Monday, November 28, 2005

Upcoming on Fourth Rail - December update:
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.

I've broken down my massive graphic novel pile (well, one of them at any rate - there are three more on my night table) into genres, hoping that this will spur me to get to them a bit quicker than I have been. The genres are not always a perfect match, and some of them I had to basically dump into an "other" genre because they were tough to classify, and some of the genre blocks (like horror) are big enough that they'll probably take two columns instead of one, but... well, this is all general anyway.

This also presumes I take no time off during Christmas or New Year's, which is probably unrealistic.

*Image trade updates (Reviews of the latest volumes of Image series trades, including Invincible Vol. 5, PVP Vol. 3, Walking Dead Vol. 4, Girls Vol. 1 and Death Jr.) - Expect these in the next week or so, unless I decide to fold some of them into upcoming "Recommended Reading" features

*Snapshots (A variety of material for capsule reviews, including Battle Pope #4, Conan & The Demons of Khitai #2, Karma Incorporated #2-3, Lethargic Lad Special #3, The Lonely Tombstone, Nodwick #30, Peng, PS 238 #13, Red Sonja: One More Day, The Roach #2-3, Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron #2, Wannabe #2, Dork Tower #32, Grounded #3, Star Wars Empire #37, Star Wars Republic #78-79, Zombie Tales Oblivion) - I'm trying to get caught up on Snapshots, so expect these (as well as additions from comp lists and new releases) parcelled out on a regular basis over the next few months - or I may just hit all of them within two weeks. Who knows? This is sort of an ongoing category.

*Speakeasy Focus (The Hunger TPB, The Living & The Dead OGN, Parting Ways OGN, Adventures of Bio-Boy #1, Spellgame #1, Ellium Vol. 1, Super-Crazy TNT Blast #1, Helios: In With The New #1, Elk's Run Compilation and maybe a couple more) - Unless the Hunger TPB comes out in the next week or two, I'll probably skip it and go with what I've got - I'll definitely try to get this done by mid-December

*Graphic Novel Spotlight - Mixed Category: This will include graphic novels I couldn't easily fit into a genre, currently: Coffee and Donuts, Comic Pulp Vol. 2, Wings of Anansi, Love As a Foreign Language, Favole Book One, Ojo and 2 Sisters - Probably second or third week of December

*December First Issue Spotlight (Currently to include Down, Paradox, Chicanos, Living in Infamy, plus whatever else comes out between now and then - I may skip this in December if more first issues don't turn up... and I may pass on any of those listed if we don't have them in stock at the store when I decide to do the reviews, as I don't have copies of any of them in my hands) - Either late December or early January

*Graphic Novel Spotlight - Action: Currently includes Army of Darkness: Shop Til You Drop Dead, The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story, Full Moon Fever, Ganglords of Chinatown, The Ride & Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai - Either late December or early January

*Another Mini-Comics Spotlight (Red Ice, Happy Birthday Anyway, Styx Taxi: As Above, So Below, 3 from Rob Croonenborghs, T-Frags: All-Comic Annual 2005, Hero Camp mini collection, Division Shadow) - Probably late December, maybe early January

*Graphic Novel Spotlight - All-Ages: Currently includes Alison Dare Vol. 2, Dare Detectives Vol. 1, Decoy: Menagerie Vol. 1, Electric Girl Vol. 3, Yets! - Probably mid-January

*Graphic Novel Spotlight - Horror: Currently includes Damn Nation, Dead@17: Rough Cut Vol. 3, The Fog, Hack/Slash: First Cut, Indigo Vertigo, The Irregulars, Runoff Vol. 2, Sea of Red Vol. 1 & Zombieworld: Winter's Dregs & Other Stories - Probably late January

*Graphic Novel Spotlight - Humor: Currently includes Dork Tower Vol. 8, The Groo Odyssey, Humor Can Be Funny, Hutch Owen: Unmarketable!, The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, Tales of Supernatural Law Vol. 1, Tozzer 2, You Deserved It - Probably late January or early February

*Graphic Novel Spotlight - Science-Fiction/Fantasy: Currently includes And the Sky Turned White, Forgotten Realms: Homeland, NYC Mech Vol. 1, Ring of Roses, Saint Germaine, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Vol. 4 - Probably mid-February

