Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NO! The Timberwolves are NOT too white!

I nearly had an aneurysm on two separate occasions today. The first came while I was listening to "Gridlock," a Las Vegas-based radio sports talk show, and they talked about stories like this one.

A fresh blend of American black, white and international talent? KILL IT!
If you don't want to click that link (and not doing so may be better for your well-being) the article basically talks about how there is outrage in Minnesota that ONLY one-third of the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA squad is Black. The other two-thirds are evenly split between American Whites and Europeans.

It is being called racially motivated in order to sell to the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.

Let me just answer this question right now: Are the Timberwolves too white? NO! NO! NO! WTF IS THIS CRAP?!

First off, let's get into what this insinuation implies. First, it implies that because the NBA is 75 percent Black, teams have to meet a quota well above 50 percent or else it's racially motivated.

A third of this team – 5 out of 15 players – is black, including one of the team's two star players (Brandon Roy). The team is in the business of winning in order to generate profit; clearly hiring black athletes isn't an issue.

Second, even though we've been continuing to hear about the growing skill of international players, and GMs like that they may come cheaper, this implies that black NBA players are SO genetically superior to white ones that you couldn't possibly be hiring these players to be effective within the salary cap and win games.

I'd just note that Kevin Love is the other star of this team. He's an American white and he is awesome. It will be a work trying to keep him around if the team is not winning and can't pay him well. OF COURSE the team is trying to win and save cap room for that day!

Lastly, even if we assume that what they're saying is true, that Minnesota is pandering to the white people by hiring talent on race and not talent, Minneapolis-St. Paul is a town that seeks winners and town pride, not to feel similar.

The Twins' attendance dropped off when they started to suck. The Wild had decent attendance, but it took off when they started winning. The Vikings have had support whether Dennis Green or Mike Tice was coach; whether Randall Cunningham or Gus Frerotte was quarterback.

Heck, even the Timberwolves got HUGE numbers there with Kevin Garnett and Latrell freaking Sprewell!

If the talent is SUCH a bad move, they'll start losing, the town will grow tired of them and they'll have to make moves to fix the team. By saying they're pandering, you'd have to think that your city is the most patently racist that they'll take losing as long as more whites are on the court than blacks.

It says great things about our society that we've reached the point that white is no longer the status quo in all aspects of life.

At the same time, however, it says terrible things no matter what the status quo is, those involved will throw massive tantrums if their position is questioned.

This b.s. was wrong in the 1960s when Don Haskins was mocked for having a mostly black Texas Western basketball team, and it's wrong here and now.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Death of the Family Part 2: Catwoman #13 and other book thoughts

OK, so I think we all know why you clicked this, so let's get to that review first.

Catwoman #13

This story... oh wow, this story!

To put it bluntly, this book attempted to make the Joker's plan seem like it's been going for a while, but while it introduced some good ideas, I can't figure out for the life of me why anything was happening.

I am willing to accept that someone (Joker) planted a possession of Selina's dead friend to mess with her head. What I don't get is why a second one was introduced via a gigantic exploding chess piece.

For that matter, why was there a gigantic game of chess being conducted around the city? Is that just something that Gothamites who spend a lot of time at the Chess Club do? And why does Catwoman have to be part of it?

I know this whole thing was probably a setup by the Joker, but just because Joker's actions behave randomly doesn't mean they ARE random. He knows what he's doing and he has a grand scheme. The scheme may be random chaos but he gets you need to be organized to gain chaos.

Yes, I hear how that sounds, but that's how Joker differs from a villain like Carnage in Spider-Man. Carnage is just about chaos and suffering, and therefore just kills without any care for who or what is in the way. Joker is trying to prove his point of chaos to Gotham and Batman, and therefore needs to have that goal in everything he does. Joker wants chaos everywhere, Carnage is chaos embodied.

But yeah, the bottom line is that in a DC Universe where Tony Daniel and Scott Snyder's Joker exists, I don't really buy a story this crazy existing unless it's some deep-rooted fear for Selina or she's under hypnosis thanks to the Mad Hatter.

It's an interesting enough read, and for those collecting DOTF stories, I'm sure that news of an attack on Selina will be relayed to Batman, which means it doesn't hurt to follow this storyline.

But man-oh-man, do I ever wonder what happened to the Catwoman story that sat pretty high in the "Night of the Owls" crossover rankings?

