Sunday, October 30, 2005

Upcoming on Fourth Rail:
Time for my monthly update on what's coming from me on Fourth Rail in the future (both near and far). This is roughly in order of when I expect to get to them, but pay careful attention to the "roughly" in that sentence.

*Another Indy Spotlight (Comic Pulp Vol. 1, Rocket Rabbit 1, The Calling, Something So Familiar, The Wandering Schoolgirl, Nothing Left to Lose) - Next week, maybe?

*Speakeasy Focus (The Hunger TPB (due next week, I believe), The Living & The Dead OGN, Parting Ways OGN, Adventures of Bio-Boy #1, Spellgame #1-2, Ellium Vol. 1, Super-Crazy TNT Blast #1, Helios: In With The New #1, Elk's Run Compilation and maybe a couple more) - Expect this one about a week after The Hunger TPB comes out, so probably mid-November

*Manga Spotlight (Rising Stars of Manga Vol. 5, Steady Beat, I Luv Halloween, Naoki Urusawa's Monster (running late), Japan v.1, The Monkey King v.1) - Waiting on Monster's release, which at this point may be late November or early December... if it's later than that, I'll probably run this without it

*Another First Issue Spotlight (The Lonely Tombstone, Giant Monster, Army of Darkness vs. Reanimator #1, Robotika Preview, Zombie Tales: Oblivion, Season of the Witch, Black Harvest plus whatever first issues come in between now and this feature) - I'd like to hit these earlier, but if all the other spotlights come through, it seems likely it'll probably be first or second week in December

*Another Mini-Comics Spotlight (Red Ice, Happy Birthday Anyway, Styx Taxi: As Above, So Below, 3 from Rob Croonenborghs) - Probably late December, want to wait until I get a couple more submissions if possible - I suppose I might pick some up at Wizard World Texas, which might move this up

*Graphic Novel reviews including some or all of: Tales of Supernatural Law v.1, Off-Road, Ring of Roses, Hack/Slash Vol. 1, Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story, Indigo Vertigo, NYC Mech Vol. 1, Zombieworld: Winter's Dregs, Sea of Red Vol. 1, Runoff 2, Decoy Menagerie, Humor Can Be Funny, Full Moon Fever, 2 Sisters, The Ride, Tozzer 2, Electric Girl 3, Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai, Wings of Anansi, And The Sky Turned White, Ojo, The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, Hutch Owen: Unmarketable!, The Groo Odyssey and The Irregulars - I try to hit some of these on a weekly basis

*Series spotlights (Raider 1-3, Cocopiazo #1-4, Students of the Unusual #2-6, Penguin Books' Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz and MacBeth) - I'm trying to work these in on lighter weeks... which I don't seem to have anymore

*Book Reviews (whenever I get time to read them) including: Foul Play! (The Art and Artists of EC Comics), Path of the Just/Path of the Bold, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, I Was Someone Dead, Superman On The Couch, Hellboy: Odder Jobs - These will probably take some time

That is, of course, in addition to all the stuff that comes into my house and my comics shop on a weekly basis. I'll be done with the "spotlight" stuff by the end of the year, but some of the books and graphic novels (and maybe some of the series) will probably roll on into 2006. Once again, my apologies to those who send me stuff that you often have to wait for the reviews, hopefully they're worth it (positive or negative) when they do hit.

On top of this, I'll be doing my weekly "Recommended Reading" columns, which I hope everyone is enjoying. I'm certainly enjoying the shift in format that writing those columns offers, and would like to thank Johanna Draper Carlson for the inspiration, as she's been doing it in Comics Worth Reading for years. Up next in these columns are: Runaways, Fables, Solo, True Story Swear to God, Age of Bronze and Usagi Yojimbo, which will take us into mid-December.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - November 2, 2005:

Catwoman When In Rome Hc (What I read of this, I liked, enough to order the hardcover, especially since I have the majority of the Loeb/Sale work in hardcover already)
Essential Marvel Two In One Vol 1 Tp (More '70s Marvel coolness in overstuffed black and white volumes)
Exalted #1 (Curious to see what Udon will do with this game-based fantasy comic)
Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol 1 Tp (DC's entry into the black and white overstuffed format, and I'm picking this one up as I've got a pretty strong western vibe going right now)
Smax Tp (Alan Moore and Zander Cannon's fantasy follow-up to Top 10, which is the next best thing to getting more Top 10. Finally out in softcover)
Stray Bullets #40 (The previous issue was one of the best Stray Bullets issues in the entire run, so I'm definitely feeling the vibe on this one again)
Top Shelf Conversations #2 (James Kochalka and Jeffrey Brown on a process-investigating collaboration)
Twisted Toyfare Theatre Vol 6 Tp (I think five volumes was my limit on this one, but these little toy skits are always funny, and a must-buy for those who enjoy Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken)

