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World's Shortest Doctor Visit

This morning it was back to the doctor, this time to see the dermatologist as my body has developed a few blemishes which my GP thought were worth having looked at by an expert. The dermatologist looked me over and said that the two large bumps I’ve got are probably some sort of nerve cluster (if I understood her correctly), and they probably don’t need to be removed unless they bother me (which they mostly don’t). Otherwise she said I should come back in a year and she can take another look and see if any of my various mole-like blemishes have gotten any bigger. And she said to remember to put on sunscreen.

So it took longer to drive to and from the appointment than it did to actually get checked out.

In other health news, my cold is still lingering – I’ve still got the sniffles and the occasional cough. I feel better every day, but it seems like every year it takes a little longer to shake the last of my colds. It may mean I have some low-grade allergies, since ’tis the season out here in California. Debbi’s been hit much harder with this cold, with nasty coughing jags, but she’s gradually getting better, too.

No, I don’t think either of us have the swine flu, since we both showed symptoms before it hit the media (and well before any confirmed US cases). Plus, it just wasn’t as debilitating as actual flu is supposed to be. (Have I ever had actual influenza? I can’t recall.) And there was a bug going around my office just before I caught it. So I think we just have colds. Annoying.

But better than swine flu.

My pinched nerve is mostly better, but sometimes I still get a pain in my arm. I’m hoping it will eventually go away entirely, but if it doesn’t, I wonder at what point I should call my doctor and ask whether we should do something else to try to treat it.

I’m so ready to just be healthy again.

What a Series!

The first Red Sox/Yankees series of the year concluded, and it’s hard to imagine later series getting any better than this one!

Unless you’re, uh, a Yankees fan. Because the Red Sox swept the 3-game series at Fenway Park.

Friday’s game one was a 12-inning affair in which the Sox were down 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th, Jason Bay tied it with a 2-run homer, and then Kevin Youkilis hit a walk-off shot to win it. Joba Chamberlain and Jon Lester pitched well to start the game, but two of the better relievers on both teams (Mariano Rivera and Hideki Okajima) imploded later on.

Saturday’s game two was epic. I’d expected the Josh Beckett-A.J. Burnett matchup to be the series’ best chance for a pitcher’s duel, but it was anything but: Beckett imploded, giving up 8 runs in 5 innings. The Sox were down 6-0 in the 4th, but closed to 6-5 in the bottom half thanks to Jason Varitek’s grand slam. Burnett also ended up giving up 8 runs in 5 innings. The bullpens provided little relief (Okajima got hit hard again), but the Yankees’ bullpen completely melted down, leading to a 16-11 Sox win, in a little under 4-1/2 hours.

Game two included such plays as Johnny Damon being picked off base, Jorge Posada getting caught in a rundown heading for home plate and tagged out at third when two runners ended up at that base, and Jacoby Ellsbury reaching base on catcher’s interference.

Sunday’s game three will be remembered for some months for Ellsbury stealing home on Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, mainly because the Yankees had the shift on for J.D. Drew and Pettitte wasn’t really paying attention. (Video recap here.) It hardly mattered since Drew hit the next pitch for an automatic double, and the Sox won 4-1. Justin Masterson started for the Sox and pitched quite well against one of the better offenses in baseball, and then two rookie pitchers combined to shut down the Yankees the rest of the way, allowing just one hit over 3-2/3 innings. Ellsbury’s accomplishment is being overrated by fans and the media, but stealing home happens so rarely it’s quite a thing to see. Masterson was the true Sox MVP of the day.

Three hard-fought games, and the “right” team won them all (well, as far as I’m concerned!). What a great weekend of baseball!

Oh, and Sox manager Terry Francona seemed pretty happy, too:

Happy guys!

