Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Have fun out there, but if you're likely to talk to the press try not to overdo it ;)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

How Not To Treat Girls, Featuring Firestorm

Professor Martin Stein has been called in to consult on a project. Sounds pretty safe, the Firestorm curse of being terrible with women couldn't possibly raise it's ugly head here right?
Unless the person that called you in for the consult is madly in love with you. Still, that could be ok. If you're a busy scientist, it stands to reason that you'd socialize with your peers. Relationships are going to happen. She looks like a nice emotionally balanced lady. I wonder how they met?
Ah. Well, the student/teacher thing is seldom a good idea at the best of times. We'll just leave it to Martin to let her down gently.
Or not.
Ah well, it's over now. Sure it's awkward, but they're both adults. At least she's not a psycho killer bent on revenge or something crazy like that.
Oh. Nice one Martin. Firestorm matrix strikes again!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Year In Review: Music

This year I bought 43 new releases, and added around about 100 CDs to my collection. Here's what I thought about some of them:

Album of the Year
Kreator - Phantom Antichrist
This surprised the hell out of me. I'm not really a Thrash Metal fan at all, and as such I'd never bothered to check out the legendary Kreator. Bought on a whim, this has been at the top of my playlist ever since. If you're a guitarist, you need to hear this album. The riffs on it are amazing - very technical, but what elevates it to a level of greatness is the melody that's injected into each song. This is not a band just trying to blast out fast music, everything is given an epic feeling. Also, the lead guitarist has killer technique and writes awesome solos. It's one of those rare albums that just inspires me to pick up a guitar and jam with it.

Album of the Year (Runner Up)
Ahab - The Giant
So before I got the Kreator album, I was thinking this was an absolute certainty for best of the year. I love the band's two previous albums, but this was a little bit surprising. It's a lot more mellow than their previous outings. The crushingly heavy riffs and guttural vocals are still there, and all still moving at glacially slow speed. They have added a much more serene element to the mix, bringing to mind the final album by Morgion. To be honest, I didn't completely like it at first- it took many listens for it to work it's way into my brain, for the haunting melodies to take root and reveal their beauty. But I'm glad I stuck with it.

Notable Mentions
Epica - Requiem for the Indifferent
A return to form after a slightly lackluster previous album. Symphonic Metal at it's best, just be sure to get it on Vinyl if you're a hardcore fan as the track "Serenade of Self Destruction" has a bunch of vocal tracks that are missing on the CD version (and it's a better song with them!)

Eluveitie - Helvetios
I'll freely admit to being a fanboy of this Folk Metal band so their inclusion isn't much of a surprise. Not really anything new, just the continuation of a class act.

Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol
Over the course of their last 3 albums they've been steadily regressing their sound back to their mid-90's glory days. This continues the trend. Everything I need from a good Doom Metal album.

Winterfylleth - The Threnody of Triumph
The 3rd album from this Black Folk Metal group. Loved their previous album, but this one blows it away. In a year that also saw a solid release from Drudkh, these guys managed to beat the Ukrainian masters at their own game. Raw and aggressive yet somehow captivating and beautiful at the same time.

Top 3 Songs of the Year
Asphyx - Into The Timewastes
It's nothing new or clever, it's just one hell of a great groove from 1:08 onward.

Ahab - Antarctica The Polymorphess
This song encapsulates everything great about the new album, and the band in general. Haunting, and like all good doom should, has a killer guitar melody at the end.

My Dying Bride - A Map Of All Our Failures
The title track from MDB's best album in 10 years. The riff from 4:10 is brilliantly bleak.

Worst Album of the Year
Fear Factory - The Industrialist

Two words that one should never read when it come to FF: drum machine. Everything that was ever cool about Fear Factory revolved around the tight interplay between the guitar and drums. Raymond Herrera's double-kick drum work was just fun to listen to (and later, Gene Hoglan). Now in place of an actual human we get a drum machine, sucking the soul from the music and rendering it unlistenable. Sure, it doesn't *sound* any different, but knowing it's a computer just kills it for me.

