Thursday, May 31, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 7: Batman Annual #1

The month of Owls ends with the Batman Annual this week, and to be honest, this event more or less just happens during the Night of the Owls.

That said, it ties in just enough to count and the story content definitely makes it worth a buy. I would note that the annual is $4.99, so it is an additional two bucks, but for the pure purpose of discussion and understanding of the Mr. Freeze character, this book would be worth a normal buy price. With Scott Snyder's writing and brilliant art from Jason Fabok, this is totally worth the price of admission.

I gave my overall assessment of this first Annual of the New 52 Batman era because most of this will be discussion on the new revelations that were revealed here. First off, for those who want to know the plot, Freeze is escaping Arkham in order to get to Bruce Wayne, who apparently has Nora's pod in his possession.

This leads to the major change in Freeze's character that everyone will be talking about. I don't want to put it on here because I don't post major spoilers, but rest assured, it alters the way Freeze will be viewed in the minds of readers.

The Paul Dini backstory changed Freeze from a cookie-cutter gimmick villain into a Shakespearean tragedy. These changes make him a sociopath who likes the unchanging nature of frozen things because they allow him to hold onto their ideals.

While taken on its own, it's not a terrible characterization, but to a degree, Batman had that in the Mad Hatter. He used mind control to mold the world to his ideals because he lacked the ability to fit into society normally and did not want to simply fall into a role.

Of course, based on the Hatter's appearance in Batman: TDK it may be that his characterization is changed as well. The question is whether or not these changes are good.

Personally, I don't like the roles that have come to Freeze and the Hatter. Freeze has been a fun character to have in the books since the TV series because while his actions were evil, you had legitimate sympathy. Given what he had been through, you wanted to see him arrested while also wanting to see him succeed and finally have his wife at his side.

There is really no sympathy in the character now. This is especially seen in the closing flashback to his mother. My take on it was that he did what he did because she was no longer the person he loved from the opening flashback, which is actually a pretty disgusting act.

All this said, I didn't much like the Bruce Wayne character here. He was not good at diffusing situations and in many ways caused many of his own problems with Fries. His lessons also didn't appear to be learned in the present, as he was incredibly rude to him there as well.

Oh, and that raises another interesting point: Bruce Wayne just got back from training to be Batman six years ago. Yes, the entire Batman universe's history has been condensed into six years.

You want continuity problems, how's this one? Damian Wayne. This implies he met Talia, which changes the natural progression of the Bruce-Ra's dynamic.

Once again, this is overall a good story, but it has caused a lot of universe problems that need to be worked out.

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 1 Review

For those who don't know me personally, I am a HUGE fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe (known as The Legend of Aang in some countries reading this).

I loved all three Books in the original series. I love the new Legend of Korra series. And I even love parts of the Last Airbender movie (though it is still a plot-based nightmare with bad writing and unnatural-looking bending.)

I am also obviously a fan of comics, as seen by the massive slew of Night of the Owls coverage that has pretty much held this blog hostage for more than a month. So comics of Avatar are a match made in heaven.

From what I've gathered there are a few comics that are considered canon. "Zuko's Story" serves as a canonical prequel to the series (though they make the characters look like the movie, which is lame). Also, there are a collection of Avatar comics that Dark Horse Comics has provided, in which all the comics are ruled canon except the last two.

When I have time (and money), I will buy both of those and review them, but the one I'm talking about today is "The Promise." This is a direct sequel to the series, taking place just before the final scene and carrying on about a year beyond that.

This is a three-part graphic novel, and I actually just purchased Part 2, which came out yesterday. However, before I open that book and read it, I need to review Part 1 for everybody.

Basically, we begin with the first couple of pages of panels mimicking the introduction monologue. In the early stages, Katara takes on her role as the omniscient narrator, and concludes the normal introduction by saying that "She was right" about Aang being able to save the world.

Before I go any further, let me say that the art in this comic is brilliant and very close to the quality of in-show still shots. There are a few panels where Katara has too square-cut and masculine a face and Sokka's chin looks bizarre, but they can be attributed to the angle, so I don't detract too many points for it.

From the intro, Fire Lord Zuko, Avatar Aang, Earth King Kuei and the other original Team Avatar members make a decision to remove the Fire Nation colonials from the Earth Kingdom in what Sokka dubs the Harmony Restoration Movement.

This scene feels exactly like the series, and with the exception of Zuko referring to Kuei by his full title, I could have seen the voice actors doing a scene like this in the series.

