uniform, I like this new Galaxy kit so much I wish it would replace the comparatively boring (but still well-designed) LA away jersey.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thoughts on the 2013 E3 press conferences

With Nintendo's "Nintendo Direct" finishing up this morning, all five of the major E3 press conferences have concluded for this year. So what were my big takeaways?

Everyone's talking about how Sony trumped Microsoft this year. PlayStation 4 will be $400, a hundred dollars cheaper than the Xbox One, and without any of the always-online or anti-used games shenanigans Xbox is pulling.

But I don't care about that. I won't be able to afford either console at launch, so launch prices don't matter to me. In the last console generation, PlayStation 3 released with a staggering $600 price tag which doomed it for years... until Sony got its act together and PS3 became the console of choice for arty games everywhere. They also introduced PlayStation Plus, essentially letting players subscribe to get free games every month and putting Xbox Live to shame. We don't know where PS4 or Xbone will be a few years down the road. And since it takes a while for new consoles to foster substantial game libraries anyway, I'll wait and see. The only thing that really matters about a game console is its games. So I'm undecided on this console war.

Xbox One does have one advantage, though. A new game from Swery 65, creator of Deadly Premonition! It's called D4:

Deadly Premonition is one of my all-time favorite games, and this one looks to be just as strange. It's being developed by Swery's studio Access Games and published by Microsoft. This will be a day-one purchase for me whenever it comes out, so I hope the Xbox One gets a bit cheaper between now and then...

The other trailer that blew me away was a game I've been waiting for for years. EA had a very successful conference in 2013, and they hit it out of the park when they closed with a trailer for a sequel to one of my other favorite games of all time, Mirror's Edge:

Of course, this was one of only two games at the entire show revealed so far this year with a non-male or non-white protagonist (the other being Bayonetta 2). I love the closing line "Coming... when it's ready." This will be on both PS4 and Xbone so it won't affect my console purchasing decision. But gosh darn, it looks beautiful. EA finally gave its Swedish studio DICE a chance to leave Battlefield for a moment and return to what truly makes it a great developer.

Nintendo holds a special place in my heart, so I'm disappointed their press conference was short and predictable. New Mario, new Mario Kart, new Super Smash Bros, rinse, repeat. Of course a new Zelda game is always nice (and an HD release of my favorite Zelda game, The Wind Waker!), and everyone's been waiting for Pikmin 3 forever. These games all look great, but there were no surprises.

I wish they would've announced some snazzy new series, or at least sequels to series that haven't gotten much love as of late... particularly my most beloved series, Retro Studios' Metroid. Retro is working on a new Donkey Kong title, so it'll be a while before they get back to Samus. But think about it: they could've announced a new F-Zero or the console-based Pokémon MMO fans want. Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. look fun... but I was hoping for more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Pull List: June 5th, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Age of Ultron #9 (Brian Michael Bendis, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco)
Something actually happens this issue.  Not only that but it's probably one of the better issues of the series.  That bar might've been incredibly low, but it's the small victories that you remember in life.  What actually transpires in the plot isn't necessarily the best.  Many times it is even contradictory.  Such is to be expected when you have a confused Hank Pym talking to two Wolverines about the consequences of them murdering him.

-Thanos Rising #3 (Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi)
At this point this comic is approaching comical levels of being bad.  I'll avoid using the "R" word.  It'd be fair to use it, but there are so many things this comic does terribly that nitpicking the continuity isn't even worth it. Not that you'd need to nitpick, as the errors on that front are glaring.  Bianchi dropped the ball too.  Previously the art was unbearable which is sadly better than what got published in this issue.  Ultimatum's un-venerable status is in jeopardy.

-Iron Man #11 (Kieron Gillen, Dale Eaglesham)
I sincerely hope that all of this "secret origin" stuff turns out to be a ruse, that it's all a fake out our false info, because otherwise this is very very wrong.  The individual issues that make up the total story arc will either live or die based on the conclusion.

-Avengers #13 (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Mike Deodato)
Last issue saw a villain capture a group of strange children that the Avengers were protecting in the Savage Land.  Now it's time for a group of Avengers to find the evildoer.  They not only avenge the wrongdoings, but they heroically save the children.  Some have criticized Hickman's Avengers for not being heroic enough.  These past two issues prove a definitive counterpoint to such thoughts.  Thor's interactions with Hyperion delved into what it means to be a hero.  Whatever it means Hyperion is surely that, which makes it one of the better Superman comics I've read.

