Friday, July 28, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - August 2, 2006

Well, after a strong July, it had to happen eventually, and it happens in the first week of August... a really slow week for comics. There's good here, but it's a pretty sparse week in comparison to the tons of comics goodness just about every week in July. If I remember from Previews, all of August is like this.

Dave Johnson Full Color Sketchbook 2006 (I saw this in San Diego, and it makes his excellent black and white sketchbook from last year pale by comparison)
Ex Machina #22 (Another interesting, off-beat plot from comics' only political superhero story)
Y: The Last Man #48 (The origin of Colonel Alter)

Agents Of Atlas #1 (Very much looking forward to these tales of '50s Marvel heroes, by the writer of Marvel Adventures: Avengers, artist Leonard Kirk and with terrific covers by Tomm Coker)
BPRD Universal Machine #5 (Continues to be a fantastic read, and Guy Davis is an art god)
Concrete Vol 6 Stranger Armor Tp (The final volume of Concrete, for now... and I'm almost caught up, meaning now I need some new stuff)
Detective Comics #822 (Second issue of Paul Dini's run)
Invincible #34 (Invincible stranded? OK, that's an interesting plot direction)
Noble Causes #22 (More on the war between the Blackthornes and the Nobles)
Uncanny X-Men #477 (Has been good so far, and after last week's Daredevil and that Criminal preview, Ed Brubaker is once again at the tops of my reading list)
Usagi Yojimbo #95 (Always good, not much more to say about it)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

This is a bit late, since I was in San Diego until Monday, but here's the rundown of what I got this week. It's a pretty good week to follow up a really good Con, and July has easily been the best month for comics of 2006. It's gonna be really tough picking out a Top 20 issues and Top 10 graphic novels this month, and I know some really good comics are going to wind up not making the cut thanks to the competition.

Astro City Samaritan Special (Great single issue story about Samaritan's interaction with his archenemy... hadn't realized how much I missed this book until I read this issue)
Batman #655 (I'm not entirely sure what I just read... Kubert's art is disappointing, and Morrison's first issue is a little weak... but the first issue of All-Star Superman was a little weak too, and that turned into one of my favorite books)
Birds Of Prey #96 (Another solid issue of Birds of Prey)
Black Plague One Shot (Really more of a setup for a miniseries than a self-contained story, but interesting... and nice art)
Captain America #20 (Terrific art, good action, really enjoying the guest-starring roles of Union Jack and Spitfire)
Captain America Red Menace Vol 1 Tp (Unless they do a hardcover collecting Brubaker's Cap, I definitely see trade purchases in my future)
Casanova #2 (Bizarre, hilarious and gorgeous to look at)
Civil War Young Avengers & Runaways #1 (Surprisingly good, with nice art by Caselli and a good superhero story by Zeb Wells. Cringed my way through the Civil War parts, but the actual writing on the characters is spot-on)
Daredevil #87 (Fantastic. This book now lands solidly amongst my favorite Marvel comics of the moment, thanks to a terrific issue)
Exiles #84 (Decent transition into the next Exiles story, Bedard continues to deliver solid old school superheroics)
Fear Agent #6 (Really wishing the book came out more quickly, but each issue has great art and terrific science-fiction action)
Godland #12 (The first story arc concludes with giant cosmic action sequences, and it's a blast)
Jack Of Fables #1 (Really good opener to the Fables spinoff, with nice art and the intriguing return of a familiar face)
Love As A Foreign Language Omnibus Vol 1 Tp (I've read and enjoyed all of J. Torres/Eric Kim's cross-cultural romance tale, and this all-in-one digest is a nice package)
Polly & Pirates Vol 1 Tp (Adventure, humor and spectacular art courtesy of Ted Naifeh... actually better than Courtney Crumrin, which wouldn't have seemed possible)
Previews #26.8 (Down the Line should hit sometime next week)
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #8 (Finally back to Takeshi Miyazawa art, and the Gwen Stacy storyline)
Toupydoops #3 (Continues the fine tradition of the first two issues, funny and imaginative)