*Series spotlights (Raider 1-3, Cocopiazo #1-4, Students of the Unusual #2-6, Penguin Books' Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz and MacBeth) - My goal is to mix these in between weeks, with Raider being first up

*Book Reviews (whenever I get time to read them) including: Foul Play! (The Art and Artists of EC Comics - Might include this with my horror focus column), 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

*Recommended Reading - Upcoming Recommended Reading features for December are currently slated to include Age of Bronze, Usagi Yojimbo, Invincible, Y: The Last Man and Conan (which is why you won't see any Snapshots on these anytime soon, they're going in the Recommended Reading features)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come:

Hack Slash Land Of Lost Toys #1 (The latest Hack/Slash offering, with swanky art by Dave Crosland. Review HERE)
Legend Of Grimjack Vol 4 Tp (More classic Grimjack reprints... I have all the original issues, but I still love the reprints IDW is doing, on nice paper with great production values)
Pvp Vol 3 Pvp Rides Again Tp (The latest volume of Scott Kurtz's humor strip)
Walking Dead Vol 4 Hearts Desire Tp (And the latest volume of the best zombie comic on the market)

Amazing Fantasy #15 (Big 'ol "new characters" issue... curious to see how this turns out)
Bprd The Black Flame #4 (I'll be interested to see if the ramifications of last issue turn out to be permanent. I'll be updating my Recommended Reading probably for Friday)
Chicanos #1 (Translated material by Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso)
Colonia Vol 2 On Into Great Lands Tp (Really enjoyed the first volume of this odd series, way back when... glad to see a second one)
Fear Agent #2 (More blue collar sci-fi from Remender and Moore)
Fell #3 (The latest of what is probably Ellis's best ongoing series of the moment)
Living In Infamy #1 (Supervillains retired and in witness protection, *not* played for laughs... sounds intriguing)
Middleman #4 (The conclusion of the first mini about secret agents protecting the world from aliens, monsters and giant mob monkeys)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

If you're coming here from The Fourth Rail, I apologize for the no update. I'm being a bit lazy, because I have a new review of Off Road written, but I figured a fair number of my readers wouldn't be reading at work on Turkey Day anyway, and so I'll just update that when I update my Recommended Reading (updated Godland and a new one on True Story Swear to God) on Friday.

I have seen some folks going on about the whole "Thanksgiving is based on lies, etc." thing, and I gotta say, this might be the one thing I really agree with the right wing on. My essential take is "Fuck you, let me have my holiday." I feel the same way about Christmas. Yes, it's materialistic, it's been co-opted by the corporations, etc., etc. Stop thinking so heavily about something that is at its best about renewing bonds with friends and family and enjoying good food or presents alongside those people. I'm sorry if your family or your personality makes this time of year hellish for you. But I enjoy it, so fuck you, let me have my holiday.

Wow... cheery holiday thoughts, huh? Sorry, a couple folks set me off on this today. But really, Thanksgiving is that time of year when you're supposed to give thanks. OK, primarily it's that time of year when you eat way too much food. But it's *also* about giving thanks. So, a quick list of things I'm thankful for, in no particular order and with no regard for the fact that some are completely trivial and some are not.

What I'm thankful for:

*My wife and my daughter. Everyday. Without them, the rest of it would mean absolutely nothing.

*My parents, who are some of the sweetest people I know, and who never once expressed any anger at putting me through 4 1/2 years of college so that I could become an unpaid comic reviewer and poorly-paid comic shop manager.

*My friends, who have provided me with plenty of laughter and much-needed support over the years.

*My readers at the Fourth Rail, especially those who have appreciated my shift away from my traditional fare into different topics of review and different formats

*I won the Celebrity Poker Showdown online, and I'm headed to the finals.

*iTunes, my iPod and my new Saturn, with the built-in iPod deck. Truthfully, I barely remember what radio sounds like. And I haven't heard a radio ad in literally a year or two.

*Great comics. There are a lot of them out there.

*Great TV. Lots of that too, although this one's dampened by the recent news about Arrested Development. Still, on that front, I'm glad for over 50 episodes of some of the most brilliant TV comedy ever.

*Burgers. Chocolate. Coca-Cola. Late night meals at IHOP. All-you-can-eat dumplings at Buffet Palace. Giant burritos from Freebird's. Giant slices of pizza from The Brooklyn Pie Company.