Anyway, the next scene begins the Kataang follow-up everyone wanted to see. I liked some of it, specifically Sokka's interrupting immediately after the closing moments of the animated series and Katara going on a rampage after Aang catches fire later in the story.

That said, the lovey-dovey stuff felt forced and a little out of place. I can kind of see Aang saying "sweetie" and could see Katara oblige it, but not as frequently as they did it and especially not during a fight scene. It was fan service taken to obscene levels in order to appease Kataang fans upset that the relationship took a backseat for five episodes in Book 3.

The other big plot point is that Fire Nation people who liked what Ozai was doing are livid at Zuko and have tried to assassinate him on six occasions in a year (including the one in this book). When he returns the assassin back to the original Fire Nation colony of Yu Dao, a big problem with the world has been realized: While new colonies were easy to remove, older colonies had no memory of even the early struggles. In even the earthbenders' minds, they are Fire Nation citizens and there is even cross-breeding going on.

(Incidentally, I love how Zuko looks at the cross-marriage in a state of near shock. It shows how segregated the world was and how a unification of families was a game-changer that requires everyone to rethink how to go about peace.)

Also, Zuko's scene with his father was entertaining in that they teased the mother story, but Ozai used it as a bait and switch to mess with Zuko's confidence, something that got to him later on in the story.

Moving on, though, I did find some issues with certain plot points. One is that Aang goes back out of control in the Avatar State. I thought we'd moved past this, and Aang now had control of the State. I get that he is still young and can lose control of himself, but how many times does Katara have to stop a supernatural rage? That's an odd part of a relationship description.

One problem I also have is that Suki is brought in (with Ty Lee) to guard Zuko and yet nothing is raised about her dating Sokka. It's not a major plot point, but that relationship got no acknowledgment whatsoever. (I blame the writer being a Tokka fan.)

I won't be going much further into the plot because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Needless to say, though, this needs to be purchased.

I would be inclined to say that this story is of high enough quality that with proper fleshing out, it could be the first part of a three-part animated special. I will now read Part 2, and give more of my thoughts on the matter very soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: World's Finest #1 and Dial-H #1

With the month of May ending, I should round out the May issues I've read, so I'm going to do that here!

World's Finest #1

The return of a legendary comic title, this one focuses on Earth-2's Supergirl and Robin, who will operate as Earth-1's Power Girl and Huntress.

This causes a bit of confusion for the DC Multiverse in that this has to establish New Earth as the planet of the mainstream universe. Otherwise, Helena Bertinelli may very well be a creation of Helena Wayne in this new canon.

Anyway, I did enjoy this story, as much of it was done explaining what happened in the five-year interval since they changed universes. Helena is more focused on protecting the world she now resides in, while Power Girl only gains success in order to build a way home.

It isn't until the two's office building burns down that Supergirl becomes Power Girl and she really joins in with the Huntress.

Overall, it's not bad, but it has a fatal flaw: Dependency. World's Finest has the issue of being too dependent on the Earth-2 book, and maybe that is necessary and eventually will change, but the issue feels incomplete.

This would serve much better as a side story. I wouldn't buy it unless you plan on following Earth-2 religiously, as there may be some backstory in this book

Dial-H #1

For those who never saw it, Dial-H was originally a book about a character who would receive a random superpower through the use of a random phone booth. This is the same gimmick and it is amazing.

Nelson Jent serves as the main character in this book and he serves as a very relatable character here. He goes to call the police and is changed into a vigilante who doesn't appear to have any rules.

The tone of this book is dark and both the heroic and villainous characters are disturbing but in a good way. In many ways, it felt like a Tim Burton-esque art performance.

There doesn't really appear to be a long-running storyline (at least in this issue), but it serves as simply a fun read on a month-by-month basis.

If you can suspend your disbelief of a phone booth still existing in 2012, you will be able to enjoy this book. I'll be interested to see how long they can keep this idea fresh.

Maybe they'll return to the 'fans pick the power next month' gimmick.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 6: Batman:The Dark Knight #9 and All-Star Western #9

The Night of the Owls crossover event is nearly at its conclusion, as the 10th and 11th entries came out on the fourth Wednesday of this month.

Before I get into them, I want to let everyone know how next week's releases will go. I will review the Batman Annual - the final May installment of NOTO - and then, I will rank all of the entries in the crossover from 1 to 10.

Yes, I know there are 12. However, I won't include the annual because it has the advantage of being longer and (from the sounds of it) doubling as a Mr. Freeze story. I also won't include All-Star Western for reasons that I will explain in its review.

