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Friday, August 20, 2010 11:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 6/30, 7/7, 7/14, 7/21, and 7/28, as well as some back issues picked up during that time period. Basically, I'm catching up on a huge pile of unreviewed comics here. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1 & #2
We head back to the mid-'80s to tell a solo Abe story wherein everybody's favorite fish dude dives to the wreck of a Russian submarine in search of a magical artifact: Melchiorre's burgonet. The artifact has a fascinating history, but the real story here ends up being about the Russian soldier tasked with guarding the artifact - his love, his tragic death, and his boundless loyalty. Artist Peter Snejbjerg contributes some truly haunting, eerie, beautiful images, with the usual wonderful coloring by Dave Stewart. And hey, there's a fun cameo from Miss Varvara! Gotta love her. The plot is a pretty classic ghost story, but it's well done. It's also kind of interesting to meet a B.P.R.D. agent who's just a complete dick.
Thumbs Up

Astonishing X-Men #34
What with all the other X-Men miniseries Warren Ellis has been putting out lately, I completely forgot that he had a separate, unfinished story arc still going in this title. It's been so long since an issue came out I just barely remember the plot, but it's easy enough to pick it back up again. Anyway, Ellis' X-Men books are less about the plot and more about sitting back and enjoying the bitter, amusing banter among the characters as they slay gigantic, hideous monsters, and this issue is no exception. I particularly love the way Ellis writes Emma Frost and Abigail Brand. Using Frost to do some hilarious meta-criticism of the weird history of the X-Men and their villains was ingenious. My only problem: I feel like I should probably know who the shadowy figure in the wheelchair is at the end. But that's okay, I'm sure everything will be explained in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Batman #701
Grant Morrison is so good at writing Batman. Which is why I buy all his Batman books. This book - which jumps back in time to fill in the gap between Bruce's escape from Hurt and the beginning of Final Crisis - opens like this: "Surviving is easy. Surviving is what I do. Ever since that first night, when Joe Chill turned his gun on Dad and Mom, I've been surviving." There's some fun banter between him and a girl he saved, and him and Alfred. And a lot of ominous brooding over Hurt. There's lots of narration, but it's good narration. "I could still taste graveyard soil. And I felt disembodied, haunting the halls and stairways of my own home." It's all a bit unnerving, hinting at some giant conspiracy. The events of Final Crisis, of Batman R.I.P., of The Return of Bruce Wayne - they're all somehow tied together in a great twisted loop of doom that spans hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It's brilliant stuff. I also like the way Bruce describes his relationship with the super-powered people: "I've worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I'm flesh and blood. In Superman's world, everything is mythology." And then, the conclusion: "The hole in things was everywhere I looked. The trap I was so sure I'd escaped was locking into place all around me. Think fast, Batman..." That is good stuff, people. The next issue should be the conclusion of this story, and I can't wait to read it.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #13
We open with a creepy, alternate history retelling of the story of Thomas Wayne, then move to the future for the death, at Thomas Wayne's hands, of Dick Grayson. Then it's back in time three days to explain how this could have happened. Hurt is a very unsettling character for lots of reasons. He cuts at the very heart of what Batman is. To take away the idea that Batman's father was anything but a good man is to take away Batman. Is this "Thomas Wayne" from an alternate Earth? Or is he a creature with false memories created to bring Bruce down? And what are we to make of the return of the Joker? Is he really trying to help? It's hard to believe. I'm fascinated by the relationship between Grayson's Batman and the police. They're aware that he's not the same Batman, but they're not sure just who he is. Gordon pokes at him politely, trying to figure him out, and even mentions that his men prefer him to the other Batman. Meanwhile, Professor Pyg, his Dollotrons, and his infectious addictions have come all the way back from the beginning of this book to haunt Batman again. The image of dominoes falling gives us the sense again that there's a huge plan behind all of this that's only now coming to its fruition. Morrison likes the long con.
Thumbs Up

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4
A classic scene of Old West violence ends with a woman praying: "Oh, dear Lord... if you cannot... send me a miracle of love and salvation... send your darkest, truest angel... of... retribution..." Enter Bruce Wayne, with lightning. Nice. Turns out the folks who hired Hex to take out Bruce are two nigh-immortal beings: Vandal Savage and Doctor Thomas Wayne. Is this the Doctor Hurt from the other Batman books? It seems likely. So he's clearly not Bruce's father - he's some other kind of being entirely, ages and ages old. Anyway, Savage and Wayne seem to think if they can open the box with the bat symbol on it that this family's been keeping for Bruce all these years, they can ensure their immortality, although others say it will bring about the end of the world. In fact, it turns out there's just a book and some papers in there, but they may in fact be the key to oblivion. The closing narration continues the story of the Wayne family history, and suggests that "Thomas Wayne" was also Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, Bruce jumps forward to what looks like modern, or near modern, times. Only two issues of this one left! I'll be curious to see how Morrison ties it all together.
Thumbs Up

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #2
Now that the mysteries are getting cleared away in this book, it's getting less interesting. But I am fascinated by the conflict between the pirates who want to give the power of science away freely to everybody, and the cult of the establishment who want to keep the power of magic for themselves alone.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Storm #1
Awww. Hellboy's got a girlfriend. That's nice. An army of dead British guys is also rising up to follow him, although he doesn't know where they're all going. Sadly it looks like Queen Mab and her people have been killed. I'm not totally sure who that old guy is the pig dude runs into at the end, but the book's been pretty good lately at going back and filling us in on anything we might have forgotten, so hopefully that will happen again in this case. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but it's still well drawn with some very thrilling moments.
Thumbs Up