Anyway, while at the comic store, I did catch a glimpse of some other books that may be of interest. I won't go into full reviews, but I'll share brief thoughts.

Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern New Guardians #13

Both are in the Third Army crossover, but are very hard to follow if you haven't been into GL books for a while.

I am looking forward to seeing this in TPB, but you do need to actually sit down to follow it in its current form. Skimming does not work for a story this complex, so either buy all-in or wait for the trade.

Phantom Stranger #1

After reading Jesse Scheeden's review of this book, I had no desire to buy it, but I took a look anyway.

And Jesse, all I can say is: WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!

No, not because the book is good. It's actually kind of average. What upsets me is how this reviewer somehow glossed over (and by that, I mean ignored entirely) the fact that this was RAVEN'S DEBUT IN THE NEW 52!!!

How do you not bring that up? She's been a prominent and popular figure in DC and the fact that both she and Trigon debut in this issue and that gets no play is mind-blowing.

As I said, the tale of Judas Iscariot, er, the Phantom Stranger is not that interesting overall, but sets up what I'm guessing will lead to an important part of the upcoming Trinity War (given that what occurs is part of a "bargain").

I personally didn't buy it because a book that is so clearly a universe-builder will inevitably lead me into a ridiculous amount of books just to follow what is going on. For this issue, though, Raven and Stranger fans will definitely want a look.

No reviews of DC next week, but keep an eye out for my review of Dark Horse Comics' The Promise Part 3, as well as my thoughts on the Marvel NOW! Initiative.

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Comic Book Reviews: Nightwing #13 and Red Hood & The Outlaws #13

Neither of these books have any connection to "Death of the Family," and yet they both had more references to the issue than Batgirl. Heck, this week's Nightwing book had more references to a Joker-Batgirl showdown than Batgirl!

A week has passed and I'm really seeing how little of a prologue that book was.

Anyway, on to the real reviews!

Nightwing #13

I was really amped up for this one because Lady Shiva was supposed to be used, but I only wound up with one present-day page about her, and so I was left feeling disappointed.

And it's not just that there was only one page; the one page was nowhere near Nightwing. This showdown is playing out like it's not going to last very long, which is a terrible move if that's what happens.

The first volume of the Batgirl comic (with Cassandra Cain as Batgirl) built up a showdown with Lady Shiva for more than a year's worth of issues. And when the showdown happened, it got most of the book and was a tremendous fight. Shiva is supposed to be one of the few villains who can do serious damage to Batman, and I think that trying  to squeeze the Joker into this equation will wind up cramming this story into being a total waste.

Thankfully, one scene that wasn't crammed was Nightwing's dialogue with the Penguin. Penguin did a nice job of getting under Nightwing's skin, and I was really into it. (Unrelated note: I find it interesting that some writers like John Layman give Penguin a feeling like the one in the Arkham City game, while other books like this one give him the Burgess Meredith feeling. I like both, but I wish they could better reconcile those two.)

Nightwing's exchange with Batgirl was a fun read, but it was so inconsequential that it just felt forced. The timeline of that scene also creates an interesting path of reading to follow. Reading next month's Batgirl hopefully will help that scene feel more natural.

Overall, it isn't a bad read, and Shiva definitely proves competent (even if I could have called the twist ending the second they spotted the boat). That said, it was not one of the better efforts for this book.

I wish they hadn't burned Shiva now because her arc is going to be forgotten once Joker gets into the picture. Buy if you collect, but otherwise, you're not getting a strong arc nor are you getting anything that really affects DOTF.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #13

I think I brought this up two months ago, but these covers are GROSSLY misleading. The cover this month has Blackfire choking Starfire and the title says she is at her mercy – a really compelling lead-in to the story...

If it was what was happening. What actually is going on is the two sisters are fighting side by side and (SPOILER) there is literally no betrayal or infighting anywhere in this book.

If you can get past the egregious false advertising, though, this is actually a really fun read. Starfire's friend has to make a tough decision to help end the war and it really feels like a big deal.

Additionally, it was nice to see the human characters assimilate so nicely with the Tamaranean army. Even Isabel (who is quickly becoming a must-retain character) has gotten over her initial confusion and freak-outs.

What I don't like is how we had to listen to the ENTIRE rally for the opposing army, even dragging the Green Lantern Corps into the story. This was dull and could have been cut down to maybe one word bubble and gotten the desired feeling.