*STAPLE! Man, this is gonna be one badass show in 2006.

*The Basement Tapes, Lying in The Gutters and The X-Axis, possibly the best reason for comics fans to have an Internet connection. Although I'm still a bit bummed that I discovered Fanboy Rampage just in time for Graeme to retire.

*Tivo. DVD burners. Bit Torrent. PSP. Burnout: Revenge on PS/2.

Well, that's a partial list, at any rate.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Phear My Leet Poker Skillz:
So I've been playing in the online Celebrity Poker Showdown tournaments at Bravo. I have to admit that my first inclination to do so was the chance to actually play in the Celebrity Poker Showdown. I love that show, and it has given me a love of Texas Hold'Em, and though the chances seemed impossibly slim, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Then I started playing, and indeed, while I did well (usually lasting in the game for an hour or so, occasionally getting to the top 100 and once or twice the top 50) it seemed likely I was never going to win a tournament. See, the deal is, you win one of the qualifying tournaments, you get to play in the final online tournament, and the top five players there will go on to play Celebrity Poker Showdown in Vegas, and from there maybe on TV with celebrities.

Last night, I got to the final two tables. I went out #17. I figured that was probably the best I was gonna do. Tonight, I came in, and immediately started doing well. 3rd or 4th hand, I was in the top 100. About an hour into the game, I was in the top 50. An hour after that... the top 20 or top 10. Then I got to the final two tables again... and I was the chip leader at my table, and in the top 5 for a lot of the time, top 10 for some of it. Then I got to the final table, and I was the chip leader. A couple big pots, and I was the chip leader by a *lot*... I had over a million in chips, while most of the players were in the hundreds of thousands.

Then I got to the final two. I had a million six hundred thousand, the other player roughly a million and one hundred thousand. It was close, and I was very nervous, but I managed to win a couple pots, push into the big chip lead again and finally... I won.

I WON. A little pop-up gave me my virtual silver chip and told me an email was coming.

This has absolutely made my week. Probably my month. Playing in the final tournament is going to be a nerve-wracking experience, and the odds of me actually making it all the way to Celebrity Poker Showdown are probably slim, but that's what I thought of my odds of getting into the finals as well.

I am so very happy right now.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - November 23, 2005:

Daredevil #79 ("The Murdock Papers" continues... not crazy about their version of Bullseye, but otherwise still very much enjoying this last Bendis/Maleev story)
Ex Machina #16 (Nice conclusion to the two-parter about Mitchell's mother)
Girls Vol 1 Conception Tp (Very strange little horror/sci-fi tale gets its first collection)
She-hulk 2 #2 (After a somewhat lackluster start, this second issue of She-Hulk is much stronger)
Super Real #1 (Read and enjoyed this one a while back. Review HERE)
X-factor Visionaries Peter David Vol 1 Tp (Peter David's short-lived but very good humor/ mutant/ government hero book gets collected)
Y The Last Man Vol 6 Girl On Girl Tp (Collects the adventures of Yorick and company aboard an Australian ship, great stuff as always)
Young Avengers #9 (Jim Cheung returns, and this issue is the best in several months, with revelations about the secret origin of the shapechanger of the group)

Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol 2 #2 (First issue was great... can't wait to read the second)
Conan #22 (Continuing the "Tower of the Elephant" story, which has been great thus far)
Down #1 (Ellis and Harris's long-awaited undercover crime story)
Girls #7 (Starting to wonder if they're ever going to get where they're going, but still compelled to read this weird story, as I can never guess at what's going to happen next)
Godland #5 (More cosmic superhero adventure, and one of my favorite comics running)
Invincible #27 (Continuing the story of Mark's reunion with his father on an alien planet... I'm betting this is the issue where things turn ugly)
Jsa Classified #5 (Supervillain heist story by Jen Van Meter... really looking forward to this, as I love heist stories)
Off Road Gn (I have this one, but haven't read it yet... gorgeous artwork, though, and it's Oni so you know it'll be good.)
Paradox #1 (Christos Gage of Deadshot writes this new steampunk miniseries, and I'll check it out because I've really liked his other work thus far)
Previews Vol Xv #12 (Down the Line coming next week)
Seven Soldiers Frankenstein #1 (The last of the Seven Soldiers minis starts, with terrific artwork by Doug Mahnke)
Seven Soldiers Zatanna #4 (The latest of the Seven Soldiers minis concludes)
Walking Dead #24 (Wow, nothing for several months, now three issues in six weeks)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