Heralds #5
The final issue of this miniseries is truly great. A woman faces her fears and a new hero is born. I'm not sure what else to say. Just read it!
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #8
The cover of this issue seems to promise a fight between the old and new Jailbaits, but sadly that does not occur. However, Max does get to take out some racist scumbags, and picks up a clue that will apparently lead him to his next adventure - and will help unlock more of the secrets of his past. I have to say, this book is really losing me. The writing is just nowhere near as strong as it used to be, and I continue to really dislike Horacio Domingues' childish, overdone art.
Thumbs Sideways

The Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
I swore off Matt Fraction a long time ago, but all the comic book fans I follow on Twitter kept going on and on about how great this book was, so I picked it up. Yeah, still not a Fraction fan. I mean, it's a well told story and all, tragic and brutal. I just didn't love it.
Thumbs Sideways

Irredeemable #14 & #15
I read these two issues in the wrong order, because I missed 14 the week it actually came out, so I was a little confused at first about what happened, but I think I have it mostly sorted out in my head now. There's a huge climactic fight which pretty much concludes this story arc, and ends with the death of a major character, although it's not who you might expect. Qubit makes a last second decision which may or may not have been the right one. He also keeps a pretty big secret, and I think is on the verge of figuring out another. Meanwhile, Modeus' mysterious plan is still playing itself out. Intriguing and exciting.
Thumbs Up

The Man with the Getaway Face
Darwyn Cooke's original plan was to adapt the first four of Richard Stark's Parker books, but as he explains in the introduction to this book, he decided there were two later books in the series he was more interested in adapting. That meant dropping two of the earlier books. But he couldn't discard The Man with the Getaway Face entirely, as it sets up some of the events of the later stories. So he decided to do a shortened adaptation of that book as a prelude to The Outfit, and put it out as a separate, over-sized, $2 preview. The result is a tight, brutal, crime noir tale. Certain parts of the story, Cooke accompanies with loads of wonderfully written narration, while other parts are completely wordless, relying entirely on his powerful imagery to tell the story. Skim's tale is a twisted sort of mirror image of Parker's own tale, but Parker himself doesn't really see it that way. I have a feeling Skim is going to misunderstand what happened during this heist and come back to haunt Parker in the future. I look forward to seeing if I'm right.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #15
Now that all the giant, maxi-series X-Drama is over, we can return to the far more interesting story Zeb Wells was in the middle of telling before all that started: the one about that troop of bad-ass army dudes who came back from Limbo looking to take out Magik. Gillen gives us only a vague sense of what these soldiers have been through and how they've been changed - which just makes them that much more intriguing. I particularly love the moment when one of the guys in the unit, his face entirely bandaged, lifts the goggles off his glowing red eyes, and says "Ruff! Ruff!" to a nearby normal human soldier, just to freak him out. Meanwhile, our heroes are getting drunk and making out in an attempt to get over all the crap that's happened to them lately. But crap ain't done happening! And Pixie's in trouble! Fun!
Thumbs Up

Scalped #39
It seems like forever since I've read an issue of Scalped. I suspect I missed one or two issues. The good news is, this is the first issue of a new story arc, so I wasn't completely lost. Although the various plotlines and character relationships, spread across past and present, are beginning to get so complex I feel like I need a chart to keep track of them all. This storyline is about Carol finally getting her shit together, which is good to see. Then there's the usual shock ending. Wait, I thought we already knew who Bad Horse's father was?? Well, I guess that makes his relationship with the Chief's daughter a little less icky than I thought it was...
Thumbs Up

Secret Warriors #17
This is not a book I'd normally pick up, but I couldn't resist the subtitle of this story arc: "The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos." Not much happens in this first part, however; it's basically all setup. Looks like they're using the old "start at the end and then flashback to explain what happened" structure. Not sure I'll bother to keep reading, though, as nothing in here really intrigued me all that much.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Wars: Dark Times #17
At long last, the "Blue Harvest" story arc comes to an end! And what a doozie of an end it is. I truly love it. It reminds me a lot of the series finale of Angel. "They're going to kill you! Why are you doing this?" "It's my job." Bad-ass. The short scene set in the Bomo Greenbark storyline is interesting, too. I get the strong sense the Jedi who showed up offering his help planned to betray Greenbark and his friends - and might still plan to do so. Killing the troopers was probably all show to gain their trust. Hmm...
Thumbs Up

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1
Ed Brubaker and Steve Rogers both seem really busy these days, but here they are, together again on yet another book. This time Rogers finds himself on the trail of a descendant of the Professor Erskine who turned him into who he is. At first this Erskine seems to be using his grandfather's work for evil, but Rogers quickly discovers there's a lot more going on than he realized. It's a vaguely intriguing story concept, but not exciting enough to get me to keep reading. The most interesting thing in the book, actually, is a reprint of the original version of Captain America's origin story. I'd never actually read that before.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor #611 & #612
Loki's still causing trouble! His earlier machinations lead, in these issues, to Thor having to go to Hell to protect the souls of his fallen brothers. It sounds like a great idea, but the story itself is actually a bit dull, maybe because it's hard to really get interested in such cosmic, inhuman drama. Plus, the idea of Mephisto making out with cannibalistic zombies is pretty nasty.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #1 & #2
Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee have teamed up for a new ongoing Thor series which seems to be sort of a reboot of his story, probably in preparation for the release of the movie. Thor shows up on Earth with only vague memories of who he is and where he came from, and ends up relying on museum department head Jane Foster to acclimate him to the confusing vagaries of Midgard. Oddly, the first villain he has to face off against is the rather lame Hyde. Regardless, the book is kind of fun so far. We'll see where it goes from here.
Thumbs Sideways

The Unwritten #15
Tommy follows a trail of literary clues and finally comes face to face with his Dad - who promptly kicks Ambrosio's ass, before getting a nice punch in the face for his troubles. Meanwhile, we get a better idea of Lizzie Hexam's origins, although she herself seems unaware of just how much she's changed since then. And all along, the release of the final Tommy Taylor book comes closer! Tense and exciting.
Thumbs Up