But let's not lie: What people will care about is the final page or two. It becomes clear that DOTF will be coming to the book, and aside from the fact that I wish I had just looked at the spoiled page (this last page isn't THAT great), it will at least whet your appetite for what is coming.

It's the end of an arc so don't buy if you haven't been keeping up, but definitely read if you have and get ready for a Superman appearance next month!

A second blog today will be up for Catwoman #13, so keep an eye out. Lastly, as always, follow me at twitter.com/seantherebel and Like my page at www.facebook.com/SeanNetworkBlogs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thoughts on "Arrow" premiere: How to hit the mark with superhero TV

I don't often talk too much about shows on the CW Network or live-action superhero TV series. And I almost NEVER talk about Green Arrow.

Nothing against the character – I'm sure there are plenty of compelling arcs and he is a staple of DC Comics – but much like Hawkeye in The Avengers, there's something about a person whose superpower is archery that leaves me feeling uninterested.

Archery is not a superpower. What Green Arrow feels like an old-school sniper, which in its own right is awesome, but it just feels out of place.

However, just because a character's stories don't connect in one medium doesn't mean that the stories won't interest a person in another, and that is the case with the CW's "Arrow."

By effectively taking the gritty, realistic tone of "Batman Begins" and incorporating it into Green Arrow's origin, it creates a more down-to-earth portrayal of the hippie Robin Hood of the DC Universe.

Oliver Queen in this first episode is taken from a deserted island after being the only survivor of a shipwreck years before.

Now, a lot of things will be discussion worthy here. The first is that his father goes to great lengths to save him (not going into it here because it's SO crazy to see). The other is that Queen was cheating on his girlfriend with her sister, who also ends up dead in the immediate sinking.

The final part of the shipwrecked time is that while there, someone's mask is seen in the first 30 seconds that will make you mark out and ask "What the hell crazy island was this and why didn't that story get a series?"

I like how Queen in this one is on a mission to honor his father by exorcising the demons he caused for the city. It creates an immediate bucket list of criminals to expect.

Additionally, I have to give credit: Green Arrow is an intimidating mother-f****r. Besides Stephen Arnell's ridiculously buff physique, his costume is ominously camouflaged, the arrows are shot to kill (no Bat-code here), and it's all contrasted perfectly by his over-the-top rich douchebag front.

A few other points: His ex-girlfriend is Dinah Lance (Katie Cassidy), who in comics becomes Black Canary, so be ready. And Speedy in this continuity appears to be his sister (Willa Holland) rather than Roy Harper. Not sure of how I feel on that, but I guess the traditional Speedy origin would be too public for this Arrow's tastes. (At least it looks like they're keeping the drug undertone intact.)

The show has a little of a Smallville feel, but honestly looks more like an extended Dark Knight homage. Overall, it executes its goals well and I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes DC Comics-anything.

The show drew 4 million in its first week, so now would be a good time to get on board.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Death of the Family Part 1: Batman #13, Batgirl #13, and Batman & Robin #13

I have been waiting for this crossover for months. And it's finally here!

I know what everyone wants to hear about, so let's just dive right in.

Batman #13

Holy. Crap. This was beyond amazing.

There's not much that I can say that either hasn't already been said or won't be harped on across the rest of the comic review sites, but everything in this book hit. I had thought Batman #5 and the Court of Owls storyline was amazing, but if this first installment is any indicator, this will blow it out of the water.

I never mention the covers, but I love what they did here. An extra flap resembling the Joker's dismembered face was a nice touch, and I love how it just sits over the face of a member of the Bat-family in each installment. (It's done on the Batgirl cover too.)

This book opened in as ominous a manner as it could. The way Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock are talking, mentioning bad omens that had been mounting and such, I thought we were joining in the middle, but just like any good Joker story, you're thrown for a loop.

The police station's power goes out and Joker begins picking people off one by one. Joker really isn't shown well in this part of the story, so to the critique of how he took out so many officers without them seeing, my guess is he had done some prep work and scouted all the station's best areas to conceal and gave himself some advantage to see better in the dark.

It's great to see the entire Bat-family immediately need to see what's going on upon hearing of Joker's return, and every attack that Joker uses is a complete game of mental chess.

