Sunday, April 28, 2013

Album Review: Paramore (the self-titled CD)

Sorry about the LONG delay with this review, but it definitely required a lot of sitting time, which I haven't exactly had lately. But hey, if you've been waiting to hear of this album's quality, here you go!

Those who have followed my blog for a while know that I hold Paramore in a very high regard. It's one of my favorite bands currently producing and Hayley Williams is my favorite active female vocalist. I am proud to say that I'll be attending my first ever Paramore live show next week when they come to Vegas.

As a fan of their work, you can imagine my disappointment when Zac and Josh Farro left the band after a post-Brand New Eyes tour. From a musical standpoint, the big concern was how Paramore was going to change once Hayley and the Farros could each produce their own visions for what direction music should go.

While the Farros' new band, Novel American, has yet to produce actual content (although the demos of instrumental work from Zac and Josh are their traditional awesomeness), Hayley, Taylor York and Jeremy Davis have sent out a single, "Monster," and now an entire album.

The self-titling of the album was a nice call. Much like bands that date back to the Beatles' self-titled "White" album, doing a self-titled work after one's debut is meant to reflect a mark of identity and unity with the band, and this is one of those that actually succeeds.

The cover is of the three band members standing (the first Paramore album to show the members) like they've just done the Color Run, as they are covered in paint. I have to give the band its due as well for having Hayley on the far right looking away instead of in the center, considering the Farros claimed a Hayley-centric focus in the band was what made them leave. (BUT I can only go so far because when you take the CD out, there's a solo shot of Hayley's back underneath it with the words "Grow Up" painted on her jacket. So the message is lost a little.)

The first song to play is "Fast in My Car," and it's a solid song that shows the evolutions in style the band has made. FIMC has emotional lyrics like the band's old works, but the style of guitar and use of echo makes gives the song a European feel. For some reason, I found myself thinking of the Swedish band, Caesars, when I was listening. Nonetheless, it's a solid opener.

Next up is "Now," the first single released from the album. I told my brother when it came out, "It's a solid song, but if this is their best song on the album, it'll be pretty weak." I stand by that comment, but thankfully, this isn't the strongest song on the album.

It's certainly good, and it fits even better in the album, but I like plenty of songs better here. Much like "Monster," I felt like the band really struggled with the lack of a permanent drummer and the percussion just felt weak.

Also, I'll say this now: Much like how people joke about what will happen to Adele and Taylor Swift's songs when they're in happy, fulfilling relationships and can't write about heartbreak anymore, I'm really interested in what will happen next Paramore album when airing out old dirty laundry is no longer the main source of lyrical inspiration.

"Grow Up" is the third song and it just isn't one I enjoy. The lyrics felt like they just wanted to hammer their points home and the actual beat of the song suffered for it.

Tracks 4, 6, 8 and 16 ("Daydreaming," "Ain't It Fun," "Last Hope" and "Be Alone") are four of the best tracks on the album, as they really capture the old Paramore style and spirit. AIF and LH also incorporated a choir-like backing set that both helped enhance the songs and stuck it to the Farros' 'holier than Hayley' mentality.

But yeah, all four are welcome additions to anyone that really liked the emo-punk style Paramore incorporated in their earlier works. It's a sign that the band may not break from the style that made them as much as some feared.

Tracks 5, 11 and 15 are Interludes - short, acoustic songs that barely break the 1-minute mark. All three of these are awesome and in fact, being too good is probably my biggest critique. I want full-length versions of these acoustic pieces!

"Moving On" (No. 5) was the best of the interludes and I've had it on repeat a lot. "Holiday" (No. 11) is incredibly catchy, and "I'm Not Angry Anymore" (No. 15) is pretty funny as a song in my view.

"Part II" is not one of my favorite songs. I'm not sure what style they went for here, but it wasn't very memorable. The best thing about the song is the lyrics, which throw some nice callbacks to the Riot! song "Let the Flames Begin." It's worth a listen, but you won't be playing it often after the first time.

"Still Into You" is the single currently out, and it was a good call. It's kind of poppy, but with real instruments and a real singer without that Autotune bull crap, it's pop-punk done right. It's a definite contender for best on the album. Likewise, "Anklebiters is a strong, albeit short, follow-up on the track list that really is an adrenaline song.