This Week’s Haul

Quite a week:

  • Ex Machina #41, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Jack of Fables #33, by Bill Willingham, Matt Sturges, Russ Braun & José Marzan Jr. (DC/Vertigo)
  • Astonishing X-Men #29, by Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi (Marvel)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #13, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker & Victor Olazaba (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hercules #128, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Dietrich Smith & Terry Pallot (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #25, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman, Tom Palmer & Juan Doe (Marvel)
  • Marvels: Eye of the Camera #5 of 6, by Kurt Busiek & Jay Anacleto (Marvel)
  • Ignition City #2 of 5, by Warren Ellis & Gianluca Pagliarani (Avatar)
  • Freakangels TPBs vol 1 and vol 2, by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield (Avatar)
  • Mister X: Condemned #4 of 4, by Dean Motter (Dark Horse)
  • Invincible #61, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
FreakAngels vol 1

FreakAngels vol 2
Ignition City may not have been very good (and this week’s issue is only a little better than the first one), but to my surprise Ellis already has a publication from Avatar which is pretty good: The collections of the FreakAngels web comic. The second collection came out this week, and I picked up both and gave them a read.

The premise is that 12 powerful telepaths/telekinetics were born at the same time, and as teenagers they managed to bring about the end of the world – or at least of civilization. Six years later, 11 of these “Freakangels” live in the Whitechapel district of London – which itself is flooded by 15 feet of water – and safeguard a few hundred survivors with their powers from outsiders who try to steal what they have. The 12th angel, Mark, had been exiled some years earlier, and at the beginning of the first book he programs a young woman, Alice, to come to Whitechapel and start killing. She’s stopped, her brain is purged of Mark’s programming and she’s recruited to help the angels with their lookouts, as she knows who they are now, and most of the people they’re guarding don’t. The first volume concerns Alice’s arrival and an open assault on Whitechapel by an enemy group, while the second involves a more covert attack.

The first two volumes of FreakAngels cover their ground slowly (each volume covers about a day’s worth of story time), I think because Ellis wants to introduce the cast and setting gradually. Despite the paranormal abilities, the series reads more like a character drama than an action/adventure series. But Ellis is mostly working in archetypes when it comes to the FreakAngels themselves: The caring doctor, the badass cop, the clever engineers, the dedicated guard, the free spirit, the bad seed, etc. So the series focuses more on how things work in WhiteChapel, and setting up the tensions among the characters, but there’s certainly the potential for a lot of drama.

Paul Duffield is certainly the best artist I’ve yet seen work with Ellis on an Avatar-published project. Although his figures seem a little stiff at times, he does have a casual, easy way with faces. His biggest strength is in drawing the backgrounds of the city of London (see, for instance, this page), and the broken or rebuilt buildings and constructs that pepper the setting. Overall he’s quite good, and the schedule he must be putting in to draw 6 pages weekly makes me all the more impressed.

FreakAngels also has Ellis’ best qualities on display: Sure he’s got a mean streak and can be quite the smartass, but ultimately his best work is about balancing freedoms and responsibilities, and setting up situations where these two aspects of life come into conflict. The FreakAngels have a sense of these qualities to varying degrees, especially given their role in shaping their world, and this is what sets the story in motion, and sets them with or against each other. While the revealing of their world is interesting in and of itself, it’s the extent to which the characters grow and come to understand these qualities which will determine high high FreakAngels sits in Ellis’ oeuvre.

Mister X: Condemned #4 The Mister X: Condemned mini-series wraps up this week. Dean Motter’s work is always stylish, interesting to look at, and evocative, but in both the original series and this one I don’t think there’s more to it than that. The plot and character are both pretty thin, and no one’s particularly sympathetic for the reader to follow.

For my money, Motter at his best can be found in Terminal City, with great artwork by Michael Lark.

Invincible #61 “The Invincible War” aftermath occurs in Invincible #61, in which last month’s devastation leaves the survivors picking up the pieces, and Invincible trying not to feel like the whole mess is his fault (though when a couple dozen parallel-world duplicates of yourself try to destroy the Earth, what how would you feel?). And then the story launches right into “Conquest”, which looks like the next go-round between Invincible and his conquering Viltrumite relatives.

This comic never seems to rest, and that’s a good thing. And Ottley’s art seems to get better every month.

Deck List: Giantbaiting Warriors

Kicking off my occasional series of Magic deck lists is this mono-green beatdown deck based on Jacob Van Lunen’s “Dear Giantbaiting” deck. For an explanation of the environment I play my decks in, read this.