Castle Waiting Vol II #1 (A big, thick issue, but at this point, Castle Waiting is on "trades only" probation from me thanks to its constant disappearance from the shelves in mid-story)
Lucifer Vol 10 Morningstar Tp (More or less buying it to finish out a story I've invested a lot of time in, hope the ending brings me back around)

Monday, July 17, 2006

New on Fourth Rail:
I've got two new reviews up for Grease Monkey and De:Tales.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Technical Difficulties:
Well, as of sometime between 12:30 last night and 4:00 this afternoon, The Fourth Rail crashed. I called our tech support, and they said that the site is inexplicably pointing somewhere else. I don't know if this is a hack, or an administrative mistake, or what, but at any rate, I'm currently not receiving any of my email. I'm not sure if it's bouncing (I don't think so), but if you're trying to reach me, won't work right now.

Which has led me to finally add a gmail account, something I should have done long ago. I'll still be using (providing it comes back online, which it should... I'm supposed to call back tomorrow because it can't be fixed until customer service is in), but my new primary email will be my gmail one. It's in the email link on the sidebar of this site, and I'll be updating it elsewhere as well.

Update: The Fourth Rail, and email servers, are back up after a call to customer service earlier today. I'm reading mail sent to my Fourth Rail and Gmail accounts.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Poker Training and Pirates:
I picked up Phil Gordon's Little Green Poker Book on Sunday, just before going to see Pirates: Dead Man's Chest. I thought Pirates was a perfectly good continuation of the first movie, and I'm kind of boggled by the people who liked the first one and thought this was some kind of cinematic abortion. They have the same strengths and weaknesses, as far as I can see. Depp's fun, Keira's hot, the action sequences are imaginative, the feel is very pulp-y, and the whole thing feels like Bruckheimer Hollywood-ized style that runs about a half hour to 45 minutes too long. And I didn't see the end reveal coming, which was kind of neat.

Phil Gordon's book, on the other hand, is terrific, as good as everyone has said. In reading his tips, my game has improved quite a bit in playing the WSOP on PSP. In real life, well... I'll get to that in a minute. I've also started watching more poker on TV, from the Professional Poker Tour to World Poker Tour to the World Series of Poker. With Hellmuth Jr. taking over for Gordon, Celebrity Poker has lost some of its spark, and there's something much more fun about watching players who know how to play when they're playing the game.

This week was the first of what is meant to be a regular monthly game of Texas Hold'Em between friends. Actually, I suppose we had one last month, but it was last minute and the turn out was only three people total, which makes for a very specific and weird kind of poker. This time out, there were six people total. $5 buy-in, since it's basically just a friendly game.

As it turned out, all my poker training failed me, and I went out first, busting out on a pair of Aces against trip Sevens. I had made a big pot earlier and earned the chip lead, but I gave those chips and more back to the guy I won them from on that all-in hand.

It's still good practice, though, as it reminded me of an important lesson that I always seem to forget when I go up against people in a live game as opposed to an online one; don't start getting aggressive right away. Phil Gordon's aggressive play style, which mostly works for me, doesn't work for me right off the bat. You have to play tight early on, get a sense of the table and build up your chip stack slowly with really good hands, and then later you can loosen up and start bluffing. There's really no excuse for going all-in with a pair of Aces even if it's top pair when my opponent is raising and calling me regularly.
Katy Goes to the Movies:
On Monday, I took Katy to see her first movie in the movie theatre. Technically, Suzanne took her to about fifteen minutes of an Annie singalong, but since that was so short-lived, I'm not counting it. But Suzanne and I saw Cars last week, and pretty much everyone in the audience had a kid with them. So my worry that Katy talking and jumping around would be disruptive went out the window. And she loves Pixar, and I'd already seen the movie, so I figured if we had to leave at the 15 minute mark, it'd be OK.