World War Hulks: Spider-Man vs. Thor #1
I've mostly been staying away from the World War Hulks maxi-series because I dislike the work of most of the writers involved. But this two-part miniseries was written by Kieron Gillen, so I thought it might be interesting. Sadly, I was mistaken. It is kind of fun seeing Hulkified versions of Spider-Man and Thor. But their Hulkified dialog, while funny at first, starts to get stupid and grating very quickly. Plus the story makes contrived use of random memories from the characters' past to get them to fight each other, which is just lame.
Thumbs Down

X-Men: Second Coming #2
This is the concluding part of the most recent X-Drama maxi-series - the one I was talking about earlier. There are four chapters in this book, one by Zeb Wells, one by Mike Carey, one by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and one by Matt Fraction. They all deal with the aftermath of the events of "Second Coming" - which means another superhero funeral with lots of tearful speeches. Ugh. I'm so tired of that crap. There's also a ridiculous two-page spread of X-Force posing for the camera, courtesy the pencil of Greg Land. Oh, and naturally the Phoenix raises her ugly head again. Sigh. Sometimes the X-Men just make me tired.
Thumbs Down
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Darwyn Cooke (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010 01:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from the week of 5/26. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2
Bruce finds himself in Puritan times fighting a giant Lovecraftian monster with a sword. Which, right there... I mean, let's just stop and consider that sentence. That's awesome. Anyway, he's rescued and nursed back to health by a witch woman who, it turns out, called the monster forth in the first place. She's of the Bat-People, and has a necklace with Wonder Woman and Superman's symbols on it - probably derived from the symbols Bruce himself painted on the cave wall in these parts all those ages ago. "My devils are the old lords of the land and the sky," she tells him. "Gods of the Wheel of Time and the Never-Ending World. And all the spaces beyond." Uh oh, that doesn't sound good. Meanwhile, the Justice League jumps to just before the end of the universe in the hopes that they can look back on the universe's timeline and find where Batman has ended up. Another great, mind-blowing Grant Morrison idea. We get to see the origin of the painting of "Brother Mordecai," which, if I remember correctly, hangs in Wayne Manor in the present. Bruce's time-jumping seems to be linked to eclipses for some reason. And then the big revelation: Bruce has somehow made it to the end of time and taken the identity of the archivist there, all so he can steal the Justice League's time sphere and get back to his own time. He ignores Superman's desperate warnings: "He took your memories, relied on your survival instinct... you've been booby-trapped! Darkseid turned you into a doomsday weapon and aimed you directly at the 21st century!" Yeah, okay, that's awesome. And it even sort of makes sense - Darkseid didn't kill Bruce, he turned him into a failsafe world-destroyer, just in case his original plot failed. There's also a creepy time-looping curse: Bruce manages to slay the "dragon" using just a sword (because he's just that bad-ass), but he can't save his witch-woman. She dies cursing her executioner, who just happens to be Nathaniel Wayne. "My curse on you and all your kin! Until the end of time!" She's unwittingly cursing the man she was desperate for them to save: Bruce Wayne. Who now finds himself thrown across time again, right into the hands of the pirate Blackbeard. Awesome.

I truly love this series. It's classic Morrison: tons of crazy awesome ideas thrown at you all at once. He tells you just enough for you to work out what's going on, then rushes onward.
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #6
I think this was probably the worst issue of this comic yet, and I think it has a lot to do with new artist Horacio Domingues. His work is just childish and cartoony, and the expressions on the characters' faces are exaggerated and overly emotional. It doesn't suit the material at all. All that being said, the writing here isn't too good, either. There's a lot of overwrought, melodramatic, and cliche dialog, especially during Jailbait's suicide attempt. That last scene is pretty over-the-top, too. Hopefully things will pick back up with the next issue.
Thumbs Down

Secret Avengers #1
Not content with starting just one, gigantic, 25-member Avengers team, Steve Rogers has also launched a smaller, secret Avengers team to handle black ops missions. Oddly it includes some of the same members as the larger team. Could they make this more confusing? Anyway, the secret team's first mission sees them intercepting an alien artifact that puts them on a trail that leads to Mars, where an even more dangerous, companion artifact is awaiting them. Both artifacts seem to have the power to turn former allies into enemies. The story is intriguing and fun, but the dialog and art are surprisingly clumsy. I expect better writing from Ed Brubaker, and better art from Mike Deodato. Valkyrie's and Black Widow's outfits cling to them in ridiculous ways in the opening fight sequence, and there's a panel near the beginning where Steve Rogers is supposed to be smiling casually that's just horrific - it looks like he's making some kind of hideous death grimace. On top of all that, the Secret Avengers team is mostly composed of characters I don't care that much about. Sure, Steve Rogers, Beast, and Nova are cool, but Moon Knight, Sharon Carter, Black Widow, Valkyrie, and War Machine are all pretty dull. I'll hold off judgment on the (redeemable) Ant Man, as I'm not too familiar with him. Anyway, I'm not crazy about this issue, but I might stick with the series for now and see where the story goes.
Thumbs Sideways

The Terminator: 2029 #3
This is the last issue of this series! I didn't realize it was only going to be three issues long! Thankfully it's just the prelude to another three-issue miniseries, done by the same creative team, that continues the story, but in a different year: 1984. Hoo boy! It's nice to see Ben and Paige getting together, and it's cool how future-Reese convinces Ben he's telling the truth. It's also interesting that Ben can't see past his current happiness to what's really important, until that happiness is taken away. I feel like it's a little cheap to introduce Ben and Paige's relationship only to tear it apart in order to give Ben motivation to complete his mission, but... it's done relatively well, with some effective narration, and Paige did feel like a real person while she was around, so I'll allow it. I like the way the comic fills in gaps in the original story, showing us Reese volunteering for the mission to protect Sarah Connor. We even get to see John sending him back. But there's an extra and interesting new element added: the older, future Reese claims he woke up after the fight with the T-800 in the factory (which took place at the end of the first movie) and was then imprisoned and questioned by machines. How could that have happened? In the movie he seemed pretty clearly to have died. Is this a different timeline? Or when his body was taken away at the end of the movie, did someone intercept it and revive him? I'm interested to see how they'll explain this, and of course to see how they weave Ben's story into the story of the original movie.