My deck is largely similar to his, but I did make several changes:

4 G 1/1 Essence Warden
3 G 2/2 Nettle Sentinel
4 1G 2/2 Bramblewood Paragon
1 1G 4/3 Talara’s Battalion
4 2G 2/2 Imperious Perfect
2 (rg)(rg)(rg) 3/3 Boggart Ram-Gang
1 2GG 4/4 Chameleon Colossus
1 3GGG 3/3 Nacatl War-Pride
20 Creatures
2 XG   Hurricane
3 1G   Naturalize
4 3   Obsidian Battle-Axe
4 2(rg)   Giantbaiting
2 3G   Hunting Triad
2 2GG   Harmonize
1 2GGG   Overrun
18 Other Spells
1     Treetop Village
21     Forest
22 Lands

The neat thing about Van Lunen’s deck is that it’s built around a single card – Giantbaiting – but the cards it uses to enable that card also fit together very nicely, so it’s actually a pretty potent deck even if you never draw Giantbaiting, because ultimately it’s built around Elves and Warriors, who play together quite well.

The major changes I made to the deck are these:

  • I took out the mana-generating elves (Llanowar Elves, Boreal Druid). This deck is pretty cheap – only 2 spells cost more than 4 mana, and it runs only 22 lands – so I was rarely happy when I drew one.
  • In multiplayer, the original deck didn’t have a lot of staying power; it would stall out easily. To mitigate this, I added some Essence Wardens, since life gain works well in multiplayer, and works well with Giantbaiting, too. This tends to let me stick around to try to reload if I stall out, and I added to Harmonizes to help me reload.
  • Our environment tends to have lots of enchantments and artifacts, so Naturalize was needed. (Beatdown decks are really sad if they get thwarted by Ensnaring Bridge or Meekstone.
  • The deck needed some sort of damage-dealer, so I went with 2 Hurricanes.
  • Chameleon Colossus, Talara’s Battalion and Nacatl War-Pride are there to add some beef. Arguably I could replace any or all of them with Wren’s Run Vanquisher (which Van Lunen used). I’m not sure whether the Vanquisher or the Battalion is the better card.

Ideally the first few turns involve dropping Essence Wardens, Nettle Sentinels and Bramblewood Paragons, before either playing Giantbaiting or re-stocking with Harmonize.

This deck destroys opponents who start slowly; turn 3 or 4 Giantbaiting can put another player on the ropes even in multiplayer when unblocked. The Obsidian Battle-Axes are a little hard to use without the elvish mana acceleration, but they also tend to draw opponents’ Disenchants and Naturalizes in our game, so their utility is somewhat limited.

Bramblewood Paragon and Imperious Perfect both make Chameleon Colossus devastating, since he’s pro-black and too big for many burn spells.

I keep hoping I can play a Bramblewood Paragon/Obsidian Battle-Axe/Nacatl War-Pride combo sometime just for fun, but it hasn’t happened yet. A second Chameleon Colossus would probably be better anyway, but I don’t actually own one. But I have managed to swing for 18 in one turn with Giantbaiting (and that was after they Naturalized the Battle-Axe).

I’ll probably play around with the high-end creatures a bit (candidates include Jedit Ojanen of Efrava, Roughshod Mentor, or even Sosuke, Son of Seshiro), or see if I can add some sort of removal (a challenge in a green deck), but the core of the deck is pretty solid, and a lot of fun to play.

Laying Low

I’ve come down with another cold. Seems like I’ve been sick a lot this winter – and it’s not even winter anymore! This one hasn’t been too bad, but it has sapped my energy towards the end of the day, and I’ve been sleeping quite heavily. I’ll still be glad when it’s over. Maybe by tomorrow, since it came down on me on Thursday.

Speaking of winter, while it’s been cool recently, that’s all supposed to be coming to an end today: The forecast high for our area is close to 90°, and it may be warmer tomorrow. By Wednesday it’s supposed to get back to normal, but it’ll be hot for a few days.

So I’ve been laying low recently, trying to get over the cold. I didn’t actually stay home from work on Friday, although in retrospect I probably should have. But I always feel guilty calling in sick unless I feel really sick. Plus, I’ve been extremely productive at work recently, getting through a big stack of bug reports, and then pulling bugs off of other people and getting through those. So at least I have something to show for it.

We also helped out with Camille’s baby shower yesterday, which went over really well, it seemed. Susan and Subrata hosted it (Chad & Camille hosted Susan’s shower last year), and many of our friends-in-common attended. My energy unfortunately ran down later in the afternoon, but it was a fun time anyway.