As it turned out, she did great. We brought a bag of raisins for her to snack on, but when we sat down in the theatre a little girl and her mom sat down a few seats away with popcorn and a drink. Katy said "I want a snack. I want some popcorn." This was during the trailers, mind you. I asked if we could wait until later in the movie, and she (to my surprise) said OK. We watched the trailers (my third time seeing that awful Ant Bully trailer) and she did good through that, although she lost interest when the live action Mark Wahlberg trailer for Invincible came on.

Once the Pixar short started, she was pretty well glued. She talked to me through the movie a few times, and she started climbing around a little, but mostly she sat on my lap (she wasn't quite heavy enough to hold the seats down, so they snapped up and scared her) and watched and enjoyed. About midway through, she again said, "I want a snack" so we left and got some popcorn. We missed the scenes with 'Mater, Lightning and the tractors, which was a shame as I think Katy would have liked them, but we got her popcorn and she munched happily on that while we watched the rest of the movie, all the way to the end credits. I asked several times throughout if she wanted to go or stay and watch, and she always said stay and watch. Truthfully, I was kind of amazed. But she did really good, although I don't think she's quite at the level where going to the movies is anything special, because she's so used to watching everything on DVD. In fact, the last thing she said, while the credits were rolling, was "I wanna watch that one again."

Thankfully, she hasn't asked her mother to put the Cars movie in the DVD player, so Suzanne hasn't had to explain that one to her.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - July 19, 2006:

The week for San Diego, which means a lot of books get released. I was surprised to see a relatively small indy release week, and Marvel has a surprisingly good week.

Annihilation Nova #4 (Pretty interesting finale, with some great moments... but for fuck's sake, will you people please stop killing characters for shock value?)
Daughters Of The Dragon #6 (Good finale. I'm mildly curious to check out Heroes for Hire at this point)
Elephantmen #1 (Great intro to the world of Hip Flask if you've never read it, and artist Moritat is a find. Great sci-fi, beautiful art)
Marvel Adventures Avengers #3 (Still my favorite Avengers title, and one of my favorite Marvel titles. Old school in all the right ways, fun, imaginative... the heir to Roger Stern's Avengers in my mind)
Marvel Westerns Western Legends (These have been pretty fun... I'm on the fence about an actual collection, but they're good reads)
She-Hulk 2 #9 (Another good read, even if I have to sort of cringe past the Civil War stuff)
Usagi Yojimbo Vol 20 Glimpses Of Death TP (New Usagi trade.. woohoo!)
Walking Dead Vol 1 Hc (Seems like I've been waiting forever for this, but I figured it'd hit the week before San Diego)

24 Seven Gn (Image anthology with a ton of great creators... I bet they'll do terrific business with this at the Con)
Civil War #3 (OK, I don't think it fits the Marvel Universe and many of the characters are out of character... but if you read this as an alternate timeline book ala Days of Futures Past, it's a pretty good action/dark future superhero story)
Conan #30 (Mignola's first issue was a good one, looking forward to more of his story)
Done To Death #1 (Andrew Foley wrote a great graphic novel called Parting Ways, this is his follow-up, a darkly comic take on vampire novelists and vampires)
Eternals #2 (Very strong first issue, ten times better than Marvel 1602, curious to see what happens next)
Hunger Vol 1 Tp (Another speakeasy refugee, this one was an unusual zombie story with really nice art)
Justice League Of America #0 (I hated Identity Crisis, so I'm more than a little wary of this one. I suspect I'll not be a fan. But I've got to admit, as with Infinite Crisis and 52, I have some morbid curiosity)
Manhunter #24 (Glad to see this one get a reprieve, I'd be even happier to see it get more trades, as it reads much better that way)
Runaways #18 (Should be some big doings in this issue, what with the shocker ending of the last)
Rush City #1 (OK, yeah, product placement... you got me. I keep thinking of BMW's great Hire films, Dixon's general track record with action storytelling and those Jock covers... this could actually be good)
Shadowpact #3 (Second issue was a big letdown after a solid first... this will probably make or break my interest)
Star Wars Rebellion #4 (This one, on the other hand, is looking up... probably my favorite of the new Star Wars books)
Strange Eggs Presents Boxing Bucket (First issue of this anthology was weird. But good. Second should be much the same)
Uncanny X-Men #476 (Brubaker keeps the momentum going with a pretty solid second issue)
Zombies #2 (Interesting intro, it's not as good as Walking Dead at this point, but that's sort of the gold standard anyway)