Desolation Jones #4 (I think I'm going to prefer reading this one in trade, but I am leaning towards picking up the trades at this point. Certainly JH Williams III's art is gorgeous)
Invincible Vol 5 Facts Of Life Tp (The latest collection of Invincible, one of the best superhero comics on the market right now)
Jonah Hex #1 (Solid opener for the non-Vertigo Jonah Hex series, a good teen counterpart to the adults-only Loveless)
Marvel Adventures Spider-man #9 (Self-contained old school Spidey story by the Gravity team of Sean McKeever and Mike Norton. Has Doom, and is plenty of fun)
Marvel Team-up #14 (Invincible and Spider-Man team-up! Fun issue, albeit not as good as your average issue of Invincible on its own, but there's a surprising tie-in to Invincible continuity in there as well)
Seven Soldiers The Bulleteer #1 (Solid start for the latest Morrison outing, with really nice artwork by Yanick Paquette)
Spider-man Unlimited #12 (Might be the best Spider-Man comic produced this year, with stories by Christos Gage and Mike McKone and Tom Beland and Sean Phillips. Must buying, even for a mostly trade guy like myself)
Young Avengers Vol 1 Sidekicks Hc (I'm holding out for a softcover, but despite a weaker second arc thus far, I'm still planning on buying the softcover of this series)

Monday, October 24, 2005

New Queen & Country Novel:
How is it that despite regularly reading Newsarama, CBR, The Beat, The Pulse, the Oni Buzz newsletter, etc., it was in Entertainment Weekly that I first learned that the second Queen & Country novel is coming out tomorrow?!

I'm not wild about a lot of Rucka's DC work right now, but I love his novels and I love Queen & Country. Given my current reading schedule and piles of novels (graphic and prose), I'll probably hold off until softcover on this one... or more likely, put the hardcover on the Christmas list... but if I get some loose spending cash between now and then, I'll definitely pick this up. The first novel was great, and with the series on what seems like indefinite hiatus, this might be the only way to keep up with these characters for a while.
Curious about Shuck?
Shuck is a comic book that I've reviewed a few times (here are links for the trade paperback and first issue of the new series), but now Rick Smith is doing something kind of cool, something that's catching on in small press comics, and making it all available to sample online.

So you can now check out every issue of Shuck, from the graphic novel on to the new series, in full color, on the web. Give it a look!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Videogame Update:
I really need to try and get back to posting on this thing more often, or it'll go as dead as it was for a few months there. Thus, posts like this one, where I run down my latest videogame experiences.

The PSP is a wonderful toy, and though I don't have much occasion to use it, I do cherish it on those occasions when it has come in handy. Times like my wait at Saturn for my 90,000 mile update (or more correctly, my wait for Suzanne to come pick me up, since the 90,000 mile update actually turned out to be an overnight thing), the drive to Dallas or the other occasional "waiting for someone" moment in life. The games I have tried on the PSP are:

SSX On Tour - Rented this one since I love the SSX 3 game on the PS/2, and was, well, mostly disappointed. It is basically SSX 3 again, with minor tweaks to the design and the addition of skis. Maybe it's just comparing the full-screen of TV to the PSP's (admittedly sharp) little screen, but I got bored quickly with SSX On Tour, and this makes me pretty unlikely to pick it up for the PS/2, as I had planned, at least until it comes down in price.

Burnout Legends - The reason I don't think it's the screen size as opposed to disappointment in the game with SSX On Tour is Burnout Legends. Burnout Legends is basically a port of Burnout 3, with music from Burnout Revenge, to the PSP and I love it. It's got all the fun of the PS/2 version (which I played the hell out of, and should theoretically be tired of if the game mechanics weren't so damn inviting) with the addition of little tweaks like an airport map or a pursuit mode where you play a cop trying to ram a perp off the road. I've played a couple of wireless games with my buddy Tess on her PSP, and it's a pretty glorious little feature as well. For my money, this is the killer ap of the PSP thus far.

Lumines - This, on the other hand, was the killer ap when it was announced, and having played it now, I can say that I understand the draw. Like Tetris, it's this deceptively simple puzzle game, and like Tetris, it is just remarkably addictive. Nice techno music background, fun gameplay and a few interesting modes like puzzle and versus make it a definite winner and perennial favorite of mine.