And I'd hate to say it, but it does seem like Batman was rusty in his game of wits with Joker. Mr. J was able to throw him for a loop multiple times in the book and walked right into a trap. I like the touch done here because it actually made me wonder if Joker had a point, and that really is a key to making a Joker story work: On some perverse level, you can see the point he's trying to make, and that causes uneasiness.

I won't go into any other specifics because it's really incredible to see Snyder's writing mixed with Capullo's brilliant drawing style.

The back-up story shows the lead-in to how the final swerve of the comic came to be, and it's the first time in the New 52 that the dynamic between two iconic characters has a development. That's all I'll say on that.

Overall, this read nearly perfectly, and if Batman #5 was one of the greatest individual Batman issues of all time, then this one definitely needs to be in contention. With this issue's accessibility, writing and art, if this doesn't draw a reader into Batman comics, then only the completed graphic novels have a shot.

Lastly, a big dose of respect for Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, because with the drawing style and dialogue, those two were where I immediately shot for Batman and Joker's voices in my head.

Batgirl #13

This one is called a prologue I guess because 3/4 of the book finishes the arc that was left hanging when #0 month came around.

As a conclusion to the Batgirl-Knightfall storyline, this had an amazing fight scene and showed some great competence from Batgirl as she tried to end the fight before the stab wound made her too weak.

I do have some complaints, though. Why did Knightfall suddenly decide to start monologuing? I mean, it was good stuff and some of the best part of the story, but nothing really prompted it and it felt out of place.

Also, what was up with Barbara's brother just monitoring the fight. I'll probably remember what was happening when I go back and read the previous issues, but that goes to show why two months is too long a wait to conclude an arc this complex.

Lastly, what was with the finish to the fight? Batgirl basically acknowledges there's no way to get Knightfall into prison because of her connections, but the solution really doesn't help the problem. It may get her arrested, but how it helps the court case is beyond me.

The end of this book, however, is what wins my approval. Besides the DOTF tie-in where Joker's goons have a certain legendary Bat-re-enactment in store for the Gordon family, the last year of Batgirl comics suddenly have a coherent point.

Remember when I pointed out that Batgirl's foes kept being people with tragic backstories who went rogue and now want some deranged justice that Batgirl must stop? Well, I guess Gail Simone noticed too, and came up with a way to at least make that situation have a point.

Overall, I can't recommend this book on its own merits because most of it concludes an arc and really isn't that accessible until the final few pages.

If you plan to collect the whole DOTF crossover, though, then you may want to. There's plenty to like here and it's done better than the last few Batgirl issues, but it's just not enough accessible pages for a casual reader.

Batman and Robin #13

Incredibly, even though this book has nothing to do with the crossover for two more months, it somehow tied into DOTF more than Batgirl's book did.

This story takes place, I believe, a little while after what occurred in Snyder's book. Damian is now studying the Joker's history when Batman takes him on a space road trip. Seriously.

This book dove into the bizarre and insane quite a bit. Batman's going into space to adjust a satellite during a solar eclipse; Robin's got a gigantic bounty on his head (thanks to Batman Inc.), which a giant... thing tries to cash in on; and to top it all off, there's a gigantic freaking zombie apocalypse going on!

Peter Tomasi took the superstitious omen part of the Snyder book and apparently decided to expand that into a zombie apocalypse, complete with reanimated corpses fresh (by zombie standards) from the Gotham cemetary.

What's even weirder is that while most everyone thought that this would be a one-shot due to Halloween, this is actually happening and is going to be the story until the book joins the DOTF crossover in December. How in the world this is going to tie into the Joker is beyond me, but I'm willing to let Tomasi try to make this make sense. (My guess is Joker's gas did something that allows him to remote control the bodies, but we'll see.)

Pat Gleason must really love his job, as he gets to draw the most absurd Batman stuff of anyone in DC right now. And to be fair, he does it well.

Overall, I love that this book is really going to focus on Robin, as seen through the last few issues, because it's really the only book where the Dynamic Duo is utilized and Batman has enough books that he dominates over.

That said, this is truly an unusual place to take a Bat-book, so I understand people being turned off to this idea. Flip through it at the comic store, and if it looks like something you want to invest the next two months into, be my guest. I'm just killing time until Damian finally comes face to face with ultimate chaos.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Five Favorite Female Vocalists

DC Comics-based stuff has been ruling the roost on this blog lately, so I thought I'd diversify my thoughts and give you all a countdown of my five favorite female vocalists.