It's now that I should really mention: Unlike Paramore's older albums, which kept all but "Brick By Boring Brick" between 3-4 minutes flat, this album has no problem having songs run into the 5-minute range or cutting off barely past the two-minute mark. It gives the album a nice flow, although listening to songs out of order is really off-putting.

"Proof" and "(One of Those) Crazy Girls" are both solid outings that kind of get overshadowed by the rest of the album. They'll be welcome hidden jewels in your iPod. "Hate to See Your Heart Break" is a ballad style that made me immediately think of Colbie Caillat. It's a very relaxing song that probably exceeds "The Only Exception" as Paramore's best ballad-style song.

Lastly, there is "Future." It sucks. Plain and simple. Not often I complain about a Paramore song, but there were no real lyrics in it, it sounded like random warm-up sequences the band did while making the album, and much like Tool songs, which I'm sure inspired this, it Just. Wouldn't. Die. Not exactly the best way to close out the album, and I would have preferred an acoustic version of one of the singles instead.

Overall thoughts: So what can I say? Is this the best Paramore album ever made? No, but I didn't expect it to be. Riot! is just about perfect as an album and I don't expect a new band alignment to surpass it on the first try. What it is, though, is quite possibly the second-best Paramore album ever made. Yeah, last track aside, no song is unlistenable; most tracks are solid to very good; and when these three hit the mark they REALLY hit the mark.

I'd say buy the album, as there's plenty there in a 17-track album to make it worth the $12 price of admission. I look forward to seeing more from this incarnation of Paramore in the years to come.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Happy 75th to Superman and Lois Lane

I'm taking a quick break from my many, many backed-up reviews because yesterday was the diamond (75th) anniversary of Action Comics #1 (Vol. 1), better known as the first comic to feature Superman and Lois Lane.

While Batman has probably supplanted him in many's eyes as the definition of a crime-fighting hero, Superman remains the very definition of a superhero. Multicolored tights, a long cape, super strength, invulnerability and the ability to fly.

Superman has had many variations over the years. From the original Golden Age hero, who was simply a really powerful human who had only kryptonite as a weakness; to the Silver Age version, the one most remembered due to the sheer unlimited nature of his powers; to the more recent versions, which try to put biological limits on his abilities.

One of the things I tend to like about Superman is that he can be a character with limits and no limits. His being limited allows for stories where beings are more powerful and Superman can show his boundless fortitude. Having no limits allows for some pretty badass escapist fiction (though I admit, this version worked better in the Silver Age when storylines didn't carry over for more than two issues at a time).

Ultimately, what I love about the character (besides that he's a journalist) is the moral code of the character. Superman could overthrow the planet easily if he had wanted to, other heroes not being taken into account.

As such, it really speaks to who he is as a person. Clark Kent's family life and background is the basis for Superman's moral code more than his Kryptonian background, which is why Clark is usually played as the main character. The best Superman stories are about the man - how he responds to stressful situations, is tempted but ultimately comes out stronger.

One of the reasons SuperCena doesn't work in WWE is because he takes his adversity like a joke and puts down any threat as trivial. They miss the point. Superman isn't beloved because he destroys barriers like tissue paper. He's beloved because of the limits he imposes on himself and refuses to break no matter how difficult it makes his life.

The trailer for the new Man of Steel movie has a line from Jor-El saying that when the time is right, the human race will join him in the sky. I believe that is his appeal. Superman is what all humanity can strive to be: powerful but kind, and unwavering in the face of adversity.

And I would be doing a disservice to not mention Lois Lane. Lois has evolved through the years from the cut-and-dry damsel in distress to a true hero in her own right. She's the best journalist on the planet and will willingly throw herself in harm's way to get a story for the public.

She's never had powers (Grant Morrison and Silver Age insanity notwithstanding) and yet does everything she can with the tools she has. In that sense, she is the perfect match for Superman. Where he has no natural limits but imposes them on himself anyway, Lois is completely limited but then shatters those limitations constantly.

Superman keeps Lois from becoming too full of herself (her ego is seen in many stories), and Lois helps Superman push on with his mission even though he's made it so hard for himself. I don't mind Superman-Wonder Woman as a couple in the New 52, but I feel it has to be temporary, as the two simply don't match with each other the way Lois and Clark do.