Burnout Revenge - Meanwhile, my PS/2 purchase for the year (I don't buy a ton of games) was Burnout Revenge, at full price. I don't regret it, even though the money spent was earmarked for Scrubs and Arrested Development Season Two, which now have to wait a little longer. Terrific update of the Burnout series, and I would have sworn they couldn't have gotten better after Burnout 3. But the new crash mode is a blast, much bigger and more open, the ability to "traffic check" same direction traffic makes a huge difference and the addition of shortcuts and more varied track maps is just glorious. I also dig the soundtrack, for the most part, just like I did the first one, although I could do without the SSX-like deejay. Absolute must-have game for the PS/2, especially if you do any game parties where you have folks over, when the three different crash multiplayer modes can easily take up a night or two.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - October 26, 2005:

Chance Of A Lifetime #1 (The tale of a World War II-era superhero, with a slightly different perspective... worth a look, from Cellar Door Publishing)
Conan Vol 2 God I/t Bowl & Other Stories Tp (Not as good as the first Dark Horse Conan trade, but still exceptional stuff)
Jack Cross #3 (I'm not blown away by Jack Cross, but as 24 with a comic book budget filtered through Ellis's sensibilities, it's certainly readable)
Lost Squad #1 (World War II supernatural stories with solid potential. Review HERE.)
Loveless #1 (The stylized dialogue and moody artwork gets in the way of a clear first issue, but I don't always "get" what's going on in Deadwood on first viewing either, and I love that western. Not as stunned as I'd hoped to be, but it took me a few issues to get a handle on Azzarello's 100 Bullets, too. Definitely worth checking out for western (especially Deadwood) fans)
Solo #7 (Any comic that features Wonder Girl, Mr. Miracle and Hourman doing the Batusi has *got* to be worth a look... Michael Allred's issue of Solo arrives, and it's a lot of fun)

A Midnight Opera (Another intriguing OEL from Tokyopop about the undead and rock opera)
Age Of Bronze #21 (The continuation of the "Betrayal" arc specifically, and one of the best comics on the market in general)
Book Of Lost Souls #1 (JMS and Colleen Doran offer up a new, creator-owned story at Marvel that sounds like it might be along the lines of JMS's Midnight Nation... I'll check it out)
Bprd The Black Flame #3 (More of the great B.P.R.D. series from Dark Horse... look for a "Recommended Reading" on this series next Friday)
Daredevil #78 (How good has the "Murdock Papers," the final Bendis/Maleev story been? Good enough that it has retroactively reactivated my love for their run and gotten me to pick up the volume 4 hardcover to continue my collection)
Fear Agent #1 ('50s style sci-fi from Remender and Tony Moore)
Girls #6 (More of the Luna brothers' unusual horror comic)
Haunted Mansion #1 (The first Slave Labor/Disney offering, the art on this one looks fantastic)
Mark Of The Succubus Vol 1 (Preview art on this OEL manga looks really nice)
Marvel Monsters Monsters On The Prowl (Mostly disappointed in the Marvel Monsters stuff, but Fin Fang Four was great, so I'll give Monsters on the Prowl a chance as well)
Night Fisher GN (The much-buzzed graphic novel from Fantagraphics and R. Kikuo. This might be my most anticipated read of the week)
Noble Causes #14 (Interested in seeing what happens now that the Noble family has a supervillain opposite number)
Paris #1 (The new Slave Labor series from Andi Watson and Simon Gane, art looks terrific and I'm a fan of Watson's writing)
Previews Vol Xv #11 (Down the Line coming next week... they seem to come out fast when Dave and I are running late)
Psycomm Vol 1 (Psychic commando OEL manga cowritten by CBR columnist and Austin local, I'm curious to check it out)
Season Of The Witch #1 (Enjoyed the black and white intro comic for this unusual fantasy series, I'm looking forward to seeing more of the story in color)
SuperF*ckers #2 (Twisted superhero humor from James Kochalka)
Usagi Yojimbo #88 (I'm actually an issue behind on this, but the latest story, one of the big arcs, has been very entertaining)
Young Avengers #8 (One of my favorite Marvel books running right now)
Zombie Tales Oblivion #1 (Enjoyed the first Zombie Tales anthology, sure I'll enjoy this new series, which has one story and one creative team)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Something Different:
"Well. As we speak, it looks like a fucking fairy exploded in my kitchen. There is glitter everywhere. Glitter on the floor. Glitter on the wall. Glitter INSIDE the wee one's nose. Glitter INSIDE the bread bag. Glitter on my table. Glitter on the dog."

Kari Anne writes Haiku Mama, a frequently updated blog about her life with her child and all that this life entails, and it is (as you can see from the line above) frequently hilarious. Go. Seek.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - October 19, 2005:

Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol 2 #1 (Wow. The gonzo trade paperback was fun, but Hipp and Smith have really upped the game with volume two of Amazing Joy Buzzards, which features a supervillain gathering, a CIA briefing, an impromptu legendary rock concert and a race with tricked-out cars and mysterious, sexy women. Basically, a pop-culture mismash owing allegiance to nothing specific, like what Saturday Morning cartoons used to feel like when you were a kid. The best thing I've read yet this week)
Astro City The Dark Age #4 (Nice finale to the first book of the Dark Age, revealing what exactly happened with the Silver Agent. It's not as mind-blowing as I'd hoped giving the build up, but it's certainly solid)
Marvel Monsters Fin Fang Four (This is easily the best of the Marvel Monsters books so far. The other two were a little bit on the bland side, but Fin Fang Four is a blast, with some neat ideas, the real spirit of the Kirby monster comics and Lee/Kirby FF blended together)
Nick Fury Howling Commandos #1 (I liked the concept on this one, but... yikes. Ugly artwork and clunky writing makes for a really disappointing book out of a pretty interesting concept)
Runaways #9 (Really fun reintroduction of Cloak into the Runaways world, interesting mystery plus tons of character stuff dealing with fallout from recent events... still one of the best superhero titles on the market)
She-Hulk 2 #1 (Starts off a little slow, more reminiscent of the second half of She-Hulk Vol. 1 than the first half, but has some fun moments and offers up a use of Hawkeye that doesn't make me groan, which is a change for the better from how he's been handled at Marvel of late)
Surrogates #2 (Amazing speculative sci-fi with beautiful color artwork by Brett Weldele)
Thread The Unraveling #1 (Xeric winner about paranoia and city living, I reviewed it HERE)
Transformers #0 (A really good reintroduction of the concept that is fun, light and exciting. And I say this as someone without much of a nostalgic attachment who found most of the Dreamwave stuff completely unreadable, *and* as a kid who owned Optimus Prime, Megatron and a whole bunch of other toys and watched the cartoon religiously. IDW has its head on straight with this property)

1000 Deaths Of Baron Von Donut #1 (Not sure if this is a new #1 or the same one that came out before... unnecessarily confusing. But if it is new, hooray! The first one was hilarious)
Armageddon & Son Gn (John Layman's OGN from Oni about superspies and evil dads looks great from what I've read. Haven't sat down to read the whole thing yet, but what I have read was very fun)
Banana Sundays #3 (More of what is probably the cutest book on the market right now, about talking monkeys, high school and secrets)
Birds Of Prey #87 (Still my favorite DC Universe book, just hoping it keeps skirting the edges of the Infinite Crisis)
Black Hole Collected Hc (Looking forward to reading all of Charles Burns' morose, gothically beautiful story about a sexually-transmitted disease that disfigures its victims... the issues I've read have been stunning)
Chiaroscuro Tp (Curious to check out this long out-of-print Vertigo story about the life and times of Leonardo Da Vinci)
Conan #21 (Continuing the "Tower of the Elephant" story, which got off to a great start last issue)
Green Lantern Corps Recharge #2 (First issue had some interesting new characters and a nice take on the Corps. Worried about how tightly it'll tie into Infinite Crisis, but for now, I'm still reading)
Living And The Dead Gn (New Speakeasy graphic novel from Robert Tinnell & Todd Livingston, responsible for Black Forest and Wicked West... haven't read it yet, but it's going in my upcoming Speakeasy column, and I suspect it's gonna be good)
Official Handbook Marvel Universe Horror 2005 (These more fringe Marvel Universe books are kind of fun... the alternate worlds version from a few weeks back was really entertaining, and I suspect that a look at Marvel's horror properties will be cool as well)
Seven Soldiers Klarion The Witch Boy #4 (My enthusiasm for Seven Soldiers has cooled as I realize: A) DC's lame trade paperback plan for the series and B) The stories don't so much end as lead in to Seven Soldiers #1, betraying the "self-contained" nature of the miniseries, but I'm still curious to see how this all ends, and Frazer Irving's artwork continues to astound)
Walking Dead #22 (Finally! It's been a little while since we've had an issue of the industry's best zombie comic, and one of my ten favorite monthly books)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

OK, I missed the STAPLE! meeting because I had to work tonight (I also missed Lost), but that doesn't mean I can't link to the poll on the updated STAPLE! website. Whether you attended last year or are thinking about attending this year or just love polls, come on over and check it out.
Why I Still Love Comics:
I've got too many comics to ever review, and the state of mainstream superheroes and what's selling is remarkably depressing. Infinite Crisis #1 came out yesterday and it didn't piss me off like Identity Crisis #1 did. Instead, it BORED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. I'd say House of M is doing the same, but I only read issues one through three before getting so bored I stopped reading it, save the occasional skim for the highlights, so it's maybe not fair to use the present tense.

And one thing that pisses me off more than the stupid darkening of the DCU that began in Identity Crisis is how some of the same creators who participated in it are now trying to take credit for fixing it. Guess what, guys? If you hadn't *created* the fucking problem, you wouldn't have to fix it!