How to Simultaneously Scare The Shit out of me and make me homicidal:

Christ. That shit ain't *even* funny.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Arrested Development:
By now, those who care have probably heard that Arrested Development Season Three has been cut back from 22 to 13 episodes and canned after that. I kept hoping that the series would "pull a Seinfeld" and catch the ratings it desperately deserved, but it didn't. I'm irked at Fox for the decision, but I can't really blame them, they gave the show a lot of chances. Instead I blame the people who didn't watch it, and I hope your favorite show gets cancelled soon. (Unless your favorite show is also one of mine, in which case I hope your second favorite show gets cancelled. ;)

Bummed that it's all but over, but... on the bright side... that means 8 more episodes, plenty of time for the creators to give the whole thing a great send-off. And I've got all the episodes saved on my Tivo and will keep them until I know for sure that a Season Three DVD set is going to happen. I'd sure love to have the whole thing complete on DVD, but at any rate, I will have the complete series available to watch.

I guess this makes Lost or Veronica Mars my favorite show now. But honestly, much as I love both of them, Arrested Development was way ahead.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - November 16, 2005:

Batman And The Monster Men #1 (Matt Wagner writes and draws an early days Batman tale, and the first issue, with Hugo Strange, the Roman and a new love interest for Bruce Wayne, is really good)
Black Harvest #1 (Josh Howard launches his new horror book for Devil's Due, and I suspect fans of Dead@17 will dig this one as well)
Death Jr Tp (Loved this as a series from Image, looking forward to having the trade on my shelves)
Essential X-Factor Vol 1 Tp (I have a nostalgic fondness for the early X-Factor stuff)
Fables #43 (The second part of the arabian fables story arc is great. You can see more on my thoughts in Recommended Reading)
Local #1 (Great first issue. Review HERE)
Runaways #10 (Second part of the New York roadtrip, and while I'm not crazy about how Vaughan writes the other heroes, I'm still digging his use of the regular characters)
Thing #1 (Very strong first issue by Dan Slott, with gorgeous artwork by Andrea DiVito)
Vampirella Revelations #1 (If you can get past that ridiculous cheesecake costume, this is actually a really good sci-fi/horror/ action read by Mike Carey and Mike Lilly)

All Star Superman #1 (Can it live up to the hype? Well, it certainly can't be as embarrasingly self-parodying as All-Star Batman and Robin, can it?)
Banana Sundays #4 (The conclusion of Root Nibot and Colleen Coover's ultra-cute, ultra-fun talking monkeys tale)
Birds Of Prey #88 (More of Calculator vs. Oracle, and Simone continues to play on the less-Crisis-ed up fringes of the DC Universe, making this one of the few remaining DC superhero books I enjoy)
Concrete Vol 2 Heights Tp (Reading this first trade recently reminded me how good Concrete is, so I'm looking forward to more, especially as I haven't read most of these tales before)
Green Lantern #5 (Like Birds of Prey, Green Lantern is still on the outside of the Crisis stuff for the most part, and the creative team has been doing a bang-up job so far... aside from the lateness, of course)
Hero Squared #3 (The conclusion of Boom! Studios' Bwa-ha-ha miniseries)
Pvp #20 (More gaming and computer-related hilarity from Scott Kurtz, always enjoyable)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Earlier tonight, I attended the latest planning meeting for STAPLE!, the small press/independent media show here in Austin. The first year, I was more or less uninvolved, although I heard a lot about it since one of my best friends Chris "Dirty Uncle STAPLE" Nicholas was spearheading the show. My contribution was to promise to review a gigantic bag of stuff that I got from the show.

This year, I'm much more involved, going to every planning meeting, putting together the Xeric panel and now heading up the program guide. Lemme tell ya, it's more work on top of an already busy schedule, but there's such a nice sense of satisfaction in doing the work, in doing my part for comics, that I'm just sitting here at the computer with a big grin on my face, even though I spent two hours websearching, emailing and organizing that could otherwise have gone into watching Rome, The Colbert Report or the latest Alias.