Monday, July 10, 2006

New on Fourth Rail:
Here's my annual pre-Con report and panel rundown for San Diego.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Weekly Comics to Come - July 12, 2006:

Wow, massive Vertigo week this time out, as almost all of my favorite Vertigo titles ship. Last week was probably the best week of comics in the whole year, so this week can only look disappointing by comparison... but it's actually a decent, if smaller, week as well.

American Virgin #5 (Second story arc, proving that the first was no fluke. One of the best new Vertigo titles on the stands, which means it's one of the best new titles on the stands period)
Avengers Assemble Vol 3 HC (I've actually got all these stories now that I bought the 40 Years of Avengers DVD, but I'd still rather have them in hardcover as well)
Escapists #1 (Fantastic first issue, now that it's finally out it means the wait for the second issue, which I haven't already read, is much less.)
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Vol 1 Tp (Continues to be fun, light teen romance from Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa)

Annihilation Silver Surfer #4 (Glad to see these minis wrapping up...)
Annihilation Super Skrull #4 ( we can get on with the Annihilation main event)
DMZ #9 (Another great new Vertigo book, and another part of the thus far excellent "Body of a Journalist" arc)
Fables #51 (My favorite book, hands down)
Hawaiian Dick The Last Resort #4 (Holy crap! It's actually coming out! Con season must be jumping into full swing next week or something...)
Scarlet Traces The Great Game #1 (Wow, this one's finally out too)
Sire #1 (The first Virgin Comic, Devi, was not bad... I'll check out their others)
Snakewoman #1 (Especially this one, which has the most intriguing premise and is written by Zeb Wells)
Star Wars Legacy #2 (First issue was surprisingly weak, but I have faith in this creative team)
Superman #654 (Wasn't wowed by the 8-part OYL story, but I'll give Busiek & company another chance with their new story)
Transformers Infiltration #6 (IDW's first Transformers mini wraps, and it's been a good read thus far)
Walking Dead #29 (Plenty of twists and turns going on in this book)
Wasteland #1 (Hooray! Oni's post-apocalyptic book starts, and after reading the preview, I'm looking forward to reading the rest)
X-Men #188 (Brubaker's Uncanny was really good, so I'm hoping Carey and Bachalo can bring the same level to their game)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fuck The Emmys:
I now declare the Emmys to be invalid in my own personal universe. Like Spider-Man unmasking, The Atom's wife being a psychotic murderer and Batman being a dick, these things do not exist for me. Because I look at the Emmy nominations and here's what I see:

In Best Drama, we've got two medical dramas, a mob show on its last legs, an action show with fast-paced but pretty insipid writing and a cancelled political show that lost its heart three seasons in. Now, I'm a fan of 24, but no way do I think it's award-winning. Hell, I liked this season of The Sopranos, but it's way down on the list too.

You know what's missing? Lost, for one. Best writing, directing, acting, production, etc. on television. It's a genre show that's so good you forget it's a genre show, and it does business like no genre show in the history of television. Battlestar Galactica, for another, although if pushed, I'll admit that I think that it, like 24, is a good but maybe not "Best Drama" level good show. Oh, and where the *fuck* is the Shield? That is hands down, bar none the best show on TV, and I don't care if you tell me it's a little too over-the-top, it's pure fucking realism compared to 24, or the sexcapades of Grey's Anatomy, or the grumpy doctor mysteries of House. Hell, I'd even guess The Shield is a more accurate reflection of L.A. cop life than West Wing is of any White House in history. So it ain't that.

My Best Drama picks? Lost, The Shield, Veronica Mars, Rome (over The Sopranos) and either 24 or Battlestar Galactica. Oh, and if Deadwood were eligible this year, it'd be up there.