Mostly, though, I'm in an "oh well, don't care" place with much of DC and Marvel, and that's OK. Seriously, even if you ignore all the popular shit (depressing as it is to realize that what sells and what's good seems to be more diametrically opposed than ever), there's so much out there to read. Most of Vertigo is *great*, the smaller Marvel projects are remarkable (Gravity, New Warriors, Runaways, She-Hulk, etc.), Image, Oni and Dark Horse are kicking much ass and every few months we get a beauty of a graphic novel from guys like NBM, Top Shelf, etc. That's off the top of my head. Doesn't count the mini-comics and self-publisher guys putting their heart and soul into the medium for no money or even money flowing out of their pocket, or the numerous other smaller publishers. Doesn't count the promising news about mainstream bookhouses picking up on graphic novels like Flight or creators like Craig Thompson. Doesn't count Tokyopop and their intriguing line of OEL and ever-expanding line of manga, which seems to offer genre and style to every taste.

Last week, I read The Quitter, Mary Jane Vol. 2 and True Porn 2. This week I hauled in Beg The Question, Essential Spider-Man Vol. 7 and the Livewires digest. That's not bad at all, and that's skipping all the monthly doses of goodness like Fables, Godland and Fell.

It's not always easy to recognize, but it's a good time to be reading comics. Now if only I could get off my ass and start getting more reviewing of them done, so I can get these comp piles down to less suicide-inducing size as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

M.I.A. Again:
Yeah, I know, five days since my last blog post. But I have a good excuse... I took a vacation. Or what passes for a vacation in my current life.

Since I have Sundays and Mondays off, and go in late on Tuesdays, Suzanne and Katy and Corrigan (my dog) and I drove up to Dallas for the second birthday party of my nephew James Austin. I swapped my Tuesday with Dave so that I could come in at 7:00 PM instead of 2:00 PM, and spent what equated to a weekend up in Dallas.

I love Austin, but I like Dallas, or at least what I've seen of it, as well. It's a nice place to take a weekend, especially when we stayed in the monstrously huge house of my parents-in-law. I don't have any great desire to live in a gated community (and Suzanne would divorce me if I tried to move us into one anyway), and I love our small house, but man was it nice having an upstairs, a big kitchen, a big living room, etc. I just fantasized about having a whole room set aside as a "game room" to hang out with friends in, another room as a library for books, comics, DVDs, a "home theatre" room, etc. If I had the money, didn't hate moving and could find a big place that wasn't in a gated community (to list the main reasons in order), I'd definitely get a bigger house.

It was a good weekend all around. Suzanne drove, which was nice, so I spent the drive up in the backseat listening to my daughter talk back to Diego on the portable DVD player and playing Burnout Legends and World Series of Poker (not to mention an episode of Entourage) on my PSP. We got to my nephew's birthday party and that was a lot of fun. I didn't know a lot of the people there, but it's always nice to see my in-laws, and it was a blast seeing Katy have fun with the other kids there. She went to bed way too late after skipping her nap, but otherwise, it was great.

On Monday, we took Katy to get pictures taken for my mother-in-law. Katy is remarkably shy around guys, and the photographer was a guy, so it wasn't the easiest thing to do, but he did pretty well, and his wife sort of made faces and played with puppets and got her to smile now and then. There should be some cute pictures in there. After that, we went back to the house and hung out for a bit, and Katy took a short but much-needed nap.

That night, we got together with my sisters-in-law (all three of them), my brother-in-law Jason (Mark, my other brother-in-law, had gone out of town on Monday), and my two nephews James and JD and went to Fogo De Chao. How do I love Brazillian steakhouses like Fogo De Chao? Well, as I said to Suzanne during the delicious (if expensive) meal, "If they had beds, I'd live here." To top off the night, Jason had a friend coming into town from San Diego, and so he and his friends had set up a Texas Hold'Em game later that night, which he invited me to. I went along, and met up with a great bunch of guys, played poker until midnight and just had a lot of fun. I lost $20 and went out third of nine players, but I did knock one player out when my pocket Kings beat his pocket 10s, and for my second-ever game of Texas Hold'Em, I don't think that's too bad.

Part of what made this a vacation is that I didn't read any comics or Internet the entire time I was gone. I know that sounds like a weird qualifier for a vacation, but seriously, I read comics every day and read the Internet every day, and aside from checking email for any emergencies, I skipped all that while I was away and it was nice. Of course, every week I skip in reviews adds a week or two onto the other end, and I'm still playing catchup on RSS and email too, but it was nice. Makes me think I might like to take a bit longer off from reviewing, if only for a little while.

