Monday, July 28, 2014

Legend of Korra Book 3, Chapter 8 review

I've got some Korra thoughts for you! The episode got an 8/10 from me. Check out why:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Legend of Korra Book 3, Chapters 6-7 review

This thing opens with a long rant about Nickelodeon, but there are actual episode thoughts in here.

Legend of Korra Book 3, Chapters 4-5 review

I've got to get caught up on the Korra video links, so here's the review of episodes 4 and 5 I did a couple weeks ago.

Comic Book Review: Batman #33 and Zero Year as a whole

I'll leave my Batman #33 review in the video and just discuss the arc here. For the record, the issue got a 9.4/10.

As for Zero Year as a whole, I say it in the video, but this is both now my favorite Riddler story and my favorite Batman origin story. Yes, I include Year One in that discussion.

A year of glorious reading (Issue 28 not shown because
it wasn't part of Zero Year)
Part of my reasoning, I think, falls on the fact that Zero Year builds on the iconic scenes in Year One while replacing some of the more questionable sequences with development of characters.

Obviously, my biggest gripes with Year One - Jim Gordon's affair and hooker Catwoman - are gone here and instead, we get a look into how Jim dealt with the early corruption in the town. This version of Gordon seemed to be legitimately trying to avoid getting involved but had a 'look in the mirror' moment the day of the Waynes' deaths. I really like that development and it builds on the theme that Gotham brings out a person's character.

Maybe it's the length that helped it. After all, I take Superman: Birthright as the definitive Supes origin and it was a 12-issue series. Perhaps that length allows for a real cohesive story to come together or something...

One credit I'll say is lost when moving to Zero Year is the fact that Snyder tried to make too much happen on the day the Waynes died. It isn't much, but I don't think I need Bruce playing hooky being the reason they were at the movies. I prefer the day before being left to mystery like in Year One.

That said, one thing I still remember from the early part of this arc that sticks with me are the backup stories. Those sequences of Bruce training were aspects I've never really seen explored during the in-comic origin and I was glad to see them, especially the one where Bruce wins a 100-on-1 death match without dealing a single fatality.

I'm still very undecided on how I feel about the final addition to Bruce's pre-Batman days in the final issue. One one hand, it's great for the emotion of the story and I nearly cried at Alfred's heartbreak, but at the same time, I don't know if I want a Batman this broken. I am a big fan of 60s Batman and pre-Crisis Batman and though there was tragedy to the character, they were still capable of finding happiness in life and could have optimism about society while still acknowledging there is a big fight to maintain it.

Still, since this is pre-Robin and the rest of the Bat-family, I suppose I can let it go. Quite honestly, any complaints with any parts of this arc are nitpicks. Heck, my biggest complaint with Issue #33 is that three pages were spent on blank space. Yes, it was for artistic effect, but it threw me off my game for a minute.

All of that said, I truly believe Scott Snyder has finally told a complete arc that can stand toe-to-toe with 'The Black Mirror.'

I want to commend Greg Capullo and FCO one more time for the art in this book, which managed to tie into so much of the iconic Batman art of old while still giving it a modern take. And there are plenty of images I hope become iconic in the Batman lore as well.

Alfred slapping Bruce, the image of the penny on Lucius' car, the original Bat-signal, shaved head Bruce, and the criminals tied up in the shape of a bat. All were great images that really demonstrated these two at their best, and I didn't even count all the glorious panoramic spreads with oh so much detail spent on the background and texture.

This is the epitome of a book that is both expertly written and beautiful to look at. On the celebration of 75 years of Batman, I think the origin for Batman has been re-defined yet again.

Thank you, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, FCO and any others I may have missed. I look forward to the trade of this story.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman Eternal #16 and Batman '66 #13

I'm going to keep this short because there is A LOT to talk about with the Zero Year finale and I'm trying to do a special Batman 75th anniversary blog to boot. So let's talk each book really fast.

I gave Eternal's latest installment a 4.7/10. It would have been 4.5 or slightly lower but I didn't want to penalize a book with solid art for a story that went nowhere.

Honestly, that's the big issue with this book. Only one subplot moved forward, and even then it wasn't by much. Add in the fact that the focal point of the issue was the magical/supernatural subplot, which was the least interesting of the bunch, and as such didn't feel the need to explain how any of the plot was happening, and you get a frustrated reader in me.