I got into Superman through reruns of the old George Reeves series and got much enjoyment out of the first two Christopher Reeve films. I didn't mind Superman Returns, but it wasn't to the level of its spiritual predecessors. And although I haven't watched the full series, pretty much all TV adaptations of Superman besides the original have been pretty awkward to sit through.

Comic-wise, I'll count down the best Superman stories for you all some time. But for quick recommendations, Superman Birthright is the best Supes story ever in my view, Superman: Red Son is the best elseworlds story, All-Star Superman is a great combination of all that has made Superman great over the years, and What's So Funny about Truth, Justice and the American Way? (Action Comics #775) is the best individual Superman issue across its monthly titles' histories.

Happy Birthday to the original superhero couple. I look forward to the day that Clark escapes the friend zone and we can get back to the tension that made the early series so fun to begin with.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Justice League #19 and Nightwing #19

Holy crap! In-depth album reviews take a while! For those waiting for my review of Paramore's new self-titled album (which is No. 1 on the charts, by the way), it will be out this week and will hopefully be followed up by Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer, Different Park.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. I've got two new books to review. For those who are going to miss RHATO, I may continue at some point, but from what I've read, I'm not going to enjoy the James Tynion IV run in the first arc at least. If I see Issue #19 at some point, I'll give my thoughts, though.

Let's get to the books!

Justice League #19

I'm going with the book building up to Trinity War first, as we see Jason Todd still hanging around the Batcave talking with a grieving Alfred. Both are attacked by someone who can apparently pass Bruce's fingerprint/retinal scan test (Clayface, perhaps?), and this person grabs the emergency briefcase with special Superman combat equipment (I'm guessing kryptonite, but that's kind of obvious thanks to the cover).

Anyway, Batman discovers this but can't go through any detective work because the media is freaking out at Superman and Wonder Woman stopping an international hostage crisis, causing him to debate with them on their actions.

In the side story, Firestorm and the Atom are waiting for formal induction and we get a nice, humorous side story with the two exploring the satellite until the location gets invaded.

Lastly, there is a SHAZAM! back-up where Billy Batson wants to get rid of his powers, but instead is simply given part of Black Adam's origin. There are also some interesting teases, like Shazam's fight with Black Adam being imminent and Billy's sister Mary possibly having access to the Mary Marvel powers eventually.

Both the main and back-up stories are really well-done and I enjoyed both. Geoff Johns' writing and the combined artwork of Reis and Frank do a lot to complement the stories they're trying to tell. The only issue I see is that Aquaman is shown on the cover and isn't present in the story at all.

I got a lot out of this story and I'm really loving this build-up to the Trinity War this summer.

Nightwing #19

Dick Grayson is now in Chicago and (surprise, surprise) it's corrupt as all hell!

Nightwing's story here makes the move to the Second City so that he can hunt Tony Zucco, but it appears that he's got the Prankster to deal with as well as some borderline psychotic girl who is actually REALLY gifted in fighting.

If Brett Booth could stay the artist for this book for the foreseeable future, I'd be happy. This was the first artist in a while that didn't throw off the mood of the entire title and kill the narrative, so I'm glad for that.

The bright colors and general insanity of the people in this storyline serve each other well. And it gets dark at the right times as well, knowing to get grittier when Nightwing is running from cops and when we find out where Tony Zucco is.

Once again, Dick is developing a supporting cast, with a roommate who lives by the railroad tracks. I really love the way minor characters are made so interesting in this title, but I'd love it if they don't get written out or killed this go-around.

Overall, this is a good start to the arc and I think it's a very good time to jump on. This title's writing remains consistently awesome and the art may FINALLY be coming around, so yeah, jump on board!

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman & ... #19 and Batgirl #19

I'll admit: I've been heavily weighing whether I should keep reading either of these books further, as one has lost the character that justified its existence, and the other was about to finish an arc that lost any and all steam when Ray Fawkes let all the air out of the sails with his guest writing.

But wow, am I glad I didn't because honestly, these two felt like they were more impactful than Scott Snyder's book, and that is an accomplishment!

Batman & Robin #19 (Batman & Red Robin)

We begin the slew of odd naming conventions for Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason's book, as the title cannot reasonably call itself by the name that gave it its value in the first place anymore. Thankfully, it's still Tomasi and Gleason, and this is the best book DC is producing at the moment.

The Golden Duo open with, of all people, Carrie Kelley (that is how it's spelled in this book), who has been evidently teaching Damian acting techniques. I thought the silent issue last week listed Clark Kent's movie recommendations (C.K.), but turns out they were teasing the in-canon debut of Frank Miller's Robin.