So a few thoughts before I do so: 1. Do not expect a top five male vocalists anytime soon. I have a lot of other things that are higher priority and this blog just seemed like a fun thing to do. (Plus my explanations for this list are better thought out.)

2. I am holding this list to singers who are still active and whose heydays didn't pass before I entered grade school. Obviously, legends like Selena, Karen Carpenter and Whitney Houston would be in contention in a full-time list, but I'm looking to give credit to the artists who put out great efforts today and who I will be listening to decades from now.

3. Feel free to leave me your list in the comments. I'd love to hear them.

Anyway, on to the list!

Honorable Mentions: Adele, KT Tunstall, Elisabeth Hale (Halestorm), Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kimberly Perry (The Band Perry), Imogen Heap, Kimbra, Carrie Underwood

5. LeAnn Rimes

I wavered back and forth about who would be No. 5, and I was prepared to give it to Adele, whose voice has a great range and is just overwhelmingly powerful.

However, then I remembered back to my childhood and this song came into my head:

How could I forget that song and that voice?

LeAnn Rimes is the first country singer that I consciously remember listening to, and her first few songs were absolutely great to listen to.

Even some of her more pop-based stuff has been amazing. "Can't fight the Moonlight," "Nothin' Better To Do" and other songs like that can be added to legendary songs like "Blue," "How Do I Live" and "One Way Ticket."

Her voice had a natural country feel and in her early career sounded at times like she was channeling Patsy Cline. But she had an energy that could allow her to also do fast-paced songs, which gave her a dynamic that really allows her to stand out.

So why isn't she higher? Well, to be blunt, while many of her recent songs are good, there are just as many that are just average. It's a curse of shifting into pure pop - you lose that base that made you so amazing.

Plus, she hasn't done much in the way of new, noteworthy works, so she's kind of lost her edge in the consistency of production category. And as good as her music is, I do have to be in the mood of the song to really like it, so she loses a valuable step in the way of making me want to set her songs to repeat.

On the whole, though, I still love her music and her voice, so she gets in the top five.

4. Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless)

I know what some are thinking of this. That girl from "Gossip Girl?" Really?

Well, first of all, I should note that I've actually never seen her perform on Gossip Girl, though I know those who liked her performances there. Actually, I remember her more for her performance in this movie:

I was going to show her singing "Where Are You Christmas?" but for some reason all YouTube shows is freaking Faith Hill's version.

Anyway, for those who have seen her in this movie, seen her in Gossip Girl but have never seen or heard her music, prepare to have your mind blown:

Yeah, kind of a contrast.

That said, Taylor is absolutely great in her performances, her singing is authentic-sounding and she has a hard rock edge to her despite not being that hard in real life.

Every time I've seen her in an interview I think, 'There is no way you are producing that music,' and then she performs, belts out the songs and I'm floored.

Actually, the only complaint I can issue is that her body of work is still limited. Light Me Up is the only album so far, and I do want to see more from her before putting her any higher.

That said, if you can purchase "Make Me Wanna Die" and "My Medicine," both songs are well worth your money.

3. Sara Bareilles

Anyone else still have this song in their head from time to time?

Incredibly, though, this would probably be only my fifth favorite Sara Bareilles song, behind "Not Alone," "Morningside," "Bottle It Up" and "King of Anything" (in that order).

Sara is the only female performer on this list where I can honestly say I have all her songs in my iPod. Granted, that's due to her relatively few albums, but still an achievement in my book.

Her voice is almost lullaby-esque. Just listening to one Bareilles song will have you relaxed, and a slower song is great to wind down to when you want to sleep.

Additionally, she's completely natural in how she makes music. She plays the piano herself in her songs and as such, her music has an authenticity you can only get at piano bars.

Actually, the only reason she isn't higher (beyond the brilliance of the others ahead of her, of course) is that she lacks the breadth of work that the other two have. Maybe in a few albums she will be ahead of these two, but for now, I'll still be enjoying Sara's music after a hard day.

2. Taylor Swift

A bunch of people who know me knew that this girl was coming. Heck, a lot of people are probably shocked that she isn't at the top of the list. Nonetheless, here we are.

Swift holds a unique position in that of all the people on here, she gets criticized the most. She's too poppy, her songs hold to only two topics, her range isn't as wide as some of the people I have in the honorable mentions...

