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Once More Around the Bay Area

As I mentioned, I was on vacation for a week, with my Mom visiting for the first time in a couple of years. It’s taken me a while to get this entry together, but better late than never, right? She flew in two Wednesdays ago and left last Tuesday.

And boy, did we ever have a good time!

First of all, her flight was 40 minutes early, which seems just about impossible in these days of air travel, and especially on United. On the other hand, this did mean that I didn’t quite have time to get everything done I’d wanted to do before she arrived, but then, setting up the bed for her isn’t really all that much of a burden.

We had a pretty simple first day: We drove to Apple to visit the company store so that she could pick up some gear for my nephew, and we went out to dinner with Debbi, getting Thai food and hitting some bookstores in downtown Mountain View. Mom was delighted by the weather, since the northeast had been socked with rain, snow, heat, cold, and probably also locusts in the month before she flew out, whereas we were having highs in the 60s with occasional rain and clouds, which felt downright balmy and pleasant to her.

Mom wanted to make sure to see the coast, but since there’s plenty of coast around, that was no problem. Thursday morning we drove over to Half Moon Bay where we had breakfast at the Main Street Grill (Mom thought their Eggs Benedict was excellent). After doing some shopping (I picked up a copy of Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro), we drove along the coast to several beaches to see the ocean, which was particularly energetic that day. We went as far south as the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which made for a full day. Returning home, Debbi cooked her yummy spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

Ocean_Waves.jpg

Our routine during her visit was pretty simple: Mom woke up earlier than me and went down to get the paper and read it while having tea. Once I got up (lazy slug!) we’d sit around and talk for a while until we went off to get lunch and see whatever we wanted to see that day. Then we’d come back and hook up with Debbi for dinner, and have a quiet evening at home (albeit occasionally not getting back from dinner until 8 or 9).

Mom also loves the cats. Blackjack – to our surprise – decided that he just loved having Mom around, going in to snooze with her at night, and play with her in the morning. The other cats enjoyed the extra attention, but Blackjack really bonded with her.

Blackjack_in_the_Window.jpg

Friday our outing consisted of going to the San Jose Museum of Art to see an exhibit of M.C. Escher’s artwork. (“M.C. Escher” sounds like the name of some sort of philosophical rapper these days.) It was good – if small – exhibit, and “good, if small” actually describes the museum as a whole. I bought a book about Escher, mainly because I was very impressed with his architectural and cityscape drawings, which I mostly hadn’t known about.

We hit another of the many excellent used bookstores in the area, and then went down to Santa Cruz where we shopped, walked out the wharf (and saw some sea lions), and then went over to the lighthouse (although the surfing museum was not open). For dinner went want to the Peninsula Creamery, where we stuffed ourselves full of milkshakes.

Debbi hooked up with us for the weekend. Saturday was overcast and rainy, but not too much so, and we went up to the city anyway, spending much of the afternoon in Golden Gate Park. The Japanese tea gardens were flowering, and we walked through a slice of the botanical garden (a different slice from the one Dad and I walked through on his last visit). I didn’t know they had a little redwood forest in the botanical gardens! I really need to spend a larger part of an afternoon exploring that place, now. (Debbi said we need to hit the museums in the park again, too, and I’ve also never been to the Conservatory of Flowers.)

Tea_Garden.jpg
(click to enlarge)

Mom particularly wanted to go to Pier 39 to visit the sea lions again, so we did that and did some shopping. Then it was off to Ghirardelli Square for yet more ice cream. All my vacations these days seem to be giant food-fests! Yummy ones, though. Once we got home, we were tired enough that we just ordered pizza out from Amici’s.

(I find that I am taking the great food around here for granted, since Mom remarked how good everything was throughout her visit. Debbi says she doesn’t take it for granted, though, so maybe it’s just me.)

Snooze_Lions.jpg

Sunday we drove up the east bay and went to Berkeley, where we walked around the Berkeley campus. Then we drove down to the Westover Vineyards to taste (and buy) some wine, and then ate at Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi Too! for dinner.