So let's get to it!

All-Star Western #9

This is the first review of a non-Bat Book I've done in the DC Universe, and boy do I hope the rest aren't like this!

The actual storylines aren't terrible. Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham stage a sting on a gang called the "August 7" and are helped by 19th century heroes Nighthawk and Cinnamon. I like how Nighthawk reminded me a lot of Nightwing, but they were simply passable.

Tallulah Black makes a return during a land discussion, weeks after Hex stops a Talon from hunting down a man.

My biggest gripe is that unless the Talon is going to remain a part of this arc, she had no use whatsoever in this story. It could have just as easily been any other assassin.. So the big reason I wanted the book was not even that big of a deal.

The art was OK, but it was not a style I enjoy. Moreover, the women here seemed to be dressed suggestively and tied up simply to get some T&A and S&M excitement.

Cinnamon and Nighthawk had a pretty fun backup story, but the art wasn't fun to look at and it didn't add value to the book.

I'm sure plenty of people like this book and find entertainment in it. I am not one of those people. For $2.99 if I buy expecting owls, I'd better see a good deal of owls.

This will count as my Wild Card coverage of this book because much like the Jonah Hex movie, I don't like this character, I don't care about this character, and I really got no enjoyment in his story.

Batman: The Dark Knight #9

Well if it isn't our old friend TDK!

Speaking of false advertising, I've been hearing about Red Robin's presence in this book for weeks, and he's even the focus of the cover! So imagine my surprise when he is in all of ONE panel and gets no dialogue.

Thankfully, what this book failed to live up to on the Red Robin end, it more than made up for on the Talon end. They also mentioned the Talon's point of view dominating the story, and that is accurate.

I will say that I actually got emotionally behind this guy. He was the second-to-most-recent Talon, as Dick Grayson has been found and Batman interrupts his last mission.

As such, this Talon had an interesting dynamic going where he actually did fear Batman, and he wasn't as strong as his other brethren because he had just recently been revived.

It was a nice touch being able to see the fight for Lincoln March's life from Batman #9 from the point of view of the Talon. Even if it didn't have Red Robin.

I'll give Judd Winick his due: With this being his last issue, he did a great job with it, even if I do believe the whole fear motif for the Talon was a little forced to lead into the upcoming Scarecrow arc.

Overall, I'll say this was a really nice tie-in. It did something unique by changing the point of view while also getting me excited to see the Night of the Owls arc conclude in the next three issues of Batman.

Before I finish, I do want to mention that Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. Volume 2 #1 came out as well. I will be reviewing it as the Wild Card next month, once I switch back to the original format I set.

I haven't read a great deal of Grant's work, and with the New 52 being instituted, even if I did there would be changes. For those who need background, IGN did a great guide to the world of Morrison and his "Batgod" persona for the Dark Knight.

I'll probably also buy "Leviathan Strikes!" and read reviews of Volume 1's issues to sort out what I missed, so hopefully it will make sense. If not, I have enough awesome Bat titles to keep me satisfied!

Comic Book Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 5: Catwoman #9 and Birds of Prey #9

The Owls... THE OWLS!!!

If there were Batman fans who didn't like the Court of Owls, this month has to be their own personal hell.

This crossover event has gone through all the Bat-titles but Batwoman (though as incoherent as that storyline is, it might as well have some connection no one has found yet).

As such, here are the only two books that didn't get Wild Card coverage yet: Catwoman and Birds of Prey.

Catwoman #9

So I have not followed this book at all, and honestly I'd rather not because I want this generation to have the chance to see Catwoman as the pure villain she was originally (even if it's brief).
As such, I have no idea who this guy is that Selina is working with (and I don't care), but all that's needed is that the two want to steal a bunch of Owl-based swords from the Penguin, while a Talon is hunting Cobblepot at the same time.

This honor-based Talon reminded me very much of Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender in his desire to capture his way back into good favor. He wasn't buried in his Talon suit and his swords were lost. (See where this is going?)

Anyway, the Talon does badass Talon things and is really well written given his honor shtick.

Penguin was written FAR better in this book than he was in Detective a couple months back, and for that, this book gets points. I'm not sure how much I like the story since there was no real connection for Catwoman on this one.

It's a fun read, and I'd recommend its purchase, but when I rank the NOTO stories next week, I feel this one will sit toward the bottom.

It certainly did not make me want to pick up this book again, so in the area of bringing new readers in through the crossover, I feel the jump will be a one-shot deal.