But here's the thing, much like most of her actions, she doesn't give a crap how she's perceived. She does what she's good at, and does it better than anyone else.

Her early works are incredible and great, purely southern country music. "Our Song" and "Picture to Burn" are just a few of the excellent works produced early. To me, they exceed anything good singers like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood do because while those singers focus on hitting strong notes and showing off their range, Swift's is focused on authenticity.

And that's probably what I love most about her music: the authenticity. Her emotions can be felt in the music without being forced. And that comes from writing her lyrics how she'd normally speak or write.

It's not as deep and poetic as others, but at the same time, she's not bending lyrics to fit the rhythm of the song. Instead, she bends the song to fit the lyrics. I can't even count the times Swift has packed a full sentence into a relatively short riff of a verse.

That even carries into her song titles. The general rule is to not go more than 7-8 syllables for a title. Tell that to Swift and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."

My only real gripe with Swift is that her music seems to be drifting from the country and more into the pop. Case in point: "We Are ... Together" is being released primarily in the pop version, leaving the country version to be searched for on YouTube.

I don't like this because what makes Swift great is her honest effort and emotion. That gets blocked when using synthesizers, fake instruments and a back-up vocal track. I don't see why it's necessary; people will still buy music if it's all real. GET ON THAT!

But ultimately, Swift has sustained success for years now and whether she is selling out to audio editors or not, I'll always give her music a shot and listen live.

Now you may be wondering who could be No. 1 after such a ringing endorsement of T-Swizzle. Well, it's actually one of her better friends who edges her.

1. Hayley Williams (Paramore)

I'll freely admit: I didn't even realize who this girl was until she made a cameo in "Guitar Hero" (further proof that cameos DO work). And even then, I didn't listen to Paramore consistently until two or three years ago.

But when I did, one thing really stuck out: This lead singer is what makes the band amazing.

That's not to say that the Farro brothers and the rest of Paramore don't really help. Riot! has tremendous songs and complements Williams perfectly. All We Know is Falling and Brand New Eyes have a similar effect, but it's not as strong and perfected. (I attribute it to rookie inexperience and band tension, respectively.)

What ultimately brought me to my opinion of Hayley, however, were three instances. The first was her performance in B.O.B.'s "Airplanes."

Her performance was more memorable than any of the verses B.O.B. produced and when Eminem made his cameo in Part II, her chorus still held its own despite being played four times to that point. I respect both artists she worked with, so that meant a great deal to me.

Next was Paramore's more recent single, "Monster." This was the first song after the departure of the Farro brothers, and while I still enjoyed the song, it felt less complete than other songs.

The guitars were strong, but not as strong. The drums were much less pronounced, and the lyrics didn't hit as trong because the backing music wasn't as up to par.

The only thing that didn't drop off – and actually got stronger – was Hayley's vocals, which carried the song up to Paramore's expected quality and were the benefit of the vocal lessons she had taken a few years back. (As an aside, I also really respect someone who is great and continues to seek betterment of self.)

The final thing that helped me decide was that I finally listened to "When It Rains" on Riot! It is one of the most emotionally authentic songs I've ever heard.

I could really feel the pain and desperation in her voice coupled with an expertly developed tone of voice and honest lyrics. It is definitely one of my favorite songs despite the very depressing subject matter.

With an authenticity near the level of Taylor Swift, the ability to carry an entire band and hold her own with legends in other genres, and a range to cover both forceful and gentle songs, I can not give anymore respect to Hayley Williams.

I could point to any Paramore song and recommend it, and it's generally mostly to do with Hayley's vocals. If you get the chance to seek out acoustic versions of her songs, do it. For now, here's one to leave with.

Once again, these selections are based on my enjoyment and what I look for in a vocalist. And I do want your opinions as well. Please feel free to leave me a Top 5 of your favorite active vocalists (If you do all-time, please specify). And if you want to do some brief explanations, they spark debate, so go ahead! (Respect others' opinions, though.)

Lastly, follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/seantherebel and like my Blog page at http://www.facebook.com/SeanNetworkBlogs.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Detective Comics #13 and Green Lantern #13

I actually felt pretty bad going into the comic book stores this past Wednesday.

Well, maybe it would be better to describe my experience as bittersweet.