I'm sure those who are more used to characters like this will be able to get into the story, but even they have to recognize that the biggest development in this issue was that Lt. Bard may or may not soon be getting with Vicki Vale. And ultimately, this is a mystery story, so areas where the story is vague or intentionally leaving out information makes it hard for a reader to keep up with the clues at hand.

I could see people enjoying this (heck, it got a really high rating from IGN) but for me, this was the first issue of Eternal where I felt taxed.

Meanwhile in Batman '66, Adam West and Burt Ward have to deal with a Batman TV series gaining popularity. And it's super-dark compared to them.

Yes, they're going this route. And yes, it is as hilarious as it sounds.

There's no way not to have a smile on your face as this story unfolds.

It is a beautiful fourth wall annihilator that feels exactly like what would have happened if the 60s Batman had continued during the Denny O'Neill era and his stories became a TV show in the West-Ward universe.

I freaking love this book. And for the record, this may be the best art all week, and given Greg Capullo and FCO's record, that's saying A LOT.

I give it an 8.8/10.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Comic Book Review: Batman Eternal #15

I'll start with the score this week since there's only one title being reviewed: 8.0/10.

Ok, so since this is only one review, let me give you a look at how I think the four major arcs are going right now.

Crime War/Gotham PD

There wasn't much to this story this week, but the couple pages it got were interesting. Det. Bard is doing a solid job of taking out criminals by the book, and it has earned Batman's respect.

This should be an amazing scene, but it's somewhat underwhelming for me because the tension between Batman and Bard was only introduced one issue ago. I feel like it should have been held off a little longer to build a real sense of build.

Trial of Jim Gordon/Where in the World is Team Batgirl (Sandiego)?

Batgirl and Red Hood's exploits have led them to a lackey who is already being interrogated... by Batwoman.

Batwoman's debut makes sense for the purpose of Batgirl and Red Hood's purposes and the excuse as to why she's outside the country is... fine.

That said, this is just a tad too contrived for me to buy this. These three are REALLY in need of the same lackey? Unless Batwoman's investigation somehow ties in, and even then if that's the case she should have been built up ahead of time. Still, it's a nitpick.

Nanobot invasion/Harper and Tim

The only advancement here is an exchange between Tim Drake and Harper Row, and it's actually the best part of the book. I actually want to see more of this storyline, and I think Tim's investigation next issue will be really good.

I'm now counting the issues until we get the official debut of Bluebird, and I'm excited for it.

Arkham overthrown by supernatural Duela Dent

I am still largely against the supernatural being worked into this story, and I'm really leery of the use of Joker's Daughter/Duela Dent/crazy mask lady, but to this story's credit, they haven't botched it yet.

It feels a little mechanical and they seem to be hiding the reveal of what is happening, so I hope they have something good in store. (What constitutes a good reveal in the supernatural Batman genre? Well, hopefully it ties into the story.)

Overall, the writing is solid enough to advance the plot without blowing the story out of the water and the art is its usual amazing, so I still think it's worth the $3 cost of admission. That said, there are some holes that I hope get filled fairly quickly with sharp plotting, and Team Snyder seems to really have a plan here, so I'll gladly give them some goodwill.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: Batman Eternal #14, Detective Comics #33 and Superman/Wonder Woman #10

Three solid titles, only one reaches a memorable level, but the rest are definitely fun reads.

The top book this week (and so far this month) is Batman Eternal #14, which gets a 9.5/10. This is both due to the spectacular art from Jason Fabok as well as a very cool conclusion to the first act of the gang war storyline.

Penguin and Falcone finally come face-to-face and the big plan from officer Bard and Vicki Vale was revealed. I can honestly say I was pumped when Bard and Batman had their little rooftop conversation at the end of the issue, and I can REALLY honestly say it went in a direction I wasn't expecting.

Bard is quickly becoming a legitimately interesting figure in the Batman universe and I definitely want to see which direction he goes for the rest of the issues.

Even the stuff in Arkham wasn't too bad, though I'll admit I'm wary of giving any hope to a storyline involving post-Flashpoint Duela Dent.

The funniest stuff this issue was the check-in with Red Robin and Harper Row, who is moving ever closer to her debut as Bluebird.

My biggest gripe is that it was oddly convenient for Batman to be in Blackgate at the exact moment Jim Gordon has his moment of self-doubt. Even a throwaway line could have solved the problem.

Anyway really great issue and I really hope the book can carry the momentum.