Birds of Prey #9

On the other hand, if I had a little more emotional investment in the Black Canary or Poison Ivy characters, I would absolutely consider adding this franchise to my pull list.

This installment was absolutely fantastic. The Talon was a total BOSS. No ultra-complex backstory, no pity, no redemption. Just a guy who wanted justice, thought the Court brought it, and did badass things to make their ideals happen.

The art was done beautifully and I really appreciate that there wasn't a whole bunch of fan service dragging it down.

These characters are DC staples and it's great to see them respected as such. Between the sexified Catwoman, super-horny Starfire in RHATO #1 and that... Rabbit... thing in Batman: The Dark Knight, female characters being written and drawn as true heroes or villains properly on a consistent basis.

Ivy's run-in with the Talon was only mentioned tangentially, which is a shame because I wanted to see that fight. Same with the second fight. I'm not sure what the deal was, but Ivy got little play here.

That is probably the reason why I won't continue reading this book: It ended by teasing an Ivy story when that was the character who got the least panel time.

Also, I didn't like how the group talked about Batman like a celebrity. Having this fangirl vibe makes the group look like a C-squad, and that's not a good way to sell the team. This is an incredibly well-done group, but little things like that hurt the credibility that give readers the urgency to pick up the book.

I'd definitely buy this book, and if you have the budget, I'd give #10 a shot next month to see how the team feels without the Owl tie-in. The problem will be that with all the big-deal books in DC and Marvel, I'm not sure such a purchase can be continuously justified unless you really connect with a character.

Only a few books left in the crossover! Stay tuned.

Comic Book Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 4: Nightwing #9 and Red Hood & The Outlaws #9

Wow, I am WAY behind on these reviews!

OK, so I have to catch everyone up over the next three entries on SIX books, so be prepared for a busy day of blogging.

Also, for whatever group of people was following AVX on here, I will not be continuing it. Nothing against Marvel, but I have a limited comic budget that does not allow for crazy stories that don't do much plot-wise unless you buy every freaking entry in the crossover (which, by the way, would probably cost me more than $60 a month).

So yeah, long story short, let's do Nightwing and Red Hood on this one.

Nightwing #9

Dick Grayson's part in this crossover ends here, but in many ways, he has been more of an integral part of this crossover than Batman.

This story shows it. In this issue, we get the second part of William Cobb's background and find out why the name "Grayson" was used.

I'll admit the backstory was something that I had never considered. I know many won't like the retcon because it adds a weird element to the Bruce and Dick stories of the Silver and Bronze ages, but as a lifelong Dick Grayson fan, I loved this.

Not only did it add a Gotham element to Dick's backstory, it makes the character even greater to follow, as he was a destined hero who rose above an assassin career that most thought was his true destiny. In many ways, it almost feels like the great background of Raven, except it didn't require Dick to be evil first. (Renegade DOESN'T COUNT.)

As for the battle itself, it was good, though Dick claiming he led Cobb into the tunnels didn't have the badass feel I think they were going for. It seemed more like an "Oh, I meant to do that" kind of moment.

The next arc to Nightwing's story should really give a feel for what the character truly is going to be in this New 52 world, so I'm looking forward to it.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #9

Since we talked the original Robin, let's talk the second Robin. (By the way, how cool will it be next month when all the male Robins meet up? But I digress.)

Jason Todd, Starfire and Arsenal make the trip to save Mr. Freeze from one of the Talons. One question here, though, is if sub-zero temperatures weaken the Talons' regeneration ability, how had Freeze not beaten this guy yet?

If you can think up a reasonable explanation for that, this is a pretty fun read. Kori and Roy learn a great deal about Freeze's motivations in life (though I don't think the whole backstory was given to Kori), though I will admit that the dialogue was really trying to force us to have sympathy for Freeze.

I don't feel it worked. Those who know the backstory already had sympathy, so this felt forced. New readers have no earthly idea what this "love" motivation is, so this little diatribe after the fight probably should have been omitted for the Batman Annual next week to explain.

Speaking of which, one thing I loved in this book was how it tied into other books in the crossover. Besides the annual, the last scene of this book doubled as the epilogue to the Batgirl story, and that was pretty cool. Heck, Batgirl may have been better drawn by Team Hoodie.

However, both these books made me think the Owls have some psychologically messed up Talons. The training must have needed adjusting quite often, because between the super-depressing Batgirl Talon, and this semi-suicidal Talon, I have to question how strong a society this group really is. It seems like their practices lead to quite a few problems.