There's big doings at STAPLE! this year. Really cool potential news lurking at every turn, and a bunch of folks working their asses off to make it an exceptionally cool show. If you're gonna be in Austin on March 4, 2006, you should make plans to be there, whether as an exhibitor or an attendee, and if you're not gonna be in Austin... well, maybe you should plan to be in Austin. It's gonna be a great show, I can feel it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Get out and vote... for all the good it'll do you:
I should preface this by saying that I'm sick, so I'm crankier than usual. But I'm also more tired than usual, which may explain my reaction to the passing of Proposition 2 (a.k.a. No gay marriage in Texas). Thing is... I'm not surprised. I knew it was going to pass. I remember voting against a similar, more heinous version of this proposition in Colorado banning "special rights" for gays, and it passed by a wide margin. At least then, I had the balm of having seen Clinton elected into office instead of Bush Sr. for a second term, so I felt like the national elections at least offered a victory for my side.

But Jesus, every time I vote these days, the end result is the opposite of what I'm voting for. By a lot. Bush wins. Bush wins second term (lemme tell ya, that one was the worst, because I really didn't expect it). My surrounding neighbors in Texas vote something like 70-80% to ban gay marriage in the state. At this point, voting for me is a futile gesture that accomplishes nothing, kind of like flipping someone off when they cut you off in traffic but without that short burst of self-satisfaction that fades as you realize it really didn't accomplish anything.

And yet... I'm just not all that angry about this. My wife was furious when I talked to her. My friend Dan was in a rotten mood that night. My buddy Nate has blasted away on his blog. The Haiku Mama has talked it up at hers. But all I can register anymore is a disappointed sigh, and the hopes that in the long term, people will be less stupid or less close-minded. And if you are by chance one of the people who voted for this amendment (or for similar anti-gay measures) and you happen to be reading this, let me be entirely clear:


OK, maybe I'm a little angry.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

National Novel-Writing Month:
I gather that November is National Novel-Writing Month. Now, I don't have any great desire to write the Great American Novel, but... I do love writing challenges and exercises like this one. It sounds insane, and quite possibly insanity-brewing, but it also sounds like fun, and unlike 24 Hour Comics (another writing challenge that fascinates me) it doesn't require any level of artistic talent to complete.

So... what am I saying? Nothing, yet. It's November 8th, and I don't want to start this late, plus I've got too much else on my plate right at the moment. But maybe next year I'll put reviewing and everything else on hold for a month and try to write a (no doubt really awful) novel. I will also no doubt try to rope Nate into this hell with me, if he's not already doing it this year on his own.

Or maybe next year I will have forgotten all about it or will think it's too much to take on. Could go either way, really.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that comics writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (Elk's Run, Western Tales of Terror) is writing a novel during November, a pulp-style murder mystery called "The Miller" that's quite good. And he's got an RSS feed, so you can just have it delivered to your Inbox if you're so inclined.
Ninja Monkey by Dave CroslandBack From Wizard World Texas:
Wizard World Texas is sort of a "non-Con" to me, as I compare it to my experiences with focused small press shows like SPX or gigantic events like San Diego, and so I had really done all I was going to do in about an hour. A quick sprint through the exhibition hall turned up mostly dealers, and since I have far too many toys and back issues already, they hold little interest for me. Another quick sprint through Artists' Alley turned up some familiar faces and a few other indy creators, but it pales beside the Artists' Alley of San Diego or the concentrated small press goodness of SPX.


That's not to say Wizard World Texas is a bad Con. Really, there are almost no opportunities for people in Texas to catch any of the big names without spending big money on planes and/or hotels, and fans of Ethan Van Sciver, Bryan Hitch and Michael Turner were no doubt delighted by the chance to take a drive instead of a flight and catch a couple of their favorite creators.

Pirate Monkey by Chris MorenoI saw Hitch only once, making his way through the hall, but Ethan and colorist Moose Baumann were parked in Artists' Alley throughout a lot of the show and doing really nice full-color sketches for a line of people using fairly reasonable pricing. And if you're a fan of gaming, whether miniatures, RPG or videogames, there was plenty to offer, from the swanky setup of Aeon Flux gaming machines to networked computers and Game Cubes and consoles to Sony's PS/2 and PSP setup in the middle of the hall, all the way to a gigantic gaming area staffed by Wizards of the Coast and Wizkids employees and volunteers.