I talk the other issues in the video (as well as editorialize on Grayson), but here are the scores:

Detective Comics #33 - 7.9/10 (8.2/10 for adding supplemental behind-the-scenes material)
Superman/Wonder Woman #10 - 7.3/10

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Comic Book Reviews: July 2, 2014 releases (Batman Eternal #13, Green Arrow #33, Superman Unchained #7, Action Comics #33 and Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet #2)

Sorry for the delay on these reviews, but I've been running a little behind. I'm going to pair the videos, but first, let's take a look at the final scores:

Green Arrow #33 - 8.9/10
Batman Eternal #13 - 8.8/10
Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet #2 - 8.6/10
Superman Unchained #7 - 8.1/10
Action Comics #33 - 7.8/10

Monday, July 7, 2014

A new fan's guide to United States league soccer (MLS and more!)

So you've been watching the World Cup, have ye?

You saw all the Team USA games, the Teddy Roosevelt cosplayers, the Tim Howard memes and the 'I believe that we will win!' chants and got caught up in the soccer fever that was filling bars and viewing parties across the nation?

You cheered for the revenge win over Ghana, experienced the extreme joy (and then sudden extreme letdown) of the draw with Portugal, and you saw the exciting performances in defeat against Germany and Belgium, two of the top 10 teams in the world? (A German team who, I might add, advanced to the semifinals this past weekend. For those who read this after the tournament ends, I'm sure you know how THAT run turned out.)

And now that the World Cup is on its way out until qualifying starts in two years, you want an outlet to channel all this new-found energy and passion for American soccer? Well, good for you! You've come to the right place!

For those who want to see Tim Howard play, he currently works for Everton FC in the most famous league in the world, the Barclays (English) Premier League. But they don't play until August, so why not energize your passions toward your own home-grown league here in 'Merica?

Yeah, we've got our own league, and our own national cup, all filled with players both built up here as well as hired internationally.

But before you go off to celebrate your new fandom, some of you probably still have questions about this whole 'association football' thing. Well, I hope to answer a few of your questions today. As someone who became a fan during Team USA's quarterfinal run in 2002, I can honestly say it is intimidating to look at the wide, wide world of FIFA and try to carve out a little slice of fandom for yourself.

I won't be trying to convert you to rooting for Manchester City in the BPL (today), simply offering some basic answers about what you're watching, what the prizes are and who your possible rooting interests can be.

And what better question to start with than one about the body that sanctions our good league...


I'm sure many of you watching the USA or Mexico games, or were following Costa Rica's surprise run, heard that acronym at least once during the commentary.

For those who don't know, CONCACAF stands for "Confederation Of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football." Basically, it's the big boss for all the international teams and pro soccer leagues in the US, Mexico, Canada, and all the Central American and Caribbean nations. (And yes, 'of' shouldn't be capitalized, but the name would be unpronounceable otherwise.)

Team USA's World Cup qualification and competition for the Gold Cup (North America's continental championship) are run through CONCACAF. They also run the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, which brings up the next big question:


That would be the Champions League trophy. Many of you have probably come across the UEFA Champions League at one time or another while watching TV. That tournament is basically the same thing, only European.

The one run by CONCACAF features champions and high-performing teams across the entire zone the body oversees. It features 24 teams, and the more notable your country's league, the more teams you're given.

For example, Costa Rica sends two teams every year to the league. The USA and Mexico each send four.

This league is a little harder to find on TV, mostly because the group stage isn't consistently broadcast, but the elimination rounds are nearly all available on one of Fox Sports' two channels.

The question now becomes how those four US teams are determined, which leads to the better question...


The United States is in a great position because it's one of the few countries with THREE major championships for which to compete: the MLS Supporters' Shield, the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup.

Let's talk briefly about each:


This is the one most everyone would know. At the end of the MLS season, 10 of the league's 19 teams are put into a playoff.

The winners of each conference meet in the final, where the MLS Cup champion is crowned.

MLS Supporters' Shield

Not as well-known by casual fans, this is the kind of trophy most European fans would recognize.

At the end of the MLS season, this championship is awarded to the team with the best record/performance during the season.

The Shield winner almost always enters the MLS Cup tournament as the favorite.

US Open Cup

The US equivalent to England's FA Cup or Spain's Copa del Rey.

This tournament is open to not only all the US-based MLS teams, but all professional teams in the United States.

It literally decides the champion of all US Soccer.