(Though, to be fair, taking children and training them to be crime-fighters so early in life may be a problem. Jason's bloodlust for vengeance is a good example.)

Overall, this book is awesome and definitely worth the price. The depth added to it makes it an integral part of the event.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 3 - Batman #9, Batgirl #9, and Batman & Robin #9

Batman: The book so epic, it takes up review space on weeks it doesn't come out!

OK, so for those who have yet to hit the comic stores, Scott Snyder moved his title's release date up a week (switching places with Batwoman) so that it is easier to follow the events of each story.

For those curious, I'd say that of the three today, Batman and Robin needs to come first in your reading order, as part of that scene is referenced in Batgirl. It's not key to the Batgirl plot, though, so those two could be interchangeable, but Batman absolutely needs to be the final read of the day.

I'd note as well that Snyder's book shows Batman take on two missions, but it skips to the second one. That is because the first mission was seen in Detective Comics one week ago. You can read about that here.

Well, there's the background. Let's get to the reviews!

Batman and Robin #9

I will review these in the order I just suggested, though I did read this second (after Batgirl). In this book, Damian Wayne (Robin) is the first to contact Alfred after he gives his announcement to the Bat-family.

He wants to help his dad, but Alfred sends him to save the head of the Gotham National Guard units. He is being stalked by a Talon who was supposed to kill his ancestors during the American Revolution.

I did enjoy one bit of subtlety in Damian's violent background. When the general told the soldiers to start loading live ammo, Damian actually had to ask what they had been using before. Because of his time with his mother, Talia al-Ghul, it could be taken that the use of blanks was not even a thought in his mind. Nice job, Peter Tomasi, though your "Robin Hears a HOO" title was partly clever, partly goofy.

This story was brilliant in so many ways and I deeply enjoyed the battle that ensued here. The change in artist for the two-page background on the Talon was a wise decision that gave the backstory the old-time feel it needed.

Moreover, it made the Talon a menace and a threat while bringing the relationship with his victim full-circle.

This story absolutely should be bought. Tomasi's team is doing brilliant work. It is Scott Snyder caliber story-telling without as much overarching into other titles.

Batgirl #9

I can genuinely say that by the end of this story, I actually felt bad for a Talon. And for once, the Court of Owls didn't simply behave like cruel jerks.

The Talon in this book was a victim of a Japanese paper balloon bombing during World War II. (Read it. It will make sense if you don't get it.)

This story made the mask of the Talon work as more than just a symbol of the Court. It became a connection for the Talon when fighting Batgirl.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is forced to keep silent at the Court's demand while news from attacks in the other books are brought in. Gordon's mental state and desire to still be a hero here is admirable.

What makes it even better, though, is that the Court anticipated it, making Gordon's actions the means that allow the Court to leave a stamp on the city.

This is the best Batgirl book since the first arc, so needless to say I was happy about this. Hopefully the month of Owl work has allowed Gail Simone to get the creative juices flowing, and this caliber of work will continue in the next arc.

Batman #9

As I said in the prelude of this blog, the biggest complaint that could be made here is that one of Batman's two missions is in another book, so you will have to buy two $3.99 books to get his whole story.

That said, this book was awesome. If Detective was not worth the extra dollar, Batman made up for it by probably being worth a dollar further (if only because it's the centerpiece of this event).

Batman's metal suit is barely holding as temperatures dip down in the cave. He is waiting for the regenerative serums in the Talons to be disabled by the cold so that the fight can finish.

Throughout this, Batman thinks back to when his family first bought the land and his ancestors solved their bat infestation by buying a bunch of owls to kill them. This is predictable, but it was really awesome and needed to be used. This whole story is about Batman being hunted by the Owls, so that parallelism is too easy not to use.

Anyway, Batman finally is able to defeat the Talons in the cave (even running one over with the Batmobile) and he asks for people to save. Alfred gives him the list, and only two people haven't either been saved or killed. The first person is saved in Detective, so the story jumps to the second.

Batman's conversation with Lincoln March (the second victim he went after) sets up a turning point in Bruce's mind, and it sets up the story from here well.

The backup story is the first of a three-part background on Jarvis Pennyworth, Alfred's father. This goes into  how he blames himself for something (to be explained) and how Alfred should never come to work for Bruce.

Unlike the Two-Face story, which is very uncharacteristic of the character, this piece focuses on a lesser-known member of the Batman mythos, so the characterization isn't bad. Moreover, it's still seen that Alfred's father did care for the Waynes, and he was regretful as to whatever was happening.

