This Week’s Haul

  • Action Comics #867, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Jon Sibal (DC)
  • Booster Gold #1,000,000, by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #17, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Fernando Pasarin & Prentis Rollins (DC)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #3, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
  • Nova #15, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wallington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Astonishing X-Men #25, by Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: The Warning #1 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
Booster Gold #1000000 Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz’ run on Booster Gold ends with issue #1,000,000 – an homage of sorts to the DC One Million company event of last decade, much like there was an issue #0 retroactively tying in to the Zero Hour event. Cute, but this sort of in-joke amidst the more serious story has been the series’ stock-in-trade all along. Anyway, the pair put out an even dozen issues of the series, and it’s been consistently smart and enjoyable.

The series’ premise involves Booster Gold being recruited by Rip Hunter (Time Master) to help stop people who are changing history. Rip’s true identity is a mystery, and he’s something of a hard-ass. At first Booster is willing to go along, but then he gets it into his head that he could use his time-travelling devices to save his best friend, Blue Beetle, from having been killed in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Rip does his level best to prove to Booster that he can’t truly change history, but Booster does anyway, saving Beetle but at the price of Maxwell Lord and his legion of OMACs wiping out most of the heroes on Earth. To stop this, Beetle volunteers to go back to sacrifice himself to put things back the way they should be.

All that being behind us, this issue is the denouement, which nicely wraps up most of the major plot elements, gives Booster a happy ending (hearkening back to his first series, back in the 1980s), and throws in some other neat stuff before spending a page foreshadowing what’s coming up in the next year. Which will be written by someone other than Johns and Katz, but that’s okay.

You don’t need to have read all the backstory to fully enjoy Booster Gold, although it does help. But the central tension between Booster and Rip, and Booster’s friendship with Blue Beetle, works even if you’re largely ignorant of what’s gone before, and this issue is a fine wrap-up to the arc of the past year. (Even if it didn’t address Johanna Carlson’s concerns, I think it’s still a nicely optimistic wrap-up.)

And penciller Dan Jurgens – who co-created Booster Gold when he broke into comics in the 80s – deserves a lot of credit for the run, too. I’ve never been Jurgens’ biggest fan – his art is a little too posed and polished for my tastes – but he’s always been a decent creator, and I think he’s done some of his best work ever on this run, and frankly the story really demanded a clean line and straightforward layouts because there was always so much going on. It really played to Jurgens’ strengths.

So, good show, guys. Maybe Geoff Johns’ best run since The Flash. Here’s hoping the next year is as good.

Astonishing X-Men #25 I decided to give Astonishing X-Men a try after learning that Warren Ellis is writing it. Ellis is one of those writers who’s full of ideas, but his execution is very hit-or-miss. He’s similar to Grant Morrison in this way, except that Ellis generally has more depth and character to his stories. So he’s written the outstanding Planetary, but also some pretty unreadable stuff from Avatar.

Astonishing X-Men is looking like it’s below the median in his range. It’s got yet another sequence in which the writer sets up the book with his group of X-Men (if this wasn’t a tired gimmick when Morrison did it in New X-Men, it certainly was when Joss Whedon did it at the beginning of this series), the obligatory clever dialogue to set up minor character conflicts (with the obligatory Wolverine snark amidst it all), and then we’re off on our first mission. All rather routine stuff.

Simone Bianchi’s art is pretty good, although it’s not very dynamic and it feels pretty muddy – it looks like it was shot straight from pencils, and that’s a hard look to pull off. (Not everyone can be – or should try to be – Mike Grell or Michael Zulli.)

I’ll check out a few more issues to see if it finds its wings, but the early returns aren’t promising.


I never went to see Ratatouille, since the premise didn’t appeal to me and something about Brad Bird’s approach to story construction puts me off (The Incredibles could have been a great film, but it’s rather an unfocused hodge-podge), but tonight we resumed riding the Pixar bandwagon by going to see WALL-E.

It’s a cute film. It does a terrific job of portraying the eponymous character’s unending life as nearly the last living thing on a used-up, abandoned Earth. Without dialogue, but with plenty of body language, WALL-E conveys his begrudging acceptance of his workaday life, with his hopes and dreams behind it. And when the more advanced robot Eve shows up on a mission, his realization that his dreams could come true is quite poignant. From there the film turns into a madcap adventure as we find out what happened to humanity, and WALL-E and Eve try to complete Eve’s mission and figure each other out (not necessarily in that order.