Worst Song of the Year
Delain - We Are The Others
I discovered Delain this year, and really loved them. Their new album is fantastic. HOWEVER... they decided to rerecord this song from the album and release it as a single. I like the original version. The new one has "sellout" written all over it. Delain's music in general has a commercial direction to it, and that's perfectly ok. Watering down one of your songs to get airplay is NOT ok. In all honesty, I haven't been able to listen to the band since this single came out. I care about artistic integrity, and this band has none.

On that controversial note, we'll leave it there ;)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Panel Of The Week

This made me laugh. From X-O Manowar #8.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Year In Review: Comics

2012 solidified my move away from DC. In 2011 before the New 52 launched, I was buying 11 DC titles a month. As 2012 comes to a close, I'm now buying one. Not so good for DC, but it's been a motivator for trying a few different things, including some non-fiction graphic novels.

Comics I've added to my pull list:
A nostalgic add, but I enjoyed the old Devil's Due series so it was worth a go and met my 2012 mission of paying more attention to the smaller publishers (in this case Dynamite) . I dropped it after 8 issues since it wasn't very good but hey, worth a go right?

X-O Manowar
I was never a consistent buyer of the original series, but I did enjoy the occasional issue I picked up and I've since completed the run. I've been very happy to see the return of Valiant, adding all the titles to my pull list as soon as they've been announced. For all that it's the flagship title of the new Valiant I'd probably site it as the weakest of the bunch, but it's worth sticking with for now. I just wish the pacing would speed up a bit (and by "a bit" I mean "a lot" ;))


It's only just getting started so the jury's still out, but it has potential. So long as it doesn't go overboard on the voodoo like the old Acclaim relaunch did with Vol 2, things should be just fine.

Archer & Armstrong
This has been really fun so far. Got to the point quickly, and has kept things rolling since then.

My pick of the new Valiant. A good dose of the current "grim and gritty" style of comics, without *quite* tipping the main character over to the point of "unlikeable bastard". Story pacing has been effective.

Comics I've dropped:
As mentioned, it just wasn't very good. Off the top of my head, I think it was about 5 issues before Voltron itself actually joined the action. Too much standing around talking, and too long to get to the point. Plus the art is a bit on the weak side.

Blue Beetle
I'm not quite comfortable calling this "bad". All I can really say is I just didn't enjoy it. It shares the same problem several of the New 52 titles have - the character just hasn't been around long enough and doesn't have enough past stories under their belt to warrant starting their story all over again from the very beginning. We went through the origin story of the character too recently for me to be able to emotionally invest in it all over again, but really there's no way around it for the current creative team. To fit Blue Beetle into the current DCnU he has to start from the beginning. Just one of those things.

I really like what Geoff Johns has been doing with Aquaman. I just don't like how god damn slowly he's doing it. The Trench storyline was an issue or two too long, but it was cool so I kept on with it. The Black Manta story that followed was slow even by Johns' standards. I just don't feel it's worth my money, even though the overall concept is a good one.

This was terrible from the very beginning, both in the writing and the art.

JLI (cancelled)
I reasonably enjoyed this title but DC got rid of it, seemingly for story reasons rather than low sales. I don't get it but hey, if DC don't want my money...

Moon Knight (cancelled)
I loved this. Moon Knight channeling Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Captain America was a brilliant approach to his schizophrenia. I have no idea if this thing ended due to sales or if it was just due to end anyway, but I was sorry to see it go.

Hellblazer (soon to be cancelled, at least)
OK, this isn't ending until 2013, but I'm gutted about this so I'm adding it here to indulge in some extra angst. I buy it in trade format so I'm technically not losing it off my pull list, but well... for me it's the shining beacon in DC's roster, certainly as far as the last 16 months have been concerned with their superhero output. *sigh*

Comics I'm still reading:
So this is the section where I mention all the comics that I've been collecting for longer than just the past year. Somewhat depressingly, the list rounds out at one.

There will be a separate post coming about this series in the near future, but I will say this: I'm excited to see where Dan Jurgens will take the character, I just hope he gets a chance to do it before getting cancelled.