I won't be able to really judge it until it's finished, but it certainly has my interest.

I'll see you all for Part 3 next week! Also, since my wild-card portion had to be cut for Batman, and there will be plenty of books next week, I'll have a World's Finest and Dial-H review in the coming days.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What's all this now? A final page to close a chapter of my life?

When I left my college's newspaper at the end of 2011, there really wasn't much left for me. I had nearly tripled paid employment, saw the budget through a $60,000 debt, and became the first Editor-in-Chief in the paper's history to win multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.

I had learned so much, and in all honesty, staying one more semester in any capacity would have been less about learning (which is the purpose of a student newspaper) and more about passing on information. I love journalism and learning about it. As such, leaving for a job where there was still room to learn really wasn't even a question once it was my presence would do little more than stunt the growth of my successor.

The one downside, however, is that I didn't get to publish my outgoing editorial (known at the paper as a "Chief Insight" when only the EIC writes it). Since this is a general blog still, though, I will post it here.

I wanted to make a memorable gimmick, so there are a lot of Beatles references. Try to count them all!

More importantly, I did make a few edits, but it is essentially identical to the draft and has the same points of advice.

But that will be posted in my next blog post. Something must be done first.

I wanted the piece to be my parting words for a campus, so there's not much in the way of thank yous there. As such, I am going to do that here:

The first person I need to thank is April Corbin, the editor-in-chief who took my application. If there's one thing I learned in my time at The Rebel Yell, it's that new writers have no idea what to expect and the attitude of the editor they talk to can decide whether they stay or seek other options.

When I thought about how I needed to treat new people, I looked to the way you talked to me and recruited. Add in all the areas where you helped me after I became EIC, and you really did have an impact on my work.

Next up is Matt Maxson, Sports Editor that year and my first editor. The skills you taught me early on about game reporting are still used by me today. Moreover, you taught me the importance of keeping on a deadline and made me always strive to reach them as often as I could.

To Jorge Labrador, my EIC predecessor, what can I say, you got me back into comics (which in itself deserves a medal). But most importantly, you had faith in the job I did and gave me responsibilities my second semester with you that gave me the confidence of a leader. I felt ready to take on the EIC job because you helped make me ready to do so.

To Yamini Piplani, my first Managing Editor, you epitomized what that position needs to be. You always acted in the best interests of the paper and were able to cover areas where I was weaker while making sure I knew how to do it when you left. You were willing to debate me when we disagreed, but in any case, you spoke vehemently as to the merits of our decision to anyone who detracted. I gained so much of my strength to manage through working with you.

To Leslie Ventura, you worked with me on more issues than any other staffer, and it was an absolute pleasure working with you. Whether it was single-handedly running the News section or taking the Arts & Entertainment section to new heights, you showed tremendous growth and evolution over your career. I know you'll have great success, and I can honestly say you are the model as to what a collegiate newspaper staffer should be.

To Maria Agreda (sorry, the computer won't allow me to do an accent mark for some reason), HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! SUCKER!

In all seriousness, though, congrats on winning the position for next year. It's absolutely well-deserved. I know how much you put into your News section and the SPJ award reflects it. I know you're entering with some challenges, but get the right person at your right hand and you'll be fine. Best of luck and don't stress; once you start having success, your detractors ... well, they'll get louder, but they won't have much of a leg to stand on :D

To Rick Velotta, Mary Hausch, Steve Sebelius, Catherine Bacos, Dave Nourse and Damon Seiters: Thank you all for teaching me the many varied skills that I was able to use both in the paper and in my other jobs. I am the journalist I am because of all of you. (and other professors. Thank you all too.)

Most of all, I want to thank the readers of the paper. You all are the reason I worked my butt off for seven semesters across multiple capacities: to provide you campus information. I know there were at least 2,000 of you at any one time, and when this paper was bad, you made sure I knew it. I might not have been as driven to produce a great product if not for all your support. Though the pickup I observed recently indicates many of you have left, I hope you all keep being discerning readers because you're that drive that makes layouts work to be a little crisper, stories to be more reader-driven and copy to be cleaner.