Best Comedy? Points for Arrested Development, but really, isn't that kind of a pointless slot at this point? The show is over, the cast and creators have all moved on, why not nod towards a show that still needs the Emmy buzz? How about Entourage, which had a fantastic season two? Of course, you don't even need to take AD out of the running for that, you could dump Two and a Half Men... how the hell did that get in there anyway? I'd agree with most of this slot, actually, as Scrubs, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office are all damn funny, even if I'm not a huge fan of that last one myself. But no Entourage? Bullshit. And that's not even getting into Weeds being totally overlooked as well.

Lead actor in a drama is missing big names. Edward James Olmos deserves a nod. I'd argue for most of the male leads on Lost, although I guess that technically most of them would fall into Supporting Actor categories. Still, Josh Holloway and Terry O'Quinn most certainly belong on this list at least. How about Michael Chiklis, whose take on Vic Mackie has just gotten more interesting as things went on? This is a tough category, because everybody here earned their way in, but I can't help but feel that O'Quinn and Chiklis, at the very least, were better than all five nominees.

Lead actress is even worse, because too many of the actresses here, while great, weren't in the best years of their career by any means. Geena Davis and Allison Janney both suffered from weak writing and weak character arcs that underplayed their strengths, and much as I like Mariska Hargitay, was there really something harrowing and interesting on SVU this year that they haven't done before? Mary McDonnell absolutely deserves to be here for her conflicted yet strong-willed President Roslin on Battlestar Galactica. Kristen Bell certainly deserved a nod for sassy, smart yet vulnerable Veronica Mars.

How do you nominate Scrubs for best comedy and not give a nod to Zach Braff or Donald Faison for lead actor in a comedy? That's really the only *huge* omission in this category, but it is notable.

Lead actress will get big points from EW for giving Lisa Kudrow a nod for The Comeback, but I want to know where the hell Mary Louise Parker's nomination was for Weeds.

Supporting Actor in a comedy is close, but I'd say that either Jon Cryer or Sean Hayes should have fallen out for Kevin Dillon's hilarious portrayal of Johnny Drama on Entourage. Sure, Jeremy Piven's in there, and he deserves it, but Dillon is at least half the reason I love the show. Oh, and Scrubs has any number of great supporting actors as well, notably John McGinley and Neil Flynn. Credit the Emmy nominations for getting Will Arnett in there, but that also highlights the travesty that is missing David Cross for his work on Arrested Development.

I've got no real comment on supporting actress in a comedy. I'd argue for Debi Mazar on Entourage, but she's such a small character that it's hard to argue too strenuously, even if she's great with what she's given in the role.

Supporting actor and actress in a drama should be more or less filled with Lost castmembers. Yunjin Kim. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Jorge Garcia. Naveen Andrews. Harold Perrineau. Daniel Dae Kim. All of these folks deserve nominations.

Oh, and the Guest Actor nods? No Forest Whitaker, whose driven IAD agent in The Shield was as good as Emmy-nominated Glenn Close's police captain in the previous season? Ridiculous.

I'm also going to guess that Daily Show and Colbert Report could split the vote in Best Variety and lose, which would be a shame, as one of those two shows should really get the win.

Overall, after all the hype about the new selection process, the Emmy nominations are the same old disappointing selection we always get.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Randy's Life Update:
It's been a while since I've posted anything not comics related on this blog. And even then, it was pretty much a TV rundown. So this is my "State of Randy's life" post for those of you who care. If there are any of you.

We finally sold the old house, closed on the last day of June. I say finally, but really it was pretty quick... we put it on the market in May, it sold by the end of June. That's not bad, but as anyone who has sold a house will tell you, the waiting and working out of details is just murder on your nerves. I'm glad to have it behind me. And knowing the house was sold for sure allowed me to make plane/hotel reservations for San Diego relatively guilt-free. So now we are officially owners of only one house again, and that new house has shaped up nicely. New floors or carpet in pretty much every room, and while there are still a couple cluttered rooms, all in all it looks like a home again. Guess it's about time to think about a housewarming party!