-Superior Spider-Man #11 (Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli)
Spidey/Doc Ock is called on to witness the execution of a supervillian in case something goes wrong, which it will invariably do since this is a comic.  Supervillians on death row, why isn't that seen in comics more?  For every instance of Spider-Man now being superior there are equal instances of him just being a straight douchebag.  Seeing Doc Ock foil a villain's escape plans makes for a very entertaining comic. 

-Avengers Arena #10 (Dennis Hopeless, Riccardo Burchielli)
If dead goth gothic lolitas with protruding bones and missing limbs are your thing, then man do I have a comic for you.  If not then congratulations you aren't completely weird or creepy.  I really wish a number of characters I'm fond of weren't in this series, for a number of reasons.  Mainly so that my soul isn't being sold off in twice monthly payments of $2.99.  At this point outright piracy is probably the best course of action for fans of any of the remaining sacrificial lambs.


-Action Comics #21 (Andy Diggle, Tony S. Danile; Frank Hannah, Philip Tan)
Part 3 of the Hybrid storyline closes out the arc in confusing and grand fashion.  Chronologically this issue is a bit more confusing than Grant Morrison's 18 issues, an impressive feat.  Confusing or not, Superman got to do battle with power-armored Lex Luthor.  It's drawn and coreographed/plotted well, though it does seem a bit rushed and out of nowhere.
There's a back-up story that fleshes out the backstory of Superman's Kryptonian parents.  It's not bad, but I'm just not interested in it.

-Stormwatch #21 (Jim Starlin, Yvel Guichet)
What is going on in this comic?  3 issues in and I'm still confused as hell.  Sure I can piece things together enough to guess at what is really going on, but that doesn't change that it still feels like I know nothing.  Which might be part of the mystique.  That seems doubtful though.  Starlin is a storyteller I have much faith in, and I'm banking on that to really pay off in the next issue.   


-Archer & Armstrong #10 (Fred Van Lente, Pere Pérez)
Last week I mentioned that Fred Van Lente's (and Greg Pak's) Incredible Hercules was amazing.  It gets mentioned again this week because Archer & Armstrong channels that comic a lot more than G.I. Joe.  The titular duo are comprised of an immortal adventurer and a naive assasin, and their latest quest has them infiltrating Area 51. There they come across a program led by one General Redacted, which might be the greatest name for a general since Sheep in the Big City.  The buddy action comedy genre is a narrative pinnacle.  A pinnacle that this comic finds itself at the pinnacle of.


-East of West #3 (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin)
A few more details come to light this week as Death fights through Maoist forces in New Shanghai (San Francisco) to rescue his wife and the three other horsemen are hot on Death's trail.  Despite learning much about the setting and the narrative at hand, key info is still cloaked in mystery making the world of East of West still alien and full of intrigue.  Combining the setting and the narrative results in a story that commands attention.  The art more than keeps up as it gives familiar yet bizarre life to the ideas being put forth.  It's colored beautifully too I might add.    


-Hypernaturals #12 (Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom Derenick, Andres Guinaldo)
I wish there were more issues of this comic coming.  That should be indicative enough of what I thought of this particular issue and comic as a whole.  The story resolves itself in a grand fashion, and that's all I'll say for fear of spoiling the story for the one other person that might give it a try.  Saying it was too good for this world might be hyperbole, but that's part of what Hypernaturals is about.  Hopefully Abnett and Lanning have another "superheroes in SPACE" story lined up, because the world needs them now more than ever.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thoughts on the new Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars uniforms

Carolina and Dallas both unveiled new uniforms today. My thoughts on each:

Carolina Hurricanes

It's more of a tweak than a rebranding. Both the home and away uniforms have been cleaned up and given a more "classic" look, all the rage these days across the NHL. I like it a lot, but it bears more than a passing resemblance to Hurricanes captain Eric Staal's other team, Canada--with both the white stripes on the red jersey, and the red shoulder yoke on the white jersey, with black piping around the names and numbers.

With that said, they're great. The simplified name and number font is a huge step up from the italicized "NASCAR" font they used before, and I enjoy the red shoulder yoke on the away sweater. My biggest gripe is that in the process of otherwise-smart simplification, the jerseys have lost a bit of character. I particularly miss the square hurricane warning flag pattern around the bottom of the jerseys.

The Hurricanes also announced their existing black third jersey will continue to be worn next season. It's a bummer those jerseys won't be retired, or at least cleaned up like their other jerseys were.

Dallas Stars

This is another "simplified" jersey update. Gone (for the most part) is the drab black of the last two decades, replaced by glorious green--the most under-appreciated color in sports. And luckily, it's not a super dark, almost-black green either like they've worn before; it's green green! It even carries over to a substantial amount of green on the white away jersey.