At any rate, good weekend.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - October 12, 2005:

100 Bullets #65 (Start of a new story arc... dark, dark story featuring torture and strip clubs)
7 Days To Fame #1 (Speaking of dark... Buddy Scalera's new mini about a reality show about suicide is a little morbid, but definitely intriguing)
Astro City Local Heroes Tp (After a long wait, finally, a new Astro City trade paperback. Hooray!)
Essential Spider-man Vol 7 Tp (Still haven't gotten around to reading vol. 6 of the Spider-Man Essentials, but I'll keep buying as long as they keep printing them, or until we hit the end of the Roger Stern era at least)
Fables #42 (The arabian fables arrive in Fabletown and the aftermath of "Homelands" starts to resonate, and the result is a great first issue for a new story arc)
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man #1 (A little too cutesy in parts, and mired in an unfortunate crossover, but has some good moments... I'll most likely check back in when "The Other" ends)
Gravity #5 (Nice solid ending to McKeever and Norton's origin for a new and intriguing Marvel character)
Hack Slash Vol 1 First Cut Tp (Collection of Tim Seeley's Buffy the Vampire Slayer by way of slasher flick concept)
Livewires Clockwork Thugs Yo Digest Tp (One of my favorite Marvel series this year, can't wait to read the whole story all together and really looking forward to whatever Adam Warren does next)
Marvel Monsters Where Monsters Dwell (Three short and fun monster stories, plus one classic reprint)

Ex Machina #15 (New story arc starts here)
Godland #4 (Loving this comic, a weird mixture of Casey's post-modern pop cultural awareness and a retro nostalgic Kirby riff)
Goon 25 Cent Comic (Great chance to try one of the best, funniest and most beautifully drawn comics on the market)
Goon Fancy Pants Ed Hc (Deluxe edition of aforementioned best, funniest and most beautifully drawn comics' early days at Dark Horse)
Hunger #5 (More of the strange zombie tale set in New Orleans)
Infinite Crisis #1 (Yeah, I'll probably hate it, but it's Geoff Johns writing a big DC event, which a few years ago, I would have been all over. I've got to at least give it a chance to impress me)
Middleman #3 (Really enjoyed the first two issues of this "Men in Black" style comedy/action series, by Lost writer/producer Javier Grillo Marxuach)
Of Bitter Souls #3 (Also really enjoyed the first two issues of this mystical/superhero blend set in New Orleans from Speakeasy)
Ring Of Roses Tp (Alternate history religious conspiracy with nice looking art)
Science Fair #1 (New Antarctic Press series about superscience gone wrong, looks like fun)
Star Wars Clone Wars Adventures Vol 4 Tp (These "animated series" clone wars stories are almost as good as the action-packed Cartoon Network shorts that spawned them)
Villains United #6 (Curious to see how this all shakes out, and ready to call for a Simone-penned Catman or Suicide Squad ongoing on the strength of the series overall)
Y The Last Man #38 (The second part of Yorick's travels in Australia, one of my absolute favorite monthly series)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The New Fall Season - Wednesday & Thursday:

Veronica Mars: Two episodes in, and the central mystery (or mysteries? the bus crash and Logan's "murder") seem vague enough to sustain the entire season but focused enough to provide good drama, as well as being personally connected to several of the characters, as the Lily Kane murder was. There's a lot of promise in the new characters (Guttenberg and Carpenter are both really good in their roles) and I love the notion of Keith Mars running for sheriff again. The second season opener didn't give me the drop-dead "must watch this" vibe that the pilot episode did, but it's still every bit as strong as it was. And good enough that I'll Tivo it even though it's up against Lost.

Lost: How good is Lost this season? So good that I'm watching it on TV, live, with commercials, which I don't do for *anything* any more. The second episode was a little weak, but overall, I'm loving the mixture of answers and more questions that we've gotten from what was at the bottom of the hatch, and the ensemble cast is still strong, although too many of them are very much background right now (we've barely seen Hurley, Said, Shannon, Charlie, Claire or Sun in the early episodes). I'm always wary of the "X-Files factor" with this show, and almost certain it will disappoint me in the end, but I'm still completely hooked right now.

Alias: And the reason I'm almost certain it will disappoint me in the end is Alias. Still very watchable in season five, but real world occurrences have damaged the show pretty badly. Vaughn's death as a way to get Jennifer Garner and her ex away from the awkwardness of playing couple in love, Sydney's pregnancy as a result of, well, Garner's pregnancy, Greg Grunberg's departure for "The Catch" and other roles... none of these moves are good for the show, in my opinion. I'm also unsure whenever a show basically adds new characters out of the blue, obviously to fill in for departed actors, although I like both actors who are coming in. And this is a show that really would have benefited from better closure on many of its ongoing stories, from the way SD-6 was resolved to the many resolutions of Rimbaldi, rather than an increasingly complex mythology (shades of X-Files) and the introduction of yet another shadowy conspiracy group with vague goals (Prophet 5).

The good news is, Carl Lumbly gets back in the spotlight as Marcus becomes more in the action, which is something that's been sadly lacking since around mid-season two, Jack Bristow is still very much involved and the Syd/Jack relationship is one of my favorite things about the show, Marshal continues to be a scene-stealing member of the cast and if you don't think too hard about the larger context of the show, the Prophet 5 stuff seems interesting enough as a way to propel the season. I stopped buying Alias DVDs after season three (and should have stopped at season two), but I haven't stopped watching, and I probably won't. I just don't care as much about the ongoing elements as I do the episodic, which is a shame.
Feast or Famine:
Yeah, so I go several days with no posts at all, and then two posts within hours of each other. That's just how I roll.