At any rate, it was a worthwhile weekend trip for me. I got to hang out with Rafael Navarro of SONAMBULO fame and Mike Wellman of MAC AFRO, TEX! and GONE SOUTH, along with a number of friends or acquaintances from here in Austin. I got new sketches for the theme sketchbook from Dave Crosland and Chris Moreno, and a zombie sketch in my regular sketchbook from TRIP TO RUNDBERG's Shawn Richter. All were gorgeous. Richter in particular blew me away with his zombie sketch, and I think this guy might have a Tony Moore-esque "born to draw zombies" quality. Perhaps I should rethink that "zombie moratorium" after all... or maybe I'll just continue to make exceptions for books like RUNDBERG and ZOMBIE TALES.

Zombie by Shawn RichterOutside of convention stuff, we had an enjoyable meal with about a dozen people at Bennigan's (I know, I know, but nobody really had a good local restaurant location for us that we could find, and after a long day of the Con, sometimes you just want a burger and fries) with a waitress who did a really good job keeping up with us, a brief (but late) stop-in at the live art show by Dave Crosland and Jim Mahfood and an immensely difficult time navigating Dallas with stupid Mapquest directions that led to about an hour and a half of drive time for what should have been a 20-minute trip. Thankfully, me and my two travelling companions (Chris Nicholas and Gary Bartos) were in good spirits throughout, including coming up with Nolan Ryan's theme song, and when we finally did get to my sister-in-law's house about 3:00 in the morning, it was nice to have a place to crash.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come - November 9th, 2005:

Also, a note to let people know I'll be at Wizard World Texas in Dallas this Saturday. Say hi if you see me!

DMZ #1 (Really great first issue, gorgeous artwork, I'm expecting great things out of this new Vertigo series)
Grimjack Killer Instinct Tp (Loved this return to form by the original Grimjack team, glad to finally see the trade)

Action Comics #833 (More Simone/Byrne, enjoy it while it lasts)
Fantastic Four Wedding Special (Karl Kesel tells a more classic Fantastic Four story celebrating 40 years of Reed and Sue's marriage... in which time, Franklin has aged three years)
Gotham Central #37 (New story arc, I believe)
Losers Close Quarters Tp (I stopped reading Losers in issues because I knew I'd enjoy the trades more. This is the first trade to come out since I stopped)
Love As A Foreign Language #4 (More of Joel and Hana's Korean romance, as delivered by J. Torres and Eric Kim)
Manga Masters Of The Art Tp (I've only skimmed this book a little, but it looks amazing, informative and packed with sketches and artwork as well)
Manhunter Vol 1 Street Justice Tp (I've been planning on giving this book a second chance, so I'll check out the trade and see if it clicks better with me the second time around)
New Warriors #5 (More cartoony fun from Zeb Wells and Skottie Young)
Polly & The Pirates #2 (Enjoyed the first issue, looking forward to learning more about Naifeh's pre-teen pirate queen Polly)
Rex Mundi #15 (More alternate history magic/conspiracy/horror from Image)
Scorpion Poison Tomorrow Digest Tp (Enjoyed the first couple chapters of this one enough to pick up the digest and read the whole story)
Star Wars Empire #37 (I really like what this creative team does with Star Wars from the Imperial point of view. First issue of this story (#36) was great, the rest should be as well)
Tales Of The Closet Vol 1 One Two Three Tp (Early, early Ivan Velez Jr. work, and since I dug his work at Milestone, I want to see what his earlier stuff looked like)
Walking Dead #23 (Ready for this book to get out of the prison and back on the road... the story's dragging a bit. But I'm still fascinated by all the characters)
Y The Last Man #39 (One of my favorite reads every month)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Videogame Wish List:
I've recently realized that there are a bunch of videogames either out recently or coming out soon that I'm really interested in.

*Soul Calibur III - I bought a Dreamcast entirely to get Soul Calibur, and never regretted the purchase. Part of the reason I finally broke down and bought a PS/2 was to get Soul Calibur II. I *love* this game series, and can't wait to play the newest version. Burnout Revenge is a great party game, but Soul Calibur II has also been the center of many a fun game night with friends.