The film is at its best when it’s dealing with the robots – and there are plenty of them – but at its worst when dealing with the humans, and what they’ve become after 700 years. Okay, it’s a cautionary tale about out consumer culture, but it has all the finesse of a sledgehammer to the forehead, with people having become obese and slothful, entirely reliant on stimuli from the computer network. It’s not like it’s particularly new, either; except for the fat angle, it’s pretty much the same premise as that of Adventure Comics #379, which was published around the time I was born. I think if they’d come up with a more nuanced explanation for humanity’s absence it would have been a much better film.

Still, the robots are at the front and center, and that makes it a fun film despite its flaws. WALL-E is a terrific-looking creation, expressive and sympathetic, and Eve isn’t far behind him. And the film is touching and funny and exciting as WALL-E and Eve try to get together. The animation is stunning, of course, and the music is very distinctive compared to earlier Pixar films. Overall, a fun film.

Topping it off – actually leading it off – is the short before the film, “Presto”, which is absolutely hilarious, as good as any old Warner Bros cartoon. Sometimes it seems like the shorts are better than the features!

Minor Details is down right now. Ceej is apparently going to swap out the machine tomorrow, as the old machine was apparently on its last legs and frying hard drives left and right. Hopefully she’ll be able to retrieve all the old data – especially my e-mail.

Leftfield being down always stresses me out more than I feel it should.

Anyway, send me e-mail via this site in the meantime.

We’re experiencing another heat wave in the Bay Area this week, although it’s not as bad as the last two; highs in the low 90s where I am, and temperatures down to a bearable 80 degrees by 7 pm, and in the low 70s by bedtime. It should break on Friday and be a nice weekend.

I finally went out and bought a new garbage disposal for the kitchen sink, as the old one has been busticated for a couple of years. I hired a contractor through Sears to install it, as it seemed like a little more work than I wanted to put in. I’m willing to screw with the electrical system in my house for fun and education, but I don’t really want to mess with the water system, as I think I could really do some damage if I screw it up. Anyway, the contractor’s coming out tomorrow. Hopefully it will all go smoothly.

And that’s the news.

This Week’s Haul

Actually last week’s haul, but since this week’s haul is delayed ’til Thursday due to Independence Day, I figure I get a little bit of a grace period:

  • Fables #74, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #43, by Jim Shooter, Francis Manapul & Livesay (DC)
  • Avengers/Invaders #3 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Steve Sadowski (Marvel)
  • Echo #3, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1 of 3, by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #20, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
  • Star Trek: Assignment Earth #3 of 12, by John Byrne (IDW)
  • The Sword: Fire vol 1 TPB, by Joshua Luna & Jonathan Luna (Image)
The Sword vol 1 TPB The Luna brothers’ last project was Girls a suspense/horror story in which a small town was enclosed in a force field while being overrun with an army of cloned girls who wanted to kill all the women in town. It was mainly a psychological drama about how the poor souls trapped in the town dealt with their situation (mostly not very well).

Their latest project is The Sword, which is more adventure than horror, but contains the same elements of suspense that were present in Girls. Our heroine, Dara Brighton, is a paraplegic living with her family. One evening three strangers barge into their house, accuse Dara’s father of being their lifelong nemesis, display fantastic powers, and kill her family – and nearly her. However, the ensuing fire drops her below the house, where she grasps an ancient sword which not only cures her paralysis, but gives her super powers of her own. This being a suspense story there are hijinks, such as being hunted by the police, and losing the sword at an inopportune time. And the volume wraps up with an explanation of where the sword came from, and why those three were chasing Dara’s father to get it.

The Luna brothers’ style is based in a realistic looking and feeling world, into which these fantastic things are dropped. Jonathan Luna’s layouts are simple and understated, with uncomplicated finishes, usually with a constant line width in his inks, making the art seem even more unpretentious. As with Girls, The Sword‘s story focuses on the characters’ reactions to the amazing things they’re experiencing, which are typically enough to push most of them to their breaking points.