Anyway, was going through the comp pile (actually, comp piles is more accurate, since there are about six scattered throughout my office) and came up with what is likely my Fourth Rail reviewing schedule for the next few months. Of course, this is all subject to change depending on what comes in and my moods, but here's the plan, in no particular order:

*Speakeasy Focus (A look at the Hunger TPB (when that comes out will determine the timing of this review), The Living & The Dead OGN, Parting Ways OGN, Adventures of Bio-Boy #1, Spellgame #1 and a semi-review of the first four or so pages of Strangeways #1. If you're a Speakeasy creator who wants his/her book included in this round-up, drop me a line and you can either send me a PDF or I'll get you an address to send me the book)

*Snapshots (Covering some or all of: Zed, Malcolm Magic, Mr. Scootles, Vampirella: Revelations #0-1, The Colony, B.P.R.D: The Black Flame #1-2, Ferro City, Invincible, Usagi Yojimbo, Godland, The Goon, Girls, PVP, Rex Mundi, Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron, Star Wars Empire, Chronicles of a Bounty Hunter, True Story Swear to God, PS238, Nodwick, Grounded Fell and Jack Staff)

*Graphic Novel reviews including some or all of: Quitter, Mary Jane Vol. 2, True Porn 2, Black Forest 2, Sea of Red Vol. 1, Tales of Supernatural Law v.1, Runoff 2, Decoy Menagerie, Humor Can Be Funny, Full Moon Fever, 2 Sisters, The Ride, Tozzer 2, Electric Girl 3, Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai, Wings of Anansi, And The Sky Turned White, Coyote v.1, Yets!, Ojo, The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, Hutch Owen: Unmarketable!, Grendel: The Devil Inside, Grendel: The Devil May Care, The Groo Odyssey and The Irregulars

*Book Reviews (whenever I get time to read them) including: Foul Play! (The Art and Artists of EC Comics), Path of the Just/Path of the Bold, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, I Was Someone Dead, Superman On The Couch, Hellboy: Odder Jobs

*Manga Spotlight (mostly OEL) on Rising Stars of Manga Vol. 5, Steady Beat, I Luv Halloween, Naoki Urusawa's Monster (when it comes out will determine timing of this review), perhaps others)

*Another Indy Spotlight (Comic Pulp Vol. 1, Rocket Rabbit 1, The Calling, Something So Familiar, The Wandering Schoolgirl, Red Ice, Nothing Left to Lose)

*Series spotlights (Raider 1-3, Stylish Vittles: Fare Thee Well & Nothing Better #1-3, Cocopiazo #1-4, Students of the Unusual #2-6, Penguin Books' Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz and MacBeth)

That is, of course, in addition to all the stuff that comes into my house and my comics shop on a weekly basis. If I reviewed nothing but this stuff from now on, I'd probably be done with all the reviews in, oh, about six months. As is, with other stuff coming in, there's probably some of this stuff that will still be waiting for a review six months from now, although I sure hope not.

So for those of you who have sent me stuff for review, I thank you for your patience and apologize that I need to ask for it, and if you're a creator or publisher who has sent me stuff and you don't see it on this list, that means it's hidden in another pile in my office or I haven't received it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

OK, so I maintained the blog daily for a little over a month. That's not bad, right? But daily doesn't seem to be in the cards right now. Turns out I'm not even remotely that interesting. However, I will now promise weekly. At the very least, each week I'll post my "Weekly Comics to Come" and there will probably be other posts throughout the week as well.

Like this one.

Not that there's any great news or anything, but here we go, what I've been doing lately.

PSP: Well, I've dug into it a little bit more and, as with my iPod Photo, it's an expensive toy I didn't really need, but now I love it and can't imagine being without it. No buyer's remorse whatsoever. I bought a 1GB duostick to go with it for less than $100 (thank you, and now keep comics (like the awesome PSP-formatted NYC2123), video (like this mock-up trailer for the Kubrick directed, Nicholson starring romantic comedy "Shining") and of course games at hand at all times.

While it was Burnout Legends that finally broke me, ironically I haven't played that much of it, or of Burnout Revenge on the PS/2... instead, what I'm hooked on is World Poker Tour, which allows me to play virtual Texas Hold 'Em using the skills learned by watching Celebrity Poker Showdown and listening to Phil Gordon. Clearly, the computer players are insane, as they'll bet stuff almost nonsensically at times, but in general, it's a pretty good simulation. And unlike real life, if you lose all your money you can quit out, come back out and have it again.

Car: My car has been having antifreeze problems lately, with a "low fluid" light on almost constantly. I had the radiator flushed and that fixed it for a few days, then it started again. So I started refilling it, figuring that it was burning a little hot, but I'd soon hit the 90,000 mile mark and take it in for 90,000 mile service to get it fixed. The refills started coming more frequently, though, and my wife told me she'd spotted some antifreeze on the driveway, so I took the car in about 800 miles early for the big service.