*Guitar Hero - I have resisted the urge to buy the Karaoke Revolution or Dance Dance Revolution (save a PS1 DDR and DDR mat that Suzanne got me for Christmas a couple years back) because it's the kind of thing you play in groups, and usually that group includes my friends Lana and Cindy, who own all the Karaoke Revolutions and many of the DDR games. But this looks just too cool. Guitar Hero is a rhythm game where you play along with songs on actual guitar controllers! The guys over at Penny-Arcade have been talking it up, and they also pointed to the multiplayer bundle that retails for just over a $100 and comes with two guitar controllers and the game. Said bundle has gone on my Amazon wish list, even though Amazon is listing it as unavailable at the moment.

*Star Wars Battlefront II - Loved Battlefront. Rented it and played the hell out of it on the PS/2, then bought it on the PC and played it a lot there. This one looks even cooler, better graphics, lets you play Jedi, engage in bigger space battles, etc. Definitely on my X-Mas list for the PS/2, and maybe the PSP as well.

That's without mentioning upcoming PSP games I have an interest in like Infected or older PS/2 games like Destroy All Humans! and God of War that I really should have in my library. But, as mentioned in the previous post, the car situation has taken a chunk out of my finances that was unexpected, so splurging on game purchases is not in the cards right now. I'll hope for a happy, game-filled Christmas, even though that means any serious play time on these games is about two months away.
So I Have A New Car:
Of late, I've written of issues with my car, specifically the antifreeze, which was leaking. After spending $1400 (from savings bonds which had been earmarked to become actual savings, but oh well) on the car about three weeks ago, everything seemed to be running fine. And then...

Saturday, I came out of work to find a large pool of antifreeze beneath my car. So large, in fact, that combined with the flashing warnings I'd been getting, I figured I should see what was up before I even drove home. What was up was that the leak was worse than ever, and the radiator was in fact damn near empty. I risked the drive home (and it went OK, with the engine temperature staying normal) and resolved to take it in on Monday. Suzanne placed the call for me on Monday morning when she got up to get me a 1:00 appointment.

At 1:00, I took the car down and dropped it off. At 3:30, I got the call I feared from the techs. Not a mere loose connection or bad seal or faulty radiator... cracked cylinders. $900 minimum, more likely another $1500, and a total engine rebuild kinda thing. "Is there any value on trading it in?" "That's what I would do if I were in your shoes" is what the tech told me. So Suzanne hauled me down to Saturn once again and went to drop off Katy before coming back to help me pick out a car.

Some of you may be wondering why I would immediately go back to Saturn when my last Saturn had just crapped out on me. Well, I drove that car almost 90,000 miles for 10 years and, aside from one minor problem with the starter and the usual tire and battery issues (which I had in low frequency), this was really the first problem I've had with it. It was a *damn* good car.

I met with Connie, who was really great, and who had a car on the lot that was a manual transmission (my preference), manual locks/windows (my preference) Ion 2 (comparable to my 10-year-old SL2) for about $13k, which was in the right price range. She went back to her manager after I told her my tale of repair woe and got $700 back for me as a credit on my trade-in, which was great. So by the time Suzanne came back (about 10-15 minutes later) she was surprised that I had already picked out the new car. To my delight, the Saturn radios now come standard with input jacks so I could plug my iPod in, which was one of my bigger concerns about getting a new car.

I've been driving the car for a couple days now and I really love it. The financial hit was unfortunate, but survivable, taking a chunk out of my savings and forcing us into two car payments for the month of December, when we'll hopefully use Christmas money to pay off the rest of Suzanne's car. All told, I probably would have rather had more choice in when I got a new car so that I could take my time and look around, and I would really have enjoyed having my old car for another year or so and having a solid year without car payments, but... I can't complain. It's a nice car that I'm enjoying driving. It just means watching the expenses for a little while. More on that in the next post.
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 relatively 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) instead of a limited series. This is primarily why, for example, Age of Bronze (irregular schedule), True Story Swear to God (irregular schedule) and Banana Sundays (limited series) didn't make the list. Of course, both The Goon and Walking Dead are not really as monthly as they mean to be, but hey, my blog, my rules.

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. Usually that's for the September Top 300, but some books (like Ex Machina) didn't have a new issue in that month, so the rating is a month old. In the best example of how pushing out biweekly pop comics kills the market for lower-rated comics, most of the series I follow jumped up about six or more slots this month, because there weren't two issues of House of M taking up two spaces on the charts... just two issues of Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers. Damn you, Bendis, you prolific, talented bastard! ;)

Finally, the updates are for the month of October... November 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.