All of which makes their stories stand out pretty well from the rest of the comics being published. It doesn’t necessarily make them great comics, though; they are, after all, pretty firmly grounded in pulpy suspense fiction, just with more fallible protagonists. And the character bits take a back seat to the adventure bits, which hold back the story’s full potential. The flaw in the art is that it’s so unassuming that the fantastic events themselves seem unassuming, so their impact is lessened.

So it’s entertaining stuff, but it’s different without being really better than your mainstream superhero comic. Bloodier, certainly (the death count in The Sword is both significant and graphic). But it’s worth a look for a change of pace from the usual comics rigamarole.

Slightly Freaky

So tonight Debbi and I are playing some Gin Rummy when we hear Blackjack let out a frightened yowl. We turn around and see him in the kitchen, low to the ground, looking totally freaked out. He’s looking under the stove or fridge and crawling with his belly on the ground. I pick him up and he clings to me like Roulette does when she’s scared or upset. But Blackjack is rarely scared or upset. I give him to Debbi and she carries him to the couch, where he lies on her like a lump.

I look around in the kitchen but don’t see anything. I also go look around upstairs, with the other cats following my around. They’re also a little agitated and want to smell Blackjack when we put him back on the floor.

We were pretty baffled about what had gotten into him. My best guesses were that he was feeling sick, or that he was freaked out by the occasional day-after firecracker we heard, or (and here’s a pleasant thought) that there’s an intruder in the house. The last thought wasn’t made better by noticing that the dome light in my car was on for some reason, although it’s possible we either turned it on accidentally today, or that we turned it on last night while we were stuck in traffic coming back from fireworks (when we often turned off the engine and played some rummy since traffic was at a dead stop for minutes at a time).

However, we eventually heard another firecracker go off, and Blackjack quickly high-tailed it upstairs and hid in the closet. So I’m pretty sure he’s just scared to death of fireworks, while the other cats are a little agitated by them but not too freaked out. We’ve been out of town for the last two July Fourths so we haven’t recently seen what he thinks about the fireworks.

So that’s made for a rather creepy evening. But hopefully things will be back to normal tomorrow.

I feel really bad for Blackjack, though. Poor guy.

Bicycling Update

Tuesday I took my bike in for its annual service. I have a Bianchi Eros (in “brilliant blue”, not in their signature “weird green”) which I bought back in 2002, and I have mixed feelings about it. Mostly I think I got a bad rear wheel when I bought it, which led to a couple of years of popped spokes and bent rims, although I think it also took me a little while to get used to taking care of it, such as not over-inflating the tires. I had them rebuild the wheel with new spokes a couple of years ago, and it’s been much better since.

Anyway, the bike’s been making lots of funny sounds recently, and the rear rim was clearly out of true, so I wanted it to get fixed up, since I’m biking in to work twice a week this year.

Well, it turns out the rim was not just bent, it was cracking. When I picked it up they showed me how two of the holes where the spokes attach to the rim were cracking across the rim, which was clobbering its structural integrity. So I had them rebuild the wheel with a new rim, and I biked in yesterday. And wow what an improvement: The bike is nearly silent, and the ride feels much smoother and easier. Combined with the other basic maintenance, such as turning the gears, it almost feels like a brand new bike!

The guy at the shop said I got my money’s worth out of the old rim, so I guess I can’t complain. Hopefully I can go a few years without any significant trouble from the bike, now. Because next time I start having major problems with it, I might just replace it.

Space: 1999

I’m frightened to report that I popped an episode of Space: 1999 tonight into the VCR, specifically, “Dragon’s Domain”.

Space: 1999 was a childhood favorite of mine, and I still had fond memories of it in young adulthood – but at that point memories are all they were, since I hadn’t seen an episode in years at that point. In the 90s I found a couple of videotapes of episodes at an SF convention and plonked down some ridiculous price to pick them up.

They’re, you know, not very good.

The acting could be best described as “wooden”. Martin Landau shows less range than William Shatner at his most Shatnerian, Barbara Bain seems vaguely similar to Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, and Barry Morse seems like a slightly drugged Isaac Asimov. Eeg.