But I’m glad that the hectic activity of the last couple of weeks has wound down, and things will be getting back to normal for a while. And if I can shake this cold, then I can actually enjoy it.

This Week’s Haul

On the one hand, I never got to last week’s haul last week. On the other hand, both last week and this week had pretty small hauls. So, without further ado:

Last week:

  • Booster Gold #19, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Green Lantern #39, by Geoff Johns, Philip Tan & Jonathan Glapion (DC)
  • Echo #11, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • Ignition City #1 of 5, by Warren Ellis & Giancula Pagliarani (Avatar)
  • B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #4 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)

This week:

  • Fables #83, by Bill Willingham, Matt Sturges, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • Incognito #3, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
Ignition City #1 I’ve thumbed through some of Warren Ellis’ series from Avatar before, and they all seemed like a dumping ground for his second-tier ideas: Violence, sex, gore, unlikeable characters, and just basically icky comics. Ellis certainly has his nasty streak, but his mainstream fare balances that with a high ideas content, a sharp sense of humor, and most importantly, a humanity which is missing from the works of, say, Mark Millar.

I’d been hearing about his new series, Ignition City for a while and thought maybe his Avatar series were going to become more enjoyable. Unfortunately, issue #1 made me feel like I’d gotten suckered; it’s better than, say, Strange Kiss, but that’s damning it with faint praise.

By 1956, when this issue takes place, humanity has been in space for some years, but is pulling back after some apparently unappetizing encounters with aliens. One by one countries are shutting down their space programs. Mary Raven is the daughter of one of the great space pilots, whose death she recently learned about. She travels to the artificial Ignition City, the last great spaceport, to collect her father’s things and find out what happened to him.

Greg Burgas covered the issue’s flaws pretty well: Several pages of scatological humor, plus a scene of gratuitous and disgusting violence. This stuff feels completely superfluous; couldn’t we have gotten some more story instead? But Burgas liked the rest of the issue a lot better than I did: I thought it was pretty boilerplate stuff, the hint of some mysteries to be unraveled, but the first issue does nothing more than set the scene and serve up some graphic violence.

There’s a suggestion that Ellis is trying to put his own spin on traditional space fantasy characters in a “Whatever happened to…” manner – I think I see analogues of Flash Gordon (Lightning Bowman) and Buck Rogers (a man named Bronco claiming to be from the 25th century) – but the resemblance here is exceedingly thin. I’m not enough of a fan of that genre to really appreciate it anyway.

Gianluca Pagliarani’s art is okay. He nails the retro-future look quite well, although his sense of perspective and facial expressions is a bit iffy. Overall his work feels unpolished when it comes to drawing the figures, although not much more so than that of many fine comics artists at the beginnings of their careers.

I wanted to like this book, but I was disappointed in it. It contains elements of books I enjoy – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Athena Voltaire, etc. – but overall it didn’t have much to offer, and plenty to dislike. With only 4 more issues, I’ll probably follow it to see how it develops, but I don’t have high hopes.

Red Sox Days

These past two evenings have been taken up with two trips to Oakland to see my Boston Red Sox in their only trip to the area this year.

Monday night we took my friend Joar and his wife Karin to their first baseball game since they moved here from Sweden a couple of years ago. We’d meant to go last year, but it never happened (mainly, I think, due to my own sloth). I don’t think either of them are really sports people, but obviously they’ve heard about the game and Joar’s seen my own enthusiasm for it on display plenty.

I explained the basics of how baseball works, which is a bigger challenge than I’d expected: What innings are, what outs are, the fielders and the batting line-up, how balls and strikes work, what foul balls and home runs are, and how outs are actually made. That doesn’t even get to things like stolen bases or double plays or pitching changes or any of that. Never mind the Seventh Inning Stretch.

All this was much easier once the game began and I could point out how the umpire indicates balls and strikes, where the foul lines are, how the runners move around the bases, etc. It really brought home how I take the play of the game for granted, having absorbed it mostly through watching a whole bunch of games as a teenager.