Unfortunately, there is a rather large continuity error here. In the movie, Reese said the time travel equipment was destroyed as soon as he went through, but that doesn't happen here, and in fact no such plan is even mentioned; instead, after Reese is sent back, John just leaves the machine sitting there and Ben and future-Reese have no trouble sneaking in to use it again. Which doesn't even make sense. I mean, who'd leave a time machine just sitting around? It's a disappointing logic error in what's an otherwise strong story.
Thumbs Up

Thor #610
The cover of this comic is labeled "Siege: Epilogue," and indeed that's all this issue really is: an epilogue to Siege. There's a two-page spread that nicely summarizes the end of Siege using six panels, mostly primary colors, and a handful of short phrases. It's better than reading the real thing, actually! Then we get Balder brooding, and trying to give the throne back to Thor, who wisely refuses, so he can go on kicking ass as the Thor we know and love. There's also a subplot with this Kelda lady who I still can't quite figure out. Apparently she used to like some dumb-ass named Bill? And now they're separated forever? I don't really care. Anyway, Thor finally gets to have it out once and for all with his clone, and that's kind of fun. But really this issue is just cleaning up old plot lines so we can move on to new stuff in future issues, so it's kind of dull and disappointing.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Zack Whedon (Not)
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Monday, May 31, 2010 08:13 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from the week of 4/28, new releases from Free Comic Book Day, and also a bunch of old stuff the comic shop wanted to get rid of and therefore put up for grabs on Free Comic Book Day. It was quite a pile of books, and I've been a bit busy lately, so I'm afraid it took me longer to get through them and write them up than usual. I can't say when or if I'll be able to catch up on all the other books that came after these, either. But I'll do my best!

As usual, beware spoilers!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #34
Wow. I was a little surprised at first when I started reading this Buffy arc by Brad Meltzer and it wasn't terrible, given how much I've disliked Meltzer's work in the past, but now his awfulness has finally reared its ugly head, and in spectacular fashion. Then again, I'm not sure how much of this I can really blame on him, as I assume the general shape of the story was already laid out for him by Joss and company, and it's mostly the story itself that's bad. I mean, Angel and Buffy having graphic sex for an entire comic? It's kind of gross. And what the hell are they doing having sex in the middle of everything anyway, when Buffy should by all rights be kicking Angel's ass, seeing as how he's been a villain committing MASS MURDER for the entire Season? And why the hell was Angel committing doing that anyway? I still need answers to these questions!! But instead they just throw a lot of really lame bullcrap at us about "the Universe" and how it has manipulated everyone and everything in some really hand-wavy fashion, and manufactured this entire plot line (in fact, very possibly the entire history of reality so far) just so that Buffy and Angel will have sex and thus elevate themselves to some new level of existence, destroying the old one in the process. That's lame. Seriously, seriously lame. It sounds like Angel actually had some inkling this is what was going to happen. But why would Angel ever be so selfish as to deliberately kill thousands of people and possibly destroy an entire universe just so he can get lucky with his ex and have some peace and quiet for a change? I just don't buy it.
Thumbs Down

Captain America #605
A fun and slightly sad conclusion to the Captain America vs. the Tea Party storyline, ending with a classic comic book fight on top of the Hoover Dam. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of crazy '50s Cap. (I didn't even bother reading the Nomad backup story; that shit is terrible.)
Thumbs Up

New Avengers #64
Now we get to see the events leading up to the Fall of Asgard from the perspective of The Hood. So I guess we're going to get to see the same events from the perspective of every single character in the Marvel Universe eventually. Sigh. Anyway, what we learn in this run-through is that Loki pulled a literal deus ex machina, took The Hood gang's power away from them, and gave it to the good guys. I'm not sure why that happened, or why I haven't already read about it in some other, more important comic book (like Siege #3 or something). It's a confusing twist, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel when I look at the final panel of this comic, which is a picture of The Hood's girlfriend's gold mask with The Hood's face reflected in it. I can't say I find either of these characters all that interesting anymore. I mean, The Hood's story so far has been that he got magic power, and then he lost it, and then he got magic power again, and then he lost it again. Yawn.
Thumbs Sideways

Siege: Secret Warriors #1
This is a pretty cool one-shot revealing what Phobos, the God of Fear, did when he learned of the death of his father, Ares. Basically, he flips out, kills a lot of Secret Service agents, and then drops a really bitter, angry, well-written letter on the President's desk. In between, there is a truly hilarious and fantastic scene in which Nick Fury and Steve Rogers - the two bad-ass old campaigners - have a casual conversation about hanging out in the middle of the Siege of Asgard. I loved this scene so much I can't even tell you. It's ridiculous and warm and funny and hardcore all at once, and really wonderfully illuminates these two characters. Surprisingly good one-shot!
Thumbs Up