Monday Mom said she wanted to head back to the city, so we stopped off for lunch on the way at one of our new favorite places, a build-your-own-burger restaurant called The Counter and then headed up. Unlike Saturday, Monday was bright and sunny and warm. We went to the Musee Mechanique, which Mom found fascinating. I had forgotten that their new location has info on many old-time amusement parks, including Playland-at-the-Beach, a park which existed at the north end of Ocean Beach until 1972 (which frankly boggles my mind, that San Francisco had a full-blown amusement park). We spent a good long time looking at the exhibits and starting many of them up. As always, it impresses me that some of that stuff still exists at all, as some of it is pushing 100 years old.

Afterwards we drove along the bay past the marina, over to the Cliff House and Ocean Beach to see the ocean again. Then we headed back to meet up with Debbi for dinner. Sadly, my favorite Chinese restaurant Su Hong is closed on Mondays, so instead we went to Max’s, which was fine.

Mom_at_Cliff_House.jpg
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday morning I took Mom to the airport and she flew out. I was sad. We had a lot of fun during the week and were able to catch up chatting about things. She said she had a terrific time seeing everything and enjoying the weather, and she hopes to come back before another 2 years have passed.

I hope so, too!

This Week’s Haul

  • 52 #51 of 52 (DC)
  • Justice #11 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Doug Braithwaite (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #5, by Geoff Johns & Fernando Pasarin (DC)
  • Supergirl & The Legion of Super-Heroes: Adult Education vol 4 TPB, by Mark Waid & Barry Kitson (DC)
  • Wonder Woman #8, by Jodi Pilcoult, Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson (DC)
  • Astro City: The Dark Age vol 2, #3 of 4, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Red Menace #6 of 6, by Danny Bilson, Pal DeMeo, Adam Brody, Jerry Ordway & Al Vey (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Castle Waiting #6, by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics)
  • The Professor’s Daughter TPB, by Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)

Okay, I admit it, I’m enjoying “The Lightning Saga”, part 2 of which appears in this month’s JSA. Mainly because it’s a kooky old-style Legion of Super-Heroes geekfest, especially the two-page spread of statues of the original Legion, mostly in their classic costumes. I have no idea what’s going on in this story (especially why speaking Lightning Lad’s name in Interlac seems to return the Legionnaires to their right minds), and I really don’t care how or if they reconcile this with current LSH continuity, it’s just entertaining. (The Interlac title of this chapter is “Dreams and Fire”.)

Speaking of the Legion, the fourth volume of Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes is as entertaining as the first three. I think it’s the best of the various reboots and re-imaginings of the series over the last 20 years (dating back to Giffen’s “Five Years Later” series). The characters are vivid and entertaining, the stories are novel, and Waid (no surprise here) has a respect for the series’ history which makes the whole thing even more palatable to old-time readers, while being no less fun for new readers. I’m still not a big fan of Barry Kitson’s artwork, but it works well enough, and I do like his character designs.

(I guess Waid and Kitson have left the ongoing series early this year; I hope the new team carries the torch as honorably.)

The new issue of Wonder Woman resurrects Diana’s mother Hippolyta, who was killed in a crossover event a few years ago. While this makes Kalinara happy, bringing back dead characters has been an outright cliché in comics for at least 20 years, maybe 30, so it makes me just roll my eyes. Hippolyta isn’t a particularly significant charactre, and I don’t really care whether she stays dead or not, but her return undercuts any storylines which she factors into, including the Amazons Attack! event, which launches in a month or less (and which I can tell you I care about not at all).

I haven’t been a fan of Jodi Picoult’s run on WW, but this mess isn’t her fault (I presume it’s all about DC defending its trademark on this minor character). It is, however, another nail in the coffin of this series.

While I confess I’m such a fan of Astro City that it would take a long time for my goodwill towards the series to erode, I will also confess that “The Dark Age” has been rather slow and unfocused. That said, vol. 2 #3 appears to be a turning point for the series, with the lives of our ordinary characters Charles and Royal reaching a tipping point, and one of the mysteries from the first volume rearing its head. Next issue should be the climax of the second act, and I’m hoping it will be a terrific set-up for the third act.

Red Menace wraps up as an entertaining period piece, but unfortunately nothing more. It feels all-too-isolated, without any deeper meanings to give it weight either historically or as a character drama. Lovely artwork by Ordway, I wish he would hitch his horse to a project that would do for him what Watchmen did for Dave Gibbons. Of course, perhaps such things are largely luck.