What I came to realize is that two of the comics that I read fairly consistently but don't buy – Detective Comics and Green Lantern – were really, really good, but I only had enough budgeted to purchase one.

I don't really collect these books, so I mainly buy for story because I'll need to re-reference them in the coming arc. Plus, I like to support those who make a living producing these stories when I actually enjoy them.

But I definitely had a choice to make. Here are my thoughts on both so you can get an idea about them.

Green Lantern #13

Simon Baz is by far my favorite New 52 Green Lantern.

Johnathan Stewart was the GL I was raised with and the one I immediately think of (thanks to the Justice League animated series,) but while I find him to be the most likable Lantern, he has the least compelling stories. It's not that good stories can't be written, but the character's actions (while noble) are exactly what I'd expect him to do so there's no suspense.

The opposite is true for Guy Gardner. I've seen compelling stories with him and many writers know how to write him well. But I don't like the character. He is irksome to me. Sorry for those who are Guy fans, but it's really hard to shake off early impressions and Guy came off as too brash for my tastes early on.

Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner are middle ground and can be really compelling. However, to this point I hadn't been super interested in Hal's story and the New Guardians book just hasn't been a high priority for me.

Baz, however, is OWNING my interest in the GL name again. In this book, he is just trying to figure out what the ring does, and the advice he's given is mixed up thanks to Hal and Sinestro sharing the ring.

It's a basic aftermath of origin story, but the layer of being a suspected terrorist and seeing his family dynamic really fleshed out Baz for me tremendously.

Meanwhile, President Obama is seen telling his aide that a situation like this needs investigation by the Justice League. (Who else finds it epic when a sitting president is drawn summoning the Justice League?) And the League's appearance toward the end has set up an interesting next issue.

Interestingly, this book doesn't tie strongly into the Rise of the Third Army crossover, only showing a few panels of what the Third Army is doing at the moment. This will make the book pretty accessible and also makes sense given that Baz is really not an initiate into the Corps just yet.

Overall, it's a great start to the event and an even better start to the Simon Baz journey.

Detective Comics #13

Tony S. Daniel is gone, and John Layman has taken over with a vengeance.

Unlike many, I didn't hate Daniel's work. The first Dollmaker arc last year was solid, and I was excited when Issue #5 introduced a Penguin arc.

However, that arc progressively weakened and I'm still not entirely sure what conclusion I was supposed to come to with that. Issues #8 and #9 were great one-shots (even if they allowed WAY too many one-liners), but then Issue #10 set the tone for a pathetic arc.

Given how well Issue #0 went, I'm surprised that one really weak arc got Daniel booted. But I guess when you consider that this is the flagship book of not only Batman, but the company as a whole; when you consider that they added $1 to the book's cost via just awful side stories; and when you consider that the arcs, while good at times, were inconsistent while Batman and Batman & Robin were publishing greatness, I can't really fault DC for the move.

And I really can't after seeing the product. Oswald Cobblepot reads SO MUCH better through Layman, coming off as more ironically dignified, which is the essence of the character.

The story focuses on Penguin's desire to assassinate Bruce Wayne so that he can take over the sponsorship of Gotham buildings so that he may be loved and respected in addition to the fear people already had for him.

A farewell to you, O Tony Daniel one-liners
Meanwhile, he's keeping Batman busy with crimes timed so that he wouldn't be able to save Wayne in time (Oh, the irony!).

There is some good humor worked into the book, which had really been lacking in the Daniel era, and it felt like the Kevin Conroy animated Batman, which is always good.

The backup was also really strong, focusing on Penguin's main henchman and his training of a new recruit. I really enjoyed the psychology and planning that went into the Penguin end of the stories and actual detective work that was going on with Batman's side.

Overall, this was a great start for Layman, and I'd highly recommend picking up a copy. This arc will be fairly short, as this book joins with the Death of the Family crossover in December, but it should be a fun conclusion over the next 1-1.5 issues.

As to which book I picked, I ended up going with Detective. My reasoning was that since I'll have to start buying Detective for the crossover, it was best to get acquainted with Layman's work.

Also, DOTF will end up costing me an additional $30 over the next few months, meaning that I can't buy the full GL crossover. I plan to buy it in TPB form, but if I buy the GL portion, not only will I only understand part of the story, it wouldn't be cost effective to buy a large trade after picking up a quarter of the crossover already.