This development still throws me off. Why are we insisting on making Frank Miller's work canon? Yes, I get it: Year One and The Dark Knight returns are always in people's top 5 Batman stories, but honestly, do you really want his work to be canon?

He's produced as many bad Batman stories as he has good ones, and even his legendary stories do stuff to the characters that I find unsavory (Jim Gordon the adulterer, Selina Kyle the prostitute, etc.). So how about his stories occupy a world that isn't the main DCU, huh?

Anyway, this title gives Red Robin high billing, but he's not a huge factor in the book. This thing should have been called "Batman and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E." because his stuff takes up far more time.

Not that it's bad; I actually loved it and almost felt compelled to pick up a trade of Frankenstein because of this book. He's witty, sympathetic and full of surprising wisdom.

Batman in this book is trying to come up with ways to revive Damian, unable to accept his death. And while he is clearly crossing some moral lines here, he never breaks completely with reality and honestly, when you hear his arguments, it's kind of hard to counter.

Bruce is right. Superman, Jason Todd, even he himself had been considered dead in this New 52 universe and yet the laws of death seem to roll over and play dead for them. Why wouldn't a proactive solution be feasible?

Overall, this is a nice entry into Bruce's grieving process and I think a wise decision has been made to allow this process to stay in Tomasi and Gleason's hands.

Batgirl #19

Batgirl produced an excellent conclusion to the James Jr. arc, in spite of the fact that so much of it was embarrassingly average.

Gail Simone throws bombs at the reader, as Barbara tries to reason Jim Jr. down, but the ever-in-control brother leaves numerous fail-safes for himself.

I will admit that I hated his motivation in this story and really wish he'd just been a straight sociopath instead of receiving this transparent "not-really-middle-child" syndrome.

Also, I don't know if this story is meant to imply that the Bat-Family is known to not always follow Bruce's lead, but Jim Sr. seemed really quick to bury Batgirl for failing to save his insane son. Will that conversation about overzealous associates be coming up with Bruce soon? Do we want it to?

Lastly, I want to give credit to Gail Simone for her handling of a transsexual character. It wasn't made to be a big deal, served a good purpose (allowing Barbara and her roommate to bond) and was just accepted, something that should be done in more books involving transgendered people.

The story set up a succeeding arc that hopefully is able to take advantage of this unusual set of circumstances, although if the Ventriloquist is involved, I'm a little unsettled. Let's hope Simone has something really creative in store for the villain who has only been interesting in the Animated Series to date.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #19

This month was supposedly a "WTF Month" at DC Comics until they realized that that sort of tag is stupid. Nonetheless, this issue was still in place and the cover of Batman #19 shows Bruce Wayne trying to shoot down Jim Gordon.

This is the first leg of a two-parter that Scott Snyder is using to kill time until this June's "Zero Year" begins. And we actually have a true detective story on hand.

The storytelling isn't linear, as we start with Bruce Wayne (in a Batsuit under his shirt) robbing a bank and threatening the commissioner with a gun. Immediately after he leaves, we cut to six days before, as Bruce is reminiscing and just being generally depressing.

The detective work here is always welcome in my Bat-books, even if the solution is obvious. I don't feel I'm spoiling anything to let you know this is a Clayface arc.

I'm not sure I like that the clay that makes up Basil Karlo is magic and not scientifically created, but I guess it really makes no difference other than the fact that chemical compounds to fight him will be harder to concoct.

It's an interesting development that Snyder has created regarding Basil's destabilizing DNA. It makes him more dangerous while simultaneously cutting off the more sympathetic storylines B:TAS proved can be done with Clayface.

Overall, the main story is solid, but not up to Snyder's more epic work. That may just be that I'm not a huge Clayface guy, but in any event, this book is still one of the best DC is producing.

The back-up is a respectable Batman/Superman crossover that preys on Superman's vulnerability to the supernatural and the emotional state of Batman following Grant Morrison's Robin-cide.

That said, I'm not a huge fan of the story and it feels like something was missing. I like James Tynion IV's writing, but I think it's clear he's up-and-coming, not here-and-on-top-of-his-game with this story. He does nice work, but it's good this isn't the Batman/Superman book because this wouldn't hold my attention for the price of admission.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reflections of... March Madness and what Louisville's title run's implications

Those who follow all three of my blogs know that I'm on a writing spree at the moment. Mostly it's a warm-up.