The Terminator: 2029 #2
We open with a gigantic firefight, and then we get to meet an interesting new faction of humanity: a lone wolf pack who don't follow John Connor, but just go roaming around the wilderness hunting machines. It's a different philosophy of the post-apocalypse than we've seen before, and brings up some interesting questions. Do you take the risk of settling down - building families and making connections - or do you go off on your own, avoid connections, and fend for yourself as best you can? The same conflict of philosophies is on display between Paige and Ben - Paige wants to shut herself off from everyone, because she's afraid to be hurt again and lose someone else who matters to her. But Ben is willing to take the risk. And finally Paige takes it with him. But then something unexpected interrupts them: the old man Reese saved from a machine outpost turns out to be a future version of himself, who asks for Ben by name! Woah. Clearly this Reese is from some other timeline than the one we know. Either that or he's just some crazy guy. Either way, I'm intrigued! This is good writing, and an exciting story.
Thumbs Up

Thor #609
Lots of exciting action and god-fighting in this one. Plus Loki gets some good lines: "I am Loki, the fire that burns. And why does the fire burn? I know not. But I am he." He admits to having fashioned the plot that led to the Fall of Asgard, but claims he didn't think it would go this far. Balder gets all bad-ass, and exiles Loki, but in fact it looks like that may have been part of Loki's plan all along. That tricky guy. There are some corny moments in this issue, but all-in-all it's pretty entertaining.
Thumbs Sideways

FCBD new releases
Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
Despite the title, which would seem to suggest that this is a sampler of various comic titles put out by Bongo, it's actually just a handful of Simpsons stories. They're all mildly amusing, with one or two decent gags, but there's none of the true comic brilliance from the show's heyday.
Thumbs Sideways

DC Kids Mega Sampler 2010
Yep, these are some DC kids comics. Nothing very exciting. I like Art Baltazar's exaggerated art style, and Batman has some fun lines about his desire to punch things in the final story, but that's about it.
Thumbs Sideways

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom/Magnus: Robot Fighter
These are previews of two new titles from Dark Horse Comics, both written by Jim Shooter. The first is simply awful. Incredibly cheesy writing, totally lacking in subtlety, and a story that's entirely unimaginative. It's reminiscent of every superhero origin story ever, but the character is probably most similar to a really boring version of Doctor Manhattan. Robot Fighter is slightly more interesting, as it has a quirky sense of humor instead of just being painfully earnest. Plus, the story's not as dull and lacking in creativity as Doctor Solar; here we've got a human being who's somehow strong enough to fight rogue robots, but he also has a robot friend, and can interface with the robots in a limited way. That's not to say this is a really good comic; the relationship between the main character and the story's only woman is the classic contentious, they-hate-each-other, they-love-each-other dynamic. And the plot ends up being pretty dull. You can bet I won't be collecting these comics when they start asking you to pay for them.
Thumbs Down

Green Hornet
This book contains previews of most, if not all, of Dynamite's many Green Hornet-related titles. First up is part of Kevin Smith's awful Green Hornet book, which I already read and hated, so I skipped over that. Next up is Green Hornet: Year One, which has some nice art by Aaron Campbell, but pretty ho-hum dialog and story from Matt Wagner. Then there's The Green Hornet Strikes! There's not really enough of this one to get a good feel for it, and there's even less of Kato Origins and Kato (the former has color but no dialog; the latter is black and white and doesn't even have ink, let alone dialog). I doubt there's any reason to buy any of these. The last one, after all, is just a spin-off of Kevin Smith's story, focusing on the hot Kato with large boobs, so it's almost certainly awful.
Thumbs Down

Incorruptible/Irredeemable
This is just a book containing reprints of the first issue of each of Mark Waid's great new series. A good way to get into them for anybody who hasn't yet. Anybody want my copy?
Thumbs Up

Iron Man/Nova
It's Iron Man and Nova versus a team of super apes! Except one of the apes defects and helps them, in return for candy. Pretty cute and fun. In the back is a goofy Superhero Squad short about Iron Man trying to find a way to repair all the damage from Hulk's constant smashing, but Hulk points out that prevention would be the better course. Also kind of cute.
Thumbs Sideways

Iron Man/Thor
The opening image of this one - Thor standing with his hammer in front of a giant oncoming wave and ordering it to yield - is a really powerful one. But it's not the prelude to a surreal, philosophical comic. In fact the story is about some folks who have stolen one of Tony Stark's inventions and are using it to make the moon habitable and the Earth inhabitable. Iron Man and Thor team up to stop them. I'm kind of surprised these two are willing to work together, after the bad blood that's passed between them lately, but whatever. There's some fun banter, Romita provides his usual excellent artwork, and the story is reasonably exciting.
Thumbs Sideways

Kizoic Presents
This book has two Penguins of Madagascar stories on one side and two Shrek stories on the other. The one Shrek story about Donkey and Shrek getting sick and being quarantined together is oddly pointless and never goes anywhere, but the rest are all pretty standard kids' comic stories - mildly entertaining, but not very exciting, and not terribly imaginative either. I wanted to like the Penguins stories more than I did, since I enjoy the cartoon, but they're just okay.
Thumbs Sideways

The Library of American Comics
This is little more than a long ad for collections of old newspaper strips. It includes a bunch of samples of what the company has to offer, including really early Archie, Blondie, and Li'l Abner. Mostly it just convinced me that, yes, some comics do eventually become hopelessly dated.
Thumbs Sideways

Toy Story
It's disappointing to me that nearly every Toy Story story has the same format: a new toy arrives, and the other toys react to it with fear and suspicion, but usually end up embracing it in the end. This story is no exception. The only wrinkle is that this time the new toy is another Buzz Lightyear, which Andy receives by mistake, and which his Mom promises to exchange for a new, better toy. But the new Buzz gets switched with the old Buzz, and is about to be taken back to the store when the comic ends. The book has its moments, but there's nothing so exciting here that it makes me want to start collecting this series again.
Thumbs Sideways

