Valentines 4 Ever

I’m not the wisest in the ways of love, but I know one cornerstone of a good relationship is stability. Relationships require people to rely upon each other, a healthy level of dependence that not only nurtures and sustains feelings, but ultimately transforms two lives into some sort of super-functioning unit.

Unfortunately, the super-hero world isn’t known for stability.

Characters are killed off and resurrected annually. Enemies become comrades and good guys go bad. Heroes change their costumes and monikers faster than a speeding bullet, with some going as far as taking on the roles of other heroes entirely. One day you’re Dr. Doom, the next you’re Iron Man, amirite?

Yet throughout Marvel history, one thing has remained (for the most part, 98%) unchanged: Reed Richards loves Sue Storm, and vice-versa.

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Continue reading Valentines 4 Ever

Hi-Fi Fifteen: This Land Is Your Land

I have been so disheartened by the election results, and even more so every day since January 20th. I do not have the words to adequately articulate these times, so I turn to Idle Time favorite Joe Henry. He writes:

jhI have not read ‘Art Of The Deal,’ but have heard its synopsis by the “author,” and now witness its bizarre theatre enacted on our national stage: make an extravagant push of extremes –while flash pots deploy, distracting your negotiating advisory and leaving them to feel unmoored, hurried and vulnerable; and as the overreach is walked back, your advisory will believe themselves to have made “progress;” and will in the end gratefully settle for far less than they’d have ever first been willing even to imagine.

Is this what is happening to us now?

If so, we are about to learn whether ours truly is a country rooted by a constitution, or ruled by the whims of an autonomous regime, with its own moving agenda to which we are neither privy nor free to challenge –and of which we will never be beneficiaries.

Volatile as are these waters that toss around our little ship of state today, I assume it shall be revealed very soon whether or not our national craft is sustainable. But this much is clear right now: the storm threatening us is man-made, and means indeed to draw us silently under its loud and cold wave. We are at sea and at siege. Continue reading Hi-Fi Fifteen: This Land Is Your Land

Justice League of America: Rebirth

Back when my daughter Maggie was about 5 years old, we use to play this game called “The Test.” I would pick up a copy of JLA. We would sit together on the couch, and I would point at the superheroes on the cover.

“Ok, who’s this?”

“Superman.”

“Correct. What about her? Who is she?”

“Wonder Woman.”

“You got it. How about this guy?”

“The… umm… The Flash!”

“Yes! Nice job!”

Maggie would always get a perfect score on The Test.

Cut to five years later….

Maggie and I decided to hit the comic shop before dinner tonight and see what’s new. As we looked over the books I saw Justice League of America: Rebirth #1. Cool, I picked it up.

“Hey Maggie, wanna do The Test? Who’s this?”

“Uhhhh…” Continue reading Justice League of America: Rebirth

Image Comics Day

Twenty-five years ago, a group of talented comic book rebels took a bold stand for creators’ rights, turning their back on the major publishers to start their own independent publishing company. They had big ideas and bold plans, but I doubt they realized just how influential and successful Image Comics would be.

Today is Image Comics Day, and we celebrate some of the best creator-owned comic books being published today. Two of our favorite titles have new issues out this week, and a number of others have had new storylines debut recently. Today you can also pick up the new The Walking Dead for only a quarter, an issue that promises a good jumping-on point for new (or lapsed) readers. And, as always, Image offers first volumes of many of their collected trade paperbacks for only ten bucks!

For decades, Image comics has created opportunities for veteran artists and writers to flex their creative muscles, but they’ve also provided an outlet for aspiring new cartoonists to grow in the industry, taking chances on projects like Ken Garing’s Planetoid, the story of a space smuggler who crash-lands on a planet overrun by menacing robots. In the original 2012 series, Silas, with the help of a stolen energy weapon, rallies the human nomads struggling to survive on the planetoid, and stages an uprising against the malevolent A.I. and its alien progenitors.

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This week, Image debuts Garing’s long-awaited follow-up with Planetoid Praxis #1. This time the fate of the settlement is in the hands of Onica, and she faces a difficult decision when the planetoid is visited by a solitary Ono Mao traveler. While Garing’s artwork continues to improve, and the scrapheap civilization seemingly comes to life both under the direction of the characters as well the development of his skills, the storyline takes on a much more prescient theme. What happens when fear and distrust are the foremost emotions fueling the populace? Where is the voice of reason and, more importantly, how do these reactions serve to inform the younger generation?

file_002-11East of West
East of West hooked me from the first pages. Several colossal spires tower ominously over a stone altar, accompanied by the words “the dream is over.” The four horsemen of the apocalypse rise from a primordial ooze, War, Famine, Conquest, but where is Death? Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have crafted one of the most unique and interesting reimaginings of America in comic book history in this series. If you love westerns, science fiction, or the bizarre horror of the Book of Revelations, look no further. – IP Continue reading Image Comics Day

DC Rebirth – Week 36

The Justice league makeover in the aftermath of their latest mini-event continues as more B-list characters who have rarely been in the spotlight get prologue stories. DC fans may be familiar with the villain Killer Frost, having seen her go up against Firestorm and other members of the Justice League, but current JLA architect Steve Orlando and Jody Houser aim to reinvent and reintroduce Frost, as they did with Vixen.