I've got three comics to review this week, Paramore's new CD (and possibly Kacey Musgraves' album as well), Impact Wrestling and the Ultimate Fighter's finale card on FX coming up, so I've got a crazy next few days in store for myself.

So with all that in mind, why am I adding in a very rare "Reflections of..." column on my General Blog when it's usually in the MMA section? Because I love March Madness.

Those who know me well understand that while MMA is my main sport 11 months of the year, come Championship Week in mid-March, I live and breathe college basketball. And this year's MADNESS was some of the most entertaining I've seen.

I'm going to take a minute to address a really irksome commentary Colin Cowherd spouts off on his show about how March Madness really is just a chalk-fest because the No. 1 overall seed Louisville beat a Big Ten power in Michigan for the title.

That's moronic on so many levels that for the first time ever I really did wonder if he defends college football's insane championship system simply to get a rise out of his listeners.

He himself has made the point that it's impractical to judge players and coaches on championships alone because titles are hard to win and simply being a factor should be a mark of accomplishment at the highest levels. March Madness is an absolute parallel.

Two 4-seeds made the Final Four for the first time ever. If this is a chalk tournament, then show me the people who had Harvard beating New Mexico, Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16 and Wichita State in the Final Four.

The tournament is, in fact, getting harder to call. Picking chalk will no longer allow victories in pools; you'll make the 85th percentile at best.

Winning the tournament is harder than ever because almost any team can be a threat. As such, it takes a mature team with a combination of skill, stamina and strategy to endure the MADNESS.

That's why I always say that college basketball gets a truer champion than football. A 68-team field pretty much guarantees the best overall team is in the field. The fierce debate on Selection Sunday is more about who deserves the 1-2 NCAA Tournament TV paydays they could make for their conference.

In my view, the team that survives the NCAA Tournament is the one who deserves the title. Look at the Final Four this year. Does anyone want to say that Syracuse wouldn't have deserved the title if they took out Indiana, Marquette, Michigan and Louisville in a two-week span? Or that Michigan didn't earn their spot when they knocked off Kansas and Florida? Or that Wichita State, despite being in the weakest region, didn't belong after they had to take out Gonzaga, Ohio State and the SEC tournament champion Ole Miss?

But let's not forget what happened on Monday. Louisville is champion, and that means Rick Pitino is now the first coach to win titles with two schools.

This led me to think about the fact that he's won with both ends of the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry, which made me think about Kentucky's title last year. I think both schools show an interesting philosophical difference on how to approach college basketball teams.

John Calipari has proven a master recruiter, and his teams are filled with one-and-done players who will barely set foot in actual classes and just perform to impress NBA scouts. As such, his teams' understanding of basic things like free throw shooting are usually abysmal to the point that I genuinely fear what would happen if he tried to coach Dwight Howard.

Pitino has taken the route of recruiting high-level athletes, but not so high that they leave right away. They stay for two, three, and in the case of Peyton Siva, all four years. His squads are mature, play sound basketball and make much fewer mistakes.

Both teams now have one title in this post-'one year to the NBA' rule. But while Calipari may have gotten a head-to-head win on Pitino in his Final Four round (when Siva's less mature nature at the time hit the big lights and created what I felt was a subpar performance for him), I think Pitino's proven his method to be superior.

Smugness that can only come from multiple titles
(and controversial life choices.)
Need more proof? Pitino followed up a Final Four run by taking the same unit on a rampage to a title. Calipari followed his up with an NIT First Round blowout loss.

As I said, this new NCAA world requires a mixture of skill and maturity to get through the viper's den the tournament has become. Calipari had the advantage of having his major challengers fall flat on their face and playing in a weak conference that didn't burn them out, and even then, they didn't win impressively.

Louisville beat Michigan on Monday, but they did it in a game where both teams felt like they were at their best. Louisville rose to a challenge and became a champion.

In the time since the 'One and done' rule, the champions have been Florida twice, North Carolina, Kansas, Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky and Louisville. With the exception of Kentucky, all the teams follow a senior-heavy model. While they may have one or two one-and-dones, they prefer to develop a system.