That rounds out the monthly titles I bought on a regular basis. There's a couple of graphic novels I'd like to mention, but I think I'll make a separate post for those. This post is a bit on the long side ;)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

X Marks The Spot... Reboot Edition

All the cool kids are rebooting their comic book lines these days, so Dark Horse have decided to join in. It started a few months ago with Ghost, and now it continues with something that has me unreasonably excited: the return of X!
Way back in the dim dark past when I actually posted content to this blog, I had a bit of a thing for this guy. The regular series was written by Steven Grant and had a host of excellent artists throughout it's 25 issue life. It's been collected into two volumes, which I recommend highly. Now it's receiving the reboot treatment via Dark Horse Presents, with the aim for an eventual stand-alone series. So I thought I'd take a look at it.

This new story is written by Duane Swierczynski, with art by Eric Nguyen. While I can't claim to be overly familiar with Nguyen's work, Swierczynski's proven himself to be pretty decent - I enjoyed his run on Iron Fist and the new Bloodshot over at Valiant has been enjoyable. At the very least, he's shown he can write violent characters with a decent use of tough-guy talk (one of the things I LOVED about Steven Grant's work on the character). Obviously things are going to be updated with a reboot, but I was anxious to see how the team handled what I consider to be the core aspects of the character. They only have 8 pages to play with, but I felt they acquitted themselves very well.

The story kicks off with some resident bad guys having a meeting about the costumed vigilante. We're immediately re-acquainted with the basic operating method of X: marking people for death.
There's the intimidation aspect of sending characters photos of themselves; the creative team also keep alive the old device of people encountering objects that form an 'X', in this instance while X himself is carrying out a hit.
The only difference I'd point out is that in the original series such a sign would indicate impending death for the 3 people in the panel, whereas this occurs after the intended target is dead. So it would appear it's not going to be handled quite the same, but I'm happy to see the idea still present.

Next up, it's established that X is very driven and pretty damn tough. After catching a bullet in the arm, we see him in an alley rendering first aid:
That had to hurt. No indication from this if his regenerative powers are present in this incarnation - this could merely be to stop the bleeding while the wound regenerates, or it could be a necessary patch to stop him bleeding to death. We shall see.

Right at the end, we get the first taste of dialogue from our "hero".
I assume this is interrogation rather than a slow death - X was never one to prolong things, although he was not above trying to pump someone for information. To be honest I could've done without all the blood (on this and page 3), but that's a tiresome trend in comics that's unlikely to go away any time soon. Plus it drives home the uncompromising attitude of the character, that he's willing to hack limbs off to make a point. Maybe that's pushing the character a bit more into the realm of 'psycho' than he was previously (and he was pretty psycho to begin with...), but it'll be interesting to see where they go with it. X's own dialogue didn't set my world on fire, but it's his first words we're hearing and this is only 8 pages.

Overall, this was a good beginning. In 8 pages a fair amount happened to establish the character of X while still leaving a ton of questions. We saw a little bit of the criminal element and the world of Arcadia. Enough to give us a feeling, if not a well defined guide. The pacing was excellent, and the art was great both from a storytelling point, and for setting the mood of the book. As much as I hate reboots, this is a situation I can live with. I'm happy to have one of my favourites back, and this was a positive enough beginning that I hold hope for the future of the character.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Longest Searches Are The Most Satisfying

Way back in August 2010 I made reference to the "Hercules - Twilight Of A God" mini series, and highlighted a couple of panels from page 9. Specifically, this:

Quite a nifty play on the Silver Surfer, courtesy of Ron Lim and Bob Layton.

In late October 2012, the major New Zealand convention for the year was held in Auckland, and featured Bob Layton among the guests. As fate would have it, in amongst all the artwork he had with him was this very page!

I was very happy to add this to my collection (along with 2 further pages by Bob Layton). A bigger scan of the page can be seen on my art gallery. Funny how things work out sometimes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Content filter fail

Stumbled across this listing today:
"Colony (2012 GN)
Written by Bob Layton. Art by ~censored~ Giordano, and Bob Layton."

Ugh *facepalm*

Just in case you have not seen anything of this, the final work of Dick Giordano, I'll include the summary:
"Condemned for a crime he didn't commit, Scott Landus is sentenced to life without parole on COLONY- a galactic "Devil's Island" where the fascist Galactic Confederacy disposes of its human and alien refuse. Colony is a science-fiction allegory to the founding of Australia... as hardened career convicts, alien species, and political dissidents from Earth band together to overthrow their technologically superior captors."