I think they enjoyed the game more than they’d expected, especially Karin who was watching the game quite intently as it progressed – which is saying something because it was a pretty mediocre game, as the A’s clubbed the Sox’ pitching into submission and rolled to an 8-2 victory. But we had great seats in the second deck behind home plate (and Joar nearly got his head taken off by a foul ball, but it was deflected at the last second), and it was a fairly warm night. We even saw the Red Sox pick off not one but two runners from first base in the same inning, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Next I’ll try to get them to a Giants game, hopefully for a weekend day game so they can appreciate Pac Bell Park.

Debbi and I went back last night for the second game of the series, which was considerably less fun, because the temperature was in the 40s and the wind was in the 20-30 MPH range, so it was goddamned freezing, even with the extra layers we wore. Hot cocoa and Irish coffee only staved off the chill for a few minutes.

Which is too bad because it was quite a good game: Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka melted down in the first inning (and went on the DL today), but Justin Masterson held the A’s scoreless for 4 innings, and the Sox came back to tie it 5-5. Finally we got too cold and left in the middle of the 8th, and the game was still going on by the time we got home and went to bed. I learned this morning that the A’s won 6-5 in 12 innings, so I’m rather glad we didn’t stay to the bitter end.

Of course, the Sox saved the best for today’s day game, which is a bummer, but at least they won one. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to see it.

And even more sorry they won’t be back for another visit later in the summer. Darn the unbalanced schedule anyway!

Fantasy Baseball 2009

If it’s April, then we must have had our fantasy baseball draft by now, right? Right!

Here’s the team I ended up with:

Pos Player Team Round/
Pick
Age Comments
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia TEX 5/78 23 Another year with a tandem of two half-decent catchers. At least they’re both young this year!
C Jesus Flores WAS 13/206 24
1B Albert Pujols SLN Kept 29
2B Kelly Johnson ATL 1/14 27
2B Mark Ellis OAK 21/334 31
2B/SS Clint Barmes COL 10/158 30 Wonder how long he’ll have a starting job?
3B Ryan Zimmerman WAS 2/30 24 He’s going to break out some year, right?
3B Bill Hall MIL 15/238 29
SS Derek Jeter NYA 4/62 34 As a Red Sox fan, I’m happy his bat is declining rapidly. If he does have one more great year in him, though, it’d be great if 2009 is it.
OF Daniel Murphy NYN 6/94 24
OF Chris Young ARI Kept 25
OF Josh Hamilton TEX Kept 27
OF Mike Cameron MIL 11/174 36
OF Michael Cuddyer MIN 19/302 30
OF Juan Rivera LAA 22/348 30
SP James Shields TBA Kept 26
SP Hiroki Kuroda LAN Kept 34
SP Zack Greinke KCA Kept 25
SP Edinson Volquez CIN Kept 25
SP Paul Maholm PIT 7/110 27
SP Andy Pettitte NYA 8/126 36
SP Jon Garland ARI 14/222 29
SP Anthony Reyes CLE 16/254 27
SP Ross Ohlendorf PIT 17/270 26
SP Doug Davis ARI 18/286 33
SP Jordan Zimmermann WAS 9/142 23 Should be in the Majors in a few weeks.
RP Jonathan Broxton LAN 3/46 24
RP J.J. Putz NYN 12/190 32
RP Bobby Howry SFN 20/318 35
RP Justin Masterson BOS 23/361 24

The draft this year was really weird: We got down to the end of the draft, where last year I took Paul Maholm and Zach Duke with my last two picks, and the year before I took Josh Hamilton with my last pick. This year, though, there was no one left I wanted, not role players with guaranteed starting time, not second-tier prospects, nothing. So I passed my last 5 picks. I’m not sure whether the player pool is smaller this year for some reason, or if the league as a whole is drafting better. Or maybe I’m just too picky. But I felt I’d do better waiting to see how roles change in April than drafting guys with those last 5 picks.

As usual I ended up with a bunch of quality hitters, and a pretty weak pitching staff. It seemed like the pitchers I wanted kept getting taken just before I wanted them, and there was always a good hitter I wanted more than the next other pitchers. I had especially hoped to get Josh Beckett with my first-round pick (14th overall), but he went 2 picks before me.