Remember that Sweet 16 he played in? Oh wait...
The more I look at this tournament, the more I realize that teams that rely on one-and-dones will look more like the Michael Beasley Kansas State squads more than the Calipari Kentucky squad. While they may get close, the only way they make it through the final weekend is if it's like 2012 and the bracket collapses completely, letting them out-skill their opponents.

And before anyone notes that the seeds this year were lower than last year in the Final Four, I'd also note that the teams this year overall were stronger and deeper, Kentucky did in fact have a team far superior to any challenger that year, and that the top overall offense got to the title game to challenge Louisville, where no squad of consequence was really up to the task in 2012.

I firmly believe Calipari's title team is the exception to the rule and that we won't be seeing One-and-done-heavy teams actually finishing the job that often. The skill level has to be overwhelming in order to overcome the maturity gap, and that takes such a recruiting effort that it's almost impossible to maintain consistently.

NBA talent appears to be dropping because so many immature players are going in before they're ready, and if the Association is smart, they'll move to a three-year minimum rule like the NBA sooner than later. But until they do, men like Pitino are going to be feasting on titles because they can bring in skill players and turn them into a force. And a real team.

Congrats to Louisville. I look forward to next year's MADNESS.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Justice League #18 and JLA #2

Let's continue on my reviews as I compare Justice League books this month. Geoff Johns is pretty much in control of this part of the DCU, so at least the lead-up to the Trinity War is in good hands.

Justice League #18

I was really impressed by the wit of this book and how well all the characters were written. With Hal Jordan currently MIA and Aquaman still dealing with the aftermath of the Throne of Atlantis crossover, the JL is looking in this story for new members who can provide further assistance.

For the most part, it serves as an introduction to some new characters and sets up the prelude to the Trinity War. And it does a good job of it. If you're planning on reading the event, this book is clearly where the setup is coming from and this issue is probably where you'll want to start.

I liked both artists in this issue, and Gary Frank teaming up with Geoff Johns' writing for the SHAZAM! backup was a fun reminder of how much I love Batman: Earth One. These guys do great origin pieces, and it was easy enough to follow even though I haven't read JL consistently.

The introduction of the Black Adam and Billy Batson dealing with his own insecurities were nice plot points and executed well. I wasn't sure who most of the characters were, but they left an impression and made me want to see them more.

Overall, this is kind of a must-read for DC fans.

Justice League of America #2

I liked this story, but I couldn't help but feel like it's still too reliant on other events happening in the DCU.

Simon Baz still hasn't shown up yet, and I'm anxiously awaiting Johns' continuation with that Green Lantern.

Catwoman is written better than at any other time in the New 52, and I like that she sees some of herself in Steve Trevor. That said, it's still odd that she's on this team and I want to see how that dynamic unfolds.

Honestly, Vibe and Stargirl are the characters I'm enjoying the most. They bring a fresh perspective to the whole team and give the story some energy (which is important because this gritty art style is utterly frustrating and is actively trying to take me out of the story).

Katana was ok for what she got, but I want to see more from her. Green Arrow is fighting to get himself on the team after helping Trevor discover... whatever the hell it is the JLA is fighting at the end of this book. He's OK, but given his solo title is doing so well, having him on the side like this is just a waste; either use him as a co-leader or take him out of the book from here.

Lastly, the Martian Manhunter, who gets his own backup. I have no real thoughts here. I didn't hate his stuff, didn't love it. It was just kind of there.

We see how he can change form and got himself into the president's office, which is badass and explains why the president would agree to Waller's "second Justice League idea," but it just feels kind of surreal and I'm really not being endeared to Waller as a character between this and those awful Suicide Squad issues I read.

Overall, it's a nice story with characters I REALLY like. I feel like I should be excited for this book, but strangely, I'm not. I don't know if it's the art or the excessively busy nature of the book or the fact that I didn't read the JL issues that could help me make sense of this villain.

But if I'm weighing my options as to which League to buy if I can only pick one, neither really stood out, and that's sad. I want to say JLA, but JL will be building to the upcoming Trinity War event, so if you see both these issues, JL may be your better option.

I really hate saying that, since Katana, Hawkman and Catwoman are being written better here than anywhere before in the New 52, and there are three characters who DESERVE to be purchased in here (Green Lantern Simon Baz, Stargirl and Vibe), but there's just too much going on and too much of it is Green Arrow, Waller and MM for my tastes.