End result? Yeah, the radiator was leaking and needed to be replaced. Also, worn drivetrain, worn brakes, some other stuff, total cost about $1400. Which is a little less than 10% of my yearly salary, but fortunately I have some savings bonds (it's how I bought the PSP) and some savings, and this is really the first major expense this car has given me in 10 years, so I can't complain too much. It also gave me the chance to grab a brochure for the Saturn Sky, the new roadster they're putting out next year. I love the look of it, but at $23,000, it'll be a bit out of my preferred price range, and more importantly, with Katy, I can't really buy a 2-seater car. Ah, well... the mid-life crisis will have to wait until, well, mid-life. With the way I eat and the amount of Coke I drink, though, 34 may *be* mid-life. :)

Reviews: Great week this week, with the Mary Jane 2 digest having crisper paper than previous Marvel digests and looking fantastic, The Quitter being every bit as good as I expected and True Porn 2 living up to the quality of the first. And that's without getting into single issues, like the latest True Story Swear to the God or the gorgeously-illustrated (and intriguingly written) Spellgame #1. Of course, because of time constraints, I took the week off from reviewing, but I will get to this stuff. I'm actually taking a bit of a vacation, since I'm heading up to Dallas for the extended weekend with the family-in-law, so there will be no new reviews from me for Thursday, Monday or next Thursday. Should be Down the Line by the end of next week, though.

Dallas: Looking forward to attending my nephew James's birthday party on Sunday and seeing most of the in-laws again. I say most because Suzanne's parents will be out of town, but they came down and joined us and my parents for dinner at Katz's last week, which was really good. And Marc Katz himself came by the table, which was neat, especially since my in-laws had never been to the restaurant at all before... a nice little first time perk, chatting briefly with the owner, who was a gregarious and gracious host.

Of course, I'm also really looking forward to Dallas because I'm finally going to go to Fogo de Chao, the Brazillian steakhouse in the area. One of the best meals I've had in my life (and understand, I like to eat and I have a fair amount of experience here) was at the Brazillian Plataforma restaurant in New York, and I can't wait to have that food again. Everything I've heard from friends is that Fogo de Chao is amazing. It'll be expensive, but totally, totally worth it.

OK, that's it for this post. Next time out, I'll try to cover some more TV stuff for those who are interested (Alias, Veronica Mars, Everybody Hates Chris, Threshold and Invasion are all shows I can talk about now).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Coming in late - T-Shirts:
The sale is only on until tomorrow morning, and the stock is looking a little depleted at this point, but this website is just cool. Greg McElhatton pointed to it, and I would have bought about four or five shirts, except that they only had one design left in my size that I liked. I know I'll be buying more in the future, though.

At any rate, check it out before Monday, because right now all the shirts are on sale at $10 each, and they've got some great designs. The cool thing about the site is that it's user designs, and the site users vote on what designs get made into shirts.

If anyone's curious, the one I ordered was "Medio Victim." The ones I wanted (but which weren't in my size) were Yo-Fu, Robot Derby Girl, Game-set-Match, Outbreak girl and CTRL+Z.
Comics Stuff - Monthly Update for October
This is the latest monthly update to the left column of the blog, listing my Current Favorite Monthly Titles, which is my counterpart to Current Favorite TV series, as well as my five favorite first issues of the month and my ten favorite graphic novel reads of the month.

A couple things of note in how I organize these things, for those who care. These listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. I've narrowed it down to five or ten, beyond that is further narrowing of which one I liked best than I want to do on a monthly basis, at least right now. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published. And thirdly, I was pretty strict on the monthly series, in that it has to be a series that is solicited and actually printed monthly (for the most part, at least), and it has to be either ongoing or a long ongoing (at least 30 issues, which means Seven Soldiers just barely qualifies) instead of a limited series. This is primarily why, for example, Young Avengers (irregular schedule), Solo (irregular schedule) and Gravity (limited series) didn't make the list. In each case, I've provided a link for the listing, usually to one of my reviews (for further info on my opinion), but in the case of the monthly books and books I haven't reviewed, I've provided links to official publisher or creator sites or the best source of info I could find relatively easily. Oh, and the numbers in parentheses on the monthly titles is their latest ranking on the Diamond Top 300. Not a good month for my favorite titles. All of them are down somewhere between 6 and 35 spots. Except The Goon, which apparently didn't ship an issue in August (and should thus technically fall off my Top 10 monthly series, but it's my blog, my rules). But the good news is, there's two issues of New Avengers and two issues of House of M at the top! Feh. I hate you, comics market.

Finally, the updates are for the month of September... October just barely started. So all my favorites will be anywhere from a week to a full month old, but these are meant to be sort of "standing" preferences anyway.