I feel like the rest of the league is passing me by in drafting prospects who stick, as it’s been a while since I’ve drafted a young impact player at a premium position, so I keep spending early picks on 2B, 3B, SS and even catcher (although the “two decent catchers in tandem” strategy has worked surprisingly well). And I still haven’t worked out how to draft pitchers.

But I don’t think I have a bad team. And I did finish in third place last year (out of 16), and I finish in the top half more often than not.. So maybe I’m overly pessimistic.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Flash: Rebirth #1 of 5, by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #25, by Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek (DC)
  • Avengers/Invaders #9 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski & Patrick Berkenkotter (Marvel)
  • War of Kings #2 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
  • Irredeemable #1, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom!)
  • The Boys #29, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
  • Star Trek: Crew #2 of 6, by John Byrne (IDW)
The Flash: Rebirth #1 I remarked a while back that Green Lantern was looking like Geoff Johns’ best work in comics, going back to his bringing Hal Jordan back from the dead (or the undead) in a clever and satisfying way. Now he’s trying to do the same by picking up the thread of Barry Allen – the Silver Age Flash – coming back from the dead in Final Crisis. This is a much tougher challenge, partly because Flash’s death was a heroic send-off for a character who at the time had seen his series cancelled for cause, while Green Lantern was brought down largely by editorial fiat. But also because Johns doesn’t get to construct the reason for Flash coming back, like he did for Green Lantern, and that makes The Flash: Rebirth a tough sell.

The story is okay: People other than Flash are emerging from the Speed Force, even as Flash takes in the changes in the world while he’s been gone, and watching others celebrate his return. There are some nice touches (Flash approves of how everyone’s multitasking all the time, as if they’re finally catching up to how he lives his whole life), but they’re overshadowed by what a dour sourpuss Barry is through the whole issue, focused on needing to get things done (“I can’t be late.” “Late for what?” “For whatever the rest of the world needs me for.”), without explanation for what that might be.

There’s a suggestion that Barry feels guilty over his mother’s death, that he somehow wasn’t fast enough to be there for her (especially since his father was accused of the crime), which indicates that Johns is going to be retroactively filling in details of Barry’s pre-Flash life. But the tone of the character feels completely at odds with who he was before his death, and given the commonality of heroes coming back from the dead in the DC universe, his mere return doesn’t suffice as an explanation.

As for the GL relaunch, the artist is Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver is a very detail- and rendering-oriented artist, but not the most dynamic of layout guys. Overall I like his art, but I find him a somewhat odd choice for a character as dynamic as the Flash. He evokes a feeling of speed and dynamism through “after-image” effects, copious lightning bolts, and dramatic poses. It’s not bad art by any means, but I don’t think he’s nearly as good a match for Flash as he was for GL.

There’s some interesting stuff here – mostly what’s going on with the Speed Force – but mostly the issue feels like a misfire, not really capturing what it was that made the character interesting. Certainly Barry Allen was rarely a deep character and there’s going to be some updating to give him more nuance for a modern audience, but I don’t think Johns really captured the core of the character here and that makes me wonder why he’s bothering.

Of course, I wondered why DC bothered to bring him back in the first place. But as part of the whole Final Crisis mess, at this point I assume there wasn’t really any sort of planning or intent involved.

Irredeemable #1 Ironically, the other comic I’m reviewing this week is written by the guy who’s probably most associated with the post-Barry Allen Flash franchise: Mark Waid.

So first, a digression: Grant Morrison pens the afterward to Ireedeemable #1, in which he professes surprise that Waid’s reputation is one that seems inextricably linked to nostalgia for the Silver Age and an encyclopedic knowledge of comics history. I profess such surprise myself, since that’s never been my image of Waid as a writer. (A better match for such a profile would be Geoff Johns, actually.) While Waid clearly knows his stuff where comics history and trivia is concerned (he’s noted for being unstumpable in trivia panels at comics conventions), Waid’s actual writing career has been marked by a strong focus on the current characters, and making them into first-rate heroes and villains in their own rights. This is especially evident in the keynote story of his career, “The Return of Barry Allen”, which was all about Wally West living in the shadow of his late mentor, but emerging from that shadow to become his own man.

A better summary of Waid’s career might be that he considers at length what the nature of superheroics means to the heroes themselves, and how they are defined or changed by the experience. In this way he’s not so different from Kurt Busiek – which puts him in outstanding company, I’d say.