Because of this, the tournament always has the intrigue of which team will be the Cinderella story and go the deepest against top-flight MLS squads.

All three titles grant the winner entry into the next CONCACAF Champions League. The fourth spot usually goes to the MLS conference champion who lost the MLS Cup, and there are various contingencies in case one team wins more than one competition.

Speaking of which...


Nothing physical, but winning multiple titles is a pretty big deal in soccer circles. Winning two domestic titles in one year is called a domestic double, and winning all three is a domestic treble. 

If one of your two titles is the Champions League, it's a continental double, and it's a continental treble if you pick up a domestic double and the CL title.

If you win all four it's called a quadruple and your team joins a very, very elite class of teams in soccer history worldwide.

Now that we've talked about all the crap a team can win, let's talk about the league and find you a team!

First question...


Major League Soccer (MLS) is the top domestic league of the United States. It is also the top domestic league of Canada, who doesn't have many professional teams beyond the three in this league. (In fact, whichever of the three does best in the league standings represents Canada in the Champions League.)

The league currently has 19 teams, but it will add two more next season and seeks to reach its desired size of 24 in the next 5 years.

Now to the elephant in the room...


I'm sure a few of you noticed this, and the short answer is that MLS operates on a different season calendar (March-early December) than the rest of the soccer-playing world (late August-May). The amount of weeks played are still about the same (34 regular season and 4-5 playoffs vs. 36-40 internationally), but the months off are different.

The given reason is that the MLS teams don't want to have to take a break for the winter holidays or spend a lot of money maintaining the fields in cold weather. The actual reason is that it allows the league to end just as the NFL begins its push toward its playoffs and avoid the prospect of taking on its late season, playoffs and Super Bowl head-to-head.

This is really only a problem for the teams who qualify for the Champions League, which still operates on the traditional calendar and thus forces four teams to play for a solid year without a true off-season.

... You can see why Mexico's teams win CL titles more often than us, right?

And in case you care...

Don't forget women's soccer. The World Cup is in 2015!

As I said about the US Open Cup, there are other professional leagues that feature squads nationwide, but they're ultimately a minor league system.

Heck, in many ways they're in worse shape. Most leagues worldwide have a relegation/promotion system where the worst teams of one league get replaced by the best of the next league down. In the US, the owners don't like the idea of being shoved down a league, so the teams of each league remain pretty much static.

So, you now know about the sanctioning body, the leagues, what your team can win, now it's time to actually pick a team!


Well, as I said, you have 19 awesome choices to pick from (21 if you count New York City FC and Orlando City SC, who start next year), so I'll list them below. I'll be doing a separate blog before the World Cup final where I'll give a (very) basic rundown of each squad so you can try to make a more informed decision, but for this first part, here are the teams:

Eastern Conference
New York Red Bulls
Philadelphia Union
New England Revolution
DC United
Columbus Crew
Sporting Kansas City
Chicago Fire
Toronto FC
Montreal Impact
Houston Dynamo

Western Conference
Los Angeles Galaxy
Colorado Rapids
Chivas USA (to be renamed next season by new ownership)
San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers
Seattle Sounders FC
FC Dallas
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Real Salt Lake

I'd note that Houston and Kansas City will likely be moved to the west since the next three teams to join will be in New York, Orlando and Atlanta (in 2017).

So what are some of the ways you can choose between these teams? Well here are some questions you can consider for a little while before I write up Part 2 of this blog describing the teams:

Location: An easy starting point. If a team is near you, you can see them live and be more involved with the fandom.

Ownership: If your team is owned by the same group as another notable squad or a rich guy/company you happen to like, that could sway your decision.

Star Players/Coach: Heck, if Team USA got you into soccer, wouldn't you want to root for one of the guys on the team? Or if a team signed a big name from South America or Europe, would you be wanting to see that guy?

Fanbase/Rivalries: Do you prefer a team that's more relaxed at its games or do you prefer a rabid base with intense rivalries?

History: Do you prefer a long, storied history dating back to the league's founding and rife with titles, or do you prefer a fresh upstart with a lot of potential ahead of itself?

Color Scheme: Why not? If you have no real preference the logo might be a nice 'in' for you.

I'll let you think those over and I'll be back with some helpful information on the teams. Or you could just watch the games and let a favorite team come naturally. Either way, you'll at least have some information for posterity on your team of choice.

Happy watching!