The Professor’s Daughter is a little graphic novel about the Pharoah Imhotep IV, who is revived in the present day as a mummy and falls in love with the daughter of the professor who found him. It’s a cute little romance, although not very substantial. The way it wantonly disregards plausible reactions of the general public to Imhotep makes for some amusing scenarios. It feels like it could have been more than it is, but I enjoyed it anyway. Guilbert’s artwork is simple but dynamic and expressive, similar in style to Tim Sale, but with more realistic faces.

Scalzi on Tour

My friend A. had mentioned a while ago going to see John Scalzi this week as part of his book tour. Scalzi is a well-known (maybe the well-known) blogger and science fiction author, and is supporting his latest book, The Last Colony.

With my Mom having departed yesterday, and since it looks like I won’t be going to WisCon this year to have him sign his latest books, I asked Andrew if I could tag along (read: sponge a ride off of him), and said yes (or words to that effect). So around 5:40 we piled into his car and drove over to Half Moon Bay to the Bay Book Company.

One meal at Round Table Pizza later (mm-mmm!) we arrived at the store. It’s been a while since I’d been there, and I’d forgotten that they’re a quite charming, cozy little book store off Highway 1. Usually I only stop in downtown when I’m in Half Moon Bay. All the posters on top of the bookcases announced that they get quite a few authors in for signings, so they must work hard to get on the list for authors like Scalzi; no doubt it’s a big boost to their business.

I bought a copy of Colony when we arrived, and then John emerged. He surveyed the crowd of 25 or so people, saw me, pointed and said “Michael!”

Okay, that was unexpected, but yes, I’ve met John before, before his first SF novel was picked up for publication, even, as well as twice at WisCon. I’m always flattered that he recognizes me, but really, he’s no dummy and he’s clearly got a good memory, so should I expect any less? (Actually, I have an idea of why I find it flattering, but try as I might I can’t put it into words. It has nothing to do with his being a published author, and more to do with his intelligence, wit and self-confidence. I’ve felt similarly about a few other people, notably my friend Bruce, who I think shares many of his best qualities with John.)

Lest I go on too long about that, my read on John is that he’s amazingly excited to be going on this book tour, but also a little apprehensive about seeing so many people whom he doesn’t know, even if they are fans of his. I guess seeing them at a convention is one thing, but “out in the wild” is something else. But that’s just my read; John’s able to manage and entertain an audience pretty handily (better than I could, that’s for sure), so I’m sure he’s got nothing to worry about.

He entertained us with tales of getting his books published (he was quite fortunate to have his first published novel noticed and bought by an editor due to publishing it on his Web site), getting covers chosen for his books (like cover blurbs, the covers themselves are mostly a marketing concern), and some of the work he has in the pipeline. Not to mention running for president of SFWA.

And then he signed books. A. said to me that he’s never been big on signed books. I’m not into them per se, but I enjoy getting things signed as a keepsake of the experience of meeting the author. It helps fix the memories in my mind, and sometimes I come away with some fun stories.

In this case, it was just fun seeing Scalzi again. I hope he has a great time on his tour. If you get a chance, go see him; it’s worth the trip.

(P.S.: I may end up in a photo in his blog, as he posted one from last night’s Seattle gathering. I’ll let you know if I get [further] immortalized in bits.)

Breaking Even

While writing my larger vacation entry, here’s a short recap of my poker session at Lucky Chances yesterday:

First of all, the more I play there the more I really like LC as a casino. The people (meaning mainly the players) seem friendlier and the decor is more interesting than at the other casinos I’ve visited in the area. It might be because I’m only ever there during the daytime, since it’s far enough away that I only visit on my days off, but I’ve had fun every time I’ve gone there, even when I haven’t won.

I’ve become a fairly decent low-limit Hold ‘Em player, I think. Although I must not be too good, since I’m still not winning a lot. I broke exactly even at this session, and was down for much of it before coming back at the end. A few notable hands:

  • I played K-6s in my small blind, and bet on a flop of K-x-x. Several players called. The turn was a blank, so I bet again and everyone folded. One person said, “Pair of Kings good.” My guess is several people had Aces they were hoping to pair on the turn, and when they didn’t, I made it too expensive for them to continue.
  • I picked up Q-Q in my small blind, and after several callers the player on the button raised. “Uh oh”, I thought, and just called. The flop was J-x-x. I bet, and the button raised. “Uh-oh”, I thought, figuring I was up against Kings or Aces. I check-called him down to the showdown, and he showed J-J for a flopped set. Gah. I thought there was a decent chance that he had A-K or A-J or even T-T, so it seemed worthwhile to show down, but I could see questioning my decision here, given what my gut was telling me.
  • The most painful hand of the day: I checked K-4 in my big blind, and the flop was K-8-4 rainbow. I bet the whole way and drove out everyone but two others. At the showdown I showed my two pair – and got beaten by a guy with K-8. It’s hands like these that keep you humble. This was a huge pot, too.
  • Later I picked up Q-Q – spades and clubs – and raised in late position, getting several callers. The flop was K-x-x of clubs, and I bet, and the fellow on my left called, as did a couple others. The turn was a blank, and I bet and only the guy on my left called. The river was a club, so I had the second-highest flush. The guy on my left said, “I won’t bet if you won’t,” and I said, “Sorry, I have to bet this hand.” He called, and showed the Jack of clubs, so I took the pot. Yay!

When I say I think I’m becoming a decent player, I mean that I rarely play a hand where I regret how I played it. But objectively, there’s clearly room for improvement, since I’m not winning. The mistakes I’m making are probably ones of omission (not betting enough, not playing a few hands I should play), which means they’re harder to spot.

I’m not playing as much poker as I did last year, you may have noticed. The novelty is gone. But I still enjoy the occasional game. And I’m looking forward to playing more no-limit with my friends who also play.

This Week’s Haul

Once again, I present last week’s haul this week:

  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #51, by Tad Williams, Shawn McManus & Waldon Wong (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #3, by Mark Waid, George Pérez & Bob Wiacek (DC)
  • Ex Machina #27, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • World War III one-shots #1-4 (DC)
  • 52 #50 of 52 (DC)
  • Justice League of America #8, by Brad Meltzer, Shane Davis & Matt Banning (DC)
  • Invincible Ultimate Collection vol 2 HC, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
  • Evil Inc. Annual Report vol 2 TPB, by Brad J. Guigar (Lulu Press)
  • Hero by Night #2, by D.J. Coffman & Jason Embury (Platinum Studios)

Aquaman is a little better this month than last. I still don’t think McManus’ efforts here are as strong as in days past, but they’re better; maybe he was stretched doing a double-sized issue. Maybe inker Wong is having a strong influence. I dunno.

The Brave and the Bold: Best superhero comic on the market? Maaaaybe.

Ex Machina is definitely picking up. I’m genuinely looking forward to what comes out of the current story.

52 this week is “World War III”, where Black Adam goes to war against the world and its heroes (and villains), and does a terrific amount of damage in the process. It’s not bad. That said, the four spin-off specials are not essential. DC claims they published them because the story of World War III was too big to fit into one issue of 52, and they could cover more characters and provide more context with the extra space. It’s all horse-hockey of course, but I got suckered in anyway. If you do decide to pick up the set, I suggest reading the specials before the actual issue of 52.

Has there been, in recent memory, a more cynically packaged (even “marketed” seems too kind a term) comic than the current Justice League of America series? Meltzer is another in DC’s stable of “hot” writers (who all seem interchangeable to me), the covers are provided by “hot” artist Michael Turner (the anatomical deficiencies in whose art could fill a while entry), and the series took half a dozen issues just to introduce the new team. The artwork of Shane Davis (whom I’ve never heard of before) is out of the Jim Lee/Image Comics school of pencilling, with muscular figures, generic backgrounds, and lots and lots of crosshatching. Overall, a decidedly mediocre combination.

That said, this issue is the first part of a crossover story with Justice Society of America (also not a very good comic, but at least an earnest one), which will also feature the Legion of Super-Heroes. Since the character of Starman is one of the best features of JSA, and I’m perhaps overly optimistic that a Legion/time travel story could be a lot of fun, I’m going to give it a read. The first installment suggests that Starman and Karate Kid are time-lost heroes who are part of a contingent sent back to the 20th century on some mysterious mission, and who have lost their memories. Since the story is called “The Lightning Saga”, my guess is that Lightning Lad/Lightning Lass/Lightning Lord (and maybe the Legion of Super-Villains) will figure in it, as well. Especially since this first chapter seems to be titled “Lightning Lad” (in Interlac).