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Comic Book Reviews: Detective Comics #19 (900) and Green Hornet #1

The biggest downfall of the New 52's creation seems to be the resetting of the numbering. The reason is obvious: Action Comics and Detective Comics were approaching 1,000 issues at the time of the reboot.

Despite the number alterations, though, DC Comics made sure to do a grand celebration this week when Detective hit its 900th chronological issue. The 80-page spectacular featured five stories, most written by John Layman, and some Batman drawings from a slew of artists.

The interesting about this book's quality is that it has been very polarizing online. I'd expect this since the thing costs twice the normal comic price ($7.99), and people expect a high degree of value for that kind of investment.

The two sites I frequent most for reviews, Batman-News and IGN, gave the book an 8.5/10 and a 3.2/10, respectively. Ultimately, this story will boil down to how invested you are into the Emperor Penguin arc that Layman has produced and whether you're big on Man-Bat.

I happen to be irked by Man-Bat as a character and find his existence in the Batman universe baffling. That said, I love the storyline Layman has put together and for the first time ever, I have to give props to a Man-Bat story.

Detective 19 (900) tells the definitive Man-Bat story, as an entire section of town is hit with the formula Emperor Penguin sent out. It's a lot of Batman trying to fight off the bastards while tracking down the man who originally created the formula.

The final sacrifice the character makes is touching (though why the formula wasn't just given to a dying person at the hospital is beyond me) and the back-up story that talks about the doctor's wife is a tragic story of what happens when really intelligent doctors stop trying to think of good ideas.

All kidding aside, this is a really good set of Man-Bat stories and actually are probably worth the price tag. That said, they are still Man-Bat stories, which means you'll need to REALLY suspend your disbelief and even then things are going to be weird.

There are also flaws in the story, not the least of which is Nightwing acting oddly out of character. He refuses to answer Bruce's call due to DOTF fallout, and yet nothing in the most recent storylines indicates that he should be having this reaction. Yeah, their relationship is strained, but they literally just fought together in Nightwing's book two weeks ago and were still talking in the main Batman book.

The other three back-ups are solid work as well. Mr. Combustible, one of those throwaway stooges Cobblepot and Ogilvy have been hanging with. It actually adds a nice new dimension to the character and instantly made him more interesting than when Tony Daniel introduced him.

There's a James Tynion IV story written about Bane that attempts to explain that his random appearance in Batman: The Dark Knight had a purpose, but it was derailed by the Court of Owls. This supposedly is teasing an arc in Talon. Kudos to Tynion and Layman for taking stupid developments in derided storylines and making them far more fun than when I first saw them.

Lastly, the cop in the back-up story a few months ago that was guarding Joker's face is back and is fighting with other cops about Batman's nature. It's a fun little romp that shows how Batman is seen and worth your time.

Overall, I'd say there's something for everyone here. The price is a hard sell, but given that this is a legendary numbering (if you ignore the reboot), it's understandable, and if you've enjoyed Layman's work, you get some of his best here.

Green Hornet #1

I love the Green Hornet. I remember as a kid watching reruns of the 1960s Batman series at night and then forcing myself to stay up just a little later to watch the adventures of Green Hornet and Kato.

The Hornet has been portrayed in comics through the Golden Age and in various incarnations via Dynamite Comics, and they've got another one that kicked off last week.

I haven't bought a Hornet comic in a while, but Mark Waid is writing this one. If you aren't at least interested when you hear Mark Waid is writing Green Hornet, I feel bad for you, son.

Waid proves again that he knows his stuff in this book by being accessible to new readers by explaining Britt Reid and Kato's origins and giving a nice, one-shot piece that connects to a larger narrative.

The man who produced what I believe to be the best Superman story ever (Superman: Birthright) and is single-handedly making the new Indestructible Hulk book one of the best titles in Marvel, dives right into the story but is always mindful of the new and returning fans.

This creates a story where you don't necessarily know most of the characters, but you pick up who they are and why you like/don't like them within two sentences of dialogue. And yet somehow it all works in the context of what is happening.

How Waid hasn't been pegged to do movies of comic characters is beyond me because I am already looking forward to the next installment.

I'm a Batman fan, but this book is the one that blew me away. If you can only pick one book this week, as good as Detective is, this sucker will hook you on the Green Hornet at half the price.

At long last, there will be at least one book I have in my arsenal per week! I look forward to this title ending my months.

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