War of the Supermen #0
I've been avoiding all the Superman titles lately because they're all being written by authors whose work I've disliked in the past. This free zero issue convinced me I've been making the right decision. It's just lots of cheesy, overwrought, melodramatic dialog and narration. Plus, Superman comes off as self-righteous and preachy. There's nobody in the book you can like or identify with. Even the villains just stand around and spout the standard villain cliches.
Thumbs Down

Worlds of Aspen 2010
I was not familiar with any Aspen comics before I looked at this sampler, but it seems clear now that all of their books are about boobs. There's some sad attempts at dialog and story attached to the boobs, but they're clearly an afterthought. The only exception is Dellec. The sadly extremely short preview for this book is actually pretty funny, as it involves a gang of big guys dressed as apes who call themselves The Kongs.
Thumbs Down

FCBD back issues and old data
Charlemagne #1
This is a book put out by a publishing company called Defiant in the early '90s. It's an absolutely awful story which opens up in the '70s with a young boy worrying about his soldier brother, who's overseas in Vietnam. He ends up getting over there somehow and trying to save his brother, only to fail at the last moment. Then he goes into a coma for many years and somehow develops super strength. I couldn't even read the entire thing, the dialog and narration were so poorly written; I just skimmed the last three quarters or so. It's melodramatic and overwrought and cheesy and just bad in every way that writing can be bad. The credits reveal that it was plotted by five different people working together, which is not a good sign; too many cooks in the kitchen, clearly. Apparently the actual writing was done by only one guy, though: D.G. Chichester. I'll have to make sure to avoid his work in the future - assuming it even comes up.
Thumbs Down

Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #2
Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #3

These are two issues from the middle of a four-issue miniseries published in the mid-'80s. They're written by Chris Claremont, so they're exceedingly over-narrated and seriously lacking in subtlety. Plus, Franklin Richards baby-speak dialog makes me want to punch somebody. That being said, it's a surprisingly effective story, which finds the X-Men so desperate to save Shadowcat from an odd medical condition that they are even willing to fight the Fantastic Four when Reed refuses to help them, and accept the assistance of Doctor Doom when he offers it. But the FF is going through its own issues, as it turns out Sue has recently discovered a book that appears to be Reed's diary, and which states plainly that he knew what would happen on the fateful flight that turned them all into superheroes (and Ben into a freakish monster), and that he planned it deliberately. The book is a lie, but that doesn't stop it from briefly tearing the FF apart. Despite how melodramatic the story gets, it never feels unbelievable, and Claremont treats the characters well. Maybe it's because I'm a new father and therefore vulnerable to this sort of thing, but the tender moment between Reed and Franklin put a lump in my throat. As a final note, it's hilarious how incredibly inaccurate and sensationalized the covers of each of these comics are. The scenes they depict have absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens inside the books.
Thumbs Up

Fantasy Masterpieces #2
This book, from January of 1980, finds an extremely emo Silver Surfer (the opening panel features him lying stretched out on his board with one arm flung over his eyes in classic Victorian-lady-with-the-vapors style) protecting the Earth from invisible alien invaders, despite the fact that the humans constantly misinterpret his actions and repay his selfless acts of kindness with only hatred and violence. The writing, because it's by Stan "The Man" Lee, is really rather ridiculous. But, because it's by Stan "The Man" Lee, it's also reasonably fun and entertaining.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hulk #315
This book, from January 1986, actually documents a pretty important moment in the history of the Hulk, wherein Doc Samson manages to split the Hulk and Bruce Banner into two physically and mentally separate beings, only discovering after he's succeeded what a terrible and dangerous thing he's done. The writing and art are both by John Byrne, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, and he delivers a pretty entertaining comic here, although the opening metaphorical chase between Bruce and the Hulk is a bit overdone, and there's maybe a bit more exposition - and talking in general - than there really needs to be.
Thumbs Sideways

JLA: Paradise Lost #2
The middle issue of a three-part miniseries by Mark Millar, with art by Ariel Olivetti. I hardly need the first and third issues to understand the story, however, as it's a really old one about guardian angels who forsook their places in heaven for the love of mortal women, and another angel who's rebelling and plans to overthrow God. The fact that the Archangel Michael turns out to be a tattooed smoker is kind of amusing, and it's both entertaining and embarrassing to note that this was during the period where Superman didn't have the cape, and instead wore a ridiculous blue and white jumpsuit, and even had purple skin for some reason. This book also features one of the (apparently many) times that the Martian Manhunter died. It doesn't have a lot of that over-the-top, Millar charm, but he does get to show the evil angel burning some people alive and throwing a boat around, so there's that.
Thumbs Sideways