I got out to see both X3 and Superman Returns in the past couple weeks. I thought X3 had some pretty significant problems in script, tone and acting (*cough* Halle Berry *cough*), but... I expected it to be godawful, and it wasn't. It was a poor closer for the initial two films, but the Beast was well done, and Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were great as always. I doubt I'll buy the DVD, but it wasn't the colossal fuck-up I was expecting.

Superman Returns, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. James Marsden proves here that if anyone knew how to write him, he had the chops to play a good Cyclops, with essentially the same strong supporting role here. Kevin Spacey is fantastic as Lex Luthor, Brandon Routh is good as Superman, and Kate Bosworth is solid as Lois Lane (yes, I'll admit she looks about 10 years too young, and they could have cast better, but she held her own). Parker Posey was good in a thankless role, but that role added nothing to the film and should have been cut. And I can certainly see the complaints that others have with the movie, and even agree with them, but they didn't get to me in watching the movie because I was totally in it from the moment those retro credits and the Williams score came up. After watching it, I told my friends it was probably the best movie I'd seen all year. Of course, that's more a commentary on how many films I've seen in the theatre this year than anything else, but still... a good flick. Looking forward to the sequel, which, following the pattern of X-Men and X2, will probably be twice as good.

Life should be pretty busy for the next couple months. In just over two weeks I leave for the San Diego Comicon. Sometime in early August, my sister's baby will be born, and we'll be heading down to Miami (Katy's first airplane ride) for that. In the last week of August, we'll have the 20th anniversary celebration for Dragon's Lair. And I'm pretty sure that somewhere in there we're supposed to get out to Colorado to spend a few days with Suzanne's family at a vacation spot. But it's a good kind of busy, and a lot of my stress has been relieved now that the house stuff is taken care of.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New on Fourth Rail:
It occurs to me that I should put up links here when I add new content to the Fourth Rail, rare as that might be these days. So, for June:

Reviews of Toupydoops #1-2, Uncanny X-Men Omnibus and Wonder Woman #1

And for July:

Down the Line for September
Blog Template Update for June
This is the latest monthly update to the left column of the blog, updating my favorite comics and TV for the previous month. The listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published.

June started out as a bit of a rough month for me, comics- and TV-wise. There were a couple weeks there where I started to wonder if I was losing my enthusiasm for the comics medium entirely, and since most TV had gone to reruns, there were only a few shows I was watching. Of course, I still didn't have time to catch up on everything, so it's not like there was a dearth of entertainment in life... it's just that a lot of it was on DVD or Tivo. I did have to cheat a little bit to get to ten TV shows this month by including stuff I'm catching on DVD, like The 4400 and Newsradio.

There was also a nice boost for comics in the third week of June, when we had a really great week. Lots of good graphic novels and single issues, making up for a disappointing month in general. Looking at the patterns, there are nine publishers represented in my ten graphic novels, meaning there was a pretty good spread of quality amongst a variety of publishers. The indies are definitely suffering a bit on the single issue front, however, as only three books (one Oni, one IDW and one Maerkle) weren't from the "big four." Marvel did comparatively well with me this month, with 6 books, three of them pretty new. The DC Universe is almost completely dead to me, but Wonder Woman #1 was impressive, and All Star Superman continues to be one of my favorite books on the stands, period. Vertigo I continue to love, although Y The Last Man isn't on the list this month because it is coming out the first week of July. Still, Fables, American Virgin and DMZ are always on the top of my reading pile. Same goes for Dark Horse's entries Usagi Yojimbo and BPRD, and Star Wars Legacy had a strong showing with its quarter priced sourcebook style zero issue, although the first issue was a bit meh and didn't make the cut.

Notable first issues in June were Casanova, Eternals, Star Wars Legacy #0 and Wonder Woman. Entertaining one-shots were Love and Capes and Marvel Westerns Two Gun Kid.