(Incidentally, the idea that Batman could take down Karate Kid is fairly laughable, but that’s the conceit that DC’s built up around Bats these days.)

The second volume of Invincible seems like the almost-obligatory resting-up-from-the-first-volume/laying-the-seeds-for-the-third-volume collection. It’s still fun, but nothing like the first volume. Kirkman’s attention to the supporting cast and the increasing number of details of their lives is enjoyable, but I hope there’s a big bang in the third volume to deliver the payoff.

Accents

Iamza makes a voice post in her LiveJournal regarding her accent. Listening to her, what country would you guess she’s from? (The answer is elsewhere in her post’s page.)

Hint: She’s not from Ireland, although listening to her I can see why some people might guess that.

Alex Rodriguez

One of my favorite columns in the San Jose Mercury News is Bud Geracie’s weekly sports roundup, “In The Wake of the Week”. He averages more good zingers per column than any other columnist I read.

This week he sums up Alex Rodriguez’ overpowering start to the 2007 season in four words:

“Alex Rodriguez: Mr. April.”

Ouch.

(ARod hit two home runs last night, but the Red Sox came back to win with 5 runs in the 8th, so, y’know, nyah-nyah!)

Brett Myers

In what in my opinion is one of the stupidest roster moves in recent memory, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel moved starter Brett Myers to the bullpen after two bad starts this year.

If there’s a picture-perfect example of “overreacting”, this seems to be it. Maybe Manuel can see something in Myers that the rest of us can’t, but that’s one of only two defenses I think he could make here.

Baseball Prospectus author Joe Sheehan argues (in a subscriber-only article) that it’s the right move:

Manuel is trying to make lemons from lemonade. He has a roster with six starting pitchers—not swingmen, not prospects, not marginal guys, but six major league-caliber starting pitchers. He has a bullpen with one reliable strikeout guy in Tom Gordon.

[…]

Manuel tried, briefly, to use Jon Lieber out of the bullpen. Lieber hasn’t pitched in relief since 1997, and as a flyball/command guy, is ill-suited for pitching late in close games.

[…]

Going through the other choices leads to similar conclusions [that the other starters are as poorly-suited for the bullpen].

Sheehan also points out that Manuel’s problem isn’t of his own making, but rather is due to General Manager Pat Gillick collecting six quality starters while letting some quality hitters (e.g., Bobby Abreu) go. While I agree with this point, I don’t think that Manuel not having created the problem has any bearing on his choosing a poor way to solve the problem.

What this move basically boils down to (for 2007, anyway) is replacing Myers’ 200-odd starting innings with (maybe) 200 innings from Jon Lieber (and whoever in the bullpen has to make up the innings he doesn’t reach), and replacing 70-odd innings from the back of the bullpen with Myers. This is only a win if you think that Lieber is a significantly better pitcher than whomever is being replaced in the bullpen, and Lieber (who, by the way, is 37 years old) was not very good last year, with a 4.93 ERA. Now it’s certainly possible that the back of the Phillies’ pen is even worse than that, but it would have to be really, really bad to make up those 120 innings of quality starting that the team is losing.

(There’s also Myers’ big contract extension, which is a lot of money to pay a guy who isn’t going to be starting for you.)

As I said, one defense Manuel might be able to employ is that Myers won’t provide quality innings from the rotation. But so far I haven’t heard of any reasons why that’s so; two bad games is such a small sample size that it’s basically worth disregarding in isolation – and there’s no additional evidence that there’s something fundamentally wrong with Myers as a starter (and two years of evidence that there isn’t).

The other defense Manuel could employ is that Myers has some correctable problem (for which there is some evidence – Myers said as much, shortly before the demotion) which he should work out in the bullpen in lower-pressure situations so he can return to the rotation. And, since baseball teams are getting cagier about what they say, that’s entirely possible, and perfectly reasonable.

Right now, though, it just looks like Charlie Manuel is making a boneheaded move which is going to hurt his struggling team (they have a 4-10 record so far, worst in the NL).

And, of course, that’s a perfectly normal thing for baseball teams to experience, too.

Vacation Time!

It seems like it’s taken forever to get here, but I’m finally on vacation today. Nope, I’m not going anywhere, instead, my Mom’s flyng out to visit me!