Will to Power #8
This is a short, 16-page book from the mid-'90s about a young, snot-nosed super team and their far more experienced boss facing off against a guy who appears to be a sort of Superman-gone-wild. We're clearly coming in at the middle of the story here, and what with that and the fact that there are so few pages, it's hard to get a feel even for who's meant to be the heroes and who's meant to be the villains. Luckily none of the characters are particularly interesting or fresh, so it doesn't really matter.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fantastic Four (Not), Free Comic Book Day (Not), Green Hornet (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Nova (Not), Pixar (Not), Siege (Not), Simpsons (Not), Superman (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), X-Men (Not), Zack Whedon (Not)
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Monday, April 26, 2010 01:14 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 4/7 and 4/14. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #4
Liz goes hunting in the ruins of a future apocalypse that she supposedly helped create and finds evidence that seems to support the Black Flame's disturbing claim that Abe is just a slightly more evolved frog creature. The whole second half of the book is incredibly thrilling, as Hellboy makes a cameo and it is strongly suggested that since he was/will be unable or unwilling to end the world, Liz took/will take over for him. Luckily, in a truly ass-kicking climactic conflagration, a mysterious man with a red hand on his forehead shows up and helps direct Liz's power at the right people. It's nice when a super-powerful magician shows up to fight on the side of good for a change! Excellent, excellent stuff.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #11
I'll admit it, I had to do some googling to figure out just who everybody was supposed to be in this comic (I finally found my answers here, if you're interested). I guess I'm just not that good at holding all these story threads in my head at once, and I don't know as much about the history of the DCU as I'd like. I didn't know that Dr. Hurt and El Penitente were the same guy (or if I did know, I forgot), or that that's who that guy was in the opening scene. And I definitely didn't recognize the villain who showed up in the final panel (which is too bad, as I'm sure that was meant to be a shocking reveal). Ah, well. I still really enjoyed the comic. Morrison's kooky dialog and wild story ideas are just fantastic. I love the 99 Fiends, and Batman's Indiana Jones-like investigation under Wayne Manor. I'm glad Robin is thinking the same thing about Sexton I was thinking, but I'd sure like to know if we're right. And the thrilling, cliffhanger ending is very exciting.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable: Special #1
This is the kind of book that, if Marvel or DC were putting it out, would probably be called an "Annual." It's bigger than your average issue and has three separate stories done by three separate creative teams (although they were all written by Mark Waid). It opens with a short sum-up of the story so far, and some intriguing hints as to where the story will go next, revealing that the three characters who are at the center of each of these three stories will take a critical role in the events to come. The first tale tells the story of one of the Plutonian's former teammates, a guy called the Hornet, who would have been the first superhero (albeit without any powers) if the Plutonian hadn't showed up first. His story is pretty similar to that of Plutonian's other former teammates, except for one difference: the Hornet had a contingency plan in case the Plutonian ever went bad, and he was able to activate it before he was killed. But what is it, and what does it do? I guess we'll see...

Next up is the origin story of Kaidan, done in an appropriately manga-type style. It's a little melodramatic, but does give us a bit more of an insight into her powers and her past. Last is the story of how Max Damage met Jailbait. This one's possibly the weakest and least interesting of the three; it just feels perfunctory and doesn't really add anything to what we know about the characters.

Still, overall this is a pretty fun book. Really, I'm just excited about the fact that it exists. If Irredeemable is putting out "special" issues, that must mean the series is doing well!
Thumbs Up

Siege: Loki #1
This is a one-shot revealing more of Loki's motives and machinations as far as the events of Siege are concerned. I picked it up because it was written by Kieron Gillen, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, and because I have a bit of a soft spot for Loki. The setup is interesting: Loki realizes that despite all his meddling, Asgard and its citizens - including Thor and himself - remain essentially the same. This frustrates and angers him, and he decides he's going to have to work some real chaos if he's to see any kind of true change in the nature of things. So he puts a bug in Osborn's ear about Asgard, then seeks out the terrible Disir and makes himself their master, so that he can make a deal with Hela and Mephisto which will not only cause some serious strife, but also leave him truly immortal and fateless. It's an entertaining and clever series of machinations, and gives us an interesting look into Loki as a character. In the back of the book, we're told Loki's endgame will play out in Thor #609 and Siege #4. I was probably going to buy those anyway, so that's cool.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #1
John Byrne returns to the Star Trek universe for a new miniseries focusing on what Dr. McCoy was up to in between the original Enterprise's final mission and the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I always like these kinds of stories that fill in gaps in the overall plotline of a larger saga, and Byrne is particularly good at writing them. His prose is smart and he treats the characters with respect. We learn in this issue that McCoy, after sitting around being retired for a while, got restless and signed up to be a frontier doctor, meaning he's out cruising the spaceways with a fellow doctor, answering random medical emergency calls from various alien planets. He and his friend pick up a stowaway and then have to fight a mysterious and fast-moving disease. The stowaway character is basically a stereotype, and many of the other plot elements are pretty familiar, but it's still a reasonably entertaining story, and as I said, it's really just fun seeing these beloved characters moving around again, and learning more about their past.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #16
The "Blue Harvest" storyline continues with Dass Jennir's Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars-style gambit playing out pretty much as planned (except maybe for that beating he takes). This continues to be an entertaining series with beautiful art.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not)
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Monday, April 19, 2010 02:16 PM
(Last updated on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 09:06 AM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from the week of 3/31, plus a Fletcher Hanks collection. Beware spoilers!

Back issues and old data
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!
I mentioned in my review of the first collection of the work of Fletcher Hanks, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets, that I would definitely have to check out the second collection, and now I have! The last line of the book says that these two collections constitute the complete works of Fletcher Hanks, so I guess that's that. It's quite a body of work. This volume includes a straight text introduction that repeats and augments the information included in the comic-style afterword of the first volume, adding more biographical information and even some fascinating sketches by Hanks. It's an interesting introduction, but also unsettling. Knowing more about what a wretched person Hanks was leaves me even more uncomfortable about enjoying his work so much.

In a lot of ways this book is just more of the same stuff that we saw in the first book, except that some of these stories seem to lack the truly wild imagination of those included in the first volume, and more seem to stray from Hanks' standard plot structure (God-like hero discovers evil plan, allows evil plan to commence, then finally intervenes and punishes evil-doer with poetic justice). Which is not to say that this is a bad book, or that Hanks takes any sudden, shocking turns into entirely new story types. His heroes are still all God-like, and they still spend their time defeating incredibly dangerous and destructive villains in unlikely ways. This book is maybe not as wildly inventive or as thematically consistent as the first, but it's nearly as fun and full of nearly as many crazy ideas and insane, evocative images. I particularly enjoyed the Fantomah story in which an immortal Egyptian mummy super-scientist uses a ray to blind the people of the jungle, and then resurrects all the mummies on Earth and transmits them through the sky to come live in a new jungle empire for Ancient Egyptians. Another great Fantomah story sees her fighting fifth columnists by sending hordes of lions and tigers through the sky at parachutists, and then destroying the remaining grounded planes and soldiers with Godzilla-like lizard monsters. Hanks even mimics other popular comic books of the day by giving one of his heroes, Stardust the super-wizard, his own squad of child assistants (although considering Stardust's infinite abilities, they seem kind of superfluous).