I could go through everyone else, but this blog is getting too long already, so I'll list as many as I can here and give a general message:

To Pashtana Usufzy, Maria Roncal, Eric Loy, Sage Sammons, Lisa Rush, Nikki Villoria, Jen Miller, Tiffany Allen, Haley Etchison, Maddie Edgerton, Vanessa Jaramillo-Cano (Gomez), Chris Dinh, Quinton San Diego, Samantha Lantefield, Pamela Williams (now Harmer), Jamie Bichelman, Ian Whitaker, Nathan Warner, Keith Nathan, Alexia Gyorody, Hannah Birch, Blaire Ritter, Steven Slivka, Alexi Layton, Danny Webster, Cole Peterson, Dany Haniff, Katrina Concepcion, Rob Ponte, Holly Walker, Kristen Stein, Lucy Glover, Priya Mathews, David Cleveland, Julie Ann Formoso, Matthew Jarzen (of Course!), Garrett Estrada, Shevelle Chambers, all the writers and photographers I missed and all the sources I've met:

(Breathes deeply to catch breath)

Thank you all for working with me in whatever capacity you did during my time at UNLV. It was a joy knowing all of you.

I realize I left some of you on any variety of terms ranging from excellent to poor, but know this: No matter what I consider you important to my life. If you're on good terms, sorry I couldn't give a more in-depth piece on you; if you're on bad terms, I am a person who doesn't hold grudges, and if you want to put the past away, all you need to do is ask; if you're on indifferent terms, well, you probably found this Googling your name and it's six months from now - GREETINGS FROM THE PAST!

In closing, I've been loved and hated throughout my collegiate career, which is the mark of either a really good or bad leader, and I'm grateful to be able to look at those I employed and what we accomplished and know where I stand. I'll leave you with my favorite Bible verse, though for those who aren't Christian, I'll secularize it right after

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." - James 1:2-3

Do not fear adversity, because through it you become a stronger, better person. - Sean's horribly simplified paraphrases #1.

I wish you all the best, and good luck to you all!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 2 - Detective Comics #9 and Batwing #9

If you don't like owls, you're going to hate Batman comics for the next month.

Besides Batwoman and  the returning Batman, Inc., all Bat-titles (as well as All-Star Western) are involved in the Night of the Owls crossover event.

Kudos go out to Scott Snyder, who has produced one of the most exciting Batman storylines in quite some time.

It took me three comic book stores, but I've got the first two legs of the event here:

Detective Comics #9

This issue, according to writer Tony S. Daniel, serves as an interlude between Batman #8 and #9, and it shows quite the story.

The issue takes place on Arkham Island, where Jeremiah Arkham wants to remain in his asylum despite guards demanding that he evacuate before the Talons arrive with their kill order.

The story actually turns out to be quite useful for continuity, as it reveals one character still being alive, while confirming his history with Arkham. (If you know Jeremiah Arkham's history, you'll know pretty quickly who I'm talking about.)

Batman breaks into the Asylum to fight off three (yes, three) Talons who have come for Arkham. Inevitably, though, he needs to knock out Arkham himself (because he needs to be confined to his asylum in his mind than most of the people in the asylum) in order to get him out.

This book did a nice job teasing a whole bunch of upcoming books: Nighwing, Batman, Birds of Prey, each got noted here. It's nice to see the supposed flagship doing a strong tease job for so many titles.

The art in this issue was incredible, though the first exchange of dialogue felt pointless and needed a couple of read-throughs to make sense.

Additionally, the book is $1 more because of the Two-Face side story being continued here. The story is kind of interesting, but the art makes the story hard to follow at times. A man like Two-Face should not be hard to identify!

Moreover, the story is confusing at times and feels like stuff is missing. I know it's because the story is being broken up across issues and needs to keep interest, but it really drags it down.

Overall, I'd say the side story is not worth the extra dollar. The main story itself lives up to the traditional price, though. Read through it in the store, but only buy if you're collecting or if your store managers are weirdos who have issues with people taking the books out of their jackets in the store.

Batwing #9

Ok, so a brief story: I had gone to Alternate Reality Comics near my school to pick up the NOTO books, but they weren't available because DC short-changed them on their inventory.

So I went to Maximum Comics, where I keep a pull box. They had Detective but not Batwing because it had sold out. This forced me to go to a third store to get it.

Considering how many stores I had to go to to get Batwing, this means one of three things: 1. There's a huge market for a black Batman near Maximum. 2. This NOTO event is going to sell out any book that doesn't already plan for collectors (like Detective). 3. The story is really freaking awesome!

Thankfully, the third option actually is correct in this case.

Batwing/David gets a suit upgrade from Lucius Fox and then attends a dinner event where a government leader who committed vicious executions is present.