The story involves a carniverous, hypnotic, disappearing space alien which lives in a sargasso of spaceships which somehow moved itself from the edge of Earth’s solar system to a location much further away. (Though remember that this is the series in which the mon is blasted out of Earth’s orbit at faster-than-light speeds, and yet which slows down to sublight speeds when it enters another solar system.) The creature is defeated through nonsensical means (with an axe).

And honestly this is pretty typical of an episode of the first season of the series. The second season turned from emphasizing the horror of outer space to becoming an action/adventure series, but it wasn’t really either an improvement or a decline; the whole series was just fatally flawed.

And yet, watching this episode tonight there are brief moments when I think, “This could have been cool.” The laser pistols are neat. The scenes with the Eagles flying above Moonbase Alpha evoke a certain feeling, that humans are surviving even in this barren environment with only a bleak hope. The notion that by this episode they’d been drifting in space for over two years. And of course the Eagles have that cool modular design. There’s also a throwaway moment when Commander Koenig (Landau) mentions that his predecessor on the base had left a bunch of junk in his office which Koenig was going through and salvaging, which made me think that of course any human habitat is going to build up junk as people fail to clean it out, but in these peoples’ circumstances that trash could be treasure indeed. The series is completely oblivious to the more profound implications of these little ideas, it’s just an adventure series. But still.

Sometimes I daydream what it would take to try to resurrect Space: 1999 as a serious science fiction series. It’s a mind game, since the series is so ludicrous by any serious SF standards, far more so than the original Battlestar Galactica was. You could have an experiment with an alien device go awry and drop the moon into the network of wormholes across the galaxy. Really play up the challenge of trying to keep 300-odd people alive on the moon using technology which we might actually achieve in a century or so, and how their mental state changes when living in isolation from the rest of humanity for years. Have some really alien aliens, not just guys with big hair and forehead bumps, or even just pull in the old chestnut of humans on Earth just being an offshoot of an older, starfaring species (which popped up in the original series, too). I’m not saying it would be a great series, but what would it take to try to make it a good one?

All very silly, I know. Space: 1999 will remain a bad TV series which has been mostly forgotten by almost everyone who ever watched it. But somehow there’s just enough there to make me think stuff like this, that maybe there’s something here that could have worked, in other hands, given a different treatment.

After all, something makes me pop that videotape in once in a while to watch an episode. That’s not something I ever feel moved to do with, say, The Six Million Dollar Man.

GrimJack at ComicMix

John Ostrander and Timothy Truman have brought back their creation GrimJack at the web site ComicMix, in a lengthy new series entitled The Manx Cat. GrimJack was one of the best comics of the late 80s, an inventive, no-punches-pulled pulp/adventure/noir strip with an anti-hero protagonist, set in the magical/science-fictional city of Cynosure. The new story does a great job of catching new readers up on GrimJack’s world and background, and it’s a neat story, too. I’m enjoying it more than the mini-series from IDW from a couple years back, Killer Instinct.

Check it out.

Incidentally, the original GrimJack series from First Comics had the interesting twist later in its run of having GrimJack be reincarnated repeatedly, and after 50-odd issues about the original character he jumped forward 100 years into a new body. That new character’s arc played itself out over about 30 issues, and then the plan was to have him jump forward again, but First went out of business before that happened. These new stories (Killer Instinct and The Manx Cat) take place early in the career of the first GrimJack, so they’re really prequels to the original series. Which is a little disappointing since it means there’s not so much Ostrander can do to move the character forward, but they’re still fun reads.


I’m not feeling too typative (ha) lately. I’ve been pretty busy with hobbies and such over the past week. For instance, tinkering with my Magic decks, playing some Magic with Subrata on Sunday, watching Battlestar Galactica, reading Dan Harrington’s two new books on poker cash games, finally finishing the first volume of Terry and the Pirates, cooking dinner rather often, etc. etc. On top of that we bought some new chairs for the upstairs porch and put them together, I planted some new flowers up there, and I’ve been doing some ongoing cleanup of the study (you wouldn’t believe how many old manuals and computer CDs and DVDs I have to throw out).

So my brain hasn’t been in a journalling place lately. But maybe soon.

I am looking forward to the upcoming long weekend, though!