Irredeemable seems like a natural step after his series Empire: In Empire, a villain managed to defeat all the heroes and now rules the world. In Irredeemable, the Plutonian – a Superman stand-in – suddenly turns villainous and starts killing off his former allies. Besides being dark stories, what really ties these two series together is that they’re both character dramas, with suspense both in the front-and-center storyline, and in the revelation of how things got to this point. Irredeemable suggests that it’s the little derisive comments and gradual feeling of not being appreciated that pushed the Plutonian over the line, but I expect there’s more to it than that. And what makes it really creepy is that his one-time friends and allies don’t really know anything about him (“Is he even from Earth?” “We don’t know.”).

So at worst I expect this will be a rousing chase in which the remaining heroes try to stay alive, even as they find out who the Plutonian really is and why he went bad. To some extent the artistic success of the series will depend on that revelation being sufficiently novel, although it could certainly succeed by having a strong enough character grounding rather than clever mystery reveals. I’m a little optimistic about it than is Don MacPherson, but his review is worth a read, too.

Artist Peter Krause has that solid, muscle-bound style a la Dan Jurgens, but he manages to pull off the dark scenes as well as the bright ones. He’s a solid artist, although he skimps on the backgrounds a little too much for my tastes.

Bottom line: Irredeemable feels of-a-piece with Waid’s previous work, it’s just on the darker side rather than the lighter side, and it’s an enjoyable thriller and I’m looking forward to see what happens next.

And honestly, if anyone really sees Waid as little more than the preserver of the shiny heroes of the Silver Age, then, honestly, they haven’t been reading his works very deeply.

Where The Time Goes

I haven’t had much time to update recently. A lot of this is because it’s been insanely busy at work recently, and like (I imagine) many people I scribble down things for journal entries during slow times at work. But if there aren’t any slow times, well, you get the picture.

But I’m plenty busy out of work, too. For instance:

  • I had frisbee last night. And next Thursday. And then our final tournament on Easter Sunday. And that’ll be it for the season.
  • I’m still playing Magic Monday nights.
  • It turns out there’s a regular Tuesday night poker game near my house. I went by this week, but only one other person showed up, so it was cancelled. But not before I walked over.
  • I’ve been going over my taxes from my CPA. Every year I find something that confuses me, so this always takes longer than I think it should. I have yet to find an actual error in her work, though!
  • Our homeowners association is looking at treating our buildings for termites. I’m mostly staying out of it, but I still read the updates. This is going to be a real pain in the ass if we tent our building, mainly in that we’ll have to figure out what to do with the cats for several days. Ideally we can stay in a pet-friendly hotel, but we’ll see.
  • My friend Karen is visiting this weekend, for her birthday, so we’ll likely be all around the Bay Area over two days. This also means we’ve been cleaning a lot this week, especially to cut down on the cat dander.
  • Next weekend is our fantasy baseball draft, so I’ve been preparing for that, which is a time sink. (Keeper lists are due tomorrow.)
  • I’ve been doing some weeding and tree-trimming in the back yard, in advance of all the spring greenery coming in.
  • I still need to order tickets to the Red Sox/A’s games, which are the week after Easter.

It’s hard to wedge journal entries into all of that. But after the Sox games, life should go back to normal, I think. (Well, until we tent for termites.)

I think my pinched nerve is slowly getting better. Yesterday was the first day in quite a while when I didn’t notice any pain in my arm (until I played frisbee, which aggravated it). I take that as a good sign. But it’s still not all better, as I do get the bicep soreness regularly, and the hand tingling occasionally. So I suspect it will be a while yet. The doctor didn’t say how long I should wait if it doesn’t go completely away before I contact him again. But hopefully it won’t be an issue, and it will in fact heal over the next few weeks.

I’m still grateful that it’s merely annoying and not impairing; it could have been so much worse.

My physical exam was pretty routine. I still need to lose weight, so I’m trying to cut back my eating a bit (which is all it takes, really, given time). I need to make an appointment to see a dermatologist, since I have a few odd marks on my skin. My doctor said none of them look alarming to him, but he thought it’s worth my getting checked out by an expert just to be safe.

So that’s what’s going on. I may update only sporadically for a couple of weeks, but I’ll be back!