Eventually, one Talon (who was apparently fired for being too brutal) tries to take out Fox. When Fox is hidden, the Talon takes the Prime Minister hostage, leading to an important decision for Batwing.

A few questions were left for me, like what exactly this Batman, Inc. event was that had government leaders present, and how no one could deduce who was behind the mask.

That said, for those plot holes it was an enjoyable read. The art was good, the Talon was expertly detailed, and for once Batwing was really able to stand on his own without the Bat-family's assistance while in Gotham.

It's not as good as Detective, but it's worth a look and possibly a buy. And yes, it is only worth a buy because it knew not to add a bad side story and charge an additional dollar for such "entertainment."

Comic Reviews: Earth-2 #1, Avengers vs. X-Men #3 (and #2 finally!)

Ok, so although I have been waiting anxiously for the Night of the Owls event, DC royally screwed over Alternate Reality Comics near my school and short-changed them on their shipments.

So I'll start out by reviewing the AVX crossover that I missed two weeks ago and its latest installment, but first, let us examine the return of the DC Multiverse!

Earth-2 #1

I was curious how they would handle the Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman characters here since Earth-1 versions already exist. Luckily, the way they handled it made the comparison incredibly easy to summarize. Patrick, do the honors for me!

Thank you. Yes, the entire focus of the first issue is killing off the Trinity of classic heroes in the most epic ways possible.

So for those of you who actively seek the death of DC's heroes in their own books, you got the chance here. And I will say that each death was done amazingly well.

I think Batman's was the best because it was the most selfless and he knew from the start that it was coming. Superman's was next best due to the sheer volume of attackers needed to finish him. And Wonder Woman's, while it was quite possibly the most awesome kill page I've seen, was weakest in that it was basically over-aggression opening her up to a sneak attack

The last of the book sets up the Jay Garrick Flash and Alan Scott Green Lantern. Also, it becomes very clear why the Flash of this world uses the costume he does after seeing this book.

Overall, I loved this issue. It showed the Golden Age heroes being the heroes they always were and the clean art gave this whole book a Golden-Age feel.

I'll admit, part of me was worried about the return of the multiverse. DC just retconned its way out of a lot of its convoluted continuity, and even still it's hard to tell what is canon. Adding multiple earths to the mix could easily add to the problem less than a year into the New 52.

That said, the Justice Society of America seems to have a massive fan base, and I actually am interested in seeing how these incarnations of Flash and Green Lantern (two of my favorite versions of the characters, by the way) develop here.

It's an extra dollar, but given what is in this book, I'd say it's a well-advised investment of time and money.

AVX #2

Sorry for the delay on this one. I actually spaced on it until I picked up the one today.

I enjoyed AVX #2 because of its straightforward, "let's kick each other's asses" mindset and the issue was really just everyone beating each other up.

Additionally, seeing Hope go out on her own at the end sets up the drama of a search nicely.

The problem with this book is that no one seems to be likable. The Avengers are a little less insane right now, but they're all just being ridiculously brutal with each other, and the only people besides Hope who are likable are only that way because they haven't had enough screen time to be jackasses to each other.

This book is good if you plan on seeing the storyline through, and it's serviceable otherwise, but it needed to step up in Issue #3 if it wanted to keep my $3.99.


And lo and behold, they actually stepped up... on the fight scenes and plot anyway.

Besides the fact that this is one of the most epic covers of the year, the storyline finally made use of the fact that Wolverine is really a 'tweener in this fight.

Once again, though, the whole unlikable thing reared its ugly head, as he may be the most deranged of all the characters. I found myself actually liking Captain America more simply because he was holding to a no-kill order while Wolverine was going all League of Assassins on us.

That quickly changed, however, when Cap has his boys gang up on Wolverine and KICK HIM OUT OF A MOVING AIRSHIP. I mean I guess they figured he would survive, but this is a serious problem with Marvel. All of their heroes are capable of being so unlikable by virtue of being so human simultaneously.

The thing is, when you have the ability to kill with your bare hands easier than most humans, actions like this don't make you seem human; they make you seem like a douchebag.

Why should I like anyone in this storyline? Hope is the only one sort of acting alright, and she'll probably end up blowing something up with people on it by the end of it if the Phoenix has its way.

I'm tempted to switch to the VS book so that plot and dialogue don't get in the way of the awesome fight sequences. (By the way, Cap vs. Wolverine is the only thing making this book worth the price.)

That way, I can enjoy what I came to this crossover for and not have to deal with Team Giant Douche vs. Team Turd Sandwich.