Overall I'd say this book is definitely worth getting, especially if you own and enjoy the first book.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Blackest Night #8
Here it is at last, the crappy conclusion to a terrible miniseries. I mean, if your comic opens with your main character narrating, without any trace of irony, the words "The truth is, I am afraid of one thing. I'm afraid to get close to people," then you need to consider taking some writing classes. I mean, that shit is awful. I'll admit, I always enjoy an epic two-page spread featuring everybody fighting everybody, but it's happened so many times in this series it's beginning to lose its affect. And when Jordan uses the Entity's power to just magically turn all his buddies into White Lanterns (a term which I'm still uncomfortable with), it's pretty much literally a deus ex machina. I do like the way they reverse the usual ending of epic comic book stories like this one by having the heroes fix everything by bringing the villain back to life instead of by killing him. But the way the Anti-Monitor (once hyped up by Johns himself as the biggest and most terrifying villain of them all) just pops up at the very last minute, hangs out for a few panels, and then pops out again seems pretty ridiculous. And bringing almost all of the dead heroes back to life again in one nonsensical, inexplicable act of resurrection is rather lame - it's pretty much what Johns has been doing with all his Rebirth miniseries, but multiplied by ten and packed into one giant spread. And of course he closes things up with another gag-inducingly cheesy conversation between Barry and Hal.

I think this series has pretty much put me off Geoff Johns for good. He's just not a very good writer.
Thumbs Down

Incorruptible #4
This issue isn't as great as the previous one, but it's still pretty fun, with more insight into Max's motives and character, more development of his twisted relationship with Jailbait, and a fight with a giant robot (something I never say no to).
Thumbs Sideways

New Mutants #11
This one-shot story explains the deal Moonstar made with Hela during the events of... the last big X-Men multi-book series, whatever it was called. Turns out she's now a Valkyrie, but instead of ferrying human heroes to the afterlife, she shepherds the souls of the Gods themselves! Which means she has powers again, but at a pretty high price. It's a vaguely interesting story, but one-shots are always a bit boring, and there's not a lot very exciting or imaginative going on in this one.
Thumbs Sideways

The Terminator: 2029 #1
I wasn't a big fan of Dark Horse's other recent Terminator comic book series, but this one had Zack Whedon's name on it, so I gave it a shot. I was not disappointed. Whedon wisely focuses on characters and relationships (because those are what make good stories, people!) and introduces us to a funny and interesting group of folks, including one that any Terminator fan will recognize immediately: Kyle Reese. I love that Reese tells one of his really depressing and terrifying stories, like the ones he's always telling in the first movie, and somebody finally calls him out on it: "Your stories suck." But the comic's not all people talking - after all, it wouldn't be Terminator without a bit of good, old-fashioned ultra-violence. So there's shooting and killing and a huge machine invasion, not to mention the historic and deadly first meeting between humans and the T-800 series of Terminators. This is a fine comic right here - a worthy continuation of the Terminator saga - and I'm looking forward to the next issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Blackest Night (Not), Comic books (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Robots (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not)
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010 04:49 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from the week of 3/24. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Captain America #604
The new Cap gets to suit up as Bucky again! It would be awesome and fun, if it weren't for the fact that he's doing it at the behest of the fake, wacko Cap. Meanwhile, Falcon kicks ass on a train. Fake Cap gets the final word, and it's a great supervillain line: "I'm going to blow up the Hoover Dam... and you're going to watch." It's not a fantastic issue, but it's pretty fun.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #7
Speaking of Bucky suiting up, we get to see him do it for the first time in this issue. We also get a glimpse of Union Jack, and a look at the origin of Destroyer. Then Cap, Bucky, and Angel bust in on a Nazi meeting and kick butt with some serious style. I'm looking forward to the next and final issue, when I expect Namor will finally get educated, switch sides, and join the other Marvels to fight against the Nazis and their fellow villains. I'm still a little disappointed with the cursory way this series treats certain events (I would have liked more on Union Jack, Destroyer, and Bucky), but I suppose Brubaker only had so much space to work with, and the series is only meant to be a summary of a rather long and complex history. Still, I think I would've preferred a more focused series, covering a smaller number of events, to this summary that doesn't get a chance to treat hardly any of the events with any detail.
Thumbs Up

New Avengers #63
Yet another look at the giant fight in Asgard, this time interspersed with flashbacks from various heroes about their personal lives and relationships. Sadly, the dialog is not Bendis' best work. Overall a pretty dull and pointless issue. Sure, it ends with a hero apparently dead, but... what comic doesn't?
Thumbs Sideways

Supergod #3
Yep, this series is still amazing. We open with a brutal and depressing deconstruction of where religion comes from and what people really use it for. Then we meet another God, one of the most fascinating yet, who can see all possible futures, and is even able to see us, as readers, and speak directly to us. There's a disturbing moment when our narrator has a hard time remembering the next part of his story, and the whole reality and causality of it seem to be heading toward disintegration and fragmentation. Then our friend pulls things together and continues his tale, revealing that it was his idea to throw two of the Gods together in the hopes that they would negotiate a truce. I have a feeling it's not going to go well. But I'm looking forward to reading the details!
Thumbs Up

Thor #608
I like the archetypal nature of this story, with Tyr paralyzed with fear due to a prophecy about a God of war being doomed. When he realizes the prophecy referred to Ares, he feels free to act again. But the majority of the issue is a big fight between Volstagg and the evil Thor clone, which ends with Asgard falling on evil Thor's head. Which is nice! A reasonably fun issue, but it's lacking something. It could be... meatier.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Siege (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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