I decided recently that I’d had enough of the goatee I’ve sported for the last year or so, so I shaved it off this morning. Debbi was sad, since she likes the goatee. I was getting tired of maintaining it, and it’s getting a little too gray for my preference. On the other hand, it does slim my face a little, since I am gradually starting to show my age. (I joke a lot about how “I’m getting old”. I’m not really getting that old, but late-30s is an age where one does start showing those telltale signs, and I do have a few.) On the other hand, shaving off the goatee felt at the time like the return of an old friend.

This is Mom’s second visit, and we’re going to go see a few things a second time (like the coast), and go see some new things. Maybe the M.C. Escher exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art. It should be fun. And after last week’s rain, everything is still green and blooming, which will make for a different look to the area from her last visit, which was in the fall, when everything is tan and brown.

Anyway. Mom’s flight took off right on time, it looks like, and it may arrive anywhere from 30 to 60 (!) minutes early (!!), which will be nice for the both of us, but it does mean that I have less time than I’d expected to get things done before she arrives. So I’d better get cracking!

This Week’s Haul

  • All-Star Superman #7, by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (DC)
  • Fables #60, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • 52 #49 of 52 (DC)
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: Dr. Death and The Night of the Butcher vol 5, by Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle, Guy Davis & Vince Locke (DC/Vertigo)
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason #5 of 5, by John Ney Rieber & Eric Nguyen (DC/Vertigo)
  • Wonder Woman #7, by Jodi Picoult, Drew Johnson & Ray Snyder (DC)
  • Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man vol 77 HC, collecting Tales of Suspense #84-99 and Iron Man #1, by Stan Lee & Gene Colan (Marvel)
  • newuniversal #5, by Warren Ellis & Salvador Larroca (Marvel)
  • Nova #1, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Sean Chen & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls #2 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964 HC, by Charles M. Schultz (Fantagraphics)

When the original Sandman Mystery Theatre came out, in the early 90s, I as intrigued, but had a very hard time getting into it. A lot of it was the artwork: Guy Davis is a decent artist, but he had a penchant (at that time) for drawing all his characters with huge noses, which was very distracting. (I understand that some people have larger noses. But not everyone does.) The occasional guest artist tended to be even worse. And, as it turns out, the series just didn’t lend itself well to serialization; each 4-issue story had awkward breaks between issues, which made it difficult to follow the series from a narrative standpoint.

All of which means that I’ve been buying the trade paperbacks and enjoying them a lot more than I did the original series. It’s the story of Wesley Dodds, the original Sandman, a late-1930s adventurer who is driven by intense dreams to seek out and capture the most twisted of villains. Each story features a different psychopath as its heavy, and it also chronicles the ongoing romance between Dodds and Dian Belmont, a young socialite whose father is the chief of police. The story is a little bit Peter Wimsey, a little bit Nexus, and a little bit Batman. Wes is a very fallable – but driven – hero, and Dian is smart and independent. The Sandman operates outside the law and sometimes runs afoul of the police. And, fortunately, Davis’ artwork has gotten much better by this latest volume. I’m enjoying it more than I’d ever thought I would. The series is long since defunct, but I still hope that it comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Which is more than I can say for Sleep of Reason, which updates the Sandman to 21st century Afghanistan. I’ve already commented about this series before, but I don’t like the art, the characters are flimsy, and the story seems kind of pointless. It’s a poor successor to the original.

I wasn’t going to pick up Nova until I realized it was being drawn by Sean Chen, whose work on Kurt Busiek’s Iron Man 8 or so years ago I’d enjoyed tremendously. Authors Abnett and Lanning have an uneven track record, but it might be more charitable to call it “eccentric”, and I’m usually willing to give their books a glance. Here, Nova is still an Earthman who’s inherited the mantle of the protector of an alien world, but now he’s the last such protector left, and he’s driving himself to fill the void left in the wake of the others’ deaths (which occurred in one of Marvel’s myriad crossover series – Annihilation, I think). Like Ms. Marvel, there’s potential here, but no sign at all where things are going to go. Hopefully the writers can figure it all out (and editorial won’t quash their best ideas).

Another month, another Marvel Masterworks. I’m not buying very many of them anymore, and yet I’m still behind. On the bright side, a new Peanuts volume is always cause for celebration, and I’m looking forward to devouring this one.

By the way, it looks like I’ve now been writing this weekly comics roundup for 6 months now. How time flies!