Your purchasing decision should be left to what works for you. If you have to only go with one, though, I promise neither will be a disappointment.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batgirl #0 and Green Lantern #0

The #0 month is now at a close, and I can honestly say that it was a good call doing it.

While it didn't in all cases, I personally feel like a lot of the universe got an expansion, which was nice.

Some quick things I'd like to note:

I HATE the Catwoman origin in her issue. I know I've already said it, but come on!

The Ravagers knows that people care most about Beast Boy and Terra, but they continue to fail when it comes to making their stories compelling.

Really? Did we NEED to see the destruction of Krypton again in Superman #0?


Why is this becoming as negative as it is? Ok, let's look for positives:

Billy Batson's story is actually really fun, and it's the first time in a long time I've been compelled by the character.

But why must he be called Shazam instead of Captain Marvel. That's going to take some getting used to. (Sorry, back to the positives)

Early Batman stories actually seem compelling and I would not mind seeing a book that focuses on Batman's new past.

Batwoman remains a strong book and definitely one to keep an eye on. I personally don't buy it because I for some reason just can't get myself enthralled in her character. And if this writing and art can't do it, my guess is nothing will. But definitely take a look and see if you can.

And Wonder Woman and Aquaman's books have been amazing. I still don't think dropping the clay-made "Spirit of Truth" origin was necessary, but what I've seen of Wonder Woman so far has at least caused some great stories, and I've warmed up to the "Zeus-on-Queen action" origin.

And lastly, let's get to the only other books I physically bought this past month.

Batgirl #0

This story had a lot to like, and a lot that will leave you disappointed.

What to like: It shows how Barbara got the Batgirl idea and her first encounter with Batman.

It shows her brother, Jim Jr., before he went crazy. Actually, no it doesn't because this kid was creepy as all hell even then. It was kind of interesting to see, though.

The original Batgirl suit (the New 52 version) is AMAZING. I actually prefer it to Barb's current suit, and probably second all time in terms of Barbara suits (the original purple one is still just classic).

I like that they showed Barbara's natural ingenuity and gave her an encounter with Batman that would give her motivation to fight crime. It is a psychological touch that is done brilliantly. Gail Simone does do a great job with getting into Barbara's head.

Now for the bad:

I guess in DC's universe, spandex has different properties that allow womens' chests to fit into form-fit sleeves. It's less present in the later part of the book, but it's still unsettling, especially on the cover.

Why are potential Olympic gymnasts all becoming crime fighters. Seriously, Barbara AND Tim Drake did this? Where are all these pinnacle-of-human-perfection people coming from and why do they all have an obsession with joining up with Batman?

If Barbara is SO apt at technology, why not just give her basic gymnastics and self-defense. She'd start out dependent on gadgets and then over time gain fighting capabilities hanging around and training with Batman. QUIT making superkids!

Lastly, this book is disappointing because of false advertising. It said we'd look into her post-Killing Joke recovery, but it wasn't present at all. Heck, only a few KJ panels were even there - right at the end of the book.

I guess we'll keep waiting. Overall, though, if you can find the book, at least skim through it. It's a fun read to be sure, even if it's not all we were promised.

Green Lantern #0

This book is special, actually, because it introduces a new Green Lantern: Simon Baz.

I really like this character. I grew up with the Justice League animated series, so to me, John Stewart is my default Lantern, and although I like Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner (Guy Gardner irks me), their stories just aren't that compelling for me.

This character has dealt with a lot that hasn't been seen in comics very often; specifically, Muslim life in America post-9/11.

Only two things really annoyed me in this issue. The first is that they don't really go into his descent into needing to steal cars. We see the prejudices he deals with but nothing that would indicate he failed at being able to have any success in the world.

The other was how crazy everyone's reaction was... because it was probably accurate. I could easily see the misunderstanding in this book turning into a waterboarding spree simply because of racial profiling. This really helped Baz for his Lanternship, though, because as crazy as this was, he kept trying to explain his circumstances calmly. I gained a lot of respect for him.

The best part of this is that the Lantern ring given to Baz was the refused ring of Hal and Sinestro. The ring had an error while fusing, so now the ring is a little screwy. This could add an interesting dimension to the stories that Baz goes through.

Ultimately, I could think of some great arcs for this character to last him a couple of years, and I'm not a comic writer. I look forward to seeing this character more in the future.