Frost’s reinvention has stretched over several books. She first reappeared in Suicide Squad, then she became a power player when writer Joshua Williamson reevaluated Frost’s vampiric need to feed. During a pivotal moment of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, Frost absorbs and utilizes the powers of the JLA to battle the demonic Eclipso, demonstrating the utility of her power, but also making her character more sympathetic. Frost nearly kills herself in the fight, but her willingness to sacrifice herself is part of a tidy redemption plot that carries her into the new Justice League.

Killer Frost Rebirth finds Dr. Caitlin Snow in her final days at Belle Reve before being released into Batman’s custody. Amanda Waller doesn’t want Snow released and aggressively tries to manipulate Snow into acting like Killer Frost, tempting her to suck the life out of fellow inmates, thus proving that she is unfit for release. Orlando and Houser rely on Frost’s inner monologue to move the story, but for a character that’s just undergone a reinvention, her POV helps build a connection to the character. The “prison drama” tropes, like confrontations in the yard and late-night ambushes, are handled really well, though nothing ends too unexpectedly. The writing team builds a great sense of tension when Frost is most tempted to lash out, and the prisoners she encounters are cool to look at.

Continue reading DC Rebirth – Week 36

Monsters Unleashed

The only thing you really need to know about Marvel’s latest mini-event is that Steve McNiven is drawing giant monsters fighting superheroes.

No socio-political commentary centered on government regulatory efforts; no overt attempt at redefining heroic archetypes for the twenty-first century. We’re not going to philosophize about space travel, or the multiverse, or the disenfranchisement of mutants. We don’t give a shit about evil corporations. There are giant, extraterrestrial monsters pounding on every supergroup in Marvel’s catalog, from the Avengers to the X-Men. In Monsters Unleashed #1, by Cullen Bunn and McNiven, the earth is under attack by a variety of giant beasties, raining down on the planet from space. Underused B-lister Elsa Bloodstone (see the recent A-Force series) is investigating the apocalyptic origins of this disaster, while somewhere in Missouri, there is a teenager with an active imagination and a sketchbook, somehow caught up in the middle of everything.

1963, two issues before Amazing Fantasy debuts Spider-Man
1963, two issues before Amazing Fantasy introduces the world to Spider-Man

Again, while it’s great to just pick up a comic book wherein Steve McNiven is drawing monsters battling superheroes, there is something wonderfully poetic about the event. During comicdom’s Golden Age, in the time while DC was developing a super-pantheon, Marvel’s bread and butter was still monster books. Whether in the pages of Astonishing Tales or Amazing Fantasy, creatures reigned. Indeed, when the Marvel Age began with Fantastic Four #1, Jack Kirby’s iconic cover features the First Family battling a subterranean behemoth. The superheroes were officially here, and they had vanquished the monsters. It’s taken more than fifty years, but looks like payback has arrived.
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Hi-Fi Fifteen: Catalina Wine Mixtape

220px-thebestofnickcaveIt must have been in early 2000. The first non-work related thing djlazybear ever said to me. “Have you heard Johhny Cash’s version of “The Mercy Seat”?

Hell, it was one of the first things he ever said to me, period. I remember, because it caught me completely off-guard. I probably gave him one of those fuck-you-talking-to expressions, like Mac and Dennis defensively reacting to their new neighbor in the burbs. I think I paused and spat back, “What?!”

Turns out, he saw the CD case for The Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds on the passenger seat of my car, and was eager to talk music. And talk music we did. That same year djlazybear’s buddy holybee joined our staff, and talking music took on a whole new meaning.

Our way of celebrating songs that we loved took the form of pen & paper lists, incessant arguments, halfass DJ sets, and burned CDs by the caseload. Anyone with musical ability, on the other hand, celebrates songs that he or she loves by covering those tunes. And when bands we love cover songs by other bands that we love… then it just feels like we’re all part of one big celebration. Even if I can’t carry a tune.

A great covers mix needed to be a little more focused. So, in honor of that very first interaction between djlazybear and myself, we set the following parameters for January’s Hi-Fi Fifteen: songs recorded during the Idle Time era (2001 to the present), covering songs originally released during our lifetimes, prior to meeting each other (so, 1972 – 2000). Plus, I’m a big fan of the Catalina Wine Mixer scene from Stepbrothers and was keeping my fingers crossed for some 80’s Joel renditions.

Interestingly enough, however, despite the inspiration from Horatio Sanz’s Uptown Girl, no Billy Joel covers appear on this mix.
Continue reading Hi-Fi Fifteen: Catalina Wine Mixtape

DC Rebirth – Week 34

Part of DC’s Rebirth has been dedicated to expanding and reintroducing second-tier characters from DC’s extended universe. Sometimes, like with the Blue Beetle and Harley Quinn Rebirth books, the results are less than exciting, but there are successes where an obscure (and seemingly excessive) character has a good story fashioned around that’s them worth following for a few issues.