But of course, they didn't abandon black altogether. I wish instead of black detailing, they had used the gold from their previous uniforms... particularly the bright gold detailing from their time as the Minnesota North Stars. Overall, these are good sweaters but the black detailing detracts from the brightness.

I'm torn on the new logo. On one hand, it's a step up from their last logo. But I still don't think it's great. I don't know if there's any way to make a really great logo out of an unremarkable name like "the Stars."

The Pull List: May 29, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Captain America #7 (Rick Remender, John Romita Jr.)
How do you match Ed Brubaker's astonishing run on Captain America?  By making the first story arc of the Marvel NOW! series a far-out story pitting Captain against a crazy Nazi scientist in a dimension of his own making.  Things continue to race towards the conclusion as not only does Cap have to rescue his adopted son from a fortress full of crazy mutants, but he's also got to stop Arnim Zola from infecting the Earth with a virus that implants the consciousness of Arnim Zola in the victims.  Remender's been firing on all cylinders, and JR Jr. is showing why he's a big name in comics.  His flaws are still present and rear their head occasionally during slow scenes, which is a small price to pay to see him masterfully draw grandiose settings and stunning action scenes.  From the very beginning this has been one of my favorite Captain America stories, so I can't wait to see how it finishes up.

-New Avengers #6 (Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting)
An illuminati of the world's heroes continue to delve into the mysteries of "the wheel" as they attempt to halt the destruction of their world.  Some of them also continue to question the morality of their actions.  Interesting things occur, things that I like.  That said, the comic is still trending in the "2deep4u" direction, which is a tough and perilous path to trod.  While the comic isn't for everyone, nor Hickman's best work, it is certainly something that keeps me intrigued and coming back for more.

-Wolverine and the X-Men #30 (Jason Aaron, Pasqual Ferry, Pepe Larraz, Salva Espin)
This issue proves to be a good jumping on point for new readers as it manages to take a few of the ongoing plot threads and weave them into a single cohesive story.  In that sense, it's a comic all about setting up the coming conflict between Wolverine's Jean Grey School and the Hellfire Academy.  Wolverine vs. Hellfire (insert establishment here) is certainly a comic that I will be buying.  Nothing particularly stands out, but the previously mentioned convergence of plot points is a hallmark of X-Men comics and their ensemble cast.


-Adventures of Superman #1 (Jeff Parker, Chris Samnee, Justin Jordan, Riley, Rossmo)
This is a collection of three digital first stories.  First up is Parker and Samnee's little episode of Superman taking on a guy tweaking on super meth.  The plot and story are well done, but the best part is definitely Samnee's art.  He brings the Daredevil awesomeness along with him.

Next up is Jeff Lemire pulling writing and art duties.  Two kids are playing and one pretends to be Superman and the other has to be the villain.  Not only is it a good story, but it's a cool way to have Superman battle Braniac, Bizarro, Lex Luthor, the Parasite, General Zod, and Mr. Mxyzptlk in one go.  It culminates in the kid who played the villian this time to call dibs on Superman next time.  The first concedes on the grounds that he gets to be Doomsday, the villian notorious for killing Superman.  Some more banter occurs, and then the final bit of dialogue is as follows:
-"So?  It doesn't matter if he's more powerful or not.  I still get to win!"
-"Because... Superman always wins"

The final story involves Superman trying to stop Bizarro.  Eventually it turns out it's all a big misunderstanding, since Bizarro says the opposite of what he means.  Superman helps Bizarro help people and the crisis is averted.  The entire comic, all three stories, is a comic for everybody.  Those that already like Superman should greatly enjoy how the man of steel is portrayed.  Those that don't necessarily get or like Superman would probably acquire a better understanding for the last son of Krypton and all he stands for.  Part of what he stands for is hope, something this book is full of. 


-G.I. Joe #4 (Fred Van Lente, Steve Kurth)
Few things are as near and dear to me as G.I. Joe, so it pains me to admit that I've been a bit lax with keeping up with the exploits of America's daring, highly-trained special mission force.  That changes now with the latest volume of the comic.  The  Joes are currently on a mission to take back a Cobra controlled town.  Things don't go well, but man is it a good comic.  The action is well thought out and executed very nicely.  Small comedic touches enhance the dire stakes, which in turn builds on the overall intensity of the tone.  Fred Van Lente's work on Incredible Hercules is a modern masterpiece, and he is a natural fit for the G.I. Joe franchise.  Despite a few stumbles with background/crowd art this comic has reignited my love for these real American heroes.