After one Rebirth issue, I’d say Vixen is somewhere in between.

Steve Orlando and Jody Houser’s prologue to Vixen’s introduction within the new Justice League of America, rehashes old super hero tropes, particularly the origin of Mari McCabe, the alter-ego of the titular hero, whose mission of justice stems once again from childhood trauma and loss. Her not-so-secret identity as a celebrity model and activist distinguishes her only slightly from other millionaire heroes, but unlike Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen, Mari McCabe is obviously a woman, and a woman of color to boot. Orlando and Houser spin a kidnapping yarn around the central premise that as a female of color in the world of super heroics, Vixen has not had much of a presence. This opening issue doesn’t have a lot of meat, but it does a good job of reintroducing Vixen to new and old fans of the DC universe. The writing team is obviously trying to contribute to the increase of representation within comics, but whether or not Vixen can stand out in a JLA team book is another story.

What’s definitely helping the cause is the fantastic art work of Jamal Campbell. The character designs in this book feel modern, and the tropical color palette adds a lot of personality. My favorite thing about this book is how Campbell draws the manifestation of Vixen’s powers. Animal spirits that look like they’re made of a ghostly liquid wrap themselves around Vixen, emerging from her form. There are a lot of cool panels with Vixen posing, and even one juxtaposing her powers to The Red, the source of Animal Man’s power, which is a cool reference. So, though I wouldn’t call this book amazing, there is plenty to like about it, and I think the potential art definitely justifies putting Vixen within one of DC’s biggest titles.
Continue reading DC Rebirth – Week 34

Edamame Makes Beats, Wins Tournaments

Most of us were more than eager to turn the calendar page to January, and bid farewell to a tumultuous 2016. But the past year had its share of high points worthy of celebration, and we still have some accolades to bestow. Idle Time closed out the year with our second annual Tune Tournament, this time bracketing songs in regions honoring four of the many musical icons who passed away over the last twelve months.

Idlers nominated sixty-four favorite songs from recent years, and after six rounds of competition involving sixty-three total matchups and over 10,000 individual votes, we have a winner. Congratulations to Chicago’s Ed Harris, aka Edamame, and Idle Time’s Tune of the Year, “Tree Shadows”!

Edamame may have entered the tourney as a sixteen-seed, but he quickly established that he was not to be taken lightly, besting Chicago’s top seed, Wilco, with a 57% share of the matchup vote. He followed up that victory with solid beatdowns over Jim O’Rourke in round 2, and Whitney in the Sweet 16 round.

“Tree Shadows” was quietly, stealthily, establishing itself as a major competitor not just in the Chicago region, but as a legitimate contender for the Tune Tournament crown. History wasn’t on his side; none of the three instrumental tracks in last year’s tournament even made it past the first round. Then again, none of those songs had a dope ass video like this guy.
Continue reading Edamame Makes Beats, Wins Tournaments

Marvel NOW! – Week 14

When MeanOldPig shared the cover image for U.S.Avengers #1 a few months back, I thought it was a joke – a goofy fanart pin-up at best or, at worst, an authentic cover, but for some tongue-in-cheek series along the lines of Vote Loki. But, no, this was really happening. So the questions were: how is this coming together… and why? At the time, Ewing’s off-kilter New Avengers book hadn’t really established its own direction, awkwardly caught between an attempt at picking up the pieces from Hickman’s Avengers World, and the goal of defining itself as a genuine, albeit disjointed, superhero team with a place in the All-New All-Different Marvel universe.

file_000-2By the time the series ended, a few weeks ago, storylines involving triple-agents, S.H.I.E.L.D. shenanigans, and the only version of Reed Richards that we’ve seen in print for more than a year – the evil sliced-up Maker from the Ultimate Universe – had been hurriedly concluded. Now, back to figuring out exactly what this Avengers squad is supposed to be, and who makes the roster.

Roberto da Costa, formely known as the mutant hero Sunspot, and now the latest hero to adopt the alter ego Citizen V, has taken his Avengers Idea Mechanics out from the shadows and boldly partnered with the U. S. of A. His new Avengers team is just as weird as it was in the last volume. In fact, maybe even more so. But somehow, this time I’m digging it.

Gone is the token recognizable Avenger; following Civil War II, Hawkeye has his own issues (and new issues of Occupy Avengers to dick around in). That’s not Iron Man, but a new Iron Patriot, this time captained by Dr. Toni Ho. Speaking of captains, that’s not Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, or even Sam Wilson wielding the shield. That’s Danielle Cage – Luke and Jessica’s kid – as a Captain America from an alternate future. That’s not any Hulk you’re used to seeing, either. Hell, it’s not even the Red Hulk any of us assumed it to be. Round it off with Squirrel Girl, Cannonball, and a repurposed Pod, and you’ve got maybe the oddest group calling themselves Avengers since that gang of goofballs from the Great Lakes.

Maybe it’s the means of introduction, or maybe it’s the table-setting with some equally oddball adventures looming, but for now, I’m buying what you’re selling, Ewing and Medina.
Continue reading Marvel NOW! – Week 14